Saturday, March 15, 2003

Chance for a Chant

Give peace a chance

Give peace a chant

Falling short of calling a liar

Hindsight 20-20. MCA deputy chief Lim Ah Lek said he was misled into proposing senatorship for Dr Ng Yen Yen in 1993. New Sunday Times, March 16 has this story:

"He (Ah Lek) said prior to making the recommendation, he had asked her if she was still an Australian permanent resident, to which she answered no. Then, there was talk about her having an Australian PR. After she told me that she had given up the PR, I recommended her (for the senatorship).

"Asked why she had said she had given up the PR, he said she was probably desperate in wanting the post. On whether he would have recommended her for the post if he had known she still had the PR, he said he would not.

"He added her senatorship was from the Pahang MCA's quota and her candidacy had to be endorsed by the State executive council and Legislative Assembly.

Ah Lek also talked of the patronage system in Malaysia and his latest dilemma:
"Recommending someone who holds a PR in a foreign country for a senatorship brings disrepute to the Senate, and in this case, also to the Pahang exco and to the Legislative Assembly.

"I am shocked to learn about what was reported... I need to clarify this as my reputation is at stake," said Lim, who is also the Pahang MCA chairman.

Not a thing of surprise, the People's Paper (The Star) concedes the scoop to NST today by making no mention of it. Shamsul Akmar made a brief, toothless mention of the topic in his Sunday column.

Controversy surrounding MCA leaders being a PR of another country is not new. In 1987, the Opposition exposed former vice-president Kok Wee Kiat being a Canadian PR before he gave it up and entered politics. Kok later became a International Trade and Industry deputy minister. He was instrumental in bringing Makro hypermarket chain into Malaysia.

Business, Family, Country... in that order

Reconstructing her haunted past. Continuing with my blog yesterday, this is what I understand from newspaper reports about a public embarassment - more to Chinese Malaysians, not Dr Ng Yen Yen - as to which country one would pledge allegiance and loyalty as one dispenses as she pleases.

The BFC Unchanged Melody (in exact order):
Business ( $ ) comes first.
Family comes second.
Country is just by accident.

Here's my reading:

  1. Ng teamed up with Soh Chee Wen, General (Rtd) Mohamed Ngah Said and two Australians to run stock-broking business via New South Wales-based company, Indo Pacific Securities Limited, from April 1992 through May 1995.

  2. Ng chose Tusmore, Adelaide, South Australia as her place of residence... living in Australia for approximately three years... and has undertaken substantial business activities concerned with the import of intellectual properties and commodities

  3. Ng was granted and admittedly held an Australian PR from 1990 through 1995.

  4. Ng obtained the PR status to facilitate her frequent travelling to Australia to look after her three sons who "were in their early formative years and studying there".

  5. Ng and her husband realised the need to be with their children as frequently as possible to "ensure the parental bonding within the family, as well as to ensure that they develop a strong value system and strength of character". This need stopped by 1995, coinciding with her severance of business ties in Indo Pacific Securities Limited.... (and possibly cutting ties with Soh).

  6. Ng took her oath of loyalty to King and country, and oath of office as a senator in August 1993, with her PR papers materially tugged in her safe custody.

Thanks Francisco Foo, former Malaysian now based in Melbourne, for your kind email on the subject. I would like you to know that I studied for my MBA at RMIT University, Melbourne.

The programme leader who supervised my final year on Strategic Management was Professor Harchand Singh Thandi, then a Malaysian holding an Australian PR by way of his daughter who has been granted an Australian citizenship. Harch resigned from the Education Ministry and left Malaysia because he did not agree with then education minister Anwar Ibrahim's governance policies. Harch is now Senior Lecturer and Supervisor for PhD Programmes at Swinburne University, Victoria.

I respect him as a good man, and cherish fond memories of having our durian feast by the roadside in Serdang one evening when he last visited me in 1999.

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Friday, March 14, 2003

Axis of Evils

EVILS' HANDSHAKE: Iraqi President Saddam Hussein greets Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy of President Ronald Reagan, in Baghdad on December 20, 1983.

View video clips using Windows Media Player:

- High Resolution (2.54MB)
- Low Resolution (734kb)

Thanks Pelanuk for the pointer to National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 82, edited by Joyce Battle, released February 25, 2003. Excerpts:

The National Security Archive at George Washington University today published on the Web a series of declassified U.S. documents detailing the U.S. embrace of Saddam Hussein in the early 1980's, including the renewal of diplomatic relations that had been suspended since 1967.

The documents show that during this period of renewed U.S. support for Saddam, he had invaded his neighbor (Iran), had long-range nuclear aspirations that would "probably" include "an eventual nuclear weapon capability," harbored known terrorists in Baghdad, abused the human rights of his citizens, and possessed and used chemical weapons on Iranians and his own people.

