Tuesday, December 30, 2008




"A new year is unfolding.

Let this year be filled with the things that are truly good—with the comfort of warmth in our relationships, with the strength to help those who need our help and the humility and openness to accept help from others.

As we make our resolutions for the year ahead, let us go forward with great hope that all things can be possible and let us work toward making this world a safe and better place to live in"



This blog is on HIATUS for the next few days to welcome the New Year.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

We Have Seen:The Year That Was

Hantu Laut

The year is drawing to an end and I would like to thank those of you that have regularly visited this blog, supported me, agreed with me, disagreed with me, admonished me, called me names and those that have crossed swords with me, from all of you, I have learned to accept the diversity and complexity of the human race, the temperament and the emotion that comes with it, the multiplicity and diversity that have made us so different in thought yet so similar in structure.

We have seen wars, massive destruction of properties and human lives, the miseries and sufferings of the victims of war, the famine and starvation of the unfortunates in the less fortunate world.

We have seen those who built to destroy, love to hate and kill with joy.We have seen how the power of the rich and mighty vanquished the weak and the poor. We have seen how the greed for money brought us to the brink of a global disaster and how the trusted turned to be untrustworthy.

We have seen how the thieves and robbers in their Armani and Saville Row suits brought down the world's financial system to its knees and brought miseries and financial losses to the global community and to those who placed trust in them.

We have seen those who spoke and sanctify morality,of doing good and extol the rule of justice only to cover their own immorality and wickedness.

We have seen abuses of military might to exert control over weak and poor nations.We have seen how might is right and the abhorrent treatment of the weak and the vanquished.

We have seen the assaults and violations of our fundamental rights to freedom, to speak freely and to right injustices.We have seen the incarceration of those who fight for good over evil.

We have seen the rise of bigotry, intolerance and religious fanatism .We have seen the sancitity of religion acrimoniously washed in the oceans of hate, vangeance and atrocities.We have seen the killing of the innocences in the name of religion.

We have seen the greatest change in the history of the greatest nation on this earth.We have seen what was seen impossible become possible.We have seen the progeny of the past downtrodden, the enslaved, the discriminated and the contempt rose to the highest office.

We have seen the first black man elected as President of the United States of America, a nation that had truly matured in courage and in humanity.A nation that had seen the evils of judging colour,race and creed.A nation that sees what you can do for your country and not what you can do for your race.

As Malaysians we have seen challenging times and the changing of the political landscape of this great nation which we haven't had the courage to see through in the past.

We have seen how the power that be slowly but surely destroying the fabric of racial and religious harmony in this country.We have seen the rise of racism and religious bigotry and intolerance among the races.We have seen how the corrupt with their ill-gotten gains walked the corridors of power.We have seen the muffling of freedom to speak freely and the erosion of personal liberty.

We have seen many yet make very little changes.

Would we dare make more changes that would make this nation as one, free of conflicts of race and religion, contempt for injustices and protection of our constitutional rights and equality as citizens by right of birth rather than that of ethnicity.

If miracle does take time than nothing is impossible.

As Malaysians we can and will make those changes.

Once again I full-heartedly wish to thank all of you and wish everyone a very Happy New Year

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Is Sarawak Going To Anwar's PKR ?

Hantu Laut

Anwar Ibrahim sees Sabah and Sarawak as easy picking.He has taken over as PKR's liaison chairman for both Sabah and Sarawak.Some PKR leaders in both states are in a quandary.They think he has no trust and confidence in them to lead the party.In Sabah it was rumoured that Jeffery Kitingan, one of the vice-presidents of PKR may leave the party soon due to dissatisfaction with the leadership.Former liaison Chairman Ansari Abdullah had relinquished his position earlier and the position was taken up by Anwar.

Sarawak would be having its state elections latest by 2011 and Anwar foresees erosion of support for Chief Minister Taib Mahmud and his coalition government.He based his findings on the dissatisfaction of the Dayak and Chinese voters against Taib's administration.The same was said of Musa Aman of Sabah in the March 2008 General Elections but the result was a shocking disbelief.Most people predicted Musa and the BN would lose badly in the elections.The BN won with a huge landslide and together with Sarawak saved the Federal government from falling to the oppositions.Both chief ministers had shown their mantles and the federal leaders would be foolish to ignore their contributions to the saving of UMNO.You can only win elections overwhelmingly if you have good organisational setup.

Sabah and Sarawak are the mothers of money politics, progenitors of vote buying, political arm twisting and the ultimate money can buy anything.If words can't convince you money can and more often than not it works and Sabah and Sarawak have plenty of it during elections times.

In the 'Land Of The Hornbills' there are more money growing on trees than the legendary birds in the forests.The forests have made millionaires and billionaires.

Today, the biggest logging companies in the world are no longer the Americans or British, they are Sarawakian companies with logging activities spanning the world's rainforests from small island nation of Solomon Islands to Africa,South America and the forests of Siberia.These businessmen are the epitome of 'rags to riches' story and many owed their success to the Sarawak Chief Minister.A friend of mine once told me that in Chinese culture and more so with the Foochow 'you don't forget those who has helped you' and also 'you don't forget those that had betrayed you'.The 'Foochows' of Sarawak control most of the big businesses especially timber.

It is no use to complain about money politics, it is too much ingrained in the political system everywhere and the worst culprits are those in UMNO.Buying favours and corruptions, which is one and the same, is one of the world's oldest profession.Maybe, the government should adopt a system similar to the American and legalise money politics.

It is not that the people of Sarawak don't want any political change, but what are the alternatives? Can PKR be the right answer ? Bringing PKR to Sarawak is the same as bringing UMNO to Sarawak.Looking at the Sabah experience and if PKR or Pakatan took over the state government in the next state elections but were not able to capture the federal government, than they would become an opposition state and suffer the same fate as PBS of Sabah when it was out of the BN. In the event Pakatan succeeded in taking over the federal government than Sarawak would become a subservient state like Sabah.

