Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Journalism is not a crime (but journalists do commit crime)

As a journalist,, I do not hesistate in joining my fellow journos at the BBC in London and elsewhere in the world in their minute´s silence and tribute to the three Aljazeera journalists who were sentenced to 7 years in jail by the Egyptian courts for terror-related charges. My heart goes to the parents of award-winning Australian journo Peter Greste, whose plight was highlighted during prime time BBC news this morning, as well as to the parents of Greste´s colleages Egyptian-Canadian Mohamad Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed. In the name of Press freedom, I hope the Egyptian government would intervene in the Court decision, with a view of letting these journalists go, even though it would be wrong for the Executive to interfere with the country´s Judiciary.

Ex PMO press sec: Committed crime in
the name of Press freedom?
However, as a journalist, too, I must apologize for the crimes that have committed daily by reporters, editors and publishers. xx is right, journalism isn´t a cirme but we journalists aren´t angels, let me tell yoiu.

The latest is the very sensational phone hacking scandal involving top-ranking journalists at the now-defunct News of The World owned by Australian media baron Rupert Murdoch. Former News of the World editor Andrew Coulson.(pic) has been found guilty of knowingly allowed the newspaper to eavesdrop on voice mails of not just politicans and celebrities, but also victims of crime as part of its modus operandi to obtain sensational headlines to boost sales and advertisement revenues. [Get the scandal´s timeline h e r e]. 

Do we ask David Cameron to intervene in the judgement meted out by a British Court against one of its journalists?


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dr M fires a big round at Royal businessmen

Read The Mole´s exclusive Dr M: Malay Rulers should not be involved in business deals 
No stopping this Statesman now. Dr Mahathir Mohamad is going after some of the people who live in our Royal households and the latest salvo is aimed directly at those who have been dabbling in lucrative bussiness projects. You may call him a senile old man or accuse him of suffering from pensioner´s syndrome but he ain´t keeping his mouth shut and we have all got to deal with that. 
The former PM´s stand on the Royalty is well known and documented. It´s not that he doesn´t love members of our Royalty; it is just that the Tun doesn´t like the fact that some of these members of the Royalty continue to take advantage of their positions while allowing themselvs to be taken advantage of. 
We should be hearing more from the Statesman (since we don´t see anyone else berani enough to speak out on the issue). I don.t expect the Rulers - at least some of them - to remain quiet. Billlions are at stake here.  

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Tony Pua´s mission impossible to try and make YTL Power look the hero

The real heroes
Well, well, well, YB Tony Pua seems to have rediscovered his voice (Kudos to Francis Yeoh´s ...). Pua was so quiet when YTL and royal partner SIPP got the power project via negotiated tender from the Energy Commission. By right, he should have immediatley condemned not just the EC and SIPP but also YTL Power - even TNB - over the negotiated tender. But especially YTL because of what Francis Yeoh said about crony capitalism 
I have to say |I´m not surprised that Pua is all praise for Francis Yeoh again (read my Feb 19 posting Tony Pua a YES man) and out to get the EC and Putrajaya now that YTL has come out to say it was opting out of the deal ¨¨to dispel any misgivings over the government´s commitment towards transparency and good governance¨¨. Right on cue.  
Tony Pua is trying to make YTL look like the hero. Well, YB, let me tell you something: you can´t fool all the people all the time. 
I agree, the EC has a lot to explain; in my posting h e r e I asked if someone at the EC was resigning over this scandal. But make no mistake about it: YTL Power is no hero in this scandal. If we really need a hero here, then we should salute the trade union leaders at  TNB who fought against the attempt to get their company involved in what they saw as an unholy alliance (read h e r e). 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Cariocas and YTL, a Malay Reserve Land and the Malay resolve


YTL Power shows the way ...

YTL drops out of Royal JV. The Energy Commission is to issue a statement with following Francis Yeoh´s decision to drop out from the race. Will his main partner the Sultan of Johor do the same ¨to dispel any misgivings over the government´s commitment to transparency and good governance¨. Is someone at the EC resigning? Will the Commission call for a re-tender? The answer to all three questions should be YES.

