Monday, 31 December 2018

Ways To Misunderstand ICERD

So it turns out that there is this Turkish UN representative who is flabbergasted that Malaysia chose to abstain from ratifying ICERD.

Gün Kut questioned how ICERD could become extremely politicised in Malaysia when it is for the protection of individuals against racial discrimination.

"Racism and racial discrimination is everywhere, so no state, country or government can claim there is no discrimination," he rightly explains. Interestingly, there is plenty of racism in Malaysia, but not even propagated by the Malays, who are the majority race in Malaysia.

Frequently, there are ads in the newspaper saying, "Chinese preferred" and "Indian only".

Gün said Malaysia now found itself facing more pressure than ever because it seemed as if it did not accept non-discrimination.

A lot of the people opposed to ICERD claimed that it violates the position of the Malay sultans and that of Islam. Again, I don't know where that fits in with discrimination or where they got that idea in the first place.

Initially, I thought they were trying to protect their privileges like their allocation for property purchase. But it turns out that they aren't even buying them in the first place.

Their allocation rather substantial, as the requirement in the state is for 40% of all property units to be set aside for Bumiputera (which also include Eurasians, and east Malaysian ethnic minorities). Properties reserved for Bumiputera are also given a 15% discount for units worth RM1 mil and above.

And yet:
According to the National Property Information Centre’s (Napic) Property Overhang Report for the second quarter 2018, there were 40% more unsold new residential units during the first half of 2017 than in the first half of 2016.

The number increased to 29,227 units, valued at RM17.24bil as of June 30, 2018. A year ago, it was 20,876 units, valued at RM12.26 bil.

The other privileges are like the Amanah Saham savings etc, but even those never get filled. As of today, Amanah Saham 1Malaysia (AS 1M) for example is "Fully Subscribed for Non-Bumi" but not for Bumiputera.

I don't think the Malays actually understand what ICERD is all about, but they fear losing privilege and being sidelined. Those are legitimate concerns, regardless of where in the world one lives.

The non-Malays are not happy either, because they realise that they are not being recognised for their efforts in nation-building and they aren't being treated fairly. Especially when they wish to buy homes or invest their money but aren't being allowed to do so because of quotas.

Again, not all Malays are the perpetrators, and not all non-Malays are victims. The world isn't a fair place and people's rights frequently get trampled upon.

Both sides have legitimate grouses, but they are never addressed because Malaysians believe that confrontation will lead to conflict and they fear another May 13.

Friday, 21 December 2018

What We Knew Then And Now

It's curiously funny when you go back in time and read about things that are crystal clear today, but were murky and uncorroborated back then.

Kee Thuan Chye's opinion piece about Arul Kanda is seemingly prescient for back in 2016: Will it be checkmate for Arul Kanda?

An excerpt here:

What was it that Arul allegedly lied about?

In February 2015, he said in an interview with the Singapore Business Times that 1MDB had redeemed US$1.103 billion from its offshore account in the Cayman Islands and parked it in a Singapore-based branch of Swiss bank BSI Bank.

“The cash is in our accounts … I can assure you … I have seen the statements,” he attested. Note his confident tone.

But it turned out there was no cash. In May, the Government admitted that the redeemed US$1.103 billion was actually in the form of “units”.

In June, 1MDB laughably sought to get Arul off the hook by stating that he “never said he ‘saw the cash’” and that he was “on the record as saying he had ‘seen the statements’.”

That was stupid. Anybody could see that Arul and 1MDB were trying to twist words. After all, he also was on record saying “the cash is in our accounts”, so how could he wriggle out of that?

Anyway, in October, Sarawak Report published on its website minutes of a 1MDB board meeting that took place in January 2015 at which Arul gave “detailed assurances to board members that there was indeed cash in the so-called Brazen Sky company account at BSI Bank”.

This cash-but-no-cash episode is very telling of what Arul’s mission amounts to. Even more telling is the refusal of 1MDB under Arul’s watch to provide details of the company’s foreign banking transactions to the PAC and the Auditor-General. Such information is crucial in determining, for example, whether a US$700 million transfer made by 1MDB to an account belonging to Good Star Ltd was legitimate.

More significant than that are the billions of dollars of unexplained payments – totalling at least US$3.51 billion – made to Aabar Investments PJS Limited registered in the British Virgin Islands.

According to the PAC report, 1MDB has not clarified whether this company was linked to the Abu Dhabi-registered Aabar Investments PJS that is a subsidiary of International Petroleum Investment Corp (IPIC), which actually declared to the London Stock Exchange this month that the Virgin Islands Aabar “was not an entity” within IPIC or Aabar Investments PJS.

If the Virgin Islands Aabar is not a company that 1MDB had legitimate business dealings with, then it is incumbent on Arul to provide the essential information to set the record straight.

Why hasn’t he done it? Why did he not furnish the PAC with the required foreign banking information? What is he trying to hide?

We now know what he was trying to hide.

Today we have made the connection to Goldman Sachs, and the ridiculously poor business practices they had with dubiously corrupted leaders in Asia.

Most recently, Malaysia is seeking US$7.5bil in reparations from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. I hardly think this is enough considering we were defrauded since 2013 and the funds, well-invested, would have greatly enriched our nation.

It annoys me that a greedy fool like Najib was allowed to remain in position for so long before finally getting removed. Even today, he still has ardent supporters who claim that he is being framed "for political reasons".

It also makes sense that Attorney General Tommy Thomas, when confronted about reports of him filing a suit in New York claiming US$5.1 billion from Goldman, said that those reports were “premature”; simply because it wasn't the full sum that they were claiming at all.

I don't agree with everything that Pakatan Harapan stands for, but when it comes to the 1MDB case, I am glad that they are on the ball.

Related: Malaysia seeks $7.5bn damages from Goldman over 1MDB scandal

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Goldman Sachs' Criminal Charges

Goldman Sachs gets massively sucker-punched (though I suspect they were actually bracing themselves for it) as they get criminal charges filed against them.

It wasn't just Goldman Sachs International (UK) that took the hit, Goldman Sachs (Singapore) Pte and Goldman Sachs (Asia) LLC were also charged with omission of material information and the publishing of untrue statement in the offering circulars for the bonds.

