Global-geo-political changes and impact on trade and shipping in Asia



 ON 24 JUNE 2008


Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen;


1.        Firstly may I thank the organisers for this invitation to speak on “Global Geo-Political Changes and the Impact on Trade and Shipping in Asia”. Perhaps I should begin with a short review of the history of shipping.

2.        Since the days of the Phoenician traders, the fate of the Mediterranean countries affected shipping in the Mediterranean Sea.

3.        When the Europeans finally found their way to the East, their ships began to appear in Asian ports.  Unlike Asians, the Europeans came in armed merchantman.  Soon they were fighting each other as they began to seize the lands of their trading partners to ensure monopoly of supply of Eastern spices.

4.        The English took to tea drinking and they built fast clippers to carry tea from China and later to carry opium to China.  That lead to the Opium Wars and the seizure of Chinese ports.

5.        Over the centuries, the Europeans came to dominate Asian seas as they try to protect their shipping and trade.

6.        Great ports grew in the littoral Asian states.  Penang, Singapore, Manila, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kobe and Tokyo grew and prospered as trade, particularly the export of Asian spices and industrial products grew.

7.        In the meantime the colonies of the European nations had been developed to produce raw material such as minerals and rubber for European industries.  Trade pattern and shipping changed to reflect the European conquest of Asia and their need for raw material for their industries and the export of the industrial products.

8.        Japan industrialised after the European model and Japanese policy of importing raw material to process and add value for re-export saw the emergence of great Japanese shipping companies  dominating the Eastern seas.

9.        The Europeans saw a need to curb Japan and after Japan joined Germany and Italy, it was subjected to sanctions and curbs of its oil imports.  This lead to the Pacific War which ended in Japan’s defeat.

10.      But Japan rebuilt its industries quickly and began exporting good quality manufactured goods even more.  To fuel Japanese industries oil was needed.

11.      Again shipping and trade patterns changed as huge tankers were built to transport crude oil to Japan.  The tankers grew in size and number and there was talk of million ton tankers.  Danger of  pollution by oil spills grew as these behemoths pass each other along narrow straits.

12.      Following Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China grew and adopted the Japanese strategy of importing raw materials, processing and adding value and exporting the products.

13.      Southeast Asian countries followed suit.  Then India decided to get into the act.  Asia was converting into a huge powerhouse of industry and trade.  Shipping grew at a faster rate, especially after containers and container shipping grew.  With the coming of air travel, passenger shipping almost disappeared, to be replaced partly by cruise ships.

14.      Geopolitical factors continued to influence trade and shipping in Asia and the world.

15.      For a long time, Communist China was reclusive, refusing to have much to do with the rest of the world.  Then Deng Siaw Peng changed the whole concept of Communism.  Keeping its centralised authority he allowed a modified version of the market economy to function.

16.      Within a very short time this sleeping giant woke up to become the worlds manufacturing centre.  Huge ports were built, ships of all kinds were launched and trade grew by leaps and bounds.  The growth of the GDP was phenomenal and seems unstoppable.

17.      Hard on the heels of China came India.  The demand for ships grew and port-cities propered.  World trade increased tremendously creating demands for more ships and new trade routes.

18.      Malaysia had been a trading centre for 1800 years, beginning with the export of jungle produce in exchange for the products of China, Japan, India and the Arabian peninsular.  Its ports provided shelter and victualing facilities for ships sailing East and West.

19.      Various Malayan ports prospered when they became collecting centres for the products of the Malay Archipelago for re-export to Asia and Europe.  The greatest port was Malacca, founded in the 13th century.

20.      Ships from Arabia, India, China and Japan stopped in Malacca to wait for the monsoon winds.  In Malacca they exchanged their lacquer ware, silver and bronze products, perfume, silk etc for spices and minerals such as tin.  Some traders stayed longer or permanently and Malacca grew and prospered.

21.      But in 1909 the Portuguese arrived and two years later they conquered Malacca.  Thus began the colonisation of the Malay Peninsular.

22.      Between the Peninsular and Sumatra lies the Straits of Malacca.  Ships sailing East and West found the Straits to be the shortest and the most convenient.  I don’t know who officially designated it as an international waterway.  But it has been so regarded for centuries now.  I don’t think the Malay Rulers of the Peninsular states made any formal declaration that the Straits was an international waterway.  Nor have they ever protested.  Nor is the Malaysian Government going to protest.

