Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The worst that could happen in Japan... By Tom Engelhardt

The worst that could happen in Japan

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Nuclear power: Time is now for rethinking... by Asian Public Intellectual Programme members

Nuclear power: Time is now for rethinking
Mar 19, 11 2:19pm
The tragedy unfolding in Japan following the massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami is heartbreaking. It is an unfolding crisis.

It is tragic that panic over radiation leaks from the Daiichi plant is diverting attention from other threats to survivors of March 11 9.0 magnitude quake and tsunami, such as the cold or access to fresh water, food and fuel.

On Friday March 18, Japan raised the severity rating of the country's nuclear crisis from Level 4 to Level 5 on a seven-level international scale, putting it on par with the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979.

We should draw a lesson from Japan which is now fighting a lethal peril, right after the earthquake and tsunami. The Tokyo Electric Power Company reactors in Fukushima are releasing radioactive materials into the environment.

NONERadiation levels near the quake-stricken nuclear plant are now harmful to human health within a radius of 20 kilometres, Japan's government says after explosions and fires at the facility.

We have now had four grave nuclear reactor accidents - Windscale in Britain in 1957, Three Mile Island accident, the US in 1979 ,Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986 and Fukushima, 2011.

The dangers from exposure to radiation are well known, such as long-term health problems - cancers and hereditary defects. Contamination of the environment and agriculture, etc. all pose many risks for people, animals and plants.

Environmental nightmare in the making

There are major concerns on the safety of nuclear power stations. The risks far outweigh the benefits.

Millions of dollars of investment in nuclear power have the potential to turn into trillions of dollars of liability and environmental nightmare.

NONEThe lesson from Fukushima is that nuclear energy is inherently dangerous. As Eugene Robinson wrote in the Washington Post recently: "We can engineer nuclear power plants so that the chance of a Chernobyl-style disaster is almost nil.

"But we can't eliminate it completely -- nor can we envision every other kind of potential disaster. And where fission reactors are concerned, the worst-case scenario is so dreadful as to be unthinkable."

Countries like Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and others have responded quickly to Fukushima Daiichi by reviewing their nuclear plant operations or plans to construct new reactors.

Given the current Japanese experience (and other similar incidents elsewhere in the world), we urge the Malaysian government to abandon its plans to build nuclear power plants.

There are viable alternatives such as solar/wind power, etc, which are both safer and cleaner. Importantly, energy efficiency and reducing energy consumption are better alternatives to harnessing nuclear technology. In this context, review the National Energy Policy.

If the competent and technologically brilliant Japanese cannot build a completely safe reactor, can we?

In this regard, the Malaysian government should also put a stop to the ongoing construction of the rare earth refinery plant in Gebeng near Kuantan as the radioactive elements associated with its industrial procedure are indeed a cause for public concern.

Fukushima is a reminder that when nuclear reactors fail, we cannot control what is unleashed. Malaysians, particularly the federal government, owes it to the present and future generations to stop the building of nuclear plants. Earthquakes know no boundaries.

This statement is endorsed by the following Fellows of the Asian Public Intellectual Program:

Dr Phua Kai Lit
Dr Hezri Adnan
Dr Henry Chan
Assoc Prof Mustafa Kamal Anuar
Josie M Fernandez
Dr Yeoh Seng Guan
Dato Dr Toh Kin Woon
Professor Dr Tan Sooi Beng
Salma Khoo
Dr Wong Soak Koon
Dr Shanthi Thambiah
Dr Colin Nicholas
Assoc Prof Dr Fadzilah Majid Cooke
Chi Too
Loh Yin Sang
Dain Iskandar
Dr Kam Suan Pheng
Sharaad Kuttan
Prof Dr Muhamad Salleh
Dr Lim Mah Hui
Dr M Nadarajah
And Sociologists Without Borders-Malaysia Chapter

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

UN report: Malaysia has abused human rights... by Aidila Razak

UN report: Malaysia has abused human rights
Aidila Razak
Mar 15, 2011, 2:45pm

Malaysia failed to fulfill its promises despite being elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council, with a laundry list of transgressions taking place when it was serving its term, a human rights reports says.

NONEAccording to the New Delhi-based Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Malaysia had not only continued to apply "draconian" legislations, but also failed to stand up for vulnerable groups it pledged to back when it was elected onto the UN council in 2006.

"Despite Malaysia's pledge to actively support international action to advance the rights of vulnerable groups including children, refugees, asylum seekers and legal and illegal immigrants, they still suffered and child marriages continued to take place," it said.

When elected, said the CHRI report - entitled 'Easier Said than Done' - Malaysia also made a show of how it had successfully balanced the need for security and the promotion of human rights.

However, in the years that Malaysia sat on the council, the Internal Security Act (ISA) was used against opposition parliamentarian Teresa Kok, a journalist reporting on racist statements by an Umno division chief and a dissenting blogger, Raja Petra Kamaruddin, it said.

Choosing not to re-contest for a spot in the council after it term ended in 2009, Malaysia continued to misuse the ISA to curb religious freedom by detaining nine foreigners attending a purportedly Shii'te meeting in January 2010.

There was also evidence of abuse of the Sedition Act during its term on the UN council, with activists like Wong Chin Huat detained under the ISA for organising people to wear black in protest of the Perak coup.

The year 2009 also saw DAP stalwart Karpal Singh and Mohamad Sabu nabbed for sedition, with the latter's alleged offence being organising a mass prayer on the day a new menteri besar was to take up office in Ipoh.

Malaysia voted only on weak resolutions

The same period also saw the government announce intentions to censor the Internet, while journalists reported harassment, particularly after reporting on the protests over a Hindu temple in Shah Alam.

"Malaysia's Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) remained weak, while discrimination based on religion and ethnicity continued to be a major concern," the CHRI reported.

It also failed to uphold its promise to support the efforts of UN agencies to promote and protect human rights by "discouraging efforts by the special rapporteur on torture" on the death penalty.

CHRI also reported that Malaysia supported weaker resolutions on transgressions in North Korea, Sudan, Congo and Burma, among others, although consistently voting against Israel.

Civil society monitors?
Commenting on the report, Suhakam commissioner Muhammad Sha'ani Abdullah said the commission has continued to take a stand against legislation that goes against human rights, including the right to assemble.
"We are not obliged to repeat the government's position, and we go with human rights principles. (Like the right to assemble) which may be illegal but is a basic human right," Sha'ani said.

The new Suhakam team has been seen monitoring street demonstrations to ensure that police do not abuse protesters.

He said Suhakam is also trying to lobby the government to allow civil society members to be part of the five-person delegation to the UN as a means of keeping the government accountable.

