Saturday, April 17, 2010

Three Noble Sons of Abraham in KKB

Anwar Ibrahim, Khalid Ibrahim and Zaid Ibrahim in KKB on Nomination Day (Malaysiakini)

Admittedly, I have a big chip on my shoulder about Abraham who ushered in the age of Book Religions and patriarchy.
Yet there is no disputing that Abraham was truly a monumental figure and a very great man whose impact on human destiny continues to be felt.

In Arabic, the name Abraham is rendered Ibrahim. I've long thought it fascinating that so many people I admire in this country carry the name "Ibrahim. " Indeed, it seems like much more than mere coincidence that we are seeing three illustrious Sons of Abraham gathered this morning in the sweet township of Kuala Kubu Bharu to launch the by-election campaign for Ulu Selangor (P94).

Other illustrious children of Abraham I admire and love include dancer-choreographer Ramli Ibrahim; Aljazeera anchorwoman Fauziah Ibrahim; Haris Ibrahim, human rights activist-blogger and founder of the Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia movement; Ismail Ibrahim aka Admiral Tojo (among the most enlightened humans I know and a good friend of RPK to boot); Singapore's first Attorney-General Ahmad Ibrahim; and something I just stumbled upon a minute ago, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation of Africa which hands out an award called The Ibrahim Prize for excellence in governance.

May the three illustrious Sons of Abraham gathered in Kuala Kubu Bharu today - especially the one named Zaid - overcome all obstacles and be victorious beyond all expectations. Interestingly, Wikipedia informs us that "Zaid, Zeid, Zeyd, Seid, Jayed, Zayed, Zaeed or Seyd is an Arabic name, meaning "abundance", "growth" or one who progresses and makes other people progress." That's really quite meaningful, isn't it?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Altantuya's Ghost Re-Emerges in Paris

Malaysia's Submarine Scandal Erupts in France

Written by John Berthelsen
Friday, 16 April 2010

Murky arms deal linked to international pattern of kickbacks

A potentially explosive scandal in Malaysia over the billion-dollar purchase of French submarines, a deal engineered by then-Defense Minister Najib Tun Razak, has broken out of the domestic arena with the filing of a request to investigate bribery and kickbacks from the deal in a Paris court.

Although the case has been contained for eight years in the cozy confines of Malaysia's courts and parliament, which are dominated by the ruling National Coalition, French lawyers William Bourdon, Renaud Semerdjian and Joseph Breham put an end to that when they filed it with Parisian prosecutors on behalf of the Malaysian human rights organization Suaram, which supports good-government causes.

Judges in the Paris Prosecution Office have been probing a wide range of corruption charges involving similar submarine sales and the possibility of bribery and kickbacks to top officials in France, Pakistan and other countries. The Malaysian piece of the puzzle was added in two filings, on Dec. 4, 2009 and Feb. 23 this year.

For two years, Parisian prosecutors, led by investigating judges Francoise Besset Francoise Besset and Jean-Christophe Hullin, have been gingerly investigating allegations involving senior French political figures and the sales of submarines and other weaponry to governments all over the world. French news reports have said the prosecutors have backed away from some of the most serious charges out of concern for the political fallout.

The allegations relate to one of France's biggest defense conglomerates, the state-owned shipbuilder DCN, which merged with the French electronics company Thales in 2005 to become a dominant force in the European defense industry. DCN's subsidiary Armaris is the manufacturer of Scorpene-class diesel submarines sold to India, Pakistan and Malaysia among other countries. All of the contracts, according to the lawyers acting for Suaram, a Malaysian human rights NGO, are said to be suspect.

With Najib having moved on from the defense portfolio he held when the deal was put together in 2002 to become prime minister and head of the country's largest political party, the mess has the potential to become a major liability for the government and the United Malays National Organisation. Given the power of UMNO, it is unlikely the scandal would ever get a complete airing in a Malaysian court, which is presumably why Suaram reached out to French prosecutors.

"The filings are very recent and have so far prompted a preliminary police inquiry on the financial aspects of the deal," said a Paris-based source familiary with France's defense establishment. "There isn't a formal investigation yet. The investigation will most likely use documents seized at DCN in the course of another investigation, focusing on bribes paid by DCN in Pakistan."

