- DSAI Merdeka Message
- Nurul Hana’s book offers another side of Anwar
- The Unfortunate Case Of Malaysia’s Prime Minister
- Record donations for Bersih show strong protest against Putrajaya, say analysts
- Malaysia Turns to 1998 Currency Peg Architect as Markets Bleed
- $700 mn question looms over Malaysia PM as 1MDB anger grows
Posted: 26 Aug 2015 11:50 PM PDT
MERDEKA! Support BERSIH!
There is a tide in our affairs which, unless we seize it, will see our voyage for democracy and rule of law in shallows and in miseries. This is the rising tide of corruption and electoral fraud; financial malfeasance; arrogance of power and transgression; and judicial impropriety!
It is therefore morally incumbent that Malaysians join hands in this effort and save Malaysia from the systemic crisis of governability.
Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim
MERDEKA! Sokong BERSIH!
Gegaran Merdeka menandakan berakhirnya pemerintahan penjajahan curang kerana penindasan dan kezaliman. Merdeka juga mengusung gagasan besar dan keyakinan baru; menegak keadilan dan negara hukum serta memacu pertumbuhan dengan jaminan pengagihan saksama.
Walhasil, Merdeka 2015 dinodai keserakahan dan ketamakan; ekonomi meruncing dan kehidupan rakyat terus melarat. Terdapat ketempangan luar biasa diantara cita-cita luhur kemerdekaan dan sekatan ke atas kebebasan rakyat. Institusi hukum tercemar dan kesenjangan pendapatan terus melebar.
Kita harus bertindak dan selamatkan Malaysia tercinta!
Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim
Posted: 26 Aug 2015 10:21 PM PDT
The house seemed dreary. When the gates opened, the yard was lit only by the light coming from inside.
It was markedly different from the night of March 8, 2008 and the day after.
At the time, the two-storey building in Bukit Segambut was filled with people.
Most of them were happy, while the rest were still in disbelief that Selangor, Kedah, Penang and Perak would fall into the hands of Pakatan Rakyat.
In Kelantan, meanwhile, PAS retained its control of the state.
But yesterday, the house was dreary, and that bleakness was felt when Nurul Hana Anwar recounted how she compiled the book ‘My Dear Papa’.
"It is very personal," she said.
The book is a compilation of notes, photos, and collages that portray Anwar Ibrahim as being more than a politician.
‘I still feel papa's absence’
Anwar is already a household name in this country. When the police brought him from his home – then in Bukit Damansara – to Bukit Amam, Nurul Hana was only six-years old.
"I didn't know anything but I knew something was going on," she told Malaysiakini.
Because of the incident 17 years ago, Nurul Hana admitted that she had been traumatised. The feelings were indescribable.
Now in 2015, her father was locked in prison again as though repeating history from 1998.
"I still feel papa's absence," she said.
Asked about the process of producing the book – which started out as a college project – she said she felt touched when sees images and words from Anwar and what is written about the former deputy prime minister.
"It was not to the extent of dropping tears, but I was touched," she said.
Asked if there are any feelings of grudge, Nurul Hana said what is documented is sorrow.
"Grudges, no. Mama said everything is Allah's will. There is a blessing behind it.
"Allah will not impose a test that we could not bear," she said.
Not interested in joining politics
Nurul Hana hopes the book can help people understand that Anwar's struggles still continue even though the former opposition leader is now behind bars.
She also hopes the book ‘My Dear Papa’ would offer some insight into another side of Anwar.
In the collage, Nurul Hana has also decorated it with some notes and some of her own poetry.
Asked if she is interested in joining politics, Nurul Hana promptly answered, "No."
Perhaps Malaysia has nothing to lose if she joins politics, as her mother Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and sister Nurul Izzah had done.
Nevertheless, the book seems to suggest that it would be a loss if Nurul Hana diverts attention away from her interest in the arts.
‘My Dear Papa’ is published by Gerakbudaya Enterprise and will be launched by national laureate A Samad Said at the publisher's premises in Petaling Jaya tonight.
In conjunction with the launch, the books will also be sold at a discounted price today.
Posted: 26 Aug 2015 10:19 PM PDT
The feeling that Malaysia is now in an abyss is real. Malaysians fear terrible things are happening to them and their country because of poor leadership. The man who – rightly or wrongly – will be blamed for all of Malaysia's woes will unfortunately be the current prime minister.
