Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Pakatan backs calls to curb PM’s power to appoint, promote judges

Asila Jalil

Pakatan backs calls to curb PM’s power to appoint, promote judges
The current laws do not oblige the prime minister to give any reason if he rejected judges nominated by the Judicial Appointments Commission, which gives the perception that Malaysia’s judiciary lacks independence. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, December 12, 2017.
THE power of the prime minister to influence the appointment and promotion of judges is too strong and needs to be curbed to protect the independence of the judiciary, said Pakatan Harapan parties.

DAP said the matter should be included in its election manifesto.

PKR’s N. Surendran said the prime minister has the power to appoint judges as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong was required to act on the advice of the prime minister under the federal constitution.

“Article 122B as it stands, gives the power to appoint judges to the prime minister. This is because by virtue Article 40(1), the (Yang di-Pertuan) Agong is bound by the prime minister’s advice.”

He also said the independence of the judiciary can only be ensured by removing the prime minister’s role in the appointment and promotion of judges.

“Otherwise, the executive has too great an influence and power over the judiciary,” said Surendran, adding that the proposal is in line with PKR’s commitment to ensure the independence of key institutions.

The move was recently called for by pro-moderation group of prominent former civil servants, G25, who questioned the current laws which did not oblige the prime minister to give any reason if he rejected judges nominated by the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC).  

DAP’s legal bureau chief Gobind Singh Deo said he will push for the proposal to be included in the party’s election manifesto and talks are being held over the matter.

“I would support any move to distance the prime minister from having any role to play in the appointment or promotion of judges.

“We should (include it in the manifesto). I would recommend that it be included. Discussions are currently being held over a wide range of topics, including this,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

Bersatu supreme council member Dr Rais Hussin Mohamed Ariff said the proposal would ensure that the judges are “truly independent and not beholden to anyone”.

However, he stopped short of saying whether Bersatu would include the proposal in its manifesto.

“A proper mechanism can be instituted to ensure this proposal be attained.

“As for the manifesto, kindly wait for the eventual announcement as PH (Pakatan Harapan), though it has drafted the manifesto, is doing a series of engagements with various stakeholders.”

Amanah vice-president Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa said the party has always called for the judiciary to be independent.

“Judges should be independent. And the executive should not interfere. And ‘yes’ to anything that will help the judiciary to be more independent,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

Concerns over the prime minister’s powers in making judicial appointments surfaced again this year when the government in July announced the term extensions of Chief Justice Raus Sharif and Court of Appeal president Zulkefli Ahmad Makinuddin by appointing them as additional judges upon reaching the retirement age.

G25 described the current constitutional provisions which made prime minister the person who effectively decides on the appointments or promotions of judges, as “unsatisfactory”.

The group said the Yang di-Pertuan Agong was constitutionally obliged to act on the advice of the prime minister and this “gives rise to the perception that the judiciary is beholden to the executive.

“It is proposed (that) the prime minister plays no role at all in the appointment of judges.

“Instead of the prime minister, JAC should recommend the names to the Conference of Rulers (for their views) and, thereafter, to the Agong,” it said in its report on “Invigorating economic confidence in Malaysia”, released on Saturday in Kuala Lumpur.

Article 122B of the constitution provides that the appointments of the chief justice, president of the Court of Appeal, chief judges of the high courts, and other judges of the Federal Court, Court of Appeal and high courts shall be made by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, acting on the advice of the prime minister, after consulting the Conference of Rulers.

Changing constitutional provisions, however, would require the support of two-thirds of the Dewan Rakyat’s 222 MPs. The ruling Barisan Nasional has 132 lawmakers, PH 88 and two are independents. – December 12, 2017.

~ The Malaysian Insight

When God is blamed for BN’s failures


By Syerleena Abdul Rashid

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LETTER | Recently, Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Hamzah Zainudin was quoted to have verbally shared a piece from the hadith during the recent Umno general assembly where Prophet Muhammad stated: “Verily, it is God who sets prices, who makes things hard, easy and gives out blessings.”

