The world at a T-junction


Jan 20, 2017, marked the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, Donald J Trump. Next week, the Lunar Year of the Monkey ends, ushering in the Year of the Rooster. This is where monkey business ends and the chickens come home to roost.

Trump’s election marks a watershed between the old liberal order and a new populist phase that is clearly a rejection of the old order. Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer defined this change as “Goodbye to the West” – a concept that the US was committed to the defence of its allies, mostly Western Europe, Australia and Japan.

Trump has turned the old establishment on its head. Policy is not made by consensus, but by tweets. World thought leader Mohamed El-Erian, whom I had the great fortune to moderate at his keynote address to the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong earlier this week, argued that the world is at a T-junction.

The old order has come to a dead-end. It is not even at the cross-roads, where you have the option of moving forward. At a T-junction, you either move right or move left. Volatility and the range of possibilities have increased, because no one knows which policy and which rule will change with the next tweet.

There is, of course, no difficulty in picking where Trump will move. Indeed, anyone who said Trump is unpredictable is wrong – he is very predictable.

He will do whatever is in his best interest, saying that it is in America’s interest. He will move right, because the populist sentiment has rejected the old leftist liberal order. Our only concern is – how far right will he go? Based upon the inclinations of his appointees so far, it looks pretty far right.

Trump’s election marks a very important juncture in Pax Americana. Two Democratic presidents marked the rise of the present American Exceptionalism – Franklin D Roosevelt (1933-1945) and John F Kennedy (1961-1963). The first brought in the New Deal to get America out of the Great Recession and then won the Second World War, confirming the new American order. The second inaugurated a more inclusive America, ushering global idealism of the American dream, providing aid, trade and culturally, an Age of Camelot.

New deal

Trump’s ascension signals the end of the rule-based era for the public good, with a new era of clear and present self-interest, changing allies and allegiances by the tweet. Allies and foes alike do not know how to react to this new Art of the Deal.

Crossing the river by feeling the stones is possible, when there are still some stones. But crossing the swamp where waters are murky with crocodiles and leeches will be much more complicated.

I was forced to dust off my copy of German historian Oscar Spengler’s Decline of the West, written between 1911 and 1922, to get a sense of how we should think about this era from a long-term historical perspective. Vastly simplifying his magnum opus, Spengler’s thesis is that when parlimentarian politics fail, history tends to replace disorder with great men like Julius Caesar or Napoleon.

Of course, one has to recognise that troubled times do not always get great statesmen, but may get little despots and decadent failures like Caligula or Nero, who eventually bankrupted Rome.

A significant minority of Americans voted for Trump because he argued that he could make America great again. But the irony is not that America is weak, but that America is strong and on the verge of achieving the strongest recovery among the advanced economies.

The perceived weakness comes from the insecurity of a significant majority of the working class that has become disadvantaged, not by globalisation, but by the benign neglect of the Washington/Wall Street elite who favoured themselves at the expense of the working class.

Globalisation has not failed. It is the high priests of globalisation trying to deflect the populist anger against anyone but themselves that created Trump. The same high priests are joining the Trump camp, cheering the markets for the greater suckers.

What are Asians going to do in this Trumpian Reality Show?

First, we need to distinguish the signal from the noise.

All the breast-beating at the Davos World Economic Forum this week was about how the caviar-champagne-forecasters got it all wrong. They were simply too self-congratulatory, self-referential and self-satisfied. They did not do the reality checks of simply looking at what was truly happening – the anger of the masses.

Second, despite the fact that the dollar is strong and will remain strong if Trump gets his economic policies right, the US is still funded by global savings – mostly from Asia. Asia remains the world’s largest and fastest growing region with the highest savings. What we need to do is to channel that savings to Asian markets, even as the US and European banks retreat home.

Third, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was always an empty promise because going forward, technology and moving manufacturing jobs back to the US will not create greater exports for US trading partners.

The Asian global supply chain is changing very fast from all points-to-one market (US) to point-to-point; South-to-South, because with more than half of world population and a growing middle class, the potential for global trade, investment and financial expansion is still in trade between India, China, Indonesia and all the emerging markets of the world.

If the US turns inward under Trump, then Asians need to heed Franklin Roosevelt’s wake-up call at his inauguration, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.

Under Trump, we have much to fear, but remember, it’s “his dollar, but our savings”. The US Bureau of Economic Analysis data showed that the US had net foreign liabilities of US$7.8 trillion or 41.8% of GDP at the end of the third quarter 2016. In the Year of the Rooster, this is not chicken-feed.

As America moves to a new T-(for Trump) junction, the choice is not between left or right, but between a Great America or a small-minded America.

Time for Asians to think and act for themselves.