The U.S. response was to renew ties, to provide intelligence and aid to ensure Iraq would not be defeated by Iran, and to send a high-level presidential envoy named Donald Rumsfeld to shake hands with Saddam (20 December 1983, picture above).

The declassified documents posted today include the briefing materials and diplomatic reporting on two Rumsfeld trips to Baghdad, reports on Iraqi chemical weapons use concurrent with the Reagan administration's decision to support Iraq, and decision directives signed by President Reagan that reveal the specific U.S. priorities for the region: preserving access to oil, expanding U.S. ability to project military power in the region, and protecting local allies from internal and external threats.

In 1983, Rumsfeld was assured by the U.S. interests section that Iraq's leadership had been "extremely pleased" with the visit, and that "Tariq Aziz had gone out of his way to praise Rumsfeld as a person".

The same Rumsfeld is currently Secretary of Defence in George W. Bush's administration.

Allegiance and loyalty in question

Are you with us or not with us? This is a side-dish to intra-MCA squabbles.

I expect to hear debates aroused among fellow Malaysians on the notion of "Di mana bumi dipijak, di sana langit dijunjung". It applies on a serving deputy minister upon whom we shall momentarily treat as a Chinese Malaysian.

Obviously to assert he meant business, The Sun deputy editor R. Nadeswaran put his byline on a Page 2 story yesterday:

Deputy Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister Datuk Ng Yen Yen was a permanent resident of Australia when she took the oath of loyalty to King and country when she was appointed a senator more than nine years ago.

She was a director from April 1992 until she resigned in May 1995. Ng took her oath of office as a senator in August 1993, but nine months earlier she had declared herself as a permanent resident of Australia in documents filed with the Australian authorities.

In her resignation letter to the board of directors, she gave her full name as "Senator Dr Ng Yen Yen". The 1992 profile of the directors describe Ng as "a Malaysian qualified and registered medical practitioner".

"She has been living in Australia for approximately three years... and has undertaken substantial business activities concerned with the import of intellectual properties and commodities," the documents said.

Apparently, Ng had first refused comment when confronted by The Sun on Tuesday night. After the expose by The Sun, she had also refused to reveal when she gave up her permanent residency when contacted by Malaysiakini yesterday afternoon for comment on a set of documents obtained by the online newspaper. It is understood that the documents showed she was an Australia PR between 1992 and 1995.

She had merely admitted to holding the status in 1995, but denied that she still has it. However, she promised to give all the facts at a press conference "to be held soon". Hours later, Ng decided to release a press statement last night, as reported by Malaysiakini:
"Dr Ng Yen Yen today denied she is a permanent resident of Australia following accusations from a rival party leader which questioned her loyalty to the country. She, however admitted to holding the status between 1990 and 1995.

"Ng said she had obtained the status to facilitate her frequent travelling to Australia to look after her three sons who were in their early formative years and studying there.

"My husband and I realised the need to be with them as frequently as possible to ensure the parental bonding within the family, as well as to ensure that they develop a strong value system and strength of character. The PR status enabled me to achieve this (need to be there for them).

"She said she revoked her permanent residency in 1995, in her second year of senatorship, as she need not travel to Australia that frequently anymore. Thus, she said the question of her 'dual citizenship' does not hold anymore."

Documents obtained by malaysiakini differs little from the one revealed by The Sun, which indicated that Ng was an Australian resident director of a New South Wales-based company, Indo Pacific Securities Limited, beginning April 1992. The other directors of the stockbroking firm were two Malaysian residents, businessman Soh Chee Wen, former Air Force chief (retired) General Mohamed Ngah Said, and two Australian residents, Phillip Winter and Perter McCulloch. (The Australian Corporations Law requires all Australian public companies to have at least three directors, with at least two being Australian residents.)

In the documents, Ng described herself as a businesswoman with her Australian address in Tusmore, a suburb of Adelaide in South Australia.

Ling - Soh - Yen Yen Alliance. None of the reports in (The People's Paper) The Star and (All The News That Matters) New Straits Times mentioned about Ng's business ties with Soh. But for once, interesting things seem to pop out that will whet the appetite of those trying to piece together the complex web of relationships among present and former MCA leaders.
The Sun January 24: Transport Minister Dr Ling Liong Sik offered to procure the country's original survey maps as part of a business deal involving his former political protege, Soh Chee Wen. Austrian businessman, Franz Christoph Heldwein, 50, made this and other allegations in a police report he lodged against both Ling and Soh yesterday. The deal, he said, also involved Ling's son, Hee Leong.

