Monday, 21 May 2018

The Abrupt End to the Hegemony of Umno

A Kadir Jasin

In the name of God, the merciful and the compassionate

I HAVE never started my post with a reminder. But I now have. The opinion expressed here, in this blog, is entirely mine. It has nothing whatsoever to do with my position (for now) as the head of media & communication of the Council of Elders (CoE).

As has been for the past 12 years, this blog in mine and the content herein is mine. They do not represent or purport to represent other individuals or organisations.

I have to make this absolutely clear because of late some journalists and media organisations had either intentionally or out of ignorant linked my opinion here (and also in my Facebook) as representing that of the CoE.

The CoE has nothing to do with my blog and Facebook, my writing in Sinar Harian and Dewan Masyarakat. So I appeal to journalists and organisations quoting from my blog, Facebook and my columns in Sinar and Dewan Masyarakat not to link it to my for-now position as an apparatus of CoE aka the Council of Eminent Persons.

[Anonymous comments will not be published. Please use real or pseudonym. Thank you.]

NOW to my opinion. This time its about the end of the Umno-Barisan Nasional political hegemony.

As we now know, the hegemony of the United Malay National Organisation (Umno) and the BN came to an unceremonious end on May 9.

On the was to conceding defeat
The 72-year old Malay party and its BN coalition were swept away by the “tsunami Malaysia” after being in power continuously since independence in 1957.

The self-proclaimed Bugis warrior, Mohd Najib Abdul Razak, had finally steered his Bugis pinisi into the eye of the storm and sank.

Remember his famous heroic cry? "Saya ingin mengulangi, setelah layar telah dikembangkan, apabila sauh telah dilabuhkan, pantang ketua kapal dan anak-anak kapal menoleh ke belakang.”

Literally translated, once the sail had been raised and the anchor dropped, the captain and its crew would not look back.

Unfortunately, Najib the sailor wasn’t like his seafaring ancestors. He got his command wrong. He asked for the sail to be raised but ordered the anchor dropped.

The mast broke, the sail torn and the ship sank. The BN lost the federal government and eight out of 12 state assemblies up for grabs.

It would appear that Najib really believed that it would be plain sailing for the BN until the counting of votes commenced in the evening of May 9.

The first sign of trouble was when older voters in the 1st and 2nd streams did not all sided with the BN.

In the past, voters in these two streams, who are made up of pensioners and older people, overwhelmingly supported the BN. But it wasn’t the case this time.

It soon dawned upon the BN representatives at the counting centres that they would fare worse when ballot boxes from the streams comprising of younger voters were opened and counted.

Their fears became a reality and the people soon got wind of the ouster of the BN when television stations were slow in broadcasting the results.

The pro-government Election Commission went an extra mile to delay the announcement in the hope that the postal and early votes would lift the BN’s fortune. But the BN was in such a deficit that these votes did not help.

By early morning of May 10 it dawned upon Najib that the BN did not have enough seats to form a government hence the phone calls to the Pakatan Harapan’s Ketua Umum, Anwar Ibrahim, though the good offices of the latter’s good friend, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

They were futile calls. Why should Anwar want to cooperate with the Bugis pendekar (marshal art exponent) when his party and its coalition partners had won more than enough seats to form the government?

It was clear that Umno and the BN did not expect the the shift to be so large that it could not be made good by early and postal votes.

The rest is history and now the once belligerent Najib will have to face the music. Umno and the BN had gotten rid of him. He said he resigned. But I would like to believe that his position had become untenable.

Tomorrow he would have to report to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in Putrajaya to have his statement recorded.

For several days now the police have been carting away an extraordinary amount of cash, gold bars, fantastically expensive wristwatches and handbags, and documents for Najib’s Taman Duta residence and hideouts said to be owned by tycoon Desmond Siew Choon of the Pavilion fame.

A preview of what is likely to happen to Najib can be based on the case involving his good friend, Mohd Isa Samad - the disgraced chairman of Felda.

On August 15 last year – incidentally also a Tuesday – Isa was arrested at the MACC headquarters after having his statement in relation to the purchase of hotels by Felda was recorded. The following day he was taken to court and was remanded for five days.

The same could happen to Najib. But unlike Isa, who was not charged for his offences, Najib may not be so lucky.

The whole world knows that there is a case pending against him – the SRC International Sdn Bhd’s money that allegedly went into his personal account.

So, the Bugis pinisi had not only sunk but its master now faces the risk of being charge with piracy.

As for the crew who survived the May 9 tsunami, they have to decide if their “Javanese” first mate is good enough to take them to the stormy seas once again.


Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Atomic Men (and women) Let’s Fight Back

A Kadir Jasin

THE atomic men (and women) are dying; killed by the advancing digital age. The faceless, robotic digital men (and women) are taking over.

Human beings are becoming slaves to machines
 The human tellers are being phased out and replaced by the electronic ones. Automatic teller machines (ATMs) now occupy the front office once manned human beings.