Vasset said police have confined their inquiry to bribery allegations so far and have not looked into the 2006 murder of a Mongolian woman in Malaysia who was a translator on the deal for Najib and his friend, Abdul Razak Baginda, during a visit to Paris.

There have been numerous deaths involving DCN defense sales in Taiwan and Pakistan. Prosecutors are suspicious that 11 French submarine engineers who were murdered in a 2002 bomb blast in Karachi – first thought to have been the work of Al Qaeda – were actually killed in retaliation for the fact that the French had reneged on millions of dollars in kickbacks to Pakistani military officers.

The Malaysian allegations revolve around the payment of €114 million to a Malaysia-based company called Perimekar, for support services surrounding the sale of the submarines. Perimekar was wholly owned by another company, KS Ombak Laut Sdn Bhd, which in turn was controlled by Najib's best friend, Razak Baginda, whose wife Mazalinda, a lawyer and former magistrate, was the principal shareholder, according to the French lawyers.

"Over the past years, serious cases have been investigated in France by judges involving DCN," lawyer Renaud Semerdjian told Asia Sentinel in a telephone interview. "This is not the first case of this kind that is being investigated. There are others in Pakistan and there are some issues about India. To a certain extent, every time weapons of any kind have been provided, suspicion of violation of the law may be very high."

As defense minister from 2000 to 2008, Najib commissioned a huge military buildup to upgrade Malaysia's armed forces, including two submarines from Armaris and the lease of a third, a retired French Navy Agosta-class boat. There were also Sukhoi supersonic fighter jets from Russia and millions of dollars spent on coastal patrol boats. All have come under suspicion by opposition leaders in Malaysia's parliament but UMNO has stifled any investigation. Asked personally about the cases, Najib has responded angrily and refused to reply.

[Read the rest here.]

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The dreadful Umno sindrome

What exactly is this fatal disease called the dreadful Umno sindrome (sic)? Is it contagious? How do we protect our children from it?

First the bad news: none of us is free from infection, because the dreadful Umno sindrome virus has been an integral part of the human gene pool for literally thousands of generations. Indeed, we may well have inherited it from our Makers, the Anunnaki “creator gods” who, according to recent interpretations of the Sumerian clay tablets, colonized the earth several hundred millennia ago. Of course, the disease wasn’t known as “the dreadful Umno sindrome” back then…

Back then it wasn’t even recognized as a disease.

Back then it was regarded as a survival program. It went by many other names: for instance, the competitive urge, the will to dominate, insatiable greed for power, or Us versus Them.

Today the disease manifests in many facets of human behavior: Domination and Submission – Master and Slave – Predator and Prey.

Deliberately maintaining a vast pool of subordinate humans to power the relentless juggernaut of illusory progress is another symptom of the dreadful Umno sindrome.

Those at the top of the food chain feed vampire-like off the suffering of the semi-conscious masses. Generation after generation. Stealing energy from a mentally shackled human population - unable to generate their own, devoid of creativity and totally incapable of originality.

It is undoubtedly a virulent form of parasitism. Leeches, Inc. Bloodsuckers & Tapeworms, advocates & solicitors. The dreadful Umno sindrome creates a shadowy, unwholesome power structure founded on deceit, hypocrisy, and violence.

There is a negative aspect of individuation which makes each of us unique – but at the same time isolates and traps us within our cultural, linguistic, and conceptual cocoons - or coconut shells, if you happen to be a local. In effect, the “skin-encapsulated ego” articulated by Alan Watts; the narrowest and most limited definition of Self. Everything outside my skin is not me – and therefore whatever I do to it or however I relate to it doesn’t impact upon me... so who gives a fuck?

The artificial boundary of skin is subsequently extended to include those of similar color - and whose manner of speech and daily behavior is most akin to our own.

Individuals with the strongest egos are the ones most susceptible to the dreadful Umno sindrome. Many rise to political prominence either by choosing to incarnate through royal bloodlines – or by brutally and ruthlessly seizing power. Thus was established the template of lord-and-ladyship, the habitual exercise of unquestionable power over others – at first by brute force, later via mass mind control.

Under the nefarious influence of the dreadful Umno sindrome, ordinary folks yearn to acquire the superficial trappings of power – big houses, big cars (the bigger the better), security guards, servants, personal cosmeticians and public relations consultants. They begin leading hypocritical, schizophrenic lives wherein the divide between their private and public personae eventually turns them into Dr Jekylls and Mr Hydes (or Smeagols and Gollums).