Hamzah interpreted the rising cost of living we currently face as God’s will, which instantaneously, drew a lot of flak from Malaysians.

The recent statement made by our esteemed minister proves that the level of foolish arrogance that is seemingly prevalent within the circles of the ruling coalition reeks of immense denial and pomposity. A minister of his stature should have provided a better reasoning, perhaps, one that entails rational logic and statistics to support his claims.

The implementation of GST combined with the recent abolishment and reduction of both the fuel and road toll subsidies; weakening global economy and dipping currency have worsen the rising cost of living, which is one of Malaysians greatest concerns.

According to “Survey Malaysia 2017: Mood of the nation,” 82 percent of 4,468 respondents agreed that the GST triggered the rising cost of living.

In another survey conducted by the Department of Statistics, the top three areas where average Malaysian households spent were: housing and utilities (24 percent), food and beverages (18 percent) and transportation (13.7 percent), while this survey provides an idea on how much Malaysians are spending in general, one thing is clear - Malaysian’s are simply not getting paid enough.

Factors such as cheap foreign labour, low productivity levels and negative employer attitudes attribute to wage stagnation, which in turn, has weaken the Malaysian spending power drastically.

This phenomenon has hit single income families the hardest and a minister from the ruling coalition should have provided better policies to help alleviate the financial burdens these families face.

What all of this proves is nothing more than the failure of the BN-led federal government.

While we can agree that Hamzah’s ridiculous statement is far too appalling to be ignored, the usage of “God’s will” to justify insensitive and unjust policies is not new and will not go away anytime soon.

Umno frequently uses frames that present "threat imagery" that goes into full force at every general assembly; the organisation and its leaders will exacerbate fears about our nation's security and values which all play an important part to build up “confidence” in winning the Malay-Muslim vote.

According to authors Kevin and Jackie Frieberg, leadership is best explained as “a dynamic relationship based on mutual influence and common purpose between leaders and collaborators in which both are moved to higher levels of motivation and moral development as they affect real, intended change.” Therefore, the quality of a leader is often reflected through the standards they set for themselves.

Unfortunately, ministers like Hamzah are ever too willing to use religious imagery to mentality divide us and force us to a regressive state where we are conditioned to see the world in black and white.

To paraphrase Rumi, “Before you speak, ask yourself ‘Is it true?’, then ask ‘Is it necessary?’ and lastly ask ‘Is it kind?” – clearly such deliberations were not considered in Hamzah’s conscience.

We need political leaders who are thoughtful, those who are able to engage in debates and those who will not blindly bring God or religion into the sphere of political discourse. Malaysia will continue to face socio-economic stagnation if we continue to allow the arrogant, the superficial and the uninformed to remain in the corridors of federal power.

We now live in an age where interpretations of religious scriptures are so varied and loose, ascertaining what is true, sincere and factual have all become challenges we face as a nation.

Unfettered fascism that is carefully veiled as nationalism and democracy has joined the religious right, directly presenting a clandestine “cause” that binds lunacy and governance.

Bringing God into the narrative to justify our ailing economy and rising cost of living is just another cowardly act to circumvent responsibility and accountability.

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

~ Malaysiakini

Monday, December 11, 2017

Pakatan Harapan condemns ‘threat’ of stern action against slogan users

Chong (seated third right), Baru (seated third left), Fidzuan (seated second right) and other PH committee members during the press conference.

KUCHING: Pakatan Harapan (PH) Sarawak condemned Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s recent statement that the government would take stern action against those attempting to instigate the people using the slogans ‘Sarawak for Sarawakians’ and ‘Sabah for Sabahans’.

According to PH chairman and state DAP chief Chong Chieng Jen, PH viewed Ahmad Zahid’s statement as a threat, and called on Sarawak Barisan Nasional (Sarawak BN) to stand against Umno’s oppression of Sarawak.

He also commented that such slogan was endorsed by Sarawak BN during the 2016 state election and it had helped obtain some votes for BN as well.

“However, now that the “Sarawak for Sarawakians” slogan works against BN due to the reluctance on the part of BN to devolve power to the state, the BN government attempts to criminalise the slogan.

