Saturday, July 31, 2010

Now let’s have a discussion — Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah

July 31, 2010

JULY 31 — Thank you for inviting me to speak with you. I am truly honoured. I have played some small role in the life of this nation, but having been on the wrong side of one or two political fights with the powers that be, I am not as close to the young people of this country as I would hope to be. History, and the 8 o’clock news, are written by the victors. In recent years the government’s monopoly of the media has been destroyed by the technology revolution.

You could say I was also a member of the UKEC. Well I was, except that belonged to the predecessor of the UKEC by more than fifty years, The Malayan Students Union of the UK and Eire. I led this organisation in 1958/59. I was then a student of Queen’s University at Belfast, in a rather cooler climate than Kota Bharu’s.

Your invitation to participate in the MSLS was prefaced by an essay which calls for an intellectually informed activism. I congratulate you on this. The Youth of today, you note, “will chart the future of Malaysia.” You say you “no longer want to be ignored and leave the future of our Malaysia at the hands of the current generation.” You “want to grab the bull by the horns... and have a say in where we go as a society and as a nation.”I feel the same, actually. A lot of Malaysians feel the same. They are tired of being ignored and talked down to by swaggering mediocrities.

You are right. The present generation in power has let Malaysia down.

But also you cite two things as testimony of the importance of youth and of student activism to this country, the election results of 2008 and “the Prime Minister’s acknowledgement of the role of youth in the development of the country.”

So perhaps you are a little way yet from thinking for yourselves. The first step in “grabbing the bull by the horns” is not to required the endorsement of the Prime Minister, or any Minister, for your activism.

Politicians are not your parents. They are your servants. You don’t need a government slogan coined by a foreign PR agency to wrap your project in. You just go ahead and do it.

When I was a student our newly formed country was already a leader in the postcolonial world. We were sought out as a leader in the Afro-Asian Conference which inaugurated the Non-Aligned Movement and the G-77. The Afro-Asian movement was led by such luminaries as Zhou En-lai, Nehru, Kwame Nkrumah, Soekarno. Malaysians were seen as moderate leaders capable of mediating between these more radical leaders and the West. We were known for our moderation, good sense and reliability.

We were a leader in the Islamic world as ourselves and as we were, without our leaders having to put up false displays of piety. His memory has been scrubbed out quite systematically from our national consciousness, so you might not know this or much else about him, but it was Tengku Abdul Rahman established our leadership in the Islamic world by coming up with the idea of the OIC and making it happen.

Under his leadership Malaysia led the way in taking up the anti-apartheid cause in the Commonwealth and in the United Nations, resulting in South Africa’s expulsion from these bodies.

Here was a man at ease with himself, made it a policy goal that Malaysia be “a happy country”. He loved sport and encouraged sporting achievement among Malaysians. He was owner of many a fine race horse.

He called a press conference and had a beer with his stewards when his horse won at the Melbourne Cup. He had nothing to hide because his great integrity in service was clear to all. Now we have religious and moral hypocrites who cheat, lie and steal in office but never have a drink, who propagate an ideologically shackled education system for all Malaysians while they send their own kids to elite academies in the West.

Speaking of football. You’re too young to have experienced the Merdeka Cup, which Tunku started. We had a respectable side in the sixties and seventies. Teams from across Asia would come to play in Kuala Lumpur. Teams such as South Korea and Japan, whom we defeated routinely. We were one of the better sides in Asia. We won the Bronze medal at the Asian games in 1974 and qualified for the Moscow Olympics in 1980. Today our FIFA ranking is 157 out of 203 countries. That puts us in the lowest quartile, below Maldives (149), the smallest country in Asia, with just 400,000 people living about 1.5 metres above sea level who have to worry that their country may soon be swallowed up by climate change. Here in ASEAN we are behind Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, whom we used to dominate, and our one spot above basketball-playing Philippines.

