Maritim Malaysia: Meredah Ombak Yang Mencabar

KM Bagan Datuk – salah sebuah aset Agensi Penguatkuasaan Maritim Malaysia (APMM) yang memelihara kedaulatan negara tanpa mengira cabaran yang dihadapi

Seramai 24 orang pendatang asing tanpa izin (PATI) ditahan di Teluk Ramunia. Seorang nelayan hilang dan ditemui mati di perairan Kudat, Sabah. Belum sampai penghujung bulan, sejak 1 November 2020 hingga semalam, sebanyak 173 bot nelayan asing (BNA) dari Indonesia telah diusir oleh Maritim Malaysia negeri Perak berhampiran Pulau Jarak. Sebuah kapal Pengawal Pantai China (CCG) Zhongguo Haijing 5402 telah mengganggu sebuah kapal penggerudian minyak serta kapal-kapal bekalannya hanya 44 batu nautika dari pesisir pantai negeri Sarawak. Tiga orang anggota Pasukan Gerakan Am (PGA) Polis DiRaja Malaysia ditembak oleh kumpulan penyeludup dalam dua insiden di sempadan Thai mengakibatkan seorang anggota berpangkat Koperal maut.

Demikianlah rangkuman insiden-insiden diperbatasan yang telah dilaporkan dalam tempoh seminggu ini. Insiden-insiden ini merupakan di antara cabaran-cabaran yang dihadapi oleh agensi-agensi kerajaan terutamanya APMM dalam menentukan sempadan perairan, kedaulatan negara, serta keselamatan komuniti di laut adalah selamat.

Turut berada di perbatasan perairan negara ialah Kapal Maritim Bagan Datuk serta 29 orang anak kapalnya yang dinakhodai oleh Leftenan Komander (Maritim) Nik Mohd Rizam bin Nik Mohd Fauzi, yang meronda di Sektor 6, Selat Melaka. KM Bagan Datuk disokong oleh bot-bot pemintas dari Maritim Negeri Melaka & Negeri Sembilan. Kapal ronda generasi baru sepanjang 45 meter yang ditauliahkan pada 15 Mac 2017 bertindak sebagai kapal induk untuk operasi-operasi pemintasan yang dilakukan oleh bot-bot pemintas di sektor tersebut.

Kehadiran BNA Indonesia di perairan Pulau Jarak bukanlah sesuatu yang boleh dipandang ringan dan remeh oleh umum. Sekiranya dibiarkan atas sebab budi-bicara ataupun atas dasar jiran-tetangga, ianya boleh menjejaskan kedaulatan negara. Kita ambil contoh tuntutan Malaysia dan Singapura ke atas Pulau Batu Putih (Pedra Branca) di mana Perjanjian Inggeris-Belanda, 1824 menamatkan kerajaan Johor-Pahang-Riau-Linggi. Di bawah Perkara XII perjanjian tersebut, tidak ada satu pun pertubuhan British dibenarkan di atas pulau-pulau Karimun, Batam, Bintan, Lingga dan pulau-pulau ke selatan Singapura, manakala pulau-pulau serta batuan-batuan di dalam Selat Singapura menjadi milik kerajaan Kesultanan Johor yang baharu.

Sebuah rumah api didirikan oleh Syarikat Hindia-Timur British (HEIC) di Pulau Batu Putih dalam bulan Jun 1850 dan mula beroperasi pada 15 Oktober 1851. Ianya dioperasikan oleh Lembaga Pelabuhan Singapura yang menjadi sebahagian dari Malaysia. Namun, apabila Singapura dikeluarkan daripada Persekutuan Malaysia pada 9 Ogos 1965, tiada sebarang tindakan diambil oleh pihak kerajaan Malaysia untuk mengoperasikan rumah api tersebut.

Hanya apabila pada 21 Disember 1979 Pengarah Pemetaan Malaysia keluarkan sebuah peta yang menunjukkan Pulau Batu Putih sebagai hakmilik Malaysia, kerajaan Singapura keluarkan bantahan. Mahkamah Keadilan Antarabangsa (ICJ) memutuskan walaupun Kesultanan Johor memiliki Pulau Batu Putih, Batuan Tengah dan Batuan Selatan, namun tidak ada mana-mana pihak dari Malaysia ataupun Johor mengambil sebarang tindakan untuk menunjukkan ianya mempunyai hak ke atas pulau dan batuan-batuan tersebut, termasuk mengoperasikan rumah api di Pulau Batu Putih setelah 31 Ogos 1957. Maka ICJ memutuskan bahawa Singapura mempunyai hak à titre de souverain ke atas Pulau Batu Putih manakala Batuan Tengah menjadi milik Malaysia melalui hakmilik Kesultanan Johor.

Inilah sebabnya APMM aktif menghalau BNA Indonesia, Vietnam dan China yang sengaja menguji reaksi pihak berkuasa Malaysia. Tidak mustahil jika suatu hari nanti negara-negara ini membuat tuntutan ke atas kawasan-kawasan perairan dan pulau-pulau di Malaysia sekiranya Malaysia tidak mengambil sebarang tindakan yang menunjukkan kedaulatannya ke atas kawasan-kawasan tersebut.

