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Sabah Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman has urged European Union member countries to stop its ongoing campaign against the oil palm industry.

He said it was rather unfortunate that some of the EU member countries had painted a negative image in an attempt to boycott the industry.

Those who were against the industry must realise that Malaysia has 680,000 oil palm smallholders, of whom 200,000 are from Sabah, that happens to be the largest producer of crude palm oil (CPO) in the country, he claimed.

“A negative campaign or boycott could affect global CPO prices. What is going to happen to these smallholders whose livelihoods depend on oil palm?

“This could mean loss of income for them and their families,” he said during a courtesy call by a 14-member EU Delegation of Ambassadors led by ambassador and head of delegation of the EU to Malaysia, Maria Castillo Fernandez, at his office in Kota Kinabalu today.

Musa, who is also the state finance minister, said the Sabah government had taken steps to ensure the oil palm industry continued to be sustainable, which included the launch of a programme in 2015 to have all CPO produced from Sabah to be Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO).

In that endeavour, he said the Sabah government had the support of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to guide the CSPO process, and hoped the EU member countries could keep an open mind on the matter.

Musa further said that Sabah adopted one of the best forest management and environmental conservation practices in this region.

The state government has gazetted 26 percent of its total land mass as totally protected areas, which exceeded the International Union for Conservation of Nature target of only 10 per cent.

“We are actually targeting 30 percent or 2.2 million hectares, which we are confident of achieving in the next five years, if not earlier,” he said.

The chief minister said it must also be noted that Sabah had restored and planted forests well over 700,000ha, presumably the largest such undertaking in the tropics.

“I must tell you the Sabah story on forest management, so you can tell it to your European communities…concerted efforts with concrete results are being made and this must be made known to the world,” he stressed.

He also informed the delegation of the state government’s close ties with the federal government under the leadership of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who continued to focus on the needs of Sabah in terms of allocations to fund development initiatives.

Musa looked forward to continue cooperation with the EU countries in terms of trade, investment, tourism and culture, alluding to the EU film festival that was launch this evening.

Meanwhile, Fernandez assured Musa there was no official boycott against the oil palm industry by EU member countries, but that there was a debate on the issue of oil palm and deforestation.

“We want to reach out to the stakeholders in Malaysia and engage in a dialogue to better understand the industry so we can explain it to the European communities,” she said.

French Ambassador to Malaysia, Frederic Laplanche said the good work done on forest conservation in Sabah must be acknowledged, in which the state had been forward-looking and deserved the EU support in the spirit of cooperation.

Bernama

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If we consider the political scenario of Sabah, we find very few effective and influential leaders. The reason being, the majority of the political parties are still using the old ways of influencing the voters with religion and race based politics and we lack leaders with strong development agenda coupled with tough decision-making capabilities. To stay at par with the fast changing world, we cannot rely on politicians who have been using the traditional political games for their own benefits. But, there have been some leaders who have been successful to eliminate the stagnancy of the political borders and proved themselves as influential leaders focused on the development and a work-oriented approach.

Tan Sri Musa Aman, the Chief Minister of Sabah, has been one of the most inspiring leader who has emerged in the Sabah political landscape and given a ray of hope to Sabahans.

Musa Aman, became the Chief Minister of Sabah in 2003. He has proved his credibility and capability by fulfilling all the promises made during the elections in the past 14 years. Another differentiating factor for Musa has been his clean image and zero tolerance towards corruption. Although his stance has been one of the reasons for a feud with some of the former senior party leaders, Musa Aman has proved his toughness by taking strict actions whenever required. This clean, clear and straight approach certainly puts him in a different league of his own.

When it comes to development, no other CM or Menteri Besar in the country can match up to Musa’s level. Under his regime, various exemplary infrastructure projects have been undertaken and initiated, the major projects include Sabah Pan Borneo Highway a 706-kilometre highway upgraded from a two-lane dual carriageway to a four-lane, the building and upgrading of roads included three multi-level interchanges in Kota Kinabalu, the multi-billion ringgit Tanjung Aru Eco-Development project which will transform Tanjung Aru into one of the region’s best tourist spots. And as of Sept this year, the number of projects approved is 647 namely 304 extension projects and 343 new projects. Among the projects are the, rural clean drinking water and electricity supplies, rural roads and people’s housing programme.

Other initiatives such as parks, cycling tracks, stadiums, promotion of rural tourism, tree plantation drives and even releasing of baby sea turtles hatchings and the free Wifi service in Kota Kinabalu has gained Musa a large following and a feeling of belongingness even with the youth of the state.

The launching of the first Malaysia Art School (Sekolah Seni Malaysia) Sabah at the Sandakan Education Hub is another example. The love of art and music among Sabahans is obvious and the setting up of the art school in Sandakan has provided space and opportunity for youngsters who want to pursue their studies in arts. Sabah is known for its different ethnics, races and cultures and Sabahans are also known to be talented in arts and singing. Sabah is a rich repository of art, culture and traditions and the state government under Musa has committed to preserve and further promote it and the youth can play a vital role in this direction. Hence, this art school in the Sandakan Education Hub will not only ensure that  Sabah traditional cultures such as dances will not be lost in time, but it will also provide opportunities for Sabahans to enhance their talents in arts. Besides, music is food for the soul and Sabah is universally acclaimed for its diverse folk songs and versatile musicians.

The chief minister knows the youth are the key players in the process of development and the state government has to empower them with positive perspectives so as to fully harness their potential. And hence, providing training,  adequate employment and self-employment opportunities to the youth of the state was the prime concern of the state government.

