Did the Chief Commissioner lose command?

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Two MACC Operations Review Panel (ORP) members, Chairman Tan Sri Hamid Bugo and member Tan Sri Jawhar Hassan denied that the Commission had adequate evidence to prosecute Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak.

It was reported by The Malaysian Insider this morning.

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It is believed that the erroneous reporting was made with a malice intent, as part of the strategy to demonise Prime Minister Najib. As such, it is believed that this is reason MCMC blocked the pro-Anwarista news portal.

Hamid and Jawhar also proclaimed that ORP did not conclude “The MACC officers had collected sufficient evidence to prove a prima facie against Najib”. Nor did the ORP issue a request to make a statement on their discussion.

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So if the ORP did not make such request, why did MACC issue the statement last night?

More interestingly, by whose authority was the statement issued?

In the first place, what do these MACC officers expect Attorney General Tan Sri Apandi Ali to do when seven days after by their own admission “The investigation papers were incomplete” and no need evidence and/or substainted information credible enough introduced?

As a background, Hamid was a former career civil servant in Sarawak and Jawhar was an academician turned strategic analyst.

It can’t be helped by the suspicion that Chief Commissioner Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed is unable to control and command some of his key personnel and senior officers properly and observe the discipline and professionalism.

Rumours have been circulating that some of these senior officers have political leaning and their personal affinity to political agenda has affected professional judgment and conduct.

Last August Police arrested and questioned two senior officers for ‘Leaking information’ on the Special Task Force formed to investigate the scandalous reporting pertaining to 1MDB.

It has now brought new light on why that harsh action was taken against MACC officers, who have been said to be actively investigating all the reports against 1MDB, the RM2.6 billion donation and SRC International.

For MACC, being seen to be incompetent or having a political agenda is already bad. Now, the suspicion is the Chief Commissioner is not in control of his own command.

*Updated 2315hrs

Chief Commissioner Abu Kassim issued a statement tonight that MACC is not challenging the Attorney General’s authority:

NST story:

MACC: We are not challenging AG’s authority

BY NST ONLINE – 25 FEBRUARY 2016 @ 10:59 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission today said it had taken note of the advice and recommendations made by the commission’s Operations Review Panel on its investigation into issues related to SRC International and the RM2.6bil donation.

MACC Chief Commissioner Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed, in a statement tonight, said he also hoped that certain quarters do not misinterpret it as the commission challenging the authority of the Attorney-General.

The advice and recommendations, he said, were made during the panel’s 29th meeting yesterday. “I hope the matter isn’t misinterpreted by any quarters as challenging the authority of the Attorney-General.

“I would like to stress that as per Article 145(3) of the Federal Constitution, the powers of prosecution falls under the Attorney-General,” he said. Abu Kassim also refuted media reports that the government would abolish the two independent panels which oversee the commission’s operations.

He said the government is in the midst of appointing new panel members for the two bodies, which are the ORP and the Consultation and Corruption Prevention Panel. Both panels, he said, were established under the MACC Act 2009.

“The government is in the process of appointing new panel members for the new term,” he said.

Read More : http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/02/129598/macc-we-are-not-challenging-ags-authority

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Chief Commissioner Abu Kassim must appreciate that in the past 24 hours, a lot of doubts if not negative connotations have been casted against him and the Commission.

That is a lot of goodwill he has to redeem.

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Published in: on February 25, 2016 at 21:30  Comments (2)  

Negligentiam sive politica?

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It is not clear what is the agenda when MACC issued this statement, knowingly the Operational Review Panel had no constitutional powers to deal with any investigation carried by the Commission.

Apparently, MACC issued this statement based on the Operational Review Panel which met on the 29th and last time before the terms of the members expired within a few hours.

MACC admitted in this statement that they submitted the investigation papers (IPs) of the RM2.6 billion donation and SRC International cases to Attorney General on 31 Dec 2015 even though they are incomplete.

The fact that MACC issued a statement upon the submission of the IPs in the nature of the incomplete investigation is itself a point of contention.

A week later AG Tan Sri Apandi Ali issued a ‘No Further Action’ (NFA) notice on both IPs.

We are not sure what was the discussion of the ORP. However, it is very suspicious when MACC admitted their operational incompetency in investigation such high profile cases, which had been painted in scandalous tones especially by foreign media.

Another interesting fact that MACC commented on the lacklustre of the own IPs which was the basis of being rejected by AG, itself is telling.

MACC statement on 3 August 2015

MACC statement on 3 August 2015

What needs to be reminded is that on 3 August 2015, MACC issued a statement that the RM2.6 billion came from a donor and not from 1MDB funds. The Commission also interviewed Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak on 5 December 2015.

Maybe its timely that Prime Minister Najib should carefully review who are personalities appointed on the review panel. Any review panel of the Commission is expected to observe the duty of care, on behalf of the Malaysian public.

There could already be doubtful personalities within MACC key people with seemingly circus appearance tendencies.  At least, on the political ring.

Published in: on February 24, 2016 at 23:00  Comments (1)  

Praeter opportunus oculus

It is pertinent to determine the motive of WSJ Financial Editor Ken Brown’s rabid markings on the USD690million ‘donation’ which allegedly credited into Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak’s personal Ambank account did not originate from individuals of Saudi but monies schemed of transactions relating to 1MDB.

