Anti-corruption crusade in full force in Corporate Malaysia


 

Enough time: Ruslan says there should be adequate time for corporates to implement the guidelines by June 1, 2020.

Will the much-anticipated enforcement of Section 17A of the MACC in less than a year result in a corruption-free business scene?

THE Pakatan Harapan government envisions a corruption-free Malaysia in five years’ time, but the journey towards the ambitious objective will be a bumpy one – especially for Corporate Malaysia.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Global Economic Crime Survey 2018, about 35% of the Malaysian companies surveyed have suffered as a result of bribery and corruption in their daily operations. This marks a sharp increase from just 19% in 2014.

Speaking with StarBizWeek, Transparency International Malaysia (TIM) president Muhammad Mohan cautions that “corruption is rampant and has worsened in the Malaysian business sector over the last few years”.

Despite the worrying trend in Corporate Malaysia, preventive anti-corruption measures among local companies remain limited.

As at end-May 2019, only 59% of listed companies in the country had an internal anti-corruption policy, according to the Securities Commission (SC).

The good news is, the Pakatan administration has been ramping up its anti-corruption initiatives over the last one year.

About a month after the 14th general election (GE14), the government established the Governance, Integrity and AntiCorruption Centre (GIACC) to monitor and coordinate all activities related to combating graft, integrity and governance.

In January 2019, the National AntiCorruption Plan 2019-2023, which was developed by GIACC, was launched by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. The five-year plan has outlined six priority areas and 115 initiatives to achieve zero-tolerance to corruption and bolster good
governance.

On July 18, the SC presented its anti-corruption action plan to the Cabinet Special Committee on Anti-Corruption chaired by Dr Mahathir, with recommendations to prevent corruption, misconduct and fraud.

Section 17A comes into force 

In addition to these efforts, beginning June 1, 2020, Corporate Malaysia will take its next step towards a corruption-free business environment via the enforcement of Section 17A of the MACC Act.

The new provision, which was inserted into the anti-bribery act before the GE14, establishes the principle of corporate liability among businesses. Under Section 17A, companies and their directors could be deemed personally liable if an associated person such as an employee or subcontractor is caught involved in corruption for the benefit of the commercial organisations.

Section 17A covers companies, partnerships and limited liability partnerships operating in Malaysia.

The companies and directors could defend themselves against prosecution if they have implemented “adequate procedures” such as internal guidelines or staff training within the commercial organisations.

However, senior lawyer and former Malaysian Bar president Datuk Lim Chee Wee says the existence of adequate procedures does not preclude a commercial organisation or the directors from being charged or prosecuted.

“That is to say, a company may still be charged or prosecuted for corruption offence under section 17A (1), but the fact that the company has in place adequate anti-corruption procedures may absolve it from any finding of criminal liability by the court,” he says.

“However, Section 17A does not put an undue amount of responsibilities on the management. While the definition of associated person under section 17A (6) appears to be general and extensive, there is a safeguard in section 17A (7) which provides for the need for a holistic assessment of the relationship between the company and the associated person to be conducted before any liability of the associated person can
be imputed on the company,” he says.

With the anti-bribery provision, companies can no longer hide behind third parties such as consultants or subsidiaries. In the past, holding companies and the board of directors could absolve themselves of any blame if there were corrupt practices at the subsidiary levels.

“Now, the directors and companies are accountable for everything. Even consultants who act for companies come under the MACC Act and the employee hiring processes must be accounted for,” says a CEO of a listed
firm.

He adds that the focus should be more on the wide implications of Section 17A, rather than the cost of compliance.

“It is not whether the corporate liability provision is difficult or adds to costs of  Malaysian companies.

It is a question of whether the companies and directors are aware of the wide implications with the act coming into force next year.

“The MACC act together with the beneficial ownership laws gives MACC the
bite to act on corporations, directors and owners. If they want to get you, they can,” he says.If found guilty of an act of corruption under the soon-to-be-enforcedSection 17A, the penalties imposed on a commercial organisation would besevere.A company could be fined not less than 10 times the value of the gratification or RM1mil, whichever is higher, or be subject to imprisonment not exceeding 20 years, or to both.In short, it will not be “business as usual” for Corporate Malaysia come 2020.

Delay in compliance 

While there are only 10 more months before Section 17A is enforced, many businesses in the country have yet to introduce adequate procedures to prevent corruption in their organisations, in line with the “Guidelines on Adequate Procedures”.

On Dec 10, 2018, Dr Mahathir launched the “Guidelines on Adequate Procedures”, which serve as reference points for any anti-corruption policies and controls an organisation may choose to implement towards the goal of having adequate procedures as required under Section 17A.

SC says that even among the listed companies that have an anti-corruption policy, “the majority of these policies contain gaps when compared to the Guidelines on Adequate Procedures”.

TI-M’s Muhammad Mohan hinted that not all government-linked companies (GLCs) will be ready by June 2020 for Section 17A.

“GLCs especially the larger ones are making preparations to handle the corruption risks involved. The problem is many GLCs and non-GLCs have wasted so much time by not implementing or preparing their organisations for this.

“Many businesses are expecting U-turns or extensions to be given,” he says.

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers president Datuk Soh Thian Lai says the organisation supports the introduction of Section 17A and has undertaken several sessions to educate its members on the implementation of “adequate procedures” as well as the ISO 37001 Anti Bribery Management System.

