Sunday, February 12, 2017

Move to allow petrol companies and kiosks to compete will benefit consumers and is long overdue

Bernama reported last week that the Second Finance Minister, Dato’ Seri Johari Abdul Ghani said the government is studying the option of setting a ceiling price for petrol in view of the escalating cost of fuel.

He added that "It is up to the government to set a ceiling which is deemed fair for all. When the government has decided on the ceiling price, whether they (O&G industry players) want to sell the oil at lower prices for promotional purposes, we leave it to them.”

We fully welcome the above move as it is long overdue. Malaysians do not understand why petrol companies in Malaysia are not allowed to sell petrol prices at lower prices when they could see how kiosks in Thailand or Singapore can compete and lower pump prices.

When I asked the above question in Parliament several times, the only response I had once in 2009 from the then Deputy Minister of Domestic Trade and Industry, Datuk Tan Lian Hoe was that allowing petrol stations to compete with different prices “would confuse consumers”.  It appears that Malaysians consumers are much more easily confused compared to our overseas counterparts.

We can understand if the Government sets a maximum price these companies can sell petrol so that Malaysians will not be unfairly over-charged.  But we don't see the logic of not allowing the companies to compete and transfer their cost efficiencies to us via lower fuel prices. This is especially since the Government has already abolished fuel subsidy more than a year ago.

The only reason we could think of was that the Government is merely trying to protect the weaker players at the expense of the consumers.

As publicly discussed over the past weeks over the fuel price hikes, the petrol price is calculated based on the average monthly price of refined fuel as measured by Means of Platt Singapore (MOPS). However, petrol companies don't purchase their fuel at these “average” prices. They will all try, with varying degrees of success to acquire their supply of petrol at the lowest possible price during the month or even the year.

In addition, some petrol companies are obviously more efficient than others and have lower operating and investment costs.

Therefore, why shouldn't these companies who purchase their stock at cheaper prices and are more cost-efficient be allowed to pass on some of their savings to long-suffering Malaysians?

Hence we call upon Dato' Seri Johari Abdul Ghani to free up the competition as soon as possible and not wait until petrol prices go up further in the coming months.

In fact, under the new regime, the competition between petrol companies and kiosks must be regulated under the Competition Act by the Competition Commission of Malaysia. This is to ensure that there will be a level playing field and the petrol companies and kiosks will not collude to fix prices at the expense of ordinary consumers.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Instead of making the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia the bastion of truth and integrity, Datuk Seri Salleh Keruak has made it the Ministry of Fake News and Miscommunications

There cannot be greater irony when the Minister of Communications and Multimedia, Datuk Seri Salleh Keruak warned in his blog exactly a month ago against posting “fake news”:
I’ve said this before and I will say it again – verify before you vilify your source of news information. It is very unfortunate to know that many people still cling on to mistaken beliefs and theories that could even be decades old!  
Fabricated news stories and irresponsible online news sources spread misinformation in order to mislead and/or make money when others click on the site or article. This makes fake news much more insidious than real news.  
According to an analysis by BuzzFeed, a leading independent digital media company, hoaxes about the US politics were among the top-performing fake news content on Facebook in 2016. BuzzFeed News Media Editor, Craig Silverman said that twenty-three of the 50 top-performing fake news hoaxes found on Facebook, were focused on US politics.

However, the Minister seems to have picked up a different lesson from the above analysis that he cited.  It appears that the prevalence and popularity of “fake news” which helped President Trump with the American elections is the exact approach he would take to help Dato’ Seri Najib Razak defend his kleptocratic administration.

Two days ago, I have countered Datuk Seri Salleh’s attempt to shrivel 1MDB’s scandal into a peanut-sized RM1 million.  The Minister even presented the alternative fact that 1MDB was in possession of RM51 billion in assets and hence is a healthy “going concern”.

I’ve detailed the Auditor-General’s findings that the Federal Government has guaranteed, directly and indirectly, RM39.8 billion of 1MDB’s monster debts of which the Ministry of Finance wholly-owned subsidiary has no ability to repay.

I’ve also cited the fact that even 1MDB’s auditors, Deloitte have renounced the 1MDB March 2013 financial statements which provided the RM51 billion asset figure.  This was after various international agencies, including the US Department of Justice (DOJ) provided documents demonstrating that at least US$5.6 billion have been stolen and laundered from 1MDB via fraudulent transfers and fake companies.

Despite the Minister’s normally quick responses, Datuk Seri Salleh Keruak has failed to respond to the cited facts, much less provided any shred of evidence to counter the allegations.

Instead, the above only proved that the Minister has corrupted his position to become the official Ministry of Fake News and Miscommunications, consistent with many of his earlier statements defending the indefensible Prime Minister and 1MDB.

The award of the fakest news of all perpetrated by Datuk Seri Salleh Keruak has to be his continued insistence, even after the mountain of evidence presented by the US DOJ on US$731 million finding its way into Dato’ Seri Najib Razak’s personal bank account in Ambank, that “after comprehensive investigations by many authorities, it has been confirmed that the funds were a donation from the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia”.

The problem is, Datuk Seri Salleh Keruak is learning from the best, Nazi Hitler who wrote, “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”  The Minister presented not an iota of proof to continue asserting that the siphoned funds actually originated from “the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia”.

It is the sacred task and duty of all right-thinking Malaysians to stand up for the truth and defeat the ‘big lies’ of the Najib administration to protect our country from crooked dictators, and ensure that our children do not pay for our indifference.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Unlike DAP Parliamentary Leader Lim Kit Siang who believed that Dato’ Seri Salleh Keruak could be tutored by me on 1MDB, I believe that the Minister is untutorable because he can’t count

DAP Parliamentary Leader Lim Kit Siang asked me to tutor Dato’ Seri Salleh Keruak on 1MDB yesterday. This was in response to the Communicatioarns and Multimedia Minister’s incredible claim yesterday that the 1MDB scandal is only a puny RM1 million scandal compared to the BMF RM2.5 billion scandal.

I really would, if I could.

I now believe that the Minister is actually untutorable because he really cannot count nor understand simple accounting fundamentals.

This was after he insisted yesterday that he didn’t need any tutoring, that “1MDB's start-up capital was only RM1 million” and that debt-stricken company has “RM51 billion worth of assets to show for it plus ongoing development for the next couple of decades.”

Unfortunately, Dato’ Seri Salleh Keruak is spinning a story that even the CEO for 1MDB, Arul Kanda has stopped spinning since a year ago.  And it only goes to prove that he really doesn’t know what he is talking about.