By Andrew Sheng

Tan Sri Andrew Sheng writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.

 

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Fighting corruption a decade later, Wars on graft widens


“Power doesn’t corrupt people, people corrupt power.”
William Gaddis

THE beginning of the year is as good a time as any to reflect upon the direction the country is heading towards.

Ten years ago, Malaysians were just beginning to appreciate the opening up of public space. Then prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, or more familiarly known as Pak Lah, had taken over in 2003, and then won a landslide victory for the ruling Barisan Nasional in 2004, riding on a wave of public confidence in his commitment to reforming a government that had lost a whopping 14 parliamentary seats in the previous 1999 general election.

What was most distinct about his administration was his promise to clamp down on corruption and therefore empowering the anti-corruption agencies. Related to this was the general change in the sociopolitical air – civil society felt freer and more able to organise public seminars related to various issues previously deemed sensitive.

More significantly, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) was established in 2004, an upgraded version of the previously known Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), with the idea of being a regional hub for anti-corruption capacity and capability building to “fight corruption by promoting best practices in investigation, monitoring and enforcement …”

Modelled after Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), it was meant to be a more robust agency now given greater teeth to fight graft in the country.

The MACC did go through significant challenges, chief of which was the incident in 2006 during which political aide Teoh Beng Hock was found to have fallen to his death at the MACC Selangor headquarters in Shah Alam. Embroiled in controversy, the investigations and court cases eventually concluded that it was, in fact, a homicide that took place. Although the police did not eventually find the perpetrator, the MACC as an institution did take measures to improve itself after admitting there were flaws in its system.

One of the reform measures was to set up five independent committees, namely the Anti-Corruption Advisory Board, the Special Committee on Corruption, the Complaints Committee, the Operations Evaluation Panel, and the Consultation and Corruption Prevention Panel. These committees would be tasked to provide oversight to the operations and investigation processes of the MACC, and many individuals of good public standing were appointed to fill these positions subsequently, although these mechanisms did not sufficiently boost public confidence.

Over the last year, the MACC has been in the spotlight for numerous reasons, having investigated 1MDB and other cases related to it, but then later raided by the police for reportedly having leaked documents.

Has the anti-corruption commission that was initially promised to be reformed and strengthened all those years ago instead been eroded and weakened?

The MACC in fact ought to be an independent institution given the resources to fight corruption. But the 2017 budget saw a laundry list of financial cuts, including in investigation and surveillance, law and prosecution, prevention, administrative and forensic services, as well as record and information management, and community education. How is it possible for the MACC to continue functioning with the same expectations but with a much lower budget?

One of the core reforms that some of us in civil society have called for in recent years is an independent MACC that reports to Parliament and has greater autonomy both financially and in hiring and firing its own staff.

The MACC currently reports to the Prime Minister’s Department, which surely is a source of potential conflict of interest. Having a truly independent MACC would allow it to truly exercise its duties in an unbiased fashion without fear or favour.

The new MACC Chief Commissioner, Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad, recently announced that he wants to combat corruption and abuse of power, saying that “for those who are still intoxicated by bribery, please listen to this warning: stop the corruption and power abuse, and surrender yourself!” In the same speech, he also urged Malaysians to support the agency in its mission. The MACC’s recent action in the Sabah Water Department corruption case is a good sign that it is taking steps in that direction.

However, the MACC simply cannot carry out this task alone. The experiences over the last decade would surely have taught the administration some lessons: that apart from the government it serves, positive public perception is crucial to achieving its goals. Working with, instead of against, the community that it tries to educate is crucial if it wants to seriously fight corruption all round.

This is where independent civil society organisations can in fact come in to support the MACC in its efforts to fight corruption. Other expert bodies like accountants and lawyers can also support MACC’s work as many investigations involve technical and forensic accounting matters. However, the MACC must also demonstrate its willingness to have frank discussions and dialogue with civil society.

The MACC has seen tremendous transformations over the last decade and more, but fighting corruption seems to be even more challenging than ever. It is hoped that it is in these trying times partnerships and collaborations can be forged; all those in favour of fighting corruption – and this must be a priority this year – should surely come together.

– Tricia Yeoh letters@thesundaily.com

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Wars on graft widens

Four officers nabbed for pocketing fees after altering passport applications

The tentacles in the war against graft are spreading wide. Four Immigration officers who listed normal people as disabled, pocketing the RM200 application fee in the process, have been nabbed; a senior official from the Malacca Historic City Council is under probe; policemen who took bribes have been charged; and the Inland Revenue Board has also joined the fray, striking up a partnership with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. PETALING JAYA: Four Selangor Immigration officers were entrusted to receive and process applications for international passports.

