Artikel

1 September 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Al Jazeera

Malaysia’s pro-democracy rally shows a country deeply divided along ethnic lines.

The human sea of yellow swarming though the streets of Kuala Lumpur on the weekend looked, at first glance, like an overwhelming show of people power directed against a government and a prime minister deeply imperilled by political and financial scandals.

But the rally, smaller in number than hoped for and lacking a representative ethnic mix, served only to show that democracy in Malaysia is more troubled than many previously thought. 

A splintered opposition failed to mobilise supporters on the scale hoped for and those who did turn up – and without a doubt, there were tens of thousands of them – were predominantly from the minority ethnic Chinese and Indian communities.

That these groups have legitimate concerns is a valid reason to protest. But to the large ethnic Malay support base of the beleaguered Prime Minister Najib Razak, this was a startling show of opposition towards the status quo and the rule of the Barisan Nasional coalition. This, of course, is exactly what Najib was hoping for.

Malay culture under threat?

The paucity of Malay protesters played directly into Najib’s hands, strengthening his core Malay support base with a mass visual display claiming that ethnic Malay heritage and culture are under threat.

The prime minister, who was not in Kuala Lumpur during the protest, deemed the protesters “shallow and poor in their patriotism and love for their motherland“. Malaysia’s ethnic groups, and thus Malaysia itself, are looking more and more divided.

The timing of the rally, which was the fourth held by the Bersih civil society group that campaigns for free and fair elections, is also no coincidence.

On Monday, Malaysia will celebrate Merdeka Day, the annual celebration marking its independence from Britain in 1957.

For those taking part in the rally, this patriotic holiday is a chance to look back at the past and focus on what kind of Malaysia people want for the future. For the government that has been the sole holder of power since independence, however, patriotism means a chance to display their Malay identity and reinforce the nationalist narrative that surrounds independence celebrations.

Public dissatisfaction has been brewing in Malaysia for the past months as the economy slows and political scandals escalate.

The street protests come amid allegations of Najib’s mismanagement of the debt-laden 1Malaysia Development fund (1MDB), a faltering economy with a plunging currency, and allegations of impropriety over a 2.6 billion Malaysian ringgit ($700m) “donation” deposited into Najib’s personal bank accounts. Najib denies allegations that he used public money for personal gain.

Colourful symbol

In the lead-up to the protest, the government used almost every lever available to deter protesters. They ruled the rallies illegal, saying correct permissions had not been sought, banned internet sites that mentioned the protest, and even tried to ban the yellow shirts that were to become the colourful symbol of the protest.

These heavy-handed scare tactics may have served to keep some protesters away. But the rally’s failure to mobilise a crowd representative of Malaysia’s ethnic groups highlighted the widening religious and ethnic polarity in Malaysian politics, as well as the weakness of opposition groups plagued by infighting and disagreements over the place of religion in multiethnic Malaysia.

In the past, Bersih rallies could count on numbers mobilised by opposition parties for a good turnout. The Pan Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), with one million members nationwide, is no longer part of the opposition after a fallout with former opposition allies, who represent mainly ethnic Chinese and Indian interests.

Perhaps the best result in the aftermath of the Bersih 4.0 rally is to instil in the ruling UMNO leadership a sense that the prime minister is no longer electable. But the UMNO party leadership conference, the forum that could vote him out as leader, has been delayed for 18 months.

Patronage politics

The other hope is in a vote of no confidence that could be moved by opposition politicians when parliament resumes in October. However, it seems unlikely that it will garner enough support.

Malaysia has shown repeatedly that the prime minister does not need the people’s support to survive. Patronage politics is deeply ingrained, and the recent sackings of senior politicians are a stark reminder of what lies in store for those whose loyalty is questioned. For now, it seems Najib is likely to survive and lead his party into the next election.

Despite the show of force, with military hardware and armoured water cannon trucks lining the protest route, there was little violence and few arrests. Previous rallies saw street scuffles, the use of water cannon and tear gas along with hundreds of arrests.

Whether intentional or not, the Malaysian police have managed this rally with a light hand, perhaps driven by a belief that the protest is essentially harmless. After cracking down hard before the rally, the authorities seemed content to sit back, show the world that they can effectively manage public discontent – and then do nothing.

Democracy in Malaysia is the poorer for it.

 

1 September 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Quartz

bersih-rallies-in-kuala-lumpur-august-2015

This weekend tens of thousands protestors gathered in Kuala Lumpur and elsewhere calling for political reform in Malaysia. They were joined twice by 90-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, who ran the nation for more than two decades and has—like many of the protestors—called for the removal of embattled prime minister Najib Razak, whom he helped put in power.