Original Posting

File pic of Rio´s Ipenama beach
In Rio de Janeiro, where I have been since the weekend to catch some World Cup football, the poor don´t live in apartments by Copacabana, Leblon or Botafogo; they have squalors for that tucked far enough from the bronze tanned, thonged bodies splayed on the those sunny beaches of Rio. And the poor here, sadly but not unexpectedly, are the Cariocas or the native inhibitants of Rio (or, if you like, heir Bumiputeras). Similarly, the Bumis in KL don.´t reside in Francis Yeoh´s Bukit Bintang, amigos, they tuck themselves away in Kampung Baru and the squalors in the city´s periphery. 
The Cariocas did not remind me of  billionaire Francis Yeoh´s faux pas on crony capitalism; the Malaysians I had met on the way here did. I don´t think the son of Masterbuilders taikor Yeoh Tiong Lay realizes how deep he´s cut: even those who did not have an opinion about him were now critical towards him and whatever good he might have done. It will take a long time before he can shake off people´s feeling that he was deliberately being provocative, that it was really just another attempt to test the Malaysian status quo and the Malay-Bumi resolve, no different from what some of those holier-than-thou politicians have been doing. 
Read with a great sense of foreboding Big Dog´s latest posting Violating the Malay Constitution on the Malay Reserve land grab in Selangor. According to the A-G, Malay reserve land in Ampar Tenang, Sepang and Sungai Lang, Sabak Bernam were occupied and worked on by non-Malays. They opened food stalls, car workshops and constructed buildings on the Malay reserve land ... 
Land issues again, and so soon after the controversy over land sale in Johor to foreigners! Here in Brazil, where their Bumiputeras make up less than 1 per cent of the population, about 13 per cent of land is reserved for them as Teras Indigenas. And even here the demarcation is being provoked and challenged!
 The land grab in Selangor has nothing to do with Francis Yeoh, of course, but it reminds me of the on-going attempts to test the status quo that has defined the relationship between the Bumis and the non-Bumis. The latest piece by The Unspinners on the angry protests by teachers has all to do with Francis and the billion-ringgit online education project that was given to him by the government in what seemed to be a competitive bidding and therefore should have nothing to do with crony capitalism.  
p.s. Heard from some journalists back home that the Sultan of Johor is rethinking his partnership with Francis Yeoh in a controversial billion ringgit power project presented recently on a silver platter via negotiated tender to them by the Energy Commission, I doubt it´s true and even if it is I doubt it will ease the Rakyat´s minds by much or for long ...

Friday, June 13, 2014

It's the Sultan who advises the MB, not the other way round, Khaled!

Only in Johor. Today's headlines in The Star is so telling insofar as who advises who in The Kingdom of Johor ... 
Khaled Nordin the first-term Johor Menteri Besar had said on June 6 that the Sultan of Johor would act ONLY on the MB's advice (Johor MB says only he, not Sultan, holds executive powers). This was pooh-poohed by the PKR Wanita chief in MB powerless to advise Sultan, says Zuraida. Former PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, too, doubts Khaled's ability to ensure that  Sultan Ibrahim listens to the MB's advice. Suddenly, it's the Sultan who's advising the MB. I don't think anyone would question or doubt the Johor state government's - and Khaled's - ability to quickly heed to the Sultan's advice! 

