MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Thursday, December 31, 2020

Penafian Zeti mengenai dana 1MDB ‘tak boleh dipercayai’, kata Najib


Najib Razak berkata, Zeti Akhtar Aziz harus mengesah atau menafikan sama ada Cutting Edge Industries adalah milik ahli keluarganya.

PETALING JAYA: Bekas perdana menteri, Najib Razak terus mencabar Zeti Akhtar Aziz menjelaskan sama ada ahli keluarganya pernah menerima dana daripada ahli perniagaan buruan, Low Taek Jho yang didakwa mendalangi skandal 1MDB.

Ahli Parlimen Pekan itu berkata, penafian bekas gabenor Bank Negara itu yang beliau dan keluarganya tidak menerima sebarang dana 1MDB “tidak boleh dipercayai”.

“Apa yang dia (Zeti) tak nyatakan adalah sama ada akuan berkanun (SD) yang kami sahkan dengan peguam mereka adalah palsu dan sama ada keluarganya pernah diambil tindakan jenayah oleh Singapura berhubung dana yang berasal dari 1MDB?” soal Najib.

Beliau berkata, Zeti harus mengesah atau menafikan sama ada Cutting Edge Industries adalah milik ahli keluarganya.

Najib merujuk SD yang ditandatangani suami Zeti dan dua anaknya, di mana mereka mengesahkan tahu wang 1MDB dimasukkan ke akaun bank mereka di Singapura.

Wang itu dimasukkan ke akaun Cutting Edge Industries dan mereka bertiga mengakui ialah pemilik akaun itu, menurut SD berkenaan.

SD itu, yang dilihat FMT, adalah dokumen tulen, menurut peguam yang menandatangani dokumen itu.

Terdahulu, Zeti dalam kenyataan ringkas menafikan dakwaan ahli keluarga dan dirinya menerima dana daripada 1MDB.

“Dakwaan terhadap saya dan keluarga saya palsu serta berniat jahat sama sekali,” katanya.

Baru-baru ini, blog MalaysiaToday, yang dikendalikan Raja Petra Kamarudin mendakwa beberapa ahli keluarga Zeti, termasuk suami dan anaknya, menerima lebih RM100 juta daripada Jho Low, yang didakwa mendalangi skandal 1MDB. - FMT

Malaysia in 2020: Political trauma and promising readjustment


Malaysia has had a hard year. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a serious toll - lives and jobs lost, systemic strain and a major contraction of the economy, hitting those vulnerable the hardest.

Political Failings

Yet, the main cause of the nation’s suffering has been homegrown, self-inflicted damage by political leaders. The political class across parties have largely focused on grabbing power and the spoils of power rather than using the office for public service.

From February’s Sheraton Move to the destabilisation of Sabah in June and December ouster in Perak, political machinations have been at the forefront. Repeatedly, politicians have flaunted and changed the rules for their own selfish ends, blatantly and without remorse. 

In the office, greed and incompetence have been on display, boldly and with impunity.

To say that Malaysia has had a democratic contraction would be an underestimate - as the mandate of the 2018 election was tossed aside and party elections have been pushed down the road. Rights have also narrowed with unjustified attacks on media. 

The return to the ballot in Sabah did little to resolve the persistent polarisation in the country and, tragically, endangered the community due to the flagrant disregard for rules on the part of political leaders.

Worse yet, the year has seen stunting of the nation’s progress. While there have been important interventions in the economy with an additional distribution of funds, Malaysia has not adequately positioned itself where it needs to be to respond to the deepening economic crisis and not taken meaningful steps to strengthen the social safety net.

While Malaysia has fortunately not experienced the ravishment of Covid-19 elsewhere, such as in neighbouring Indonesia or the United States, the virus is widespread in the community and at year’s end inadequately under control.

Needed institutional reforms have been dismantled, as race and religion continue to be used as justification for holding power. Malaysians have watched as their neighbours have already started distributing the vaccine, and how inadequate planning has placed Malaysia at a comparative disadvantage.

The assumption remains that things will return to ‘normal’, when in fact the ‘new normal’ is far below where Malaysia should be. There is little appreciation among political elites of how Covid-19 will scar Malaysia’s society and economy.

Find their own way

Yet under the Covid-19 spotlight, where priorities have sharpened and political shenanigans have been on display, this unprecedented exposure and trauma have provoked a quiet, yet unappreciated shift in the nation’s political life.

Malaysians are increasingly looking at each other rather than their leaders for solutions. They are filling gaps and finding solutions. The quiet story of the year is one of these changes from below. They speak of resilience, recalibration and ongoing renewal.

Let me explain.

