Fighting corruption a decade later, Wars on graft widens


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Tricia Yeoh letters@thesundaily.com

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Wars on graft widens

Four officers nabbed for pocketing fees after altering passport applications

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

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

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

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

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

An internal audit exposed the ruse recently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four immigration officers held for allegedly pocketing RM1m for falsifying passports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Four policemen charged with corruption

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

V. Partiban represented all of the accused.

MACC DPP Amin Yaacub also appeared for the prosecution.

– Imran Hilmy newsdesk@thesundaily.com
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US-S.Korea must take blame for North’s nuclear move; provocation heightens insecurity, sabotages stability


North Korea’s Atomic Energy Institute on Wednesday claimed that it has reprocessed spent nuclear fuel rods removed from a graphite-moderated reactor in a written interview with Japan’s Kyodo News. It also disclosed that its Yongbyon nuclear facilities have produced uranium needed for nuclear armaments. At a time when Beijing and Seoul are in a tug of war on the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, Pyongyang has thrown a bombshell.

North Korea mothballed the Yongbyon reactor in 2007 under the Six-Party Talks accord, but began renovating it amid the confrontation with the US and South Korea in 2013. Kyodo’s report suggested that North Korea has resumed its reprocessing facilities and its nuclear reactor is in full swing.

This is a dilemma facing China, the US and South Korea. The choice of the latter two is simple. The more nuclear activities North Korea will carry out, the greater pressure they will impose on it. But their tactics are of no help in solving the problem.

Given the increasing risks of a military strike by the US and South Korea and subversion of the regime, Pyongyang seemingly has no other choice but to intensify its efforts in developing nuclear power. China seems to have the most options, but that has put the country in a predicament. Beijing has cooled down its relations with Pyongyang and imposed the toughest ever sanctions against it over the past several years.

Complaints from South Korea that China hasn’t pressured Pyongyang enough have often been heard. Seoul hopes Beijing and Pyongyang will openly turn against each other. It is even better for Seoul to see the North targets its nuclear weapons at China. Meanwhile, Pyongyang blames Beijing for taking the wrong side.

China should stay unwavering to pursue denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula. Meanwhile, it should hold firm to opposing any strategic military deployment by the US that will cause threats to China’s security under the excuse of dealing with the Peninsula situation. North Korea’s resumption of uranium production further complicates the Korean Peninsula situation. But currently, China should pay more attention to THAAD.

Pyongyang has paid the price for developing nuclear weapons, so should the US and South Korea for deploying THAAD. Any resolution by the UN Security Council to denounce North Korea and adopt new sanctions should be associated with the THAAD issue. The US and South Korea should take the blame if THAAD impairs the effectiveness of sanctions against the North. Nonetheless, Pyongyang shouldn’t feel relieved. It would rather be totally isolated from the international community before it gives up its nuclear ambition.

China objects to North Korea’s nuclear tests and war on the Peninsula. But once large-scale military conflicts break out, the North and South Korea will take the brunt. China doesn’t need to feel more anxious than them. Global Times

S. Korea-US provocation heightens DPRK’s insecurity, sabotages regional stability

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/vBCGw8iNpJc

Under the pressure of South Korea-US military drill and the widely disputed THAAD deployment, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) reportedly fired a ballistic missile early Wednesday, sending a strong signal that Washington and its allies are risking turning the region into a powder keg.

If confirmed, the missile launch would be a new violation of UN resolutions. However, the fact that it came two days after the South Korea-US drill simulating an all-out attack by the DPRK merits a closer look at its motivation.

Denounced as aggression and provocation by the DPRK, the two-week Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises will surely not make Seoul safer. Rather, it might compel Pyongyang to take even more reckless actions for the sake of its own security.

In fact, the United States and South Korea have been warned in advance by the north. Calling the South Korea-US exercises the “most undisguised physical measure and provocative action,” the DPRK has vowed to “foil all hostile acts and threat of aggression and provocation with the Korean-style nuclear deterrence.”

Within that context, the launch could be regarded as a tit-for-tat move of Pyongyang.

Washington and Seoul are playing a dangerous game. They are holding a wolf by the ears in the hope that their sabre-rattling would deter the DPRK. However, their plan dooms to be a wishful thinking, as muscle-flexing leads to nowhere but a more anxious, more agitating and thus more unpredictable Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, the launch, already the fourth missile fired by the DPRK after the announcement of THAAD’s deployment on July 8, could be interpreted as a protest against the planned installation of the system.