"This is practised by other countries and is encouraged by the UN. Otherwise Malaysia will continue to vote for human rights resolutions internationally, but won't deliver its promises at home," Sha'ani added.

malaysiakini: Japan's nuclear morality tale... by Brahma Chellaney

Japan's nuclear morality tale
Brahma Chellaney
Mar 15, 2011, 11:33am
COMMENT The troubles at the Fukushima nuclear power plant and other reactors in northeast Japan have dealt a severe blow to the global nuclear industry, a powerful cartel of less than a dozen major state-owned or state-guided firms that have been trumpeting a nuclear power renaissance.

NONEBut the risks that seaside reactors like Fukushima face from natural disasters are well known.

Indeed, they became evident six years ago, when the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004 inundated India's second-largest nuclear complex, shutting down the Madras power station.

Many nuclear power plants are located along coastlines because they are highly water-intensive. Yet natural disasters like storms, hurricanes and tsunamis are becoming more common, owing to climate change, which will also cause a rise in ocean levels, making seaside reactors even more vulnerable.

For example, many nuclear power plants located along the British coast are just a few metres above sea level. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew caused significant damage at the Turkey Point nuclear-power plant on Biscayne Bay, Florida, but, fortunately, not to any critical systems.

All energy generators, including coal- and gas-fired plants, make major demands on water resources.
But nuclear power requires even more. Light-water reactors (LWRs) like those at Fukushima, which use water as a primary coolant, produce most of the world's nuclear power.

The huge quantities of local water that LWRs consume for their operations become hot water outflows, which are pumped back into rivers, lakes and oceans.

azlanBecause reactors located inland put serious strain on local freshwater resources, including greater damage to plant life and fish, water-stressed countries that are not landlocked try to find suitable seashore sites.

But, whether located inland or on a coast, nuclear power is vulnerable to the likely effects of climate change.

As global warming brings about a rise in average temperatures and ocean levels, inland reactors will increasingly contribute to, and be affected by, water shortages.

During the record-breaking 2003 heat wave in France, operations at 17 commercial nuclear reactors had to be scaled back or stopped because of rapidly rising temperatures in rivers and lake. Spain's reactor at Santa Mara de Garoa was shut for a week in July 2006 after high temperatures were recorded in the Ebro River.

Paradoxically, then, the very conditions that made it impossible for the nuclear industry to deliver full power in Europe in 2003 and 2006 created peak demand for electricity, owing to the increased use of air-conditioning.

Indeed, during the 2003 heat wave, Electricite de France (EDF), which operates 58 reactors - the majority on ecologically sensitive rivers like the Loire - was compelled to buy power from neighbouring countries on the European spot market. The state-owned EDF, which normally exports power, ended up paying 10 times the price of domestic power.

Similarly, although the 2006 European heat wave was less intense, water and heat problems forced Germany, Spain and France to take some nuclear power plants offline and reduce operations at others.

Central dilemma

Highlighting the vulnerability of nuclear power to environmental change or extreme weather patterns, in 2006 plant operators in western Europe also secured exemptions from regulations that would have prevented them from discharging overheated water into natural ecosystems, affecting fisheries.

France likes to showcase its nuclear power industry, which supplies 78 percent of the country's electricity. But such is the nuclear industry's water intensity that EDF withdraws up to 19 billion cubic metres of water per year from rivers and lakes, or roughly half of France's total freshwater consumption.

Freshwater scarcity is a growing international challenge, and the vast majority of countries are in no position to approve of such highly water-intensive inland-based energy systems.

Nuclear plants located by the sea do not face similar problems in hot conditions, because ocean waters do not heat up anywhere near as rapidly as rivers or lakes. And because they rely on seawater, they cause no freshwater scarcity. But, as Japan's reactors have shown, coastal nuclear power plants confront more serious dangers.

When the Indian Ocean tsunami struck, the Madras reactor's core could be kept in safe shutdown condition because the electrical systems had been ingeniously installed on higher ground than the plant itself.
And, unlikjapan nuclear fukushima no 3 reactor explosion imagee Fukushima (left), which bore a direct impact, Madras was far away from the epicentre of the earthquake that unleashed the tsunami.

The central dilemma of nuclear power in an increasingly water-stressed world is that it is a water guzzler, yet vulnerable to water.

And, decades after Lewis L Strauss, the chaiperson of the US Atomic Energy Agency, claimed that nuclear power would become “too cheap to meter”, the nuclear industry everywhere still subsists on munificent government subsidies.

While the appeal of nuclear power has declined considerably in the West, it has grown among the so-called nuclear newcomers, which brings with it new challenges, including concerns about proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Moreover, with nearly two-fifths of the world's population living within 100km of a coastline, finding suitable seaside sites for initiation or expansion of a nuclear power programme is no longer easy.

Fukushima is likely to stunt the appeal of nuclear power in a way similar to the accident at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania in 1979, not to mention the far more severe meltdown of the Chernobyl reactor in 1986.

If the fallout from those incidents is a reliable guide, however, nuclear power advocates will eventually be back.

BRAHMA CHELLANEY is Professor of Strategic Studies at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi and the author of, among others, 'Asian Juggernaut: The Rise of China, India, and Japan' (Harper Paperbacks, 2010) and 'Water: Asia's New Battlefield' (Georgetown University Press, 2011).

TMI: The doctor is not in.... By Art Harun

The doctor is not in

By Art Harun
TMI: March 15, 2011

MARCH 15 — Starting from the second instalment of the “Godfather” trilogy, right to the final episode in “Godfather 3”, we saw the chief mobster, Michael Corleone, vehemently attempting to legitimise his “businesses”.

We saw how he bought the Vatican and, consequently, an honorary award from the Church. We also saw his efforts aimed at justifying the murder — at his behest — of his own brother by insisting that “loyalty” was essential for the perseverance of the family.

In fact, the whole thing was, to him, about the family.

It is an irony of course that at the end he lost his family and died a lonely death.

That was of course fiction. But fiction does often take its cue from real life.

In The Rhetoric of Oppression, I postulated that the oppressor often finds the need to legitimise or justify his oppressive acts. It is admittedly somewhat odd for an oppressor to do so. This is because of the untold powers that an oppressor normally has over the oppressed, making legitimacy of his oppressive acts totally unnecessary.

However, nature almost demands that an oppressor should do so. Whether this natural demand is precipitated by a guilty conscience is speculative. It is also beyond my intellect to know.

Whatever the motivation of the oppressor to legitimise or justify his oppressive acts might be, one thing is clear though. The rhetoric of justification or legitimisation is often a tired one. It is often a long rambling of some sorts. Incoherent sometimes. And at others it is so full of irony that one begins to doubt the sanity of the author.

In doing so, the oppressor clings to every single “fact” — even manufactured facts — which might lend credence to his arguments for legitimacy. And quite often — in fact, almost invariably — the oppressor is not about to blame himself or things which are or were under his control.