Johor Sultan advises state govt to explain Bill to rakyat


Sultan Ibrahim Ismail of Johor.
JOHOR BARU - Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar has advised the state government to carry out a road show to explain the Johor Housing and Real Property Board Enactment to the rakyat.
Palace sources said this was ne­­cessary so that the people would fully understand the Bill, which was passed at the state assembly on Monday.
"The advice to the state government was conveyed to Johor Mentri Besar during a meeting with the Johor Ruler here today (yesterday)," said the official, adding that once the rakyat fully understood the Bill, then the state government could present it for the Sultan's consent.
The palace official also rubbished talk that the Johor Ruler was upset and had refused to sign the Bill, saying that he was willing to sign it anytime.
"The Johor Ruler only wants the best for his people and has consented to the amendments to be made to the draft Bill before it is tabled on Monday."
"Before the Ruler gives his final consent on the Bill, Sultan Ibrahim has advised the state government to explain to all his subjects as there has been a lot of negative comments made by various quarters which has confused the rakyat over the past few days," the official said.
Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, when contacted, rubbished talk that the Johor Ruler had refused to endorse the Bill.
"It will take some time for the document to be ready. We have not presented it to the Johor Ruler yet," he said.
Asked about talk that the Sultan had refused to sign it, Mohamed Khaled said there was "no such thing".

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

MAS needs to be rescued ... from Khazanah

BUJAI is not always right but he asks the right question in his latest posting: Why do we need 12 months to decide if MAS needs government help or not? 
We all know that everybody needs a little help from the government (unless you are YTL, of course) and the national airline can do with that government help, perhaps more than any other GLCs. 
But more than funding, what Malaysia Airlines needs is to do what it needs to, including carrying out painful cost-cutting measures, to stay alive.  
As I see it, the carrier's current predicament dated back to when consultants were brought into the picture by one Nor Mohamed Yakcob to clean up the "mess" after the regional currency crisis. Over the years, these consultants did everything, including selling the office tower in KL and later ownership to Tony Fernandes, to try and make things work at MAS. Today, these consultants head Khazanah Nasional, who is the largest shareholder of MAS.  
I would like to suggest that Bujai tells his kakis in the government that they will be most helpful if they can help liberalise the national airline from Khazanah (or Khazanah from the airline, if you're inclined that way). Let AJ & Co do what needs to be done to run MAS profitably without compromising its obligations as a national carrier.  
And bring in as Malaysia Airilnes Advisor Tan Sri Bashir Ahmad*, who was part of the team that took MAS to great heights during the years before the consultants came in.  
* Bashir ended his tenure as MAHB chief on 6 June after 11 years. Badlisham Ghazali, a former computer & IT salesman, has been sent in (by Khazanah) to be the new MD to the dismay of many who were hoping to see a homegrown replacement. Badlisham, an ITM grad (and I say it with great pride), reports for duty on 23 June. 
Read also: GLCs now on stronger footing 

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Suing Malaysiakini: The hypocrisy of the Bar Council and others

Updated 10/6/14:
My view on politicians taking lawsuits against journalists is carried by, an up-and-coming Malaysian newsite, h e r e. The reporter did a good job at capturing what I said to him on the phone. I just need to point out that YB Jeff Ooi did not go after me for the comments in my blog; rather, it was he (before he joined politics) who was persecuted for the comments in his blog left by Anonymous readers, a predicament not unlike Malaysiakini's current one. Jeff came out with a posting to tell readers to be careful with their comments, that life in blogosphere wasn't living in a vacuum. "... "bear in mind that whatever is illegal offline is illegal online in this country," Ooi had said. (For some context, read h e r e.)

Original posting

Christopher Leong issued a long press statement (see below) following the lawsuit against Malaysiakini by Prime Minister Najib Razak. Perhaps he wasn't born yet when the following suits were taken against our media? 

Press Release

Defamation Suit by the Prime Minister is No Answer to Public Misgivings and Criticisms

The Malaysian Bar views with concern the suit filed by the United Malays National Organisation (“UMNO”) and Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak against an online news portal and its editors for alleged defamation.  The defendants in the suit are Mkini Dotcom Sdn Bhd, Editor-in-Chief Steven Gan and Chief Editor Fathi Aris Omar.  The alleged defamation is with respect to the publication by the defendants of two separate compilations of comments by members of the public.

This is the first time a Malaysian Prime Minister has issued suit against members of the news media for purported defamation.  The Prime Minister is in effect suing members of the news media for the views and comments of the public to whom the Prime Minister is accountable and answerable.  This sets a bad precedent and sends the wrong message.