“Ahmad Zahid’s statement speaks clearly of UMNO’s position against the demands of Sarawakians for more autonomous power and it is also the way UMNO flexes its muscle against Sarawak,” he said during a press conference held at DAP headquarters here today.

Chong noted that it was only as recent as Nov 17 that the state government has proposed for Ahmad Zahid to be the person to lead the team representing the federal government in the negotiation for the devolution of power to Sarawak and yet Ahmad Zahid had issued such a statement that showed he is against the demands of Sarawakians.

PH also expressed their disappointment that four days have passed since the statement was made, but the only reaction from Sarawak BN was an apologetic explanation by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan while other state leaders remained silent.

Also present were PKR Sarawak chairman Baru Bian, Amanah Sarawak chairman Mohd Fidzuan Zaidi, DAP Sarawak deputy chairman Chiew Chin Sing, state PKR Women chief Nurhanim Hanna Mokhsen, Krian assemblyman Ali Biju and other PH committee members.

~ Borneo Post

Friday, December 8, 2017

Report: M'sia one of 12 countries where apostasy is punishable by death

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Malaysia is one of only 12 countries in the world to have apostasy technically punishable by death, according to the Freedom of Thought Report 2017.

The report, published by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), also listed Malaysia as one of 30 countries which gravely violated at least one of the four themes which were measured.

Other countries which were also listed as meeting at least one "grave violation", the lowest category, include Afghanistan, Brunei, China, North Korea and Syria.

"Apostasy' or conversion from a specific religion is outlawed and punishable by death.

"It is illegal to advocate secularism or church-state separation, or such advocacy is suppressed.


"It is illegal or unrecognised to identify as an atheist or as non-religious," the report said about Malaysia, under its grave violations of the theme freedom of expression and advocacy of humanist values.

Malaysia also fell under the ambit of 'grave violations' for the theme 'family, community, society, religious courts and tribunals'.

"Government figures or state agencies openly marginalise, harass or incite hatred or violence against the non-religious," the report read.

It cited an incident in August this year where at least one federal minister threatened to "hunt down" atheists in a viral photo of an 'atheist club'.

The report also noted that ethnic Malays are subjected to strict state controls over an "enforced, homogenous religious identity".


Blasphemy is outlawed, it pointed out, and criticism of religion is restricted or punishable by a prison sentence.

Malaysia also scored poorly on the two other themes that are 'constitution and government' as well as 'education and children's rights', falling under the 'severe discrimination' category for both.

"Religious instruction is mandatory in all or most state-funded schools with no secular or humanist alternative," the report noted.

It also pointed out that Malaysia only signed two of the eight legally enforceable human rights treaties from the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

"Even then, the state asserts constitutional exemptions to these treaties and to the Universal Declaration itself, asserting that only 'those fundamental liberties provided for' in the Constitution will be upheld, rendering its signature to the UDHR essentially an empty gesture," it said.

Read more at https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/404799#VDDgG7CSmqcGSphU.99
 

Federal Court defines judge with ‘Bornean judicial experience’

December 8, 2017, Friday

PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court has ruled that the term ‘Judge with Borneo judicial experience’ used in paragraph 26(4) of the Inter-Governmental Committee Report 1962, means ‘a Judge who has exercised judicial functions and heard cases before the Subordinate Court, High Court, the Court of Appeal and Federal Court when these Courts sit in Sarawak or Sabah’. This term could not be interpreted to mean a ‘Judge born or resident in the Borneo States’.

In a unanimous decision read by the President of the Court of Appeal, Tan Sri Zulkefli Makinuddin yesterday, the Federal Court rejected an application by Keruntum Sdn Bhd (Keruntum) to nullify the Judgment given on March 15, 2017, by another panel of Judges which upheld the lower Courts’ decision in rejecting the Company’s claims against the Sarawak State Government for RM130 million in damages, for alleged wrongful revocation of its Timber Licence No.T/0279 on March 10, 1987.

