Najib’s RM42m trial: Spider web of money transfers involving his personal accounts

Editor’s note: The trial so far is difficult to follow but this summary by Kenneth Tee helps us focus on the paper trail. Basically you can see RM37 million flowed from Ihsan Perdana to one of Najib’s account, and another RM5 million to another of his accounts. And you can see Najib paying out from these accounts to a variety of recipients.

By Kenneth Tee

KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 — A flurry of fund transfers involving Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s personal bank accounts were part of a complex money trail that has emerged in the former prime minister’s money laundering trial.

Najib is currently on trial over seven charges, including money laundering and criminal breach of trust of over RM42 million belonging to former 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) subsidiary SRC International Sdn Bhd.

At the start of Najib’s trial, Attorney General (AG) Tommy Thomas said evidence would show that the RM42 million flowed from SRC International through two other companies before reaching Najib’s accounts.

So what happened to the RM42 million in Najib’s accounts that are said to be proceeds of unlawful activities, or funds from illegal sources?

Here’s what we know so far of the complex web of bank transactions that involved major local banks.

Malay Mail gives you a quick breakdown of money transfers between Najib’s bank accounts based on news reports and testimony provided by the 21st prosecution witness — AmBank Jalan Raja Chulan branch manager R. Uma Devi.

SRC International’s bank accounts

SRC International opened two bank accounts at AmBank’s Jalan Raja Chulan branch in 2011, which is where the story begins, based on court evidence available so far.

SRC International’s first AmIslamic Bank current account (2112022009-736) was registered at this bank branch on January 28, 2011, with four authorised signatories that comprised of two directors and two senior officers from SRC International.

SRC International then opened another AmIslamic Bank current account (2112022010-650) at the same branch on November 10, 2011.

The listed signatories for the second account were five SRC International directors, namely Datuk Ismee Ismail, Datuk Che Abdullah @Rashidi Che Omar, Datuk Suboh Md Yassin, Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi and Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil.

SRC’s money starts flowing

A total of RM4 billion was pumped into SRC International’s two accounts at AmIslamic Bank within months of their opening in 2011, based on bank statements.

This was done via the injecting of RM2 billion (in four separate transactions of RM500 million) into account-736 all on August 29, 2011, while another RM2 billion was credited in one lump sum into the account-650 on March 28, 2012.

About two years later after the mass influx of billions in ringgit, a total of RM85 million started being transferred out from SRC International’s account-650 via four transactions that were detected between July 2014 and February 2015.

All four transactions were authorised by SRC International directors Nik Faisal and Suboh, with the recipients of these funds being Putra Perdana Construction Sdn Bhd and SRC International’s wholly-owned subsidiary Gandingan Mentari Sdn Bhd.

Based on bank statements, RM35 million went to Putra Perdana’s Maybank account on July 8, 2014, while the remaining went into Gandingan Mentari’s AmBank account in three separate transactions (RM40 million on December 24, 2014; RM5 million on February 5, 2015 and RM5 million on February 6, 2015).

Interestingly, Gandingan Mentari transferred out the same three amounts (RM40 million, RM5 million, RM5 million) on the same day they came in, passing on the money to Ihsan Perdana Sdn Bhd.

(Ihsan Perdana is registered as Yayasan 1Malaysia Development Berhad’s corporate social responsibility programmes provider and is also purportedly SRC International’s corporate social responsibility partner).

These three fund transfers totaling RM50 million to Ihsan Perdana were authorised by Gandingan Mentari’s two signatories, who also happened to be the two SRC directors Nik Faisal and Suboh.

SRC’s money into Najib’s bank accounts

Najib had a total of five AmBank accounts (one savings and four current) registered with AmBank Jalan Raja Chulan branch, according to bank documents.

His current accounts are listed as 2112022009-694, 2112022011-880, 2112022011-898 and 2112022011-906 while his savings account is listed at 2110020090-481.

Najib’s two older accounts ending 694 and 481 were closed on August 30, 2013 under his instructions in a letter he wrote to the bank branch manager, with the remaining balance of RM12,436,711.87 and RM82.67 respectively transferred to one of his new accounts (account-880).

For the next part, we will focus on accounts ending 898, 906 and 880 that were all opened on July 31, 2013.

It must be noted that, Najib had appointed SRC director Nik Faisal to manage all three current accounts in a letter dated July 31, 2013 (same day current accounts were opened).

Watch out for the complex web of transactions below, where millions in ringgit get passed around between these three Najib accounts that were also used to issue cheques out to other entities.

1. Najib’s account ending 880 (AmPrivate Banking-1MY)

During its brief existence of less than two years from July 2013 to March 2015, Najib’s account-880 received RM64 million via three transactions, based on evidence highlighted in court.

Account statements shown in court revealed that two of the transfers originated from Ihsan Perdana (RM27 million on 26 December, 2014 and RM10 million on February 10, 2015), while another transfer of RM27 million from an unspecified source took place on July 8, 2014.

After the influx of funds totalling RM64 million, over RM63 million was transferred out from Najib’s account-880 via multiple transactions, including distributions to his other accounts and for credit cards.

Here’s where the funds of over RM63 million went:

  1. RM20 million was transferred out to Najib’s account-898 (RM10 million) and account-906 (RM10 million) on July 8, 2014
  2. RM3 million was transferred out to Najib’s account-898 (RM1 million) and account-906 (RM 2 million) on July 23, 2014
  3. RM3,282,734.16 was transferred out to be credited into two Platinum credit cards on August 13, 2014 (It is currently unknown who these credit cards belong to)
  4. RM27 million was transferred out to Permai Binaraya Sdn Bhd on December 29, 2014
  5. RM10 million was transferred out to Najib’s account-906 on February 10, 2015

2. Najib’s account ending 906 (AmPrivate Banking-MY)

For account-906, many would be familiar with this account as bank documents and witness testimonies previously showed that Najib had used this account to issue 14 cheques worth RM7.2 million to multiple recipients.

The cheque recipients include a welfare home, political parties Umno and Upko, contractors who installed water tanks or carried out renovation works at Najib’s residences, and several associates that among other things helped monitor Chinese sentiment in six local Chinese dailies.

As mentioned earlier, this account-906 of Najib’s received RM22 million via three fund transfers from Najib’s account-880 between July 2014 and February 2015.

This same account-906 also received RM10 million (August 21, 2014) and RM1 million (August 28, 2014) from yet another Najib account (account-898), banking statements reveal.

Beside the transfers in totalling RM33 million from Najib’s account-880 and account-898, RM5 million from Ihsan Perdana also found its way into the account-906 on December 26, 2014.

3. Najib’s account ending 898 (AmPrivate Banking Y-1MY)

This account-898 received a total of RM11 million via two fund transfers from Najib’s account-880 in July 2014, as mentioned earlier.

This account-898 also received RM3.5 million from account-906 on February 11, 2015.

Account-898 is notable for issuing a RM3.5 million cheque on January 21, 2015 to law firm Hafarizam Wan & Aisha Mubarak.

Back to the present

Najib has since closed all three current accounts (880, 906 and 898) as of March 9, 2015 and transferred all remaining balance in a single cheque to the account of Ihsan Perdana.

Compared to the millions in ringgit that once flowed through these three current accounts, the remaining balance when they were closed is a pittance —— RM690.11 (account-880), RM101,952.14 (account-906) and RM721.57 (account-898).

Last year Najib was charged with seven charges related to criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering involving RM42 million of SRC International’s funds.

Trial is expected to resume today, the same day the High Court will deliver its decision on whether Najib succeeds in his challenge against all seven charges which he claimed were defective.

Trial had previously been set to run until May 10.

So far, 21 witnesses have testified and the prosecution has already handed over to Najib’s lawyers 35 volumes of documents totalling some 7,000 pages that it would be relying on in the trial.

Throughout the course of the trial, Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah had claimed that Najib was a “victim” of a conspiracy by fugitive businessman Jho Low.

First published in MalayMail.com

Nearly a third of Pakatan Govt’s economic promises achieved, says Ideas

KUALA LUMPUR: The Pakatan Harapan Government, which swept into power in May last year, has fulfilled nearly a third of its economic promises but more needs to be done, the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) says.

In its first edition of Projek Pantau, a report card on PH’s performance in fulfilling promises in its Buku Harapan manifesto, issued on Tuesday it highlighted:

  • The government moved quickly to implement its signature promises, including abolition of GST;
  • The government has allocated significant resources to supporting Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and encouraging technological adoption;
  • The government has significantly improved the transparency of the budget and the government’s overall financial position; and
  • The government has laid out an ambitious plan to tackle corruption which includes important reforms of the public procurement system.

However, Faiz Zaidi, executive at the Democracy and Governance Unit, Ideas pointed out: “In many of these areas, the real test will be implementation but it is encouraging that the government is on track to deliver these important reforms.

“The government should maintain momentum in these areas and should ensure these successes are communicated clearly to the public to build confidence in the government’s performance,” he said.

For this first edition, Ideas analysed 192 sub-promises, broken down from 23 main promises. Ideas said it considered all promises in Pillar 1 (Reduce the People’s Burden) and Pillar 3 (Spur Sustainable and Equitable Economic Growth), alongside three promises in Pillar 2 (Institutional and Political Reforms).

“Our overall conclusion is that the government is performing reasonably well in delivering its manifesto promises. Nearly one year into their first term in office, over 29% cent of their economic promises are either achieved or on track,” it said.

