Saturday, February 28, 2015

1MDB - Whom to Believe?

On the official 1MDB website – I personally checked it today: @ 09:36 PM – the Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Lodin Wok Kamaruddin (left) had put out a statement dated December 23, 2014 that plainly explained that “…1MDB raises and invest its own capital. In fact, in terms of actual funding, the company has only ever received RM1 million in equity, which was provided by the Ministry of Finance at the time of its inception. Given that 1MDB does not receive any funding from the Government, it is therefore simply not true to claim that the company is investing or worse, wasting, the state’s – or the people’s – money.” (Webpage http://www.1mdb.com.my/press-release/for-the-record).

Prime Minister Najib Razak – who is also the chairperson of the 1MDB Board of Advisers – said on Facebook that 1MDB is a strategic investment fund owned by the government and he will not allow any misappropriation of public funds. Note that Najib specifically mentioned “dana awam” meaning “public funds”.

[Note: Najib’s actual words in Malay, taken from his Facebook page today: “Ingin saya tegaskan di sini, 1MDB adalah sebuah syarikat pembangunan strategik, dimiliki oleh Kerajaan Malaysia dan saya tidak akan sesekali membenarkan sesiapa menggunakan atau menyeleweng dana awam untuk kepentingan dan keuntungan peribadi” (Webpage https://www.facebook.com/najibrazak).

Now if the chairperson of the Board of Directors and the chairperson of the Board of Directors cannot see eye-to-eye – whom do we believe? Who is right and who is wrong? Never mind whether it is a sovereign wealth fund or a strategic investment fund, the bottom line is whether the people’s money is being used or not?

I really wonder why Najib emphasized on the issue of misappropriation of funds at 1MDB? Why did he bring this matter up all of a sudden? If he wants to counter the criticisms directed at his pet project, just use facts and figures to show that all is well at 1MDB. Come clean and I am sure the explanations given will put the Malaysian public’s mind at rest. Stop being opaque. Stop being evasive. Stop telling lies.

Now if Lodin is right about the government investing only RM1 million in the form of equity – why did Najib mention "public funds"? Anyway, Malaysians know that RM1 million is nothing to get excited about because the well-connected are awarded mega contracts by the government at inflated prices that will let them make millions. Many, many millions. And not counting, squandering many millions more to corruption. Therefore to lose RM1 million is like letting a crumb drop to the floor. 

Methinks, there’s more to this than meets the eye. It is time Malaysians know the truth about 1MDB.

Friday, February 27, 2015

No to Cash Injection for 1MDB

The Malaysian Insider learned yesterday that the Cabinet has turned down the proposed RM3 billion cash injection for the debt-laden 1MDB. Wow, it is showing that it has balls to say 'No'. If I was Najib Razak, I would be really pissed.
 
Other sources have also confirmed the Cabinet rejection, which is seen as a blow to the wholly-owned government company that the Prime Minister set up in 2009 to invest in key economic sectors.
 
"Options are narrowing for MoF as 1MDB cannot raise (their) own funds right now. It basically needs money from (their) only shareholder, the government," said another source.
 
Given the above, can Malaysians similarly expect the Cabinet to show it has balls by rejecting Najib?
 
In another development, the Public Accounts Committee wants the Auditor General's Department to immediately carry out an audit of 1MDB's deals. PAC chairperson Nur Jazlan Mohamed (left) said the immediate review should look into the source of the RM2 billion used to settle 1MDB's loans with local banks, the RM3 billion injection of government funds into the debt-laden company, its dealings with PetroSaudi International, and whether the money parked in Cayman Islands has been brought back.
 
I agree. The public needs to know the truth! Please, no more pussyfooting around.
 
I also hope this was a no-nonsense advice and not a political game.
 
The question is, will it happen?

But what’s the point? It seems that in December 2014, probably in the fourth week – all records were deleted from computers and servers at 1MDB. It was all hush-hush. Staff were contacted directly by phone or in person and told to take their machines immediately to the IT section in order to be wiped.
 
I hope I am wrong but it may already be too late to save 1MDB.
 
Nothing seems to be going right for my two teams, Celtic and Liverpool.
 
Yesterday, Celtic battled stoically in the San Siro before succumbing to a single stunning strike from Inter Milan's Fredy Guarin in the eighty-eighth minute and the latter sealed an aggregate 4-3 win to progress into the last 16 of the Europa League.
 
Also yesterday, Turkish side Besiktas emerged victorious (aggregate 1-1, penalties 5-4) against Liverpool. Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Emre Can and Joe Allen scored before Dejan Lovren missed Liverpool's fifth penalty. With that, the Reds said goodbye to the Europa League. With this exit, Liverpool are left with the FA Cup as their last realistic hope of a trophy this season.

