Open society and closed minds, Trump bragging as UN Laughs at him


 ‘Leadership has always been about generosity to those who are less well endowed and fortunate than you are. Often, it is not generosity of kind, because that would be buying of votes, but generosity of spirit.’ – Tan Sri Andrew Sheng

WHY is it that in the last days of September, 10 years after the failure of Lehman Brothers, the world feels as if it is a dangerous place?

Bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers – Wikipedia

The filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection by financial services firm Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008, remains the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history, with Lehman holding over US$600,000,000,000 in assets. Wikipedia

President Trump’s remarkable speech to the United Nations this week was supposed to re-state the New Order that America has envisioned for the world. And all he got was a laugh.

But it was an important speech, because it spelt out more clearly what everyone knew since January 2017 – his Administration is dismantling what America has stood for since the Second World War.

Out goes the vision of a liberal rule-based stable world under US leadership. What replaces it is a “no holds barred” reality show of bilateral “Art of the Deal” negotiations supposedly to solve what is paining America. Never mind the collateral damage on everyone else, even if they are ultimately American consumers. What everyone heard is that the White House does not care too much about allies or enemies, only what is good for America First, trumped by the speaker’s ego.

Speeches to the United Nations has never been about foreign policy. Speaking in front of 193 member countries, the national leader is actually addressing his home audience, a photo-opportunity to show that as a member of the United Nations, your voice is heard by the whole wide world. Accordingly, other than the famous 1960 case of Soviet Leader Khruschev making his point by banging his shoe at the podium, most national leader speeches to the United Nations are boring homilies. They tend to praise themselves, pay due respect to the UN, and expound what Miss Congeniality says in all beauty contests, “world peace!”

What we got instead from President Trump was raw and edged, “America’s policy of principled realism means we will not be held hostage to old dogmas, discredited ideologies, and so-called experts who have been proven wrong over the years, time and time again.” That statement made a powerful indictment of “experts”, because his supporters feel that it is the elite experts that have run the country for 70 years who have let them down.

If America is doing so well economically, militarily and technologically, why should her middle class feel so insecure? And it is lashing out at everyone else.

The answer lies in not what the speech said, but what it omitted. Everywhere in the world, not least in America, the greatest existential concerns are inequality and climate change. Almost nothing was said about both issues, which are stressing societies and pushing immigration from poorer neighbours across borders to richer nations with cooler climates.

Instead, what was decided was non-participation in the Global Compact on Migration, withdrawal from the Human Rights Council and non-recognition of the International Criminal Court. There was also a barrage against Opec, which contains some of the US’s strongest allies. If other bodies like the World Trade Organisation or even the United Nations do not do America’s bidding, then the cutting of funds or withdrawal is a matter of time. Does that imply that the US will now veto every World Bank or IMF loan to members that she does not like?

In short, it is all about anti-globalisation. In the same breath that “We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism,” Trump appeals to the passion and pride of nationalism. “The passion that burns in the hearts of patriots and the souls of nations has inspired reform and revolution, sacrifice and selflessness, scientific breakthroughs, and magnificent works of art.”

Never mind if a lot of that sacrifice and selflessness was by immigrants and new arrivals.

Outsiders who used to admire America as an open society founded by immigrants with new ideas on how to build a more just society and free economy find instead one that has an increasingly closed mind to global issues. It does seem strange that American innovation, entrepreneurship and dynamism which drew continuously on new talent initially from Europe and then the rest of the world is now walling up its borders, physically, legally and mentally.

There are 40 million immigrants in the US today, representing 13% of the US population. Immigrants founded nearly one-fifth of the Fortune 500 companies, such as Google, Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Colgate Palmolive, Pfizer, and eBay. Today, much of Silicon Valley talent feel like working in the United Nations, diverse, noisy and creative.

The irony of America drawing on global talent and resources is that she has no need to pay for it from exports, but can easily print more dollars. In other words, the Grand Bargain of global trade was the ability of the US to pay for real goods and services with something that can be printed at near zero marginal cost. Even the Europeans are now creating a separate payment system outside the US dollar dominated SWIFT system to avoid being punished for “trading with the enemy”.

When contracts of trust are being renegotiated, no one can feel at ease. One can never solve global problems unilaterally or even bilaterally, let alone calls for more national patriotism. And as the English writer Samuel Johnson scribbled in 1775, a year before US independence from Britain, “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

Leadership has always been about generosity to those who are less well endowed and fortunate than you are. Often, it is not generosity of kind, because that would be buying of votes, but generosity of spirit.

This side of the Pacific, there is awareness that the tensions will not go away with Trump or a change in the November elections. What has happened is that the US establishment has put political interests ahead of economic interests, which means that any settlement will have to go beyond economic considerations.

If trade and political tensions are in for the long haul, can the current US market enthusiasm have sufficient strategic patience?

Now we understand why no one is laughing.

Credit; Think Asian Andrew Sheng

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


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Still waiting on election promises


Will the Government deliver or are rosy pledges meant to be broken anyway?

PEOPLE are still harping on election manifesto promises which the new coalition has yet to fulfil.

In the wake of the 14th general election, the 100-day manifesto of Pakatan Harapan is being scrutinised.

Does anyone remember the promises made before GE13 or GE12 or any other election before that?

Remember the Penang Bridge toll promises?

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak came to town and promised free passage across the bridge for motorcycles.

Hours later, the then Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng cleverly upped the ante and promised that the bridge would be completely toll- free.

In Malaysian lingo, we call this ‘wayang’ or political theatrics.

I found it all very entertaining. I looked forward to each retort from the opposite side.

We should not be like children and cry: “But mummy, you promised!”