New Straits Times March 14: MCA Youth head Ong Tee Keat said today he will not quit the party because he has not committed three wrongdoings which would justify him leaving the MCA. Earlier, Ling sent an ultimatum to Ong, challenging him to prove triad politics existed in MCA or get out. In an apparent reply to the ultimatum, Ong said he had decided to stay put as he had not committed the three offences:
  • He did not attempt to sell classified information to foreign businessmen for personal profit;

  • He has never been a permanent resident of a foreign country even before he was appointed deputy minister; and,

  • He did not have assets worth hundreds of millions of ringgit

So, first two of Ong's revelations have come to pass, and we are anxiously looking forward to know who the millionaire is. Meanwhile, the Ling - Soh dispute has yet to settle, and the Yen Yen - Soh business ties are being unearthed. The plot thickens.

Ng must be brought to task on a pertinent point that Nadeswaran raised: Was Ng's taking the oath of loyalty to King and country morally and legally valid when she had held an Australian PR at the material time as she was being sworn in as a Malaysian Senator?

Other developments in the MCA wayang:

And this one from Straits Times Singapore: Chair thrower to enforce discipline in MCA

We have not seen the last yet, have we?

Streamyx gone Screamyx under DoS attacks

MARCH 6, I suspected Streamyx DNS was intruded and cracked. TM Net didn't actually admit it, but it could be close.

After keeping mum over extended days of disruption to Streamyx broadband Internet service, TM Net finally called an emergency press conference yesterday after The Star In.Tech "ambushed" Energy, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Amar Leo Moggie at an official function by presenting him excerpts of its readers' complaints about Streamyx.

There were red faces among TM Net top guns who were there to witness the minister performing the groundbreaking ceremony for the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission's (MCMC) new building in Cyberjaya a day before. MCMC is the regulatory body that issues TM Net's ISP licence .

In-Tech compiled complaints from two readers, from Taman Seputeh (near Brickfields) and Shah Alam respectively, who spoke about the slow Streamyx service, the difficulty in getting through to Streamyx customer support at 1-300-88-9515, and the support staff's inability to provide sensible answers.

TM Net CEO Baharum Salleh disclosed that the problems were due to denial-of-service (DoS) attacks on its servers, which began around early March, and it has been the worst and the most frequent the ISP had experienced so far. The attacks caused congestion and the slow data rates experienced by Streamyx subscribers, as well as problems with authentication.

Baharum said the attacks seem to be coming from various local and overseas IP addresses, but TM Net believes the addresses it has identified are surrogate addresses used to disguise the identity of the actual culprit or culprits. But the network intruders had obviously picked Streamyx - the juiciest part of TM Net's Internet services as it uses a lot more hardware and software - its ISDN or dialup services was left untouched. Streamyx also relies on a digital subscriber line access module (DSLAM) and Telekom Malaysia's COINS network.

Were the DoS attacks politically motivated? Baharum would not speculate on it. Journalists were asking whether Malaysia's stand against the possible US attack on Iraq and the anti-war resolution adopted by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) meeting in Kuala Lumpur last month had provoked the crackers.

Will the users be compensated for service outages? "We apologise for the inconvenience caused by these attacks and we are considering customer's requests that we reimburse them for the drop in our service resulting from these attacks," Baharum said. Streamyx users were given a one-month rebate in their last November's bill for service disruption, which cost the ISP over RM1.5 million in revenue. This time round, the outages were much severe and prolonged.

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Thursday, March 13, 2003

MIMOS clean-up long overdue

IS THERE any provision in the corporatisation of Mimos Berhad, an ICT agency set up using taxpayers’ money, that allows it to mobilise idle funds to invest in foreign exchange through a corporate fund manager? Take this as an illustrative example of how much we walk the talk on corporate governance as Mimos hit the headlines for many wrong reasons in recent months.

Newspaper reports, including frontpage main headline in New Straits Times on March 13, said Mimos was allegedly paid RM50 million belonged to Tabung Haji’s trust account, to which the former was not entitled. The news items also revealed that Mimos had materially placed capital investment not less than RM113 million in Metrowangsa Asset Management Sdn Bhd which is now placed under an interim receiver.

The multi-million ringgit investment by Mimos in areas non-related to its core functions would have been kept under wraps if not for a court case involving economist Ghazali Atan (picture right) and Mohamed Abdul Wahab (picture left), another executive director, who managed Metrowangsa Asset Management.

They were charged with conspiring to withdraw the money to pay Mimos, and knowingly authorizing the submission of misleading statements to the Securities Commission. They both claimed trial to charges filed under Section 47C(5) of the Securities Industry Act 1983, read together with section 122C(c). If found guilty, they are punishable under Section 47C(9)(a), which carries a maximum fine of RM500,000. Besides, Mohamed also faced two additional charges under Section 122 (B)(b)(cc) of the act, which carries a maximum 10 years jail or RM30 million fine, or both, on conviction.

