Talkback

Malaysia's 'Ivanka' Has Loads More Cred

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has put his foot down on his daughter Nurul Izzah’s appointment as his adviser for economics in both the Prime Minister’s Department as well as the Finance Ministry, saying it is to ensure that contracts and tenders are managed in an “orderly” manner.

Pointing out that his eldest daughter is taking on the unpaid role, Anwar gave his assurance that the appointment is not to misuse power or to enrich his family like those who grant projects worth millions of ringgit to their children and son or daughter-in-law.

“She (Nurul) is here to help. If she came to help with no positions, that will be questioned and it’s not transparent, nor is it proper,” he told reporters today after attending the National Sports Awards at the National Sports Council in Kuala Lumpur.

“I want to give assurance, God willing, that our administration, even if some are not satisfied with this decision, (we are here to) fight corruption, not to misuse power or enrich any officials or leaders.”…

Earlier today, Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) president Muhammad Mohan questioned Anwar’s decision, saying it may signal that cronyism and nepotism are back.

Our comment

It is sad to see Malaysia’s democracy advocates going after Nurul Izzar because she has agreed to work as her father’s unpaid advisor.

Yes, the unpaid role will open doors for her to make the enquiries he is plaining on leaving her to do.  Yet, special advisors have been adopted by leaders everywhere being people they know they can trust to delegate/ arms length some of the volume of their work. Usually these are paid.

Nurul is not a nepotistic parvenu, in fact she could hardly be more qualified for the role. She is one of Malaysia’s most longstanding and experienced opposition politicians, who has suffered and battled harder than many salaried NGOs who know when to duck out of the line of fire when danger threatens. She has not had such luxury and has shown at least as much courage and steadfastness for the cause of reform as they – and paid the price.

Like her mother, Nurul has been much more than a daughter, working as an elected politician, key ally and indeed surrogate for Anwar during his decade in jail. Anwar knows how she was there when others, who may now be back on board, were writing him off and making themselves scarce when support was needed.

Nurul is experienced in politics, therefore, and an inspiring speaker who is a rare Malaysian figure on the international stage. How many other Malaysian politicians can draw a crowd like she can in London or New York? They admire her for her story, her charisma and for her proven capability and qualities as a leader.

She lost her seat. The circumstances are murky as to why, but as a top politician she was a top target for the ultimately unsuccessful PN coalition.

It is common for parties to seek out some role for loyal MPs who meet this fate. Usually, the role includes a salary.  However, given her relationship, she has foregone the remuneration that any other ex-PKR MP in her position would have accepted without a thought – or criticism from others either.

So, why has she been singled out for this attack as if her years of political service stood for nothing?  Why has there been so much anger and criticism over this appointment compared, for example, to glaring and recent examples where powerful politicians have awarded multi-million ringgit contracts to companies owned by the husbands of their daughters or passed on their own seat to their son or daughter like a family heirloom?

Are these issues too complicated with too much work involved to stand up and complain about or are the politicians concerned too mean to confront in the same aggressive manner?  Count the articles and the official NGO complaints made about those real scandals, compared to all the column inches filled over Nurul’s unpaid job.

Perhaps some reflection is needed on the wisdom of making a false equivalence by calling the appointment of Nurul Izzar “nepotism” compared to the custom of treating parliamentary seats as a family heirloom, or “cronyism” compared to the purloining of contracts for family members or those who provide backhanders in return.

More work is needed and more noise made over these glaring examples of genuine corruption in Malaysia from the paid NGO figures who have waxed so noisily over Nurul. After all, they can do so without danger now, thanks to the advent of the pro-reform administration that she has worked for more than most.

Hadi Admits It!

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang has defended the party’s distribution of cash to voters during the 15th general election (GE15), claiming that it was a charitable act and hence, not prohibited by electoral law.

The Malaysian Insight (TMI) quoted the Marang MP as saying existing rules only prohibited contesting candidates and their representatives from giving cash to voters.

“According to election law, a candidate or a candidate’s representative cannot give out cash money, it is up to the public to give alms,” Hadi told reporters after attending the Semarak Gelombang Rakyat event with Perikatan Nasional (PN) in Negeri Sembilan this morning.