Now, Pakatan Harapan did fulfil some of their promises.

The Government abolished the goods and services tax and an earnest hunt has begun for those responsible for the 1MDB controversy.

As for the other promises, maybe not yet? Or at a later date?

You cannot fault Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for being honest. He told the world Pakatan could not fulfil all the promises in its manifesto because it did not expect to win!

So the politicians were just putting on a show and we, the audience, bought front-row tickets to the ‘wayang’.

Dr Mahathir would know. Can anyone remember any of the manifesto promises that were never fulfilled during his previous 22-year tenure or during the last 10 years under Najib?

I don’t and I have been around for more than three decades, starting my working life the year Mahathir came to power in 1981.

If elections were won just on fulfilling manifestos, Barisan would not have been able to rule for 60 years because there has been volumes of unfulfilled promises.

Elections are usually won on negative rather than positive elements.

We have a saying in the newsroom: people wanna read about sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll.

At The Star Online, stories along those lines get astronomical level hits.

In politics, seats tend to be won by candidates who can portray how bad the other guy is!

People want to be shocked by scandals, not lulled by promises.

So we do not have to lament the unfulfilled promises.

It is a universal issue which is not confined to Third World countries as even presidential elections in developed countries are won the same way.

One which comes to recent memory is the United States’ presidential elections in 2016.

Everyone thought Hilary Clinton would triumph but Donald Trump ran a smear campaign on her.

People heard all about her leaked emails and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s case on her.

Both candidates spent millions of dollars taking out advertisements in newspapers and on television.

The focus was more on showing how bad the other candidate would be for the country rather than what they would do if elected.

So for all those who are still hung up on Pakatan promises, forget it.

You can shout until the cows come home and nothing is going to happen.

But they still have four years to make good on their promises, before power comes back to us.

They could be saving the best promises for last. Maybe?

Credit: Pinang points R. Sekaran

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Tariff war threatens world trading system


TODAY marks another milestone in the escalating global trade war that threatens to shake the foundations of the world trading system and cause economic uncertainty at a time of financial fragility. It’s an altogether bad development that adds more gloom to global economic prospects.

Last week, the United States announced it would slap an additional 10% tariff on US$200bil worth of imports from China. Hours later, China said it would put 5% to 10% extra tariffs on US$60bil of imports from the US.

Both sets of tariff increases come into effect today. But that’s not all.

The US also said it would raise the extra tariffs on the US$200bil of imports from 10% now to 25% at the end of the year. And if China retaliates (which it now has), the US might slap higher tariffs on yet another US$267bil of Chinese imports.

This comes on top of tariffs on an initial US$50bil worth of imports that the US had placed on Chinese imports a few months ago, and equivalent tariffs on US$50bil on US imports that China imposed as retaliation.

And even before that, the US had put extra tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from all countries, except a few that were exempted for the time being.

The US is also threatening to put tariffs on imported auto vehicles and parts, including those from Europe. That is on hold because of a bilateral deal reached, but could be re-ignited if President Donald Trump is not satisfied with Euro­pean behaviour.

The US itself is experiencing negative effects of this trade war. The prices of the initial US$50bil of imported Chinese products have started to go up in the US, raising costs for both consumers and producers.

The Chinese are similarly affected. Exports of both countries are also bound to decline, and this will eventually affect their overall economic growth.

There will be collateral effects on other countries. In Asia, those that are integrated in the global supply chain will find less demand for their exports of components to China. The effect on Malaysia is projected by analysts to be around 0.4 to 0.7 percentage point of GNP in 2019.

This could be offset by positive effects. Some companies producing in China are considering relocating to other countries, including Malaysia, to escape the US’ punitive tariffs. And some Malaysian products may become cheaper than Chinese products, which will now attract extra duties.

But it is likely that the bad effects will outweigh any such good effects, at least in the short run.

It is clear that the US is to blame for the trade war. Its unilateral actions are against the spirit and rules of the trading system, and have in fact undermined its legitimacy and viability.

The steel and aluminium tariffs were imposed under the US security clause of its domestic trade law, while the other tariff increases are under Section 301 of the trade law. The US actions are against various World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

Challenges to the US unilateral measures have been taken by China and other countries at the WTO. If the US is found in violation, which is quite likely, it has to stop its actions or face retaliation: the countries that win the cases heard by the WTO panels of experts are allowed to impose equivalent tariffs on US products.

However, the US has engineered a crisis in the WTO’s dispute settlement system so that soon the outcome of successful cases against it cannot be implemented.

This is because the US is now paralysing the WTO’s Appellate Body by refusing to allow new members of the body to be appointed to replace those retiring. Soon there will be only three members left, out of a full body of seven. Two more will be retiring in January 2019. A minimum of three members is needed to sit on a case.

Thus, if a lower-level panel rules against the US’ unilateral actions, and the US lodges an appeal that cannot be heard because there are not enough appellate body members, the panel decision cannot be enforced.

This would make the WTO quite a toothless organisation. There would be no legal remedy to enforce penalties for breaking the WTO laws. Countries that impose unilateral tariff increases can get away with it. In turn, other countries would also do the same.

The rules-based trade system is already starting to break down. We are now seeing blatant protectionism by the US and retaliation by affected countries. Within months, the trade war could spread, with the law of the jungle becoming more prominent.

Tears will not be shed in the developing countries if some rules cannot be upheld anymore, such as the WTO’s TRIPS agreement on intellectual property. The free trade economist Jagdish Bhagwati has said the TRIPS treaty does not belong in the WTO.

But what all members like about the WTO is its role in ensuring the predictability that their exports can sell in the markets of its members, with tariffs at rates agreed to at the WTO.

