How should we judge a government?

"If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing." - Malcolm X

In Malaysia, if you don't watch television or read newspapers, you are uninformed; but if you do, you are misinformed!

"Our government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other. " - Ronald Reagan
Was he referring to Malaysia? Seems so apt...

Government fed by the people

Government fed by the people

Career options

Career options

Prevent bullying now!

Prevent bullying now!
If you're not going to speak up, how is the world supposed to know you exist?

MyCen News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

CIMB-RHB-MBSB Merger - a prelude to taking over Public Bank?

The song 'He ain't heavy... he's my brother...' comes to mind, even if its original meaning in the lyrics bears no semblance to this topic on banks in Malaysia.

Our PM's brother, Nazir has come a long way since gaining control of CIMB, after a merger with Bumiputra Commerce, which saw the latter losing its identity. Soon, there was an 'enforced' takeover of Southern Bank. How could it not be enforced when Bank Negara sided him which made it impossible to consider other suitors! Initially, there were reports that Lim Goh Tong's daughter (wife of Southern Bank's CEO) wanted to fight off the takeover. But even if we leave out political connections, despite having financial capacity to put up a fight, I think they were reminded where Uncle Lim made his pile in the first place.

There was no doubt CIMB had grown much under Nazir, but how much was due to his ability and how much due to his PM brother's clout seems pretty obvious. Most of the mega mergers (probably initiated by CIMB) were handled by CIMB.

Just before the latest proposed merger, Nazir resigned as CEO of CIMB to become Chairman, and was appointed a director of Khazanah! How convenient indeed to help facilitate the merger. That he said the deal won't go through if there was risk seems meaningless under the circumstances.

Anyway, Financetwitter.com has a wonderful story on our banks...

CIMB-RHB-MBSB Mega Merger – The Danger Of Creating A "Too-Big-To-Fail" Biggest Bank

Excerpt:

'But why the needs to create such a mega-merger now? It was not like either CIMB, RHB or MBSB were in bad shape that they need a bail-out. Considering Malaysia’s population of merely 30 million, how small is the number of banks that can be considered strong and healthy? The country had merged its 54 banks prior to 1997-1998 Financial Crisis to the present 9 banks. Is this not an ideal figure?
Surely it wasn’t done in the interest of the minority shareholders. The fact that Bank Negara (Central Bank) gave the three financial institutions approval in less than 24 hours after they wrote to it is a sure sign that it is in favour of the merger. But the fact that the authority agrees to the 90-day exclusive clause agreement also shows that minority shareholders are not getting any better deal from other interested parties.

The lame excuses given – RHB is not being sold and to minimize disruptions. Was this a pre-planned move to fulfill PM Najib’s dream to install his brother as the supremo of the largest bank in the country? Or was it to simply fulfill Bank Negara governor Zeti’s ego to establish a mega Islamic bank with a capitalization of US$1 billion (RM3.2 billion) as her trademark, before her contract expires in 2016?

Coincidently, Public Bank surprised the market when it proposed a RM5 billion rights issue 2-months ago, deliberately “over capitalising” it in terms of its capital requirements for Basel III. With paid up capital of over 3.88 billion shares, market capitalization of RM77.95 billion, price-to-book valuation of 3.4 times, Public Bank is now the most expensive bank to be acquired.

So, did 84-year-old Teh Hong Piow, who owns 24.08% of Public Bank, actually knew something was cooking in CIMB, so much so that he didn’t blink his eyes about pumping RM1.2 billion of his own money for the rights issue exercise? Did CIMB plans to acquire Public Bank instead in the first place? Perhaps it was both – to acquire RHB and MBSB, together with Public Bank. If it’s true, then Teh Hong Piow has save the bank he founded some 48 years ago from a “force merger”, at least for now.
One has to remember that CIMB was the result of a merger between CIMB, Bumiputra-Commerce Bank and Southern Bank Bhd in 2006. But the merger was infamous due to its hostile nature – the “very successful” Southern Bank’s Tan Teong Hean was “forced” to sell it to Nazir Razak, the same brother of the then Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak. Tan Teong Hean was simply no match for Nazir Razak’s strong political connections.'

'Beside ignoring the interest of minority shareholders, there’s another risk for creating the biggest bank from such a merger. Taking the cue from United States’ 2008′s subprime crisis, a merged CIMB-RHB-MBSB will enjoys “too-big-to-fail” advantage. Just like Federal Reserve, Bank Negara and the Malaysian government would need to bail out this giant should it fails at a later stage. What that means is taxpayers’ money will again be used to bail out the “New CIMB” bank.