Sarawakians may be faced with a Hobson's choice, stay with the status quo or trade-in state rights to the central government.

PKR and DAP might make some inroads into some disgruntled Dayak and Chinese areas in Sarawak but not enough to rein in the government.Sarawakians are still suspicious of handing over total power to Peninsula-based political party.

The biggest problem for Anwar is would his Pakatan Rakyat survive until the Sarawak state elections in 2011.The bickering between DAP and PAS has widen the gap and would get bigger as time goes by. Adding to the problem is Anwar's silence on PAS hudud law ambition, he remained muted for fear of a backlash from PAS leadership.

Would Anwar be able to capture Sarawak as portrayed in this article.

I would say he gets as far as the 'nickel and dime'

According to reliable sources, the BN could lose up to 30 seats in the next state elections, which would mean that Pakatan Rakyat just needs to capture six extra seats to win power, if the elections were held today.
(A caption for the article from Malaysian Insider
'Anwar sniffing victory in Taib’s backyard')

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wheeling And Dealing:Who wins ?

Hantu Laut

First, the proposal for Sime Darby to takeover IJN , than big public outcry, government pulled back.Than, new airport for low-cost carrier to be built jointly by Air Asia and Sime Darby at Labu, Negeri Sembilan.Now, TNB wants to buy back Malakoff's Kapar IPP coal-fired power plant for around RM2.9 billion.The plant was previously owned by TNB but sold its 40% stake to Malakoff in 2004 for RM1.68 billion.If TNB buys only 40%, who holds the other 60%?

These boys have fantastic foresight and business acumen which goes as far as the tip of their noses.They are going to pay almost twice the price to buy back what they saw as a liability hardly four years ago. Hoi ! Ada udang di sebalik batu ka! Pak Pandir!

Lately, the government seems to be making many announcements of this and that, are those projects really going to take off or just to show the people they are doing something - right or wrong, doesn't matter, as long as they appear to be busy.

Some of you would still remember the big bullshit employed by some of our public-listed companies going overseas and claimed to have secured huge contracts under MOU (Memorandum of Understanding), which legally is not considered a binding contract.The whole idea was just to lie to the public to boost the share price.Most of the projects never materialised

Either it is just hot air or somebody is wheeling and dealing hoping to make a killing.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Screwing EPF:The Easy Way Out

Hantu Laut

All those big talk about being well insulated from recession and flush with money and not to worry is going up in smoke.EPF been asked to buy prime and pricey land from the government to replenish their dwindling cash flow.

These are pension funds for mostly middle and lower income Malaysians.It is intended for employees from both the private sector and non-pensionable public sector.These are savings partly contributed by them and partly by their employers for retirement purposes or to be used in time of sickness.

Over the years the management of these funds by the government had seen nothing less than spectacular decline and poor dividend payout.The next few years would see further deterioration of dividend payment due to incompetent fund managers and government intervention in the basic usage of the funds.The portfolios should not include bailing out ailing companies or supplementing government budget deficit.

1983 to 1987 1988 to 1994 1995 1996 1997 to 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
8.5% 8.0% 7.5% 7.7% 6.7% 6.84% 6.00% 5.00% 4.25% 4.50% 4.75% 5.00% 5.15% 5.80%



The table above shows drastic decline in dividend payment over the years due to poor investment strategy and lack of fiduciary discipline.Being the biggest fund one wonder how it could have performed so badly as compared to ASB (Amanah Saham Bumiputra) which have been declaring sterling rate of dividend as shown below.

ASB Dividend and Bonus Payment:
  • 1993: Dividend=9.00, Bonus=4.50*
  • 1994: Dividend=9.00, Bonus=4.50*
  • 1995: Dividend=10.0, Bonus=3.00*
  • 1996: Dividend=10.25, Bonus=3.00*
  • 1997: Dividend=10.25, Bonus=1.25*
  • 1998: Dividend=8.00, Bonus=2.50*
  • 1999: Dividend=10.5, Bonus=1.50*
  • 2000: Dividend=9.75, Bonus=2.00*
  • 2001: Dividend=7.00, Bonus=3.00*
  • 2002: Dividend=7.00, Bonus=2.00**
  • 2003: Dividend=7.25, Bonus=2.00**
  • 2004: Dividend=7.25, Bonus=2.00**
  • 2005: Dividend=7.25, Bonus=1.75**
  • 2006: Dividend=7.30, Bonus=1.25**
  • 2007: Dividend=8.00, Bonus=1.00**
It appears that ASB has a better Board of Directors and fund managers.Even in the 1997/1998 Asian financial crisis it managed to pay enviably high dividend and bonus payment.

If ASB, which is a much smaller fund can achieve such high value for its investments why can't the EPF be the same or better or was it because anything with the name 'bumiputra' get special treatment including getting good return on its investments.I am sure ASB is not running a Ponzi scheme like Bernard Madoff and wouldn't pay more than what legally it should be paying.It can only mean there is something very wrong with those responsible for the management of the EPF funds.Maybe, EPF should give the money to ASB to manage.

The Malaysian Insider reported that EPF may be asked to buy few plots of prime land in the city centre namely Jalan Ampang and Jalan Cochrane.What really surprised me was the valuation of the land mentioned at per sq.ft of RM150-RM250 for Ampang and RM100 to RM200 for Cochrane.That sounds pretty cheap for prime land smack in the city centre of a big city like Kuala Lumpur.I would have thought they would be more than RM500 per sq.ft and up to RM1000 in the Golden Triangle.No wonder those developers especially for high-end properties are making a killing.With cheap land and high plot ratio they are making a bomb out of the those suckers who bought their properties.Some of the high-end properties were selling for RM2000 or more per sq.ft.