When it comes to the younger generations and people concerned about development using new-age technologies, Musa Aman has made a mark for himself, which is next to impossible for anyone else to achieve. With the digitization of various government departments, a host of useful apps for information and faster grievance redressal, instant assistance and help for emergency situations, Musa has made the best optimal utilization of technology for the modernization of the state and benefit of the people. Although we usually hear the terms women safety and empowerment frequently in the political manifestos, it has been actually implemented in Sabah with schemes like Sabah Women TH50 an entrepreneurial programme ‘Creating Millionaires Among Young Women Entrepreneurs (Cream)’ and Micro Credit & Usahawan Desa.

According to so many Opinion Polls, Musa is ranked as one of the best Chief Minister across Malaysia. So, when we come to his comparison with the past CM’s of the state, nobody stands even close to him for consideration. If we take into account the upcoming general elections expected before May 2018, the CM candidate for Gabungan Sabah is Dr Jeffrey Kitingan while Shafie Apdal being the CM candidate for PH Warisan plus. Considering these leaders, Musa definitely comes as a preferred choice for the people due to his clean image and orientation towards development.

After 14 years Musa has not only proved to be a successful leader whose agenda is development and modernization but also he has displayed a strong political acumen. His ideology of “Work says it all”, displays his confidence of the several positive developments undertaken by him. Previously, Sabah used to be in the news only for the wrong reasons and various controversies surrounding the CMs, but due to the efforts and personal character of Musa, the perception of people has changed towards Sabah, Sabah is seen in a good and positive light. While it becomes difficult to compare any existing and potential candidate with him for the position of the Chief Minister of Sabah, if we take into account the previous 12 chief ministers of Sabah ( Faud Stephens, Peter Lo, Tun Mustapha, Mohammad Said Keruak, Harris Salleh, Pairin Kitingan, Tun Sakaran Dandai, Salleh Said Keruak, Yong Teck Lee, Bernard Dompok, Osu Sukam and Chong Kah Keat), Musa Aman certainly emerges out as one of the best and most influential CM until now.

 


Amazing story how Nehru got Khrushchev to end the system of people having to pay to enter public parks in the Soviet Union.

https://thewire.in/197695/nehru-patron-saint-soviet-sexual-liberation/

Nehru, the Patron Saint of Soviet Sexual Liberation?
By Michael S. Bernstam on 18/11/2017

In the early 1950s, urban social life in the Soviet Union was constrained, with few opportunities for young people to meet and date. But that changed after Jawaharlal Nehru’s visit in 1955.

Photograph from the Moscow Youth Festival of 1957. Credit: Novosti

Something delightful happened on a day in June 1955 that changed the lives of tens of millions of Soviet citizens: public parks, which were a precious escape from people’s drab urban existence, opened up free of charge.

The entrance fee had amounted to the cost of a loaf of bread, not a sum to be sneezed at in a country that was still impoverished by the Second World War. But that day in June, word spread rapidly over that land of 11 time-zones: Thank Jawaharlal Nehru! The prime minister of India was then visiting the Soviet Union, and he became an instant – an unwitting – hero for young Soviet men and women. For many of them, now in their 70s and 80s, he remains a sentimental memory.

The story told around the country, but never officially reported, went like this: Among the numerous showcases of socialist progress to which the Soviet leaders took Nehru, the giant central park in Moscow was one. The leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita S. Khrushchev, his second-in-command, Prime Minister Nikolai A. Bulganin, and a host of lesser lights, including the mayor of Moscow, accompanied Nehru to the grand entrance to the central park. Nehru suddenly noticed something his hosts had never paid attention to and had taken for granted: a long line of people queuing at the ticket boxes near the gates. This was the scene one would expect to see at a sports stadium on the day of a major game, not at the entrance to a public park on an average day. Curious, Nehru asked who those people were, and why they were queuing. His hosts told him that they were purchasing tickets from cashiers to enter the park. Nehru, it is believed, was dumbfounded. He asked again to be sure, and received the same response.

Nikita Khrushchev and Jawaharlal Nehru. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Nikita Khrushchev and Jawaharlal Nehru. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The exact words uttered by Nehru are thought to have ranged from astonishment to admonition. He inquired how a communist government of a socialist country could charge its people to enter public parks, while the British, the US and other capitalist countries made public parks open to the public free of charge. The Royal Parks of London had been free public parks since 1851, a century before this Moscow encounter. Khrushchev was profoundly embarrassed, and livid. His retinue could not understand what had gone wrong and looked at their boss for instructions. He said something to his minions, who ran to the ticket boxes yelling and waving hands.

Entrance to Gorky Park, aka the Central Park for Culture and Recreation, Moscow, circa 1955. Credit: Old Soviet postcard

The ticket boxes were closed immediately, and the crowd was told that entrance was free. A minor stampede occurred when the people already inside ran back to demand refunds. Overnight, telephone calls and telegrams were fired across the Soviet Union. In the morning, the radio announcers informed the Soviet people that all public parks were free. In many parks, the surrounding metal fences were removed and the gates stood open even at night. That was a social revolution.

Why were there entrance fees in the first place? Most likely, it was a fiscal matter of municipal budget revenues. Soviet municipal governments, which had to take care of underpriced public utilities and the repair of the aging housing stock, were starved for revenues. Public parks entrance fees were handy – especially since rapid urbanisation had increased the number of paying customers. But once these fees had been exposed as unbecoming of a socialist country, they were doomed.

