Malaysia starting the new year not just with double whammy but a multitude of whammies!

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s hint to the first Cabinet meeting of the year on Wednesday that 2017 is going to be an “interesting year” has already been more than fulfilled in the first five days of the year.

The new year in the past five days started not just with a double whammy but a multitude of whammies, including:

  1. The Malaysian ringgit currency starting the new year with a new record low of RM4.5002 against the US dollar since the 1998 Asian financial crisis, signifying very tough economic year for Malaysians;

  2. The gutting of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) although it was already quite impotent to fighting grand corruption. No “tiger” or “crocodile” had been caught by the MACC,but there seems a “devil’s bargain”: that the MACC is given the green light to go after civil servants so long as they leave the politicos and their “favourite” civil servants alone.

  3. Read the rest of this entry »

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Things Will Get Worse for the Malaysian Ringgit: BMI Research

by Will Davies
Bloomberg
January 5, 2017

Ringgit was among the weaker major Asian currencies in 2017
China’s economic slowdown will weigh on Malaysian trade: BMI

Malaysia’s ringgit, one of Asia’s worst-performing currencies over the past year, has further to fall, according to BMI Research.

One reason is because it is affected by the yuan, which is going to remain under downward pressure, BMI said in a Jan. 4 note. There will also likely be a narrowing of real interest-rate differentials between the U.S. and Malaysia, with the latter probably staying on hold this year while the Federal Reserve increases rates by a total of 50 basis points. Further weakness in the global bond market would also put the ringgit under pressure given that around 40 percent of Malaysian bonds are held by foreigners.

BMI has lowered its forecast for the ringgit. It expects it to average 4.50 per U.S. dollar this year and 4.40 in 2018, from 4.00 and 3.88 previously. The currency, which fell 4.3 percent against the greenback last year and 18.5 percent in 2015, hasn’t posted an annual gain since 2012. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Charismatic Banker Who Led Singapore’s BSI Into the Abyss

by Andrea Tan and Chanyaporn Chanjaroen
Bloomberg
January 6, 2017

He was the leader of one of the largest mass defections in private banking history, with more than 100 staff following him from RBS Coutts Bank Ltd. in the thick of the global credit crisis to create a financial phenomenon in Singapore at a little-known Swiss bank.

Hanspeter Brunner, together with former deputy Raj Sriram and chief operating officer Gary Tucker, were the kernel of a plan by BSI SA, founded in 1873 in Lugano, to build up a $10 billion wealth-management business serving the burgeoning ranks of Asia’s millionaires.

Brunner, a veteran Swiss private banker who has spent more than two decades in Asia, offered his Coutts colleagues an extraordinary lifeboat.

Then-parent Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc was being bailed out by the U.K. government, while all around the financial industry was culling tens of thousands of jobs.

Brunner knew every banker, analyst, back-office worker and client at Coutts, according to people familiar with the move. When he went to BSI, even the pantry lady followed, three of the people said. This wasn’t just a chance for BSI to grab a few star talents in the cutthroat world of private banking in Asia, this was a wholesale exodus. Brunner’s lawyer Ng Lip Chih of NLC Law Asia LLC declined to comment.

The mass move to BSI Bank Ltd., the Singapore unit, forged a sense of camaraderie among the defectors and cemented a bond with Brunner, who managed to negotiate pay increases of as much as 40 percent, according to the people, who didn’t want to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter. BSI’s payroll swelled from 30 employees to 200 within a year, according to a company report.

They little knew that Brunner was bringing them from one crash to another. In May, Singapore’s financial watchdog ordered the bank to shut its operations in the city-state, blasting BSI as the nation’s worst case of banking misconduct. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tan Sri Alwi Jantan’s mournful poem “Cry my Beloved Country” is the plaintive cry of all patriotic Malaysians who love Malaysia and grievously hurt at the harm we have done to ourselves

When I received on the WhatApps a poem “Cry my Beloved Country” by “Alwi Jantan, Perth, 1st January 2017”, I wanted to be sure that it was penned by Tan Sri Alwi Jantan himself, and not a “fake”.

