Thursday, June 7, 2012

SUARAM's press conference in Bangkok [May 30 2012] - the Scorpene corruption scandal

The Q & A Session

The Scorpene scandal is in the news, even in Malta

Malaysia's Scorpene scandal appears to have widened all the way to the Mediterranean island of Malta, with an opposition member of parliament alleging that a French-owned, Malta-based financial consultancy is being investigated for its role in the controversial US$1 (RM3.1 billion) purchase of two submarines by the Malaysian government.

azlanAccording to the Malta-based news portal Malta Today, MP Evarist Bartolo told the Maltese parliament that the French-owned financial consultancy Gifen is being investigated by French officials over allegations that part of a 114 million euro (RM457 million) commission paid to Perimekar Sdn Bhd, then wholly owned by Abdul Razak Baginda, a close associate of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, may have been laundered through Malta.

The Perimekar commission has been criticised as a subterfuge to steer kickbacks to political figures.

Other news reports from Malta alleged that Gifen was established by Jean-Marie Bouvin, who has been also heavily involved in other sales by the French state-owned defence company DCN of submarines to Pakistan and frigates to Taiwan.
Both of those transactions have been dogged by a flock of spectacular murders.

French prosecutors were said to have discovered Gifen after they scrutinised a vast trove of documents and internal confidential reports of DCN and the French Ministry of Defence as well as interviewing DCNS (previously known as DCN) officials and related companies such as Thales as well as officials in the ministry.

Other companies allegedly used for similar purposes, Bartolo said, were Eurolux, based in Luxembourg, and Technomar, based in Belgium.

Ex-president denies involvement

Bartolo further alleged that Gifen, which was founded in 2001 by Bouvin, was well-connected with the French secret services, and had close ties with both former French president Nicolas Sarkozy and prime minister Dominic de Villepin.

After France signed the UN Convention Against Corruption, Bouvin allegedly began to operate though different channels - setting up companies in Ireland, Switzerland, Mauritius, the Isle of Man and Malta, Malta Today reported.

NONESarkozy (left) has been mentioned in connection with massive bribes promised to Pakistani generals for the purchase of SSK Scorpene submarines from Armaris, now a unit of the French defence giant DCNS.

Eleven French technicians were blown up with a car bomb that was first blamed on Al Qaeda. However, subsequent stories in France, called "L'Affaire Karachi," alleged that Pakistani generals blew up the van in retaliation for the cancellation of kickbacks by then president Jacques Chirac.

Sarkozy has angrily denied any involvement in the kickback scheme. However, now that he has lost the French presidency to Francois Hollande, investigators may be taking another look at his activities.

Bartolo, the former Maltese education minister, said French inquiring magistrates have now ordered the police to initiate an international investigation into the companies based in France, Luxembourg and Hong Kong - including Gifen in Malta - as part of a global anti-corruption sting.

NONEThe Malaysian Defence Ministry purchased the two SSK Scorpene submarines in 2002 from Armaris. At that point, Najib was defence minister and engineered the purchase.

French lawyers William Bourdon and Joseph Breham (right) of the public service law firm Avocats a la Cour were successful in opening the DCNS books on behalf of the Malaysian human rights NGO Suaram earlier this year.

In an email, Breham said he was aware of Gifen as a company but wasn't sure if it is part of the probe he has been following.

Travelling expenses for M'sians

In any case, a stream of revelations of bribes and kickbacks has flowed across the world.
najib abdul razak in perth chogm 1So far, however, they have done little damage to Najib's (left) popularity as he maneuvers his BN coalition into position for what are expected to be national elections sometime later this year.

Among those allegations, according to Breham, is that Terasasi Sdn Bhd, which is owned by Razak Baginda, was paid 36 million euros (RM142 million) for allegedly confidential documents on the Malaysian Defence Ministry's specification for the submarine purchase.

As Asia Sentinel has reported, the money appears to have been steered through Terasasi Hong Kong Ltd, which was established later.

According to Malta Today, Bartolo revealed that several companies worldwide currently investigated by French authorities in connection with this case and that Gifen's most active years were between 2001 and 2004, with an income of almost 1.5 million euro (RM6 million), while its registered expenses took the form of ‘consultancy services' and ‘travelling expenses'.