The alleged offence took place in May 2001. It took over two years to unearth, and it may take even more time to reach a judgment. While the jury is still out, we will have to let the case take its legal course. But, there is one pertinent issue about Mimos' corporate governance, jurisdiction and accountability that requires a tooth-comb scrutiny..

According to the published figures derived from the charge papers, for the period July 1 through December 30, 2000, Lembaga Tabung Haji’s capital investment managed by Metrowangsa totalled RM21 million, while Mimos’ investment amounted to RM113,298,279.64.

Additionally, for the period January 1 through June 30, 2001, Lembaga Tabung Haji’s capital investment in Metrowangsa amounted to RM176.52 million, while Mimos’ was recorded at RM54.5 million. We do not know whether this is a pared down figure or an incremental investment.

Reading from the information highlighted in the case against the Metrowangsa duo, we are faced with jarring holes in the practice of corporate governance in Mimos. They warrant some questions.

QUESTION 1: Based on the government’s General Order and written jurisprudence for a corporatised body, what was the quantum of taxpayers’ money that Mimos was legally allowed to move around without public scrutiny?

At the executive management level, according to informed experts, the CEO of Mimos, Tengku Dr Mohd Azzman Shariffadeen (picture), is empowered to authorize transactions not exceeding RM50,000. Any amount beyond this ceiling will need the approval of the board of directors. Going by the amounts Mimos placed in Metrowangsa from July 1, 2000 through June 30, 2001, which arithmetically added up to RM167.8 million, it implied that the decisions to invest through Metrowangsa could not have taken place without a proper passing of resolutions at the board level, and done in an above-board manner.

A check of the Mimos website revealed that its board of directors comprises the following people:

  1. Chairman Dato’ Dr Mohd Ariff Araff (Company Director of TNB Research Sdn Bhd.)

  2. Dr Tengku Mohd Azzman Shariffadeen (President and CEO of MIMOS Berhad)

  3. Dato' Leong Ah Hin (Secretary-General of the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment

  4. Tuan Haji Abdul Rahim Abdul Hamid (Deputy Executive Chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers)

  5. Larry Gan Nyap Liou @ Gan Nyap Liow (Management Consultant of Accenture Sdn. Bhd.)

  6. Mohammad Abdullah (Chairman of Malaysian National Reinsurance Berhad)

  7. Segarajah Ratnalingam a/l A. Segarajah (Deputy Secretary of the Treasury's Management Advisory Division)

  8. Khatijah Begom Shah Mohamed (Managing Director of SAP Malaysia Sdn Bhd.)

  9. Dato' Johar Murat @ Murad (Deputy Secretary-General (Operations) of the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment, serving as Alternate Director to Dato' Leong Ah Hin)

  10. Mohd Azmi @ Mohd Izam Mohamed Yazid (Senior Accountant of Coordination, Privatisation and Public Enterprise Division of the Ministry of Finance, serving as Alternate Director to Segarajah Ratnalingam a/l A. Segarajah)

Whereas, the executive management team at Mimos is made up of these luminaries in the local ICT community:
  1. Dr Tengku Mohd Azzman Shariffadeen (President and CEO)

  2. Dr Mohamed Awang Lah (CEO of JARING)

  3. Mohamad Rafee Yusoff (VP Business Ventures)

  4. Wan Mohd Salleh (VP Operations)

  5. Dr KJ John (VP Information Technology Policy Development)

  6. Raja Noor Ainin Badariah (VP Product Development)

  7. Razali bin Mahfar (VP Corporate Business Strategy / Research & Development)

  8. Mohd Nasruddin bin Johari (GM CRM Centre)

The chairman of the board, Dato’ Dr Mohd Ariff Araff, should clarify who among his team of people were effectively serving at the board when the decision to mobilize Mimos’ fund, read as taxpayers’ money held in trust, to place capital investment with a corporate fund manager was taken. The chief executive Tengku Dr Mohd Azzman Shariffadeen, who also sits in the board, must clarify who among his management team were involved in executing the board's decision to invest in Metrowangsa to the extent that the fund's performance went awry under their nose.

Here, we are talking about men and women of good reputation, so they should step forward and tell the public what was their business objective by authorising the said capital investment vis-à-vis the corporate jurisdiction under which Mimos was set up. Taxpayers' money burnt in a speculative capital market must be accounted for, every single sen and ringgit of it.

QUESTION 2: How long and how much has Mimos invested with Metrowangsa? Upon its pullout from the investment, which is now linked to the alleged remission of RM50 million belonged to Tabung Haji’s account and to which Mimos is not entitled, was there a net gain/net loss position for Mimos’ account books? If there was a net gain, has all the monies been fully recovered? If it was a net loss, how big was the damage?

