Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Daim interview- Part 1

I am writing an article divided in 2 parts on the sex video. Once again, the nation will be gripped by another sordid tale. It's that video featuring a man resembling Anwar Ibrahim with a China doll. It's widely known as the Carcosa sex video. Produced by a trio of people, known collectively as Dato T.
I am writing the articles and sending them to Free Malaysia Today, I hope the editors will publish those. Readers may want to check out FMT- not to be confused with Malaysia Today.
I have been away for 1 week. That is a long blogging time for me. This self-enforced hiatus is much needed as I need to update myself on current literature. I hope I have renewed sufficient reserves to continue writing. I need to have the intellectual 'cojones' as it were, to engage rigorous people like 'evilcooler' for example. I will in the near future. He has proposed a topic. It's an interesting one.
For now I want to give some commentaries on the Daim Interview. Needless to say, I am quite amused at the self-serving slant of the published material by a mainstream newspaper. I am in position to say this because through the agency of my friend the Oracle of Syed Putra, I was able to see the actual transcript of the answer. I want to put things in proper perspectives.
I haven't seen the Oracle of Syed Putra for some time. He has been away for over 2 weeks. I was informed that he accompanied Tun Daim Zainudin on an extended visit to some African countries. Tun Daim, says the Oracle, has extensive business interests in Africa. As well as in some other countries. On our political radar, Tun Daim has managed to elude many people. He is almost invisible save for the occasional interviews with some local papers.
His views though sparse, have proven to be prescient almost omniscient. Obviously he has a network of informers and operatives briefing him continuously. No one believed when he told the BN was in danger losing 5 states. In 2008, the BN lost 5 states and lost on popular votes.
One of the predictions he made concerning the future of politics in Malaysia is the possibility of getting a hung parliament. If that happens, a man touted as the PM we never had, will fulfill his destiny.
I thought it would be nice to catch up with the Oracle. I did over the weekend. My first question was unavoidably the Tun's response to Dr Mahathir's description of Tun Daim. Tun Daim was to do an interview with Utusan Malaysia. Since he was on an extended business trip, questionnaires were posed to him in writing and he answered accordingly. So other than the Utusan people who published the interview in Mingguan Malaysia and its related papers, I was among the few I think, who was actually shown the actual transcript. Courtesy of the Oracle of course.
But first, what was the Oracle's answer when I asked him about Tun Daim's reaction on Dr Mahathir's description of Daim? Everyone must have read Tun Daim's answer to the 2nd question posed by Utusan Malaysia. Daim says, he is both humbled and totally embarrassed. Mahathir was both complimentary and acerbic about Daim. The latter mainly contributed by(1) Daim's continued and stubborn refusal to answer all those allegations about lining his pockets and (2) by Dr Mahathir's remark about Daim's disloyalty towards Mahathir. Dr Mahathir suggested that Daim was supportive about his currency controls in front of Mahathir but disloyal behind his back.
Where did Mahathir learnt of Daim's 'disloyalty'? From the bitching Abdul Ghani Othman. Ghani may not know it yet- but the mention of his name as the person who ratted on Daim, will prove to be his own undoing. Now, everyone in UMNO will know Ghani is an untrustworthy person.
As I have said, as a politician, Dr Mahathir has not told the whole story as to what aspects about the currency control that Daim objected. I learnt from the Oracle, Daim never objected to currency controls but was against the specific policy tool thought of by Mahathir to bring about currency control and the economy.
Ghani who was present at the meeting of MBs called by Daim should have told Mahathir what it was that Daim said, should not be supported. If Daim had called for a rebellion against Mahathir, all the other MBs would have told Mahathir the same thing. They didn't, only Ghani the big mouth did.
How to account for Daim's stubborn refusal to answer allegations of corruption and of lining his pockets? The Oracle said, Tun Daim did say something about that. As we all know, Tun Daim will never answer Tun Mahathir directly. He didn't even bother to answer allegations of corruption against him, which are more severe that, not answering Mahathir's description is a nonevent for Daim. It will not cause Daim to lose sleep over not answering Mahathir. Daim, said the Oracle lost sleep only by spending time to read The Memoir up to 7 am.
Anyone who knows Tun Daim will know that behind that small frame lies a tenacious and iron willed individual. As Mahathir himself said, Tun Daim will contribute his ideas and criticisms freely without fear or favour.
According to the Oracle- Daim is a focused individual. He told the Oracle he doesn't have time to answer allegations as his main tasks were to secure the bigger objectives. He wasn't about to be distracted by anything other than single-mindedly pursuing his agenda. That was his only explanation and I could squeeze the Oracle for more.
But what about the Memoir as a whole? Daim did pass a message thru the Oracle tough. He says, Mahathir writes from two perspectives. One, as a statesman about his many accomplishments and on the burning issues affecting this country and involving Malays in particular. Two, he writes as a politician.
Now, as a politician, that is a different matter. Any politician writes in pursuit of self-serving agenda. Facts, events, and the role of people are often cooked up or played down. All, in order to self-preserve. Or self-inflate as the case may be. Preserve the ego, preserve the name. in doing that, Dr Mahathir may not lie, but he may not tell the whole story.

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Thursday, 24 March 2011

the meaning of friendship and loyalty

There are so many versions of the story about the tryst involving a person resembling Anwar Ibrahim and a China Lady. Johari Abdul the man invited to see the preview of the made in Malaysia movie said the male actor involved vaguely resembled Anwar Ibrahim.
This joker Johari Abdul now has hazy collections. In our country, perhaps that hazy recollection can become clearer in a few days, when his memory is sufficiently jogged by wads of cash. We don't want to talk about him now.
It's Eskay we want to talk of and about. We have often heard the oft repeated advice- don't kill the messenger if the news is bad. We have to make an exception in this case of the video starring 'Anwar' and the China doll. If it's not a crime, we have to lynch that Shazryl Eskay guy, the useless piece of worm.
What happens to the meaning of friendship and loyalty? It's true like de Gaulle says- we have no permanent friends, but permanent interests. People like Eskay is a walking debit and credit Shylock, who eschews friendship and loyalty. Twenty Four Seven. Completely untrustworthy and who can sell even his mother.
Can you believe after having done this odd job for Anwar for so many times, he suddenly has a change in heart, stirred by the pangs of conscience and now thinks in the interests of the nation? Probably what changes are really the sums of money promised to him or some promise of gargantuan rewards yet to be known to us. Don't give us that bull, Eskay.
You have benefited from Anwar for so long and have enjoyed the fruits of that friendship and confidence. All right thinking UMNO leaders who rule the government of the day, should distance themselves from the Eskays of the world. That he chooses to align himself with Rahim Tamby Chik and Shuib Lazim whose house is a palace of sorts in Sungai Petani should be comforting news. Comforting because none of  the sitting leaders have anything to do with this Eskay guy. I hope so.
How can you describe Eskay? In fact, how can Anwar describe and regard Eskay- his onetime procurer of sorts and arranger for peculiar services? He must now regard Eskay as a friend with whom he parties together, bring into his home but ends up in bed with Azizah. ( I could have chosen cruder description here. )
What then should anyone in Anwar's shoes do? In the past, a person like Eskay will have his head lobbed off.
It's clear that what the 3 musketeers in pursuit of the noble causes of the realm wanted was- revenge. Rahim TC referred to the order by Anwar the TPM then to resign after having been proven to have had sex with an under aged Portuguese girl. Lim Guan Eng went to prison for that. Rahim is certain; his own trysts were exposed by the dirty works department under the payroll of Anwar. So Rahim waits and waits and formed his own dirty tricks department with Eskay as his major Domo. So, it's not and never about the nation's interest that primarily motivates Rahim- it's his never ending thirst for sweet revenge.
Anwar? When I wrote my previous article, I wasn't aware of this most recent video thing. I stil say- Anwar is a damaged good.

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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Leadership issue: I trust you, NOT Give me your trust.