As the deadline for the enforcement of Section 17A nears, Soh points out that concerns

remain on the readiness and capacity of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in ensuring that adequate internal measures have been put in place to potential acts of corruption. specially still lack the know-how lementing such measures. There e greater capacity building in place to assist SMEs,” he says.

However, among major corporations in uch as those related to Nasional and the Employees Fund, the guidelines are being owed, says a CEO of a listed company.

The compliance department has grown bigger, he says.  In an email interview with
StarBizWeek, SC says that it will take steps to mandate companies to establish and
implement anti-corruption measures.

“While there may be additional costs in putting these anti-corruption in place, it is important for comealise that these measures will m to avail themselves of the statutory ddefence provided for under Section 17A (4) of the MACC
Act,” says the commission.

Vulnerable businesses 

Past experiences indicate that compaed with procurement, governracts and the  construction sector ulnerable to corruption and kickbacks.

While government and key industry ve introduced several anti-coreasures such as open tender corrupt practices continue to be prevalent in such sectors.

In fact, between 2013 and 2018, nearly 43% of the total complaints received by MACC were on the procurement sector.

Experts say that the trend is expected to change as businesses in Malaysia fully comply with Section 17A, following its enforcement. The adoption of anti-bribery ISO 37001 standards will also bolster Corporate Malaysia zero-tolerance approach towards corruption.

Facilities management service provider GFM Services Bhd, which is actively involved in government contracts, welcomes the enforcement of
Section 17A.

Group managing director Ruslan Nordin believes the corporate liability provision not only upholds a business’ integrity, but also protects shareholders’ value and preserves profitability of the company.

“We view that there is adequate time for corporates in Malaysia to implement the guidelines by June 1 next year,” he says.

Senior lawyer Lim says that Section 17A imposes a duty on all businesses, its directors and officers to be honest in their internal and external dealings.

“This is to be welcomed, corruption increases the cost of transaction, and with this new provision, it should reduce the cost of business,” he says. UHY Malaysia managing director Steven Chong Hou Nian believes that compliance with Section 17A offers businesses an opportunity to exhibit positive values in their corporate culture.

“I opine that the qualitative gains from Section 17A compliance outweigh the additional costs,” he says.

He was also asked whether Section 17A will be successful in reducing corruption within procurement and tendering for government contracts.

To this, he said that the government has pledged to re-design the entire public procurement system while introduce relevant technologies to facilitate a clean, efficient and transparent procurement regime.

“The effectiveness of what Section 17A seeks to achieve, would naturally be premised upon the ecosystem that the MACC Act would operate within.
“The eventual success of the initiative is anyone’s guess, yet I applaud the nation for boldly taking this step forward. This is indeed a success in its own right,” says Chong.

 

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Penang State to study Airbnb woes before legalising operations; Using Airbnb to settle mortgages?


Airbnb, Why the New Logo?

HOW other cities worldwide tackle their Airbnb problems are being studied to see if the home-sharing business could be legalised or regulated in Penang.

The office of the Penang State Exco for Tourism Development, Arts, Culture and Heritage (Petach) is studying their policies to tackle the issue of residential home owners who rent out their units as if they were running a hotel or serviced apartment.

Its exco member Yeoh Soon Hin (pic) said the global home-sharing business was quite established in Penang now that when people buy a house or condominium unit, someone might approach them and offer to guide them to sign up with Airbnb and make money from their new property.

He told the assembly that Penang Global Tourism had met with Airbnb’s management team to discuss how to regulate the business.

“Airbnb told us that they are ready to cooperate and register Airbnb units in Penang with the local authority, but we have no laws or policies for this yet,” he said.

Yeoh said in San Francisco, Airbnb operators are limited to renting their homes to a maximum of 90 days a year.

“In Catalonia, Spain, Airbnb operators can be fined up to 30,000 Euros (RM140,000) and the unit owners fined up to 90,000 Euros (RM420,000) if there are complaints.

“In Singapore, the Urban Redevelopment Authority is proposing to limit Airbnb units to only allow up to six people each time to rent them and for only up to 90 days a year.

“For strata units, Singapore plans to allow it only if at least 80% of all unit owners in the building give consent.

“Japan enacted a law to allow home-sharing of units for only up to 180 days a year,” he said when replying a question from Daniel Gooi Zi Sen (PH-Pengkalan Kota).

Gooi said he was concerned because despite strong enforcement from Penang Island City Council since 2017 to stop residential property owners from using their units commercially, the Airbnb portal lists thousands of units in Penang.

“We cannot deny property owners from benefitting from their assets, but we also cannot let them continue to operate without paying their dues such as commercial assessment rates or the hotel fee,” he said.

Yeoh said Petach was studying how Airbnb operators are regulated while waiting for the federal government to draft laws on home-sharing.

“We raised the issue and were told that the Housing and Local Government Ministry and the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry are studying possible laws on this.”

Yeoh said the business was unfair to neighbours, the hotel industry and local authorities.

“They are paying assessments and utility rates for residential units but are using those units commercially while legal hotels that comply with all laws such as safety and traffic provisions pay much more.

“The peace and privacy of their neighbours are being intruded upon,” Yeoh said.

He said his team in Petach was also considering the possibility of recommending that Airbnb operators be charged double or triple the current residential assessment rates that they are paying now after they are legalised.

By arnold loh and r. sekaran at the penang state assembly

 

Should Airbnb be regulated?

MUCH has been said about Airbnb in the news of late. The Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Penang branch has claimed that the emergence of Airbnb and illegal accommodation are among the main causes for Penang hotel occupancy rate to decline.

