Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Baru baffled by on-and-off decision on GST

Baru Bian

KUCHING: The fiasco with the on-and-off Goods and Services Tax (GST) on 60 items is just another sign of a nation that is sinking into the abyss of ruin, said state PKR chairman Baru Bian.

The Ba Kelalan assemblyman noted that the Customs Department had announced the tax and after heated condemnation on social media, the decision was reversed by the Finance Ministry on the same day on Monday.

“The Second Finance Minister (Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani) claimed that the approval of the Cabinet had not been sought. Now it appears that the decision was mooted at the last Dewan Rakyat session.

“Do the ministers know what is actually going on in this country? Do they care what is happening to the rakyat (people) and the burdens they bear?” Baru said to The Borneo Post yesterday.

He was commenting on Customs Department’s reversal of its decision to impose tax on some 60 food items which, if implemented, would be effective on July 1.

The decision to impose GST on these food items was gazetted on June 6, this year.

The Goods and Services Tax (zero-rated supply) (Amendment) (No 2) Order 2017 Section 17 has allowed the Customs Department and the Finance Ministry to remove more than 60 food items from the zero-rated list.

The list of food items included seafood such as eel and swordfish; frozen vegetables such as corn; imported fruits such as grapes, avocados, peaches and plums; beverages such as tea, coffee and other foodstuff like spices, coconut oil and ‘laksa’ as well as ‘kueh tiaw’.

Baru said imposing more taxes on the already burdened people is not a decision to be taken lightly, but Monday’s events gave the people the impression that “those who sit in Putrajaya care not one jolt about ordinary people”.

“Who can forget that the prime minister declared GST to be the saviour of Malaysia? Who doesn’t know that the only reason Malaysia needs saving is because of the gross and obscene corruption in the BN government that has rendered us as good as bankrupt and in need of saving?”

In stating that the citizens of Malaysia must make their disgust known at the ballot box, Baru said the Titanic was proudly proclaimed to be unsinkable but sank it did.

~ Borneo Post

The answer to whether Malaysia is a kleptocracy lies abroad, says WSJ

The answer to whether Malaysia is a kleptocracy lies abroad, says WSJ   Is Malaysia a kleptocracy, asks the Wall Street Journal today, on the heels of the US Department of Justice filing to seize another US$540 million in assets it alleges were bought with money stolen from state investor 1Malaysia Development Bhd. – AFP pic, June 20, 2017.

MALAYSIANS’ best hope to knowing if their country is a kleptocracy lies in the findings of civil and criminal courts elsewhere due to Putrajaya's inaction over the 1MDB scandal, says the Wall Street Journal today.

On Sunday, Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, which the WSJ editorial noted was Prime Minister Najib Razak’s cousin, urged the US to press criminal charges so that the accused "can clear their name".

Hishamuddin’s presumption that Malaysian leaders are innocent echoes the statements issued by Malaysian ministers and government officials in the wake of revelations provided by the US Department of Justice on Thursday as it filed suit to seize US$540 million (RM2.3 billion) in assets said to have been bought with money stolen from the debt-ridden state investor.

WSJ, which broke the 1MDB story in July 2015, said it had reported that US investigators were preparing to charge at least one of Najib’s associates.

On Thursday, the DoJ filed a civil assets forfeiture suit to seize more assets belonging to relatives and associates of Najib, including a US$165 million yacht owned by financier Jho Low, and a US$27.3 million necklace worth featuring a 22-carat pink diamond allegedly bought with stolen funds for the wife of Malaysian Official No. 1.

US officials have told WSJ that "Malaysian Official No. 1" is Najib, said the editorial.

The suit follows a similar suit filed by the DoJ last July, where it sought to seize US$1 billion in financial assets, real estate, artwork, film rights and a private jet in a record-setting Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.

"The 1MDB fund denies that money is missing, Mr. Najib denies any wrongdoing, and Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali cleared Mr. Najib in January 2016.

"Mr. Apandi Ali said in a statement Friday, 'We also note that there has been no evidence from any investigation conducted by any law enforcement agencies in various jurisdictions that shows that money has been misappropriated from 1MDB'.

"Yet the US Justice Department has provided considerable evidence that US$3.5 billion went missing, while the Swiss Attorney General puts the figure at US$4 billion. Singapore and Switzerland have already punished financial institutions for breaking money-laundering rules in moving 1MDB funds," said WSJ.

WSJ said the DoJ last week provided new information allegedly showing that about US$850 million that Deutsche Bank loaned to 1MDB was diverted to accounts controlled by Najib and his associates. One lawsuit alleges that proceeds from a US$3 billion 1MDB bond offering in 2013 were diverted to help purchase Coastal Energy, a Houston-based oil firm, it said.

Abu Dhabi sovereign-wealth fund International Petroleum Investment Co says that 1MDB owes it about US$6.5 billion for defaulted debt that IPIC guaranteed, said WSJ.

"Since Malaysian authorities have concluded that there’s nothing worth investigating in the 1MDB matter, civil and criminal cases in other jurisdictions are the best hope Malaysians have of finding out whether their country has become a kleptocracy," said WSJ. – June 20, 2017.

~ The Malaysian Insight

Human Rights Foundation urges Agong to free Anwar

Published     Updated
International advocacy group Human Rights Foundation (HRF) has written a letter to Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V, asking him to free jailed former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

The New York-based NGO claimed there had been political meddling in Anwar's Sodomy II court case, citing allegations that lead prosecutor Muhammad Shafee Abdullah had been paid RM9.5 million by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

"We respectfully urge Your Majesty to recognise the undeniable political meddling in Anwar's case, order him to be released from prison, and clear him of his conviction.

"These seriously questionable payments to Shafee from Najib, compounded with the fundamental lack of evidence in support of Anwar's conviction, show that Anwar's political opposition aimed to strip him of his political standing and damage his reputation permanently," HRF wrote in the letter dated yesterday.

