Politics & government Sci-fi

[2792] Malaysian dystopia coming true

Some dystopian science fictions rest on absurd premises.

Terry Gilliam’s Brazil is a statist world of paperwork. There is a form to fill up for everything you do. The story begins with a naming mistake in a government ministry.

Instead of Tuttle printed on the warrant, it was Buttle. That leads to the arrest and the eventual death of an innocent man the authority believed was a terrorist.

When a person discovers that the authority had the wrong person, everybody else refuses to correct or even admit the mistake for fear of having to face the impossible mountains of paperwork. And so the bureaucracy covers it up rather.

Mistakes or not, the bureaucracy is always right. Adherence to the system is so paramount that any attempt to rectify the error is an act of rebellion against the state. The state, meanwhile, does not look kindly on rebellion.

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is more ominous than Brazil. While people of Gilliam’s world are free as long as they fill their forms correctly, Orwell’s is a totalitarian universe with the one party controlling every facet of your life.

The truth is whatever the government ”• the Big Brother ”• says. The government rewrites history however it sees fit. If anybody has a different opinion or remembers history differently, the government will put him through a special rehabilitation program to change his or her mind, forcefully.

There are other brilliantly absurd dystopian works out there.

These absurdities are fictions only to a healthy civilized society when the government is decent. We can laugh at these fictions because they are entertainingly absurd and so far removed from reality.

But the farther down the hole we are from a decent government, the less fictional these absurdities become. In them lie the seeds of truth.

Whenever I think of Malaysia today, my mind wanders to these old dystopian science fictions. I sigh at the ridiculousness of our situation that might as well be the target of mocking and satire of these works.

Our very own Big Brother (is he Ah Jib Gor?) proclaimed back when 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) was established that the fund was the centerpiece to his transformation.

It would help to create a new financial center for Kuala Lumpur. It would help reform the power sector. It would push Malaysia into the dreamy First World list.

Drive by the long Jalan Tun Razak, you will read the pretentious phrase ”For a Greater Kuala Lumpur” printed on aluminum hoarding surrounding the prime land 1MDB bought so cheaply from the government. ”1MDB is strong,” the government said.

Today, financial troubles and corruption scandals beset the fund. The strong 1MDB now is in need of government support to survive. The financial center stands unbuilt. The power authority is scrambling to meet Malaysia’s future energy demand because 1MDB failed to build the necessary power plants despite winning the tenders. Amid all this, the government is trying to convince us all that 1MDB is too small compared to the Malaysian economy. ”The fund is inconsequential now,” they claimed.

It took four to five years to change the storyline from it’s-a-big-thing to it-doesn’t-matter. One should be forgiven for not noticing the changing deceit told over such a long period.

But another episode is more shocking. Only a person of dulled senses and soft mind would not notice it.

Remember when all of those corruption allegations backed by various leaked documents implicating 1MDB, the prime minister and several other individuals first came out? They were tampered documents, the government said. The implicit defense was that the allegations were untrue.

Now, as the official government story goes, the money transfer did happen and the accounts did exist. All that was an all-legal multibillion-ringgit donation from someone unnamed. Suddenly, it was all true. Meanwhile, everybody who seems to be trying to right the wrong is arrested.

So, what about those tampered documents? The government is silent on that, instead preferring to talk about political donation reform, which by the way UMNO the ruling party itself rejected while blaming the Opposition for the reform failure. Such is the prevalence of doubletalk in Malaysia.

That blatant defense change happened in the pages of Nineteen Eighty-Four. The fascist party said ”We’ve always been at war with Eurasia.” The masses nodded and they understood they had always been friends with Eastasia.

Suddenly at the same event, the party said ”We’ve always been at war with Eastasia,” The masses were oblivious to the switch in name and nodded dutifully.

We have already that one party, the volte-face, a hint of corrupt bureaucracy along with the inane rationale and excuses today. It is up to us Malaysians to not nod lest Malaysia becomes these dystopias tomorrow.

Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved
First published in The Malay Mail on August 7 2015.

