Myanmar’s crony capitalists

cronyism in myanmar

 

 

Firstly, we have to acknowledge that Myanmar has opened up since 2011 with the reforms it is undergoing through. The government, led by Thein Sein, has initiated the release of a few hundred political prisoners – most notably, the country’s icon of democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi – and even allowed the opposition a substantial number of parliamentary seats in election. Economic growth has, step by step, shown signs of booming, with foreign investors – not only China’s behemoth corporations – putting forward billions of dollars in this new emerging market. Commercial sales and other trading activities are rapidly growing, largely thanks to the domino’s effect the opening up has engendered.

Nevertheless, the upcoming challenges Myanmar is facing, as a consequence of its previous decades-old military junta rule, remain huge challenges, and given the opening up that occurs, will even be more insurmountable. Internal instability, as shown by the military’s continuing battles against ethnic insurgents, continues. Religious violence has reached a new level of extremes, as displayed by ongoing Buddhist-Rohingya conflicts. Despite loosening rigidity in parliament – opposition is now offered seats there, bulk of the major political and governmental bodies remain under military control.

And now, a new economic problem: the strengthening of its crony capitalists.

A handful of individuals, having been the junta’s main partners in economic development, continue to dominate Burmese economy, and thanks to the opening up, become even stronger as their main role increases: being the joint partners for foreign investors. Despite the flourishing economic boom now taking place in the country, income inequality becomes another point of concern; it is feared that the growth will mostly benefit the cronies, and without further reforms in economic structure, such problem will pose a threat to the country’s uneasy stability in the future.

Watch the slide show, displaying the obvious signs of Myanmar’s cronyism, at Al Jazeera.

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‘We’ don’t ‘do’ politics

real life vs politics

 

Most of the smart people I know want nothing to do with politics. We avoid it like the plague—like Edge avoids it, in fact. Is this because we feel that politics isn’t where anything significant happens? Or because we’re too taken up with what we’re doing, be it Quantum Physics or Statistical Genomics or Generative Music? Or because we’re too polite to get into arguments with people? Or because we just think that things will work out fine if we let them be—that The Invisible Hand or The Technosphere will mysteriously sort them out?

Whatever the reasons for our quiescence, politics is still being done—just not by us. It’s politics that gave us Iraq and Afghanistan and a few hundred thousand casualties. It’s politics that’s bleeding the poorer nations for the debts of their former dictators. It’s politics that allows special interests to run the country. It’s politics that helped the banks wreck the economy. It’s politics that prohibits gay marriage and stem cell research but nurtures Gaza and Guantanamo.

But we don’t do politics. We expect other people to do it for us, and grumble when they get it wrong. We feel that our responsibility stops at the ballot box, if we even get that far. After that we’re as laissez-faire as we can get away with.

What worries me is that while we’re laissez-ing, someone else is faire-ing.

 

Brian Eno

 

Source: Edge

Nazaruddin’s deadly & poisonous game

Muhammad Nazaruddin has been – and always been – the pivotal theme on the news on almost all TV stations in Indonesia, largely defeating other more international-scale headlines like Norwegian shooting spree administered by a right-wing anti-Muslim extremist, Libyan political tumult, Syrian military’s invasion against civilians loudly demanding for democratization, and the ongoing Somalian humanitarian crisis. If you live – or to a lesser extent, stay – in this country, and do master well Indonesian language, most of the main headlines on the morning shows or the newspapers might be about this ex-treasurer of Democrat Party.

In the minds of the party’s functionaries, particularly those engaged in the sphere of power and influence, Nazaruddin has been, metaphorically, their very own Pandora’s box who knows much about others besides himself in terms of demanding ‘shares’ from government-funded projects. He accused the current chief of Democrat Party, Anas Urbaningrum, of rewarding 3,000 US$ for each district-level branch office in the party who voted him, which if summed up, would be worth more than 3 million US$. Where did the funds come from? Based on Nazaruddin’s conversation with Metro TV’s news anchors, while his face expressed some kind of ‘fearlessness’, the money originated from the government budgets used to fund for the construction of a gargantuan sports-training facility in Bogor, whose budgets was reportedly worth more than ‘1 trillion rupiah’. He was free to spread the stupefaction among his then-‘bedfellows’, given that the conversation took place in the form of teleconference. He was abroad while all the conversations were occurring, whose location was ultimately discovered to be Colombia.

How did he slowly turn into their Pandora’s box? All the upheaval began on the end of May 2011 when Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) circumscribed the ex-secretary of Ministry of Youth & Sports, Wafiq Muharram, as suspect for accepting bribes regarding to 2011 Palembang SEA Games athlete housing project. It was later found out, after further examination, that he was not the only person who was involved in the ‘game’. Nazaruddin’s name began to rose, in no time. Only a few days after KPK announced him as another main suspect in the project, he subsequently ‘disappeared’ – as usual, something corruptors here would do once they are declared suspects – and his companions of the similar party informed the press that he was in Singapore for a week-long, intensive medical check-up. Almost everyone in the country – and the party as well – expected him to return in leaps and bounds. And it was delayed by a few days, by other few days, and by other few days, until he sent a Blackberry Messenger text to Metro TV, informing that ‘Anas was planning to impeach Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the currrent president of Indonesia’.