Umberto Eco, in “Turning Back The Clock”, sums it up thus:
“In general, in order to maintain popular support for their decisions, dictatorships point the finger at a country, group, race, or secret society that is plotting against the people under the dictator. All forms of populism, even contemporary ones, try to obtain consensus by talking of a threat from abroad, or from internal groups.” (emphasis is mine).

Recent events in the Middle East are a case in point. Just look at what Gaddafi was saying a week or two ago. He blamed the uprising on enemy countries which were supporting the “terrorists” in his own state. That he did to justify and legitimise the slaughter of his own people by the army which was supposed to protect the people in the first place.

Such is the warped mind of a dictator. And such is the trend of the legitimisation process of an oppressor or a political tyrant.

On October 2, 1935, Benito Mussolini stood in front of Italians — which, according to him, numbered 20 million! — at Palazzo Venezia. That day he declared his intention to go to war with Ethiopia. He sought to legitimise his planned act thus:

“For many months destiny’s wheel, driven by our calm determination, is turning towards its goal … It is not only an army striving to attain its objectives but an entire people of 44 million souls, against whom an attempt has been made to commit the blackest of injustices: that of robbing us of a little place in the sun …

“We have been patient for 13 years, during which the circle of selfishness that smoothers our vitality has grown ever tighter. We have kept patience with Ethiopia for 40 years! Enough!

“And it is to this People (the Italians) that humanity owes some of its greatest conquests, and it is against this People of poets, artists, heroes, saints, navigators, and those who cross the oceans, it is against this People that they dare talk of sanctions!” (emphasis is mine).

Imbued in his speech were manufactured “facts” designed to legitimise a war. That war was necessary as it was a destiny for all Italians, according to Mussolini. It was also necessary because the Ethiopians have been robbing the Italians from what they obviously deserved. The Italians have been very patient and the time has come to fight back.

And of course, how can the great artists, poets, navigators and heroes — and even saints — of Italy be subjected to such demeaning treatment by Ethiopia?


In Malaysia of course we do not have dictators in our midst. We may have some benevolent absolutists who espouse democracy with “Asian values”. (I have always wondered what is so special about Asians so much so that we should have democracy with Asian values. Do we, Asians, breathe different air or something?)

Be that as it may, in recent weeks we have seen a riot of attempts by Tun Dr M at legitimising or justifying his legacy of oppressions. Those attempts culminated in the launching of his memoir “A Doctor in the House”.

That memoir has of course attracted a litany of scorns as well as ball-polishing statements. No less than Tengku Razaleigh has denounced the memoir for being a trash bin of political lies. Needless to say Anwar Ibrahim pukes all over it.

As for me, well, let’s just say I am in no hurry to purchase it. After all, my copy of the “Malaysian Maverick” was found to have crushed a poor lizard to death in my car’s glove-box compartment some time ago.

It is without doubt, in my mind, that “A Doctor in the House” is Tun Dr M’s attempt at legitimising his legacy. And he did so with the finesse of Paul Gascoigne in an English pub.

Mussolini’s war speech reminds me very much of Tun Dr M’s greatest bogeyman for the Malays in Malaysia.

This country belongs to the Malays. It is the Malays’ destiny to occupy and own this Tanah Melayu.

The pendatangs have come to rob us, the Malays, of what little rights that we have here. The Malays have been patient. Enough with that! How can we the Malays, the heroes, warriors, kings and rulers of this land be treated like this?

Let’s unite. Let’s protect our rights. Or we will be beggars in our own lands.


How about Operasi Lalang? Oh, the police did that.

The ISA? Well, I wanted to repeal it but the police said no.

Umno? Well, Tengku Razaleigh, whom I defeated in an election — where he (Ku Li) and his cohorts paid money to the delegates — fairly and squarely caused it to be declared as unlawful by the court.

Tun Salleh Abas? Well the King had wanted to remove him because he complained that the renovation work at the King’s palace was too noisy for him. Anyway, I did not dismiss him. The tribunal did.

Anwar Ibrahim? He is a freaking sodomite. He is a sex maniac. I have seen four women who said they had sex with him. He just had to go.

Daim Zainuddin? He is the best thing to happen to Malaysia since Parameswara a/l Sri Vijaya.

Lee Kuan Yew? He is just a mayor of a small town.

Memali? Musa Hitam did it. I was away.

Of course, he is also not to be blamed for the forex losses, the BMF scandal, the Proton debacle (hey, Proton is a success!), Maminco, Perkapalan Nasional bailout, the one-way highway concessions, the independent power producer robberies, the various human rights abuses, the shrinking of the natives’ rights, the AP porn, money politics in Umno, the total subjugation of the judiciary to the Executive, the royal constitutional crisis, the weakening of almost every public institution and their consequent subservience to the Executive, rampang cronyisms, blatant nepotism, the whatever else.

And the story goes on and on and on.

Everything he did, he did it his way. And he did it in the best interests of the country.

The bad ones by the way were not even done by him. Get it?

On April 29, 1945, a guy with a small moustache over his lips sat down and softly dictated a letter to his secretary, one Frau Trudl Junge. That man was one of the worst — if not THE worst — animal the Earth had ever had the misfortune of hosting.

Adolf Hitler was his name.

That morning he was not feeling too happy. The Allied Forces were pressing on and he sensed that his days were numbered. The sword of Damocles was hanging on his head and inching its way downward.

He had to legitimise his acts. He had to justify the nightmare which he had managed to enveloped the world with. The six million souls whom he had mercilessly forced out from the bodies of the olds, the young, the women and the children were screaming in his head.
He just had to legitimise and justify.
And so he wrote:

It is untrue that I or anybody else in Germany wanted war in 1939. It was desired and instigated exclusively by those international statesmen who were either of Jewish origin or working for Jewish interests. I have made so many offers for the reduction and elimination of armaments, which posterity cannot explain away for all eternity, that the responsibility for the outbreak of this war cannot rest on me. Furthermore, I never desired that after the first terrible World War a second war should arise against England or even against America. Centuries may pass, but out of the ruins of our cities and monuments of art there will arise anew the hatred for the people who alone are ultimately responsible: International Jewry and its helpers!

“But I left no doubt about the fact that if the peoples of Europe were again only regarded as so many packages of stock shares by these international money and finance conspirators, then that race, too, which is the truly guilty party in this murderous struggle would also have to be held to account: the Jews! I further left no doubt that this time we would not permit millions of European children of Aryan descent to die of hunger, nor millions of grown-up men to suffer death, nor hundreds of thousands of women and children to be burned and bombed to death in their cities, without the truly guilty party having to atone for its guilt, even if through more humane means.

Yes, Mr Hitler. The Jews started the war. And you were just defending yourself.

And finally the “truly guilty party have atoned for its guilt” through “more humane means.” I suppose being gassed in a chamber and having their skin scaled out from their flesh and turned into a lamp shade was “humane means” to you.