However, Ideas said other areas however, are in more trouble, in particular a number of highly ambitious targets that are proving difficult to reach:

  • The government has implemented a range of measures to reduce the cost of living, most notably abolishing GST. So far – these measures have focused on short term measures, such as subsidies and price control, rather than structural reform to different product markets to lower prices more sustainably.
  • The government has successfully restructured BR1M into Bantuan Sara Hidup, but it has not been put under the purview of a statutory body which could prevent political misuse.
  • In housing, although the government is implementing a detailed strategy we judge that this will be insufficient to achieve the ambitious promise to build one million more affordable homes, given the continued focus on a government-led approach which has failed to deliver in the past.
  • In healthcare, the government’s increase in the health budget is far below the level needed to reach 4% of GDP. Ultimately the discussion on providing sustainable healthcare need to be elevated.
  • Ambitious reform of Government Linked Companies (GLCs), in particular delivering the promise that GLCs will not compete against private companies seems increasingly unlikely as the government has committed itself to no clear strategy.
  • Although trade and investment continue to rise, the government has stalled on ratification of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the prospects for an EU Free Trade Agreement also look slim.

This links to a wider concern voiced by many that the government needs to frame a clear and compelling trade and industrial policy for Malaysia.

“In these areas, we recommend that the government recalibrate its approach to ensure that the ambitious targets of the manifesto can be achieved,” Faiz said.

The top three areas the government has said and done little or nothing to demonstrate that progress is being made:

  • The government has allocated significant resources to upgrade infrastructure in Orang Asal communities, but has not set out a comprehensive approach to address the other issues facing these communities – including land rights and education.
  • On tax, the government has so far only proposed modest reforms, although the government has formed a Tax Reform Committee it is not clear what direction reform is likely to take, or even what the scope of reform might be. The government will have to balance the competing demands of raising additional revenue to fund public services and sticking to its promise of reducing the tax burden.
  • Although the government has set allocated resources to support SMEs in the form of loans, it does not seem to be applying the same attention to reviewing and reducing the regulatory burden on business, and small business in particular.

In these areas, Ideas recommended the government move quickly to set out to reconfirm its political commitment to these promises and set out clear policy direction to achieve them.

“We also urge the government to be more strategic and coordinated in communicating with the public. This is important not only to demonstrate what they have achieved, but a maturing democracy like Malaysia needs informed citizens who are able to raise the political debate to a higher level,” Faiz said.

First published in The Star Online

Coup d’etat possible if govt is not careful on Malay issues, says Khalid Samad

KUALA LUMPUR: It is important for the government to tread carefully on Malay issues, because a potential coup d’etat could take place, given that the Malays are the majority in the country, says Federal Territories Minister Khalid Abdul Samad.

“Nothing is impossible. Especially since 70% of the population are Malays and they are sufficiently influenced to believe that the position of the Malays is in danger.

“As you know, the police and military are also fundamentally Malay-based institutions. That is why it is very important for us to handle this issue with care,” he said.

Khalid was speaking to reporters in the Parliament lobby on Monday (April 8), in response to Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, who was quoted as saying that the Cabinet’s decision to withdraw from the Rome Statute was a “political” move done in fear of a coup d’etat.

Khalid drew the example of the 2013 Egyptian coup d’etat, when Mohamed Morsi was removed by the military as the President of Egypt.

“Even in Egypt, where the issue of racial diversity does not exist, but the sense of insecurity and uncertainty with the emergence of a new government, following a democratic election, was capitalised by the ‘deep state’.

“So, in our position, we must be careful,” he said.

Khalid said the government’s decision to withdraw from the Rome Statute was because the Conference of Rulers was dragged into the matter.

He said that many issues such as questioning Malay rights and the position of the rulers can be potentially capitalised on by quarters with vested interests to create public disorder and mass mobilisation.

“Because, as you all understand, the issue we are facing are accusations that the government is anti-Malay, anti-Islam and anti-royalty.

“After the academicians have come up with statements portraying that the statute will jeopardise the position of the royalty, so we have to take this issue (Rome Statute) into consideration,” he said.

On Sunday (April 7), a group of student activists claimed that a summary paper, prepared by a group of academics to convince the Conference of Rulers to reject the Rome Statute, was one sided.

Saifuddin was also quoted on Sunday as saying that history had shown that the attempt of a coup d’etat is usually plotted by the “deep state” and it is a common reaction towards democratic advancement following an election.

“(There was the) possibility of the issue being manipulated to the extent that people go to the streets, moved by the ‘deep state’ and certain apparatus,” he was quoted as saying by several news reports.

The deep state refers to a secret government or network, typically consisting of the military, secret police, intelligence agencies or even civil servants, which acts independently of the country’s political leadership.

Saifuddin, however, refused to clarify the definition of a ‘deep state’ within the Malaysian context.

Last Friday (April 5), Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government was forced to withdraw from the Rome Statute following “confusion created by those with political interests”.

First published in thestar.com.my

NST sits down with Dr M for exclusive interview

By Lokman Mansor/ Sofea Chok Suat Ling/ Fauziah Ismail/ David Christy

NST sits down with Dr M for exclusive interview – Part 1

THE long walk through the halls of the Prime Minister’s Department in Putrajaya that Wednesday morning was filled with anticipation. We were there to interview Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, whose second term as prime minister of Malaysia had earned him a place in the record books as the world’s oldest state leader.

As chairman of the new alliance Pakatan Harapan (PH), the 93-year-old physician’s political comeback pulled the rug from under Barisan Nasional (BN) after six decades of power. It ushered in an era of wide-ranging reform and healing that, as Malaysians are starting to realise, will take longer than expected to accomplish.

The New Straits Times editors who sat across from Dr Mahathir in his 5th floor office — Lokman Mansor, Sofea Chok Suat Ling, Fauziah Ismail and David Christy — were allotted 40 minutes, but he obliged us extra time. Dr Mahathir offered answers and explainers to a range of lingering worries that had greeted the first 11 months of the first governnent not led by Umno and BN. He spoke frankly about the legacy issues of the previous government, stalled projects, corruption, the economy, and pace of reforms.

This new government had a mandate to clean up, but soon discovered that it would be dispensing injustice to mere followers of the previous administration. It has since gone into a rethink.

As a political leader, Dr Mahathir has found himself having to joust with a momentarily rejuvenated Datuk Seri Najib Razak and an emboldened Umno, consolidating the Malay credentials.

On education and the multiracial society, Dr Mahathir’s passionate response displayed a consistency in theme and messaging that began more than 70 years ago when, while in college, he contributed to this newspaper (then The Straits Times) under the pseudonym C.H.E. Det.

In total, the number of questions asked tripled from the advanced set of 10 we submitted a day before, and Dr Mahathir answered all of them without any hesitation. He was at times extremely frank and, we suspect, purposely vague on certain issues.

For this reason, we have decided to publish the interview transcript in full, and allow readers to draw their own conclusions. The first part of the transcript appears today, and will continue in tomorrow’s edition.

For added insight, the editors will share some of their personal observations and perspectives from the interview. Videotaped portions of the session will be published online and in our social media platforms in the days to come.

For the NST, the interview with Dr Mahathir was long overdue. We did not merely interview a sitting prime minister. We spoke to Che Det, who has been a part of the national conversation for seven decades.

And the good doctor gave us his prognosis of things that have gone wrong, and how we as a nation should address those frailties.

Thank you, Che Det.

THE FULL INTERVIEW

Question: It is now almost one year since the 14th General Election (GE14). What would you say are some of the major accomplishments of the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government?

Answer: Number one is keeping the party together. It’s not an easy thing to do because we have different parties to manage and to get them to reach a decision is much more difficult than when I was leading the previous party.

That is a very difficult task, but they have stayed together.

Maybe other people may not think of it as much of an achievement, but actually it is a big achievement because these parties have never really worked together.

Q: How is it different, this new coalition, from the one you were in previously?

A: The cabinet meeting is illustrative of the fact we are a real coalition of parties of almost equal strength, and each party would want to give its view on all the subjects that we discuss. So cabinet meetings normally take a much longer time than in the previous government.

Everybody wants to have a say, and sometimes repeatedly, and that means we cannot reach a decision easily, but even then the fact that we can stay together and actually give direction to the government is, to me, an achievement.

Q: Some have said without Tun at the helm, PH would disintegrate. How do you ensure this doesn’t happen?

A: Well, this is a difficult question to answer because I have to sum up whatever it is that they (have) argued (about) and declare that this is the decision that we are making. I cannot sum up unless, of course, they agree with my views and these are sometimes very contrary views.

So far, I have been able to lead. We don’t see any substitute yet at the moment, but there have been occasions when I left the cabinet and Wan Azizah was leading and she was able to conduct the meeting, at least for the short period I was away. There was once when I was out of the country, she conducted the meeting.

So, in a sense, the structure is expected. Now, who fills in after me, or after Wan Azizah, is something else. Of course, what we say is that Anwar will take over. Anwar has been a deputy prime minister before. He ought to know how to keep the party together.

Q: But you have said numerous times in the past that Anwar is not fit to be a leader. What has changed between then and now?

A: Well, that was before. Yes, I did say that. But between Najib and Anwar, I think Najib is a worse leader than Anwar. The worst leader.