Increasingly, politicians and elections are not being seen as solutions for the nation’s ills. Sure, there remains deep hope for better leadership and there is a reservoir of support for potential good leadership (as evident of the initial groundswell of support for Muhyiddin Yassin when he first took office), but in this crisis, Malaysians have largely responded on their own.

The most obvious examples of this involve the massive outpouring of generosity on the part of Malaysians. Looking at the various reports and gleaned from private conversations, the amounts are in the billions, yes billions.

The recent call for laptops in Muar is just a tip of a much larger movement that has seen repeated turn to the private purse or account to support others. 

In stark contrast to the selfishness of politicians whose concern for money in their own bank account have blinded principles, ordinary Malaysians have shared; sometimes in small meaningful ways by buying from their local small business and in other times through large donations.

The phrase that has embodied this spirit, #kitajagakita (we look after ourselves) when appropriated by politicians and companies has evolved into #rakyatjagarakyat (people look after people). 

This deeply challenging year has seen the true spirit of Malaysians come to the fore, the generosity and caring of each other.

Much of the giving has been colour blind, focusing on the need, not the creed. These anonymous connections have strengthened the country’s resilience.

Coupled with support has been an ongoing recalibration. Malaysians have long put political leaders on pedestals.

This year they fell off - hard. Some had fallen off long ago, such as this year's convicted Najib Abdul Razak in his 1MDB scandal. This year, the rose-coloured glasses about leaders more broadly came off.

While some may miss the glow of leaders, the new light has forced people to look to other sources for direction. 

The year 2020 witnessed unprecedented rich open discussions of policy, saw new alliances take root in the business sector as conditions forced adaptation and held unprecedented information sharing in society. 

Discernment, discussion and debate have become more common in Malaysian public life.

Finally, and not least, has been attention to renewal. Repeated calls for new leaders have taken root, as more attention has focused on the youth, their needs, hopes and aspirations. Many older Malaysians are seeing their own hopes embodied in the young.

This shift towards new leaders, new solutions and new formulations has gained traction and will continue to do so, as the focal point for the nation’s political trajectory is changing. 

Ironically, out of the 2020 political traumas and drama, the driver of political change has moved to below, to the people.

This people-driven change has happened in the past but looking forward, it is likely to take on new forms and new issues as Malaysia looks ahead.

BRIDGET WELSH is a Senior Research Associate at the Hu Fu Centre for East Asia Democratic Studies and a Senior Associate Fellow of The Habibie Centre. She currently is an Honorary Research Associate of the University of Nottingham, Malaysia's Asia Research Institute (Unari) based in Kuala Lumpur. She tweets at @dririshsea. - Mkini

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.

Zeti: Allegations against me and family completely false and malicious


Former Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz has denied the allegations leveled against her and her family in relation to 1MDB funds.

Calling the allegations completely false and malicious, Zeti, who is now the Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB) chairperson, said that she had extended full cooperation to the authorities investigating the 1MDB scandal.

"The issues relating to 1MDB have been fully and thoroughly investigated by the relevant authorities, namely BNM, the police, and the MACC.

"I have given my fullest cooperation and provided the police and MACC with all necessary information in relation to the official investigations concerning 1MDB and former prime minister (Najib Abdul Razak)," she said in a statement today.

Zeti added that she is unable to make further statements as she is a potential witness in Najib's ongoing criminal trial.

"It would therefore in my view be an interference with the ongoing trial and potentially sub judice for me to make any statements at this juncture."

She reiterated that she and her family have never received any sums of money from 1MDB.

Her statement came after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim today called on her to clarify allegations against her and her family by blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin.

Raja Petra alleged that Zeti's family benefited from profits that businessperson Low Taek Jho made by flipping a bond issued by the Terengganu Investment Authority, the predecessor of 1MDB.

Zeti was BNM governor at the time while Low, also known Jho Low, was a mastermind in the theft of 1MDB funds through an international money laundering network.

Zeti, in July 2018, maintained that she had no knowledge about the billions of ringgit in former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak's bank accounts which investigators have now traced to 1MDB.

Najib, in July this year, was sentenced to 12 years jail and a RM210 million fine over the misappropriation of funds linked to SRC International Sdn Bhd, a former 1MDB subsidiary.

He is also facing another 25 charges of money laundering and abuse of power involving RM2.28 billion of 1MDB funds. - Mkini

PM makes no mention of extending RMCO beyond midnight


As the recovery movement control order (MCO) is set to expire at midnight tonight, all eyes were on Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s new year address that was aired earlier at 9pm.

By the end of his speech, however, no mention was made regarding any extension.

A check on the Attorney-General's Chambers' website has found that no extension has been gazetted either.