The captain of our illustrious 1970’s side was Soh Chin Aun. Arumugam, Isa Bakar, Santokh Singh, James Wong and Mokhtar Dahari were heroes whose names rolled off the tongues of our schoolchildren as they copied them on the school field. It wasn’t about being the best in the world, but about being passionate and united and devoted to the game.

It was the same in Badminton, except at one time we were the best in the world. I remember Wong Peng Soon, the first Asian to win the All-England Championship, and then just dominated it throughout the 1950. Back home every kid who played badminton in every little kampong wanted to call himself Wong Peng Soon. There was no tinge of anybody identifying themselves exclusively as Chinese, Malays, Indian. Peng Soon was a Malaysian hero. Just like each of our football heroes. Now we do not have an iota of that feeling. Where has it all gone?

I don’t think it’s mere nostalgia that that makes us think there was a time when the sun shone more brightly upon Malaysia. I bring up sport because it has been a mirror of our more general performance as nation. When we were at ease with who we were and didn’t need slogans to do our best together, we did well. When race and money entered our game, we declined. The same applies to our political and economic life

Soon after independence we were already a highly successful developing country. We had begun the infrastructure building and diversification of our economy that would be the foundation for further growth. We carried out an import-substitution programme that stimulated local productive capacity. From there we started an infrastructure buildup which enabled a diversification of the economy leading to rapid industrialisation. We carried out effective programmes to raise rural income and help with landless with programmes such as FELDA. Our achievements in achieving growth with equity were recognised around the world. We were ahead of Our peer group in economic development were South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, and we led the pack. I remember we used to send technical consultants to advise the South Koreans.

By the lates nineties, however, we had fallen far behind this group and were competing with Thailand and Indonesia. Today, according to the latest World Investment Report, FDI into Malaysia is at about a twenty year low. We are entering the peer group of Cambodia, Myanmar and the Philippines as an investment destination. Thailand, despite a month long siege of the capital, attracted more FDI than we did last year. Indonesia and Vietnam far outperform us, not as a statistical blip but consistently. Soon we shall have difficulty keeping up with The Philippines. This, I believe, is called relegation. If we take into account FDI outflow, the picture is even more interesting. Last year we received US$1.38 billion (RM4.40 billion) in investments but US$ 8.04 billion flowed out. We are the only country in Southeast Asia which has suffered nett FDI outflow. I am not against outward investment. It can be a good thing for the country. But an imbalance on this scale indicates capital flight, not mere investment overseas.

Without a doubt, Malaysia is slipping. Billions have been looted from this country, and billions more are being siphoned out as our entire political structure crumbles. Yet we are gathered here in comfort, in a country that still seems to ‘work.’ Most of the time. This is due less to good management than to the extraordinary wealth of this country. You were born into a country of immense resources both natural and cultural and social. We have been wearing down this advantage with mismanagement and corruption. With lies, tall tales and theft. We have a political class unwilling or unable to address the central issue of the day because they have grown fat and comfortable with a system built on lies and theft. It is easy to fall into the lull caused by the combination of whatever wealth has not been plundered and removed and political class that lives in a bubble of sycophancy.

I urge you not to fall into that complacency. It is time to wake up. That waking up can begin here, right here, at this conference. Not tomorrow or the day after but today. So let me, as I have the honour of opening this conference, suggest the following:

  • Overcome the urge to have our hopes for the future endorsed by the Prime Minister. He will have retired, and I’ll be long gone when your future arrives. The shape of your future is being determined now.
  • Resist the temptation to say “in line with” when we do something. Your projects, believe it or not, don’t have to be in line with any government campaign for them to be meaningful. You don’t need to polish anyone’s apple. Just get on with what you plan to do.
  • Do not put a lid on certain issues as “sensitive” because someone said they are. Or it is against the Social Contract. Or it is “politicisation”. You don’t need to have your conversation delimited by the hyper-sensitive among us. Sensitivity is often a club people use to hit each other with. Reasoned discussion of contentious issues builds understanding and trust. Test this idea.
  • It’s not “uber-liberal” to ask for an end to having politics, economic policy, education policy and everything and the kitchen sink determined by race. It’s called growing up. Go look up “liberal” in a dictionary.
  • Please resist the temptation to say Salam 1 malaysia, or Salam Vision 2020 or Salam Malaysia Boleh, or anything like that. Not even when you are reading the news. It’s embarrassing. I think it’s OK to say plain old salam the way the Holy Prophet did, wishing peace unto all humanity. You say you want to “promote intellectual discourse.” I take that to mean you want to have reasonable, thought-through and critical discussions, and slogans are the enemy of thought. Banish them.
  • Don’t let the politicians you have invited here talk down to you.
  • Don’t let them tell you how bright and “exuberant” you are, that you are the future of the nation, etc. If you close your eyes and flow with their flattery you have safely joined the caravan, a caravan taking the nation down a sink hole. If they tell you the future is in your hands kindly request that they hand that future over first. Ask them how come the youngest member of our cabinet is 45 and is full of discredited hacks? Our Merdeka cabinet had an average age below thirty. You’re not the first generation to be bright. Mine wasn’t too stupid. But you could be the first generation of students and young graduates in fifty years to push this nation through a major transformation. And it is a transformation we need desperately.
  • You will be told that much is expected of you, much has been given to you, and so forth. This is all true. Actually much has also been stolen from you. Over the last twenty five years, much of the immense wealth generated by our productive people and our vast resources has been looted. This was supposed to have been your patrimony. The uncomplicated sense of belonging fully, wholeheartedly, unreservedly, to this country, in all it diversity, that has been taken from you.

Our sense of ourselves as Malaysians, a free and united people, has been replaced by a tale of racial strife and resentment that continues to haunt us. The thing is, this tale is false.

The most precious thing you have been deprived of has been your history. Someone of my generation finds it hard to describe what must seem like a completely different country to you now. Malaysia was not born in strife but in unity. Our independence was achieved through a demonstration of unity by the people in supporting a multiracial government led by Tengku Abdul Rahman. That show of unity, demonstrated first through the municipal elections of 1952 and then through the Alliance’s landslide victory in the elections of 1955, showed that the people of Malaya were united in wanting their freedom.

We surprised the British, who thought we could not do this.

Today we are no longer as united as we were then. We are also less free. I don’t think this is a coincidence. It takes free people to have the psychological strength to overcome the confines of a racialised worldview. It takes free people to overcome those politicians bent on hanging on to power gained by racialising every feature of our life including our football teams.

Hence while you are at this conference, let me argue, that as an absolute minimum, we should call for the repeal of unjust and much abused Acts which are reversals of freedoms that we won at Merdeka.

I ask you in joining me in calling for the repeal of the ISA and the OSA. These draconian laws have been used, more often than not, as political tools rather than instruments of national security. They create a climate of fear. These days there is a trend among right wing nationalist groups to identify the ISA with the defence of Malay rights. This is a self-inflicted insult on Malay rights. As if our Constitutional protections needed draconian laws to enforce them. I wish they were as zealous in defending our right not to be robbed by a corrupt ruling elite. We don’t seem to be applying the law of the land there, let alone the ISA.

I ask you to join me in calling for the repeal of the Printing and Publications Act, and above all, the Universities and Colleges Act. I don’t see how you can pursue your student activism with such freedom and support in the UK and Eire while forgetting that your brethren at home are deprived of their basic rights of association and expression by the UCA. The UCA has done immense harm in dumbing down our universities.

We must have freedom as guaranteed under our Constitution. Freedom to assemble, associate, speak, write, move. This is basic. Even on matters of race and even on religious matters we should be able to speak freely, and we shall educate each other.

It is time to realise the dream of Dato’ Onn and the spirit of the Alliance, of Tunku Abdul Rahman. That dream was one of unity and a single Malaysian people. They went as far as they could with it in their time. Instead of taking on the torch we have reversed course. The next step for us as a country is to move beyond the infancy of race-based parties to a non-racial party system. Our race-based party system is the key political reason why we are a sick country, declining before our own eyes, with money fleeing and people telling their children not to come home after their studies.