Thus far, the board and the executive management of Mimos have yet to come forward to enlighten the public on the intrigue of the company’s investment through Metrowangsa. Neither have they denied newspaper reports about the issue, which are archived as follows:
April 11, 2002: The Sun reported on its front page that two senior Mimos officials were subject to a domestic inquiry following a disastrous RM20 million investment in Metrowangsa Asset Management Sdn Bhd.

The report said Mimos invested in Metrowangsa in 1999, and issued a notice of immediate withdrawal of the investment in March 2002 when it was told the investment has gone bad.

April 12, 2002: Mimos issued a press statement, which was carried on its website, and acknowledged that some excess operational funds had been placed with Metrowangsa. Mimos said it was putting efforts to withdraw and recover those investments.

However, Mimos did not specify the amount involved, or provide details of the exact nature of the operational funds that were invested.

June 10, 2002: The Star In-Tech quoted an article that appeared in the online edition of Malaysian Business (May 29), which used unnamed sources who claimed that as much as RM14mil from a government grant “placed under the stewardship of Mimos to jumpstart ICT projects and bridge the digital divide” was invested with Metrowangsa in 2000.

Though the 30-year-old magazine did not name the government grant, it is known that Mimos administers only one fund that fits the description given, namely the Demonstrator Application Grant Scheme (DAGS) which comes under the purview of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MOSTE).

QUESTION 3: Will the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Science, Technology and Environment stand up and provide a good answer to the investment debacle since their ministries are represented at the board level of Mimos?

Notably, these ministries have been silent on the issue at hand revolving around the governance of Mimos. It must be emphasised that the crux of Mimos' investment woes was the 'excess funds', i.e. funds that were not immediately needed for operational use. Could that have tempted the board of directors to authorise the investment of these 'excess funds' into Metrowangsa? In fact, there are many more random questions which remained submerged, for example:
  • How many of those involved directly and indirectly in making the investment decision have been called by the investigating agencies to help them in their findings?

  • What is the process of granting 'grants' to Mimos Bhd? Is that a contractual amount paid to Mimos to complete a certain project, and if so, can Mimos declare the deliverables for the 7th Malaysia plan which has ended?

  • What is the present total grant given to Mimos and for what purpose?

  • In closing the books on Mimos' investment in Metrowangsa, will the spent money be simply ignored? How does the Government treat this in its accounts?

  • How did Mimos treat this money in the past?

Meanwhile, the government has announced that Mimos will be streamlined into three components, where the Technology R&D division will be placed under MOSTE, the policy-development division under the Ministry of Energy, Telecommunications and Multimedia (MECM) and all revenue-generating business units reporting to the Ministry of Finance.

QUESTION 4: When will this decision be exercised? House-cleaning at Mimos is long overdue. All seem to agree, including the Government. But the speed of cleaning-up is regretably tardy. People are watching, and the last thing we want is for the knowledged taxpayers to say that it's all simply about rearranging the furniture on the Titanic.

Hence remains the main question: Shall we just give those Mimos directors and management team a gentle slap on their wrists for having served our country well?

I wish I could walk away without a blink. has been following this story since July last year.
July 4, 2002: McKinsey's recommendations to split MIMOS gain support
July 23: Readying for MIMOS Version 2.0

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Weapons of Mass Destruction.
... only they're Made-in-US

The Mother of all Bombs – how the US plans to pulverise Iraq. reports: A devastating new weapon will be part of the US’s massive assault on Iraq. Paul Rogers, openDemocracy’s international security correspondent, explains what it is, how it developed, and why its use is likely to destroy civilian lives in their thousands.

This US Defence Department picture shows the “Massive Ordnance Air Blast” (MOAB) bomb being prepared for testing at the Eglin Air Force Base in northwest Florida on Tuesday. The conventional MOAB, a satellite-guided bomb weighing 9,545kg, was dropped from a US Air Force C-130 cargo aircraft and exploded, sending a mushroom cloud billowing into the sky (pictures left).

Nicknamed the “mother of all bombs”, MOAB packs 40 per cent more power than America’s current most powerful non-nuclear bomb, the 6,750kg “Daisy Cutter”, which was used to pound the caves of Tora Bora in Afghanistan in late 2001, Eglin officials said.

Who produce these Made-in-US WMD?

One of the main contractors for the MOAB is reported to be the Dynetics Corporation, headquartered in Alabama but with plants in several other states. In one of the few photos of the MOAB so far published (top picture), Its Dynetics' name is shown on the tail section. However, the weapons section of the Dynetics website is currently blank.

A fuller description of the MOAB, including a photo of the bomb with ‘Dynetics’ displayed on it, is available on the StrategyPage website, published 6 March 2003.

* * *

War's near, war delayed. CNN reports: UN vote may be pushed back but Powell says US has option of walking away from Security Council. De Villepin hints at softening Iraq stance, saying Paris wants consensus.