In effect, their public selves will reflexively deny whatever their private selves crave.

This perpetual conflict between inner and outer selves projects itself outwardly into a greater duality wherein the Devil is pitted against God in eternal competition. In Arabic and Hebrew the word shaitan means “opponent.”

Satan is whomsoever you’re competing or warring with.

Ultimately, the only enemy you face is your own dark side.

And now for the good news: the dreadful Umno syndrome is really just an atavistic, outdated survival program that can quite easily be deleted or uninstalled from our neural circuitry and deep psyches.

Indeed, detecting this viral program within our own operating systems and consciously deactivating it is the only way humanity will finally be free from its compelling dictates.

We’ve heard it said that people get the government they deserve. If you examine all the negative traits in a political entity like Umno and then take a long, honest look at the hidden agendas that drive us – you’ll see that the potential to be arrogant, greedy, deceitful, hypocritical, envious, devious, acquisitive, exploitative, and totally self-centered is actually latent in each of us.

That’s why it’s so easy to fear and loathe Umno – because it unabashedly embodies all the bad habits and shortcomings we detest in ourselves. Even if we succeed in reducing Umno to a puny, rapidly fading political opposition, we are still in danger of succumbing to the cancerous effects of the dreadful Umno sindrome virus hardwired in our DNA over countless generations.

So please take heed, ladies and gentlemen. If you wish to see honesty and openness in government, the only way is to become honest and open ourselves.

If you insist that your leaders be accountable and transparent, make sure that you yourself are equally accountable and transparent.

If you detest bribery, coercion and the use of crude force in modifying public behavior – then you must ensure that you yourself transcend the urge to manipulate others by corrupting or threatening them.

If you’re tired of being treated like a retarded child by the authorities, then quit treating your own retarded child like a retarded child. Instead, acknowledge that he or she is wired differently, that’s all, and cease to project your expectations on others.

This is how we can free ourselves from the dreadful Umno sindrome without having to poke our nose into politics.

Nevertheless, given an opportunity to vote, use that prerogative wisely against all known carriers of the dreadful Umno sindrome by kicking out the irredeemably rotten Barisan Nazional.

Let’s celebrate the dawn of a new era of enlightenment, compassion and wisdom in our public as well as private lives!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Zaid Ibrahim (courtesy of The Nut Graph)

On 18 March 2009 Zaid Ibrahim addressed the Rotary Club of Kuala Lumpur. His clear-headed, no-punches-pulled speech greatly impressed me and deserves to be revisited - particularly now that Zaid is poised to become the new MP for Ulu Selangor...

"If truth be told, Najib can't be PM"

Zaid Ibrahim | March 18, 09 1:51pm

Full text of former law minister Zaid Ibrahim's hard-hitting speech at the Royal Rotary Club of Kuala Lumpur on 18 March 2009.

This is the second time I have been invited to address a Rotary Club. Thank you for the honour. Given the times we live in, perhaps it might be appropriate for me to speak about the leadership transition that has been foisted upon us Malaysians.

I say ‘foisted’ because neither me nor anyone in this room had any role or say in the choice of the person who will lead Malaysia next. We were mere bystanders in a political chess game. And yet the transition is a subject of great consequence to the nation, one I would say is of great national interest.

Leadership is definitive; the individual who assumes the mantle of leadership of this nation, whomever that may be, is one who for better or worse will leave his mark on us. His will be the hand who guides us to greater success, or possibly gut-wrenching disaster.

Save for the dawn of Merdeka, never in the history of this country has the choice of prime minister been so crucial: Malaysia is in crisis. We are facing tremendous economic challenges with unavoidably harsh socio-political consequences. Our much undermined democracy is once again being assailed by those who would prefer a more autocratic form of governance.

Our public institutions are hollowed out caricatures, unable to distinguish vested party interests from national ones, unable to offer the man in the street refuge from the powerful and connected.

Our social fabric that took us from colony to an independent nation and on through the obstacles of nation building has reached a point where it sometimes feel like we are hanging on by a thread. This is the Malaysia we live in.