We all know that.

And oh yes, Tun Salleh was rude to the King and so he was dismissed. Tengku Razaleigh destroyed Umno.

Anwar Ibrahim has his brains in his crotch.

Quick. Call the doctor.

Oh wait.

The doctor is not in.

* Acknowledgement: “Turning Back The Clock”; Umberto Eco, Harvill Secker 2006.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

malaysiakini: Another Chernobyl in the making?... by Stratfor

Another Chernobyl in the making?
Mar 12, 2011 6:17pm

Today's explosion at the earthquake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Japan, appears to have caused a reactor meltdown.

The key piece of technology in a nuclear reactor is the control rods. Nuclear fuel generates neutrons; controlling the flow and production rate of these neutrons is what generates heat, and from the heat, electricity.

Control rods absorb neutrons - the rods slide in and out of the fuel mass to regulate neutron emission, and with it, heat and electricity generation.

A meltdown occurs when the control rods fail to contain the neutron emission and the heat levels inside the reactor thus rise to a point that the fuel itself melts, generally temperatures in excess of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, causing uncontrolled radiation-generating reactions and making approaching the reactor incredibly hazardous.

japan tsunami and earthquake 2011 nuclear power plant fukushima no 1A meltdown does not necessarily mean a nuclear disaster. As long as the reactor core, which is specifically designed to contain high levels of heat, pressure and radiation, remains intact, the melted fuel can be dealt with.

If the core breaches but the containment facility built around the core remains intact, the melted fuel can still be dealt with - typically entombed within specialised concrete - but the cost and difficulty of such containment increases exponentially.

However, the earthquake in Japan, in addition to damaging the ability of the control rods to regulate the fuel - and the reactor's coolant system - appears to have damaged the containment facility, and the explosion almost certainly did.

There have been reports of “white smoke,” perhaps burning concrete, coming from the scene of the explosion, indicating a containment breach and the almost certain escape of significant amounts of radiation.

At this point, events in Japan bear many similarities to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Reports indicate that up to 1.5 meters of the reactor fuel was exposed. The reactor fuel appears to have at least partially melted, and the subsequent explosion has shattered the walls and roof of the containment vessel - and likely the remaining useful parts of the control and coolant systems.

Nightmare scenario

And so now the question is simple: Did the floor of the containment vessel crack? If not, the situation can still be salvaged by somehow re-containing the nuclear core. But if the floor has cracked, it is highly likely that the melting fuel will burn through the floor of the containment system and enter the ground.

This has never happened before but has always been the nightmare scenario for a nuclear power event - in this scenario, containment goes from being merely dangerous, time consuming and expensive to nearly impossible.

Radiation exposure for the average individual is 620 millirems per year, split about evenly between man-made and natural sources. The firefighters who served at the Chernobyl plant were exposed to between 80,000 and 1.6 million millirems.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission estimates that exposure to 375,000 to 500,000 millirems would be sufficient to cause death within three months for half of those exposed. A 30-kilometer-radius no-go zone remains at Chernobyl to this day. Japan's troubled reactor site is about 300 kilometers from Tokyo.

The latest report from the damaged power plant indicated that exposure rates outside the plant were at about 620 millirems per hour, though it is not clear whether that report came before or after the reactor's containment structure exploded.

- Stratfor

Reuters: Japan plant leak sparks nuclear power debate... by Gerard Wynn and Bernie Woodall

Japan plant leak sparks nuclear power debate
Gerard Wynn and Bernie Woodall
Mar 12, 2011; 1:39pm
The growing risk of a significant radiation leak at two Japanese nuclear power plants following yesterday's earthquake and tsunami threatens to hurt an industry that has enjoyed a rebirth since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 and the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

Malaysia has plans to built two nuclear power plants that will generate 1,000 megawatts each with the first plant ready for operation in 2021.

On Friday, nuclear power advocates and environmentalists staked out familiar ground over the incident in Japan.

But a wider public debate may be ignited if a major radiation leak occurs, said Paul Patterson, an energy analyst with consultants Glenrock Associates in New York.

That debate has been largely muted since the 1980s when rock concerts were held to galvanise opposition to nuclear power after the Three Mile Island incident in Pennsylvania and the popular movie 'The China Syndrome', that raised awareness of the dangers of a nuclear reactor meltdown.

"The severity of what happens is what is important," Patterson said of the impact of the Japanese incident.

If there is a substantial radioactive release, there could even be questions about whether it could travel on the Pacific jet stream to the US West Coast.

"It is serious and it could lead to a meltdown," said Mark Hibbs, a nuclear expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "And what we're seeing, barring any information from the Japanese that they have it under control, is that we're headed in that direction."

But Naoto Sekimura of the University of Tokyo, said that a major radioactive disaster was not likely.

Cooling system fails

An 8.9-magnitude earthquake centered in northern Japan triggered a series of events at two Tokyo Electric Power Co plants that created conditions for a radioactive leak because
there wasn't electric power to circulate cooling water over superheated uranium fuel rods.

nuclear power plant reactor fusion 040309 01The two Tepco plants, the Daiichi plant and the Daini plant are around 60km from the epicenter of the earthquake that led to a tsunami and probably killed more than 1,000.

Nuclear industry advocates on Friday were saying that the ability of the nuclear reactors in Japan to largely withstand the power of the earthquake shows how safe nuclear power is.

But that was before a series of scary announcements from Tepco that it had lost the ability to control pressure at several reactors and that it was having trouble with a valve that would allow reactor pressure to be eased.

Thousands of residents were evacuated from the immediate area of the Fukushima plants, about 150 miles 240km north of Tokyo.

Industry experts said the precautions taken at Fukushima showed that enhanced security at nuclear power plants should prevent any disaster. But green groups said the threatened leak showed that the risks were still too high.

"I wouldn't expect there to be a radiation emergency ultimately, they may have something to fix but it's a precaution more than anything else," said Sue Ion, former chief technology officer at British Nuclear Fuels, after Japan declared an atomic power emergency.

Altogether, some 11 Japanese reactors shut down after the earthquake.

Successive layers of security should prevent any leak of radiation, said Jeremy Gordon, an analyst at the World Nuclear Association based in London.

Yet another proof that it can't be safe

"The reactor designs that are up for consideration today are generation three where the safety systems operate at an even higher level," said WNA analyst Jonathan Cobb.

But environmental groups said the threat of a radiation leak underscored the general risks from atomic energy.

"We've opposed nuclear power for decades, and this is another proof that it can't be safe," said Sven Teske, director of renewable energy at Greenpeace International.

nuclear power plant reactor fusion 040309 02A leading US scientist group said the incident highlighted the grave risk of inadequate back-up power to cooling systems at US facilities.

New interest from governments and investors in nuclear power follows the development of more advanced plants, and a new focus on security of energy supply and moves to reduce
carbon emissions.

