Talkback

'Fake News' 2.0

The federal government has gazetted an ordinance supposedly to combat “fake news” relating to Covid-19 or the emergency proclamation but which in reality gives it sweeping powers with grave implications for press freedom.

The Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021 dated March 11, which takes effect tomorrow, stated that perpetrators who spread “fake news” in writing, videos, audio recordings or in any other forms that may convey “words or ideas” will face action.

The ordinance grants the courts powers to order the removal of a publication if it is determined to be “fake news”, failing which the court may order the police or an authorised officer to do so.

The ordinance also overrides the Evidence Act 1950 and gives the police the powers to arrest, enforce, investigate and inspect.

It also grants authorities access to computerised data as well as the preservation of website traffic data. It requires the disclosure of stored traffic data if requested.

Under the seizable offences section of the ordinance, any investigation under the law does not require a warrant.

The law also applies to any person regardless of their nationality or citizenship who spreads fake news outside the country.

The punishment would be a fine not exceeding RM100,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both and in the case of a continuing offence, a further fine not exceeding RM1,000 for each day the offence continues after conviction.

It is worth noting that the gazetted ordinance bears a resemblance to the Anti-Fake News Act which was passed by the BN government just before GE14 in 2018 and which was subsequently repealed by the Pakatan Harapan administration.

Our comment

There is no greater self-admission that the truth has become dangerous than when an authoritarian regime, which is what this  ’emergency’ minority government now is, imposes an arbitrary ‘Fake News’ law, together with harsh punishments against critics.

As matters became desperate for Najib back in 2015 as the facts emerged about 1MDB, the now convicted kleptocrat enacted an almost identical law (on which this one is based) and started arresting, harassing and generally intimidating the press and ordinary social media users to shut people up as the truth closed in.

Under legislation such as this (which has not even been passed through parliament but imposed under as bogus ‘Emergency Ordinance’ whilst the PM cavorts abroad) it will be up to the coup regime to decide what is ‘Fake” to punish critics.

The problem is that no-one will believe them. This gang of usurpers and defectors may terrorise the media in Malaysia, but they should should understand that in a global news environment the facts they want silenced will emerge elsewhere. Has no one learnt anything from 1MDB and Najib’s hopeless cover-ups?

So now, as before, Sarawak Report can expect to soon receive arrest warrants and extradition requests as an angry ‘Moo’, stamps his foot over our reporting of the facts. Will it be our questioning over 5G that sets him off? Or our reporting on his dodgy settlements over 1MDB, where he has sought to cash in on hard work by others to try and restore the finances destroyed by his former boss Najib?

If anything the corruption of PN is worse and more blatant even than that of the same bunch of brigands under BN – time is shorter for them to snatch their prizes after all.

We therefore challenge Moo to yet again make an example of SR – to file his charges and then bring his ‘fake news’ cases to the UK.

All the better to shine a much needed global spotlight on his dirty antics in Malaysia.

The PAS (Religious Party) Struggles To Understand Morality

PAS vice-president Mohd Amar Abdullah said the opposition practised a double standard when it came to political defections.

He said the opposition had no trouble with government MPs defecting, but were upset when it was the other way around.

“The problem with the opposition, if their people go and support the government, they get angry.

“But if someone from the government jumps to support them (the opposition), that’s okay. That’s the problem with them,” Amar (above) told reporters in Kota Bharu, Kelantan today.

Our comment

A party led by a man who thinks it is OK to lie admittedly lacks a moral compass, so let us help the bewildered PAS Vice President to answer his own question.

When a government or wealthy party abuses its powers to blackmail and bribe MPs to ditch their voters and hop parties in return for stolen and corruptly channelled public money this is immoral.

It is bad. Very haram.

If someone switches parties because they have a dispute this can also be criticised and there are political consequences, but it is not immoral or illegal in the same way as theft of public money and abuse of power.

We hope you see the difference, but corruption soon becomes a cancer that destroys the mind, so you probably cannot.

The Judges Judged

Malaysiakini has exceeded its RM500,000 fundraising target in under five hours.

The fundraiser was to help the news portal pay for a RM500,000 fine after the Federal Court found Malaysiakini liable for contemptuous comments by its readers.

Hence, the fundraising has been ended. All donations will be accounted for and Malaysiakini will be transparent.

Our comment

Malaysia’s judiciary have their highest officers to thank for laying them open to popular judgement in possibly the most exquisite piece of justice ever delivered – against themselves.

The judiciary pleaded not guilty. The public said rubbish.

