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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cut all ties with Perkasa to prove sincerity, Guan Eng tells Najib


February 01, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 1 — Lim Guan Eng told Datuk Seri Najib Razak today to cut all ties with Perkasa, saying it is the only way to convince Malaysians that the controversial Malay rights group has no links with Barisan Nasional (BN).
The Penang chief minister said in a statement here that Najib’s “open support” for Perkasa only encourages the group to continue preaching “hate and extremism”.
Ibrahim Ali distributing money in white ang pow packets at Perkasa’s Chinese New Year open house last weekend.
Citing Perkasa’s recent distribution of white ang pow packets as an example, Lim said Najib’s failure to condemn the act indicated the prime minister was protective of the group “even at the expense of trampling over the sensitivities of the Chinese community”.
“Only by openly cutting off all ties and support with Perkasa can Najib and Umno convince Malaysians that Perkasa has nothing to do with BN.
“The PM must realise that it is his open support for Perkasa that emboldens them to act in an intolerant manner that preaches hate and extremism as well as exposes his 1 Malaysia as empty sloganeering,” Lim said today.
Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali, who is often at the centre of controversy for allegedly uttering racial slurs, invited more criticism for his Malay rights group last week when he distributed white ang pow packets instead of the traditional red during the group’s Chinese New Year open house.
Money to help with funeral costs is usually placed in “white packets” by the Chinese and is known as “pak kum” in Cantonese.
But according to the group, this was because Ibrahim, who took pains to trumpet Perkasa’s struggle for the Chinese community during the function, had run out of red ang pow packets.
When commenting on the incident yesterday, Najib attempted to distance his administration from the “white packet” faux pas by saying Ibrahim is an independent lawmaker.
Ibrahim, who was formerly a PAS member, is presently an independent lawmaker for Pasir Mas in Kelantan.
Lim said Najib’s failure to condemn the act indicated the prime minister is protective of the group. — file pic
“Ibrahim Ali is an independent MP ... the ‘white packets’ are not recognised by the government,” the prime minister said on Monday in his new Chinese-language “Ah Jib Gor” Facebook page.
He added that the controversy over the white packets handed out at Perkasa’s Chinese New Year open house on Sunday could have been avoided through a “deeper understanding and increased sensitivity to cultural taboos of Chinese culture.”
But Lim said that Najib was attempting to “fool” Malaysians with his statement, adding that no one believes that Perkasa and BN do not share friendly ties with one another.
He pointed out that just two years ago, the prime minister had indicated his administration’s cordial relationship with Perkasa when he said the controversial group was “not so extreme” during an interview with Al-Jazeera.
“On top of that, Umno and BN have consistently supported Perkasa, attended their functions, and have even adopted their views on national policies,” he said.
Lim claimed even MCA has shown support for Perkasa, pointing to reports that the party’s Sri Desa Branch chairman and Seputeh division committee member Dr Tiew Chew Ming had once said that the Malay rights group fights for all races.
“Compounding this, time and time again Malaysians have seen Ibrahim Ali and Perkasa getting away with the most seditious actions and statements,” he added.
He cited the example of Perkasa setting Bersih 2.0 chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenavasan’s picture alight and her subsequent demonisation as a “dangerous Hindu woman”.
“It is thus crystal clear that Perkasa has the support of the Umno and BN leadership as well as Umno’s paper Utusan Malaysia, when they can get away with such vile and seditious threats,” he said.

Anwar tells 'old man' Mahathir to just shut up



“Old man” Dr Mahathir Mohamed should just stay at home and keep quiet, said Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim today.

“This old man, he hasn’t stopped yet? That is enough-lah. He (and his family) is already very rich,” he told more than 1,000 people at the Batu PKR Chinese New Year open house event in Kuala Lumpur.

anwar ibrahim in penang chinese new year open house speech“He should stay at home quietly and take care of his grandchildren,” sniped Anwar (left)at his former mentor.

Speaking at the first of a planned five-constituency Chinese New Year open house celebrations, the de facto PKR leader also dismissed and ridiculed Mahathir’s insinuations that he (Anwar) was “close” to Israel.