Politics & government

[2788] It isn’t about Mahathir or Muhyiddin. It’s about government corruption

It is true. The 1MDB corruption scandal brings together strange bedfellows against the Najib government.

Mahathir Mohamad, Muhyiddin Yassin, Gani Patail and the likes are not exactly role models for liberals. These men have their own faults and sins. Their comments and their actions in other matters can be criticized easily. After 22 years in power while actively weakening Malaysian institutions, there are enough material to talk about Mahathir. Just the other day, a friend of mine jokingly said Muhyiddin was the enemy of the internet for all his nonsensical opinion about the Malaysian education system.

Yet, they have become, to their own followers at least, the leading voices against 1MDB. The Anti-Corruption Commission, much reviled by the federal opposition in particular for the mishandling of Teoh Beng Hock case, are now gathering sympathy for investigating the government and being intimidated by the police and suspicious men of conflicted interests.

As these new allies of sort band together, we hear and read the cynical remarks pointing out that suddenly these men, women and institutions are heroes and angels. Their past sins are forgotten and forgiven.

That is nonsense and utterly beside the point.

We are not in the business of appealing to authority. We are interested in answering questions and uncovering the truth, regardless who asked the questions. We are interested in removing the conflict of interest currently preventing a proper earnest investigation from being carried out.

Whether it is Mahathir or Muhyiddin or whoever your favorite man to hate, their questions are the same as asked by others. If they share the same concerns as many others, good for them.

What must be stressed is that those similarities of concerns say nothing of the legitimacy of the demand for truth and justice.

This is why when Najib Razak and his men began attacking Mahathir trying to wean credibility off the former Prime Minister, that did little to stop the advancing criticism against 1MDB, Najib and the government. It did nothing because this is never about Mahathir or Muhyiddin or Gani Patail or anybody else who are attacking 1MDB and the government.

We who want justice could not care less for the credibility of Mahathir, Muhyiddin and others.

What we care is the issue of corruption — both pecuniary and institutional wise — involving the 1MDB and the highest office in the land. Others are sideshows.

Politics & government

[2787] The Bukit Aman fire

When I first learned Bukit Aman was on fire, I had a shot of adrenaline rush. I sincerely thought, finally, an uprising. Najib has been pushing everybody to the brink and I felt something drastic was bound to happen. In the air, with everything else failing, I could almost smell a revolution.

John F. Kennedy said “those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” We Malaysians are close to that point.

This is a government that has preposterously threatened various individuals of attempting to overthrow the government only for wanting the truth out of the 1MDB corruption scandal. This is also a government which thinks democratic mandate gives them a free-reign on everything and that they are free from criminal charges. With all the outrageous hyperboles and disregard for rules, we might as well have a self-fulling prophecy.

And I think I am not the only one in this country frustrated at the current turns of event. Looking around my social media network and talking to friends, I feel a lot of people would be willing to go down to the streets to register their outrage beyond typing angrily on the internet. Bersih is planning a protest next month. I dare say it will be big beyond anything I have ever seen before in Malaysia and I have been to all of Bersih protests and they were a huge collection of Malaysians regardless of the lying government media and other paid hacks lacking moral fiber said.

Alas, how disappointing it was when I found out the fire was probably just an accident. Conspiracy theories are making rounds but at the moment, I think it is safe to say it was not caused by an angry mob who had had enough. It could be as innocent as short circuit and probably not nearly as close as men and women singing ”do you hear the people sing”¦”

But the fire does symbolize something bigger than a mere short-circuit fire burning various investigation papers.

It symbolizes the failures of our institutions. Our institutions are playing the old sleepy dogs that would just look on as the robbers entered the vault. The dogs lifted up their head, and went back to sleep.

Sadly, these institutions were created to serve us the public. To protect us. But they are now protecting the groups abusing us.

So let it burn. Let the police headquarters burn to the ground. They, their farcical crime index and their transformation labs are no use to us.

Humor Politics & government WDYT

[2786] Help the government find Jho Low!

Folks, the PAC wants to question Jho Low but the Ministry of Finance cannot find him. Let us help our beloved government find him!