So let us try to take 1 Malaysia seriously. Millions have been spent putting up billboards and adding the term to every conceivable thing. We even have cuti-cuti 1 Malaysia. Can’t take a normal holiday anymore.

This is all fine. Now let us see if it means anything. Let us see the Government of the day lead by example. 1 Malaysia is empty because it is propagated by a Government that promotes the racially-based party system that is the chief cause of our inability to grow up in our race relations. Our inability to grow up in our race relations is the chief reason why investors, and we ourselves, no longer have confidence in our economy. The reasons why we are behind Maldives in football, and behind the Philippines in FDI, are linked.

So let us take 1 Malaysia seriously, and convert Barisan Nasional into a party open to all citizens. Let it be a multiracial party open to direct membership. PR will be forced to do the same or be left behind the times. Then we shall have the vehicles for a two party, non-race-based system.

If Umno, MIC or MCA are afraid of losing supporters, let them get their members to join this new multiracial party. PR should do the same. Nobody need feel left out. Umno members can join en masse. The Hainanese Kopitiam Association can join whichever party they want, or both parties en masse if they like. We can maintain our cherished civil associations, however we choose to associate. But we drop all communalism when we compete for the ballot. When our candidates stand for Elections, let them ever after stand only as Malaysians, better or worse.

Now let’s have a discussion.

* Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s speech at the UKEC’s Fourth Malaysian Students Leadership Seminar in Kuala Lumpur on July 31, 2010.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Sakti/Sakto – Another Taib Exclusive

Thursday, July 1st, 2010 GMT

Sakto Canada/Sakti US

When you have dozens of properties and as many companies to manage them it is always a good trick to stick to similar names. Sarawak Report can exclusively reveal that there is a US arm to the Taib family’s North American property empire.

Palatial - just one of the Taib family's US residences

In Ottawa, Canada the family’s interests are managed by Sakto Corporation, but in the US they are managed by Sakti International Corporation. Sakti International Corporation comprises properties totalling an estimated value of US$80,000,000, according to their own company documents. Each property is held under a separate company, usually named after the property’s street address, again in order to aid recognition. For example, W.A. Boylston manages 1117 Boylston St, Seattle (shown right).

However, one of these companies is not so named. Wallyson’s Incorporated, based in Seattle, operates what is known as the Abraham Lincoln Building. The Abraham Lincoln Building houses a top secret FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) facility and to enter requires maximum security clearance.

FBI Headquarters in Seattle - a Taib Building

This is the North West Regional Headquarters for the FBI, America’s domestic security and counter-terrorism service. The Seattle branch lists amongst its particular responsibilities countering terrorism threats from Far East Asia. This building is owned by the Taib family.

FBI emblem at Abraham Lincoln Building

Sakti’s other main US office block, 260 California Street, San Francisco, also rents space to an impressive list of clients, including Citibank. It shows once again the Taib family’s ability to ingratiate with the establishment in host countries for their foreign investments.

Taib company history in the USA

Also like Sakto, Sakti is currently managed by Sean Murray, husband of Jamilah Taib, who is the daughter of Abdul Taib Mahmud, Chief Minister of Sarawak (salary 20,000 Malaysian Ringgit per month). Sean Murray was re-named Hisham Murray when he converted to the Muslim faith on his marriage to Jamilah, but never uses this name in his business or social capacities outside of Sarawak.

Hisham (Sean) and Jamilah Murray

However recent court documents deposited with the San Francisco Superior Court show that the company has always belonged to the Taib family. Sakti makes several key acknowledgements in its deposition to the Court, which are therefore incontestable. The company admits that Sakti was incorporated in California in 1987 and that it was initially managed by Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib. The documents state “The Defendants [Sakti International Corporation] admit that beginning September 10, 1987, Sakti’s designated Chief Executive Officer, Secretary and Chief Financial Officer was Mahmud Taib”.