It also serves a reminder to policymakers in Seoul that by allowing the THAAD deployment, South Korea is putting the cart before the horse in their pursuit of national security, as the key to security lies in good neighborly and friendly relations with its neighbors, rather than a bunch of US-made missiles.

The increasingly complicated and stinging situation in East Asia needs to be cooled down before it is too late, and at this moment, what the region needs is cool heads instead of miscalculations. The ongoing trilateral meeting among Chinese, Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers offers a golden opportunity. – Xinhua

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China successfully launches world’s first quantum communication satellite ‘very exciting’ !


Combined photo shows China launching the world’s first quantum satellite on top of a Long March-2D rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, northwest China’s Gansu Province, Aug. 16, 2016. The world’s first quantum communication satellite, which China has launched, has been given the moniker “Micius,” after a fifth century B.C. Chinese scientist, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) announced Monday. (Xinhua/Jin Liwang)

WASHINGTON, Aug. 15 — China’s successful launch of the world’s first quantum satellite was “very exciting” and can help conduct experiments that may lead to “much more secure” quantum communications, a U.S. quantum expert said.

“The event is indeed very exciting and does carry global importance because this would be the first such experiment,” said Alexander Sergienko, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Boston University.

The satellite, Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS), lifted off from China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 1:40 a.m. Tuesday, local time.

Sergienko said the quantum communication race has been going on for the last 20 years since the initial demonstration of quantum key distribution link under Lake Geneva in 1995.

After that, metropolitan secure communication networks have been developed and demonstrated in Boston, Vienna, Beijing, and Tokyo, and many more examples of quantum metropolitan networks have been demonstrated in the last five years covering Canada, Italy, U.K. and Australia, he said.

“The race is now moving in the near space in order to cover longer distances between different metropolitan areas,” he said.

“I know there were plans to develop multiple point-by-point multi-city quantum communication segments to cover the distance between Shanghai and Beijing. A successful implementation of the satellite project would allow covering it in one step.”

Sergienko also predicted that quantum communication and cryptography will be first used to ensure the most important communication lines such as used by the government and by major business in their communication.

China said the 600-plus-kilogram QUESS, nicknamed “Micius,” is expected to circle the Earth once every 90 minutes after it enters a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 500 kilometers.

In its two-year mission, QUESS is designed to establish “hack-proof” quantum communications by transmitting uncrackable keys from space to the ground, and provide insights into the strangest phenomenon in quantum physics — quantum entanglement.

China launches first-ever quantum communication satellite

China launches the world’s first quantum satellite on top of a Long March-2D rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, northwest China’s Gansu Province, Aug. 16, 2016. The world’s first quantum communication satellite, which China is preparing to launch, has been given the moniker “Micius,” after a fifth century B.C. Chinese scientist, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) announced Monday. (Xinhua/Jin Liwang)

China successfully launched the world’s first quantum satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern Gobi Desert at 1:40 am on Tuesday.

In a cloud of thick smoke, the satellite, Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS), roared into the dark sky on top of a Long March-2D rocket.

The 600-plus-kilogram satellite will circle the Earth once every 90 minutes after it enters a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 500 kilometers.

It is nicknamed “Micius,” after a fifth century B.C. Chinese philosopher and scientist who has been credited as the first one in human history conducting optical experiments.

In its two-year mission, QUESS is designed to establish “hack-proof” quantum communications by transmitting uncrackable keys from space to the ground, and provide insights into the strangest phenomenon in quantum physics — quantum entanglement.

Quantum communication boasts ultra-high security as a quantum photon can neither be separated nor duplicated. It is hence impossible to wiretap, intercept or crack the information transmitted through it.

With the help of the new satellite, scientists will be able to test quantum key distribution between the satellite and ground stations, and conduct secure quantum communications between Beijing and Xinjiang’s Urumqi.

QUESS, as planned, will also beam entangled photons to two earth stations, 1,200 kilometers apart, in a move to test quantum entanglement over a greater distance, as well as test quantum teleportation between a ground station in Ali, Tibet, and itself.

