Should Malaysian citizens file a class action suit for wholesale incompetence while spending the taxpayers’ money?
A general election is expected next month in the Southeast Asian nation of Malaysia, and that usually means political shenanigans—abuse of national security laws, media manipulation and character assassination. After the last election in 2008, when the ruling coalition barely held on to power, public anger at such practices prompted Prime Minister Najib Razak to redraft laws and reform the electoral system. However, new revelations that his government paid American journalists to attack opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim raise questions whether those changes went far enough.
In January, conservative American blogger Joshua Treviño belatedly registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, revealing that from 2008-2011 he was paid $389,724.70, as well as a free trip to Malaysia, to provide “public relations and media consultancy” services to the Malaysian government.
These consisted of writing for a website called Malaysia Matters, now defunct, as well as channeling $130,950 to other conservative writers who wrote pro-government pieces for other newspapers and websites. When questioned in 2011 by the Politico website about whether Malaysian interests funded his activities, Mr. Treviño flatly denied it: “I was never on any ‘Malaysian entity’s payroll,’ and I resent your assumption that I was.”
Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim
The campaign was more targeted than the Malaysian ruling coalition’s domestic attacks on Mr. Anwar. Mr. Treviño’s site mainly went after the opposition leader for anti-Semitic remarks and his alliance with the Islamist party PAS, and even accused him of links to terrorists through the International Institute of Islamic Thought. Mr. Anwar has made anti-Semitic comments—though that’s in part to fend off domestic accusations that he’s too cozy with Zionists. He also has ties to organizations that have taken Saudi money, but the suggestion that he somehow has “ties to terrorism” is preposterous.
The site also defended an outrageous charge of sodomy brought against Mr. Anwar from 2008-2012, and it criticized the U.S. State Department and The Wall Street Journal for taking Mr. Anwar’s side. These postings were clearly aimed at sowing doubt among other would-be Anwar defenders in the U.S., especially on the right of the U.S. political spectrum.
Mr. Treviño paid other writers who know almost nothing about Malaysia but mimicked his propaganda. The New Ledger, edited by Ben Domenech, was even more vociferous, calling Mr. Anwar a “vile anti-Semite and cowardly woman-abuser.” One posting was entitled, “Muslim Brotherhood’s terrorist money flowing to Anwar Ibrahim.” According to Mr. Treviño’s filing, he paid Mr. Domenech $36,000 for “opinion writing.” Three contributors of anti-Anwar items to the New Ledger—Rachel Motte, Christopher Badeaux and Brad Jackson—were paid $9,500, $11,000 and $24,700 respectively.
Mr. Treviño was initially paid by public relations multinational APCO Worldwide, which had a longstanding contract with the Malaysian government. APCO’s Kuala Lumpur representative through 2010, Paul Stadlen, now works in Prime Minister Najib’s office. David All, who at the time ran his own PR firm and collaborated on Malaysia Matters, also provided cash.
But from 2009-11, the Malaysian money came through Fact-Based Communications, which under the leadership of journalist John Defterios produced programs on client countries for CNN, CNBC and the BBC. After this was revealed in 2011, the three networks dropped all FBC programs, and Atlantic Media Company President Justin Smith resigned from its board.
Influence-peddling has a long and sordid history in Washington, and governments that use repressive methods at home yet want to remain on friendly terms with the U.S. typically have the biggest bankrolls. It’s not unheard of for PR operators to pay less reputable journalists and think-tankers to write favorable coverage, as the Jack Abramoff case in the mid-2000s showed.
The Malaysian scheme, however, is notable because it drew in respected writers such as Rachel Ehrenfeld, who has contributed to the Journal in the past and took $30,000, Claire Berlinski, who got $6,750, and Seth Mandel, an editor at Commentary magazine, who was paid $5,500. Some of the articles appeared in well-known publications such as National Review and the Washington Times.
Mr. Najib’s falling popularity at home suggests his days as Prime Minister could be numbered. The irony is that he was more democratic and played a more responsible role in the region than his predecessors. Even opposition figures have quietly admitted to us that he has steered Malaysia in the right direction. That should have been more than enough for a legitimate public relations operation to work with. Resorting to underhanded tactics to undermine the opposition has only backfired for Mr. Najib, at home and abroad.