Nuclear plants generate low-carbon power in contrast to fossil fuels and can produce constantly unlike wind and some other clean energy sources.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) estimated last month that about 10 countries have decided to introduce nuclear power and started preparatory infrastructure work, up from four in 2008.

- Reuters

Friday, March 11, 2011

Ku Li calls Dr M a ‘political liar’... By Leslie Lau

Ku Li calls Dr M a ‘political liar’

TMI: March 11, 2011
KUALA LUMPUR, March 11 — Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said tonight that as Allah was his witness, he had never engaged in vote buying as alleged by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in the latter’s autobiography out earlier this week.
The veteran Umno leader also accused his old foe Dr Mahathir of engaging in “political lying” in his recollection of what transpired during the contentious 1987 party polls.

“I never steal. I never cheat,” he said in Ipoh tonight when launching an unrelated book.

“Again, I am accused of bringing the party to court. I am also alleged to be involved in money politics during the 1987 party contest. I do not have that sort of money. I have no cronies. In fact, I am against money politics. As Allah is my witness, I have not done all those things. Yet I have always been returned every time I stood in Gua Musang.”

Dr Mahathir had written in his book that Tengku Razaleigh would have become prime minister if he was more patient.

The former prime minister also accused the Team B faction led by the Kelantan prince of a dirty campaign to unseat him as president in the fractious Umno elections of 1987, resulting in the High Court declaring Umno illegal.

“Had Tengku Razaleigh been more patient, he would probably have taken Tun Musa (Hitam)’s place as deputy prime minister and eventually become prime minister,” Dr Mahathir wrote in his book titled “A Doctor in the House: The Memoirs of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad”.

Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister claimed in the book that Tengku Razaleigh’s Team B had resorted to money politics in the campaign.

“We also heard that Team B spent about RM20 million on their campaign, with most of the money provided by Tengku Razaleigh himself,” he wrote.

“Voting had to be halted halfway for members to attend Friday congregational prayers, but Team B supporters used the interval to campaign. They were seen following targeted delegates to their hotels, even into the toilet, and I was told that a lot of money changed hands,” he said of the party polls that took place on April 24, 1987.

“They also circulated a photograph of me with a Chinese lady who they alleged was my Singaporean wife. In fact, she was the wife of an old university classmate, and the picture had been taken at their daughter’s wedding,” he added.

Responding tonight, Tengku Razaleigh also mocked Dr Mahathir’s book, calling it comedic.

“Political lying comes through the media and sometimes by writing so-called books of memoirs. One book was recently launched under a pseudo title called ‘Doctor in The House’.

“I say ‘pseudo’ because it is a copycat title of a famous British comedy film of the 1950s based on a novel by Richard Gordon. Perhaps it was deliberate, as it does reflect some comedianship, apart from political lying. The ‘Doctor in The House’ makes allegations against me which are not new,” said Tengku Razaleigh.

In the aftermath of the 1987 Umno elections, Tengku Razaleigh was not willing to accept defeat and challenged the results in court on the grounds that 53 Umno branches were not properly registered.

High Court judge Tan Sri Harun Hashim eventually dismissed the suit but ruled that the existence of unregistered branches meant that Umno itself was an illegal party.

In 1988, Dr Mahathir registered a new party, Umno Baru, that exists up to now, although it is now simply known as Umno.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Aliran: It’s a sham! It’s a show! It’s a Shame – it’s our Sick Economy!... By Martin Jalleh

It’s a sham! It’s a show! It’s a Shame – it’s our Sick Economy!

By Martin Jalleh

· “The present PM has made some helpful gestures towards liberalising the economy…These initiatives, however, must do more than skim the surface of what must be done. (7 January 2010)
· “Malaysia is a sham democracy, one which existed only in name but grievously compromised in substance, reality and fact… Reforms could not be expected from the incumbents in power.” (8 February 2010)
· “Our economy has stagnated. Productivity remains low. We now lag our regional competitors in the quality of our people, when we were once leaders in the developing world.” (23 March 2010)
~ Tengku Razaleigh, former Finance Minister and veteran leader of Umno

Below is a glance at the sad and scandalous scenario of how the country’s once strong economy has fallen sick with the government putting up a big show (performance now!) of economic reforms in 2010 – full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

1. Flight in capital

The year 2010 began with the bad news that Bolehland had suffered disastrous capital flight in the previous year. The Asia Sentinel, an online news website, on 11 January 2010, quoted investment bank UBS as revealing that in 2009 foreign exchange reserves fell by close to 25 per cent even though the country continued to run a huge surplus on the current account of its balance of payments.

The USB described the situation as “bizarre” and contrasted Malaysia with other countries with large current account surpluses – Thailand, China, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong – which have seen their reserves increase – as should be expected.

AS suggested that the massive outflow could be partly due to the government’s state-controlled enterprises, headed by Petronas, which “has been spending its billions in profits around the world as it attempts to become a major global player – at the expense of Malaysian citizenry in general and the oil and gas producing states in particular.”

The newspaper added the capital flight was also due to “the outflow of local private capital (which) has been taking place on an unprecedented scale in response to political instability, massive official corruption and discrimination against non-Malays.”

“Often with the exodus of money goes an exodus of talent as highly skilled persons disadvantaged by race or, as in the case of some Malays, disgusted by local corruption or primitive religious authorities, take themselves and their capital to Australia, Canada, India, China, etc.”

2. Foolish denial
In a report on Malaysia released at the end of January 2010, the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) warned: “Events of the past month give the impression that pressures are building and the entire situation is becoming much more unstable” (Malaysian Insider, 10 Feb. 2010).

Since New Year’s Day (2010) “the situation in the country is becoming increasingly unstable; a group of elite minorities were dominating the national agenda to the extent that it was hurting Malaysia’s attractiveness to investors…”

Lim Kit Siang then asked for Najib’s response to the PERC’s “blistering” report and the prospect of Malaysia becoming even more uncompetitive internationally. Najib chose to be silent but his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin called the report “part of a hidden agenda to destabilise the country”.

Evidently, Muhyiddin chose to ignore Second Finance Minister Husni Ahmad Hanadzlah’s revelation made in December 2009 that the country’s economy “has been stagnating for the past decade (in the wake of the 1998 Asian financial crisis)”.

3. Flip-flopping on the NEP
On 30 March 2010, the PM unveiled the much-awaited New Economic Model (NEM) which will “transform the nation into a high-income economy that is sustainable and inclusive and will position the nation on the right path towards attaining developed nation status by 2020”.

Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, an Aliran member and Sungai Siput MP, praised the NEM’s policy statement and in particular the “uncharacteristic honesty about the current situation of the Malaysian economy”. He added that “its policy thrusts have been lifted from the Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) prescription for reform”.

