Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Well done, Tabung Haji!

PETALING JAYA — July 26, 2016: Tabung Haji will not sell its Tun Razak Exchange land despite receiving a very high offer.
Chief Executive Officer Datuk Johan Abdullah said the decision was based on Tabung Haji’s expectations of its high value-added potential over the long term.
“From the start, the land was bought based on a commercial (consideration) and we’ve made an evaluation of its value in the long term.
“We’ve received a very high offer (for the land), but we don’t want to sell it as we believe in the long-term value creation of that investment,” said Johan.
He was met after the launch of the Tabung Haji Foundation by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Johan also said that currently Tabung Haji is in discussion with several architects’ firms on the development plan for the land measuring 0.631 hectare for which Tabung Haji paid RM188.8 million to 1Malaysia Development Berhad last year. — Bernama via The Mole
Puchong, 27 July 2016: Until this statement by Johan yesterday, we were never quite certain what Tabung Haji was going to do with the TRX land it bought from 1MDB last year. Now we are absolutely sure. And we - the few of us who have been campaigning on our blogs against the campaign to pressure TH into selling off the TRX property - salute the new CEO and the board of directors of the hajj pilgrims fund for doing the right thing. 

Personally, I take my hats off to Ismee Ismail (pic, right), Johan's predecessor, for his vision and for securing TH the deal.  Readers of this blog know that I have often been unkind to Ismee in my writings but credit where it's due (and in his case, overdue).

p.s Lesson to be learnt? Keep calm and be professional. Or calmly let the professionals run the show.

Some of my previous postings on TH's TRX land:

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

It's business - and politics - as usual in Malaysia after the D.O.J.

Puchong, 26 July 2016:
I thought Bloomberg reported quite well the aftermath of the US Justice Department's take on the so-called 1MDB scandal via this article It's business as usual for Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak amid graft scandal. It has all the relevant facts of the matter, carries the views of analysts both pro and anti, and furnishes the bigger picture for Malaysia so that the reader can place things in perspective. The only thing missing, perhaps, is an agenda. The agenda. The crusade shared by the likes of The Sarawak Report against the Malaysian Prime Minister for alleged misdeeds, crime, graft etc that they have attributed to 1MDB. 
The Bloomberg article doesn't make the picture look prettier than it really is. But it doesn't fabricate anything to make it look uglier than it already is, either.
It's what good, old journalism does.  

Read the entire Bloomberg article via South China Morning Post h e r e. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Was "the man" the Tun, dear Tunku?

"How anyone could conduct a thorough and professional investigation without seeking and obtaining information from primary sources such as 1MDB officials and other relevant authorities, including Malaysian law officers, is something we should all learn from Attorney-General Lynch and her talented and dedicated officers ... It is a modern day wonder."
- Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim

No prize for guessing the man behind it all
By Tunku Aziz

KL, 23 July 2016: The filing of civil forfeiture complaints by the United States Department of Justice for the recovery of assets in excess of US$ 1 billion that they believed to have been acquired by persons who had plundered 1MDB, Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund, sits uneasily with many fair-minded, thinking Malaysians.

The announcement was made by US Attorney-General Lynch in the company of at least four top officials from the FBI and Internal Revenue Service.

The press conference was intended as a display of power and might of the incomparable American justice system which we know from long years of careful observation to be not what they want us to believe.

In the current investigation of the 1MDB related case, we are treated to a demonstration of very rough and ready justice that America is still capable of dispensing.

The frontier tradition is still alive and well under the thin veneer of 21st century USA. There are several features of this filing that intrigue me.

The most obvious to us who have been lectured to by Americans about the rule of law, democracy and natural justice at every turn has been the total absence of communication with 1MDB, the subject of the complaints or allegations that have triggered the FBI investigation, and the attendant hype, upheaval  and excitement.

How anyone could conduct a thorough and professional investigation without seeking and obtaining information from primary sources such as 1MDB officials and other relevant authorities, including Malaysian law officers, is something we should all learn from Attorney-General Lynch and her talented and dedicated officers.