Firstly, while the Government did inject only RM1 million in cash into 1MDB, that Government has provided direct and indirect guarantees to various lenders from whom 1MDB borrowed RM5.8 billion and US$7.73 billion (RM3.4bn), or a total of approximately RM39.8 billion.  The amounts, which have been verified by the Auditor-General as disclosed in the Public Accounts Committee Report on 1MDB included:
  • RM5.0bn – 30-year bond guaranteed by the Federal Government (2009)
  • RM0.8bn – 10-year loan from SOCSO guaranteed by the Federal Government (2010)
  • US$3.5bn –10-year bond guaranteed by IPIC, Abu Dhabi but indemnified by MOF Inc (2012)
  • US$3.0bn – 10-year bond backed by a “Letter of Support” signed by the Minister of Finance which effectively guaranteed the debt (2013)
  • US$1.0bn – Advance by IPIC to 1MDB, indemnified by MOF Inc (2015)
  • US$0.23j– Advance interest payments by IPIC on behalf of 1MDB, indemnified by MOF Inc (2015/6)

All the indemnities, direct and indirect guarantees above mean that should 1MDB fail to pay the above, then the Federal Government of Malaysia, funded by ordinary tax-payers are liable to pay for the RM39.8 billion of 1MDB borrowings.

The above does not yet include additional billions of borrowings by 1MDB which are not officially guaranteed by the Federal Government.  If Salleh Keruak doesn’t trust me or the Auditor-General with the above figures, he could perhaps request for tuition from Arul Kanda instead.

The question is, does 1MDB really have “RM51 billion worth of assets”, a figure Arul Kanda no longer cites and worse, a figure that 1MDB’s own auditors have publicly renounced, to pare down its debts?

Has Dato’ Seri Salleh Keruak completely forgotten the fact that much of the RM51 billion worth of assets have either been sold (at a loss) or worse, been proven to be misappropriated by the investigations published in the United States, Switzerland and Singapore?

The documents which have surfaced since the international scandal broke showed the following sums have been outrightly siphoned from 1MDB:

  • US$1.83bn – Investment in or with Petrosaudi, which was mostly misappropriated to Good Star Limited, a company owned by Jho Low (2009-2011)
  • US$1.367bn – Purported “deposit” paid a fraudulent Aabar set up in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) which has since been liquidated (2012)
  • US$0.855bn – Additional “deposit” paid to the same fraudulent Aabar in 2014
  • US$1.56bn – Investment by 1MDB “Global Investment” in fraudulent investment funds (2013)

The total of funds misappropriated and hence completely lost, amounts to US$5.612 billion or approximately RM24.7 billion!  These losses do not yet include losses arising from 1MDB various “real” business transactions like the acquisition of power plants and real estate, astronomical fees paid to Goldman Sachs etc.

And despite all of the above, Dato’ Seri Salleh Keruak still deemed 1MDB “a going concern”.  The Minister obviously do not understand what is the meaning of “a going concern”.  Does he not realise that 1MDB no longer has any income sources despite remaining tens of billions of ringgit in debt?  Even Deloitte has given up auditing the company, and 1MDB itself has failed to produce a single financial statement since March 2013.

I sincerely hope that Dato’ Seri Salleh Keruak is merely pretending to be stupid.  Because if he is really that stupid, then even Arul Kanda would give up on him.  In fact, the 1MDB CEO might just prefer that the Minister keeps his mouth shut to save himself, BN, 1MDB and the Government further outrageous embarrassment.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

No clarity, more obfuscation: BN Strategic Communications Team's lengthy answer on how the Government arrived at a painful 20 sen hike for February petrol prices

I had issued a statement yesterday demanding that Dato’ Seri Najib Razak explain exactly how the Government arrived at a painful 20 sen increase for petrol prices.

RON95 and RON97 prices went up by 20 sen to RM2.30 (9.5%) and RM2.60 (8.3%) respectively while diesel cost went up by 10 sen to RM2.15 (4.9%).

This follows from the already big hike Malaysians have experienced since January where all types of fuel already increased in price by 20 sen.

Malaysians deserve a straightforward answer from the Government because they cannot fathom why the prices of fuel was upped significantly even though global crude oil prices have declined over the past month. What’s more, the beleaguered Ringgit actually recovered marginally which should ease the price pressures further.

Instead of receiving any response from any responsible Minister, much less the Finance and Prime Minister, we got a reply from the “BN Strategic Communications Team”. We don't know who they are, or even know what is their capacity to respond on behalf of the Government.

Regardless, taking their response at face value, they failed to provide any clarity on how the Government arrived at the painful 20 sen quantum of hike. If they could write such a lengthy essay to rebut my simple question, why couldn't they just attach the spreadsheet to justify the increase?

It explained that the pump prices was calculated from the average refined oil prices as measured by the “Singapore Means of Platts” (MOPS), which is already a widely acknowledged fact.

However, all that was further relevant from the statement was a paragraph which said, “a check on the MOPS would show that the average price of motor gasoline 95 unleaded for January had stabilised in a range of US$69 to US$70 per barrel and was materially higher than the average price in December 2016 where the price had steadily increased from US$62 at the beginning of the month to US$68 by December’s end.”

If the BN Strategic Communications Team is so confident of the numbers, why did they try to obfuscate the statistics with a fuzzy range of numbers, instead of just providing the specifics to justify the 20 sen hike?

I did the BN Strategic Communications Team a favour by doing the calculation on their behalf.

The average MOPS95 price for December 2016 is US$66.553 per barrel or US$0.4186 per liter. That works out to RM1.8753 per liter at the then exchange rate of US$1:RM4.48.

MOPS95 averaged slightly higher at US$68.820 per barrel or US$0.4328 per liter in January.  In turn, it translates to RM1.9130 per liter (US$1:RM4.42).

Hence based on the exact explanation provided by the BN Strategic Communications Team, the difference in price is only 3.8 sen more for January.

If so, why did the Government increase by so much more at 20 sen?

Therefore, my question raised yesterday remains unanswered, and Dato’ Seri Najib Razak, as both the Finance and Prime Minister, must explain why the price of petrol has increased so significantly despite the above.

The Ministry of Finance must disclose if the Government is actually imposing hidden taxes on the consumers to cover up for Government budget shortfalls.

Once again, we call for the full disclosure of the data, formula and exact details on how the fuel price hikes are calculated so that Malaysians know exactly why they have been forced to suffer as a result of the Government’s policies.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Dato’ Seri Najib Razak must explain why the price of petrol increased so drastically despite international crude oil prices having fallen slightly in January

Malaysians of all races returning from the Chinese New Year holidays received a shock when Dato’ Seri Najib Razak presented them with a big “ang pow”, a big hike in fuel prices.  RON95 and RON97 prices went up by 20 sen to RM2.30 (9.5%) and RM2.60 (8.3%) respectively while diesel cost went up by 10 sen to RM2.15 (4.9%).

This follows from the already big hike Malaysians have experienced since January where all types of fuel already increased in price by 20 sen.

While it was painful, Malaysians could perhaps have understood when fuel prices went up for January.  It was as a result of an increase in global crude oil prices for the month of December.  Brent crude prices went up from US$51.48 to US$56.73 in December 2016.

However, Malaysians cannot understand why the prices were increased for February when the Brent crude price actually declined slightly in January to approximately US$55.86.

Even when we try to second guess that perhaps it’s due to the ringgit depreciation, it also doesn’t add up.

In December 2016, the ringgit depreciated from RM4.38 to RM4.48 for every US Dollar.  However, for January 2017, the ringgit is currently trading at approximately RM4.42 to the dollar, which means it has strengthened marginally for the month.