They noted that Shafee has yet to deny the allegations against him.

The letter was signed by HRF president Thor Halvorssen, and chairperson Garry Kasparov.
Putrajaya, in a surprise move on July 22, 2013, recruited Shafee to lead the prosecution team against Anwar at the Court of Appeal instead of relying on public prosecutors as per conventional practice.

The Court of Appeal on March 7, 2014, overturned the High Court of Kuala Lumpur's decision to acquit Anwar, sentencing him to five years in prison.

The Federal Court on Feb 10, 2015 upheld Anwar’s conviction for sodomising his former aid Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

Whistleblower site Sarawak Report had previously alleged that Shafee received RM9.5 million from Najib in two tranches on Sept 11, 2013 and on Feb 17, 2014.

Shafee on June 9 said he would make a statement on the matter but has since remained silent.

The government had told Parliament that Shafee was paid a fee of RM1,000 to act as the lead prosecutor in the Anwar case.

DOJ: We're in the business of facts, not insinuations

Published     Updated
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) said its civil lawsuit to seize 1MDB-related assets includes all relevant details so that reasonable belief can be proven during a trial.

It is responding to Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan who said that the DOJ is insinuating criminal misconduct by prime minister's wife Rosmah Mansor by linking her to diamonds allegedly bought using cash misappropriated from 1MDB, even though it has no intention to seize the jewellery.

"The law requires we allege sufficiently detailed facts to establish a reasonable belief that we will prevail at trial,” the DOJ told Malaysiakini through email.

"This means we have to allege enough facts to show a reasonable belief that United States money laundering and other criminal laws were violated and that the subject assets were involved in or traceable to these illegal transactions.

"In addition, the complaint provides a sufficient detail to specifically identify the property subject to forfeiture and to clarify the basis of the government's case should anyone with a valid claim wish to challenge our case. Identifying persons and entities aids that function.

"No conclusions should be drawn, one way or another, about the status of individuals or entities simply because they are named in the documents."

The DOJ in a new filing last week said that US$4.5 billion (about RM19 billion) has been allegedly stolen from 1MDB.

It is seeking to seize US$1.7 billion (RM7.3 billion) worth of assets, which it says were bought with stolen money in the US and elsewhere, under the country’s money laundering laws.

DOJ not seeking diamonds

The DOJ's 251-page lawsuit filed Thursday did not name Rosmah, but mentioned that the wife of an unnamed "Malaysian Official 1" (MO1) was gifted about US$30 million worth of jewellery by 1MDB-linked individual Jho Low.
DOJ told Malaysiakini it is not seeking to seize the jewels gifted to the wife of "MO1".
Abdul Rahman yesterday named Rosmah in relations to the DOJ's claims. He had last year also identified MO1 as Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, but stressed that Najib is not named as a defendant in the case.

Najib has denied all wrongdoing related to 1MDB, while attorney-general Mohamad Apandi Ali has exonerated Najib and condemned the DOJ for implying the PM is connected to criminal misconduct.

Low, whom the DOJ named, is nevertheless a Najib family friend while another defendant, Riza Aziz is Rosmah's son.

In response, Low said the DOJ's claims are baseless.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Court wants new expert witness on why 'Allah' only for Muslims

Published     Updated
The Kuala Lumpur High Court today asked the Home Ministry to file an expert report on why it contends that the word "Allah" is exclusively for Muslims.

This is over the long-drawn case of Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill, who had her Malay-language Christian CDs seized by the authorities in 2008.

Senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan said they have to file the expert report to the court by July 14 as instructed by Justice Nor Bee Ariffin.

He noted that they had earlier submitted a report to the court, but said they now have to find another expert.

“I will have to get back to the Home Ministry on this,” he said.

Shamsul told reporters that Jill Ireland is applying to expunge certain portions of an affidavit filed by the ministry referring to the expert witness.

It was previously reported that the Home Ministry had included a report from the Islamic Institute of Understanding Malaysia as part of an expert report on why Christians cannot use the word "Allah" to refer to God in the Malay-language version of Christian texts.

Jill Ireland's lawyer Annou Xavier affirmed the court's request for a new expert report.

Appearing with Annou was lead counsel Lim Heng Seng.

9-year case

On May 11, 2008, the CDs titled "Cara Hidup Dalam Kerajaan Allah', 'Hidup Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah' and 'Ibadah Yang Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah", were seized from her, upon arrival at the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) in Sepang.
The High Court had on July 21, 2014, ordered the return of the CDs to Jill Ireland but it did not make an order on the declaration she applied for, that she had the right to keep, use and import published materials containing the word "Allah".
On June 23, 2015, the Court of Appeal endorsed the High Court's decision which ordered the Home Ministry to return the eight CDs after dismissing the appeal by the ministry and the government against the High Court's decision.

The Court of Appeal ordered the Home Ministry to return all the CDs within a month from the date of the decision, and also ordered that the declaration sought by Jill Ireland be heard in the High Court.

Eventually, the CDs were returned last year, but she is proceeding with the judicial review application by seeking the declaratory relief to use materials containing the word "Allah" for religious and educational purposes.

What's in DOJ's third and latest bombshell?

Published     Updated

KINIGUIDE | With the latest batch of court filings, the US Department of Justice has raised the amount it seeks to recover from 1MDB-related misconduct to nearly US$1.7 billion (RM7.3 billion).

It claimed that the sum represents a portion of the over US$4.5 billion (RM19.3 billion) that were allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB, and then routed through the US financial system.

While Malaysians are still reeling from the shock of the DOJ bombshell, this instalment of KiniGuide will take a step back and see what the US law enforcement agency has in store in its third batch of 1MDB-related civil forfeiture suits.

Third batch of lawsuits? What did I miss?

The first batch of lawsuits was filed at the California Central District Court on July 20 last year.
There were 17 separate filings in total, with each seeking the civil forfeiture of a different asset. Each document - about 136 pages long - is nearly identical to one another, but is aimed at seizing a different asset.