“He said I am close to Israel. But before this he said I was close to the Chinese and will sell the country to the Chinese if I become PM.

Dey ane (hey brother), which one is it?

“Recently I went to a ponggal celebration. I wore the Indian hat. Like MGR (the late Indian movie idol). After this, is he going to say I am close to the Indians?” the Permatang Pauh MP hit out.
Anwar was commenting on a recent slew of caustic remarks made by Mahathir, labeling him as being an Israeli stooge.
His speech was greeted with cheers and shouts from the mainly Chinese crowd who had welcomed him with a lion dance display earlier.
Anwar also led a yee sang ceremony joined by leaders of PKR and other Pakatan component parties.

After Batu, the opposition leader made a short stop at a Chinese temple in Wangsa Maju, for another Chinese New Year event.

Greeted warmly by a 1,000-plus crowd, predominantly made up of Malaysians of Chinese descent, Anwar was treated to another lion dance performance and yee sang ceremony.
Anwar is scheduled to visit three more PKR-won constituencies today, with Bandar Tun Razak, Brickfields and Pantai to follow suit.

Pakatan plots unlikely path to power



Anwar Ibrahim is free and he knows how to work a crowd.

Wading into a throng of supporters at a rally near Kuala Lumpur last week, the veteran opposition leader was relishing his unexpected freedom after being acquitted on sodomy charges that could have ended his career.

Microphone in hand, he drew loud laughs and cheers as he wisecracked about government's "cronyism" and what he said were its attempts to label him a homosexual.

anwar ceramah in melaka 040112The High Court acquittal in January of the opposition's only true unifying figure has given the three-party alliance a formidable campaigner in national elections expected within months, adding to its momentum after historic gains in 2008 elections.

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is expected to call the election by June while economic growth remains relatively strong, well before his mandate ends in March 2013.

Halijah Ismael, a middle-aged woman watching from her stall selling traditional medicine, said it was time to give Anwar a chance at governing after 55 years of unbroken rule by Umno and its allies.

"Enough is enough," said Halijah, who said she used to be active in a local Umno political group before growing disillusioned.

The polls will be a test of whether Najib's gradual efforts to reform the state-heavy economy and its race-based political system are enough to reverse 2008's shock losses that deprived the ruling coalition for the first time of its prized two-thirds majority in parliament.

NONEBacked by Umno's well-oiled election machine, Najib will probably win the election. The government controls most newspapers and television stations and has already started using its largesse, handing out cash payments to low-income families and raising pay and pensions for civil servants.

But the opposition and many analysts believe that weariness with the ruling coalition will enable Anwar's coalition to extend its gains from last time, when it won five state governments out of 13 and 82 seats out of 222 in the national parliament.

That could prove politically fatal for Najib by prompting powerful conservative elements in Umno to revolt, paving a future path to power for the opposition if the government swings too far to the right.
Two-pronged strategy

Anwar and other opposition officials told Reuters they have a two-pronged strategy for the election. First, they will make a stronger pitch to ethnic Malays in rural areas who have traditionally supported Umno, hammering on recent corruption allegations against government officials.

"We have learnt from our failure to get support from the rural heartland," Anwar told Reuters in an interview at his PKR headquarters on Kuala Lumpur's outskirts.
Second, they will tout what they see as economic success stories in states that have been governed by the opposition since 2008.
anwar ibrahim in penang chinese new year open houseThe opposition government of Penang, for example, has dismantled preferential treatment for ethnic Malays in public tenders and attracted more investments than any other state in 2010.

Anwar says he would move quickly to reform the pro-ethnic Malay affirmative action system - enshrined in the 1971 New Economic Policy - that he says unnecessarily raises tensions with minority Chinese and Indians while mostly benefiting a well-connected, wealthy few.

"We have to go down and tell the Malays that our policy, a more transparent policy, would benefit them more than the New
Economic Policy that is enriching the leaders and their cronies," Anwar said.

Opinion polls show the majority of ethnic Malays support affirmative action policies, but Anwar aims to tap into a growing suspicion that the system mostly benefits elites and fuels corruption. He says he would introduce a policy based on economic need rather than race.