Every public official is accountable to the people who have entrusted him or her with a position of public office and responsibility.  The duties of good governance and accountability should demand the public official be able to endure the full brunt of free speech.

Public officials — especially those holding high public office — and political parties should not resort to lawsuits for defamation as an answer to criticism or comment, whether or not such criticism or comment is unfounded and untrue.  They should accept such adverse comments, no matter how vitriolic, obnoxious or untrue, as natural hazards of putting themselves forth into public political life, so long as it does not affect the person in his or her private sphere.

The Prime Minister should not use civil defamation action against criticism, whether substantiated or otherwise.  The Prime Minister should have taken the opportunity to engage in public explanation, debate, education, counter-arguments and vindication by conduct in answer to untruths and as the means of redressing any alleged injury to reputation.

If the comments and issues complained of are sufficiently important for correction, the Prime Minister should reply in the public arena, and let the measure of public opinion be the judge of the truth.  Public funds and resources should not to be used or expended on defamation suits with respect to matters and comments made in relation to his public office.

In this regard, the approach of the Supreme Court of the United States of America in the leading case of New York Times Co v Sullivan, where the defamation suit by an elected politician was dismissed as being contrary to public interest, set out with approval the following:

Cases which impose liability for erroneous reports of the political conduct of officials reflect the obsolete doctrine that the governed must not criticize their governors…The interest of the public here outweighs the interest of appellant or any other individual.  The protection of the public requires not merely discussion, but information. …Whatever is added to the field of libel is taken from the field of free debate.

The Privy Council in Hector v AG of Antigua and Barbuda expressed sentiments, which we in Malaysia should heed, namely:

In a free democratic society it is almost too obvious to need stating that those who hold office in government and who are responsible for public administration must always be open to criticism.  Any attempt to stifle or fetter such criticism amounts to political censorship of the most insidious and objectionable kind.

We urge the Prime Minister and his political party to withdraw their defamation suit against Mkini and its editors.  The Prime Minister should instead take the opportunity to reply or rebut any adverse or incorrect comments made by members of the public.

Christopher Leong


Malaysian Bar

7 June 2014

Friday, June 06, 2014


Utusan Malaysia's front page today

I've been getting calls and alerts on Utusan Malaysia's front page today, as if I was part of the "Umno-controlled" daily. Many thought the editors were either brave or stupid; one even went as far as to label them, "Derhaka". Those who know the journalists at the paper and understand Utusan's philosophy would suggest that the newspaper is actually being protective of the Sultan. By pushing to give himself more executive powers in the running of the State, the Sultan risks exposing himself to dissent and the wrath of the people. Whoever's advising the Sultan apparently have not been truthful to him about public perception towards the Istana. As someone who's been fortunate enough to be up close and personal with him before he ascended to the throne, I would strongly urge the Tuanku to rethink his position with regards to this and some other business at hand ...

Read also:

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Who needs to be a crony when you can be a Royal Crony?

What crony? Francis Yeoh's latest business partners

In a letter to the media yesterday, billionaire Francis Yeoh blamed Malay Mail Online's article Crony Capitalism in Malaysia has to go, son of YTL founder says for the bad press he's been getting. "The title of this article is inaccurate and it does not reflect the content of what I actually said ...", his letter said [Francis Yeoh says not a crony of former PM, StarBiz 5/6/2014].

So, Francis is saying that only the title (heading) of the article is inaccurate. The news content is.

Let's read what Francis said in the Malay Mail Online article, among other things:
“The good thing about [Singapore, Australia and the UK], I don’t have to kowtow to the prime minister before I do deal(s), I don’t have to see them even, even after I’ve won the deal." 
“I turn west because of this transparent, coherent regulatory framework.” 
“I don’t think you’ll have a chance. Even in Petronas contracts, if (you are) a non-bumi you won’t get to do anything." 
“Like me, I had to survive so 85 per cent of my business (is) outside, I had to invent a lot of the stuff, for my own self-interest, to make sure I survive." 
“I don’t depend on the largesse of the government." 
"I think this crony capitalism stuff has to go, it's 20 years old this idea. I think we should replace it with new, fresh, truthful idea."
At the forum, when asked about how his "close links" with former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had contributed to YTL's successes, Yeoh denied being the latter's "crony" and credited the company's achievement to "innovation".