I took pains to check its veracity and I was vindicated when I spoke to the 81-year-old former top civil servant himself, and he confirmed that he had himself written the poem.

Born in Dungun, Terengganu on 16th April 1935, Alwi had a long civil service career belonging to the first Merdeka generation of public servants, starting in the civil service in August 1958, and who went on to serve as Director-General of National Archives and Library Malaysia in 1971; Selangor State Secretary (1972-76); Secretary-General of three Ministries, namely Local Government and Federal Territory, Health and Agriculture; Deputy Secretary-General of Prime Minister’s Department (1981-1984), ending his public service career as Director-General of Public Services Department (PSD) (1987-1990).

Alwi’s mournful poem “Cry my Beloved Country” to ring in the New Year of 2017 for a very troubled Malaysia is the plaintive cry of all patriotic Malaysians who love Malaysia and grievously hurt at the harm we have done to ourselves.

This is Alwi’s “Cry my Beloved Country” on behalf of Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or region – a cry deep from the heart of grieving Malaysians in the run-up to the 60th anniversary celebrations for the Proclamation of Merdeka on August 31, 1957:
Read the rest of this entry »

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Conversations and Explorations: Pauline Fan an Exciting Time for Malaysian Literature

By Gareth Richards
Penang Monthly
January 2017

Translation matters. It always has, but perhaps now more than ever. It is a paradox that globalisation offers the technological means of communication and conversation across borders, and yet politics (including the culture wars) seems to be driven by small-mindedness, xenophobia and enmity. It is these “moments in time when the world is changing” that “bring out the best and the worst in people,” as Malaysian author Tan Twan Eng puts it. If literature possesses an emancipatory potential – if it can open up spaces for critical thinking and be a flame in the darkness – then the act of translating fiction and poetry surely lies somewhere near its centre.

The recent edition of the George Town Literary Festival offered a clear focus on the potential of literary translation. In general terms, the thematic core of the festival – captured by the Welsh word hiraeth, the longing for a homeland that is no longer there – necessarily explored the ways in which literatures travel, across time and space. In addition, there were also dedicated panels that discussed the subtle arts of reading, reimagining and translating foreign fiction and poetry across many different languages. One thing was made clear: no one will ever read an author’s work as closely as her translator does.

We caught up with a number of respected literary translators at the festival to reflect on the process, products and prospects for this work in Malaysia and beyond. Here we feature the KL-based poet Pauline Fan, who is also co-editor of NARATIF | Kisah, a bilingual literary journal that features work by both Malaysian and international authors. For her, translation is a “confluence” of literary traditions where important connections are made. And this work is nested within an ongoing moment of “encounter, engagement and critical contemplation”. Read the rest of this entry »

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As world closes doors to refugee surge, Aceh aid expert urges Japan to open up, play lead role

BY SHUSUKE MURAI
STAFF WRITER
The Japan Times
JAN 2, 2017

The global refugee crisis is stoking anti-immigration sentiment in Europe and the United States, but Japan could take the initiative to become a leading voice to protect those who are displaced, an expert on assistance to such people in Asia has said.

“I’m not very confident that the West can play a lead in being that voice,” said Lilianne Fan, co-founder of Geutanyoe Foundation, a nongovernmental organization based in Aceh, Indonesia.

“I think we need actors from our regions — from Asia — and I think Japan is the best candidate to be the leading voice in trying to champion peace,” Fan said in a recent interview with The Japan Times. Fan was visiting to discuss refugee issues with Japanese stakeholders.

Fan has worked for more than 16 years to support refugee and other displaced people in Asia and other parts of the world, particularly in Aceh, Myanmar, Haiti and Jordan. Having received a master’s degree from Columbia University in 2004, Fan, who concurrently works as a research associate at the London-based Overseas Development Institute, has served as an adviser for the United Nations, the World Bank and the Red Cross. Read the rest of this entry »

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Nur Jazlan should produce the papers to prove that Najib is entitled to use government jet to gallivant around the world with his family

Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed has claimed that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak is entitled to use the government jet to gallivant around the world with his family.