Individuals charged were: Jho Low, ex-1MDB general counsel Jasmine Loo Ai Swan and former Goldman executive Timothy Leissner.

It's amazing. Timothy Leissner has already pleaded guilty in the US to charges of misappropriating 1MDB money and bribing officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi and is awaiting sentencing.

Finance Twitter doesn't seem to think that any of the Goldman Sachs bankers would actually go to jail. I think it has a point.

The US has cultivated a reputation for saying one thing and doing another. Barack Obama has, in the past, criticised bankers for their part in the recession - and then gone on to appoint them to his administration!

Trump, at least, is not a hypocrite. His administration is full of ex-bankers who have done nothing for the country but enriched themselves. In other words, a mirror of Trump himself.

Given that Trump has made a business of bankrupting himself to avoid paying his debts, and is not above paying bribes (and not just to strippers that he has had affairs with) to get his way, I cannot believe that his administration would take this seriously.

Still, I don't think Leissner was expecting another load of bricks to be thrown in his direction. I look forward to discovering what his sentence would be.

Roger Ng (Leissner's deputy) is fighting extradition to the US to face the same charges as Leissner, and will be charged later this week. It's not looking pretty for him either. As Finance Twitter says, he is not a US citizen and he is likely to be thrown to the dogs.

These are criminal charges. I expect that a civil suit would follow, where I hope that the $5.1bil rumoured to affect Goldman Sachs would be claimed.

We do have Goldman Sachs to thank, though. Because I personally believe that if this fiasco had never happened, BN/UMNO would still be ruling the country today.

NOTHING could be worse than that.

Related: Wall Street Bankers Need To Understand What Corruption Does To The People Of Our Planet

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Environmental Issues In 2018

If you live in Greater KL / Klang Valley, you would know that we have had our share of flash floods. This is frequently due to plastic and other rubbish clogging our sewers and inhibiting smooth flow of water.

We have ignored it for long enough.

In fact, it seemed like the previous administration under Najib Razak did nothing about it. There are bicycle lanes in the city, but that seems to be the extent of their "green' credentials.

The Pakatan Harapan administration has made rather unpopular rulings with regard to single-use plastics, and hopefully, this will reduce both production and usage.

Not everything is bad news these days; Malaysia is being recognised for its efforts in cleaning up the world in 7 countries that shook up our planet in 2018:

In September, Malaysia announced that it aims to eliminate single-use plastic by 2030, making it the first country in Southeast Asia to take bold action against plastic pollution. Its weapons in the plastic battle include a nationwide charge on plastic bags and a market for environmentally-friendly alternatives. A month later, the country moved to restrict imports of plastic that had led to the rise of illegal recycling plants across the region after China’s waste ban in January.

The new government also has the region cheering for its appointment of Yeo Bee Yin, Malaysia’s newly minted Minister of Energy, Green Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment. A few months into office, she exercised her power to bust the country’s long dependency on fossil fuels, cancelling four independent energy contracts this year that would have otherwise gone to coal companies. The country’s youngest female minister in cabinet is also ready to take legal arms against Australian company Lynas for their accumulation of radioactive waste within their Malaysian operations.

I am glad we have reduced our dependence on coal. It's dirty fuel, and the pollution from emissions has to go somewhere.

The difficulty of being an oil-producing country is that we probably use a fair amount of it ourselves. That would be step two in improving the environment, reducing its use if not eliminating it altogether.

Most readers know what I think of Lynas. It needs to go.

But things are looking up. We can preserve this planet.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Anti-ICERD Rally

No, I haven't gone down to ground zero to cover it.

It's probably the first rally that I haven't attended despite being in KL - for obvious reasons. Haha.

I am, though, unpleasantly surprised to note that the participants number 30,000 approximately (Update: Turns out it was closer to 80,000 people). That's a huge number of unhappy customers, much bigger than I was expecting, if I was completely honest.

It's about 0.1% of the Malaysian population.

It's a big number of people who are that insecure about their future.

I am not sure which part of their Bumiputera privilege is what they're fighting for.

Property ownership - reduced price and allocated percentage; despite that, most property developers have disclosed that this allocation never gets fully utilised by the Bumiputera. There is, after all, a financial limit to the number of houses you can buy, even if you are one of those professional property buyers with 20 loans in your name.

University placement - those who have the brains pass their exams and graduate and those who don't, they just pick up an unfulfilled student loan debt and a low self-esteem.

Jobs - if they're good, the headhunters lure them abroad, if they're not, they just work for a lousy salary. Often some of these members of the workforce belong to the group that really should not have graduated university. In which case, they live in a lot of fear as they do not want to be identified as under-performers in the job scene. Frequently, they work for civil service.

As always, I have never believed in placating people by giving them something they don't deserve. That's how America became so ... lembap.

Not the booming tech sectors that are frequently populated by migrants, mind you, but the sectors soon to be taken over by robots. Also, industrial workers, shop assistants etc. Basically the people who are expecting Trump to improve their lives.

I have met loads of Malays (who are Bumiputera) who are willing to work hard, given sufficient mentoring and encouragement.

I really hope they don't feel compelled to join a rally that does nothing to improve their quality of life.

Related: The anti-ICERD protest is a chance to show this government is different from the past administration

Friday, 7 December 2018

Goldman Sachs And 1MDB

It is difficult to have any sympathy for a financial company like Goldman Sachs as they frequently screw up and get bailed by their governments/banks, but this time it looks like Goldman Sachs has bitten off more than it can chew.

Aseef Shameen rightly sets the tone on Goldman's impending doom in the Edge Singapore piece, Goldman Sachs' 1MDB cover-up is bigger than the scandal:

Malaysia wants all of the US$600 million in fees 1MDB paid to Goldman and restitution of a big chunk of the US$3.5 billion it lost. Attorney General Tommy Thomas said recently that reports of him filing a suit in New York claiming US$5.1 billion from Goldman were “premature”.