I think that to have Anwar replace a person like Najib is more acceptable than to have Najib carry on, so I decided that I would work Anwar, whatever I may have said about him before, whatever he has said against me before. I thought that our working together was far more important, in order to displace Najib, than for us to quarrel because I knew if we didn’t work together, Najib would be the next prime minister and that would be disastrous for the country.

Q: Do you see Anwar as able to keep PH together?

A: I think he has been leading a considerable part of Pakatan Harapan. In fact, he was the architect of Pakatan Rakyat. Of course, Pakatan Rakyat failed because they were not that cohesive. But after we came together, we were able to work much more closely.

The fact remains that he was from Umno, and Umno, of course, was not very liked by the opposition. He left Umno and he was able to bring DAP, Pas even, and his party together, so he has leadership quality.

Q: One of the criticisms we often hear about the new government is that sometimes it is slow in implementing initiatives or unclear in terms of the policy direction. How much of that is due to the inexperience of the new ministers and how much to the legacy issues, the problems left by the previous government?

A: A lot of it is due to what was left by the previous government. The fact is that the previous government was very secretive. We didn’t know what they were doing and we assumed that they had done certain things and we formulated a way to get rid of the wrong decisions made before.

But when we took over, we found out the truth about what they had done.

For example, when they entered into the contract for ECRL, we did not realise that we cannot terminate the contract. It means we have to pay a huge compensation. And if you don’t terminate, then we will incur huge costs.

And the borrowings were very bad in the sense that they were expensive and were from Chinese sources and all payments are made not according to work in progress, but according to time taken.

Periodically we have to pay, without regard for the work that has been done. All these things created a big problem for us because it is difficult to get out of this project.

We thought we could just cancel the project, but it was not to be like that because they had entered into an agreement which tied them up very tightly to the other party. So to get out of it, we need not only offer to take over but also to persuade the other party to agree to our case.

So it has taken almost a year, we still cannot get around to determining (an outcome). We have been able to talk about reducing the cost, and this must be substantial, but the amount the other party was prepared to reduce is not sufficient for us. So many things have to be negotiated and at the back of it is the Chinese government. We cannot afford to ill-treat a Chinese company here without incurring the displeasure of the Chinese government. So it has been very tough trying to undo the wrong things that Najib has done.

The civil service, for example. He has corrupted the civil service to the point where these people took money. We have to get rid of them, but we have to retrain a new set of younger civil servants. They are good, but they are new. They cannot manage in the way the entrenched leaders were able to.

Then we have this problem of the high cost of living, which — despite doing away with GST — did not come down. As you know, when prices go up it is very difficult to bring them down in any circumstances. Now we are trying to bring them down because the high cost of living is something that people are unhappy about.

Then, there is unemployment. When we decided to terminate all the contracts given out by the previous government because they involved wrongdoings, we found that we were not punishing Najib. We were punishing these people, and they included not just the contractor, the sub-contractor. They were not involved in the negotiations or whatever. The workers, the suppliers, all kinds of people get hurt because we stop.

It’s not an easy task. If it involves only a few companies, yes, but we have hundreds of contracts that we stopped with the intention of restarting but at the moment we are not able to restart because some of the contracts are too costly. We have to reduce. All these things take time.

It’s not that there is no idea how to go about it, but to negotiate a reduction in price, to renegotiate the terms of the contract, that takes time, especially with the big companies. But the small companies also suffer, because they cannot carry on and therefore they have to lay off workers and all that. The workers get hurt, and we find that instead of punishing Najib, who is going around quite freely, we are punishing other people.

So when we realise that, we need to reverse our decision. If we don’t reverse just because we want to maintain a decision without being accused of flip-flopping, we would do injustice to a lot of people.

People say we’ve flip-flopped and all that, but this is based on number one, a lack of information on the extent of Najib’s depredation, and secondly, that when you take action, he’s denying everything but the people who obtained contracts in the last government, these are the people who are hurt, including the workers.

Q: Would you say you have uncovered all the dubious practices of the previous government?

A: We are still finding more. It’s almost endless. It’s not only 1MDB. There is the CRC, the pension funds, there is Tabung Haji, there is Felda. These institutions have been robbed of money and now they are suffering. Badly managed, money stolen and all that. It’s not easy to solve these problems, because the money has disappeared.

For example, if you say you invest in Petro Saudi, if it is a real investment we can go to Petro Saudi and maybe dismantle the thing and get back our money. But the money is not with Petro Saudi. It has travelled to many different places and we believe, finally, it ended up in his account.

But in law, you need to prove that you are the owner. The money that moves from one bank to another is ours, we have to prove that. Without that proof, you can’t go to court.

Q: When you first became prime minister in 1981, you introduced the slogan ‘Bersih, Cekap dan Amanah’ (Clean, Efficient and Trustworthy). Now you’re back in the government and having to yet again clean up and fight corruption. What happened along the way? Can we ever have a clean government?

A: Corruption is endemic everywhere, and any government would face that problem. The thing is how to reduce corruption. Eliminating it is almost impossible.

During my time, corruption was not so bad that the government could not function. The government could function. Everything could be built and people trusted us.

But when Najib took over, there was extensive corruption involving him! He is the head of government. When the head of government is known to be openly corrupt, then the whole government machinery becomes corrupt. The extent of corruption during Najib’s time is a scandal of enormous proportions.

When we took over, almost immediately that stopped. Our government is not corrupt, but we are getting rid of the corrupt people. We are also taking action in the courts for corruption. So at the moment what we are receiving is information on corruption that happened before, so there are lots more.

After we took over, incidences of corruption have been very few. For example, a political secretary is accused of taking a watch or something like that. That is nothing compared to the billions that were stolen before. So I would say we have reduced corruption by about 90 per cent. We no longer have people complaining when they go to the office, they ask for money.

Q: So there was a loss of trust in the government before?

A: Yes, a complete loss of trust. You know, I was told of a story while I was still out there (of the government). A lady wanted to do some business. She has some friends in the government and she expected her friend would help her. And she went to her friend, and her friend asked her, ‘How much are you giving upfront?’ Her friend!

You see, that’s the extent of corruption during Najib’s time. But now we don’t hear stories like that any more.

Q: Despite these transgressions, there are those who say Najib is innocent until proven guilty in court. What do you have to say to that?

A: Yes, it’s true. But if the court doesn’t hear the case, he will not be proven guilty. And what Najib has done is to wangle so that the trial is delayed. Almost 11 months after we won, his case has just started.

If his case is not heard then he cannot be found guilty, and to claim that until he is declared guilty then only you can accuse him? And he is delaying it because he knows he is guilty.

Even today (Wednesday) at the first hearing, he tried to find an excuse, appealing to the higher court, saying that this decision is wrong. All these things are done in order to delay a hearing. If the hearing is delayed, then he can never be described as guilty, until the court says he’s guilty. So that is his strategy.

In the meantime, of course, he is going around fishing for support, saying that ‘No. I am not guilty’. The public may say he is not guilty, but until the court says he is guilty or not guilty, he is guilty. Under French law, you are guilty before you are proven not guilty.

Q: Coming back to the ECRL, how confident are you about the prospect of this project going ahead?

A: It would seem that the project may have to go on, perhaps on a lesser scale and at a lower cost. That is what we’re aiming for, but at the moment we need to have the agreement of the contractor. If we terminate the contract, we have to pay compensation. Huge compensation. If we go on, we don’t have to pay compensation but the cost will be less. So this is still ongoing.

It has not been easy for us to persuade the contractor that ‘you have to reduce your cost’, ‘you have to reduce the scale’, all these things. Of course, the contractor entered into this contract hoping to make a lot of money, but we are trying to reduce the amount that he can make. Naturally, he is not very willing to reduce the contract value because he wants to make money.

Q: Have they given us a deadline?

A: We wish to have a deadline, if we can fix (it), but it depends on the other side agreeing. We don’t know what that side is going to do. If we fix the deadline, you come to the deadline, (but) the other side still won’t agree, what are we going to do?

Q: Recently, you had asked the people to be patient, that it would take three years to restore the administrative and financial conditions. On the RM1 trillion debt, are you looking at a specific reduction in three years’ time?

A: We think we should reduce the borrowings by the government and we see some signs of being able to do this. We can reduce the cost of various contracts.

We may have to resort to selling government assets because we have to pay the debts. We can’t maintain the debts and just service them. That will take us 30 to 40 years. We have to pay off the debt, to retire the debt, and that means we have to raise money.

Q: How much debt are we targeting to retire in three years?

A: I can’t say very well, but I think if we reach about RM800 billion that will make us quite comfortable. Now it is more than RM1 trillion. When the debt is smaller, the burden of interest is also smaller.

Q: How do you see the ongoing reforms impacting the economy? Because we have projects that are being reviewed, not continuing, the cost of living, the issue of wages? In terms of the economy, what can people expect in the next few years?

A: Faith in the government has been restored. Not fully yet, but restored to the point where people are now coming with proposals to invest in Malaysia. Some of these proposals, of course, involve some government funds. We may not be able to come up with the funds. But many of the proposals are entirely private, that is to say, they will raise the funds, they will build, they will do everything and the government merely has to approve. That is coming, quite a lot.

The process is a little slow because we are very careful not to be taken for a ride again. So we already have many, many proposals, which when implemented will reverse the trend in the economy.