In total, the aim was to seize about 20 assets including funds held in banks, shares, intellectual property, and a private jet, with a combined value of over US$1 billion.

At the time, the DOJ claimed that the amount embezzled from 1MDB was about US$3.5 billion, siphoned from the state investment fund in three phases from 2009 to 2013.

The second batch was a single complaint seeking to seize about US$100 million worth of real estate in London’s upmarket Mayfair district. It was filed on June 7 at the California Central District Court.
This time, the document is 144 pages long, but little had changed compared to the documents filed last year.

The document has an additional section describing how the properties were supposedly purchased using funds that were traceable to a misappropriation from 1MDB.

In addition, it dropped all mentions of the unnamed Saudi prince who supposedly remitted funds to a certain “Malaysian Official 1”, and all mentions of the prince was replaced with “Saudi Associate 1” and “Saudi Associate 2” (or collectively, the “Saudi Account”).

In an apparent move to correct a mix-up that led DOJ to identify the wrong painting for seizure, the new filing also named a different painting by the artist Claude Monet for seizure, and only the proceeds of the painting’s sale rather than the painting itself.

Alright, so what’s new this time?

The latest filing was lodged at the California Central District Court on June 15, comprising a total of 12 lawsuits seeking the forfeiture of an additional US$540 million in money and assets. They were about 251 pages long.

This time, the DOJ claimed that US$4.5 billion had been misappropriated from 1MDB, and detailed how about US$850 million was siphoned out of a loan meant for 1MDB in a so-called “Option Buyback” phase between July and November 2014.

This is in addition to the three phases that DOJ has already described in previous filings.

Among others, the DOJ claimed that the money from the “Option Buyback” was used to buy high-end jewellery for various people, and to partially pay for the tycoon Low Taek Jho’s superyacht Equanimity.

It also claimed that the donations that Malaysian Official 1 supposedly returned to a Saudi prince (now “Saudi Account”) had been used to purchase jewellery for Malaysian Official 1’s wife, including a necklace featuring a 22-carat pink diamond pendant.

Why is the US doing this?

The civil forfeiture suits are part of the DOJ’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative (Kari), and the sheer size of the 1MDB-related lawsuits represent the largest action under the initiative.

Through various public statements, the DOJ claimed that the initiative seeks to combat foreign official corruption by seizing the alleged proceeds of such misconduct and return it to its supposed victim.

It also seeks to deter the use of the US financial system for money laundering activities by seizing the suspected proceeds of foreign corruption.

You can read more about Kari and the July 20 lawsuits in the previous KiniGuide: “A spicy 'Kari' and a US$1 billion suit”.

As the investigation is on-going, expect the DOJ to release further information as and when it has found additional evidence of wrongdoing.

What has been the response to the latest suit?

Low, better known by his moniker Jho Low, reportedly dismissed DOJ’s actions as "a further example of global overreach in pursuit of a deeply flawed case".

“The US Department of Justice's latest move continues its inappropriate efforts to seize assets despite not having proven that any improprieties have occurred,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

1MDB pointed out (correctly) that DOJ’s lawsuits did not contain any documentary proof or witness statements to support its allegations.

Attorney-general Mohd Apandi Ali maintained that Malaysian authorities found no wrongdoing related to 1MDB as alleged by the DOJ.

"We also note that there has been no evidence from any investigation conducted by any law enforcement agency in various jurisdictions that show that money has been misappropriated from 1MDB; and that there have been no criminal charges against any individual for misappropriation of funds from 1MDB,” he added.

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s aide Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad rued DOJ’s “unnecessary and gratuitous naming of certain matters and individuals”, which he said is only relevant for “domestic political manipulation and interference”.

“This suggests a motivation that goes beyond the objective of seizing assets,” he said, adding that the US did not seek any cooperation from the Malaysian government or 1MDB for investigation.

Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor urged Malaysians not to believe in slander that was deliberately spread to engineer “the downfall of a leader, organisation, or a country”.

Her lawyers said they had been instructed to “closely monitoring all postings appearing on any social media platforms and other forms of publications in relation to false and malicious attacks” against Rosmah, and warned that those who had done so would face legal action.
This is in response to insinuations that Najib is the Malaysian Official 1 mentioned in the DOJ documents. Najib and Rosmah had consistently denied wrongdoing.
Despite the outcry, the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur said it has yet to receive any correspondence from Putrajaya on the matter. Malaysiakini understands that the Foreign Ministry has no immediate plans to lodge a formal protest over DOJ’s actions.

Meanwhile, DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang called for the findings of the disbanded task force on 1MDB to be made public.

The electoral reform group Bersih called for Najib’s resignation.

Yesterday, Najib said there will be no more statements in relation to the DOJ's latest filing.

This instalment of KiniGuide is compiled by Koh Jun Lin.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Time for our learned brethren to get a grip on things

June 18, 2017

It is an unfair, erroneous and insulting assumption that Muslims in this country must forever feel insecure and suspicious of those of other faiths.
Hannah-YeohBy Azrul Mohd Khalib

The views of the Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (Centhra) CEO Azril Mohd Amin in his Utusan Malaysia essay and those of Institut Kajian Strategi Islam Malaysia (IKSIM) Fellow, Dr Kamarul Zaman in his recent remarks regarding Hannah Yeoh’s book are unfortunately not new or alien to us here in Malaysia, especially if you are from the Malay Muslim community.

We have heard all these assertions before, some of us, from primary school to adulthood.

These views highlight and again bring to the forefront two main problems: their ignorance and lack of knowledge of Christianity and the Christian community in Malaysia in general, and the need for organisations such as Centhra and IKSIM to continuously find bogeymen to feed into the irrational fear and paranoia which they keep alive among those of the Islamic faith.

