Insider views of the Bandar Malaysia debacle of 3 May 2017

Khor Reports’ China Deal Watch: Bandar Malaysia briefing paper | 7 May 2017

Insider views of the Bandar Malaysia debacle of 3 May 2017

This briefing focuses on viewpoints of Kuala Lumpur-based corporate and financial sector insiders and China channels in Malaysia. This has been supplemented by a review of how Malaysia media (Bahasa, Chinese languages) and China media are treating the unexpected news of 3 May 2017 – notably China (in China) and Malay language media are playing it cool. The China corporate deals contexts for Malaysia, ASEAN and CREC are also reviewed in brief. This highlights the China corporate (large) deals focus on Malaysia (especially post 2013) and the lack of troubled transaction until a few days ago. China channels and KL financial insiders are in accord, in so far as both focus on a new consortia for the Bandar Malaysia project. Personalised business deal issues seem (for now) to be of direct interest; and the contextual Malaysia problems discussed by internationalists (i.e., China capital controls, domestic business fears of competition, 1MDB global investigation entanglements) remain valid but appear of indirect concern to-date.

Report available here:

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Sabah news (update 14a): IGP urges review of Malaysia-Philippines trade ties - includes considering breaking economic and trade ties; Massive hunt for Filipino gunmen who took two Malaysians in latest Sabah kidnapping ' War in Mindanao cost P2.013 trillion ; Pan Borneo Highway To Be Toll-free; Philippines to ‘downgrade’ Sabah claim to fight China by FMT Reporters ; MILF leaders alleged to be Malaysians

20 May 2015: IGP urges review of Malaysia-Philippines trade ties - includes considering breaking economic and trade ties

Citing security breach, IGP urges review of Malaysia-Philippines trade ties By JULIA CHAN Wednesday May 20, 201502:11 PM GMT+8;
KOTA KINABALU, May 20 — Malaysia may need to review its bilateral trade relations with Philippines in order to put more pressure on the Philippine government to curb terrorist activities from its southern rebels, especially cross-border kidnapping. Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, in furthering his proposal to ban barter trade between Sabah’s east coast communities and southern Philippine residents, said it was more important to secure the country’s safety than its economic standing. “Their people are threatening the safety of our people. We need to take serious action that will affect the relationship of the people like reviewing our trade relation with the Philippines. This includes considering breaking our economic and trade ties. “Some may disagree with my proposal but I put our safety first,” he said, adding that the country is under continuous threat from these terrorist groups. “Philippines also needs to teach these groups a lesson and send the message that it doesn’t pay to cause problems for us,” he said during a press conference at the state police headquarters here. Local security forces have long faced criticism over numerous reports of armed intrusions on Sabah’s borders over the years. The latest kidnapping occurred in Sandakan last Thursday, when four armed men raided the popular Ocean King Seafood Restaurant and took away a man and a woman. Restaurant manager and co-owner Thien Nyuk Fun, 50, and patron Bernard Then Ted Fen, 39 were abducted during peak dinner hours are now believed to be held on a southern Philippines island while their kidnappers have demanded a “very large” ransom. - See more at:

16 May 2015: Massive hunt for Filipino gunmen who took two Malaysians in latest Sabah kidnapping

Massive hunt for Filipino gunmen who took two Malaysians in latest Sabah kidnapping Published on May 16, 2015 9:15 AM; SANDAKAN (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A massive hunt is underway on both sides of the Malaysia-Philippines sea border for Filipino gunmen who brazenly abducted two Malaysians from a popular seafood restaurant here.
As Sabahans reeled in shock over the latest daring raid on a restaurant on the mainland, 3km from here, Malaysian security forces and their Filipino counterparts combed the islands along their borders for the gunmen who snatched Ocean King Seafood Restaurant manager Thien Nyuk Fun, 50, and Sarawakian engineer Bernard Then Ted Fen, 39, during a raid on the restaurant on Thursday evening.
The kidnappers are believed to be linked to the extremist Abu Sayyaf group based in Jolo.
- See more at:

2 April 2015: War in Mindanao cost P2.013 trillion

War in Mindanao cost P2.013 trillion - From 1970 to 2001 by Philippine News Agency April 2, 2015; Manila — The Mindanao war cost the Philippine government a staggering P2.013 trillion during the 31-year period from 1970 to 2001, an amount nearly equivalent to the P2.606-trillion 2015 national budget. This was disclosed by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) based on the data it gathered from various sources, including the World Bank (WB).
In 2009, the peace process was resumed in the remaining six months of the Arroyo government and was pursued by a new administration under President Aquino in 2010 that resulted in the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) between the government and MILF on March 27, 2014. Under the agreement, the MILF would turn over their firearms to a third party, which would be selected by the rebels and the Philippine government. The MILF has agreed to decommission its armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF). In return, the government will establish an autonomous Bangsamoro. The Aquino government is now asking Congress for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the legal instrument that will operationalize the agreements as contained in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed on Oct. 15, 2012 and its annexes....

1 April 2015: Pan Borneo Highway To Be Toll-free

Pan Borneo Highway To Be Toll-free - Najib; BINTULU, March 31 (Bernama) -- The Pan Borneo Highway will be toll-free, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Tuesday. He said the highway was the main artery connecting Sarawak and Sabah and there were no alternative routes between the two states. This was unlike the case in peninsular Malaysia where the North-South Expressway was the main link and there were many alternative routes, he said when launching the first phase of the highway, the Pan Borneo Sarawak, that costs RM13 billion. Najib said toll was imposed on the North-South Expressway in peninsular Malaysia but the people could choose to travel on the toll-free alternative routes. He also said that the subsequent phases of the Pan Borneo Highway would be built also this year, with the next launch expected to take place in September....

 Philippines to ‘downgrade’ Sabah claim to fight China by FMT Reporters  | March 30, 2015
The question that arises is whether it can “downgrade” something that it never had in the first place.
KOTA KINABALU: The Philippines, in a desperate note which literally asks Malaysia to risk its growing ties with China, has offered out of the blue to “downgrade” its “claim” to Sabah if Putrajaya supports its (Manila’s) case against China, on its maritime borders, at the United Nations Arbitral Court.... It’s not entirely clear what this “downgrading” means”. The question that arises is whether it can “downgrade” something that it never had in the first place. Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, in an immediate response, said Putrajaya does not recognise any claim by the Philippines to Sabah. “What claim? We don’t recognise any claim, (so) the note is irrelevant.” He was speaking on the sidelines of the launch of the two-day Asian Regional Forum (ARF) Workshop on Combating Wildlife Trafficking in Tuaran, Sabah... Manila’s offer is contained in a note verbale, a copy of which was obtained by VERA Files according to the Philippine Star, handed to the Malaysian Embassy in Manila last week by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). The note follows a week after a visit by Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein to Manila.... The note refers to the May 6, 2009 joint submission by Malaysia and Vietnam to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental She’d (CLCS). Malaysia, in the joint submission, claims an extended continental shelf, 350 nautical miles from the baseline, which was clearly projected from Sabah..... The Philippines, which protested the joint submission on Aug 4, 2009 on the grounds that Sabah belongs to it, is now willing to “review” its protest. China protested the submission too and this is likely to stand even if Manila withdrew its objections...... However, Manila’s review would depend on Malaysia’s support for its case against China at the UN. The case is contained in two “requests” i.e. Malaysia to confirm that its extended continental shelf extends from the peninsula; and that it will not claim any continental shelf beyond 12 nautical miles, as provided for under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), from the maritime features in the Spratly Islands it claims....commentary... Datuk Gunda'dal Gurudam ·  Top Commenter: Putrajaya must not entertain such claim, if they do, it's just a recognition to Philippine's claim to Sabah; Maxeemillian Sv ·  Top Commenter: but they did.. send official replies..about the rental !! Why did they do such a foolish act ? Syed Abdul Khaliq ·  Top Commenter: Why do we need to pick a fight with People's Republic of China? What does Philippines has to offer, another poor country? Syed Putra Jamalullil ·  Top Commenter · St. John's Institution, KL: China will guarantee the minorities in Sabah to use any word they want in their religious obligation. Odi Rex ·  Top Commenter: Actually there is no freedom of religion in China.
Terence Lee ·  Top Commenter · St Gabriel's Secondary School:  In the first place Philippines has no right to claim Sabah belong to them. Why play such stupid game? Zosimo Jimeno · Follow ·  Top Commenter · Trainer at Ed2Career: The claim is as likely as the Sultanate of Kedah claiming back Penang. Syed Putra Jamalullil ·  Top Commenter · St. John's Institution, KL: penang is on indefinite lease, which means, if penang default in payment, that claim stands.....