Of course, it may be premature to be discussing this as investigations are still underway but one does suspect that this Pakatan Harapan government had this task in mind when it appointed Tommy Thomas to the role of AG. Tommy Thomas works extremely quietly and efficiently. Given his very recent track record with securing the yacht Equanimity and his progress with Abu Dhabi's IPIC, this man will save Malaysia millions, if not a billion.

You may be wondering how Goldman has a hand in this 1MDB scandal. This is why it's in trouble:

It raised US$6.5 billion for 1MDB. The DOJ alleges that over US$3.5 billion was misappropriated from those funds by Jho Low, a close confidant of Najib. In pleading guilty to money laundering and bribery charges, Leissner blamed the 1MDB shenanigans on Goldman’s “culture” of working around internal legal and compliance controls, as it was highly focused on consummating deals. Jho Low has been charged in absentia with money laundering and violation of bribery laws by the DOJ. He remains on the run and is reportedly in hiding in China.

A lot of people are dying to get their hands on the Whale.

Given the excesses detailed in the book and judging by the calls to BFM over the issue, Malaysians are livid.

Predictably, Goldman Sachs have denied knowing Jho Low.

They're not the only ones.

Najib Razak now claims that he was cheated by Jho Low, and more ludicrously, claimed he was not aware that anything was wrong because he was not told about it.

Tong Kooi Ong of the Edge Media spills the beans and sets the story straight on what really happened in You didn’t know Jho Low cheated us? I showed you evidence and you showed me the door:

He put the blame solely on Goldman Sachs and 1MDB’s lawyers and auditors for allowing wrongdoings to take place.

“They should have informed me if something was not right,” Najib said. “They clearly failed in carrying out their responsibilities.”

While Najib plays the victim for the peanut gallery, it's rather intriguing how he appears to have such a close relationship with Jho Low.

Tong Kooi Ong describes it:

I then proceeded to tell Najib that Jho Low must be held accountable and be prosecuted. This upset him. He immediately stood up, walked to the door and asked me to leave.

I was taken aback that he was so sensitive about Jho Low.

While The Edge’s reporting was focused on 1MDB and Jho Low, [Paul] Stadlen [(Najib's media adviser)] made it very clear that any attack on Jho Low was an attack on Najib, and that he was conveying this message from his boss.

If you choose to read just one article this coming week, I urge you to make it Tong Kooi Ong's expose. If this piece does not go viral, Malaysians are not worth their salt.

Najib wants you think that he was cheated and that he is innocent, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Do not be fooled.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

GM Lay-Offs Extremely Depressing

I don't know if these are the stirrings of a tide that is to turn against Trump. It probably may not though, as his steadfast supporters haven't exactly been those who take thoughtful deliberation over emotion.

General Motors make a lot of cars, albeit not always well. They own a lot of brands. They diversify their operations and they certainly diversify their product.

Most of their American operations is based in the midwest, specifically in Michigan and Ohio. If you have ever lived in the US or met any midwesterners, you would know that these places are called the rust belt, i.e. there used to be quite a bit of industrial activity in the past, but that has largely waned - mostly because the jobs went east.

As Robert Reich writes in the Guardian:

Last week GM announced it would cut about 14,000 jobs in the politically vital swing states of Michigan and Ohio.

This doesn’t quite square with the giant $1.5tn tax cut Trump and the Republicans in Congress enacted last December. Its official rationale was to help big corporations make more investments in America and thereby create more jobs. Trump then told Ohio residents “don’t sell your homes”, because lost auto-making jobs “are all coming back”.

GM got a nice windfall from the tax cut. The company has already saved more than $150m this year, according to GM’s latest financial report. But many of those Ohio residents probably should have sold their homes.

What did GM do with the money that they got from the tax cut and the wages they do not have to pay anymore? They bought back their own shares!! - this is frequently done to boost the share price.

Reich continues:

In 2010, when GM emerged from the bailout and went public again, it boasted to Wall Street that it was making 43% of its cars in places where labor cost less than $15 an hour, while in North America it could now pay “lower-tiered” wages and benefits for new employees.

So this year, when the costs of producing many of its cars in Ohio and Detroit got too high (due in part to Trump’s tariffs on foreign steel), GM simply decided to shift more production to Mexico in order to boost profits.

In light of GM’s decision, Trump is also demanding the company close one of its plants in China. But this raises a second reality of shareholder-first global capitalism that has apparently been lost on Trump: GM doesn’t make many cars in China for export to the United States. Almost all of the cars it makes in China are for sale there.

In fact, GM is now making and selling more cars in China than it does in the United States. “China is playing a key role in the company’s strategy,” says GM’s CEO, Mary Barra.

Even as Trump has escalated his trade war with China, GM has invested in state-of-the-art electrification, autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing technologies there.

I don't know what to say. America is shooting itself in the foot on a rather consistent basis.

There's a part of me that agrees with Robert Reich. The emphasis on keeping shareholders happy while depressing workers' wages is wrong.

But I lived and worked in the US as an engineer for 5 years. During that time, I was always looking to prove my worth (yes, I know, typical Malaysian inferiority complex) and add value to whatever I was doing.

The unfortunate part was that my American co-workers were less keen on going the extra mile. It was always assumed that they were entitled to the job they had and the key thing was to keep to themselves what they knew, lest someone steal their job from them.

The problem with that is, this sort of defensiveness suppresses innovation. It only encourages complacency. Americans think that their nation is (and to be fair, it once was) successful because they are an inherently successful race of people.

It may not be quite so obvious to the average joe, but if you think carefully, this is White Supremacy 101. This is also something that Malaysians are frankly unable to understand and digest because they have been shafted over by Malaysian politicians too many times.

From the Malaysian perspective (and understandably so), the brown guy is every bit as bad as the white one. No Malaysian really thinks that Malaysians are exceptional to other races, regardless of what our slogans may regurgitate.

But bear with me when I say that American Exceptionalism is actually a novel and unassailable way of expressing white supremacy - which is why when Trump dog-whistled, they came running.

This is why they are comfortable sharing technology with the Chinese, because deep in their hearts, they cannot come to believe that the Chinese would have equivalent ability to take over the industry, learn their skill better than themselves and one day have economic and socio-political dominion in the world.