A great social liberation ensued. More people could afford to use public parks more often for recreation, family pursuits, picnics and romantic exploration. Everyone was elated and grateful to Nehru, the young and the old, the athletes and the war invalids, the picnicking families and the dating singles. Especially the latter. It so happened that in the Soviet Union, public parks doubled as open-air dance venues and dating spots, for the lack of other options. People had had to pay twice, once for the park entrance and again – the same amount – for the dance enclosure. Now, thanks to Nehru, the price had halved.

Gorky Park, circa 1950. Credit: park-gorkogo.com

This was a huge deal, especially for students, young workers and apprentices. In the early and mid-1950s, urban social life was constrained. There were very few opportunities for young people to meet and date. Restaurants were beyond reach. A restaurant meal cost about 10% of the monthly wage per person. People ate at cheap factory cafeterias and municipal diners, which were not quite romantic. People lived in barracks and crammed communal flats, several persons to a room, often a dozen or more per apartment. Young people gathered in the backyards and basements of buildings – shabby, murky places. There were, in each city, a few factory clubs and community centers where people could dance; but it was assumed, with good reason, that the management was watching.

Young revellers in Moscow, 1957. Credit: Izvestia

After Nehru, dancing in urban parks became more affordable. Strangers could meet more easily. The dating pool became greater and more heterogeneous, which facilitated matching. The effect on dating, matching and mating opportunities was hard to overestimate. To wit, this was Nehru’s profound and lasting contribution to the liberation of Soviet sexual life. In economic terms, he expanded and diversified the dating, matching and marriage markets in the Soviet Union. Some people, now in their late 50s and early 60s, exist today thanks to him, possibly without ever having heard of him. This is fitting. The greatest contributions to humankind have been anonymous. Think of the invention of the wheel, fire, art, the alphabet – and free public parks.

Michael S. Bernstam, an economist, is a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He was born in Russia in 1943 and emigrated to the United States in 1977.

 


This picture of Najib Tun Razak & wife visiting Anwar Ibrahim in the hospital has quickly spread on social media, shortly after the publication on Twitter. This is the picture which shows the suffering of Anwar Ibrahim, and has shocked and sadden even hardened observers.

Shared widely on social media today.

Anyway, I dont know why people think Najib Tun Razak’s visiting of Anwar Ibrahim in the hospital is such a big deal. First they torture him, then they visit him when he is suffering. Najib should do the right thing – Free Anwar, then we all can say Najib is ikhlas, Najib is magnanimous!

Time to free Anwar Ibrahim the Prisoner of Conscience!


This is a very interesting piece, an up to date ongoings in the House of Saud, an aging king and his son.

By Thomas L. Friedman NOV. 7, 2017

To understand the upheaval that is taking place in Saudi Arabia today, you have to start with the most important political fact about that country: The dominant shaping political force there for the past four decades has not been Islamism, fundamentalism, liberalism, capitalism or ISISism.

It has been Alzheimer’s.

The country’s current king is 81 years old. He replaced a king who died at 90, who replaced a king who died at 84. It’s not that none of them introduced reforms. It’s that at a time when the world has been experiencing so much high-speed change in technology, education and globalization, these successive Saudi monarchs thought that reforming their country at 10 miles an hour was fast enough — and high oil prices covered for that slow pace.

It doesn’t work anymore. Some 70 percent of Saudi Arabia is under age 30, and roughly 25 percent of them are unemployed. In addition, 200,000 more are studying abroad, and about 35,000 of them — men and women – are coming home every year with degrees, looking for meaningful work, not to mention something fun to do other than going to the mosque or the mall. The system desperately needs to create more jobs outside the oil sector, where Saudi income is no longer what it once was, and the government can’t keep eating its savings to buy stability.

That’s the backdrop for this week’s daring, but reckless, power play by the 32-year-old son of King Salman — Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known by his initials M.B.S. I’ve interviewed M.B.S. twice. He is a young man in a hurry. I’ve found his passion for reform authentic, his support from the youth in his country significant and his case for making radical change in Saudi Arabia compelling.

Indeed, there are two things I can say for sure about him: He is much more McKinsey than Wahhabi — much more a numbers cruncher than a Quran thumper. And if he did not exist, the Saudi system would have had to invent him. Somebody had to shake up the place.

But here is what I don’t know for sure: Where does his impulse for rapid reform stop and his autocratic impulse to seize all power begin? After M.B.S. arrested a slew of Saudi princes, media owners and billionaire businessmen on “corruption” charges, President Trump tweeted his applause, saying, “Some of those they are harshly treating have been ‘milking’ their country for years!”

I could only laugh reading that tweet. Hearing that Saudi princes were arrested for “corruption” is like reading that Donald Trump fired seven cabinet secretaries “for lying.” You know it has to be something else. Trump obviously missed the story last year that M.B.S. impulsively bought a yacht while on vacation in the south of France — it just caught his fancy in the harbor — from its Russian owner for $550 million. Did that money come out of his piggy bank? Savings from his Riyadh lemonade stand? From his Saudi government 401(k)?

I raise this point because when you’re making as many radical changes at once, and making as many enemies at once, as M.B.S. is, your robes need to be very clean. People have to believe that you mean what you say and that you have no hidden agendas, because change is going to be painful. Look at what M.B.S. is doing all at once:

To speed up decision-making, he is reshaping the Saudi state — from a broad family coalition where power is shared and alternated among seven major families and decisions taken by consensus — to a state governed by a single family line. This is no longer “Saudi Arabia.” It is becoming “Salman Arabia.” In the latest series of arrests, M.B.S. basically eliminated the “young old guard” — the key sons and his natural rivals from the other main Saudi royal lines. He also arrested the owners of the three main quasi-independent private television networks, MBC, ART and Rotana.