“The newly-launched satellite marks a transition in China’s role — from a follower in classic information technology (IT) development to one of the leaders guiding future IT achievements,” said Pan Jianwei, chief scientist of QUESS project with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

The scientists now are expecting quantum communications to fundamentally change human development in the next two or three decades, as there are enormous prospects for applying the new generation of communication in fields like defense, military and finance. SPOOKY & ENTANGLED

Quantum physics is the study of the basic building blocks of the world at a scale smaller than atoms. These tiny particles behave in a way that could overturn assumptions of how the world works.

One of the strange properties of quantum physics is that a tiny particle acts as if it’s simultaneously in two locations — a phenomenon known as “superposition.” The noted interpretation is the thought experiment of Schrodinger’s cat — a scenario that presents a cat that may be simultaneously both alive and dead.

If that doesn’t sound strange enough, quantum physics has another phenomenon which is so confounded that Albert Einstein described as “spooky action at a distance” in 1948.

Scientists found that when two entangled particles are separated, one particle can somehow affect the action of the far-off twin at a speed faster than light.

Scientists liken it to two pieces of paper that are distant from each other: if you write on one, the other immediately shows your writing.

In the quantum entanglement theory, this bizarre connection can happen even when the two particles are separated by the galaxy.

By harnessing quantum entanglement, the quantum key technology is used in quantum communications, ruling out the possibility of wiretapping and perfectly securing the communication.

A quantum key is formed by a string of random numbers generated between two communicating users to encode information. Once intercepted or measured, the quantum state of the key will change, and the information being intercepted will self-destruct.

According to Pan, scientists also plan to test quantum key distribution between QUESS and ground stations in Austria. Italy, Germany and Canada, as they have expressed willingness to cooperate with China in future development of quantum satellite constellations, said Pan. LIFE CHANGING

With the development of quantum technology, quantum mechanics will change our lives in many ways. In addition to quantum communications, there are quantum computers that have also drawn attentions from scientists and governments worldwide.

Quantum computing could dwarf the processing power of today’s supercomputers.

In normal silicon computer chips, data is rendered in one of two states: 0 or 1. However, in quantum computers, data could exist in both states simultaneously, holding exponentially more information.

One analogy to explain the concept of quantum computing is that it is like being able to read all the books in a library at the same time, whereas conventional computing is like having to read them one after another.

Scientists say that a quantum computer will take just 0.01 second to deal with a problem that costs Tianhe-2, one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world, 100 years to solve.

Many, however, is viewing this superpower as a threat: if large-scale quantum computers are ever built, they will be able to crack all existing information encryption systems, creating an enormous security headache one day.

Therefore, quantum communications will be needed to act like a “shield,” protecting information from the “spear” of quantum computers, offering the new generation of cryptography that can be neither wiretapped nor decoded. GOING GLOBAL?

With the launch of QUESS, Chinese scientists now are having their eyes on a ground-to-satellite quantum communication system, which will enable global scale quantum communications.

In past experiments, quantum communications could only be achieved in a short range, as quantum information, in principle, could travel no more than 500 kilometers through optical fibers on the land due to the loss of photons in transmission, Pan explained.

Since photons carrying information barely get scattered or absorbed when travelling through space and Earth’s atmosphere, said Pan, transmitting photons between the satellite and ground stations will greatly broaden quantum communications’reach.

However, in quantum communications, an accurate transmission of photons between the “server” and the “receiver” is never easy to make, as the optic axis of the satellite must point precisely toward those of the telescopes in ground stations, said Zhu Zhencai, QUESS chief designer.

It requires an alignment system of the quantum satellite that is 10 times as accurate as that of an ordinary one and the detector on the ground can only catch one in every one million entangled photons fired, the scientist added.

What makes it much harder is that, at a speed of eight kilometers per second, the satellite flying over the earth could be continuously tracked by the ground station for merely a few minutes, scientists say.

“It will be like tossing a coin from a plane at 100,000 meters above the sea level exactly into the slot of a rotating piggy bank,” said Wang Jianyu, QUESS project’s chief commander.

Given the high sensitivity of QUESS, people could observe a match being lit on the moon from the Earth, Wang added.

After years of experimenting, Chinese scientists developed the world’ s first-ever quantum satellite without any available reference to previous projects. Now they are waiting to see QUESS’s performance in operation.