[Anonymous comments will not be published. Please use real or pseudonym. Thank you.] 

The atomic men (and women) are told that their passbooks and cheques are being phased out. Their monthly bills are no longer posted to them. Go online, they're told.

Even the Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB), which is supposed to serve the poor and the downtrodden, had gone online banishing the trusty passbooks to the garbage bins.

I damned those heartless, uncaring digital men and women at PNB as I damned the rabid dogs. I gave them a middle finger.

I keep my trusty passbook & enter transactions manually
I ask them this question. Who are the big, loyal investors of the Amanah Saham Bumiputera (ASB) – the passbook generation or the computer savvy crowd?

Thankfully, my lady banker is a gem of a woman. I have known her for decades and my accounts follow her wherever she is transferred. We literally grow old together. Of course she’s a lot younger than I am.

The future is uncertain for an atomic man like me. A personable banker like her is becoming harder to find as managers and clerks become more attuned to treating customers as mere numbers and passwords.

I am from a generation that treasure human touch. We deal with humans. At this advanced age, I have no intention of becoming slave to teller machines and recorded human voice telling me which button to press.

I started banking back in the 1960’s with the Post Office Savings Banks (POSB) that required me to buy stamps whenever I wanted to put in more money into my account.

Deposits were made using stamps
Those days, as a remnant of the British legacy, post office clerks had beautiful English style handwriting – clear and legible. Today very few people have beautiful handwriting.

As a young reporter working for Bernama and later the New Straits Times, going to the old Bank Bumiputra at Jalan Melaka in Kuala Lumpur was something to look forward to.

It was not just about the money but the expectation of being served by the young and sexy counter clerk by the name of Azean Irdawaty  who would later plunged into the acting world and went on to become an accomplished performer.

With some banks and investment companies so rudely sidelining atomic customers like me, I am now in a crusade against unabated, uncaring digitization of banking and investment services.

I am now on the way to closing down accounts that require me to go totally digital and transferring them to where humans still provide the service.

Atomic men and women let’s not get deleted. Let’s demand our right to exist as body and soul, and not as mere numbers and passwords.


Tuesday, 13 March 2018

The Malay Hantu and Bomoh Live On

A Kadir Jasin

In the name of God, the merciful and the compassionate

IN the January 19, 1992 debut column I wrote about the then Prime Minister, (Tun) Dr Mahathir Mohamad lamenting about the penchant of a section of the Malaysian mass media for highlighting mass hysteria in schools and factories.

Those were the better days
That was 26 years ago. Dr Mahathir is no longer the Prime Minister and I am no longer the Group Editor-in-Chief of the New Straits Times Press (NSTP). I resigned in 2001 and Dr Mahathir retired in 2003.

[Anonymous comments will not be published. Please use real or pseudonym. Thank you.] 

The media landscape has changed. Then the mainstream media ruled supreme. Newspaper circulation was on the rise and the NSTP group could afford to reward the staff with six to seven months bonus. Today the online media is the king and the newspapers are fighting for survival.

The Malays too have changed. Today they are less concerned about the ghosts, devils and demons. Urbanisation, electric lights and modern housing have lessened their fear of ghosts.

In the Malay minds, the hantu and the jembalang live in the dark corners and up in the attics of the creaky wooden houses by the belukar or the swamps.

Swamps are especially spooky as they are thought to be the abode of the dreaded bloodthirsty vampire called langsuyar.

Langsuyar is said to be the revenant of a woman who died during pregnancy or childbirth. It feeds on blood of newborns, preferring boys over girls.

As such it was customary that when a baby was born, the thorny mengkuang (pandanus) was place under the stilted house directly below where the mother and infant slept to keep the langsuyar at bay.

Fearful that its exposed entrails would get caught in the mengkuang thorns, the langsuyar would keep away.

The real reason was to discourage the ducks and chickens from messing up the puddle created by the bath water of the mother and the infant, and to thwart peeping toms.

In those days, Malays would rather believe in myth than listening to scientific explanation.

When I was in the English primary school back in the 1960’s, there was a story in our Malayan Readers series book that explains the langsuyar phenomena. It was believed to be the combustion of the marsh gas.

Now that most Malays live in sturdy brick houses in brightly lit housing estates, they are less fearful of hantu believing that their brick and mortar houses are less hospitable to the pontianak and hantu raya.

If at all, nowadays ghosts came into their living rooms only through the Malay dramas on television and the re-runs of Hollywood’s Ghoshbusters.

Occasionally the fashionably-dressed flying ghosts would join the screamfest via the opera-type Chinese movies.

See the difference? The Malay ghosts are either unclothed or shabbily dressed. The Chinese ghosts are dressed in flowing fine Chinese silk.

For the younger Malays, the hantu exists only in bedtime stories and in ghost house exhibitions. Ghosts have gone commercial.

But there are still a sizeable number of Malays, especially those in high places, who are totally committed to the unseen world where the hantu, bomoh, kiai, mystics, tarot card readers and soothsayers rule supreme.

