- Not one minute of airtime on MH370, sulks Anwar
- Is Malaysia Asia’s weakest link?
- Pings, pongs and pandas
- Tycoons can protest, but Malaysia’s crony capitalism is real
Posted: 05 Jun 2014 01:58 AM PDT
Unhappy with the lack of coverage he was given on the MH370 incident, PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim has lashed out against local broadcasters on international radio.
He lamented that “not one minute of airtime on radio or television in Malaysia” was given to him, except over his links to MH370 Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah (left).
“The only reference made was that I happened to know the captain and therefore there is this link that he was very passionate about reforms.
“He was very supportive of the democratic transition and he was disgusted in the manner that the Court of Appeal and the judiciary were used to convict me for five years,” he told the BBC World Service in an interview released today.
Anwar was referring to one of many conspiracy theoriessurrounding the MH370 mystery, which purports that Zaharie was disgruntled with the Court of Appeal decision on Anwar's sodomy charge, and then went on to hijack the aircraft.
PKR had confirmed that Zaharie is a party member, but dismissed the allegation as “wild speculation” without any credible source.
The Boeing 777-200ER aircraft went missing without a trace on March 8 with 237 persons on board, just hours after the court decision.
In the interview, Anwar repeated his complaints that Malaysia is not being transparent in handling the tragedy.
He added that there is a “stark contrast” between the local media coverage of Malaysia’s handling of the crisis that highlighted praises and international accolades, and the international media coverage that is largely critical.
When pointed out that even other countries could not find the plane, Anwar explained that his complaints are directed at the outset of the incident and not the subsequent search efforts.
“That was deep into the mainland of Malaysia, it is our responsibility. I cannot condone the concealing of evidence,” he said.
He pointed out that MH370 had flew across five provinces of the peninsula after its disappearance.
“Until today, the government has not explained (how did this happen). No action has been taken against any incompetent guy dealing with the issue or radar,” he said.
Posted: 05 Jun 2014 01:49 AM PDT
From missing airplanes to jail-bound opposition leaders, Malaysia has recently made international headlines for all the wrong reasons. Will the nation’s economy be next?
That’s the thrust of new report from Sarah Fowler of U.K.-based Oxford Economics, which ranks Malaysia the “riskiest country in Asia of those we consider,” more so than India, Indonesia and even coup-happy Thailand. On the surface, she points out, all’s well: Growth is zooming along at 6.2 percent, the external balance is reasonably sound and political stability reigns. But all’s not what it seems. “Prompted by its high levels of public debt, rising external debt and shrinking current account surplus, there has been a shift in the perception of risks towards Malaysia and away from Indonesia,” Fowler explains.
Malaysia wasn’t included in Morgan Stanley’s “fragile five” list of shaky emerging economies last year, as were India and Indonesia. But Fowler scratches at a number of Malaysian vulnerabilities that deserve more attention: external debt levels that in recent years have risen to close to 40 percent of gross domestic product; a higher public debt ratio than India; the biggest short-term capital flows among the 13 major emerging markets Oxford tracks, including Indonesia; and a shrinking current-account surplus.
This last point is still somewhat of a positive. As the mini-crises in developing nations last year demonstrated, a balance-of-payments surplus is a very good thing to have. Also, Malaysia’s use of so-called macroprudential policies has succeeded in preventing huge property bubbles of the kind afflicting Singapore and Hong Kong. ButMalaysia‘s current-account surplus is dwindling, from 16 percent of GDP in 2008 to 3.7 percent last year. And household debt is, to use Fowler’s words, “worryingly high” at more than 80 percent of GDP compared to less than 60 percent in 2008.
What really concerns Oxford, and myself, is the complacency factor in Putrajaya. Malaysia is effectively a one-party state, having effectively been ruled by the same party for six decades. Its 40-year-old, pro-Malay affirmative-action program chips away at the country’s competitiveness more and more each passing year. The scheme, which disenfranchises Malaysia’s Chinese and Indian minorities, is a productivity and innovation killer. It also has a corrupting influence on the political and business culture.
“A climate of entitlement amongst the Malay community limits entrepreneurialism and vested interests within the United Malays National Organization still resist change,” Fowler argues.