It is a modern day wonder.

Given that corruption is a serious crime against the state and society, and assuming in good faith that they have irrefutable evidence that can stand up in their law courts, why have they not pursued the matter under criminal law?

Filing the complaints under civil law would seem a little odd. Surely, they are keen on securing a conviction and sending the wrong doers to jail.

It smells. It somehow does not add up.

It is regrettable that the Americans have chosen to fight their war against cross-border corruption by hiding behind a smokescreen of high-minded moral principles that cannot stand up to close scrutiny.

Yet in the same breath, and stopping just short of naming names, they impute improper motives to our Prime Minister and cast aspersions on his reputation and character, without being able to produce an ounce of proof.

It is worth reminding ourselves that there is absolutely no suggestion in any of the investigations conducted so far by the authorities in Switzerland and Malaysia that Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak had stolen anything from 1MDB.

The Public Accounts Committee, comprising Government and Opposition lawmakers, after months of exhaustive investigation and in regular consultations with the Auditor-General recently produced their authoritative report that exonerated Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak from all allegations of wrong doing.

In short, the allegations against him were reckless, vindictive and frivolous. In all the circumstances, Datuk Seri Najib is innocent until proven guilty under the law.

What is shocking is that there are many among us who cannot cope with the truth and the truth is that the Prime Minister is innocent until proven guilty.

Tunku Abdul Aziz is a Malaysian corporate figure, activist and politician. He has held numerous roles in the worldwide anti-corruption movement, most prominently, vice-chairman of the board of directors of Transparency International and the former Vice-Chairman of DAP.

p.s. Cheeky headlines, indeed! 
Tunku Aziz didn't name anyone in his article but I can't help but think of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad! Perhaps because the two old men - Aziz is 82 and Mahathir 91 - have a lot of things in common and yet no love lost between them. In a past era, Mahathir would have lynched Lynch mercilessly for trying to do this kleptocracy thing on Malaysia or Malaysian citizens. Tunku Aziz's lashing here would be so mild compared to what Mahathir would have unleashed upon the Americans and (local politicians and activists who dare support them). We still remember what happened when Washington tried to blame the 1997 financial crisis on nepotism, corruption and cronyism of his Administration ... 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Why we shouldn't be losing too much sleep over the US Justice Department's 1MDB announcement

"... the Prime Minister has always maintained, if any wrongdoing is proven, the law will be enforced without exception.” - Najib Razak's press secretary, in his response to the US Department of Justice's 1MDB announcement

Puchong, 21 July: Some people must have stayed up all night to celebrate their "victory" over Prime Minister Najib Razak after the US Department of Justice announcement on 1MDB last night. I don't know if they rejoice prematurely but I know that these people will be rolling-on-the-ground unhappy if Najib is NOT found guilty by America of the crimes THEY (these rejoicing people) have accused him of committing! Already, they are whining the fact that the US DoJ has failed to name Najib Razak specifically in its damning 136-page report. How sweet it would have been if the DoJ had spelled out Najib's name. Well, I don't understand that bit, either, but that's the fact of the matter that we must remember: Najib's name is not there. 

The name of his stepson, Reza Aziz, is. Well, if one's hand was in the cookie jar, one has got to pay. Without exception, as the PM has said.

The people at 1MDB, obviously, had to sacrifice some sleep last night to respond to the situation. So did the PM's press secretary and the Communications Minister Salleh Said Keruak. [Read 1MDB, the government will cooperate with US Department of Justice, the Mole]. 

"1MDB highlights that it is not a party to the civil suit, does not have any assets in the United States of America, nor has it benefitted from the various transactions described in the civil suit. Furthermore, 1MDB has not been contacted by the US Department of Justice or any other foreign agency in relation to their investigations". - exceprts of 1MDB's official response to the DoJ

We can expect the people who rejoice to manipulate the DoJ's statement for some political gain. YB Tony Pua has already started his campaign on Twitter. The aim is to make as many people as possible to believe in what the DoJ DID NOT say ...