In June this year, the minister responsible for transforming the Malaysian economy – Idris Jala – in an open letter to Bloomberg , complained that he hardly recognised the country that Bloomberg columnist William Pesek was writing about. In the open letter, Idris Jala provided a robust rebuttal to William Pesek's derisive commentary on Malaysia.
Last week, Prime Minister Najib Razak was compelled to assert that Malaysia is not a failed state as public outrage reached a crescendo. Some even suggested that Malaysia is heading towards both a dictatorship and a failed state. Najib Razak countered with statistics and examples.
Both the prime minister and his minister for economic transformation are correct that – on balance – the available analyses suggests that the Malaysian economy is healthy and the prime minister is not yet a dictator. Yet, both men also know that despite evidence to support their arguments; and after spending hundreds of millions of ringgit to prosecute their case, and also improve the prime minister's image, the majority of Malaysians still think little of him, his administration and the country's performance. After the fatal mistake where he admitted that he "accepted" $700 million from a foreign donor (after first denying it) for the ruling party's political activities (a story that is still unfolding), significant portion of his own supporters (from the United Malays National Organisation/UMNO) have also lost faith in him. This is most unfortunate for Najib Razak, but also his cabinet and the Barisan Nasional.
During the East Asian Financial Crisis of 1997/98, then Malaysian prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad (Tun Mahathir) managed to successfully pin the blame for Malaysia's economic woes on the Jews. Najib Razak is attempting to do the same, but does not have the required conditions that favoured prime minister Tun Mahathir. There is no crisis that he can appeal too. There is/are no external force/s that he can pin the blame on. He is being attacked by people from within his own party for what they perceive as unforgivable mistakes that are weakening the Barisan Nasional and UMNO further; and that this mistakes are of his own making. The majority of Malaysians have long registered their preference for another coalition and leader.
The leadership of Barisan Nasional and the present cabinet strongly backs Najib Razak. Beyond that small but powerful circle, support is thin. He is now being made the scapegoat for the Barisan Nasional's, the UMNO's and the country's poor performance. All calamities befalling Malaysia and Malaysians are now being placed at his feet.
Despite being a prized product of the UMNO and Barisan Nasional system, Najib Razak is now a curse to many within the system that produced him. The son of the architect of the New Economic Policy and an UMNO thoroughbred, Najib Razak once glorified, is now hounded by the very people who made him the king of the hill. He has become a plague. It is no longer 1MDB but the prime minister that is the symbol of everything that is wrong with Malaysia.
Will Najib Razak survive the weekend?
Note: (1) I am holding off my article on the intra- and inter-institutional fights for awhile as I await new information. (2) Videos of grassroot UMNO leaders openly (and sometimes rudely) calling for his resignation are available on the internet. Here is a selection: [Video 1; Video 2; Video 3]. While other videos[Video 4] have exhorted the importance to attend the rally to demand change [Video 5].
Posted: 26 Aug 2015 10:17 PM PDT
The record donations exceeding RM1.5 million collected by electoral reforms coalition Bersih 2.0 ahead of this weekend’s rally is an indication of the people’s wrath against the Barisan Nasional (BN) government, analysts said.
They concurred that the main fundamentals that would bring the crowd together on August 29 were the people’s frustration over the RM2.6 billion donation deposited into Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s personal bank accounts, the scandal over state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) and economic hardships.
Analysts said a large turnout could be expected at the Bersih 4 rally, given the amount donated by ordinary Malaysians and also the sale of merchandise, including the 35,000 Bersih T-shirts, which were sold out within days.
Centre for Policy Initiatives chief executive officer Dr Lim Teck Ghee said most people felt Umno and BN were to blame for the socio-economic and political reversals and as such, a large turnout could be expected this weekend despite threats by the authorities.The donations from the public also indicate strong support for the rally and its objectives, he added.
“That so many members of the public are willing to contribute to the Bersih cause in a transparent and accountable way, and the disclosure that a full accounting will be provided, should be a lesson to the government and other stake players in our political system who have been less than open or dishonest about funds they have solicited and received,” Lim told The Malaysian Insider.
Independent pollster Ibrahim Suffian agreed, saying that going by T-shirt sales alone, a large turnout could be expected.
The executive director of Merdeka Center said that the RM1.5 million donation collected from the public by the organiser was unprecedented.
“Malaysians have always been generous, but mostly through philanthropy and for charitable causes. But in the past, they tended to shy away from donation for causes seen as political, and Bersih is seen as a political action.