Malays account for about 56 percent of Malaysia's 28 million population, with Chinese and Indians making up 33 percent and 11 percent respectively.

NONEThe opposition is placed to make big enough advances that "Najib will more or less lose his mandate within Umno," said Wan Saiful Wan Jan (right), the head of the Ideas think-tank in Kuala Lumpur.

"The nationalist side within Umno will become more vocal and that will destabilise Najib's reforms," he said.

Anwar pledges to make the judiciary independent, lift restrictions on the media and hold more open tenders for government contracts, which he says are too often handed out to Umno "cronies."

The government says the inexperienced opposition cannot be trusted with power and is making promises it can't keep, such as
writing off student loans and reducing fuel prices.

"This is a recipe for economic disaster. One need not be an economist to figure out that this will destroy the economy,"
Najib was quoted as saying by state news agency Bernama last week.
      
Battle for 'frontline' states

The charismatic Anwar's acquittal allows him to write another chapter in his remarkable political comeback.
The former student radical climbed the ranks of Umno to be deputy prime minister before being fired in 1998 by then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and charged with corruption and sodomy.

He spent six years in jail before a court overturned the charges, which Anwar said were politically motivated, only to face fresh allegations in 2008 that he sodomised a former male aide. State prosecutors quickly appealed his latest acquittal, meaning the issue will likely loom throughout the campaign.

NONEThe 64-year-old Anwar's freedom to campaign adds an X factor to an election that was already tough to call given a scarcity of reliable opinion polls. Pollsters failed to predict the extent of opposition gains four years ago, a result that prompted a 10 percent one-day plunge in Kuala Lumpur's main stock index as risk-averse investors took fright.

Anwar invokes the spirit of the Arab Spring in Malaysia, whose government is struggling to retain support among younger, urban voters and has some of the region's strictest security laws. Najib last year repealed two of the most notorious laws, but a new bill that bans street protests has been criticised by human rights activists as repressive and cast doubt on his reformist credentials.

"I say an Arab Spring in terms of the spirit and enthusiasm of the masses to rise against a corrupt establishment, but we still have an avenue through elections," Anwar told Reuters.

To improve on its 2008 performance, the opposition needs to make headway in three key states - Sabah, Sarawak and Johor, which borders Singapore.

The ruling coalition effectively won the election in those states in 2008, restricting the opposition to just three parliamentary seats out of 83. Anwar said that he was confident of winning 8-10 seats in Sarawak, where the opposition made strong gains in a state election in April.

NONEOng Kian Ming (right), a political scientist at UCSI University, said voting trends suggested the opposition could win between 10 and 20 seats in those three "frontline" states - not enough to form a government, but maybe enough to prompt unrest within Umno that would force Najib out.

Still, the opposition faces an uphill struggle in rural areas, where voters are more conservative and more likely to get their news from pro-government media than from websites like Malaysiakini that are the main outlet for critical reporting on the government.

"I think the country as a whole is just not ready yet for that change to happen," said Wan Saiful.

- Reuters

Don't sweat the small stuff, Anwar tells EC


The Election Commission (EC) should not get bogged down with small, procedural issues but should instead focus on cleaning up the electoral process, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim says.

"The EC's bigger duty is to cleanse the election, clean up the electoral roll, ensure fair elections and media access," the PKR de factor leader told a press conference in Wangsa Maju today.

NONE"The EC should not concern itself with such mundane procedural matters. This is an attempt to divert the rakyat's attention," Anwar said.

He was commenting on a report in The Star today that the EC would move soon to put a stop to the practice of holding processions on election nomination day.

Opposition parties have accused the commission of dilly-dallying in putting into place recommendations that was made by the bipartisan parliamentary select committee (PSC) on electoral reform.

The EC's latest move has been causing more concerns among the opposition, which has accused the commission of often siding with the BN-led federal government and simply mucking about in order to delay electoral reforms.