Pro-Anwarista news portal story:

RM2.6 billion in Najib’s accounts not from Saudis, says WSJ editor

Published: 18 February 2016 9:21 PM

WSJ finance editor has refuted that the RM2.6 billion ‘donation’ in Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s accounts did not come from the Saudi royal family as stated by the attorney-general. – AFP file pic, February 18, 2016.
WSJ finance editor has refuted that the RM2.6 billion ‘donation’ in Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s accounts did not come from the Saudi royal family as stated by the attorney-general. – AFP file pic, February 18, 2016.
The billions of ringgit that ended up in Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s accounts did not come from the Saudi royal family, but companies related to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) finance editor Ken Brown said.

Brown told Australia’s ABC News in an interview that they had evidence to back this up, and that ongoing international investigations into 1MDB would likely lead authorities to Najib.

“Our reporting has shown for months now that the money did not come from the Saudis but it came via a bunch of companies and bank accounts related to 1MDB.

“Our story hasn’t been called into question yet and we have lots of evidence to back that up,” said Brown in the interview, which was uploaded onto ABC News on February 12.
He said the “real action” now were the overseas investigations into 1MDB, and said information would slowly trickle out in the next few months.

“I think, you know, it will be hard to keep it away from the PM,” said Brown, referring to the direction of the investigations.

Brown added he believed Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali’s proposed amendments to the Official Secrets Act 1972 came about because the government wanted Malaysians to stop talking about the money Najib received.

Calling the proposed amendments an “extreme action”, he said it was no surprise that it was mooted shortly after Apandi directed investigations into the funds be closed.

“They’ve gotten a big backlash from that and now they come out and say no one can speak about that,” said Brown.

He said the proposal to charge journalists who refused to disclose their sources was also a move to cripple news organisations.

“Last year they shut down a couple of news organisation that had been reporting on the scandal. So this is part of that.

“They’re really trying to limit hat because the more they come down the more it looks worse for the government.”

In July last year, WSJ and the Sarawak Report reported that SRC International Sdn Bhd had transferred RM42 million into Najib’s personal bank accounts.

The sums were transferred between December 2014 and February 2015 through SRC International’s subsidiaries, Gandingan Mentari Sdn Bhd and a separate company, Ihsan Perdana Sdn Bhd, a private company set up to manage 1MDB’s corporate social responsibility contributions.

But after six months of investigation, Apandi on January 26 said there was no criminal wrongdoing as the funds Najib received was a donation from “the Saudi royal family”. – February 18, 2016.

– See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/rm2.6-billion-in-najibs-accounts-not-from-saudis-says-wsj-editor#sthash.LEHQjJU1.dpuf

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It is true WSJ broke to story last July which drew unprecedented controversy on the public perception towards Prime Minister Najib. However, it is not necessarily the complete truth what Brown wrote and WSJ published.

The fact is that, PAC and Auditor General have yet to complete their investigations. What is known so far, the Rupert Murdoch’s WSJ and Open Society Foundation funded rogue London-based-blog which started to demonise BN leadership in sarawak and then Sabah, Sarawak Report, claims have not been substantiated with indisputable evidence.

1MDB ‘Rationalisation Plan’ briefed to the Cabinet on 29 May with a deadline of sort out all the RM42billion financial commitments and borrowings, within one year.

What is interesting about the whole 1MDB scandal is that so many parties, be it rogues like Khairuddin Hassan, Matthias Chang, Opposition MPs such as Tony Pua and Rafizi Ramli and foreign media have been incessantly harping on the notion that its under watchful eyes of the world community.

They are bent on authorities such as the Americans, British, Swiss, Hongkies and Singaporeans are coming with the deadliest forensics to catch the criminals, which insinuates the involvement of Prime Minister Najib.

The fact is that non of these authorities ever in touch with 1MDB or the Attorney General, to require their co-operation so that investigations are on its way.

So many trumpeting not no real fire to justify the smokes they have claimed, so many within the international community is irritated about.

The western media, particularly the ones funded by Neo Con Jewish communities are incessant to be an effective tool in demonising Prime Minister Najib and cast a negative perception against the Malaysian Government.

The most recent WSJ story by Ken Brown is an example how the Neo Con Jewish controlled media is trying to hype and harp that the USD690million ‘political donation from Saudi individuals of the Kingdom’s Royal family’ is actually monies embezzled from 1MDB related transactions.

Even BBC carried the story, as per how Attorney General Tan Sri Append Ali proclaimed it to be.

Saudi gift to Malaysia PM Najib Razak ‘for election campaign’

By Frank Gardner
BBC News
27 January 2016
From the section Asia
Malaysia’ Prime Minister Najib Razak (C) reacts as he walks towards his car after attending a parliamentary session in Kuala Lumpur on 26 January 2016Image copyrightAFP

Najib Razak has consistently denied allegations of corruption
The $681m (£479m) deposited in the bank account of Malaysian PM Najib Razak by Saudi Arabia was to help him win the 2013 elections, a Saudi source says.

Malaysia’s attorney general cleared Mr Najib of allegations of corruption on Tuesday after ruling that the money was a donation from the Saudi royal family.

Mr Najib had denied that the money came from state investment fund 1MDB.
The Saudi source said the donation was made amid concern in Riyadh about the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.

At the time, Malaysia’s opposition alliance included the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS). Its founders were inspired by the Brotherhood, although there is little evidence the Brotherhood actually has much support in Malaysia.

