Sun Tzu - Art of War

''Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness" - Sun Tzu

Sunday, March 23, 2014

MH370: At last someone (a Pulitzer Prize winner) mentioned Altantuya

Ref: USA Today

Malaysia's bumbling ruling elite: 


Lewis M. Simons 5:40 p.m. EDT March 23, 2014

Fiasco over missing airliner just the latest example of country's 
inept leadership.

As errors, misstatements, retractions and head-scratching
rationalizations tumble over each other in the case of Malaysia
Airlines Flight 370, the world is coming to recognize what the
country has known for decades — that Malaysia's leaders are
accustomed to getting away with murder.

Sometimes figuratively: For example, with elections looming and
Prime Minister Najib Razak losing popularity, top opposition leader
Anwar Ibrahim recently was sentenced to five years in prison on a
sodomy charge. Two years ago, Anwar, who enjoys support in
Washington, was acquitted after spending six years in prison on the
same charge.

And sometimes perhaps literally: In October 2006, the gruesome
remains of a human body were discovered on a remote hilltop outside
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's principal city. There was no corpse,
really, just hunks of flesh and shattered bone. DNA determined that
the victim was a 28-year-old Mongolian woman who had been involved
in a long love affair with one of Najib's closest advisers.

These instances of real-life political shenanigans and
pulp-fiction-style crime share deep cultural and behavioral traits
with Malaysia's clumsy handling of the mysterious Boeing 777 and the
239 people on board.

Spinning dubious stories

In the cases of the murder and the missing plane, Najib and other
political leaders have felt free to spin their own dubious stories.
The big difference is that this time, the world is watching as the
leaders repeatedly are caught in their own web of claims and
denials, allegations and refutations.

Where does this arbitrary political culture come from?

In 1979, following traumatic, bloody rioting between Malays and the
substantial ethnic Chinese minority, the government granted a broad
array of privileges to Malays, in effect ensuring them of perpetual

This quota system also enabled the ruling party, which has held
office for 60 years, to ride roughshod over the facts, as we now see
regarding the missing plane. Questions such as how two Iranians
carrying false passports were allowed to board were bungled. The
matter of the jetliner turning off course went unreported.

A full understanding of Malaysia's ineptitude on the world stage
today isn't possible without recognizing the power elite's belief in
its open-ended unassailability.

Until the jetliner flickered off Malaysian radar screens, that
misplaced cockiness was best seen in the case of the murdered woman,
Altantuya Shaariibuu. She had accompanied Najib, then defense
minister, and his adviser, Abdul Razak Baginda, her lover, on a trip
to Paris to purchase two French-built submarines and an overhauled
Spanish sub for Malaysia's Navy.

The package was worth nearly $1 billion. French authorities are
investigating whether the defense company gave a $100 million
"commission" to Baginda. Shaariibuu, according to witnesses
at her murder trial, demanded a $500,000 slice for her services as

Blind eye to justice

Once her remains were discovered, the short-reined domestic press
turned a blind eye on the prime minister's evident connections,
which he blithely denied. Baginda, an Oxford Ph.D., was imprisoned
on charges of abetting the woman's murder.

A year later, the high court acquitted Baginda. He left the country.
A private investigator he had hired quickly filed a stunning
declaration in court, implicating the prime minster and his wife in
organizing and covering up the crime. Baginda quoted a text message
the prime minister allegedly sent him after the woman's remains were
discovered: "I am seeing IGP (inspector general of police) at 11
a.m. today … matter will be solved ... be cool."

Within 24 hours, the private detective, without explanation,
replaced his declaration with a new one that erased all references
to the prime minister. Then he fled Malaysia.

In both documents, the detective identified two junior police
officers on the prime minister's security detail as having carried
out the killing. They were arrested, tried and sentenced to hang.
That never happened. Last August, the pair were acquitted.

After eight years, the murder case remains unresolved.

Anwar is in limbo, appealing his sodomy conviction yet again.

Najib, prime minister for five years, until now has remained aloof
and secure from the world's stares. With the disappearance of Flight
370 and the world pointing repeatedly to all the faulty information
coming out of Malaysia, business as usual finally might be coming to
an end.

Lewis M. Simons, a Pulitzer Prize winner, was based in Malaysia with
his wife and two daughters, who were born there.

 Ref: Al Jazeera:

Malaysia Airlines flight: 'This is not a normal investigation'

Malaysia's vanishing airplane catastrophe exposes the country's 
political and social fault lines.

Last updated: 20 Mar 2014 06:01
Zarina Banu

Zarina Banu is a freelance writer, focusing on economics and 
business-policy in the Asia-Pacific.
A catalogue of backtracking is defining the investigation thus far, 
writes Banu [EPA]

The crisis over Malaysia's missing Flight MH370 would surely test 
any government. But Malaysia's handling of the search, investigation 

and communication with the outside world has thrown it into an 
uncomfortable spotlight and caught it severely off guard.

The catastrophe is exposing the deep fault lines characterising the 
country's political economy. Since independence from the British in 
1957, Malaysia's ruling elite have built and reinforced a political 
system that has institutionalised their cultural and economic 


The system is so entrenched, it shapes and permeates all layers of 
Malaysian society. Now we're seeing it play out in how the 
administration is managing and communicating the investigation to 
the rest of the world.

A catalogue of backtracking is defining the investigation thus far, 
frustrating the families of those on board and provoking a backlash 
of anti-government feeling.

We've seen Malaysian officials contradict each other over vital 
early details about MH370's satellite communications systems. Acting 

Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein and Malaysian Airlines CEO, 
Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, have disagreed over whether the system was 
switched off before or after the flight's co-pilot uttered the now 
infamous signoff: "Alright goodnight" to ground control on 
the morning of March 8 when the plane disappeared.

