Category Archives: writing

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]

Wrong move in the game of perception, Najib?


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Wrong move in the game of perception, Najib?
By Zan Azlee

In 1998, I was in my third year of university pursuing my bachelors degree. I was a normal student, more interested in girls, watching movies and listening to music than I was in national politics.

I had sent my then-girlfriend to Puduraya bus station so she could go back to her hometown in Ipoh when I encountered a deadlock traffic jam on Jalan Tun Perak towards Dataran Merdeka.

All of a sudden, I saw many masked young men running around my car and the others on the street. Some of them even started setting rubbish bins on fire in the middle of the road. I got pissed off because I was stuck.

I managed to weave my way home and later that evening did I realise that I had witnessed the start of the Reformasi street protests because the then-Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had been sacked.

Seventeen years later, I am a working journalist and have much more interest in national politics, a sense of deja vu has occurred. Of course, there has been no street protests, but a Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, has been removed from office.

As most Malaysians would know, along with the DPM, Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal has also been dropped and the Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail has been removed from his post.

What do all these three people have in common? They have all been very vocal and critical about the 1MDB scandal that the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has been implicated with.

The reason for the reshuffle of the Cabinet by Najib (or more specifically, the dropping of Muhyiddin) is so that his “administration remains committed and focused towards nation-building as promised by the Barisan Nasional government”.

They say that politics and public administration is a game of perception. Leaders and politicians are supposed to be perceived as honest, credible and responsible. They are supposed to be perceived as sincere and transparent.

From the Cabinet reshuffle, I guess that rule of perception doesn’t apply to politics and public administration in Malaysia. Public perception is the least of the administration’s priorities. Having the strength to remain in power is number one.

Najib already took a bad step by not being clear and upfront in addressing all the allegations regarding 1MDB. And now, with the removal of all the individuals who have been critical, it just plays to a negative perception of his role in the scandal.

I wonder if this is obvious to him, or his team of advisors? Do they realise how this move makes him look in the eyes of the public? The people are not dumb and they can formulate their own deductions based on what they see.

Of course, legally and technically, the prime minister has the prerogative to determine his Cabinet, at least until the next general election. But whether his decision is in the interest of the nation or a personal agenda, we can only assume based on how we see things.

Pakchic says: A four-year-old can still learn about financial literacy!


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Pakchic says: A four-year-old can still learn about financial literacy!
By Zan Azlee

I don’t like the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki because it doesn’t really give you any added value information. Basically, he just regurgitated common sense in the book.

Of course I was lucky because I had parents who saw the importance of educating my brothers and I about financial literacy from a very young age.

And it wasn’t like they sat us down and explained everything in one go. It was more just normal exposure to how they managed their finances and in our everyday conversations.

I’m glad for it because it help me to avoid so many mistakes that my peers have made, such as falling into credit card debt, not investing as early in your career as possible, etc.

With little Athena, I’m hoping to do the same thing. But, I’m busting my head as to when would be a good age to start. I don’t remember when my parents started with me.

So when Hari Raya was about to come and that would mean tons of duit Raya, I thought what better time to start! Oh, and she’s four years old, by the way.

Athena already has some sense of money. Whenever we’re browsing at a toy store, she would always ask me, “Pops, do you have money to buy me toys?”

But that’s as much as she knows about what money can be used for! It’s all about the toys!

So on the first day of Hari Raya, my wife and I prepared a small handbag for Athena to carry around and we told her to put all her duit Raya packets inside so she won’t lose it.

I told her that it’s important she keeps the money and not lose it because she had to imagine losing her toys and how that would make her feel. She said she understood.

And as expected, all the relatives started giving her duit Raya, from her grandparents, grand uncles and aunties, uncles and me. She was excited, to say the least!

But she was most excited not because of the amount that she was receiving, but by one particular duit Raya packet that my brother had given her. It was a Frozen-themed packet!

I’d call Athena over every once in a while to ask her to pass me her duit Raya, and telling her “I’m saving your money in your bank account so you can use it when you need to, okay?”

She asked me what a bank account is and I told her it’s where we keep money so we don’t lose it. “Oh” she said and gladly and smilingly handed over her duit Raya to me.

But then she looked at me menacingly and said, “Pops, you can take all of my duit Raya, but do not take my Frozen duit Raya! That’s mine! Do you understand?”

I nodded and smiled. Oh well, I thought to myself. At four years old, she’s probably still too young to understand the full concept of money.

The important thing is that I’d never talk down to my daughter and always assume that she can understand things as long as I explain it properly.

Once the Hari Raya weekend ended and all the duit Raya giving started to die down, Athena said, “Pops, once there’s enough in my bank account, we can go and buy a really big toy. Right?”

My clever little girl!

[This article appeared originally at MakChic.Com]

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]

Okay, sure. The issue of cinema couple seats is of grave national interest!


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Okay, sure. The issue of cinema couple seats is of grave national interest!
By Zan Azlee

This week’s most sensational news (yet utterly non-significant) is Perak Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria’s call for cinema operators to create stricter rules for their audience.

This is in response to another piece of sensational news (yet utterly non-significant) about Lotus Five Star Cinemas in Seri Iskandar barring unmarried couples from occupying couple seats.

And since we’re already on this sensational subject (yet utterly non-significant), I thought, what the heck, I’m going to ride on the bandwagon and write about it as well.

Why not, right? It’s not like there isn’t any other more significant and important issues that should be covered in the news and discussed. Well, at least we have our priorities straight.

Couple seats exist in many cinemas and are two adjoining seats that have no arm rest in between them, basically making it like a (dare I say it?) love-seat!

The Mufti’s reasoning is that it encourages immoral acts and destroys the faith of Muslims. He stated that couples went to the cinemas not to watch movies but to ‘make-out’.

He added that going to the cinema is already an immoral act, and to have couple seats only encourages them to indulge in more immoral acts.

Yes, we need to curb immoral acts like ‘making-out’ in cinemas by unmarried couples. I guess this is a huge sin that trumps all other sin. So we definitely need to address it immediately.

It is also fascinating to see that the rakyat has given much intellectual thought into the issue as seen on social media, where all kinds of suggestions have been made.

Some individuals have suggested that all cinemas segregate men and women. And taking a cue from the Mufti, they say that people go to the cinemas ‘not to watch movies but to make them’.

Others say that we should just listen to the Mufti because as Muslims, we shouldn’t question anything that is against the religion. We should just accept it whether we like it or not.

Another bright idea on social media is for the cinemas to install night vision cameras in the halls and if any ‘making-out’ sessions are spotted, to project it on to the cinema screen for all to see.

Of course, we shouldn’t get the intentions wrong. This is not an attempt to be voyeuristic, but more to deter these unmarried couples from ‘making-out’.

I am happy to see all this happening because it gives me hope that the country is in good hands. These hands have shown their capabilities in leading the nation forward.

And of course I am very happy to see how our religious authorities are handling social ills and making sure that Malaysia and Malaysians are always syariah compliant.

Yes, observing and writing about this issue has satisfied me deeply. It has been time well spent seeing that there isn’t anything that is more important that this. Let’s do this more.

[This article was originally published at English.AstroAwani.Com]