If that predictability is lost, then there can be a lot of uncertainty, as one country after another can unilaterally impose extra tariffs on other countries, which may then trigger retaliation.

This breakdown of the trading system may be the more serious effect of what started as a US-initiated trade war.

Trump may not care what happens to the system, as he has said many times that the WTO is a terrible organisation that the US should leave. And his recent actions, in fact, seem calculated to undermine, if not destroy it.

It is a new world we are looking at, in a scenario that would not have appeared possible a year or even months ago.

Policy makers, companies, analysts and the public should ponder about this, even as they follow the details of the tit-for-tat trade war that the US is waging against China and other countries.

Martin Khor is adviser of the Third World Network. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

Credit: Global Trend by Martin Khor

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We also hope that the Chinese public gets to know the causes and effects of the event and the steadiness of the Chinese government’s policies. No matter how long China-US trade conflicts last, China is doing what it should. China is honest and principled and a major trade power with intensive strengths. No one can take us down.

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The US is anxious about its temporary gains and losses. One minute it wants Sino-US exchanges, but the next it worries China is taking advantage. Its relevant policies are bound to change all the time. Its latest decision is like the trade war. Washington’s purpose is to drag Beijing down, but it will mostly hurt itself.

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A question of faith, the corridors of power in Malaysia


Family dynasty: Malaysians are familiar with related politicians, but we should create a racket if Anwar is PM and Nurul Izzah becomes a Minister while Dr Wan Azizah still remains Deputy Prime Minister

The deal was sealed, yet, for inexplicable reasons, PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s route to the top is being challenged …

THE Port Dickson by-election has unexpectedly become a controversy for some PKR leaders and the party’s supporters.

Suddenly, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has found himself being openly challenged by some of the top brass for his purported failure to consult them on the selection of the coastal town for a by-election, and why his wife or daughter weren’t asked to vacate their seats, instead.

For sure, this is unfamiliar ground to any leader – to be openly challenged. Call it democracy, but it looks more like an open rebel.

Anwar is now being accused of nepotism and those who have defiantly questioned this move include prominent lawyer S. Ambiga, who is closely linked to Pakatan Harapan.

Even the issue of race has cropped up in social media, with some, hiding behind anonymity, demanding why an Indian MP had to be sacrificed for the PKR president.

Others have suggested that Anwar is an impatient man, and that he should wait until the next general election in five years’ time for his turn. Perhaps he could be named senator, first, and save the big bucks needed for a by-election.

However, some of these politicians have suddenly developed amnesia, it seems, now that they hold positions in government.

They seem to have forgotten the pledge made to Malaysians was for Anwar to be pardoned and released from his incarceration.

In fact, that’s the basis of the PKR struggle – to free Anwar, who had to live with the unofficial title of de facto PKR leader. He was the party boss, even while languishing behind bars for 11 years.

Love him or loath him, only Anwar can glue the PH government in Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s absence.

Not any PH leader, including Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Mohamed Sabu, Lim Guan Eng, or, for the time being, Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, could manage it.

It’s not about competence or ability, but about holding a government together. All his harshest critics, including those who questioned his trustworthiness, would admit it, even if reluctantly.

Anwar is also the only one who can man the fort against opponents like Umno, PAS and the right wingers who wield race and religion like weapons.

He was the man who issued press statements from jail, as we wondered how he did it.

And, of course, we remember all those street protests under different names and colours, all essentially for a singular purpose – to free him. So, it must be surprising to Anwar, who would probably feel slighted, to learn about the rebellious remarks made by some self-important key personalities for his need to first earn their approval and then consult them to contest in a by-election.

Suggestions of deceit abound, and no wonder, what with decisions shrouded in secrecy and lacking transparency.

And there we were thinking it was clear that Anwar would contest a by-election, get into Parliament and wait for his turn to be Prime Minister. Even premier Dr Mahathir has proclaimed unequivocally that he would hand the torch to Anwar and honour the agreement by the four partners of the Pakatan Harapan alliance to step down after two years.

So, the question is, how can Anwar be the successor if he is not an MP?

It’s pointless being the PM-in-waiting if one isn’t elected. We could not give two hoots about the charade and antics of politicians, who have the audacity to tell us they dislike politicking. We want certainty, stability and succession planning.

Dr Mahathir is already 93 years old, and it is just biologically and physically impossible to expect him to be PM until the next general election. We can’t allow the rigours of the job to take their toll on him.

A video of him walking wobbly recently circulated, so surely, we want him to remain healthy. However, he is still a mere mortal.

Anwar being named successor and elected into Parliament will provide better comfort because otherwise, an ugly scramble for power is bound to ensue, which we have no wish to see.

We don’t really care if Anwar chooses Port Dickson, Puncak Borneo or Timbuktu, because we are all suffering from the fatigue of election fever, which never seems to cease in Malaysia as they come in all forms and temperatures.

A by-election costs money. Also, it is in poor taste to ask a serving MP to step down to make way for Anwar. Most of us might hate the idea, but progression needs to take place.

Let’s be openly ignorant about this, because up until last week, most of us had never heard of Datuk Danyal Balagopal Abdullah, with due respect. Of course, we didn’t even know he was a retired first admiral. But those who attended his ceramah during GE14 said he never failed to remind them he served in the navy for 38 years.

Danyal has been recognised as the “voice” of the navy, and for them, his loss means no one will champion their cause.

Once Anwar is elected MP and eventually becomes Prime Minister, the full breadth of his ability will be on display, courtesy of his authority and power as a leader. Every constituent would want the serving PM as their MP, so the same can be said for PD. Surely, they can see the preferential treatment accorded to Langkawi and Pekan.

