High Speed Development 

I look forward to taking my first train up to Putrajaya in ten years’ time.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is confident that the 350-kilometre high-speed rail (HSR) link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore would bring both countries even closer together.

Facing a technical recession where the economy is more or less stagnant, Lee Hsien Loong has constantly reminded small and medium enterprises in Singapore to expand to neighbouring countries.

Hence, the HSR is truly important for Singapore to see that the project is completed within the stipulated ten-year period.

For Malaysia, it would definitely boost tourism as it opens up lesser known towns on the southwestern coast of Peninsular Malaysia to tourists from Singapore.

As a matter of fact, Singapore’s Straits Times has printed a guide on the places that could be visited once the HSR is in operation.

Not only that, as with the rail system run by the Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM), areas surrounding the HSR link would definitely see an increase in both development and prosperity as connectivity improves.

While the 10-year timeframe is a “relatively short period of time” given the size and complexity of the project, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said he is committed to meeting the deadline.

We have to work very closely together and be very focused, and we must overcome all the challenges as we move ahead,” he said.
Although Malaysia and Singapore are both different countries, they share a common history. Many from both countries are related and cross-border marriages are rife.

Perhaps Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has summed it all in the best way: “Our relationship with Malaysia is strong and flourishing. We are bound by history, kinship, culture and strong people-to-people ties.”

There is no doubt that the people from both countries would benefit from this single link.

Trumped

Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United States of America
Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United States of America

A few hours before Hillary Clinton conceded defeat, signs were everywhere that she was heading down the abyss.  On Twitter people were talking about moving to Canada while the Canadian Immigration website crashed for reasons not yet known to us.  Hillary finally conceded defeat making Trump the President-elect.  The next four years of his Presidency is going to be worth watching.

I can understand how the supporters of the Democrats feel right now, my home state of Selangor fell to what was the Barisan Alternatif in 2008 and the first 24 hours was filled with uncertainties.  In the end, it was business as usual albeit having to sufer the occasional water outtages as well as incompetent solid wastes collection contractors.  Other than that the state runs on autopilot while the politicians in charge of the state are busy giving ceramahs non-stop.

Trump has promised to make America great again.  To make America great again America’s military would also be made great.  It also means that America’s businesses will be given priority over foreign-owned ones.

How does this augur for Malaysia?

Firstly, the Republican-heavy Congress would not pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement as Trump sees the TPPA as a vehicle that would allow Asian businesses to take over the American economy.  If it were to go ahead a major tweaking of the TPPA needs to be done – tariffs would be raised to favour the American economy and that would not go down well with the other potential TPPA partners.  Anyhow, with the TPPA still not ratified, Trump is likely to hold to his pledge to withdraw the United States from the free-trade agreement.  The good thing from that would be Malaysia’s continued hold on its protectionist policies aimed at preserving the Bumiputra rights as well as the protection for local industries.

Malaysia’s manufactured exports to the US saw an increase by 13 percent recently.  With Trump favouring the great American economy, this would be greatly affected since Malaysia’s economy is 90 percent reliant on exports.  Nomura Holdings in early July 2016 in a report titled ‘Trumping Asia’ bluntly said that if Trump wins, Asia loses.  The Philippines would be the country in the South East Asian region that would be most affected by Trump’s Presidency while Malaysia is fourth after Indonesia.

Chart image from Boomberg with source from Nomura
Chart image from Boomberg with source from Nomura

It is not surprising then to see Prayuth Chan-O-Cha of Thailand, Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, Duterte of the Philippines and Najib Razak of Malaysia visit China in May, September, mid October and end October respectively to strengthen economic ties and increase trade with China.  These leaders must have predicted that the Democrats would lose to the GOP and knew that if trade is not increased with the largest Asian economic power these nations would stand to lose.  Purchasing the Chinese corvettes was definitely a good decision now given that any purchase from the Western powers would come with lots of strings attached.

China is not without danger because of Trump’s Presidency.  With levels breaching the USD 600 billion level, China is the US’s largest trading partner, and as President, Trump could impose punitive duties that includes a 15 percent tariff on China for a maximum of 150 days without having to go to Congress for approval.