He, however, argued that the NEM is “a deeply-flawed policy”, “essentially the recycling of policy prescriptions from the neoliberal school”. He warned that planning for the future must not be left to the PM and the NEAC who “are clearly still stuck inside the old and tired neo-liberal box”.

As the months passed, Najib backtracked on the “promising” NEM. He succumbed to strident objections from extremist right wing groups, such as Perkasa, to the NEM. He flip-flopped over the 30 per cent Bumiputera equity target and even called the NEM a “trial balloon”.

4. False alarm by Idris Jala?
On 27 May 2010, Idris Jala, Minister in the PM’s Department stunned the nation with his sudden and dramatic warning that we have a time bomb in our hands – we could go bankrupt by 2019. We either swallow subsidy cuts or risk having a “Greece” staring at us!

Some felt Idris’ doomsday scenario had a sobering effect. Others were sceptical. Some said it was just a scare tactic or just some stunt or drama by Idris – to sidetrack the nation from the real issues. Some Umno warlords told the PM to give Idris the sack; he was asking them to commit political suicide!

DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang was sharp enough to point at Idris’ failure to address the root causes of the national economic crisis instead of just dealing with its symptoms. Idris failed to focus on the big ticket items – corruption, mismanagement, extravagance and lack of accountability. (See sections on “A leap into greater losses” and “Malpractices, mismanagement and misuse of funds”.)

Idris proved that he was a typical politician, though he says he is not one, by claiming that his statement was taken out of context. The PM stayed far away from Idris’ apocalyptic speech. He made the CEO of Pemandu a sitting duck whilst he ran short of political will to seriously address the subsidy syndrome.

Things turned out the way DAP’s Tony Pua had predicted: “I don’t think the Najib administration has the courage to carry out the cuts…not across the board and not as Idris planned it. They’ll probably stagger the subsidy cuts, one every three to four months, as long as there is no by-election.”

Then came another slap on Idris’ face. His warning was based on the country’s total subsidy of RM74 billion, equivalent to RM12,900 per household last year. Najib’s Finance Ministry had the country’s total subsidy at only RM18.6 billion, equivalent to RM3,246 per household.

The contradictions between the PM and Idris would become more and more glaring. For example, three days after the dire warning that the country could become bankrupt by 2019, the PM declared: “Malaysia can be a developed nation by 2020, if the country registers a continuous six per cent annual growth”!

5. Foreign/local investors stay away
In mid-July the released UN’s World Foreign Investment Report (WIR) 2010 revealed the following:

· Malaysia’s FDI plunged 81 per cent from US$7.32 billion in 2008 to just US$1.38 billion in 2009, trailing behind neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Singapore.
· Malaysia was the only Asean country to experience negative FDI flow in 2009.
· The country’s 2009 FDI fell lower than the Philippines, which attracted US$1.95 billion, while Singapore raked in the most — more than US$16 billion. (It was the first time ever that Malaysia attracted less investment than the Philippines!)

Pas vice-president Mahfuz Omar said that the plunge in foreign investment in 2009 proved that Najib had failed miserably in his Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and National Key Results Area (NKRA) (meant to gauge governmental performance) as PM and Finance minister. He should resign gracefully.

According to Mahfuz, the main factors responsible for the dismal performance in attracting investors were:

· Rampant corruption, bureaucratic red-tape and money paid to middle men.
· Interference and a state of “lawlessness’ in the judiciary. The Lingamgate case, the BN’s power grab in Perak and Sodomy II gave the impression that Malaysia practised law of rule and not rule of law.
· Government’s mismanagement of giant government-linked-companies such as Sime Darby, Felda and Maybank had hurt investor confidence.

DAP’s chief economist Tony Pua had this to add: “Despite Datuk Seri Najib repeatedly insisting that the era where ‘the government knows best’ is over, his administration continues to crowd out private investments by directly awarding mega-projects to government-linked entities, such as the Sungai Buloh land to an EPF joint venture with the government, or the Sungai Besi airport redevelopment, to the 1Malaysia Development Fund.”

“Without these necessary and critical changes to the government’s economic policies, the Malaysian economy will only continue to drift away from the radar of both local and foreign investors,” he said.

Nothing really changed in spite of the warnings of the WIR in July 2010. One could see this clearly in a statement which came out in December 2010 by Ramon Navaratnam, who warned that the Najib administration would face continued investor scepticism until it became more explicit on how to make Malaysia a high-income nation.

The former senior civil servant who had helped Tun Abdul Razak draft the NEP said the second New Economic Model (NEM) report was filled with good intentions but “very short” on specific measures. He added: “And therein lies the problem… Investors, after waiting so long, find they’re back almost to square one in terms of the specifics and policy proposals they can act on.”

6. Fine performance by PR
According to Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, the combined four Pakatan Rakyat states of Penang, Selangor, Kedah and Kelantan beat the 9 BN states together in terms of investments in 2010.
They succeeded in attracting RM25 billion in investments comprising 53% of Malaysia’s total investments of RM47.2 billion in 2010. Despite the financial constraints and limitations imposed by BN, PR showed good governance.

For the first time in history, Penang was the new champion of investments in Malaysia, replacing the previous 2009 champion Sarawak by recording RM 12.2 billion in 2010 as compared to Sarawak’s RM3.9 billion.

Lim took pride in saying that Penang’s success in drawing in RM12.2 billion was an extraordinary vote of confidence by both foreign and local investors in the PR state government of Penang. The No.2 state after Penang was another PR state of Selangor with RM 10.6 billion in investments.

7. Farcical reforms
2010 was a year which revealed how sick the country’s economy has become with the PM and his government trying to cure it by drowning it with acronym soup — GTP, NKRAs, NKEAs, SRIs, NEM, ETP, EPPs, SRIs and more.

Alas, Najib would end up looking so silly at times. When commenting on the Budget for 2011, Sakmongkol AK47, the pen-name of Mohd Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz, a former state assembly member of Pahang who is an Umno member, said that Najib was “suffering from Acronymitis”.

“It’s a new disease I suppose which has become fashionable since Najib took over from Pak Lah. And we are seeing its deleterious effects when the PM/Finance Minister prepared the 2011 budget recently. He is suffering from an economics heatstroke I think.”

He provided an excellent example: What has the construction of a 100-storey tower got to do with the government budget? Or for that matter the construction of the RM43 billion MRT, the RM10 billion mixed development of Sungai Buluh, the RM26 billion construction of the KLIF hub, RM10 billion worth of highways?

Idris Jala will be remembered as the man who at one moment would shake the nation with his apocalyptic message and at the very next moment suffocate the nation with a slew of grandiose plans through his slick powerpoint presentations. He would be sadly accused of being an spin doctor for Umno.

The target for private investment set by Najib through the ETP, 10-MP and Budget 2011, stood at RM115 billion at an increase of 12 per cent every year until 2020. But in spite of the slew of acronyms, the showcase of plans, projections, and programmes, and the spate of privatised projects, there were no significant signs of foreign and domestic investor confidence.