According to Pan, his team has planned to initiate new projects involving research on quantum control and light transmission in space station, as well as tests on quantum communications between satellites, all-time quantum communications and the application of quantum key network.

“If China is going to send more quantum communication satellites into orbit, we can expect a global network of quantum communications to be set up around 2030,” said Pan. – Xinhuanet

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Quantum satellite: China successfully launches its first

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Beware of meddling via soft power !


MEDDLING by foreign powers is an established phenomenon for as long as one can remember. They are not limited only to the Muslim countries and communities. For example, last year at the Seventh Summit of the Americas in Panama City, President Barack Obama indirectly admitted this when he publicly stated that the days of US interference in the affairs of Latin America were coming to an end. Reportedly, he said, “the days in which our agenda in this hemisphere presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past”. Some traced this to as far back as the conquest of the Americas by the Europeans in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries especially after its so-called “discovery” by Columbus. Perhaps, the major difference is that there are many more Latin American leaders and populace who are more “resolute” than their Muslim counterparts in resisting any attempt to meddle.

More generally “colonialism” is one form of meddling that many parts of the world have experienced, and are still suffering from it. Malaysia is no exception, no denying that there are some benefits to be learnt from the process. But where it hits the “mind” is where it is more toxic to the extent that it can debilitate. Even long after achieving independence the “colonised” mindsets are still clearly felt whether at the level of the leadership or the population at large. The post-Merdeka generations are more vulnerable when they are shut out from the larger discourse affecting the future of the nation, ironically due to yet another form of “meddling” that left them disenfranchised. In the days of social media, the impact of this can be phenomenal, what with other contending parties that are more than eager to attract their attention, as we have seen recently.

Social media is an excellent platform for yet another form of meddling – soft power. Coined a few years ago, soft power describes “the ability to attract and co-opt using persuasion (mind-twisting) rather than by coercion, notably by bullying and arm-twisting (hard power). To the disenfranchised, soft power is said to be very appealing especially when “credibility is the scarcest resource”, as explained by Joseph Nye, who introduces the concept. In fact more recently, the term has expanded to include “changing and influencing social and public opinion through relatively less transparent channels and lobbying through powerful political and non-political organisations.”

Of the six factors that are often associated with enhancing soft power, education and culture seem to be pivotal. In other words, meddling can be carried out discreetly using these two dimensions. Indeed, Nye did suggest how higher education leaders might enhance American soft power by increasing international student and cultural exchange programmes. Viewed this way, soft power is a very subtle extension of the colonial process without even realising it. A case in point is when in 2007 the Rand Corporation in the US developed a “road map” for the construction of moderate Muslim networks and institutions “that the US government and its allies need, but thus far have failed, to develop clear criteria for partnerships with authentic moderates”. It therefore proposes “the building of moderate Muslim networks an explicit goal of US government programmes”.

More explicitly, it listed who the “moderates” are to be targeted according to priority, namely: liberal and secular Muslim academics and intellectuals, young moderate religious scholars, community activists, women’s groups engaged in gender equality campaigns, and finally moderate journalists and writers. It argued that “the US should ensure visibility and platforms for these individuals.” For example, to ensure that individuals from these groups are “included in congressional visits, making them better known to policymakers and helping to maintain US support and resources for the public diplomacy effort.” If these sound like “meddling”, it is because it is one – effectively disguised as “soft power”. It is without doubt, yet another attempt among many to continuously interfere and manipulate the situation from the perspective of the authors and the sponsoring institution. Despite this it is very sad if Muslims are oblivious to the sleight of hand, and succumb to the form of endless meddling. Only to realise that it causes more confusion and divisiveness among the community.

In the days ahead before Aug 31, it is incumbent upon us to deeply ponder what Merdeka means beyond the routine parade and march-past, flag-raising ceremony and singing the national anthem.

By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, theSundaily

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

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THAAD will not protect ROK but cripples UN unity on NK nukes; Sino-US ties should surmount saber-rattling


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Public opinion in the Republic of Korea is divided over whether the deployment of the United States’ Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system is in the national interest.

Many of those in their 20s, 30s or 40s disagree with the decision. And anti-THAAD lawmakers have demanded an open debate in the National Assembly to discuss whether the THAAD is really in the ROK’s interests militarily, diplomatically and economically.