15 March 2015: MILF leaders alleged to be Malaysians, Nograles worries about sacrificing Philippines sovereignty if BBL Law is written for Malaysians, urges subpoena of Murad and Iqbal travel documents

Moro Islamic Liberation Front leaders Murad, Iqbal are Malaysian citizens: Lawmakers may be liable for treason by Ishi Gonzales Sunday, March 15th, 2015 at 1:58 pm; Leaders of Moro Islamic Liberation Front are Malaysian citizens travelling with Malaysian passports. “This is a very serious allegation and must be investigated immediately, even before we continue deliberations on the BBL,” Davao City Representative Karlo Alexei Nograles said on Saturday.... “According to former Secretary Rafael Alunan III, both Chairman Murad and Chairman Iqbal travel with Malaysian passports, and are in fact Malaysians,” Nograles said.... “I raise this concern because if it is true that we are writing the BBL Law for Malaysians then we in Congress will be criminally liable for acts of treason,” the lawmaker explained. “We are all for peace but we should achieve peace in Mindanao without sacrificing our sovereignty as one nation and one people.” ... He urged the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on BBL to call on Bureau of Immigration and subpoena all travel documents of Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and Mohaquer Iqbal to shed light on the issue.

11 February 2015: Lahad Datu intrusion trial, 27 Filipinos and three local residents in the dock

Wife of accused in Lahad Datu intrusion trial may not have left country, court heard Posted on February 11, 2015, Wednesday; KOTA KINABALU: The High Court today heard that the wife of an accused in the Lahad Datu intrusion trial, who was arrested with him about two years ago, may not have left Malaysia.... Acting ASP Mohammad Khairani Khalid, who was attached to the Bukit Aman Special Action Unit (UTK) when he made the arrest on Datu Amir Bahar Hushin Kiram, said he did not know what happened to Gina Teves as she was not implicated in the case despite being arrested with her husband.... The couple was arrested on March 23, 2013 at a bushy and swampy area at Kampung Sri Melor in Semporna.... In the dock are 27 Filipinos and three local residents who are facing one to multiple charges of being members of a terrorist group, waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, recruiting members for a terrorist group or wilfully harbouring individuals they knew to be members of a terrorist group....

1 February 2015:  Secession is a right?

Secession a right of any state that joined Malaysia voluntarily, says Sabah politician Published: 1 February 2015 1:08 PM Bingkor assemblyman and Sabah STAR party chairman Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan said talks of Sabah and Sarawak's secession should not be deemed seditious if federal leaders do not honour the Malaysia Agreement. – The Malaysian Insider pic, February 1, 2015.It is not seditious for Sabah and Sarawak nationalists to call for secession from Malaysia if the agreements that formed the country in 1963 are not honoured, Sabah opposition politician, Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan said. - See more at:

30 January 2015: Housing affordability worsens with Sabah worst

Comment: We hear that Sabah property was a hot sector with a lot of money coming through from the palm oil sector boom. Although palm oil prices have moderated in recent years, the margin has still been good for most.