I don't know why Chinese people like American cars. I have never owned one - preferring Japanese cars myself, having owned two of them in my lifetime.

Perhaps it's because Chinese have been deprived of Western culture having lived under the heavy-handed rule of Communism for so long. Maybe American cars, which in my personal opinion, are neither aesthetically appealing nor exceptional in performance, are a symbol of freedom to the Chinese.

One day the Chinese will acquire a sense of entitlement and superiority, just like the Americans today. It's the circle of life, after all.

But for now, they are slowly but surely plodding ahead, and the Americans, once the people who were gung-ho to achieve anything, are blissfully oblivious.

Trump’s Broken Promise to General Motors | The Daily Show

Friday, 30 November 2018

Changing The World

Perhaps changing the world is too tall an order; let's start with the country.

Of course, if you read Haris Ibrahim, he recommended starting with the government.

That has been achieved. May 2018 proved historic for us in so many ways.

Malaysia is home to a very large middle class population, and a fairly sizeable upper class one. You and I probably have very little connection with the poorer members of society, and thus have no idea of the obstacles they face.

For one, I had no idea the minimum wage was RM1050.

The minimum wage has not increased because to quote the official line, "it will be problematic for industries, and affect the competitiveness of the nation".

Let's break that down.

The poor are being targeted because everyone knows that they do not have options like the rest of us, and therefore, will always remain in this country and work for whatever we offer them.

Now, you may say that the economy must be protected at all costs. Even Donald Trump ran his campaign on promises to make America great again. Most people believe that he meant economically powerful.

Obviously, that is why he is bringing fossil fuels (not just oil but coal too!!) back, and enforcing tariffs on China because he correctly perceives them to be of great competition.

He will eventually run the country to the ground, but that is another subject altogether.

America is a case study on what not to do. They spent most of a century oppressing their poor, even though ALL Americans started out with humble beginnings. Europeans didn't migrate to America because they were wealthy.

Quite the contrary. They migrated because they were either oppressed in their home country or experienced famine. They just discovered opportunities in America and it made them wealthy.

Anyway, the reason I am bringing this up, is because I firmly believe that we as a nation, will not be successful unless we raise the lowest of our members.

Currently we are taking advantage of their helplessness instead of empowering them to go on and provide more value. There's a nasty word for it: EXPLOIT.

Malaysians are happy to migrate to foreign countries (or greener pastures) because they pay better, or are more stable economically, socially and politically. Ironically, these countries pay a high minimum wage, but you don't see Malaysians objecting to it.

Why not, instead of migrating, adopt the principles of these stable nations, and improve the nation we live in and make it better?

Just a thought.

Activist group calls for anti-poverty law

Friday, 28 September 2018

Billion Dollar Whale

The book has become a bestseller amongst Malaysians and even the rest of the world.

BFM went stark, raving crazy and had one of the authors on while spending other moments just gushing about it. Yes, perhaps in this time and age (censorless!) people just want to get it out of their system.

Unauthorised, pirated PDF copies of the book also went viral, which was ironic, because the book is about the kleptomanic tendencies of an insecure, but very privileged fat boy.

Of course, the authors of the book were no choir boys either; they were supposed to credit their sources, but very conveniently avoided doing so.

Rewcastle-Brown said that Tom Wright said: “Let’s leave out Sarawak Report, you are talking to the big boys now,” when speaking to the intermediary between the source and WSJ writers.

Very naughty. In the interviews, one could get a sense of raw ambition and desire to achieve fame through this book.

You can get it straight from the horse's mouth HERE.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Predicting Financial Crashes

Everyone enjoys a good, "I told you so" moment. Not least of all, American media.

Newsweek has come up with an extremely ominous sounding article predicting that THERE COULD BE A FINANCIAL CRASH BEFORE END OF TRUMP'S FIRST TERM.

Even Goldman Sachs (of 1MDB money-laundering complicity) has weighed in on the situation, predicting that this year's U.S. fiscal outlook would be "not good". Well.

Makes you want to sell up all your earthly possessions and go live in a bunker, doesn't it?

The US of A is a land of hype, and has been for the last 50 years since things got going for them, so they struggle with communicating issues in moderation, and they frequently live in a polarised state.

If you've observed them (and not just during election season), you would observe that the Democrats and Republicans even struggle to see eye to eye on almost anything!

Two things though: student debt and household debt.

Those have skyrocketed from the good ole 60s. Most households today in 2018 do not have any savings set aside for a rainy day, given that a significant portion even live on minimum credit card payment.

This household debt is even higher than the 2008 subprime mortgage lending crisis; that's how serious it is!

Now you may say that this is also common in Malaysia, and I would agree, because another thing we have in common with the US is a massive deficit that will take ages to settle, thanks to the monumental 1MDB fiasco.

The difference is, the new Malaysian government actually appears to be alarmed by this and is taking cautious measures to combat this. The US government on the other hand, is blissfully talking about building a wall, hitting China with tariffs and developing a ridiculous program called Space Force (which given their deficit is just ...)!

I don't see how the US is going to repay its debts. US economic commentator Peter Schiff says, "The U.S. government is going to be given a choice between defaulting on the debt, or else massive runaway inflation."

It is no longer the most technologically advanced nation; it has been overtaken by China. The US, sadly, has been paralysed by complacency and a sense of entitlement.

Its saving grace? Migrants. Thousands from all over the world. But now that Trump makes them feel unwelcome, they will probably up and leave at some point.

They are held back from returning to their native countries because of religious and socio-economic politics (Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan) and lack of progress on the ground (India). Most Chinese migrants have beef with China, as do the Japanese with Japan.

It's a bit arrogant to start predicting when it would happen. Brexit has artificially boosted the US economy because investors have lost confidence in the UK and even EU. So the US unwittingly became a safe haven.

What the investors don't see is China happily wooing the very countries that America, in its infinite wisdom, has snubbed. These include African, Latin American countries and the Caribbean, not to mention the neglected cities of America - like Flint and Detroit.