Therefore, the increase in fuel prices cannot be as a result of any increase in crude oil prices or further depreciation of the ringgit.

Hence Dato’ Seri Najib Razak, as both the Finance and Prime Minister, must explain why the price of petrol has increased so significantly despite the above.

The Ministry of Finance must disclose if the Government is actually imposing hidden taxes on the consumers to cover up for Government budget shortfalls?

Barely a week ago, Dato’ Seri Najib Razak said he did not want a situation where ministries use excuses, like “not enough budget” to not implement people-oriented projects.  “Not receiving money or not enough budget should not be an excuse for any operating ministries to not start a project or programme,” he added.

If the above the reason for the hefty hike in fuel prices so that the people are forced to pay for the so-called “people-oriented projects”, so that the Najib-BN administration can claim credit?

We call for the full disclosure of the data, formula and exact details on how the fuel price hikes are calculated so that Malaysians know exactly why they have been forced to suffer as a result of the Government’s policies.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Ministry of Finance plans to wind down 1MDB by taking over 1MDB’s assets, but how much, Dato’ Seri Johari Abdul Ghani?

In a series of announcement since the middle of 2016, the Ministry of Finance has announced that it is slowing taking over all the real estate projects from debt-stricken and scandal-ridden 1MDB.

The Wall Street Journal has already reported in June last year that the Ministry of Finance (MoF) has signed a shareholder agreement that will see the ministry take over 1MDB's stake in the Bandar Malaysia development project.

The agreement will see MoF hold a 40% stake in Bandar Malaysia Sdn Bhd, the joint-venture company that will develop the 486-acre site of the former Sungai Besi Royal Malaysian Air Force base.  The remainder of the 60% stake has been sold to a joint venture between Iskandar Waterfront Holdings Bhd and China Railway Engineering Corp.

Last month, the Second Finance Minister, Dato’ Seri Johari Abdul Ghari told The Malaysian Reserve that "Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) is now taken over by the MoF and we are going to complete the entire project. We will complete it.  We will have to finish it. Otherwise, we will have to leave it to 1MDB and they will never be able to do it."

Yesterday, the Minister confirmed to Malaysiakini that 1MDB is winding down with the disposal or transfer of its assets to MoF.  "It is not winding up but it is in run-off operation. We don't conduct any new business.  We can't wind up the company until all the debts are settled and amounts due from disposal of assets are collected," Dato’ Seri Johari said.

At the surface, all appears well and good.  However, the big question to ask is, how much of 1MDB’s liabilities is the MoF taking over?  The Government must not quietly mask a multi-billion ringgit bailout of 1MDB with the innocuous announcements that the MoF is taking over 1MDB’s key assets in Bandar Malaysia and TRX.

Has the Government taken over Bandar Malaysia’s RM2.4 billion of sukuk bonds, of which only less than RM800 million was used for the purposes of the project while the balance of the bond proceeds was used for purposes unrelated to Bandar Malaysia?

At the same time, has the Government agreed to take over 1MDB’s RM800 million sukuk bonds borrowed from the Pension Fund (KWAP) which were meant for 1MDB’s real estate development but was instead used for other purposes?

The Government should assume any of the borrowings taken by 1MDB which have not been spent on the development of the 2 real estate projects.  Any amounts beyond that would tantamount to a backdoor multi-billion ringgit bailout of 1MDB which have lost billions from corruption and misappropriation.

What’s more, 1MDB has benefited from the sale of these 2 pieces of land after selling various parcels to third parties.  For example, despite acquiring the TRX land from the Federal Government for only RM64 per square feet, 1MDB sold TRX land to Tabung Haji and Affin Bank for more than RM2,700 and RM4,000 per square feet.   Similarly, 1MDB has sold 60% of Bandar Malaysia for a purported RM7.41 billion but acquired 100% of the land from the Federal Government for only RM1.6 billion.

Effectively, 1MDB gets to keep all of the multi-billion ringgit of astronomical profits from the sale of land it bought at bargain basement prices, while the Government is forced to absorb all the loans and liabilities incurred by 1MDB.

It becomes a triple-whammy for the people of Malaysia where (i) tax-payers funded GLCs were forced to pay sky-high prices to acquire the 1MDB land, (ii) 1MDB gets to keep all the ridiculous profits to cover up its stolen billions with none returned to MoF, while (iii) the Rakyat has to foot the bill of the billions of ringgit of loans assumed by the Ministry.

Dato’ Seri Johari Abdul Ghani must not hide the above matter from the public but instead provide full disclosure of the terms of the “take over” of the 1MDB assets and justify why and how much Malaysians will be forced to pay for the shenanigans which have taken place in 1MDB.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

1MDB Foundation RM690 million spend: “corporate social responsibility” or reckless and irresponsible vote-buying for the BN administration?

1MDB has proudly announced that since 2010, its foundation has spent RM690 million into "worthy causes" which had benefited 2.8 million Malaysians through 60 projects in education, healthcare, youth development and community services.

"Examples of such activities can be found on the 1MDB website, ranging from Dana PIBG grants and academic grants to SPM and STPM students to academic grants for Sri Murugan Centre and Unified Examination Certificate holders, as well as Dana Belia 1Malaysia and 1Malaysia Mobile Clinics,” the company elaborated in its statement.

1MDB also emphasized that the funds were generated from “its legitimate business operations, formerly in energy production and more recently, in real estate development”.

1MDB’s generous spending in corporate social responsibility (CSR) appears to set the ultimate benchmark for all other companies to emulate.  1MDB’s statement and outsized CSR spend were clearly designed to enhance the perception of the state-owned firm as a benign and benevelont corporation, a stark contrast against its much maligned global reputation.

The only problem, and the crucial one, is that 1MDB never generated these cash from its businesses past and present.

For its “profitable” energy business, 1MDB borrowed extensively to acquire them for an overpriced RM12.1 billion.  The borrowings were so big that the profits from the energy companies were insufficient to even service the interest of the relevant loans in the group, what more the principal.

As a result, 1MDB was “forced” to sell its energy business for RM9.83 billion, suffering a huge loss of RM2.27 billion.

However, at least 1MDB’s energy business was generating productive revenue.  1MDB’s real estate business never took off for the years in question.  The land 1MDB acquired was alienated to 1MDB by the Federal Government at bargain basement prices.  The company was sold undeveloped land to Tabung Haji and the Armed Forces Pension Fund (LTAT) group, who were cajoled into buying at astronomical prices.  For example, LTAT subsidiary, Affin Bank paid RM4,500 per square feet for a piece of land in Tun Razak Exchange, when 1MDB acquired it from the Government at only RM64 per square feet.

What is vital to note is the fact that despite the sale of land at astronomical prices, 1MDB still cannot settle its outstanding debts that remains in excess of RM35 billion today.

As we have discovered via the Swiss Attorney-General Office and the United States Department of Justice, at least US$5 billion have been misappropriated from the 1MDB funds while more than US$730 million of the amount have found its way into the Prime Minister, Dato’ Seri Najib Razak’s personal bank account in Malaysia.