Housing affordability worsens with Sabah top of list, Penang, KL Thursday, 29 January 2015
KUALA LUMPUR: Housing affordability, which is based on the ratio of average terraced house price to average household income, has worsened over the past five years, according to Rahim & Co, Chartered Surveyors Sdn Bhd.... In its survey of the Malaysian property market 2014/2015, the ratio increased from 3.4 in 2009 to 3.6 in 2012 and 2014.... “This essentially means that an average terraced house would cost an average household or family in Malaysia, 3.6 times its annual gross income.... “The least affordable terraced house in Malaysia in 2014 was recorded for Sabah (6.2 times), Penang state (5.9 times) and Kuala Lumpur (5.6 times). Sarawak was fourth with a ratio of 4.4 times,” the survey showed.... Rahim & Co, which is one of the largest real estate consultancy companies in Malaysia, also said in its outlook that transaction activities in the residential sector after expected to soften with the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in April 2015.
To recap, Rahim & Co said that over the past four year, property prices were fuelled by the nation’s development plans, investment concentration and also the rapid growth in Iskandar Malaysia.
“The cautious market sentiment echoes the state of property market in reaching its plateau and reconciliation period is expected in the near future,” it said......

15 January 2015: A Suluk leader (former asst DO of Kudat, Sabah) of 2013 Lahad Datu crisis dies

Sulu leader of Lahad Datu attack dies Updated: Wednesday January 14, 2015 MYT 11:37:51 AM
KUALA LUMPUR: Raja Muda Azzimudie Kiram (pic), who led the armed Sulu intrusion into Kampung Tanduo in Lahad Datu, Sabah, is dead..... Philippines intelligence sources confirmed that Azzimudie, 74, died of cardiac arrest in Tawi Tawi province in southern Philippines on Tuesday.
Azzimudie or Agbimuddin, the younger brother of the late Jamalul Kiram, who was the self-styled Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram, led a group of armed men to invade Tanduo in February 2013..... He disappeared without a trace after he "fled'' Lahad Datu on March 11 as Malaysian security forces recaptured Kampung Tanduo, Sabah in a massive offensive. A total of 73 intruders were killed (59 bodies have been recovered) in the nearly eight-week armed showdown with Malaysian security forces..... Malaysian police have arrested 184 people and charged 31 with various criminal offences, including waging war against the Agong. Their cases are ongoing in court..... Azzimudie was a former assistant district officer of Kudat, Sabah in the early 1970s....

On the Lahad Datu crisis: ISEAS Perspectives: The Sabah-Sulu Crisis Threatens the Palm Oil Supply-Chain By Khor Yu Leng, /khoryuleng/2013/03/iseas-perspectives-sabah-sulu-crisis.html

7 December 2014: Sabah onshore oil & gas, the oil royalty push, secession talk is sedition

News is out - we had been hearing about talk of this from friends in the oil & gas industry for some time now. Is there big onshore oil & gas in Sabah? Notably in the vicinity of Sahabat?

Sabah signed oil and gas production sharing contracts (PSCs) effective 20 November 2014 for 27 years. Petronas awarded Sabah government's 100%-owned M3energy Bhd a 25% stake in PSCs for Blocks SB331 and SB332 onshore; it partners SapuraKencana Petroleum (70%) as operator and Petronas Carigali (5%). Expected production will come in 2021. The Edge writes that "last year, Sabah's three main soruces of revenue were sales tax on crude palm oil, oil royalty and issuance of bonds, which accounted for over 70% of total revenue.... Oil royalty accounted for 30.5% of total state revenue...(Gumusut-Kakap and Kikeh oilfields which are) deep-water projects.... With 5% oil royalty being guaranteed to oil-producing states, a major stake in PSCs could provide additional and sustainable contributions to Sabah's coffers...the Sabah government's big stake in the PSCs caught many by surprise as previously, state governments only held minor stakes in downstream projects. For instance, the Sabah government has only 10% interest in LNG 9 in Bintulu, Sarawak...(there has been) dissatisfaction over the quantum of oil royalty.. in May, Sarawak passed a resolution to request an increase in oil royalty from the current 5% to 20%, which prompted oil-producing states (Terengganu, Sabah and Kelantan) to follow suit...." The Edge also writes that "the amount of reserves and resources available in the two blocks is not known.. Petronas says, "there have been minimal activities in the blocks, but the presence of oil and gas seeps indicates a probable working petroleum system"