The petitions filed by BN to challenge the election outcomes for three Terengganu parliamentary seats were described as a tactical move by the PN deputy chairperson.

Our comment

Evidently PAS cannot deny the allegation that their party handed out cash to voters during the election, so their leader, Hadi Awang, has decided to brazen it out with a game of semantics and hair splitting.

Bribery is re-designated as ‘charity’ and we are informed that there is a big difference – or so Hadi claims – if the PAS state government machinery handed round the cash rather than the local candidates physically themselves.

If the PAS candidate was featured and promoted on the green envelope slip in which the money was presented, so what?

Good luck to the lawyer who takes on the task of standing up Hadi’s legal opinions in court. The PAS leader is no stranger to uttering preposterous self-justifications (for example that it is OK to lie if it benefits his own ‘Godly’ party) but he has tended to save his theories for credulous followers and to run away from testing them against the penal code.

It seems now he has no choice because the evidence is there and a case has been brought against him.

Vote-Buying - What Would The Prophet Say?

Terengganu Umno has filed election petitions alleging vote buying in three constituencies – Marang, Kuala Terengganu dan Kemaman – in the recent general election (GE15).

Ahmad said the vote-buying took place on Nov 15, 16 and 17, with most households in the constituencies receiving RM500 to RM1,000 each. Polling for GE15 took place on Nov 19.

“On Nov 15, 16 and 17, 2022, Perikatan Nasional (PN) had given out funds in the form of i-siswa, i-belia dan i-pencen to voters in Terengganu, including to those who had returned home to vote.

“While it is a special fund under the Terengganu state government, and also funding from PN, the fact that it was given out during the election makes it morally wrong.

“Meanwhile, at Kampung Tok Hakim, a viral TikTok video showed someone admitting, “I took money from you, so I will vote for PAS”, Ahmad said during a press conference at the World Trade Centre here.

Ahmad said they have met with witnesses from eight parliamentary constituencies, but only those from Marang, Kuala Terengganu and Kemaman were willing to cooperate.

“Many admitted that they received (bribes), but when we mention (appearing) in court, they refused to cooperate.

Umno lawyer Amin Othman said that the petition is to challenge the victory of the PAS candidates in Kemaman, Marang and Kuala Terengganu in GE15.

“We have filed the petition on the basis of corruption,” he said, adding that 20 voters have come forward as witnesses

Our comment

As any movie watcher knows, Mafia Godfathers are always among those who profess their Catholic faith most loudly, attend church most religiously and claim to be the most holy of people whilst their minions murder and pillage their communities.

The bigwigs of the ‘Islamic religious party’ PAS need to demonstrate they are not at the same game in terms of rampant political corruption.

Handing out ‘student, youth and pension grants’ in neat little envelopes of cash, all at the same time days before an election and in the name of their political party, is very scant window dressing for buying votes at the taxpayer’s expense.

One wonders how the legislation for these grants was drawn up – did it specify that these support payments to the elderly and to college goers should be provided not as regular stipends or as lump sums before the start of term, but only when an election is suddenly called and in the form of cash handed out only by PAS party MPs?

If so, legal challenges would have been inevitable and they would have been won.

We await the outcome of Terengganu Umno chief Ahmad Said’s whistleblowing and if one scrap of what he says proves true the Marang MP, namely PAS leader Hadi Awang, should not only resign he should prepare to remove his pious devotions to within the four walls of a correctional institution.

And there ought to be a re-election in Terengganu.

Was UMNO's 'Big Steal' Theory Inherited By PN?

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has arrested the CEO of a private company for allegedly serving as a middleman in the distribution of government projects.

A source close to the matter linked the arrest to MACC’s investigation into the alleged misappropriation of Covid-19 stimulus packages worth RM92.5 billion by the former Perikatan Nasional-led (PN) government.

When contacted, MACC chief commissioner Azam Baki confirmed the arrest and said the case was being investigated under Section 16 (a) of the MACC Act 2009.

The source said MACC had opened investigation papers into at least five individuals believed to have been involved in helping companies obtain projects worth between RM50 million to RM500 million through direct negotiations linked to the stimulus packages.

The source added that several contractors who were also questioned admitted to agreeing to pay a commission of between 3-5% to be deposited into the account of a political party, which was supposedly meant as political funding.