23.      But the character of shipping passing through the Straits have changed.  Ships now carry dangerous cargo including oil.  These ships are so big that their keels may be just one or two metres above the sea bed in several places along the Straits.  Their numbers have also increased tremendously and as they pass each other there is grave danger of collisions.

24.      Ships often rid themselves of sludge in the Straits.  Should they collide, the oil tankers in particular could pollute the whole narrow strait and the shores of peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra.  The oil and tar would damage the beaches, kill fish and birds on the shores and affect the livelihood of fishermen.

25.      Malaysia and Indonesia are not entitled to collect any fees for passage through the Straits.  But both countries have to maintain costly equipment and men to deal with pollution of the Straits as well as piracy and maintenance of navigational aids.  Of course with the advent of the GPS light-houses many no longer be needed.  But they still have to be mantained.


26.      Passage via the Straits saves millions of dollars through the short cut that it offers.  But is it fair that Malaysia and Indonesia should be burdened with overseeing shipping and dealing with pollution in the strait when the beneficiaries are the shipping companies.

27.      The argument is that the straits is not a man-made waterway.  It was fine in the “good old days” of sailing ships.  But as I said, the kind of ships using the Straits are very different now and pose real danger to the littoral states.  It is time that ancient concepts be reviewed and replaced with new ones to deal with realities of the time.  After all territorial waters was just three miles when guns had only a short range, and when more powerful guns were invented the powerful countries claim their territorial waters extended to twelve miles off shore.  So why cannot we change the concept of international waterways which are not man made.  We cannot wait for an Exxon Valdez to happen and pollute the whole straits before we rethink our concepts.

28.      Global geo-political changes will continue to impact on trade and shipping.  Everyone says that the future belongs to Asia.  I am inclined to agree.  Attempts will be made by the current world powers to prevent this from happening.  But this will be dangerous and futile.

29.      It would be far better for the world to accept and to adjust to the ascendency of Asia.  But Asia too must not be too eager to flex its muscles.  If we are going to claim that we are civilised we should give up the idea of using force to resolve disputes between nations.  Killing people so you can advance your national agenda is primitive and unworthy of our claim to being civilised.  If we can ban wars then this will be the biggest single Geo-Political decision which will increase world trade and the associated shipping industry. 

Thank you.


Published in: on June 24, 2008 at 19:49  Comments (9)  

MP BN mengundi usul kenaikan harga tanpa keikhlasan

Semalam, Dewan Rakyat telah mengundi Usul Penstrukturan Harga Minyak dan Kenaikan Harga Barangan yang dibawa oleh Menteri Perdagangan Dalam Negeri dan Penguna Dato’ Shahrir Samad. Pembangkang, yang cuba menghalang usul ini dibentangkan, gagal berbuat demikian.

Utusan Malaysia melaporkan:

Pembangkang gagal – Usul subsidi minyak dibawa kerajaan lulus dengan majoriti undi


KUALA LUMPUR 23 Jun – Cubaan pakatan pembangkang untuk menolak usul penstrukturan semula subsidi minyak dan isu kenaikan harga barang yang dibentangkan kerajaan di Dewan Rakyat hari ini tidak berjaya apabila keputusan undian belah bahagi memihak kepada kerajaan.

Usul tersebut disokong oleh 129 Ahli Parlimen Barisan Nasional (BN) manakala 78 undi menolak usul yang dikemukakan oleh Menteri Perdagangan Dalam Negeri dan Hal Ehwal Pengguna, Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad.

Dewan Rakyat mempunyai 222 kerusi dengan BN mempunyai 140 Ahli Parlimen dan pembangkang dianggotai 82 wakil.

Ini merupakan kali kedua pembangkang memilih kaedah undian belah bahagi selepas berbuat demikian ketika undian meluluskan Rang Undang-undang Perbekalan 2008 pada 28 Mei lalu, yang juga memihak kepada kerajaan sebanyak 92 berbanding 60 undi menentang.

Usul itu antara lain menjelaskan secara terperinci penstrukturan semula subsidi minyak iaitu strategi yang boleh mengelakkan negara daripada terjejas ekoran kenaikan harga minyak di pasaran dunia dan tidak meletakkan Malaysia dalam kemelesetan ekonomi.

Ia juga menghuraikan penjimatan hasil penstrukturan semula subsidi minyak yang disalurkan kepada golongan miskin serta kumpulan berpendapatan rendah dan sederhana.