The rallies ended just before the nation’s Independence Day, which takes place today (Aug. 31).

Najib is under pressure after last month’s revelation that nearly $700 million found its way into his bank accounts shortly before the close-fought 2013 general election. He claimed the money was donated by an unnamed Arab family. He sacked his deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who called for the truth on 1MDB, and he’s worked to silence publishers, journalists, and others.

The rallies called for clean elections, clean government, the right to dissent, a strengthened parliament, and the rescue of Malaysia’s faltering economy. They were named Bersih, after the Malay word for “clean.” Organizers put the number of protestors in Kuala Lumpur at 200,000 on Saturday and 300,000 on Sunday, while authorities—who had declared the rallies illegal beforehand—said the number was closer to 25,000.

With the gap between estimates so glaring, one post shared drone footage from an anonymous source showing the crowds from above.

Malaysians and their supporters were also marching around the globe, including in London, Melbourne, Hong Kong, and other cities:

The amounts involved in the transfers to Najib’s accounts have captivated Malaysians being asked to tighten their belts to help reduce the nation’s budget deficit. In April Najib’s administration implemented a highly resented consumption tax of 6% on all goods and services. Late last year it removed subsidies for gasoline, diesel, and sugar, and it plans to continue cutting others, including for liquefied petroleum gas and cooking oil.

Meanwhile Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor—dubbed “the first lady of shopping”—has been likened to Imelda Marcos for her extravagant buying binges abroad.

1 September 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Mkini

Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Asmabi Mohamad has agreed to recuse herself from hearing Anwar Ibrahim’s judicial review application for him to challenge the Pardons Board petition disallowing his and his family’s petition for his pardon.

Justice Asmabi made the decision in her chambers after hearing submissions from lawyers Latheefa Koya and Shahid Adli Kamaruddin, as well as from senior federal counsel Suzana Atan.

With the decision today, the case for leave (permission) for judicial review will be heard before another judge.

“Basically, the judge agreed with the application and the ?matter will now be referred to the managing judge for it to be brought before another judge,” Latheefa (photo) said.

“Justice Asmabi gave the order in terms and no orderwas made on costs. She also recused herself in Anwar’s suit against Election Commission for not being allowed to vote in the Permatang Pauh parliamentary by-election,” she added.

Anwar has applied to recuse Justice Asmabi on grounds that she was the senior federal counsel ?representing the government and then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in his suit for unlawful dismissal and sacking when he was deputy prime minister in 1998.

1 September 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Mkini

The massive Bersih 4 rally that took place in the heart of Kuala Lumpur on on Aug 29 and 30 can be described as tremendous success considering the number of people who took part in it.

It is estimated about 500,000 people were involved and many spent the night sleeping on sidewalks and pavements. Bersih also took an international profile, with similar rallies held in some of the cities worldwide.

Yes, Bersih succeeded in highlighting its objectives of: reforming the corrupt and decadent electoral system, reviving institutions that have become defunct and most importantly, the removal of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak for his involvement in massive corruption related to the disbursement of 1MDB funds.

Unlike earlier Bersih movements, this time there were no untoward incidents involving the police or other law enforcement agencies. The police were surprisingly well-behaved and disciplined.

The actual Bersih rally is over, at least for the time being. Whether Bersih 5 will take place or not will depend on the whether the government takes initiatives to speed up reforms in the country.

Of course, the hardest thing will be to expect Najib to resign from his post. There are no indications that Najib will resign from the pressure exerted by Bersih.

In fact, there are already overt and covert signs that Umno and other Malay extremist organisations will use the large presence of the Chinese in the rally to drum home the point that Bersih was a Chinese-initiated movement to topple the Malay leadership.

Former DAP vice-chairperson and the current adviser of MACC, Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim has provided a completely racial twist to the recent Bersih rally. He lamented that the large presence of Chinese in the rally indicated that it was attempt on the part of them to humiliate and dishonour Malays during Merdeka celebrations.

Needless to say, the sizeable presence of Malays and Indians probably, or conveniently, never caught the eyes of Tunku Aziz!

In the coming days, weeks and months leading up to Umno division general assemblies, we can expect Utusan Malaysia to build up and propagate its racial theories about how Chinese are going to take over the leadership from the hands of Malays, in other words from Umno.

Was Mahathir’s presence of any help?