Then there is the issue of family dynasty, but let’s not get into this because the Lim brood has two MPs and a senator, the Karpal clan has two MPs and one state assemblymen, and of course, there’s the PM and his Mentri Besar son.

Malaysians are familiar with this situation, and how most of these individuals got elected is proof that it has never been an issue.

But we should create a racket if Anwar is PM and Nurul Izzah becomes a Minister while Dr Wan Azizah still remains Deputy Prime Minister.

You can count on your bottom ringgit, though, that’s neither going to happen, nor be allowed to happen.

Credit: On The Beat , Wong Chun Wai – The Star’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

Well, at least that is the plan, unless Mahathir moves first and scuttles this plan. Now, what was
that again about Malaysia being a boring country to live in? Let me tell you, even the UK and the US, which are also in political turmoil, are not as interesting as Malaysia. And I think I will support Mahathir just to see Anwar fail and to make sure the rollercoaster ride ends here, once and for all.

I would rather support Mahathir than Anwar –

THE CORRIDORS OF POWER by

Raja Petra Kamarudin

If it comes down to whether to support Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad or Anwar Ibrahim, in 1998 I supported Anwar (although I did not like both). Today, I would support Dr Mahathir rather than Anwar (even though I still do not like both).

The issue here is between the lesser of the two evils, as the Pakatan Harapan people, in particular the DAP Chinese, have been telling us since 2015. So, it is not whether you support the angel or the devil but more like which of the two devils you prefer.

I suppose, to be able to stay as Prime Minister for 22 years, survive so many ‘assassination’ attempts over those 22 years, and to be able to come back 15 years later for a second round, you really need to be a devil.

Now, the reason why I prefer Mahathir over Anwar is because Anwar has been taking us for a rollercoaster ride for the last 40 years or so and that ride is still not over. Now we are going for yet another rollercoaster ride with the ‘PD Move’ after the most disastrous ‘Kajang Move’ that took us nowhere.

 

The plan was for Anwar and not Mahathir to become the Seventh Prime Minister

With Anwar you do not know whether you are coming or going. One day we are asked to go east and another day we are told to go west. And while Anwar confuses us with the change of direction from east to west, we find out that he is going north while leaving us all behind.

Say what you like about Mahathir, but when you serve him he looks after you well. He never abandons ship and allows you to drown. If you are loyal to Mahathir he is loyal to you in return.

Anwar, however, is another kettle of fish. He uses you to serve his agenda and when you are no longer useful to him he discards you. Your loyalty is not repaid. In fact, your loyalty is betrayed.

And this is what makes Mahathir a better ‘boss’ compared to Anwar.

Back in 2006 when I used to go to Mahathir’s house to meet him, he would wait for me at the door and walk me to my car when we leave. That ‘small gesture’ meant a lot considering he was the ex-Prime Minister.

At least Mahathir does not treat you like a donkey the way Anwar does

Do not expect that from Anwar. He would sit on his throne and expect you to pay him homage.

In 2008, the day I was released from ISA detention, Mahathir phoned me to ask how I was. That phone call made my day and convinced me that Mahathir cares about the people who work for him or with him.

On the other hand, I had to make an appointment to meet Anwar and only managed to see him two weeks later. And when I met him he never inquired about my health. He just spoke about how he is going to come back as Prime Minister — as if I cared whether he becomes Prime Minister or not.

As I said, for more than 40 years Anwar has been taking us on a rollercoaster ride and with him we really do not know whether we are coming or going. In the 1970s, I supported Anwar Ibrahim because he supported PAS — and I also supported PAS after I moved to Terengganu in 1974.

Anwar defected to Umno in 1982 because that was the only way be could become Prime Minister

In 1982, Anwar abandoned us and defected to Umno in what I considered a betrayal. But when Anwar needed to challenge the Umno Youth leader, Suhaimi Kamaruddin, and he did not have the ‘machinery’, he came back to us for help.

Anwar promised if he wins the Umno Youth leadership he will make Umno more Islamic. Ustaz Fadzil Muhammad Noor, the late PAS President, told us to give Anwar a chance so we supported Anwar in his challenge for the Umno Youth leadership.

In 1987, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah (Ku Li) challenged Mahathir for the Umno presidency (while Tun Musa Hitam challenged Tun Ghafar Baba for number two). Anwar instructed us to support Mahathir and Ghafar (even though at that time most of us preferred Ku Li).

Then we realised why Anwar instructed us to support Mahathir and Ghafar. If Ku Li and Musa wins, Anwar is finished. If Mahathir and Ghafar wins instead, Anwar can oust Ghafar and take over as number two and then oust Mahathir and take over as number one.

Anwar wanted Ghafar to win because it would be easier to oust Ghafar and take over as the new Deputy Prime Minister

That was already Anwar’s plan in 1987.

In 1993, Anwar challenged Ghafar for the Umno Deputy Presidency but I refused to support him and left his team. This is because Anwar was being funded by Vincent Tan and hundreds of millions was being spent to oust Ghafar — RM200 million in Sabah alone.

Because Ghafar could not match Anwar’s financial onslaught, he backed out and allowed Anwar to win uncontested. Four years later, in 1997, Anwar made his move to oust Mahathir but Mahathir was ready for him. This time Anwar was outfoxed by the old fox.

Fast-forward to 2018. Anwar is yet again preparing to challenge Mahathir for the post of Prime Minister. We would think he would have learned his lesson from the 1997 fiasco. Anwar wants to be back in Parliament by October in time for the November session.