There’s also the problem of eliminating redundant branches and employees after the merger, not to mention the losing of competitiveness among banks to serve small businesses and individuals better. The new CIMB will become an arrogant animal which will care for nothing but its bottom line. And it can afford to do so, because the government would be at its mercy since the giant is Too-Big-To-Fail.'

More:
Link

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ipoh Echo: Indiscretion in Kiwiland

Ipoh Echo's Editorial By Fathol Zaman Bukhari helps to dispel some misconceptions about Rizalman.

Highlights:

'I was appalled when the Ministry of Defence announced that Rizalman would be court-martialled instead. How could he be tried in a military court when the offence was committed abroad with the principal witness a native of New Zealand? It certainly does not make sense. On second thought, does anything in the country make sense anymore?

Rizalman’s extradition to New Zealand, meanwhile, has been put on hold as the military authorities are not satisfied with his mental well-being. Frankly speaking, does an alleged felon require that much assurance?'

'Rizalman is a non-commissioned officer (NCO) with the rank of a Warrant Officer Class Two or WO 2, in short. Not a second warrant officer, as is widely reported in the news media. There are two categories of warrant officers – WO 1 and WO 2. These are the highest achievable ranks for enlisted men in the armed forces – army, navy and air force. Below them are the lance corporals, corporals, sergeants and staff sergeants.'

'Rizalman is not a military attaché and neither is he a diplomat. He is simply a staff of the military attaché, someone who is at the beck and call of the colonel (rank of military attaché) and does his bidding like all good soldiers do.

The criteria for selection for an overseas posting are not as stringent as they were before. In  those days, one’s fluency in the English language was a must. Today with many having a poor command of English, officers included, a grasp of the language is considered sufficient. That is how low we have come over the decades.

Those picked for an overseas posting undergo a short orientation course in Port Dickson or at Wisma Putra (Foreign Ministry). And the lessons, mind you, include dining etiquette, conversational skills, social mannerism and taboos.

Preference normally goes to NCOs from the Intelligence Corps since the job of service attachés, the world over, is mainly to snoop on the military of the host country. I did my share of discreet snooping when attending courses and field exercises in Indonesia, Australia and the United States of America.  

When Rizalman’s impropriety hit the headlines on Monday, June 30 after New Zealand Prime Minister John Kay broke his silence on the alleged sexual assault, Rizalman and his family were already in Kuala Lumpur.'

Rest of editorial:
http://www.ipohecho.com.my/v3/article/2014/07/16/indiscretion-in-kiwiland
Link

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Chris Higgins: How spies cracked the Malaysia Airlines MH17 missile mystery

Excerpt:

'The US Air Force's Defense Support Program (DSP) operates a web of satellites positioned around the Earth that act as an early warning system for weapons launches, including intercontinental ballistic missiles and spacecraft. Using infrared cameras, they are capable of detecting even smaller heat signatures -- such as launch blasts and booster plumes -- proving their usefulness in the first Iraq invasion, detecting the launches of Scud missiles and providing evacuation warnings to civilian and military targets alike. These satellites form part of the larger field of Measurements and Signals Intelligence service (MASINT) operated by many national military and spy agencies, including the US Department of Defence.

Detecting the launch of a missile is as simple as watching for a white spot on an aerial shot, then tracking the missile's trajectory back to its launchpad. This, in theory, would make it easy to discover the weapon used. However, infra-red sensors are not the same as the high-resolution cameras that provide us with a detailed view of our own home on Google Earth, and without additional surveillance satellites trained on the area at the right time, that information would be lost. That is, without some lateral thinking, a practice the intelligence industry excels in.'

'The cruising altitude of MH17 was last recorded at 33,000ft (10,000m). Most man-portable air defence (or MANPAD) systems have an engagement range of around 20,000ft (6,000m), ruling out a small, one-man launch and a whole litany of "dumbfire" rockets. Alternatives are narrowed down to smarter, radar-guided missiles or an air-to-air engagement. Since flight radar picked up no combat jets in the area, the only remaining theory is a medium-to-long-range SAM with radar guidance. This allows MASINT analysts to narrow their searches based on how these systems work.'

'Before a missile is launched, a strong radar beacon would be used to acquire the target. After a "lock on", the payload is sent on a rough trajectory to cross the path of the target. But during flight, a radar on the missile itself would need to begin transmitting in order to reacquire the target and adjust flight course. These "pulses" can be specific to certain models of missile, and certain missiles are specific to launch vehicles. By detecting the radar signature of the missile, MASINT can compare it to known frequencies, as well as other variables -- such as speed of the missile -- and identify the weapon.'