If EPF bought those land and sit on it for the next three years without doing any thing to develop it or sell it at a profit it would have lost its opportunity costs.

Assuming EPF paid RM5 billion and its normal return on investment is 5%, it would have lost RM750 million in earnings for the three-year period.Unless the land can give an annual appreciation of 10% it is certainly not a good investment for EPF.

The other question is why isn't the government like most economically stable government do to raise funds by issuing government bonds domestically and internationally.Have the government reached maximum gearing in its debt' ratio and were afraid that the bonds would not be well received domestically and by the international community which, if happened, will downgrade our sovereign credit rating and increase the cost of borrowing.

I can see this as the only valid reason for the reluctance to issue bonds and the government preference for dipping their hands into the EPF coffers to supplement the budget deficit.

Vision 2020 looked very blur indeed.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Hantu Laut

Still my favourite. Good old Charlie Brown, affable character, always depressed and a perennial loser.The animated movie 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' was made in 1965 based on Charles M.Schulz's 'Peanuts' comic strip.

Chapter 1-3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5-6

Monday, December 22, 2008

Marginalised Indians, Poor Malays And Poorer Bumiputras

Hantu Laut

Most English educated would know the popular saying 'Children are to be seen not heard'.In another word children with proper upbringing are expected to know how to behave in the presence of adults.Not least to say they should be in bed in the early evening like all children should and not go on political jaunts with their parents.

In November I wrote here about the danger of parents allowing their children to be involved in their political activities.Taking children as young as 4-5 years old to their so called candlelight vigil against the ISA is preposterous.Are these people really serious about their political activism or they have turned such occasions into some kind of festivities for their own enjoyment?

The parents should be ashamed that they are prepared to endanger the safety of their children so they can go out and enjoy themselves under the pretext of championing democracy in this country.If they are really serious about their political ideology they should join political party of their choice whom they think can bring political changes they wanted and help to achieve such change at the ballot boxes.Hindraf, the so called marginalised Indians employed the same tactics, using children in furtherance of their political agenda.

Lately, this bunch of political desperadoes had become even more inventive by using young human devices to spread their 'Save Malaysia' campaign.They sent juveniles to cycle around the country bringing their message of hate.You can hate the government or try to topple it,that's your business but don't be a coward and used young gullible proxies to do your dirty job.

One Arutchelvan of PSM who looked most suited to play a bad part in a Tamil movie rather than a political spokesman has the cheek to say "The police stooped low today when they claimed that the children were exploited", and went on to say "This is utter rubbish coming from the police force, which has long lost its credibility," He said the young cyclists had obtained parental consent.

Wasn't those children exploited? At their young tender age what the f... they know about politics? If that's not exploitation, what is? Who stooped low - he and the parents of those young cyclists or the police ? This is the kind of political activist we have in this country, f..... in the head.This is the kind that sees a molehill to be a mountain.

Although, I do not deny there are some discrimination in some of the government policies but they have not reached such epidemic proportions where a minority race is completely downtrodden and destined to live in the ghettos, like the Jews were forced to in medieval Europe.

These are people who believe whatever the West do is good and we should copy them.Just because most Western countries allowed protests and demonstrations they think Malaysia must apply the same rules without considering the potential danger of civil unrest.What happened in Greece the past weeks, the widespread looting,rampage and destruction of properties all over the country caused just by one accidental death of a student wrongly shot by the police is a lesson that those Malaysians who love to pour their grievances on the street should be looking at.

Human feelings are hard to control and herd instinct can be the order of the day in a multitudinous demonstration where one ethnic group is pitted against another.

There are many successful Indians as lawyers,doctors,accountants and in other professions.I would say as a ratio to population the Indians would have the highest number of doctors in the country.Do they feel marginalised.One of the riches man in this country is Indian or Sri Lankan if there is such race as one of my good Jaffnese Indian friend once told me, he refused to be called Indian, he prefers Sri Lankan, which I think is a nationality rather than a race.

Jaffna, used to be the second largest city in Sri Lanka before the conflicts and is where the marginalised Indians of Sri Lanka lives, home of the LTTE or popularly known as the Tamil Tigers.

If the Tamil Tigers think they are marginalised and wanted an independent state of their own, their ruthlessness and cruelty are even worse than the Sinhalese majority, they have completely driven out the Sri Lankan Moors(Muslims) out of the area.Jaffna now belong exclusively to the Tamils.
All Muslims had left the area in the 1990s.That's is not marginalisation, worst !, that's ethnic cleansing.

There are probably more poor Malays and bumiputras in East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak than marginalised Indians.

Call us stupid if you may but we still believe in the ballot box and respect for democracy and if change we must have the box would be our friend.

Are the Indians really marginalised or they are just apathetic ?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fripouilles Et Houlettes

Hantu Laut

L'économie mondiale est dans le fait d'aller d'un pas traînants. C'est mauvaises nouvelles après un autre. Pas seulement il y avait mismanagment étendu du système financier il y avait la fraude aussi massive commise par quelqu'un s'est fié et a donné de l'argent à la charité, mais est la plus grande houlette dans ce monde.

La découverte du projet de Bernard Madoff Ponzi fraudant des investisseurs peut-être le bout de l'iceberg. Il peut y avoir d'autres fonds de haie qui peuvent avoir recouru au même projet de pyramide.

Le cas du Madoff est la plus grande fraude jamais commise par un homme simple sur les investisseurs crédules au cours de beaucoup d'années sans être découvert par les autorités. La dérégulation était la cause de l'effondrement du système financier aux Etats-Unis.

Alan Greenspan et le gouvernement américain, partisan et implementer de dérégulation du système financier aux Etats-Unis ont beaucoup pour répondre pour le désastre financier et la crise financière et économique sans précédent qui ont apporté des dégâts à l'économie mondiale.