Source: The Edge, 8 December 2014

Sarawak folk slam Najib for Sedition Act use against secession calls BY DESMOND DAVIDSON Published: 27 November 2014; "Sarawak leaders and social media users, such as Borneo Wiki, reacted negatively to Datuk Seri Najib Razak's U-turn on the Sedition Act.... Sarawak leaders and social media users were quick to take to Facebook to condemn Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak for reneging on his promise to repeal the Sedition Act 1948 and more importantly, his proposal to amend the act to criminalise calls for the secession of Sabah and Sarawak.... "

22 November 2014: Security concerns linger

Nazri: I was speaking the truth about Sabah security; Updated: Saturday November 22, 2014 MYT 3:21:32 PM; PETALING JAYA: Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz has defended his remark that Sabah was still unsafe to visit amid criticism that his statement harmed tourism in the state.... He told The Star Online that he made the remark during a debate in Parliament as he had to tell "the truth" so that he did not give a wrong impression to tourists. "When we are still in this situation, it means it is still not safe to go to Sabah. I cannot say it is safe now just because we have Esscom there," said Nazri. Nazri said the continued extension of curfew in the state’s east coast also gave the impression that Sabah was still under threat. "I had to tell the truth because if I told journalists overseas that Sabah was safe, then they would ask, why are our people still held by the kidnappers? "In fact, among those who were kidnapped are policemen who are supposed to guard our security. So, how do I answer that?" asked Nazri..... On the statement by Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar that Sabah was safe to visit, Nazri said it contradicted the announcement of another two-week extension of curfew made by the Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abd Rahman.  The minister had on Monday in Parliament said that he would not guarantee the safety of tourists in the state as long as the two kidnapping cases remained unsolved.... "If the Sabah Tourism Minister, the IGP and also the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) feel my statement is wrong, I hope they can help me by going to China and declaring that Sabah is a safe place to visit.... "Don't just blame me...just go to China and meet their media and say that Sabah is safe. I would be really grateful if they could do that for me," he added.

16 October 2014: Sabah projects for Sabahans?

Sabah projects should go to Sabah firms, Dewan told, Thursday, October 16, 2014; "KUALA LUMPUR: Development projects in Sabah should be given to locals there instead of wealthy companies from the peninsula, a Sabah Barisan Nasional MP said in Parliament. Kalabakan MP Datuk Seri Abdul Ghapur Salleh said the Pan Borneo Highway was one infrastructure project that should be awarded to Sabahans to benefit the state economy. "There's this letter being circulated that said the project was awarded to Syed Mohktar's company. "I would like the Prime Minister to look into this and if this is true, action should be taken," said Ghapur, referring to tycoon Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary.... Ghapur said after 51 years of being Malaysia, Sabahans still feel "left out" of development compared with other parts of the country. "There are still many who live in the rural areas, like in Kinabatangan, who have to dig a hole for their toilet," said Abdul Ghapur in his speech on Budget 2015, Wednesday. .... Ghapur said it was no surprise that a so-called secessionist movement was taking root in Sabah given the lopsided policies accorded to a state that helped BN retain power in the previous two general elections.... "Our people remain poor. Our oil royalty remains low and when there is development, like the upgrade of the pan-Borneo highway, it is given to Syed Mokhtar," he said... It was reported that UEM Group Bhd will be partnering MMC Corp Bhd, an engineering and construction group owned by tycoon Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Albukhary, for the project...."

