Najib hit by theft of jet engines

By Kevin Brown in Singapore

The Malaysian government faces a fresh corruption crisis after officials admitted that two fighter jet engines had disappeared from an air force base after apparently being illicitly sold by military officers to a South American arms dealer.

Najib Razak, prime minister, said there would be a full inquiry into the thefts, which happened in 2007 and 2008, when he was defence minister. However, opposition parties accused the government of a cover-up.

Lim Kit Siang, parliamentary leader of the opposition Democratic Action party, said the authorities had been "super slow" and alleged the prime minister's response had painted a "frightening picture of a government of thieves".

Idris Ahmad of the allied Parti Islam SeMalaysia said "powerful people" had been involved. "We don't want only the ikan bilis [anchovies] to be arrested while the sharks are allowed to swim freely," he said.

The General Electric J85-21A engines, each worth about M$50m ($15m, €10.5m, £9.4m), were spares for the Royal Malaysian Air Force's Northrop Grumman F-5E Tiger II fighters, which fly from the Butterworth air base near the northern border with Thailand.

Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, defence minister, said the engines and associated equipment were "believed to have been sent to a South American country" after being moved to Sungai Besi air base in Kuala Lumpur for maintenance.

The defence ministry would not identify the country involved nor comment on media reports the engines might have ended up in the Middle East.

The F-5 went out of production in 1989 but is still used as a trainer by US forces and is in frontline or reserve service with many foreign air forces, including that of Iran.

The ministry said several senior officers were being investigated. General Azizan Ariffin, chief of the armed forces, said the thefts might have been the "tip of the iceberg", raising the possibility that other military equipment might also have disappeared.

The disclosure of the thefts is a serious blow to Mr Najib, who has promised to crack down on corruption as part of efforts to recover support for his long-serving National Front government, which lost many of its seats in a general election last year.

The prime minister unveiled a three-year action plan last week amid concern at declining investor interest and Malaysia's fall to 56th in the 2009 Corruption Index, published by Transparency International, down from 47th in 2008.

Mr Najib has denied any personal corruption, including opposition claims of involvement in an allegedly corrupt submarine deal while he served as defence minister.

Corruption charges were brought this month against a senior port executive and two other officials linked to a development near Kuala Lumpur known as the Port Klang free trade zone.

The arrests followed a damning parliamentary report that found widespread evidence of corruption and cost overruns at the project, which has run up debts of more than $1bn.

Najib announces RPGT reversal

By Syed Jaymal Zahiid
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 23 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced tonight a reversal of his government’s decision to reintroduce real property gains tax (RPGT) on January 1 for all transactions, amid concerns that it would hit long-standing homeowners and foreign investors.

Instead, the government has now decided the five per cent RPGT would only apply to property sold within five years of purchase.

The five per cent tax, which was announced under Budget 2010 in October, is normally imposed to curb speculation but due to its flat structure does not differentiate between homeowners who have been holding a property for 20 years or those who are flipping properties within one or two years for a profit.

The property sector was taken by surprise by the announcement and had expressed worries that it would have sent a message to potential investors that the government has not been consistent in its policymaking.

An exemption on the RPGT was given in 2007 by the then-Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi administration in order to boost the property development industry.

Its removal two plus years later with little warning could have heightened the feeling of uncertainty among investors.

But speaking at a dinner with the federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia tonight, Najib allayed fears from the business sector, many of whom are from the Chinese community.

[Najib (second left) and his hosts share a light moment during tonight’s dinner. — Picture by Jack Ooi ] He said the decision to backtrack on the implementation of the RPGT will likely cost the government RM200 million in lost revenue.

Apart from this, Najib also announced that the hospitality industry will enjoy a 60 per cent reinvestment allowance from the government, to be handed out to hotels undertaking investments for renovation and refurnishing.

He said that in line with this new policy, the government will extend the investment allowance for 15 years.

The announcements were made following requests made by the Federation of Chinese Associations for the government to help the property sector.