The US isn't the fortress of economic superiority as it once was. It is no longer the country that was brought to its knees as it staggered through the 1920s Depression - and still emerged triumphant.

Nothing could be more ironic when seen through hindsight.

The financial crash will happen, but I wouldn't bother predicting when.

Related: Total student debt in America now exceeds cost of Iraq War

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Die Lynas, But Don't Bother To Rest In Peace

Sometimes when time just flies past, it's hard to remember that the Bentong MP, Wong Tack, started out as an activist against Lynas, back in 2012 and even before that.

First they threatened to block Kuantan Port, then they protested a celebration of Australia Day.

If you're going to ask why all that was necessary, you have your answer HERE; brilliantly compiled by Walla.

All that protesting appears to be fruitful as Lynas could possibly be closed down.

The Australian Commissioner to Malaysia calls this closure a 'tragedy'. I know there are a lot of Malaysians who have migrated to Australia for a better life and now call Australia home, but seriously, Australia can go to hell.

Wong Tack does tell them so himself, though in not so many words. "The further threat by the High Commissioner that the closure of Lynas will result in a pullout of Australian investments in Malaysia is an insult to the intelligence and dignity of the Malaysian people."

Does Australia think they are so important to Malaysia? Seriously? Most of the time I don't even remember that Australia exists; they are that insignificant.

Lynas appears to be a welfare queen, on top of that:

a) They were given tax breaks for 12 years by the previoius regime
b) They have no plans to remove their radioactive waste out of Malaysia
c) They have not even paid up their security deposit of USD50mil.

This shows what levels of greed people can stoop to, firstly the previous Malaysian regime who approved everything without considering the needs of its own citizens, the Australian politicians and then finally corporate Australia for whom Malaysian lives do not matter.

Piss off Lynas, and take Australia with you.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

A Foreign Concept

You know what still bothers me in this country?


Occasionally I meet up for a chat with old friends about current events. Sometimes, the conversation steers to foreigners in this country.

Not the privileged ones. (You know, the white type.)

No, usually the disparaging comments are reserved for the Bangladeshis, the Nigerians and sometimes, the Indonesians.

The originators of such comments are frequently the same people who complain about being unfairly selected for discrimination.

I point out, that if they didn't like being discriminated against, perhaps the foreigners don't either.

This earned me blank looks, as if I was preaching an utterly foreign concept. No pun intended.

Perhaps this Merdeka, it might be a good time to reflect on how we perceive others, and how others may perceive us.

How will we change as a nation, if we can't even change ourselves?

Friday, 17 August 2018

Projek Mendaftar Anak Malaysia

I have, in the past, criticised the political parties who fall over themselves to woo the majority, while ignoring marginalised minorities.

I am pleased to note that this is changing.

Turns out that Gobind Singh of DAP (MP Puchong) and Dr Mariah Mahmud of Parti Amanah (ADUN Sri Serdang) are jointly organising a registration drive for Malaysians who have issues with citizenship legalities.

It's held today and tomorrow (17 & 18 August) so if you know of anyone who needs help, please direct them to this.

This has been an ongoing issue for years and has exacerbated within the past 10 years.

My previous blog posts can be found here:

1. Stateless
2. Trying To Obtain A Birth Certificate
3. No Identification Is A Violation Of Rights

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Origin Of Malays

Following my last post, I observed that the origins of the Malays was discussed again.

The Malay Mail covers the views of an extremely dubious historian regarding the origin of Malays, during her speech to Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim).

This is the Abim, who are notoriously intolerant of non-Muslim opinion.

Among the more ludicrous claims:
1) Malays have the second oldest ethnicity in the world.
2) There was a migration by some of the shortest people from Africa to Sundaland (SEA)
3) The ancestors of the Malay people are the Semang and Senoi

Zaharah Sulaiman is the same historian who elicited a lot of laughter approximately 10 years ago with the same (or similar) spiel, so predictably, this latest assertion was absurd as well.

Since then, the researchers from the Human Genome Organization (HUGO) which was quoted as the source of said historian's research has come out to say that they find the article to be, "highly misleading and erroneous. The contents are absurd, fictitious, and any content claimed to our research is complete misrepresentation."

Read the article for yourself to understand the facts. I concede that genetics might be difficult to understand, but I managed and I only have Form 5 biology to help me through.

What really annoys me is the whining defeatism of some UMNO types. I won't deny that there are ar$eholes among the non-Malays who try and look down on the Malays due to some undefined sense of superiority.

It doesn't help when Zaharah Sulaiman rants about how a Chinese “invasion”, backed by foreign Western powers at times, has since stripped the ancient Malay peoples of their riches and knowledge, causing their descendants to be inferior to other races.

Inferior, apparently.

Now, the words 'superior' and 'inferior' get my goat. I have never considered myself inferior to anyone, and I strive not to feel superior to anyone else. We should be judged (if you will forgive the cliché), for the content of our character.

To begin with, the bloody Indians were worse invaders back in the 12th and 13th century. From Wikipedia:

In 1025 CE, Rajendra led Chola forces across the Indian Ocean and invaded Srivijaya, attacking several places in Malaysia and Indonesia. The Chola sacked Kadaram (the capital) and Pannai in Sumatra and Malaiyur in the Malay Peninsula. Rajendra also invaded Tambralinga and the Langkasuka Kingdom in modern Malaysia and south Thailand.

This invasion led to the demise of the Srivijaya kingdom, FFS!

And Zaharah is moaning about how Chinese came over, stole minerals, got free education and amassed wealth illegally. Indians did that too -- just much earlier.

The issue is what you do in retaliation. Many Chinese and Indians come from underprivileged families; with determination and grit, they get into universities and colleges and go on to forge successful careers.

I concede that we do not suffer as much as African-Americans do with racism. While there are the occasional racists amongst Malays, for the most part, as a majority, the Malays are respectful, cultured and dignified.

Which is why it bothers me that their own race still regard them as inferior, because they are anything but. Given that they are a mix of Chinese and Indian gene pools, I would look upon them as having hit the genetic jackpot!

Having worked with many Malays in the past, I have found them to be anxious to please, eager to learn, willing to work hard -- all traits of excellent team members. The key is in learning how to motivate them. Clue: it's NOT by issuing threats.