Another news report indicated that Airbnb operators are required to register with Kuala Lumpur City Hall. At this point in time, it is vital to see the concept of Airbnb. The platform was started to connect people who were looking to rent their homes to those who wanted hotel-free stay accommodation for short periods. The reason for the registration must be for the purpose of regulation by the authorities.

The claim by MAH that the emergence of Airbnb has caused hotel occupancy rates to drop must also be examined.

In terms of cleanliness and hospitality, although hotels do fit the bill, not all hotels are in that category. All hotels must be refurbished and kept clean at all times. It may be a bit too much to ask for luxury bedding or first class service, but cleanliness and pleasant service is not too difficult.

Airbnb hosts are conscious about their guests and the reviews that are given on the website. They go the extra mile, and it is not always accurate to say that Airbnb is cheaper and therefore people choose them over hotels. It is the space, the home away from home concept, and being looked after, the occasional bottle of wine left for guests, the fruit basket, the bottles of fruit juice and mineral water in the fridge — all of these go a long way in wooing guests.

In terms of protection for the hosts and the guests, Airbnb has enough protection in place. It is up to the renter to choose who they want to rent out to. Those who want to rent and those who are renting out their properties have their profiles. Reviews as to the safety of the place and its convenience — all can be seen from the website. It is a very transparent website and no one can complain that they were not aware that there was a danger or that they did not get their money’s worth. There are times that unfortunate Airbnb hosts unwittingly allow roguish guests and their premises are wrecked. The Airbnb hosts too, have a risk to take.

From the reports, it is unclear of the need for Airbnb to be registered or regulated. Hotel operators are required to register as it is a business. Airbnb is a service platform and not a business. For hosts, it is an additional income — especially for the elder population whose children have left, or even for those with university fees to pay, this additional income will be a good supplement. Unlike hotels and motels, Airbnb operators are there on a temporary basis. Sometimes, the owner may get a long-term tenant, and may not want to continue with the Airbnb concept.

Maybe we can take a leaf from countries where Airbnb has been regulated. In Los Angeles, United States, a regulation was passed for short-term rentals (vacation) with an initial cap on rentals for up to 120 days with flexibility to increase that number of days.

In New York, it is illegal to rent out an entire residence for less than 30 days. Short-term rentals are permitted if the homeowner is also staying there throughout the rental period and there are no more than two renters. This would be ideal for an elderly couple who would enjoy the company of young tourists who would in turn enjoy being in a home environment.

In Japan, anyone wanting to list their property on Airbnb will need to register with the local government, who will conduct fire and safety checks on the premises. The new regulations also limit rentals to 180 days per year.

Singapore has prohibited public housing rentals that are under six months, or three months in the case of private housing without the approval of the Urban Redevelopment Authority. In London and Paris, new laws have limited short-term rentals up to 90 days per year, and Liverpool City Council has pushed for national regulations to ensure that landlords register short-term rental properties.

Regulation is of critical importance in shaping the welfare of economies and society. Any form of regulation must work effectively and serve the public interest. Government agencies, in this case, the local councils are responsible for implementing regulatory policies and must be aimed towards protecting the consumer. When imposing such regulations on individuals, such as Airbnb hosts, there must be a goal that will help the government to achieve its purpose. The objective of a government or regulatory body is to ensure better and cheaper services and goods, and to provide a fair competition to any particular industry without encouraging a monopoly. Airbnb may be regulated and the town and city councils may want to draw up guidelines following from the examples cited above.

By GRACE XAVIER

Grace Xavier is research fellow at the Faculty of Law, Universiti Malaya and she can be reached at gracem@um.edu.my

Using Airbnb to settle mortgages

Survey: Hosting helps to repay loans, provide extra income

Video:
https://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2019/07/03/md-the-cost-and-security-issue-of-airbnb/?jwsource=cl

PETALING JAYA: More Malaysians are relying on Airbnb to settle their mortgages given the property overhang that is engulfing the sector.

According to an Airbnb survey of more than 2,000 Malaysian hosts and guests, half of the Airbnb hosts said it had helped them pay for their homes while 40% said Airbnb provided a supplementary income for them to make ends meet.Malaysia is Airbnb’s fastest growing country in South-East Asia for the second consecutive year.

It saw more than 3.25 million guests in Malaysia over the past 12 months ended July 1, which translated to a 73% increase from the previous period.There are more than 53,000 Airbnb listings in the country.

Axis REIT Managers Bhd investment head and former Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents president Siva Shanker said many of the Airbnb hosts were investors and speculators who purchased the properties during the upturn, with the intention of selling them at a higher price.

“However, when the property market started to make a turn for the worse, many of these speculators found it difficult to sell or rent out their units but at the same time they needed income to service their loans,” he told StarBiz.

Siva said many of the buyers and investors had bought the units on the advice of some people with questionable skills and credentials.

“Many of the people, who claimed to be experts, gave false assurances that the properties could be sold at a premium of up to 40% within a couple of years, or that they would be able to get high rental yields.

“This is essentially a get rich quick scheme and many people believed in them. But then the market crashed and many of the buyers are saddled with a property that they can’t sell or rent out.”

Siva said many of the so-called “advisers” had rebranded themselves as Airbnb consultants when the property market slumped.

Airbnb is an online booking platform that allows people to rent out their properties or spare rooms to guests.

PPC International managing director Datuk Siders Sittampalam said the concept of Airbnb needs to be regulated.