A version of this article appeared March 9, 2013, on page A12 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Malaysia’s U.S. Propaganda.
One for the record. Will this up the game for TV business news reporting in Indonesia? What would it mean for companies operating here? Do they need to have better media handling skills to take advantage of this development?
Bloomberg LP will start broadcasting Bloomberg Television Indonesia in May, more than 20 years after the financial news and information giant opened a bureau in the world’s fourth-most populous country and Southeast Asia’s largest economy.
Andrew Lack, chief executive of Bloomberg Media Group, said that Indonesia had huge potential as a market for media content. Bloomberg LP established the Bloomberg Media Group — a combination of its television, print, radio, mobile and digital media properties — in 2011.
Indonesia’s economy grew 6.2 percent in 2012, among the fastest in the Asia-Pacific region and faster than developed economies in Europe and North America. Among the 10 Asean member states, only the Philippine economy expanded at a faster pace.
“When you are in the finance and business information business, you’ve been watching Indonesia in the past several years … I ask, ‘How do I get to Indonesia and how soon?’” Lack said on Thursday.
A survey by market researcher Nielsen in 2010 estimated that there were around 50 million TV viewers in Indonesia, of which around three million were pay TV viewers. Indonesia has a population of more than 240 million people. Bloomberg LP says on its website that the Bloomberg Television network is available in more than 310 million homes worldwide.
To set up its Indonesia operation, Bloomberg Television has formed a partnership with Idea Group, a media holding company backed by Recapital Group, which is headed by Sandiaga Uno and Rosan Roeslani. Idea Group was also behind the creation of the online marketplace Bukalapak.com.
Adithya Chandra Wardhana, the chief executive of Bloomberg Television Indonesia, said that it planned to work with existing broadcast companies in Indonesia on free-to-air, pay TV, Internet and mobile platforms.
Adithya said that the company had secured a deal with local regional television networks such as Jakarta TV in the capital region, Surabaya TV in East Java and Depok TV in West Java. Bloomberg Television Indonesia is also in talks with Makassar TV to provide content for the eastern part of the country.
Bloomberg Television Indonesia is also in talks with several major pay television networks, Adithya said, but declined to name them, as the deals have yet to be finalized. “We target middle-, upper-class and affluent audiences. We will be the only television network that specializes in business and financial news here,” he said.
“We will create business content in Bahasa Indonesia, about 80 percent local and 20 percent international.”
The company has recruited Kania Sutisnawinata and Tomy Tjokro, both of whom are former Metro TV news anchors, and 50 other journalists.
Bloomberg Television Indonesia will also air live from the Indonesia Stock Exchange every day to its global network, which is expected to benefit Indonesia.
“I think Indonesia will benefit most from the exposure that we bring,” said Parameshwaran Ravindranathan, head of Asia Pacific for Bloomberg Television, based in Hong Kong.
To many people, doctors today generally elicit more contempt than admiration because they have sold themselves out to Mammon. For those of us who have to undergo operation and pay the costs, you wonder if you’d be left for dead if you don’t have the moolah or you forgot to insure yourself.
But every now and again comes a story to restore your faith in the medical profession. Two years ago when Unspun had to have a quadruple bypass he met Dr Rozali Watooth in Malaysia who won his admiration with his skill, humanity and dedication. You can read about it here.
Since then Unspun’s had other heart complications arising from atrial flutter and that was when he was introduced by a good friend to his brother, a cardiologist at the Cinere Heart Hospital in south Jakarta.
The doctor was very competent, humble and helpful but today I learned that he was also a hero. Faced with a dying patient, he put his professional life and future on the line by performing a cardiac procedure on a stranger whose employer who took him to hospital could not pay the fees and whose family could not be contacted.
The doctor was in a double quandary. If he did nothing, the patient would surely die. But if he treated the patient, he not only ran the risk of the hospital he worked in not being paid its due; he could also be sued by the patient’s family for malpractice since they were not there to give him permission to treat the victim.
A legal suit would definitely destroy the career he had wanted since childhood and has spent over a decade building.
What did he do? Here’s an account by his sister, who translated a posting from their brother. I feel so honoured not only to have known and be treated by Dr Jeffrey but also the family, particularly their mother, who raised such fine children.