Masalah yang dihadapi oleh APMM pula ialah walaupun di atas kertas ia memiliki berpuluh-puluh aset dalam bentuk kapal peronda, bot-bot pemintas serta aset-aset udara, perlu difahami bahawa kapal-kapal peronda kelas Bagan Datuk inilah kapal peronda yang paling baharu dan paling canggih. Kapal-kapal peronda yang lain ada yang usianya sudah menjangkau 40 tahun dan kebanyakannya adalah jauh lebih kecil berbanding kapal-kapal peronda milik CCG. Sebuah kapal peronda kelas Bagan Datuk iaitu KM Lahad Datu serta tiga buah kapal peronda luar pesisir pantai (OPV) masih belum diserahkan kepada pihak APMM. Aset-aset udara pula hanyalah dua buah pesawat sayap kaku jenis Bombardier CL-415MP dan enam buah pesawat sayap putar jenis Eurocopter AS-365N3 Dauphin dan AgustaWestland AW139 – jauh dari jumlah yang boleh dianggap mencukupi.

Semasa kapal CCG Zhongguo Haijing 5402 mengganggu kapal penggerudi minyak serta kapal-kapal bekalan dalam kedudukan 44 batu nautika (80 kilometer) dari pesisir pantai negeri Sarawak, Malaysia telah menghantar dua buah kapal milik Tentera Laut DiRaja Malaysia (TLDM) iaitu Bunga Mas 5 dan KD Keris. Walaupun tindakan tersebut telah membuat kapal CCG tersebut mengalah dan berundur ke perairan Beting Patinggi Ali (Luconia Shoals) namun kita belum dapat menjangkakan reaksi pihak China seterusnya.

Ini adalah kerana Malaysia tidak bertindak balas dengan menggunakan diplomasi badan kapal putih (white hull diplomacy), iaitu kapal-kapal APMM untuk menyelesaikan keadaan. Sebaliknya, Malaysia telah menghantar dua buah kapal yang mempunyai badan kapal kelabu – iaitu kapal perang tentera. Besar kemungkinan, China akan bertindak balas di masa hadapan dengan mengirim sebuah atau dua kapal perang tentera lautnya (PLA-N) untuk mengiringi kapal peronda CCG. Sekiranya China bertindak sedemikian, ia adalah kerana tindakan Malaysia menjadi punca sebab China meningkatkan tahap reaksinya.

China juga baru-baru ini telah memperolehi persetujuan kerajaan Cambodia untuk menggunakan pangkalan tentera laut Cambodia di Ream yang terletak di Telukan Thailand. Sudah tentu kapal-kapal CCG dan PLA-N dapat menggunakan pangkalan ini untuk memperolehi bekalan. Ini bermakna, selain menunjukkan kuasanya di sebelah timur Laut China Selatan di luar pesisir pantai Sabah dan Sarawak, kapal-kapal CCG dan PLA-N juga boeh mengganggu bot-bot nelayan Malaysia serta platform dan kapal-kapal penggerudian minyak di sebelah barat Laut China Selatan iaitu di luar pesisir pantai Kelantan dan Terengganu yang hanya sekitar 15 jam pelayaran dari Ream pada kelajuan 20 batu nautika sejam.

Oleh demikian, adalah penting bagi kerajaan serta rakyat Malaysia memahami peranan penting APMM sebagai sebuah agensi separa-tentera (paramilitary) sebagai kuasa pencegahan bagi kuasa asing bertindak sewenang-wenangnya di dalam perairan serta Zon Ekonomi Eksklusif (ZEE) kita. Penting juga bagi kita memahami kerana APMM amat memerlukan lebih banyak aset dan kelengkapan yang lebih canggih dan besar serta berkemampuan untuk berada lama di kawasan rondaan tanpa perlu diulangbekal terlalu kerap.

Cabaran menguatkuasa undang-undang maritim serta mempertahankan kedaulatan perairan Malaysia juga begitu hebat di musim pandemik COVID-19. Umum tahu bagaimana penularan virus COVID-19 di atas sebuah kapal pengangkut pesawat milik Amerika Syarikat telah melumpuhkan pengoperasian kapal tersebut. Oleh sebab itu, kapal-kapal APMM juga diarahkan supaya menjalankan operasi pengusiran BNA dan bukannya penangkapan. Menurut Leftenan Komander (M) Nik Mohd Rizam arahan pengusiran tersebut bukan sahaja untuk menjauhkan para pegawai dan anggota APMM dari terjangkit virus COVID-19, malah ianya juga adalah kerana penangkapan nelayan-nelayan asing juga mungkin akan mendedahkan rakyat Malaysia kepada penularan mutasi baharu virus tersebut.

Sehubungan itu, pusat-pusat tahanan PATI di negara ini sudah penuh hinggakan kerajaan terpaksa membuka pusat-pusat tahanan PATI sementara untuk menempatkan PATI yang ditangkap di dalam negara. Malah, Timbalan Menteri Dalam Negeri I Dato’ Sri Dr Haji Ismail bin Haji Mohamed Said semasa menjawab pertanyaan di dalam Parlimen pada 18 November 2020 memberitahu Dewan Rakyat bahawa setakat 13 November 2020, Jabatan Imigresen Malaysia (JIM) melaporkan bahawa terdapat seramai 13, 103 orang tahanan di Depot Tahanan Imigresen (DPI) di seluruh negara berbanding kapasiti depot seramai 12,530 orang tahanan pada satu-satu masa.