“It’s never been regulated in the past, especially in terms of taxes. How do you determine things such as cost and security?”

Siva concurred that proper regulation need to be put in place to for Airbnb operators.

“You don’t know who’s going into your apartment. Every other day, your occupants are changing.

“They could be illegal immigrants, running criminal activities, being a nuisance and disturbing the neighbours.

“How is the unit considered ‘gated and guarded’ when the owner is the one that opens the door to these strangers?”

With no proper regulation in place, Siva said the value of the apartment will deteriorate.

“The owner is running it like a hotel, except he doesn’t have the upkeep skills of a hotelier. Within a year, the apartment will look run down. By then, new properties will be up in the market and new owners will be looking to rent them out.

“The owner of the run down apartment is going to have difficulties finding tenants, but he still needs to fulfil his monthly mortgage. Eventually, it becomes a vicious cycle. To stop this, we need to educate the public and get rid of the self-proclaimed property gurus.”

Another concern is the Airbnb having a huge impact on the local hotel industry.

According to Impiana Hotels Bhd executive director Azrin Kamaluddin, hotels that havemore than four stars will face limited to no impact from the rising popularity of Airbnb.

“The hotels offer distinct product differentiation as they provide experience and service to guests.

“What Airbnb does is offer accommodation as a commodity.

“I believe that owners of four and five star serviced residences that do not lease back their units to operators as well as hotels that are three stars and below would be disrupted by Airbnb.

“It is imperative for hotels that have three stars and below to reinvent themselves to stand out from the competition posed by Airbnb,” he said.

On the potential launch of Airbnb Luxe, Azrin said it would not have an impact on four to five-star hotels, given the relatively small volume and higher price tag of US$1,000 per night.

Siders concurred that Airbnb would only have an adverse impact on budget hotels.

“The four-star and five-star hotels offer different types of services and amenities.”

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South Korean Christian-based cult leaders pastor Lee jailed for raping followers


South Korean Pastor Lee Jaerock was convicted of the multiple rape of eight
female followers — some of whom believed he was God. — AFP
  • Religious devotion is widespread in technologically advanced South Korea
  • South Korea has proven fertile ground for religious groups with
    strong, unambiguous ideologies that offered comfort and salvation

A South Korean cult leader was convicted Thursday of the multiple rape of eight female followers — some of whom believed he was God — and jailed for 15 years.

Pastor Lee Jaerock’s victims were “unable to resist as they were subject to the accused’s absolute religious authority”, judge Chung Moon-sung told the Seoul Central District Court.

Religious devotion is widespread in technologically advanced South Korea, with 44 percent of people identifying themselves as believers.

Most belong to mainstream churches, which can accumulate wealth and influence with tens of thousands of followers donating as much as 10 percent of their income.

But fringe groups are also widespread — experts say around 60 people in the country claim to be divine — and some have been implicated in fraud, brainwashing, coercion, and other behaviour associated with cults worldwide.

Lee set up the Manmin Central Church in Guro, once a poor area of Seoul, with just 12 followers in 1982. It has now grown to 130,000 members, with a spotlight-filled auditorium, sprawling headquarters, and a website replete with claims of miracle cures.

But three of Lee’s followers went public earlier this year, as South Korea was swept with a wave of #MeToo accusations, describing how he had summoned each of them to an apartment and raped them.

South Korean Pastor Lee Jae-rock arrives at the Seoul Central District Court to attend his trial on Thursday. | AFP-JIJI

“I was unable to turn him down,” one of them told South Korean television.

“He was more than a king. He was God,” added the woman, who had been a church member since childhood.

Lee told another that she was now in Heaven, and to strip as Adam and Eve went naked in the Garden of Eden. “I cried as I hated to do it,” she told JTBC television.

Eight women laid criminal complaints, and the court found Lee raped and molested them “tens of times” over a long period.

“Through his sermons the accused has indirectly or directly suggested he is the holy spirit, deifying himself,” the judge said.

The victims believed him to be “a divine being who wields divine power”, he added.

Lee, who denied the charges, stood with his eyes closed as the judgement was read, showing no emotion, while around 100 followers filled the courtroom to overflowing, some of them sighing quietly.

The 75-year-old’s lawyers had accused the women of lying to seek vengeance after being excommunicated for breaching church rules.

– Second Coming –

South Korea has proven fertile ground for religious groups with strong, unambiguous ideologies that offered comfort and salvation that appealed strongly during times of deep uncertainty.

More recent versions have claimed a unique knowledge of the path to material and spiritual prosperity — a message that resonates in a highly competitive and status-focused society.

According to a 2015 government survey, 28 percent of South Koreans say they belong to Christian churches, with another 16 percent describing themselves as Buddhist.

But according to Park Hyung-tak, head of the Korea Christian Heresy Research Institute, around two million people are followers of cults.

“There are some 60 Christian-based cult leaders in this country who claim to be the second coming of Jesus Christ, or God Himself,” he told AFP.

AFP/File / MENAHEM KAHANA

“Many cults point to megachurches mired in corruption and other scandals in order to highlight their own presumed purity and attract believers,” he added.

On his own website, Lee says that God has “anointed me with His power” but the Manmin Central Church has been condemned as heretical by mainstream Christian organisations, partly because of its claims to miracle healing.

In one example on the church website, Barbara Vollath, a 49-year-old German, said he was born deaf but her bone cancer was cured and she gained hearing in both ears after Lee’s daughter and heiress apparent Lee Soojin prayed for her with a handkerchief he had blessed.