Abu Sayyaf suspected of shooting fishing boat by stephanie lee; Thursday October 16, 2014 MYT 7:01:48 AM; KOTA KINABALU: Gunmen linked to the Abu Sayyaf might be behind the shooting of a Sabah-registered fishing vessel in the border waters between northern Kudat and the Philippines.
Two of the vessel’s 10 Vietnamese crew sustained gunshot wounds as they evaded the gunmen and fled towards Sabah in the 9am incident on Tuesday, some 22 nautical miles east of Pulau Banggi.

23 September 2014:

Red alert over Abu Sayyaf-IS links Updated: Monday September 22, 2014 MYT 10:02:49 AM
Loyalty pledge: A video grab of Hapilon taken from YouTube by the Philippine National Police and the US Rewards for Justice Program. KUALA LUMPUR: A red alert has been raised in Sabah following an open declaration of support for the Islamic State (IS) movement by Isnilon Hapilon – one of the most wanted terrorists with up to RM16mil bounty on his head. The 48-year-old Abu Sayyaf leader, along with masked men, posted a video of themselves on YouTube in July but intelligence sources said it gained momentum on social media last month. Sources said pro-IS and jihadist websites in Bahasa Malaysia were being watched following this new development.
In the video, which appeared to be shot in the jungles of southern Philippines, the IS movement’s symbolic black flag is depicted in the opening scene.  In the six-minute clip, Hapilon is seen wearing a black gown, linking his arms with his men, some of whom wore masks. Speaking mostly in Arabic and in his native dialect of Yakan, they swore allegiance to IS and its head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the form of baiah or oath of loyalty...."

No need for referendum in Sabah, Sarawak; Bernama | Updated: September 23, 2014; (First published on: September 23, 2014 09:13 MYT) KOTA KINABALU: There is no need for a referendum to determine the number of people in Sabah and Sarawak who want out of the Malaysian Federation, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Nancy Shukri. She said the people of Malaysia, including those in East Malaysia, had worked as a team to develop the country and it was unfair to neglect those who helped Sabah and Sarawak achieve "what they have today". "I don't think there is a need for that yet...there is no need for a referendum because there are more people talking about being in Malaysia, rather than out of Malaysia.... Nancy was asked on whether there was a need for a referendum in Sabah and Sarawak, as was done by the United Kingdom Government in Scotland.... The Batang Sadong MP stressed that the people of Sabah and Sarawak enjoyed development under the Federation of Malaysia, including education, security and infrastructure, and were accorded some of the special rights. Meanwhile, she reiterated that the Sedition Act 1948 was essential in safeguarding security, harmony and unity in the country...."

17 September 2014:

Sarawak and Sabah will not leave Malaysia, says PM by stephen then;  Updated: Wednesday September 17, 2014 MYT 6:50:19 AM; MIRI: There is no turning back. Sarawak and Sabah will never break away from Malaysia because the country has gone too far together and the only way to march forward is together, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
Speaking before 40,000 people at the Miri City Fan Recreation Park when launching the grand celebration for the 51st anniversary of Malaysia Day here last night, he said Sarawak, Sabah and the peninsula had become one big family over the past 51 years.

16 September 2014:

Painful to be part of M'sia, say Borneo leaders, 5:00PM Sep 16, 2014; "The Federation of Malaysia is meaningless if Sabah continues to be "occupied" by "Malayan" government officers and federal agencies, said Borneo Heritage Foundation chairperson (BHF) Jeffrey Kitingan..."

11 September 2014: Sabah Secession talk worries and the Scotland effect

Interesting that old news on Sabah from July is now being highlighted in the national dailies in Malaysia. The Felda Sahabat incursion was first reported a case of low politics i.e. land promised and not given. But increasingly it was reported otherwise, and secession talk crops up again.

