Friday, March 31, 2017

Najib's school of diplomacy (Don't mess with Malaysia Part ll)

Alhamdulillah, the nine "hostages" in the KL-Pyongyang diplomacy row over matters related to the killing of Jong Nam, the North Korean leader's half-brother, are safely back in Malaysia a couple of hours ago. The North Koreans detained by us in retaliation would be reluctant to go home, I'm sure, but they are free to go, and so is the body of the body of the murdered half-brother. I couldn't care less about these two, what's important is the Malaysians are back and they are safe. 
I'm not privy to how PM Najib Razak plan to proceed with diplomatic ties and bilateral relations with North Korea but he will no doubt leave the matter in the Foreign Minister Anifah Aman and his team at Wisma Putra, who have taught us a thing or two about the art of international diplomacy. Kudos to them. 
Personally, I would be more cautious when dealing with the North Koreans after this little incident. At the same time, I would be more wary of Malaysians who, at the height of the KL-Pyongyang spat, behaved more North Korean than the North Koreans themselves. - 31 March

30th March 2017.      I am pleased to announce that the nine Malaysians who had been barred from leaving North Korea have now been allowed to return to Malaysia. Alhamdulillah, they took off from Pyongyang today at 7.45pm Malaysian time, and will land in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow around 5am.
2.      I would like to thank those in the Malaysian government involved in the negotiations, led by our Ministry of Foreign Affairs.‎ I had a deep personal concern about this matter, and we worked intensively behind the scenes to achieve this successful outcome. Many challenges were overcome to ensure the return of our fellow Malaysians.  The safety and security of our citizens will always be my first priority.
3.      We will now allow North Koreans to leave Malaysia. In addition, following the completion of the autopsy on the deceased and receipt of a letter from his family requesting the remains be returned to North Korea, the coroner has approved the release of the body.
4.      The government believes strongly in the principles of justice and sovereignty. Our police investigation into this serious crime on Malaysian soil will continue. I have instructed for all possible measures to be taken to bring those responsible for this murder to justice.
5.      As Prime Minister, I am grateful that all Malaysians united to overcome this crisis in the spirit of Negaraku. It shows what can be achieved for the nation if we work together as one.

Joint Statement of DPRK and Malaysia

Pyongyang, March 30 (KCNA) -- Delegations from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Malaysia issued a joint statement on Thursday. The statement is as follows:

1. Delegations from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Malaysia recently held a meeting in Kuala Lumpur to resolve issues arising from the death of a DPRK national in Kuala Lumpur on 13 February, 2017.

2. Both countries reaffirmed their desire to resolve the existing issues, based on the fundamental strength of their bilateral relations, which have been cultivated since the diplomatic relations were established in 1973.

3. Both countries agreed on the importance of respecting the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and full implement the provisions contained therein.

4. As the DPRK has produced all necessary documentations related to the body of the deceased from the family, Malaysia agreed to facilitate the transfer of the body to the family of the deceased in DPRK.

5. Both countries agreed to lift the travel ban imposed on citizens of the other country and guarantee their safety and security within their respective territory. This would allow the nine Malaysians presently in Pyongyang to return to Malaysia and the DPRK citizens in Kuala Lumpur to depart Malaysia.

6. The importance of bilateral relations was reaffirmed. In this connection, both countries agreed to positively discuss the re-introduction of the visa-free system and work towards bringing the relations to a higher level.


Friday, March 24, 2017

A landmark court decision that the WSJ, Sarawak Report and the like wouldn't want to know

I would like to share a message on my whatsapp this morning with my Dear Readers ...

"While a purported "intention to charge" based on sources make headlines, this landmark COURT decision seems to be ignored by WSJ and the likes. Anyway since when is "intention to charge" become a major revealing story?  In any case, isn't it oxymoron? If there is an ongoing investigation, there must be "intention" to charge ... DUH!"