It must be hard going to sleep at night for these self-anointed champions. They see bogeymen and enemies everywhere. There are just so many things for them to be afraid of.

It is an unfair, erroneous and frankly, insulting assumption by this lot that Muslims in this country (who are the majority) have faith which is somehow forever vulnerable, timid and fragile. That the Muslim community must forever feel insecure, afraid and suspicious of those of other faiths in the belief that the latter are out to get you.

Such arguments often hinge on fear, bigotry and compulsion instead of reason, understanding and discussion. One such example is Azril’s essay.

Suggesting the introduction and use of anti-evangelicalism laws, and looking at Russia’s Yarovaya Act as a role model, is hateful and fuels suspicion, mistrust and hostility towards the Christian community, and to evangelical Christians in particular.

Every citizen has the right to profess and practise his or her religion, without being restricted or denied by the State. What guarantees this right? Last I checked, it was the Federal Constitution.

Deputy Home Minister  Nur Jazlan Muhammed is correct in saying that such a move would also be counterproductive, even harmful. His recommendation for dialogue between Muslims and Christians as the way forward to end interfaith suspicions should be taken seriously by all parties.

Nur Jazlan’s suggestion of the establishment of a faith protocol based on individual choice would also be ground-breaking and would go a long way towards healing relations and restoring inter-religious harmony.

Malaysians have had enough of wild and unsubstantiated accusations and paranoia which have, in the past, resulted in mobs, threats, physical violence, cancelled worship events, raids by religious authorities and banning of holy books.

Speaking of wild accusations and paranoia, Azril has urged the government “to take action before disaster strikes”. What does he mean by that? What is he implying and hoping to achieve with such fear-mongering?

Over the past ten years we have seen and heard again and again the hysterical and irrational accusations of proselytization to and conversions of Muslims from individuals and organisations who are self-anointed and self-appointed champions and defenders of the faith. Now, we hear them again.

They appear to be increasingly unrestrained and unconcerned in their zealousness to be seen to protect the faithful from all threats, real, perceived or imagined. What has become particularly strident is the call to protect their faith from another faith. Listen to what Dr Kamarul had to say about Hannah Yeohs book.

Muslims in other countries are busy making Islam accessible, friendly and inclusive. In Malaysia, those holding learned positions of knowledge and authority who should know better are sounding arrogant, irrational, suspicious and disdainful of other religions. They are sowing suspicion, fear and even hatred which have manifested themselves in recent ugly incidences. They increasingly demand exclusivity over practices, concepts and even words (e.g. the word puasa can only be used by Muslims).

Exclusivity results in misunderstanding, ignorance, conflict, bigotry and irrational fear. It breeds contempt for others and arrogance.

Something has gone wrong with the practice and teaching of Islam in this country.

I would argue that these individuals and organisations are actually the ones who are actively threatening Malaysia’s peace and harmony.

To Centhra and IKSIM, I recommend that you go and learn a bit more about Christianity from our Christian sisters and brothers. Find the humility and courage to visit a few churches and congregations, talk to their clergy and community leaders, and serve in their soup kitchens and outreach programmes.

After all, Islam encourages its faithful to seek knowledge as it is one of the great acts of worship which leads to the path of righteousness and paradise.

We often hear the stern rebuke to shut up, especially when a person is neither of the religion or if they are, presumed to be insufficiently learned and knowledgeable.

Perhaps if Centhra and IKSIM are not willing to learn then they too should stop shooting their mouths off, since they are not from that faith or knowledgeable. As it is, they are embarrassing themselves and fellow Malaysians.

Azrul Mohd Khalib is a spokesperson for Bebas.

With a firm belief in freedom of expression and without prejudice, FMT tries its best to share reliable content from third parties. Such articles are strictly the writer’s personal opinion. FMT does not necessarily endorse the views or opinions given by any third party content provider.

~ Free Malaysia Today


17 JUNE 2017

PKR welcomes the ruling today by the Kuching High Court that the dismissal of Dr Ting Tiong Choon as Pujut assembly was unlawful and reinstating him as State assemblyman.

It is comforting for all who value democracy and justice that the judge, Datuk Douglas Christo Primus Sikayun, made a clear and strong ruling on the law, ie that the Dewan has no express powers to deal with an election result. Obviously, if the dismissal had been allowed to remain, in the Malaysian context, an assemblyman or a parliamentarian in the minority would have no chance of seeing justice served in such a politically motivated scenario. Members of the ruling BN had taken on the role of prosecutor and judge, without any intention of allowing the accused sufficient opportunity to defend himself. The judge commented rightly that the rule of natural justice had not been complied with and adhered to.

This ruling serves as a timely reminder, or perhaps a long overdue one, to the BN-led government of the doctrine of the separation of powers of the three organs of government. In this case, the speaker had taken on judicial powers to which he had no right, as pointed out by the judge.

Recalling that the chain of events emanated from a Ministerial motion by Wong Soon Koh and not a private member’s motion, this points to the Sarawak government as the initiator of the motion for the dismissal of Dr Ting. The State government’s legal advisors should have advised against the motion, if they had applied their minds to the legal implications. It appears that the august house had been used as a political arena, and now with this decision, one could say that the Executive, ie the State government, has also been put in its place by the Judiciary, besides the Legislative.

This whole episode has served to tarnish the image of the Sarawak Government and the Dewan Undangan Negeri Sarawak. The 3 organs of government owe a duty to the people they serve to behave with integrity and fairness. Clearly, it has been shown that 2 of these organs have failed in their duties to the people by indulging in political manoeuverings that could be construed as an exercise in the abuse of power. The parties involved should take this as a lesson learnt.

Baru Bian
Chairman, KEADILAN Sarawak


16 JUNE 2017

The elections must be near. Yet another anti-Christian statement has emerged – this one written by so-called lawyer Azril Mohd Amin heading a coalition of NGOs that purport to stand for human rights!