NONEBartolo (right) was also quoted as adding that French investigators are currently looking into whether Gifen was used "to facilitate the movement of money involved in this contract," as well as to pay for travelling expenses for the Malaysians.

According to the opposition MP, Bouvin would pay commissions through a company called Heine in order to secure successful bids for public contracts.
Bartolo added that responsibility to regulate such operations in Malta fell to the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit and the Malta Financial Services Authority, and that the reputation of Malta as a centre for financial services was at stake.

He reminded the Parliament of a report by the Council of Europe's Committee on Money Laundering, which had observed that Malta's legislation is good, but enforcement is lacking.

[Source: Asia Sentinel]

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

This best describes the BN government

Thanks, LeAnne, for the T-shirt contribution.

Two can play the same game : DAP's pre-emptive strike in the BERSIH video war

Just hours before the Home Ministry is scheduled to release its version of Bersih 3.0 rally footage, the DAP has launched its video [see below] on the April 28 street protest in Kuala Lumpur.

Focusing on police brutality, the 15-minute edited video, entitled‘Bersih 3.0 Semangat Bersih, Harapan Negara’ (Bersih 3.0 Clean Spirit, Hope of the Nation), has Malay subtitles and a narrative.

NONENational publicity secretary Tony Pua, who screened the video at a press conference at DAP headquarters this morning, said the footage proves that the rally was a peaceful and joyous one until the police got involved.

“There was no reason why the police should have acted in such an aggressive fashion against unarmed Malaysians,” he said.

The video, Pua said, also exposes the prime minister’s “clear-cut discrepancy and hypocrisy” on the rally for clean and fair elections.

To back this, the footage has a clip of Najib Abdul Razak pledging publicly in Kuching, Sarawak, on April 27, that the government would protect the safety of the demonstrators even to the extent of providing them with mineral water and food if they are thirsty and hungry.

During the rally, however, chemical-laced water and tear gas were fired at protestors on the fringes of Dataran Merdeka, while many were allegedly beaten up by police personnel.

NONEThe DAP attempted to justify the reaction of the protesters in overturning a police car by showing that the car had crashed into a crowd, and by arguing that the protesters had thought that people were caught under the vehicle.

The footage makes the claim that several protesters had protected the cop in the car from being attacked by fellow-protesters.

Asked why the video fails to show the breach of the barricades at Dataran Merdeka, Pua said this is an issue subject to debate.

He also said the claim that PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim and deputy president Azmin Ali had given hand signals to supporters to lift the barricades, has yet to be proven.

“Even if the protesters breached the barricade, that does not justify the violence against those who did not do so. Why should the police go all the way to (the) Sogo (department store) to beat up protesters?” he asked.

'Video war' decision slammed

DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang, who was present at the press conference, slammed Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein’s decision to kick off a video war to support official version of what happened on April 28.

“This is a most deplorable development post-Bersih 3.0, as it is a continuation of  the vilification and  demonisation campaign launched by the BN government against Bersih 3.0 and Pakatan Rakyat,” he said.

Hishammuddin’s insistence to upload the video compilation, Lim commented, only confirmed suspicions that the real objective of independent panel led by former police chief Hanif Omar is to produce a finding to match the government script.

On Monday, Hanif said his panel had been shown over 43 minutes of the Home Ministry’s video on the April 28 rally out of a total of 73 hours of clips available.

The Ipoh Timor MP also agreed with Suhakam Commissioner Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah who said that Hishammuddin’s uploading of the Bersih 3.0 video compilation is against the government objective of setting up the Hanif panel, as it could only be interpreted as a form of pressure to influence both the investigation and outcome of the inquiry.

However, when asked why DAP released its own video if it disagrees with Hishammuddin's action, Lim did not directly answer but repeated that Hishammuddin as Home Minister should investigate the truth, and not be a part of the demonisation campaign.

Lim further stressed that the priority duty of Hishammuddin is not to be accused, judge, jury and executioner all in one but to give full support for an independent, impartial and credible investigation.

“What Hishammuddin should do is to give full support to the Suhakam inquiry into Bersih 3.0 and  dissolve the Hanif panel now that two of the six members, former Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Steve Shim and Petronas corporate affairs senior general manager Medan Abdullah have withdrawn from the panel.

“How can Hishammuddin expect the public to have faith and confidence that he would discharge his duties as Home Minister fairly and impartially when he is not prepared to give full support for a credible, independent and impartial inquiry such as the Suhakam inquiry instead of the Hanif inquiry?” he added. 