So here’s a salute to mothers who raised children to do the right things; and to the children who dared to risk it all for what they believed in.
Kinda restores you faith in doctors, doesn’t this?
This is the most worthy story that I ever wrote for my blog. No card. This is just a personal, true story that I feel worth sharing.
I translate this directly from what my younger brother Jerry Aurum wrote:
A seamstress laid in the ICU room of a certain hospital in Jakarta. He was taken there by his employer. A young doctor checked on him and found out that this man had a heart attack and they need to do a coronary stent, that cost hundreds of million in rupiah (thousand of dollars in US currency).
The employer said he couldn’t afford the cost and they couldn’t contact the patient’s family. Dealing with heart attack, each minute counts. In fact within the 15 minutes the patient was in the hospital, his heart stopped 3 times, but each time the doctor was able to revive him.
The doctor asked his colleague what should he do. If they don’t do anything, the patient will die. The colleague said well it is what it is, what can we do. Unsatisfied with the answer, the doctor went t the hospital director. Same answer. As a doctor he’s facing the dilemma, if he takes an action without the permission from the family and the hospital and no way to know how the patient going to pay for the procedure, he is facing a high risk that could cost not only his career but his own life (being a doctor is his life).
At the end, the doctor decided to do the coronary stent on his patient who is dying. Without any way of knowing who would cover the cost for the procedure, without any back up from his colleague or the hospital. And if he failed, he would be the one that being accused by the family as being responsible for the death. In his mind he only think of 1 thing. This patient is only 32 years old and who will feed his little children if he passed away?
With God’s blessing, the patient survived. When the patient’s wife arrived (she’s only a maid with low income), she was so thankful. And the doctor was able to convince the hospital to not charge anything to the patient and asked the employer to help with the cost of the medicine that the patient will really need to stay alive and get well.
A few hours later, this story go around the hospital and became hot topic. Some nurses cried and thank the doctor even though they don’t know who the patient is.
When I heard this, I told the doctor, there’s moment in life that show a doctor his quality as a doctor and there’s also moment that show a doctor his quality as a human being.
This young doctor name is Jeffrey Wirianta, a well known cardiologist in Jakarta who loves being a doctor more than anything. And me, Jerry Aurum, is his younger brother who is so proud to have a brother who truly dedicate his life to his work and even more his dedication to other human being. ~
You see, the cardiologist in this story, Jeffrey Wirianta is my big brother. When I read this post on my younger brother’s Facebook wall, I found myself crying with so much love and admiration. And true to his style, when I told Jeff how proud I am of him, all he said that at that moment all he could think of is saving this man’s life. And that he was afraid. Afraid of what “might happen”.
And that makes me even prouder. That he was afraid, yet he did it anyway. The world need more doctors like him. He always wanted to become a doctor since he was only 5 years old. That’s the only answer he ever gave when people ask him what he’d like to be.
In high school, my mom asked him why he wants to become a doctor and he said to save life. To this day, despite all his success, he stay true to his reason and I know my mom is one proud mom at this moment. If you ask my mom, I know she’d said she reached her life goal, which is to raise decent human being.
Mom, I think you did an amazing job in raising us. Especially with Jeff as he became such a good role model for us to follow. To Jeff, thank you for making me believe that there’s still good people out there. That there’s still real doctor out there who really about saving lives.
Right now, I feel like my heart would burst with so much love and admiration. Jeffrey Wirianta, I am so blessed and proud to have you as my brother. You are the best! Love, love, love.
Apres lui, le déluge? One can only hope
Banda Aceh. An elderly Indonesian said Monday he had won a rare victory against a noisy mosque, despite being forced to withdraw legal action after an angry mob threatened to kill him.
Complaints against the loud speakers issuing the call to prayer have been met with extreme opposition in Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation that is home to about 800,000 mosques.
And when Sayed Hasan, 75, filed a lawsuit in December in the city of Banda Aceh, in which he complained of being disturbed by lengthy recordings of Koranic verses, it was met with strong protests from the community.
But Hasan, a Muslim, said despite being taken to see the deputy mayor and Muslim leaders, and then being escorted to the court where he was forced to withdraw his legal suit, he had ultimately won a rare victory.