But as you can see, this economy is still growing; 4.7 per cent is a big figure for an economy of our size and therefore, when we grow, the size of the base will be bigger and the rate of growth will be smaller. You see, one per cent of $100 would be just $1, but when the growth comes to $1,000, that one per cent becomes smaller by comparison with the base. So that will happen. I am confident. Many people have come to see me, the Japanese have come, the Chinese have come, the Europeans have come. At the airshow (Lima 2019), they were all very positive about Malaysia’s growth. Confidence has returned.

Q: Do you see these changes being implemented in PH’s first term as the government?

A: We are working on it, but it’s not an overnight change. It’s not possible. As you go along, you meet a lot of problems. You introduce a system, and then find that the system is wrong. You need to make corrections. You can’t say, ‘I have decided this. Right or wrong, you must go ahead’. That is a stupid position to take, just because you want to say, ‘Oh, I don’t flip-flop’.

But flip-flop is necessary when you find that what you have done is wrong. But, of course, before you do it, you must study things very carefully, know all the facts, all the background, before you make a decision. That is what we are doing now.

So you find that sometimes we come up very late with a solution. It’s now almost one year, and there are some things which are still not fully resolved.

For example, when we stopped contracts given out by the government, we found that the effect was worse than we thought. You are thinking of stopping the contract, but we are creating unemployment. That is the effect of stopping the contract. So when we find that out, we can’t say, ‘Oh, we have decided. No change’. That is bad. You have to tackle this problem.

Q: What are the things that frustrate you, Tun, in the first year of your administration?

A: Well, if I compare with my previous stint as prime minister, the whole machinery of government was in place. People knew what to do. All I needed to do was to come up with some decision and they would carry it out.

Now I find that I can make a decision but whether it is carried out the way I want it or not, more often it is not. So I need to keep on going back and finding out what is it that they have done.

In the past, in my previous life, I visited the sites, I asked questions. I required that they all take dated pictures so that I could know what was happening. I make reports, because I believe in micro-management. I think if you make a decision and then leave it to somebody else, they will do something else.

Q: Is there sabotage now in the civil service? Is that what you are saying?

A: There is that reluctance, because the civil service has been working with one party for 60 years, now they are going to work with the opposition party and some of them are reluctant.

Many civil servants are very strong Umno supporters and all that. Sometimes you find that the civil servants cannot work with his minister, like the KSU (secretary-general) for example.

On the one hand, the elected minister should not interfere in the promotion or position of the civil servant. On the other hand, if he cannot work with the civil servant, if the civil servant does not follow his instructions or goes the opposite (way), we need to voice our unhappiness and the need for a change.

NST sits down with Dr M for exclusive interview – Part 2

Yesterday, the NST ran Part One of its interview with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, his first with this newspaper since he reassumed the premiership last year. It was a wide-ranging interview that went well over the alloted 40 minutes, and as such we decided to publish it in full to allow readers to draw their own conclusions on the issues he covered. In the second part today, he delves into the performance of his ministers, the racial narrative being increasingly propagated by the opposition, income gap and wages.

He also outlines to NST executive editors LOKMAN MANSOR, SOFEA CHOK SUAT LING, FAUZIAH ISMAIL and DAVID CHRISTY what he resolves to do for education — bring back the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English in all schools, and review the way Islam is being taught to students.

Question: Is the slow pace of reforms due to the inexperience of ministers?

Answer: No. It is not because of inexperience. We know what we want to do, but we realise that some of the reforms require amendments to the Federal Constitution. To amend the Constitution, we need a two-thirds majority. We don’t have a two-thirds majority. We need the support of the opposition to achieve a two-thirds majority and we cannot guarantee the opposition will support (us).

We have the intention to go to Parliament to amend the laws and remove some of the more draconian laws, but we need the support of the majority of the members of parliament, in some cases, a two-thirds majority. If we can’t get a two-thirds majority, it means we cannot push through our reforms.

But some things can be done on our own initiative, like saying that the prime minister will serve for only two terms. That needs a constitutional amendment, but we as a party can do that. We can remove the prime minister, as a party we can.

But to make the amendment, we have to look at the Constitution, what is there that needs to be amended? There are so many things, like the voting age, removal or modification of the death penalty, all these require amendments to the Constitution. That is holding us up, because we don’t have a two-thirds majority.

Q: So, you are happy with the ministers?

A: The ministers are new. You don’t expect a new person to know everything. If I change to another new minister, it’s not going to help at all.

But they are very concerned about their own performance, and I keep in very close contact with them. Every minister comes to see me if they have a problem, but sometimes they need to know what their functions are and all that. I will advise them. Of course, it takes a lot of time but in some cases I will help them to make decisions.

Q: You would have been the education minister if not for the Pakatan Harapan (PH) election manifesto. What would you have done if you were the education minister?

A: A lot of things. One of the things I believe is that the schools, from kindergarten onwards, should introduce some kind of moral education, to know values. In the past, our parents told us what was right, what was wrong. What is a sin, what is not. But today, parents — father and mother — are working. No quality time for the children, so the schools have to take over that task.

Secondly, with regard to religious education, we believe schools should provide religious education but it should not encroach on the teachings of other subjects. We find that in the curriculum, so much (time) is given to religious education at the expense of other subjects — Science and Mathematics.

Then, we have the English language. We need to teach Science and Maths in English. The idea that the Malays cannot learn in English is stupid. It’s not true at all. I am a Malay, I can speak reasonable English. Why can’t other people?

Today we have computers, we have the Internet. (If) we cannot get teachers, we can have teaching programmes through the computers, so that you can project the lesson on the screen and the screen will teach. And also teach the teacher. The teacher also will learn. It will make teaching much more easier because we can get experts to prepare the programmes. If that is done, I think the quality will remain the same throughout the whole system.

If we depend on the teachers, some teachers are good, some teachers are not so good. And their quality affects the students. But when you have a standard format, a standard programme, I think that will ensure the achievement of the students will be higher, at the level of the teacher who is chosen to prepare the programme. I must admit, at this moment, there are some programmes but we are not yet satisfied with the use of computers to teach.

Q: Why isn’t Science and Maths in English yet?

A: Today, it seems that whereas they say Maths and Science should be taught in Malay, they do allow some schools to teach in English.

That is unfair, because the graduates of these schools will be employable. Those who go through the Malay stream will not be employable. That is discrimination against them. Of course, they don’t like it. Even the teachers don’t like it.

It is a burden on the teachers to teach the way they are teaching now. But if we resort to using programmes to teach, I think they will learn how to master the English language. I find that there are courses available today for learning English, and there are very good courses for learning any language, and we can get people to prepare courses with regard to the teaching of languages in particular, so that everybody will have access to the same master or teacher.

Q: So, we will introduce Science and Maths in English again soon?

A: Yes, we will. We are actually doing so now, but without announcing (it). The previous government, because of the demand, they allowed certain schools, selected schools, to teach in English, but some schools actually refused to teach in English.

Q: Tun, have you shared your ideas on education with the education minister?

A: I have seen him many, many times, because this thing is evolving. We have to know the problem. For example, I asked for the curriculum, the school timetable and I looked through it and it is nonsense. It is not giving due time to important subjects.

Yes, I believe that you should learn all about your religion but what they are teaching as religion is not what they should be teaching. They are teaching only certain parts of the religion, like the performance of rituals. That is what they emphasise. ‘If you don’t perform this ritual, you go to hell’. But what is important about Islam, in particular, is the way of life. When you say way of life, that means certain values. These values are not taught. In fact, the teacher himself doesn’t know.

We read the Quran in Arabic, we don’t understand. I (have) read the Quran. I finished the Quran when I was in my teens, but I didn’t know the contents. I now read the Quran in English and Malay, and now I understand the teachings of Islam and they are all very, very good. But this is not conveyed to the students.

We need to go back and find out what are really the standards insisted by the Quran for Muslims so as to lead the way of life of a Muslim.

Q: After one year, how would you assess the new opposition?

A: They are not concentrating on the government. They are just trying to survive and to survive now they have resorted to playing up racial and religious issues. Umno has become Pas. They are totally dominated by Pas. They are listening to Pas. It is not the Umno that I knew. It is not the Umno that was founded in 1946.

I have been with Umno from 1946. I know what Umno is all about, but this is not Umno. It is just a group of politicians who want to perpetuate their positions.

Q: How is PH going to deal with the racial narrative brought up by Umno and Pas?

A: The fact of race is there. We cannot deny that. The fact of the differences between the races is there. While we do not want to play the racial issue, we must ensure that no race is left behind. And we know at this moment, the Malays in particular, are very far behind. We need to make corrections and that is why we say it’s not just about equality, it is also about fairness. We have to be fair.

If we work on the basis of equality and people are asked to make beads for tender. Some people are capable, some are not capable. Unfortunately, I believe that if you don’t look into the interests of the Bumiputeras, they will lose out. The disparity between the Bumiputeras and non-Bumiputeras will grow much bigger and when that happens, there’s bound to be tension and the opposition party will play it up.

So while we want to have equal treatment of all races, that equal treatment must be accompanied by fair treatment. For example, before we invented this direct negotiation and limited tender, that actually is discrimination in favour of the Bumiputeras. But if you remove that, there is a likelihood that the Bumiputeras will get nothing. Because they are not people who are commercially oriented. They don’t even understand the use of money. So we have to give consideration to that.

Q: Talking about disparity, Khazanah Research Institute mentioned in its 2018 report that the gap between the rich and poor has been increasing since 2008. With all that the government has been doing, we are still caught in this situation.

