Najib’s Invisible Handouts Affairs: What a Real Apology Too Big to Fail and the UMNO Rule

PKR leaders Zuraida Kamaruddin and Rafizi Ramli confirmed that they will be calling as witnesses all those who have issued statements on the RM250mil NFC corruption scandal, if Umno Women’s minister Shahrizat Jalil proceeded with her RM100 million defamation suit filed against them last month.

“Rafizi and I have discussed in depth our defence strategy should Shahrizat’s suit proceed after the court hears our submission on Friday,” Zuraida, who is the PKR Women’s chief, told a press conference on Friday.

No choice given the ever increasing complexity

Indeed, given the increasingly murky convolutions thrown up in the corruption case, the PKR duo would be left with no choice if they wanted to clarify their own accusations against the numerous rebuttals and counter-claims made by Shahrizat, her family and Umno colleagues including Prime Minister Najib Razah, his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin, Agriculture minister Noh Omar, Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and former premier Abdullah Badawi.

Both Zuraida and Rafizi, the strategy director, have led the slew of graft and mismanagement revelations against the NFC, a national cattle breeding project awarded to Shahrizat’s husband and children to oversee in 2006.

However, as Rafizi and Zuraida have alleged, the Shahrizats abused their power and corruptly made use of a RM250mil government soft loan granted to develop NFC to buy personal and luxury properties.

Defamation case bound to rivet national attention

The case has stunned Malaysians with its depth and breadth of wrongdoings, and the defiant stance of Salleh Ismail, the NFC chief and Shahrizat’s husband, have added to the public’s anger.

Nonetheless, it appears that Malaysians can expect to be further titillated when the Shahrizat defamation suit begins. As Zuraida pointed out,  Shahrizat would not only be called as a witness, she would have to reveal how much time she has personally spent time in the luxury condos allegedly bought by her family in Bangsar and Singapore.

“This raises the question on whether she truly does not know her family had abused public funds to purchase properties for personal use, as she mentioned in her statement of claim. I am confidant Malaysians are eager for this case to go to trial so that all senior BNleaders can be dragged in to give their statement,” Zuraida said.

Husband and wife team-work?

The PKR pair were ordered by the High Court on February 17 to respond to Shahrizat’s suit, filed against them on January 19 for alleging she misused a federal loan meant for the cattle-raising scheme.

Just today, at the same press conference, the PKR leaders also revealed how Shahrizat’s family had leveraged off a RM250 million government soft loan to buy 8 shop-lots at the controversial KL Eco City in Bangsar worth RM12million based on current market value.

PKR vice president and current Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah has challenged Shahrizat to come clean on whether she had used her influence to get the development off the ground in 2007. At that point in time, Shahrizat had been the Lembah Pantai MP.

“Firstly, the act of a husband and children to a senior minister, who is also an MP for the constituency in question, of purchasing such properties, raises the question of ‘conflict of interest’ between her duty as an MP and the personal needs of her family,” PKR vice president and current MP for Lembah Pantai Nurul Izzah Anwar told a press conference on Wednesday.

“With this latest expose, Shahrizat should explain to the people if she had played any role in influencing the decision to relocate the low-income villagers of Kampung Abdullah Hukum.”

there were disagreements about virtually every element o fUMNO reform. But everyone,UMNOand BARISAN, agreed that the Malaysian taxpayer should never again have to bail out UMNO Cronies because it was “too big to fail”– so large and so intricately a part of our financial system that if it wasn’t bailed out it could cause another economic meltdown.

1. PKFZ RM12bill 

2. Submarine commission RM500mil. 

3. Sime Darby RM964mil. 

4. Paya Indah Westland RM88mil. 

5. Posmalaysia (transmile) RM230mil lost. 

6. Eurocopter deal RM1bil wasted? 

7. Terengganu Stadium Collapsed RM292mil. 

8. MRR2 repair cost RM70mil. 

9. Maybank Overpaid BII RM4bil. 

10. Tourism -NYY kickback RM10mil. 

11. 3 paintings bought by MAS—————– RM 1.5M. 