Also, the crowd I work with are well-educated and mostly self-motivated, so I clearly have better material to work with.

I want them to be successful. I have had Malay mentors who helped and taught me, and I am more than happy to pay it forward.

But it is really difficult to make progress when a culture of defeatism is ingrained in them, and when their only claim to fame is that they are bumiputera from Tanah Melayu.

Related: Contesting Malayness

Monday, 30 July 2018

Of Indians And Pendatang

It appears that this issue has resurfaced after all those years, thanks to a speech by the Human Resources Minister Kulasegaran as he was addressing the presence of Indians in Malaya for centuries.

Which is nothing new nor surprising, since the Nusantara region has been regarded as Greater India.

So it's a shame he has apologised, because he said nothing remotely offensive nor untrue.

The controversial part about South East Asia being an extension of South Asia (mainly India), if anything, is this bit (though Kula never alluded to it):

One of the major issues with Indianisation is the common debate whether or not Indianisation is the reason for the development in South East Asia. Many struggle to date and determine when colonisation in Southeast Asia occurred because of the structures and ruins found that were similar to those in India. Several books and anthropologists believe that India is seen as the superior culture that influenced a lot of Southeast Asian countries. However, throughout this time that many began to debate, other anthropologists suggested that Southeast Asia had indigenous civilisation and the idea of Indianisation was just seen as a 'national motivation'. These debates continued for some time, until the Pacific War, which led to legitimately ending the debates and reviewing Southeast Asia's response to Indianisation.

While it may officially be referred to as Indianisation, there is no doubt that there was significant Chinese influence over South East Asia as well. After all, the East Coast of Malaya has had kingdoms, which were no doubt named by the Chinese such as the Chih Tu and Pahang (or Pan-Huang) and Langkasuka (which was a big force in its own right back in 3CE).

It's just that people tend to underestimate the influence of Islamisation in Malaya -- due to Greater India:

Not only was the spark of Buddhism the driving force for Indianisation coming to an end, but Islamic control took over as well in the midst of the thirteenth century to trump the Hindu kingdoms. In the process of Islam coming to the traditional Hindu kingdoms, trade was heavily practised and the now Muslim Indians started becoming merchants all over Southeast Asia. Moreover, as trade became more saturated in the Southeast Asian regions wherein Indianisation once persisted, the regions had become more Muslim populated. This so-called Islamic control has spanned to many of the trading centres across the regions of Southeast Asia, including one of the most dominant centres, Malacca, and has therefore stressed a widespread rise of Islamisation.

It was possibly during this time that Hindus began to recognise the dominance of Islam and marginalise its adherents, though perhaps that is a more recent thing. It's ironic that India marginalises its Muslim community. Even more bizarre that Myanmar refuses to acknowledge the Rohingya who have lived in the fringes for centuries.

I've blogged extensively on the issue of being called "pendatang", and I am tired of it. Only in Malaysia does such a trivial issue take up such levels of public interest and even aggression.

Perhaps that's what makes people tick -- feeling superior to someone else and belittling them.

Not too long ago, an Indian mob attacked a bunch of Muslim men who were minding their own business, going about India on a road trip (something they are perfectly entitled to do). The vicious assault left one of the five men, Mohammed Azam, a UK-educated IT worker from India's tech hub in Hyderabad, dead, and at least two of the others badly beaten.

The reason for that mindless assault? The answer given was, "He looked like a terrorist."

I despair. One nation champions its Malay Muslimhood and another flaunts its Hindu privilege. Yet they are both of the same stock.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Event This Weekend On Malayan Emergency

Just a quick heads up, Gerak Budaya are hosting an event this weekend that's always been very intriguing for me: A People’s History of the Malayan Emergency.

Date: 27 - 29 July 2018
Time: A fair bit of the day
Venue: KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall

Entry is free.

More details on Facebook.

Hats off to those of you who attend every single programme, but I think I am going to pick just a few.

The obvious question that has been bandied about is should we rewrite our textbooks -- what we glean from this will help us make an informed decision.

See you there!

Friday, 20 July 2018

Tun Dah Merajuk

If you're wondering why, he is peeved over the failure of the national car, and understandably so, as that was his baby. I am, sadly, old enough to remember the first ever Proton that rolled out sometime in the mid 80s.

It sent our spirits soaring, boosted our hopes, flung ambitions high -- and it also dashed some dreams, frustrated some aspirations, and frankly disappointed us.

Oh Proton, you could have been so much more.

Alas, but Proton was why the average Malaysian could not afford a decent car, because there was so much protectionism in way of tariffs on any imported car. To make matters worse, it appeared that Proton had haemorrhaged its good engineers and was devoid of creative design inspiration when it proposed designing an Islamic car.

I have nothing against religion, but I hardly think there is a market for Christian, Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish cars anymore than there is for Islamic cars.

The Japanese and Koreans emerged from humble beginnings to become serious automobile manufacturers. We were supposed to "Look East" and emulate them, but alas, Proton didn't quite scale those heights.

Dr M describes how the Austins and Morrises of yesteryear have largely disappeared from the market despite being popular European cars.

I could go one step further and rubbish BMW for its drivetrain issues and Volkswagon for its emission scandal. Oh, and let's not forget Audi, whose CEO was arrested over the same issue.

European cars are so yesterday, while American cars are mostly crap and not even worthy of a scandal.

No doubt my readership may wish to disagree, and I am open to being schooled on this subject, if said readership is convincing enough.

But back to the topic of a national car. Dr M asserts that Japan's and Korea's success with their cars has led to their high quality of life, wealth, improved technology, robust economy etc -- if we had followed suit, we would be in a better place than we are at the moment.

I suspect that that is a spurious argument as Japan has a massive deficit, possibly even worse than the US (and that is saying something). Many Japanese have adopted a minimalist lifestyle which suggests that they are not entirely content with the ostentatious way of life. Behind that veneer of perfection is a troubled economy.

"Nevermind," says Dr M, "Malaysia is a nation of consumers, rice planters and fishermen. That's what we want and that's what we get."