Today I am not writing about Dr Mahathir. For the time being that is. I will write some more because I can. I have a fertile field to write on. He has written 62 chapters about many things in his memoir. I have only begun.
I take nothing from him. He deserves all the accolades and tributes. That he does, does not require me or anyone individual saying it. The whole country pays homage to the man who has led this country for 22 years.
As I have said, there were many contentious politics in there. I seek to offer an alternative view. I am conscious that whatever I write will never diminish his esteem in the many millions. That is not my intention nor am I capable of doing such a thing.
My critics who have nothing to answer but have to resort to personal issues are of no consequence. The reality of my private life is very remote from what these people have described. But I chose not to answer. Many don't know me, what more with what actually transpired. So don't be pure evil, people. You take your gutter journalism elsewhere. Here we want to debate in a civilized manner. I now know many of these bloggers who write for what they think is about and for UMNO can be pure evil. These are the blatant liars and faceless cowards.
But at the moment, let's place what Dr Mahathir wrote in perspective. It's not difficult to accept that Dr Mahathir writes from the perspective of a politician and a statesman. What he wrote from the later perspective will be judged by posterity. We have not yet feel the full impact of his policies.
Writing from the perspective of a politician is a different matter. Dr Mahathir is a consummate politician. He writes the history from the perspective of a victor. The victor writes those things favorable to him. When he took over the PM's job in 1981, he said he will retire as soon as he gets the signals from the people.
He wasn't prepared to return Tengku Razaleigh's favor of giving way to an older brother by naming Razaleigh as deputy UMNO president. As I said, that would be a Malay thing to do. He didn't and I leave it to readers to deduce why he didn't. To me, what he did was an un-Malay thing.
He was never supportive of the idea of having Razaleigh as number two and a possible future PM then. Right from the beginning he was envious of Razaleigh's stature and capabilities. In 1981, Musa never had any chance of beating Razaleigh who was generally hailed as the economic czar then. Mahathir threw his lot behind Musa to prevent the elevation of Razaleigh.
We shall return to this story later.
Let's move on to another issue. I read somewhere that, kalu saya berani, criticize the number 1. That would be the PM. This stupid fellow has not read my blog in the past. I have not been shy to write on the number one where relevant. I suspect many run off the mill bloggers cannot write simply because they have not been reading or don't know the subject matter.
I have criticized his policies quite openly. And when I did and will do, it should not be read as endorsement for Anwar Ibrahim or anyone else. Personally I think Anwar is a damaged good. His priority isn't going to Putrajaya anymore but saving himself. His future may be that of a bridesmaid only helping out other people finish his dream. He is a crowd puller but not necessarily a vote puller any longer.
Since the issue of not brave enough to criticize the PM has arisen, we shall humor this li'l Abner son of Pansy and Lucifer Yokum.
The PM has just returned from Sarawak. While there he met with his cyberspace friends- those whom he engages through his tweeter and Facebook.
What did he ask from these people? Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak asked his Facebook friends, especially those who were young, to give him their full support and trust as the nation's prime minister to deliver a better future for Sarawak.
Saying he was delighted to meet 250 online friends from all over Sarawak for the first time, Najib added that young people should have idealism and expect fair and transparent governance.
Give me your trust and I will do the rest is what in essence Najib is saying. What is wrong with this statement?
I suspect Najib is aware of the trends of future leadership. The sources of change and the impetus calling for change are no longer monopolized by old school leadership. The main characteristic of that kind of leadership is that all changes and innovation comes from the top to bottom. Scholars termed this kind of leadership, the push-factor leadership.
In the future it's no longer that way. One draws parallel for example from the dilution of American influence in world geo politics. The center of influence no longer resides solely in Washington. It's now shared in places like Tokyo, Delhi and Beijing in addition to the old adversary in Moscow. It's a multipolar world.
Similarly, matters that affect the lives of citizens are no longer solely decided by the government of the day. It is now decided by the people acting in independent groupings or in affiliation with alternative political and social movements. It's also a multi-polar little world of decision making centers.
The leader now listens to what those governed articulate and talk about. And after listening to what they talk, Najib asks the people to trust him.
Now, clearly in a pull-factor setting- where the leader listens and in turn configures his actions and behavior according to what he hears, this is a wrong approach to take. The right question or rather statement the PM should be making is- PEOPLE I TRUST YOU AND YOUR JUDGMENT.
The way Najib goes about framing his statement reminds me of what Milton Friedman wrote on Kennedy's inaugural speech. In the 1962 book of Capitalism and Freedom, this was what Friedman wrote.
"In a much quoted passage in his inaugural address, President Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country." Neither half of the statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society. The paternalistic "what your country can do for you" implies that government is the patron, the citizen the ward, a view that is at odds with the free man's belief in his own responsibility for his own destiny. The organismic, "what you can do for your 'country" implies the government is the master or the deity, the citizen, the servant or the votary.
To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them. He is proud of a common heritage and loyal to common traditions. But he regards government as a means, an instrumentality, neither a grantor of favors and gifts, nor a master or god to be blindly worshipped and served. He recognizes no national goal except as it is the consensus of the goals that the citizens severally serve. He recognizes no national purpose except as it is the consensus of the purposes for which the citizens severally strive.
The free man will ask neither what his country can do for him nor what he can do for his country. He will ask rather "What can I and my compatriots do through government" to help us discharge our individual responsibilities, to achieve our several goals and purposes, and above all, to protect our freedom? And he will accompany this question with another: How can we keep the government we create from becoming a Frankenstein that will destroy the very freedom we establish it to protect?

You get the same impulses from the soon to be oft quoted passage- People, give me your trust....

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Saturday, 19 March 2011

Dr. M’s Memoir: the luxury of being Malay and un-Malay

oii bangsat..berapa banyak khairy jamaludin bayar engkau ni ??

Of all the comments on the articles I write, this is one I like most. Because it is the stupid man's way of wishing a problem away. It also represents one who hasn't got anything to argue with. The language used by this anonymous sob has all the hallmarks of a peddler of rancid and putrid curry, tumeric and chilies and all other spices that have gone through a cat's digestive system.

At one point in US history, psychiatry was used to put aside society's undesirables. Many blacks were committed to mental institutions or were locked way from society, to ensure society remains clean (meaning predominantly white). This was the clever and cunning man's way of doing away with a problem.

In Malaysia, the stupid and indolent man's way of sweeping away a problem, is to accuse your opponent as being a paid lackey. Or to cast aspersions of the persons morals. This last strategy can only be verified by asking the actual persons involved, not bloggers or spin health assistants (HAs ) who don't know what they are talking about.

Was it not quite recently that some bloggers quarreled among themselves because they suspect one another of sapu-ing the money paid to them for services rendered during by elections?

People need to understand the difference between the term blatant and political liar. To describe someone as a blatant liar, suggests that such behavior is an intrinsic part of the personality. Born liar comes to mind. Anwar Ibrahim for example has personal issues with Dr Mahathir. So he calls the latter, a blatant liar. I am not interested in personal fights and quarrels.

The term political liar suggests, you can be inherently good but manipulates your story in furtherance of retaining power. The art of securing and retaining power is politics. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah terms Mahathir a political liar, conceding (I suspect) that Dr Mahathir may and can be a good person. When no politics is involved that is.

Razaleigh knows Mahathir better than most of us- Razaleigh, Musa Hitam and Mahathir were all young men many decades ago. They may have similar hobbies, indulged in similar pastimes, ate food together, frequent the same watering holes, eye-balled the same dance hostess. Razaleigh must have known Mahathir as the person he truly was and is.

Here is a memoir written by a most revered person. There is no doubt that Dr Mahathir is an immensely popular person. I am impressed to hear 10,000 copies were sold in the first 3 days or so. But I certainly had no difficulty in buying the book. Then I remembered- it must be true: MPH which belongs to Syed Mokhtar buys 5000 copies and Borders which belongs to Vincent Tan buys another 5000 copies. Total 10,000 copies.

But- Reading the 62 chapters gives you the feeling, the author is putting up or weaving tales so as to justify and legitimize actions taken the past. It's a voluminous tract in an attempt for self-cleansing perhaps? Or maybe self-deliverance? Deliver us from the tangled web we weaved.

People say a memoir is a personalized story of one self and a deliberately skewed presentation of events and facts. Write your own memoir if you are not happy is the most common knee jerk response. That's a very disingenuous and tricky response because , in the case of Dr Mahathir's memoir, a person would have to be regarded as having standing if he were a former PM wouldn't he? No, you can still dispute what's said in a memoir even if you don't write one especially when description of political issues is specious.