JIM juga melaporkan bagi tempoh dari 1 Januari 2020 hingga 12 November 2020, seramai 89,086 orang warga asing telah diperiksa. Dari jumlah tersebut, 21,176 orang PATI telah ditangkap untuk siasatan. Sekiranya kerajaan perlu tanggung kos makanan dan minuman berjumlah RM40 sehari bagi setiap orang PATI yang ditangkap ini, maka kerajaan terpaksa membelanjakan sebanyak RM847,040 setiap hari. Proses menghantar PATI pulang ke negara asal lazimnya mengambil masa di antara tiga minggu hingga empat bulan. Maka, kerajaan membelanjakan di antara RM840 hingga RM4800 untuk membekalkan makanan dan minuman bagi setiap orang PATI. Malah, kos keseluruhan untuk menanggung PATI di DPI di seluruh negara ialah sebanyak RM3.4 juta sebulan.

Pandemik COVID-19 juga memberi kesan terhadap emosi para petugas barisan hadapan APMM. Bagi Nasul Abdul Halik yang bertugas sebagai tukang masak KM Bagan Datuk, berjauhan dengan keluarga di Satok, Sarawak sudah tentu memberi cabaran baginya. Apatah lagi beliau baru setahun bertugas dalam APMM. Penularan wabak COVID-19 di Malaysia bermakna sudah setahun beliau tidak dapat menjenguk keluarga di Sarawak. Namun seperti lain-lain anak-anak kapal KM Bagan Datuk, beliau menguatkan semangat untuk melaksanakan tugas kerana moral anak-anak kapal yang lain bergantung juga kepada kemahiran beliau memasak. Sudah tentu rasa masakan beliau perlu sedap tidak mengira sama ada beliau bersedih mahupun mabuk laut akibat cuaca buruk.

Demikianlah di antara cabaran-cabaran yang dihadapi oleh para petugas barisan hadapan kita di Agensi Penguatkuasaan Maritim Malaysia. Biarpun cabaran datang dalam berbagai gelombang, mereka akan tetap menerima cabaran-cabaran tersebut. Namun, lebih banyak sokongan kerajaan dari segi aset, kelengkapan dan kewangan yang diperlukan oleh mereka-mereka seperti Leftenan Komander (M) Nik Mohd Rizam dan anak-anak kapal KM Bagan Datuk untuk menjalankan tugas dengan lebih berkesan dan lebih berwibawa.

Forest City: Sustaining The Future

Forest City was under a considerable amount of pressure when it first started due to the knee-jerk reactions of some environmentalists and half-baked as well as over-ripe politicians seeking quick publicity to remain relevant.  While the environmental concerns have been addressed and continues to be addressed as the project progresses, it is notable that the political concerns seem to originate only from the Malay politicians.  It seems that the Chinese politicians realise the potential this development brings.

Almost, if not all the issues have been addressed in a recent posting of mine on the matter, but it seems that these politicians are hell bent on flogging an already decomposing horse.

In the meantime, Forest City continues to develop and progress, in very notable ways.

A UN Global Model

On the 31st October 2017, Forest City won the Global Model of Green Building Industrial Park for the second consecutive year.  The award was part of the Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements Award (SCAHSA) ceremony held in New York.

Forest City wins the Global Model of Green Building Industrial Park award for its industrial park which has boosted the construction industry

 

The SCAHSA award established by the Global Forum on Human Settlement (GFHS), a non-profit organisation with Special Consultative Status within the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It is a trend setter for urban construction everywhere that respects sustainable development.

Forest City, China’s Wuyi County and Indonesia’s Surabaya City were among the winning entries submitted from 23 countries and regions worldwide. Forest City won the SCAHSA Global Human Settlements Award on Planning and Design at the 11th Global Forum on Human Settlements (GFHS – XI).

Dr. Arab Hoballah (right), former Chief of the Sustainable Lifestyles, Cities and Industry Branch at United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) presents the Global Model of Green Building Industrial Park award to Forest City

Forest City, by taking full advantage of its technical resources, is creating a 1.7-square-kilometer construction-focused industrial park, to promote the development of a green building industry and improve building precision and quality, said Dr. Wang Jiying, vice general manager for overseas business at Country Garden.

Forest City will include several support facilities and a powerful water transportation system, all of which are expected to be operational in 2019, with the aim of creating a truly industrialised manufacturing base for the construction industry over the next three to five years.

Creating Potential Future Workforce

A month and a half ago when I was at Forest City, I was brought to visit one of five schools adopted by Forest City where children are given free Mandarin lessons for three months.  This is one of the ways by Forest City to ensure that the local community, especially those in the Tanjung Kupang area, have roles to play in the development.

The result is excellent:

The student above is from the first batch of students who started their Mandarin language course in August 2017 and has graduated.  Forest City is not stopping there.  Forest City’s master developer, Country Garden Pacificview Sdn Bhd (CGPV), aims to give back to the community by offering three-month basic Mandarin language courses to some 100 school children there.

CGPV plans to continue to offer the Mandarin courses in the future as part of its corporate social responsibility effort for the community here.