Keruntum argued that the previous panel which dismissed its appeal on March 15, 2017 suffered from ‘coram failure’ in that none of the five Federal Court Judges had ‘Bornean judicial experience’ and therefore the judgment was ‘null and void’.

In yesterday’s ruling, the Federal Court, comprising also Judges Tan Sri Azhar Mohamad, Tan Sri Zaharah Ibrahim, Tan Sri Balia Wahbi and Datuk Sandosham Abraham, held that there was no coram failure as the number of Judges who heard the case was not less than the statutory minimum under section 72 of the Courts of Judicature Act, 1964.

On Keruntum’s allegation that its constitutional rights were violated because the Panel did not have any judges with ‘Borneo judicial experience’ as recommended in paragraph 26(4) of the IGC Report; the Federal Court held that there was a need to understand what IGC meant by the term ‘Bornean judicial experience’.

Because, the IGC Report did not define or explain the said term, the Federal Court would have to interpret it following rules for interpretation of a constitutional document.

Accordingly, the term ‘Bornean judicial experience’ must mean a Judge having served in the Subordinate or High Courts in Sabah and Sarawak and the Court of Appeal and Federal Court when sitting in these two States. This term cannot be construed to mean a judge born or resident in the two Borneo States, as the IGC’s emphasis is clearly on ‘judicial experience’ and not on the ‘origin, birth or residence of the Judge’.

The Federal Court also found that the recommendation under paragraph 26(4) of IGC Report was never implemented under Article VIII of the Malaysia Agreement through incorporation in the Federal Constitution or in any laws, such as the Court of Judicature Act 1964 passed after Malaysia Day, or by executive orders made pursuant to Article 74 of the Malaysia Act, 1963. The Courts have no power under Article VIII of the Malaysia Agreement to implement paragraph 26(4) of the IGC Report.

Thus, Keruntum has no constitutional rights to rely on paragraph 26(4) of IGC Report in support of its application to review the Judgment of the Federal Court dated March 15, 2017 and have it set aside.

Keruntum was ordered to pay RM10,000 to the State Government upon dismissal of its application.

Keruntum was represented by former Federal Court Judge, Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram and Colin Lau. State Legal Counsel Dato Sri JC Fong and Lonie Pinda appeared for the State Government.

~ The Borneo Post

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Survey: M'sians most worried about immigration control, unemployment

image: https://i.malaysiakini.com/976/dd578d824ec6a890b38e2034640c4082.jpg

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Issues concerning immigration control, governance and unemployment are the biggest worries among Malaysians, a survey conducted by global market research agency Ipsos has found.

In revealing the results of the inaugural survey titled "What Worries Malaysia", Ipsos Loyalty and Public Affairs director Arun Menon admitted that the results of the survey had come as a surprise, especially since immigration control or immigration of foreign workers had ranked tenth globally but ranked in first place for Malaysia.

While concern over immigration control has been expressed across the spectrum, it had indeed been expressed more by one group than the others, Arun said in a press conference today.


"Mostly Malays, specifically from rural areas as well as those surveyed with a household monthly income of less than RM3,000," he elaborated.

Currently, there are approximately 1.7 million registered foreign workers in the country. This does not account the number of undocumented foreign workers.

Arun later explained that the results of the global ranking were based on the average of 26 other countries surveyed.

"Most countries in Europe and Australia said immigration control is a concern.

"But if you look at India and China, that's not a big concern. When we average all 26 countries, only six or seven mentioned it as a big concern," he said.

The 2017 Ipsos global survey had polled countries such as Italy, the US, the UK, Japan, South Korea, Germany and France, among others.

The poll for Malaysia was conducted among 2,027 Malaysians aged between 15 and 64 years, through telephone interviews.

Women fret over unemployment

Meanwhile, the issue of unemployment was mostly highlighted by females and those surveyed whose household income is less than RM1,000, Arun said.

"Gen Z, those between the ages of 15 and 24 are also most concerned about unemployment. They are not finding jobs that fit their aspirations," he said.

Ipsos Business Consulting (Malaysia, Singapore and Philippines) country head Kiranjit Singh, who also expressed surprise on the results of the survey, said that this had nothing to do with racism or xenophobia.


