Category Archives: The Malaysian Insider

Is this the end of the line for the 1MDB probe?


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Is this the end of the line for the 1MDB probe?
By Zan Azlee

It isn’t difficult for the public to see how the Cabinet reshuffle by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on Tuesday can be assumed as a strategic move for him to continue to stay in power and silence his critics.

The game of perception doesn’t seem to be a top priority in Malaysian politics these days (yeah… it’s always about perception of honesty, sincerity and transparency, isn’t it?). I guess it doesn’t matter what the public thinks.

But the issue of the day hasn’t changed and that is the questions and allegations surrounding the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal. What has changed is the influential people who have been critically vocal about it being dropped from their influential positions.

Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail has been removed from his post as the attorney-general. Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, who have been very critical about 1MDB, are no longer in cabinet.

Muhyiddin had given a press conference on Wednesday morning. But it was a tame affair and he stressed that he was still an Umno member and will toe the party line when the time comes. No news from Shafie.

Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed, who was the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) investigating the allegations of 1MDB, has been made deputy home minister. He has stepped down from his position as PAC chief.

The funny thing is that Nur Jazlan had, a few weeks earlier, been asked by reporters of his thoughts of the rumours speculating that he will be called up and appointed as a member of the cabinet.

Nur Jazlan was reported to have said that he was more interested in finishing the committee’s investigation of 1MDB rather than entertaining the thought of being appointed to a Cabinet position. He wanted to prove his ability as chairperson.

Oh well, flip-flopping and non-committal tendencies are rife in politics. There’s nothing you can do about that (again the perception game comes to mind). The question now is how will the investigation on 1MDB progress from here?

Now that Nur Jazlan has relinquished his post in the PAC, he has also announced that all further proceedings by the committee will be halted until a new line-up is announced at the next Dewan Rakyat sitting.

Sure, vice-chair of the PAC, Tony Pua, has said that technically, the committee can and will continue with its investigations. He has been vocal all this while. But look what happened to him. He is barred from leaving the country.

The media’s role? Let’s see. The Edge was the one that sparked widespread interest in the 1MDB scandal, and they have been suspended from publication for three months, a decision that could be an intimidating factor for other media organisations.

It looks like all the stops are being pulled. Every game in the playbook is being used. Everything that can be done to stop any further delving into what happened to 1MDB is being done. So is this the end of the line.

]This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]

Are we allowed to ask what happened to 1MDB?


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Are we allowed to ask what happened to 1MDB?
By Zan Azlee

Malaysia is being plagued by one of its biggest scandals and it is even getting significant attention from the international community. You know it – the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.

Sure, it’s a difficult issue for a lot of people to understand, me included. Complicated financial transactions and business negotiations can confuse a lot of people, even the experts.

But as the case develops and more media agencies cover the unfolding story, people understand it better and better. And when people start understanding it better, the more questions get asked.

It is a simple check and balance that is afforded to the people via a system called democracy. And that isn’t as complicated to understand as the 1MDB scandal.

Of course it is very clear to everyone that investigations are underway and that no accusations are being brandied around, as that would be defamatory and wrong.

But what can and should be accepted is the act that people have the right to question as to what has happened to cause such a stir in the first place.

And these people include the public as a whole, opposition politicians, the media and whatever authorities or investigating party that is given the responsibility to do so.

At the end of the day, it is the public’s money and hence, that makes the case of public and national interest, and as the government of the day, that means they need to answer.

One step is already correct – that investigations have been launched by the authorities to find out the truth as to what has happened. Of course, it has to be perceived as independent.

What shouldn’t be happening is for those who ask the question to be subjected to persecution and intimidation, as is what seems to be happening now.

It is surprising to see how those who have raised questions pertaining the 1MDB scandal have become subjects to investigations themselves.

How come the people who are the most vocal calling for the government to answer are the ones who are as if being put on trial and even being barred from traveling outside of the country?

How is it that news organisations are being threatened with legal action for asking for answers that the public has a right to know? Isn’t that the natural responsibility of their existence?

How is it that those who are supposed to be giving the answers to the questions are the ones who are accusing those who are questioning of having intentions to destabilise the country?

Of course it doesn’t help that the government is being perceived as not wanting to give straight and transparent answers to all the questions that is being asked.