Note: The sender is referring to an earlier report The US is preparing to charge financier Jho Lo on Malaysian 1MDB scandal published by WSJ on March 21

The landmark court decision the WSJ is allegedly ignoring:

(Bloomberg) -- Family members of Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho were allowed to challenge U.S. attempts to confiscate hundreds of millions in real estate and other investments allegedly acquired with money siphoned from a state investment fund. 
A federal judge in Los Angeles this week granted requests by the holding companies that control the assets on behalf of Low to file late claims in eight forfeiture lawsuits. The holding companies asked for permission to file claims after courts in New Zealand and the Cayman Islands allowed them to swap out the Swiss trustees that had refused to fight the U.S. allegations. 
The Low assets at issue include a stake in New York’s Park Lane Hotel, a $107 million interest in EMI Music Publishing, a $35 million Bombardier Jet and a $30 million penthouse at Time Warner Center in New York. The U.S. has asked for default judgments against some of the assets because no valid claims had been filed in time. 
The Justice Department filed more than a dozen cases last year to recover over $1 billion in real estate and other assets the government claims were bought by Low, known as Jho Low, and his accomplices with money stolen from 1Malaysia Development Bhd. The family members, including Low’s brother and father, had previously been denied permission to bring claims because as beneficiaries of the trusts, rather than trustees, they have no legal standing to fight the U.S. allegations. 
U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer rejected what she called the U.S.’s “rough justice" argument that the Low family couldn’t have it “both ways" by shielding their assets in convoluted ownership structures and at the same time being allowed to pursue claims by replacing the trustees who had failed to do their bidding.
‘Inevitable Conclusion’
“While the government’s ‘live by the complex ownership structure, die by the complex ownership structure’ argument has a certain appeal, consideration of the relevant tests leads to the inevitable conclusion that the defaults should be lifted and the claimants should be allowed to file late claims," Fischer said in a ruling Tuesday. 
Low, who is known for partying with Hollywood celebrities Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, is also friends with Riza Aziz, a stepson of Malaysia’s prime minister and a producer of “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which the U.S. alleges was funded with stolen money. 
Low has said he provided consulting to 1MDB that didn’t break any laws, while the fund and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak have both denied wrongdoing. 
The case is U.S.A. v. Any Rights to Profits, Royalties and Distribution Proceeds Owned by or Owed to JW Nile (BVI) Ltd., 16-cv-05364, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Malaysian Inciter

Kay Tat and Jahabar after a night in prison in 2015

Bangsar, 23 March: Was thrilled to bump  yesterday into Jahabar Saddiq, who has become a pain in some people's necks with his plan to bring back The Malaysian Insider's glory days in the form of a brand new portal called The Malaysian Insight (copyright of TMI belongs to Tong Kooi Ong's The Edge now, hence the change from Insider to Insight). 

We (ex colleagues at NST) poked fun at his "quarrel" with Ho Kay Tat (also an NST alumni), who is Tong's trusted editorial supremo at The Edge. Jahabar downplayed it, insisted he and Kay Tat were not at loggerheads, so we let it be.

I didn't ask him about the Insight's funders, either (always a sensitive issue in this country and something Kay Tat has challenged Jahabar to come clean with in a letter to editor The Edge man sent to the Straits Times after Jahabar was quoted by the Singapore daily blaming Kay Tat's The Edge for Insider's demise; pls read Reveal source of funding, soon-to-be-launched news portal told - The Star, 21 March 2017).

I know - or I think I know - at least one of the parties backing Jahabar's new, exciting venture but the thing I needed to know was not who but when ...

"Bila Insight mau start?"

Unless Jahabar was setting me up for an early April Fool's joke, the Insight should be up and running from April 1. That would be exactly two years after he'd spent a night in jail for an article in the TMI [The Malaysian Insider CEO: I'd like to go back to being a journalist - The Star, 1 April 2015]

All the best to the new TMI. And good luck, Jahabar, here's a chance to go back to being a journalist!

Journalists in Malaysia, meanwhile, are up in arms against the Dewan Rakyat Speaker, pressing him to reconsider the restriction imposed on those covering the parliamentary proceedings. Please read Journalists protest parliamentary restriction - The Mole, 22 March 2013.

I was thrilled to read former Information Minister and ex-Utusan Malaysia editor-in-chief Zainuddin Maidin's comments on the subject. Dignified and thoughtful. I think that's because Zam was speaking (and thinking) as a journalist ...

If they had asked me, I'd call on the journalists to boycott the Parliamentary proceedings until the Speaker lifts the restriction. Takde pasal cari pasal! 

I was not thrilled to read this:

Read the story h e r e

But you know what would be really thrilling? If NSTP and Jahabar's new portal were to join forces and take on the rest (and at the same time help restore Jahabar's faith in the big media companies ...)