A: The government is doing a lot under affirmative action, the New Economic Policy. But we are dealing with people who do not have the culture of doing business. For them, money is to be spent to exchange for goods. It is not meant for investment. We have to teach them how to invest, how to manage the money.

For example, they borrow RM1 million for a business. They use only RM500,000. The other RM500,000 is used to buy cars and all that. Now, on a RM500,000 investment, they have to pay interest on RM1 million. That is a burden.

That means that if you take interest at 3.0 per cent or 4.0 per cent, the interest they have to pay is 8.0 per cent. You shouldn’t make use of your business borrowings for other things. But they don’t understand this. We have to teach (them).

First is to teach ‘Why’. But then, there is a cultural part. They did not grow up absorbing a culture that is commensurate with the task of going into business. The Chinese are different. For thousands of years they have been doing business. They understand business very well, so they can manage better. That is why the competition is not between equals. We need to overcome the inequality. We need to change the Malay culture. But that is very difficult.

Q: But not all the poor can go into business.

A: I’m not talking just about business. About working. You know that they don’t want to work. When I say that they are lazy, I was scolded. But why are the Bangladeshis here? Because we don’t want to work.

People come here because we don’t fill the jobs that are created. In Japan, even a man wearing a tie is sweeping the road outside his shop. Because the culture is different. But here … ‘Oh, that is too dangerous’. ‘That is too humiliating’. They don’t want to work actually. You see them, just lying about doing nothing.

I met a Malay who has a pineapple plantation. He was a lorry driver, but because of his spirit, his willingness to work, he is now a millionaire, just by planting pineapples. And when I talked to him, he said, ‘In Malaysia, there shouldn’t be anybody who is unemployed’. Because there are jobs everywhere. But we don’t want to do the job. And when we don’t want to do the job, then, of course, we cannot become rich.

There are Malays who are so poorly qualified that the only thing they can do is to become a labourer. He must accept, but he says ‘No. No. I am Malay. I don’t do these kinds of jobs’. So we have that cultural problem to overcome.

Q: Is it also possible that low wages are a factor?

A: Salaries are a very sensitive matter. People want to earn more money. If they live in some other country, they will be paid $1 million for becoming a clerk. $1 million of their currency. But the purchasing power of that salary is equivalent maybe to about RM1,000 or RM500.

What is important is the purchasing power, not the amount. Many countries with major inflation, they pay huge salaries, but the purchasing power is low. When the purchasing power is low, what do you do? You don’t raise the salary. You improve the performance.

I think that we are not productive. We have so many holidays. For the number of people working in the government, we should be a roaring success. But our productivity is not adequate for the money we are paying. A country that pays a high salary but is very productive, it grows the economy.

We need people who are well trained, capable, skilled and all that, they can have a high salary. But when you think about high salary just by moving up the minimum wage, the only effect you get is a high cost of living, because everything now costs more because of the high salary and when everything costs more, that high salary that you get does not purchase that amount, but purchases the same amount as when your salary is low.

Q: Donald Trump thinks he is putting the squeeze on the Chinese in their trade war. Is our government concerned that he may turn his sights on other countries that have surpluses with America, like Malaysia?

A: He will have to go against the whole world if he wants to do that. Already, he is causing a lot of damage, not only with China but also with Iran.

When they apply sanctions, they actually do it against weak countries. Strong countries do not care. You can apply sanctions against Iran, and China and Russia will continue to deal with Iran.

But small countries like us, we are threatened. If you go and do business with Iran, your banks will be closed. You will not be able to transact. All kinds of threats are being hurled at us. We have to accept being sanctioned by the US, not because we have done anything wrong, but because of not obeying them with regard to trade with North Korea or trade with Iran.

Q: But are we concerned that the US may also increase tariffs?

A: So far, they have not done so. But I think they have a handful dealing with China and I think to single out countries like Malay-sia… you know we have been very critical. I have voiced my opinion on Trump. I have been asked umpteen times about Trump. I gave my fair opinion — he is not somebody you can deal with, because he changes his mind, sometimes three times in one day. He wants to meet Kim. He doesn’t want to meet Kim. I’m in love with Kim. How do you deal with a person like that?

First published in nst.com.my as parts 1 and 2.

Foreign minister: Withdrawal of Rome Statute due to risk of “coup d’etat” triggered by “deep state”

Editor: A deeply troubling report and cause for much prayer

KUALA LUMPUR, April 7 — The Cabinet’s reversal of its ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) was a “political” move done for fear of a coup d’etat attempt spurred on by powers behind the scene, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah explained.

The foreign minister pointed out history has shown that a coup d’etat is a common reaction to democratic advancement and the public rising up following an election, and it is usually instigated by the “deep state.”

“[There was the] possibility of the issue being manipulated to the extent that people go to the streets, moved by the ‘deep state’ and certain apparatus,” Saifuddin told Malay Mail and several other media outlets in an interview yesterday.

“Deep state”, also known as a “state within a state”, refers to a form of secret government or network that operates independently of a country’s political leadership for its own personal agenda.

Depending on each country, it may include the armed forces, secret police, intelligence agencies, or even civil servants but Saifuddin refused to clarify his definition of the term during the interview.

“I would keep it that way, let the ‘rakyat’ decide. I use the term apparatus… that are not democratically elected,” said the Pakatan Harapan (PH) secretariat chief.

Malaysians have many times expressed their displeasure with the government through street protests and rallies, so what is the difference this time round?

The minister said, “This is a slightly different story because this seems to involve the royals.”

The worry over a possible coup d’etat punctuated Dr Mahathir’s warning on Friday that critics of the Rome Statute wanted to trigger a row between the country’s monarchy and the new government.

The Langkawi MP had accused critics of engaging in a political move “to get the rulers to back them up”, but also added that some members of the royal family may be involved.

This was backed up by Dr Mahathir’s planned successor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who clarified yesterday that the prime minister’s barbs were not directed at other political parties or anyone within PH.

“The statement is rather specific. The prime minister was making reference to a specific attempt by a particular personality in a royal family or household,” the PKR president was quoted saying.

Following Dr Mahathir’s announcement on Friday, several ministers immediately backed him and his administration in public, urging Malaysians to protect the PH administration against any ouster.

“Over my dead body before you try to remove our prime minister. Malaysia’s prime minister,” said Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman on Twitter.

“Dr Mahathir’s leadership must be defended from undemocratic interference. We must all defend it,” said Education Minister Maszlee Malik, in a Twitter thread where he accused critics of being “cowards” trying to use the issue to oust the prime minister.

Both ministers are from Dr Mahathir’s party Bersatu. No other senior ministers have made such public remarks on the issue at the time of writing.

What swayed the Cabinet’s decision?

According to Saifuddin, the decision to withdraw was made following a lengthy discussion during a routine Cabinet meeting on Friday.

The Cabinet meeting itself was held after Dr Mahathir’s audience with Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah.

But a few days prior to that, the Conference of Rulers had held an informal meeting to discuss the matter on Tuesday.

Three other people were called to explain the situation besides Saifuddin, who attended with the Cabinet’s permission: Attorney-General Tommy Thomas, Chief of the Armed Forces General Tan Sri Zulkifli Zainal Abidin, and Universiti Teknologi Mara’s deputy vice-chancellor and the dean of its Faculty of Law Professor Datuk Dr Rahmat Mohamad.

It was not the first time Saifuddin was called to explain the issue, as he had already met the Agong on March 12, following which the Agong decreed him to dispel any misinformation regarding the statute, including the false claim that the King would be exposed to prosecution.

Also present during the rulers’ meeting on April 2 was Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Ibrahim, who tweeted photos of him briefing the Agong and the other rulers on the same date, saying: “Closer to the truth.”

The frequent critic of the Rome Statute and Dr Mahathir had afterwards accused Putrajaya of allegedly contravening the Constitution by ratifying it without the consent of the Conference of Rulers ― although the Constitution states otherwise.

His father Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar had accused Putrajaya of the same thing in his birthday address last month, while also harshly labelling those who are allegedly disputing the authorities of state rulers and governments when it comes to Islam, water, forestry, and land as “traitors.”

Putrajaya had previously informed the Agong that it wished to ratify the Statute on February 15.

Saifuddin had then signed the Instrument of Accession to the Rome Statute on March 4, and it was deposited to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the same day.

The minister also clarified that the Cabinet arrived at the decision on Friday unanimously, following a report that quoted an anonymous source saying that 90 per cent of the Cabinet wanted to keep the ratification while the minority had advocated the withdrawal to protect PH’s position as the government.

“During the Cabinet meeting, the prime minister brought up the issue. There was a discussion, and we were unanimous in agreeing to not continue ratifying,” he said.

Later in his announcement, Dr Mahathir himself conceded that the withdrawal was not because the Cabinet felt negatively about the decision, blaming instead “confusion created by one particular person who wants to be free to beat up people.”

When asked in the press conference if he was alluding to a member of the royal family from a southern state, Dr Mahathir replied: “You can make your guess. You are welcome.”

Saifuddin also dismissed the allegation that the Cabinet had turned its back on Dr Mahathir who held the press conference alone, following a rebuke by lawyer-activist Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan.

“The PM decided to have the press conference that way He knows best when he wants ministers to be with him, and how many,” he said.

The decision to withdraw from the Rome Statute received backlash from human rights defenders, especially since it came just less than half a year after Putrajaya said it will not ratify anti-racial discrimination convention ICERD following pressure from the Malay-Muslim lobby.