“Almost 90% of the projects that were given through direct negotiations have not been implemented as no acceptance letters were issued,” the source said.

“Thus, MACC will focus on investigating the remaining 10% of ongoing projects. These projects are currently at only 10% to 20% of work completed.”

On Dec 15 last year, MACC raided eight government agencies and nine companies as part of its investigation into the alleged misappropriation of RM92.5 billion by the PN-led government.

A source close to the matter said the eight government agencies received a “huge allocation” from the stimulus packages approved by the government in 2020 and 2021…. The nine companies are believed to be “major suppliers” of the eight agencies.

Our comment

The Nazi theory that if you are going to lie make it a Big Lie seems to have its equivalent in UMNO/PN’s approach to stealing. When setting about abusing office to enrich themselves these political miscreants appear to have done it on an ever-increasing, jaw-dropping scale.

The practice appears not to have been deterred by the arrest and exposure of Najib Razak and so many of his political cronies. To the contrary, when Najib’s former deputy finally got his hands on the top job all the evidence indicates that new scales of larceny got underway under cover of the ‘Emergency’ and ‘Covid Stimulus Package’.

Meanwhile, previously arrested players such as Musa Aman saw their charges dropped – this being the lesson the new kings in the castle preferred to apparently absorb as Najib steadily progressed towards jail.

Based on the above information allegedly sourced from the MACC up to RM4.5 billion in ‘commissions’ had already been extracted on behalf of ‘a political party’ from the RM92.5 billion in un-tendered stimulus projects handed out under the PN led government.

That is considerably more than what Najib spent from his own 2013 billion dollar war chest which he had set up at AmBank using money stolen from 1MDB.

We will leave the MACC to continue their investigations under the present government. However, like so many Big Lies, those behind this apparent heist ought really to have learnt the lesson that Big Steals do tend to get found out in the end …. and punished.

Do Top Glove Fail To Understand The Concept Of Mutual Respect?

Leading rubber glove maker has struggled to shake off concerns about its labour practices Malaysia produces up to two-thirds of the world’s rubber gloves with Top Glove alone claiming a 26% market share © Samsul Said/Bloomberg

In a meeting room on the 21st floor of Top Glove Tower, the Malaysian headquarters of the world’s biggest rubber glove maker, two employees demonstrated the new company chant.

“Thumbs up, ready, one, two, three,” they said. “Clean well, eat well, work well, exercise well, sleep well. Healthy! Healthy! Healthy!”

In the 23-storey glass-fronted complex just outside Kuala Lumpur, staff are only allowed vegetarian food in the canteen and are “encouraged” to visit the in-house gym before or after work, a public relations employee told the Financial Times during a tour. Like other workers, she wore a badge that read: “Corruption and bribery is a crime. Be honest. No cheating.”

Top Glove, which has in recent years suffered its own reputational crisis, has a strong incentive to convince outsiders that it is committed to employee welfare and business ethics.

Until the Covid-19 pandemic, the group had quietly led a national industry that produced up to two-thirds of the world’s rubber gloves. Top Glove alone claims a 26 per cent market share.

Then, soaring demand for personal protective equipment drew international attention to the sector. Top Glove was hit with allegations of forced labour in its factories, leading to a US ban on its products. Similar bans have since been placed on three other groups.

Our comment

This outsider is left unconvinced.

Why is this wealthy company approaching its own well-publicised failures in terms of employee welfare by bullying and infantilising its workers further, treating them like CCP army recruits ?

Why should employees be asked to chant like children, be told what they can’t eat and herded into the gym (does the company keep a star chart)?

Of course, there is much to be said for encouragement and information on the subject of good health. However, in the case of Top Glove the publicised failings have been glaringly in the category of management, work practices and conditions not sloppy staff attitudes. No one has complained about the quality of Top Glove products.

As for corruption and bribery, what opportunities does a low paid migrant worker have to engage in such practices compared to company managers and directors, for example, who must daily be tempted to grease palms to gain business advantages and contracts?

So, instead of harassing workers for PR purposes these managers should concentrate on performing their duty of making sure their lives are tolerable (even enjoyable if possible?) and their conditions and remuneration at the very least fair.