Evangelical Christians have been here since before Malaysia was formed, and people of all faiths had been able to live harmoniously together for generations. Why is Azril suddenly struck with fear for the Muslims and engaging in a spot of Christian bashing?

Malaysia is a secular country. It has been established in several legal decisions that Article 3(1) of the Constitution provides that Islam is the religion of the Federation for official purposes; it does not mean that Malaysia is an Islamic country. Any lawyer worth his salt knows that. Tunku Abdul Rahman had also made that crystal clear when selling the idea of Malaysia. Besides, it is rather disingenuous of Azril to conveniently ignore the second part of Article 3 (1), ie that other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.

Azril also selectively picks Clauses (4) and (5) of Article 11, while conveniently ignoring Clause (1), which states that “Every person has the right to profess and practise his religion and, subject to Clause 4, to propagate it.” Unless he can specifically point to instances of Christians propagating their faith to Muslims, he should stop trying to cause mischief among the people. Trying to justify his absurd proposal by picking out Clauses of the Constitution in isolation of the other Clauses and disregarding the intent of the Articles does not do his profession as a lawyer any justice.

It is completely irresponsible of Azril to advocate the introduction of anti-evangelicalism laws such as the Russian Yarovaya Act, which was enacted to curb religious extremism and terrorism. By trying to link evangelicalism with religious extremism and terrorism, he is attempting to cause hatred and ill-will towards Christians. The fact that there is absolutely no evidence of any extremism and terrorism in Christians seems to be of no importance to Azril.

Azril’s further call for a Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act similar to the one in Singapore is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. Azril specifically cites the provision permitting the Minister to make restraining orders against any person who is found to be causing feelings of enmity, hatred, ill-will or hostility between different religious groups; carrying out activities to promote a political cause, or a cause of any political party while, or under the guise of, propagating or practising any religious belief; etc.

If we did have such an Act, people like Azril should be the ones issued with restraining orders. He is the one trying to stoke a fear of Christians among the Muslims in this country by ‘causing feelings of enmity, hatred, ill-will or hostility’. His writing is highly inflammatory and seditious and I call upon the authorities to take action immediately against him and Utusan. The lack of any response from the government will encourage more people like Azril to become bolder in their unfounded and irrational attacks on Christians in this country.

It is laughable that the NGOs Azril represents claim to be advocates for human rights. It would be advisable for him and his NGOs to first respect the human rights of Christians to practise their faiths in peace, and to stop inventing a Christian agenda where there is none. His time would be better spent warning against the likes of Zakir Naik who is known to actively promote extremism and terrorism among youths.

Baru Bian
Chairman, KEADILAN Sarawak

The million-ringgit question – Will the latest US suit hurt Najib in Malaysia?

Sheridan Mahavera
The million-ringgit question – Will the latest US suit hurt Najib in Malaysia?
Revelations of money misappropriated from 1MDB being used to fund the lifestyles of the rich and famous are likely to influence voters. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, June 17, 2017.
THE big question after the US Department of Justice (DoJ) filed its latest suit to reclaim billions of ringgit allegedly stolen from state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) is this: Will the opposition be able to exploit the issue and hurt Najib Razak at the polls?

Political pundits interviewed by The Malaysian Insight agree that the disclosure of how money was diverted from the state-owned company to fund the lifestyle of the rich and famous is a combustible issue and can influence voters.

This is especially true for young and first-time voters, who traditionally do not have any strong party affiliation and who obtain their news from the Internet.

But any discussion on the likely impact of the DoJ suit on Malaysian politics must carry a caveat: much hinges on the state of the opposition alliance.

A united Pakatan Harapan ‎can take the 1MDB issue to the ground and exploit it for political gain. But in its current fractious and broken state, it is arguable that many of the opposition politicians have the appetite for anything but to squabble over positions in PH.

Ibrahim Suffian of the pollster Merdeka Center said: "If the Opposition can get their act together and exploit this, then it can adversely affect public sentiment towards the ruling party. This will rekindle the fading memory over 1MDB and remind people of the excessive irregularities."

Dr Wong Chin Huat, head of the Penang Institute political and social analysis section, agreed that a unified, cohesive PH-driven campaign about 1MDB can weaken Umno's grip on the Malay vote.

"If Umno's party machinery and ministers get bogged down explaining about 1MDB, then you take the momentum away from them, " he said, adding that putting the party and Najib under the spotlight over the DoJ disclosures could sap the spirit and energy of the Umno rank and file.

The DoJ on Thursday filed a third suit to seize another US$540 million (RM2.3 billion) in assets it says was bought with money stolen from 1MDB. This brings the total allegedly misappropriated from the state investor fund to US$4.5 billion.

The first suit was in July 2016, when the DoJ moved to seize assets worth more than US$1 billion worth of stolen 1MDB money was used to buy high-end art and properties.

This time, the DoJ claims that the money was, among other things, used to purchase a 22-carat pink diamond pendant and necklace for the "Malaysian Official 1's wife" worth US$27.3 million.

Cabinet minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan had admitted in September last year that Malaysian Official 1 refers to Najib. However, he insisted that Najib was not being investigated.

Voter trends 

Hisomuddin Bakar of the Ilham Centre said the 1MDB scandal had traction among first-time Malay voters and those in the middle class, both of whom get their news from the Internet and social media.

The trend among first-time voters is hard to predict, as seen in political developments in the United States and United Kingdom, said Hisomuddin.

“But generally, they are anti-establishment and are not loyal to any particular party,” he said, adding that first-time voters are expected to make up one third of all voters in the next general election.

It’s also a big issue among the Malay middle class, who experience first-hand how the scandal has ruined the country’s image and sapped investor confidence in Malaysia.

“You travel overseas and you get people asking you why is Najib still the PM even though he has this huge scandal hanging over him,” said Hisomuddin.