“I hope the Chinese community will respond to the announcements accordingly,” he said.

Najib also said that he hoped to see the Chinese reciprocate his gesture by helping him realise his “1 Malaysia” concept.

Need Consensus for UMNO take over of BN seat in Penang

PM:Need BN consensus on Penang BN chairmanship issue

SHAH ALAM: Any decision on Penang Umno’s plan to take over the state Barisan Nasional chairmanship from Gerakan will be made based on Barisan’s consensus, said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The Prime Minister said as Barisan chairman, he would make sure that before any decision is made, all parties would be consulted.

“That is at a proposal stage. It’s all right but any decision will be by consensus according to Barisan’s spirit,” he told reporters after the launch of Ikatan Hati Warga Felda (Iktiraf) carnival here Sunday.

Najib was asked to comment on Penang Umno chairman Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s statement that the party was seeking the state Barisan chairmanship as Umno held all the state seats won by Barisan in the last general election.

Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon had later said that Gerakan would object to any official proposal to change the status quo.

Najib hails football team’s success in Laos

COPENHAGEN: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has urged the national football squad to use their success in the SEA Games as a “stepping stone” towards greater heights in future.

He said that he was very proud of their achievement and extended his congratulations to them for having won the gold medal in the final.

He, however, hoped the victory was not just a seasonal success or for a short-term only but represented a continuous path towards bigger achievements.

“I want to see improvements in the team in the context of our position compared with those of other countries,” he said.

Najib, who is here to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009, was also happy with the contingent’s overall achievement in breaking their 35-medal target with 40 so far.

“We hope their success so far will further motivate the team to do even better in future,” he said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin also congratulated the Malaysian football team.

“I hope by winning the game, it will motivate our players to be consistent and excellent in the future,” he said.

Govt To Address Shortage Of Science Talent - Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 15 (Bernama) -- To address the shortage of scientific talent in the country, the government will do whatever it takes and provide financial support for university research, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

He said Malaysia needed more scientists, researchers, innovators and pioneers in the science and technology sector.

"In terms of manpower, to date, Malaysia had only achieved 18 per cent of the Ninth Malaysia Plan which targets to have 60 researchers, scientists and engineers for every 10,000 people in the workforce.

"The government is willing to do whatever it takes to address the shortfall in scientific talent, besides providing appropriate institutional and financial support for research in universities," added Najib.

The prime minister said this in his message in the souvenir programme for the 16th Malaysia Toray Science Foundation (MTSF) prize presentation Tuesday.

Najib said the sacrifices and long hours of hard work put in by scientists and researchers needed to be supported and encouraged for both public and private entities.

Najib said the government wished to see Malaysians equipped with contemporary skills and the right mindset to face the challenging future of the rapidly-changing world.

To build the knowledge-based economy, greater emphasis would be given to development programmes involving technology, innovation and discovery-driven.

"Being a critical part in this endeavour, research and development will remain inconsequential, as long as they remain on bookshelves and stay uncommercialised," he noted.

The MTSF prize was established since 1993 by the Japan-based Toray Industries to contribute to the progress and advancement of science and technology in Malaysia.

This year's top science and technology awards were presented to Prof Dr Ong Seng Huat and Prof Dr Tan Nget Hong, both from Universiti Malaya, who received RM30,000 each from MTSF chairman Tan Sri Law Hieng Ding.

Dr Ong, who heads the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, said the development of a country's economy and industry depended to a great extent on the prowess of its scientific advancement and innovation.

Feted for his research on image analysis and stochastic modelling, he said the research environment had become increasingly conducive, yet more challenging due to globalisation.

"Not only has the world economic axis shifted to the Pacific region but also the scientific axis. In recent years, we see a great number of research papers from this region appearing in top scientific journals.

"This is the reflection of the keen competition among countries in the Pacific Region to advance their economy and industry, and against this backdrop, it is imperative that applied fundamental scientific research in Malaysia should be given impetus," Dr Ong said in his speech.