"The Edge experience has soured me on working with big media companies that say they share same values but close you down for commercial reasons on the first sight of trouble," Mr Jahabar said. - Comeback bid by Malaysian news site that was shut down - Straits Times, 16 March 2013

Thursday, March 16, 2017

With regards to that apology to HRH Sultan Selangor that the HRH Sultan Selangor did not demand ...

TTDI, 16/3: Last Thursday, the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) sent out a Media Statement that accused two bloggers, including yours truly, of writing something that we didn't write. In that statement, reported by all major newspapers and aired on RTM and Youtube, MAIS demanded that the bloggers apologize to the Selangor Sultan in writing, within 24 hours, or it would sue. The Istana, for the record, made no such demands of me. 

I have kept quiet and did not blog about MAIS' wrath because I was half hoping that the Council was bluffing, that they were just dropping the Sultan's name in the hope that it was the best way to  silence me.

But yesterday someone sent me this press release by Bank Muamalat with regards to MAIS and the apology to the Sultan, so I thought that was interesting. Especially the part where it says:

Bank Muamalat has not initiated any legal action against MAIS and/or KUIS in respect of the Payment Guarantee provided by MAIS and KUIS. We will act in the best interest of the Bank to recover the amounts due. Bank Muamalat’s rights against MAIS and KUIS are reserved.

The full press statement

My posting While the Agong makes headlines ...

Read also:
Dua penulis blog dituntut mohon maaf hina Sultan Selangor - Panglima Perang Siber
Mais denies claims Sultan Selangor involved in Redha suit - Malaysiakini
Mais: Sultan not involved in lawsuit - The Star

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Countering fake news

KL, March 14: About time the authorities take the bull(shitters) on social media by its horns. There will be plenty of half-truths and outright lies on blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc for MCMC's to verify, for sure. It won't be a walk in the park. A lot of ordinary Malaysians have made it their business to try and counter fake news, so the launch of the new portal is something they'd welcome with open arms. 

The Bernama news:
CYBERJAYA, March 14 (Bernama) -- The SEBENARNYA.MY portal was launched Tuesday for the public to check on the authenticity of news spread through the social websites.
Launched by Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak, the portal developed by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), is among efforts taken by the government to curb the spread of false news and ensure the public receive truthful news.
In his speech at the launch, Salleh said related information would be gathered, analysed, validated and uploaded to the portal for reference by the public regardless of their political background.
He said till now, the MCMC had identified close to 1,000 false news of public interest being spread in the country.
"False news not only confuse but could also threaten security, prosperity and wellbeing of the people and country.
"This does not only happen in Malaysia but also in the United States, Indonesia and the European countries," he said.
According to Salleh, generally netizens in Malaysia allocated about three hours daily for surfing the Internet and the study conducted also found that among the activities was obtaining news and information.
Stressing that the SEBENARNYA.MY portal bore the main message of "Not Sure, Don't Share", Salleh said: "Do not read and accept any news completely without verification."
He said through this portal, the government wanted to educate the public not to totally accept news or information without verifying it first.
"We don't want the public to share news with the excuse that it was received from another group and seeking explanation," he said.
Salleh also stressed that curbing the spread of false news should be a joint effort of the government and people.
The government, he said, had carried out various programmes and campaigns such as "Klik dengan Bijak" (Click Wisely) and "Semak sebelum Sebar" (Check before Disseminating) to efficiently curb the spread of false news.
"However, the ministry and MCMC also view that the awareness programme needs to be accompanied by initiatives to enable the public to check and report on unverified news that they receive," he said.
Salleh also explained that the portal was not geared towards the coming 14th general election or to curtail the freedom of expression of any quarters.
"The SEBENAR.MY portal is not just meant for political news, but all types of information received from the social media, blogs and other sources can be checked, verified and shared.
"This portal is created not because of the general election and is not owned by the government alone. This portal is for the people. The opposition too can use this portal to obtain valid news," he said.
Salleh said the ministry would be promoting the portal nationwide so that the public could access this technology.

Read also: 
Blogs, "moled" and verified - Rocky's Bru 15/9/2011

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

"@#* yours, too!", Umno MP tells Rafizi

BSC, Wed: Cracked me up reading FMT's piece on how seasoned Umno politician YB Shahidan Kasim schooled PKR strategic-something YB Rafizi Ramli in Parliament yesterday. Not Shahidan nor Rafizi is my favourite politician but they consistently make great headlines. Life would be so boring otherwise, really ...