The second intake will be conducted from January until March next year,” Country Garden Pacificview Sdn Bhd corporate communications head Aeron Munajat told reporters when met at SK Tanjong Adang here today where she handed over certificates to the participants.

Aeron said that apart from learning Mandarin as a third language, the three-month language course will also help the students develop self-confidence which will further enhance their competitiveness in the job market in the future.

She said the course involved students and teachers from five schools, namely SK Morni Pok, SK Tanjong Adang, SK Tiram Duku, SK Tanjung Kupang and SK Pendas Laut.

The classes are conducted every Friday and Saturday from 10am to 12 noon, at the community centre in Kampung Pok,” she added.

Forest City Does Not Pawn Johor Land

The continued but futile attacks on Forest City by Malaysia’s Mugabe and his followers have again earned the ire of His Majesty The Sultan of Johor.

Has Johor ever pawned its land? What is the meaning of pawning? With Forest City, the state of Johor has increased in size. It is not about seizing land to be pawned. In Johor, there are international lots and Malay reserve land.  Anyone can buy at the international zone, be it the Mat Salleh from England or people from India, Japan, China. All of them can purchase it.  They can buy (property), but it does not mean they purchase the land to bring it back to their respective home country,” chided the Sultan.

In Johor, we have an international zone, which means that foreigners could buy. It has international status. In Forest City, we do not sell the land, we sell the strata (titles) and these strata (titles) are for permanent ownership in Johor,” he remarked.

The Sultan added that 40 percent of the investors in Forest City are Malaysians and that even the government has shares in the project, and that the project gave a lot of revenue for the state government, including quit rent and assessment, which the state of Johor benefits.

How much revenue will the Johor government get? When Forest City is completed, the assessment, quit rent will go to who? Who will get the jobs? There are transportation (initiatives), businesses and job opportunities. Don’t be narrow minded about this,” said the Sultan.

A throwback at the Sultan of Johor’s displease of Mahathir’s lies about the Forest City project

The Sultan also said that the most visible benefit of the Forest City project was the boost it has given to the value of real estate in its surrounding areas, particularly in Pontian district, which is now developing at a rapid pace.

He gave an example of how in the past, the people of Pontian were only picking buah duku (lanzones), but now people in Pontian own Mercedes Benz cars.

It means that Pontian has become a district that will see rapid development,” the Sultan stressed. “In the past, an acre (0.4 hectares) of land used to cost RM100,000, but now, it is valued up to RM3 million.”

It is no doubt that Forest City will boost the Iskandar region’s marketability.  With consumer prices 100 percent higher than in Malaysia, rent prices 500 percent higher than in Malaysia, many companies in Singapore were driven to relocate to Iskandar, while Johor Bahru’s shopping malls, food outlets and amusement parks have become a favourite for Singaporeans.  Bangkok’s recent wish for Malaysia to extend its High Speed Rail into Thailand will soon make the Iskandar Econmic Region attractive to the millionaires and billionaires of Indochina. And the green, affordable buildings of Forest City will definitely be a hit.

While they all win, the real winners will be the people of Johor and Malaysia.

Let’s Complain About Retail Fuel Prices

Four days ago, just before the retail fuel price hike of six to seven Sen, the average price of retail petrol per litre was USD1.09 (RM4.59).

I won’t touch on the complexities of how we calculate how much we should be selling petrol week after week, but as a rule of thumb, countries that are richer (UK, France, Germany etc) have higher fuel prices. Countries that are less rich, or countries that produce and export oil, have lower fuel prices. The only exception is the US which is economically advanced but has low fuel prices.

How a country taxes or subsidises fuel contributes to the differences in fuel prices around the world. Since all countries have access to the same fuel prices of the international markets, it is taxes and/or subsidies contribute to the difference in retail fuel prices.

This is how Malaysia fares. If you don’t see the names of other countries then it means that fuel prices are actually much higher than Malaysia’s.

I saw ill-informed people saying that fuel prices and the cost of living in neighbouring Thailand are much lower than in Malaysia. There were also those who said that Malaysia should follow the global prices.

My question to them is: if fuel prices in Thailand are much lower, why do we find people smuggling fuel from Malaysia to Thailand and not the other way round?

And as for the cost of living, this is the cost of living indices for Malaysia versus Thailand:

Taking the last three months (from 7 August 2017 until 13 November 2017), the average price of fuel in Malaysia was around RM2.18 per litre with the lowest being RM2.07 per litre on 7 August 2017 and highest at RM2.31 per litre on 13 November 2017.

The average price of fuel per litre on the international markets for the duration was at RM5.84. So, would those asking Malaysia to follow the international markets prices want to pay this sum per litre?

I hope that these gullible Malaysians would pause to breathe and check the “facts” that are being shared in chat groups and social media before hitting that “SHARE/FORWARD” button.

But that is like hoping to see anencephalic babies become Einsteins.

Malaysia’s Efforts To Combat Human Trafficking Recognised

Malaysia has been taken off the US Human Trafficking Watchlist after its position in the watchlist has improved to Tier-2 (pic courtest of Fact Retriever)

Slavery has been around since the beginning of time. Up until the introduction of the English Common Law in the Malay States, those who can no longer afford to pay taxes entered bondage slavery to keep their daily bread. Such was the time when slavery was almost all about labour exploitation.