South Korean cults can have deadly consequences: in 1987, 32 members of an apocalyptic group called Odaeyang, were found dead at their headquarters in an apparent murder-suicide pact, including its leader, who was under police investigation for embezzlement.

And they can influence the highest reaches of power.

Choi Soon-Sil, the woman at the centre of the corruption scandal that brought down her close friend president Park Geun-Hye, is the daughter of late religious leader Choi Tae-min.

The elder Choi became Park’s spiritual mentor after establishing his own church, Yeongsegyo (“Spiritual Life”), combining tenets of Buddhism, Christianity and shamanism.

Source: AFP

On a mission from God: South Korea’s many cults

The jailing of a South Korean religious leader on Thursday for the rape of multiple followers is the latest example of religious cults in the country.

The world’s 11th-largest economy is technologically advanced but has a history of cult organisations and charismatic religious leaders, some of whom have amassed enormous wealth and influence.

Here are some groups that have previously attracted controversy or had brushes with the law.
Pastor Lee Jaerock, a South Korean cult leader was convicted Thursday of the multiple rape of eight female followers. Here are other South Korean cult groups that have made headlines
+4

 Pastor Lee Jaerock, a South Korean cult leader was convicted Thursday of the multiple rape of eight female followers. Here are other South Korean cult groups that have made headlines

Pastor Lee Jaerock, a South Korean cult leader was convicted Thursday of the multiple rape of eight female followers. Here are other South Korean cult groups that have made headlines

The World Mission Society Church of God predicted the end of the world would come on December 31, 1999.

However, being wrong has been no barrier to its fortunes, and an anti-cult group estimates that it has more than 200,000 followers, although it claims more than two million.

Its founder Ahn Sang-hong, who died in 1985, is worshipped as the Heavenly Father, who it says will come for the salvation of 144,000 souls — the number appears in a biblical prophecy.

Ahn’s wife Jang Gil-ja is regarded as the Heavenly Mother. Its aggressive evangelical activities in south east Asian countries sparked controversy.

Shincheonji, or the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, suggests that its founder Lee Man-hee has donned the mantle of Jesus Christ and will take 144,000 people with him to Heaven, body and soul, on the Day of Judgement.

But its adherents have long surpassed that number, and critics say they have to engage in endless loyalty competitions to earn credits to be included among the saved, sacrificing their everyday lives and leading to serious family disputes.

Shincheonji ‘is the nation of God, created by Him to fulfil what is in heaven on this earth in today´s time’, it says on its homepage, adding that Lee ‘is creating God´s kingdom of heaven here on earth, exactly as he witnessed it in heaven’.

The female leader of a doomsday cult and three of her acolytes were arrested this year for allegedly holding some 400 followers captive in Fiji and subjecting them to violence and barbaric rituals.

Victims were hit hundreds of times in ceremonies known as ‘threshing floors’, defectors told South Korean media.

Shin Ok-ju, founder of the Grace Road Church, has gone on trial on charges of violence, child abuse, exploitation and incarceration, among others.

One of South the largest and best-known cults is Providence or Jesus Morning Star, also known by the acronym JMS — which matches the initials of its founder Jung Myung Seok.

He set it up in 1980 as a breakaway from the Unification Church, also known as the Moonies.

Jung was released from prison earlier this year after serving a 10-year sentence for the rape and sexual assault of four female followers.

He told them to have sex with him to purge themselves of sin.

Guwonpa, or ‘Salvation Sect‘, came to national attention when the Sewol ferry — whose operating company was run by its leader Yoo Byung-eun and his family — sank in 2014 with the loss of more than 300 lives, most of them children.

On the run from charges of corruption and negligence, Yoo’s body was found in a field, so badly decomposed that authorities were unable to determine the precise cause of death.

In 1987, 32 members of an apocalyptic cult called Odaeyang, meaning ‘five oceans’, were found dead at their headquarters in the southern city of Yongin in an apparent murder-suicide pact.

Among them was the cult’s leader Park Soon-Ja, who had been under pressure from her lenders over $17 million of debts and was under police investigation for embezzlement.

Police said Park’s two sons and a cult official strangled her and 28 others before killing themselves.

Related:

 

Cult leader jailed over rapes – Asean Plus | The Star Online

 

South Korean cult leader jailed for raping followers | The Japan

Times

 

Cult leader jailed in South Korea for raping eight female followers …

 

South Korean megachurch pastor sentenced to 15 years for raping …

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Judged on merit and nothing less


It’s official: The Yang di-Pertuan Agong  Sultan Muhammad V presenting the letter of appointment to Malanjum at
Istana Negara. Looking on is Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. —Bernama

Judicial diversity and meritocracy are inseparable in order to win the faith of society. The appointment of Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, a Sabah-born Kadazandusun, as the top judge is a first for a non-Malay Malaysian and is welcomed as a major step towards winning greater confidence in the Judiciary, CHELSEA L.Y. NG writes.

IT’S a fairy tale come true for some Malaysians banking on a better Judiciary grounded on merits when news of Tan Sri Richard Malanjum having been sworn in as the ninth Chief Justice of Malaysia started to trickle down to the media late Wednesday evening.

Just several hours before that, the witty Malanjum had brushed off talk of him being selected as the next top judge.

“Itu cerita dongeng (It’s a fairy tale),” he told reporters in Kuching before walking off quickly.

But by then there were already some pictures of him attending an alleged rehearsal session being circulated among a few privileged ones.