THAAD is incapable of defending against the potential missile threat from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as the DPRK’s missiles travel at a lower altitude than those THAAD is designed to intercept. Even if that was not the case, one THAAD battery would not be able to provide protection against all the DPRK missiles. The capital Seoul and its adjacent metropolitan area, the country’s most populous regions, are even outside the protection range of THAAD.

However, the system’s X-band radar has a range of at least 2,000 km, which is the real reason the United States wants it deployed in the ROK as it will be able to snoop deep into Chinese and Russian territories.

Seoul claims that it will adopt the radar with a detectable range of 600-800 km, but the mode change can be made at any time in accordance with the needs of the US military that will operate the THAAD battery in the ROK.

If THAAD is deployed, it will sour the ROK’s relations with China and Russia, trigger an arms race and damage trade. It will make it difficult for the country to seek cooperation from China and Russia in denuclearizing the peninsula.

Seoul should heed the voices saying the only way to denuclearize the peninsula is through peace talks and changing the armistice treaty after the 1950-53 Korean War into a peace treaty. – China Daily

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 THAAD cripples UN unity on NK nukes

The UN Security Council failed to agree on a US-drafted statement that condemns North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launch on Tuesday, because China demanded the statement oppose any provocative moves that take advantage of North Korea’s nuclear threat and missile project to enable a deployment of anti-missile systems in Northeast Asia.

China’s proposition is aimed at the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system that will be stationed by the US in South Korea. Since the US and South Korea announced the plan, the UN Security Council has failed twice to reach agreement over North Korean missile launches because of the major split between China and the US.

The planned deployment is adding a new challenge to the vulnerable geopolitical landscape of Northeast Asia. The international collaboration against North Korea’s nuclear project has been crippled. A degenerative aura of the Cold War is emanating from the US-Japan-South Korea alliance.

China does not have a motive to encourage North Korea to develop nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles, because at the cost of its ties with the North, it has been a backer of the UN Security Council’s sanctions against it. However, the US and South Korea went too far and made use of North Korea’s nuclear threat to deploy THAAD, which will cause great harm to China’s national security. Given China’s cooperation in sanctioning North Korea, it is nothing but a stab in the back.

North Korea’s nuclear ambition was primarily triggered by long-standing military pressures imposed by South Korea and the US. The escalating pressures have met bolder nuclear projects. China being a well-intentioned and responsible mediator has been paid back by a threatening advanced military system.

The US and South Korea are strongly convinced that they are absolutely right in this case, and any disagreement is totally wrong. The narrow-mindedness renders all proposals fruitless and futile.

The Korean Peninsula is intertwined with too many complications and concerns. The deployment of THAAD is a selfish and reckless move that will break the fragile balance with terrible outcomes: There will be a huge setback in the Sino-South Korean relationship; the susceptible Sino-US collaboration over Northeast Asia will collapse – all will result in a reconfiguration of each stakeholder’s policy on the region.

Although unwilling to go to war, all players in the big game should reflect on their policies as growing tensions have turned them more defensive rather than open.

The major-power rivalry between China and the US is behind many disputes in East Asia. Beijing and Washington seem to have a tacit understanding that their rivalry won’t explode into a physical conflict. However, some countries cannot look at the big picture, and are eager to pick sides, but they will only find that they are cannon fodder.

China and the US are exchanging blows over THAAD, but they won’t get into a real fight. However, if South Korea leaps headlong into this round of games and becomes a US agent, it will put itself in the middle of a new crisis.

South Korea is a confused player in the big game. It might eventually find out that THAAD will not bring about what it really expects.- Global Times

Sino-US ties should surmount saber-rattling

US naval ship visits Qingdao after disputed South China Sea ruling

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/wkOwZwuDOyg

US naval ship visits Qingdao after disputed South China Sea ruling

  A US Navy guided missile destroyer has arrived in the northern Chinese port of Qingdao. This is in the first visit by an American warship to China, after China refused to accept an arbitration ruling on the South China Sea dispute.US Navy guided missile destroyer the USS Benfold arrived in the northern Chinese port of Qingdao on Monday, marking the first visit by a US military ship to China since the South China Sea arbitration. This visit is believed to be a signal and an opportunity for both countries to ease tensions between them.