On 24 December 2010, the Malaysia Chronicle reported that a survey showed Najib’s popularity dropping by a significant amount – from 72 per cent to 69 per cent cent, and this had his minders scrambling to spin away his loss of approval among Malaysians.

“The artificial public relations and false promises are starting to come unstuck. It is also highly likely the actual results are much worse because you can be sure the survey-takers would have tried their best to be kind to him,” commented PKR vice president Tian Chua.

The poll was conducted by the Merdeka Centre and suggested that the lower approval rating was due in part to a reduction in government subsidies for fuel and sugar. The poll also found that few Malaysians understood or appreciated his flashy RM1.4 trillion Economic Transformation Programme.

Many felt the government was refusing to do what was necessary to save the economy. As was plainly put by Tengku Razaleigh, who blamed the Najib administration for crippling the national economy by putting politics ahead of policy reforms, “only political change can bring economics reforms to Malaysia”.

The Umno veteran urged the PM to end race-based affirmative programmes in the NEP, drawn up 40 years ago, which he said was a cover for “corruption, crony capitalism and money politics”.

Before the year ended Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim accused the government of bullying the poor by failing to impose similar subsidy cuts on “subsidy monsters” like the Independent Power Producers The latest price hikes on daily essentials was clear proof of the BN’s “double standard” and “flagrant inconsistency”.

(The above article first appeared in the latest issue of Aliran Monthly. It is part of a 30-page comprehensive review of the year 2010.)

malaysiakini: Mahathir's irrationality?... by KJ John

Mahathir's irrationality?
KJ John
Mar 3, 2011, 1:15pm
This column is probably my most severe criticism of Dr Mahathir Mohamad's logic system currently made apparent by some of his incoherent statements. The New Straits Times quoted him as saying with a headline that, “having too many parties will split the nation.”

He was of course agreeing with the Registrar of Societies who had given a professional opinion on the matter. The registrar's logic was defensible from a public policy point of view, although yet debatable but probably meant to elicit comments.

NONEAs for Mahathir's (left) comments, I failed to see his logic. In the 1980s when Mahathir became prime minister, among the first and earliest books he instructed senior government servants to read was Kenichi Ohmae's The Mind of a Strategist. I was registrar at Intan and was advised by the director to read the book. In fact, the entire leadership of Intan also read the book.

Among the ideas promoted in this book is the skill of how to deconstruct reality into relevant base parts and then to reconstruct the same reality into new wholes but of different permutations or combinations. Therefore, I fail to understand why and how Mahathir's current logic system operates; it appears that he does not understand this model of the strategic thinking any more.

Many small parties or groups can conceivably always still form new governments (BN has 14 parties at last count) and therefore regardless of what they believe as their party positions on issues, they have to finally coalesce into two alternatives for governance, right? Even in Thailand this is already happening so evidently.

What is the new and shifting reality of the newer world order? At the ELLTA, the Leadership and Learning Conference I attended, one of the questions we discussed and debated was whether “theories are still universally valid?”

There were of course two distinct schools of thought and arguments about these alternative models. One, belonging to the school of objectivists, mostly of the physical science alma mater, argued the need for some kind of applied universality. The other were subjectivists and from the school of ethnicists who argued for local and contextual imperatives for all realities, including their Universalist theories.

Defying rational logical deduction

But, even that statement about reality was only relative or, an oxymoron at best, in terms of logic systems. It defies rational logical deduction.

Now, let us revisit the Mahathir hypothesis that, “too many parties will split the nation.” First, there are two levels of units of analysis involved in any such discussion. One is the obvious but idealised level of reality we call the nation-state. The other is the reality of “numerous parties,” as political and legally approved formal organisations.

Mahathir is saying that too many small splinter political groups of sub-optimising and will lead to the destruction of the nation-state ideal. True?

I think his logic system is erroneous. Why? The nation-state is always an ideal in one's mind or heart. Vision 2020 was the idealised picture that Mahathir himself painted about Malaysia “as a developed society in our own mould.” Najib Tun Razak has called this same or similar dream or envisioned reality into the future, as 1Malaysia. That is now our brand of nation-state ideal.

Our very Distinguished Professor of UKM, AB Shamsul, will call this a pipe dream because he rather vehemently states, “we are only a state but not yet a nation.”

So, Mahathir, whither are you really headed with this kind of logic system of yours? And the mainstream media blindly quotes you and repeats the mantra for the whole world to appreciate such 'illogical logic?' Good and able leaders must send younger nations in newer directions coherent with newer realities.

azlanColonel Muammar Gadaffi is now finding out that managing and leading a nation is more than those of a mere battalion. He must not have gone to strategy school.

But, who then is Mahathir's real audience? At the 1st NCOI, I publicly applauded Mahathir's first seven years of leadership in Malaysia as “those of a statesman.” I was immediately and severely attacked and condemned by some NGO-types present; for they described his leadership as “the destroyer of the judicial system in Malaysia”, and rightly so I think now.

But, was it not in the second half, after the Umno A and B split that the period of rot set in?
Are his statements today therefore consistent with his first period of leadership of the nation, or are they only reactions now, in the third generation period of leadership? And, that too merely to “protect and preserve the failed Malay Agenda, as defined by himself?”

NONEBut, why blame others for the failure? Mahathir had all the time and opportunity but he failed? Why then did you really fail, Mahathir? Is that not why also you cried over spilt milk with your, “perjuangan yang belum selesai” poem?

What then can we all learn about true, good and real paradigm leadership of Nelson Mandela (left), or Martin Luther King Jr, or Mahatma Gandhi or Mother Teresa ? Can you ever achieve their paradigm leadership status, Mahathir?

'Begin nation-state politics of statesmanship'

I honestly do not know, but I do think that you still can; but your role and posture must change radically. You should move beyond the politics of parties; you should begin to assume the role of a retired mentor-minister and begin the nation-state politics of statesmanship.

So dear Mahathir, please stop all your petty politicking and start becoming a statesman as you can and have the capacity for. Please get all the other equally qualified “famous Tuns” and start a Wise Person's Council which we can call our national treasury of knowledge or National TOK. And yes, include Tok Nik Aziz of Kelantan too and ex-minister Rafidah Aziz. 

Some others too who should join that group sooner and retire from active politics. But please do include NH Chan; for he is not your eternal enemy but really someone who thinks differently from you and holds to different worldviews and values. Giving him space is also wisdom.

Finally, Mahathir, worldviews are never wrong but only always different. A worldview can be inconsistent but never wrong; they are the deeply held belief system of values, morals and ethics, reflected by attitudes and behaviours of individuals. We do not really know others until we get to understand and listen more comprehensively to the actors themselves; without relying on false reports and lies about others.