Relief for Borders Bookstore's Nik Raina

Borders Bookstore manager Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz (left) can finally heave a sigh of relief because yesterday, the Syariah High Court granted her a discharge not amounting to an acquittal.
 
Since the raid on her bookshop on May 23, 2013 and her subsequent legal battle with the religious authorities over a charge of selling and distributing a book (Irshad Manji’s "Allah, Liberty and Love") deemed to be “un-Islamic” – it had made her realize that it is not only about her.

There is a bigger agenda, i.e. to ensure other Muslims are not harassed for merely doing their jobs and that they will not crumble under pressure and intimidation. Her unbending steadfastness should inspire other Muslims to stand their ground.
 
Yesterday, I was on Level 22 in Menara Milenium, Jalan Damanlela in KL’s Pusat Bandar Damansara – for the Ernst & Young Toastmasters meeting. I had accepted the Vice President Education’s invitation to speak at the club. And I delivered CC speech #6 on Vocal Variety titled “The Hulk Meets Green Goblin”.
















 
Originally, I had wanted to share a story – something along the lines of Tuesday’s speech at Taman Indrahana – but it turned out to be a speech that used “explicit characterization” as a technique to illuminate and enlighten us. The speech informed us that if we look deep within ourselves, we can also recognize the Hulk as being a part of us.
 
C JoyBell C, author of "All Things Dance Like Dragonflies" expressed it well when she said: “Anger is like flowing water; there's nothing wrong with it as long as you let it flow. Hate is like stagnant water; anger that you denied yourself the freedom to feel, the freedom to flow; water that you gathered in one place and left to forget. Stagnant water becomes dirty, stinky, disease-ridden, poisonous, deadly; that is your hate. On flowing water travels little paper boats; paper boats of forgiveness. Allow yourself to feel anger, allow your waters to flow, along with all the paper boats of forgiveness. Be human."

The meeting saw just eight Toastmasters present and yet, we still managed the full monty, i.e. Table Topics, assignment speeches and evaluations. We started three minutes late but thankfully, excellent time management meant that we finished on time. I am giving this meeting a 6.5 score over 10. BTW, I was voted Best Table Topics speaker and Best Assignment speaker. 








 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tough Times for Samsung in China

2014 was certainly not a good year for Samsung, and the Chinese market which is the world's largest market for smartphones, proved to be both daunting and difficult for the South Korean company. 

According to research firm IDC, overall 420.7 million smartphones were shipped  to China in 2014. In terms of shipments by vendors, Samsung was reported to have slumped 22.4% for 2014 versus 2013. 

CCID Consulting, China's biggest research and consulting company, however, pointed out that Samsung lost 31.5% of their market share in China in 2014. 

It doesn't matter which numbers we trust the fact is that Xiaomi had overtaken Samsung in China. And if this decline persists into 2015, the latter will probably plummet further down the ladder.

The Xiaomi success can be attributed to their low prices and online flash sales, says IDC. Last month, the company’s vice president of international Hugo Barra told TechCrunch’s Jon Russell that Xiaomi keeps their prices down through a combination of a smaller smartphone portfolio coupled with longer average selling time per device.

The other brands such as Lenovo, Huawei, Coolpad, Xiaomi, Meizu, and their fiercest rival, Apple, are steadily tightening the noose on Samsung.

China's Smartphone Shipments by Vendors, 2014 versus 2013











For sure, it is tough times for Samsung in China.

To further compound their misery, there have been reports that emerged last month that said that Apple have pulled ahead of Samsung as the top smartphone vendor in the world, thanks to the success of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

On Wednesday, my SUBS students from the January 2015 cohort presented their works.













This time around, only twelve commercials were produced and I am only going to feature the Top 5 in this post. The selected video clips have been examined and scrutinised by a panel of three judges from SUBS (i.e. Sri Bala, Derek Ong and I):









Mary Poppins Sings Death Metal

Julie Andrews starred in another movie a musical which combined live-action and animation and where she was a nanny with magical powers.
 
The movie 'Mary Poppins' (1964) was directed by Robert Stevenson and produced by Walt Disney, with songs written and composed by the Sherman Brothers. The screenplay was by Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi, and loosely based on PL Travers' book series of the same name.
 
But this time, I am sharing an awesome mashup featuring English super nanny Mary Poppins singing a death metal version of  her trademark song “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious“.
 
Singers Sera Hatchett of Mercy Brown and Thomas Hinds performed the vocals, Andy Rehfeldt played all the instruments, and music producer Grant Cornish did all the arrangements.



Here’s the original version of the song:


 
I was in KL’s Brickfields yesterday to attend the MIA Toastmasters meeting. I had received an SOS from club president Johnny Yong to help evaluate an Advanced speech – the speaker is a MAICSA Toastmaster, Alice Liu. Although there were only eight of us there, we still had a good meeting. And I would give it a 5 over 10 score.








Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fresh Air in Japan

Chinese tourists flock to Japan for the sushi and for the shopping. But, increasingly, they’re also coming for one thing that money can’t buy: fresh air.  

After all, many of China’s cities are blighted by pollution.
 
“The first thing Chinese people do after they land is to breathe deeply,” said He Wenfan, of the Japan Tourism Board’s Chinese-language website. “People say, ‘I can finally breathe!’ ”
 
Of course, it helps that the value of the Japanese yen has declined against the Chinese yuan, which once made the country prohibitively expensive.
 
And the Japanese are equally happy. Of all the visitors, the Japan Tourism Agency estimates that Chinese tourists are the biggest spenders. They shelled out about a quarter of the £11 billion that foreign tourists spent in Japan last year – or about £1,300 each.
 
On Tuesday evening – after the Taylor’s College Toastmasters meeting – I rushed to Petaling Jaya for the Taman Indrahana Toastmasters meeting where I had a speaking slot. I delivered an Advanced speech from The Entertaining Speaker manual titled “The Hulk Meets Shrek”. An original speech that marries two of my favorite green characters. Sometimes I can really surprise myself!

 
The meeting was poorly attended and this didn’t speak well about members’ support for the club. I would score this meeting a 6 over 10.











 

Four Razak Brothers Get Agitated

The New York Times article entitled “Towers of Secrecy: Jho Low, Well Connected in Malaysia, Has an Appetite for New York,” published on February 08, 2015 had wanted to investigate the connection between flamboyant businessperson Jho Low and Riza Aziz, stepson of current Prime Minister Najib Razak, and suggested that both Low and Riza were moneyed men.
 
It is this particular excerpt from the said article that intrigues fans of Najib and Rosmah: “While Mr Aziz has previously said he is personally wealthy, he declined to explain how he acquired his money. Mr Najib’s office, in a statement, said, ‘The Prime Minister does not track how much Mr Aziz earns or how such earnings are reinvested.’ As for the Prime Minister himself, the statement said he had ‘received inheritance’.”

The article even informed readers of the Najib family's lifestyle, in particular Rosmah's love of the good life. It quoted a former aide as saying that he saw "piles and piles of ringgit" in a safe kept by Najib!
 
The way the Prime Minister's Office put it, one could happily infer that the late Abdul Razak (Najib’s dad and Malaysia’s second prime minister) was the source of this “inheritance”.


 









Predictably, Malaysians begin to wonder and conjecture. And when we consider the luxury collection of Birkin bags and other branded artefacts belonging to Rosmah Mansor (Najib’s spouse, if you still don’t know) – all the more, we ask ourselves where did Rosmah – or rather Najib since she did say on Monday that she is merely a housewife with no income – get the money to pay for her indulgences in the first place?
 
The “inheritance” word persisted in staying put in our consciousness. And as the Malay Mail Online reported, four of Razak’s five sons were compelled to step forward to express their grave concern over news reports that speculated over the origins and size of their father’s supposed wealth. I read that they were  really upset and they got very agitated.

It seems one source had indicated that the four brothers had no choice but to make it clear that there was no large inheritance as suggested by the PMO statement. The latter was being mischievous and deliberately deceptive. If it was from the PMO, then it stands to reason that it must have originated from Najib himself.
 
And so Johari Razak, Nizam Razak, Nazim Razak and Nazir Razak issued a joint statement yesterday – which read in part: “We wish to put on record that Tun Abdul Razak was a highly principled man, well known to all who knew him for his frugality and utmost integrity and any statement or inference to the contrary would be totally false and misleading to his memory and to his service and sacrifices for the nation”.
 
And it incorporated this intriguing line: “We would also like to add that our whole family is united on this issue.”
 
Still, it is strange that Najib Razak was NOT named as one of the persons issuing the statement. Hmmm…
 
Two questions come immediately to mind. First, by referring to "inheritance", had not Najib sullied Razak's legacy? Oh my Rosmah, his own father!! Second, if we accept the brothers' rejoinder on this "inheritance" issue – how did Najib get his grubby hands on a fortune which enabled him to keep globe-trotting Rosmah very happy?
 
Yesterday, I was at Taylor’s College in SS15, Subang Jaya for their Toastmasters meeting. I am not exaggerating when I say that I was amazed and also impressed with their members – particularly in the quality of their speeches and even evaluations. And equally important, the excitable enthusiasm and energetic exuberance they exhibited made me feel really glad that I accepted their invitation to be there as the General Evaluator.
 
The only hitch was they started twenty-one minutes late and that in my books, is a major felony! My score for this meeting is a 3.5 over 10.