Archive for September, 2015



Musa Aman is well known in Malaysia and across the globe as a leader who is totally committed to development and good governance. His record 3 terms as the Chief Minister of his home state of Sabah exemplifies Musa Aman’s commitment to a development Agenda, rising above all other political considerations. He ushered in a paradigm shift towards pro-people and pro-active good governance, bringing in a positive change in the life of many in Sabah. His tireless efforts were guided by the principle of Collective efforts, inclusive growth where each and every person was an important stakeholder in Sabah’s development journey.

When he took over as Chief Minister on 27th March 2003 Musa Aman did not have much time to settle into his new job. The state was reeling under the aftereffects of a severe cash crunch and there was nothing much in the State Treasury. Even Yayasan Sabah (YS) was badly in need of funds and retrenchment and Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS) was the order of the day. The entire world had written off Sabah and it was believed that Sabah would take years to develop. Musa Aman proved them all wrong. In a record span of time Sabah was up and running and today it’s reserves in the State Treasury is more than RM3 billion and has become the cynosure of the world’s eyes.

Musa’s success as an administrator lay in his out of the box thinking. That’s why when he recently spoke to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak he emphasised that the Sabah State government needs greater autonomy for rural development projects.

The Sabah government wants autonomy in terms of planing, funding and implementation of rural development projects so that they can be completed and delivered on time. There are too many Federal agencies involved at the Federal level at the implementation stage that contributed to the delay of projects. Development of rural areas has been hampered due to delay in channnelling of funds, bureaucracy and politicking.

Billions of ringgit were channelled by the Federal Government for development projects involving rural roads, rural electricity, rural water supply and household assistance program via Shafie Apdal’s Rural Development Ministry in the past, but, there was so much hiccups and many projects were delayed and some have not even taken off. With greater control of development funds by the State Government, the planning and implementation of infrastructure projects would be more structured, streamlined and aligned with the State’s overall development objective. Hence by giving more autonomy, Sabah can plan and implement projects in a more holistic manner.

Sabah State Government knows the Sabah turf better. Besides, Sabah State Government is more than able to manage funds from the Federal. Sabah State Government under Musa has a good track record in managing its finance which is proven by Sabah having the best record of financial management in Malaysia for two consecutive years and awarded a ‘clean bill’ by the Auditor-General for 14 consecutive years as well as given ‘AAA’ ratings by Rating Services Berhad RAM for six years in a row. All these happened during Musa tenure.

It is Musa’s firm belief also that – “a Government does not have any business doing business”. What a government should do, however is to create a positive climate that will bring investment. Instances of these approaches were seen time and again, last year Sabah received RM2.4 billion from local investors and RM1 billion was injected by foreign investors and gave a boost to employment creation in Sabah. There was quantum jump in both the MoUs inked and the investment coming. Sabah development Corridor (SDC) has RM135 billion worth of cumulative investments, out of which, RM45 billion have been realised.

Musa did not have much time to catch his breath when he took over as CM in 2003 facing grave adversities and in challenging circumstances. But he rose to the occasion, turned every challenge into an opportunity and transformed Sabah into a state that not only Malaysia but also the entire world is today proud of.

This was told to me by Musa a long time ago but its so meaningful even now, “It is said that community who fails to learn lesson from the past lag behind. Our own experience is no different from this saying. We have to build a better Sabah by taking appropriate lesson from our own history. And we have to define the road today itself. The challenge before this ever-changing society and time is to turn change into progress. Like what Nelson Mandela said: “Vision without action is, but a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with the action changes the world”.

This piece came out in Daily Express Sunday Forum today 13th September 2015


Picked this up from Reuters

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, fellow Gulf states raced to shelter thousands of displaced Kuwaitis. Fast forward 25 years, and the homeless from Syria’s nearby war have found scant refuge in the Arab world’s richest states.

The wrenching image of a Syrian Kurdish refugee boy drowned on a Turkish beach has stoked debate in Europe. The official silence of Gulf Arab dynasties makes many Gulf citizens uneasy.

Paintings and cartoons of the young boy’s death crowded Arab social media, one depicting little Aylan Kurdi’s corpse laid out before an open grave with inert figures in traditional Gulf Arab cloaks and robes holding shovels.

Another showed the three-year old’s head slumped toward a tombstone marked “the Arab conscience”.

Sara Hashash of Amnesty International called the Gulf Arab states’ behaviour “utterly shameful” and criticised Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for officially taking in zero refugees.

Turkey hosts almost 2 million, tiny Lebanon over a million and other restive and poor neighbours hundreds of thousands.

The Gulf States’ supporters say the numbers involved in Syria’s crisis are vastly larger than in Kuwait’s case. They point to the funding Gulf States have given to aid efforts in countries neighbouring Syria.

“Qatar is very small and already donating to refugees in Jordan, Turkey and northern Iraq. For logistical reasons Qatar cannot take in large numbers of refugees so instead Qatar chooses to support them financially,” said Abdullah Al-Athbah, editor in chief of Arab Newspaper.