La capacité de Madoff d'arracher ses costumiers à l'air de $50 milliards et a été en mesure de se cacher ses activités s'effraie pendant de nombreuses années esprit. Il va montrer que l'américain a complètement en haut baisé leur système de chèque et de balance. Il n'y a aucune probité et responsabilité dans le système.

L'américain vilain a vissé en haut le monde de nouveau.

The World 50 Most Powerful

Hantu Laut

Newsweek has compiled a list of 50 of the most powerful people in the world from those doing good to devilish and murderous personality like Osama bin Laden.

The Story of Power

The study of power is not only diverting (which Homer and Shakespeare knew), but illuminating. A biography of an ancient human impulse.

Read more..........

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sime Darby:Raiders At The Gate ?

Hantu Laut

I am in complete agreement with our former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad here.Why repair something if it ain't broken.

There is nothing wrong with the IJN. Probably, the only government agency doing an excellent job and is the pride of the nation.It has saved many lives of those who can't afford the high costs of treatment.It's the government's social obligations to the people.

Is the government running out of ideas or running desperately out of funds that it has completely lost touch with reality or is there something more sinister than what the eyes can see?

As former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad has said one has to be discernible with what can be privatised and what not.

How would it make sense that Sime Darby a profit-oriented corporation is interested in an organisation that have to fulfill the government's social obligation and responsibility towards the people or are they only interested in making life easy for themselves by collecting the subsidised portion from the government, everything on the platter, a ready-made IJN and constant flow of revenue from the government.

You don't need smart people to make this type of decision.

Government should only privatise those agencies not doing well due to bad management by idiotic and bureaucratic civil servants.Why sell something if there is nothing wrong with it, unless there is gleam and greed in some one's eyes.

The pumping of IJN into Sime may lead to other things, A takeover of Sime by interested party later is not an impossibility.I don't know how much is the government's stake in Sime Darby.If the government owned less than 50% than Sime can be subjected to takeover bid, hostile or otherwise, by any party that already have significant equity in the company or by outside entity that have access to huge financial resources and allowed a takeover with the blessing of the government.

In December 2007 Sime Darby became the biggest corporation on the KLSE with market capitalisation of RM66 billion after a re-listing exercise, surpassing Malayan Bank and IOI.Upon re-listing the share price debuted at RM11.20 and peaked in January 08 at RM13.40.Yesterday its share price closed at RM5.45.

With the bleak economic outlook and a saturated palm oil market the share price is expected to decline further.This golden goose is ripe for takeover bid and don't be surprised if there are already discreet plan to make hay while the sun shines.It would be a steal to takeover Sime at current market price.

The government has already dug about three feet deep of its grave and continuing with its arrogance and ignoring the people wishes would complete the six-foot depth required to bury them by the time the next general election comes around.

The unsolicited proposal should be thrown out of the window.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Good God ! Are We Dumb ?

Hantu Laut

Being a businessman for many decades and dealing with the intricacies of the banking system, international trade and UCP rules(Uniform Customs and Practice) for Documentary Credits and reading the frivolity of the explanation given by the private secretary to the Yang DiPertuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan Tuanku Jaafar goes to show that the private secretary has little grasp of how the banking system operates.

It is true Tuanku Jaafar didn't take a direct loan from the bank but he has irrevocably committed himself to pay the amount of the Standby Letter of Credit in the event of a drawdown.

Standard Chartered Bank(SCB) must have with the agreement of Tuanku Jaafar issued an 'Irrevocable Standby Letter of Credit' to Connecticut Bank of Commerce (CB) for a specified validity period which means the LC cannot be revoked before its expiry or without expressed consent of the beneficiary. Tuanku Jaafar has also agreed to pledge his fixed deposit as security to SCB which is also irrevocable.

A Standby LC is a form of guarantee issued by banks to other banks either for a third party specific performance or for the beneficiary bank to give credit to a third party whom the beneficiary bank may not be comfortable with unless the party concerned can provide tangible security usually in the form of 'Banker's Guarantee'.A Standby LC instead of 'Letter of Guarantee' is the preferred instrument if the transaction is in a foreign country.

Other instrument used to make advance payment to a third party overseas is 'Red Clause Letter of Credit', mainly used for short-term trade transactions where the supplier may need additional working capital to complete the goods purchased by an overseas buyer.Such arrangement is only possible between parties that have long term business relationship and trust each other.

By the arrangement with SCB Tuanku Jaafar become a guarantor to any liability incurred under the Standby LC.Disputes about the beneficiary’s right to draw should be settled outside the letter of credit transaction.It means SCB cannot become a party in the dispute.

An injunction issued by the Seremban High Court and served on CB which is in America may not be enforceable.

The statement further said “It is clear from the facts that Tuanku Ja’afar did take steps to rescind the LC and prevent a call on the LC before any alleged funds were released by CB to Texas Encore. Despite these steps, CB called on the LC and payment was made by the bank,”.You can't legally rescind something that clearly says 'Irrevocable'.

It is not about Tuanku Jaafar took a loan or not from the bank, it is about probity, that's why the court ruled in favour of SCB.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Old And New

Hantu Laut

An old map of of Borneo Island.North Borneo (Sabah) looked squashed.

Alferd Dent of British North Borneo Chartered Compnay (BNBCC) who provided Baron de Overbeck with 10,000 Pounds to purchase the whole of North Borneo.

Sir Charles Jessel, Vice Chairman of BNBCC after whom Jesselton was named.

Mat Salleh, now a hero and a legend, fought against the British and was killed in Tambunan where a memorial of him still stands.During my time in school, in the history book of North Borneo, he was considered a pirate and a rebel.

Jesselton in 1910 before World War I under the North Borneo Chartered Company.

The North Borneo Railway Headquarters.The only railway network on Borneo.

Sir William Goode, the last Governor,bidding farewell to Harris Salleh on his return to Great Britain.