A bit unfair, methinks. The world needs more farmers and food producers. What it does not need is more fossil-fuelled cars polluting the environment.

The trend these days is to invent electric cars, not just hybrids. Fossil fuels are going out of fashion, and even power generation has veered towards renewable energy: hydro, solar and wind.

To get about, we should be walking or cycling, not driving.

When it comes to producing traditional cars, ladies and gentlemen, that ship has sailed.

We could become a hugely successful and prosperous nation, but if we do, it wouldn't be because of cars.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

China And 1MDB

That ah pek fella, Tony Pua, has been going around calling the 1MDB scandal the great-grandmother of all scandals, and now it appears to have caught on -- even with the BBC. The bugger is now a special officer to the finance minister -- job scope: to look through the mountains of documentation related to 1MDB.

Not bad eh?

Though everyone with a minimum of two brain cells knew, even back then, that what Tony Pua was banging on about was, of course, a legitimate issue. I think what shocks people is the scale of the problem, the sheer magnitude of the actual problem.

It has spread to, and now involves a force that most Malaysians would prefer not to bother: China.

The Mahathir administration has suspended three major construction projects with Chinese firms. The mind-blowing bit is that 88% of the cost had been paid to China, even though only 13% of the work had been completed.

How can that happen, I hear you ask. Two words: Money Laundering.

Two of the contracts were pipelines. I know right, what better way to channel money away than by using a pipeline? #Ironic

Anyway, the companies involved were contacted for *ahem* comment. According to the BBC:

Emails to China Petroleum Pipeline Bureau about Mr Pua's allegations went unanswered, but the Chinese embassy in London gave its response.

"We have noted the relevant report. China has all along conducted economic, trade and investment cooperation with Malaysia, as well as other countries, with the principle of mutual benefit and win-win outcomes," said a spokesman.

Pooh. These people, with their capacity for sanctimonious waffle, really do talk like the North Koreans.

According to the Malay Mail, Putrajaya is investigating whether part of a loan from a Chinese state-owned bank for projects worth US$2.3 billion (RM9.3 billion) was used to help repay dues of scandal-ridden state fund 1MDB.

What's the significance of this?

About three years ago, to quote the Business Insider, Xi Jinping Just Took His War On Corruption To A Whole New Level.

Even high level officials, like Zhou Yongkang, the former security chief and retired Politburo Standing Committee member and Communist Party General Secretary and Politburo member Sun Zhengcai, have been indicted.

Most of the people who have been rooted out have been caught plundering state resources. Clearly, personal and private enrichment hurts China.

The question is, what happens to those who have been plundering other nations? Is that acceptable by Xi's standards?

It's all about perception, at the end of the day. In China, local governments, often collude with businesses to enrich themselves at the expense of the people, evoking backlash in the form of mass protest and social unrest, and threatening the party’s power.

Corruption in foreign places like Malaysia is unlikely to solicit backlash in China.

Nevertheless, ball's in your court, China. Remember, the world is watching.

Related: Jho Low And The China Issue

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

The Police

In a previous post, I complained about the police investigating a non-issue.

Perhaps another sector of society and the administration of it that needs to be overhauled to build this new Malaysia is: the police.

Not heard of Jason Lim and his run-ins with the police? Clare Rewcastle Brown is taking journalism in her birthplace very seriously and Sarawak Report has all the details.

Time To Clear Out The Police Force To Create The New Malaysia

Friday, 13 July 2018

How Are You Treated In Your Own Country?

It's a tricky situation.

China wants to be taken seriously as an emerging power. For the most part, China is heading in the right direction; it is leading where the West is declining, thanks to the UK's parochial bickering over Brexit and Donald Trump's America First policies.

Unfortunately, in its zest to attract foreign investment and international respect, it has sidelined its own.

One massively glaring example is Wuxi Institute of Technology that gave overseas students preferential treatment, by forcing the local Chinese students to give up their rooms to foreigners and move to inferior accommodation.

That is a constant gripe in Malaysia; the Malays frequently complain that they are 'lost in their own land'. This is their basis for instituting affirmative action, or preserving their special rights.

I sympathise with Malays being treated badly in their own land. Actually, I sympathise with every other Malaysian as well, who was born in this country, paid their taxes, contributed to the well-being of the nation and still remains sidelined despite their best efforts.

In the case of the Wuxi students, they were not merely given older, less fancy accommodation to live in, the facilities were also inferior, in that the bathrooms did not have hot running water 24 hours a day. That, in most countries, is a basic human right. To send off students in your own country to less adequate accommodation is just miserable behaviour and most unbecoming of any country that wishes to take itself seriously.

A teacher was seen in a video, urging students to move out of the building, and quarrelling with them as they refuse to leave. "This is the school’s property," yells the teacher in the video. "Who are you?"

I hope this will never happen in Malaysia and that whatever befalls, however we seek to progress, we will, at the very least, protect our own.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Seriously, Do People Even Know What Sedition Is?

Fadiah Nadwa Fikri is clearly an intelligent woman, and that in Malaysia, even the 'new' Malaysia is a dangerous thing to some people.

I partly understand. People have been travelling the same sodden path for years and perhaps this change is too much for them. I am pleased though. It is heart-warming to find fellow-intellectuals and comforting to know that we think alike.

Fadiah clearly has more gumption than I do, and certainly far more knowledge on the subject of royalty and its institution. She is very articulate and puts forward her points very well.

In the UK, the topic of the monarchy and its role in society and democracy used to be debated rather frequently, and I recall that in the past, people agreed to disagree. These days, this topic seems increasingly to be the domain of racists and those who fantasise about Britain in the past. (Perhaps understandable as western civilisation is crumbling.)

It suggests that close-mindedness is a sign of a society in decline.

This is particularly why I am opposed to accusations that Fadiah bringing up the topic of royalty is tantamount to sedition.

It is not.

Sedition is when people rouse the rabble and incite violence. Fadiah is clearly miles away from that. She merely opened a path to intellectual discussion about customs we may have held for centuries.

These customs may be sacred to some people, dear to others and archaic or outdated to yet some others.