Militarily, Trump had made a statement on China’s expansion in the South China Sea. “We have rebuilt China, and yet they will go in the South China Sea and build a military fortress the likes of which perhaps the world has not seen,” Trump said. “Amazing, actually. They do that, and they do that at will because they have no respect for our president and they have no respect for our country.”

I am of the opinion that the term “We have rebuilt China” used by Trump is the large balance of payments deficit that the US has with China.  If the US could ‘prove’ that China is a currency manipulator, which the US Treasury could easily declare without needing the approval of the Congress, it could trigger a range of trade restrictions against China – a form of pressure for China to ‘respect’ the US as required by Trump to make America great again.  Which is why the visit by Najib Razak to China recently was not an act of ‘kow-towing‘ to a Big Brother, but rather saying “Malaysia is a friend, how can you (China) help us so we can help you?”  China now needs its South East Asian neighbours as well as Russia as its allies.

We have stepped into an era that will be filled with surprises and not less scarily challenging.  The only consolation is that George Soros who finances both the Hillary campaign machinery as well as the Opposition and pro-Opposition organisations in Malaysia will find it hard to thrive.  Perhaps as a gesture of goodwill Trump should look into the affairs of the Open Society Institute and how its financing of the Arab Spring has given rise to the terrorist activities in North Africa, the Middle East as well as in South East Asia and take criminal action against the OSI.

As Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister said early this year, “We are all discovering Donald Trump, as he is himself: there is a stream of consciousness approach to policy pronouncements. One can only hope that it evolves towards addressing the strategic interests of the United States in the world.”

There may be a side to Donald Trump that we have not yet seen.  Others with better insight into things would probably have a better read of his character.  Of course, I am not talking about the Pribumi supremo. He never has anything good to say.

Madman
Madman

Trump would also need friends as China does, and he would look at nations with leaders who are level-headed as they are smart.  I was about to end this post when I saw this Tweet on my timeline:

A tweet by Jonathan Head, BBC's Southeast Asia correspondent
A tweet by Jonathan Head, BBC’s Southeast Asia correspondent

Apparently, not only is Najib Razak a golf buddy of Barack Obama.  He is also Trump’s favourite Prime Minister, as signed on a photograph taken of the two of them.  As I said, leaders have to have foresight and know what is best for the country he leads.  And a line in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII that reminds me exactly of this situation:

Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot that it do singe yourself.

Najib Razak's looking forward to meeting Trump...again
Najib Razak’s looking forward to meeting Trump…again

I call that a masterstroke from a great Statesman.

Being Magnanimous

Congratulations to Azizulhasni Awang, the Pocket Rocketman, for winning a bronze medal in the Kierin event at the Rio Velodrome recently.  It is an achievement to be proud of.

However, he spoiled the celebration by making a statement, thanking the Terengganu Menteri Besar sarcastically for NOT rendering any assistance to him and his teammate in their preparations for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Taken from Azizulhasni Awang's Facebook page
Taken from Azizulhasni Awang’s Facebook page
It is clear that Azizulhasni Awang, or Jijoe to his fans, felt frustrated for not getting any support from the Terengganu State Government as he was born and bred in the coastal town of Dungun. He alleged that a proposal for a road bike had been sent a year before the Olympics to the Menteri Besar but no response was ever received, and that calls to the Menteri Besar by his manager was never answered.

Several questions here: why send such proposal to Ahmad Razif and not Datuk Rozi Mamat who is the Terengganu Executive Councillor for Youth, Sports and Human Resources? Did Azizul’s manager call the Menteri Besar personally? To whom was the proposal handed over to and was it by mail or by hand?

Azizul is not without controversy.  He was almost expelled from the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow for making a political statement in support for Gaza.

Courtesy of Paul Chesterton SIPPA/Pinnacle
Courtesy of Paul Chesterton SIPPA/Pinnacle
The Commonwealth Games Federation shuns any form of political statements being made using the Games as a platform.  In his defence, Azizul stressed that his statement was humanitarian in nature and not political.