Not without reason a huge number of people consider that the law is used as a political weapon in the country, based on experiences ranging from police harassment, all encompassing catch-all laws against dissent, vindictive prosecutions and, unfortunately, a slew of bizarre judgements over the years favouring establishment privileges against the public interest.

And that is before one considers the highly unfortunate but documented record of corruption, some of which has been referred to in a recent best seller by the former AG himself, Tommy Thomas.

Reputations are earned, not bludgeoned out of people. However, it appears that this lesson has not been learned by the very people who are supposed to sit in judgment on matters such as libel.

After all, when one of their own most senior figures a sitting Appeal Court judge, recently called for a Commission of Enquiry into judicial corruption how did they react? He has been censured and permanently suspended from his job for seeking to reassure the public that accountability exists where it most matters.

Anyone who suggests the law has been abused in Malaysia is attacked for contempt of court. Judges might not all be perfect, but they must be said to be perfect. It is an ideal shield to hide harassment of wider critics also.

No surprise therefore that within days of the new PN backdoor government taking power the newly appointed AG had ‘gone after’ one of the biggest threats to an illegitimate regime – namely the non-compliant independent media.

Malaysiakini is a leading light in that respect, hugely instrumental in the exposes that led to the fall of the previous corrupt BN government, which comprises the majority of PN.

So, by prosecuting Malaysiakini over readers’ comments that suggested a level of mistrust in certain elements of the judiciary in an unrelated article (anger had been provoked by cases such as the treatment of Justice Hamid) the entire country saw the move for what it was. A blatant act of intimidation with the purpose of silencing media critics.

The fact that the government law officer’s move was dealt with by the Federal Court like greased lightening for the swiftest possible judgement likewise resonated with every person in Malaysia.

After all, this is the most trivial and tenuous case. The alleged insult came from a comment that had slipped past the monitors at the paper and was immediately removed (after just 12 minutes) and apologised for when the news team were alerted.

This when major issues such as the appeal by the convicted gross kleptocrat  Najib Razak (who still sits in Parliament, were Parliament allowed to sit) are moving at a snails pace yet to be resolved.

No prizes for guessing therefore that the speed was indeed with a purpose to convict or that the ensuing punishment was blatantly designed to cripple one of the world’s most lauded, awarded and respected independent media operations. A rare jewel in a country that comes pitifully low in world media freedom indexes.

Contrast and compare. Individuals wrongly convicted and imprisoned under oppressive sedition laws have been compensated a mere RM1.00 by the Malaysian courts.

However, Malaysiakini, which had not originated the alleged insult and who had apologised and removed it once alerted to it, was fined RM500,000.00 – MORE than DOUBLE what even the prosecutors had dared asked for (a mere RM200,000).

Justice?

Were the judiciary pleased when the paper immediately announced that it would likely fold as a result?  Has the reputation of the Malaysian courts been strengthened and secured? Were politicians in the shadows likewise delighted at a lesson well delivered?

In which case they should have thought harder and longer before effectively inviting the people of Malaysia to pass their own judgement on the situation by imposing such a monstrous fine.

After all this regime has understood its popularity levels well enough to call a bogus State of Emergency for the very purpose of avoiding an election and the likely verdict that would bring.

Within FOUR HOURS of this attempt to murder media freedom the citizens of the country, at perhaps the most cash-strapped juncture in their modern history, had nonetheless dug deep into their pockets to meet the entire half million ringgit and more!

This is possibly amongst the swiftest  and largest responses ever achieved to support a cause and it clearly demonstrates two things. First, it shows the value that people place on their free media and on freedom of expression – a rebuke to repressive regimes everywhere (see the Human Rights Watch statement on the Malaysian court judgement and the BBC report).

And second, it shows the utter disdain in which the public plainly holds this judgement and by implication those who made it.

There is nothing the judiciary can do about this now. They invited the people to show their opinion and they did so – by putting hand in pocket to help out yet another victim of a system that has not earned the reputation it desires.

The people have spoken and Malaysiakini have ended by not paying a single ringgit after all.

Gambling OK, Parliament Banned Under Malay Unity Govt?

Resorts World Genting (RWG) in Genting Highlands reopened its doors this evening, with strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place.

“We are pleased to inform that RWG will resume operations at 6pm on Tuesday, Feb 16, 2021 with strict SOPs in place,” the company said in a statement.

However, the popular resort and casino said some of its hotels, facilities, attractions and other offerings will be subjected to revised operating hours, limited availability or temporary closure.