Mr Najib’s coalition went on to win the election, but with one of its poorest showings in more than 50 years in power.

Malaysia’s ‘mysterious millions’ – case solved?
1MDB: The case riveting Malaysia
Profile: Najib Razak
The secretive donation to Mr Najib was allegedly paid over in several wire transfers between late March 2013 and early April 2013, just ahead of the election on 5 May.
The well-placed Saudi source, who has asked not to be named, told the BBC the payment was authorised from the very top – from Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah – with funds coming from both his personal finances and state funds.

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah speaks in 2014Image copyrightAFP
Image caption

A Saudi source said the donation was approved by the late King Abdullah
Prince Turki bin Abdullah, one of the king’s sons, is reported to have had extensive business dealings in Malaysia.
The purpose of the donation was simple, said the Saudi source – it was to help Mr Najib and his coalition win the election, employing a strategic communications team with international experience, focusing on the province of Sarawak, and funding social programmes through party campaigning.

But why should the Saudis care about an election in a non-Arab country more than 6,000 km (3,700 miles) away? The answer, the source said, lay in their concerns over the rising power of the Muslim Brotherhood, which they consider a terrorist organisation.

The Saudis were already upset at events in Egypt, where President Mohammed Morsi was busy consolidating the Brotherhood’s hold on the country.
Supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo in June 2012Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption

Saudi Arabia was concerned by the rise of Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt
It would be another three months before Mr Morsi was to be deposed by the army, and the Saudis were convinced that the opposition was being supported by the Brotherhood and Qatar, which backed the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups in the Middle East.

Very murky’
So how unusual is it for the Saudi royal family to hand over this amount of cash in a personal donation? Not at all, said the Saudi insider, adding that Jordan, Morocco, Egypt and Sudan have all been beneficiaries of multi-$100m donations from the Saudi royal purse.

“There is nothing unusual about this donation to Malaysia,” he said. “It is very similar to how the Saudis operate in a number of countries.”

Saudi Arabia was quick to support the overthrow of Mr Morsi in Egypt, providing the military-backed government with billions of dollars in aid and loans.

Malaysia’s Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali shows money flow charts at a news conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia, 26 January 2016Image copyrightEPA
Image caption
Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali says no further action needs to be taken on the donation
Jordan has been the beneficiary of more than $1bn in Saudi development funding, while Riyadh has deposited more than $1bn in Sudan’s central bank and signed deals to finance dams on the Nile. Morocco has been provided with oil, financing, investments and jobs in recent years.

However, questions are still being asked about the secretive and convoluted nature of the money transfer, and the fact that Malaysia’s prime minister returned 91% of it just four months later. The remaining $61m has not been accounted for.
A British corporate investigator with extensive experience of the Middle East told the BBC that the $681m was paid through the Singapore branch of a Swiss bank owned by the rulers of Abu Dhabi.

“It is very murky”, he said. “This case will never be fully cleared up until the Saudis and the Malaysians release all the transaction data, and that has not happened.”

There has been growing outrage in some circles in Malaysia that the attorney-general has closed the file on this case and cleared the prime minister of any offences.

Clare Rewcastle Brown, who has reported extensively on the issue for the Sarawak Report, said the claim that the payment to Mr Najib was a Saudi royal donation for political purposes needed to be treated “with considerable caution”.

She told the BBC that the $681m was far more likely to be connected to money raised by 1MDB, much of which is reported to have gone missing.

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So what is the agenda?

*Updated 2300hrs

Media statement by 1MDB on WSJ’s latest lies:

Media statement by 1Malaysia Development Berhad

Issued on 19 Feb 2016

For immediate publication

Wall Street Journal’s Allegations Baseless and Unproven

Contrary to the Wall Street Journal’s baseless and unproven allegations, 1MDB has consistently maintained that it has not paid any funds to the personal accounts of the Prime Minister. This has been reiterated by multiple lawful authorities including the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission, the Malaysian Attorney General, and various reputable international publications, who have confirmed that these funds came from Saudi Arabia. To therefore suggest, as the Wall Street Journal has, that their reporting on this matter has never been called into question is not only disingenuous but an outright lie.”

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Published in: on February 19, 2016 at 09:30  Comments (3)  

Lessons from Paracels XXVII: Kung Fun Panda growth

China's unsubstantiated claim of the 'Nine-Dash-Line'

China’s unsubstantiated claim of the ‘Nine-Dash-Line’

China PLA build up on disputed islands in South China Sea which they unilaterally claim as part of their hereditary territories ‘Nine-Dash-Line’ is clear and present danger.

BBC story:

South China Sea dispute: US attacks China ‘militarisation’

17 February 2016

Media captionWhy is sovereignty of the islands disputed and how serious could the row get? Rupert Wingfield-Hayes explains

US Secretary of State John Kerry says Washington is seriously concerned about increased Chinese militarisation in the contested South China Sea.

He was responding to reports Beijing has deployed surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island in the region.
China dismissed the reports as “hype”, but said it had the right under international law to defend itself.
Several nations claim territory in the resource-rich South China Sea, which is also an important shipping route.
A spokesman for Mr Kerry said satellite images appeared to confirm China had deployed anti-aircraft missiles on Woody or Yongxing Island in the Paracels.