“But this is an unprecedented amount, which means many ordinary Malaysians contributed with mostly small amounts.”
Ibrahim anticipates that participants this weekend would largely be an urban crowd made up of opposition supporters.
There would also possibly be a “new crop of demonstrators” made up of those who have not participated in such rallies before, he added.
“It will bring out a new crowd of people that have not come out before, such as white collar workers who strongly feel the need to participate.”
Ibrahim said that reasons for joining the rally would vary for the different demographics.
The Malay crowd, he said, would mostly be protesting against economic issues including the higher cost of living, as well as the goods and services tax (GST).
“There will be a multiple pull factor; for the urban crowd, their main reasons would be governance issues such as the handling of 1MDB while the rural participants would be motivated to demonstrate because of economic hardships,” he said.
Posted: 26 Aug 2015 10:16 PM PDT
Prime Minister Najib Razak is taking a page out of the playbook of mentor-turned-nemesis, former premier Mahathir Mohamad. To stem a decline in confidence in Malaysia, he's even tapping the expertise of Mahathir's ringgit peg architect.
As a plunge in global financial markets this week deepened the ringgit's slide and heightened comparisons with the Asian financial crisis, Najib unveiled an economic task force, echoing Mahathir's National Economic Action Council in 1998. Members of Najib's committee include business leaders and former Second Finance Minister Nor Mohamed Yakcop, who helped Mahathir design Malaysia's now-abandoned capital controls and currency peg.
The move underscores the growing pressure on Najib to prevent a further loss of confidence as a political scandal and plunging commodity prices undermine an economy that by many measures has strengthened since the 1997-98 regional crisis. While Najib has vowed Malaysia won't return to the capital controls or fixed currency regime that drew the ire of the International Monetary Fund 17 years ago, his government hasn't yet been able to halt the exodus of capital from its financial markets.
"What makes the current situation particularly worrying" is the risk of a sustained erosion in confidence, said Nicholas Spiro, managing director of Spiro Sovereign Strategy in London. "The government is scrambling to come up with ways to stem the rot which, given Malaysia's history of unorthodox financial measures, is weighing further on sentiment."
Also on the task force is Najib's brother Nazir Razak, chairman of one of the country's biggest lenders, who has criticized the current administration. Other members include Azman Mokhtar, managing director of state investment company Khazanah Nasional Bhd., and Malayan Banking Bhd. Chief Executive Officer Abdul Farid Alias.
"The act of establishing a task force comprising of 'old guards' and 'critics' helps bolster credibility insofar that economic crisis management is relegated to a more apolitical sphere and is taking centerstage with a visible and experienced task force," said Vishnu Varathan, a Singapore-based economist at Mizuho Bank Ltd.
Najib is grappling with allegations of financial irregularities at state investment company 1Malaysia Development Bhd., and has deflected Mahathir's calls to resign as the debt-ridden fund's woes contributed to investors souring on the country.
Foreign funds have dumped more than $3 billion of the nation's shares this year and the currency has weakened beyond the peg set by Mahathir in 1998. The country has Asia's worst-performing major currency this year.
Nor and Mahathir hatched a plan during the Asian financial crisis that would lead to the ringgit being pegged at 3.8 to the dollar in September 1998. That halted speculator bets that had caused it to plunge 31 percent in 12 months against the U.S. currency.
The IMF, which called Malaysia's response "a step back" at the time, later acknowledged it was a "stability anchor."
The ringgit climbed 0.4 percent to 4.2358 a dollar as of 8:57 a.m. in Kuala Lumpur, according to prices from local banks compiled by Bloomberg. It reached 4.2990 Wednesday, the lowest since July 1998 and has weakened more than 17 percent in 2015.
"The ringgit is way undervalued, but it's not fundamentals driving it; there's some panic that's being traded in the market," said Gerald Ambrose, managing director of Aberdeen Asset Management Sdn. in Kuala Lumpur. You can "wring your hands in the air or you can look at it as a good opportunity to buy assets at a significant discount to their fair value," he said.
Najib said Wednesday that the newest task force will meet weekly to find ways to minimize the impact of "any arising economic issues." They will look at short- and medium-term strategies to strengthen the country, he said.
"Where the committee could likely make an impact is in reiterating the importance of sticking to the structural reform agenda, pushing areas where there are limited progress so far," said Euben Paracuelles, a senior economist at Nomura Holdings Inc. in Singapore. That may be better than "thinking about immediate policy fixes which institutions like Bank Negara Malaysia are in a better position to formulate."