Hence effectively, 1MDB wasn’t executing its CSR programmes from its cash pile arising from the company’s profits.  Instead, 1MDB was pretending to be a big profitable company, spending big on CSR via its mega-borrowings which it is now unable to service.

Worse, the burden of these loans are now dumped squarely on the shoulders of ordinary Malaysians who are forced to bailout 1MDB via the Federal Government.  In short, we Malaysians are footing the bill, with interest, the money that 1MDB has so “generously” spent on us via its CSR programmes.

This leads to the conclusion that 1MDB is not the benign and benevolent entity it sought to portray but a recklessly irresponsible one causing greater hardship on the rakyat.  And it did so with the clear intent to influence and “buy” votes for the general elections to prop up the corrupt Najib administration.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Be it “Parker Randall” or “Afrizan Tarmili Khairul Azhar”, will new 1MDB auditors act as “independent auditors” in an objective, professional and timely manner?

Scandal-ridden 1MDB has finally appointed new auditors to replace Deloitte Malaysia who resigned since the middle of last year.  Deloitte is the 3rd audit firm which have resigned in 6 years, following Ernst & Young and KPMG.  The new 1MDB chairman, who is also the Treasurer-General, announced that “Parker Randall” appointed to the task two days ago.

A little storm was created as “Parker Randall” in Malaysia is essentially Malaysian audit firm, “Afrizan Tarmili Khairul Azhar” (aftaas) with 4 partners, based in Sri Rampai, Kuala Lumpur.

As the corporate profile downloaded from the firm’s website stated, aftaas is “a member of Parker Randall International” which is an “international association of independent audit and accounting firms”.

As highlighted by Malaysiakini, each member firm of Parker Randall in each country is a separate and independent legal entity. Malaysiakini also pointed out that the 2011 ranking on the largest law and accounting firm networks ranked Parker Randall at 56 among 60.  Parker Randall also did not make the list for accountancy publication Accountancy Age's 'Top 100' survey for 2016.

However, what is ultimately most important for Malaysians isn’t the question of whether it is Parker Randall or Afrizan Tarmili Khairul Azhar carrying out the 1MDB audit.  What is of utmost importance is whether the newly appointed firm will carry out their responsibilities as “independent auditors”, and I emphasize “independent”, in an objective, professional and timely manner.

For a start, this is the perfect opportunity for aftaas to prove that they can do a better job than global giants, KPMG and Deloitte who have failed miserably in their audit of 1MDB by signing off financial statements which were at best misleading, at worst completely fraudulent.

Both KPMG and Deloitte failed to detect even a single dollar of misappropriation from 1MDB in the five financial years ending March 2010 to 2014.  We have since discovered, with confirmation from both Bank Negara Malaysia, the Switzerland Attorney-General as well as the Department of Justice of the United States that at least US$5 billion has been siphoned from 1MDB into private off-shore firms owned by Low Taek Jho, fraudulent entities masquerading as legitimate Abu Dhabi companies as well as dodgy investment funds which acted as money laundering conduits.

The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee has also similarly provided evidence of the complicity of the 1MDB top management who signed dubious agreements and provided false information to the Board of Directors as well as the regulating agencies.

The previous auditors were so badly and disgracefully duped that Deloitte found it necessary to announce the withdrawal of their recognition of 1MDB’s March 2013 and 2014 audited accounts which they had previously signed off without any qualification.  Deloitte said that the above accounts “should no longer be relied upon”.

Hence, regardless of what the 1MDB directors and management might think, it is important for Parker Randall and/or aftaas to carry out a thorough audit of all the questionable transactions of the past where billions of dollars have been misappropriated.

Therefore, the first task by aftaas is simply to review and restate 1MDB’s 2013 and 2014 financial statements which have been withdrawn by Deloitte.  The Companies Act requires the annual submission of financial statements endorsed by an appointed external auditor to the Registrar of Companies.  It is the statutory requirement for the independent auditor to carry out the above task and Directors who fail to ensure that the above are duly completed in a timely matter may be punishable by up to 5 years’ jail or thirty thousand ringgit.

Following that, with the “right” opening balance determined, then aftaas can proceed to conduct the audit for March 2015 and 2016 which are both already overdue.

If aftaas fails to perform the above review and audit, they can be assured that not only their market reputation will be left in tatters in Malaysia, their international affiliation, Parker Randall – whose credibility 1MDB is banking on – will be similarly disgraced internationally and dragged through the mud.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

While blinkered Treasury-General Tan Sri Irwan Serigar continues to praise the Emperor’s new clothes, little hope of seeing meaningful changes to Malaysia’s drifting economy

The dreadful performance of the Malaysian ringgit and a listless economy under-performing its potential are not merely depressing news but have caused Malaysians plenty of pain.

And yet, the most senior civil servant in the Ministry of Finance, arguably a most powerful one, the Treasury-General insisted that all is well, and what is wrong is only “a matter of perception”.

"I go to restaurants and supermarkets, who are there? People are buying and travelling.  Some group of people are making noise as though the whole country is in trouble,” Tan Sri Irwan Serigar quipped at a press conference yesterday.

We are stunned that the Treasury-General thinks that just because there are people in restaurants and people are still visiting the supermarkets for the daily needs, everything’s fine and dandy with the economy.

Does he expect all Malaysians to be jobless and living in the streets begging for food before he would recognise that the economy is in trouble?

According to him, the plummeting of the ringgit was a short-term phenomenon that would recover in the middle-term following the measures taken by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM).

However, isn’t that exactly what the Ministers and BNM have been telling Malaysians annually over the past 4 years as the ringgit lost more than 40% of its value against the dollar?  How can it still be a short-term problem when we are consistently the worst performer among the major regional currencies for each of the past few years?

Worse, the latest Nikkei Malaysia Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) clearly cited that our manufacturing production has been shrinking for 21 consecutive months, with no signs of improvement.

The PMI is derived from indicators for new orders, output, employment, suppliers’ delivery times and stocks of purchases.

How can Tan Sri Irwan continue to insist that all is well when our manufacturing performance is so pathetic despite the fact that our substantially depreciated currency should have made our goods so much cheaper and competitive?

The biggest shocker from the press conference however, is the fact that he believed that all the negative perception arising from the problems with the economy will be righted and vanished immediately once the media publish his “all is well and good” assurance.

He told the media to contribute to the ringgit appreciation through positive reports about the currency and economy.  "Hopefully, when you publish today's briefing, the ringgit will be strengthened," said Tan Sri Irwan.

How we Malaysians can renew our hopes on the economy when we have such a hopeless Treasury-General is beyond me.

Tan Sri Irwan Serigar’s refusal to address and resolve the issues surrounding the tens of billions of ringgit which have been siphoned from the Ministry of Finance subsidiaries, 1MDB and SRC International, which made Malaysia an infamous kleptocratic capital of the world is one thing.  After all, he is not the first person you would accuse of “cari makan”.

However, his woeful attempt to wave away our economic misery with his magic wand without recognising the problems we face and without offering any concrete measures to remedy the situation proved beyond doubt that the Najib administration is completely bankrupt of ideas.