Nabbed: Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission officers escorting four Immigration officers out from the Shah Alam magistrate’s court after they were remanded for six days.

Having access to the applicant database, they did much more than their job scope.

The quartet would pocket the RM200 international passport application fee received over the counter by “converting” the paid applications to that submitted by OKU (disabled) persons, who are entitled to free passports.

The officers had been pocketing large sums this way since 2014, with about RM1mil siphoned off.

An internal audit exposed the ruse recently.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) raided the Selangor Immigration Department office in Shah Alam at 3.30pm on Monday and detained the four officers, two of them women.

The four suspects were brought to the Shah Alam magistrate’s court to be remanded for six days.

The investigation is under Section 18 of the MACC Act 2009 which involves submission of false claims with intention to deceive.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki confirmed the arrests, describing the case as “very serious and warranting a very thorough probe.”

“We do not rule out the possibility that such fraud may also be occurring in other Immigration offices all over the country.

“This is not an isolated case and must be addressed,” he said.

An MACC official said the suspects were believed to be involved in the submission of payment vouchers with falsified information.

“The record is altered to show that the applicant is an OKU when he or she is not,’’ the official added.

Immigration director-general Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali said full cooperation had been extended to MACC, and had shared the outcome of its internal audit. – The Star

Four immigration officers held for allegedly pocketing RM1m for falsifying passports

PETALING JAYA: Four Immigration Department front-line officers who are believed to have siphoned as much as RM1 million from the department have been detained by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

The suspects, aged between 31 and 39, include two female officers. They were arrested at the Selangor Immigration Department at 3.30pm on Monday and have been remanded for six days beginning today.

MACC sources said the officers took advantage of a fee waiver for people with disabilities (OKU) by fraudulently classifying normal applicants as OKU and pocketing the RM200 fee on each transaction.

Investigators learnt the suspects have been involved in the racket since 2014 and were only recently exposed after the Immigration Department conducted an internal audit.

The audit team became suspicious when it found a high number of passports issued to OKUs, and initiated a probe.

So far, the status of at least 100 normal passport holders have been found falsely classified as those belonging to OKU, and this is believed to be just the tip of the iceberg, and that there were some 5,000 more cases.

MACC investigators are probing assets amassed by the detained officers and believe such activities may also be prevalent at other passport issuing immigration offices nationwide.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki said today that an indepth probe on the case is ongoing.

“This cannot be taken lightly as it has caused losses in government revenue. Moreover, it breaches the special privileges accorded to the disabled by the government,” he said.

MACC chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad said the agency will use every law in existence to prosecute those involved in graft to make it clear that crime does not pay.

“Let me issue a warning … we will not only pursue prosecution under the MACC Act, but also use the Anti-Money-Laundering Act and the Income Tax Act,” Dzulkifli said in a speech at the Inland Revenue Board (IRB) today after witnessing the signing of a corruption-free pledge by IRB – the first government agency to do so after signing the Corporate Integrity Pledge in 2013.

“I urge you to stop immediately or face the consequences,” said Dzulkifli, adding that even if MACC cannot prosecute a corrupt individual, he or she would not be able to escape the IRB.

– Charles Ramendran and Lee Choon Fai Newsdesk@thesundaily.com

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Four policemen charged with corruption

(From top left) A combo picture of policemen Mohd Zulkifly Mat Nor, 28, Jeffry Abdullah, 35, Zainoor Ariffin Rosli, 24 and Muhammad Farid Nordin, 28 when they were brought to George Town Session Court by Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) to face corruption charges under Section 17 of the MACC Act.

GEORGE TOWN: Four policemen were charged in the Sessions Court here today with corruption.

Corporal Jefry Abdullah, 35, from the Narcotics Department of the Northeast district police headquarters pleaded not guilty before Sessions Court Judge Roslan Hamid.

He is accused of trying to obtain RM1,000 for himself from Nor Esmawati Baharom as inducement not to take action against the latter’s brother in-law, Norhamni Haron by swapping a positive urine sample during a urine test at the district police headquarters.

He was alleged to have committed the offense at the Narcotics Department office of the Northeast district police headquarters about 4.40pm on Mac 1 last year.

Jefry was charged under Section 17(a) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 which carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence and fine not less than five times the bribe amount or RM10,000, whichever is higher.

The court fixed bail at RM8,000 with one surety.

In a separate charge, three policemen from the Datuk Keramat police station also claimed trial over a corruption charge.

Muhammad Farid Nordin, 28, Mohd Zulkifly Mat Nor, 28, and Zainoor Ariffin Rosli, 24, with another person still at large were charged with trying to obtain RM10,000 for themselves as an inducement not to take action against Norhamni Haron for possessing ganja.