Wong of Penang Institute is certain that the latest Justice Department civil suit and the fresh round of negative publicity around the world will convince Najib to push back the general election to 2018.

"He is not a gambler. So he may wait till next year to call the election, " he said.

Smart money was Najib seeking a new mandate this year to take advantage of the dysfunction in the opposition and his seemingly unmatched strength in Umno.

In Putrajaya, the thinking is that this latest DoJ suit will do little to push the political needle in Malaysia because all the anger over 1MDB is already reflected in approval ratings.

Also, Najib's team believes that what will return Najib to office is an electoral understanding between Umno and PAS, the two parties with the biggest claim to Malay voters. – June 17, 2017.

~ The Malaysian Insight

NECF is appalled by unconstitutional call from Centhra

The National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) is appalled at the suggestion by the Centre of Human Rights Research and Advocacy (Centhra) CEO Azril Mohd Amin to outlaw Christian evangelicalism in Malaysia, because it is a “dangerous movement”, without producing any supporting evidence.

The call on the government to set up “anti evangelicalism laws” like that of the Yarovaya Act by Russia against evangelicalism to curb religious extremism and terrorism is uncalled for and extremely provocative.

The reports of both local and international media on extremism and terrorism do not name the involvement of Malaysian evangelical Christians in such activities.

Azril’s essay is irresponsible and seditious. The essay has the tendency to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility against evangelical Christians. It is extremely disconcerting that these radical and extreme views are published by Utusan Malaysia, a national newspaper.

Christianity is based on love; its followers are commanded to love and forgive those who offend them. This is what they are taught to share and live by. To attack Christians in this manner violates basic human rights and the protections guaranteed under our Federal Constitution.

Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitution clearly provides that every person has a right to profess and practice his religion and, subject to Article 11(4), to propagate it.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which Malaysia is a signatory, clearly mandates the universal protection of the fundamental human right of the freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

We call upon the police to take action against the writer and newspaper concerned under the Sedition Act and Penal Code for uttering and publishing words which tend to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between people of different religions.

We also call on the prime minister to ensure that the rights of every citizen of this country, as guaranteed under the Federal Constitution regardless of their religious persuasion, be protected, upheld and enforced.

We call upon the prime minister and every member of the government to speak up and keep the oath of office that they have taken and to uphold the fundamental rights of all citizens, including the minority Christians in this country by condemning such statements made and published by persons which are harmful to the peace, harmony and goodwill enjoyed in Malaysia.

REV DR EU HONG SENG is chairperson of the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship.

Anwar: I will not seek position as Harapan's PM candidate

Published     Updated

Jailed de facto PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim has announced he will not offer himself as Pakatan Harapan's candidate for prime minister, despite many in PKR seeing this as a given.

The symbolic move, Anwar said, is to encourage Harapan to focus on the general election instead of squabbling over who will be prime minister if the opposition coalition wins.

"With regard to the calls to focus full attention on the general election, therefore, I choose not to offer myself as a prime ministerial candidate.

"The friction (over who will be prime minister) is exhausting (the opposition), as the final decision lies with the people in the general election," he said in a statement released today through his party.

Anwar urged Harapan to pour all its efforts into more pressing matters, saying that Harapan's attention must be fixed on national policies, the ravages of the system, and on winning the 14th general election.

"Side issues such as the struggle for power and position, or a war of words in Harapan cannot be allowed," he said.

After Bersatu, an Umno splinter party, formally joined the opposition coalition in March, it had lobbied for Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin to be nominated as the prime ministerial candidate.

Bersatu later even explored the possibility of party chairperson Dr Mahathir Mohamad making a brief comeback as prime minister.

However, PKR had been adamant that Anwar was its anointed prime ministerial candidate and that its president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is Anwar's wife, would act as interim head of government pending his release from prison if the opposition won the next general election.

PKR vice president Rafizi Ramli had even outlined an elaborate plan on how Anwar could return to politics, which would involve a royal pardon and a by-election.

DAP and Parti Amanah Negara have also been supportive of the idea that Anwar should ultimately be the prime minister if the opposition wins.

The Federal Court in Feb 2015 upheld Anwar's conviction for sodomy, sentencing him to five years in prison.

Anwar, who insists that the charge was politically motivated, is expected to be freed by the middle of 2018 on good behaviour.

However, he will still be banned from entering politics for five years, making it impossible for him to make an immediate comeback unless he receives a royal pardon.

The next general election must be held at latest within 60 days after the 13th Parliament dissolves in June 2018. However, BN may call the election earlier.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Suhakam: Contact us if you have info on missing pastor, three others

Published     Updated

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has urged the public to contact the commission if they have information regarding the disappearance of Pastor Raymond Koh, Amri Che Mat, Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth.

"Suhakam calls on individuals with relevant and important information to come forward to have their statements recorded by Suhakam from now till July 7, 2017," said Suhakam chairperson Razali Ismail said in a statement today.

Individuals with relevant information about the four missing people can also contact Suhakam's complaints division at 019-3338490, he added.

This will be to assist Suhakam's investigation into the cases of the disappearance of the four individuals, in accordance with their statutory mandate and powers.

Razali said there remains much to be done about these unresolved missing person cases as there is mounting public anxiety surrounding them.

All direct victims and their families have the right to know the truth, he said, as well as to have effective access to justice and to obtain redress.

"The right to know the truth, which is the core of the issue, has an individual and collective dimension and the public at large are entitled to know about the circumstances of the missing persons," Razali said.

Suhakam also calls on the authorities to investigate fully and expeditiously all cases where there is a reasonable suspicion of enforced disappearance.
Pastor Koh was abducted in February while Amri Che Mat, along with Joshua and Ruth Hilmy, were believed to have disappeared last November.
In a press conference on May 5, the Citizen Action Group on Enforced Disappearance (Caged) had claimed that these disappearances were "enforced disappearances".

