Deputy minister blasts ex-boss
over ‘secret talks’ on 5G rollout...
Deputy multimedia and communications minister Zahidi Zainul Abidin said his former boss, Saifuddin Abdullah and finance minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz were involved in secret talks on the nation’s 5G network rollout and Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB).
Last week, Zahidi told the Dewan Rakyat that the finance ministry decided to appoint DNB to manage the country’s 5G network and had not discussed DNB’s appointment with his ministry – which Tengku Zafrul and Saifuddin both then denied.
“I’m a bit disappointed as the previous minister, Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah, said he had discussed this with the finance minister,” said Zahidi at a press conference in Parliament.
“So, the two ministers spoke among themselves and implemented this DNB project that involves almost RM20 billion without discussing it with their subordinates. Even the deputy didn’t know.
“… I hope it was not just a discussion between two people where Saifuddin talks to Zafrul and both of them say ‘OK, OK, OK’, and then, the project is implemented.
“Let us not be secretive, because I have to answer in Parliament and I also have to be responsible to the Opposition, who also have to know about this. We have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with them.
“Our MPs have to know. The rakyat have to know. Don’t make this a secret between two ministers, a RM20 billion secret project.”
He also sarcastically said that Saifuddin might not have informed him about the talks as he was from a different party – Zahidi is from Umno and Saifuddin is with Bersatu, which he joined from PKR.
Zahidi also said his ministry had received complaints from companies who bid on the 5G contract and had claimed that the tender process was not done transparently. He added that secrecy in such matters would cause the public to think that “personal interests” were involved.
DNB, an agency wholly owned by the finance ministry, has been tasked with building and managing the country’s 5G network, but has run into problems with poor take-up by telcos. Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson won a RM11 billion contract to serve as DNB’s network equipment provider after an open tender process.
DNB says the rollout will cost RM20 billion over 10 years, with the funding coming from bank loans and sukuk funds.
“This project is the rakyat’s project, and it involves RM20 billion. So, the rakyat want to know about all the details, like why DNB and Ericsson have been given a monopoly.
“What is the mitigation plan, the risk management? If Ericsson goes bankrupt, what will happen to this project? The rakyat want to know,” said Zahidi. - fmt
No takers for Malaysia's 5G plan as major
telcos balk over pricing, transparency...
None of Malaysia's major mobile carriers have agreed to use the government's 5G network yet due to transparency and pricing issues, ahead of a rollout planned for next month, a state agency and industry executives said. However, state-owned network wholesaler Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) told Reuters it still hoped to launch 5G services in three urban centres, as talks continue with mobile operators.
The Southeast Asian country, a regional laggard in 5G rollout, unveiled a plan for a single shared network in February, hoping it would help accelerate nationwide infrastructure buildup. Similar state-led approaches have been tested in some other markets including Mexico, but largely stumbled.
The lack of industry support for the Malaysian initiative underscores corporate concerns over state meddling and transparency in a country still reeling from a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Malaysia has been losing foreign investor confidence recently amid political instability, with the third administration in as many years coming into power in August. The 1MDB scandal also tainted its reputation and implicated a former prime minister.
DNB confirmed that no agreement with carriers has been reached and acknowledged its initial timeline for negotiations had been "too optimistic".
The agency will now seek to have formal long-term agreements early next year and continues talks to deploy 5G services in three central areas, including the capital Kuala Lumpur, next month.
"The target now is to have a live network, covering... a total of 500 sites by the end of December, with at least some operators on board to provide a 5G network to end-users," Chief Technology Officer Ken Tan said. DNB did not say what would happen if no operators agreed to be part of the deployment.
Carriers, which had already invested in infrastructure upgrades to support 5G services, are concerned the 5G network plan would result in a nationalised monopoly, hurting their business and limiting their access to future technology, said seven current and former industry sources. They declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.
Three sources estimated the government plan could destroy up to 45 billion ringgit ($10.8 billion) in market value across all mobile operators including Axiata Group (AXIA.KL), DiGi.com (DSOM.KL) and Maxis (MXSC.KL). The sources did not specify over what period the losses would be incurred.