They were alleged to have committed the offence at the Datuk Keramat police station on Mac 1, last year about 11.45am.

The trio were also charged under Section 17(a) of the MACC Act 2009.

MACC Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Ahmad Ghazali Mohd Nazri suggested bail of RM10,000 with one surety for each of the accused considering the seriousness of the case.

Roslan fixed bail at RM8,000 with one surety for each of them and set Feb 17 for mention.

V. Partiban represented all of the accused.

MACC DPP Amin Yaacub also appeared for the prosecution.

– Imran Hilmy newsdesk@thesundaily.com
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Councillors ready to serve Penangites to make a difference?


THE Penang Island City Council (MBPP) and the Seberang Prai Municipal Council (MPSP) see 10 new faces among the list of councillors who sworn in Jan 5 and 6 for the 2017 term.State Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the lineup for the 24 MBPP and 23 MPSP councillors is effective Jan 1 till Dec 31.

The New faces appointed as councillors (from left) Tan, Shahrudin, Seow, Loh, Khoo Salma, Noor Syazwani, Shung and Woo at a press conference in Komtar.

He said three of the five new faces in MBPP are from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), namely writer Khoo Salma Nasution, 53, (Penang Forum), insurance and corporate risk consultant Shung Yin Ni, 31, (Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce) and marketing officer Noor Syazwani Md Amin, 30, (Persatuan Peniaga Melayu Pasar Malam Pulau Pinang).

The other two are senior marketing manager Tan Chiew Choon, 45, and businessman Shahrudin Mohamed Sahriff, 47, both from PKR.

Chiew Choon had served as a councillor before with the MBPP between 2013 and 2015. He was not retained the following term.

The five replace Eric Lim Seng Keat (NGO), Dr Lim Mah Hui (NGO), Mohamed Yusoff Mohamed Noor (NGO), Felix Ooi Keat Hin (PKR) and Shahul Hameed M. K. Mohamed Ishack (PKR).

The 19 councillors who were retained are Goh Choon Keong, Gooi Seong Kin, Grace Teoh Koon Gee, Harvindar Singh, Joseph Ng Soon Siang, D. R. Kala, Chris Lee Chun Kit, Ong Ah Teong, Syerleena Abdul Rashid, Wong Yuee Harng, J. Francis, Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik, Nur Zarina Zakaria, A. Kumaresan, Ahmad Razaaim Azimi, Ahmad Azrizal Tahir, Mhd Nasir Yahya, Saiful Azwan Abd Malik and Gan Ay Ling.

 

MPSP also has five new faces including lawyer Thomas Loh Wei Pheng, 33, (DAP), special officer Woo Sze Zeng, 34, (DAP), company director Dr Seow Kweng Tian, 37, (PKR), entrepreneur Fadzil Abdullah, 60, (Amanah) and clerk Hamizah Abdul Manab, 26, (NGO).

They replace Siti Nur Shazreen Mohd Jilani (DAP), Tan Chong Hee (DAP), Goh Choon Aik (PKR), Alias Wan Chek (PKR), Mohd Suzuki Ahmad (Amanah) and Ahmad Tarmizi Abdullah (NGO), whose terms were not extended.

Chow said one more vacancy in the lineup for MPSP will be decided in the next state exco meeting.

The other 18 MPSP councillors are P. David Marshel, Heng Yeh Shiuan, H’ng Mooi Lye, K. Kumar, Mohamad Shaipol Ismail, M. Satees, Tan Chee Teong, Tan Cheong Heng, Zulkifli Ibrahim, Mohd Sharmizan Mohamad Nor, Zaini Awang, Ong Jing Cheng, Anuar Yussoff, Dr Amar Pritpal Abdullah, Shuhada Abdul Rahim, Zulkiply Ishak, Dr Tiun Ling Ta and Wong Chee Keet.

Shung, who is from a corporate background, said she hoped to assist in providing a better environment for business undertakings in Penang.

Shahrudin said the appointment would encourage him to step up efforts to serve the people better.

The Jelutong PKR branch deputy chief said he hoped to take on his role as a councillor more efficiently through various state initiatives and policies.

Dr Seow hopes to resolve issues related to public transportation and community welfare.

He said that he hoped to resolve traffic congestion, plant more trees and maintain cleanliness.

“I hope to be able to introduce more community-based activities as a councillor,” said Dr Seow, who is a PhD holder.

Speaking at a press conference in Komtar yesterday, Chow said the allowances for the councillors would remain at RM2,500 each.

“They are also eligible for allowances for attending meetings up to RM1,200, which is about RM100 for every meeting they attend. There is also a RM300 mobile phone allowance,” he added.

