Four parliamentary measures to redeem national honour and reputation in the handling of Malaysia’s first global scandal – RM50 billion 1MDB scandal

Kuala Terengganu is the 126th parliamentary constituency that I am visiting in my “Pantang Undur – Berani Kerana Benar” nation-wide tour since my six-month suspension from Parliament in October last year for demanding two simple answers from the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak with regard to this twin mega scandals which have put Malaysia among the top 10 countries infamous for global corruption – where the monies for the RM50 billion 1MDB and RM4.2 billion “donation” scandals came from and where the monies have gone to.

I will return to Parliament when it reconvenes on Monday 16th May, but six months after my suspension from Parliament, the two questions of “Where the monies came from and where the monies have gone to” have still to be answered, and have writ even larger, with major developments in Najib’s twin mega financial scandals confirming Malaysia as home to one of the great global corruptions of the time.

In fact, never before had Malaysia seen a local scandal taken such global dimension as to be almost in frequent international limelight, sometimes for days at a stretch, in the past year or more, and if anyone googles “1MDB scandal”, there would be more than half a million returns!

This is not to the credit or honour of Malaysia – but to our great national shame and humiliation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysian Leader Najib’s Stepson Allegedly Funded U.S. Property Deals With 1MDB Money

Wall Street Journal
May 11, 2016

At least $50 million allegedly diverted from state investment fund was spent on luxury real estate in the U.S.

At least $50 million allegedly diverted from a state investment fund in Malaysia was spent on luxury properties in New York and Los Angeles by the stepson of the Malaysian prime minister, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and people familiar with the matter.

Riza Aziz, a film producer and stepson of Malaysian leader Najib Razak, used money that originated from the 1Malaysia Development Bhd. fund to acquire a 7,700-square-foot, $33.5 million duplex in the Park Laurel condominium tower overlooking New York’s Central Park, the documents and people said.

Mr. Aziz also used money originating from 1MDB to buy an 11,000-square-foot walled mansion in Beverly Hills with a 120-foot-long pool for more than $17.5 million, the documents and people said.

The financing of those acquisitions is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is conducting a wide-ranging inquiry into alleged misappropriation of billions of dollars from 1MDB, according to people familiar with the probe. 1MDB was set up in 2009 to benefit the Malaysian people. Read the rest of this entry »

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S’wak’s Tasik Biru battle DAP’s litmus test of conscience

Mordi Bimol
12th May 2016

COMMENT On the nomination day for the Sarawak state election on April 25, 2016, Lim Kit Siang, who was present at the Tasik Biru seat nomination centre, described the battle in Tasik Biru between Henry Jinep of the BN and I, as the litmus test for DAP in the Dayak majority seat.

Tasik Biru is a constituency that comprises 68 percent Dayak, 26 percent Chinese and six percent Malay Melanau. BN eventually won with a majority of 1,288 votes, garnering 6,922 votes (55 percent) against the DAP’s 5,634 votes (45 percent).

Although we lost the seat in a straight fight with BN-SPDP, we made significant inroads in this Dayak majority seat.

In the 13th general election, I contested for the parliamentary seat of Mas Gading, which comprises two state assembly seats – Tasik Biru and Opar – and garnered 5,293 votes.

In this state election, we obtained more votes (5,634) in just one state assembly seat alone. At the micro-level, we won in four out of 20 Dayak villages, with one of them as high as 70 percent. We averaged at 40 percent votes for Dayak localities. Such an achievement was unimaginable three years ago.

We managed to make significant inroads into the Bidayuh heartland despite BN’s systematic pouring of cash handouts on the last day and use of fear tactics – the villagers were told that the government would cut their water, electricity and welfare aid if BN were to lose the seat! Read the rest of this entry »

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The victims of RM50 billion 1MDB scandal are the 30 million Malaysians as “corruption is not a victimless crime”

Malaysia and the Malaysian Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak should be playing a leading role in the historic Anti-Corruption Summit in London today hosted by the United Kingdom Government, as this is the second important global anti-corruption conference held after the 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Putrajaya last September with the theme of “Ending Impunity: People, Integrity and Action”.