Where is Jho Low?

  • Hong Kong (6%, 2 Votes)
  • Cayman Islands (9%, 3 Votes)
  • Riyadh (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Somewhere in the Caspian Sea (0%, 0 Votes)
  • London (6%, 2 Votes)
  • Menara Dato' Onn (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Perdana Putra (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Ministry of Finance HQ in Putrajaya (6%, 2 Votes)
  • Pekan (9%, 3 Votes)
  • Seri Perdana (9%, 3 Votes)
  • Brisbane with Sirul Azhar (6%, 2 Votes)
  • I have never taken 1MDB funds for personal gain (25%, 8 Votes)
  • Kota Belud (6%, 2 Votes)
  • New York (9%, 3 Votes)
  • Other places (6%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 32

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Politics & government

[2785] 1MDB, The Edge, two wrongs, institutional failure and the transfer of responsibility

It took some time to push the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal into the open. Now that it is firmly in the spotlight, I see some are troubled by a case of two wrongs making a right.

What are the two wrongs? One is the 1MDB scandal and another is how some info was obtained.

Here is some background for the uninitiated. A huge chunk of stuff we know about the scandal originates from stolen information. This is not to say everything we know came from stolen material. A large portion comes from 1MDB’s own sloppily published annual accounts that by itself raise questions. It is these questions that lead us here today.

A former employee of PetroSaudi International (PSI was 1MDB’s partner in a failed and suspicious deal) stole vast amount of data from his employer, which eventually ended up in the hands of several third parties. One of them is the Malaysian financial newspaper The Edge. Because the newspaper bought the info (or rather, tricked the former PSI employee into giving them the data) and used it to expose 1MDB, critics of the newspaper raised a red flag and said, “hey, hang on. two wrongs do not make a right.”

They are saying The Edge should not have obtained the data. And now that it has, The Edge is in the wrong. They claim there is a logical moral conundrum here.

I am firmly in the opinion there is no moral conundrum at all. If there is, then it exists only in isolation with incredible disregard for the context we live in: that context is the environment of pervasive institutional failure.

The institutions that were responsible to keep our government honest failed to do their job. The watchmen were not just sleeping, they ignored the signs, the warnings and the whistleblowers. They failed not because they were merely incompetent. They chose to fail. Truly, when the preliminary questions were asked several years ago before the leaks happened, the government simply dismissed the concerns with a nonchalant hand wave. When they could no longer ignore the scandal, they went for the whistleblowers.

The Edge did the investigation into 1MDB. What did the police do in the meantime? Why was it possible for The Edge to get to the documents but not the police? The authority lacked the necessary curiosity to do their job. Why?

I strongly feel the official investigation only began because of the leaks. Without the leak, the reasonably question to ask is, would there have been any investigation? I believe the answer is no. It is also arguable that the investigation started only out of political pressure and the need to be seen to do something. It is not out of their sense of responsibility. Those institutions failed and responsibility be damned.

The 1MDB scandal is not the first time our institutions are seen as biased in enforcing the law without fear or favor. How many times have the police been accused of selective prosecutions? There are enough instances to create widespread trust deficit in our society. In the 1MDB case, so far, the accused who are in power are being protected.

The check and balance mechanism is not working properly and the controversy (a minor appendix to the 1MDB scandal) surrounding The Edge demonstrates exactly the institutional failure.

Running parallel to the institutional failure is the function of the fourth estate, which is to keep the public informed. The creation of an informed citizenry is a form of check and balance. The function of the press is not merely trying to sell papers. Because some in the press have done their job, the press is possibly our last hope to right any wrong. And that what The Edge, the Sarawak Report and others have done: their responsibility.

The institutional failure of our government means the authority has transferred fully their responsibility to The Edge (and others as well).

Here is another related factor to consider. If the police had done their job and obtained the info either through polite request or by force, would the supposed dilemma arise?

Now, take the institutional failure and the implicit transfer of responsibility from the authority to the press. Once that is done, is there any more dilemma?