Previous revelations in Sarawak Report have proved that Mahmud Taib, the eldest son of the Chief Minister, was also an original Director of Sakto in Canada, formed in 1983, along with his sister Jamilah and their uncle Onn Mahmud, the Chief Minister’s brother.

Court Admissions

San Francisco Court Deposition - Defendent Sakti International Corporation

The Sakti court deposition goes on to admit that Mahmud Taib, who is now a Director of CMS Sarawak, was later succeeded by his younger brother Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib as “sole officer and director of Sakti”. Sarawak Report has documents to show that he was also the sole officer of Wallyson’s (see below).

When Sakti was incorporated in 1987 Mahmud Taib was 27 years old and his brother Rahman Taib was just 20. However, the youthful brothers were supported in their roles by the involvement of other close family members. Two of the Chief Minister’s brothers (Mahmud Taib’s uncles) joined him as the original directors of the company. The deposition by Sakti says “[The] Defendants admit that the original members of Sakti’s Board of Directors were Onn Mahmud, Arip Mahmud and Mahmud Taib”.


Equally significantly Sakti admits that the shareholders of Sakti are all the Chief Minister’s own children or his brothers. The document deposited by Sakti International Corporation states ”the original shareholders of the company were Mahmud Taib, Onn Mahmud, Jamilah Taib, Arip Mahmud, and Rahman”. It goes on to confirm that “Mahmud Taib, Onn Mahmud, Jamilah Taib, Arip Mahmud and Rahaman are still shareholders of Sakti Holdings” (the company into which the shares have been moved).

Boss of the FBI Buildng - Rahman Taib

Sarawak Report can therefore categorically verify that Sakti in the US, like Sakto in Canada, was set up and originally managed exclusively by the Taib family, who provided the original US shareholder investments. The involvement of Sean Murray, the current Manager of Sakto and Sakti, began only after his marriage to Jamilah Taib and in fact he succeeded Rahman Taib as the Manager of Sakti only in 2006.

Sarawak Report therefore invites Mr Murray to declare whether he currently holds any shareholdings in the companies he directs, or if he is merely an employee of his wife’s family.

Sole Officer and Director Rahman Taib and his parents, the Chief Minister and Laila Taib

Sarawak Report also invites the Taib family to explain how between 1983 and 1987 they were able to invest millions of dollars in the setting up of two property companies in Canada and the US, whose combined portfolios are now worth at at least US$200,000,000. Of the original shareholders, Jamilah, Rahman and Mahmud (the children of Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud) were in their early twenties and at college at that time, while the other two shareholders, Arip and Onn, are the Chief Minister’s brothers. If the money was all coming from the two uncles, who are purported to be businessmen, then their generosity in including the Chief Minister’s children rather than their own in these shareholdings is surprising.

260 California Street, San Francisco - another Taib Office Tower

Time for some answers

Sarawak Report believes that the people of Sarawak deserve an immediate explanation of these facts from Chief Minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud. The Chief Minister should instantly reveal whether he holds or once held a stake in these companies in North America and if any of the money invested was provided by him. If Taib Mahmud is the beneficial owner of any of the shares in these companies the Sarawak taxpayer is entitled to know he obtained them. Malaysia’s law enforcers should be enquiring on their behalf.

Top tenant

The FBI should also be willing to issue a statement enlightening the public about the ownership of the building they occupy. As joint defendents in the California court case Wallyson’s and Sakti International admitted that the owner of Wallyson’s Incoporated is a company called Rodinmass, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands. It is inconceivable that the FBI did not check who the owners of Rodinmass were, given the sensitivity of this building. As the sole officer of Wallyson’s was Rahman Taib, Sarawak Report contends that the owners and shareholders of Rodinmass are, like with Sakti International, the Taib family. Our information is that Laila Taib was the majority shareholder of Rodinmass.

Taib’s wife, brothers and children are all linked to these North American companies. It is for Taib to now demonstrate that somehow he is not also linked as a beneficial owner of these lucrative properties. - Sarawak Report