But sympathy for Syria’s refugees is on the rise.

“It gives us a glimmer of hope after these recent drowning episodes to see broad campaigns of sympathy and solidarity with the issue of Syrian refugees by governments and peoples in some European countries,” wrote Zeid al-Zeid in a column for Kuwait’s Al-An newspaper on Sunday.

“But it makes us sorry and makes us wonder about the absence of any official response by Arab states … we’re seeing a silence that’s scandalous.”

Sultan Sooud al Qassemi, a commentator in the United Arab Emirates, said he suspected Gulf States were wary of allowing in large numbers of politically vocal Arabs who might somehow influence a traditionally passive society. But he said Gulf States should open their doors to the refugees.

“The Gulf states often complain that the Arabic language is underused and that our culture is under threat due to the large number of foreign immigrants,” Mr. al Qassemi said.

“Here is an opportunity to host a group of people who can help alleviate such concerns and are in need of refuge, fleeing a brutal war.”

One Kuwaiti analyst, a regular fixture on pan-Arab news shows, raised hackles by saying in a television interview that refugees were better suited to poorer countries, failing to acknowledge the pledges of rich European countries like Germany to take in many thousands.

“Gulf countries clearly can and should do an awful lot more,” said Oxfam’s Syria country director Daniel Gorevan.

He called on Gulf States to “offer up work places, family unification schemes, essentially other legal avenues for them to get into Gulf countries and to be able to earn a living.”

In Arab states beyond the Gulf, there is immense sympathy for Syrians, but mixed views on the feasibility of helping.

“Tunisia is not able to welcome any refugees. We cannot accept Syrian refugees. After the revolution of 2011, Tunisia was the first to pay the price in terms of refugees. We have welcomed 1.2 million Libyans and that has cost us a lot,” Boujemaa Rmili, a spokesman for the Nidaa Tounes party which forms part of the governing coalition said.

Migrants from Syria and Sahel countries into Algeria are estimated at 55,000, a source from Algeria’s red crescent told Reuters. “We have done what we can to offer them the basics including food, medicine, host centres, and we have allowed the Syrian kids to study in our schools,” the source said.

Hospitality?

Gulf officials and those defending Gulf policies say the outrage overlooks the billions donated to Syrian refugee camps abroad and the delicate demographics of countries where expatriate workers already nearly outnumber locals.

“Qatar has provided over $2 billion in aid to the Syrian people in addition to the $106 million provided by Qatar’s semi-governmental institutions,” a Qatari diplomat said.

Others felt Gulf states should go further.

“[The Gulf] should accept Syrian refugees. Saudis and Syrians have always been brothers and sisters. Aside from the fact that our religion requires us to do so, helping refugees should be a natural reaction to what we have seen in the media,” 22-year old Saudi student Noor Almulla said.

Another Saudi student, Sara Khalid (23), said Gulf Arab states “as their neighbours and fellow Muslims” had a greater responsibility to Syrian refugees than Europeans.

While none of the Gulf Arab states have signed onto key global agreements defining refugee status and imposing responsibilities on countries to grant asylum, the United Nations Refugee Agency praised the Gulf’s “hospitality.”

“The six GCC governments continue to respect international standards with regards to protecting refugees,” especially in not repatriating them back to their war-torn homes, Nabil Othman, the UNHCR’s representative in the Gulf told Reuters.

While authorities generally apply “humanitarian considerations” to those overstaying their visas, Othman said work or local sponsorship still mostly defined residency status.

Foreign workers outnumber locals five to one in the UAE and Qatar, where well-heeled European families and South Asian workers are omnipresent while long-robed citizens are rare. Refugee camps are, and will likely remain, non-existent.

“The numbers of foreigners are overwhelming. Here we have 90 per cent – do you want to turn local people into minorities in their own countries? They already are, but to do it really?” said UAE Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a political scientist.

Over the decades, Saudi Arabia has become home to around half a million Syrians and the UAE to over 150,000, and the welcome extended to these and other expat professionals has helped fuel a boom in Gulf economies.

But since the unrest and wars unleashed by the Arab Spring pro-democracy uprisings in 2011, those governments have adopted a stricter line on accepting Palestinians, Syrians and Shia Muslims – a sign of just how much the rich and stable Gulf ruled by absolute monarchs is wary of importing political contagions.

Iyad al-Baghdadi, a Palestinian blogger and activist deported from the UAE last year, has criticised the response of the Gulf states and laments the closed borders and repression.

Recalling time spent in a Norwegian refugee camp with Syrian refugee friends, he said on Twitter: “Something about this felt absolutely alien – three grown Arab Muslim men who were made homeless and are seeking refuge in… Scandinavia.”

“The Arab world is 5 million square miles. When my son was born, among the worst thoughts was how it has no space for him.”