The island is claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam and the presence of missiles would significantly increase tensions.

Woody Island with the Parcels: Evidence of the military installation built for the PLA-Navy

Woody Island with the Parcels: Evidence of the military installation built for the PLA-Navy

See images from Woody/Yongxing Island
China’s Island Factory
Flying close to Beijing’s new South China Sea islands
What is the South China Sea dispute about?
Mr Kerry said the US expected to have a “very serious conversation” with China over its presence.
“There is every evidence, every day, that there has been an increase of militarisation from one kind or another. It’s a serious concern,” he said.
Map showing military presence on Woody Island – 17 February 2016
The latest images of Woody Island were captured by ImageSat International.
A picture dated 3 February shows a beach on the island empty. By 14 February it contains several missile launchers and support vehicles.
But the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, said reports were a Western media invention.
He defended “the limited and necessary self-defence facilities” on islands inhabited by Chinese personnel as “consistent with the right for self-preservation and self-protection…. under the international law”.
Map
China has been carrying out extensive land reclamation work in the region, which it says is legal and for civilian purposes.
But the work has angered other countries which also claim the territory, and there is growing concern about the implications of the area becoming militarised.
The South China Sea dispute has been a topic of debate at a meeting of South East Asian regional leaders in California.
US President Barack Obama said the members had discussed the need for “tangible steps” to reduce tensions.
line break
What is the South China Sea dispute?
Rival countries have wrangled over territory in the South China Sea for centuries, but tension has steadily increased in recent years.
Its islets and waters are claimed in part or in whole by Taiwan, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.
China has backed its expansive claims with island-building and naval patrols, while the US says it opposes restrictions on freedom of navigation and unlawful sovereignty claims – by all sides, but seen by many as aimed at China.
The frictions have sparked concern that the area is becoming a flashpoint with global consequences.

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US secretary of state John Kerry was aloud on his concern on the China PLA-N aggressive presence in South China Sea, which poised the military threat and stability in the region.

ABC story;

South China Sea: Militarisation of disputed island ‘a serious concern’, John Kerry says

By US correspondent Michael Vincent, China correspondent Bill Birtles and wires
Updated about 9 hours ago

Aerial of Sansha, on Woody Island
PHOTO: The surface-to-air missiles were deployed from Woody Island in the latest in the ongoing dispute over control of the South China Sea. (AFP)
RELATED STORY: Chinese missile base ratchets up tension in South China Sea
MAP: China
The US Defence Department has confirmed that China has deployed a surface-to-air missile system on a disputed island in the South China Sea, in a move Secretary of State John Kerry has described as a “serious concern”.

Key points:

South China Sea islands part of disputed territory
US, Australia concerned about new missiles deployed on Woody Island by China
China dismisses reports as ‘hype’, says it has right to defend itself
Images from civilian satellite company ImageSat International showed two batteries of eight surface-to-air missile launchers as well as a radar system on Woody Island, according to US outlet Fox News.

The Pentagon urged all countries that have staked claims to disputed areas in the region to address their territorial and maritime claims in accordance with international law, and to commit to peacefully manage or resolve their disputes.

The Taiwanese defence ministry confirmed that China had installed surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island, although China said its self-defence facilities had existed for many years and latest media reports were “hype”.

“But there is every evidence, every day that there has been an increase of militarisation of one kind or another — it’s of serious concern,” Mr Kerry said.

Mr Kerry said the US would raise its concerns with China to ensure the disputed claims in the South China Sea were resolved peacefully.

“Not through unilateral action, not by force, not through militarisation, but through diplomacy and by working with the other countries and claimants and trying to resolve these differences,” Mr Kerry said.

Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims on the island in question, Woody Island, which is part of the Paracel Islands.

Satellite image from ImageSat which show a Chinese missile set-up on the South China Sea’s Woody Island
PHOTO: Satellite image shows a Chinese missile set-up on the South China Sea’s Woody Island. (Supplied: ImageSat International)
Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop held talks with senior Chinese government officials in Beijing today, a day after raising concerns with China’s foreign minister about reports of surface-to-air missiles.

She met with China’s top-ranked diplomat Yang Jiechi for more than an hour.

Ms Bishop said the South China Sea was discussed, but in all meetings, the Chinese side challenged reports missiles had been deployed, but did not outright deny it.

When asked if she believed Beijing was militarising the disputed sea, she said: “It depends on the definition of militarisation.”

The United States has no territory claims in the South China Sea but has expressed serious concerns about how China’s increasingly assertive pursuit of territorial claims could affect the vital global trade routes that pass though it.

Before and after: South China Sea
See how China is converting reefs to military facilities by building artificial islands in the South China Sea.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters the “limited and necessary self-defence facilities” China had on islands and reefs where it has personnel stationed was “consistent with the right to self-protection that China is entitled to under international law”.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion in global trade passes every year.

News of the missile deployment came as US President Barack Obama and leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) concluded a summit in California, where they discussed the need to ease tensions in the South China Sea.

It also followed a patrol by a US Navy destroyer within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the Paracels last month, a move China condemned as provocative.

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China has been projecting power with the manifestation of their military might through the constant manoeuvres within several ASEAN exclusive economic zone (Zone) as per outlined under the United Nations Convention Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).