KUALA LUMPUR: Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Shahidan Kassim challenged opposition MPs to cut their salaries, too, if they wanted him to cut his to maintain the size of the civil service.
“Cut my salary, no problem.
“Let’s also cut all opposition MPs’ salaries.
“Speaker, I propose a motion to cut all MPs’ salaries by 50%.
“Do you (the opposition MPs) agree to this?” he said during an altercation with the opposition in the Dewan Rakyat today.
Shahidan was defending the civil service against opposition claims that it was bloated.
Rafizi Ramli (PKR-Pandan) had proposed that Shahidan slash his own salary if he really wanted to maintain the current number of civil servants.
Anthony Loke (DAP-Seremban) told Shahidan his party was not looking to halve the civil service. They were just concerned about its size at the moment, he said.
Wong Chen (PKR-Kelana Jaya) supported this and reminded the Umno minister that the same claim was made by Second Finance Minister Johari Abdul Ghani.
The argument erupted in the middle of Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s (PKR-Permatang Pauh) debate, but she regained control of the floor after several minutes.
She said it was undeniable that the civil service was bloated although it had provided good service.
But Shahidan, who was still upset over the exchange, continued speaking even after the Dewan Rakyat session for today came to an end.
He took a last shot at the opposition before they left the Dewan, saying: “The opposition is scared of the civil service.”
Johari had said in January that the civil service had one civil servant for every 19.37 people in the country.
A Borneo Post report said the proportion of civil servants to the national population in other countries such as Singapore is 1 to 71.4; Indonesia 1:110; Korea 1:50, China 1:108, Japan 1:28, Russia 1:84 and the United Kingdom 1:118.
“In 2003, the pay of public servants totalled RM22 billion, but it increased to RM74 billion by 2016.
“In 2003, the pension of civil servants was RM5.9 billion, and in 2016 the amount soared to RM19 billion,” Johari was quoted as saying.

Time to speak with one voice

Puchong, 8/3: Some politicians, being politicians, have just started to open their big mouths to give their two sens' worth on the diplomatic row with North Korea. One even questioned why we needed to establish diplomatic ties with the "uncivilised" country in the first place. Pyongyang opened its embassy in KL at the turn of this century and this fella is asking the question only now? Which is why I think PM Najib Razak should enforce a DAP-styled gag order on politicians, including  unrelated Ministers, from spewing crap and other toxic materials that serve no purpose whatsoever in resolving the issue at hand. 
Other than Najib and his deputy, there should be only one other senior Minister authorised to issue any official statement on North Korea. The rest of us should stand solidly behind them. 
Once we have secured the safety of the Malaysians who have been barred from leaving North Korea, these politicians can say anything they like if that would help make themselves feel more relevant.  
Our thoughts and prayers for the 11 Malaysians being held hostage in Pyongyang. 
#unite4malaysia #malaysiafirst #negaraku  Korea halang rakyat Malaysia keluar - Utusan Online

Read also: 
Latest entry,

Border, airport security tightened - The Mole
North Korea and Msia in tit-for-tat travel bans - The Guardian
Najib slams Pyongyang for holding Malaysians hostage - Straits Times Singapore

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

While the Agong makes headlines ...

Puchong, Selangor, 7 March: MALAYSIANS seem to be warming up nicely to their new King, Sultan Muhammad V previously known as Tengku Muhammad Faris Petra. Not only is he young (born 1969), the 15th Yang diPertuan Agong is dashing enough even if he decides not to shed those little extra kilos, is unbelievably single, and has "character". Well, if you can become viral just because you were uncapping a bottle of mineral water by yourself, you ooze "character". What's clear is Sultan Muhammad V defies the stereotyped idea of what a Malaysian Royalty is (or should be) and that's why a lot of Malaysians are starting to adore him.

Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, the Sultan of Selangor, remains one of my favourite, nonetheless. Because he is people friendly, dignified yet unorthodox and, above all, outspoken for the right reasons. The Selangor king has been known to speak out against politicians, especially those from the ruling state government (now and previously), without being seen as meddling. That, to me, is a righteousness that has helped preserve the sanctity and integrity of the Istana.