Not all armchair critics think Najib should be losing too much sleep over the DoJ's move, though. 

I could write a six hundred word blog before getting to the point here, but I will get right to it: The 1MDB asset seizure is likely to have minimal impact on Malaysian domestic politics. To recap … the U.S. Justice Department this morning announced it was filing “civil-forfeiture complaints against more than $1 billion of assets allegedly acquired using funds misappropriated from a Malaysian economic development fund,” known as 1MDB, according to the Wall Street Journal, which has extensively covered the 1MDB saga. This is believed to be the largest asset seizure in U.S. history, and the Justice Department has targeted a wide range of purportedly 1MDB-related assets that were supposedly bought with misappropriated money from the state fund—classy art, a private jet, the rights to the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street,” luxury real estate in New York and Los Angeles, and more. It’s an impressive list of potential seizures, and an important case showing the power of the Justice Department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. Expect authorities in other countries that are still investigating 1MDB, like Singapore and Switzerland, to eventually make other demands for asset recovery.
But as for the impact on domestic Malaysian politics? Don’t expect the case to lead the Malaysian government to fold, the way that investigations of FIFA triggered reforms in that institution. The impact on the administration of Najib Tun Razak will be virtually none. Yes, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said at a press conference today that, “Unfortunately and tragically, a number of corrupt officials treated this public trust as a personal bank account.” Yes, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is believed to be the “Malaysian Official 1,”—which the New York Times says is a “high-ranking government official who oversaw the fund and is a close relative of Mr. Aziz,” Najib’s stepson, who was one of the people served with complaints by the Justice Department. Yes, the perception within Malaysia (and probably globally) is that Najib played a central role in 1MDB’s funny business, his denials to the contrary. Yes, Najib is probably very unpopular with urban Malaysians, although no poll has been taken in recent months that quantifies his support—or lack thereof—in urban areas. Yes, Najib and his family are perceived by many Malaysians to live lavishly, with little evidence of where the money comes from.
But Najib also has proven a masterful and tough politician throughout the 1MDB scandal, and Malaysia’s opposition, which was close to winning parliament in 2013, has fallen apart even as the 1MDB investigations mushroom. Over the past two years, Najib has overseen a dramatic crackdown on civil society, forcing or prompting the closure of several independent media outlets, overseeing a suspicious sodomy case that put Anwar Ibrahim back in jail, and presiding over the arrests of many other civil society leaders on vague sedition charges. He has purged the governing coalition of opponents and stacked his cabinet and the Malaysian bureaucracy with loyalists. He has installed as his top deputy a man, Ahmad Zahid Hamdi, even less liked by both members of United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and younger Malaysians; his deputy serves basically as a kind of insurance against getting rid of Najib.
Meanwhile, the opposition coalition—if it can be called that now—has fragmented with Anwar in jail, the government cracking down on civil society, and fissures emerging among the parties that made up the 2013 coalition. It was always a coalition held together with scotch tape, but last year the Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), the Islamist party, left. It had long argued with other members of the coalition over social issues, including whether state and federal governments could implement Islamic law on a range of criminal issues. The new coalition that has emerged, which includes some small remnants of PAS, is weaker; it lost two by-elections to the ruling coalition in Selangor and Perak in June.
Anti-Najib politicians and civil society activists are in such disarray that some belatedly have come around to seeing former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad as their champion. Mahathir, who is 91 and was hardly known for his democratic style as prime minister, has indeed been harshly critical of Najib for more than a year now, and has derided the prime minister over 1MDB. Now, Mahathir says he is forming a new party to reinvigorate Malaysian politics. He probably will populate with some leading critics who were fired from Najib’s cabinet and other senior levels of UMNO. It’s not likely to restore Malaysia’s opposition to the level of being able to challenge, nationwide, for control of parliament.
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