Jesselton after World War II in the 1950s under British Crown Colony.

Merdeka ! Declaration of Independence on 16 Sept 1963 read out by Donald Stephens(Tun Fuad Stephens), Sabah's first Chief Minister witnesssed by Mustapha Harun the Head of State and Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Razak Hussein.

Kota Kinabalu (Jesselton) today.

Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Startlingly Clean ?

Hantu Laut

Hey presto! So the bills were passed without further ado.Great ! The Prime Minister said there wouldn't be any corruption or very little of it after this and more foreign investors would come to Malaysia knowing it has a startlingly clean government and judiciary.

I am sure with such heavy penalties for whistle blowers there wouldn't be any corruption in this country and we all know the reason why.

I agree those making false report should be punished but, if I am not mistaken,there are already existing law to deal with such offence.

At the end of the day it is the will rather than what's written that decide whether we can get rid of this scourge.

Read the PM exaltation here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Way of The Viking

Hantu Laut

The photos below are of a friend who lives in Sabah for over two decades and is married to a local girl.He is a true blooded Viking.He likes tattoo of Viking warriors.

History of the Vikings here.

Click on photo to enlarge

In the past body tattoo was frown upon and deemed associated with criminal elements.It has now become a respectable form of art and body art decor.It is also getting popular with young ladies. While some flaunt them openly others would have them discreetly hidden in sensual parts of their bodies seen only by their intimate partners.

The photographs were taken discreetly using Nikon 500 mm telephoto lens.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On The Edge Of Financial Disaster: Taken For A Ride

Hantu Laut

Is the world on the edge of unprecedented economic catastrophe?

The world has not seen such financial mess since the 1930s Great Depression. It has been one depressing news after another.Many have though the collapse of Lehman Brothers and financial troubles at AIG, Freddi Mac, Fannie May and other less significant financial entities would be the end of the trouble.Than came another big shocker that the three big Detroit car makers were also in serious financial trouble and are asking the US government for bail-outs.The biggest of the three, GM claimed it would be bankrupted in three months time if the government doesn't throw a lifeline.

Just like in the 1930s the trouble eventually spreads to other part of the world before the whole financial and economic system collapsed and with it a long drawn recession leading to economic depression.At the moment the financial crisis are only confined to US and Europe.The impact has not hit Asian countries yet which usually takes between 6 to 12 months before it sank its teeth and announces its arrival.

Many Asian countries are also slow to open their books to reveal the true situation hoping the problem would go away .The only do so when the situation becomes untenable.

Are we heading for a complete collapse of the financial system?

Three days ago the most unexpected and most scandalous of all the bad news so far was the disclosure of huge fraud by respected financier and former Nasdag chairman Bernard Madoff.He stands accused of operating an elaborate Ponzi scheme to the tune of $50 billion.His list of clientele is like reading Forbes's rich and famous.The disclosure is a big slap to his clients who probably made the investments based on the cover of the book.Funds run by a well respected man? Who would have guessed he turned out to be a crook?

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad may be having the last laugh to know that he wasn't wrong about the Americans.

Below is a story of an investor who got completely wiped out by Bernard Madoff.

How I Got Screwed by Bernie Madoff

By Robert Chew

The call came at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 11. I had been waiting for it for five years. When the call finally arrived, it was my wife Sarah who answered. What the person said on the other end of the phone was both simple and devastating: we were financially wiped out.

Of course, I knew this instantly from the look on my wife's face. Her words to the caller, the person handling our financial matters, grew insistent: "You're joking? This is a joke, right?"

We didn't know it yet, but we had been playing in the Bernard Madoff Investment Securities LLC Fantasy Financial League. It began when we sold our home at the peak of the market, collected what was left from an old divorce, found other monies and then, with a combination of pleasure and trepidation, handed our bag of cash over to someone named Stanley Chais, the Los Angeles network organizer for a man named Bernard Madoff.

Of course, we never heard the name Madoff — which has a peculiarly Dickensian ring now — and had no idea how he achieved such fantastic returns over the past 40 years. All we knew was that my wife's entire family had been in the fund for decades and lived well on the returns, which ranged from 15% to 22%. It was all very secretive and tough to get into, which, looking back, was a brilliant strategy to lure suckers. Unlike the usual Ponzi mechanics, the fund even stopped investments into accounts a few years back, at least in our network. There were the usual warnings prior to investing — we all knew it was a risk, we were told to make sure we were diversified, blah-blah — but, my God, it had been going strong for so long and with such fantastic returns, we had to get in. The Securities and Exchange Commission even gave Madoff a clean bill of health several years ago, we now find out. Well, maybe not a clean bill, but it didn't shut him down either. In the topsy-turvy world of investment, we were quietly, richly safe. Until the call. (See the top 10 worst business deals of 2008.)Read more......

MACC:To Be Or Not To Be

Hantu Laut

It is said both opposition and government lawmakers still have reservation and find it less than ideal that the two bills - the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) be passed in such a hurry.

In spite of their reservations the opposition say they would still give support to the bills.Giving an 'Aye' without studying the proposed bill thoroughly?

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak
has told all BN lawmakers to give their supports.Parliamentary Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim has given conditional support but wanted the power to prosecute to be given to the MACC not the AG. (Attorney General).

Our former colonial masters must have given serious thought to the laws, separation of powers and the institutional set-up for its enforcement.You do not change the law because of one man complaint against the AG or an AG who failed in his duties.You change the AG not the law
.Anwar seems more concern about stripping the AG's power to prosecute rather than a deep desire to see reform of the ACA. Anwar's objection to the AG as the ultimate power to prosecute was born out of personal conflicts rather than a desire to see major reforms.