I am opposed to the new government, especially the police, leaping up and falling over themselves to question or detain her. She has done nothing wrong and in our progressive society, this is a backward move.

2. I’m not alone, says lawyer accused of sedition

Saturday, 30 June 2018

The "Evils" Of Palm Oil

Let's skip the preamble because I have grown increasingly frustrated with the gullible people of the world, who protest issues without actually knowing the facts. Palm oil usually makes it quite on the list.

Frequently, the production of oil palm is conflated with deforestation that harms wildlife and in particular, orangutans.

Europe has decided to launch an anti-palm-oil campaign. Malaysia and Indonesia are trying to counter it.

Now, I have no qualms about stating my absolute dislike for the practice of widespread logging and deforestation. If I weren't an engineer, I would make a stellar Luddite. Maybe.

But the point is, while it is possible to replant the trees that have been cut down, it is less easy to repopulate the micro flora and fauna that live within the ecosystem that very old trees host. We really shouldn't be cutting down our trees, especially as trees help prevent the climate from heating up to ridiculous levels. And God knows Malaysian temperatures are skyrocketing.

George Monbiot bangs on about the decline of wildlife, particularly where he lives. Unfortunately, we have a similar situation over here. In fact, Malaysia's issues involve even the exotic animals like tigers, orangutan and rhinoceros -- and not just the garden variety, easily overlooked species that tend to quietly disappear without a bang.

This is really sad. We used to be rich in flora and fauna. Inexplicably, most of these conservation organisations prefer to blame the plantations for the loss of flora and fauna rather than the illegal (and purportedly legal; there is no limit to corruption in some places) loggers who plunder the forests.

It is, indeed, lucrative. Cilisos claims that we have an excellent forest management system, but I am less inclined to agree. The truth is, there has been significant deforestation due to logging and it did not involve palm plantations.

Tons of timber go to India, as there is massive demand there. You can't blame the Indians for buying them, but you can blame whoever has approved the ridiculous scale of logging: Taib Mahmud.

Now if there was a termite, an absolute pest, that could get away with anything, it's him. Sarawak Report has over 490 articles on him, so you can read for yourselves his shenanigans. It's not just about logging, it's about land appropriation as well. He doesn't just make wildlife homeless, he also destroys the homes of Sarawak's indigenous populations.

I particularly loathe the guy. He knows how to use all the resources at his fingertips to get away with his crimes. This includes getting the FBI of Seattle to become snivelling little puppy dogs and protect his domain. The FBI are the absolute sh!t.

Where now are the self-righteous protesters from Europe and America who want to "make a difference" and "take the moral high ground"? The truth is, it's just mere bullying; they think they can more easily take on less powerful South East Asian countries rather than the FBI. And then you wonder why it's so difficult to respect these people.

There is a nuance to this anti-palm-oil campaign though. Europe has voted to limit the amount of palm oil, soy, maize and other food crops to be used in biofuels. The problem is, policies to promote biofuels from crops – whether in Indonesia or Europe – are perverse and will continue to boost global carbon emissions.

We need to stop burning stuff to generate energy. We really do. There are other forms of renewable energy available like wind, water and sun. It's just a matter of developing the technology.

However, there is nothing wrong with growing and consuming palm oil. On a per hectare basis, oil palm trees are 6-10 times more efficient at producing oil than temperate oilseed crops such as rapeseed, soybean, olive and sunflower. The land management of palm plantations just needs to be improved, and thugs (particularly those in suits and ties) who (mis)appropriate land need to be jailed.

In the past, there were studies that claimed that palm oil was unhealthy for consumption, and that better alternatives were soy, almond and rapeseed. The truth is, palm oil is high in vitamins and good for cholesterol. Once the truth was made clear, the opponents of palm oil decided to go after the production of it instead of the content of the oil.

Clearly, this is an economic issue rather than a health or moral one.

I, for one, am not going to be suckered into this fear campaign over palm oil, but perhaps we should advocate more caution over biofuels and deforestation.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Fake News

A WhatsApp joke has been making the rounds:

Before Fake News Bill 2018

Dungu: I'm on the way, a bit jam lah.
Abuden: Ya, me too, traffic really bad.

After Fake News Bill 2018

Dungu: Still in bed; I overslept.
Abuden: Ya, me too. See you in an hour.

People have been lying since the serpent told Eve back in the Garden that everything would be fine if she ate that fruit.

These days, the truth has been so bent out of shape that election machineries that have traditionally been the foundation of modern democracies have faltered; rife with twisted untruths and blatant lies.

The United States of America has had its citizens manipulated into voting a candidate that is worthless; one who has none of their best interests at heart.

The United Kingdom has withdrawn from the European Union under false information provided during a referendum; albeit one that was wholly unnecessary.

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have been fingered. The next few days will probably hold an avalanche of further information.

Fake news, if you will permit me a colloquialism, is certainly a pain in the butt. The problem is, that it means that every new morsel of information has to be scrutinised to assess if it is genuine or just plain bunk. Clearly, discretion ought to be a part of every human interaction, but these days, it is so well-disguised as truth, that spotting it is becoming more difficult.

Having anti-fake news laws would act as a deterrent for malicious parties seeking to spread disinformation, but what constitutes "fake news"?

In Malaysia, the law covers digital publications (like news websites and blogs) and social media (Facebook, Twitter etc) and will purportedly apply to offenders who maliciously spread fake news inside and outside Malaysia.

This includes foreigners, but one really questions how this law could claim extra-territorial jurisdiction; i.e. apply to a citizen of a foreign country without having any extradition treaties with sovereign nations.

My issue really is that this law is being used to stifle dissent and criticism; not to mention prevent the public from being informed of the shenanigans of the ruling coalition. 1MDB is one of the biggest fiascos in the world, and I am still thinking of that Mongolian model blown up with C4 explosives.

News like this is particularly critical, considering the impending elections. The Malaysian government has always had a tenuous grasp of the concept of truth, as it frequently lies via the newspapers and the government owned TV channels.

Bare-faced lies.

The question is whether the public will allow itself to be manipulated into self-censorship or will it be business as usual?