“I was forced to withdraw my lawsuit as an angry mob threatened to kill me,” he said. “But after I dropped my case, the volume was significantly turned down by about half.”
A local Muslim leader said the imam had decided to reduce the noise.
City dwellers in Indonesia are often woken up before dawn by intermingling calls to prayer from three or four nearby mosques. Many also blare Koranic verses or broadcast day-long events through loudspeakers.
Ninety percent of Indonesia’s 240 million citizens are Muslim. While most practice a moderate form, Aceh province has implemented Sharia law, which is enforced by special Islamic police.
It isn’t eyebrows but heckles that Indonesia’s new education curriculum should raise.
What sort of reasoning goes behind an education philosophy that requires a 10th grade student to learn to be disciplined like an electron, “which always moves within its orbit.” Quacks talking about quarks.
And there’s more shit-for-brains reasoning: Students, proclaim the new curriculum should learn how to behave in a heterogeneous society after studying linear and non-linear equations.
The mind boggles at how presumably educated people can come up with such pseudo-science recommendations with which to shape our children’s minds. But we have them by the spadeful in the Education Ministry and endorsed by the Education Minister Muhamad Nuh.
How can we rid ourselves of such imbeciles in such positions of responsibility and power?
Hans Nicholas Jong, Mon, February 18 2013,
The government has long attempted to incorporate character building in the nation’s education system, but teachers never thought that they would ever be asked to tell students that they would have to learn about discipline from the behavior of electrons — until they saw the new national curriculum.
The Indonesian Teachers Unions Federation (FSGI) has expressed its confusion over the new national curriculum in which the Education and Culture Ministry officials appear to be ridiculously trying to shoehorn civic and religious education into subjects such as chemistry and biology.
“The new curriculum states that a 10th grade student must learn to be disciplined like an electron, which always moves within its orbit,” FSGI secretary-general Retno Listyati told The Jakarta Post on Saturday. “How can my students behave like electrons?”
The teachers were also astounded to learn that they would also be required to use math to instill tolerance in students. “The students are expected to learn how to behave in a heterogeneous society after studying linear and non-linear equations,” she said. “How is that even possible?”
In response to the criticism, Deputy Education and Culture Minister Musliar Kaslim said the new curriculum was simpler and therefore more superior to the current curriculum. “We have integrated and simplified elementary-level subjects. They have been condensed into two books,” he said in a phone interview.
“We have improved what needed to be improved and got rid of heavy material that was burdensome to the students.”
With its thematic and integrated approach, the deputy minister claimed the country’s new curriculum was even better than that of international schools. “Their curriculum is only integrated, while ours is integrated as well as thematic. We apply a holistic approach that unifies diverse subject matters with a central theme.”
Teachers, he said, might initially find it difficult to teach multiple subjects in one class sitting.“If you think about it, then it might seem weird,” he said, adding that once the teachers understood the new curriculum, they would adapt to it.
The ministry, he said, had planned to train highly skilled and qualified teachers to ease them into the new curriculum so they could pass on the skills to other teachers. “We have submitted the list of teachers to the regional administrations,” he said.
“The regional administrations will then review the list and decide on whether the teachers on the list were qualified or not.” The ministry is expected to complete the training, with each session lasting one week, within one month, he said, adding that the training will commence in April.
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Unspun’s agnostic about religion, but cares about discrimination in any form. So when the makers of this film wrote to help them publicise their efforts, Unspun heartily agreed.
The subject matter is intriguing: What did the early Christians in Hindu-steeped Bali experience in propagating their faith? From the title of the project it seems that they experienced discrimination, but in what form and of what severity?
Regardless of your religious persuasion Unspun thinks that this is a project worth paying some attention to so here’s what here’s one of the filmmakers Makrai Balazs wrote to Unspun. Enjoy.
DISCRIMI-NATION FILMDiscrimi‑Nation Project expands the horizon of the classical documentary style and the way we think about social discrimination.
The first episode explores the struggle and rise of Christianity in Bali.