At the same time, M.B.S. is shifting the basis of legitimacy of the regime, ending “the 1979 era.” In 1979, in the wake of the takeover of Islam’s most holy site in Mecca by an ultra-fundamentalist Saudi preacher who claimed that the al-Saud family was not Islamic enough, the Saudi ruling family — to shore up its religious legitimacy — made a sharp religious turn at home and began exporting its puritanical Wahhabi Sunni Islam abroad, building mosques and schools from London to Indonesia.

It has been a disaster for the Arab/Muslim world, spawning offshoots like Al Qaeda and ISIS and retarding Arab education and women’s advancement.

M.B.S. has vowed to give birth to a more moderate Saudi Islam, starting by curbing his religious police and permitting women to drive. This is hugely important. He is daring people to judge his government not on piety but on performance, not on Quran but on KPIs — key performance indicators on unemployment, economic growth, housing and health care.

But he is replacing Wahhabism as a source of solidarity with a more secular Saudi nationalism, one that has a strong anti-Iran/Persian/Shiite tenor. And that is taking him to some dangerous places. To confront Iran, M.B.S. got the Sunni Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad al-Hariri, to quit his office on Saturday while on a visit to Riyadh, and blamed Iran and its Shiite allies for making Lebanon ungovernable — and for a missile attack from Yemen. Lebanon, which had forged a relatively stable balance among Sunnis, Christians and Shiites, is now shaking. M.B.S. also led a Gulf effort to isolate Qatar for being too close to Iran and to crush Iran’s influence in Yemen — and crush Yemen in the process. It’s overreach, and there seems to be no one around to tell him that.

As a veteran Saudi journalist remarked to me of M.B.S.: “This guy saved Saudi Arabia from a slow death, but he needs to broaden his base. It is good that he is freeing the house of Saud of the influence of the clergy, but he is also not allowing any second opinion of his political and economic decisions.”

I worry that those urging M.B.S. to be more aggressive in confronting Iran (whose malign regional influence does need counterbalancing) — like the U.A.E., Trump, Jared Kushner and Bibi Netanyahu — will push M.B.S. into a war abroad and at home at the same time, and we could see Saudi Arabia and the whole region spin out of control at the same time. As I said, I’m worried.

Thomas Loren Friedman is an American journalist and author. He is a three time Pulitzer Prize winner. Friedman currently writes a weekly column for The New York Times.


Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman said Parti Warisan Sabah president Mohd Shafie Apdal should let MACC do its job in investigating alleged corruption involving the Rural and Regional Development Ministry during the latter’s tenure as its minister.

He said Shafie should be more composed in handling the situation, instead of hurling accusations at others and trying to implicate others.

“There is no need to act all panicky. There is nothing to fear if you are not in the wrong, like the Malay saying ‘Berani kerana benar, takut kerana salah’ (bold because you’re right, fearful if you’re wrong),” he told reporters today.

Musa said up till now, he had not said a word about the case despite being openly attacked in the latter’s political ceramahs and social media.

”However, today I feel compelled to say something because he tried to implicate me in Parliament by saying someone related to me got a project.

“I was not even aware of the project in question. I have a large extended family. I can’t stop those who are friendly to Shafie from getting projects,” he said.

image: https://i.malaysiakini.com/1171/4a701e5393f49dbd8d51ae0248bcb535.jpeg

He said Shafie (photo) should be more gentlemanly in his conduct and not use parliamentary immunity and diversionary tactics to remove the spotlight from himself.

He also said MACC has hauled in individuals from both sides of the political divide in its investigations of corruption cases in the country.

“The issue of this case being politically motivated does not arise because MACC has gone after people from the ruling party in many other cases,” he said.

He said MACC should be allowed to conduct its official investigation without fear or favour and certainly without all the dramatic ranting.

“Maybe some people have the time to whine and rant all over the place but I do not because I have a state to take care of,” he said.

– Bernama


THE needs and aspirations of the people will be the main focus of the 2018 Sabah Budget which I will propose during the state legislative assembly sitting on Nov 17.

Without revealing too much, I can say the budget will be realistic and take into account a common desire to ensure Sabah continues to prosper and progress, propelled by an efficient and prudent government administration.

It will also complement the national 2018 Budget tabled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak recently as it has always been my policy as the chief minister to harness the strong state-federal ties that have helped bring much-needed assistance to Sabah.

To me, my duties as the chief minister and finance minister do not end at tabling and getting the budget approved by the august house. I have said this before and I will say it again: it’s all about the footwork in making sure the funds allocated are well spent.

The state administration I work with and fellow Sabah Barisan Nasional leaders know I am a person who prefers my actions to do the talking because we are duty-bound to the people who gave us the mandate to govern.

Every time I am briefed about development plans, updates on projects, reports on the many programmes and policies, I will demand a progress report or even complaints of shortcomings and look into the finer details.

I feel disappointed when approved allocations fail to reach their targets and I am sure it hurts the people more. We should not allow situations where federal funds are allocated, but taps remain dry in rural areas and poles are planted everywhere but no electricity is supplied. All these are wrong. These are shortcomings that I will address.

This is why, among others, I made it a point to speak to Federal Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob recently, after the national budget was presented, and told him that it was important for his ministry to work with the state government because we know what needs to be done on the ground.