The second of important maritime route and hydrocarbon deposits within China's unsubstantiated 'Nine-Dash-Line'

The second of important maritime route and hydrocarbon deposits within China’s unsubstantiated ‘Nine-Dash-Line’

Despite signing the Document of Conduct (DOC) with ASEAN nations in 2002 where all parties agreed to settle disputes which include multiple claim on overlapping territories using UNCLOS provisions.

The vast area in disputes by the various ASEAN nations which over lapped on China unsubstantiated ‘Nine-Dash-Line’ is world’s second most strategic maritime passage and hydrocarbon deposits of China’s much needed energy.

Published in: on February 18, 2016 at 22:00  Leave a Comment  

Lessons for Paracels XXVI: The Marines are coming!

Fiery Cross Reef, which is Cina PLA-Navy newest military installation in the disputed territories which the China name as the 'Nine-Dash-Line'

Fiery Cross Reef, which is Cina PLA-Navy newest military installation in the disputed territories which the China name as the ‘Nine-Dash-Line’

United States of America under President Barack H. Obama has taken their concern for the influence and control from the perspective of global diplomacy, geo-politics, international trade and military projection of power on the second most important and strategic maritime lane in the world; South China Sea.

The Diplomat story:

US-ASEAN Sunnylands Summit: What to Expect
A look at the summit’s objectives, format and potential outcomes.

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By Prashanth Parameswaran
February 12, 2016
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From February 15-16, U.S. president Barack Obama will host Southeast Asian leaders as well as the ASEAN Secretary-General for a special summit at the historic Sunnylands Center in Rancho Mirage, California.

As of now, eight Southeast Asian leaders are confirmed to attend – Vietnamese foreign minister Pham Van Binh is reportedly set to attend in place of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, while Myanmar’s vice president Nyan Htun will attend on behalf of Prime Minister Thein Sein following a last minute cancellation.

While the Obama administration has been consistent in its commitment to Southeast Asia and ASEAN throughout its two terms in office, this U.S.-ASEAN summit in Sunnylands is historic as it marks the first time that Washington will host Southeast Asian leaders for a standalone summit in the United States.

Objectives

In holding the summit, the United States has three objectives in mind. Though I have outlined these in a separate piece on the significance of the summit, it is worth briefly reiterating them here before getting to the format of the deliberations as well as the expected outcomes (See: “Why the US-ASEAN Sunnylands Summit Matters”).

First, as is the first time that the United States will host ASEAN leaders for a standalone summit, it is a powerful indicator of the Obama administration’s commitment to the subregion as well as ASEAN as a grouping. That is no surprise to those who have followed the evolution of U.S.-ASEAN relations over the past few years. Arguably the most significant aspect of the administration’s so-called rebalance to the Asia-Pacific has been the greater share of attention devoted to Southeast Asia as well as ASEAN as a whole within U.S. Asia policy. Over the past few years, the United States has ratified the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, become the first non-ASEAN country to appoint a resident ambassador to ASEAN, and institutionalized annual U.S.-ASEAN summits.

Second, the summit provides an opportunity for the United States and ASEAN to deepen and broaden their engagement. As I have written previously, in November the two sides had elevated their relationship to the level of a strategic partnership. At the Sunnylands summit, both sides can build on this momentum and begin to make headway on a plan of action they laid out to implement the strategic partnership out to 2020.

Third and lastly, with Obama now in his last year in office and the U.S. presidential race heating up, the Sunnylands Summit is an ideal time for his administration to signal the importance of ASEAN to its successor.

Format

Before delving into the summit itself, it is important to stress that the official interactions at the leader level will not be the only key engagements to watch. Other U.S. officials like U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, and U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker will also be at Sunnylands. There is also a senior officials meeting ahead of the summit.

In terms of the format of the summit iself, U.S. officials say the summit will comprise three main elements: a retreat session on economic issues, an informal working dinner, and a retreat session on political and security issues.

At the retreat session on economic issues, both sides will discuss ways for the United States and ASEAN to further boost trade and investment. The focus will be around innovation and entrepreneurship, with Obama and Southeast Asian leaders exchanging ideas on policy reforms needed to promote further growth and integration following the advent of the ASEAN Economic Community on January 1st this year.

Officials say there will also be conversations around the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), with four ASEAN members already part of the pact (Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam), three more looking to join it (Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand), and three others as of now unable to join as they are not part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum (Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia).

The working dinner is designed to be more informal to share views on broader strategic developments. U.S. officials say they expect Obama to stress America’s commitment to the region as well as highlight the importance of good governance, accountable institutions and the rule of law.

The retreat session on political and security issues will address how the United States and ASEAN can address the key strategic and transnational challenges confronting the region, including maritime disputes, terrorism, trafficking in persons, climate change, and pandemic disease. The South China Sea will be a topic of conversation, with leaders discussing both general principles that should govern the management of lingering disputes there as well as recent events that have taken place like Chinese test flights at the newly constructed runway at Fiery Cross Reef. The Islamic State will be another key agenda item, especially given the recent attacks in Jakarta last month. They will also discuss ways to promote people-to-people ties, including through the Young Southeast Asia Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), the Obama administration’s signature professional development exchange program.