[Source: Mkini]

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Chinese attrition from the BN, and UMNO is compounding the problem

Ethnic Chinese voters, upset over policies that favour majority Malays, have become increasingly alienated from Malaysia's ruling coalition, raising the risk of racial polarisation and a slowdown in the pace of reforms.

Support for Prime Minister Najib Razak among Chinese voters plunged to 37 percent in May from 56 percent in February, a survey by the independent Merdeka Center showed on Friday.
NONEIt found 56 percent of Chinese were dissatisfied with the government, compared to 30 percent of Indians and 23 percent of Malays.

Recent state and by-elections underline the trend. The main Chinese party allied with the ruling National Front coalition in eastern Sarawak state lost 13 of 19 seats it contested in local elections last year and the opposition won a by-election in the same state in 2010 largely thanks to Chinese backing.

The Southeast Asian nation's 6.5 million ethnic Chinese turned heavily to the opposition in 2008 polls, handing the BN, which has ruled uninterrupted since independence from Britain in 1957, its worst election showing.

Malaysia has seen ethnic Chinese voting with their feet, leaving the country for better prospects aboard including to neighbour and rival Singapore, in a troubling brain drain of talent and capital. "Malaysia needs talent to meet its goal of becoming a high-income country," the World Bank noted in a report last year. "But the problem is that talent is leaving."

With elections likely later this year, the government has failed to reverse the tide with voters such as Jack Gan, who complains he had to study much harder than his ethnic Malay peers to get into one of the country's top universities.

"I'm used to the lifestyle here but I don't like the government and the policies," said the 24-year-old law student, referring to decades-old affirmative action policies that favour Malays in education, business and employment.

Government efforts to appeal to minority Chinese and Indians were "just propaganda, not a policy," he added.

Malay chauvanists

Chinese disillusionment is straining relations within the ruling coalition, complicating Najib's efforts to reverse the shocking losses four years ago. Najib has rolled back some repressive security laws in an effort to appeal to middle-class, urban voters but his reforms have not gone far enough for many Chinese.

The main ethnic Chinese party in the ruling coalition, whose parliamentary seats were halved to 15 in 2008, says it won't accept any cabinet posts if it does worse this time, raising the prospect of a government dominated by ethnic Malays.

NONEThe trend risks deepening racial fault lines if, as some analysts expect, the lead party in the coalition, the United Malays Nationalist Organisation (Umno) effectively "gives up" on the Chinese vote and focuses on championing Malay rights to secure support in rural areas.

Some analysts think Chinese voters could be shooting themselves in the foot if a weak showing by Najib in the election hands power back to right-wingers within Umno and puts the brakes on his reform programme. The three-party opposition alliance is seen as unlikely to win enough seats to form a government.

"The concern I have is that it is going to be a coalition of one (party) plus a few others who are not as strong as they are," said Wan Saiful Wan Jan, the head of Malaysia's Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs. "It's going to be a very imbalanced mix in the new coalition that will be formed."

The prime minister is stuck on the horns of a Malaysian dilemma: He has promised to reform the 40-year-old affirmative action programme for majority Malays that has long upset Malaysia's minorities; yet to do that he needs Chinese electoral support to strengthen his hand against Malay chauvinists in his party.

Middle income trap

In the past, the National Front could rely on sizeable support from the Chinese community, who control most of thecountry's wealth despite making up only about a quarter of Malaysia's 28 million people.
But that support - forged through cozy business ties and strong government support for a separate, Mandarin language school system - has frayed in recent years as Chinese frustration with slow progress on reform has grown.

Malaysia's Chinese, many of whose ancestors came to the country in British colonial times, increasingly lead separate lives from Malays, attending separate schools, speaking Mandarin and socializing with friends from the same race.

umno 2007 tengku razaleigh ku li 081107"We are not integrated, sadly, and I think it's going to take a long time before we can integrate because economically we
are compartmentalized," said Razaleigh Hamzah (right), a long-serving Umno member of parliament and former finance minister.

The Chinese account for many of an estimated one million people who emigrate annually, a "brain drain" driven by a lack
of education and job prospects that is eroding Malaysia's competitiveness.