Who screwed up Blair's case for war? BBC News says it was Blair's friends like Donald Rumsfeld. Columnist Nick Assinder says with one brief comment, Rumsfeld has managed to blow a series of massive holes in the prime minister's armour. "He undermined the prime minister's claims he is a major influence on President Bush."

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Bad press for police

ROUND UP THE USUAL SUSPECTS. That's a line uttered by Captain Louis Renault (played by Claude Rains) from classic movie Casablanca (1942) starring Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart. It was a hit at the box office.

Last Sunday, the Malaysian police brought along immigration officers to raid an apartment in Brickfields, KL's Little India, and picked up scores of IT professionals, mostly from the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Official version was "the police were doing their duty". They earned instant bad press across the world.

Diplomatic protests from the Indian government: read here, here, here, here and here.

International press coverage is here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Up-the-angst are here, here, here and here and here.

Denials are here, here and here.

Will it be "business as usual with Malaysia"? Read how Indian press responds. Straits Times Singapore says India may retaliate.

* * *

Triad politics. Ling sends ultimatum to Ong: Prove triad charge or get out.

Before this, Ong said this, this, this, this, this and this; Ling said this, that, this and that; their compatriots' voicebox is all here and here.

Police is investigating. Next, round up all usual suspects?

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The war is near

Tony Blair was firmly stating his case in the parliament as I blogged this. BBC World and CNN ran the session live. I saw camaraderie from both sides of the Speaker's bench amidst the intense debate.

Here are two questions about the war I received through the emails. I have no farting clues to the answers. Can anyone help?

"Party Whip'? No doubt NAM is not a political party, so cracking of party whip is a non-issue when it comes to voting. Since Malaysia, Non-Aligned Movement's (NAM) current Chair, has openly urged the six NAM countries who are non-permanent members of the UN Security Council to reject military action proposed by the US, Britain and Spain, how would the pendulum swing?

Money talks, even in war. Would Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Pakistan and Syria stand by France, Germany and Russia against war in Iraq, knowing full well the US is dangling out sweet carrots the way they did to Turkey? If they went into the US pocket, would it be seen as a tight slap on Malaysia's leadership?

Flip the coin. How would Malaysia vote if it were to sit at UN Security Council right now, being put in the same shoe as the NAM Six, eyeballs trailing the carrots?

War impact on airlines. Thanks to skw2wong who emailed and remarked on this blog and posed me Question 2: How big a hit will MAS be taking if war breaks out? He noticed MAS is already offering huge discounts and more flexible ticketing terms for foreign routes. He quoted wire sources which predict losses of up to US$10 billion for US airlines, with up to 70,000 job losses expected. In fact Australian Financial Review reported on looming bankcruptcies for US airlines when Iraq War erupts.

Transport Minister Dr Ling Liong Sik said Malaysia Airlines has contingency plans in place, e.g. rerouting or diverting of MAS flights, if the war breaks out.

The minister may have all the while been reading abridged version of economy casebooks. But for those who que sera sera and prefer sleeping on it, go pick up some goodies during the MATTA Fair this weekend.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

AK may/need not know this... Part 1

MALAYSIAN BUSINESS (Feb 16) says Tatparanandam Ananda Krishnan, whose wealth doubled to RM8.7 billion this year, has pipped Robert Kuok to become Malaysia's richest man. He trailed behind the sugar king and Genting's Lim Goh Tong last year. Ananda, known as AK to his close associates, has a business empire that cuts across entertainment, space, oil, shipping, telecommunications, property and gaming globally.

A media recluse, Ananda is remembered as the first Malaysian who bought a Falcon private jet. That was in 1995.

Veteran journalist A. Kadir Jasin says this about him:

"While some may consider Ananda’s rise to corporate prominence too fast or even objectionable, he is not a novice. He has been around for a long, long time, hobnobbing with the rich, the famous and the powerful in Malaysia and around the world.

"He is, to borrow from a movie title, an ‘international man of mystery’. At home, he has variously served on the boards of Bank Negara Malaysia and the national oil corporation Petronas - a fact observers attribute to his closeness to former Finance Minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

"But like most non-Malay businessmen, Ananda successfully steered clear of the political battle between Tengku Razaleigh and Dr Mahathir for the leadership of Umno in 1987.

"... While some observers say Ananda is playing the wait-and-see game in light of the ongoing power transition from Dr Mahathir to Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, others believe that with control of the media and telecommunications sector, his position is unshakeable."

Not known to the general public, two little-known companies controlled by Ananda - Zodan and Zudavi - were among six foreign companies awarded oil & gas exploration rights in Indonesiain 2001. September last year, he gained a foothold in oil & gas and shipping company, Bumi Armada Bhd, via his 49% stake in Objektif Bersatu Sdn Bhd through which he partnered up with businessman Wan Ariff Wan Hamzah. Ananda was said to have made his first million from global petrol deals. You may call that the making of an immense power broker.