"But it has to do with economics. The same people worried about unemployment are also worried about the influx of foreign workers.

"It's an economic issue, rather than a dislike of foreign workers.

"Unemployment stands at 3.5 percent for Malaysia, which is very good. But if you look at the actual number, this represents 550,000 Malaysians," he added.

On the issue of governance, Kiranjit confirmed that it is slightly more of a concern to middle-class Chinese Malaysians.

"This is actually in line with other studies done by other publications," he said.

Read more at https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/404373#TWPWQlUx2Tzzrwib.99

C4: Gov't ignored World Bank's request to include 1MDB in forum


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The government purportedly did not respond to a request from the World Bank to include the 1MDB scandal as a case study in the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (Gfar), according to an NGO.

Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) executive director Cynthia Gabriel told Malaysiakini that the government did not decline the request but merely did not respond.

“When I asked the World Bank about 1MDB, we were told that there was no response from the government,” she said.

Malaysiakini has contacted the World Bank for confirmation with regard to Gabriel's claim as well as Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Paul Low for comment.

As C4 is on the board of the UN Convention Against Corruption (Uncac) coalition, Gabriel said the NGO has engaged with Gfar from the beginning.

Due to 1MDB not being included as a case study in Gfar, she claimed this prevented Malaysian law practitioners and civil societies from participating in the forum held in Washington DC on Dec 4.


“We are disappointed that the government ignored and dismissed 1MDB in this forum.

“As a result, prosecutors, lawyers, civil societies and all in Malaysia could not participate. We were denied an important avenue to participate in the recovery of stolen assets,” she added.

Malaysia is also a signatory of the Uncac which speaks on international cooperation and mutual legal assistance (MLA).

Gabriel also accused the government of neglecting its obligations under the convention by refusing to acknowledge and cooperate with international bodies in the recovery of stolen assets.

“We are urging and demanding that the attorney-general (Mohamed Apandi Ali) opens up the investigation on 1MDB in light of the speech at the Gfar by US attorney-general (Jeff Sessions), which shows that the case is still much alive and it is the largest kleptocracy case.

“That is what he (Sessions) said; that 'this is kleptocracy at its worst',” she said.

Speaking at the Gfar, Sessions had revealed that nearly half of the US$3.5 billion corruption proceeds seized by the US government thus far had come from the 1MDB-related civil forfeiture suits.


Read more at https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/404376#iMhq5uUADBGVvbWQ.99

1MDB is kleptocracy at its worst, says US attorney-general

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Almost half of the US$3.5 billion corruption proceeds which have been seized by the US government came from the 1MDB-related civil forfeiture suits, revealed US attorney-general Jeff Sessions.

“Nearly half of the US$3.5 billion in corruption proceeds we have restrained is related to just one enforcement action.

“That action was related to a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund known as 1MDB,” Sessions said during his speech at the Global Forum on Asset Recovery in Washington DC yesterday.

He said that allegedly corrupt officials and their associates had reportedly used the 1MDB funds for a “lavish spending spree” such as US$200 million for real estate in South California and New York, US$130 million in artwork, US$100 million in an American music label and a US$265 million yacht.

1MDB officials allegedly laundered more than US$4.5 billion in total, he said, through a complex web of opaque transactions and shell companies with bank accounts in various countries such as Switzerland, Singapore, Luxembourg and the US.

“This is kleptocracy at its worst.

“Today, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) is working to provide justice to the victims of this alleged scheme,” he said.

He was speaking on the ways the US has cooperated with their law enforcement partners around the world and how that has benefitted them all.

The US has returned more than US$255 million worth of corruption proceeds to compensate victims since 2004, he said.

“That recovery has only been possible because of cooperation with our foreign law enforcement partners,” he said.

Drawing on his 14-years' experience as a prosecutor, he said the best evidence in such corruption cases is often things like bank records, airplane records and telephone records.

If such information is not properly shared between nations, then “justice cannot be done” in many cases.

“It is essential that we continue to improve that kind of sharing.