12. Overpayment by Sport Ministry————- RM 8.4M. 

13. London ‘s white elephant sports complex —- RM 70M. 

14. MATRADE repairs ————————– RM 120M. 

15. Cost of new plane used by PM————– RM 200M. 

16. InventQ irrecoverable debt —————- RM 228M. 

17. Compensation for killing crooked bridge —– RM 257M. 

18. Lost in selling Augusta ——————— RM 510M. 

19. Worth of AP given out in a year ———— RM 1.8B. 

20. Submarines (future Muzium Negara artifacts)- RM 4.1B. 

21. PSC Naval dockyard ———————— RM 6.75B. 

22. The Bank Bumiputra twin scandals in the early 1980s saw US$1 billion loss (RM3.2 billion in 2008 ringgit). 

23. The Maminco attempt to corner the world tin market in the 1980s is believed to have cost some US$500 million. (RM1.6 billion) 

24. Betting in foreign exchange futures cost Bank Negara Malaysia RM30 billion in the 1990s. 

25. Perwaja Steel resulted in losses of US$800 million (RM2.56 billion). 

26. Use of RM10 billion public funds in the Valuecap Sdn Bhd operation to shore up the stock market. 

27. Banking scandal of RM700 million losses in Bank Islam. 

28. The sale of M.V. Agusta by Proton for one Euro making a loss of €75.99 million (RM 348 million) Same as No:20? 

29. Wang Ehsan from oil royalty on Terengganu RM7.4 billion from 2004 – 2007. 

30. For the past 10 years since Philharmonic Orchestra was established, this orchestra has swallowed a total of RM500 million.Hiring a kwai-lo CEO with salary of more than RM1 M per annum!

 citizen reports

The countdown begins

The fading vote-catching ability of UMNO,, carries long-term implications for UMNO politics. If the TUN RAZAK family that pioneered dynastic politics in the 1970s by endorsing rather than reforming MALAYSIA’s feudal society is increasingly sidelined by a changing, modernising MALAYSIA, 2013 could mark the beginning of a new political era. The underlying problem, however, is that the UMNO remains a fundamentally flawed political organisation with a medieval “high command” culture. According to the Peter Principle, people in an organisation tend to rise to their level of incompetence. In the UMNO, ministers and MPs rise to the level of incompetence of the party’s feudal leadership. The spectacle of fawningumno men and women trying to ingratiate themselves with the family symbolises all that is wrong with not only the umno but all dynastic political parties: sycophancy, mediocrity, nepotism, incompetence, corruption

The umno’s current predicament is largely self-inflicted.Najib does not have the absolute executive freedom the Constitution guarantees a prime minister. The vacuum of leadership in UMNO has allowed allies like the MCA AND TAIB MOHD to hold the government to ransom on crucial policy issues. While the UMNO has several talented MPs and ministers, they are doomed forever to serve in a party where the top job – with unfettered political authority – will never be theirs.Few self-respecting professionals can thrive in a political organisation where the path to the top is permanently blocked. The talented professionals who do stay in the UMNO comfort themselves with ministerships, governorships and parliamentary perks rather than pursue the intellectual challenge of policymaking and nation-building without fear of being vetoed by the party’s feudal hierarchyThe Muslim vote can no longer be taken for granted. Muslims today want education, not appeasement. Promises of reservations will not do unless they are backed up by genuinely secular politics and not a communal brand of politics masquerading as secularism which marginalises Muslims rather than treating them as UMNOPUTRA first.

Four days after the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak extended an apology for past Barisan Nasional (BN) mistakes resulting in its loss of several states and electoral seats in the last general elections, it remains a mystery and state secret  what were the mistakes Najib was apologizing for.

Nobody knew what past BN mistakes Najib was confessing and apologizing, allowing the Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yasin to immediately dismiss the need to find out what these “mistakes” were arguing that  “the crucial thing now was to look ahead” and the UMNO Information chief Datuk Ahmad Maslan to make nonsense of Najib’s “apology” by declaring that  “UMNO needs mandate to fix its mistakes”!