It’s inappropriate for any form of protest in a Games venue – we respect everyone’s right to protest out-with. He has had a strong reprimand from his team management and he has apologised. In apologising profusely he now knows any repetition will see a removal of his accreditation,” said Mike Hooper, chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation.

Azizul loves to do things without giving a thought first. Those who know of his political leaning would also remember this tweet that was not a reply to a topic, but a reply to actually start a conversation with a certain politician asking the latter to pray for his success, while other sportsmen and women showed political neutrality as they were there representing Malaysians irrespective of political beliefs and creed:

A tweet sent by Azizulhasni Awang to Anwar Ibrahim on the 5th August 2016
A tweet sent by Azizulhasni Awang to Anwar Ibrahim on the 5th August 2012
Whatever his political inclination may be, he ought to know that the name “Azizulhasni Awang” reresents all Malaysian  He can be Jojoe in private but that name is a household name.  While the Menteri Besar of Terengganu should investigate into the allegations made by Azizul, the latter should also remember that for three season in a row he was Terengganu’s Sportsman of the Year.  He had receive more than RM20,000 in awards from the state government while the state government has to be fair to 50 other state athletes and state sports associations.  It is not the duty of the state government to provide assistance to individual athlete as that remains the duty of the associations to which the respective athlete belongs to. The duty of the state government is only to provide the facilities that can be used to train athletes. This was pointed out by one Dr Aznil Hisham in his Facebook posting:

Screenshot of pictures of Azizulhasni Awang and the Terengganu Hockey Association receiving state awards
Screenshot of pictures of Azizulhasni Awang and the Terengganu Hockey Association receiving state awards taken from Dr Aznil Hisham’s Facebook page
Dr Aznil went on in another related Facebook posting to say that Azizul could have been more magnanimous and less rude about the whole situation by rewording the statement in a much nicer language.

Najib Razak has always been magnanimous.  Why am I including him in this post? If you remember the campaign by Mahathir to oust Najib started in the second half of 2014.  Since then Mahathirs goalpost has changed so many times that I have lost count. This includes the inclusion of the Altantuya case by Mahathir in May 2015 when Najib didn’t flinch, and sending out his pariahs to lodge reports overseas in order to put the Premier in a bad light.

When things really seemed bleak for Najib, I asked some of his close associates why hasn’t the PM hit back at Mahathir?  Apparently, they asked this question to Najib but he replied saying that the last thing he would want people to see is hi being rude to an elderly figure – and that is VERY un-Asian, let alone not-Malay.  Najib’s magnanimity crosses political boundaries and has been seen on occasions taking time to visit opposition leaders who fell ill, and although he was in Turkey when the late Karpal Singh passed away, Najib made a blog entry dedicated to Karpal – in spite of being called a murderer in Parliament by Karpal Singh’s Gobind Singh Deo, and allegation that is baseless and has been proven in a court of law that Najib is not linked to the case in any way.  Not once would you hear harsh words being directed towards anyone, including to his detractors.

You would go far being magnanimous, especially when your name is big enough for people to remember.  In contrast to Azizulhasni’s uncalled for outburst, Joseph Schooling participated in the Olympics, beat the reigning champion to win the Gold, without a single help from the Singapore government.  Yet, when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong asked for permission for a selfie to be taken with him, Schooling obliged and was gracious about it.

schooling

I hope the Menteri Besar of Terengganu would investigate thoroughly Azizulhasni’s allegations and make public the findings.  And I also hope that the state would assist him with his road bike, using state funds.  And as pointed out by Dr Aznil Hisham, if Azizulhasni does not improve and get a Silver in the next Olympics, be prepared to be criticised and eat the humble pie for having used taxpayers’ money but fail to give something back in return. Furthermore, he received RM2.85 million from the Sime Darby Foundation before he went to Rio de Janeiro and will be receiving another RM100,000 from SDF as a reward for his achievement at Rio.

Now, how many RM12,000 road bikes do you think Azizul could have bought before going to Rio with RM2.85 million?

Now, tell me if his outburst on Facebook is justifiable?

ysd