'In the case of MH17, this appears to have been a Soviet-made BUK-M2. The BUK launches missiles that travel at speeds of up to 3 mach (1,000 metres per second)*, easily capable of catching a commercial passenger jet travelling at 800 kilometres per hour. The BUK is used extensively on both sides of the border, and were responsible for the downing of 4 aircraft during the 2008 conflict in South Ossetia, Georgia.'

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2014-07/18/mh17-missile-detection/viewgallery/336884

(* 3,600 kilometres per hour, according to my amateurish calculation)

Link

MH 17: Some common misconceptions

At coffee shops, the differences in the level of information can range from well informed (with internet access and use) to the ignorant or people who do not care what's happening around their daily lives.

The tragic MH17 MAS aeroplane which was shot by surface-to-air missile over Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers (including crew members) and the subsequent news reports were generally accurate without much room for speculation, unlike the still missing MH370 which happened over four months ago.

Despite the little room for speculation, a friend could not get over why MH17 had to fly over war-striven Ukraine, simply because his idea of former USSR, which we used to refer to as Russia as if they were one and the same (how wrong could that be) and which Ukraine used to be a part of. The following map helps to dispel my friend's misconception:



The other main misconception was the description that MH17 was flying 1000 ft above restricted airspace. Many imagine the plane was flying so low - only 1000 ft. above ground level!

Downed Malaysia Airlines plane: how did it go wrong for flight MH17?

All flights now barred from eastern Ukraine, where airliner was downed while reportedly flying 1,000ft above restricted airspace

Airlines flight MH17 was flying just 1,000 feet (300 metres) above restricted airspace when it was shot down, according to the European air traffic control body.

Eurocontrol said Ukrainian authorities had barred aircraft from ground level to 32,000 feet but the doomed aircraft was cruising at 33,000 feet, still within range of sophisticated ground-to-air weaponry, when it was hit. All flights in eastern Ukraine have now been barred from the area, Eurocontrol added.

"The aircraft was flying at Flight Level 330 [approximately 10,000 metres/33,000 ft] when it disappeared from the radar," said. "This route had been closed by the Ukrainian authorities from ground to flight level 320 [32,000ft] but was open at the level at which the aircraft was flying."

It also emerged that as recently as a month ago British airlines were given the all-clear to overfly the area where flight MH17 was downed, after being told that operations were "normal" in the region.

A notice posted by the UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on 14 June urged carriers to avoid overflying Crimea and parts of southern Ukraine a month ago due to safety concerns, but they were not ordered to avoid the rest of the country.

More:
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/17/malaysia-airlines-mh17-flying-just-above-restricted-airspace?CMP=fb_gu

The saddest and most unfortunate fact was that the plane was shot down very close to the eastern border of Ukraine (so near yet so far). In other words, it could have just made it.

UN aviation body (ICAO) had made a statement that it does not have the power to open or shut routes. This was in an apparent correction to Transport Minister Liow's reliance on ICAO's clearance that it was a safe route for commercial flights. Surely, no organisation can provide such a guarantee where safety is concerned, more so, over a war-torn country. It carries an inherent disclaimer which is why some airlines avoid the route despite such assurance. To me, it is just like a parent telling a child that it is ok to go out, but when something happened, the other parent blamed it on the former for allowing it.

Link

Friday, July 18, 2014

MH17 - too close for comfort

I had been to KLIA a number of times to receive Cheng coming back from Amsterdam. So MH17 is a familiar flight number to me. I was reluctant to write about this tragic flight because it was too close for comfort, until I noticed my post on Dec 29, 2012 about MH17's early time of arrival (by over an hour) had been visited, presumably by some searching for news on the flight by its number MH17.

Once, I forgot about a change in date of flight by one day and I took the details of the outdated flight details with me to KLIA. Imagine my anxiety waiting for over an hour without any sign of Cheng! Even after checking with airport info, it wasn't apparent of the wrong date and was told it had landed. My imagination ran wild, even thinking that she was abducted just outside the airport lounge! Anyway, it was a great relief that I found out about my mistake.

Now, I make it a point to call KLIA to find out if the expected flight was on schedule. Once, I saved a journey to the airport because Cheng got her friends' date of arrival mistaken.

When MH370 was found to be missing, for many hours, it was shown at Beijing airport as 'Delayed'. Now it had been months since, but we have yet to recover any evidence of where it had crashed.

My heartfelt condolences to the families of those affected by MH370 and now MH17.
Link