To keep their minds on that duty it would be no bad thing for these managers to themselves perform their own chants outside the factory every morning, because it is they who need reminded to keep healthy in their minds, bodies and actions.

Leading by example not dictat is the way to reform.

Training Professional Dirty Tricksters?

Ramesh Rao has broken his silence over his surprise appointment as special officer in charge of affairs related to the Indian community, asking his critics to give him a chance to prove his worth.

Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi had on Saturday announced that Ramesh, who is president of non-governmental organisation Pertubuhan Minda dan Sosial Prihatin, had been entrusted with the role.

Critics were quick to slam the move…

Ramesh, in defending his appointment, said he has a good track record in terms of helping the people.

“I can show who I’ve helped as an NGO and the things I’ve done. He (Zahid) and Najib (Razak) know what I’ve done during Barisan Nasional’s reign …. at the end of the day, I’m only answerable to my boss,” he said.

Asked how he plans to help the Indian population, Ramesh said he plans to transform them into a “professional community”.

“If you look at the Indian communities in Europe or the United States, they are known as a professional community, despite being the minority.

“Therefore, my mission is to transform the Indian minority in Malaysia into a professional community and I believe that we can do that….

Ramesh was also asked to explain allegations that he was a bankrupt, as images of an Insolvency Department statement which showed that he was insolvent had made its rounds on social media.

He replied that it was an old issue, and settled it back in 2014.

Our comment

Proud Malaysians of Indian descent might be bemused to be offered the notorious Ramesh Rao as a mentor, paid for by taxpayers like themselves.

Rao now admits from his own mouth that he did favours for his previous bosses, Zahid and the now imprisoned Najib Razak, under the prior BN ‘reign’, hence plainly this cushy employment as part of the ‘unity government’ deal.

The thousands of other political appointees who have just been signalled their marching orders will doubtless be mulling that there could be no more political an appointment than this one. They will entitled to ask how much his salary is on the public purse and how his job description was devised (so soon after the new government was established).

They might well further ask what interview process was undertaken (was anyone else allowed to apply)?

Another pertinent matter is what professional background Ramesh Rao will be bringing to his mission to uplift fellow Indians into the professions he describes. His own background would appear to be that of a professional huckster who faithfully performed a whole series of dirty tricks for his now acknowledged masters, Najib and his deputy, whom at the time he of course denied he worked for.

Ramesh Rao has emerged as having acted as a conduit in the sleazy Bala affair, when the Najib family had banished the key witness in the Altantuya case abroad to shut him up. When the bodyguard eventually insisted on coming home in 2013 to speak out on the truth he tragically died soon after.

Rao then set about orchestrating Bala’s poor widow into an ill-executed attempt to exculpate Najib from his role in the affair in a disastrous press conference, all in his capacity as a supposed ‘NGO leader’.

Likewise, this same ex-Najib functionary was hard on the case of seeking to discredit Sarawak Report over its exposure of 1MDB and Najib’s enormous thefts. Again taking advantage of a vulnerable person (Lester Melanie) again through a botched press conference. Rao attempted to publicise alleged testimony against the SR editor that she ran a ‘master forgery’ at which all the damning documents were framed.

He even took the opportunity to publish a death threat against her for ‘going against’ his boss Najib.

The FBI, numerous other investigators and the Malaysian justice system have chosen to disagree on the evidence presented, totally vindicating Sarawak Report and yet again making a right old fool out of Rao the bankrupted ‘NGO’ and special agent to Najib.

Back to the Altantuya murder and the multiple attempts to distance Najib, in 2017 Rao was again touting press statements, this time one illicitly recorded by one of the convicted killers, Sirul Azhar Umah, from his prison cell in Australia. The purpose of the statement which came into Rao’s hands was to yet again exonerate Najib (the killer being Najib’s bodyguard).

Sirul has acknowledged he had been paid, of course.

Rao is therefore a discredited and proven multiple deceiver, who has acted deceptively several times to wash the reputation of a now convicted mega-crook.  It makes his appointment as a public servant a sad disgrace, and a very poor beginning for a government that has laid out its stall on the basis of tackling corrupt public appointments.