Let's see. I read all the 62 chapters. I keep coming back to chapter 2. Why would a person proud to be Malay and extolling the virtues of the Malay people wasn't upfront about his ethnic origins? Of course he didn't say I have Indian blood but I am Malay in one sentence. But have you not heard of distilling what's written and said? You can't distill the essence? Of course you can't if your reading repertoire is confined to mills and boons, Beano and Dandy comics.

Mahathir is Malay and yet un-Malay. Malay because as he says its- he identifies with the Malays. Malay because he despises the characteristics of Malays that weaken them. He is UN-MALAY, when he uses the virtues that he fondly described the Malays as having to his advantage. Hence when the truer Malay like Tengku Razaleigh for example, makes way to Mahathir's seniority as a sign of polite deference as a Malay does, does he return the favour?

Ada ubi ada batas, ada budi ada balas. The real Malay does that. The Malay doesn't if he has un-Malay characteristic. Nope- he says, he leaves the decision of finding the deputy president of UMNO to delegates. He accepts the decision when it brought him advantage. Once there, he assumes his un-Malay identity.

He said it himself- the fact that a Malay has different blood in them, doesn't make him any less Malay. So why put up an admission that he has south Indian blood but doesn't know which part of the Indian subcontinent his ancestors come from? It's academic since it doesn't lessen his Malay-ness. Even if he knew or doesn't, and we accept that he and many others don't know where our ancestors come from, it doesn't make him less Malay.

He puts it up anyway and wants it to be known he has that ancestry to justify why at times, he behaves un-Malay.

We accepted people like Dr Mahathir as being Malay and will never discriminate against him even if he were known by a name which has peculiar sounding terms affixed to it. By the way Dr Mahathir defines Malayness in chapter 2, the Malays are simply incapable of vicious discrimination on him.

So why is Dr. Mahathir holding back? I don't think the Malays, who, by his own admission with their infinite capacity for accommodativeness and willingness to accept others will disown Mahathir even if they knew where his ancestors come from. My own opinion- this is opinion- is that that despite elaborate treatment of the virtues of Malayness- exceedingly polite, respect for elders, deferring to the opinions of elders, excessive respect for people with titles and so forth- Mahathir actually DOES NOT TRUST the Malays.

Two, all those virtues and characteristics of the Malays were seen as weaknesses which DR Mahathir can leverage and capitalize on. He can fall back on his un-Malay portion when he wants to deliver the coup-de-grace. He delivers this when he screwed up Tengku Razaliegh, he delivers this when generally chastising and mocking the docile and pliant Malays.

Being Malay therefore has its pros and cons. Good being Malay, when they accept Mahathir as Malay unreservedly. Bad being Malay when it nearly led them becoming a minority in their own country. Mahathir is a walking cost-benefit analyst. What's the cost and benefit to admit one is Malay? So when cornered he falls back on Malayness sentiments and treat his belonging to the Malay race as a safety net. When not cornered, the Malayness in him is not relevant.

The message is this. What's so bad if I had Indian blood and accepting me as Malay, when you stupid Malays accepted Chinese and Indians into this country and it nearly cost you your own country? So don't question my Malayness and what I have tried to do to you, when your own stupidity could have led to annihilation?

Dr Mahathir seems to be conscious and even overly so of his ethnic origins. So he devotes so many pages writing on ethnicity of Malays and their virtue of not basing ethnicity just on bloodline. Everyone can become a Malay and once he becomes one, enjoy the same rights and privileges and deserves the same treatment. Meaning, Dr Mahathir will feel offended if he is regarded as being less Malay when he is already one.

Whereas we in UMNO are not making a fuss about it for the simple reason, our identity is more based on history and culture. Dr Mahathir says so himself on page 31. So why does a person who acknowledges that Malays in general are accommodative and liberal in outlook, had to devote a great many pages on discussing the subject of ethnicity?

Here is my theory. Maybe because for so long Dr Mahathir has been hiding his ethnic roots for fear of being rejected? He doesn't trust the Malays after all even after conceding the Malays are not inherently racist. Onn Jaafar didn't hide his Turkish ancestry. Tengku Abdul Rahman didn't hide his Siamese ancestry. Maybe Dr Mahathir wasn't sure of Malay acceptance of his ancestry after all.

If a person like Kadir Sheikh fadzir and Azeez Raheem were to position themselves among Pahang Malays for example, from appearance and physiognomy alone, no one will call them Malays. But because we look more at shared history and shared culture, we accept them as Malays. We are not bothered by their ancestry. So what if Dr Mahathir has Indian roots and actually has a kutty behind his name- he is accepted as Malay. When I was growing up in Kuantan, I had many schoolmates with kutty behind their names; we regarded those as oddities but never regard as being other than Malay. They may behave different, apply different hair oil, eat different but delicious food- they were Malays.

Because of this fluidity, dr Mahathir can feel free to criticize Malays for whatever reasons- lack of the proper values, taking things easy. Yet Dr Mahathir says in chapter 2 that he fully identifies with Malays.

Why? Because as Dr Mahathir says it- Malays have this infinite capacity to accommodate. Now everyone is Malay. It's like Dr Mahathir says- Malays are never obsessed with purity of the blood. Malays are generous and willing to work with anybody. We Malays are even willing to give up our rights and privileges to accommodate others. We accept them as one of us. We certainly did with Dr M.

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Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Der Doktor: Mahathir’s memoir