Putrajaya now has until June to withdraw from ratifying the treaty, and Dr Mahathir said it will do so officially by then.

Over 100 countries are party to the ICC, that probes genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression that are committed either in the territory of a state party or by a citizen of a state party.

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, and Article 40 of the Federal Constitution states that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall act in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet.

First published in MalayMail.com

Ahead of LGBT crackdown, fleeing Bruneians fear for friends back home – Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR: As a transgender woman growing up in Brunei, Zoe saw the country’s slide towards conservatism from an early age, so plans to introduce strict new Islamic laws this week came as no surprise.

The 19-year-old, who was born male but identified as female from early childhood, is now awaiting the outcome of her asylum application in Canada after fleeing her country late last year.

“Even before Sharia law, LGBT+ people could be prosecuted under civil law,” Zoe told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, which is identifying her by only one name for her protection.

“I’ve always been scared of living my life openly in Brunei. I still am. I still think about how I present myself, because I was conditioned to survive.”

Brunei, a Muslim-majority former British protectorate with a population of about 400,000, is due to implement Sharia laws from April 3, punishing sodomy, adultery and rape with the death penalty, and theft with amputation.

The laws, elements of which were first adopted in 2014, could see LGBT+ people whipped or stoned to death for same-sex activity. Some aspects of the laws will apply to non-Muslims.

“I knew it was going to happen,” said Zoe, who hopes to one day undergo hormone therapy and formally change her name to the one she sometimes goes by.

“Our oil reserves were dwindling and the sultan needed a way to control the economy once he started to enforce taxes and reduce the high subsidies.”

The Brunei Prime Minister’s Department did not respond to an emailed request for comment on Monday.

Brunei does not hold elections and any discontent is assuaged with generous government polices including zero taxes, subsidised housing, and free healthcare and education.

Zoe, who is worried that her LGBT+ friends back in Brunei do not fully appreciate how dangerous the situation will soon become, faces an uncertain future.

“If I get sent back to Brunei, I will confess who I am and what I believe in to the Bruneian authorities,” she said.

“I’d rather die being true to myself than resenting a long life. I wish that Muslims who want Sharia law just keep it with themselves and God. Not enforce it onto other people.”

Asia’s silence

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, 72, is the world’s second-longest-reigning monarch and prime minister of oil-rich Brunei. He ranks as one of the world’s wealthiest people.

Since details of the new laws were announced, actor George Clooney and musician Elton John are among celebrities who have called for a boycott of hotels owned by the government-owned Brunei Investment Agency.

Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights have all called on Brunei to abandon changes to its penal code.

“It is seriously regrettable that Brunei’s decision contravenes a number of international norms on human rights,” New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Winston Peters said in a statement on Sunday.

Matthew Woolfe, founder of human rights group The Brunei Project, said it was now very unlikely that Brunei would backtrack, but diplomatic pressure from Asian countries could help ensure the laws were not enforced fully.

“We want to see more Asian governments coming out and speaking out on this. They have been too quiet,” said the Australia-based campaigner.

Socially conservative attitudes prevail across Asia, with Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore banning sexual relationships between men, while Indonesia has seen an increase in raids targeting LGBT+ people in recent years.

Members of the Association of South East Asian Nations, which did not respond to requests for a comment, have a principle of non-interference in each others’ domestic affairs.

“I’m not aware of any Asian country having come out and said anything about these laws,” said Woolfe.

‘Barbaric laws’

Brunei, which neighbours two Malaysian states on Borneo island, already enforces Islamic teachings more strictly than Malaysia and Indonesia, the other majority Muslim countries in Southeast Asia.

Previously homosexuality was illegal in Brunei and punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment, while the sale of alcohol is banned and evangelism by other religions is forbidden.

Ging Cristobal, project coordinator at OutRight Action International in Manila, urged other Muslim countries in the region to put pressure on Brunei.

“In reality, Brunei will not succumb to pressure from countries that are not Muslim-majority countries,” said Cristobal.

“Brunei might say that other regions are imposing on Asia, so it would be good to see other Asian nations condemn these barbaric laws.”

Better to leave

Shahiransheriffuddin bin Shahrani Muhammad is a gay man who fled Brunei last year after being charged with sedition for a Facebook post that was critical of the government.

Now seeking asylum in Canada, the 40-year-old was surprised at the speed with which the new Sharia laws were being implemented.

“I expected it to happen, just not so soon,” he said. I thought there would be more time for people like me in Brunei to realise that it’s better to leave.”

Many people in Brunei back the Sharia laws because of rising unemployment and crime, he said.

The death penalty has rarely been used in Brunei and the burden of proof needed to secure a conviction for same-sex activities is very high, he added.

Nonetheless, for LGBT+ people, the prospect of going to trial is terrifying, carrying the risk of being the first person to be stoned, he added.

Even if exonerated, they face being stigmatised for the rest of their lives – Cristobal said the new laws gave license “for other people to see LGBTIQ (people) as criminals and commit violence and abuse towards them”.

Khairul, 19, is a gay Muslim man living in Brunei who now fears for his future.

“With the added laws that affect the LGBTQ+ community, I am scared,” said Khairul, who asked not to be identified by his real name for fear of reprisals. “My life here will become more complicated and hard.

“The fear of dying has become a reality, while the hope of being accepted by family is now just a dream.”

First published in Free Malaysia Today

Bukit Aman also behind Pastor Koh’s disappearance, says Suhakam

KUALA LUMPUR: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) is pointing its finger at Bukit Aman in the case of the disappearance of Pastor Raymond Koh, saying that he – like Amri Che Mat – was a victim of “enforced disappearance by state agents”.

Suhakam commissioner Datuk Mah Weng Kwai said an inquiry panel looking into Koh’s disappearance came up with the unanimous conclusion after lengthy discussions.

“There is direct and circumstantial evidence which proves, on balance of probabilities, that he was abducted by state agents, by Special Branch, Bukit Aman,” he said when announcing the findings of the public inquiry on Wednesday (April 3).

Koh, who founded the NGO Harapan Komuniti, was abducted by a group of men along Jalan SS4B/10 in Petaling Jaya on Feb 13, 2017, while on his way to a friend’s house.

CCTV footage of the incident showed at least 15 men and three black SUVs were involved in the abduction, which was done in “professional” style.

Koh’s silver-coloured car bearing the number plate ST5515D has yet to be found.

The police were not present at the announcement of the findings.

The inquiry was held under Section 12(1) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act in connection with the disappearances of Amri and Koh.

The panel of inquiry consists of commissioners Datuk Mah Weng Kwai as chairman, Prof Datuk Dr Aishah Bidin and Dr Nik Salida Suhaila Nik Saleh.

Bukit Aman has yet to respond to The Star’s request for comments.

First published in The Star Online

Suhakam says Amri abducted by Bukit Aman

KUALA LUMPUR: Amri Che Mat was a victim of enforced disappearance with circumstantial evidence pointing to Bukit Aman as the culprit, says the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).

Suhakam commissioner Datuk Mah Weng Kwai said an inquiry panel looking into Amri’s disappearance came up with the unanimous conclusion after lengthy discussions.

“There is direct and circumstantial evidence that he was abducted by state agents, by Bukit Aman,” he said when announcing the findings of the public inquiry on Wednesday (April 3).

According to Mah, there was no evidence that the abduction was conducted by “non-state agents”.

The police were not present at the press conference announcing the findings.

Amri, who was the founder of the NGO Perlis Hope, had gone out from his home in Kangar at about 11.30pm on Nov 24, 2016, in his SUV.

His car was later found at the construction site of the Bukit Cabang Sports School in the wee hours of the following day.

Amri, who was being investigated for allegedly spreading Shia teachings, was also a mountain climber who was part of the 1997 Mount Everest Malaysian expedition team.

The inquiry was held under Section 12(1) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act in connection with the disappearances of Amri and Pastor Raymond Koh.

Suhakam will announce its conclusion on Koh later.

Koh, who founded the NGO Harapan Komuniti, was abducted by a group of men along Jalan SS4B/10 in Petaling Jaya on Feb 13, 2017, while on his way to a friend’s house.

CCTV footage of the incident showed at least 15 men and three black SUVs involved in the abduction, which was done in “professional” style.

Koh’s silver-coloured car bearing the number plate ST5515D has yet to be found.

The panel of inquiry consists of commissioners Datuk Mah Weng Kwai as chairman, Prof Datuk Dr Aishah Bidin, and Dr Nik Salida Suhaila Nik Saleh.

First published in The Star Online

PH ministers are L license drivers: Daim

PETALING JAYA, Feb 20 (Sin Chew Daily) — Former Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin described the ministers of the Pakatan Harapan government as the “L license” drivers, and they took over a “dried tree” with only roots left, estimating that the tree grow again after two years, and the national economy and administration can gradually get better.

Last year, Malaysia celebrated 60 years of independence and changed government. After 9 months of the administration under Pakatan Harapan government, Daim evaluated the performance of the new government when he accepted an exclusive interview with the Sin Chew Daily.

He joked that he used to work in the government for a long time and did things very quickly. Like Mahathir, he was an “F1 racer”, and the new government minister was still “L license holders”. People should not hope that they could compete with F1 racers.

”In the 100 days after Pakatan Harapan took office, I (then the chairman of the elite advisory group) was responsible for collecting and analyzing the information. My staff worked until 4 am, and as the F1 driver I had to work until midnight.”