[More to follow]

TakNak 1Care campaign – Part 2


That Effing Show #65 - That Hudud That You Do


Hudud. Najib says no. Karpal says no. Muhyiddin says not yet. Anwar says just in Kelantan. Tok Guru says bring it on. Everyone is being respectful. Everyone is agreeing to disagree. And amidst all the noise, the rakyat is once again left totally and utterly confused as to what is right, as to what is wrong, and as to what is just plain irrelevant. This week, Ezra, Faiq, and special guest star and all around hottie Sarah Lian, try to clear things up for us. They try to separate the fact from the fiction, the chocolate from the vanilla. They try to answer that age old question of how you do that hudud that you do so well?


- uppercaise

Shopping in Australia: The plot thickens



Australian journalist and fashion blogger Patty Huntington has come up with her latest riposte on that Malaysian shopping spree in Sydney.
The emails that she has reproduced in her [frockwriter] blog are pretty damning.
See what you make of them in her latest blog entry ‘Close encounters of the KL kind’.
Still wildly exaggerated?
Somehow, the accounts by the various ‘actors’ in this fashion drama don’t gel together. No prizes for figuring out who is or isn’t telling the whole truth.
While the rakyat struggle, some people are living it up, eh?

- anilnetto

Hunt for Kamal Hisham


There has been a series of news about a particular Johor Bahru based lawyer Kamal Hisham. He has been said to be involved in cheating or criminal breach of trust cases involving very high profile individuals and their immediate families.

Polis bekerjasama dengan Interpol kesan Kamal Hisham bantu siasatan pecah amanah

JOHOR BAHRU 30 Jan. – Polis negeri ini akan bekerjasama dengan polis antarabangsa (Interpol) untuk mengesan seorang peguam yang dikehendaki bagi membantu siasatan satu kes jenayah pecah amanah melibatkan kerugian RM660,000.
Ketua Jabatan Siasatan Jenayah Komersial negeri, Asisten Komisioner Rosman Omar berkata, lelaki itu, Kamal Hisham Jaffar, 42, dipercayai masih berada di Malaysia.
“Jika dia berada di luar negara, kita akan bekerjasama dengan Interpol kerana kenyataannya amat penting bagi kes tersebut,” katanya pada sidang akhbar di sini hari ini.
Difahamkan, Kamal Hisham kini berada di Dubai berikutan tersiarnya satu iklan di beberapa akhbar tempatan baru-baru ini menunjukkan beliau menerima satu anugerah di sana.
Dalam iklan itu, beliau dilihat menerima anugerah The Emerging Legal Consultant In The UAE Award-2011 di Anugerah Perniagaan Malaysia Kedua di Dubai pada 18 Disember 2011 bagi pihak Kamal Hisham & Associates.
Namun, Utusan Malaysia dimaklumkan mengikut rekod Jabatan Imigresen, lelaki berkenaan tidak pernah keluar negara dan masih berada di negara ini.
Mengulas lanjut, Rosman berkata, peguam terbabit memiliki kad pengenalan bernombor 700301-01-5853 dan alamat terakhir di No. 6, Lorong Mutiara, Kampung Melayu Majidee di sini.
Beliau berkata, kenyataan daripada Kamal Hisham amat diperlukan dan penting bagi menyelesaikan kes yang disiasat di bawah Seksyen 409 Kanun Keseksaan yang memperuntukkan penjara maksimum 20 tahun, sebatan dan denda jika sabit kesalahan.
“Saya menyeru orang ramai yang mempunyai sebarang maklumat mengenai peguam berkenaan diminta menghubungi pegawai penyiasat, Asisten Supritendan Azlan Ahmad di talian             07-3354177       atau            019-4101222      ,” katanya.
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The lawyer representing Kamal Hisham in Malaysia issued a statement on this report:

Kamal Hisham tidak lari, berada di Dubai atas urusan perniagaan

KUALA LUMPUR 31 Jan. – Seorang peguam yang dikehendaki polis bagi membantu siasatan kes jenayah pecah amanah melibatkan kerugian RM660,000, hari ini menafikan beliau tidak boleh dihubungi atau hilang.
Kamal Hisham Jaafar, 42, yang ditemubual dalam satu sidang akhbar menerusi panggilan yang dibuat ke Dubai, Emiriah Arab Bersatu memberitahu, beliau kini berada di negara Asia Barat itu.
“Saya berada di negara ini bukan melarikan diri daripada mana-mana pihak termasuk pihak polis, malah saya akan memberi kerjasama sebaik-baiknya dengan pihak polis bagi membantu siasatan.
“Pihak polis atau Interpol (polis antarabangsa) tidak pernah menghubungi saya sejak berita berhubung ‘kehilangan’ saya dihebahkan,” katanya ketika ditanya pemberita mengenai dakwaan beliau gagal dikesan atau dihubungi.
Panggilan selama beberapa minit oleh seorang peguam dari Firma Kamal Hisham and Associates, Rozana Shamsuddin, itu dibuat ketika sidang akhbar tersebut.
Kamal Hisham turut memaklumkan, beliau berada di negara itu atas urusan perniagaan.
Menurut peguam yang mewakili Kamal, Datuk Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos, pemergian Kamal Hisham ke Dubai sejak April tahun lalu bagi menguruskan sebuah syarikat perunding milik peguam berkenaan yang sudah beroperasi sejak beberapa tahun lalu.
“Beliau (Kamal Hisham) keluar dari negara ini melalui perjalanan yang sah. Bagaimana pula ada dakwaan mengatakan tiada rekod keluar dari Jabatan Imigresen.
“Beliau juga menjelaskan kesediaannya untuk bekerjasama dengan pihak polis dan terbukti dalam kes sebelum ini, beliau memberi kerjasama yang baik bagi membantu siasatan sehingga kes itu selesai.
“Sehubungan itu, sidang akhbar ini bertujuan untuk menjelaskan dan membersihkan reputasi Kamal yang dilaporkan seolah-olah enggan bekerjasama, susah dihubungi atau dikesan,” katanya.
Jahaberdeen memberitahu, Kamal dijangka pulang ke tanah air selepas mengerjakan umrah selama dua minggu sekiranya Ketua Polis Negara, Tan Sri Ismail Omar dan Peguam Negara, Tan Sri Gani Patail dapat memberi jaminan keselamatan dan perlindungan sepanjang beliau berada di negara ini.
“Anak guam saya rasa bimbang atas keselamatan dirinya kerana dua faktor, pertama kenapa tiada rekod keluar dari negara ini dan kedua, kenapa wujud dakwaan gagal dihubungi,” katanya.
Sementara itu, Ketua Jabatan Siasatan Jenayah Komersial, Ibu Pejabat Polis Kontinjen Johor, Asisten Komisioner Rosman Omar menegaskan pihaknya terpaksa menggunakan media selepas Kamal gagal dihubungi dan dikesan sejak awal Januari lalu.
“Secara logiknya, buat apa kita minta bantuan media jika pihak polis boleh hubungi beliau. Media merupakan kaedah terakhir polis untuk mengesan saksi.
“Kamal Hisham merupakan saksi kes yang diperlukan untuk membantu siasatan, jadi secara tidak langsung, beliau akan diberi perlindungan sepanjang keterangannya diambil,” katanya.
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And see also this:

Wednesday February 1, 2012

Lawyer wanted by police for CBT willing to cooperate

KUALA LUMPUR: Lawyer Kamal Hisham Ja’afar who is being investigated over his alleged role in a RM660,000 CBT case is willing to cooperate with police.
“If the police, in particular the IGP (Inspector-General of Police) and the Attorney-General, can safeguard his liberty and safety, my client is willing to come back to Malaysia to assist in investigations,” Kamal’s legal counsel Datuk Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos said at a press conference here yesterday.
He said Kamal was willing to provide his full cooperation to the police, which includes coming back to Malaysia from Dubai, where he is said to be operating a consultancy firm since April last year.
Jahaberdeen claimed that his client had gone to Dubai legally and police had his contact information.
He said Kamal’s fears were due to the fact that the Immigration Department could not find any record of him leaving for Dubai.
He added that Kamal had gone to Dubai via Singapore legally, and that the police had made no effort to contact him, his family or his firm.
“Instead, it was his firm that contacted the police yesterday (Monday), after reading about the issue in the news,” Jahaberdeen said.
Journalists were also given the opportunity to speak briefly via speakerphone with a man said to be Kamal, who claimed that police never tried to contact him.
Newspapers recently reported that police were seeking help from Interpol to locate Kamal.
***************
The “Thirteen Million Plus Ringgit” question; Why is he so high on wanted list, to a point where Interpol has been sought?
Lawyer representing Kamal Hisham Dato’ Jahaberdeen Yunoos even suggested that the Police go to Dubaii and interview him there. Obviously, he can be reached. At least by telephone. In the video, the phone conversation with Kamal Hisham in front of the media revealed that the Police did not make any attempts to get in touch with him in Dubaii.
There are rumours lurking around this Kamal Hisham and the high profile individuals that he had some business dealings with. There is this case about the involvement of a prominent member of a Royal family being dragged into a civil caseabout a certain contract, now moved to KL High Court.
Probably it is a good time for a full investigation to be carried out and eventually correct or dispel all of these rumours. These rumours would be a major factor in eroding confidence level at the juncture where all resources should be channeled for progress and productivity.
As for now, the ‘Hunt for Kamal Hisham’ is on. Could we expect a press release or statement from a certain body representing the high profile individual soon?