Also present was Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

By Chong Kah Yuan Intan Amalina The Star/ANN


Newly sworn-in MBPP councillors ready to make a difference

(From left) Tan, Noor Syazwani, Shung, Salma and Shahrudin posing for a photo after the swearing-in ceremony at the City Hall in George Town, Penang.

 

MARKETING officer Noor Syazwani Md Amin is eagerly waiting to serve the people as one of Penang Island City Council’s (MBPP) five new councillors.

The 30-year-old, who is with a non-governmental organisation (NGO) Penggerak Komuniti Muda Pulau Pinang (Peka), said one of the issues close to her heart is the flood woes in the state.

“I live in the flood-prone Jalan P. Ramlee, so I definitely hope it’s one of the issues that can be solved for the sake of the people.

“There will be the flood mitigation projects which are going to be carried out. So, hopefully I can make use of that for the community, especially those staying in Sungai Pinang, Jelutong and Jalan P. Ramlee,” she said when met after the MBPP councillors’ swearing-in ceremony for the 2017 term at the City Hall in George Town, Penang, yesterday.

Noor Syazwani said her priority is always about placing the people first.

“Helping people excites me.

“Hopefully, I can give my best because I’m still new,” she added.

She is among 24 MBPP councillors, who took their oath at the City Hall yesterday.

Three of the five new faces are from NGOs. They are writer Khoo Salma Nasution, 53, (Penang Forum), insurance and corporate risk consultant Shung Yin Ni, 31, (Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce) and Noor Syazwani.

The other two are senior marketing manager Tan Chiew Choon, 45, and businessman Shahrudin Mohamed Shariff, 47, both from PKR.

Meanwhile, Shung said she hoped to enhance conduciveness of Penang as an excellent business centre with her appointment in the MBPP.

“This is so that when the economy blooms, everyone gets to benefit from it.

“I would also like to emphasise on sustainable development, which does not only mean taking care of the environment but also the needs of the people. Therefore, I hope to find a balance,” she added.

The five replace Eric Lim Seng Keat (NGO), Dr Lim Mah Hui (NGO), Mohamed Yusoff Mohamed Noor (NGO), Felix Ooi Keat Hin (PKR) and Shahul Hameed M.K. Mohamed Ishack (PKR).

The 19 councillors retained are Goh Choon Keong, Gooi Seong Kin, Grace Teoh Koon Gee, Harvindar Singh, Joseph Ng Soon Siang, D.R. Kala, Chris Lee Chun Kit, Ong Ah Teong, Syerleena Abdul Rashid, Wong Yuee Harng, J. Francis, Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik, Nur Zarina Zakaria, A. Kumaresan, Ahmad Razaaim Azimi, Ahmad Azrizal Tahir, Mhd Nasir Yahya, Saiful Azwan Abd Malik and Gan Ay Ling.

The new MBPP lineup comprises 10 from DAP, eight from PKR, two from Amanah and four from NGOs.

The tenure for the councillors is from Jan 1 until Dec 31.

In her speech, MBPP mayor Datuk Patahiyah Ismail congratulated all the appointed councillors.

State Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the role of a councillor is very extensive.

“Apart from representing the general public and local community, a member of the council is also an intermediate between the community and local authority,” he said in his speech.

Chow also congratulated the council on its success in getting various awards and victories at state, national and international levels.

The achievements include being the Earth City Hour Challenge 2016 finalist.

MBPP also received the Tourism Promotion Organisation for Asia Pacific (TPO) Tourism Industry Leader Award in Tourism Promotion for Asia Pacific Forum 2016.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who was also present, said MBPP’s success not only depended solely on a credible and effective management, but also the support, commitment and team work from all councillors, officers and staff.

He said MBPP practised prudent spending and governance based on the principles of CAT (competency, accountability and transparency) that successfully recorded an excellent financial performance with budget surplus in the financial statements for three consecutive years, which is RM47.57mil for 2013, RM177.95mil for 2014 and RM146.04mil for 2015.

“The success of the council in maintaining good financial performance enables efforts to improve the provision of public facilities.

“MBPP will implement several development projects at a cost of RM5.2mil.

“Among the proposed projects to improve the comfort of the people, include the construction of a public market in Batu Ferringhi,” he added.

By Cavina Lim The Star/ANN

Outspoken author among five new faces at MBPP

New faces appointed as the councillor in Penang Island City Council (MBPP) for 2017. (oriental daily/04 Jan 2017)

 

GEORGE TOWN: An outspoken author of over a dozen history books is among five new faces appointed as Penang Island City (MBPP) councillors.

Khoo Salma Nasution represents Penang Forum and is taking over from her equally vocal counterpart Dr Lim Mah Hui, who opted out of being re-appointed this year after serving six terms.