However, Malaysiakini understands Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob will make an announcement on this tomorrow.

The recovery MCO is currently in effect in Perlis, Terengganu, Pahang, Malacca, Sarawak, Putrajaya, Labuan, Kedah, and Kelantan.

It is also in effect in certain districts of Penang, Perak, Negeri Sembilan, Johor, and Selangor.

Under standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by the National Security Council on Dec 21, people are required to maintain physical distancing in various public venues and must ‘check-in’ when entering most premises for contact tracing purposes.

It also makes compulsory the proper wearing of face masks particularly in crowded places.

The SOPs issued by the NSC states these rules are set to expire at the stroke of midnight tonight.

Previously, the government had extended the conditional MCO in several places to Jan 14 next year. The rules are stricter than the recovery MCO and apply to areas with a higher number of Covid-19 cases.

This includes the entirety of Kuala Lumpur and Sabah, as well as certain parts of Selangor, Penang, Perak, Negeri Sembilan, and Johor.

However, it should be noted that there is no restriction on travelling between areas under recovery MCO and conditional MCO.

This development comes as Malaysia broke several unenviable national records in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic today.

New infections are at a record-high of 2,525 new cases in a single day, while the number of active cases has broken records for the sixth consecutive day with 23,598 cases.

The number of patients being treated in intensive care units, meanwhile, are unchanged from yesterday’s record-high of 131.

According to the Health Ministry’s website, the Covid-19 infectivity (Rt) as of yesterday is 1.05, which indicates an outbreak that is still growing slowly.

The ministry had hoped the bring the figure down to 0.50, which would mean a shrinking outbreak where every 100 patients would go on to infect only 50 more people. - Mkini

Govt to consider fiscal injection if situation warrants it - PM


The government is ready to consider a strategic fiscal injection if the current economic situation warrants it, like the previous economic stimulus packages, said Muhyiddin Yassin.

The prime minister said driving the country's economic growth after Covid-19 was one of the government's five strategies laid out for next year.

"The government will help as much as possible to ease the burden of the rakyat, eradicate poverty, and improve their well-being.

"When the rakyat's economy is strong, it will be easier for us to drive the country’s economic growth after Covid-19.

"We cannot be complacent and take the success that we have achieved today for granted," he said when delivering a new year message for 2021 which was broadcast live tonight.

Muhyiddin said the government had taken an inclusive approach in addressing the issue including the cost of living, people's livelihoods, and poverty, especially during Covid-19 by introducing four economic stimulus packages worth RM305 billion.

These included various measures to preserve the well-being of the people, warrant business sustainability and acceleration, as well as ensuring the economy is on track for recovery, he said.

On other integrated strategies, Muhyiddin said the government would ensure that the country's political stability, including good governance, becomes the basis for a sustainable economic recovery.

The government will also ensure that the country's sovereignty is protected and Malaysia's position on the international stage is strengthened, he said.

“I believe that political stability and good governance will be able to create a conducive investment ecosystem to ensure that Malaysia remains a major investment destination in the Southeast Asian region and hence, accelerate the country's economic recovery process,” he said.

Muhyiddin said besides strengthening ties with neighbours in the Asean region, the government will continue to strengthen diplomatic and economic ties with countries that share similar aspirations, through existing and future platforms.

Malaysia's relations with foreign countries in terms of diplomacy, security, and economy will always be based on strategic interests for the long term, he said.

He said another priority earmarked for 2021 was that the government would improve public health through procurement of Covid-19 vaccines and the launch of the vaccination programme nationwide.

The government will also ensure that relations between races and religions are strengthened in forming a united society as a bulwark against any threats.


RSPO probes forced labour allegation against Sime Darby Plantation

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has launched an immediate investigation into violations allegedly committed by Sime Darby Plantation Bhd (SDP) as cited by the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The RSPO urged CBP to share any information that would allow it to properly investigate the matter and report transparently on its findings.

“We can confirm that an initial review of audit findings earlier this year did not generate any red flags against SDP. We rely on independent auditors to detect violations of this nature and to date, no non-conformances have been identified on any certified SDP plantations,” it said in a statement today.

According to a CBP statement, it issued a withhold release order (WRO) against SDP's palm oil and that its personnel at all US ports of entry will detain palm oil and palm oil-based products produced by SDP and its subsidiaries, joint ventures, and affiliated entities in Malaysia effective Dec 30.

The WRO was issued based on information that indicated the presence of forced labour in SDP's production process.

The RSPO expressed concern about comments made to the media by CBP officials regarding evidence of serious violations of the RSPO Principles and Criteria 2018.