The unity government is of course a compromise arrangement including some of the worst elements of the past regime that shamed Malaysia. As one of the main agents for Najib and his deputy (now DPM once more) – as was always widely suspected but which he now admits – it would seem that Ramesh Rao learned many things in the process of his work.

Perhaps that included the sort of information that gets a chap a job to shut him up?

PN To Substitute Constitution, Civil Code & Penal Code With Quran?

Secularism has no place in Malay-Muslim politics, says MP:

When it comes to politics in the Malay-Muslim community, one cannot separate religion from it, says a Bersatu leader.

Bersatu Youth chief Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal said this is because religion is part and parcel of the Malay-Muslim community’s political philosophy.

“In the Quran and Prophetic sayings, there are many references to that. So one cannot be secular in our approach when campaigning,” he said in an interview with BFM.

He was asked if Perikatan Nasional (PN) would be reducing its racial and religious rhetoric when campaigning for the coming state election.

Our comment

These PAS and now PN fellows like to play politics but with the added weapon of their self-proclaimed label of being ‘holier than thou’.

Don’t expect them to lead more modest lives; spend money on the poor (or indeed on balancing the books) before purchasing Mercedes cars or to stint on high paying positions and cash handouts for themselves on the public purse.

Do, on the other hand, expect sanctimonious expressions of religiosity and accusations against opponents for being less religious. Also, expect them to inform gullible and isolated faithful followers of Islam that not to vote for them would be a sin.

This Bersatu youth appointee makes his remarks implying that religion should intrude on secular affairs at a time when the largest clergy-run regime, Iran, is shocking the world with the most unholy of atrocities, embarking on mass imprisonments and hangings after the entire population rose up (rightly) against the disgusting abuse of women by violent, sexually abusive “Morality Police” (state legitimised thugs with a ‘religious’ blessing).

Any perusal of international history will confirm that some of the worst, most perverted sins and crimes have been committed by those who have taken refuge behind the protective cloak of religion and that the abuse becomes far worse when religion takes control of the state and ceases to be a private matter between an individual, their religious community and their God.

In such circumstances, religion becomes used as a justification for totalitarian oppression on the part of those who have assumed the top jobs in the theocratic establishment, claiming as they do that they are the sole, privileged and direct conduits of the word of God and that the slightest disobedience must be punished.

It is for this reason (as Mr Wan Amad’s schoolbooks surely taught him) that after much death and misery most civilisations came to the conclusion several hundreds of years ago that church/mosque and state ought to be kept separate, in the same way that other powers – namely the legislative, judicial and executive – are also kept separate to check and balance the seats of power over people’s lives.

Malaysia is fortunate to have this principle enshrined its Constitution and thanks to the following of these principles, the country has developed largely peacefully and progressively with prosperity over the years – unlike Iran and unlike Afghanistan or any other state dominated by a religion or an ideology.

His remarks are therefore dangerous and a direct challenge to the country’s consitution which seeks to accommodate all those who joined the Federation of Malaysia (and vastly enriched the Malays in so doing) very many of whom are not Muslim and have no wish to submit to Sharia law.

What's Needed Is New Dayak Blood In The Leadership Of Sarawak

(GPS) secretary-general Alexander Linggi has called for more Dayaks and Chinese from Sarawak to be appointed as deputy ministers to reflect a multiracial leadership in the unity government.

He said minority ethnic communities such as the Bidayuh, Lun Bawang, Kayan, Kenyah and Melanau, as well as the Iban, should be given the opportunity to serve in the new government.

“MPs from these various ethnic groups are obviously capable and have served several terms as MPs and Senators.

“Almost all of them had served as deputy ministers and one of them (Datuk Seri Doris Sophia Brodi) had also served as Dewan Negara Deputy Speaker. The broad experience of this line of leaders must be a consideration for appointment as deputy ministers.

Our comment

The pampered handful of super-wealthy Dayaks who have collaborated with the Melanau/Malay controlled state for decades are now presenting themselves as being somehow ‘representative’ of the people of Sarawak to justify plum seats in the Federal Government.

What these immensely privileged fellows ought to be concentrating on is bringing forward a next generation of Dayak into a state government dominated by a minority group related to one family who raped the state and have long since outlasted what use they had as the catspaws for West Malaysia who wanted Sarawak’s oil.