Ketika membentangkannya, Shahrir turut menggariskan peranan Petronas dalam pembangunan negara dengan pendapatannya digunakan untuk aktiviti-aktiviti ekonomi.

Kesemua 129 Ahli Parlimen BN yang menghadiri mesyuarat kedua penggal pertama Parlimen ke-12 itu menyokong usul tersebut termasuk Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi dan Timbalan Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Usul itu dibahaskan selama tujuh jam dari pukul 12.30 tengah hari oleh seramai 18 wakil rakyat iaitu sembilan daripada BN dan sembilan wakil pembangkang, antaranya Ketua Pembangkang, Datin Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

Sebanyak 11 Ahli Parlimen BN tidak hadir semasa pengundian termasuk dua Ahli Parlimen Parti Maju Sabah (SAPP), Datuk Dr. Chua Soon Bui (BN-Tawau) dan Datuk Eric Enchin Majimbun (BN-Sepanggar) yang disebut-sebut minggu lalu akan mengemukakan usul undi tidak percaya terhadap Abdullah.

Ahli Parlimen BN lain yang tidak hadir semasa pengundian usul kerana urusan rasmi ialah Menteri Luar, Datuk Seri Rais Yatim (BN-Jelebu), Menteri Wilayah Persekutuan, Datuk Seri Zulhasnan Rafique (BN-Setiawangsa) dan Menteri di Jabatan Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (BN-Bagan Datoh).

Turut tidak hadir ialah Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz (BN-Kuala Kangsar), Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad (BN-Kangar), Datuk Seri Tengku Azlan Sultan Abu Bakar (BN-Jerantut), Datuk Tiong Thai King (BN-Lanang), Datuk Dr. James Dawos Mamit (BN-Mambong) dan Raimi Unggi (BN-Tenom).

Empat Ahli Parlimen pembangkang yang tidak hadir pula ialah Gobind Singh Deo (DAP- Puchong), Chow Kon Yeow (DAP-Tanjung) dan Nurul Izzah Anwar (PKR-Lembah Pantai).

Usul itu pada mulanya dipersetujui diputuskan melalui undi persetujuan suara semasa sidang dipengerusikan oleh Timbalan Yang Dipertua, Ronald Kiandee.

Bagaimanapun, ia terpaksa dimuktamadkan dengan pengundian belah bahagi oleh Yang Dipertua Dewan Rakyat, Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia selepas Ahli Parlimen pembangkang membuat bantahan.

Bantahan itu menyebabkan dewan menjadi gamat seketika apabila wakil daripada kedua-dua belah pihak saling mempertahankan keputusan masing-masing.

Datuk Mohamad Aziz (BN-Sri Gading) berhujah bahawa keputusan Ronald itu telah dibuat dan ia adalah muktamad.

Ahli Parlimen pembangkang, bagaimanapun, bertegas mahukan pengundian dijalankan melalui belah bahagi berdasarkan kepada Peraturan Mesyuarat Perkara 44 (3).

Ketua Whip PKR, Mohamed Azmin Ali (PKR-Gombak) yang bangun membantah keputusan Ronald menegaskan, Ahli Parlimen DAP-Ipoh Barat, M. Kulasegaran telah bangun lebih awal untuk meminta pengundian dijalankan secara belah bahagi.

Kulasegaran mendakwa ada Ahli Parlimen BN yang akan menolak usul itu dan mencadangkan agar sistem pengundian di Dewan Rakyat diubah bagi melindungi mereka yang bercadang menolak mana-mana usul kerajaan.

Dewan kecoh seketika dengan pertikaman lidah antara penyokong kerajaan dan Ahli Parlimen pembangkang itu, mendorong Pandikar Amin memutuskan supaya pengundian dijalankan secara belah bahagi.

Terdahulu, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw (DAP-Kepong) ketika membahaskan usul tersebut menyarankan kerajaan mengkaji perolehan syarikat minyak negara, Petronas, agar ia dapat digunakan bagi membantu mengurangkan bebanan rakyat.

Katanya, kenaikan harga minyak dan barangan lain amat membebankan rakyat dan beliau percaya peningkatan itu lebih tinggi daripada gambaran inflasi 2.9 peratus yang dinyatakan kerajaan.

Halimah Sadique (BN-Tenggara) pula mencadangkan agar kerajaan menyediakan satu akaun khas bagi menyatakan penjimatan yang diperoleh daripada penstrukturan semula subsidi harga minyak.