"By 2030, the majority of the network will be on 5G, then there are enforced limitations on our existing (non-5G network) assets," one of the sources said. "Valuations (of our business) will go down over time and it will go back and hurt our shareholders."
Under the plan, DNB would hold all 5G spectrum rights as well as build and maintain the entire network, with operators using the infrastructure to provide mobile services.
Axiata and DiGi declined to comment. Maxis said in a statement that it has long been ready to roll out 5G in the country.
"We will continue to focus on our purpose to serve the people and enterprises of Malaysia, and playing a key role to support the digital ambitions of the nation," it said.
The company sources said under the proposed pricing plan, the telcos could end up paying more than they would have if they rolled out 5G on their own. The plan did not take into account additional requirements related to traffic volumes and contingency costs, among other issues, they said.
According to internal documents reviewed by Reuters, the carriers have asked for "extensive revisions" to DNB's pricing proposal, saying it did not demonstrate the cost efficiencies promised. "The price is a function of how much assurance we can get on quality of the network," a source said.
The sources said the companies had also sought assurances that DNB would operate solely as a wholesale provider and would not reserve 5G capacity for itself or harbour any retail ambitions. The concerns highlight investor worries about the Malaysian government's influence in corporate issues, with most large cap public companies in the country counting state-linked investment firms as top shareholders.
DNB said share prices of leading telcos have been stable since the plan's announcement eight months ago. It also said a fast rollout would lead to an increase in data traffic that would boost operator revenues, while the wholesale plan will help carriers save billions of dollars of investment.
DNB Chief Operating Officer Dushyan Vaithiyanathan said the plan would likely cost only around 16.5 billion ringgit, around half the 30-35 billion ringgit carriers would have needed to spend to build the 5G network themselves.
"The government isn't trying to take away (telcos') rice bowl... We want to deliver the highest quality of services at the lowest price, so that it gives us more certainty in terms of recovery costs as we kickstart the 5G rollout," Dushyan told Reuters.
DNB however acknowledged its transparency has been questioned, adding that the country's communications regulator would put in place stringent guidelines in public to ensure fair pricing and a smooth rollout.
"We are working closely with (the regulators). We want the scrutiny, so that people cannot come in and change the principles of what we are aiming with 5G," Dushyan said. - Reuters
Another scandalous Sarawak Election
has unfolded - No surprise...
The latest police report lodged Wednesday by the PKR in Asajaya depicts an abuse that is typical according to widespread complaints made by the barely resourced opposition candidates against the brazen and corrupted flaunting of wealth and clout by Sarawak’s ruling boss-men, who have been criss-crossing the state in government funded helicopters surrounded by civil servants to offer ‘projects’ and inducements.
The subject of the latest scandal is the GPS candidate Karim Hamzah (above), one of the established cronies of the regime who once proudly announced he saw no problem with a chief minister abusing his position to conduct business whilst in office.
A video (below) has emerged of him enticing voters with a promise of major prizes in a lucky draw after the election if they hand in their copy of a GPS personalised voting leaflet printed with all their details back to GPS after they have voted. “This is not to buy votes” he protests self-revealingly, then goes on to explain.
“After you have voted, your slips will be kept in boxes at our partner’s place. We will hold a Lucky Draw .. with huge prizes – Large screen TVs, refrigerators etc. We will have the Draw 3-4 days after the Elections. It is to encourage people to come out to vote. My hope is that it is US who come out to vote on the day”
Just one such prize would account for the entire budget of many an opposition campaign. In this case PKR’s candidate has justifiably complained the inducements are a disgraceful breach.
“Exciting prizes have been offered to individuals who get a lucky draw. I as a candidate feel dissatisfied with the essence of the video which seems to be buying votes”, goes the police complaint.
Karim Hamza Lucky Draw...
Whether the police will do anything about this standard form of GPS behaviour is moot. If they do slap a fine it will be a painless sanction for members of a thugocracy who are steeped in cash from endless privileged sources after a half century of abusing their absolute control of the resources of the state.