Malaysia has been struggling to boost confidence in its economy and finances since oil prices started slumping late last year. Other than allegations of irregularities at 1MDB, Najib is facing accusations of impropriety after it was disclosed that political donations ended up in his private accounts in 2013. The accounts have since been closed.
Nazir, 48, said in April the government needs to disclose more information about the liabilities of 1MDB to reassure investors in the currency and stock market even if it doesn't pose a risk for the banking system. He has also censured his brother's administration for suspending a newspaper which had questioned some of 1MDB's business deals.
He used Instagram to voice his opinion on the ringgit's decline, saying this month as the currency weakened beyond 4 per dollar that it's a "terrible time to be distracted by politics and so much negative international media coverage."
Posted: 26 Aug 2015 10:14 PM PDT
It’s Malaysia’s $700 million question: who transferred massive amounts of cash into Prime Minister Najib Razak’s personal bank accounts, and where is the money now?
But with Najib refusing to answer and concern that investigations have been stalled, thousands of protesters plan to demand his ouster this weekend, putting them on a potential collision course with police.
The demonstration could expose the breadth of public anger over Malaysia’s biggest political scandal in memory.
The Wall Street Journal’s revelation last month of Najib’s mysterious windfall has rocked his government and sent foreign investors fleeing Malaysian assets over the potential political uncertainty.
“You will see a sea of yellow in the streets this weekend,” said Wong Chin Huat, a leader of civil society alliance Bersih, referring to the group’s colours.
“People realise the country and economy are in a sad state and it’s being brushed aside by the government.”
Malaysia’s leading pressure group has brought out tens of thousands for past demonstrations that ended in clashes with police, most recently in 2012.
Police have declared the rally illegal, but Wong said at least 100,000 people are expected to press for Najib’s ouster over the scandal in the two-day rally.
“By hook or by crook, we will march,” he said.
Malaysians have been transfixed by months of allegations that hundreds of millions of dollars disappeared from deals involving heavily indebted state investment company 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which Najib launched in 2009.
On July 2, the Wall Street Journal reported that nearly $700 million was deposited into Najib’s personal bank accounts beginning in early 2013.
Najib initially rejected the Journal report, and both he and 1MDB vehemently deny any wrongdoing.
But members of his cabinet and Malaysia’s anti-graft agency now acknowledge the transfers, calling them “political donations” from unidentified Middle Eastern sources, saying there was nothing improper but giving no further details.
The accounts have since been closed and the whereabouts of the money is unknown.
The official explanations are widely rejected by the public, said Malaysia politics researcher James Chin.
“Najib’s credibility is destroyed. None of these explanations are believed, so he is digging his heels in,” he said.
Alleging a “political conspiracy” by unnamed opponents, Najib recently sacked or reassigned officials who were investigating the scandal, and purged Cabinet members who called for answers.
A newspaper known for its 1MDB reporting has been suspended for three months and Najib last week sparked free-speech concerns by saying his government would step up Internet regulation.
This was to prevent anyone “being criminally defamed, and so that the Internet does not become an ungoverned space dominated by insults and untruths,” he said in a speech.
Najib’s office did not respond to AFP requests for comment.
Economic ‘crisis’ looming
The situation has accelerated an exodus by foreign investors already worried about Malaysia’s economy who now fear the scandal is dominating Najib’s attention, said Chua Hak Bin, head economist for Asian emerging markets at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
“The government is focused on (political) survival, but the economy is in danger of slipping into crisis as a result,” said Chua.
“Investors can’t see the endgame, and that’s worrying.”
The ringgit currency has fallen 13 percent since the Wall Street Journal revelations.
It has dropped more than 30 percent over the past year to an 18-year low, partly on fears the energy-exporting country’s economic growth will be hit by faltering oil prices.
China’s recent currency devaluation has added further pressure.
Mahathir Mohamad, who led Malaysia from 1981-2003 and still casts a long shadow, has fiercely attacked Najib over the scandal.
He warned on his widely read blog recently that the “economy will collapse”, harming Malaysian consumers, unless the scandal is explained and confidence restored.
Political analysts say Najib will likely use his government’s leverage over key institutions to thwart investigations, and is expected to see off any internal challenges within his ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).
Less clear is the impact on the next elections, which are due by 2018.
In power since 1957, the government is already losing support over recurring corruption scandals, and UMNO’s use of racially divisive politics.
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