Giving the ACA the power to prosecute but still makes it answerable to one man is certainly not a major reform by any measure.To make the ACA totally independent and away from political interference and pressure, the only viable solution is to make it answerable to a 'Parliamentary Committee' comprising not less than 10 MPs with equitable representations from the opposition and the government.The power to prosecute should remain with the AG in order to avoid abuse of power.To give both power to investigate and to prosecute to the MACC is even more dangerous than the present setup.There must be separation of powers.Unrestrained, the MACC
could become a monster that could well be the lawmakers biggest nightmare.

There is nothing wrong with the present setup - the power to investigate to the police and ACA and the power to prosecute with the AG.Anwar's allegation of misconduct against the AG should not form the basis of a debate of the bill in Parliament in asking for removal of the AG's power to prosecute.

The whole concept of the bill is wrong, the power to prosecute should not be the principal factor for change for as long as it is still under the control of the executive. The ACA is no way near being called independent as long as it is still answerable to the Prime Minister.Giving the MACC the power to prosecute, as entailed by Anwar, is only moving the object from the Prime Minister's left hand pocket to his right hand pocket.The whole essence of wanting to reform should be nothing less than total independence, answerable only to a Parliamentary Committee.

Half a cupful is the same as half empty.The proposed bill is a waste of time.

Monday, December 15, 2008

AIM F2000.No Spills And Thrills

Hantu Laut

Click on map for satellite image.

For nothing else better to do on this gloriously sunny Sunday morning , which the city haven't seen for many weeks due to the current wet spell, I , although not a great fan of speedboat formula racing decided to spoil myself to bask in the sun and armed with my camera hoping to capture some spills and thrills of the race.

This is the second year the UIM F2000 is staged at Kota Kinabalu.The venue was The Water Front, a popular hangout for both tourists and locals and a place where you can either savour a mixture of local and Western foods and drinks or sniff the sewers of the city especially when the tide is low.If you do come here, come when the tide is high.

Please click on photos to enlarge.

boardwalk, down by the sea,The Water Front.

the starting pit.

The final race on Sunday morning saw Italy's Alex Carella taking the chequered flag finishing the 35 laps of the 2.06 Km course in 33 minutes 31.77 seconds.

Alex Carella with the chequered flag

Britain's Colin Jelp who finished 2nd was crowned the world champion for third successive year.

the winning boat

the winning prop.

winner Alex Carella with Emiliano Ceresa,MD of Little Italy, a local sponsor.

not so lucky.

The F2000 is not a widely followed sport in the sense of the highly glorified F1 sport. Currently the season comprises only of four race avenues and Kota Kinabalu is the last round.The organisers are working on adding two more races next year.

Unfortunately, for all shutterbugs there were no thrills.It was a boring photographic outing.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Malaysia's Economic Outlook for 2009/10

Hantu Laut

Below is the economic outlook for Malaysia for 2009/10 period forecasted by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Outlook for 2009-10
  • Political uncertainty and instability are unlikely to dissipate in the months ahead, despite an expected orderly transfer of power from the prime minister, Abdullah Badawi, to the deputy prime minister, Najib Razak, in March 2009.
  • The leader of the opposition alliance, Anwar Ibrahim, will continue with his campaign to destabilise the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government by persuading BN legislators to switch to the opposition.
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit expects the BN coalition to remain in power over the forecast period. The BN still has a sufficiently large majority to pass the bulk of new legislation unchallenged.
  • Following downward revisions made to our global economic growth forecasts, we now expect real GDP to grow by 3.1% in 2009, down from 4.6% previously. Growth will remain sluggish in 2010.
  • We have revised down our forecast for consumer price inflation, which is now expected to average 2.4% in 2009, down from 3.5% previously.
  • The ringgit is expected to depreciate against the US dollar in 2009, averaging M$3.45:US$1, before strengthening to M$3.33:US$1 in 2010.
  • The merchandise trade surplus will fall to US$32bn in 2009, from an estimated US$39.4bn in 2008, as a downturn in Malaysia's leading export markets lowers demand for a range of Malaysian goods.
I believe the forecast by EIU of real GDP of 3.1% is a bit on the high side.My forecast is from 2% and possibly into negative territory if the government do not increase the stimulus package of RM7 billion and if the global economy shows no sign of improvement during the 1st half of 2009.

The true picture of what to come will only be known by the 1st Quarter of 2009 when the slowdown bites in.

Surprisingly, Malaysian Insider carry what looked like the same report but with completely different figures.If it comes from the same source(EIU) than Malaysian Insider needs a lot of explaining to do why those figures were altered.The Malaysian Insider's article here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

'Skim Cepat Kaya' Cara America

Hantu Laut

The world are full of all kind of crooks. Watch out for those elegantly dressed in Armani suits, suave and can effortlessly smooth-talked you into parting with your fat wallet without a hint of suspicion because you are dumb enough to judge a book by its cover.

Hedge funds are now under scrutiny for fraudulent practices and are likely to be the next big financial meltdown dragging the world into bigger financial chaos.

Malaysia is no exception to "Skim Cepat Kaya" or "Ganda Wang Anda" get rich quick pyramid scams.

The Americans are no less inventive when it comes to dirty rotten scoundrel's inventiveness to cheat the public.In fact he is even smarter than the few Ahmads and Chongs that got caught in this country and charged in court for money laundering.

The Malaysian scams are crude by comparison to the American sophisticated scams called hedge funds.

Suggested reading:

Hedge funds 'facing credit storm'
US bankers facing fraud charges
Credit crisis claims hedge fund

Below is an article from BBC on one such fantastic scam that went undetected for many years and was only exposed by the culprit himself.

$50bn fraud charge at hedge fund

Wall Street sign
The Madoff fraud could be one of the biggest yet

The former chairman of the Nasdaq stock market has been arrested and charged with securities fraud, in what may be one of the biggest fraud cases yet.

Bernard Madoff ran a hedge fund which ran up $50bn (£33.5bn) of fraudulent losses and which he called "one big lie", prosecutors allege.