Unfortunately Najib dodged and ducked the 16th IACC which was supposed to be the high-water mark of his six-year anti-corruption campaign and show-case him as one of the exemplary global leaders spearheading a transformation programme with anti-corruption as one of its core objectives.

When Najib’s keynote address for the conference hosted by the Malaysian government was cancelled at the last-minute, and Najib’s photograph and biography quietly and ignominiously removed from the conference website, the 30 million Malaysians had to endure a humiliating opening speech delivered by Transparency International Chair José Ugaz who told about 1,000 delegates from all over the world that the measures taken by the Najib government in connection with the 1MDB financial scandal “are not the actions of a government that is fighting corruption.”

Jose Ugaz said: “No one can be in Malaysia and not be aware of the corruption allegations of recent months and how damaging they are to the country. There is a corruption crisis here.

“We want to see more progress but that cannot happen while there are unanswered questions about the $700m that made its way into the prime minister’s personal bank account.

“There are two questions that need to be answered: Who paid the money and why? Where did it go?

“One man could answer those questions.”

Eight month forward, these two simple questions about Najib’s RM50 billion 1MDB and RM4.2 billion “donation” twin mega scandals (only cited as RM42 billion and RM2.6 billion respectively during the 16th ICAC) are not only no nearer to answer, but have been swarmed by more serious issues about integrity, accountability and good governance. Read the rest of this entry »

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Abu Dhabi’s IPIC demands more Malaysia compensation as debt row deepens

Wed May 11, 2016

Disputes between Abu Dhabi state-owned International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC) and the troubled Malaysian state investment fund 1MDB intensified on Wednesday, with IPIC saying there was a fresh default by 1MDB.

IPIC claimed that 1MDB and the Malaysian government now owe it more than $1.2 billion after a complex series of agreements between the two former partners went sour.

The latest turn came on Wednesday, when IPIC [INTPV.UL], said it had to stump up a $52.4 million coupon payment after 1MDB defaulted on $1.75 billion on bonds due in 2022.

1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) said it had “more than sufficient” funds to make the interest payments on that bond and another $1.75 billion declared in default in April, but did not due to its dispute with IPIC.

1MDB has been locked in a dispute over its obligations to IPIC under a debt restructuring agreement reached in June. Read the rest of this entry »

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Battling Apathy and Ignorance for a Prosperous Malaysia

By Anas Alam Faizli
11th May 2016

Slightly over 200 years ago, Napoleon Bonaparte said, “I fear four hostile newspapers than a thousand bayonets.” Napoleon Bonaparte was an emperor and a military genius of his time. He faced impossible odds during his military conquests. He had fought 25,000 Ottomans with 6,000 French troops in Egypt and had also confronted the combined Armies of Austria and Russia in Austerlitz. His empire stretched from Spain, Northern Africa to the borders of Russia.

Yet, despite all that, he feared editors. Why? Because editors can control and influence ideas, words and debates. He feared domestic dissent. He wants full control. He even said that, “I want to create an educational body that will steer the way the French people think!”

Napoleon went on to establish public schools in an effort to further craft and dictate how the French would think and act. What Napoleon did through public schools is effective but he undermined and put a stop to human creativity and intellectualism. The same concept was later adopted by the French, as far west as the Americans, and eventually by the whole world. Read the rest of this entry »

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Call to Najib to present White Paper on 1MDB in next week’s Parliament and to set aside three days for debate on it, as well as PAC Report on 1MDB

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said yesterday a failed initial public offering (IPO) exercise, as a result of being “attacked”, was the main reason why 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) encountered problems.

He said 1MDB used the debt funding approach to operate its business, which required an IPO to be undertaken in the shortest possible time. The authorities did not foresee that 1MDB would come under relentless “attacks”, which resulted in the IPO exercise could not be carried out, hence the cashflow problems.