Even in this blog we can see it. The blogger writes that the man is a political liar and advances arguments. Some of the responses beggars belief. One-liners trying to (a) label the blogger negatively, (b) torpedo the messenger, and (c) obscure the fact that no supporting facts are advanced to take the opposite position. Is this the best our mahathirites can do, one asks timidly? Is this what is meant by Malay culture? Is there any intellect worth defending out there or shall we have to call Mr Spock to beam us up because those who can't win an argument want to make sure the other party's reputation is sullied? As if calling them liberals carries the unacceptable implication they are less Muslims because Islam is conservative?'
I have written a part 1 of an article about Dr Mahathir's memoir. I find it hard to believe that we cannot agree to disagree. I do not contest the many achievements Dr Mahathir brought upon Malaysia. Read again- I dispute his rendition of UMNO politics.
This is not a cheap publicity stunt. It's because I think there are so many self-serving renditions. You can already find them in Dr Mahathir's chapter 1 of his memoir. Those are about UMNO politics and not about family values as in chapter 2. When it comes to UMNO politics, we can't all accept what Dr Mahathir says as gospel truth.
As to saying I have Indian blood but am Malay- you find that in chapter 2 of the memoir. If you distilled the material in chapter 2, Dr Mahathir acknowledges he has Indian blood but is a Malay and proud to be one. This is not a contentious issue. I am surprised its turned into a disputed point. Malays with their infinite capacity for accommodativeness can accept anyone who wants to be Malay subject to the qualifications of being Malay. I never once imagine the late actor M. Zain who starred in the labu labi series to be other than a Malay. He speaks Malay, practices Malay culture and professes Islam. That he had Indian blood, did not bother the pure Malay.
I thought I made it clear in the opening passages of my first article- this isn't an issue at finding fault with one's ethnicity or ethnic origins. Now I know, Penang Malay simply means mamak. Malays may joke about the term, but accept mamak as Malay. No problem there.
It's about, what I interpret to be the political permutations that can flow from such an admission. Hence I said the political chameleon-ness. One is free to speculate the political permutations that come from the admission. And when one has different opinions about the memoir, it's childish to dismiss how we view the memoir by asking us to write our own memoir. And I find it even more infantile at attempts to debunk my interpretation by mocking that I am UMNO from Pekan or that I served only one term as ADUN. How do these things augment or diminish how I view certain aspects of the memoir?
DR Mahathir speaks of a house divided in one of the chapters. He is opening up old wounds when the time now is of reconciliation. The memoir indirectly serves to elevate the status of Tengku Razaleigh since Mahathir acknowledges he is Prime Minister material. He could have been if he ( Razaleigh) were patient. How can we know when went on or what motivated people who were close comrades to go against one another? Certainly we have to listen to both sides. Mahathir tells his side in his memoir. Tengku Razaleigh may not be ready to write his memoir yet, but others who dispute what Mahathir says may have one thing or two to say about it.
If Mahathir continues to blame Tengku Razaleigh for all the ills that are setting upon UMNO now, Tengku Razaleigh may have justifiable reasons to abandon UMNO once more. if he does that, he is simply emulating Dr Mahathir- expelled from UMNO once, destroyed the UMNO he was expelled from, formed a new UMNO, resigned from the UMNO he formed, 2 or 3 years ago.
And if I interpret such actions as a person wanting the cake and eating it- I can't be faulted. Dr Mahathir shifts the goal posts as many times as he want. Some people may even say Dr Mahathir is a selfish person. He has done it according to his favorite song- I did it my way.
If more than 10,000 people bought the book in the first few days- I agree that Dr Mahathir is an immensely poplar person. I am also a fan of Mahathir. But that does not mean that everyone has to take what Dr Mahathir tells as absolute truths. I am not ashamed to say I bought the book so that I can criticize objectively. I am not going to dispute those topics that Dr Mahathir speaks about values, childhood, etc. it's the politics that Dr Mahathir speaks of that are open to debate. So let's confine our debate to Dr Mahathir's politics.
UMNO politics is not a story that ONLY Dr. Mahathir can tell. Since UMNO's story and history is shared by all, everyone else deserves space to tell their version and they may not conform to what Dr Mahathir say. This is to be expected.
It's a different case if Dr Mahathir speaks of family values as in chapter two. We can hardly find fault on the way Dr Mahathir was brought up and how he thinks he will apply them. We, or at least many of us can relate to the story of being brought up by a stern father or father figure or we have no problem relating to the story of sleeping on the mattress laid out on the floor. Many of us slept on 'lembek' as we call them in Pahang, or lecha or just laying out the tikar mengkuang.
The values, of which Mahathir spoke of in chapter 2, are essentially proprietary and probably unique. We can pass no judgment on that.
So those who find my article disagreeable, please reason out your disagreement rationally. One line diatribe can do you no good, other than exposing your own shortcomings. Don't be angry if people consider you mentally deficient. But if you insist people hear your xenophobic rants, I will pass your comments.
That is why I have included comments that do not agree with my opinion. I have already said, I will so long as they do not contain profanities or take personal issues into consideration. Such diatribes as "I am glad you are only a one term ADUN or no longer in UMNO" do not bother me anymore. Itu rezeki saya setakat ini.
As regards opinions on Mahathir's memoir, other bloggers wrote their reviews on the memoir according to their level of understanding and experience. I feel they are entitled to their opinions. I am asking for the same sense of fair play.
There are so many chapters written by Dr Mahathir which I find pleasant and agreeable. I don't accept his version on some of the politics that he raised. Therefore when I see some points which he raised raises in turn some doubts, we can debate about it.
This disagreement does not diminish our reverence to Dr Mahathir and to the many path breaking ideas that he introduced into Malaysia. Chief among these must be a sense of supreme confidence to chart the future based on our abilities. I have no trouble in acknowledging Dr. Mahathir's imprimatur and presence here. He did indeed make Malaysians proud to be Malaysian citizens.
But his rendition of UMNO politics is a different matter. We can't all share his take on what went on in UMNO politics. I am hoping to concentrate only on these debatable issues. Please have an open mind.
For example, when Dr Mahathir said his salvation came from Tun Razak who overlooked his behavior… we find this to be oversimplified version and self-serving. Yes, he became a minister because Tun Razak appointed him. But Dr Mahathir wasn't in Tun Razak's radar in the first place. The late Harun Idris played a pivotal role in exposing the good doctor to Tun Razak. And Dr Mahathir didn't say that his entry into Tun Razak's radar screen was also facilitated by Tengku Razaleigh. Mahathir would hang around in Tengku's Office at BBMB on most occasions when he traveled from Alor Star to KL. Tengku Razaleigh would bring Mahathir into Tun Razak's sight.
So, I would say that DR Mahathir's claim that Tun Razak was his mentor isn't quite whole- Tengku Razaleigh was Razak's protégé in more ways than Mahathir.
In his book Dato Harun's role was overshadowed by Dr Mahathir's eagerness to point out the fact that Harun Idris and his sons helped Tengku Razaleigh to contest against him. Surely, such defiance would jolt the minds of readers to question as to why friends like Harun Idris and Tengku Razaleigh who have been instrumental in rescuing Mahathir from political wilderness would then stand opposed to Mahathir? Dr Mahathir sees no wrong in describing himself as a rebel and a troublemaker but finds it almost blasphemous when people rebel against him and played troublemaker to him.
I am conscious that this is a memoir. Dr Mahathir has every right to state the facts and the stories as he sees fit. I have already stated that this memoir is a personalized and a much nuanced account. It therefore incorporates his own subjective views and his understanding and the version of a particular story he wants to put across.
When his version and his personalized account are at odds with what we, who deserve to enjoy the same rights and privileges as Dr Mahathir has, we have every right to offer a counter narration. Isn't this what democracy is all about? The presentation of choices to people?
I take it as a duty to read the book in preparing to disagree. His chapter 1 is also an uplifting narration. That a commoner can eventually become a prime minister in itself has symbolic significance. As pointed out by Dr. Mahathir himself, all previous PMs came from the elite of society- Tengku Abdul Rahman was a prince, Tun Razak was a chieftain from Pahang, Hussein Onn came from Johore's elite family with close links with Johore Royalty.
I can find no fault when Dr Mahathir says- "but I broke the mold and paved the way for them to head the government of Malaysia. An ordinary person can become a PM of Malaysia- but here is where I must add, that the ordinary person must distinguish himself in terms of being able to contribute something.
Dr Mahathir has indeed broken the mold to present us, what I have written in several articles before and on many occasions- that the selection of a person to high office is no longer because of inherited status, no longer as a result of ascriptive attributes. Anyone then can become a PM not because of who they are- son of a chieftain, son of a king, son of somebody highly ranked. Anyone can become a PM because of what he can do, he can become one no longer restricted by social stratification.
That is uplifting. But it tells nothing about how Dr Mahathir came to be where he was when he assumed the PMship or how he retains his position. In this area we differ.
So before you go paranoid and incoherent in your opposition to my own view of the memoir, you had better read the book first too and be aware that I disagree only on the politics.

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Sunday, 13 March 2011

Der House doctor: blatant or political liar? –Part 1

I HAVE INDIAN BLOOD BUT I AM MALAY.

When Dr. Mahathir said those lines, I nearly fell off the chair. Not because, the Malay categorization of such a fellow is a Mamak or and Indian Muslim, but because of the admission of political chameleon-ness of the person.

Because of that, we can now reconcile such an admission with one particular categorization of Dr Mahathir – that of a political liar. To re affirm his brand of politics, Dr Mahathir is willing to not tell the truth. His memoir contains not hard truths but fabricated deceits. All in furtherance of his politics. Musa Hitam wasn't the political animal after all. It's Mahathir. All the time.

Only Dr Mahathir has the absolute discretion to tell his version of things. He and his version is the ultimate measure. Many of us are just blinded by the fact that over 22 years when he lorded over us, Malaysia is rushed into the 21st century ignoring the immeasurable costs to this country and to Malays in particular.

If I were to accept another categorization of Dr Mahathir as a blatant liar, that would induce a different feeling. At least describing Dr Mahathir as a political liar suggests that essentially Dr Mahathir may still be a good person, but he assumes a certain character when his Machiavellian instincts overwhelm him. Tengku Razaleigh is ever so polite.

On the other hand, to describe Mahathir as a blatant liar suggests a deeper natural characteristic of the man. In other words Mahathir is a born liar. So you pick your choice- Mahathir the political liar or Mahathir a natural liar.

How can we ever argue with this kind of man? Here is an example of a man who can contain two extremes and two opposites simultaneously. So how? Mahathir is bye-ethnic? Others are hmm…..bye-sexual? When Mahathir cannot be Malay he says bye-as in when one cannot get sex, he says bye?

Arguing or opposing such a man would only end in the annihilation of one party- namely us. Consider this. When UMNO does not agree with him, he forms an UMNO Baru! UMNO- Under Mahathir Never Oppose.

Then, just look at the list of the vanquished in the hands of Dr. Mahathir. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah because of the man's absolute sense of propriety and protocol when Dr Mahathir has none; Musa bin Hitam because of Musa's insistence on stable principles when Dr Mahathir has only preferences for expedience; Ghafar Baba because of Ghafar's trusting nature and old school innocence facing off with Dr Mahathir's you-are-valued-as-long- as-you are useful to me and un-conventionalism; and Anwar Ibrahim because of the man's dirty morals(?) when Mahathir is artificially clinical.