On my part, I will also make sure federal allocations for the state are monitored, to ensure greater transparency unlike before.

The federal budget for 2018 is a comprehensive financial plan, which takes into account the needs of the people because it is inclusive and realistic, covering all levels of society, including opposition-led states.

The budget shows the government does not compromise in matters concerning the people’s wellbeing. I am grateful Sabah is not left out of the equation.

The RM1 billion allocation for dilapidated schools in Sabah, the budget for the expansion of Sandakan airport, rural infrastructure, people’s housing programmes and RM250 million for the Eastern Sabah Security Command would greatly help to ensure the state continues to prosper and maintain security.

The feasibility study on the construction of a bridge to connect Sabah and Labuan is a strong positive move as it is the first time such a plan was announced during the budget presentation. A bridge would definitely spur the economy on both ends of the bridge.

Ever since I took office in 2003, I made it a point to visit the districts regularly and bring along ministers as well as top government officials, from state and federal agencies, so that we could see and understand problems for ourselves and take immediate action when necessary.

This year, I have visited many districts, met with district officers, community leaders and the people in the villages to listen to their needs, problems, desires and hopes.

All these would be turned into numbers and plans in the state budget, which will be unveiled soon. This year a budget of RM3.78 billion was approved with a surplus of RM32.83 million. It is the third consecutive surplus budget, and this year, it is projected that revenue collection would be RM3.817 billion.

Once this is passed, then the task will be laid out for the government administration, elected representatives and leaders at all levels to translate the budget into working plans.

I have a couple of weeks to fine-tune the budget and by the grace of Allah, share with the people the plan that is the product of their needs and aspirations.

Tan Sri Musa Aman is Sabah chief minister

This piece came out in the New Straits Times and  can be seen here

 

Since our Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak had received a US681 million donation from a Saudi prince, this story is appropriate but has no relations to the donation.

The sweeping campaign of arrests in the Saudi royal household appears to be the latest move to consolidate the power of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 32, the favorite son and top adviser of King Salman.

Among those arrested is Prince Alwaleed, who controls the investment firm Kingdom Holding and is one of the world’s richest men, has major stakes in News Corp, Time Warner, Citigroup, Twitter, Apple, Motorola and many other well-known companies. He also controls satellite television networks watched across the Arab world. Prince Alwaleed was giving interviews to the Western news media as recently as late last month about subjects like so-called crypto currencies and Saudi Arabia’s plans for a public offering of shares in its state oil company, Aramco. He has also recently sparred publicly with President Donald J. Trump. The prince was part of a group of investors who bought control of the Plaza Hotel in New York from Mr. Trump, and he also bought an expensive yacht from him as well. But in a twitter message in 2015 the prince called Mr. Trump “a disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America.”

As powerful as the billionaire is, he is something of an outsider within the royal family — not a dissident, but an unusually outspoken figure on a variety of issues. He openly supported women driving long before the kingdom said it would grant them the right to do so, and he has long employed women in his orbit.
In 2015 he pledged to donate his fortune of $32 billion to charity after his death. It was unclear Saturday whether Saudi Arabia’s corruption committee might seek to confiscate any of his assets.

Salman’s consolidation is reminscent of Aurangazeb’s. The four sons of Shah Jahan all held governorships during their father’s reign. The emperor favoured the eldest, Dara Shukoh. This had caused resentment among the younger three, who sought at various times to strengthen alliances between themselves and against Dara. There was no Mughal tradition of primogeniture, the systematic passing of rule, upon an emperor’s death, to his eldest son. Aurangazeb in turn killed Dara Shikoh, Shah Shuja and Murad.

Aurangzeb was a notable expansionist and during his reign, the Mughal Empire reached its greatest extent, ruling over nearly all of the Indian subcontinent. During his lifetime, victories in the south expanded the Mughal Empire to 4 million square kilometres, and he ruled over a population estimated to be over 158 million subjects, with an annual yearly revenue of $450 million (more than ten times that of his contemporary Louis XIV of France), or £38,624,680 (2,879,469,894 rupees) in 1690. Under his reign, India surpassed China to become the world’s largest economy, worth over $90 billion, nearly a quarter of world GDP in 1700. The decline of the Mughal Empire began soon after he died in 1707.

Photo

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men, was reportedly arrested in Saudi Arabia on Saturday. Credit Ishara S.Kodikara/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

LONDON — Saudi Arabia announced the arrest on Saturday night of the prominent billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, plus at least 10 other princes, four ministers and tens of former ministers.

The announcement of the arrests was made over Al Arabiya, the Saudi-owned satellite network whose broadcasts are officially approved. Prince Alwaleed’s arrest is sure to send shock waves both through the Kingdom and the world’s major financial centers.

He controls the investment firm Kingdom Holding and is one of the world’s richest men, with major stakes in News Corp, Time Warner, Citigroup, Twitter, Apple, Motorola and many other well-known companies. The prince also controls satellite television networks watched across the Arab world.

The sweeping campaign of arrests appears to be the latest move to consolidate the power of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the favorite son and top adviser of King Salman.

At 32, the crown prince is already the dominant voice in Saudi military, foreign, economic and social policies, stirring murmurs of discontent in the royal family that he has amassed too much personal power, and at a remarkably young age.

The king had decreed the creation of a powerful new anti-corruption committee, headed by the crown prince, only hours before the committee ordered the arrests.