Mr Madoff is alleged to have used money from new investors to pay off existing investors in the fund.

His lawyer said he would fight to get through these "unfortunate events".

The 70-year-old has been released on $10m bail.

High-profile victims

Bramdean Alternatives has emerged as a victim of the fraud, with 9.5% of its investments exposed to the New York broker, it said in a statement on its website.

Nicola Horlick, the high profile fund manager labelled superwoman by the UK press, is the company's nominated fund manager.

The collapse of Madoff is likely to accelerate the disappearance of hedge funds
Robert Peston

In an interview earlier this year with the Financial Times, Ms Horlick praised Mr Madoff.

"He is someone who is very, very good at calling the US equity market," she said.

She added: "This guy has managed to return 1% -1.2% per month, year after year after year."

'Pyramid scheme'

Mr Madoff founded Bernard L.Madoff Investment Securities in 1960, but also ran a separate hedge fund business.

According to the US Attorney's criminal complaint filed in court, Mr Madoff told at least three employees on Wednesday that the hedge fund business - which served up to 25 clients and had $17.1bn of money under management - was a fraud and had been insolvent for years, losing at least $50bn.Read more........

Friday, December 12, 2008

Images From Our Colonial Past :The Woolley Collection Part III

Hantu Laut

George Cathcart Woolley(1876-1947), a former administrator 0f the North Borneo Chartered Company bequeathed an invaluable collection of photographs and other memorabilia dating to 1909.His collection provides an important record of people and events in Sabah's early history.The collection is known as The Woolley Bequest.

Below are some of the images from his collection.

Click to enlarge

A Murut man 1909.

Harvesting padi 1915

Si Glamut, a Tagal Murut 1908.

A policeman of the British North Borneo Chartered Company Constabulary with his wife at Sipitang 1910.

More to come.

Mahathir's Most Profound

Hantu Laut

"For 50 years political stability was what attracted investors. Now a weak government has tried to regain popularity by pandering to the demands of extremists. The floodgates are open and all kinds of sensitive issues are being debated. The result is the resurgence of racism on the part of all ethnic groups, " he said.

Probably the most profound statement made by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad since he left office.He thinks Malaysia is unlikely to achieve Vision 2020 as envisioned by him when he was Prime Minister.

I share his views that the present government is weak and was trying to appease the different racial groups in the country but have achieved the opposite, there are more racial and religious tensions now than ever before.Not only there is a tendency to move toward Islamism, even minority groups are pushing their own extreme agenda of their own version of their religions.One such group is Hindraf.

The one that have taken the extremity of racial and religious issues are the Indians under Hindraf, conveying an over-exaggeration of mistreatment of Indians in this country.Most Malaysian Indians are now ardent supporter of Anwar Ibrahim's PKR as one can see from the turnout at his ceramah.Although many Malaysians might not agree with me I believe Hindraf is a religious extremists organisation and highly motivated by politics and Hindu extremism.

PPP, an insignificant Indian led party and a member of BN have jumped on the bandwagon of anti-ISA and threatened the government of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi that it would leave the BN
if the ISA is not abolish.

Most small components of the BN were scaredy cats when the BN was almighty and wouldn't dare squeak a word of dissent or disagreement on anything including the ISA.Their leaders were very happy with UMNO and the BN leadership then.

Political opportunism is a good as 'Necessity is the mother of invention'

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Social Pariahs

Hantu Laut

An uncaring minister, a loose cannon property agent and a pathetically disgraceful local council.Instead of providing words of comfort they showered the victims with discomfiting remarks.

Instead of sounding smart they sound more like they never had any moral education at all and have not learned the finesses of social etiquette, how to deal with people in time of death and tragedy.

Than you have those who are supposed to help rescue victims of the tragedy but have other agenda on their minds.There have been complain of rescuers who told victims to do the rescue themselves and some victim's properties were looted bringing more miseries to them.

The Minister of Information Ahmad Sabery Cheek had the cheek to say that property buyers should be equally blamed for the tragedy.I hope he can explain how and why they should be blamed.Another one, a so-called property expert and a loud-mouth,loose cannon asshole named Previndran Singhe rubbed salt into the wound by saying those properties affected by the landslide are worthless.Even if it is true do you have to say it now when people are still in a state of grieve and in mourning.

It is shocking that people of their positions can make such callous remarks without giving any due care and attention to the feelings the victims.

In time of death and tragedy the least said the better it is

Images From Our Colonial Past :The Woolley Collection Part II

Hantu Laut

This is Part II of images from the Woolley Collection.Due to spacing problem, I have decided to do it by instalments in group of fours or fives.Too many photos at any one time would make viewing a tedious affair.

George Cathcart Woolley(1876-1947), a former administrator 0f the North Borneo Chartered Company bequeathed an invaluable collection of photographs and other memorabilia dating to 1909.His collection provides an important record of people and events in Sabah's early history.The collection is known as The Woolley Bequest.

Below are some of the images from his collection.

Click to enlarge.

Government Offices, Labuan 1908.

Sandakan Town 1908.

Clock Tower and Government Offices at Jesselton 1909.

Watching pony races, Jesselton 1915.

More to come.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Images From Our Colonial Past :The Woolley Collection Part I

Hantu Laut

George Cathcart Woolley(1876-1947), a former administrator 0f the North Borneo Chartered Company bequeathed an invaluable collection of photographs and other memorabilia dating to 1909.His collection provides an important record of people and events in Sabah's early history.The collection is known as The Woolley Bequest.

Below are some of the images from his collection.

Click to enlarge

A group of deer hunters in Tambalang,Tuaran 1910.

Chinese vendors at the Papar Train 1910.

Road levelling using bullock 1915.

Police patrol on raft at Meligan 1909

This is the 1st instalment.More to come.

Well Done! Pak Lah.