Enforced disappearance is defined by the UN Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance as "the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the state or by persons or groups or persons acting with the authorisation, support or acquiescence of the state..."

On May 24, the inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar confirmed that a suspect was picked up in a northern state in relations to Koh's abduction.

Bishop decries 'ban evangelicals' call as symptomatic of the times

Terence Netto     Published     Updated
Catholic Bishop Emeritus Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing has described the call by certain Muslim groups to ban Evangelical Christianity as “symptomatic of an insecurity that appears to be well-nigh incurable.”

Bishop Paul was reacting to a call by a Muslim NGO, Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (Centra), that the government should ban Evangelical Christianity.

“Time and again we have seen certain individuals and groups raise a clamour about alleged Christian proselytisation of Muslims,” said the former head of the Melaka-Johor diocese of the Catholic Church and vocal exponent of freedom of religion and other human rights issues.

“So far as I can remember there has not been a single instance of these groups furnishing proof of their claims,” added the Jesuit-trained prelate.

“Yet the clamour does not cease. Instead, it gets more and more shrill and irrational such that one can't help but conclude that it stems from an insecurity that appears to be well-nigh incurable,” asserted the bishop.

He said Centra's call to ban Evangelical Christianity is the latest manifestation of  a “deep-seated insecurity that can only be dispelled by Muslims who are aware that there is no greater threat to their religion than what some Muslims do in the name of their faith.”

Bishop Paul said “giving free vent to this insecurity foments the atmosphere where Christian pastors can be made to disappear without the authorities having any clue as to where they have gone.”

He was referring to the disappearance last November of Christian pastors, Joshua and Ruth Hilmy, and the abduction of Pastor Raymond Koh in February this year.

The bishop praised the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) for encouraging people with information about their disappearance to contact the commission.

“This is a human rights issue and their disquiet over the blanks the police have drawn in their investigations must have prompted their decision to step into the breach and take up the search for mysteriously missing persons,” he said.

“But better than this measure would be tackling the deep insecurity which seeds the atmosphere in which harmless citizens can go missing and nobody knows where,” said the bishop.

After latest US blockbuster, opposition challenges Putrajaya to go beyond denial

Sheridan Mahavera
After latest US blockbuster, opposition challenges Putrajaya to go beyond denial
1MDB once again grab world headlines as US prosecutors file suit to seize another US$540 million (RM2.3 billion) in assets allegedly bought with money stolen from the state investment fund. – AFP pic, June 16, 2017.
PAKATAN Harapan (PH) wants Putrajaya to prove that United States prosecutors are wrong following a third civil suit filed by Department of Justice in connection with 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

The call from PH leaders come as both the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Malaysian Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) maintain that local authorities have found no evidence that crime was committed in the state investor.

The PMO and AGC both expressed regret over the suit which was filed by the DoJ with the aim to seize US$540 million (RM2.3 billion) in assets allegedly bought with stolen 1MBD money.

Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua said the denials from the PMO and AGC were "laughable" and did not address the facts raised in the suit.

“Very simply, the AGC and PMO must confirm simple facts – whether Najib received more than US$731 million from a fund originating from 1MDB; or if (Najib’s wife) Datin Seri Rosmah (Mansor) purchased a pink diamond worth US$27 million,” said Pua, who is also DAP publicity secretary.

“If they did not, then deny, produce factual evidence and put the matter to rest.”

Pua, who has been a vocal critic of 1MDB, said yesterday’s suit proved his theory about another 1MDB scam related to US$ 2.3 billion in investments that the company claimed were held by Brazen Sky in BSI Bank.

“The purported US$ 2.3 billion held by Brazen Sky is nothing but worthless pieces of paper with negligible value,” Pua said.

PKR communications director Fahmi Fadzil said there are now two conflicting narratives of 1MDB, one from the Malaysian authorities and the other from prosecutors in the US, Singapore and Switzerland. 

While the Malaysian authorities continue to maintain that no crime was committed in 1MDB, the courts in Singapore and Switzerland have fined and jailed bankers for moving 1MDB-tainted money.

“Since the third suit brought by the DoJ, the Attorney-General should send a delegation immediately to work with the DoJ to prove in a court of law whether these charges against 1MDB are true or false,” Fahmi said.

The DoJ’s suit yesterday is meant to seize, among others, a US$165 million yacht the Equanimity, owned by financier Jho Low, and rights to comedy movie "Dumb and Dumber To" produced by Red Granite, a production house co-owned by Riza Aziz, the stepson of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The department also alleged in its suit that at least US$27.3 million was used by Low to buy a 22-carat pink diamond pendant and necklace for the "Malaysian Official 1's wife".

The title "Malaysian Official 1" refers to an individual in the DoJ’s first suit in July last year, who allegedly received US$681 million (RM2.6 billion) in funds siphoned from 1MBD.

In August last year, Cabinet Minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan confirmed that Malaysian Official 1 referred to Najib but said the prime minister was not under investigation.

Najib has maintained that the US$681 million was a donation from a Saudi royal.

The AGC has cleared Najib of any wrongdoing after receiving the reports on the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission probe into 1MDB in January last year.

Another MP Lim Kit Siang said the latest suit further contradicts Najib’s insistence that the money he received was from a Saudi royal.

Lim said 10 paragraphs in the 251-page document states that US$681 million had been transferred from an account held by Tanore Finance Corp to an account belonging to Malaysian Official 1.

“There are other 'killer paragraphs' for the Prime Minister in the US DoJ kleptocratic suit but let us begin with these 10 paragraphs as to what Najib and the Govenrment are going to do to convince the world that Malaysia has not become a “global kleptocracy”,” Lim said.

Lim further questioned if Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali had read them before declaring there was nothing new in the documents.

The DAP leader said these paragraphs were directly linked to the RM2.6 billion in Prime Minister Najib Razak's bank accounts, which was described as a 'donation' from a Saudi royalty.