The need for change is becoming acute, though, as China’s dominance grows and neighbors like the Philippines get their acts together. Indians just elected the party of reform-minded Narendra Modi and Indonesians will soon choose a successor for Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in a contest that’s all about reducing corruption and improving governmental efficiency. And Malaysia? Well, Prime Minister Najib Razak’s lackluster party is clinging to power. Meanwhile, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim may soon be in jail again on sodomy charges many see as politically motivated.
The government’s handling of Malaysian Air Flight 370 said it all. Its deer-in-the-headlights response to the plane’s disappearance was the product of an insular political culture. The trouble is, that insularity is holding back a resource-rich economy that should be among Asia’s superstars, not its weakest links.
Posted: 04 Jun 2014 09:31 PM PDT
I can't say I was surprised to hear the admission by US and Australian authorities that the electronic 'pings' they assumed were coming from the black box of missing flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean have proven to be red herrings.
The allegedly mysterious disappearance of the Boeing 777 and its 239 passengers and crew two months ago has been deeply fishy from the very start.
First and foremost, of course, because anything whatever involving Malaysia's criminal BN regime inevitably involves corruption, deception, incompetence or a complex mix of all three of these curses, and thus stinks to high heaven.
And then there's the fact that the government with more of its citizens aboard MH370 than any other, the so-called 'People's' Republic of China (PRC), is even more on the nose, if possible, than the Malaysian regime.
It was the PRC, as we all well recall, that in 1989 notoriously employed its laughably-titled 'People's Liberation' Army to slaughter countless people peacefully calling for their political liberation in Tiananmen Square.
And it is the same, utterly unrepentant 'People's' Republic of China government that alone enables the atrocious Kim dynasty to keep the people of North Korea in its death-grip; and that, in concert with Vladimir Putin's neo-Stalinist Russia, constantly vetoes and otherwise thwarts United Nations efforts to save people from the depredations of corrupt, kleptocratic and murderous despots in Syria and elsewhere.
So it seems highly suspicious to me that just as the US and Australia announce that they have been ding-a-lings to be misled by what they believed were black-box pings, and thus all the waiting, watching world is left with is the pong of the BN regime's MH370 wrongs, the Chinese and Malaysian regimes are happily playing diplomatic ping-pong.
If China's initial outrage at Malaysia's slow, confused, incompetent and comprehensively lying response to the disappearance of MH370 was genuine, it seems surpassingly strange that all has been so quickly forgiven and forgotten that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has been welcomed on a state visit to Beijing, and China has simultaneously sent a pair of its preciousgiant pandas to Malaysia.
A conspiracy of fiendship
It's tempting to see these moves as not so much an outbreak of unaccountably sudden China-Malaysia friendship despite the ongoing MH370 fiasco, as a conspiracy of fiendship designed to cover up something deep-dark.
Why else would the PRC deliver a pair of pandas into the care of a Malaysian regime that has not only carelessly 'lost' well over a hundred Chinese citizens, but also has an appalling record of deaths in its agencies' custody, and a disgraceful history of demonising and demeaning its own citizens of Chinese descent.
And why, for its part, would Malaysia's BN regime indulge in an exercise so rich in self-destructive symbolism as to play host to a pair of pandas?
Surely I was just one of countless government critics whose first thought the other day on seeing pictures of Najib, Hishammuddin Hussein and sundry BN accomplices on a visit to the panda enclosure was that this guilty group rather than the innocent animals should by rights have been behind bars.
Similarly, I must have been only one of many who couldn't help wondering whether, as long as Feng Yi and Fu Wa are supposed to be in quarantine, it might be a threat to their health to allow them to be visited there by a bunch of BN government and media germs.
And of course the pandas' cute black eyes were, and will continue to be, a vivid reminder of what happened to Anwar Ibrahim during his first term in BN custody. While the very word 'panda' inevitably evoked the painfully obvious punning perception that the BN regime ceaselessly contrives to cling to power by pandering to its members' and supporters' lowest lusts, greeds, ignorances and racial and religious prejudices.
Such typical pandering being everywhere evident in the campaign for the Teluk Intan by/buy-election, with Umno Wanita chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil pandering to the sectarianism that the regime works tirelessly to foment through the agency of fake 'NGOs' like Perkasa and 'newspapers' like Utusan Malaysia by calling DAP candidate Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud a "traitor" to her race and religion, and Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi damning Chinese and Indians who fail to support the BN regime as "ingrates".