RSPO CEO-designate Beverley Postma said the organisation has zero-tolerance for the practices described in the CBP press release, which is why the protection of human rights has been so deeply embedded in RSPO standards.

“We condemn the use of forced labour or any other form of modern slavery on any plantation, certified or uncertified,” she said.

Postma added that human rights violations remain one of the toughest challenges for agricultural and industrial sectors that operate in low-income communities.

Therefore, it is committed to scaling up its collaboration between governments, civil societies, and businesses to address the root cause of these issues while increasing monitoring and enforcement of its standards.

“The RSPO once again calls on the US government and CBP to work with all relevant partners to conduct a full risk assessment of the impact any sanctions will have on these vulnerable populations (the poor, including migrant workers and their families).

“We also urge them to work jointly with the Malaysian government towards achieving a positive outcome that allows both countries to meet their commitments to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” Postma said.


Bersatu aims to open 8,000 more branches


Bersatu aims to open at least 8,000 more branches nationwide within three months to prove that it is not a weak party, said its secretary-general Hamzah Zainudin.

"If not for Covid-19, the annual general assembly would have been held in August with the target to open branches to get one million members. Starting this month, we will start accepting members nationwide," he said.

Hamzah, who is also Larut MP, said this to reporters after receiving establishment forms of 20 Bersatu branches for the Larut division with a membership of about 4,600 people in Batu Kurau, Perak, today.

He said the party received many applications to join it, among others, due to the people's confidence in the leadership of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin as Bersatu president.

In another development, Hamzah asked all parties in the Perikatan Nasional government including BN to prioritise the government's agenda so that a big victory could be achieved in the 15th general election.


Rafidah: MACC should probe claim Prasarana withheld payments for LRT3 firms

MACC should investigate complaints made surrounding alleged attempts to appoint new subcontractors for the ongoing LRT3 project, said former minister Rafidah Aziz.

Responding to a Malaysiakini report on stalled payments by LRT3 project owner Prasarana Malaysia Bhd to turnkey contractor MRCB-George Kent, Rafidah said the allegations, including against company chairperson Tajuddin Abdul Rahman must be investigated as the issue involves public funds.

"There is a complaint regarding the withholding of due payments. Also, reference was made to the appointment of new subcontractors.

"These appear to be aberrations, and even deviations from the transparency of such appointments," she told Malaysiakini.

"It (the allegations) is now public knowledge. It needs to be looked into as it involves public funds.

"The most appropriate entity to investigate would be the MACC," said Rafidah, who is the AirAsia X chairperson.

Earlier today, Malaysiakini quoted sources familiar with the matter who said Tajuddin has been turning the screws as he wants a say in MRCB-George Kent's appointments of subcontractors for the LRT3 project.

The Umno leader was appointed as the Prasarana chairperson in May and sources said the last payment of RM280 million made to MRCB-George Kent on Oct 3 was only for work done up to June.

At the time of writing, Tajuddin has yet to respond to Malaysiakini's requests for comment.

Prasarana had also declined to comment on Malaysiakini's report today.

Mounting financial constraints had led the companies to ask for the government's help to secure Prasarana's outstanding payments to MRCB-George Kent, which is expected to hit RM1 billion.

Earlier this month, The Malaysian Reserve reported that Prasarana had demanded more say in the appointment of subcontractors, but the request was rejected by MRCB-George Kent, resulting in the withheld payments.

Prasarana had previously declined to comment on a report by The Edge which questioned the leadership and direction of the company since Tajuddin's appointment as chairperson. - Mkini

Pejuang sets up interim NGO as it grapples with ROS stonewalling


Pejuang has set up an NGO to allow its members to carry out official activities after their attempts to register as a political party were seemingly being stonewalled by the government.

Pejuang's pro-tem president Mukhriz Mahathir said today that party members can use the association named Pertubuhan Gerak Khidmat Rakyat Malaysia, or Khidmat for short, to serve the people on the ground.

He was addressing members who were hopeful their party would be registered, and said that Khidmat would be their interim vehicle until the party's registration is sorted out.

"There are legal avenues available to fight for the registration of Pejuang. But until then, it does not mean we cannot move to serve the rakyat at all.

"We now have Khidmat, and ladies and gentlemen, you are allowed to use this NGO to do your activities on behalf of the party.

"When the party registration is approved, then you can call the activities a Pejuang effort," said Mukhriz during an event with Pejuang members in Shah Alam today.

The event was attended by some 300 people. It was also attended by pro-tem Pejuang chairperson, Dr Mahathir Mohamad who also delivered a message to the members on Pejuang's way forward for 2021.

Mukhriz also updated the audience on the progress of the Pejuang's registration process.