It added that guests could start making reservations starting today.

Our comment

It seems that PAS and their PN pals have revealed their practical priorities once more to be somewhat different to what they preach.

Not that one would accuse the preachers’ party of caring one fig for basic democratic rights, beyond the opportunity to claim fat salaries from public office.

As ASEAN neighbouring countries have united to express shock and condemnation at Malaysia’s unique ‘anti-Covid’ so-called emergency measure of suspending Parliament, the PN government has reacted by announcing that casinos can re-open but that it is too dangerous to allow the majority of MPs to do their democratic job.

Too dangerous for PN politicians that is, since they don’t have a majority and they want to keep earning their fat ministerial salaries – perhaps to play the tables?

So much for a Malay unity government to promote Muslim values.

Please Understand, Progress Demands Freedom Of Opinion

Dr Mahathir Mohamad has offered a rare hand to his perennial target Najib Razak, saying he would back the younger man if he took action over insinuations against his father Abdul Razak Hussein.

All three have been prime ministers of Malaysia.

Mahathir said he would “back” Najib if the latter took legal action over an implied claim in former attorney-general Tommy Thomas’ memoirs that Razak was behind the 1969 race riots.

In a Facebook post, Mahathir said Najib should sue Thomas for vilifying Razak, a well-respected Malay leader.

Our comment

Dr Mahathir is a scientist, so he really ought to understand that the successes of the modern world ultimately rely upon a civilised decision by educated folk not to fight over every disagreement.

That includes the abuse of the law as a weapon to brow beat your enemies and waste your own time and energy in the process.

Tommy Thomas has arrived at an opinion about the May riots and he has expressed it. The sensible and mature way to manage any disagreement one might have is to express your contrary opinion (in the same measured and polite tones that Mr Thomas himself used) and lay out what you believe are the facts to support your view that his analysis was wrong or unfair.

Setting up sacred cows of the past or present, which can never be questioned or criticised and for which every generation must show greater veneration than the last, until forced worship and deification ensues, is to the contrary a sure way to put a lid on progress and trap a society in a medieval darkness of the mind.

Fighting, hysteria and blind faith in the irrational soon follows.

Time and again, progressive societies have reviewed and revised prevailing opinions on history, science and the rest.  By such means, for example, the British have reconsidered many former heroes in the light of more progressive values or the discovery of matters previously unknown. The weaknesses are acknowledged together with the strengths. Why worship blindly?

Indeed, a refusal to accept the slightest criticism of past figures smacks of a present agenda by those seeking to profit by association. The path to constant progress on the other hand is a calm, open-minded thoughtfulness that remains humble in its conclusions (the proud never learn).

Quite apart from the above, you cannot libel the dead so Dr Mahathir had best get over it.

Not Stupid? So Not Even That Excuse Then!

In a flashback on his meeting with then president Donald Trump in 2017, former prime minister Najib Razak said his pledge to get the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) to invest in the US saw the opposition criticising him harshly.

However, he claims to have been vindicated now by the fairly high returns the fund has paid out as dividends in 2018 and 2019, with the rate for last year expected to equal the one declared by ASB at 4.45% or even higher.

“EPF has often reaped benefits by investing abroad and hence that is why it was able to ensure better returns for its members.

“When I was prime minister, I had pushed the EPF to invest in the US, which saw it making handsome returns.

Our comment

So Najib admits he is not stupid, confirming that he must have realised just like the rest of the world that 1MDB was a massive fraud.

Neither are the informed public stupid either. The informed public was criticising Najib for making an embarrassment of Malaysia by offering to ‘help’ the US economy and to buy a fleet of new Boeing jets Malaysia most certainly did not need.

Those orders were never made. If EPF subsequently made good investments in the US then that will have had little to do with Najib.

The ex-PM should reflect how unfortunate it is that the country’s own pension fund could not make similar profits investing in its own country which would have provided jobs as well as pensions…. but presumably his record as Finance Minister did not provide the necessary economic buoyancy to do so.

This deluded chap should focus on completing the writ against Tommy Thomas for allegedly accusing him of murdering Altantuya, which he had claimed would arrive last Monday.

No Action Against The Bribe Givers Themselves?

Isa was charged with nine counts of dishonestly receiving gratification for himself, in cash totalling RM3,090,000 from Ikhwan, who is a board member of Gegasan Abadi Properties Sdn Bhd, through one Muhammad Zahid Md Arip, as gratification for helping to approve the purchase of the Merdeka Palace Hotel & Suites (MPHS) by FIC for RM160mil.