It is time the Dayak communities received their due and gained proper representation in the state government and civil service. It is time their lands were restored and decent services were brought to their homes.

Sarawak is a rich state and yet most of its tiny population of Dayak people have been left to live like paupers whilst the likes of the Linggis have held office and basked in enormous wealth for decades.

If Alexander Lingi cares (rightly) about representation for the Dayak people he can concentrate on setting things right in his home state of Sarawak first rather than fussing for yet more powerful positions for himself.

PN Favour Reform But Not Of Themselves

Amid allegations that Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) election funds were partially sourced from gambling companies, the Muhyiddin Yassin-led coalition said it will not disclose the funds it received.

Its deputy Youth chief Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal said it is not the practice of political parties to make their funding public.

“We will not be presenting the list. No political parties have done that (present a list of funds received) before,” he added….

However, he said PN is open to debating the political funding bill in Parliament.

“If that’s among the main issues, then go ahead. As an MP, I, too, call for this.

“It was supposed to be solved during Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s tenure (as prime minister) but Parliament had already been dissolved, so there was no time for that

Our comment

So, let’s be clear. PN are totally in favour of reforming the political funding laws in Malaysia in order to adopt the basic levels of transparency expected in a democracy (as already enacted in other countries across the globe).

In fact, they were going to do it when they had a chance in government but never got around to it because they decided to call a snap election instead, presumably because they reckoned they could somehow pull off an early election win.

We all know what happened next. PN displayed the most enormous level of funds throughout the election campaign, of the sort that used to win elections when its elderly leaders like Moo first learnt their craft. However this time it didn’t work.

So, everyone is now asking where on earth did all that money come from in the hands of a party which has had its hands on the levers of power during a state of emergency for eighteen months, where all systems of accountability were conveniently shelved and Parliament shut down?

The new PM/FM has confirmed improprieties took place regarding the handling of RM600 billion of public money during that period which he will investigate. He has also suggested PN (dominated by the ‘religious’ folk from PAS) received election money from gambling interests.

Yesterday, a stash of papers sadly caught fire in the rubbish area behind the MOF.

Now, whilst furiously denying any improprieties or income from gambling outfits and at the same time saying it is fully in favour of reform and transparency, PN are refusing to open their accounts…. because so far it’s not the law?

Why don’t these clerics and their side-kicks start to lead by example and stop telling the rest of us to believe them holy just because they say so?

On The Matter Of Foreign Funding

PAS ulama council has asked the government why it is not investigating the accusation that Pakatan Harapan received foreign funding when it was in the opposition.

The council’s chief Ahmad Yahya said there should be greater concern about foreign funding as it could jeopardise national security.

“The most important question now is about Harapan receiving funds from foreign entities, something that had alarmed the public before this.

“This matter was revealed by Daniel Twining himself, who is the president of the International Republican Institute (IRI), after the 14th general election.

Our comment

This cleric (whose party of course exists entirely off donations or scrabbling public appointments for doing very little) has reminded of an important point.

The only major funding into Najib’s secret personal war-chest apart from moneys looted from 1MDB was roughly a hundred million dollars documented as a donation into his illegal bank account from the Saudi Foreign Ministry.

In fact, for the longest time Najib tried to pretend the entirety of the billion dollars in that account had been a “gift” from the Saudi King to help keep him in office and promote his alleged support of Islam (for which read his financial courtship of the PAS party which had previously been regarded by UMNO as dangerous extremists who had caused conflict in Malaysia).

PAS has been trading its obedient flock for cash to the highest political bidders ever since.

Not only did PAS agree to ally with the Saudi-financed klepto-crook Najib, but they carried on in government with him (and all the other crooks they now pretend to deplore now they have fallen out) for three years following the coup in which they played a part and following his conviction.

They have therefore been happy to gorge off foreign money handed not to opposition parties but to the party of government even – foreign funding to control the government of Malaysia and spread the brand of religion espoused by Saudi Arabia (where Hadi went off to learn his lines).

PAS are well-known for their sanctimonious hypocrisy, but it seems particularly astounding they would choose to bring up this particular issue where their behaviour is so exposed with documents, court evidence and the conviction of Najib on the basis of an  interpretation of what some think tank person might have or might not have claimed in the US.