I am not convinced and I challenge Nur Jazlan to produce the papers and documents to prove Najib has such entitlements as Prime Minister.
Let Malaysians have a full accounting of the Australian end-of-the-year holiday trip of the Prime Minister, his family and whoever were on the junket, the destinations and the costs of the jet-abouts involved.

Since the Prime Minister had the use of the government jet before the Australian trip, as he was in Kuantan, Kuching and Tawau attending the Pahang Federation of Chinese Association dinner in Kuantan, the Batang Sadong bridge launch in Kuching and the launching of the Sabah section of the Pan-Borneo Highway in Tawau, Najib should explain why he could not slot into his itinerary to attend the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) Christmas High-Tea so that he would not be absent from such a significant function in a multi-religious Malaysia for three consecutive years in a row. Read the rest of this entry »

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Who is Najib’s Goebbels? Is he prepared to emerge from the darkness and come into the light to identify himself and explain why he is masterminding so many “fake news” and “false stories” about critics and the Opposition?

It is indeed supreme irony that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, should kick off the new year warning about “fake news” and “false stories” as a grave problem in the country, when it is the UMNO leaders, propagandists and cybertroopers and the country’s mainstream media like New Straits Times and Utusan Malaysia which are the worst culprits in concocting and disseminating fake news and false stories about critics and the Opposition.

Their action befits the Chinese saying about “Thief shouting thief” which basically means to divert the attention of others so as to cover up one’s misdoings

In the fifth day of the new year, we already have several examples of such “fake news” and “false stories” perpetrated by UMNO leaders, propagandists, cyberbtroopers and sycophants and I shudder to think of the mountain of lies, “fake news” and “false stories” that will be concocted this year in the run-up to the 14th General Election, which can be held anytime between May and October.

Najib gave the “official launch” for the UMNO/BN campaign of “fake news” and “false stories” – a classic “thief shouting thief” act reminiscent of the Nazi “Big Lies” propaganda offensive – in his UMNO Presidential Speech on Nov. 30, telling three “Big Lies”, viz:

1. That the 14th General Elections will be a contest between UMNO and DAP;

2. That the DAP is anti-Malay or anti-Islam.

3. The “nightmares” Malay will suffer if UMNO loses power in the next general elections.

Najib’s three “Big Lies” would make Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels, green with envy as it was Goebbels who gave the following definition of Nazi’s Big Lies offensive: “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it”.

There no need to repeat my rebuttal of Najib’s Three Nazi-style “Big Lies” which the Prime Minister and his propaganda team had not been able to refute. Read the rest of this entry »

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Liow Tiong Lai, Mah Siew Keong and Subramaniam must not be afraid of Pensiangan Formula, but learn to understand it and present it to the Cabinet as the best way to address political and constitutional stalemate caused by UMNO support for Hadi’s private member’s bill

After MCA’s degeneration into a “7/11 political party”, very few Malaysians paid much attention to sayings and doings of MCA leaders, including Ministers – and I am one of them.

But the Malaysiakini headline yesterday “MCA slams ‘amnesiac’ Kit Siang over hudud bill” aroused my curiosity, for there is some mental life left if one can use words like “amnesiac”!

This led me to read the report but I was bound for a disappointment.

I was accused of having lost my memory and advised to immediately consult a doctor for forgetting that “on Dec 30, 2016, MCA president Liow Tiong Lai had declared that ‘regardless of any bill tabled by the opposition or Umno, if it is against the constitution, MCA will oppose it to the end’.”

I did not forget. I just did not know.

In utter humility, I searched the website of MCA’s official mouthpiece, the Star. It was not there.

For the first time, I visited the MCA website, and it was also not there.