Mahathir runs a political clinic then. He is a house doctor anyway-dispensing panadol and aspirin to relieve heart problems. Finally there was the bungling Tun Dol who immediately said yes I am ready to be your deputy when asked, when actually what Mahathir was looking was, a pliant tool.

So the victor writes his own history.

I have described him as the only man in Malaysia who can walk on water. That, as testament for his ability to do impossible things. But I think this description of himself beats everything else. Here is a person who can hold two opposites simultaneously. You can only term such a person as slippery. Anwar calls him a blatant liar. Tengku Razaleigh calls him a political liar. Can you beat such a slippery person? Now a slippery person can pick and choose which part of his own story that he wishes to amplify.

Dr Mahathir reminded me of Winston Churchill. We are all worms, but I am a glow worm. Everything else pales in comparison to him.

This could be the mystery sentence of the decade. It's spoken by the doctor in the house. He has just come out with his memoir after an 8 year wait. Unfortunately it appears to be extraordinary more in terms of the author's vindictiveness on his political rivals. As they say- history is written by the victor. Thus far, Dr Mahathir is the victor and he intends to tell the story as he sees it.

A memoir is what it is- a very personalized and heavily nuanced version of history. In the case of a memoir or autobiography- a personalized and heavily nuanced version of HIS legacy and a selective recollection of aspects of history.

It's easy to rebut what Dr Mahathir says- in diplomat-speake- we can always politely say, what Dr Mahathir says do not seem to tally with the records we have. For example, during that crucial Friday Prayer break, it was Mahathir's storm troopers who went on a spending spree paying delegates. He just couldn't believe that his larger number of nominations couldn't translate into votes.

But Mahathir said it was done by Razaleigh's people. So we say to Mahathir, what you say do not seem to match the notes we have. That is the only form of counter argument one can adduce against a personalized and nuanced version of history. He begun money politics he says it's done by others. He begun the politics of internal discord, he says others started it.

The question is- can you trust a person who is congenitally intractable? He wants Malaysians to accept history as it is written by him. He is pig-headed in his version of history. Can you hold on to anything he says if he doesn't see anything wrong in I have Indian blood but I am Malay. My Indian Muslim friends were rolling on the floor laughing out loud.

Rather than use this memoir as an opportunity to set the record straight, the memoir is used to bolster his one track views on many things. Mahathir is more eager to leave behind, a cleaned-up operation. Mostly the trails he left behind.

He says he was disappointed that Daim did not defend himself against accusations of graft- how could Daim if his defense will have to reveal that Mahathir, the one-time doctor who was not a wealthy person when he travelled frequently from Alor Star to KL, became the subject of insidious whispers of now being a fabulously wealthy man? Daim cannot defend possibly because Mahathir was also linked to the accusations? So Daim has to keep mum. Daim will have to bring down the house made of cards.

Mahathir is eager to leave a sanitized legacy perhaps because he is actually scared some people may piss on his grave. So he must give the world a sterilized version of his-story.

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Saturday, 12 March 2011

EPF should build affordable homes in Sungai Buloh

Here is the problem we have with EPF. Sometime ago, EPF who was given rights to develop the RRIM land in Sungai Buloh, handed it over to MRCB to manage. Or places it under custody of MRCB. It's the left pocket transferring to the right pocket. This is a 3000 acre prime land located just outside Kuala Lumpur but will later form a portion within the Greater Kuala Lumpur.

What was MRCB's Plans? The plan was for MRCB to either sell off the land or enters a JV with IJM. The CEO to be appointed was Mohd Lotfy Mohd Noh who was a director of MRCB. He is now, the CEO of Kwasa Land, a fully owned subsidiary of EPF.

The deal didn't go through. Perhaps the terms of the JV or form of cooperation were not acceptable by IJM. Maybe some people were asking too much.

But MRCB can't do it on its own? Whereas it boasts itself a "property development and investment company. The Group is one of the largest developers of residential, commercial and industrial properties in Malaysia. Our long-standing policy is to elevate quality and innovations in lieu with market needs, as well as bringing quality living to all customers.

It cannot develop the RRIM land that will yield new investments of RM 5 billion, yet it's teaming up with Ekovest to become PDP for the River of Life Project. That's RM 17 billion and you bet, it will be more. But it can't do a project that will bring in RM 5 billion.

The development is expected to feature breathtaking landscape parks, green lungs, open spaces, walkways and water bodies," one party familiar with the plans said. "The township will also incorporate full information technology and data infrastructure (MSC City Status) and complete urban transportation integration."

You see these people up there- they are just paper tigers. They can't do on their own. They talk big about building up Iskandar, and other land portfolio. In reality they are just doing things like any other RM 2 paid up capital Bumiputera developers are doing. Parner with a PDP. You have the resource given by the government. All you need to do is market it. Make deals. Then we don't need people with degrees from Oxford and Cambridge. We need Gordon Gekko characters. Hell- the CEO at PASDEC Corp in Kuantan can do that.

So if MRCB which gloats itself as a first class property developer subcontracts the development of their property to contractors, what's the difference between them and the ordinary Bumiputera resource owner? You are just a rent seeker as they who you despised.

I would like the PM to give assurance to whistle blowers out there, in pursuit of their civic duty and moved by public spirited values to be protected by law. In this way, whistle blowers will come out to bare all the shenanigans and corporate legerdemains carried out by corporate chieftains in our GLCs. The MACC should go investigate all deals done by heads of our GLCs. Start with Khazanah, TNB, PETRONAS, Maybank, MRCB, etc etc. investigate the whole lot!

Back to MRCB. When the deal didn't go through, what to do with the land? EPF and MRCB do not have any Project Delivery Partner. If not, IJM Corporation would have been proudly announced as the PDP of the Sungai Buloh RRIM Land. Wow.

Ok, the bosses at EPF say- bring back the land to EPF portfolio. IJM doesn't want we can find other ways. You Lotfy, come and head our Kwasa Land. You parcel the land into smaller sizes and partner up with selected PDPs. Damn- maybe we can milk more babe!

So you have it- EPF forms a wholly owned subsidiary to manage the development of the RRIM land. Its CEO is Moh Lotfy MOhd Noh the underling assigned and receiving instructions from Shahril Redzuan of EPF who wants to become chairman of EPF- if Nor Mohamad Yakob is in time to appoint.

But here is a bigger issue. EPF takes in deposits from workers and employees. There are presently around 11 million depositors or pencarum. 10 million or so earn salaries below or up to RM 3000 pcm. These are the ones targeted by the PM to own their first homes though 100% financing. I have written this as a step to relieve pressure in the property loan industry. It's a measure to prevent a subprime crisis by using loans to first house owners as a cushion when the big loan defaulters come crushing down. Yes those who financed purchases of 2nd, 3rd or even their Nth homes. These are the potential subprime borrowers.

So why doesn't EPF come out in full support of the PM? It gets its money from employees most of whom fall under the category of RM 3000 and below income earners. Why doesn't it go into home construction? Make homes that are affordable to the majority of the depositors. Leave the building of super homes whose 'super' element is the astronomical price to private developers. The private developers, if they want to build castles in the air, who cares.

You EPF, you who take in our money – you go and find people to build homes which are affordable. You have the moral duty to so. It's our bloody money. Ini bukan duit bapak hang!

You ask your people to go learn how the Singapore government carries out housing scheme under the HDB. Or if you are paranoid and xenophobic about learning anything from that little red dot, go learn from Greater London Council on how they go about doing their council homes. You like it don't you- eating fish and chips from that Times newspaper. Or is it Page 3 of the Sun?