And then the British brought in workers from Southern China and India to toil the tin mines and rubber plantations respectively.  Other than bringing in opium to keep them happy, Chinese females were also brought in to fulfill their sexual desires.

Today, there are more human slaves in the world than ever before in history. There are an estimated 27 million adults and 13 million children around the world who are victims of human trafficking. (Skinner, E. Benjamin. A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery. New York, NY: Free Press, 2008).  Nearly 80% of human trafficking is for sex, and 19% is for labor exploitation (http://www.ncdsv.org/images/NCADV_HumanTraffickingFacts.pdf ).

Two years ago we were shocked by reports of Malaysia being used as a base for human traffickers with the discovery of 28 camps and 139 graves of trafficked Rohingyas in Wang Kelian.

A forensic policeman transports body bags with human remains found at the site of human trafficking camps in the jungle close the Thailand border after bringing them to a police camp near Wang Kelian in northern Malaysia May 25, 2015. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Since then the government has pulled out all stops in its efforts to eradicate the menace. Najib Razak even made a personal decision to become more involved in combatting human rights violators, especially in the realm of human trafficking. He instituted a government-wide initiative to consolidate efforts. Working with law enforcement, immigration authorities, the manufacturing and agriculture sectors and NGO’s, the Malaysian government planned and executed a comprehensive effort to combat trafficking at the local and regional levels.

The efforts have since paid off.  The latest US State Department’s Trafficking In Person (TIP) report, Malaysia was elevated from a watch list to “Tier 2”, which represents significant efforts to combat human trafficking.  This is as a result of the Prime Minister driving the efforts to improve in several key areas, which the US has today recognised as achieving.

Not all are thankful that the efforts made by the government, notably Klang MP Charles Santiago who calls the US State Department’s TIP report a ‘farce‘ that is ‘driven by political objectives.’

The Farcical MP

Charles Santiago is the same person who in 2015 asked then-US President Barack Obama NOT to elevate Malaysia’s TIP status from Tier 3.  Nothing good should ever come to Malaysia for as long as it is not he nor his comical colleagues that are in power.

Charles Santiago asking Obama in 2015 not to make Malaysia look good to anyone

This MP is from the very same Pakatan coalition that the US Department of Justice’s suit on 1MDB-related individuals and companies are not politically-motivated because it would hit the Barisan Nasional hard, but argue that the US State Department’s TIP report as politically-driven instead because it does no good to the Pakatan’s aimless struggle.

Making stupid calls over nothing

According to the US TIP report, the Malaysian government conducted 106 risk assessments and ultimately granted six victims work visas and 12 special immigration passes for freedom of movement. An additional 28 victims were approved for freedom of movement. Prosecutions were initiated by the Malaysian government against 175 alleged traffickers, up from 38 initiated the previous year. The government convicted 35 traffickers—18 for labour trafficking and 17 for sex trafficking.  There were 1,558 trafficking victims identified in Malaysia last year and 3,411 cases investigated by the Royal Malaysian Police.

The report added that the Malaysian government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. During the reporting period, the Malaysian Attorney-General approved and the Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi enforced implementing regulations for the amendments to the anti-trafficking law.

As for the protection of the trafficking victims, the report says that Malaysian officials provided three NGOs with funds to conduct various programs and activities with trafficking shelter residents. They also increased its funding allocation to the Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development to operate government facilities for trafficking victims.

As a matter of fact, the Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development maintained seven facilities specifically to house trafficking victims, and the government allocated RM3.06 million (USD682,270) to open three new trafficking shelters.

With this elevation, Malaysia is now a regional leader in combatting human trafficking.  Najib Razak will be working with regional countries, in particular the ASEAN nations,  that are lagging behind, and will support efforts by Myanmar, Laos and Thailand to solve their trafficking problems.

While we should all be proud of this achievement, we should spare no effort to eradicate this inhumane trade.  However, credit should be given where credit is due, and politicising issues such as this shows how selfish one can be putting his/her agenda above the nation’s.

Defence: Friendship Expanded Through Exercise Aman Youyi 3/2016

A major disaster strikes and the damage to infrastructure massive. Despite an overwhelming situation, friendly countries extend assistance through their military to rescue and treat injured survivors as well as provide humanitarian relief aid.

That was the scenario displayed during the opening ceremony of Exercise Aman Youyi 3/2016, conducted jointly by the Malaysian Armed Forces and the People’s Liberation Army of China at the Paya Indah Wetlands in Dengkil, Selangor.

The exercise uses humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as theme is conducted through Staff Exercise (STAFFEX) with the aim to establish a Standard Operating Procedure and enhance interoperability in the event of a disaster.

This exercise is another major development and an extension to the exercise by Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak to further enhance the 42-year old friendship between Malaysia and China last month.

Officiating the ceremony was Chief of the Malaysian Armed Forces, General Tan Sri Dato’ Seri (Dr) Haji Zulkifeli bin Mohd Zin and Chief of Joint Staff PLA, General Fang Fenghui.

In his speech General Haji Zulkifeli said that humanitarian assistance and disaster relief was adopted as the backdrop of the exercise because the Asia-Pacific region suffered approximately 160 disasters in 2015 resulting in 16,000 deaths and a loss of about USD45.1 billion.