Al Arabiya said that the anticorruption committee has the right to investigate, arrest, ban from travel, or freeze the assets of anyone it deems corrupt.

The Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh, the de facto royal hotel, was evacuated on Saturday, stirring rumors that it would be used to house detained royals. The airport for private planes was closed, arousing speculation that the crown prince was seeking to block rich businessmen from fleeing before more arrests.

Prince Alwaleed was giving interviews to the Western news media as recently as late last month about subjects like so-called crypto currencies and Saudi Arabia’s plans for a public offering of shares in its state oil company, Aramco.

He has also recently sparred publicly with President Donald J. Trump. The prince was part of a group of investors who bought control of the Plaza Hotel in New York from Mr. Trump, and he also bought an expensive yacht from him as well. But in a twitter message in 2015 the prince called Mr. Trump “a disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America.”

Mr. Trump fired back, also on Twitter, that “Dopey Prince @Alwaleed_Talal wants to control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money.”

As president, Mr. Trump has developed a warm, mutually supportive relationship with the ascendant crown prince, who has rocketed from near obscurity in recent years to taking control of the country’s most important functions.

Photo

At 32, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is already the dominant voice in Saudi military, foreign, economic and social policies. Credit Fayez Nureldine/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But his swift rise has also divided Saudis. Many applaud his vision, crediting him with addressing the economic problems facing the kingdom and laying out a plan to move beyond its dependence on oil.

Others see him as brash, power-hungry and inexperienced, and they resent him for bypassing his elder relatives and concentrating so much power in one branch of the family.

At least three senior White House officials, including the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, were reportedly in Saudi Arabia last month for meetings that were undisclosed at the time.

Before sparring with Mr. Trump, Prince Alwaleed was publicly rebuffed by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who rejected his $10 million donation for the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York because the prince had also criticized American foreign policy.

As powerful as the billionaire is, he is something of an outsider within the royal family — not a dissident, but an unusually outspoken figure on a variety of issues. He openly supported women driving long before the kingdom said it would grant them the right to do so, and he has long employed women in his orbit.

In 2015 he pledged to donate his fortune of $32 billion to charity after his death. It was unclear Saturday whether Saudi Arabia’s corruption committee might seek to confiscate any of his assets.

Saudi Arabia is an executive monarchy without a written Constitution or independent government institutions like a Parliament or courts, so accusations of corruption are difficult to evaluate. The boundaries between the public funds and the wealth of the royal family are murky at best, and corruption, as other countries would describe it, is believed to be widespread.

The arrests came a few hours after the king replaced the minister in charge of the Saudi national guard, Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, who controlled the last of the three Saudi armed forces not yet considered to be under control of the crown prince.

The king named Crown Prince Mohammed the minister of defense in 2015. Earlier this year, the king removed Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as head of the interior ministry, placing him under house arrest and extending the crown prince’s influence over the interior ministry’s troops, which act as a second armed force.

Rumors have swirled since then that King Salman and his favorite son would soon move against Prince Mutaib, commander of the third armed force and himself a former contender for the crown.


Life is all about imponderables. What was unthinkable a few years ago, can become the go to mantra of the present. This is all the more true of politics. Take Sabah, for example. Fourteen years ago, if anyone with some knowledge of Sabah’s ethos, its conundrum of frog-jumping politics and abysmal law and order situation in the east coast of Sabah where kidnapping-for-ransom works like a market, had suggested that the Sabah model of governance would one day be hailed for replication, he or she would have been considered loony. Ditto for somebody daring to compare the Sarawak model of development with that of Sabah, and deeming the latter a better standard.

But Sabah Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman changed that. Over fourteen years since 2003, he successfully steered Sabah Barisan National government through the stormy waters of coalition politics in a State where Christian Bumiputras have a 27 per cent population, and managed to return to power with landslide victories on 21st March 2004 (GE11), 8th March 2008 (GE12) and 5th May 2013 (GE13).

He managed this laudatory feat for Umno Sabah by holding together a coalition of Sabah based political parties PBS (Party Bersatu Sabah), Upko (United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation), PBRS (Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah), LDP (Liberal Democratic Party), together with Malayan based MCA (Malaysian Chinese Association), MIC (Malaysian Indian Congress) and Party Gerakan (also known as a rainbow coalition), complete with Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Taoist, Animists and even Sikhs. And let me remind you that it was the women of Sabah, who voted for his return with a hitherto unseen gusto.

The improved law and order situation in Sabah after the formation of Esscom (Eastern Sabah Security Command) and Esszone (Eastern Sabah Security Zone), coupled with the deportation of 558,680 of illegals since 1990, and while still 6,226 illegals currently held in detention centres awaiting deportation, was responsible for enthusing Sabah voters. Esscom also had been able to thwart many kidnap attempts by cross-border criminals as a result of predictive intelligence and also the curfew imposed in seven districts in Esszone, all these have increased the support for the Sabah BN. Where law and order improves and the State functions in a better way, the best impact is felt by women and the minorities.

Both women and Muslim Bumiputras played a major role in the return of the Sabah BN over and over again. Across the board, there was patronage of Muslim voters for the coalition candidate, whether from Umno Sabah or the Sabah BN.

Increased aspirations and expectations, however, pose even more dilemmas to any dispensation, and the Umno-BN government in Sabah is no exception. Musa displayed the least exuberance at his election victories because he knew it came with massive responsibility. Spelling out the challenges before him, till now the development of Sabah has been central, in that hospitals, schools, power plants, dams, roads and bridges were built, electricity and clean drinking water and services improved. This benefited everybody. But now the Government has to bring in governance, which will be a challenge but Musa has done a fantastic job in this area over the last fourteen years.