Before the arbitration award was announced, Washington deployed two aircraft carriers in and around the South China Sea, an obvious move to flex their muscles, pile pressure on China and encourage its allies. China responded in kind with a large military drill in the region and a routine combat patrol. Both countries have engaged with each other in a fierce tug of war.

This is not the whole picture of Sino-US relations, not even their military relationship. Not long ago, the US kept its invitation for China to participate in its Rim of the Pacific military exercise, which is mainly attended by its allies.

The Chinese shouldn’t always push the USS Larson’s provocations in the South China Sea into the limelight, nor can they easily turn over a new leaf with the US as the USS Benfold came in peace. We shouldn’t be tricked by a single gesture from Washington. Both China and the US must admit that the undefined Sino-US ties will continue being shaped in the future.

China and the US are exercising more precautions against each other, and they should get used to the new developments, such as a limited arms race, and not having to take the other’s defensive actions as unacceptable.

Throughout the history of human civilization, China and the US have engaged in the most peaceful rivalry between an emerging power and an established power. The Chinese should know as a dominant powerhouse, the US is relatively rational, and has not opted for harsh gambits. Washington also admits that China is a rational and careful emerging power, and pays enough respect to US national interests.

However, both China and the US still feel their own national security is being challenged by each other. Frankly speaking, China feels more insecure than the US. The US doesn’t have to overreact as for a long time to come, China won’t be powerful enough to launch a showdown against the US.

China should speed up its military modernization and narrow the gap with the US in military strength. The priority should be an increase in strategic military deterrence. The US shouldn’t see this as a hostile move. It must know that it cannot sustain an overwhelming military advantage over other countries forever. A strategic balance is essential to world peace in the nuclear age.

China has no plan to dominate Asia with its military prowess. What is happening in the East and South China Seas are simply territorial disputes, not a prelude for China to overturn the current world order.

China and the US should nurture a strong awareness of risk control and strategic trust to ensure the incessant frictions won’t become a real conflict.

Saber-rattling remarks do not mean both sides are ready for a war. Both sides must strive to avoid a military showdown. Whether they like it or not, they should respect the other’s core national interests. – Global Times

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South Koreans protest US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile deployment


https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/knkmDTsGTYA

  • South Koreans protest US missile deployment
  • People from Seongju county hold the national flags of South Korea and banners to protest against the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), during a rally in Seoul, capital of South Korea, on July 21, 2016. More than 2,000 people from Seongju county, where one THAAD battery will be deployed, gathered at a square in Seoul for a rally on Thursday, to protest against the deployment of THAAD. (Xinhua/Yao Qilin)


    South Koreans protest US missile deployment

  • South Koreans protest US missile deployment. Thousands of South Koreans from Seongju county gathered in Seoul to protest against the government’s decision to deploy a U.S.-built THAAD missile defense unit in their home town. People from Seongju county hold the national flags of South Korea and banners…

“Stop the deployment! NO THAAD! NO THAAD! NO THAAD!” Protesters said.

“The way that the government made the decision completely on their own, without talking to residents first, is completely wrong. We are here to express the people’s anger living in Seongju,” Protest organiser Seok Hyeon-Cheol said.

“The missile deployment site is right in the middle of a city that has around 20,000 people. I can see it when I open the door of my house, the door of my house! And I can see it from my living room. That is why we strongly oppose the THAAD deployment. We oppose it for our children, and their children — for the future of our county, for our health, and our right to live,” Protester form Seongju County Kim An-Su said.

The protest follows a raucous standoff last week between residents and the country’s prime minister, Hwang Kyo-ahn, who was pelted with eggs and plastic bottles and trapped inside a bus for several hours when he visited the county to explain his decision to deploy the missile system there.

South Korea’s President Park Geun Hye has called for people to support the government’s plans. She said the move was “inevitable” because of a growing threat from the DPRK. South Korea’s defense ministry says the country’s THAAD missile system will become operational before the end of 2017.

A senior official of Seongju county (2nd L, front) attends a rally to protest against the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in Seoul, capital of South Korea, on July 21, 2016. More than 2,000 people from Seongju county, where one THAAD battery will be deployed, gathered at a square in Seoul for a rally on Thursday, to protest against the deployment of THAAD. (Xinhua/Yao Qilin)

People from Seongju county hold the national flags of South Korea and banners to protest against the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), during a rally in Seoul, capital of South Korea, on July 21, 2016.