- bigdogdotcom

Breaking up wealth concentration


The time is right for a national discussion on what are the pros and cons of the current economic system which encourages the concentration of wealth and its illegal outflows.
COMMENT
The past year has seen the government and the opposition unveil their respective economic reform policies. Even if these reform policies and their attendant programmes are implemented they will not be able to resolve the country’s economic problems. This is because the policies advocated by both sides of the political divide are merely palliative. They do not address the root or fundamental cause of the problem of structural deformation of the country’s economy.
How has this deformation come about? What are its characteristics? And what can be done to bring about a reversal or correction of the deformation so that we have a really transformed economic system that can live up to its full potential?
First we need to recognise that wealth in any country – and Malaysia is no exception – is created by economic activity engaged in by individuals or enterprises that bring profits or gains to the entrepreneur. Much of this wealth creation and subsequent accumulation is legitimate. It is based on material reward arising from work (or gift) and is socially and ethically acceptable. It comes from risk-taking and from the social utility and superiority of the products and services generated by the individual or enterprise.
Wealth generated and accumulated by individuals through legitimate means and conforming to the norms of justice and fairness is not only desirable but beneficial to society and the economy.
But what about wealth that is created or amassed by less than legitimate or illegitimate or illegal means? Is it a minor or non-issue and do we just ignore it as is the case with the Barisan Nasional government?
Outflow of massive illegal wealth accumulation
One important clue to the massive wealth capture by illicit means in Malaysia was exposed recently by the Global Financial Integrity, a US-based watchdog.
In its study on “Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries” it estimated that Malaysia was fifth in the world on cumulative total illicit financial flows (IFF) since 2000.
For 2009 alone, IFF (non-normalised) amounted to approximately U$47 billion (approximately RM145 billion at the exchange rate of RM3.1 = US$1) and over the cumulative nine years, total IFF amounted to US$350 (approximately RM1,086 billion).
Two methods of estimation were used in the study, one being the World Bank residual model (using the change in external debt or CED), and secondly, trade mispricing (using the Gross Excluding Reversals method or GER).
Through the balance of payments (a component of CED), it captures unrecorded capital leakages i.e. illicit transfers of the proceeds of bribery, theft, kickbacks, and tax evasion. Outflow of unrecorded transfers due to trade mispricing was captured under the GER method.
Based on the study, Malaysia’s nine-year average normalised i.e. conservative IFF, amounted to US$14.2 billion (42%; RM43.9 billion) due to CED while GER accounted for $19.6 billion (58%; RM60.8 billion). Meanwhile, average non-normalised IFF was US$15.4 billion (44%; RM47.5 billion) due to CED and US$19.6 billion (56%; RM60.8 billion) due to GER.
MNCs and Illicit Financial Flows
According to the study, “illicit flows involve capital that is illegally earned, transferred, or utilised and covers all unrecorded private financial outflows that drive the accumulation of foreign assets by residents in contravention of applicable capital controls and regulatory frameworks. Hence, illicit flows may involve capital earned through legitimate means such as the profits of a legitimate business”.
If taxes were levied on the illegal outflows, the country’s finances would have benefitted to the tune of close to US$100 billion. When the GFI’s findings were made public recently, the finger of blame for the massive outflows was placed by the MP for Kota Belud, Abdul Rahman Dahlan, on multinational corporations (MNCs). Indeed, MNCs have been a convenient scapegoat for transfer pricing woes in developing countries where they have major operations.
One local observer – a specialist in transfer pricing – has demolished this accusation for Malaysia. According to his letter of Dec 27, 2011 to Free Malaysia Today, “transfer pricing has been the one of the most scrutinised subjects by the Malaysian Inland Revenue Board since the Transfer Pricing Guidelines was introduced [in 2003].”
He has argued that “more likely than not, where there are cases of transfer mispricing, MNCs would always step forward and rectify the situation. This is so because “getting caught by authorities in doing illegal activities will most likely cause serious damage to business integrity and reputation.”