Penang Forum is a loose coalition of non-political civil society groups, often critical of the state government’s plans and policies.

The city’s councillors are appointed yearly and comprise a small number of NGO representatives, including one from Penang Forum.

During his term, Dr Lim vocife­rously highlighted governance issues to the point of incurring the annoyance of the state administration.

Khoo planned to keep public pressure on MBPP and wished that more seats were allotted to NGOs.

She is eager to see what committees are in the council and hoped to play a role especially in fostering sustainable development, transport planning, environmental issues and heritage conservation.

“I feel there is not enough awareness on these. I want to see what I can do about making people more conscious of them, not just indivi­duals but at an institutional level,” she said.

The former journalist of The Star who did a 20-year research into Penang’s history and development to write her books, believes that the council needs environmental goals and key performance indicators to monitor Penang’s green progress.

“We need to collect more information about how Penang is doing to track our environmental and heritage conservation efforts,” she said.

Khoo was in Komtar yesterday when Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and state exco member Chow Kon Yeow announced the appointments of the new councillors.

Dr Lim said he was glad that the state government accepted Penang Forum’s nomination of Khoo.

“Her decades of study on Pe­­nang’s growth will help the council manage development while preserving our cultural and heritage values,” he said.

Dr Lim added that he declined his re-appointment because he felt “the change in Penang that we want doesn’t seem to be happening”.

Other new faces are Tan Chiew Choon (PKR), Shahrudin Mohamed Sahriff (PKR), Shung Yin Ni (NGO) and Noor Syazwani Mohd Amin (NGO).

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Trump and China’s bumpy ride begins


Trump’s diplomacy
Hot button: Trump’s unpredictability is making him a big topic in China.— AFP

THE rest of the world will have to fasten its seat belts while the current worrying clash of superpowers China and the United States plays itself out. Although the saga of the underwater drone ended peaceably earlier this week, the drama signalled that the competition between the two has entered a new era. With help from the ubiquitous social media, their diplomatic engagement is taking place in real time swiftly, unpredictably and amid considerable tension.

The inauguration of President Donald Trump on Jan 20 is expected to see US-China ties transformed into a guarded quasi-friendship requiring day-to-day reassessment. The stability that prevailed during the eight years of the Obama administration is unlikely to survive. Trump is given to knee-jerk reactions and ill-considered grandstanding for the sake of quick gain and publicity, as well as for his brash pursuit of the art of the deal, none of which bodes well for US’ relations with Beijing.

Still a month from taking office, Trump has already endangered his country’s long-standing recognition of the One China Policy by accepting a phone call from Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wan, a breach of protocol adopted after Washington formally recognised communist China in the early 1970s.

President Barack Obama immediately warned that any shift from this policy would have a serious impact on American dealings with Beijing, an important trading partner and backer of the US economy. Aiming to renegotiate extant overseas deals, Trump does not appear to care, and seems ready to test Chinese mettle on every issue.

China’s regional neighbours are aware that the nature of its relationship with the US increasingly depends on Beijing’s dealings with other countries, including the 10 nations of South-East Asia.

The attitude in the Philippines has radically changed. Whereas Manila traditionally regarded the US as the region’s military guardian, current President Rodrigo Duterte- taking umbrage at perceived American slights-has welcomed Chinese overtures. Thanks to Washington’s tendency to overreach in its authority, perceptions elsewhere are not so different.

Thus, its chief justification for wielding influence here to serve as a stopgap against China assertiveness is on the wane.

The Philippines’ abrupt refusal to be a pawn in either of the major powers games is admirable, even if it comes with risks. With sovereign territory in the South China Sea at stake, Duterte is taking a gamble in realigning with Beijing, but if those two countries can settle their differences amicably and equitably, it will have been worthwhile. The other South-East Asian claimants to maritime territories in dispute are sure to follow suit.

During the Trump presidency, more than at any time before, China has a golden opportunity to show the region and the world that it is rational and responsible in its overseas dealings. With goodwill and a commitment to peace and stability, it can take advantage of America’s loss of credibility over the election of a man who is ignorant of foreign affairs and absent in the spirit of international diplomacy. Patriotism and profit alone guide Trump, and nearly half the American electorate stands by him.

Also to be expected is a cautious realignment among the more developed Asian powers particularly Japan, India and South Korea which might pursue greater mutual cooperation as a safeguard against potential American error and affront under Trump.

No one will be surprised, meanwhile, if President Trump cosies up to Russia. While he and Vladimir Putin deny there is any special bond between them, evidence to the contrary has mounted. But using Russia as a foil against China would be detrimental to American financial and geopolitical interests. And, for Asia, while Russian investment is welcome and valued, Moscow has only a modicum of Beijing’s economic clout.