Therefore the synchronisation of collective multinational measures will determine the efficiency and success of humanitarian assistance.

Also in attendance were the Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia His Excellency Dr Huang Huikang, and Team Leader for the Royal Thai Armed Forces observers Major General Thitichai Tiantong.

A total of 410 personnel are involved in this exercise namely 215 from Malaysia and 195 from China, with 10 observers from the Royal Thai Armed Forces.

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.

Defence: RMN’s Look At China

The Royal Malaysian Navy has announced the procurement of up to four vessels from China for its Littoral Mission Ships programme. The Type 056 corvettes virtually matches the requirements of the RMN (image by Wikipedia)
The Royal Malaysian Navy has announced the procurement of up to four vessels from China for its Littoral Mission Ships programme. The Type 056 corvettes virtually matches the requirements of the RMN (image by Wikipedia)
The dust has yet to settle.  Pro-US tweethandles have been lambasting Malaysia for its ‘shift’ in trade approach – a whopping RM143.64 billion (USD34.4 billion) worth of MoUs have been signed between the two countries that includes what Prime Minister Najib Razak termed as ‘a landmark deal’ – the purchase of four vessels from China to fulfill the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN)’s ‘Littoral Mission Ship (LMS)’ programme.  It is a ‘landmark’ deal because it is a departure from the usual military purchases from Western manufacturers.

However, shift it is not.  Between January and August of 2016 Malaysian exports totalled RM500.33 billion (USD119.72 billion) with China being the second largest buyer of Malaysian products at RM58.93 billion (USD14.10 billion) surpassing the US by RM6.51 billion (USD 1.56 billion).  In the same corresponding period for 2015, China imported RM18.52 billion (USD4.43 billion) more than the US. Malaysia has been trading with China since 1974.

Given the requirements of the RMN, the platform that would be most suitable for the LMS programme is the Type 056 Corvette.  The RMN had embarked on several programmes such as the Kedah-class NGPV and the Samudera-class Training vessels with local yards being the preference.  In both programmes, the local yards had failed to manage the projects efficiently and effectively causing delays the RMN could not afford.  Extra funds had to be pumped in in order to complete the projects.

The ‘KD Perak’, first of the Kedah-class NGPVs to be constructed locally was laid down in March of 2002 and was launched on the 12th November 2007, more than five years compared to less than 18 months for the first two that were constructed at Blohm & Voss as well as the HDW yards. She was only commissioned on the 3rd June 2009, seven years and three months after being laid down!  In the end, due to the rising cost to complete the vessels that had been laid down, only six of the Kedah-class was built out of the 27 planned.  This had left the RMN barely able to patrol Malaysian waters as almost all the 40-year old patrol crafts had been taken out of service.

The Samudera-class programme in 2011 called for two training ships namely the Gagah Samudera and the Teguh Samudera to be constructed at a local yard in Sijangkang, Selangor.  Due to a mismanagement of the programme the yard was unable to complete both vessels although both had been launched in 2012 and had to fold up when a creditor took them to court in 2013. In late 2015, funds were made available only for the Gagah Samudera and a yard in Lumut was selected to complete her fitting out.  As of October 2016, she is still undergoing her testing phase. The fate of the Teguh Samudera is still not known.

The Chinese option gives the RMN the edge of procuring proven modern vessels that are common-of-the-shelf (COTS) for a lot less. This augurs well with the RMN as her assets are being stretched thin, with combat boats such as the CB90 doing crew change and supply runs to the various RMN stations located in the Spratlys. Two years ago last month one CB90 went missing for more than a day in rough seas.  With the LMS coming online, these tasks could be handed over to these more capable vessels.

Despite being known as a strong ally of the US, the Royal Thai Navy has been using Chinese-made vessels since the mid 1990s when the first two frigates, HTMS Naresuan and HTMS Taksin were commissioned in 1995.  Newer and more modern vessels such as the HTMS Pattani and HTMS Narathiwat were commissioned between 2005 and 2007.

htms-narathiwat
Royal Thai Navy’s OPV HTMS Narathiwat
Bring COTS model the Type 056 corvette can be obtained quickly as compared to its American contemporary, the Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship (LSC).  The Type 056 corvette began production in 2012. To date People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLAN-N) have commissioned its 25th vessel compared to three of the Freedom-class vessels which began production in 2005. With automation being the key feature of the Type 056, a single unit requires only up to 60 officers and men to operate with a mission endurance of about 21 days compared to the Freedom-class that requires 115 men with the same endurance.  This will definitely reduce RMN’s cost of operating each LMS.

The purchase of the China-made vessels also fits into the RMN’s ’15-to-5′ armada transformation programme which aims at reducing the current fifteen classes of vessels built in seven countries to just five – the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS); New Generation Patrol Vessels (NGPV); Littoral Mission Ships (LMS); Multi-Support Ships (MRSS) and submarines.

The move offers the RMN a broader spectrum to choose from for platforms that are fit for purpose based on mission capabilities and the RMN doctrine. This would make the armada more cost-effective to manage and maintain.  We have the leadership of the RMN to thank for finally taking the step to transform the organisation into a lean and mean fighting force.