Usul yang diluluskan 129 undi menyokong dan 78 undi menentang ini diadakan secarakan undi terbuka, melalui sistem pengundian blok. Usul ini dilihat sebagai ‘pengesahan’ kepada kepada kenaikan harga yang diumumkan secara mendadak oleh PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi hampr tiga minggu lepas. Kenaikan harga minyak secara mendadak ini diberitakan tidak dibincangkan dalam Kabinet terlebih dahulu dan diputuskan dalam perbincangan antara Menteri Kewangan Kedua Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yackop, Menteri Pertanian dan Industri Asas Tani Dato’ Mustapha Mohamad dan Menteri diJabatan Perdana Menteri Dato’ Amirsham A. Aziz yang pada asnya tertumpu kepada perbincangan cadangan menarik subsidi keatas gas asli untuk pembekal tenaga bebas (IPP).

Hari ini, ramai MP BN menyuarakan ketidak puasan hati dengan cara pengundian usul ini. Dalam pertemuan tertutup sesama antara mereka (Kelab Penyokong BN – BN BBC) di Parlimen, mereka meluahkan perasaan bahawa sebenarnya ada antara mereka yang tidak bersetuju dengan usul ini, yang dianggap sebenarnya membebankan rakyat. Malangnya, mereka ‘terpaksa’ akur dengan ketetapan parti dan kemudian akan berdepan dengan rakyat dikawasan masing masing dan mempertahankan usul yang mereka sendiri tidak bersetuju.

Sistem whip yang diamalkan tidak membenarkan MP meluahkan perasaan sebenar rakyat yang mereka wakili tetapi sebaliknya mengundi usul yang ditetapkan oleh parti. Dikhabarkan BN BBC cuba mendapatkan pertemuan seberapa segera dengan Timbalan Perdana Menteri Dato’ Seri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak, selaku Ketua Whip Dewan Rakyat mengenai ini.

Dilemma MP BN yang cenderung untuk bangkit bersama sama tidak menyokong usul ini ialah Pembangkang mengunakan sepenuhnya peluang mempolitik dan polemikan isu Kenaikan Harga Barang ini dengan perkataan seperti “Menganiaya rakyat”. Ini sebenarnya lebih menghalang MP BN untuk bersama sama mereka dalam menentukan usul ini tidak diluluskan. Sepatutnya Pembangkang mengambil kedudukan non partisan dan mengutarakan hujah hujah menentang usul ini dari perspektif objektif rakyat , bagi mencari penyelesaian dan bukan mencari mileage demi kepentingan politik mereka semata mata.

Dalam pada itu, tiada siapa yang mengaku, termasuk Menteri DiJabatan Perdana Menteri Dato’ Seri Mohd. Nazri Aziz, yang juga Menteri yang bertanggung jawab hal ehwal Parlimen, mengeluarkan arahan melarang pemberita berkeliaran sekitar lobi Parlimen sehinggakan dikhabarkan bahawa pemberita bercadang untuk memboikot Parlimen. Cadangan ini tidak disenangi MP, samada BN ataupun Pembangkang. MP Kinabatangan  Dato’ Bung Radin Mokhtar telah membuat pengumuman bahawa pemberita dibenarkan masuk ke kawasan lobi dan penghadang diangkat. Pemberita selepas itu kelihatan di Parlimen untuk membuat liputan, termasuk media alternatif.

Published in: on June 24, 2008 at 17:07  Comments (3)  

PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Abdullah the “angel of death” for Barisan Nasional

If Abdullah Badawi Continues … The Barisan Nasional Does Not Deserve to Rule



By Matthias Chang

Future FastForward, Sunday, 22 June 2008 06:04

Giving Up Hope On Barisan Nasional

No one is perfect.

No organization is perfect.

But the Barisan Nasional under the leadership of the former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had direction and a powerful vision. There was an urgency to get things done and more importantly, the realization that we must anticipate events and plan ahead.

Thinking and planning requires discipline and hard work and the ability to see the big picture.

These skills cannot be acquired overnight. Fortunately for Malaysia, in the last twenty two years, we had the benefit of a “thinking leader” who motivated his Cabinet colleagues to do likewise in some measure.

Many a times, when someone asked me for my view of Mahathir’s Cabinet, my response and explanation was that, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was the sun and the Cabinet, the moon. The moon’s glow is the reflected shine of the sun. Hence, the ministers were perceived to have been effective.

Sadly, today, we are experiencing a total eclipse!

There is no shine coming from the Prime Minister, Abdullah Badawi and as such how can we expect any reflected glow in the Cabinet?