Such are the battles faced by their opponents who have been kept deliberately bare-foot by outrageous Malaysian practices that make a mockery of any claim to genuine democracy. These include a system where ruling party YBs are allocated huge sums of money to distribute among their constituents to bolster their position, whilst opposition representatives receive no grants and their areas are threatened with punishment for voting for the ‘wrong party’.
The thuggish ex-Deputy Chief Minister (now that the Assembly is dissolved) Awang Tengah was issuing those same threats again just earlier this week in Opar where he warned voters in his speech that their area would lose out on the annual RM8 allocation handed to the local GPS man if the opposition was voted in.
And, yesterday, Tengah took himself off by helicopter once more to another needy rural area Kuala Tutoh together with the usual army of officials to impress his overlord status on a local longhouse. The headman (who are now imposed and salaried by the state rather than being elected) had decked the place out in expensive GPS posters and flags and lined the population up side by side, all dressed in freebie GPS t-shirts, to greet him.
Opposition candidates, who barely have the cash to struggle round their local areas in the beating rain (whilst Tengah and his boys helicopter round the state) have been complaining time and again that their attempts at campaign visits have by contrast been obstructed, as in previous years, by the paid headmen. Security and even police have been put in position to harass and follow opposition workers and to severely limit the numbers they can meet with.
This time Covid is again of course the handy weapon and excuse to ensure there is one rule for the ruling party and one for the opposition.”Even if they let us in they will restrict the number of people who are allowed to come to hear us to a handful” explains one local campaigner.
Thanks to rules drawn up by the Health Ministry and UMNO’s Khairy Jamaluddin there are a slate of ‘health restrictions’ in place under the Covid SOP, which officials have selectively used to hamper opposition campaigners (certain senior figures have been barred from entering Sarawak) whilst top GPS folk move around with ease.
Indeed, as yesterday’s video shows, Tengah was able to swagger unimpeded through the crowded longhouse, shaking hands and receiving garlands round his neck. This at a time when the super-spreader Omicron virus has now been detected in Malaysia. This Election Is Different As The Abuses Are In Plain Sight...
He is no exception. This is a WhatsApp election and whilst the Greedy Old Men of this tired regime have just continued to do what they always do, bribing and bullying and acting as if the rules do not apply to them, the nation has been watching.
One video that has circulated is of Snowdan Lawan presiding over another crowded GPS longhouse election party where maskless party workers and local folk are being encouraged to dance by the party giving YB. Once again the elite of GPS can flout the rules bringing the danger of infection and disease with such practices into the very homes of the people they seek to represent.
Indeed, the single biggest thing that GPS and their UMNO protectors in the federal government could have to avoid the spread of the pandemic during this selfishly timed election would have been to encourage postal and mailbox voting. Yet that would have enabled thousands of migrant younger voters to add their votes and the old men of GPS, who have crafted the electoral map to suit them over very many years, had no intention of risking victory to save lives.
Of course, if they had cared about lives at all they would have continued to delay the election till it was safer. However, they have instead rushed the ballot to avoid the youth vote which would have come into force if they had waited two more weeks owing to the ruling of the courts.
As in so many previous years GPS are hoping to sweep to victory through the dozens of tiny seats they have allocated to captive ageing communities of rural voters dominated by their paid headmen. Swooping round in their government helicopters they have been showing up to remind these folk who’s boss.
Turnout is expected to be minuscule as the rains fall and young voters are trapped away from home by the pandemic and crippling travel costs. Calculations are that GPS can win on just 17% of the vote thanks to their gerrymandering and boss man tactics.
Wake up Sarawakians...
Of course, it is not just bullying involved. As plenty of visual evidence circulating the state has shown the traditional cheap bribes have been offered everywhere and impoverished locals have naturally accepted all that has been offered.
The longhouse communities who have lost so much of their traditional way of life and means of living as the jungles and rivers around them have been destroyed are effective hostages after all, dependent on whatever is on offer in return for their obedience.