There was much resentment, and much despair, among the party’s functionaries by the message he sent to Metro TV. Even President, once in a state speech, criticized ‘mass media’ – without mentioning the name of the TV station – in relying too much on BBM texts to retrieve information without further analysis. Afterwards, the cantillation began. Nazaruddin leaked the names of Democrat Party’s functionaries who were involved in briberies and armageddon-scale corruption scandals. Other than 2011 Palembang SEA Games athlete-housing scandal, much of the mass media began to shift their attention towards Democrat Party, particularly, Anas. Nazaruddin, while in his get-away period, continuously accused Anas regarding to the Democrat Party’s chief election campaign. He also accused some of his friends, notably ex-Putri Indonesia Angelina Sondakh, of her crucial entanglement in Anas’ scandal, on which she would later gainsay and even attempted to gain public sympathy by showing off good deeds and do-good face.

Nazaruddin did not only draw a bead on Democrat Party; he also aimed at the institution which in the long run hauled him behind bars, that is KPK. He accused 2 main functionaries, Chandra M. Hamzah and M.Jasin, of receiving bribes, something that the former one, together with another functionary, Bibit Samad Rianto, was once also alleged by another convict, Anggodo Widjojo (later sentenced after being proven guilty of accepting bribes on a communication-device project aimed at his brother, Anggoro), of harassment. Furthermore, Constitutional Court (MK) became his next prey, in which he accused one of the court’s judges of receiving bribes worth more than 1 billion rupiah.

His deadly cantillation, in fact, did not stop here. As shown by the picture above – in which he was having the direct conversation with Metro TV’s news anchors, he continuously leaked all the dirty secrets held by his then-fellas. He also accused PLN, the only, state-owned authority that is in charge of electricity, on behalf of its current main director, Dahlan Iskan, of misusing the funds by 2 Chinese power-plant manufacturing companies over one large-scale power-plant project. He even showed the news anchors – and nearly the entirety who were eyeing on the show, his own flash disk which he claimed contains nearly unlimited sources of data about the ‘sins’ the government had done. Yet, before he could afford to play the game further, and before he could to ‘cantillate’ louder, he had been held captive by Colombian immigration authorities on charges of ‘illegal attempts to enter the country’.

His lineament all in a sudden changed as soon as he was detained by Colombian police. The Nazaruddin that we used to see in television – the one with the smiling face, fearless tone of speaking, and garrulous lips, all in a sudden became depressed, worried, and aghast. Especially when he stepped on the runway as soon as the chartered plane Indonesian government had spent 4 billion rupiah on it had landed, his expression reversed 180-degree-wise. His facial expressions indicated that he was under pressure, and perhaps, to a lesser extent, intimidation.

Here is the question: did all what Nazaruddin had uttered was entirely correct, or a mere tale-telling fabrication? Perhaps the only answer for sure is conjecture. As soon as he returned to Indonesia, his behavior had undergone total transformation, as if he were no longer being himself. Rumor has it that he has been brainwashed while held behind bars. Others told that he was having dramatization, after KPK released videos and pictures of himself having a nice tete-a-tete with KPK’s pick-up team while on the charter plane, therefore disbanding the opinion that ‘Nazaruddin had been under menace’. Others thought that someone who was displeased with him had threatened to ‘make no comfort’ against his wife and child – as shown by his personal letter to President SBY, demanding for maximum protection for the sake of his wife and his child’s safety, his willingness to be punished no matter how severe it would be, and lastly, his willingness not to shuffle others into his deadly ‘game’, anymore. His wife is also later declared a ‘suspect’ on the athlete-housing scandal, and to a further extent, an ‘international fugitive’ by Interpol.

Personally, I think that he must have been both threatened and brainwashed. I am not really sure that Nazaruddin is having dramatization. It seems like the video perhaps has been ‘prepared’ very well before it is released. That’s what my dad told me while we were having dinner and watching television at the same time. His mind must have been manipulated once he landed in the prison. There is one method in psychological warfare used to manipulate and hypnotize enemies’ minds that is implemented by military strategists, that is possibly must have been applied to Nazaruddin, as well. And what is the truth? The truth is void.

That is the consequence of committing political sins. I am pretty sure that it would be impossible that Nazaruddin committed all these, entirely by himself. There must be others who had participated together in his deadly and poisonous game, which if disclosed, might probably cause severe instability to this nation, as this must have involved many parties positioned in pivotal, determining roles in this country. Nazaruddin must have known it all. Whether it’s fact or merely pulp fiction, only he and all those involved cognize the truth. Now he is in prison, and he has lost the game. Politics would have been absolutely uneasy on his life. That’s what I admit.