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Friday, 11 March 2011

EPF Contributors! Beware. (Da Man)

Beware people! Our EPF money is placed in possible harm's way.
Our EPF (Employees Provident Fund) is planning to develop the 3000 acre RRIM Land in Sungai Buloh. On page 1 of the STAR – the people's paper yesterday, the PM announced Malaysia's Easy first home scheme. Young adults can get 100% financing for homes up to RM 220,000.
Is the government doing something to avoid a subprime disaster? Opening up relieve valves to reduce the pressure on property market? China has banned second home financing. Here we are doing nothing of that sort. As a result houses in the city- where we are going to be serviced by the RM 50 billion MRT and have our senses dulled and lulled by the scenic beauty of the RM 17 billion River of Life Project- will cost how much? Most of us can and will only do that as tourists in our city. After that we shall go back retreating to our RM 200,000 homes in Meru Kelang, in Kuala Selangor etc. meanwhile homes in KL and Greater KL- RM 500,000 and above? Can the majority of the working population ever afford to own such homes?
Kuala Lumpur is becoming a city from the rich, by the rich, for the rich and to the rich.
Two- is the Housing Developers Association people pressuring the PM? By proposing to the PM a scheme of financing homes up to RM 220,000- that can be an excuse for developers to start asking the government cheap lands or land payable by low premiums. A developer can propose to the government its readiness to build affordable homes provided the government gives him cheap land. Or pay low premiums.
There's a simpler way of making homes affordable. Place a cap on the prices of houses. Remove the RPGT. Stop the financing of second homes. The property price will come down. If China can ban second financing of homes, Malaysia pun boleh.
The other issues behind the Easy First Home scheme may be an interesting storyline to develop further. If you people out there have interesting facts please e mail me. But first for now, let's leave that hot issue.
I want to tell the story about our EPF. Cilaka punya orang.
In the StarBiz – it was reported; EPF APPOINTS CHIEF EXECUTIVE FOR KWASA LAND. Lu banyak kuasa ya?
EPF appoints a chap from MRCB to its wholly owned subsidiary Kwasa Land. Why is this chap Mohd Lotfy Mohd Noh following the trail of the 3000 acre land? Perhaps MACC should start investigating at such appointments.
Wasn't the earlier plan was for the EPF to hive off the land trough MRCB? Guess who was at MRCB at that material time who was supposed to handle the land deal? Our friend Mohd Lotfy, buddy to Shahril of EPF, protégé of NMY- Nor Mohamed Yaakob. Forgive the acronym- but the alphabet soup ETP, MRT, PDP, GTP, NEM, is getting on to me.
The plan was for MRCB to sell the land to some china men. The deal didn't go through. Or the deals didn't go through. So EPF brings back the land home and parks it now, under a wholly owned subsidiary. Who heads this subsidiary? Our friend Mohd Lotfy friend to Sharil protégé to NMY. EPF promptly announce that Kwasa Land will parcel out the development of the 3000 acre land. What EPF cannot do through MRCB, they will now accomplish under Kwasa land. And they have got the person to carry out the devious plan, parceling out the development of the RRIM land.
Here's the paradox. Out of the estimated 11 million contributors to EPF, maybe 10 million earn salaries less than RM3000 a month. They can now get a house up to RM 220,000. The question is where? In Sekinchan? In Meru Klang? Maybe the government can ask UEM to revive the housing project at Lembah Beringin?
EPF which uses OUR money to strike business deals has got a land bank of 3000 acres in Sungai Buloh. How come it's not coming out with plans to build affordable housing for its 10 million depositors? It has a MORAL DUTY to do so. You take our money; you want to develop the 3000 acre land into a new upscale township. All the 10 million depositors can do is salivate at seeing the new township components. How can they not when the property will definitely cost more than RM 220,000 per unit?
The deals that EPF is doing are serpentine in terms of visibility and transparency. It's almost like, there is an unseen hand orchestrating deals though our various GLCs that will end up enriching a coterie of protégés. At the end of the year, heads of GLCs will announce an impressive business record for the year and declare dividends of 50 sen per share. Who is to know while declaring a 50 sen per share dividend, the head of the bloody GLC is pocketing 30 sen per share? We don't know do we? Who is to know, people at Kawasa will sell out pieces of the 3000 acre RRIM land making huge commissions through those deals? Haiya- what is RM 50 million compared to the RM 500 million that went to Perimekar ma?
Some people can do these things precisely because heads of GLCs and their henchmen are running the government's business agencies behind veils of secrecy. And we wonder how come these heads of GLCs can drive in Ferraris, Lamborghinis, R8s, etc? No this is not business acumen- it may just be indicators of daylight robbery.
The problem here is the heads of our GLCs and those who handle public money – if they run circles, can just hoodwink the PM and cabinet ministers. The heads of our GLCs are in fact the PM of their respective domains- answering to no one and having the liberty to report to the PM in any manner they can. The manner is of course anything that pleases the ears of the PM.
How come we never hear of heads of GLC reporting about anything amiss in their organizations only to later discover, the organizations they head, have cans of worms? Before the billion Ringit fiasco of its Energy and Utility business, how come the management of Sime Darby wasn't forthcoming in their report to its board of directors? And when the rot was revealed everyone were clamoring for the removal of the Board of Directors but most of us were silent about the management team and line managers? Get the line managers first and ferret out the missing links! Incidentally I wrote for the removal of the BOD and ALSO the firing of line managers.
We appear to apply the most stringent tests on propriety and good governance on public officials and politicians. But we are shy of doing the same when it comes to investigating and questioning those people managing our GLCs- Sime Darby, Malayan Banking, TNB, EPF, MRCB and so forth? These people manage these organizations like imperial mandarins, impervious and very opaque.
On its Business Page news B3, the Star had this to report on EPF deals- "as it stands, there is still little visibility on the selection criteria" .
"As it stands, there is still little visibility on the selection criteria". I almost fell off my chair.
Hello people, you are looking at the wrong source to ask the question. Let me give an historical analogy. Remember, when the Perwaja Steel under the late Eric Chia was the focus of our anger the last time? Everyone says they couldn't locate Eric Chia? I remember Karpal Singh coming out with a statement- you people are looking at the wrong place. If you want to locate Eric Chia, look at the PM's residence.
Now- where do you go to unravel the opacity of the EPF deals? You go and ask Nor Mohamad Yaakob people- he is the one who appoints the KPI Brigade for the various GLCs. I think the PM should start looking at re aligning his ministers. The infective and meek Husni Hanazliah the FM2 who should be the one to look at the appointments of GLCs should be shown the way out. Lu lah jaga appointment to the GLCs brother.
Instead its Nor Mohamad Yaakob( NMY) ( the cabinet's money changer) who is looking after the appointments. It seems this man who lost billions when doing FOREX deals at Bank Negara sometime ago, is the only person in this country who understands about KPI and can identify those people who can translate KPI. Hence he chooses and picks people for KHAZANAH- who run our Sovereign Fund like a private fiefdom. He appoints his boys at TNB, EPF, Bursa Saham, MRCB , the government owned banks etc. He is Da man.
So if we want to unravel the mystery and opacity, go ask NMY. He is the only minister in the cabinet whose political secretary has been charged for corruption. So for good measure, maybe MACC should also look at the people whom NMY appoints to head the GLCs. Khazanah, TNB, EPF, MRCB etc. etc.
The heads of Telekoms, Celcom, PNb, EPF, MRCB, -you name it, PETRONAS too, who behave like they are the PM in their respective domains? Who shall oversee them? Nor Mohamad Yakob?
This man seems to be more interested in placing his people in strategic economic pies. He has his every finger in every pie in the country. He has his KPI boys in many GLCs- in EPF, in MRCB, in Khazanah, in Maybank, in the banks, etc. etc. the list goes on and on. These boys are just bean counters had they travel the normal course of career development but for Nor Mohamad Yakob's discretionary application of the power to appoint, they have become fabulously powerful and wealthy.
Of course they can report profits and dividends of RM1 per share- but who is to know whether 80 sen has gone into their own pockets? I think the MACC should investigate all the heads of GLCs. They have the power of giving out multibillion deals and here we are decrying the case of one YB receiving a mere RM 2000.
That's a lot of bull and morally twisted crap.

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Saturday, 5 March 2011

PETRONAS in the news- Part 3.

I have delayed the posting of the 3rd part of the PETRONAS in the news because I wanted to see the drift of the comments. Overall, there is concern about how PETRONAS conducts its business. This is as it should be because PETRONAS is custodian of our national asset. We, the people collective own the government and through efforts of public spirited citizens, own PETRONAS.

Though it is set up by the government, it cannot do as it pleases with the money nor can it conduct its business recklessly or dubiously. It cannot be managed imperviously nor is it a black box operations. Our laws and constitution are there precisely to rein in the government and by the same laws, those institutions deriving power from the government. That includes PETRONAS. So in answer to the petulant commentator who says, it's the government's money and so it can do what it pleases, I feel sorry. I don't know how to label you as you have a warped sense of whats a government. That's a scary thought too.