Protests against logging have been met across the state with harsh police and court action, gangster attacks and the raw power of the massive bulldozing machinery important to tear out the trees and mow down anything in their way.
However, at election time, these intimidated and resourceless communities are offered some little treats. A pork feast, crisp bank notes, beer and cigarettes and parties are the normal offering, donated at the same time as the reminder is delivered of punishments to be expected if they vote the ‘wrong way’.
And these handouts have not just been on the part of GPS but also the highly suspect ‘opposition party’ PSB, which is headed by ex-ministers and the timber cronies of the present government with the likely intention of splitting the opposition vote.
Urbanites and West Malaysians who complain at the ‘mentality’ of longhouse folk or claim these simple people have a ‘culture of money politics’ and have yet to learn the meaning of the uneven bargain in selling their votes for pittances betray their own lack of understanding of the predicament of these subdued indigenous communities.
It is the agents of the colonialist regime that West Malaysia operates in the Borneo States who have inculcated the mentality of bribery and pepper corn rewards to those who have no other choice apart from outright rebellion against the armies of the state. Where there is no rule of law there can be no democratic election, so what can the longhouse do but accept their guests and accept their ‘gifts’?
Until the people of Malaysia find their own awareness about the nature of the oppression in Sarawak which is being raped for its oil and natural resources for the benefit of a ruling elite and West Malaysia’s development, there will be insufficient pressure on their government to act.
The failure is with governance. Criminal kleptocrats were imposed under emergency conditions by the federal government during 1970s in a determined bid to secure Sarawak’s oil. In return central government has allowed freedom to the thug leaders of the state to raid the remaining resources from the native people.
Federal authorities have failed to act on year of blatant corruption, to curb abuses at elections, to prevent outrageous gerrymandering or the abuse of the bloated civil service to promote the interests only of the ruling party. So, don’t blame the victims for accepting cigarettes and doing what they are told. Just remember that through these captive seats the mafia who run Sarawak are also holding the nation hostage against reform. .
What is striking about this Sarawak election is just how few changes there have been in the ranks of GPS candidates, mainly now old men who have enjoyed a life in politics treating their positions mainly as a sinecure which they plan to keep for life. Of the few seats that have changed hands at least one has been handed as an inheritance to the son of Adenan after Adenan’s wife decided not to bother to inherit it herself.
What is different is that this time round their actions are being watched. Do the old men stuck in their ways understand the significance of so being watched? Across Sarawak their cheats and deeds are for the first time being widely followed and recorded. Then they are being viralled together with the angry comments of the observers on the ground.
More news of the dirty GPS tactics, for example, has circulated from Marudi where once again under the guise of ‘voter education’, personalised leaflets are being handed out to every voter with instructions on where to find the polling station and which box to tick.
Handed out together with these leaflets, to focus the voters’ minds, are a duo of crisp RM50 notes. All money looted from the public purse – doubtless a further bribe was promised for after the ‘right result’.
In return for such humble pennies GPS aim to secure ‘permission’ to loot the remaining billions from the lands of the people of Sarawak. They have played the same game for 50 years.
Yesterday another faint-hearted opposition leader announced (amid fanfare) that she was changing sides to go to GPS. Her reasons were selfish but pragmatic – the opposition had given her ‘no help at all‘ she said, whereas GPS was plainly flush with cash to satisfy her dependency.
But, don’t blame the longhouse for money politics and the cheap dependency culture where impoverished communities swap the great wealth of their lands to kleptocrats who wave cheap gifts. Blame federal Malaysia and its dirty colonial secret in Sarawak.
And with awareness there will be change. The GPS campaign helicopters commandeered from the state for party political purposes have been blocking traffic landing on main roads and causing havoc. The whole state has been receiving the angry reactions of the frustrated drivers on their whatsapps about these ‘mafia’ leaders and that includes the longhouse voters.
Even the distant ‘backward’ rural voter are hearing through daily messages and from their younger generations in the towns how the GPS bullies are taking them for a ride and plundering their homelands. There could be some upsets this weekend. - Sarawak Report