Was this the real reason why 1MDB had exploded to become the nation’s first global financial scandal, keeping the nation constantly in the international limelight for massive transborder financial frauds, irregularities and money-laundering?

Or was the Economic Planning Minister, Datuk Sri Abdul Wahid Omar more to the point when he admitted last month that 1MDB model of low capitalization and huge borrowings was unsustainable from the very start.

What was the “original sin” of the 1MDB global financial scandal – the IPO failure, the unsustainable model of low capitalization and huge borrowings or something more fundamental, conceived right from the beginning as a mega global scam that has triggered investigations by several countries on international embezzlement and money-laundering to the tune of some USD11 billion stretching from Singapore to the United States? Read the rest of this entry »

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Elections in Malaysia – Rumbles in the jungle

May 7th 2016 | KUCHING

A cakewalk in Borneo is a boon for Najib Razak— at least for now

IN A hut on stilts on the island of Borneo, a dozen skulls hang in a cage. They are those of long-dead victims of the Dayaks—indigenous tribes whose members make up the majority in Sarawak, a sprawling Malaysian state. Once thought to harbour protective spirits, the heads are now tourist curios. Few indigenous people still live in the communal dwellings such relics guard, and those who remain hang Christian crosses on their doors.

This month many Malaysians would like to see the Dayaks take one last scalp. Sarawak’s state election on May 7th is a chance for voters to rebuke Najib Razak, Malaysia’s unpopular prime minister, who has spent much of the past year denying that hundreds of millions of dollars which entered his bank accounts were wangled from an ailing national investment firm. Investigations into 1MDB’s dealings are under way in half a dozen countries; some of its borrowings are in default. Yet parties loyal to Barisan Nasional, Mr Najib’s coalition, will probably retain a crushing majority in Sarawak’s state assembly. That prospect illuminates the prime minister’s resilience, which outsiders find bizarre. Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysia’s Najib Has Little to Cheer Over Sarawak Triumph

By Luke Hunt
May 11, 2016
The Diplomat

The election win is rooted in local rather than national factors.

Victory for the incumbent at Malaysian state elections in Sarawak has been billed by the government-friendly press as a turning point for the embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak. The state poll was won by chief minister Adenan Satem and Najib was quick to claim the credit.

But any applause for Najib is misplaced and overlooks Adenan’s popularity, which was achieved on the back of promised reforms and his stand against corruption in the aftermath of his predecessor Taib Mahmud, who retired with his family ranked among the world’s richest following over three decades at the helm of Sarawak.

This weekend’s election was not a test of national policies. It was fought on local issues in a state, which legally is an equal part of a three-way Malaysian federation that encompasses neighboring Sabah and the Malaysia peninsula.

In the election, Barisan Nasional (BN), the ruling coalition which is led by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) which Najib heads, secured 72 out of 82 seats. UMNO has been the dominant party within BN at the federal level ever since Britain told Malaysia it was time to evolve into a country in its own right. That was almost 60 years ago and ever since then, politicians have enjoyed conflating the two political outfits when it suits their political purposes.

In this case, it is quite clear that Najib attempted to steal the headlines and craft national-level spin for a local story written by Adenan, who had earned high marks after Taib stood down by promising to respect the rights of the long-marginalized indigenous tribes, crack down on corruption and “put the fear of god into people who are dishonest.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysia’s Hobbled PM Taps Local Election Win For Support: Why It’s Not Enough

Ralph Jennings
MAY 10, 2016

Malaysia’s ruling coalition and embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak got some breathing room this month but aren’t out of the ICU.

Najib’s Barisan Nasional party won 72 of 82 state assembly seats in Sarawak on Saturday, indicating that the party’s coalition has a chance of holding parliament in national elections expected by August 2018. To carry on politically, Najib needs to rebuild his name. He has been suspected since last year of moving about $700 million from government-run development company 1MDB to personal bank accounts. The 62-year-old leader faces no formal charges, but based on suspicion alone a lot of people want him out after seven years as prime minister.