Does Najib himself know what past BN mistakes he was confessing and apologising for in Kedah last Saturday or was it a meaningless political rhetoric just to win votes?

While Najib mull over  and decide what were the past BN mistakes which he is prepared to confess and apologise, let him apologise for his own mistakes first, especially those committed during his 35-month premiership.

Apologize for himself, not just BN

Najib’s mistakes alone run into scores. Off-hand, just to mention ten, as follows:

1.    Illegal, undemocratic and unconstitutional power grab of the Pakatan Rakyat Perak State Government led by  Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin which he orchestrated and executed two months before he became Prime Minister.

2.     His failure to defend his 1Malaysia policy to create a Malaysia where every Malaysian regards himself or herself as Malaysian first and race, religion, region and socio-economic status second when his Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin declared right from the beginning that he was Malay first and Malaysian second.

3.     The politics of hypocrisy where he preached the virtues of moderation in international forums while allowing the rise of extremism, ethnic and religious, in the country spearheaded by UMNO mouthpiece, Utusan Malaysia resulting in worsening racial and religious polarisation in his 35 months as Prime Minister with unprecedented political rhetoric of racial hatred and religious intolerance founded on lies and falsehoods and the outsourcing of the politics of extremism by Umno to Perkasa.

4.     His speech at the UMNO General Assembly in 2010 warning of  “crushed bodies, lives lost” (“walau berkecai tulang dan juga badan, walau bercerai jasad dari nyawa”) to defend UMNO in Putrajaya. Is Najib prepared to apologise and retract this threat  by declaring that in keeping with his aim to make Malaysia “the best democracy in the world”, he and all UMNO leaders will fully and peacefully accept the electoral verdict of Malaysians in the next general elections, including a change of government in Putrajaya?

5.     Increasing incidence of political violence against opposition politicians and civil society activists like the UMNO Youth and Perkasa attack on anti-Lynas protestors at the Penang Speakers’ Corner injuring two reporters, while the police looked on and did nothing.

6.     Worsening corruption in Malaysia with the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2011 falling to the worst-ever ranking of No. 60 and lowest-ever score of 4.3, placing Malaysia at the most corrupt level in the nation’s 55-year history under six Prime Ministers.

7.     The death Teoh Beng Hock and the failure to take action against his killers from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), as well as to bring to book persons responsible for the death of Ahmad Sarbaini Mohamad at the MACC premjises, V. Kugan in police custody and all other cases of custodial deaths.

8.    The return of the politics of Mahathirism, with the present generation of Malaysians still paying for the financial scandals of  Tun Mahathir’s 22 years as Prime Minister, as in the recent third and latest RM840 million bailout of former Malaysian Airlines (MAS) chairman Tajudin Ramli with his out-of-court settlement with Danaharta and GLCs.

9.    Continued politics of corruption, cronyism and patronage as in the award of RM2.2 billion Kinrara-Damasara Expressway (Kidex) to two companies, Emrail Sdn Bhd and Zabima Engineering Sdn Bhd linked to Umno lawyer Datuk Hafarizam Harun and wife of former Chief Justice,  Tun Zaki Azmi and the RM7.1 billion West Coast Expressway from Banting to Taiping awarded to Kumpulan Europlus Bhd for a 60-year concession period.

10. The refusal to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the long-standing problem of illegal immigrants in Sabah which have made Sabahans strangers and minorities in their own land.

There is a long list of “mistakes” made in the past 35 months for Najib to apologise on his own behalf, without yet going into the past BN mistakes resulting in the BN debacle in the last general elections in 2008.

Where will Najib begin?

What’s new in Indian politics after the state elections?

Here are a few swift pointers: one, voters will throw out the corrupt and the arrogant; two, the Indian polity has become ever more multi-tiered and polycentric; three, charisma, even of the cutesy, dimpled kind, will take you only so far; four, the national parties have to fundamentally rethink what they stand for.