Malaysia had been among the best performing economies in the world over the past 50 years under the National Front, which transformed a poor, colonial plantation economy into a modern, middle-income country. Per capita GDP has reached $8,100 (RM25,110), almost doubling each decade.

But economists now warn Malaysia has fallen into a "middle-income trap", in which a country is unable to make the
next leap to developed nation status - Malaysia's stated goal by 2020.

Domestic investment has struggled to recover since the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis. Foreign investment, which powered the earlier decades of growth, has stagnated.
And the affirmative action policies, aimed at helping Malays better compete in the economy through educational and ownership quotas, have become an impediment to growth by not fully exploiting the human resource potential of the Indian and Chinese minorities.

Critics say the privileges, which include requiring companies to employ at least 30 percent Malays, have also scared
off some foreign investors who think it represents too much government interference in the economy.          

NONENajib has tried to unite the country with a highly touted programme called "1Malaysia". His efforts, however, have often been undercut by his own party, whose conservative wing has dug in its heels over protecting Malay privileges.

The government says it has reached out to Chinese under Najib, increasing funding for Mandarin schools and for
lower-to-middle income Chinese communities.

"The government is continuing to implement measures under the transformation agenda and all Malaysians - including the
Chinese community - stand to benefit," a government spokesperson said.

Nevertheless, the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), the main Chinese party in the coalition, could see its seats slashed
again in the coming election as it pays the price for corruption scandals in the ruling coalition and perceptions it has failed
to defend Chinese interests, analysts say.

Penang pull factor

One factor driving Chinese voters from the ruling coalition is they now have a viable alternative following the opposition alliance's unprecedented takeover of five state governments in 2008, including the northwestern coastal state of Penang, one of Malaysia's biggest manufacturing hubs.

"A major pull factor is that the DAP is a much stronger party. It is able to capture the imagination of Chinese voters," said political analyst Ong Kian Ming, referring to the Democratic Action Party, the opposition's ethnic Chinese party.

lim guan eng interview 260512 04Penang's Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng (right) is a veteran of Malaysia's hardball politics: He spent 18 months in detention from 1986 under the draconian Internal Security Act (which Najib had repealed) and a year in prison for sedition for making allegations against an Umno state leader.

He is credited with cutting debt and attracting a flood of high-tech investments into Penang. Ethnic Malay businesses still get the lion's share of state contracts, Lim says, but his move to make all public tenders open through a computerized system has cut down on the cronyism that annoys Malaysians of all races.

"We have broken the myth that Malay contractors cannot compete on the open market," said the 51-year-old Lim, whose father Lim Kit Siang has been a party leader since its beginnings in the 1960s. "It goes to show that Malay contractors can compete. It is only UMNO cronies who cannot compete," Lim told Reuters.

After taking over in 2009, Najib signalled he would take a bolder approach on dismantling affirmative action. In 2010 he
introduced the "New Economic Model", with poverty and income, not race, as the main criteria for getting help, and calling for
less government interference in the economy.
But so far the model has been short on policy implementation with little change to the core privileges that often benefit well-connected Malays more than the poor and have been blamed for fuelling cronyism.

Najib's defenders say he is hoping a strong electoral mandate will strengthen the reformist wing of Umno - but he will need Chinese support to make that case.

MCA leader Dr Chua Soi Lek acknowledged the party leadership had been too "low profile." But he told Reuters Chinese voters
risked losing influence over policy and ushering in a less business-friendly government if they turned their backs on his

"The message to the Chinese community is to choose wisely. We are a business community. The wrong choice of government
and everybody suffers but it will affect the business community... more than everybody else."    

[Source: Reuters]

Our Sunday Girl - LISA

Lisa, you are the shelter for my soul
Lisa, you heal my heart when I lose control
As I let my fingers trace
Each time worn line upon your face
I know only love creates a masterpiece like you
I know it's true

Lisa, Lisa, say you're gonna live forever
Lisa, Lisa, never gonna say goodbye
Only you know who I am
Only you really understand
Nothing's gonna take you away

[Guitar solo interlude]

Lisa, I know we live in different worlds
Lisa, and I will always be your little girl
And on a stormy night
You built a rainbow to my door
I'll always remember you

Lisa say you're gonna live forever
Lisa, Lisa, never gonna say goodbye
Only you know who I am
Only you really understand
Nothing's gonna take you away from me

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