In order to have any chance of reviving our currency and economy, the Najib administration must be replaced and there is no better time than the impending general election.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

2017 – Relief and recovery for the Ringgit, or more pain and punishment?

While 1MDB and the Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Razak’s kleptocratic scandals were unquestionably the most talked about topic for 2016, it is the Ringgit’s relentless depreciation which would have caused the most pain for ordinary Malaysians.

Over Christmas, I managed to take my family for a week’s holiday in Chiang Mai – our first since I was banned from overseas travel for allegedly taking part in “activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy” in July 2015.

One would have assumed that travelling to the “backwaters” like rural Thailand would have been easy on the pocket.  Well, in the past, trips to Thailand did make me feel “richer”.  When you walked the colourful and rambunctious street markets, you needed to exercise maximum self-restraint to prevent oneself from having to purchase additional luggage space from AirAsia because everything was “cheaper”. 

Not anymore. Now, the Baht-Ringgit exchange rate will automatically keep you disciplined.

As late as August 2014, the currencies were trading at 10 Baht to the Ringgit. Today, it’s 8 to 1. And to rub salt on the wound, the Ringgit ain’t particularly welcomed by our neighbours. 

Needless to say, if a trip to Thailand could make you feel kinda poor, a journey south to Singapore would make you feel like a destitute.  Think about it, a budget Hotel 81 room in the fringe of the city would cost you just about S$100, or RM310 per night.

Ringgit déjà vu?

So, will we get to see some desperately yearned for relief and recovery of the Ringgit this year?

Most pundits are telling us that the Ringgit is undervalued and will recover by the second half of this year.  PublicInvest Research said the Ringgit will recover to average between 4.10 and 4.15 for 2015 against the US Dollar, which is currently trading at 4.48.

Dato’ Seri Najib Razak would similarly like you to believe that the ringgit will recover.

“With the recent changes and developments, we are confident the ringgit will recover.  It is due to speculation by outsiders and the uncertainties in the United States that the ringgit dropped, and not because the ringgit is weak,” he said in December when the Ringgit traded at 4.42 to the Dollar.

But didn’t they all say the same thing last year?  Or for that matter, the year before?

The Prime Minister told us way back in January 2015 that the Ringgit will bounce back from the then five-year low versus the US dollar as “Malaysia's financial market is sufficiently robust”.  Believe it or not, the Ringgit was then trading at 3.60 to the Dollar, which now seemed like a parallel universe away.

If we had all trusted our Ministers and invested based on his financial advice, some of us would be bordering suicidal tendencies today.  2016 was the Ringgit’s 4th consecutive year of decline against the US Dollar.

The thing is, if everyone else had declined at the same rate against the Dollar, it wouldn’t have felt so bad.  What is particularly galling is that the Ringgit performance is the worst among all the major regional currencies.

In 2015, the excuse given was straightforward – the Ringgit suffered more because we were an oil-exporting nation.  As the price of global crude collapsed from US$102.10 in January 2014 to US$60.70 (Dec 2014) to US$36.57 (Dec 2015), it is almost understandable that the Ringgit would be disproportionately pummelled. 

The pundits had predicted that the Ringgit would recover with the recovery of oil prices last year.  They were indeed spot on in their prediction of higher oil prices with the Brent crude trading at US$55 a barrel by December 2016.  Unfortunately, despite the oil price reversal, the Ringgit value worsened significantly.

How was that even possible?

No more an export powerhouse

Back in November 2015, the then Bank Negara Governor, Tan Sri Zeti Aziz told an international audience that the Ringgit was “significantly undervalued” as our “export growth remains fairly strong”.

Except it wasn’t.

Conventional economic theory tells us that as our currency gets depreciated, our goods become cheaper and consequently the demand for them increases.  A robust increase of the export of our goods and services would in turn increase the demand for our currency and hence provide a strong platform for the recovery of our ringgit and economy.

Well, the Ringgit was massacred in 2015 when it depreciated by nearly 20%.  On paper, that makes our exports dirt cheap in 2016.  And given that we have always prided ourselves as an export-oriented economy, our goods should definitely be flying off the shelves as they became extremely competitive.

But the Government’s own statistics tell us that our exports barely eked out a gain.  The 2016/2017 Economic Report published in October 2016 tells us that our Gross Exports for January to August 2016 grew by only 1.1%, compared to 1.6% in 2015.

More specifically, the electrical and electronics exports, the pride of our manufacturing industry, grew by only 2.2%, a substantial decline from 7.4% in 2015.  While 2.2% might have been just about acceptable under normal economic circumstances, the number is pathetic given the depreciation the Ringgit suffered.

Worse news followed since the above report, when the Department of Statistics disclosed last month that our exports declined 3.0% and 8.6% for the months of September and October respectively.

Separately, the latest Nikkei Malaysia Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index, or PMI which measures manufacturing activities shows that the sector “in contraction territory for 21 consecutive months”.

The headline PMI posted for December was 47.1 signalling continued deterioration.  A score above 50.0 signals improvement in manufacturing conditions, and Malaysia has not reached a score of 50.0 since early 2015.

Living and La-La Land

There is no question that our economy is suffering from something chronic which needs immediate treatment.  Alarm bells should have been blaring deafeningly in Putrajaya but all we get is Ministers with their heads in the sand. 

Prime Minister Najib Razak welcomed 2017 by boasting that Malaysia has achieved a growth rate the Western world can only “dream of”.

“Our estimated growth rate of 4.3 to 4.5 percent for this year is one that developed countries in Europe and North America can only dream of.  Malaysians should be proud of the growth we are achieving.”

A statement from the Barisan Nasional strategic communications team earlier in December also boasted that “Malaysia’s economic growth is less volatile and more robust than Singapore’s as a result of the Najib administration’s shift towards the domestic economy.”

Of course the fact that developed countries have a different growth trajectory compared to developing ones was irrelevant.  What was more important to the ruling leadership was the continued thumping of the chest to praise and glorify the Emperor in the eyes of seemingly gullible Malaysians, even if the Emperor is really naked.

So what’s really happening?

A loss of confidence

The anticipated explosive growth in exports and manufacturing activity as a result of persistent depreciation of the Ringgit never materialised. Either no one wants to buy more Malaysian products even though they are significantly cheaper or more plausibly, businesses and investors are not investing in additional production capacity in Malaysia.

They are at best adopting the “wait and see” strategy or at worst, have decided in investing their money in other countries.  There could be many reasons for this, including perhaps a increasingly limited supply of skilled and quality labour, a weakening education system or the bureaucratic and corruption cost of doing business. 

However, anecdotal evidence would tell you that one of the key factors is the fact that they have lost confidence in the country.  A country led by a Prime Minister who has been indicted as one of the worlds biggest kleptocrat would and could never inspire confidence in genuine investors.

The complete failure of the institutional authorities to take enforcement actions against blatant and brazen corruption has destroyed whatever that’s left of Malaysia’s long-standing reputation as a country they could do business in.