All the offences were allegedly committed at Level 49, Menara Felda, Platinum Park, No. 11, Persiaran KLCC near here between July 21,2014, and Dec 11,2015.

All the charges were framed under Section 16a(A) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009, punishable under Section 24(1) of the same law, which provides for a jail term not exceeding 20 years and a fine of at least five times the bribe amount, RM10,000 or whichever is higher upon conviction.

Our comment

As they say, it takes two to tango. If someone gives a bribe they are every bit as guilty as the one who took it (in this case the crooked Isa Samad whose thefts from the smallholders of FELDA deserve to be punished by many more sentences such as this).

After all, the giver of the bribe will always have the greater incentive and if you quantify the level of theft, it is the giver who receives more and does most damage.

Take the example in this case. Isa Samad was prevailed by an RM3 million bribe, according to information in the case, to sign off a FELDA funded purchase of this Kuching Hotel for RM160 million – which is calculated to be double its actual worth.

So, who pocketed that RM80 million stolen from the pensions and shareholdings of FELDA workers? Well, that would be the shareholders and directors of the Merdeka Hotel Kuching would it not?

These happen to include Abang Abdillah Izzarim bin Abdul Rahman Zohari son of the chief minister of Sarawak, who clearly needed buttering up by the conspirators behind the deal.

He will doubtless say he had no idea that his bonanza windfall owed to theft, however among his fellow directors and shareholders are those who conspired to sign off the payments in return for bumping up the price.

The sellers of Merdeka Palace Hotel should be prosecuted also and each and every one forced to explain their conduct until those guilty parties are flushed out.

Meanwhile, and without question, Abdullah Izzarim should be required to return every penny of the profit he made to FELDA for what was at the very least a lousy job as a director in charge of making sure the company was honestly managed.

Honours Amongst Thieves?

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong has conferred titles upon 355 recipients in conjuction with this year’s Federal Territory Day, including Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin and Senior Education Minister Mohd Radzi Md Jidin.

Those conferred the first-rank include Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz, Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail, Penang Governor Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas, Sabah Governor Tun Juhar Mahiruddin, and Melaka Governor Tun Mohd Ali Mohd Rustam …..  Energy and Natural Resources Minister Datuk Shamsul Anuar Nasarah, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan, KL mayor Datuk Mahadi Che Ngah and former KL mayor Datuk Nor Hisham A. Dahlan….

Federal Territories Deputy Minister Datuk Seri Edmund Santhara Kumar, Health deputy director-general (Research and Technical Support) Dr Hishamshah Mohd Ibrahim, Health deputy director-general (Public Health) Datuk Dr Chong Chee Kheong, and Federal Territory Health director Dr Param Jeeth Singh Pakar Singh.

Our comment

Having helped themselves to state salaried positions and lavishly funded their own ‘NGOs’ from state coffers it is only natural that the Covid Coup brigade is now rewarding itself with ‘honours’.

No wonder they called a bogus State of Emergency to keep themselves in power that bit longer, as how could the likes of Zuraida cope with not being accorded a ‘Datin’ to the end of her days in subservient news reports?

Her qualities of grace and elegance are indeed made for a title that anyone of honour would spurn at once.

Other paragons of virtue thus ‘honoured’ include the thuggish blogger Papagomo and practically all the jumped up ministers and placemen packed into the federal and state governments by ‘PM8′ in order to keep in power a mixed crew of crooks and party hoppers who had been roundly rejected by the people in a fair election.

No wonder people of intellect, conscience and quality in Malaysia increasingly regard the offer of a ‘Datukship’ as an insult to be spurned.

Shock - As Pot Calls Kettle Black!

Azmin cites Anwar’s ‘immoral sexual practices’ in voters’ suit –

Gombak MP Azmin Ali, in his reply to a suit by voters alleging that he had breached his fiduciary to them, cited his loss of faith in PKR president Anwar Ibrahim as one of the reasons for his decision to leave PKR and join Bersatu.

Explaining his loss of faith in Anwar, Azmin cited among others, Anwar’s alleged sexual practices.

In a statement of defence filed through law firm Tetuan Zharid Nizamuddin, Azmin said he did not think Anwar was qualified to lead PKR nor become prime minister.

“The claim is supported by a number of strong allegation with regard to Anwar’s action and/or sexual practices that as a Muslim is immoral, particularly after he was freed (from prison) and returned as the PKR president,” the statement of defence read.