Ahead of the summit, there have been calls for the Obama administration to ensure that democracy and human rights are addressed as well given the poor record of some of the Southeast Asian nations that will be present. U.S. officials say the president will convey his concerns to Southeast Asian leaders both at the dinner as well as in any side bilateral conversations he has during Sunnylands. National Security Adviser Susan Rice has also met with civil society leaders before the summit. Nonetheless, hundreds of protesters are expected at Sunnylands, with some of them demonstrating against rights abuses in individual ASEAN states.

Outcomes

U.S. officials stress that this summit will be less formal relative to traditional U.S.-ASEAN meetings with strict agendas and tightly negotiated communiques, outcomes and deliverables. That said, an outcome document is expected that will highlight a set of agreed principles between the United States and ASEAN.

There will also be other separate engagements occurring both on the sidelines of the summit as well as following it that could produce outcomes of their own. For instance, the economic component of U.S.-ASEAN relations will be given further treatment at several other events, including an economic roadshow on February 17 involving U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and senior trade officials as well as a separate U.S.-ASEAN Business Council conference to be held in San Francisco after the Sunnylands Summit. That conference will feature, among other things, a keynote address by Indonesian president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

Individual ASEAN leaders will also have their own engagements as well during their visits to the United States apart from the Sunnylands summit. For instance, Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, who has already arrived in California, is scheduled to meet with Malaysian diaspora and students in Los Angeles as well as hold a roundtable meeting with companies and businessmen. He will also address the opening ceremony of the summit as Malaysia is the country coordinator for U.S.-ASEAN relations from 2015 up to 2018.

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This is the East Asian Forum story:

United States goes a’courting ASEAN

15 February 2016
Author: Editors, East Asia Forum

President Barack Obama is hosting leaders of 10 Southeast Asian countries in Sunnylands in California this week in a bold move to deepen and broaden US engagement with ASEAN. This is a positive development but it also imposes risks that, in the end, will be up to ASEAN to manage.

Other Asia Pacific countries have regular meetings with ASEAN leaders. The United States has come late in acknowledging the geo-strategic significance of the organisation. Southeast Asian leaders have already had 18 summits with China and 17 with Japan.

The Sunnylands Summit is a continuation of the US rebalance to Asia which started in 2009. US–ASEAN summits have been held on the sidelines of East Asia Summit meetings since 2013 after the United States ratified the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation and appointed an ambassador to ASEAN — the first non-ASEAN country to do so.

The ASEAN group is the fourth largest trading partner of the United States and American companies are the largest single source of foreign direct investment in the region. In fact, US companies have invested more in Southeast Asia than they have in Japan, China and India combined. The US–ASEAN relationship was elevated to a strategic partnership in Kuala Lumpur in November 2015 and a Plan of Action is being worked out for engagement over the next five years.

The agenda for Sunnylands is to strengthen economic, political, security and people-to-people ties. But the meeting comes at a time when ASEAN is at sixes and sevens and has the potential to undermine regional coherence unless the ASEAN group is clear about what it wants from its relationship with the United States. This raises some big questions.

ASEAN is a central anchor in Asia’s geo-strategic order. Against how some realists called the odds, ASEAN has not only survived but has also been a useful fulcrum in managing relations among the major regional powers. Driven to unity and cooperation in its relations with large neighbouring countries, ASEAN has been larger than the sum of its parts. ASEAN’s approach to international diplomacy carries weight despite the contradictions in coordination and coherence across a vastly diverse group of nations.

ASEAN, in the face of China’s rise and its competitive rivalry with the United States, now seems more important than ever.

Maintaining ASEAN centrality will depend on progress with its own economic integration. The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) came into force at the beginning of this year. It is an ambitious project to move ASEAN towards a single market and production base. The United States, China, Japan, Australia and others in the region have a deep intersection of interests in a strong ASEAN. Making the AEC work is now essential to that.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is being negotiated between ASEAN and its six East Asian free trade agreement partners China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand. RCEP is an ASEAN-led agreement that, if successfully negotiated, will entrench ASEAN centrality. At best it can reinforce and extend the AEC so it is of vital importance to conclude an ambitious agreement that ultimately matches or betters the ambition of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

High on the US agenda in Sunnylands will be a strategy for dealing with the maritime territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea and getting more countries lined up to sign on to the recently concluded TPP.

ASEAN cannot approach the TPP with a common position any time soon. Four ASEAN members — Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam — are members of the TPP and Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand have expressed interest in joining. It is unrealistic to expect that there can be movement towards their membership for half a decade or more. That leaves the three least developed countries, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, still at the starting blocks given the high hurdles to entry and also because they are not members of APEC — a requirement under the current TPP arrangement. Meanwhile ASEAN’s engagement in the East Asian economy is the main game.

The TPP is yet to be ratified by its 12 members — which include Japan, Australia and the United States, but not China or India — and will not come into force until at least the beginning of 2018. It is very unclear how much longer after that new members will have to wait before they can expect to join. And even when they are eligible, they will have to negotiate entry separately through US Congress. This could be a very divisive process for the ASEAN group.

Former Indonesian trade minister, Mari Pangestu argues in this week’s lead that the discussion around the TPP this week should not be about urging ASEAN members to join the TPP. Instead, ASEAN should ‘address the potential diversion of trade and investment away from those ASEAN members not in the TPP. This is especially important for the least developed ASEAN countries, such as Cambodia, which are set to lose the most.’

‘The Summit should consider other initiatives that will help to secure ASEAN centrality and provide some transition flexibilities for countries choosing to join the TPP’, she says.