Actually, the mechanics of it is very simple to understand. Those who are in government serve the people and when the people ask questions, they need to provide the answers.

Now, doubt exists in the action that has been taken by those in government and so the questions are asked. Isn’t that simple and valid?

So who is it in this whole chain of events that is really the cause of the de-stability of the country? Is it those who asked the questions or those who refuse to answer?

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]

It seems like a happy Raya this time around


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It seems like a happy Raya this time around
By Zan Azlee

There has been a little bit of progress this Hari Raya Aidilfitri in Malaysia. There was no call from the ignorant Muslims to not wish non-Muslims Selamat Hari Raya.

There has been no uproar over a certain brainless and insensitive couple who would normally eat Bak Kut Teh and wish people happy Ramadan.

We somehow have managed to silence one very vocal Chinese Muslim lecturer who doesn’t know anything but to spew out hate and negativity.

(See… it works when you stop giving attention to people like them!)

Of course, we had one small recurring incident where a stupid teacher in a school had made a remark that non-Muslim students need to drink in the toilet. But everyone showed their disgust.

As for me, I celebrate Hari Raya like I’ve always done since I was little. It would be together with my family that consists of Malays, Chinese, Indians, and a couple of Mat Sallehs.

They practice a variety of religions. Some are Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Taoist, Hindus and definitely a few agnostics and atheists too.

And all this sure adds up to a lot of problems!

First there is the noise. Everyone talks and for the uninitiated, it can get quite confusing. There would be people speaking in English, Cantonese, Malay, Mandarin and whatever else.

Then there is the food. There’s just too much variety of it! There’s the halal kind, there’s the non-beef kind and there’s the vegetarian kind. Everybody gets equal opportunity to eat.

Thirdly, we don’t really know what celebrations we are actually celebrating. It gets confusing when we all celebrate everything from Chinese New Year to Deepavali and Ching Ming.

And, the younger generation who are still under ten years old get all their greetings confused. They don’t know when to say Maaf, Zahir dan Batin or when to say Kong Hei Fatt Choy!

But one thing is for sure, we all really have a freaking good time celebrating together. Not a single thread of animosity exists between us. Well, we are blood family anyway.

Sure, there are bigger problems that we are facing. Malaysia has so far never seen such scandals and controversies as big as the 1MDB scandal.

And it seems that one by one, more corruption accusations are coming out such as the MARA real estate purchases in Australia and the old polymer notes scandal.

The economy as at a low point. The value of the Ringgit has been at an all time low. Cost of living is high  and petrol price flunctuates so much it isn’t helping the country’s revenue much.

But at least these are problems that does not involve race or religion (I’m going to excuse the MARA one) and just affects the entire Malaysian community.

And these problems, while they may be big and intimidating, should not be unsolvable when we are united as a people and as a country.

So to every single Malaysian, have a blessed and happy Hari Raya.

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]

He who is the butt of jokes eats the chilli!


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He who is the butt of jokes eats the chilli!
By Zan Azlee

When my daughter Athena was around three years old, she was a very feisty little girl. We used to tease her a lot and make fun of her. And of course she would get angry at us.

For example, right after she takes a bath, I would call for her and when she came, I would take a big sniff of her hair or neck and say, “Eiii! You’re so smelly! Are you sure you took a bath?”

She would scream in annoyance and anger, “No pops! I’m not smelly! I smell nice!”. And I would burst out in laughter why she starts stomping her feet because she doesn’t know how to argue.

But now that she’s four and half, closing in to five years old, she’s started to develop some clever wit and a sense of humour. She has started playing jokes and teasing me now.

She would come up to me right after her bath and ask me, “Hey pops. Come and smell me. Do I smell busuk or smelly?”. When she first said that to me, I was stunned and it took me a while to get it.

And when she saw my stunned face, she just burst out in laughter! And when I got the joke, I burst out laughing too. Then both of us would be rolling on the floor hysterically. She is my daughter indeed!

It’s just how we Azlees roll. I tease you and you tease me. We laugh together and everyone has a really good time because we don’t take things too seriously and we’re all a big happy bunch.

Of course we aren’t making fun of really serious matters like, say, the 1MDB scandal. But the point is that Athena is only four years old and she understands what a sense of humour is all about.