I had a chat yesterday evening with a senior historian for the Malay archipelago (the meet up was triggered in part by my updating on the Johor Iskandar-Singapore project and its historical resonance). As we meandered through different topics, he highlighted to me his interest in the Scottish secession referendum, and how this might trigger Catalonia (Barcelona) which is a rich region in Spain to do similar (wiki:; and we also noted that the Crimea is making some noises on the same (news link: Why is there seemingly a wave of secession talk and how will these notions affect us in this part of the world - Southeast Asia?

Handily enough in my email box from a few days ago was a report from a bank on the political betting odds of the Scottish Referendum (which points to a "yes" to remain; which differs from opinion polls results) and how it would affect England.  Do read the article excerpts (see below!), which also discusses recent accuracy of opinion polls versus betting odds in politics and points out how reliant Labour is on its Scottish MP base. Looking at 18 September Scottish Referendum betting odds sites suggested,
 accessed 8.35am KL/Singapore time

News headlines:

Three held for joining bid to claim Sabah for Sulu sultanate, Published: Thursday September 11, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM, Updated: Thursday September 11, 2014 MYT 7:43:20 AM;; "KUALA LUMPUR: Police have detained three people, including a Filipino, for their alleged involvement in the so-called Royal Sulu Army... Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the police arrested the three – Abu Bakar Jayari, Zainuddin Mislani and Kassim Ibrahim – on July 22 under the Prevention of Crime Act for allegedly joining the group with the aim of removing Sabah from the Federation of Malaysia... “The three are believed to have been recruiting new members to join their cause... “It is supposed to be a starting phase in their bid to claim Sabah for the self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan,” he said in a statement yesterday... Khalid said the three men were detained under Section 19A of the Act which provides for detention for not more than a two-year period...."

Anger over Barisan’s incompetence fuelling secession talk, say PKR MP, 4 September 2014;

Bank of Singapore: Follow the Money in Scotland Vote, 9 September 2014  
Economics has plenty of obscure areas of research and sometimes they are relevant to financial markets. One field looks at the predictive power of opinion polls compared to the odds in betting markets. The strong conclusion is that we should “follow the money” as betting markets have a much better track record... This is important now that the opinion polls are suggesting the Scottish referendum on independence will be a close vote. Here ( is a link to a BBC website that tracks how opinion polls have developed. Sterling has fallen sharply after one poll showed a majority in favour of “Yes” in the vote for independence that will take place on 18 September, and others showed a tight contest... In contrast, betting markets (such as Betfair or Ladbrokes) continue to show a strong prediction of a “No” vote. Admittedly the odds have narrowed – until recently the betting market gave the Yes vote about a 25% chance, while now it is up to 34%. That is still a huge distance from the neck-and-neck race shown by opinion polls... Betting markets have an established track record of predicting the winners in US politics. Recent examples were when the opinion polls were showing a close race between Bush and Kerry in 2004 or between Obama and Romney in 2012, while the betting markets were leaning strongly in favour of the eventual winner... The idea seems to be that numerous informed and interested participants express their views through a betting market. It is not one-man, one-vote – the biggest wagers will have the most interest in the outcome. In contrast opinion polls are a relatively narrow cross section of potential voters, where the presentation of the question can also affect the result... There is a high degree of uncertainty about the consequences of a Yes vote. Much would depend on negotiations in the 18 months before independence in March 2016, with national defence, the allocation of government debt and assets, location of financial institutions, the choice of national currency and membership of the EU all to be settled... The direct impact on the remainder of the UK does not appear too large, as Scotland represents less than 10% of the economy. However, there is potentially a large political impact, as Scotland predominantly sends Labour politicians to the UK parliament in Westminster. Currently there are 41 Labour MPs from Scotland (out of a total of 257) and just one Conservative, so it would become harder for Labour to win an election.... It is not clear how a pro-independence vote would affect the next UK general election due by May 2015, as the Scottish seats might not be contested or they could only serve until the split in the Union... From a financial market point of view it would increase the chance of a Conservative government bringing a referendum on continued membership of the EU in 2017. Moreover, without the influence of (relatively pro-EU) Scotland it would make an exit more likely. Whether or not this is negative for GBP is debateable, as it would probably lead to a more free market orientation to the UK, less constrained by the social democracy of the EU. However, markets seem to be viewing such an outcome negatively. If the betting markets are right then these are complications that will not trouble us after the vote on 18 September..."