The state election, his party’s first contest since the bank account issue erupted, gives Najib a narrow margin to grapple his way back to good standing before the nationwide vote.

His continuation in power would mean more economic development, his thing all along. The well-off Southeast Asian nation of 30 million people relies mainly on resources such as gas and rubber but faces risks from drops in fuel prices and oil-related taxes that the World Bank says account for around 17% of public revenues. So it’s building up an Islamic finance sector, manufacturing (up more than 20% in 2014) and even a film industry.

The Sarawak victory is a quick fix for the leadership. It’s not necessarily enough to last through the national election, per analyst views. Read the rest of this entry »

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Will Adenan become the next Pak Lah?

The jubilation over Adenan Satem’s victory in Sarawak is somewhat reminiscent of the Pak Lah ‘tsunami’ in the 2004 general elections.

In the 2004GE, Pak Lah led the BN to victory by winning a historic 91% of parliament seats (199 out of 219) with 61% of the popular vote.

He went into the elections promising to clean up corruption in the country. He promised a collaborative approach by famously asking people to ‘work with him, not for him’.

He was helped by a delimitation exercise that added 26 parliament seats in 2003.

The opposition then also did not present a united front or a united coalition although three corner fights were avoided in the majority of seats.

But four years later, in GE2008, Pak Lah suffered a humiliating set back.

He was the first Prime Minister to lead a BN government that did not have a 2/3rds control of parliament. The number of opposition MPs increased fourfold from 20 (9%) in 2008 to 80 (36%). BN’s share of the popular vote dropped from 61% to 55%. Read the rest of this entry »

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Burden of Malay Stereotypes in Academia and Business

M. Bakri Musa

This burden of self-affirmation and stereotype threat can crop up well beyond our formative years and at the most unexpected venues.

At one Alif Ba Ta Conference a few years ago, organized by the UMNO Club of New York and New Jersey in which I discussed self-affirmation and stereotype threat, a group of students confided to me their experiences in the special matriculation class preparing them for American universities. Midway through that class they were given a test. Those who excelled were sent abroad earlier.

Even though the class was filled predominantly with Malays, for the group selected to leave earlier, non-Malays were over represented. How do I explain that, the students inquired? I immediately sensed their burden of stereotype threat – Malay ineptitude in academics.

So I asked them what they had done between their school examination in November the preceding year until they were enrolled in that special class the following July. To a person they all replied “Nothing!” Yes, nothing!

Then I also asked them whether they had discussed with their successful and predominantly non-Malay classmates how they managed to do so well, specifically what were they doing from January till July when they started their matriculation classes together. The Malay students could not answer me. Obviously they never thought to ask or were too embarrassed to discuss that sensitive topic with their non-Malay classmates, or their teachers. For their part, their matriculation teachers, unlike my Mr. Peter Norton at Malay College in the 1960s during my Sixth Form years there, merely accepted the fact as it was. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Heavy Burden of Self-Affirmation and Stereotype Threat

M. Bakri Musa
11th May 2016

Our mind’s narrative of the world includes the perception we have of ourselves, and what we believe others have of us. The first is self-affirmation; the second, stereotype. Each of us is a member of some groups or other (race, profession, culture); thus we cannot escape from being stereotyped.

As for self-perception, like all other of our mental patterns this one too grew out of our experiences. Should we encounter something that does not conform to that mental picture we have of ourselves, we react like the patient with Cabgras delusion; we alter or ‘edit’ that information to make it conform to our pre-set pattern.

Our “self” narrative includes the stereotype others have of us, as with the colonialists’ “lazy native.” Not surprisingly, we often perform to those expectations, further reinforcing the stereotype. This vicious cycle continues, each cycle reinforcing earlier ones.

