Archive for September 9th, 2011

The haze and the malaise

Ethnic politics makes Malaysia’s transition to a contested democracy fraught and ugly

Sep 10th 2011
Banyan | The Economist

SKYSCRAPERS and lampposts in Kuala Lumpur are still festooned with flags left over from independence day festivities at the end of August. Fittingly, this week they were shrouded in the annual “haze” of smog from forest fires on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Malaysia’s politicians are not in the mood to celebrate nationhood and unity. Rather, with an election in the offing, everything is a chance for political point-scoring.

That includes independence itself. One huge banner in the centre of the capital shows the country’s six prime ministers since the British left in 1957, with the incumbent, Najib Razak, in the foreground, gazing into a visionary future. All six hailed from the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which has led the “Barisan Nasional” (BN) coalition government ever since 1957. Some opposition politicians now complain that the official narrative of Malaysia’s history ignores the role of non-UMNO freedom fighters. Since the most recent general election, in March 2008, the opposition has had a real chance of winning power. For the first time since independence in 1957, the BN lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament that allowed it to amend the constitution on its own. No longer a one-coalition state, the opposition argues, Malaysia has to rethink its own history.
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Malaysian procurement system riddled with corruption, says US cable

The Malaysian Insider
Sep 09, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 9 — The seedy and allegedly corrupt side of Malaysia’s defence procurement has been laid bare in a US embassy cable, with startling revelations on how Umno politicians, agents, civil servants and military officials receive 30 per cent “commission” on deals.

In a note on the opaque procurement system here revealed by whistleblower site Wikileaks, the US embassy noted that American companies operating here had three main complaints about the system: the lack of transparency, outright corruption, and Bumiputera requirements.

The undated cable sent during the Abdullah administration between 2004 and 2009 also noted that many government tenders do not follow procurement rules.

A US aerospace executive told the US embassy here defence deals were done through shadowy agreements with no tendering process. For example, the then-Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s (picture) sister-in-law arranged a US$400 million (RM1.2 billion) contract to buy military cargo aircraft from Airbus.

The deal was announced following Abdullah’s return from a trip to France. Read the rest of this entry »