Anwar expects Azmin to lose the deputy presidency contest, after which he will leave PKR with his supporters

Anwar’s plan is simple. He wants to do a deal with Umno and PAS and create a new or third coalition (let’s call it Barisan Rakyat). Anwar wants to make sure that Rafizi Ramli wins the PKR deputy presidency and he expects Azmin Ali to leave PKR with his supporters and join PPBM.

Anwar has been talking to Taib Mahmud and Shafie Apdal to get Sarawak and Sabah to join his new coalition. With half of Umno, more than half of PKR, PAS, Sabah and Sarawak, Anwar can get enough majority to form a government.

And, by Christmas, ‘Malaysia Lagi Baru’ will have ‘Barisan Rakyat’ running the country with Anwar as Prime Minister and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as Deputy Prime Minister — and with another two Deputy Prime Ministers, most likely from PAS and Sabah-Sarawak.

Well, at least that is the plan, unless Mahathir moves first and scuttles this plan. Now, what was that again about Malaysia being a boring country to live in? Let me tell you, even the UK and the US, which are also in political turmoil, are not as interesting as Malaysia. And I think I will support Mahathir just to see Anwar fail and to make sure the rollercoaster ride ends here, once and for all.

Wising up to a Billion Dollar Whale of a tale


 

Wising up to a whale of a tale

Once upon a time, Malaysians were enchanted with Jho Lows champagne lifestyle and proud that he had friends in high places. We now know better.

IF a poll was conducted to ask Malaysians to name their 10 most hated people, Low Taek Jho – also known as Jho Low – would surely be in the top five, if not three.

There has been a quick succession of books on the 1Malaysia Dev­elopment Bhd (1MDB) saga and in the one by two Wall Street Journal reporters, Billion Dollar Whale, Low is the central villainous character.

Yet for a brief shining moment, this man was the pride of his home state and the nation.

Then Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng was reported as saying that he was proud to note the accomplishments of overseas Pen­angites, including this particularly “well-connected” fellow.

That was back in July 2010 when a mysterious Malaysian man of means started hitting the headlines for partying with the likes of Paris Hilton, and counted actors Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio and singer Usher as his good friends.

When Hilton – the glamour party girl before the Kardashians overtook her – was detained by drug enforcement officers in Paris in 2010, she was reportedly travelling with “personalities close to power in Malay­sia”, Low being identified as one of them.

In just three months, his champagne-infused big spending ways – US$50,000 (RM206,800) or US$60,000 (RM248,190) a pop – set New York’s nightlife scene on fire and caught the attention of the US media. And that was how Low became famous.

Oh wait! He’s Malaysian, not some little emperor from Shanghai or Shen­zhen, so we puffed up with pride at the success of one of our own.

Somehow, the ability to party with the rich and famous became a yardstick for success. The assumption was that Low must have done something great to be so filthy rich and make such “friends”.

Low, then 28, became a subject of intense curiosity that Malaysian and foreign media wanted to know.

Then The Star landed an exclusive interview with him. The two hours with him provided enough fodder for stories spread over two days on July 29 and 30, 2010.

The interview covered topics like his Arab childhood friends and investors whom he said were the real big spenders, how he made his first million when he was just 20 and his expertise in setting up sovereign wealth funds.

Yes, we were pretty pleased with ourselves for beating the competition in getting Low to speak.

The interview was picked up by other newspapers and portals locally, regionally and internationally.

The Star took efforts to provide Low’s personal details like his age, birthplace, education and languages spoken.

What I also found amusing was that we also gave his height (1.7m) and his weight (88kg), which is not common for such interviews. That was probably our nice way of indicating how chubby he was.

The stories were positive pieces, painting Low as a successful role model. Of course, at that time, no one suspected that he was the mastermind behind the world’s biggest kleptocracy.

We were simply dazzled by his partying playboy high life and accepted in good faith all his claims on why he was successful: he went to the right schools, from Chung Ling to Wharton School of Business, made well-connected, influential friends (especially Arab royals) and got a great financial start.

As The Star reported: “At the age of 20, (he) started an investment company called The Wynton Group with US$25mil (RM103.4mil) from family and South-East Asian and Middle Eastern friends. The investment company in which he owns a stake is now worth in excess of US$1bil (RM4.1bil).”

Penang businessman Tan Sri Tan Kok Ping, a close family friend, described Low as a very bright person who respected his elders.

He was also “an active person, has a corporate brain and his public relations skills are equally good. He’s also quite a fast eater.

“I watched him grow up since he was a kid and I knew he was brilliant, but I never thought he would be so successful,” said Tan.

A reader who was so impressed by the Star exclusive blogged about his son having studied in Harrow in Bangkok and opined: “He (the son) is certainly no Jho Low, but I hope he can learn the positives from Jho’s life and work hard and be successful.”

Well, we now know better how Low operated and whose money he was spending on his celebrity friends and more.

From the man with the Midas touch, he has become the embarrassment no famous person wants to touch. I doubt Hilton or Usher takes his calls anymore. He is a fugitive on the lam, hunted by governments around the globe.

Much as he is furiously claiming innocence, he is indeed our billion-dollar whale. The whale is a metaphor in business, meaning to land large accounts that can transform a small company into a major player.

A whale can also mean a businessman who is close to a country’s regime, is protected by the state and receives government contracts and large bank loans without any collateral, as explained in the book, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty.

The maddening fact is this portly plunderer is hard to find. He apparently has multiple passports, including one from St Kitts and Nevis.

It’s very possible he is no longer 88kg. He could be thinner or fatter – depending on whether stress makes him eat even more and faster – or had plastic surgery, grown or lost his hair, but he should still be 1.7m tall, unless he wears hidden heels in his shoes.

Our government has said it is not sure where he’s hiding, but with Malaysians in just about every corner of the world, can we not somehow tap into this vast network? Even a whale must surface for air somehow, somewhere.