NONETherefore, to me, while you became prime minister and did many good things; my frank and greater admiration and respect is rather currently reserved for people like YB Lim Kit Siang (centre in picture) who transcends three generations of quality service to this nation. To me he is a true nationalist politician par excellence, much like the late Dr Tan Chee Khoon.

This column is also therefore dedicated to LKS for his 70th birthday. Happy Birthday Brother Kit and May the Good Lord richly bless you.

KJ JOHN was in public service for 29 years. He is now dean of the Faculty of Economics and Policy Science at UCSI University, Malaysia. The views expressed above are truths that matter to him as an individual citizen wearing private and civil society hats and therefore are not opinions of the university or faculty. Do send feedback to him at

malaysiakini: Najib's ridiculous doctorate... by Dean Johns

Najib's ridiculous doctorate
Dean Johns
Mar 2, 2011, 3:44pm
As an Australian and an ardent advocate of freedom and human rights, I'm outraged by Monash University's proposed awarding of an honorary doctorate this Friday at its Melbourne campus to Malaysia's Prime Minister, or as my old mate Antares more accurately characterises him, Crime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

This man and his Umno/BN colleagues and cronies are as big a burden and blight on Malaysia as the Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali clan was on Tunisia, the Mubarak regime on Egypt, and the Gaddafi gang on Libya.

Najib has even declared, Gaddafi style, that he and his Umno party must stay determined to cling onto power at all costs, “even if our bodies are crushed and our lives lost.”

And in case anyone imagined he was engaging in empty rhetoric, Umno Youth are engaging in military-style training and Umno's sinister 'volunteer force', Rela, is reportedly on a mission to achieve a membership of more than two million by sometime this year.

Meanwhile Najib is mounting an international charm offensive to try and hide the harm he and his cronies have been doing the Malaysian people.

azlanEmploying the services of the notorious Apco Worldwide, PR consultants and lobbyists for dubious causes and countries, to arrange 'humanitarian' awards for his widely-loathed 'first lady' Rosmah Mansor and invent a veneer of respectability for himself.

Though the campaign's not working as well as it might, as Najib's carefully-scripted words are inevitably given the lie by his nefarious works.

As Mariam Mokhtar and others has recently noted, Najib and other senior Umno/BN figures have been loudly proclaiming the difference between their regime and embattled kleptocracies elsewhere, even to the extent of condemning the use of force against demonstrators.

Yet recent racial-equality rallies in Malaysia have been dispersed with similar force, and dozens of protestors summarily arrested. And of course the never-ending persecution of Malaysia's opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, is still in progress, as his trial on a second charge of sodomy pursues its dismal course.

Then there's the fact that the Anwar case, as outrageous as it is in itself, is far from unique. Ever since former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad decimated the nation's formerly independent judiciary back in the 1980s, Malaysia has been infamous for its politically-compliant judges and kangaroo courts.

With the word 'kangaroo' inevitably evoking thoughts of Australia, and Najib's performance revealing him as a snake-in-the-grass in the legal field, the discussion naturally turns to what on earth Monash University is thinking of in its intention to award this person an honorary degree of doctor of laws.

Esoteric in-joke?

Could it be some kind of esoteric intellectual in-joke? Or a quid pro quo for the Najib government's recent, unprecedented granting of RM1.1 million (A$361,000) in research grants to academic staff of the Monash campus in Sunway, KL?

Or, given that surely no university worthy of the name would sell its favours so ridiculously cheap, is it simply just a dreadful mistake?

Alternatively, perhaps there's a clue to be found in Monash's rather curious motto, “ancora imparo” or “I am still learning.”

Though on second thoughts surely no Australian university could be such a lamentably slow learner as to be ignorant of Najib's highly compromised personal reputation, let alone his appalling record as prime minister of Malaysia.

Far from deserving an honorary degree, let alone a doctorate of laws, Najib fails miserably on Monash University's own website-proclaimed values: diversity, innovation and creativity, international focus, fairness, integrity, engagement and self-reliance.

Najib's Malaysia has diversity all right, especially of races and religions, and Najib and his Umno/BN goons work tirelessly to keep these diverse groups as divided and unequal as possible.

As for innovation and creativity, all that Najib has innovated and created in the term of his premiership is his “1Malaysia” slogan. And this is just a lame and lying attempt to cover up his government's above-mentioned divide-and-rule policy.

When it comes to 'international focus', all that Najib and his government appear to have achieved in the global arena is a grossly ill-deserved image as a bridge between moderate Islam and the West, all the while winking at international crimes like people-smuggling and the traffic of illicit weapons components, and providing aid and comfort to embargoed regimes like Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe.

Which brings as to the qualities of 'fairness' and 'integrity', both of which appear entirely lacking in Najib and his Umno/BN regime.

Besides racial and religious divisiveness, the Malaysian government conspires to keep itself in power through grossly iniquitous gerrymandering of electoral boundaries and blatant bribery of voters.

It feeds the populace a pack of lies through the regime-monopolised mass media and suppresses dissenting opinion through its ruthlessly-enforced if unconstitutional Printing Presses and Publications Act.

It robs the Malaysian people blind with a monstrous system of everything from kickbacks, 'commissions' and crony contracting to blatant fraud, embezzlement and outright theft.

Pernicious system

It protects this whole pernicious system with a police force that's clearly in league with organised crime, an anti-corruption commission that's a standing joke, and a legal system that routinely fails to prosecute the perpetrators of homicide by the forces of so-called law and order.

And the most notorious nexus of corruption and murder in recent Malaysian history, the shooting and explosive dismembering of Altantuya Shaariibuu, a Mongolian translator involved in the apparently corrupt purchase of French submarines, occurred when Najib was defence minister.

Coincidentally, perhaps, the man most outspoken in insisting that Najib was personally implicated in this crime, Raja Petra Kamarudin of, is currently visiting Australia.

Now living in self-exile in the UK and thus safe from Malaysian 'justice', RPK is scheduled to speak at several Australian universities including Sydney and ANU in his role as chairman of the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM).

As a true Malaysian freedom-fighter and former inmate of Kamunting prison under the Umno/BN government's iniquitous Internal Security Act, he'd be a far worthier recipient of an honorary degree than a repressor and robber of the people like Najib.

And surely, as a man without any discernible honour, the Right Honourable Dato' Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak has enough fancy honorifics to his name. In any case it would pay him to learn that the longer your title gets, the more ridiculous it makes you look. Or, as they say in Texas about suspicious displays of grandiosity, “the bigger the hat, the smaller the ranch.”

DEAN JOHNS, after many years in Asia, currently lives with his Malaysian-born wife and daughter in Sydney, where he mentors creative writing groups. Already published in Kuala Lumpur is a third book of his columns for Malaysiakini, following earlier collections 'Mad about Malaysia' and 'Even Madder about Malaysia'.