The first hurdle was the long-pending land issue of land ownership and native customary right. Musa came up with the excellent idea of Communal grants to protect native rights to Native Customary Rights (NCR) land ownership. With the Communal Titles, land cannot be sold. There are plenty of cases where lands were quickly sold off, some even before approvals were granted, and for a mind-boggling small sum to outsiders. Communal Titles are not only a solution for the landless to own land, but a way of protecting rural folks from dubious people who entice them to part with their land for a measly amount.The only condition in Communal Tittle lands is that the land cannot be sold but passed down the family to develop on a long-term basis for sustained income that can lift the Natives out of poverty. So far 72 communal titles had been established involving 119,083 acres in 12 districts and have benefited 213 villages or 10,462 Sabah natives.

Next, Musa took on the role of just and fair enforcer by punishing civil servants guilty of corruption. Massive sums of money are being spent from Plan outlays … billions of Ringgit is being spent on various development schemes, there will be far greater opportunity to make money through corruption, and this will have to be checked and Musa is extremely hard on this and had even instructed The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to go all out on all those who are on the take, corrupt bureaucrats will be convicted, and their ill-gotten wealth and property confiscated.

Sabah’s Watergate Scandal is such an example. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission seized RM114 million worth of assets, RM53.7million in cold cash stashed in houses and offices from two senior Sabah Water Department officials on Oct 4 last year. The duo, a Director of the Water Department and his former deputy are being slapped with 34 money laundering charges.The sum seized was said to have been siphoned off from part of the RM7.5 billion allocated for rural projects in Sabah, channeled through the Federal Rural and Regional Development Ministry between 2009 and 2015, when Shafie Apdal was Minister.

Then again last week MACC Deputy Chief Commissioner, Dato Azam Baki claimed some RM1.5 billion of the allocated RM7.5 billion from the Federal Rural and Regional Development Ministry for basic infrastructure of road, water and energy for the interiors of Sabah and Sarawak for 2009 to 2015 was squandered. Some RM170 million in bank accounts and assets of the companies involved in the projects has been frozen by MACC.

A series of MACC seizures are the reason why administrative reforms should be put in place, especially with regard to Federal development funds. Musa Aman has been saying this all along year after year since he took office in 2003.

The rural infrastructure allocation system for Sabah needs to be streamlined by the federal government through the channeling of federal funds directly to the state government. This will enhance the effectiveness of project implementation, particularly rural development projects. The total allocation provided by the federal government to the state for rural development projects is more than RM6 billion for the period from 2010 to 2013, which is approximately RM2 billion per year, but where are the projects?

There is no justification for Federal to approve and implement projects in the State and not channel the funds to the State Government. The Federal Government should not be seen as usurping the authority of Sabah and creating a parallel government in the process, like what they did during PBS rule where contracts and payments were made direct by Federal Treasury to contractors in Sabah.

The funds for all Federal funded projects should be channelled to the Sabah State Government for implementation and monitoring. Sabah State government knows better the ground situation and has in-depth knowledge of local conditions and requirements. Definitely the State government can chart Sabah’s own development course to meet local needs and requirements.

Sabah’s model of development is a shining example of impeccable governance and indeed its anti-corruption measures should be replicated elsewhere in the country.

That naturally brings us to the possibility of Musa Aman emerging again as Sabah’s chief ministerial candidate in the next polls which will take place within the next six months. Clearly, his credentials, tough stance against corruption and clean public image have caught the nation’s fancy.


What a difference a year – an eternity in geopolitics – makes. No one could see this coming; the ideological matrix of all strands of Salafi-jihadi terror – which Russia fights no holds barred, from ISIS/Daesh to the Caucasus Emirate – beating a path to the Kremlin and about to embrace Russia as a strategic ally.

The House of Saud was horrified by Russia’s successful campaign to prevent regime change in Syria. Moscow was solidifying its alliance with Tehran. Hawks in the Obama administration were imposing on Saudi Arabia a strategy of keeping oil prices down to hurt the Russian economy.

Now, losing all its battles from Syria to Yemen, losing regional influence to both Iran and Turkey, indebted, vulnerable and paranoid, the House of Saud has also to confront the ghost of a possible coup in Riyadh against Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS, as Asia Times reported. Under so much pressure, who’re you gonna call?

The ultimate ghost-buster; Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Interesting to see how Malaysia is getting closer to the US while the rest of the world enters Putin’s tent.

October 12, 2017

The House of Saud Bows to the House of Putin

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC by 2.0

What a difference a year – an eternity in geopolitics – makes. No one could see this coming; the ideological matrix of all strands of Salafi-jihadi terror – which Russia fights no holds barred, from ISIS/Daesh to the Caucasus Emirate – beating a path to the Kremlin and about to embrace Russia as a strategic ally.

The House of Saud was horrified by Russia’s successful campaign to prevent regime change in Syria. Moscow was solidifying its alliance with Tehran. Hawks in the Obama administration were imposing on Saudi Arabia a strategy of keeping oil prices down to hurt the Russian economy.

Now, losing all its battles from Syria to Yemen, losing regional influence to both Iran and Turkey, indebted, vulnerable and paranoid, the House of Saud has also to confront the ghost of a possible coup in Riyadh against Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS, as Asia Times reported. Under so much pressure, who’re you gonna call?