You have to work doubly hard and perform beyond well just to dispel the stereotype. Then even if you do succeed, there is no guarantee of escaping the stereotyping. It is a heavy burden to bear. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Superiority of Growth Versus Fixed Mindset

Bakri Musa
11th May 2016

The corollary to my earlier discussion is that it is far better to have a mindset with the capacity to grow and adapt than one that is fixated on its existing worldview. Harping on “changing mindset,” as our leaders are wont to do, is misplaced.

The Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck describes the two mindsets: the growth versus the fixed. They differ not only in their hypothesis of the outside world but also how they view their inner being.

Those with a fixed mindset view their talent and ability as fixed and tied to their innate ability. They view themselves as being governed by whatever abilities that they have been endowed with by nature. They are trapped by their biologic pre-determinism, which can be just as crippling as the more familiar religious variety afflicting simple villagers – “My fate is written in the book of life!”

The “book of life” of those with fixed mindset and are science-literate is the sequence of amino acids encoded in their DNA strands. On the other hand, those with a growth mindset believe that their fate depends on their ability to adapt and learn from new challenges and experiences, not on whatever nature has bestowed upon them through their chromosomes. To these individuals, opportunities are the flipside of crises, as the ancient Chinese wisdom would have it. Success depends on their ability to convert the latter to the former. Read the rest of this entry »

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1MDB – A wonderland saga

Tan Siok Choo
Making Sens
The Sun Daily
20 April 2016

“CURIOUSER and curiouser,” said Alice as she grew to more than nine feet high in Lewis Carroll’s fabled novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

This is the likely response of non-partisan readers of often contradictory articles about 1Malaysia Development Berhad (IMDB), the report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and strongly-worded statements by Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund, International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC).

In a joint announcement on April 11, IPIC and its subsidiary Aabar Investments PJS (Aabar) categorically denied Aabar Investments PJS Ltd, established in the British Virgin Islands (Aabar BVI), is “an entity within either corporate group”. Both IPIC and Aabar also said they had received no payments from Aabar BVI.

In response, 1MDB said it was “curious” IPIC and Aabar had waited “until April 2016” to issue a denial and was surprised “neither IPIC nor Aabar has knowledge of, nor has benefited from, payments made by IMDB to Aabar BVI.”

Under a debt-asset swap agreement on May 28, 2015 involving Aabar, Malaysia’s Ministry of Finance (MOF) and 1MDB, IPIC agreed to:
» provide US$1 billion to enable 1MDB to settle its liabilities;
» pay interest on the US$3.5 billion bonds;
» repay the US$3.5 billion bond; and
» forgive certain 1MDB debts.

In return, 1MDB would transfer to IPIC by June 30, 2016 assets with an aggregate value of all the sums paid by IPIC.

DAP MP Tony Pua says the value of assets 1MDB must transfer to IPIC total US$4.7 billion – US$1 billion to settle 1MDB’s liabilities, US$3.5 billion for the 2012 bonds and up to US$200 million in interest payments. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why DAP, PKR failed miserably in Sarawak

Adrian Lim
10th May 2016

COMMENT With humble and sincere intentions, I have to point out what Sarawakians and Sabahans generally feel about West Malaysians.

If Sun Wu Kong (the Monkey God) had a ‘Journey to the West’, PKR and DAP should now have a ‘Journey to the East’.

In future, obey these rules, and you will not fail so miserably in the east.

1. NEVER go into others’ house, telling them their house is under-developed, lesser democratic, less rich, no highway, no water, no electricity.

Sarawakians are humans, and humans have dignity. The first impression would be: “Why are you West Malaysians so arrogant”? Read the rest of this entry »

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Najib has gained no respite for Malaysia or for himself on the 1MDB global scandal despite the landslide Barisan Nasional victory in Sarawak state general elections on Saturday

JP Morgan Asia’s downgrade of Malaysia’s status to underweight is the latest bad news for Malaysia and potent testimony that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has gained no respite for Malaysia or for himself on the 1MDB global scandal despite the landslide Barisan Nasional victory in Sarawak state general election on Saturday.

The equity research team cited concern about Malaysian banks, which also account for about 30 percent of the iShares MSCI Malaysia ETF (EWM), as one of the main reasons for the downgrade.