He said that the operation of a government is not easy. Pakatan took over a “dried tree” in a mess. The people are now eager to make various demands from the government. They have forgotten that the new gardeners are looking after the dying tree for it to continue growing.

”This tree will continue to grow and the people should have more patience.”

He said that as long as the “L-license ministers” become qualified drivers, everything will improve and they will need two years for the country to be in good shape.

Asked when the national economy will improve, Daim expects it to get better in two years. “The pre-condition is that there is no external intervention. We don’t know what will happen. Just like the Sino-US trade war and the US involvement in Venezuela, politics is complicated and inter-related, so we must always be vigilant.”

His advice to the L-license ministers are to remain united. Although the ministers can have their own agendas on behalf of their respective political parties, the issues can be brought to the cabinet for discussion. However, the cabinet must adhere to the principle of collective responsibility and no criticism outside the cabinet.

”For example, if the Ministry of Housing wants to build low cost houses, it must be approved by the EPU, the Ministry of Finance, the municipal government, etc. This is a complicated issue. If it is too long, the people are impatient and think that the minister says too much and cannot deliver.”

Pakatan Harapan must honour the election manifesto

Daim said that he reminded the Pakatan government that it must fulfill the promise of the election manifesto, otherwise it will not be able to gain the trust of the people in the future.

”If there is something that cannot be done now, it must be explained to the people, such as the abolition of toll promised.”

He pointed out that after research and analysis, if the toll is to be abolished immediately, the Government must pay RM110 billion compensation.

He said, but now Malaysia’s debt level exceeds RM1 trillion, and it still need to borrow some money. If the money is borrowed for the acquisition of the company, the debt level will increase, the credit rating will be lowered, the ringgit value will decline, and the price will continue to increase. People will criticized, so the Government must strike a balance.

”So the government need more time to study, this can be done, it takes more time, and the government must explain to the people at this time.”

Ministers should go to rural areas too

Asked about his assessment of the ministers’ performance, Daim disclosed that someone told him that he had waited for six months to meet with a minister but still to no avail.

”They were full of frustration and anger when they complained to me. In fact, the people just want the minister to listen to their grievances and they are very happy. Even if some of the matters can’t be solved, people won’t mind.”

He said that the elected representative must blend with the crowd, get the support of the people, and not to repeat the mistakes of Umno.

He also said that ministers cannot just believe in their own teams, but they must also cooperate with civil servants in order to allow government matters to be handled smoothly without delay.

The cabinet is not an opposition party

Daim reminded the cabinet ministers that they are the ruling government and should no longer have the opposition party’s mindset where they only know how to attack, but they do not know how to defend government’s policies.

He pointed out that many people in the cabinet still stay in the “opposition mindset” and are good at attacking, but they cannot defend their own policies.

”Everyone likes to attack each other but now the leaders of the Pakatan Harapan are no longer opposition parties, they can’t just attack, and they must not attack each other.”

He said that what the Pakatan Harapan government needs to do now is to defend the government’s policies and explain the government’s policies to the world.

As some ministers have expressed different opinions on some topics such as the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), Daim believes that there should be a unified voice in the government.

”Other countries such as China, the United States, and the United Kingdom leave it to a spokesperson to speak, to avoid confusion.”

He believes that the government should set up a team to communicate with the people. The existing team focuses on attacking the former government, rather than promoting the government’s policies.

Former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib has recently shot to fame in social media. He believes that the reason is that Najib has a team coming up with questions and Pakatan Harapan rarely responds.

He said that Najib’s team is good at publicity. In fact, the new government has made many reforms but lack of coordination and like to publicise through the media.

In response to the people still facing the problem of excessive living expenses, Daim said that the Pakatan government has stopped collecting (GST) from July to September last year, where its income was reduced by RM10 billion. The people should save money when GST was abolished instead, they were spending unwisely.

”Under the principle of supply and demand, since everyone is willing to spend money, how can prices of goods be reduced? Since everyone spends money, why should businesses lower prices? When the sales and service tax (SST) is implemented in September, prices will certainly be higher.”

He said that the government must explain to the people that the government has “sacrificed” RM10 billion in taxes. It was savings for the Rakyat but the Rakyat wants to spend.

Economy

Daim said that this year’s economy is expected to slow down due to the fluctuation of international oil prices. Other issues included Brexit, Sino-US trade war, Venezuela, the Middle East issue, Syria and Afghanistan, oil palm price decline, etc. The entire world is affected.

He said that in the economic recession that first experienced in the 1980s, it also faced a decline in price for commodities such as palm oil and rubber prices. Before that, when the price of palm oil fell, the price of rubber rose, and vice versa. However, when prices fell simultaneously, the economic recession occurred.

”At that time, we sat down to discuss how to stabilize the price. I asked the then Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tun Lim Keng Yaik to talk with Indonesia and Thailand to set the ceiling price and floor price. At least the small estate holders know the top price and the reserve price.

At that time, the cooperation of the three countries could stabilize the price of the raw materials. The current situation is unclear, but I believe we can talk to our neighboring countries.”

Asked whether the establishment of Economic Action Council can revive our economy, Daim pointed out that the council can allow cabinet ministers to make quick decisions on economic issues.

He said prior to this the Council of Elders could collect information and data, such as how to deal with the national debt problem, but could not implement various debt relief measures. But the council chaired by the prime minister can implement measures to deal with the problem more quickly.

As for why he is not a member of the Economic Action Council, he said that it would be nice to let the newcomers to join with new ideas. He laughed that his “F1 racer” was running too fast and that accidents might occur.

”I hope that this council can solve economic problems more quickly, and the decision made by the council can be implemented after approval by the cabinet.”

On ringgit’s performance in future, he said that too many external factors are involved and he is unable to predict.

”I manage the economy in a style that is like managing a family, spend in a prudent manner and not to have too much borrowings. Adhere to financial discipline in a strict manner. “

Elite Advisory Group report contains 15 topics

Daim said that the report submitted by the Council of Elders to the government should be made public to let the people debate and discuss, and then the government will know which recommendations should be implemented.

He said that the report has 15 topics, including institutional reforms, parliamentary reforms, living expenses, affordable homes, toll rates, e-hailing car services, debt, and unemployment.

”We collect the information and analyze the problem and hand it over to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister decides what to do. The people are asking about the content of this report. I think it should be made public so that the people can debate but I also appreciate the sensitivities and there are laws to follow”.

Tun Daim was given key responsibilities by Prime Minister Tun Mahathir in the past. He was invited to the cabinet twice in the 1980s and 1990s. He was in charge of the Finance Ministry and the Special Functions minister of the Prime Minister’s Department where he retired in 2001.

After Mahathir returned to power, he also set up a council of elders before he first announced the cabinet line-up. Daim was appointed the chairman and assisted the government and provided advice 100 days after the new government won the election.

The other members of the Council of Elders are Malaysian richest man Robert Kuok, former National Bank President Tan Sri Zeti, former President and CEO of Petronas Tan Sri Hasan Malik and economist Jomo.

ECRL is still under negotiation

Tun Daim said that the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) contract is still in the negotiation stage and there is no final decision. Prime Minister Tun Mahathir will visit China in April this year. When attending the 2nd Belt and Road International Cooperation Summit, both Malaysia and China would be hoping to be able to achieve a win-win situation for this matter.

He said that Malaysia and China have set a deadline to negotiate and hope to conclude the negotiation this year. But of course, the sooner the better.

In an exclusive interview with Sin Chew Daily, Tun Daim said that the Malaysian government had considered cancelling the ECRL project because the cost is too high where Malaysia has to bear both construction and running costs. The government also faces terms which we feel not fair.

The cost of ECRL soar from the original RM55 billion to RM66 billion. If interest is added, the cost may be as high as RM90 billion.

”We believe that these costs are unfair, the government is not against the plan, and more dissatisfied with the pricing, operation and running cost, plus the payment terms. These are the conditions agreed by the former BN government.”

”However, basically this is an infrastructure project. We believe that if there is better planning and a blueprint for development, plus more reasonable development costs, in the long run, this project can and should benefit the people.”

”We also need to explore how to share some of our operations and running costs with China, not just in terms of cost, but also technology transfer and other matters.”

”We have initiated multiple rounds of negotiations to explore how to reduce the cost of this project. We also explore the joint operating costs after the project is completed.”

He believes that the existing railways are sufficient. The money is generated by freight rather than passengers. The passenger fare is subsidised by the government.

”This plan was mainly for former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib… because 1MDB is in trouble.”

In addition, Tun Daim said that the Malaysian government needs to be very cautious in dealing with the East Rail project because it involves government agencies and government-owned companies.

”I think the issues involving bilateral countries should not be made public. I have been conducting negotiations on behalf of the Malaysian government since 1981. The ECRL project is still under negotiation and there is no final decision.”

”This involves bilateral relations, and the situation is complicated, because it involves not only the ECRL but also other areas such as trade, oil palm, tourism, etc.”

Tun Daim said that China is Malaysia’s main trading partner and China is also an important trading partner in the region. “I believe that this issue can be resolved through proper diplomatic channel. At the same time, Malaysia and China can also achieve a win-win situation.”

”I can say that both parties have reached a comfortable level in terms of relationship.”

”There must be mutual trust in negotiations. Therefore, we cannot have too many people involved, as this may cause confusion and can be muddled.”

He believes that important things, especially for the corporate sector, they want certainty and decisiveness, which is what we hope to achieve in the current round of negotiations.