We can’t say for sure whether the presence of the former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad was something that was helpful to the Bersih movement as whole. The man who had nothing but contempt for protests and demonstrations suddenly turned to support the “cause of the rakyat” in this Bersih rally.

Mahathir said he supported the people’s cause but not Bersih. His attendance at Bersih 4 was a classic case of taking the opportunity to ride the wave to remove Najib and revive Umno, but he showed no interest in the reforms that the country badly needs.

Participants could have welcomed his presence, but are fully aware that his sole purpose in attending the rally was to revive Umno, an Umno that will behave and dance according to the tune he sets!

Now, with the rally over, what is going to happen? Are we going to expect major changes to the nature of the country’s administration? Will Najib’s days in office be numbered? There are no clear answers to these and many other questions that are foremost in the minds of Malaysians.

Changes not expected overnight

Bersih leaders do not expect changes to take place overnight as these will take time to gain momentum. But at least the Bersih leaders have played a role in bringing together thousands of Malaysians to the streets in wanting change and a better future for them and their children.

Bersih, whatever, its limitations, has defied norms by telling and emboldening Malaysians to come together as one in demanding for change. For Bersih, politics should not be left to the politicians, however, well-meaning they are.

Even if the majority of the participants were Chinese, it does not negate the fact that they were there as Malaysians and citizens. They did not flock together as a Chinese group organised by some Chinese leaders.

In fact, many of them members of the middle-class and not even members of the DAP! Sorry, DAP does not have the monopoly on how the Chinese behave.

Chinese and Indians were eager to participate not because they belong to particular ethnic groups, but because they are victims of the political, social and economic system. It is only normal for Chinese and Indians to take up a more active role in the Bersih movement, given their own predicament in the country.

Years of independence have not assured these two communities a meaningful place that they call it home. Often being reminded as “pendatang”, the stigma alone is enough to galvanise these two communities to spring to action!

It was noticeable that the lack of Malay participation was conspicuous in Bersih 4. In fact, Malay participation increased on the second day and a variety of factors were responsible for this.

First, the absence of PAS in Pakatan Rakyat was the major factor behind the lack of large-scale participation of Malays. Second, confusion in Malay circles about the split in PAS and the process toward the formation of a new party could have added a damper on their participation in Bersih 4.

Rally essentially an urban phenomenon

Third, related to this was the absence of concerted mobilising strategies on the part of the Malay opposition forces to galvanise Malay support for the Bersih rally. Fourth, the incarceration of Anwar Ibrahim in Sungei Buloh could be another reason why Malays were not mobilised enough.

Fifth, the Bersih rally was essentially an urban phenomenon. It was the inability to attract rural Malays that could explain why non-Malays outnumbered Malays!

In actual fact, examining the Bersih rally from the point of ethnicity does not make sense at all. Thousands of Malays, Chinese and Indians who attended the rally in yellow were merely interested in political change. They attended the rally only with this in mind. They did not go to Kuala Lumpur as Malays or Chinese or Indians.

They went as Malaysians and citizens of the country. It isunderstandable and not understandable as to why some so-called learned persons, like Tunku Aziz (photo), would stoop so low and beyond imagination to provide a racial twist.

Were Chinese, Malays and Indians there to question Malay political power in the hands of Umno? What about the speeches by some prominent Malay leaders? Were they there to question Malay political power?

Let us not question the integrity of Malaysians who took part in the Bersih 4 rally in Kuala Lumpur. Let us not put Malaysians in the familiar and dangerous ethnic pigeon-holes!

It is the inability to capture of dynamics of societal interaction that allows racists and extremists to cast doubts and aspersions against a movement that has sprung up to take Malaysians to a new and more progressive level of thinking, away from the primordial sentiments!

28 August 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

The Telegraph

Some 2,000 delegates from around the world will gather in Malaysia next week for the world’s top anti-corruption meeting, but they will no longer be hearing from the leader of the host country

For Najib Razak, the Malaysian prime minister beset by controversy over nearly £450 million paid into his personal bank account, the timing of a global anti-corruption conference in Kuala Lumpur next week could not be more awkward.

The embattled leader has now quietly cancelled his scheduled speech to 2,000 delegates on the opening day of the International Anti-Corruption Conference that his country is hosting.

The summit, which is organised by the Transparency International, the world’s leading anti-corruption organisation, is held every two years in different locations.

By chance, it will open in Kuala Lumpur as Mr Najib’s government is engulfed in allegations of corruption and financial impropriety surrounding 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a scandal-plagued state investment fund.