People from Seongju county hold the national flags of South Korea and banners to protest against the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), during a rally in Seoul, capital of South Korea, on July 21, 2016. (Xinhua/Yao Qilin)

People from Seongju county hold banners to protest against the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), during a rally in Seoul, capital of South Korea, on July 21, 2016. More than 2,000 people from Seongju county, where one THAAD battery will be deployed, gathered at a square in Seoul for a rally on Thursday, to protest against the deployment of THAAD. (Xinhua/Yao Qilin)

HAAD poses real threat to security of China

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/rhlxr6BRv4E

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the US Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency. [Photo/Agencies]

What has historically been ours is ours. Even if others say it is not. That is why, annoying as it is, the Philippines-initiated South China Sea arbitration is actually not worth the limelight it is being given.

It is time for Beijing to get down to real, serious business. It has bigger issues to attend to, the most imperative of which is the anti-missile system being deployed on its doorsteps. Because, while it was coping with the worthless arbitral award from The Hague, Washington and Seoul finalized their plan for the deployment of the US’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system in the Republic of Korea.

The arbitral ruling, which is null and non-executable, will have little effect on China’s interests and security in the South China Sea. But not THAAD, which is a clear, present, substantive threat to China’s security interests.

The installment of the US system in the ROK should be of far greater concern to Beijing, and warrants a far stronger reaction. Or should we say retaliation?

The ROK has legitimate security concerns, especially with Pyongyang constantly threatening nuclear bombing. With that in mind, Beijing has been adamant about de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and worked closely with Seoul and Washington in implementing and upgrading United Nations sanctions, and appealed tirelessly for restarting the Six-Party Talks.

But Seoul has brushed aside Beijing’s security interests while pursuing those of its own.

Washington and Seoul did claim that THAAD would be focused “solely” on nuclear/missile threats from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and would not be directed toward any third-party nation. But THAAD far exceeds such a need. Besides the far more credible threat from Pyongyang’s artillery, short-range and lower-altitude missiles is simply beyond the system’s reach.

While it will deliver a limited security guarantee to the ROK, THAAD’s X-band radar will substantially compromise the security interests of China and Russia, no matter how the United States shrouds its purpose.

Yet having made such a beggar-thy-neighbor choice, Seoul has in effect turned its back on China. By hosting THAAD, it has presented itself as Washington’s cat’s-paw in the latter’s strategic containment of China. All rhetoric about friendship is meaningless lip service with the deployment of THAAD.

Beijing must review and readjust its Korean Peninsula strategies in accordance with the latest threat from the peninsula, including its ROK policies.

That does not mean forsaking its commitment to de-nuclearization, or UN resolutions. But Beijing must concentrate more on safeguarding its own interests, both immediate and long-term.

Source: China Daily Updated: 2016-07-15

China can counter THAAD deployment

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/QTVgIJT1DaY

The US and South Korea on Friday announced their decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system on the Korean Peninsula.

Apart from monitoring missiles from North Korea, THAAD could expand South Korea’s surveillance range to China and Russia and pose serious threat to the two countries.

Though South Korea claims it can reduce the surveillance range, the country cannot make the call as the system will be controlled by US forces in South Korea, and such cheap promises mean nothing in international politics.

We recommend China to take the following countermeasures.

China should cut off economic ties with companies involved with the system and ban their products from entering the Chinese market.

It could also implement sanctions on politicians who advocated the deployment, ban their entry into China as well as their family business.

In addition, the Chinese military could come up with a solution that minimizes the threat posed by the system, such as technical disturbances and targeting missiles toward the THAAD system.

Meanwhile, China should also re-evaluate the long-term impact in Northeast Asia of the sanctions on North Korea, concerning the link between the sanctions and the imbalance after the THAAD system is deployed.

China can also consider the possibility of joint actions with Russia with countermeasures.

The deployment of THAAD will surely have a long-term and significant influence. South Korea will be further tied by its alliance with the US and lose more independence in national strategy.

North Korea’s nuclear issue has further complicated the situation on the Korean Peninsula, but the country’s possession of nuclear weapons also results from outside factors.