If individual countries chase entry to the TPP there is a risk that the focus in ASEAN will shift away from the AEC and ASEAN’s core agenda in East Asia through RCEP. Dealing with ASEAN countries bilaterally in this manner is precisely what the United States opposes China doing on territorial issues in the South China Sea. And yet, ironically, the conduct of its economic relations with the ASEAN economies embeds this strategic error.

In the economic and security spheres, ASEAN needs a common position that embodies the interests of all ASEAN members. The Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea. Peaceful resolution of these disputes and counterbalancing China’s assertiveness will be the other major agenda item in Sunnylands. The United States and ASEAN have similar positions on these issues but, as Pangestu suggests, it would be unwise of the United States to wrong-foot ASEAN efforts to secure agreement on its code of conduct in the South China Sea.

‘Leadership and neutrality from the largest ASEAN country, Indonesia — which is not a claimant — can help achieve’ a code of conduct that is being negotiated in an ASEAN-led regional forum, says Pangestu. That would seem to be a more likely way forward towards a peaceful resolution than a US-led response, especially since the United States is not yet signed up to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Of course, ASEAN will need American backing but it is with ASEAN that the diplomatic initiative needs to remain.

ASEAN needs to balance the United States and China. China is ASEAN’s most important economic partner. ‘Asian countries may support America against China to avoid Chinese hegemony’, says Hugh White, ‘but not to preserve US primacy. They are too polite to say that out loud, but if President Obama listens carefully to his guests … that is what he will learn’.

Let’s hope that ASEAN leaders speak up, and also hope that the importance of ASEAN centrality to the region is not accidentally overlooked in the pursuit of other objectives.

The EAF Editorial Group is comprised of Peter Drysdale, Shiro Armstrong, Ben Ascione, Ryan Manuel and Jillian Mowbray-Tsutsumi and is located in the Crawford School of Public Policy in the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

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It is very interesting how the ASEAN Heads of Government at the moment in Sunnyland, California going to reciprocate Obama’s new policy in South East Asia.

The current policy may be softer than many red neck hardliners would want it to be but in eleven months time, the Americans could vote in a gun-totting President and the Republican approach of ‘Might and Slight’ would automatically precede Obama’s consultative ways.

This is amidst very active China PLA-N manoeuvres all over South China Sea since 2008, in realising the communist republic’s very courageous claim of ‘Nine-Dash-Line’ and now building military installations.

*Updated 1630hrs

The growing tension by the projection of force by the China PLA-Navy (PLA-N) has been reciprocated by the presence of US Navy manoeuvres of the same intent. It has escalated after the dispute with the Philippines, drew many other external parties.

A detailed map of China's claims into ASEAN nations' EEZ

A detailed map of China’s claims into ASEAN nations’ EEZ

ASEAN and China signed the Document of Conduct in 2002 to agree that all disputes within the South China Sea, particularly on overlapping multi-claim territories be resolved in accordance with UN Convention Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) and multilateral dialogues.

However, PLA-N have been discovered to have build three separate military installations on previously reefs, for the purpose of projection of force.

The involvement of China and being reciprocated by the United States using the projection of force, is a manifestation of control for the access of a very strategic maritime trade passage and a much needed huge deposits of hydrocarbon.

China already benefitted from the ability to invade and take position of the Paracel islands, closer to off-the-coast of Vietnam forty two years ago. Today, China is exploring oil and gas in the area.

PLA-N ships have been mounting military manoeuvres at Beting Patinggi Ali, which is 50 nautical miles off the coast of Miri and is very much in Malaysia’s EEZ area. Two years ago, we talked about the same manoeuvres at Beting Serupai.

This should be a grave concern but the Minister of Defence Dato’ Sri Hishamuddin Hussein is attempting to don’t play the issue, amidst growing concerns by Sarawakians themselves.

NST story:

Two Chinese ship spotted near Sarawak not on our waters

BY HANI SHAMIRA SHAHRUDIN

– 15 FEBRUARY 2016 @ 3:35 PM KUALA LUMPUR: The two Chinese coast guard ship spotted near Luconia Shoals off Miri, Sarawak were not in Malaysian waters, said Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

He said the situation was misreported and that reports published in several online portals were untrue. Asked if the presence of the ship would affect Barisan Nasional’s position in the upcoming Sarawak election, he said it should strengthen the party’s position.

“What happened in the South China Sea is not a simple matter, everyone admitted it is complex and I have said two days ago that I would arrange for the Chinese ambassador to explain to the state leadership on the vessel sightings.

“Secondly, I think the strength of BN’s government to be able to leverage and have diplomatic military relations with the super powers… Not many governments or countries can do that,” he said.

Hishammuddin added that the close relations could be seen at the height of the MH370 tragedy which saw 26 countries coming forward to work with Malaysia.

“We do not have the assets but the countries assisted us with their P-8 Poseidon, P3 Orion and the search planes… We had 26 countries working with us, if that is not the strength of BN’s government then what is,” he said.

Read More : http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/02/127576/two-chinese-ship-spotted-near-sarawak-not-our-waters

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This issues brought in many levels of discourse within ASEAN itself and at odds on how the matter to be resolved. China is a very important trade partner for ASEAN.

So far, the approach has been through diplomatic channels though the Philippines already taken China to ICJ, despite little progress have been made.