Recently, he gained a tidy sum of RM1.2 billion by selling his 49% stake in KLCC Holdings, the company which built and once managed the Twin Towers.

How much value did Ananda create for this property? Kadir Jasin's sources say he paid RM110 million for the land that used to be Kuala Lumpur Turf Club and spent another RM300 million converting the site that houses KLCC and Petronas Twin Towers.

Ananda also bloated his coffers through several corporate exercises, with some of his companies going public last year, i.e. Maxis Communications Bhd via IPO, and Binariang Satellites Systems Sdn Bhd via a reverse takeover of Malaysian Tobacco Company Bhd.

Ananda owns 91% of Measat Broadcast Network Systems, through which we get our satellite TV, Astro. With a Malaysian subscriber base of 850,000. Astro is now valued at RM4 billion today. Through private investment vehicle, Usaha Tegas Sdn Bhd (Utes), Ananda has a 100% stake in Hong Kong-based Celestial Pictures Ltd, a company he bought from Shaw Brothers for RM292.6 million in 2000. Ananda is expected to launch MEASAT III geo-stationary satellite in 2006 at a cost of between RM760 million and RM950 million to increase his digital communications footprint.

It would be interesting to look at how Ananda managed to recruit the best minds to help execute and operate his business plans that placed him at the top of Rich and Famous list.

Industry sources confirmed that Maxis will have Singaporean Edward Ying onboard as its COO, ending a two-year search. Ying's last position was the chief operating adviser (COA) of Globe Telecom of the Philippines on secondment from SingTel.

I would like to see how Malaysian talents fare against Ananda's stable of imported professionals.

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Malaysian bloggers front-paged in In-Tech

BLOGGING: Vanity press or new age journalism? The Star In-Tech today devoted five pages to blogosphere, with two pages on the Malaysian bloggers, including a front-page feature on this blog, Screenshots.

The reasons why I spend so much time blogging are all explained here.

Perhaps due to the manner and tonality I blog, some may have mistaken that I am a full-time journalist.

Frankly, I love to be one but I am not. But I must confess l am close to idolising Bob Woodward, and I still do 25 years after.

I told Aizuddin Danian (Thanks for your kind email) that I earn my living as a business strategist for vertical industries which deploy IT solutions in their business operations. I use my spare time to write a fortnightly column for MALAYSIAN BUSINESS (i-Witness) since March 2001, fosussing on emerging technologies and applied knowledge economy. Was that the illusion and why I passed off as a full-time journalist?

Aizuddin told me there are thousands of people like him in Malaysia who use blogging as a form of expression (not necessarily "journalistic" in nature, but not necessarily exclusive of journalistic writing).

He said estimates by some "veteran bloggers" put the number of Malaysian-made, Malaysian-maintained blogs at roughly 2000+ and growing steadily. He also said a large number of these blogs are updated very regularly with content that is surprisingly very relevant to the Malaysian social nous, especially that of the younger, pre-adult and young adult generation.

Aizuddin certainly can attest to this as he runs a personal project to bring as many Malaysian blogs together under a single directory called the Great Malaysian Blog List (GMBL) He said:

"To date, there are more than 200 blogs registered in this directory and it grows at a rate of 2-3 new blogs a day. To my knowledge it is the only such existing directory of Malaysian blogs on the Internet (although "Malaysian blogrings" do exist, such mechanisms act as very poor directories).

Great work Aizuddin! I shall visit your directory and will be obliged to register my blog there.

I hope In-Tech's feature could trigger a surge of many blogs among Malaysians. What I am attempting is to create a community that could use the free blogging tools to create purposeful blogs for any niches. I hope many will rise beyond the "navel-gazing" way of blogging and participate actively as we transition into the Knowledge realm of economy. I hope many of you will join me and Oon Yeoh in this effort. Earlier, Oon was sharing with me another Malaysian blog directory under the name of which he happened to chance upon.

Blogging deserves a new meaning. I find blogging has undergone tremendous evolution patches in the US, Europe, and (English-speaking) Japan especially. I am not certain how it will mutate further, but I am convinced the evolution has discerned the personal dairies and cyber-ranting ala "Class of 1999 Bloggers" from purposeful journals that now help Communities of Practice like academics, researchers, and medical doctors (which I shall write later) in their productive work.

I also noticed some beautiful attempts were made successfully to automate dynamic blog directories that index blogs and their contents. Blogdex (an MIT project), Blogrolling and DayPop are good examples. I reckon many must have been impressed by some of their functionalities that collectively contribute towards the enlarging blogosphere.