Sources: The Nation/Asia News Network

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Hopelessness among public after rampant fraud & corruption cases, says Auditor-General


RM2bil recovered from audits

The Government seldom receives dividends and whenever loans are given to these GLCs, they keep piling up’, says Tan Sri Ambrin Buang

KUANTAN: Government agencies have recovered an estimated RM2bil in follow-up actions after the recent audits, said Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang.

Ambrin said this was just based on a small sample size of agencies audited, so cases of misappropriated funds could have been a lot larger.

“If there had not been audits, the RM2bil would have been lost. People always ask me the extent of leakages in this country but I do not know because we only carry out audits on a limited sample size.

“For example, we did an audit on security in schools. The sample size is only 46 schools out of some 10,000 schools nationwide.

“Within that sample, there are already all kinds of weaknesses and leakages so imagine how widespread it is,” Ambrin said at an integrity talk programme here yesterday.

He said there was a feeling of hopelessness among the public when they kept reading about cases of fraud and corruption in the Auditor-General’s reports.

“There was a case where a 300m to 400m road construction contract was given to four contractors.

“Then there’s that incident at the Youth and Sports Ministry and that one at the Sabah Water Department.

“People are questioning how these things can happen and what kind of country we are living in where corruption like this can take place.

“Almost every day there are reports of government officials getting caught for corruption.

“I can’t deny there are officials with integrity but a few rotten apples destroy everything,” he said.

He also spoke about government-linked companies (GLCs) that were draining the Government’s resources without giving anything back in return.

“GLCs get all sorts of aid like projects, grants and financial assistance but what does the Government get out of it?

“The Government seldom receives dividends and whenever loans are given to these GLCs, they keep piling up.

“These GLCs burden the Government, so we must examine the cause. Those with experience should run a company but look at who are on the board of directors.

“I am sorry to say government officials cannot succeed in business because they have a different mindset,” he said.

Ambrin added that management could not be left as the dominant force without the supervision of the board of directors, but this would not be effective if the directors themselves did not contribute anything.

In his conclusion, Ambrin proposed that excellent work be made a culture in government service to repair the damaged public perception.

To achieve it, he said four aspects had to be looked into, which were attitude, skills, knowledge and integrity.

“Continuous improvement is humanly possible to achieve. The question is whether we want to improve or not,” he said.

By Ong Han Sean The Star/Asian News Network

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Goodbye 2016, a strange and difficult year


The year will be remembered for the West ending its romance with globalisation, and its impact on the rest of the world.

JUST a few days before Christmas, it is time again to look back on the year that is about to pass.

What a strange year it has been, and not one we can celebrate!

The top event was Donald Trump’s unexpected victory. It became the biggest sign that the basic framework and values underpinning Western societies since the second world war have undergone a seismic change.

The established order represented by Hillary Clinton was defeated by the tumultuous wave Trump generated with his promise to stop the United States from pandering to other countries so that it could become “great again”.

Early in the year came the Brexit vote shock, taking Britain out of the European Union. It was the initial signal that the liberal order created by the West is now being quite effectively challenged by their own masses.

Openness to immigrants and foreigners is now opposed by citizens in Europe and the US who see them as threats to jobs, national culture and security rather than beneficial additions to the economy and society.

The long-held thesis that openness to trade and foreign investments is best for the economy and underpins political stability is crumbling under the weight of a sceptical public that blames job losses and the shift of industries abroad on ultra-liberal trade and investment agreements and policies.

Thus, 2016 which started with mega trade agreements completed (Trans-Pacific Partnership) or in the pipeline (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the US and Europe) ended with both being dumped by the President Elect, a stunning reversal of the decades-old US position advocating the benefits of the open economy.

2016 will be remembered as the year when the romance in the West with “globalisation” was killed by a public disillusioned and outraged by the inequalities of an economic system tilted in favour of a rich minority, while a sizeable majority feel marginalised and discarded.

In Asia, the dismantling of the globalisation ideal in the Western world was greeted with a mixture of regret, alarm and a sense of opportunity.

Many in this region believe that trade and investment have served several of their countries well. There is fear that the anti-globalisation rebellion in the West will lead to a rapid rise of protectionism that will hit the exports and industries of Asia.

As Trump announced he would pull the US out of the TPP, China stepped into the vacuum vacated by the US and pledged to be among the torchbearers of trade liberalisation in the Asia-Pacific region and possibly the world.

The change of direction in the US and to some extent Europe poses an imminent threat to Asian exports, investors and economic growth. But it is also an opportunity for Asian countries to review their development strategies, rely more on themselves and the region, and take on a more active leadership role.