Innovation? A lot of people disagree with Francis it's cakap tak serupa bikin. 

In fact, people in the industry have been complaining of the RM3.5 billion power project that Francis had just won and they are saying that the project went to YTL Power because of its "close links" with the Johor Istana. Find out H E R E who owns SIPP, Francis Yeoh's partner in the successful "direct nego" award! 

I call it Royal Capitai Cronyism of the Highest Order, which carries the title Tan Sri.

Must read also A Voice's analysis Without Crony Capitalism, YTL could still be Syarikat Pembinaan Yeoh Teong Lay Sdn Bhd.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Pushing for Freedom with responsibility online

Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Sues News Website Over Reports

Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak filed a lawsuit against news website Malaysiakini for defamation for publishing compilations of readers comments critical of his leadership.
The writ of summons named publisher Mkini Dotcom Sdn., Editor-in-Chief Steven Gan and Chief Editor Fathi Aris Omar as defendants, according to court documents e-mailed from the Prime Minister’s Office. Ab. Rauf Yusoh, executive secretary of Najib’s United Malays National Organisation party, is a co-claimant in the lawsuit.
Najib, who said last week a more open media environment is needed for national development, joins Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in taking legal action over comments made online. Lee is suing a blogger for defamation … READ MORE
Firstly, let's help Bloomberg establish a fact: Najib Razak is not suing a blogger, he is suing the largest news portal in the country which happens to be Opposition-friendly. The only Malaysian Prime Minister who has sued bloggers is Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2007, and even that by proxy. It is more accurate to report that Lee Hsien Loong's lawsuit against the Singapore blogger follows the example set by Malaysian Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who is known for million-dollar suits against Umno-friendly Utusan Malaysia and sex bloggers.

Secondly, I'm not jumping with joy over Najib's lawsuit against Malaysiakini but I must admit that taking matters to Court is better than using KDN to raid your home/office and seize your computers or stop you from publishing or, as the pracrice is in Lim Guan Eng's Penang, stop media not aligned to your party and views from attending your official functions. 

Thirdly, having said that, you won't catch me crying if Malaysiakini or any other portal gets punished for its lack of journalistic regard for citizens. Steven Gan's excuse that Malaysiakini had offered Najib the right to reply is not relevant all the time. The right of reply is useful only against reason or a legitimate news story. However, against trash, slander and gutter politics disguised as "online comments" by Anonymous Inc and possibly aimed at inflicting maximum damage, the customary right of reply is quite useless. By the time the reply makes it online, the damage would have been done (and imagine the comments that will be generate to further taunt the poor offended party). 

In the past, politically-biased news portals have gotten away lightly, Najib's lawsuit signal an end to that good times. It will cost is: Malaysia's press freedom is already at its worst, according Reporters Without Borders, and the lawsuit will pull it down further. 

But then again do we really want to emulate Brunei and Timur Leste as the two most "press free" nations in the region according to Without Borders? 

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Selling Johor off to foreigners

Thanks Dr M for still caring about Johor/PM Najib, please save Johor by Annie
One brave soul at the Johor state assembly by A Voice

Former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad's latest article Jual Tanah ought to wake up the powers that be in Johor. Even someone who's just gotten back from a news hiatus like me can see that the Tun is very concerned with the way some individuals in the southern-most State conduct business and themselves. Land is a state matter so Menteri Besar Khaled Nordin better get ready some convincing answers to the good doctor's queries on behalf of the State Government as well as parties who represent the interest of the Istana Johor.  The parties who represent (or claim to represent) the Sultan of Johor and his business interests, especially, do watch it. Remember, these are no longer those good old days ...