What really got my goat was what he glibly said in the Star interview: “Ultimately, I am Malaysian. I am one who does not forget my country and I think there is a lot we can do for Malaysia. But when you build the trust of investors, you need to deliver what you promised.

“For me, we all work very hard. Of course, we have a disadvantage where at our age, people may perceive it differently. At the end of the day, I handle investors’ money prudently. I generate returns for them.”

And this: “I am not an excessive person. Excessiveness with alcohol is just not me.”

No, not in alcohol but his name is now synonymous with excessiveness in luxury acquisitions.

Oh, where’s Capt Ahab when we need him?

Aunty wants to remind all of us that truly, all that glitters is not gold. Feedback to aunty@thestar.com.my

Credit:  June H. L Wong, So aunty, so what?

 

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Let me be clear, I am innocent: Jho Low

 

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Malaysia can’t extradite Jho Low, key people in 1MDB saga

 

 

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Let me be clear, I am innocent: Jho Low


https://youtu.be/AngdNA3mtgw

Having his say: A screengrap of www.jho-low.com website which contained the letter

Rogue businessman insists he is not guilty via letter on personal website

 

PETALING JAYA – Fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho has proclaimed his innocence over allegations related to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) in a signed letter uploaded to his personal website.

Low, also known as Jho Low, admitted that in hindsight, he might have done things differently.

“But any mistakes I made do not amount to the sweepingly broad and destructive allegations being made against me.

“Let me be clear: I am innocent,” Low wrote.

The website, www.jho-low.com, also contains legal documents related to the 1MDB case, news media articles on him and 1MDB as well as statements by Low’s lawyers.

A notice on the website said that jho-low.com was created on behalf of Low through his legal counsel to provide information to the public.

A search on the Internet archive shows that the website has been updated since 2015 but until recently only contained general information on Low.

According to the WHOIS database, jho-low.com was created on June 2, 2014.

Yesterday, the link to the website was shared extensively on social media, after the undated letter was posted.

“I only ask that everyone – courts, prosecutors, and the general public – keep an open mind until all of the evidence comes to light,” Low wrote in the letter.

The financier wrote that for the past several years, he had been subjected to a series of allegations around the globe in relation to the operations of 1MDB.

He said many of the allegations had originated from blog posts, “improper” leaks from governmental agencies around the world, or unproven allegations filed in court, where he had never been afforded an opportunity to set the record straight.

“I have been paraded in effigy through the streets of Kuala Lumpur, and photographs from my younger days plastered in tabloids across the globe.

“It has become clear that there is no platform where objective information can be presented regarding this issue – and no jurisdiction that hasn’t been poisoned by gossip, innuendo, and unproven allegations.

“This website is an effort to change that,” Low wrote.

The 36-year-old Penangite is described as a “global philanthropist, investor and entrepreneur” on the website.

A check with an official from a public affairs firm representing Low confirmed the veracity of the website.

Meanwhile, Swiss whistleblower Xavier Justo, in an immediate response, said: “The Jho Low website does not show any proof of his innocence.

“It is just a bunch of legal documents showing that he wants a few cases to be dismissed.

“It’s the way the justice system works, you can be as guilty as guilty is and ask for a case to be dismissed. It’s not proof of innocence,” he told The Star.

The former PetroSaudi Inter­national executive said he was appalled at Low’s attempts to defend himself through the website.

“Any decent person will face justice (in court) if he can prove that he is innocent,” he said.

He added that he was amazed at Low’s attempts to try to “stop the distribution of books, abuse the justice system and hire public relations officers to defend his reputation while also creating a website to tell fairy tales”.

Low’s current whereabouts are unknown; he has been speculated to be hiding in China or the Caribbean.

He and his father, Tan Sri Low Hock Peng, were charged in absentia in Malaysia last month over money allegedly stolen from 1MDB.

Last week, Low, through the London-based law firm Schillings, sought to ban the books, The Sarawak Report by Clare Rewcastle Brown and Billion Dollar Whale by The Wall Street Journal’s Tom Wright and Bradley Hope, from going on sale.

Credit: Razak Ahmad The Star/Asia News Network

Read also

 

Are Malays powering the nation ?


The real Malay dilemma: race, religion & politics messed up!

Old politics: If the leadership keeps to the racialist, feudalist and religious-centric tactics and policies of the past, thinking this is what they need to do to keep the votes, it will just be the repeat of  past mistakes of the Umno era.

Malays are powering the nation

WE refer to “The real Malay Dilemma” (The real Malay dilemma: race, religion & politics./Sunday Star, Aug 26) by Siti Kassim. Siti’s rambling diatribe against Malay Muslims can be reduced to two baseless, provocative, insulting and defamatory allegations, namely:

1. Assimilation of Islamic values in governance is responsible for Malay backwardness and inability to compete with other races; and

2. Malays, constituting 60% of the population, are unproductive and parasitical, depending on the industry and labour of the remaining 40%, Chinese and Indians.

On the assimilation of Islamic values in governance, Siti questions whether “a Malay society, more insular and superstitious in thought… can compete on a fair footing with the rest of the Malaysian non-Muslim population.” She writes that Malays have been given preferred places in universities, GLCs and the civil service for over 40 years, resulting in “uncompetitive universities, a significant pool of unemployable Malay graduates and with most being employed by the civil service… failed GLCs and …corrupt administration…” She asks if more religion would help and continues, “This has been the unintended consequence of the assimilation of Islamic values in governance.”

What evidence has Siti got to link the above allegations of Malay backwardness to the so-called Islami­sation? Has she conducted any studies or consulted reports and research findings to come to that conclusion? Her claim is just hot air driven by prejudice towards Islam.