“That is why we must all do more to expedite mutual legal assistance requests.

“These requests ensure that prosecutors have the evidence that they need to bring criminals to justice,” he said.

The DOJ has filed three civil forfeiture suits to seize US$1.7 billion worth of assets allegedly purchased with misappropriated funds from 1MDB, with the third one being filed last June.


Read more at https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/404346#hJqjVJwOL2cIpCiu.99

Study finds Malaysia near bottom in electoral integrity

Looi Sue-Chern


Study finds Malaysia near bottom in electoral integrity  
The study found the electoral process was systematically manipulated to bias outcomes meant to keep BN in power. – EPA file pic, December 1, 2017.



MALAYSIA ranks higher than Zimbabwe, Vietnam and Afghanistan in electoral integrity, but far behind regional neighbours Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines, according to an academic paper on elections.

The research paper titled “Malaysia’s Electoral Process: The Methods and Costs of Perpetuating Umno Rule” assigns a PEI (Global Perceptions of Electoral Integrity) score that measures electoral laws, electoral procedures, district boundaries, voter registration, party registration, media coverage, campaign finance, the voting process, and vote count to capture an electoral system’s degree of manipulation.

Malaysia ranked 142nd out of 158 countries in terms of electoral integrity.

Zimbabwe were 143; Vietnam, 147; and Afghanistan, 150.

“Nearly all other countries in this category have experienced deep social and political instability like Afghanistan and Zimbabwe, or have single party system like Vietnam that precludes meaningful electoral competition,” the report said.

“Neither of these is true for Malaysia, making it a clear outlier in the category.

“Malaysia has a strong and well institutionalised state that has provided relative social stability, a high level of human development, and robust economic development. 

“This developmental success brings Malaysia’s poor electoral integrity into stark contrast and suggests its deficiencies are the result of deliberate manipulations, rather than a by-product of developmental strife.”

Denmark scored the highest PEI score of 86, while Southeast Asian neighbours Indonesia ranked 68, Myanmar 83, Singapore, 94 and the Philippines 101.

The research paper also found a strong bias in the delineation of electoral boundaries in Malaysia. 

“Levels of malapportionment are now among the highest in the world; in fact, the EIP (Electoral Integrity Project) ranks Malaysia’s electoral boundaries as the most biased of the 155 countries assessed,” said the report.

EIP is an independent academic project based at Harvard University and the University of Sydney.
Kai Ostwald says former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s tenure from 1981 to 2003 had a large impact on the country’s political landscape, the independence of key institutions, the economy and the role of money in politics. – YouTube pic, December 1, 2017. 
Kai Ostwald says former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s tenure from 1981 to 2003 had a large impact on the country’s political landscape, the independence of key institutions, the economy and the role of money in politics. – YouTube pic, December 1, 2017.
The paper was written this year by University of British Columbia’s Assistant Professor Kai Ostwald from the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs & Department of Political Science. 

He uploaded the paper onto the site ResearchGate late last month.

The paper claims to act as a primer on elections in Malaysia by providing a systematic assessment of how the electoral process is strategically manipulated to secure the political dominance of Umno and its coalition partners in Barisan Nasional.

It looks into the country’s institutional structure, electoral history, and how Malaysia allegedly manipulates its electoral system more significantly than other countries with comparable levels of development and institutionalisation.

Ostwald noted former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s tenure from 1981 to 2003 had a large impact on the country’s political landscape, the independence of key institutions, the economy and the role of money in politics.

The electoral process, he said, was systematically manipulated to bias outcomes meant to keep BN in power.

In the 2013 general election, BN won 83 of the 86 smallest districts, while the opposition – the now defunct Pakatan Rakyat – won a substantial majority of the largest one third of districts. 

Despite getting only 47% of the popular vote, BN retained the federal government.

“The opposition in Malaysia is granted enough operating space to contest and win seats at the federal level, and occasionally to form governments at the state level. 

“This does not make elections free and generally fair,” said Ostwald.

He also highlighted the ongoing attempt by the new opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan to register as a coalition, and the DAP’s troubles with the Registrar of Societies (RoS) over its central executive committee election.