PM’s resignation ill-fated

This is the Malaysia which Abdullah Ahmad Badawi leaves behind. Our prime minister will resign later this month - an ill-fated decision. I say ill-fated not because he has been a great prime minister and we would lose irreplaceable leadership, that is regrettably not the case as all things said and done Abdullah could have done much more for Malaysia.

Rather, I say that his resignation is ill-fated because his departure will expose the country to forces which may take us down the road of perdition faster than ever. Much has been said of Pak Lah being a weak leader. However, what his critics have not adequately addressed are the consequences of replacing him as prime minister with the anticipated incoming president of Umno, Najib (Abdul) Razak.

It is an undeniable truth that the average Malaysian is anxious about the anticipated transition. Many would prefer it did not happen.

There are two reasons why this is so. The first has to do with the reasoning underlying Umno's demand for the transition itself. The second has to do with Najib personally.

We must recall that after the 2008 general election - a great success for the nation but a fiasco for Umno – one of the chief complaints by the powers-that-be within Umno was that Abdullah’s feeble leadership led to the concept of Ketuanan Melayu being challenged and ultimately undermined.

His critics also lashed out at him for the latitude given to civil society, a move which they believed weakened a key aspect of Umno's political leverage. It followed in Umno's mind that in order to regain lost ground, it was necessary to reassert its ideology with greater strength.

There was nostalgia for Mahathir's heavy-handed style of leadership and a return to the times when the party cowed many into subservience and submission. The conservatives in Umno yearned for a return to Mahathirism, hoping that it would become a cornerstone of the leadership transition plan. There has been much speculation and punditry on whether a return to the Mahathir era would be good for Malaysia.

Difference between then and now

Let me offer some of my own insight to this debate. The major difference between then and now is this: in most instances, Mahathir was harsh and dictatorial if he believed it was good for the country. But an authoritarian style of government under anyone else would be dictated by the need for self preservation and very little about the country’s interest.

The evidence is all around us. After March 8, (2008) when the prime minister ceased being the home minister, the threats of reprisal have escalated and a climate of fear re-cultivated. The detention of Raja Petra Kamarudin, Teresa Kok and Tan Hoong Cheng exemplify this turn for the worse, this appetite to use the sledgehammer.

The shameful power grab in Perak and wanton disregard for public opinion over how BN wrested control of the silver state make many people shudder at the prospect of a return to the dark days. If that was not depressing enough, we have had to bear witness to the police and the newly-minted Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) displaying their allegiance and support to the BN when all we needed and craved for were honest brokers.

It stands to reason that in the mind of the average Malaysian, having suffered a significant loss last March, Umno is on a rampage to regain what it lost by any method available and the man who is expected to lead it to victory is the man who succeeds Abdullah: Najib (Abdul) Razak.

A prime minister must have the confidence of the majority of the rakyat. In order for this to be the case, his integrity must be beyond question; not only must he be such a person character, he must be seen to be such a person. The office of prime minister is one of great trust, he who holds that office cradles the nation in his palms.

For this to be the case, there cannot be anything in the mind of the greater public that, correctly or otherwise, associates him with matters of criminality, wrongful action, improper conduct or abuses of power. In short, he must be beyond reproach in his dealings both official and private.

Without intending any accusation, it is regrettable that in the collective mind of the rakyat, Najib is not such a person. If a referendum were to be conducted on the subject or if the prime minister was to be elected directly by the rakyat, I do not think Najib would succeed. The reason for this is obvious: the rakyat has doubts, fuelled by the unanswered allegations against him and his unwillingness to confront these allegations.

It is not a mere trifle in the minds of the rakyat that despite a direct challenge from a member of parliament in the august House recently, the deputy prime minister remained silent, not even denying the implicit accusation made against him and demanding that it be repeated outside the chamber in the tried and tested method of refutation employed by parliamentarians throughout the world.

It has not assisted the cause of the incoming prime minister that the MP concerned was suspended for a year on a motion tabled by a fellow minister without the member having been afforded an opportunity to defend his position.

Evidence of SMS text-messages

Consider this. Commissions were paid to an agent for the procurement of submarines through the Defence Ministry, Najib (then) being the defence minister. It is unthinkable that he had no knowledge that the agent was his adviser and aide, Abdul Razak Baginda. The commission paid out was exceedingly large, in excess of RM500 million.

The defence minister was dutybound to direct enquiries to see if there had been any impropriety in the way the contracts were awarded when news of the commission surfaced; after all the price of the submarines would be considerably lower without the need for such commissions.