Consequently, the pilot and co-pilot, Zaharie Shah and Fariq Ab 
Hamid, became the first suspects, in a possible plot to sabotage or 
hijack the Boeing 777, which led to bewilderment and distress 
amongst the families.

Inconsistencies also stood out in the police investigation. At one 
point, Hishamuddin said police officers had visited the homes of the 

pilots as early as March 9, the day after the aircraft vanished. But 

police chief Khalid Abu Bakar then confused the issue by saying 
officers had in fact not gone to the pilots' homes.

Things were muddled from the start. The hunt for the ill-fated jet 
began on March 8 in the South China Sea, was abandoned and diverted 
to the Andaman Sea and Indian Ocean.

Malaysians are concerned about the state of readiness of their 
military, after radar tracked an unidentified object moving west 
over peninsular Malaysia on March 8 and the air force took no 
further action to ascertain what that object was.

Sources close to the government have said, off-the-record since they 
are not authorised to talk to the media, that they are unsure how to 
manage the message.

Sure, it is a trial that would test any government, agency or 
communications team. With a daunting search involving more than 20 
countries and stretching across some 6.2 million square miles, it's 
like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Yet, there are some fundamentals here that Malaysian government 
agencies aren't following. What they should be doing is: Verify the 
incoming information; unify the message; decide which agency takes 
control of its dissemination and keep the families informed at all 

The baffling stream of information must be heart-breaking for the 
relatives of the 227 passengers and crew. Of those, 154 are Chinese, 
a ratio which has prompted the mainland to rally behind their cause. 

Families of the victims have been filmed shouting at Malaysian 
officials as their grievance builds over the lack of information and 
disorienting turn of events.

China's Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Hong Lei, has even urged 
Malaysia to provide, "comprehensive and correct 

My message to the government would be: Yes, this is not a normal 
investigation, but instead of playing victim to events, leverage the 

nexus of abnormality, tragedy and interest in the story to recreate 
a new Malaysia.

Malaysian government under microscope

Let's put it into context.

The global glare of publicity is landing on an administration deeply 
uncomfortable with any level of scrutiny.

Malaysia's ruling party keeps tight control of all aspects of 
domestic media - it is either state-sponsored, choked by 
authorities, or opposition-led. Media outlets or editors that dare 
question the administration perish by the wayside, or are ordered 
back in line.

At election time, the New Straits Times newspaper, a mouthpiece for 
the ruling coalition will be awash with barely rewritten government 
press releases, eulogising about the "achievements" of those 
in power.

What has this to do with Flight MH370? This stranglehold on free 
expression has nurtured a government unused to being cross-examined 
in public and more accustomed to changing its mind and message at 

Moreover, the lack of oxygen given to rational democratic debate 
within Malaysia has fostered a cosseted leadership that either goes 
on the attack or retreats to its ideological ivory tower when it 
feels imperiled.

To enforce its intolerance of dissent, the Malaysian government 
deploys powerful tools of control. Until September 2011, the 
Internal Security Act (ISA) was a catch-all deterrent to those who 
spoke out openly against the government.

It sanctioned detention without trial and swept many opposition 
members into solitary confinement. In its place, authorities have of 

late been commandeering the Sedition Act to silence critics with 
increasing vigour.

This insidiousness has come to haunt the Malaysian government in its 
current time of need. True, as Hishamuddin said, "This is not a 
normal investigation".

But his and his cohorts' mishandling of crisis communications has 
made the government look shifty instead of perhaps being just plain 
incompetent, adding rocket fuel to the plethora of theories on the 
plane's whereabouts.

Hishammuddin  - himself -  is political royalty: He's the current 
prime minister's cousin, the son of Malaysia's third prime minister 
and nephew of its second. With his blood ties, he could easily be 
Malaysia's next prime minister.

Ethnicity and connections are highly likely to determine one's fate 
in Malaysia. Lucrative affirmative action policies promote ethnic 
Malays over the more than 30 percent Chinese and Indian minorities. 
The situation translates into each Malaysian being born with a 
semi-pre-ordained destiny - boosted by state coffers - that will 
decide which university you choose, what jobs you get, how many 
children you have, or even whether you end up in the cabinet.

Meanwhile, the elite have enriched themselves through a cosy network 
of crony capitalism that venomously lashes out at those who threaten 

its existence. Malaysia ranks third, behind only Russia and Hong 
Kong, in The Economist's crony capitalism index 2014, a list of 
"countries where politically-connected businessmen are most 
likely to prosper".

It's a sad indictment for a country that was once celebrated as 
having as much economic potential as South Korea.

Seize control of the situation

Social media, Asia's rising economic clout and irreversible 
globalisation mean the insular behaviour of the Malaysian government 

is long past its sell by date.

A Malaysian love of communication has neatly translated into a 
wholehearted adoption of the internet and social media - and with 
great effect. More and more Malaysians are turning to alternative 
web sites like Malaysiakini, The Malaysia Insider and Free Malaysia 
Today to source their news.

Indeed, the opposition's popularity partly rests on the delivery of 
its message through Facebook, SMS and whatsapp. Last year, the 
opposition's frontline social media campaign helped it wrestle away 
the government's crucial two thirds parliamentary majority, needed 
to change the constitution.

It's time the ruling coalition acknowledged that its supremacy - 
which has benefitted the few at the cost of many - needs a serious 

As a communications professional, my message to the government would 

be: Yes, this is not a normal investigation, but instead of playing 
victim to events, leverage the nexus of abnormality, tragedy and 
interest in the story to recreate a new Malaysia.

Zarina Banu is a freelance writer, focusing on economics and 
business-policy in the Asia-Pacific.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not 
necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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