Voter allergy to corruption and arrogance

We saw this in Tamil Nadu, where a self-respecting people decided teach the Karunanidhi clan a lesson, even after they had provided reasonably good governance in the state. A combination of systematic corruption and brazen disregard for what people think of it gets the voter’s goat – even if the bleating ungulate in the voter’s possession has been supplied by the ruling dispensation.

Most people in UP would concede that governance had improved under Mayawati, that criminals no longer had the run of the place. But her government was seen to be systematically corrupt in ways that impacted people and their lives every day. A bottle of country liquor cost a premium over and above the printed maximum retail price, and the premium, the hapless buyer was told, went to Mayawati. In Goa, corruption had been par for the course. But the way the Congress chose candidates, a dozen from the same family, for an assembly whose strength is just 40, showed brazenness that people were not willing to tolerate.

But how does this gel with Punjab? It was not the case that corruption had discreetly given Punjab a miss. How did the Akalis manage to break the pattern of serial anti-incumbency in the state? Three explanations: Manpreet Badal took away 6% of the votes, anti-Akali ones that otherwise would have gone to the Congress; the Akalis had toned down their arrogance quotient over the last one year of their term, which, in any case, had seen some serious work in terms of acquiring land and setting up new power plants and so on; and, in terms of brazen disregard for people’s sentiments, few could beat the Congress’ chief ministerial candidate, Capt Amarinder Singh.

Reinforcing the multi-tiered nature of the polity

The Congress did not win a single assembly seat in Rae Bareilly, the constituency of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Does this mean that she would lose the next time she stands for Parliament from here? That is extremely unlikely. What it indicates is the clearer emergence of a multi-tiered polity, in which voters weigh different sets of considerations when they choose their representatives for different tiers of the government. Of course, these sets of considerations would see considerable overlap but that overlap would not be identical.

This has important implications for how the central government should shape its policies. If the people expect different things from the central government and from the state government and mould their choice accordingly, parties had better get their reading right as to what they ought to do at each level.

Death of charisma?

The Congress’ loss in the pocket boroughs of the Gandhi family, despite intensive campaigning by Priyanka Gandhi, the most charismatic, by consensus, of all the members of the political family would suggest a great downgrading of charisma as a determinant of voter choice. When there clearly are pressing concerns, such as voting out a corrupt government, people make the rational choice of voting those who can accomplish the task best, not those whose smile releases the maximum amount of oxytocin in the blood. In any case, charisma that turns up only during elections tends to get compared with frogs that make their appearance only during the Monsoon.

The lesson, clearly, for the Congress and the BJP, is that parties have to be rooted, with an organisational presence and activity that does not turn tangible only during election time. (Mea culpa: the present author had anticipated a significantly better performance by the Congress, underestimating the party’s lack of organisational presence in UP and its impact).

India does not have a voting system that registers second preference. It is entirely plausible that Rahul Gandhi did generate a lot of goodwill with his hectic campaigning. But neither among dalits nor for the Muslims did this goodwill prove strong enough to displace their immediate local champion. But this does not mean that it will not come in handy when it comes to Parliament elections. Clearly, the Congress scion will have to continue working in the state as he has been and focus on building a party organisation that takes up local issues.

Is it curtains for the UPA?

Hardly. The SP and the BSP both support the government at the Centre. With Mulayam in power in Lucknow, it makes no sense for Mayawati to antagonise Delhi any more than is existentially necessary. While the emergence of one more strong chief minister, and that,  too, in the country’s largest state, will give added momentum to the platform of chief ministers who get together to defend states’ rights , and give greater salience to a grouping of regional parties, the so-called Third Front, there is little erosion of stability at the Centre. The only party that stands to gain from immediate elections to the Centre — a necessary consequence if the UPA is destabilised — is the Trinamool Congress, whose popularity is declining with every passing day. If the TMC makes too much of a ruckus, the Left and Maywati would support the UPA to prevent any early election.

But does the UPA have any political authority left to pursue any reform?

So long as it remains in office, it has the full authority to do what it thinks is in the interest of the nation. And this is the core challenge: to resist the temptation to go into a shell of inaction or populism. If the electorate has different yardsticks for governments at the Centre and in the states, it becomes all the more imperative for the Centre to pursue policies that it knows are in the country’s interest.