There has been no assimilation of Islamic values in governance as provided by the syariah. Having prayer rooms in government offices, teaching Islam to Muslim students in schools, broadcasting azan on TV or having an Islamic TV channel do not make governance Islamic. The Malaysian state is based on a constitution drafted by secular jurists and not on syariah. Most government leaders and top bureaucrats, products of Western education, are very much influenced by secular ideas and ignorant about Islam and its contributions to civilisations.

It is the separation of the moral from governance under a secular system that has facilitated the corruption, abuse of power, nepotism and cronyism of our government leaders and administrators. So, why blame Islam?

Siti condemns Malays as parasites. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines a parasite as a person who is lazy and lives by other people working and giving them money.

Siti writes that the majority of Malays are satisfied with their lives and carry on being religiously obsessed because they have been “able to live off the teats of the government in one way or another”.

She continues: “Thirty per cent to 40% of the population cannot sustain 100% of us. You need the remaining, at least majority, of that 60% (Malays) to be able to truly contribute economically and not be consumers of tax from the minorities. And religion is not an economic contributor. It is an unproductive consumer of epic proportions with no returns.”

Obviously, she has not heard of Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. To Siti, Malay businessmen, professionals, workers, farmers, fishermen, civil servants, police and soldiers do not contribute sales tax, income tax, road tax and other taxes payable under our laws. They are only “consumers of tax from minorities (Chinese and Indians)”. In other words, they are parasites. This is an insulting and provocative lie!

She claims that the transformation of Malaysia from an agricultural to an industrial nation with liberal economic policies was “powered by an industrious non-Malay population and the liberal segment of the Malay society”. She must have been blinded by prejudice not to see the role played by millions of Malay workers, engineers, surveyors, architects, policymakers and administrators in the industrial development of Malaysia.

Good public education and healthcare services are essential to becoming a developed industrial society. In 2016, Irina Bokova, then the Unesco director-general, praised Malaysia for “leading the way in South-East Asia in fostering inclusive and equitable education as the basis of sustainable green growth”.

And in his message on 2018 World Health Day, WHO regional representative Dr Lo Ying-Ru Jacqueline stated that Malaysia has been acknowledged globally for its high-performing health system based on a well-trained workforce, excellent infrastructure and quality service delivery.

Since independence, infant death has fallen by more than 90% to 6.7 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2016. Maternal mortality has also decreased by 89% between 1963 and 2013.

Who are these “well-trained workforce”? Mostly “unemployable Malay graduates” from “uncompetitive universities” and other institutions.

Who are the members of “the liberal segment of the Malay society” who powered the industrial transformation of Malaysia?

Are they those who are blond and advocating “separation of religion and government; religion must be a private matter and kept private; take out religious education from the public arena”?

Or those who call for recognition of homosexual, gay and lesbian rights; criminalisation of polygamy and decriminalisation of adultery; and free sex?

Sorry Siti, if there was any contribution from this deviant group, it was very minimal as many of them look to green pastures outside Malaysia and migrate. The rapid transformation of the Malaysian economy has been powered by patriotic devout Malay Muslims and the minorities, Chinese and Indians.

It is not the Malays who face a dilemma in engaging the modern world because their religion teaches them to seek success in this world and in the hereafter (Quran 2:201). It is Siti who faces a serious dilemma on whether to decolonise her thinking and become a true Malay Muslim or remain a Western secular clone.

By MOHD AZMI ABDUL HAMID President
Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organization

Endorsed by:

Syekh Ahmad Awang, chairman, International Union of Muslim Scholars Malaysia

Syekh Abdul Ghani Samsudin, chairman, Secretariat for the Assembly of Ulama of Asia

Assoc Prof Dr Roslan Mohd Nor, secretary-general, Ulama Association of Malaysia

Datin Ustazah Aminah Zakaria, chairperson, Persatuan Persaudaraan Muslimah Malaysia

Hj Baharudin Masrom, secretary, Kongres Ummah

Dr Mohamad Ali Hassan, committee member of SHURA

Prof Dr Rahmatullah Khan, committee of MaSSa

Dr Abdul Rahman Ahmad, committee of SUARA

Datuk Abdullah Mad Din, former director of Islamic Division, Ministry of Education

Datuk Hadzir Md Zain, former deputy director-general, Implementation Coordination Unit, JPM


Elaborating the dilemma in today’s terms

I REFER to the comments from the Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organization in response to my latest column “The real Malay Dilemma” (The real Malay dilemma: race, religion & politics/Sunday Star, Aug 26).

Mine was an opinion piece. It seems the writer of the letter from the Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organization and the characters endorsing it cannot differentiate between journalism and opinion. Having said that, whatever I say speak for itself.

Our former prime ministers Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein and Tun Hussein Onn were all secularists. Our present Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s “Malay Dilemma” and what he continues to say today about how we Malays practise Islam still stands. I just elaborated the dilemma in today’s terms.

Is our Malay society not more insular or more superstitious than in the 80s? Ask yourselves. I won’t go into the nonsense and tahyul being preached on Malay sites that are popular today; let’s just look at the public universities that are managed and led by Malays. Did we use to have faculties in universities producing anti-hysteria kits or paranormal detection equipment or holding seminars on hell or how to interact with non-Muslims?

There’s a chief syariah judge proposing to have standard operating procedures for cases with “mystical elements”.

What is going on? Even in the 70s or 80s, such nonsense was unheard of among Malays leading our institutions.

Just reading the rants equating liberalism with perverts and everything to do with sex practically tells one of their mindset. They cannot escape from their dogmatic conservative religious notion of what makes a person a liberal.