Our comment

There is a video involving two males which most Malaysians have been made unpleasantly aware of. A briefest glance would suggest that its authenticity is compelling, which police confirmed, although they chose to drop investigations into the matter on the grounds they were “unable to link the person in the video with the alleged individual”.

As everyone knows, following his own questioning by police and widespread reports, the ‘alleged individual’ is Azmin Ali.  Yet he has sued no one for saying so, most specifically the other star actor (his former assistant) who released it and accused him of being the other party.

Now the same Azmin is accusing his former boss Anwar over a separate alleged act of misconduct towards another junior employee, for which there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever, save for the testimony of the accuser a year after the supposed event. The police likewise dropped their subsequent enquiries, given the zero evidence of the (far lesser) alleged offence.

Meanwhile, a separate accuser has filed a police report naming a known UMNO figure with a track record in staging fake confessions as having promised to pay him for making similar allegations against Anwar.

Azmin now wishes to use these allegations against Anwar as his excuse for failing to honour a signed pledge not to abandon his party on pain of a RM10 million penalty.  He says he betrayed PH and his constituents out of disgust owing to those unsubstantiated and non-prosecutable claims against his party boss.

Is not the more believable scenario that Azmin was finished as far as his own leadership ambitions in PH were concerned, for the very reasons he holds against Anwar – that owing to scandal he had become unqualified to lead – and therefore chose the mercenary way out by trading with the opposition to snatch power?

Because, had Azmin’s motives in abandoning his voters really been shock and horror over the allegations facing Anwar, would it not have been more honourable to a) resign in protest and b) sue the young man who claimed he was his own sex partner in an ‘immoral’ video?

David Soloman's $10 Million Haircut

Goldman Sachs’ chief executive David Solomon will get a $10m (£7.3m) pay cut for the bank’s involvement in the 1MDB corruption scandal.

1MDB was an investment fund set up by the Malaysian government that lost billions due to fraudulent activity.

The global web of fraud and corruption led to a 12-year jail term for Malaysia’s ex-prime minister Najib Razak which he is appealing.

Goldman Sachs called its involvement in the scandal an “institutional failure”.

Goldman Sachs helped raise $6.5bn for 1MDB by selling bonds to investors, the proceeds of which were largely stolen.

Prosecutors alleged that senior Goldman executives ignored warning signs of fraud in their dealings with 1MDB and Jho Low, an adviser to the fund. Two Goldman bankers have been criminally charged in the scandal.

Mr Solomon’s pay would have been $10m higher but for the actions its board of directors took in response to the 1MDB saga, Goldman Sachs said on Tuesday.

While disclosing his salary had dropped to $17.5m for 2020, the bank stressed that Mr Solomon was unaware of the corruption…

Mr Solomon’s package consists of $2m in cash base pay, a $4.65m cash bonus, and $10.85m in stock-based compensation…

Despite the costs and fines from the fallout from the 1MDB scandal, 2020 was a bumper year for Goldman’s businesses with annual revenue of $44.6bn, its highest since 2009.

The US-based bank got a huge boost from the recovery in global stock markets from the depths of the coronavirus recession.

 

Our comment

If Mr Solomon had been a poor thief snatching a bag of rice for his family in KL he would have received several lashings and time in jail.

He and everyone else knows that the top ranks of Goldman Sachs were perfectly aware that all was not well over the dirty deal to steal billions from the people of Malaysia – he may or may not have left the sordid details to his very senior underlings Tim Liesnner and Roger Ng, but the whole gang (including him) pocketed the mega-bonuses out of the ludicrous ‘turn a blind eye’ fees, which was what mattered.

Were this matter to go to court he would be judged no less guilty than Najib Razak in terms of trying to push the blame onto those beneath him. Ask the Asia boss, who protested the deals, was pushed aside and left the bank. Ask the shareholders, who have a detailed action against the bank for tanking stocks and who name David Solomon personally in their suit.

Goldman Sachs has done brilliantly off the Trump/Coronavirus seesaw games of 2020 and a mere $10 million dollar pay cut is of no import. Nor is the paltry settlement secretly passed to Malaysia under cover of non-disclosure agreements (which Goldman formerly pledged not to apply).

Mr David Solomon is a crook in charge of a powerful bank, together with a band of fellow crooks, which makes this institution a dangerous liability the world over.  Any poor country that sees these suits arriving to discuss ‘opportunities’ with their dodgy political leaders should raise the alarm in fear – they are out to fleece the poorest of the globe (in between regular worship and charity donations doubtless)