He concluded that “compliance by MNCs is one of the most stringent as far as I understand from a corporate culture perspective, or at least for cases I have seen.”
So if MNCs are not the culprit for the illicit financial outflows, who are the real culprits?
The Global Financial Integrity study has noted that besides transfer pricing outflows – MNCs alone are not to blame for this; local conglomerates and GLCs also play the same game with greater insider knowledge – IFF was caused by illicit transfers arising from the proceeds of bribery, theft, kickbacks, and tax evasion.
Malaysia is in fact the only country where IFF is caused by a comparable proportion of transfer and non-transfer pricing transgressions.
Real culprits in illegal wealth accumulation
While the study has been helpful in providing some hard data on the quantum of the illicit financial outflows, it does not provide much assistance on other key details such as who are responsible for the outflow; the countries of fund relocation; etc.
At this stage, we can only hazard a guess as to the likely individuals or parties involved in the non-transfer pricing illicit outflow. The most likely culprits are those who have been able to accumulate enormous wealth and who for various reasons find it expedient or necessary to conceal their wealth accumulation as well as to diversity their wealth havens and assets away from Malaysia.
The GFI study does not cover the illicit wealth accumulated locally and not yet remitted to foreign shores. The size of this locally retained illicit wealth is likely to be several if not many times more than that sent abroad.
A crude estimate of the extent of legal wealth concentration in the country can be obtained from the 40 individuals identified by Forbes as the richest billionaires for Malaysia. Collectively this group was worth $62.5 billion in 2011. In addition there must be many other extremely wealthy individuals who have avoided making the list through their ability to conceal their wealth and others who though not making the top 40 list still possess enormous wealth.
The most widely rumoured name not making the Forbes list has to be Taib Mahmud, the chief minister of Sarawak, who together with his family is reputed to have shares in more than 330 companies in Malaysia alone and more than 400 companies around the globe worth several billion US dollars.
Various quarters have questioned the legitimacy of the wealth accumulation engaged in by the chief minister. A recent article in the blogsite Sarawak Headhunter provides in-depth details into what is alleged to be the income stream of the chief minister’s financial vacuum machine.
These include:
  1. Income from timber licences
  2. Surcharge on timber exports
  3. Kickbacks from timber shipping companies
  4. Agency and other fees levied on shipping companies
  5. Privatization of government companies
  6. Illegal logging receipts
  7. Federal government contracts
  8. Alienation of state land to plantations
State contracts
The chief minister has refuted these claims and has argued that that his daughter’s considerable property empire was amassed through the daughter and son-in-law’s business acumen in investing wisely the gratuity which Taib earned from his earlier service in the federal government.
This may well be true but if so, it needs to be substantiated by an opening of the financial records and bank accounts of the family and the companies owned or controlled by the family in Malaysia and abroad. Only then can the authorities and public determine the truth of the allegations of financial and political impropriety.
That the chief minister and his family own an extraordinary amount of wealth – held locally and abroad – at least is not denied. Some idea of the enormous size of the Taib family wealth emerged when Taib’s daughter-in-law filed a RM400 million claim on her estranged husband, Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib, in court recently, including what she claims is her share of property worth RM300 million.
These tantalizing details of the extraordinary wealth accumulation by Taib and a small group of Malaysians show a common pattern. Firstly, they have all been beneficiaries of the BN government and its policy aimed at working with an elite few individuals in driving the economy forward.
Many if not all of the names that appear on the Forbes list are regarded as cronies of past prime ministers Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the present Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, and are widely perceived as owing their considerable wealth to their political loyalty to BN.