To make this unique project reality we NEED YOUR HELP! Please donate a few dollars on our crowd funding site:http://igg.me/p/318488/x/2183743The project is closing to its finish line: we have got just 1 WEEK LEFT!For further information please visit our website and check our trailer video:
Unspun mudik-ed to his kampung in Malaysia for the Chinese New Year and was tickled pink by the desperate efforts of the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s attempt to shore up his support among the Chinese community for the upcoming national elections that must be held in the first half of this year.
The context to this desperation is that Najib, who heads the Barisan Nasional, a coalition of race-based parties, that has ruled Malaysia in one form or another since Independence in 1958, has been losing popularity.
In the early days when Malaysians were easier to be duped the party, particularly under Mahathir on, played the nationalist card and fears of mayhem if the coalition lost their two-thirds majority in Parliament.
The formula for electoral victory was simple and effective. Gerrymeander the electoral districts so that a party that had the support of the Malays as a solid voting bloc would always win. The calculation was that if most Malays voted for the Barisan Nasional or BN, and the votes of the Chinese or Indians living in the electoral districts were split, the Barisan Nasional would win.
They then spiced up the electioneering by playing on the fears of the populace by spreading rumours that an opposition victory would destabilise the country and cause racial riots, ad hominem attacks and lots of money and a smooth-running electoral machine.
This all worked when the economic pie was working for Malaysia. But somewhere in the early 2000s the growth of Malaysia began to slow down. The pie shrunk and the inner circles within Umno (the Malay-based dominant partner in the coalition) began to scramble for the limited resources. Corruption escalated.
The fortunes of the Barisan Nasional began to slide even further after Mahathir stepped down and was replaced by Abdullah Badawi, who did not have the vision and the ruthlessness of Mahathir to drive the country forward and keep the Umno elite from their rapacious scramble for mollah.
Badawi, predictably, did not last and was quickly replaced by Najib, son of second the late Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Razak. Like many scions of the elite Najib grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth, went to the best schools in the UK and had no clue about the rough and tumble of realpolitik.
The feeling that Malaysians have about Najib is that he’s smart enough to figure out that corruption is eroding the support of Umno and the Barisan Nasional, and ruining the country. But he’s so hemmed in by the Umno elite whose main preoccupation these days is to rake in as much as they can while the ship sinks that he’s helpless to do anything.
Their rapacity has resulted in even the Malays withdrawing their support for the Barisan Nasional ruining the age-old formula of victory that the BN had relied on through gerrymeandering and social engineering.
Which leads us to the extent of desperation that Najib is showing in courting not only the Malays but also the Chinese, the second largest ethnic group in Malaysia, a task usually outsourced to their junior BN partner the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA). The probem with the MCA, however, is that it can’t deliver any votes because it has lost all credibility with the Chinese. The president of the MCA, for instance, is Choi Soo Lek a 60 plus Chinese whose most notable claim to fame was to star in a leaked video of him and a prostitute in a cheesy hotel.
So Najib now has to court the Chinese themselves. Unspun doesn’t know who’s advising him but it would make a Public Relations professional cringe at the bad advice that he’s getting and the horrible execution of events.
For a joke Unspun’s friends gave him this “any pow” (literally Red Packets containing money that Chinese give to their juniors during Chinese New Year). Najib’s answer?
An “Ang Pow” with his face on the cover (the moustache and weak mouth is a turnoff to most Malaysian). But the juxtapositioning of his face and the year of the snake (they couldn’t get their English right even then) seems to suggest that Najib is a snake. Doesn’t his PR people pay attention to things like that?
Serperntine travails aside Najib also tried a different beat in his new year TVC to the Chinese. So you have here a so called Malay leader whose record has been one of championing the rights of Malays (against the Chinese who would swamp them with their economic prowess if their rights are not protected) doing something very Chinese-y, some would say cheesy. Notice the bad editing where the weak mouth and moustache gets a cameo role.
As if that was not enough, the BN sought to cash in on the popularity of PSY and his Ganggnam Style that has take the world and Malaysians by storm. But Najib forgot that while you can bring the horse to water you can’t make it drink (no pun intended). It resulted in this embarrassing what they hoped to be the rallying of the troops.
All goes to show: you can fool some of the people all the time; all the people some of the time; but never all the people all the time.
Najib should change image consultants. Better still, he should just resign and enjoy retirement and no amount of image making can help him increase his and BN’s electoral chances in the short span of time they have left before the next elections.