The other type of commentator, which I am happy to note appears to be a minority, is the one who views a criticism on PETRONAS as an attack of the Malay. So, because PETRONAS is Malay, it can be excused for doing what it does even if giving out money making scheme to kenchana and SapuraCrest. If I were to extend to the logic of this fellow, then whatever a Malay does, he can be excused. So if he rapes another, it's ok because he is Malay. If he steals money or hijacks a government project, it's ok because he is Malay. He is even more excusable if he is an important Malay. It's ok for Malay leaders to loot and plunder, to earn RM 500 million commission, to hijack a RM 17 billion river of life project, to push for a RM 46 billion MRT project because all those involved are Malays?

The view on the other side- that is on the people's side is this:- If he is Malay he should be hung upside down because he has violated an invisible covenant with his fellow Malays- which is to lead them to progress in an honorable way. If he is Malay, he must be made to suffer a thousand deaths because he has betrayed the cause.

What's happening to PETRONAS? The way PETRONAS is sidelining Carigali for instance reminds me as to how PASDEC (a wholly owned subsidiary of Pahang's PKNP) conducts its business. PASDEC which once owned a granite quarry DOES NOT buy the granite aggregates from its own quarry but instead buys from other quarry operators. A closer look at this anomaly reveals that the only reason for this strange practice, is that you can't milk from your own source but can do so from 3rd parties. You can do side deals with 3rd parties but can't do so within your own organization.

This sounds preposterous but you can't absolutely discount baser motives in this deal marginal field too.

Here are some pointed comments from one HabibRak.

1. Yes, Kencana and Sapura's role in this RSC is simply to cream off the top. A self-enriching scheme.


 

2. No, you can't get the same deal coz you are not in the loop.


 

3. Rightfully, Carigali should be entrusted to be the prime mover just like Esso, Shell, Nippon, Murphy, etc.


 

4. Carigali could easily benefit from the CIP concept to mitigate risk. CIP = Carried Interest Period


 

4. FYI, for upstream business, the tax rate is 38% (PITA 1967), there is export duty, research cess, royalty for state and federal.


 

5. Cost Oil has built-in concept for price movements. Higher crude price will mean, less barrels needed to recover cost.


 

6. Once cost current, the remaining will become Profit Oil


 

7. Our boys n girls in Esso, Shell, Murphy, etc can easily be top team members to make Carigali one of the leading oil n gas company in the world.


 

8. Unfortunately, the political will is not there to empower Carigali.


 

9. There is only political will for looting, plundering and crony contract dishing.


 

10. Had worked in an international Oil n Gas company for over 12years in Malaysia and I know this 1st hand.


 

So Carigali in effect becomes a stepson.

The other thing is, with an investment of this magnitude and the players chosen are plucked from a very restricted pool, behind the scene news are difficult to contain. We hear disturbing news that the whole outlay of US 800 million will be underwritten by Petrofac. This means both Kencana Petroleum and SapuraCrest are given free berths. They are there to window dress the agenda of having local players participate but in reality they are just glorified rent seekers. It's even talked in the market that the PETRONAS adviser himself was on hand leading the talks with Petrofac. Predictably therefore, Kencana is one of the beneficiaries.

Sime Darby asked to buy over Kenchana?

Even more disturbing are the rumors going around the attempts are being made to ask Sime Darby to buy over Kencana Petroleum. This would be an outlandish piece of proposal in the wake of Sime Darby losing billions of Ringgit in its utility and energy business. Sime Darby got into that mess precisely because years ago it was asked to take over the Bakun Project. I think if ever there are any attempts to force Sime Darby to take on further burden, the PM should nip this in the bud. Why should Kencana be sold off to Sime Darby if it has just gotten a sweetener from Petrofac, courtesy of PETRONAS?

PETRONAS must be conscious that it is the guardian and keeper of the nation's oil and gas wealth and it needs to guard that position jealously against both foreign as well as local companies so that maximum benefit is obtained by the Malaysian public from its oil and gas wealth.

One way to do that is for PETRONAS to participate directly through another subsidiary to perhaps undertake production from marginal oil fields in partnership with foreign players not necessarily Petrofac. Then this subsidiary can enter into joint ventures with the various world-renowned names who are engaged in exploiting oil from marginal wells and after many years, it would have gained enough expertise and size to venture out into the world much the way that PETRONAS itself has for oil exploration.

In this first deal, PETRONAS announced that its farming out is Berantai Oil and Gas Field located some 150 nautical miles from the Terengganu coast. That will mean additional royalty to the state of Terengganu. The exploitation of the field will be done in 2 stages. In the First Phase, gas will be sent from Berantai through a pipeline tied to an Existing Gas Facility located at the Angsi Field and subsequently transported to shore via the Angsi gas pipeline. This first Phase is straightforward and pipeline linking Berantai to Angsi is also straightforward.

In the second phase, we can only assume that Oil will be lifted from the Berantai Field on to an FPSO and loaded on to a Shuttle Tanker which will be transported to PETRONAS Refinery.

As one expert in the field said it aptly:- All the above is fine except for the vague nature of the Commercial Deal and whether the Field itself is a "Marginal" Field.

1. Who proposed that the Budget for this project should be US$800 million? Was it decided by PETRONAS or the Consortium?

A Project of this nature requires a lot of front end work and may have been carried out many months before the deal is announced. Who carried out the survey work?

2. The First Phase (2011-2012) Appears to Concentrate on Well Completions for Gas Delivery. How much gas is there at Berantai? Is Gas the main hydrocarbons at Berantai? Why the rush for Gas?

2. How much of the Project Cost can be recovered back by the Consortium? (as per incentive...i.e. cost recovery....including project cost). Based on the project cost, one can only surmise that the FPSO for Oil will be owned by PETRONAS or Consortium? Will the FPSO and shuttle tanker then be leased by the consortium to PETRONAS? If this is the case, then the consortium stands to make a lot of money as lease charges are very hefty!

3. The local partners can only provide for modification work of specialized vessels, some installation work and the two small platform fabrications. Petrofac will ensure that the costs will be in line with market costs if not lower.

If the 106 fields are too fragmented in size as to be economical, why don't we just auction them off to players in the market and apply the principles of PSC on them? The players can either be local with partnership with foreign players who shall undertake the extraction of the oil or gas under the terms of a PSC. The agenda of fast-tracking the capabilities of local players not only Kencana and SapuraCrest can still be achieved by insisting that foreign partners take local partners to participate in the auctions.

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Thursday, 3 March 2011

PETRONAS in the news-Part 2

What is the purpose of this article? Lest it is seen as a cantankerous rant against a justifiably good business arrangement for the good of the country, let's spell out the objectives.

1.    To raise the possibility that PETRONAS hasn't been upfront about defining what is a marginal field.

2.    To raise awareness that the commercial terms by which PETRONAS entered this RSC may not be in the interests of our country.

3.    To question whether the RSC method is the best deal or is it just a scheme to enrich selected people?

4.    To discover the basis of PETRONAS's choice of equity partners with petrofac.

5.    Who decides on Petrofac? How was it chosen among the many players in the market? Who decides on Petrofac as the Project Delivery Partner (since this term is now vogue).

6.    What is the USD 800 million for? This is cost oil? How do the incentive and correspondingly penalty elements figure in the profit oil portion?

7.    Is there a time limit for the extraction upon which either incentives or penalties are enforced?

8.    To pressure PETRONAS to be transparent in its revelations to the public as to how it conducts its business, it appoints contractors; it shares its profits and applies its profits.

When PETRONAS was formed, the government knew it hasn't got the technical knowhow to manage and exploit our oil and gas resources. The solution was to leverage on the capabilities of the oil majors operating in Malaysia then. The main players then were Shell and Esso. A scheme was devised where a commercially viable partnership can exist between the resource owner who owns the resource and the technology owner. Both need to be compensated for the ownership of their respective resource. The government tasked Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah to come out with such a scheme. This was the origins of the Production Sharing Contract.

The scheme in itself is easy to understand. The oil majors and exploration companies get to extract oil and gas from Malaysian owned sources. They get to recover fully the costs (OPEX and CAPEX up to the point of extraction. In addition they get to share what is produced over and above the costs on an agreed basis. The get the oil equivalent to the costs they have sunk in- this is the cost oil portion of the produced oil. After subtracting cost oil, they have oil which can be sold for profit- profit oil. They then divide the profit oil upon agreed terms.