Tun Daim stressed that the ECRL project is not just a contract, which includes Malaysia-China relations and friendship dating back centuries.

”We must maintain close political, trade and cultural ties.”

Tun Daim said that according to the contract, if Malaysia and China want to terminate the project, he can bring the case for arbitration first, but both sides agree not to do so. At present he tries to negotiate with the China on price.

”The current stage is negotiating the price and the price has not yet been recognized. I am doing commercial settlement so that both parties gain,’’ he said.

”As reported earlier, significant progress has been made in reducing development costs, and we believe that if a good price can be negotiated, along with some other issues currently under discussion, the project is likely to be implemented.”

Asked if he knew the Cabinet’s decision on the ECRL, Daim said that he did not know the decision of the Cabinet.

With regards to the amount of compensation that the Malaysian government needs pay to cancel ECRL, Tun Daim did not give positive response. He merely said the parties can bring the case for arbitration if both parties so decide. We prefer to sit, talk and settle.

Tun Daim believes that Malaysia’s recent cancellation or suspension of development projects between Malaysia and China will not affect the friendship between the two countries. China is more concerned about the issue of “face”.

”So, we want to help maintain China’s ‘face.’ We are old friends.”

”Our relationship with China is not only 45 years, but dated back to the Malacca dynasty. We are very close to China in terms of culture and economy. They are happy with Malaysia and we are happy with them.”

Anwar is the choice for the future prime minister

Whether PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar, can take over the baton of Prime Minister from Tun Dr Mahathir in 2020 has various versions. Daim is of the view that according to Pakatan Harapan’s agreement, Anwar is the successor to Dr Mahathir as future prime minister.

He said: “Pakatan Harapan has reached an agreement. I don’t understand why there are unnecessary arguments which create instability. Why do we have to speculate, create problems and instability? They have agreed, let them and we should not intervene.”

Tun Daim is also a former finance minister. He accepted an exclusive interview with Sin Chew Daily and responded to questions whether Anwar, the former deputy prime minister, could take over as the future prime minister.

”I said: This is an agreement, let’s go through with the agreement.”

He said that Anwar’s decision to take over as prime minister is not an issue. He does not understand why someone deliberately create unnecessary problems.

”Because they want to win the party election, they have created all kinds of issues.”

Asked if Dr Mahathir has given assurance of stepping down in 2020 for Anwar to take over, Daim replied: “I often meet Anwar and he praised Dr Mahathir of believe him.’’

”I tell you that in the current economic situation, no one wants to be the prime minister. Let Dr Mahathir completes the task in order. When the food is ready, you can eat it. Why do you want empty dishes? Let Dr Mahathir do everything, and he will retire.”

The consequences of cooperation between Umno and PAS

Tun Daim believes if Umno and PAS collaborate to play with religious issues, it is a very dangerous matter for Malaysia, and may take Malaysia to a more extreme direction.

He stressed that religion must not be allowed to infiltrate politics.

He said that one can’t argue with religion because it is seen as a fate and it involves emotions.

”PAS has its own interpretations on things. To manage the country, religion must be left aside. Religion should be an individual matter.”

”They accused Pakatan Harapan of not protecting Islam and organised demonstrations against the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). I have explained that if we violate the positions of the Malays, we need to amend the Constitution… and ICERD is a Convention, not a legal issue.”

If you turn matters into emotional issues, you can’t argue anymore..”

Tun Daim also said that if Malaysia were to vote based on race and religion, rather than universal/common values, this will be the saddest day for Malaysia.

”PAS continues to use religion and persuade the Malays to vote for Muslim candidates as an obligation, even though these candidates are corrupt, lazy or inefficient.”

”PAS continues to play on emotions and causes the Malay community to panic, including the fate of their after life depends on which party they support. We cant stop PAS with its politics” but he believes that the best way to solve this kind of issue is to educate and improve people’s standard of living.

50% chance in Semenyih by-election

According to Tun Daim’s analysis, both Pakatan Harapan and BN share equal chance in winning the Semenyih by-election. Pakatan Harapan government must be in control and offer explanation to voters.

A minister’s capability as well as his willingness to go on the ground to physically and diligently conduct field visits, will add that chances of winning the by-election.

He said that the Pakatan Harapan candidate did not manage to win the Cameron Highlands by-election and the problem is not about high cost of living or that the election manifesto has not been fulfilled. Instead, Pakatan Harapan has not been able to offer good explanations to the people and feel for the people.

He believes that ministers should walk on the ground and know how to explain to the people why the government has not been able to fulfil the promises in the election manifesto, rather than attacking the opposition.

According to Umno analysis, they can win the by-election with a majority of about 300 votes, so they may arrange for a Chinese candidate to become an independent person in order to split the votes.

”If it is a 50 to 50 situation, more than 300 of majority votes are a large number of votes.”

”The result of the Cameron by-election is negative for Pakatan Harapan. When BN arranged for Orang Asli to contest, Pakatan Harapan should not field a Malaysian Indian candidate. Because 50% of the votes are the Orang Aslis or the Malays.”

”In terms of strategy, PH should look for an Orang Asli…but PH candidate has lost three times, you can’t always field a loser to contest …”

Former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib shot to fame online during Cameron Highlands by-election. He was referred as “bossku.”

In response to this, Tun Daim asked: “Why is Najib becoming popular? Because Pakatan Harapan does not have a communication team.”

”When Najib said, ‘I am a thief who steals people’s heart,’ why no one immediately jumped out to refute him:, ‘If you are a thief who steals heart, you would not have lost GE14.’’’

Umno MPs’ crossover

Crossover of some Umno MPs to Bersatu has caused protest among some people and even high-ranking leaders in Pakatan Harapan. Tun Daim believes for Pakatan Harapan to do reforms and it needs to have two-thirds majority.

”I think the people are really confused. If we want to carry out reforms, we need to have two-third majority, otherwise we are unable to deliver.”

”Some people are impatient. Even some non-governmental organizations have lost patience. They accuse the government of not doing anything. But they know that PH needs two-thirds majority in order to deliver. Now there are Umno members who want to crossover to Pakatan Harapan. They choose Bersatu. You should support PH, if you want to reform. If Umno members have changed, why not them?”

”You complain that PH fails to deliver… The party wants to accept frog, but you don’t want the party to do this. What do you want? Which one is your priority? Reform?”

”If you want them to stay in the original party, don’t complain that the government has not fulfilled election pledges,” he said.

In addition, Tun Daim said that there is no law in Malaysia prohibiting MPs from crossing over. MPs have the freedom to choose the political parties they want to join.

”Tun Dr Mahathir himself comes from Umno, Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin too, PAS was also the former Umno and PKR too. As long as they change, you should not oppose.”

”It is up to them to either join Pribumi, PKR, DAP or Amanah. They have the freedom and there is no law to stop them.”

”Some people have accused Pakatan Harapan a weak government, and the Malays refer to this government as led by the DAP. This is not true.”

”Prior to this Umno was strong, no one could oppose it. It was very powerful. Now, the four parties of Pakatan Harapan are all equal, and the number of ministers of each party is almost the same, no matter how many seats you have. The new government pays attention to equality.”

Tun Daim believes that although Pribumi receives a large number of Umno members, Pribumi will not be Umno 2.0.

He said that Umno has deteriorated, so members will leave to join Pribumi.

He stressed that the Pribumi did not use money to lure Umno MPs from crossing over but they sincerely want to join Pribumi, such as the former Minister of Trade and Industry, Datuk Seri Mustapa.

”MPs need to take care of their constituencies. The current government is fair, and the opposition party can also receive constituency grants, but the sum is not enough. They need more funds to serve the area.”

On whether the government intend to draft an anti-hopping law to stop MPs from crossing over, Tun Daim believes that the Constitution allows people to freely join political parties unless the government amends the constitution.

”Earlier someone in Sabah took the cross-over case of an elected representative to the court, but the court stated that people enjoy this freedom in the constitution, so they can’t do anything and the case was dismissed.”

Recognition of UEC

On recognition of UEC, Tun Daim said, the Malays must first be assured and discard their defensive mode for the Malays to know that they have nothing to lose.

He believes that the Malays will oppose the government’s recognition of UEC because they believe the move violates constitution and the rights of the Malays, so the government need to explain.

”The only way is to educate. If they are educated, you can argue that you can find good jobs, good income, and you don’t have to worry about anything. But unfortunately, this subject has been politicized.”

Tun Daim explained that first of all, the government need pacify the Malays that they have nothing to lose. After all, education is the key to our future.

”We need to sit down and discuss. Even DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang said PH needs Malay support. We need to deal with this subject with caution.”

”We must make sure we inform everyone that we are all Malaysians, this is our country, let us fight together. We can discuss details, but deal with the principle matters first.”

He also mentioned that there are currently many Malays who send their children to Chinese schools because the schools are more disciplined.

”People seek good education, and you will find that only the rich Chinese and the wealthy Malays send their children to English (private) schools.”

”If the national schools offer the best like those English (private) schools, everyone will want to go to the national schools. Therefore, the Ministry of Education must sit down and discuss this issue and ensure national schools offer the best on education.”

”Parents want the best education for their children and they sent their children to best schools. It is a duty of the Government to provide the best schools and education to the people. Children are our future. Education must unite all of us.”

You ask about economy, I know and I can answer. If you ask about education or health, I find it difficult to answer. I don’t know these subjects.

First published in mysinchew.com.