It said: “Negative outlook on financials driven by increasing credit costs due to declining loan and deposit growth. Banks are grappling with rising non-performing loans (expected to peak at 3.1 percent in 2018).”

The iShares MSCI Malaysia ETF had fallen 7.7 percent in the second quarter, which makes it the second worst performing market in Asia after Taiwan.

In the past fortnight, while Najib has led the campaign in the Sarawak state elections to rain money throughout the state, Malaysia has not ceased to be at the receiving end of adverse international developments and references, like being named number two by The Economist in its second index of crony capitalism, just behind Russia which clinched the crony capitalism crown. Read the rest of this entry »

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1MDB Default Deters Funds as Malaysia Can’t Put Scandal to Bed

Denise Wee
May 10, 2016

As Malaysia’s state-owned investment company reaches out to bondholders to explain why it has defaulted, some investors say they can’t wait to hear the end of the saga.

1Malaysia Development Bhd., which defaulted on dollar-denominated bonds last month and faces another coupon payment Wednesday, said it plans a call on May 23 to explain its dispute with a co-guarantor and how it plans to meet future obligations. Returns on debt from Malaysian issuers have cooled amid probes into financial irregularities at 1MDB, whose advisory board has been headed by Prime Minister Najib Razak.

“The political situation in Malaysia continues to be one of the biggest, I would say, hurdles for foreign investors,” said Arthur Lau, co-head of emerging-market fixed income in Hong Kong at PineBridge Investments, which manages about $83 billion globally. “In terms of fundamentals everything points to be quite O.K., especially now with oil prices rebounding. The only one thing that really drags is the political noise.”

The ringgit has slumped 2.8 percent this quarter, turning to Asia’s worst performer from its best in the first quarter. The cost of insuring the nation’s sovereign debt against default has risen 10 basis points since March 31 to 163. Malaysia’s corporate dollar bonds returned 1.1 percent in the period, slipping to seventh place from third place in the first three months, based on Bank of America Merrill Lynch indexes. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sarawak Win Buys Malaysia Premier Time as Economic Risks Mount

Shamim Adam
May 9, 2016

A state election win for Malaysia’s ruling coalition has given Prime Minister Najib Razak breathing space after months of political turmoil, while serving as a reminder he needs to focus on the economy to avoid becoming a liability to his party before the next national vote.

Barisan Nasional secured a bigger majority in Sarawak, the nation’s largest state located on Borneo island and across the South China Sea from peninsular Malaysia.

Najib visited the state frequently over the past two months, shifting last week’s cabinet meeting there as he campaigned alongside Chief Minister Adenan Satem.

Even as he carries back the message to his United Malays National Organisation — the lead party in BN — that he can still help win elections, the Sarawak polls show Najib can’t afford to let bread-and-butter issues slide with voters. Malaysians are contending with rising prices that are eating into disposable incomes and eroding consumer confidence, while a debt default by a government investment fund could pose a threat to state finances. Read the rest of this entry »

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Islam Is Diversity and Contradictions

M. Bakri Musa
10th May 2016

Review of Shahab Ahmed’s What Is Islam. The Importance of Being Islamic

First of Two Parts

While holidaying on an island in the Indonesian Riau Province I came upon a communal graveyard. I was surprised that while the graves had markers, there were no individual identifications, no names or even dates of death. On enquiring, the villagers told me that this was to discourage ancestor worship. In Islam we worship Allah, and only Him. Any deviation would be shirk, a blasphemy.

Yet only a few islands away on Pulau Penyengat, there is an elaborate mausoleum to honor the great poet Raja Ali Haji of Gurindam XII fame. On religious days and special occasions, villagers throng the site; at other times they come to pray for their children’s success at school.

The inhabitants on both islands are devout Muslims. While we could readily comprehend and accept variations in Islam (or any faith for that matter) in different geographic areas and with different cultures, the people on both islands are all Malays. What gives? Read the rest of this entry »

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