This is in essence, the problem of the Barisan Nasional.

If you take the view that I am too harsh on the national leaders, please ask the following simple questions:

1)  Name me a leader, who in your view is a thinker.
2)  Name me a leader, who in your view has full command of the issues, challenges and future direction of his/her ministry at his/her fingertips?

Rebranding of Barisan Nasional

Soon after the General Elections debacle, the component parties of the Barisan Nasional took pains to tell the electorate that they have realized their mistakes and would turn a new leaf.

They would even rebrand to meet the expectations of the people.

A hundred days have gone by and I see the same old status quo:

1)  A tired and listless Abdullah Badawi, hanging on to an impotent and fearful UMNO;
2)  A tired and befuddled Ong Ka Ting and a humiliated MCA;
3)  A tired and devastated Koh Tsu Koon and a floundering Gerakan;
4)  A tired and irrelevant Samy Vellu and a hopeless MIC; and
5)  Tired and frustrated “second cousins” of the Barisan Nasional from Sarawak and Sabah.

Self-interest and the “cari makan” attitude prevail!

National interest is on the back burner. To survive and enjoy the perks of office is paramount. There is the endless spin by Badawi’s spin doctors about serving the people, but no one is walking the talk!


The Rubbish About “Core Values”

The flavour of the month and justification for inaction is that one must uphold certain “core values” such as “I am a party man” and “loyalty to party takes priority”.

One would have thought that a political party is but a vehicle to serve the people and the nation, so that if a party fails to live up to the people’s expectations, it must reform and renew.

And if its leadership have, through corruption and utter irresponsibility, brought about a state of affairs that is endangering the viability and social stability of the state, one would have thought that a member’s paramount duty is to remove such malignant leadership.

But the Barisan Nasional is in a state of denial.  They are content with a torchlight running on low batteries when the nation is demanding full sunshine!

I have therefore come to the sad and painful conclusion that the Barisan Nasional is not fit to lead and rule our country.

The Future of Malaysia

The future of Malaysia cannot be left solely in the hands of UMNO, the backbone of the Barisan Nasional. Since March 2008, UMNO has failed to provide the leadership expected of them as the “backbone” of the Barisan Nasional.

The members, by their cowardice, have allowed the political cancer to spread throughout the body politic.

The component parties are equally guilty in the present state of affairs and by their inaction have abandoned their responsibilities as component members of the ruling alliance.

Given the above scenario, and the urgency of the challenges faced by the country, the entire nation must now come together to effect massive change and remove the cancer that has afflicted our country.


Events As Forecasted

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to spend two hours with a friend from the U.K. who was on a visit to Malaysia. He remarked that all the issues that I wrote and forecasted in my e-mails to him and others since 2007 have been spot on. He added that when he first read the numerous e-mails in the comfort of his home and in the cosy environment of “Mother England”, the analyses were too dire to be true.

The recent announcements by the Bank of International Settlements (the Central Bank of all central banks) that the threat of a great depression is upon us and the alarm by the Royal Bank of Scotland that the global financial meltdown will intensify to phase two within the next 90 days was a wake up call to him.

There is now an on-going currency war.

The Daily Telegraph of U.K. reported that Morgan Stanley has warned of a “catastrophic event” as the European Central Bank (ECB) fights the Federal Reserve.

Another leading financial journal warned that Asia will suffer a double whammy – inflation and export collapse! The recent petrol price hike is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Barisan Nasional government is in a state of paralysis, totally devoid of any ideas as to how to prepare and confront the impending crisis which will turn extremely acute in the second half of 2008 and spilling over to 2009. They are just too busy dividing the plundered loot than to care for the ordinary people.

Replacing Badawi

Any leader that replaces Badawi cannot do worse, but there is a good probability that he can do better.

Recall the time when Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad indicated his intention to retire. The trillion dollar question then was who can replace Mahathir?  No one gave Badawi a thought. Yet, when he was appointed as the Deputy Prime Minister, the aura of the office gave him the legitimacy and the people were willing to afford him a chance to prove his worth.

Sadly, he has since betrayed that trust!

Let me assure you, that whosoever replaces Badawi will enjoy a similar endorsement, until and unless the new leader abuses power and commits blatant corruption.

The people have the remedy at hand – remove him and his cahoots by the ballot.

If we failed to effect change now, do not complain when the shit hits the ceiling fan!

Published in: on June 24, 2008 at 09:42  Comments (10)