Bank Negara saves the day?

Bank Negara Malaysia is now forced to implement increasingly desperate measures to stem to tide against the Ringgit.  They now include the restricting the off-shore trade of the Ringgit via non-deliverable forward contracts, and more controversially, the move to compel exporters to convert 75% of their proceeds into Ringgit.

The Central Bank is claiming success for its policies, stating that the measures are starting to bear fruit, following lower volatility in the ringgit.  Sure, such short term measures will provide immediate support for the Ringgit as it mops up whatever excess liquidity existing today. 

However, as explained earlier, Malaysia being an “export-oriented country” is heavily dependent on continued investments in our export sectors, manufacturing or otherwise.  If the use of your future export proceeds are restricted and the hidden cost of doing business in Malaysia increases, then who would want to invest in new or additional production capacity in the country?

Current exporters would not have a choice in the repatriation of export proceeds as demanded the authorities.  But they and future investors – both local or foreign – have a choice in where they choose to invest in the future.  With alternative competing investment destinations aplenty today, such short-term Bank Negara measures will only further dampen the medium and longer term demand for the Ringgit, jeopardising any eventual recovery.

A new normal

We used to pride ourselves as an export and manufacturing powerhouse.  We are used to being described as an “economically resilient” country, even if it was somewhat a function of striking oil lottery, especially during the decade of high oil prices.

Unfortunately, the hard statistics are becoming hard to refute.

I would be foolish to give a specific prediction of how the Ringgit will perform over the next 3, 6 or 12 months even as it hit 4.50 to the Dollar yesterday, a new record low since the Asian Financial Crisis.  However, it would be more than fair to say that the downside risks significantly outweigh the upside prospects given the reasons explained above.

For Malaysians, perhaps its time to accept the new normal.  We have lost more than 40% of our wealth in US Dollar terms over the past 3 years. The lost of wealth will be reflected in higher prices of goods and services – including the higher price of petrol as oil is traded internationally in Dollars.

Although it is not impossible, this new normal will be extremely difficult to reverse.  In fact, it more than likely to get worse given the utter inability by the Najib administration to rectify the failures of the economy.

I would be foolish to give a specific prediction of how the Ringgit will perform over the next 3, 6 or 12 months.  However, it would be more than fair to say that the downside risks significantly outweigh the upside prospects given the reasons explained above.

The only way Malaysians can hope for “the good old days” to return is to see a change of regime.  The new regime needs to cleanse the country of its kleptocratic reputation and wipe out the scourge of grand corruption from the Government.  It needs a new, intelligent economic team which isn’t encumbered by sacred cows decreed by those who are desperate to stay in power at all costs.  It really isn’t rocket science.

Then perhaps, we will see a meaningful, significant and sustained recovery of the Ringgit, and our wealth over the longer term.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Second Finance Minister should stop crying wolf and start addressing the ultimate cause of the loss of confidence in the Malaysian economy

Two days ago, the Second Finance Minister, Datuk Johari Abdul Ghani told Malaysians there is no need to panic about the weakening ringgit, stating that the nation has in place an ecosystem that encourages investment and an open economy.

“Don’t panic, we shouldn’t panic,” Johari said.  The ringgit, which has weakened along with other emerging market currencies against the US dollar, has all the strength to bounce back, he added.

"We have the ecosystem to make it right, ensure political stability is intact and (continuously) apply the right policies to facilitate investors," he said when asked on the ringgit's decline to 4.4805 per US dollar.

The Second Finance Minister’s attempt to assure the Malaysian public has zero credibility and if that’s his only answer to the depreciated ringgit, then 2017 will only see further pains for our currency and economy.

Perhaps, Datuk Johari has forgotten that this is the first year we have hit bottom. In fact, even I myself was a little surprised to discover that his is not the second, but the third consecutive year where the ringgit has become the worst performing currency in Asia.

In 2014, the ringgit slumped 6.3% from 3.281 on 1 January to 3.502 a dollar on 31 December.

Last year in 2015, the ringgit collapsed 18.5% in 2015 from 3.505 on 1 January to 4.303 a dollar on 31 December.

Despite repeated assurances from the Government and Bank Negara that our currency was undervalued and unjustifiably depreciated for the past 2 years, the ringgit tanked a further 9.6% this year.

As the saying goes, once is an accident, twice a coincidence and three times a pattern.  Hence the Second Finance Minister sounds exactly like the boy who has cried wolf too many times.  No Malaysian with any sense left believes or is assured by what he is saying.  In fact, his open call “not to panic” is likely to have had the opposite effect as it showed that the Government is completely clueless and incapable of stemming the disastrous decline of the ringgit.

Worse, even the oft-repeated excuse that the ringgit’s ignominy as Asia’s worst performing major currency was a result of the drastic decline in global crude oil prices is no longer tenable.  Malaysia is a major oil producer in Asia (excluding the Middle East).

The Brent Crude price per barrel has indeed declined from US$102.10 in January 2014 to US$60.70 (Dec 2014) to US$36.57 (Dec 2015).  However, for the month of December 2016, the Brent Crude has been trading 50% higher at around US$55 per barrel compared to a year earlier.

If the global oil price drop had been the reason why we were the worst performing currency in 2014 and 2015, there is certainly no reason why we should remain the worst performing currency in 2016 with the substantially higher oil prices.

It appears that everyone knows the real cause of the ringgit’s terrible performance except our clueless or pretend-to-be-clueless Ministers. The fundamental cause is because of the complete collapse in confidence in our currency and economy ever since we have been outed as a major global kleptocracy and the failure of the Malaysian authorities and Government to take any action against those responsible.

In a country where the Prime Minister, Dato’ Seri Najib Razak who has been referred to as the Malaysian Official One by the US Department of Justice as having misappropriated US$731 million into his personal bank account in Malaysia can get away scot-free while all attempts to bring him to justice, including cartoonists, are met with oppression and intimidation by the police, there can be little surprise that Malaysia has lost the confidence of both local and foreign businesses and investors.

Unless and until there exist Ministers and a Government in Malaysia who is willing to call a spade a spade, and is willing to take concrete actions to redeem ourselves from the kleptocratic bottom, Malaysia’s economy will only continue to struggle to stay afloat and its currency continuing to significantly under-perform relative to its peers.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Ministry of Education officials who attempted to cheat in the PISA assessments must be sacked

The Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) conducted by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is a triennial international survey which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students.

In 2015 over half a million students, representing 28 million 15-year-old's in 72 countries and economies, took the internationally agreed two-hour test. Students were assessed in science, mathematics, reading, collaborative problem solving and financial literacy.

When the PISA 2015 results were released on Dec 6, officials from the Education Ministry (MOE) were quoted in a news report as taking pride that Malaysia’s PISA’s scores for Mathematics, Reading and Science had improved from 421, 398 and 420 respectively in 2012 to 446, 431 and 443 respectively in 2015.

However, Malaysians have been stunned to discover the next day that Malaysia is one of 2 countries who took part in PISA 2015 which were left out of the overall rankings entirely.