The practice I think is PETRONAS to share with its exploration partner on an 80:20 basis. Also if I am not mistaken, all the CAPEX Items become the property of PETRONAS. So when you go to Miri Shell for example, while the refinery and all the property and chattels therein are operated by Shell, they do so as custodian of what will eventually become PETRONAS property.

Because it is simple and easy to operate, this scheme has been adopted by many countries such as Indonesia and Nigeria.

But it must be said once more, when Tengku Razaleigh introduced this scheme in 1974, the countries behind the oil majors looked upon the scheme as a disguised form of nationalization.

It's Risk Sharing Contract now. RSC

Now PETRONAS is embarking on a new approach in extracting oil in our waters. It is now introducing the concept of RSC- Risk Sharing Contract. Two, it is encouraging local players to team up with foreign service providers to extract oil and gas from they termed as marginal oil fields. In all PETRONAS is aiming to develop some 106 fields and 580 million BOEs. That's barrel of oil equivalents.

We must congratulate PETRONAS for finding new commercial methodologies to ensure we get the best from our resource and in that process if we can help our local boys to make money, we do so. This is a straightforward agenda on which little quarrel can be built on.

Our only concern will then be, are the commercial terms sound to ensure that we get the best returns? How do we assign and choose the local players? Who actually talked to Petrofac? How do we ensure technology transfer? The main contractor chosen to lead the recovery from marginal fields for example, how will we ensure they will indeed pass the technical knowhow to the local players?

Since operating from 1974, hasn't PETRONAS acquired the technology transfer it needs to do the jobs themselves? If it's in line with the agenda of nurturing or fast-tracking the capabilities of local players, is RSC the best way to do it?

The boggling question first of all is this. How does PETRONAS define a field as being marginal? The basis of defining has important repercussions. We may justifiably assume that PETRONAS has taken all the meticulous studies to arrive at defining a particular field as marginal. This is to allay fears of a mistaken classification- a still productive field being categorized as marginal.

Surely an important element is the market price of oil and gas. If the quantity is marginal but the price is good, the revenue to be earned is still very large. Even if we call the relevant fields marginal ones, there is still a lot of money to be made and the amount increases as oil prices rise. At 580 million BOE, and using an oil price of US$80 per barrel, the oil is worth nearly RM140 billion! In terms of value, this can hardly be termed as marginal. And surely too, RM140 billion can't be uneconomical to extract. It is important to ensure that PETRONAS does not lose out in this and extracts the best deal for itself.

Then there is the issue of technology transfer. There is a lot of expertise involved and those who extract marginal oil are not going to be sharing their expertise readily with local partners they are forced to take.

The question is, are Kencana and Sapura, and the others who follow them, merely equity partners who provide some amount of oil field services? If that is so, why could not PETRONAS itself have become an equity partner? After all it has the funds and more capability and capacity than all the oil field companies put together. It has its own specialized unit under Carigali. If Carigali is omitted from partaking in exploiting the 'marginal' Berantai Fields, PETRONAS stands accused of shirking its duties to guard our precious resource.

It comes back to the Organizational Disclosure thing in the Report on Promoting Revenue Transparency in Oil & Gas companies. It involves disclosure on PETRONAS's partnership deals and structures.

Read more...

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

PETRONAS in the news-1


 
In the last 2 weeks, PETRONAS was in the news for the wrong (?) reasons.
First- PETRONAS was ranked badly in a 2010 Report on Promoting Revenue Transparency in Oil & Gas companies. The report is published by Transparency International (TI) and Revenue Watch Institute (RWI). PETRONAS performed badly in all three key sections.
These are 'Reporting on Anti-Corruption Programme', 'Organizational Disclosure' and 'Country-Level Disclosure for International Operations'. PETRONAS' respective scores were 30, 38 and zero percent, compared to the average scores of 43, 65 and 16 percent. UK's BG Group, India's Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and Norway's Statoil top the three sections respectively with scores of 93, 100 and 69 percent. PETRONAS was ranked in the bottom 25 percent of the 20 international and 24 national oil companies surveyed.
Reporting on Anti-Corruption Programmes' refers to companies reporting their anti-corruption programmes according to the TI-UN Global Compact Reporting Guidance on the 10th Principle against Corruption.
Organizational Disclosure' measures reporting of a company's organizational structure, operations, partnerships and standards used for published financial accounts.
Country-level Disclosure for International Operations' refers to companies' reporting on meaningful country-level financial and technical data relating to their international operations.
What is the purpose of the Report? I think we need to look at it positively and not succumbed to a xenophobic reaction treating the Report as work of some insidious organization out to discredit Malaysia. As Malaysians concerned over the management of a national asset, we have every reason to be circumspect. PETRONAS is the biggest revenue earner for this country.
The report aims to promote accountability in resource-rich countries by improving awareness of the importance of revenue transparency of major oil and gas companies. We have to remember that Oil and gas producers generate and transfer considerable funds to national and host governments. Natural resources wealth can fuel large-scale corruption and mismanagement, if not properly managed.
Second- PETRONAS is in the news for its announcement in introducing the new commercial methodology of RSC- risk sharing Contract. What is that?
In introducing the Risk Sharing Contract, PETRONAS has this to say. It said that in not too many words. We are left to second guess what our national company means and intends.
"The RSC model strikes a balance in sharing of risks with fair returns for development and production of already discovered fields. In this arrangement, PETRONAS remains the project owner while contractors are the service provider. Upfront capital investment will be contributed by the contractors who will receive payment commencing from first production and throughout the duration of the contract," PETRONAS said.
"The new arrangement facilitates direct participation of Malaysian companies in the country's upstream oil and gas activities, in line with PETRONAS' efforts to leverage on their existing capacity while fast-tracking their capability in development and production in a structured manner," it added.
We haven't been told- how is the marginal field defined? How are the local players chosen? How is the foreign technology partner selected? How did we come up with a ballpark figure of RM 800 million? Who provided that figure? Why can't it assign PETRONAS Carigali for instance to partner with the Petrofac for instance?
Unless the consortium of the 3 companies in unison proposed to PETRONAS to work on the marginal fields, then I think the choice of the 3 can be defended. We can't fault the private companies for coming out with a commercially viable solution to PETRONAS when PETRONAS itself feels further work on the fields is uneconomical.
But unless PETRONAS is forthcoming with more revelation, its silence will only fuel speculation and wild guesses.
So if I were to second guess and translate it into simple language, perhaps it can be this way: hey guys, you want to make money? Here's the deal. We want to appoint a foreign player to extract oil and gas from our marginal fields. Don't worry marginal is a misnomer- plenty of oil and gas there. But you people can share by being equity partners to these people. Just get the capital and join them. They are your technology partner. They do the work, maybe you get to supply support services and other things. PETRONAS will oversee and make sure you make money. And we will also be fulfilling our political objectives- fast tracking the capabilities of the chosen local ones.
PETRONAS has come some way from Production Sharing Contract to Risk Sharing Contract. The he contractors now assume all the risks (?) and get compensated when they strike oil or gas? Will they get to recover all their set up costs? They get to share the value that's above the costs? How will the sharing be structured?
Let's study a little bit of history.
The production sharing contract (PSC) is a scheme where the resource owner contracts out the extraction and production of oil and gas to exploration companies. Basically the idea is this. The exploration companies or contractors do all the work to extract and produce oil. Hence the term produced oil. Once oil is produced, the contractor gets to recover all the costs incurred in extraction and producing the oil- this is termed as cost oil. After all the costs are deducted, you get to share the profit- hence the term profit oil. It's divided between the resource owner and contractor on an agreed basis. Usually 80% to the owner and 20% to the contractor.
This idea was first introduced in Malaysia by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah when PETRONAS was formed in 1974. The Petroleum Development Act 1974 empowers PETRONAS to be the custodian of our oil and gas reserves. It sets out to manage and operate our oil and gas reserves. It owns the oil and gas on our behalf.
Tengku Razaleigh worked hard to convince the oil majors operating in Malaysia then to accept the arrangement. The Americans were of course livid and complained to the then PM, Tun Abdul Razak. But Razak chose to stay the course with Razaleigh.

Update: I hear sound whispers that the whole cost of the project is financed by Petrofac. Haiya, cilaka, saya pun boleh bikin ini marginal field punya projek ma...

Read more...

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