I shared with Adam Abdullah that with always-on broadband at home and at work, I am able to surf and blog during most of the hours I am in front of my terminal. He was wondering why I had so much time to blog. May be I gestate and write fast.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Modernising monarchy

EXPENSIVE, TRIVILIASING ANACHRONISM? New Straits Times' editorial yesterday centred on the relevance of monarchy in the new millennium.

Some interesting facts: There are 25 monarchies in the world today: Ten in Europe, eight in Asia, four in the Middle East and Central Asia and three in Africa. Another interesting fact is that eight of the 15 European Union members - Internet's first world countries Sweden, Netherlands, UK noted - are still monarchies and show little sign of becoming republics.

The paper says Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, who was coronated as the ninth Sultan of Selangor Saturday, is "among the rare breed of royals whose humility and sense of duty personify a modern interpretation of a constitutional monarch's custodianship of tradition and continuity. Long before he wore the crown, he upheld the adage of the elderly that "the subjects of the Ruler are his children". Such good standing in the eyes of the public is vital to silence the frequent criticism of the monarchy as an expensive, trivialising anachronism," says the NST.

Quoting French thinker Denis Diderot's (1713 - 1784) declaration that "we shall not be truly free till the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest", the op-ed leader says our royals must imbibe the examples shown by Sultan Sharafuddin and others of his ilk to "remain more than historical curiosities. The monarchical spirit must be modernised, in word and deed, to ensure that its influence and powers survive unchanged."

That reminds me of the state of affairs at QEII and her royal family. This article, The Future Of The British Monarchy by Jason T. Williams, gives an insightful angle.

Also read: Selangor Sultan withdraws duo’s Datukship in my earlier blog.

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Chun Wai does get a second datukship

I MADE A MISTAKE. Contrary to my blog earlier today, The Star executive editor Datuk Wong Chun Wai was indeed conferred the Dato' Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah (DSIS) award, which carries the title Dato'. Chun Wai was among the 83 newly bestowed dignitaries in conjunction with the installation and coronation of the Sultan of Selangor Saturday. This is also Chun Wai's second datukship in two years.

I plead guilty for my ignorance. I should have read The Star beyond its In-Tech and Business sections.

Thanks Selva G. and Azman for pointing me to Chun Wai's second knighthood.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

The making of YB Datuk Wong Chun Wai?

THE MILLS say The Star executive editor Datuk Wong Chun Wai is being groomed to be a Yang Berbormat (YB) in the coming general election. Those who know him as a journalist traced his past as a rising star in the newsroom after the 1986 Operasi Lallang, through the years when Anwar Ibrahim was deemed the future PM, to his recent conferrment as a Datuk by the Melaka governor.

People noticed Chun Wai's background of having Penang as his home state, teritiary education at UKM (Selangor) and not having served his profession in Melaka. But those factors didn't deter him from getting knighted in Malaysia's historical state. Someone also pointed out that Kurnia Insurance founder Kua Sian Kooi, my countryman born and raised in Kedah, also received his datukship from Melaka.

When challenged on the authenticity of the grapevine news, some people pointed me to Chun Wai's column in Sunday Star, On The Beat, which they claimed has spin-doctored to salvage Selangor MB Dr Mohd Khir Toyo from a series of bad press. The latest of Chun Wai's opinion piece, in yesterday's Star, was full of friendly advice, alongside PC bouquets to the Selangor MB, they said. As the government head of Malaysia's most industrialised state, K-Toyo has been a serial headline-maker, rightly or wrongly, on trivialities like the banning of beer signboards and getting women to snitch on their husbands who patronise vice dens.

By making friendly overtures to K-Toyo, I do not think Chun Wai is looking forward to another datukship from Selangor, but it does make sense if he chose to contest under the MCA banner in Selangor, putting a pair of strong wings for state party chief Ong Ka Ting to fly. The next generation is one of Knowledge Community, and Chun Wai, with his stripes as a star scribe, will fit the bill very comfortably. If that happens, the press will have lost an illustrous pressman.

I remember The Star's former editor-in-chief H'ng Hung Yong became a short-timer as member of parliament during the reign of Lee San Choon in MCA.

(The acronym PC as used above, is read as Politically Correct, not the computer type)

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POLITICS OF TRIAD. A despatch from Bernama last night, front-paged by The Sun (which still does not have a web version), says MCA, the second largest Barisan Nasional (BN) component, has been influenced by the "politics of triad", quoting its Youth chief Datuk Ong Tee Keat.

Ong claimed that the spread of politics of triad was "quite substantial", with some such elements having secured places in the party and certain MCA leaders condoning it.

New Straits Times: Ong "claimed that certain party leaders are engaging members of triads or Chinese secret societies to use strong-arm tactics to instil fear and sabotage their rivals' plans."

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