This followed Ahmad Zahid's (left) not just pandering to the already inflated sense of self-importance of Rela members by promising them new uniforms and a RM1 million 'constituency allocation' in the event of a regime victory, but also going so far as to threaten them with dire if unspecified consequences if they failed to help BN win Teluk Intan.
"Don't play with me. I know who has voted and didn't vote," he ranted, in reference to the 2,000 of 8,000 Rela members who he claimed had failed to cast ballots in last year's general election, "so this time make sure that BN wins this parliamentary seat. I'm watching over the Pekan Baru ballot boxes."
EC's customary pandering
This gross abuse of power and blatant breach of the Electoral Act predictably drew a storm of criticism from the opposition and its supporters, at which point Electoral Commission (EC) chief Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof indulged in its customary pandering to his masters in the BN regime by declaring that the home minister's threats were "mere advice", and that his promises of new uniforms did not constitute an offence "because Rela is already in the process of changing its uniform".
So it is clear that, as far as the EC is concerned, BN is as free as ever to keep pandering to Teluk Intan voters with everything from promises of a gazillion-ringgit new highway to "gifts" of hampers and presumably its traditional handouts of petty cash on election day.
Meanwhile, the home minister has claimed that he had been only"joking" when he said that he knew which Rela members had failed to vote in the last general election, before proceeding to pander to the sexism of his audience with the comment that in any event the young, smart and attractive DAP candidate for Teluk Intan, Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud, is "not very pretty, merely photogenic."
But most Malaysians can clearly see that Dyana is a symbol of Malaysia's bright future, and that the plug-uglies of BN are the past. And that all the pandas and pandering in the world won't save them much longer from getting pinged for the pongs surrounding MH370, Altantuya Shaariibuu, Teoh Beng Hock and literally countless other unforgivable wrongs.
Posted: 04 Jun 2014 09:31 PM PDT
Tan Sri Francis Yeoh does protest too much for someone who has benefited from being part of the system.
Listening to him, you would think that YTL Corporation became financially strong only on the back of astute decision-making and the innovation of company executives; that the raft of lucrative projects from the lopsided IPP concession contract to the lucrative 1Bestarinet project just landed on the company’s books through the competence of company executives.
This is what Francis said in a statement to clarify what he allegedly said at a talk at Pemandu, the government agency famous for blowing its own trumpet with mind-numbing statistics.
Francis was quoted as lamenting the culture of crony capitalism in Malaysia and added that cronyism and the current penchant for racial and religious rhetoric was holding back Malaysia on the global stage. He also allegedly said that the bulk of YTL’s business was now in Singapore, the United Kingdom and Australia – jurisdictions where there was meritocracy and rule of law and where a businessman did not have to kow-tow to the prime minister.
A pretty harmless statement in most countries. On any given day, thousands of businessmen in Malaysia are saying the same thing – more or less the same thing, with only a couple of caveats. Ninety-nine percent of them do not have the cushion of multi-billion ringgit business in Singapore, the UK and Australia. Or whose business entities have received some favourable deals by the government.
In any case, Francis was prompted to issue a clarification, taking issue with a report published in a news portal that he said inaccurately portrayed what he told the audience at the Pemandu talk.
He said that during the presentation he attempted to dispel the notion that crony capitalism was rife in Malaysia. He even denied that YTL received the IPP concession because he was a crony of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
It is the right of Francis to say whatever he wants and to believe whatever he chooses to say.
But it our right as Malaysians to look at the whole picture, to examine the facts and to look at the nuts and bolts of the IPP deal and just shrug our shoulders and laugh at Francis’s protest.
The only thing going for Francis is that he is not alone. More than 80% of Malaysia’s richest businessmen owe a significant portion of their wealth and success to who they know, instead of what they know. It is a fact. And many owe their big break to that champion of skewed privatisation, Dr Mahathir.
They owe their big break to Dr Mahathir, whether it was road toll concessions or an opportunity to buy and re-develop choice pieces of property in downtown Kuala Lumpur.
But ask them about their success and wealth and it is always about coming up the hard way, about their know-how rather than their know-who.
Many of them have earned colossal profits from concessions at home and pumped those funds abroad. Good for them. Money makes money.
But we Malaysians can choose our own narrative about them and their businesses.
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