“RoS, which falls under the Ministry of Home Affairs, has shown pro BN institutional bias. The RoS is responsible for overseeing the registration and operation of societies, including political parties. 

“It has the power to block the formation of new parties or de register parties that do not follow its provisions, which cover a wide range of areas from parties’ internal governance to their names and symbols.”

Other issues Ostwald highlighted included the selective use of the Sedition Act and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma); the widely questioned independence and partiality of the judiciary; control over the mass media through laws and ownership; and restrictions on the new media. – December 1, 2017.

~ The Malaysian Insight

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Mujah denies claim that he is potential candidate for PBDS Baru

Nicholas Mujah.

KUCHING: Native land rights activist Nicholas Mujah Ason has categorically denied the claim by the PBDS Baru deputy president Patrick Anek Uren that he is a potential candidate for their party.

“I am a member of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Sri Aman Division and a member of the PKR Sarawak State Liaison Committee.

“Even though my commitments and works are more towards grassroots activism, I have agreed to be considered as a potential candidate for PKR in the coming general election when (state PKR vice chairman) YB See Chee How proposed to enlist me for Sri Aman,” Mujah told The Borneo Post when contacted today.

Mujah said he had no knowledge that PBDS Baru was planning to name him as their potential candidate, adding: “Their notion may be noble but a mistaken one nonetheless.”

“I have no intention to join their party, neither have their president Cobbold John Lusoi nor his deputy Patrick Anek Uren have spoken to me to be their potential candidate.

“I further say that I have no knowledge (of this matter) and I have never given PBDS Baru my consent to include my name or photograph in their propaganda materials on the social media platforms implying that I am associated with them in their political activities.”

PBDS Baru in a statement yesterday expressed their surprise after See had announced Mujah as PKR’s potential candidate for Sri Aman parliamentary constituency in the coming 14th General Election.

“Mujah is our (PBDS) potential candidate, it is ridiculous and preposterous for See Chee How to announce him as their (PKR) candidate. We also believed that Mujah himself was unaware of such matters”, Anek was quoted as saying.

According to Anek, the statement issued by See was not only misleading but also a political propaganda to mislead the community at Sri Aman and to decimate the popularity of Cobbold who is also a candidate for Sri Aman parliamentary constituency for this upcoming parliament election.

~ Borneo Post

Defying Sarawak’s ‘White Rajah’ has paid off, says activist

Gan Pei Ling

Defying Sarawak’s ‘White Rajah’ has paid off, says activist Lukas Straumann says there were times when he felt like giving up, but local communities in Sarawak inspired him to carry on. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Nazir Sufari, December 3, 2017.

DESPITE stepping down as Sarawak chief minister almost four years ago, Abdul Taib Mahmud is far from forgotten, at least for one environmental activist, who is determined to ensure the “White Rajah” is held accountable for the alleged embezzlement of billions of ringgit during his reign.

Dr Lukas Straumann, the executive director of Swiss-based environmental watchdog Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), has spent much of the last decade trying to track down and convince Malaysian and international authorities to look into the Taib family's immense wealth.

In 2012, following years of investigation, BMF published a groundbreaking report estimating that Taib's family had amassed assets worth US$21 billion (RM86 billion) worldwide. 

In that report, Taib’s family was linked to real estate in the US, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, and hold stakes in more than 400 companies in 25 countries. 

The wealth, claims Straumann and many of his colleagues, are proceeds from illegal and unsustainable logging, and he is trying to convince international prosecutors to look into the allegations and return the money to Sarawak.

“Taib was very smart. He didn't put all his eggs in one basket. He went to different places as a safe haven for his money.

“He bought the Hilton Hotel in Adelaide (Australia) worth US$15 million today. Sakto in Canada, maybe US$200 million. 

“The FBI building in Seattle is worth US$15 million today. Luxury properties in London.
“We are trying to get legal assistance in these countries to have these assets frozen,” he said.