Hantu Laut

Yes, ask them to go.A mosquito party with a big appetite and a sickening attitude, resorting to political blackmail.If they don't leave sack them!.Bunch of ingrates.

I wouldn't waste too much words on those scheming political scums.

M'Kayveas and PPP stop threatening, if you want to leave, go ! I say, Good riddance !.

Well done, Pak Lah here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Recession Scenarios For Malaysia

Hantu Laut

The global economic downturn has claimed yet another victim and this time in the entertainment sport business.Honda announced it's pulling out of the F1 race citing high costs as the reason.A big blow to F1 racing but a wise decision nonetheless.

The whole world, except Malaysia, is still struggling with one of the worst economic downturn not seen in decades.Bail-outs and financial re-structuring in the US have not shown any sign of lifting the economic gloom.

Singapore, one of the more successful economies in the world projected serious decline of its economic growth in 2009.A projected growth rate of as low as 1.5% with high possibility of going into negative territory. The global downturn in demand will pull down its export earnings and hence decline in its GDP (Gross Domestic Product)

Malaysia, on the other hand has been sending out euphonious messages to its citizens not to worry about the impending economics gloom.The leaders say they have everything under control without spelling out the measures taken or to be taken in the event of a precipitous decline in the economy.The first-half of 2009 would be crucial for Malaysia if the export market continue to shrink and prices of its primary products and manufactured goods declined drastically.

I anticipate export receipts to decline at least by 20% in the 1st-quarter of 2009 as demands for electronic products,palm oil,wood-based products and crude oil declined due to poor demand in the importing countries.Falling prices would further contribute to lowering of the GDP.

Palm oil, one of the major export earner has seen price plummeted from a high of RM4500 to RM1500 currently.If price stays static or drop further in the next three months there would be massive unemployment as plantations retrench workers to keep their losses low and manageable.

YearGDP - real growth rate (%)

With massive lay-offs there would be social problems such as rise in crime rate when those unemployed lost their source of income especially foreign workers who decided not to go back to their home countries and stayed on illegally. Likewise, Singapore would be retrenching many of its workers.

Almost 300,000 Malaysians are employed in various industries on the island nation and most of those retrenched would have to return to Malaysia adding to an already grim outlook.

Unless the government can boost consumer's spending there would be substantial decline in the CPI (Consumer Price Index) as the population tighten its belt to keep expenses to a minimum.Sale of consumer's items from automobile to daily necessities would decline to a worrying level.

Presently, there is notable forced sale and marginal decline in the prices of medium and lower scale properties in cities like Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru.If the economic crisis deepen the next few months and continues into the middle of 2009 the prices of properties for all sectors would take a tumble.Upscale properties would fall between 20 t0 40% mainly in big urban areas.

The Japanese government has just announced that they underestimated the depth of the recession, it was worse than what they thought it would be.

It is,therefore, not in the interest of this nation and the Malaysian people for the government to continue living in a state of denial.We have a serious problem and we should deal with it openly.

We are just entering the recession and it's going to get worse before it gets better and below are the likely scenarios of the recession:

*Decline in GDP growth for the whole of 2009 ...... down to 2% or negative.
*Decline in CPI.A 10% decline is not unthinkable.
*Massive unemployment mostly in middle and lower income group.
*Crash of property prices in urban areas with KL taking the biggest slice of the cake.
*Increase in NPL (Non-Performing Loan) with banks and other financial institutions.
*Increase in the number of bankruptcies.
*Increase in crime rate.
*Increase in the government's budget deficit due to reduction in government revenues.

Those are possible scenarios that could happen and the degree of its seriousness is dependent on the government fundamental rescue package and programme to boost public confidence and spending.Emphasis should be given to vital industries that generate the highest economic outputs.Spending money to prop up stocks market and the currency may not work to our benefits.More often than not fighting against market forces does not bring benefical results but more losses.

The members of OPEC are learning that bitter lesson right now.In spite of massive production cuts taken to stabilise price of crude, it continues to fall.

It's time the government swallow the bitter pills and be honest to its citizens.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Tragically Lazy Government

Hantu Laut

The tragedy at Bukit Antarabangsa is a reminder of the lack of will by the government to strictly enforce restrictions on unsafe hill slopes development.Money is still God in this country where safety to human lives takes a back seat.It is also a well-known fact that collusion and corruptions between developers and those in authority are as common as the rats found in the gutters of the city.

When tragedy struck those in government are quick to make promises of bullshit proportion.A year later when the tragedy evanescent it is back to square one, all promises are sent to the graves.

Worst, is the laziness on the part of the government to investigate and hold inquiry on such tragic incidents and bring to book those responsible.

On 15 March 1986 the six-storey Hotel New World in Singapore collapsed suddenly.The tragedy killed 33 and 17 were rescued over a seven-day rescue operation.The Singapore government investigated and held an inquiry.It was found poor design and shoddy workmanship were the cause of the mishap.In particular, the architects made an error in calculating the building's total load weight leaving out the "dead load" -- the building itself and only including the "live load" of the building contents and potential additions.The government all took further steps to inspect all buildings designed by the same architect.

On December 11 1993 one of the block of apartments at the Highland Towers collapsed like a pack of card killing 48 people.The government announced a ban on hillside development.Promises made, never fulfilled.Today the same tragedy occurred. What happened was not an act of God.It is by human design and greed.

An inquiry should be held to determine the cause of the tragedy and if there were elements of negligence the party concerned must be punished.Local authorities should not be given immunity against negligence suits.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Is Dubai’s Party Over?


Is Dubai’s Party Over?

The glitzy façade shows some cracks.

Locals watch the fireworks explode over the Atlantis resort in Dubai last month. The display was so enormous it was literally visible from space.

Locals watch the fireworks explode over the Atlantis resort in Dubai last month. The display was so enormous it was literally visible from space.

By Christopher Dickey | NEWSWEEK