Liow might have told the Chinese media, but that is exactly the point about MCA Ministers and leaders – they say one thing to the Chinese media but a very different thing to UMNO leaders! Read the rest of this entry »

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The Guardian view on the Arab spring: it could happen again

Editorial
Guardian
3.1.2017

The Arab world is home to 5% of the global population, but accounts for half of all terrorist attacks. With poverty outpacing the growth in numbers of young people and democracy crushed, a revolt could re-emerge

This month marks six years since the beginning of the Arab spring, a series of events that were meant to be a major turning point in the modern Middle East.

It was the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor and his death on 4 January that initiated a revolutionary year.

The subsequent protests energised ordinary Arabs, who recovered, it seemed, a popular self-confidence diminished by six decades of autocracy.

The Arab street was honoured for its people’s courage and determination, inspiring movements across the world. Protesters did not just voice their complaints, it was said, they changed the world. Four Arab leaders fell.

Yet six short years on those dreams are now in tatters. In Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, a counter-revolution has returned a military dictatorship. Much of Libya and Yemen is reduced to rubble in a war where outside powers are the principal actors, prepared to fight until the last local is dead. Syria is in ruins, stained by rivers of blood.

The sole democratic success was Tunisia, which did see a peaceful transition from authoritarian rule to elective government. The main Islamist party won power and last year declared it would end all of its cultural and religious activities to focus only on politics – becoming a Muslim democratic party, rather like its western Christian counterparts.

But every silver lining has a cloud: Tunisians make up the largest number of foreign fighters in the ranks of Islamic State. Read the rest of this entry »

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MACC is like Alice in Wonderland becoming “curiouser and curiouser”- in its pronouncements, staff movements as well selective even malicious investigation of corruption cases

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), like Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, is becoming “curiouser and curiouser” – in its pronouncements, staff movements and selective even malicious investigation and prosecution of corruption cases.

I agree with Tun Mahathir’s lawyer Mohd Haniff Khatri Abdulla who questioned why the MACC issued a statement of denial on the reason cited by its former Special Operations Division director, Bahri Mohd Zin, on his early retirement.

It is certainly “strange and awkward” that the MACC had done this after allegedly contacting Bahri, who allegedly denied to MACC in making such a statement and yet the MACC could not coax Bahri to issue a denial – resulting in the MACC statement losing all credibility.

There is considerable merit in Mohd Haniff’s challenge calling on the Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohanmed Apandi Ali and the MACC Chief Commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad to explain transparently the MACC’s investigations into SRC International and why the SRC International case was never brought to court, when it seems to be an open-and-shut case against the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak for corruption and abuse of power. Read the rest of this entry »

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Give the Ipoh “dare-devils” a dressing-down but don’t treat them as criminals and definitely don’t throw criminal charges at them

Yes, give the Ipoh “dare-devils” a dressing-down, but don’t treat them as criminals and definitely don’t throw criminal charges at them.

The eight thrill-seeking youths, five men and three women aged between 20 and 24, were foolish in the extreme in their death-defying stunts on the “Ipoh” sign, and their pictures and videos went viral.

They thought they were “brave” did not fully realise that they were toying with their lives, as the “Ipoh” sign structure could have collapsed and cost them their limbs and lives and irreplaceable sorrow to their loved-ones. Read the rest of this entry »

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Diminished in 2016, what lies ahead for Malaysia?

REVIEW 2016

PAULINE NG
Business Times Singapore
Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Kuala Lumpur

TO many, 2016 was a year of diminishment for Malaysia.

Not only has the ringgit’s value declined considerably, public confidence and consumer sentiment have waned noticeably. Meanwhile, the 1MDB financial scandal has also diminished Malaysia in the eyes of the international community.

Unless credibility is restored, the regression is expected to continue in 2017 amid great uncertainties – one of which are the policies of the mercurial Donald Trump who will be sworn in as US president later this month.

New leaders could also emerge in Europe as Germany and France head to the polls in the coming months. Read the rest of this entry »

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UMNO leaders and propagandists as well as mainstream media are the worst culprits in concocting and disseminating fake news and false stories about critics and the Opposition

It is the irony of ironies.