Well, going by some of the not-so-welcoming responses from those who thought that the position was reserved for only Malay judges, the initial hush-hush circumstances were understandable.

But we cannot really fault those who think the positions are reserved purely for Malays. If you have only been exposed to Chief Justices (CJ, top post) and Chief Judges of Malaya (CJM, top three) after 1994, then you might be forgiven for thinking that the posts are for Malaysians of Malay origin only (see lists of LPs and CJs).

In the last two decades, top posts had been taken by Malay judges but if we look further back, the situation was much different prior to 1994. There used to be a good mix of judges from different races at least for the CJM post, which was then known as the Chief Justice of Malaya (a No.2 post then and not to be confused with the current CJ post, which is a top post). The top judge was known as the Lord President (LP) then or Lord President of the Supreme Court in full.

The LP position was created after the abolition of appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in 1985.

Below the LP were the Chief Justices of the High Courts of Malaya and Borneo.

 

In 1994, the LP was renamed CJ when the Supreme Court reverted to the name of Federal Court, which was the name used prior to 1985 but with the Privy Council as the highest authority.

In 1994, Parliament amended the Federal Constitution and approved a reorganisation of the court system and significantly set up the Court of Appeal as the second highest court and renamed the highest court Federal Court (previously Supreme Court). After 1994, there was a new No.2 position created called the President of the Court of Appeal. The CJM hence moved to the third position.

For senior lawyer Datuk Roger Tan, judicial diversity is an essential element.

“It is pivotal in creating confidence in a multi-racial society. Diversity can be on the grounds of race, religion and gender.

“In Britain, they just had the first female President of the Supreme Court in hundreds of years,” said Tan.

Lawyer Fahri Azzat said there is nothing in the Constitution that demands that a Chief Justice, President of the Court of Appeal or the Chief Judge of Malaya must be of Malay heritage, or dictates that the racial composition of the Federal Court or even the Court of Appeal contain a majority of citizens of Malay heritage.

In fact, Article 123 of the Federal Constitution which deals with the qualifications to be a High Court judge and above provides the following:

A person is qualified for appointment und

er Article 122B as a judge of the Federal Court, as a judge of the Court of Appeal or as a judge of any of the High Courts if –

(a) he is a citizen; and

(b) for the 10 years preceding his appointment he has been an advocate of those courts or any of them or a member of the judicial and legal service of the Federation or of the legal service of a State, or sometimes one and sometimes another.

For Fahri, that a persistent racial pattern at the appellate courts continues in the Judiciary suggests that race is a more influential factor than abilities or merits when it comes to the appointment and promotion of a judge.

Fahri even wrote about it in 2010 on the LoyarBurok website about the racial composition of the Judiciary.

“Any litigator who is in the thick of litigation practice in our civil courts will acknowledge that at the level of top senior counsel, the composition is the opposite of the nation’s racial population.

“Where top senior legal counsel are concerned, the ratio of Malaysians of Indian heritage are highest as compared to those of Chinese heritage who come in second as compared to those of Malay heritage who have the lowest numbers. That is how I know it to be from experience and conversation,” Fahri wrote then.

However, on Malanjum’s appointment, Fahri has this to say: “I think it is a step or start in the right direction. Whether it closes the gap in terms of judicial diversity and meritocracy remains to be seen with subsequent appointments of both the top judges and the High Court judges.

“I think it will be the starting point for the public to renew its faith in the Judiciary but that again remains to be seen from their judgments, judicial statements and the Judiciary’s actions collectively.

“Just as a swallow does not a summer make, a few judicial appointments do not guarantee rejuvenation of the Judiciary,” he said, adding that these positive developments if seen through over the long term will help foster faith and trust in the Judiciary and the administration of the justice system as a whole.

Retired Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram said the appointment is definitely a welcome move and expected to improve the Judiciary.

“This is the first time we have a non-Malay being made a top judge. Prior to this we had non-Malay judges being appointed to the second highest positions. But that was before 1994.

“From the time of independence until then, no one had looked at the appointments on racial or religious angle. Only in recent times did people start to do so.”

He named a few prominent top judges then such as Tan Sri H.T. Ong, Tan Sri S.S. Gill and Tan Sri Gunn Chit Tuan.

“Richard’s appointment verifies the oneness of Malaysia. That there is only one Malaysia. That there is no East Malaysia or a West Malaysia,” said Sri Ram.

Sultan of Perak Sultan Nazrin Shah had in his special address at the book launch of Tun Arifin Zakaria last year mentioned a valuable quote by his father Sultan Azlan Shah, who was also a respectable Lord President.

“I quote, ‘The rules concerning the independence of the judiciary … are designed to guarantee that they will be free from extraneous pressures and independent of all authority, save that of the law. They are, therefore, essential for the preservation of the Rule of Law,” he said.

The Sultan hit the nail on the head. Justice and judges should be free from any extraneous pressures and everything has to be based on the merits of the law.

The Ruler had on the same occasion called on Federal Court and Court of Appeal judges to write dissenting judgments if they do not agree with the majority of the Bench.

“Sometimes, the brave dissenting voice is transformed into law. A classic case is that of Brown v. Board of Education 347 US 483 (1954) when the US Supreme Court gave weight to the spirit of Justice Harlan’s dissenting voice in Plessy v. Ferguson 163 US 537 (1896).

“As a result, and in a historic judgment, then-chief justice Warren held that racial segregation in public schools constituted a violation of the US constitutional guarantee of equality of rights,” he said.