The official reason given was “in Malaysia, the Pisa assessment was conducted in accordance with the operational standards and guidelines of the OECD. However, the weighted response rate among the initially sample Malaysian schools (51 percent) falls well short of the standard Pisa response rate of 85 percent. Therefore, the results may not be comparable to those of other countries or to results for Malaysia from previous years.”

In simple terms, this means that the MOE officials had attempted to manipulate the results of the Malaysian students by using a biased sample of schools which will not present a fair and accurate reflection of students’ performance in Malaysia.

My colleague, Dr Ong Kian Ming has already shown in his statement on 8 December that the MOE over-represents data from High Performing Schools (HPS) and Fully Residential Schools.  For example, even though the number of Fully Residential School students comprise only less than 3% of all students in Malaysia, they were over-represented for the PISA tests at a whopping 30%.

There cannot be a bigger irony when our own Ministry of Education tries to cheat in its examinations, and actually expects to get away with it.

The disgraceful attempt to cheat the system underlies a bigger problem in the administration of our education system.  It shows that those in-charge of the education of our children are more interested in form over substance.  They are only interested in meeting statistical benchmarks – by hook or by crook so that they could crow about it, and are not interested in the real substantive quality and performance of our students.

This is consistent with the fact that the MOE (and its counterpart Higher Education Ministry) have been attempting to manipulate the rankings of our Malaysians universities by adjusting foreign student intakes to meet the criteria for the more dubious global university ranking matrix by QS World University Rankings.  Other university ranking systems by the Times Higher Education and Shanghai Jiao Tong clearly require more qualitative academic performance input from our universities which were harder to manipulate.

Similarly, it has been an open secret that the annual increases in the number of “As” obtained by our students in examinations such as the SPM were a result of reducing marks required to achieve the relevant grades, and not a result of improving student quality.

Without a real transformation in the mindset of our officials in-charge of our education system, the quality of our schools will continue continue to deteriorate and we can only expect our students to be even worse off over time.  As long as these officials who are only interested in artificial forms to pat themselves on the back and suck up to their superiors, no amount of beautifully crafted transformation blueprints will be able to “transform” the system for the better.

We call upon the Minister of Education, Dato' Seri Mahdzir Khalid to take stern action against all senior officials who were complicit in the attempts to cheat PISA.  This will send a strong message to the entire Ministry that the Government is only interested in substantive quality of our students and not fake performance outcomes.  The continued failure to let substance precede form is a certain formula to ensure a worsened outcome for our future Malaysian students.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

The Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar should stick to catching criminals who rob the country instead of telling artists what they should and should not draw

Yesterday, Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar has advised political cartoonist Zunar to channel his creative juices towards drawing "nice cartoons" if he wanted to exhibit his work.

"He can draw McDonald's or Donald Duck, " he quipped when asked if Zunar would be allowed to showcase his cartoons in a public exhibition.

Perhaps Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar has failed to read and/or understand that we have a Federal Constitution which guarantees “Fundamental Liberties” including the “Freedom of speech, assembly and association”. 

While such liberties are not absolute, we are supposed to be far from a totalitarian or police state to the extent where the IGP tells an artist to draw “nice cartoons”.

Certainly, just because Zunar’s criticism of the ruling kleptocratic elite who are mired with rampant corruption, abuse of power and incitement of racial flames are portray in a manner which is unpalatable for those who are in power, that certainly do not mean that they are illegal in anyway. 

In fact, Tan Sri IGP, you are not required to like Zunar’s art!

Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar tried to justify his repeated arrest of Zunar by claiming that the artist had “insulted the country’s leaders”.

He asked what if the tables were turned when someone draws cartoons which insulted opposition leaders?  "If tomorrow such cartoons targeted Penang Chief Minister (Lim Guan Eng), would he like it if we just ignored them?”

Firstly, a hopefully not too profound question for our Inspector-General of Police:

If a thief were to be insulted by a caricature him or her as a “despicable thief”, would you arrest the thief or the artist?  Is the alleged “insult” which has hurt the feelings of the thief wrong in the eyes of the law, or is should the thief who have stolen billions of dollars from the people of Malaysia be arrested, investigated and charged instead?

After all, as far as we are aware, no leader of this country is legislated to be above the law.

Secondly, Tan Sri Khalid raised the most ironic of examples – with regards to purported insults against opposition leaders like the Penang Chief Minister.

In fact, DAP and other opposition leaders have been regularly demonised via caricatures appearing in Utusan Malaysia for the past decades, their posters and pictures torn and burnt by UMNO demonstrators – what exactly has the Police done against these parties?

We are not asking for the Police to take action against these people.  However, the fact that the IGP only takes action against those who criticise UMNO leaders and close one eye to those who viciously attacked those in the Opposition clearly demonstrates his bias and hypocrisy in the reasons provided for the persecution of Zunar.

We call upon Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar to stop making Malaysia and its police force the butt of international jokes by stopping all actions against artists, civil society members and political dissidents.  Instead, he should regain the respectability of the force by initiating urgent arrests and investigations against all parties cited by the United States, Switzerland and Singapore investigators who have stolen and misappropriated billions of dollars from 1MDB and SRC International, including but not limited to Jho Low and his father, Riza Aziz, Eric Tan Kim Loong, 1MDB and SRC officials as well as the shameless “Malaysian Official 1”.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Presiden UMNO Dato’ Seri Najib Razak telah mengeluarkan fitnah berbau perkauman yang melampau terhadap DAP untuk menakutkan orang Melayu dan mengalihkan kemarahan rakyat terhadap skandal 1MDB, SRC International dan MO1

Presiden UMNO, Dato’ Seri Najib Razak telah melontarkan pelbagai fitnah dan dusta terhadap parti DAP dan pemimpin-pemimpinnya dalam ucaptama Perhimpunan Agung UMNO semalam.

Beliau berkata bahawa “sekiranya negara ini jatuh ke tangan DAP yang memperjuangkan liberalisme melampau dan fahaman sekular berbahaya, pastinya, hak dan keistimewaan yang diperjuang serta dipertahankan oleh UMNO selama ini, termasuk Institusi-institusi Bumiputera antaranya MARA, FELDA, RISDA, FELCRA dan TERAJU akan pupus dan lenyap.”

Tambahan lagi, Dato’ Seri Najib juga menuduh bahawa “Perlembagaan parti DAP, tiada langsung menyebut Islam sebagai agama Persekutuan, tidak dinyatakan untuk menjunjung institusi Raja-Raja Melayu dan tidak tertulis satu ayat pun, tentang usaha untuk melindungi hak dan keistimewaan Orang-Orang Melayu serta Bumiputera.”

Kami ingin bertanya kepada Dato’ Seri Najib Razak -  parti yang mana yang meletakkan keseluruhan Perlembagaan Persekutuan ke dalam Perlembagaan Parti?  Adakah MCA, MIC, Gerakan, parti-parti Barisan Nasional di Sabah dan Sarawak menyenaraikan setiap fasal perlembagaan persekutuan ke dalam perlembagaan parti mereka?