Dr Tan, who is from the Department of Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, was recognised for his research on toxinology of snake venom, proteins and enzymology and medical education.

PM: Govt is liberal on Chinese schools

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has assured all 60 independent Chinese schools in the country that they can continue without any interference.

The Prime Minister said the Government had amended the Education Act 1996 to guarantee the existence of such schools in the country when he was still the deputy Education Minister.

“This shows that Umno and the Barisan Nasional government has always been liberal and all-inclusive in its policies,” he said during the 90th anniversary celebration of the Chong Hwa independent high school here last night.

Also present was MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat, leaders of other component parties in the Bari-san and Chinese community leaders.
Warm welcome: Najib waving to the crowd upon arriving at the Chong Hwa Independent High School’s 90th anniversary celebrations in Kuala Lumpur Monday.

Najib said Malaysia was a unique country because the Chinese were free to have schools of their mother tongue unlike other countries which practised policies of assimilation.

“In Malaysia, we have an understanding among the races and this is not based on assimilation but rather on integration,” he said.

Najib, who is Umno president, also encourage the Malay citizens to learn Mandarin because the language was one of the many assets of the country.

“When we learn the languages of other races, we learn more about each other. Only when we respect and honour one another can we become true Malaysians who support the 1Malaysia concept.”

He said he was also determined to ensure that each Malaysian irrespective of skin colour and creed would be given the support needed to achieve his or her potential.

“Only when there is a fair and democratic system can there be a sense of togetherness among the people,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ong said he hoped other non-Chinese leaders would also visit Chinese independent schools so that they could learn more about them.

“Not many non-Chinese leaders understand much about the Chinese independent schools,” he said.

Najib ignores PI Bala’s claims

By Syed Jaymal Zahiid

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 5 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak has frostily ignored P. Balasubramaniam’s claims that the prime minister’s architect brother was allegedly involved in the private investigator’s disappearance and payoff for his silence in the Altantuya murder case.

The missing private detective has made a series of sensational claims that Najib knew murdered Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu and his brother Nazim and a businessman linked to the prime minister’s wife made him retract a statutory declaration on the case.

“I will not entertain any frivolous statement,” Najib said icily before asking reporters to move on to the next question at the Umno supreme council meeting last night.

The Umno president has previously denied knowing Altantuya, who was killed in October 2006, despite claims by Bala and popularised by fugitive blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin. Najib’s close friend, political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda was acquitted of charges of plotting her murder while two elite policemen are to hang for the offence. They are appealing the sentence.

In an interview with Bala carried in Raja Petra’s news portal, the private investigator claimed he had met architect Nazim, who is the younger brother of Najib, last year.

Bala claimed the meeting had been arranged by carpet businessman identified as Deepak Jaikishan, whom the investigator claimed was a close associate of Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, the PM’s wife.

He also alleged that he was offered RM5 million to retract his first statutory declaration and that his family was threatened if he did not do it.

The former special branch policeman further claimed he was forced to sign a second pre-prepared statutory declaration which he claims to have never read and was paid RM750,000 after he disappeared.

So far, no one knows the whereabouts of the private investigator but he claimed he had return three times to Malaysia this year since fleeing in July 2008 after issuing contradictory statutory declarations. Police are seeking him although he claimed to have given them his statement in Bangkok before travelling to India.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has begun investigating Bala’s claims by questioning two opposition leaders yesterday.

One of them was PKR youth chief Mohd Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin who lodged a report against Nazim on Wednesday.

The Pakatan Rakyat have used the Altantuya case in some of their campaigns in the nine by-elections in Malaysia since Election 2008, winning seven in most opposition-held constituencies. The only Barisan Nasional seat they wrested effectively was the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary seat.

Opposition leaders and Raja Petra have claimed Altantuya was linked to the Scorpene submarine purchase made when Najib was the defence minister. Malaysia has since received the submarines in a deal where Abdul Razak’s consultancy received a hefty commission.