I have been told that these people would crisscross the Malay Archipelago in their sleek private jets in search of mythical kiai and bomoh to help them fulfil their ambitions, ward off their adversaries and keep their spouses loyal.

I would not make any judgement. Suffice to say that if you are Muslim, anything verging on sihir (blackmagic) is haram (forbidden) and believing in the power of the hantu is syirik (idolatry or polytheism).

In some Muslim countries the crime of sihir is punishable by death. So if Tuan Guru Abdul Hadi Awang of PAS succeeds in implementing a full blown Hudud, those Muslims who dabble in sihir could risk being stoned to death.


Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The Tale of Najib, Jho Low and Eagle High

A Kadir Jasin

In the name of God, the merciful and the compassionate

IN the opening column, I mentioned about the jet-setting ghost seekers of the Malay Archipelago. It seems that in the process of seeking out the most powerful ghosts and the most divine kiai, some go-betweens became fabulously wealthy.

An Indonesian mystic (Niels Mulder)
But let us leave them in peace in their heavenly kingdoms and talk about the more earthly things like the detention in Indonesia of the luxury abode of the global schemer Mr Low Taek Jho or better known as Jho Low that goes by the name Equanimity – meaning calmness and composure, especially in a difficult situation.

[Anonymous comments will not be published. Please use real or pseudonym. Thank you.] 

This calm and compose US$250-million super yatch was bought with the stolen and laundered money of the MO1-inspired 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

MO1, as the Barisan Nasional Strategic Communication Director, Abdul Rahman Dahlan, had owned up to the BBC in a September 1, 2016 interview was none other than the Malaysian Prime Minister, (Datuk Seri I Mappadulung Daeng Mattimung Karaeng Sandrobone Sultan Abdul Jalil) Mohd Najib Abdul Razak.

The whole world knows that the vessel belongs to Jho Low except the Barisan Nasional trumpeter, Salleh Said Keruak, who said there was no proof that the yatch belongs to Jho Low when the latter himself had issued a statement condemning the US Department of Justice (DoJ) for detaining his floating palace.

Indonesian Police and FBI officers on board Jho Low's abode
I would not venture to suggest that Salleh and Abdul Rahman or, for that matter, any other member of Najib’s cabinbet were high on ketum or ice.

That’s because unlike the padi farmers who, in the old days, chewed ketum (Mitragyna speciosa) shoots to gain extra energy for the hard work ahead, Najib’s ministers are perpetually energetic and high-spirited when it comes to defending him.

Some say dedak – and lots of it – is enough to keep them energetic, high-spirited and, don’t forget, loyal. Maybe the Majlis Profesor Negara (National Ptofessors Council) should propose a scientific study to determine the effects of dedak consumption on humans.

The farmer in me tells me that dedak consumption cannot be good for humans. Even those who are not from the farming background would know from the warning on dedak bags that it is not for human consumption.

Of course there are other causes like the usage of heroine, morphine, marijuana and designers’ drugs. Please remember the slogan “Dadah Musuh Negara” (drug is the enemy of the country) and stay away from drugs.

Jho Low’s oceanic abode of calmness and composure was detained in a sting operation by the Indonesian Police with the assistance of the US’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on February 28 off the holiday island of Bali.

It wasn’t clear if Jho Low was on the boat or anywhere near it. So far there hasn’t been any news on what it carries. But with Jho Low literally spending his life on it, we can safely assume that it carries whatever things that he needs to lead the life of a modern day pirate.

The question being asked by many is why did the yatch venture so deep into the Indonesian territory and so far away from the international waters?

There had been reports that the vessel was skirting the Malaysian, Indonesian Filipino and Thai waters for months. It had been spotted in the Indonesian and Thai territories but never very far away from international waters.

So why did the vessel ventured so deep into Indonesian waters where it had no chance of escaping into the international water? Was Jho Low on it and what was its mission?

Could Jho Low, his family and his benefactor have been lured in a sting operation with the promise of safety to gather on the mythical island to celebrate the Chinese New Year?

Incidentally, at around the time the vessel was detained, we also heard the news that Felda had suffered a massive unrealised loss from the purchase of a 37-per cent state in the Indonesian plantation company, Eagle High Tbk.

Despite protests and warnings Felda, whose manTHOR is Najib, bought the plantation from his good friend, the Indonesian Chinese billionaire, (Honorary Tan Sri) Peter Sondakh.

It was reported that Felda paid US$505.4 million (about RM2.24 billion) for the stake – valuing the company’s shares at almost 100 per cent premium. Felda paid approximately IDR 580 per share. Yesterday (March 5) the price of Eagle High on the Indonesian Stock Market was IDR 228.

Sondakh’s good fortune is Felda’s misfortune. For paying a massive premium it is reported to have incurred a paper loss of US$300 million (RM1.2 billion).

One man’s loss is another man’s gain, and in the world of money laundering and cross border transfer, stock and shares provide a convenient vehicle.  
Remember the famous non-existent "units" that 1MDB was supposed to have invested in?