So I totally can’t understand why the government would threaten those who make jokes about the 1MDB scandal with either a RM50,000 fine and/or jail time. No sense of humour?

But of course we all know that sticks and stones may break our bones but names will never hurt us, and if I am rubber and you are glue, what bounces off me sticks on you. That is assuming that the jokes are all baseless.

And it’s easy if it’s baseless. All the receiving party needs to do is to provide a valid argument that it isn’t true. Then the jokes will stop because, well, they would have been proven to be baseless.

Unless of course if the receiving party can’t provide any strong arguments as to why the jokes are baseless and so they resort to desperate measures – ie: threatening funny satirical jokes with jail!

That kind of reminds me of Athena when she was three years old. She really couldn’t handle people teasing her and making jokes that she resorted to getting angry and stomping her feet.

Anyway, Malaysians are a carefree and fun-loving lot (hmmm). We love making jokes to make light of the situation (we learned from the best – Datuk Lat!) and it’s all supposed to be in good fun.

But then there is also the saying that goes like this – “Siapa yang makan cili, dia yang rasa pedas.” And seeing that the 1MDB is getting worldwide attention, let me translate that – “He who eats chilli will feel hot.”

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]

I’m Malay – can I succeed outside of Malaysia?


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I’m Malay – can I succeed outside of Malaysia?
By Zan Azlee

I’m a fiercely independent person. I like to be my own man and if I do anything, I like to believe that I did it on my own, because of my own capabilities and skills.

And that is the reason why I don’t play golf as a recreational sport. It’s because golf has a handicap system where people who are bad will be able to compete with even the best of them.

I believe that you have to work hard from wherever you are to be among the best and if you don’t, then you are not deserving to be among the best.

For example, when I first started working after graduating from university, my parents wanted to buy me a car. At first, I said okay and I got a car from them.

But then, I started feeling embarrassed driving it because, here I am, a grown up adult with a job, driving around in a car that my mummy and daddy gave me.

So I decided that I had to pay for it myself. I immediately took over the car loan that was under my mother’s name and serviced the instalments myself. I am my own man.

That’s why Dina Zaman’s latest article titled ‘Unappreciated in my own country’ where she talks about Malay professionals who moved away from Malaysia to ply their trade resonates with me.

They wanted to do well outside and be recognised for their capabilities and skills rather than because they were born of a certain race or the connections that they had.

Thinking back, the issue that Dina discusses in her column was one of the influencing factors why I decided to pursue my postgraduate degree overseas.

I wanted to see if I could hack it outside after graduating from a local public university in Malaysia. And I did it with flying colours.

I know my complaint might seem a tad ‘first-world’. But hear me out. I want to prove that I can do things on my own and not because I am of a particular race living in Malaysia.

When I wanted to pay for my own car, it was because it hurt my pride to think that people might be saying, “Oh, his parents bought it for him. No wonder!”.

And when I graduated from local university with my first degree, it also hurt my pride to think that people might be saying that, “Oh, he graduated from a public university. No wonder!”.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a big believer and advocate of inclusivity from the socio-economic point of view. We need to have social and economic fairness.

Those who are financially and economically less privileged need to be assisted so they can be on equal footing with the rest and so that social mobility is possible.

But it should be based on on the right criterias, and definitely not on race. Affirmative action should be in place for the less privileged all around and not just for the Malays.

Sometimes, I too do feel like moving overseas and seeing if I could actually thrive in my profession outside of Malaysia and not have this affirmative action issue over my head.

But thoughts like this make me nervous. What if it is true that I am in whatever position I am in now because of affirmative action?

What if my thoughts of people saying, “Of course Zan can do all this in Malaysia. No wonder!”, are true? What if these people are right and if I ply my profession outside, I might not make it?

Well, this is the exact mentality that we need to kill – I need to kill – so that my children will not be affected by it like how I am being affected by it.

Enough time has passed that Malays don’t need the crutches that have been helping them stand up all this while. It’s time to let them stand on their own.

Just like the game of golf, once you move out of the amateur zone and become a professional, all handicaps are done away with and it solely depends on how good you are.

And if I do play golf, I would much rather be playing it professionally.

[This article appeared originally at The Malaysian Insider]""