 

Baby Songkla, Loved By Millions, Is Gone

King Bhumibol Adulyadej meets a well-wisher
King Bhumibol Adulyadej meets a well-wisher
He was born on the 5th December 1927 in Cambridge, Massachusetts and his name was written only as ‘Baby Songkla‘ on his US birth certificate as his parents had to await for an auspicious name from King Rajadhipok (Rama VII).  Eventually, a name was given – Strength of the Land, Incomparable Power (Bhumibol Adulyadej).

King Bhumibol became the world’s longest serving monarch by chance.  King Rajadhipok abdicated in 1935 making Bhumibol’s brother Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII) the King of Thailand at the age of nine. The throne was thrusted upon him when Ananda was found dead with a gunshot wound in the Grand Palace in 1946.

Under military rule, Bhumibol was nothing more than just a constitutional monarch with very little role to play. That changed in August 1957 when Sarit Thanarat and the Royalists seized power from Plaek Phibunsongkhram. From then on, Bhumibol strived to make the Royal family relevant to the people of Thailand once again and Sarit assisted in making Bhumibol the ‘Development King‘. Bhumibol embarked in rural development projects especially in areas then controlled by the Thai Communist Party. He was always seen with his second daughter, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn who would help take down notes during visits to the rural areas.

Although his subjects are required to not stand or walk any taller than the King, even prostrating at official occasions, Bhumibol would always sit on the same level with the peasants he visited – a gesture that allowed his subjects to open up to him about their problems. It is such gesture that not only made him most revered by the Thais, but made the Royal institution relevant in the eyes of the people too.

In later years, Bhumibol’s role would slowly be taken over by Princess Sirindhorn making her the more favourable heir to the Chakri throne than her elder brother, Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.


Vajiralongkorn may well be succeeding Bhumibol but whether he would have the same touch as his father had with the subjects remains to be seen. He must now shine on his own and not be overshadowed by the legacy created by his father and sister Sirindhorn. The Thais would now be looking up to him as Rama 10.

And for the Thais, they have lost the only King they have ever known in their lifetime, and an excellent one too – a gift from God, they say.

Rest well, King Bhumipol Adulyadej. Rao rak Nai Luang.

Selling Malaysia For RM6,000 Only

Thai police: Justo met with Msian opposition leader, media tycoon 16 JULY 2015 @ 4:46 PM BY ADRIAN

BANGKOK: Thai police today confirmed that Swiss citizen Xavier Andre Justo met with a very important person from a Malaysian opposition party before selling classified information belonging to Saudi oil company PetroSaudi International. Royal Thai Police Commissioner of Officer of Information and Communication Technology Lt Gen Prawut Thavornsiri told the New Straits Times here that Justo, a former PetroSaudi director, admitted to meeting the opposition leader at a hotel in Singapore. He however declined to name the individual. Under Thai law, a person cannot be named prior to a warrant of arrest. “He (Justo) met a very important person from a certain country, in Singapore. He then negotiated the selling price of the documents and later sold them to the buyer.” Prawut later disclosed that the individual was from an opposition party in Malaysia. He also said Justo admitted that he met with a media tycoon at the same location in Singapore. He declined to name the media tycoon. “We have confiscated Justo’s personal computer and we have managed to find documents and information pertaining to their meeting at a hotel in Singapore. “Most of these information was found from Justo’s email correspondence and WhatsApp chat records.” He said immigration and hotel records gathered by Thai police corroborated Justo’s account of the meeting. He said Justo had also admitted to blackmailing his former employer, PetroSaudi International, and will be charged under Thai law for extortion and blackmail. Prawut however said Justo denied having tampered with documents that were eventually sold to a certain news outlet in Europe. “He didn’t make any changes to the documents and sent the original documents (to the buyer) as digital copies.” When asked if he had sold the documents to London-based whistleblower website Sarawak report, Prawut declined to elaborate. “Everyone knows which news organisation I am talking about,” he said. Justo has been under Thai police custody since his arrest late last month after he allegedly stole thousands of emails and documents from Petro Saudio, and tried to blackmail his former employer. He moved to Thailand after he was terminated from the company. Thai police are investigating how, after leaving the company, Justo issued a series of blackmail demands for 2.5 million Swiss francs (approximately RM9.9 million). PetroSaudi did not meet Justo’s demand. Then in February this year, doctored and tampered versions of the emails suddenly started to appear on Sarawak Report, sparking a political row implicating 1Malaysa Development Bhd (1MDB) and Malaysian leaders.

Selanjutnya di : http://www.nst.com.my/node/92328
The above is the report filed by the New Straits Times on the Justo-1MDB saga that has all but paralysed the Najib administration. That report coupled with Lester Melanyi’s confession as reported by Rocky Bru shows how pathetic some people could get just so they could satisfy their sick agenda.

I was also alarmed by the following tweet by a journalist:

   
He tweeted that in response to a police report that was filed and made public that revealed how much a person was paid just to write slanderous stuff to tarnish the image of the Prime Minister:

    
Clare Rewcastle Brown is never a name you could trust as evident in this blog post by Winifred Poh. With a negative track record that is surpassed only by Paul Joseph Goebbels’s, Brown’s Sarawak Report has only produced nothing short of pure cow dung for lack of a better description. Yet, Mahathir chose to believe her and continued to use her to fulfill his thirst for rule-by-proxy. Apparently 34 years of being in power isn’t enough for him.