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, kicked off the new year warning about “fake news” and “false stories” as a grave problem in the country, loyally echoed by his propaganda lieutenant, the Communications and Multimedia Minister, Datuk Seri Said Keruak Salleh who dutifully warned “a most unpredictable and probably ‘dangerous’ year” because of “fake stories” being spread about Malaysia, but it is the UMNO leaders, propagandists and cybertroopers including the country’s mainstream media like New Straits Times and Utusan Malaysia who are the worst culprits in concocting and disseminating fake news and false stories about critics and the Opposition.

Their action befits a Chinese saying about “Thief shouting thief” which basically means to divert the attention of others so as to cover up one’s misdoings. Read the rest of this entry »

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Who’s Had the Worst Year? How Asian Leaders Fared in 2016

And some of the headaches they face in 2017.

by David Tweed | Bloomberg
December 29, 2016, 7:07 AM GMT+8

In a year dominated by Brexit and Donald Trump’s surprise U.S. election win, Asia felt like a relatively stable part of the world. A closer look shows that the region endured its own seismic events in 2016, from a Philippine leader embracing China to massive street protests in Seoul to the elimination of 86 percent of India’s hard currency.

Here we look at how key leaders performed. They are listed in order of the size of their economy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Liow Tiong Lai, Mah Siew Keong and Subramaniam must explain whether they have deviated from the stand of their parties and broken ranks with BN component parties from Sabah and Sarawak by secretly agreeing with UMNO to support BN government take-over of Hadi’s private member’s bill?

MCA President Datuk Liow Tiong Lai, Gerakan President Datuk Mah Siew Keong, the MIC President Datuk S. Subramaniam should know that silence is no option and that they should explain whether they have deviated from the stand of their parties and broken ranks with the Barisan Nasional component parties from Sabah and Sarawak by secretly agreeing with the UMNO leadership to support BN government take-over of Hadi’s private member’s bill.

This is the logical conclusion from their continued silence on the Pensiangan Formula as the best way to address the political and constitutional stalemate created by UMNO’s support for PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Awang Hadi’s private member’s bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act (Act 355).

The Pensiangan Formula comprises two elements, viz:

• Firstly, no government take over of Hadi’s private member’s bill; and

• Secondly, the formation of an all-party Parliamentary Select Committee with the overall objective to strengthen inter-religious relations in Malaysia based on the Malaysian Constitution, Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and Rukunegara, and with the specific objective to study Hadi’s private member’s motion, and to make recommendations.

Read the rest of this entry »

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MACC is only allowed to net ikan bilis but not ikan yus (sharks) in Malaysia

The end of the year underlines one important aspect about the anti-corruption campaign in Malaysia – the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is only allowed to net ikan bilis but not the ikan yus (sharks) in Malaysia, or the MACC itself will be targeted by the powers-that-be in the country and those responsible will be punished and disempowered.

This was highlighted by the end-of-the-year corruption news of the “transfer out” of the six senior officers in the MACC Special Operations Division (Bahagian Operasi Khas – BOK) who were directly involved in the SRC International investigations.

As reported by Malaysiakini, the six who were transferred out included Tan Kang Sai, the division’s deputy.

The special division was formed in 2010 to handle high-profile cases as well as cases involving corruption of more than RM1 million.

Two from the team were transferred out in October, while the rest, including Tan, were removed this month. Some of the posts vacated by those transferred out of the special unit have not been filled.

According to Malaysiakini, four of them had been transferred to MACC’s investigation division, while others were transferred to state MACC offices and other government agencies. Read the rest of this entry »

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Call for Royal Commission of Inquiry to Save FELDA, to listen to grievances of Felda settlers particularly on Felda’s EHP acquisition and Felda Global Ventures (FGV) and to make recommendations

DAP calls for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into FELDA, to listen to grievances of FELDA settlers particularly on FELDA’s Eagle High Plantations (EHP) acquisition, Felda Global Ventures (FGV) and to make recommendations to Save Felda and to ensure that FELDA does not become as great a national embarrassment and shame as the international 1MDB kleptocratic money-laundering scandal.