China made use of 2016 to prepare for this, with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank taking off and the immense Belt and Road Initiative gathering steam.

Many companies and governments are now latching on to the latter as the most promising source of future growth.

The closing months of 2016 also saw a surprising and remarkable shift in position by the Philippines, whose new President took big steps to reconcile with China over conflicting claims in the South China Sea, thus defusing the situation – at least for now.

Unfortunately, the year also saw heart-rending reports on the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar, and the deaths of thousands of Syrians including those who perished or were injured in the end-game in Aleppo.

On the environmental front, it is likely 2016 will be the hottest year on record, overtaking 2015. This makes the coming into force in October of the Paris Agreement on climate change all the more meaningful.

But there are two big problems. First, the pledges in the agreement are grossly insufficient to meet the level of emissions cuts needed to keep the world safe from global warming, and there is also insufficient financing to support the developing countries’ climate actions, whether on mitigation or adaptation.

And secondly, there is a big question mark on the future of the Paris agreement as Trump had vowed to take the US out of it.

The biggest effect of 2016 could be that a climate skeptic was elected US President.

In the area of health, the dangers of antibiotic resistance went up on the global agenda with a declaration and day-long event involving political leaders at the United Nations in September.

There was growing evidence and stark warnings in 2016 that we are entering a post-antibiotic era where medicines will no longer work and millions will die from infection and ailments that could once be easily treated by antibiotics.

The world will also be closing in a mood of great economic uncertainty. In 2016 the world economy overall didn’t do well but also not too badly, with growth rates projected at 2.4 to 3%.

But for developing economies like Malaysia, the year ended with worries that the high capital inflows of recent years are reversing as money flows back to the US.

The first in an expected series of interest rate increases came last week.

All in all, there was not much to rejoice about in 2016, and worse still it built the foundation for more difficulties to come in 2017.

So we should enjoy the Christmas/New Year season while we can. Merry Christmas to all readers!

Global Trends By Martin Khor

Martin Khor (director@southcentre.org) is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.
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Settle Batang Kali massacre case, Britain told by the European Court of Human rights



International court orders amicable resolution over 1948 Batang Kali killings 

KUALA LUMPUR: The British government has been ordered by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to seek an amicable settlement over the Batang Kali massacre, in which its soldiers killed 24 innocent villagers on Dec 11 and 12, 1948.

Civilians lie dead in Batang Kali, in 1948

 

It was also told to submit a written explanation on the merits of the massacre and state its position for a friendly settlement by Feb 7, said MCA vice-president Datuk Dr Hou Kok Chung.

The ECHR made the order recently after conducting a preliminary examination of the complaint filed by the victims’ families that London had violated Article 2 of the Euro­pean Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to life, by endorsing the massacre.

Britain has been a signatory to the European Convention since 1953, when Malaya was still its colony and its residents were considered subjects under British rule.

“The descendants of the victims have for years asked the British government for an apology, compensation and construction of a memorial, but all these have been ignored.

“So, they turned to the European Court. We hope the British government and the families can reach an out-of-court settlement,” said Hou yesterday at a press conference attended by the victims’ families and their lawyer Quek Ngee Meng.

Hou said the massacre, in which British courts had held their government responsible for the killings and ruled that the victims were not linked to communist insurgents, was “an issue too big to be ignored”.

“Though many years have passed, justice must be done and the inhumane killings must be recorded. There is a need for governments to learn from history. Let history educate people.

“During the Emergency in 1948, a lot of Chinese suffered and lived in fear,” said Hou.

The British declared emergency rule on June 18, 1948, after three estate managers were murdered in Perak by the Malayan Communist Party (MCP), an outgrowth of the anti-Japanese guerrilla movement which later turned anti-colonial.

During the 1948-60 emergency rule, Chinese were rounded up into “new villages” as they were suspected of being sympathetic to MCP.

On Dec 11, 1948, British troops entered the plantation village of Batang Kali, Selangor, and questioned the rubber tappers about the MCP but to no avail.

The next day, they loaded the women and children on a military truck and shot dead 23 men, after killing one the day before.

This massacre was claimed by the British as the “biggest success” since the emergency began, and its official parliamentary record in 1949 described the killings as “justified”.

But in 1970, the episode was given a twist when several soldiers involved in the operation told British media of their guilt over shooting innocent civilians.

In July 1993, survivors of the massacre petitioned for justice after the British Broadcasting Corporation did an independent documentary on the saga.

The survivors took their battle to the British government and later to the British courts with the help of international human rights groups.

Now their descendants are continuing the struggle for justice, this time with the help of MCA.

By Ho Wah Foon The Star/ANN

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