They are intent on demonising liberalism so they can impose devoutness as they see it unto society.

Where were all these defenders of Islam and the Malays when our leaders were robbing the nation blind? Did we hear a peep from them?

I speak of leadership to change our society. I am so glad, in spite of the recalcitrant conservatives, that the Sultan of Selangor took the mantle of leadership and pronounced that the legal age of marriage be raised to 18 for Muslims. That is liberalism.

Only liberals have been calling for this to protect the childhood of our girls and to ensure they have the opportunity for education and a full life.

I am a Malay and a Muslim. I will speak up for the good of our society without fear or favour or intimidation. We need to face our demons and change to progress. Someone needs to tell the inconvenient truths.

By SITI KASSIM

National unity – an inconvenient truth?

Dear new government, if you continue to divide us, you will rue the day.

 

TWO events in recent days reminded me what is truly important to this nation.

The first was the National Day celebration on Friday in Putrajaya.

Although the euphoria over GE14 has waned, there was still enough to make me want to be part of the National Day celebration even if via my telly. So I did something I hadn’t done in years: got up early just to watch the parade.

The cameras at Dataran Putrajaya showed thousands of Malaysians who were more excited than me and had taken the trouble to line the thoroughfare to enjoy the spectacle and catch glimpses of members of the new Cabinet.

Indeed, it was deja vu to see Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as Prime Minister and Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali sitting with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V on the VIP grandstand.

It was also a touch surreal to see several faces we once thought impossible to see in such a setting – Cabinet members such as Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Gobind Singh Deo, Lim Guan Eng, Mohamed Sabu, M. Kulasegaran and Teresa Kok.

On the pavement, the opening and closing acts by flag-waving young Malaysians dancing in unison warmed the cockles of my heart.

I appreciated the effort to ensure all races were brought together to perform in a show of unity, emphasising the slogan: Sayangi Malaysiaku.

Yes, I do love my Malaysia, as do millions of others who were born and bred in this gracious, blessed land. That birthright is what unites us all.

And that is the key lesson to the well-being of our nation – unity.

Which leads me to the second event: the GE14-inspired movie, Rise: Ini Kalilah.

I caught it on Monday night and relived somewhat that incredible time when Malaysian history was made.

While not perfectly told and it is a story that only Malaysians can fully understand and appreciate, the movie has enough to keep its audience interested and it ultimately delivers the feel-good factor as it too reinforces the power of unity; that is, what can be achieved when enough citizens unite for a common cause.

Yet that power was never properly developed because it was politically inexpedient.

For its own political survival, especially after the 2008 GE, the Barisan Nasional government preferred to use race and religion to divide and rule the nation. That ultimately wreaked havoc on our interracial ties, as stated in local human rights group Pusat KOMAS’ Malaysia Racial Discrimination Report released in March this year.

National unity, as far can I can remember, was trotted out as important only after something bad had happened.

It took the terrible May 13, 1969, racial riots for the government to set up the National Unity Council.

The council was disbanded in 1971 and replaced by the National Unity Advisory Council, whose secretariats were the Department of National Unity and the National Muhibbah Office.

The two agencies were merged to form the National Unity Ministry in 1972. But it only lasted till 1974, when it was replaced by the National Unity Board.

The next time national unity took the spotlight was after GE13. The results showed the need to do something to reduce racial polarisation and to build a “united Malaysian nation”. That led to the formation of the National Unity Consultative Council in September 2013.

The NUCC held a series of meetings with agencies and NGOs to formulate a National Unity Blueprint. In 2014, it proposed three so-called Harmony Bills to replace the Sedition Act.

But the Act remained and the Bills became mired in controversy since they would make it mandatory for the government and all persons to promote equality and prohibit discrimination based on religion, race, birthplace, gender and disability. That was somehow anathema to the Malay agenda and the Bills went on the backburner.

It would appear the previous government saw the need for better national unity as an inconvenient truth and continued to use it for “display purposes only.”

So whither national unity in New Malaysia?

Political scientist Chandra Muzaffar, in criticising Pakatan for leaving it out in its election manifesto, wants the new government to make its stand known and emphasise the Rukunegara to show “it is serious and sincere about one of Malaysia’s foremost challenges but would have also demonstrated that it is crystal-clear about the direction we should take as a people.”

But others take a different view. Prolific online commentator T.K. Chua says: “What is the point of declaring unity as our goal when our policies, programmes and actions are doing just the opposite?”

He adds: “It is time to stop the endless declarations and slogans typical of a third world country. We can’t talk ourselves to national unity. National unity is the product of years of inclusive policies, programmes and actions.”

And that is what he wants to see in the Pakatan government – action, or in today’s jargon, walk the walk.

I take both views to be important: talk the talk and walk the walk. In our fractured nation, we sorely need to hear Pakatan leaders openly and loudly embrace national unity as a must-do KPI and then see them implement it in all their policies and actions for the long haul. Only then can we hold them to their words and judge them by their actions.

For now, Pakatan still seems dazed by its own victory and further stunned to find government machinery that Dr Mahathir says is broken.

If that is the case, Pakatan has the chance to rebuild the machinery that was abused by its predecessors and set it right. No more “divide and rule” but “one for all and all for one”!

By June H L Wong
Related posts:

 

The real Malay dilemma: race, religion & politics messed up!

Old politics: If the leadership keeps  to the racialist, feudalist and
religious-centric tactics and policies of the past, thinking this is
what they need to do to keep the votes, it will just be the repeat of
past mistakes of the Umno era.

 

New Malaysia should push for meritocracy

 

The Meritocracy Paradox

Malaysia sacrifices talent to keep one race on top, said Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore

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