DAP secretary general Lim Guan Eng said the Malaysian government must immediately respond by filling a suit in the US to refute the DoJ’s accusations, if they are not true, said Lim.

Lim said the Malaysian government’s credibility and accountability will be further dented if these latest allegations go unchallenged. – June 16, 2017.

~ The Malaysian Insight

DOJ what? English, Malay dailies bury US 1MDB expose

Published     Updated
Malaysians who still don't get their news online may be blissfully unaware of the US Department of Justice's (DOJ) allegations related to 1MDB, if the front pages of major English and Malay dailies today are all they rely on.

The mainstream English and Malay papers this morning focused instead on the tragedies involving the deaths of bullied teen T Nhaveen and two Royal Malaysian Airforce pilots.

Utusan Malaysia, however, did allocate some front page space for a summary of a slew of denials against the DOJ's claims.

In contrast, the front pages of Chinese papers Sin Chew Daily, China Press, and Nanyang Siang Pau all focused on the DOJ's allegations.

Sin Chew's front page had one half headlined "DOJ: 1MDB assets were misappropriated, RM7.2 billion to be seized" and the other "PM's press secretary: Deeply concerned that US has an ulterior motive".

Meanwhile if you actually open and flip through the English and Malay papers, you would find articles on attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali; Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's press secretary Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad all decrying the DOJ allegations.

Some papers also carried 1MDB's denial, while the New Straits Times, Utusan and Berita Harian carried an additional report about NGO Jaringan Melayu Malaysia (JMM) lodging a police report on the matter.

Reading the articles, however, does not reveal any details on what exactly the DOJ is claiming.

The only exceptions were Sinar Harian and The Star.

Sinar Harian listed out all the assets the DOJ wants to seize, while The Star had a basic summary that the DOJ's latest suit sought to seize US$540 million in assets.

No Jho Low, Mrs MO1 mentioned

None of the Malay and English dailies Malaysiakini reviewed mentioned Penang-born tycoon Jho Low or Malaysian Official 1's (MO1) wife.

The DOJ on Thursday filed a third set of civil forfeiture suits involving 1MDB, aiming to seize an additional US$540 million in allegedly ill-gotten assets, which brings the total amount sought to US$1.7 billion.
The new lawsuits revealed startling information, including how US$620 million which MO1 purportedly returned to his "Arab donor" was later used to purchase diamonds for the figure's wife.
In response to the suits, Apandi yesterday expressed concern at DOJ's "insinuations" of criminal wrongdoing against Najib.

Tengku Sariffuddin meanwhile accused the DOJ of having ulterior motives, while 1MDB claimed the filing was not backed by evidence.

Salleh meanwhile blamed the opposition for the filing, and described it as an act of "treason".

The 1MDB players - in their own words

Published     Updated

Brown said this in a conference call, when announcing the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) latest civil suit, seeking to seize an additional US$540 million in assets purchased with funds allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB. [Read the story]

In an email exchange, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s stepson Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz and his business partner Joey McFarland discuss their obsession with collecting expensive movie posters. The DOJ claimed Riza had purchased his collection, which covered the walls of his Park Laurel condominium, using funds allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB.
- DOJ third suit on 1MDB, page 83, paragraph 278 [Read the story]

According to the DOJ, Jho Low had engaged New York-based jeweller Lorraine Schwartz to prepare the pink diamond necklace for the wife of Malaysian Official 1 (MO1). They viewed the jewellery aboard a yacht off the shore of Monaco. The DOJ said the necklace, which cost US$27.3 million, was purportedly paid for using portions of US$620 million that MO1 had returned to his “donor.”
- DOJ third suit on 1MDB, page 225, paragraph 850 [Read the story]

Low was said to have sent this message to Schwartz while surveying for a heart-shaped diamond as a Valentine’s Day gift for Australian model Mirande Kerr. Low finally settled on an 11.72-carat diamond for US$1.29 million, allegedly using stolen 1MDB money.
- DOJ third suit on 1MDB, page 234, paragraph 881 [Read the story]

Email correspondence obtained by the DOJ includes a birthday cake proposal by Oceanco for Jho Low’s sister May Lin. Oceanco built Jho Low’s 300-foot yacht, “The Equanimity”, which he allegedly acquired using misappropriated 1MDB funds.
- DOJ third suit on 1MDB, page 198, paragraph 726 [Read the story]

Eric Tan allegedly purchased a Pablo Picasso painting worth US$3.28 million using misappropriated 1MDB funds and gifted it to Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio for his birthday in January 2014. The Singapore courts had established that Eric Tan is an alias for Jho Low.
- DOJ third suit on 1MDB, page 243, paragraph 928 [Read the story]

Low, responding to queries by BSI bankers over large transfers to his father’s bank accounts. He explained that it was his family’s tradition to provide gifts to his parents when business is good. The DOJ said BSI bankers accepted this explanation, instead of raising red flags for money laundering. - DOJ third suit on 1MDB, page 242, paragraph 920 [Read the story]

The DOJ claimed that Low holds a passport for the West Indies island of St Kitts and Nevis, apart from a Malaysian passport. Low’s signature on the foreign passport also appeared in a letter the billionaire wrote to RBS Coutts when requesting for a £35 million wire transfer.

- DOJ third suit on 1MDB, page 185, paragraph 685 [Read the story]

The Falcon Bank CEO, expressing concerns about the documentation provided to the bank to justify the numerous transactions in 2013 involving Tanore Corporation and Granton Property Holdings accounts. The DOJ claimed proceeds from a 2013 bond raised by 1MDB was siphoned to the Tanore account. US$681 million of those siphoned funds were later transferred to Malaysian Official 1.

- DOJ third suit on 1MDB, page 98, paragraph 335 [Read the story]

Blanco said this in a conference call, when announcing the latest civil suit by the Department of Justice (DOJ), seeking to seize an additional US$540 million in assets purchased with funds allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB. [Read the story].