Jelasnya tidak. Hakikatnya, Presiden UMNO hanya ingin menipu dan mengelirukan orang ramai terhadap perlembagaan parti DAP.

Adalah tertulis dalam perlembagaan DAP bahawa maksud dan semangat Perlembagaan Persekutuan seperti yang dihasratkan oleh pengasas penubuhan dan kemerdekaan Malaysia merupakan perjuangan DAP.  Setahu kami, fasal-fasal yang disebut oleh Dato’ Seri Najib Razak – Islam sebagai agama Persekutuan, institusi Raja-Raja Melayu dan hak keistimewaan bumiputera adalah terkandung di dalam Perlembagaan Persekutuan yang sama dipertahankan oleh DAP.

Apatah lagi, untuk menafikan pembohongan-pembohongan UMNO selama ini, semasa Persidangan Parti DAP di Shah Alam pada 8 Jan 2012[1], DAP telah mengeluarkan dan meluluskan Deklarasi Shah Alam yang antaranya menegaskan bahawa:
Kita menghasratkan Impian Bangsa Malaysia, dan dalam usaha untuk mengecapi impian ini, kita mengulangi komitmen untuk:

Mempertahankan sistem Demokrasi Berparlimen dan Raja Berperlembagaan dengan Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong sebagai Ketua Negara. DAP komited untuk menjunjung Perlembagaan Persekutuan Malaysia sebagai undang-undang yang paling agung negara dan meluhurkannya dalam semangat Merdeka 1957 dan Perjanjian Malaysia 1963.

Memelihara kedudukan istimewa orang Melayu dan Bumiputra serta hak-hak kaum-kaum lain, seperti yang termaktub dalam Artikel 153 Perlembagaan Persekutuan.

Memastikan kedudukan Islam sebagai agama Persekutuan serta kebebasan untuk mengamalkan agama-agama lain dengan aman dan damai, seperti yang termaktub dalam Artikel 3 dan 11 Perlembagaan Persekutuan.

Memartabatkan Bahasa Melayu sebagai Bahasa Kebangsaan seperti yang termaktub dalam Artikel 152 Perlembagaan Persekutuan, serta menggalakkan penggunaan dan pengajian bahasa-bahasa ibunda lain untuk membentukkan masyarakat yang cemerlang dan berbilang bahasa.

Memperjuangkan kebebasan rakyat yang terjamin dalam Artikel 10 Perlembagaan Persekutuan, iaitu kebebasan untuk bersuara, berhimpun dan menubuh persatuan.

Menghormati Perjanjian Malaysia 1963 serta hak-hak yang dimiliki oleh rakyat Sabah dan Sarawak.

Adakah Dato’ Seri Najib Razak buta huruf sehingga sehingga beliau tidak faham apa yang tertulis dan diterbitkan oleh DAP sebelum ini?

Atau Dato’ Seri Najib Razak sengaja berfitnah untuk mengapi-apikan kebencian perkauman di kalangan orang Melayu supaya segala skandal-skandal pimpinan beliau, termasuk penyelewengan berbilion-bilion dolar daripada syarikat kerajaan 1MDB dan SRC International ke dalam akaun peribadi beliau, akan dilupakan?

Timbalan Perdana Menteri, Dato’ Seri Zahid Hamidi dalam ucapan beliau dua hari dahulu menuduh pihak pembangkang mempergunakan strategi Nazi, iaitu “jika anda ingin berbohong, biarlah ia besar dan jika kamu katakannya berulang kali, orang akan mula mempercayainya.”

Apa yang dikemukakan oleh pihak pembangkang, terutamanya mengenai penyelewengan kewangan 1MDB dan SRC oleh Presiden UMNO, yang juga merupakan Perdana Menteri dan Menteri Kewangan telah terbukti benar dan tidak dinafikan oleh Dato’ Seri Najib Razak.  Walhal, yang benar-benar mempergunakan strategi pembohong besar Nazi adalah Dato’ Seri Najib Razak sendiri, seperti yang telah dibuktikan di atas.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Will Khairy demand for Maria Chin’s release since he mocked the opposition’s fear that SOSMA would be abused against peaceful assemblies when the Act was passed in April 2012?

The Securities Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA) was passed in Dewan Rakyat on 17 April 2012.  The controversial new law intended to fight and counter terrorism was hotly debated by both sides of the House.

Among the issue which was most fiercely discussed was the fact that provisions of SOSMA could be used against individuals deemed to be “carrying out activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy”.

The members of the opposition led by the then Opposition Leader, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had argued furiously that such a clause of involving “activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy” was too broad and will be subject to abuse by the authorities.

However, the Member of Parliament for Rembau, Khairy Jamaluddin, and a Minister in Najib’s Cabinet today, had mocked the opposition’s fear, claiming that they were not only unfounded, the letter of the proposed law was extremely clear and had no room for the purported abuse.

Instead, in his speech on the 16th April 2012, he praised the SOSMA Bill which was tabled by the Prime Minister, Dato’ Seri Najib Razak himself, was “on the side of civil liberties”[1].
He criticised the Opposition Leader for not understanding that activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy means, “an activity carried out by a person or group of persons designed to overthrow or undermine Parliamentary Democracy by violence or unconstitutional means”.[2]

Subsequently, during his speech on the Amendments to the Penal Code (2012) the next day, Khairy further criticised the opposition’s position as “misleading” and reiterated that legitimate political dissent including peaceful assemblies or even, Bersih “is not detrimental to Parliamentary Democracy”.

“Saya dapati bahawa perbahasan daripada pihak pembangkang bukan mengelirukan tetapi amat lemah sekali sebab tidak mengkaji ataupun sengaja tidak mengakui bahawa sebenarnya apa yang dipinda ini tidaklah terlalu umum, tidaklah terlalu general, tidaklah terlalu longgar dan tidaklah satu peruntukan yang boleh ditafsirkan mengikut sesuka hati siapa-siapa pun.”

“…Kalau nak buat perhimpunan aman atau bersih pun, itu tidak detrimental to Parliamentary Democracy. Itu yang mereka [pembangkang] tak faham. Sudah cukup khusus daripada segi definisi yang diberi.”[3]

However, Bersih chairpeson, Maria Chin’s arrest under SOSMA three days ago has materialised all the fears expressed by the opposition MPs when the law was passed 4 years ago.  Despite only organising a peaceful assembly to seek free and fair elections to ensure a clean government, the Police are investigating her for “activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy” and detained her under SOSMA.

The question now for the Youth and Sports Minister is, will he now accept that he was over-zealous in his defence of the SOSMA and Penal Code Amendment Bills and his confidence with the authorities’ interpretation of the Acts in the spirit that they were intended was badly misplaced?

More importantly, will Khairy Jamaluddin do the honourable thing now to demand that Maria Chin be immediately released because she has been wrongfully arrested?

Or will he, more likely, keep his mouth shut and pretend that he had never said in Parliament that the SOSMA and Penal Code Amendment Bills will not be used on peaceful assemblies or Bersih?

[1] Hansard 16/4/2012 p18
[2] Hansard 16/4/2012 p24
[3] Hansard 17/4/2012 p73