I am sure former Law Minister, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who is with us today, is fit and qualified to be a member of this Royal Commission to Save FELDA, and I am also prepared to serve on the RCI to Save Felda.

A fit and proper Chairman of the Royal Commission of Inquiry to Save FELDA would be Datuk Seri Nazir Razak, the CIMB Chairperson, the son of Tun Razak who set up FELDA and the brother of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

PKR MP for Pandan, Rafizi Rami would be most suitable to be engaged to head an investigation team by the RCI to Save FELDA. Read the rest of this entry »

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The inability of UMNO leaders, propagandists and cybertroopers to find any proof from the more than 10 million words I had written or spoken in the past 51 years of my political struggle is the most powerful proof of their politics of hate, falsehood and fake news

I have been in politics for 51 years.

I have never operated underground. The country’s Special Branch, which is one of the best of its kind in the world, having been trained by the British and which had the unique distinction of being the only intelligence apparatus in the world to have beaten the communists in a war for the “hearts and minds” of the people, knows that my political struggle is an open book as I had never engaged in any below-ground subterranean activities.

I do not think there is another political leader in Malaysia who had been so demonized in the past half a century, maligned and defamed as anti-Malay, anti-Islam and anti-Malay Rulers.

I have written and spoken almost daily in the past 51 years of my political struggle for an united, democratic and most just Malaysia, and every word is on public record.

Assuming an average of some 600 words a day – and it is not unusual for my speeches in Parliament in my first three decades in Parliament from the seventies to the nineties to range from 8,000 to 10,000 words in major debates, whether budget, the royal address or important bills – I would have spoken or written some 10 million words in my political life for the past 51 years.

The inability of UMNO leaders, propagandists and cybertroopers to find any proof from the more than 10 million words I had written or spoken in the past 51 years of my political struggle to substantiate their allegation that I am anti-Malay, anti-Islam and anti-Malay Rulers is the most powerful proof of their politics of hate, falsehood and fake news! Read the rest of this entry »

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Have Liow Tiong Lai, Mah Siew Keong and S. Subramaniam secretly agreed with UMNO to support BN government take-over of Hadi’s private member’s bill that MCA, Gerakan and MIC cannot respond positively to the Pensiangan Formula to deal with Hadi’s private member’s bill?

I have been puzzled as to why the MCA President, Datuk Liow Tiong Lai, the Gerakan President, Datuk Mah Siew Keong, the MIC President, Datuk S. Subramian is so lukewarm to my proposal of a Pensiangan Formula to address the political and constitutional stalemate created by UMNO’s support for PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Awang Hadi’s private member’s bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act (Act 355).

The Pensiangan Formula came to me when I was visiting Pensiangan on Thursday, 29th December after Tenom and Keningau in the interior in Sabah, where the overwhelming majority are Christians and non-Muslims – and after the inspiring and eloquent Christmas Message of the President of the Sabah Council of Churches, Rev Jerry Dusing, calling for the truth to be told on national issues concerning the people, whether 1MDB or Hadi’s private member’s bill.

Pensiangan is the parliamentary constituency of the Tan Sri Joseph Kurup, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of national unity.

But Kurup had failed in his Ministerial duty, as the country had never been faced with greater threat to national unity arising from the triple woes of racial and religious polarisation and the failure of Putrajaya to honour the Malaysia Agreement 1963 to give equitable and fair treatment to Sabah and Sarawak in the Malaysian Federation.

As a result, Kurup was not in much of a “national unity” mindset when he warned in May this year that Sabahans and Sarawakians may demand to split from peninsular Malaysia if Hadi’s private member’s bill is passed in Parliament.

If this should come to pass, it would be the greatest tragedy for the Malaysian Federation. Read the rest of this entry »

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