Published in: on February 15, 2016 at 13:00  Leave a Comment  

Love is all around

Our choice of this year’s Valentines’s Day.

The last one is to commemorate the gallant 7 officers and 146 men of 1st Federated Malay Regiment (1st Malay Regt), who defended the Pasir Panjang Lines 13-14 February 1942, and were brutally killed in battle.

The bronze statue depicting three 1 Malay Regt heroes, defending Pasir Panjang and Bukit Chandu 13-14 Feb 1942, at the Reflections a t Bukit Chanud Memorial

The bronze statue depicting three 1 Malay Regt heroes, defending Pasir Panjang and Bukit Chandu 13-14 Feb 1942, at the Reflections a t Bukit Chanud Memorial

The remittence of the original 1st Malay Regt was asked to retreat and defend the Point 226, Bukit Chandu. They fought gallantly as uncommon heroes and demonstrated over call duty chivalry.

Published in: on February 14, 2016 at 05:14  Leave a Comment  

Depositors’ Urinarium

Klang Kirim of Geng Loceng inadvertently allowed themselves to be a tool of the PKR machinery, in their manipulation of limited information at the expense of innocent 8.8million Tabung Haji depositors.

The sensationalised and controversial the story about TH acquiring the 67,954sq.ft. parcel earmarked for luxury residential in Tun Razak Exchange, with the false pretext of “Bailing out the scandalous strategic investment company 1MDB”.

It was part of the initiatives to demonise Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak’s leadership, which was started by the Opposition. It is echoed and magnified of late with the incessant salvos by foreign media.

It was also magnified that TH would not able to pay the depositors any earning to their savings and investment. Rafizi, like the Klang Kirim Geng Loceng, was counting on these instigations to create a panic situation amongst the 8.8million depositors.

In his speech, Rafizi invited former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to join forces with him and sue Prime Minister Najib’s administration and close down 1MDB.

The bluff was called. By the grace of God, the truth prevailed and the interest of the majority if not all 8.8million TH depositors were preserved.

The parcel which TH paid for RM188.5 million earlier last year has now been valued at RM250million. It is proven that the investment is a very sound commercial decision.

The more interesting bit is how a Chartered Accountant Azmi Arshad meticulously explained every damnest lies and manipulation that Hafizi and Klang Kirim Geng Loceng made, at the expense of the 8.8million depositors.

In the final analysis, its all about them treating the Malaysian public as their political urinal.

Published in: on February 10, 2016 at 04:00  Leave a Comment  

Happy Chinese New Year

images

Published in: on February 8, 2016 at 09:30  Leave a Comment  

8.8m depositors 3, Geng Loceng 0! Hurrah!

The Klang Kirim Geng Loceng who tried so hard to instigate 8.8million TH depositors to rebel against the Government with their contentious and scandalous allegations designed with malice, as part of creating the impression TH was being plundered to ‘bail out’ 1MDB in TRX.

The Edge Market story:

Tabung Haji not selling TRX land but developing it into high-end apartments

By Danial Idraki / theedgemarkets.com | February 4, 2016 : 3:01 PM MYT

KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 4): Lembaga Tabung Haji said it will be developing the 1.6-acre Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) land it had bought from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) into high-end residential apartments worth an estimated gross development value (GDV) of RM820 million.

The decision not to sell but to develop it, according to its chairman Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim, was made after considering the appreciation of the land’s value since Tabung Haji bought the tract.

Abdul Azeez said the land is worth about RM250 million currently, compared to the RM188.5 million price tag it paid to 1MDB to acquire the tract last April, which, in turn, was 43 times the price 1MDB had paid for the plot when it bought the land from the federal government about five years ago.

Tabung Haji’s acquisition had been viewed as a bail-out of sorts for the cash-strapped state-owned investment company at the time and was heavily criticised.

Following the purchase, Tabung Haji said the plot would be sold at a profit and that many buyers had shown interest.

“We [have] reconsidered our position, and decided that it is better to keep and develop the land, since it has gone up in value to about RM3,100 per sq ft from the RM2,773 that we paid for,” Azeez told a press conference after announcing the pilgrim fund’s dividend and bonus payout for its financial year 2015.

He added that Tabung Haji Properties has been given the mandate to develop the land, and that the project is now in its initial planning stage.

Tabung Haji chief executive and deputy group managing director Datuk Johan Abdullah, meanwhile, said the group intends to build high-end residential apartments on the TRX land, with an initial GDV of approximately RM820 million.

“We must also look at the market outlook, which at the moment is depressed for the property sector. But we believe that this development is a good investment for the long term,” Johan added.

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It was part of the strategy to demonise Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak’s leadership and the Klang Kirim Geng Loceng was blatant enough to manipulate half truths, to create a panic for the 8.8 million TH depositors.

It started with the assuringly anonymous blog which produced some of the papers of a TH BoD meeting, about the proposal to acquire the 67,954 sq. ft. parcel earmarked for high end luxury residential/serviced apartments within TRX.

Then some of the Klang Kirim Gang Loceng harped on the matter further, trying io re-controversialise the issue.

Last December Dewan Rakyat sitting, Minister in-charge of TH matters Mej. Jen. (B) Dato’ Seri Jamil Khir Baharom already explained that the  67,954 sq. ft. parcel is too valuable to be hived off.

Published in: on February 4, 2016 at 21:00  Comments (3)