Taxpayers, you and I, have paid for those submarines at a price that in all probability factored in the commission. Taxpayers are yet to be told of an inquiry let alone the result of such an inquiry.

Consider the Altantuya Shaariibuu affair. A young woman was brutally murdered, her corpse destroyed by explosives.

These explosives are not the usual type of explosives, yet no inquiry was held to determine how they were available to these killers. Those accused of her murder are police officers serving in the Unit Tindakan Khas, a highly specialised unit who amongst other things serve as bodyguards to the prime minister and the deputy prime minister.

Amidst evidence that the accused were employed to protect the PM and the DPM, they were directed to (Abdul) Razak Baginda through the aide of the deputy prime minister. Amongst other things, we have heard of the senior investigating officer admitting that the deputy prime minister was an important witness and yet no statement was taken.

It is not unreasonable to think that this is irregular, more so when evidence of SMS text-messages from the deputy prime minister concerning material matters have surfaced. The text-messages cannot be ignored, proverbially swept under the carpet.

Even if they do not establish - or are not capable of establishing - any culpability on the part of Najib, these issues must be addressed.

The air must be cleared, it is thick with accusations and doubts which can only undermine the office of the prime minister if he were to assume it. The deputy prime minister's cause has not been aided by the fact that charges were preferred against (Abdul) Razak Baginda only after public outcry, the manner in which the prosecution was conducted and the decision of the High Court acquitting (Abdul) Razak Baginda not having been appealed.

Power grab an unmitigated disaster

The Perak affair was an unmitigated disaster for the nation. It is no secret that Najib led the charge there and is still overseeing matters.

In the minds of Malaysians, Perak is synonymous with the deputy prime minister. They now equate him with the high-handed tactics that were employed to seize power, tactics that included the disappearances of the three crucial assemblypersons and the blockading of the legislative assembly by the police.

In doing so, they equate the DPM with the hijacking of democracy, the only persons saying otherwise being those persons who have associations with Umno. In their minds, no responsible leader would allow for the undermining of the institutions of state and the constitution of this nation.

They ask, rightly so, whether this is the kind of leadership that Malaysians can expect from Najib when he becomes the prime minister.

With all of this, and more, how are we not to feel anxious? How are we to sleep peacefully at night? I know that I cannot. The situation is desperate and the air is pregnant with tension. We need the state of affairs to be resolved in a way that is in the best interests of the nation and the rakyat.

To an extent, this is a matter for the Barisan Nasional. I urge its members to put politics aside and think things through. We all want a better future, a safer and more prosperous life for our children, all of them, a Malaysia where our children can reach for the stars with the certainty that there is nothing to stop them from being the Malaysians they want to be.

Let the king be kingmaker

I do not believe that the Barisan Nasional will do what is necessary. Politics has a tendency of making those who embrace it cynical. The answer lies elsewhere, with His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

In this case, His Majesty plays the role of ‘kingmaker.’ The discretion to appoint the prime minister who succeeds Abdullah lies with His Majesty. Though His Majesty is required under the constitution to appoint the person who commands the confidence of the majority of the members of parliament, it is a matter for His Majesty's judgment.

Never before has such a heavy burden been laid on His Majesty to make a brave and correct choice.

For King and country, I urge His Majesty to take into consideration the prerequisites to appointment and the concerns of the rakyat. There is no constitutional obligation on His Majesty to appoint the president of Umno as the prime minister. There are still well qualified members of parliament from Umno who can be appointed PM to bring us back from the brink.

Malaysia needs someone whom the rakyat can throw their weight behind without reservation. Someone they can trust and respect. Someone who has no scandal to distract him and thereby gain respect from the international community.

These are difficult times and be prepared for worst times to visit us. Malaysia needs a leader who will unite the country in the face of the adversity. Divided, we are weak. I am loath to say it, but for the reasons I have set out am compelled to say that Najib will most certainly divide us and in doing so, will nudge us closer to the edge.

Some of you may say that all efforts to promote the national interest are at this stage an exercise in futility. If truth be told, I am tempted to slip into cynical hopelessness too. I am fighting the temptation to give up for one simple reason: Malaysia and all that it represents. This is a blessed country, a country too valuable for us to turn our backs on.