The ultimate ghostbuster; Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Essentially, the House of Saud is obsessed by three main vectors; low oil prices; Iran and Shi’ism; and what to make of US foreign policy under Trump. Let’s take them one by one.

I want my S-400s

As much as a Moscow-Washington reset remains doomed, even with the implosion of Russia-Gate, House of Saud advisers must have known that the Kremlin won’t ditch its strategic relationship with Iran – one of the key nodes of Eurasia integration.

Moscow will keep aligned with Iran across “Syraq”; that’s part of the “4+1” (Russia-Syria-Iran-Iraq, plus Hezbollah) alliance in the Levant/Mesopotamia, an incontrovertible (and winning) fact on the ground. And that does not preclude Russia’s increasingly cozy relationships across the Arab world – as with Egypt, Jordan, the UAE and Libya.

What concerns Moscow, deeply, is Saudi (formal or informal) financing of Salafi-jihadi outfits inside Russia. So a high-level line of communication between Moscow and Riyadh works towards dissipating any misunderstandings regarding, for instance, jihadism in Tatarstan and Chechnya.

Moscow does not buy the much-spun (in the West) Iranian “aggressive behavior” in the Middle East. As a key negotiator of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Russia very well knows that Iran’s ballistic missile program is actually the key target of Trump’s imminent decertification of the Iran deal.

These missiles actually represent dissuasion against any possible US attack, “leading from behind” or not. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) in Tehran has made it quite clear the ballistic missile program does not fall into the JCPOA, and will remain active.

Enter the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Saudis and Rosoboronexport (Russia’s state body for exporting military hardware) signed in Moscow for the purchase of the S-400 missile system; the Kornet-EM system; the TOS-1A; the AGS-30; and last but not least the new Kalashnikov AK-103.

The S-400 success story is unequivocal. Iran bought it. Turkey bought it. Now Saudi Arabia buys it – even after splurging a fortune in US weapons during Trump’s by now infamous “sword dance” visit to Riyadh.

So no wonder, after the S-400 news, the US State Department like clockwork approved the possible – that’s the operative word – $15 billion sale of 44 THAAD launchers and 360 missiles to Saudi Arabia, a very good business for Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

The Pentagon’s defense security cooperation agency said, “this sale furthers US national security and foreign policy interests, and supports the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of Iranian and other regional threats.” Cynics already envisage a battle of Iranian S-400s and Saudi THAADs “moderated” by Saudi S-400s.

We are the new OPEC

King Salman may have boarded the Saudi Arabian Airlines flight, but the real architect of the pivot to Russia is MBS. Oil in Saudi Arabia accounts for 87% of budget revenues, 42% of GDP, and 90% of exports. MBS is betting all his cards on the Vision 2030 program to “modernize” the Saudi economy, and he knows very well it will be impossible to pull off if oil prices are low.

At the Russia Energy Week forum in Moscow, Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said the Aramco IPO – a key driver of funds to Vision 2030 – will happen in the second half of 2018, contradicting Saudi officials who earlier stated the IPO was once again postponed to 2019. And no one can tell whether it will take place in the NYSE or not.

Meanwhile, the priority remains the OPEC / non-OPEC deal (with Russia at the forefront) to “stabilize” oil prices, clinched in November 2016 to cut production. President Putin tentatively agreed the deal could be extended beyond March 2018, something to be discussed in detail at the next OPEC meeting in Vienna in late November.

The deal may certainly be seen as a purely strategic/economic measure to stabilize the oil market – with no geopolitical overtones. And yet OPEC is geared to become a brand new animal – with Russia and Saudi Arabia de facto deciding where the global oil markets go, and then telling the other OPEC players. It’s open to question what Iran, Algeria, Nigeria, Venezuela, among others, will have to say about this. The barely disguised aim is to bring oil prices up to a band of $60-75 a barrel by the middle of next year. Certainly a good deal for the Aramco IPO.

There were a rash of other deals clinched in Moscow – such as Aramco and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) $1 billion fund for oil-services projects in Russia, plus another $1 billion for a technology fund.

This synergy implies Saudi Arabia investing in top Russian energy assets and Russia, for instance, supplying gas to the Saudi petrochemical industry and reducing drilling/production costs. Certainly a good deal for Vision 2030.

The new sheriff in town

To say that the Saudi pivot to Russia is rattling nerves across the Beltway is an understatement. The CIA is not exactly fond of MBS. 9/11-related puzzles are bound to resurface.

What’s also clear is that the House of Saud has realized it cannot be left to watching camels as the great Eurasia integration caravan picks up speed. Russia has pipelines crisscrossing most of Eurasia. China is building rail lines connecting all of Eurasia. And we haven’t even touched specific Saudi-Chinese projects part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Those were the days of King Abdulaziz and FDR aboard the USS Quincy in the Suez Canal forging a strategic partnership; the days of Washington leading Saudi Arabia to increase oil production, drive down prices and weaken the USSR; the days of the Afghan jihad. Now there’s no US dependence on House of Saud oil anymore. And jihadist blowback is the name of the security game.

It may be too early to identify the Saudi pivot to Russia as the shift of the century. It is though a certified game-changer. Moscow is about to become the new sheriff in town, in virtually any town across Southwest Asia. And it’s getting there on its own terms, without resorting to a Colt dialectic. MBS wants energy/defense cooperation? He gets it. MBS wants less Russian cooperation with Iran? He doesn’t get it. OPEC aims at higher oil prices? Done. And what about the S-400s? Free – sort of – for all.

This piece first appeared in Asia Times.

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Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).  His latest book is Empire of ChaosHe may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.