The Sultan added that judges should be free to express reasons in their judgments as they thought fit, and in other words, for the Rule of Law to flourish, courts and their participants should be allowed to express a variety of ideas and principles.

In the case of Malanjum, some critics even brought up the point that he was not qualified to be made the Chief Justice because of his dissenting judgments in the case of Lina Joy and the use of the Allah word in the Bible.

In Lina Joy, she lost a six-year battle in 2007 to have the word Islam removed from her identity card after the Federal Court dismissed her appeal in a majority decision.

In his dissenting judgment, Malanjum said the department responsible for issuing identity cards should have just complied with Lina Joy’s request to remove the word from her IC. He accused the National Registration Depart­ment of abusing its powers.

“In my view, this is tantamount to unequal treatment under the law. She is entitled to an IC where the word Islam does not appear,” Malanjum said.

In the second case, the Federal Court was divided again with Malanjum dissenting and arguing that the Constitution must remain the supreme law of the land.

In his column, constitutional law expert Prof Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi had also written about Malanjum’s boldness in voicing out his stand and daring to dissent.

According to Dr Shad, in PP v Kok Wah Kuan in 2008, the Federal Court had in a majority judgment “mocked the doctrine of separation of powers as having no legal basis” in the Constitution.

The judgment went further to say that the power of the courts was limited to whatever Parliament bequeathed.

“Fortunately, there was a bold dissent from Malanjum, our Sabah and Sarawak Chief Judge, who insisted that separation of powers and judicial independence are firm pillars of our constitutional edifice.

“He rejected the view that ‘our courts have now become servile agents of a federal Act of Parliament and that the courts are now only to perform mechanically any command or bidding of a federal law’.

“Justice Malanjum was eminently correct on both scores. A Consti­tution is not mere words written on paper,” Dr Shad wrote in his column.

These words by the eminent professor were enough to back Malanjum as a strong guardian of the rule of law and is definitely fitting for the grand position of a Chief Justice.

Enough said, time will tell if we have taken the right path.

Related story:

Chinese projects in Malaysia may stay intact


 
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Newly-elected Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has decided to scrap the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore Railway project despite the huge losses. He also announced the overhaul of other big railway projects, including a Chinese company-led East Coast railway project. As a result, some are worried about the fate of Chinese-funded companies in Malaysia.

During the election, the style of governance that Mahathir-led Pakatan Harapan proposed was in contrast to many policies of the previous government. Since Mahathir was elected, there has been growing concern about the new policies. While Malaysia has brought in big Chinese-invested projects, people are also concerned about the new government’s attitude toward foreign funds.

To my knowledge, Mahathir has formed many consulting teams and task forces since his re-election, which shows his prudence in dealing with such affairs. The government will clarify core policies and strategy in the next few weeks.

Pakatan Harapan was the opposition before and during the election. Its attitude toward foreign capital, especially Chinese funds in Malaysia, was obviously not thorough enough. Its opposition to big projects was aimed at the large sums they involved, not the projects themselves. To be more specific, what the political alliance opposed was actually ex-prime minister Najib Razak’s improprieties when approving the projects. Other problems involved in this process can be addressed by talks.

In the first press conference after his swearing-in ceremony, Mahathir promised that reviewing Chinese-funded projects would not harm China-Malaysia relations, and said that the new government will support the Belt and Road initiative as usual.

But Malaysia’s new finance minister and minister of economic affairs both started overhauling the big projects that the former government had signed, and outsourcing government projects through direct bidding is no longer permitted, including railway projects. It shows that the new government wants to overhaul official projects, while private investment projects are not affected.

The new government’s re-examination of big projects shows its intention to win more bargaining chips for negotiations. Any party that wants to cooperate with the new government needs to be more patient to retain the contract. Malaysia’s further development is closely linked to other countries’ continued participation, and China is certainly included.

Although China hopes that the current projects will stay intact, the two countries might still strategically revise their contracts to satisfy both sides as politics in Malaysia has changed. Besides, abolishing a contract is bound to cause political and economic upheaval as the Malaysian people realize the importance of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore Railway and the East Coast railway projects. The new government will certainly evaluate the opinion in a prudent way.

The future of Chinese-funded enterprises in Malaysia may not change greatly. The previous discussion focused on big government projects, but neglected hundreds of Chinese-funded enterprises that have invested in Malaysia since the 1990s. Most of these firms operated under local laws and regulations. They purchased local materials and hired locals, and some even provided technology transfer and staff training.

They are model enterprises that aimed at developing the market in the long-term. This should have been given more publicity.

In the future, the Malaysian government will certainly welcome investment by foreign-funded enterprises that abide by the local laws, but will differ from practices in the past decades in terms of bidding and contract talks. Most importantly, all parties should believe in the principle that business is business, and win-win cooperation is the key to the issue. Malaysia will definitely let investors enjoy the dividends of its reform and development.

By Ling Tek Soon Source: Global Times – VIEWPOINT

The author is a research fellow with Institute of China Studies, University of Malaya. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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Malaysians hail the King for his consent on Tommy Thomas as AG


Video:

PETALING JAYA: The Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Muhammad V, has consented to the appointment of Tommy Thomas (pic) as the new Attorney-General (AG).

In a statement, the Comptroller of the Royal Household Datuk Wan Ahmad Dahlan Ab Aziz said the King, on the advice of the Prime Minister, has given the approval to the appointment of Thomas as the AG according to Article 145 (1) of the Federal Constitution.