The prime minister has strenuously denied any wrongdoing connected to the payments into his bank account or to 1MDB, which that has amassed debts of £7 billion since he founded it in 2009.

The prospect of the prime minister addressing the conference had delighted critics who are demanding his resignation.

His office has not explained why he is now sending along a junior minister in his place.

“It’s standard protocol of the International Anti-Corruption Conference to have the democratically elected head of state open the conference,” said Chris Sanders, Transparency International’s spokesman.

“His appearance would have provided an opportunity for the global anti-corruption community and Malaysian civil society, and media, to question the prime minister directly at the conference about the 1MDB affair and other recent events.”

Mr Najib pulled out of the summit as tens of thousands of protestors prepare to stage anti-Najib rallies in Malaysian cities this weekend. The protests are going ahead despite threats by police to arrest organisers as the gatherings do not have permits.

The scandal swirling around 1MDB took a new twist last month when it was reported that financial investigators had found a payment of nearly £450m into Mr Najib’s bank accounts.

The country’s anti-corruption commission said that the money was contributed by an unnamed donor, not by 1MDB, but officials said they were still investigating.

Mr Najib’s officials have said that the payment of nearly £450m, made through an Arab bank, came from a Middle East benefactor for political party use purposes before the last election. Mr Najib has denied any personal financial gain.

But the contribution of such a large sum – nearly as much as the £470m raised by Barack Obama to fight the 2012 US presidential campaign in the most expensive election in history – has only fuelled controversies.

Mahathir Mohamad, the former Malaysian prime minister who was once Mr Najob’s mentor, has been among the most vocal critics questioning the donation and leading calls for his resignation.

Mr Najib has accused Mr Mahathir of leading a conspiracy to oust him. His government has also said it is the target of a plot involving Clare Rewcastle Brown, the sister-in-law of Gordon Brown, who runs Sarawak Report, a London-based anti-corruption website.

As the scandals deepened, Mr Najib sacked his deputy prime minister and other Cabinet members who did not stick to the party line and replaced key anti-corruption officials.

With his government battered at the same time by economic woes as falling oil prices have pushed the ringgit currency to a 17-year-low, there has also been a crackdown on opposition media.

Malaysia on Thursday announced that it will block websites supplying information about and encouraging participation in the the protest rallies. The home minister had earlier said that the organisers from pro-democracy group Bersih were spreading “anti-government propaganda” that damaged the country’s image and hence was a threat to national stability.

27 August 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

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
27 August 2015
__________________________________________________

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
27 Ogos 2015

27 August 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Malaysiakini

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.

27 August 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Forbes

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.

On the 29th and 30th of August, 2015, rallies have been organised not only in Malaysia, but all over the world by Malaysians calling for Najib Razak’s resignation.

Will Najib Razak survive the weekend?

Stay tuned.

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].

27 August 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

TMI

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.

27 August 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Bloomberg

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.”

Businessman Brother

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.

Speculator Bets

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.

Weekly Meetings

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.

Newspaper Suspended

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.”

27 August 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

AFP

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.

‘Political donations’

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.

19 August 2015

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

TMI

Jailed former opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim pleaded with the home minister today to let his family and lawyers meet him in prison.

In a short verbal statement made after an appearance at the Kuala Lumpur High Court today, Anwar asked Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi not to “abuse” his family members by denying them access.

“I urge Zahid to consider the matter of my family and lawyers. Everything is so restricted. If you want to abuse Anwar, I understand. That is not a problem.

“But don’t abuse my family. They want to meet me, but it is difficult. Allow them to meet me for a while. Don’t bar my lawyers either. Not even a notebook is allowed.”I appeal for Zahid to consider. Consider my family and the work of my lawyers,” Anwar said.

Earlier today, PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar also told the media of restrictions placed on those wanting to visit Anwar, including his family members.

She said this had started the day Zahid revealed a plot by Barisan Nasional and opposition lawmakers to remove Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak through a statutory declaration.

Zahid is also deputy prime minister, but as home minister, oversees the Prison Department.

PKR chief whip Datuk Johari Abdul had also said that Anwar was being denied proper medical treatment for his various ailments, even though Najib had on June ordered the relevant authorities that treatment be given to the PKR leader.

Anwar at court today said that his son, who was going abroad soon, had been prevented from visiting him.

The jailed politician is serving a five-year term for sodomy after failing to get his conviction overturned in February.

Switch to our mobile site