Najib’s administration isn’t without fault. The deafening silence at the point whence this whole saga began helped fed the negative perception the public now has and is reluctant to let go of. Damaging would be an understatement. It is understandable that not much could be said about the deals the 1MDB is or was involved in considering the Financial Services Act as well as the various Non-Disclosure Agreements it is party to, but some formof communication to the public would have helped allay some fears regarding the issue.

To make matters worse, some Cabinet members even publicly declared their ignorance of the issue – a lame effort to try distance themselves from Najib should the latter fall. What is more disgusting is the act by some of the younger members of UMNO who were said to have helped make viral of some videos online and even discussed on what steps were to be taken to help speed up Najib’s downfall. This is the quality of the loyalty of people we now have, not just in UMNO, but in Malaysian politics in general. Values have been traded off for the power to fill up their pockets.

There has also been “power breakfasts” and “power lunches” organised by people close to Mahathir that invited bloggers and key UMNO office holders to entice them to call for Najib’s resignation. I have seen Facebook photos of “friends” attending these events. The revelation made by the Deputy UMNO Petaling Jaya Utara Chief, Mohamad Azli Mohemed Saad, on TV not too long ago on being invited to such events reinforced the fact that these events are or were real. Whatever happened to democracy within UMNO? Why resort to such tactics? These events must be investigated further by the police and the MACC in case of bribes bejng given for such support, and also for undermining the government and wanting to remove a government through undemocratic means. This include the politicians mentioned in the above police report. Tony Pua has got no excuse to further remain as part of the PAC.

The authorities should also investigate the various bloggers and socmed practitioners who helped amplified and conjure more false “facts” that had helped paint a bleak picture of Malaysia, of Najib’s administration so much so that Malaysia’s economy has been affected. Imagine foreign government officials asking our diplomats  if it was safe for potential investors to invest in Malaysia – and all these for just RM6,000 a month? Id I am allowed to coin a term for such people I would call them “economic terrorists” and not just saboteurs. I implore to the authorities to haul in these people and charge them the maximum for their despicable acts.

I hope the Thai authorities will also issue arrest warrants to the ten individuals they have discovered in the article above.

As I have said before, let the audit and investigation teams do their work without any pressure or influence from any party. Members of the special task force whom had leaked investigation information must be expelled from the service. The rakyat should not be made to pay the wages of thise who cannot keep the trust put to them.

As for members of the general public, the interim report issued by the Auditor-General has shown that 1MDB had not digressed from guidelines and other legal requirements. In mmy opinion, this is a good enough reason for us all to move on until the final report comes out later in the year to comment on the governance of the 1MDB deals.

The whole of Ramadhan was tarnished by the lies put forth by unscrupulous people. Let us use this Syawal to reflect upon our deeds that have caused all of us Malaysians to suffer – and all for just RM6,000 a month which is a bigger value for some than the price of the nation.

Is Selangor No Longer Attractive Economically Or Is The State Government All Talk Cock?

  
It is a Ramadan and a bleak Syawal for the former workers of JVC Kenwood at Section 22 Shah Alam as the factory ceases its operations as reported by The Rakyat Post above.  I am sure the decision to cease operations must have been made much earlier than just a few months or a year ago as any plant closure affects production as well as support services.

Many were too quick to blame the Federal Government as according to them investments come under the purview of the Federal Government. Many however forget that investments in a state comes under the purview of the respective states’ economic development council or committee. 

Does the seemingly bleak economy (despite the A- rating by Fitch) have any role in the closure of the plant? Let us examine:

  
Now it seems that TASCO had come into a sales and purchase agreement with JVC Manufacturing Malaysia Sdm Bhd for the purchase of the said property in 2009. This is a year after Pakatan Rakyat took over the state from Barisan Nasional. Six years on, it seems as if the Selangor SEDC had done nothing to persuade JVC to maintain a plant in Selangor. Why so?

It is easy to put the blame on the Federal Government. However, JVC has been cutting back its workforce not just in Malaysia but worldwide.

“They told us that the factory operations were moving to Thailand,” said a worker.

It was reported last year that JVC had cut its workforce globally by 14% to just under 20,000 people and about 90% of production now took place mostly in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Checks on jobstreet.com have shown that JVC is still hiring staff for its Tampoi plant in Johor.

Similarly, a few metres away from the JVC plant, Ansell Malaysia Sdn Bhd’s operations have also ceased and its workers were retrenched yesterday. The Australian company made healthcare protective gear.

A worker on site said: “They are moving their operations to Melaka. They have already told us about this six months ago and compensation was also paid out.”

Therefore, we are seeing a move out of Selangor not just by JVC but also by other foreign companies as well, unless Melaka and Johor are not in Malaysia, or that these states are not affected by the “slowdown” in the Malaysian economy. 

Maybe it is the hard work that Johor’s and Melaka’s SEDC have put in to ensure that foreign companies do not divest, unlike Selangor’s that was not able to or did not talk to JVC when the sales and purchase agreement was made six years ago.

Maybe Selangor has lost the edge it once had when it was still governed by Barisan Nasional.