The Agong, said Wan Ahmad, has also called on Malaysians to accept the appointment of the AG, adding it should not create conflict as every Malaysian should be treated fairly regardless of their race or religion.

“The appointment would still continue to uphold the special privileges of the Malays and bumiputra as well as Islam as the religion of the Federation,” said Wan Ahmad.

He said the Agong has also approved the termination of Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali as AG after taking into consideration the views of the Malay Rulers on three issues.

These issues are the appointment of the AG, the rights of the bumiputras, and the rule of the Council of Rulers as stated under Article 153 of the Federal Constitution.

“The King has also expressed his disappointment (dukacita) and worries on media reports of late that were inaccurate and negative in nature, which could threaten the peace and harmony in the nation.

“The King has the obligation to uphold the Federal Constitution and preserve the rights of the Malays and bumiputras, as well as to protect Islam,” he added.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, on May 14, announced that Apandi was told to go on leave and would be temporarily replaced by Solicitor-General Datuk Engku Nor Faizah Engku Atek.

The proposal to appoint Thomas as AG had sparked a disagreement with the King, but Dr Mahathir was adamant and submitted only Thomas’ name to the King.

However the Agong insisted on more than one name, according to sources close to the royalty.

Malaysians expressed their joy and gratitude to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Muhammad V, for giving his consent for Tommy Thomas to be appointed the new Attorney-General (AG).

On The Star Online Facebook page, Thomas’ announcement received 291 shares, and 2,100 likes within an hour of the news breaking early Tuesday morning.

John Doraisamy said Malaysia and Malaysians were moving in the right direction.

“Happy to be 1Malaysia without racism,” he posted.
“Thank you to His Majesty YDP Agong for your royal consent. Congratulations to the new AG!” he said.

Justin Tan said Malaysia had reached a new milestone with Thomas’ appointment.

“Everyone should be treated equally and fairly regardless of their race or religion.

“Hope this signifies a true Malaysian society based on merit that will push the country forward to becoming the next powerhouse in the region,” he said.

Meanwhile, Facebook user Rajasegaran Subramaniam called for the Federal Constitution to be made a compulsory subject in schools and universities due to the controversy surrounding Thomas’ appointment.

“It is pain in the eyes witnessing so called new Malaysia citizens commenting on sensitive issues without any ideas on what they are even commenting.

“(The) past two days was one hell of a rollercoaster ride because of ignorant comments from ‘new Malaysia’ citizens,” he said.

In a letter dated June 4, but released early Tuesday (June 5), the Comptroller of the Royal Household Datuk Wan Ahmad Dahlan Ab Aziz said the King, on the advice of the Prime Minister, has given the approval to the appointment of Thomas as the AG according to Article 145 (1) of the Federal Constitution.

The King, said Wan Ahmad, has also called on Malaysians to accept the appointment of the AG, adding it should not create conflict as every Malaysian should be treated fairly regardless of their race or religion.

“The appointment would still continue to uphold the special privileges of the Malays and bumiputera as well as Islam as the religion of the Federation,” said Wan Ahmad.  The Star
 Related: 

 

Experts: Nothing to bar Dr M from making Thomas the AG – Nation …

Call to reassess Penang hillside projects, councillor addresses full council meeting of MBPP


Council should not bow to development or political pressure, says city councilor, Khoo

 

‘Politicians should be ‘wakil rakyat’ and not ‘wakil pemaju’ – CAP legal advisor Meenakshi


A city councillor has called for the Penang Island City Council to impose a moratorium and reassess all development projects involving hill slopes in the wake of the deadly landslide on Oct 21.

THE Penang Island City Council (MBPP) has been urged to impose a moratorium on hill developments and reassess every hillside and hill slope development projects.

Khoo Salma Nasution said as a new councillor, she was surprised to learn that certain policies and guidelines were made at state level and then passed down to the council without discussion.

“As a body with the expertise and technical experience to handle physical development planning, the council should ensure its own rules are not compromised and should not bow to development pressure or political pressure just because Penang is a land-scarce state.

“The council is tasked with spearheading the city’s physical development according to the Town and Country Planning Act and the State Structure Plan 2020.

“The rules and guidelines must follow the Penang Structure Plan as well as minimum safety and environmental guidelines,” she said in her adjournment speech during the full council meeting at the City Hall yesterday.

Khoo urged the council to reaffirm all policies, processes, and guidelines to protect the hills.

“New planning rules for development projects, taking into account the public interest, environmental interest and the interest of affected stakeholders and neighbourhoods, need to be introduced as well,” she said.

Khoo said according to the State Structure Plan valid until 2020, development density was set at 15 housing units per acre (0.4ha) in a secondary corridor like Tanjung Bungah.

She said 30 units were allowed per acre in a primary corridor and 87 units per acre for transit-oriented development.

“The state government, however, has already raised the development density to 128 units per acre overall.

“When development is not planned according to the right principles, disaster is likely to happen,” she said.

MBPP mayor Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif declined to comment as she had just received a copy of Khoo’s speech.

“I will definitely discuss the matter at the next full council meeting,” she said.

Source: The Star by N. Trisha

Related Links: 

 Penang Forum-nominated councillor addresses full council meeting of MBPP

This is Khoo Salma’s full address (the Malay version below) yesterday: I
was nominated by Penang Forum to be the representative and the voice of
NGOs, including Penang Hills Watch, in the Penang Island City Council
from early this year. My predecessor Dr Lim Mah Hui served with the
council for six years.

 

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