Straumann’s soft-spoken nature belies his ferocity in following the trail of Taib’s wealth, leading some people to accuse him of having a personal vendetta against the Yang di-Pertua of Sarawak.

It’s an accusation he takes in his stride, insisting that he is motivated only by the desire to seek justice for the people of Sarawak.

“We have often been accused of being against the government.

“I think it's important to see that we are against certain policies and corruption, we are not against certain people because they are them,” Straumann told The Malaysian Insight.

The historian and former journalist said as a Swiss-based organisation, BMF could access information and release documents that would be difficult for a Malaysian-based group to do.

“Taib is still around as governor. No one wants to touch him. Many people are scared.

“Some people are also compromised because they helped him. It's a bit easier for us from the outside. We have more access to information. We are not living within these political systems,” he said.

Taib served as Sarawak chief minister for 33 years. After stepping down in February 2014, he became governor.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had investigated Taib in 2011, but the trail has since gone cold.

In response to allegations that his wealth was amassed through the awarding of illegal logging concessions, Taib claimed that his family acquired the wealth through his daughter Jamilah Taib Murray's business acumen.

In an interview with The Malaysian Insight, Straumann speaks about the BMF's latest efforts to convince international authorities to investigate the Taib family wealth.

TMI: Can you share what happened after your book was published in 2014?
Straumann: The book (Money Logging: On the Trail of the Asian Timber Mafia) made the connection between unsustainable logging and money being taken out of the country. It's very telling when you go to the logging concessions in Borneo. You see lorries full of timber going out. If you think of timber in terms of money, a lot of money is being taken out. The question is where is the money? 

Our task was to follow the money. So we spent a long time investigating the Taib family. We found real estate they own in Canada, England, Australia, and the US worth several hundreds of millions.

We wrote to governments, and asked them to open criminal investigations or freeze the money and bring it back to Malaysia. Then we found out no foreign government nor public prosecutor in these countries would do anything. 

They were either not interested, or they said there was not enough evidence or they didn't have enough resources. 

Like in London, the biggest financial centre in Europe, we filed a police report in 2014 against the company subsidiaries with proven links to Taib’s family. The National Crime Agency said there was nothing it could do at this stage. 
Q: Why do you think this is the case?
Straumann: We don't know why. [But] one of the reasons could be because Malaysia is not cooperating. They cannot get mutual legal assistance from Malaysia. 
With these international cases, you need mutual legal assistance from the country of origin. 
We know for instance that the Swiss attorney-general requested legal assistance from Malaysia on the 1MDB (1Malaysian Development Bhd) investigation but Malaysia did not provide legal assistance. 

Q:Have you tried the MACC?
Straumann: We sent them a letter back in 2011. We sent a letter to the MACC, IGP (Inspector-General of Police) and the attorney-general, sharing information we have collected on the Taib family, and we asked them to arrest the Taib family on criminal conspiracy. They didn't reply. 

Q: Any follow up since 2011 with the Malaysian authorities?
Straumann: We didn't follow-up in Malaysia because we realised they are not interested. The institutions are not independent in Malaysia to handle politically sensitive cases. 

That's why we decided to go to the countries where the money was transferred. Anti-corruption and asset recovery legislations have advanced a lot in the last 10 to 15 years. 

We are (still) trying to get legal assistance in these countries to have (Taib family's) assets frozen. 

We found out later there is an instrument called private prosecution. If the state fails to prosecute a crime, you can come in as a private citizen or institution to assist the public prosecutors. 

We have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that money has been laundered in Canada, which has been stolen by corrupt officials. We filed a court case in Canada last July. Litigation is ongoing. BMF and a Sarawakian living in Canada are the plaintiffs.

Q: Have there been moments where you just wanted to give up?
Straumann: Yes of course, when I first heard about the 12 dams being planned. First you came with logging, and then plantations, and now you want to drown everything. That was a bitter moment. 

But then we realised the communities could do something about it. It was a big victory for the communities and the environmental movement when they successfully stopped the dam. It pays to be persistent.

Some of the old village headmen, they tell me it's worth being defiant. Defiance has paid off. – December 3, 2017.