I am, therefore, loath to know that the HRH's name may have been used without his consent in a court case that's now awaiting judgement between Majlis Agama Islam Selangor and a consortium of financiers led by Bank Muamalat. 

Please read Selangor Royal Default?, yesterday's posting by A Voice

Exceprts, verbatim:

In 2006, Majlis Agama Islam Selangor (MAIS) awarded a privatisation contract to built, operate and transfer (BOT) 3 blocks of hostels to Redha Resources (Redha). The hostels are to be rented out to students of Kolej Ugama Islam Selangor (KUIS), a higher learning institution established under MAIS. The BOT contract is for 33 years. 

Redha raise financing and they did raised RM125 million from a consortium of Banks with Bank Muaamalat as facilitating agent.
The hostels were constructed, and Redha managed and operated the hostels. KUIS passed the rental collected from students. 
In turn, MAIS gave a payment guarantee to the Banks. They agreed to top-up any shortfall in the event the rooms are not taken up. However, they do not need as it is 100% full. Good investment for MAIS.
This problem had Certificate of Fitness (CF) as point of dispute or excuse of non payment.
To justify not paying, MAIS officials threw the Sultan's name as though there were a royal decree not to pay. A royal decree would have justified cause but thus far, this one had none and is in contravention with fair practises of commerce.

Did someone drop the Sultan's name? I don't know. The blogger A Voice clearly did not know, either, which is why he wrote: 
"One have heard of name throwing of the Prime Minister's wife, but when checked, it turned out to be untrue. Can it be checked when the name thrown is a Sultan?"

The Mole did what it does. It checked with the relevant body and came up with MAIS denies blogger's allegations but gives no details.  

“I cannot pinpoint which part of the blog is untrue but all I can say is that the claims are not entirely true,” said a Mais corporate communications officer who didn’t want to be identified.
Not entirely true? I, for one, am willing to wait to find out how this pans out. For now, the part of the posting that is clearly true is: the banks that lent out money some RM125 million for the construction of a MAIS project are NOT being paid the money owed to it, long after the project has been completed. 

Whether or not somebody did drop the Sultan's name is hard to prove, unless it was actually said in court of in chamber. And in the bigger scheme of things, it is secondary. Because MAIS is a state religious institution and therefore comes under the direct purview of the Sultan, anyway.

p.s. Incidentally, the bank (not Muamalat) called me up yesterday and kindly informed me that I had yet to pay the car's instalment for February. It was a technical glitch, really, but I felt so guilty the whole day. I have been taught that if I owe money (or anything at all), I ought to pay it back as promised. It is a sin, otherwise.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Don't mess with Malaysia

Last, 11.30pm:
The North Koreans left their best for last: 

Latest: According to reliable sources, the expelled Kang Choi is booked on a 6:25 flight out of KLIA. Technically, he would have to board his flight at 5.55pm, which is 5 minutes before the deadline given to him to leave Malaysia.

6/3 FAM: Cabinet will not allow national football team to play North Korea in Pyongyang on Mar 28 for Asian Cup 2019 qualifying match/STAR

Original article 
Bangsar, 6 March: Malaysia's expulsion of North Korean envoy to the country, Mr Kang Choi (pic), is mega, mega news in the West. The Europeans and the Americans didn't expect KL to be so bold. I didn't either, to be honest. Re-reading Foreign Minister Anifah Aman's press statement still sends a chill down my spine. A sovereign nation resorts to such a measure only under extreme conditions. Pyongyang gave PM Najib Razak, his DPM and Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Anifah very little choice but to say, in no uncertain terms, not to mess with us. 
Under Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia expelled the former Yugoslavia ambassador to KL following the genocide against Bosnia-Herzegovina during the early Nineties.  That marked the start of what was to be one of Malaysia's most important international campaigns. Both Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Najib Razak, who would succeed Mahathir,  played key roles in the campaign as Foreign and Defence ministers, respectively.  
I was the New Straits Times correspondent in London when Malaysia was making its  mark on the Balkan war in the 1990s. It felt good to be Malaysian. 
Wisma Putra's decision over the weekend to review ties with Pyongyang is so bold that it brings back "that loving feeling". Some Malaysians bitch and whine about the bad press they said the killing of the North Korean brought Malaysia (trajidi as one seasoned journalist would call it). My view is that it has redefined us as a sovereign nation.
I'm not the only one looking at these three brave leaders in a different light ...

Don't mess with Malaysia