He claimed that Pejuang lawyers have fulfilled all requirements set by the Registrar of Society (ROS), but still could not get their registration to go through.

"Maybe the registration of Pejuang is a bit special (than other parties), that a notice was sent to the Home Minister. This was despite the ROS Act stating that the power to approve is in the hands of the registrar.

"So who is this Home Minister? And why is this so? This seems like they are trying to get a political blessing. Maybe there is some political consideration in the registration of our party," Mukhriz said.

He said Pejuang lawyers have filed a judicial review and the court has set Jan 7 to deliver its decision.

According to Mukhriz, the court may force ROS into making a decision, whether the registration of Pejuang is accepted or otherwise.

Meanwhile, Mahathir told reporters that they have a backup plan should ROS decline to approve Pejuang's registration.

However, he declined to reveal what the plan is.

"We have plan B, but plan B is a secret. I cannot tell you. But as you know, last time when in Bersatu, at the last moment the (then) government erased the registration of Bersatu and refused to register Pakatan Harapan.

"Even then, we were able to overcome and win the election. Believe us, we know how to do things," said Mahathir. - Mkini

Company allegedly behind meat cartel to be charged soon - deputy minister

A frozen meat importing company believed to be behind an illegal meat cartel will be charged in court soon, said Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Deputy Minister Rosol Wahid.

He said the investigation paper on the company located in Johor Bahru was almost complete as the ministry had obtained results of a meat analysis from the Chemistry Department on Monday (Dec 28).

"When we want to charge (in court) the meat must be sent to the laboratory to be checked whether it is indeed kangaroo meat, horse meat, pork, or any other meat. So it takes time," he said.

He was speaking to reporters after officiating a Food Bank Malaysia programme in Kampung Lubuk Periuk in Terengganu, today.

He added that the Chemistry Department had already assisted by expediting the checks as it was a matter of public concern.

The Hulu Terengganu MP said the company was believed to have repackaged imported meat by imitating the logos of Malaysia's leading frozen meat distributors.

He said the company also was believed to have placed 'Halal' logos, uncertified by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim), on the repackaged meat.

Rosol advised the public not to worry, as, based on information from the Department of Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Services (Maqis), the company's distribution market share in the country was less than one percent.

Meanwhile, he said the ministry proposed the use of a QR code system on imported food items, including meat, at all of the country's entry-points to make things easier and more efficient for the authorities.

"Currently, inspections at the country's entry points are done manually, so there is a risk that officers and staff on duty could make mistakes or overlook certain matters," he added.

Meanwhile, Johor police chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay said the state's police had so far received 15 reports in connection to the illegal meat cartel, including from government agencies and political parties.

He also reiterated the statement by Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador that the main bodies in charge of investigating the matter were the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (KPDNHEP) and the Royal Malaysian Customs Department.

On an unrelated matter, Ayob Khan said the Johor police could still cope in terms of manpower although the number of those detected positive for Covid-19 and/or placed under quarantine had been on the rise.

"So far, Alhamdulillah, it (manpower) is still sufficient. We will organise the workflow and (if necessary) we can make use of (personnel from) the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) and the General Operations Force," he said.


Deals for Covid-19 vaccines should be made openly, says Mahathir


The government's dealings with pharmaceutical companies to procure Covid-19 vaccines should be done openly, said Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The former prime minister said that keeping the vaccine agreements a secret is unacceptable, especially because it involves a huge amount of public funding.

"Everything should be done openly, this is what we have promised.

"These NDAs (non-disclosure agreements), being secretive, are unacceptable.

"We must know everything that happens in the government, (especially) when a lot of government money is being used," he said.

The Langkawi MP was speaking during a press conference held on the sidelines of a pro-tem Pejuang party event in Shah Alam.

Mahathir was answering a question on NDAs imposed by pharmaceutical companies in their deals made with governments around the world who are trying to secure the Covid-19 vaccine for their citizens.

Malaysia has also secured deals with three companies, while being in the final stage of negotiation with three others, to purchase their vaccines. The government is allocating RM3 billion to procure Covid-19 vaccines.

However, Putrajaya has declined to share the terms of the agreements with the public.

Science, Technology, and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin had on Dec 23 cited the NDA, which prevented him from speaking about the price that Malaysia has to pay to get the vaccines from one of the companies.

"I want to be as transparent as possible. I want to tell Malaysians that I am very happy with the price we got from Pfizer if I can speak about it (the price) now.

"Even based on the so-called leak about the EU price, I'm even happier about the price that we got. That's a huge hint already, I'm close to very close to breaching the non-disclosure agreement (inked between Malaysia and Pfizer)," he said. - Mkini