The biggest problem of the peninsula’s messy situation lies in US’ Cold-War strategy in Northeast Asia, and its mind-set of balancing China in the region. Neither Pyongyang nor Seoul could make their own decisions independently, as the region’s stability and development are highly related to China and the US.

The whole picture of the situation on the Korean Peninsula could not been seen merely from the view of Pyongyang and Seoul. China’s relationship with North Korea has already been affected, and ties with South Korea are unlikely to remain untouched.

China is experiencing the pains of growing up. We have to accept the status quo of “being caught in the middle.”

China should neither be too harsh on itself, nor be self-indulgent. Being true to itself, China will fear no challenges

Source: Global Times Published: 2016-7-9

Building more homes, the only long term-way to bring house prices down


Building more homes may be one of the most practical ways to bring prices down

 

WHILE flipping through a business magazine, I saw an interesting chart illustrating the average household size of various countries including Malaysia.

At one glance, our number of 4.4 people per household is among the highest in the world, even in the Asia Pacific region with many developing countries.

We are far behind compared to developed nations such as United Kingdom and Australia, which have 2.3 and 2.6 people per household respectively. Our number is also higher than two nations with high population in our region, China and Indonesia, which recorded 3 and 3.9 people for their average household size respectively.

What do these numbers tell us? Other than giving us information on our demographic structure, it also offers an important insight which could address the issue of home prices in our country.

The Governor of the Bank of England (BoE) Mark Carney once said, the only long-term way to effectively bring home prices down is to build more homes. This may be one of the most practical ways for us to address the issue too.

According to National Property Information Centre(NAPIC), we had 4.9 million homes in the fourth quarter of 2015. As NAPIC does not track rural homes, we assume that only urbanites were taken into account in the survey. This accounts for about 70% of our 31 million population or 21.7 million people. Therefore, on average, there is about4.4 people per household in the urban areas of our country.

The above figure is a poorer ratio than Australia in 1927. If we are to match the same ratio as Australia today, we need 8.3 million houses instead of 4.9 million houses. It means we need additional 3.4 million houses to meet the standard in Australia.

With our current rate of housing production, which is about 70,000 new units launched a year according to NAPIC, we need 48 years to build 3.4 million homes, and it would still be a long distance for us to catch up with UK and Australia, given the rapid growth of population and urbanisation in our country.

Our Statistics Department estimates that our population will reach 38.5 million by year 2040. If we maintain the ratio of 70% urban population by then, we would need another 5.5 million houses to reach the ratio of 2.6 people per household in 2040. This literally means we need to build 230,000 houses per year for the coming 24 years!

Basic economic principle says, when demand is higher than supply, prices will go up. And when supply exceeds demand, prices will go down. Equilibrium is met when demand equals supply.

This is well reflected in the world oil market. From 2010 until early 2014, oil prices had been fairly stable at around US$110 per barrel. However, since mid-2014, prices have dropped by more than half due to a surge in production and a drop in demand in many countries.

United States production has nearly doubled over the last few years. Saudi, Nigerian and Algerian oil that once was sold in the United States have to compete for Asian markets, and the producers are forced to drop prices. Canadian and Iraqi oil production and exports are rising every year. Russians also manage to keep pumping at record levels. All these contribute to the oil prices which are hovering around $50 per barrel today.

It works the same in the real estate market. Imagine if we are having 8.3 million houses today instead of 4.9 million, our house prices would be much more affordable due to sufficient supply.

The key factor here is, we need more houses, especially affordable homes. The relevant authorities need to streamline the delivery system to encourage the number of homes built every year. Government and various local authorities should also pool resources together in filling the gap by speeding up approval process, and building more affordable homes.

Rick Jacobus, an expert in affordable homeownership in United States shares his view in his article “Why we must build?”– the answer for hot-market metro areas is simply to build. Build more. Build now. Build anywhere. Even when we build high-end housing for the rich it adds to the overall supply and pushes rents down.

I particularly like a quote in his article, “We can’t build our way out of the housing crisis but we won’t get out without building.”

It is an interesting point for us to ponder when it comes to the challenge of housing the nation in our country, especially the need for affordable homes.

 By A;an Tong

Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He was the World President of FIABCI International for 2005/2006 and awarded the Property Man of the Year 2010 at FIABCI Malaysia Property Award. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, email feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.

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