And it would be a mistake to believe that the Samajwadi Party would be an obstacle to reform. Mulayam Singh had been a key backer of the United Front government’s brave decision to free up fuel prices over a time period, as also of that government’s surprisingly large array of reforms, ranging from dematerialisation of stocks to lowering the rates of personal income tax. And now, to deliver on a popular mandate obtained promising computers and progress, there is every reason to expect the SP to support rather than oppose sensible reform.

If the government vacillates on fiscal consolidation and decides to splurge on social schemes, the result would be much higher inflation in 2014 when Parliament elections are due. The average voter might not say in so many words that maintaining macroeconomic balance and boosting investment is the Centre’s job but is savvy enough to recognise the effects of the central government’s failure on these counts.

Administering bitter medicine is easy for doctors. The patient knows it is required to cure his illness and is often conditioned to believe that the more bitter the medicine, the more effective it is. For governments, the job is more difficult. It has to be accompanied with great communication.

The choice before the government is between doing the right thing while trusting the people to understand, and letting the people down with inaction or populist profligacy while believing that people are too dumb to see through such a stratagem.

If there is one thing that the people have shown, it is that they are not dumb or passive.

For both the national parties, BJP and Congress, the results of the ‘mini’ general election would be a big cause for worry. Both have fared miserably in the critically important state of Uttar Pradesh. While the BJP may say that despite anti-incumbency, it still managed to stay abreast of the Congress in Uttarakhand and wrested the state of Goa, it would be little solace for the dwindling fortunes in the state that ultimately matters the most in the national context. It is the Congress, however, that has been bruised, and badly.

It was expecting to wrest Punjab from the ruling SAD-BJP combine and Uttarakhand from the BJP, and put up a very decent show in UP. But while it has been thrashed in Punjab, it will have to do everything possible, from horse trading to perhaps using  the office of the governor to threat of CBI on some winners to form the government in Uttarakhand. Of course, nothing can soothe the abysmal performance in UP.

Not only is UP the most important state in India from the national power perspective, it is also the state where the party devoted its almost entire strength, energies and star power. By star power, I mean the Gandhi family, especially the heir apparent, Rahul Gandhi. The party’s ‘young’ face addressed over 200 rallies all over UP, including saturation campaigning in their strongholds of Rae Bareli and Amethi. Not just Rahul, even his sister Priyanka and mother Sonia put their weight behind his UP campaign.

What could be the reason behind this shocker for Congress and its most potent vote catcher that it was routed even in its pocket boroughs of Amethi and Rae Bareiley? Congressmen, especially those who were involved with the state and his campaign, cannot understand how could this be possible when he was easily getting the maximum crowds for his rallies. But then, it was exactly the same last time too. People came to see him and the entertainment it provided. They did not turn into voters for Congress candidates.

The real reason, if Rahul and his party genuinely introspect, has been the events that have played out, not in UP, but at the Centre these past couple of years. The Congress may not realise, and if it does, it may not admit it, but what has done it in has been its arrogance in discrediting one constitutional body after the other. As we all know, corruption scandals have been hitting the UPA government at an alarming rate, but instead of damage control, it resorted to targeting constitutional bodies that have immense credibility in the eyes of the general public. The impression that gained ground was that the party does not believe in dissent, is undemocratic and arrogant enough to crush anyone, including constitutional authorities that are not subservient to its needs. Of course, one shouldn’t discount the impact that Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev had on the mood. The general perception is that the unprecedented attack on Baba Ramdev at Ramlila Maidan was undemocratic, and that Anna Hazare was cheated and tricked by this government on the issue of Lokpal.

You guessed it. The party’s poor showing in UP is not because Rahul Gandhi did not work hard enough, but the two gentlemen in Delhi who are a single thread in all that I have listed above as what went wrong, the duo of  Kapil Sibal and P Chidambaram. Their arrogance and high-handedness in handling every controversial issue spoilt it all.  Rahul Gandhi has to realise the damage the two did to his campaign without even visiting UP.


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