All the business empires of the former “Sugar King” Robert Kuok, Genting Highlands’ late Lim Goh Tong, Public Bank’s Teh Hong Piau, YTL’s Yeoh Tiong Lay, Astro’s Ananda Krishnan, Air Asia’s Tony Fernandez and the rising Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary – deservedly or undeservedly – are seen as built on government preference and patronage. This connection is what has provided them with head starts and privileged monopolies without which their enterprises could never have come about, let alone flourish.
Getting to the bottom of how the business empires of our richest Malaysians have taken shape may be a useful way of dealing with the thorny question of how wealth concentration – whether legitimately derived or under a cloud of illegitimacy – has occurred.
We should have no illusions about the obstacles that lie ahead of such investigative efforts. We should also be mindful that in countries where illegal wealth accumulation by the leaders of impoverished countries has drawn national and international ire, attempts at recovery of the wealth, much of which has been spirited abroad and stashed in overseas banks and assets, has been a long-drawn and difficult process.
Admittedly the hope for any confiscation of illicit or illegitimate wealth is distant and dim. The time may not even be ripe to insist on a full-blown opening up of the records and having the truth come out on how the crème de la crème of our business and political leaders have accumulated their fortunes.
But there may be need for public scrutiny in a few special cases in Malaysia despite the concern that such efforts may be construed as an anti-capitalist or anti-BN witch hunt.
National discussion on wealth accumulation
The time is right at the least though for a national discussion on what are the pros and cons of the current economic system which encourages the concentration of wealth and its illegal outflows on such a systemic basis, and whether this is the right economic model for the country.
The time is also right to focus on sectors and processes which have been the main playgrounds of unfair or illicit wealth accumulation; and to implement actions aimed at decisively containing or neutralising them.
Best practice examples are readily available for example, in the natural resource sector of countries with the same natural wealth as us. These countries such as Norway have been able to avoid the mistakes that we have made in exploitation of our mineral and forest resources which have permitted opaque policies and procedures, and condoned corrupt or shady businesses that have reaped windfall illicit gains.
For the national discussion on wealth concentration and outflows to take place, we need to break the conspiracy of silence by our political elites that have befitted from the system and that have collaborated in the accumulation of illicit wealth and wealth generated from dubious means.
We need the professionals to play their role. We need more studies by academics and civil society to uncover where illicit and less than legitimate accumulations are taking place and what can be done to plug up leakages and bring to justice the offenders and culprits. We need more whistle blowers to step forward.
Discussion needs to be followed by action, whether by the Barisan or Pakatan government.
This action needs to be more than just the tweaking of economic policy as envisaged by the Pakatan parties. It needs to be a fundamentally new paradigm of development based on the de-concentration of wealth and its more equitable distribution.
New paradigm of development
The radically new paradigm of development that puts the spotlight on the wealth of the country (within and outside) as well as on the wealthy, and with a major focus on the eventual breaking down of wealth concentration – beginning with illicit wealth – is needed for three reasons.
Firstly, it is a superior approach to the narrowly race-based New Economic Policy model that has dominated the country’s economic life and which is based on a simplistic caricature of affirmative action policy.
Secondly, our oil wealth is rapidly depleting and our treasury is depleted. Going after wealth that has been illegally accumulated or rightfully belongs to the state will provide the country some breathing space until we get our act together on the other pieces of the bigger economic transformation jigsaw.
The final reason is that the primary cause of poverty and stunted development in Malaysia is an economic system that promotes excessive concentration of wealth. So long as the excessive concentration of wealth exists, our poverty and deformed development problem will remain unresolved.
It has been said that economics is not only about production and wealth creation. It is also about morality, and the first moral principle is that the strong owe a duty towards the weak. It is the role of government to ensure that the strong and wealthy fulfil their duty and not to encourage them in wrongdoing in their obsessive wealth accumulation.
Lim Teck Ghee is the director of Centre for Policy Initiatives.