4 August 2014: Sabah-Sulu problems fester on while China expresses interest

Sabah issues continue after the Sabah-Sulu crisis of early 2013, which we wrote about here in March 2013: Initially, the incursion on Felda Global Ventures leased plantations at Sahabat was reported as a land dispute gone out of hand. Thus, a problem of low level politics and the grand Suluk territorial claims took advantage of the situation? Since then, there have been several kidnappings, including of China nationals which has significantly disrupted the tourist business. Over the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations at a friend's home, I had occasion to speak to retired military man who had worked on major operations in Sabah. Unfortunately, he did not have a positive solution to mind, as he said that the military may occupy and clear out an area for 3 days, but 3 days later the people who had dispersed would just return through the very porous sea border.

What's also new is China's apparent stepped up interest in Sabah - a plan to establish a consulate in Kota Kinabalu and suggestion to link Sabah with Shandong Province for cross-investments.

News items:

Curfew along Sabah's east coast extended for another two weeks, Updated: Monday August 4, 2014 MYT 7:30:21 AM; "KOTA KINABALU: The dusk-to-dawn sea curfew along Sabah’s east coast will be extended for another two weeks in a bid to clamp down on cross-border kidnappings. Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) commander Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun said the extension started yesterday until further notice from the Home Ministry. Legally, however, the curfew can only last up to two weeks. Rashid said in the fortnight that the curfew was imposed from July 19, 40 fishermen in Sandakan and Tawau had been given special permission to work during the curfew hours...... The curfew was imposed in the wake of an attack on two policemen at the Mabul Water Bungalows in Semporna on July 12. Kpl Ab Rajah Jamuan, 32, was killed while his colleague Kons Zakiah Aleip, 26, is still being held hostage by Filipino gunmen in southern Philippines. Another hostage, Chan Sai Chuan, 32, who was kidnapped from a fish farm in Kunak, Tawau, on June 16, is also being held captive.... The curfew covers an area of three nautical miles from the shore until the international border with the Philippines. The area stretches for about 362 nautical miles from Tanjung Pundaras in Sandakan to part of Pulau Sebatik near Tawau. The six districts involved are Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu, Semporna, Kunak and Tawau..."

A Sabah-Shandong G2G mooted? Expand China-Sabah collaboration – envoy, The Borneo Post  - Posted on July 25, 2014, Friday;; "The Malaysian and Chinese Governments should create a platform to promote exchanges and understanding between East Malaysia and China, said Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Kuching Liu Quan. Liu said there was still a lack of exchanges between East Malaysia and China, which caused a lack of understanding on both sides.... Liu said he had visited Sabah Economic Development and Investment Authority (SEDIA) in this trip, in which he learned about the enormous potential in Sabah, particularly in the oil palm, aquaculture, oil and gas industries as well as biodiversity. e said Sabah and China could potentially collaborate in these sectors... Even though there were incentives in place for investors, and that policies in Sabah were relatively open, there was still a lack of exchanges and understanding between Sabah and China, he said. Hence, Liu said the Sabah State Government could kick start a collaboration with a province in China. For instance, the Sabah Chief Minister could lead local investors to visit Shandong Province with the aim to establish good relations and vice versa.... Liu hoped to see the setting up of a Chinese consulate in Kota Kinabalu as soon as possible, which would provide assistance to Sabahan businessmen who wished to invest in China. Although the Chinese consulate in East Malaysia is located in Kuching, Liu said the consulate served Sarawak, Sabah and Labuan...."
Shandong Province: and its largest city Qingdao:

While MH370 issues seem to be stabilizing, China-Sabah tourism is seeing impacts from problems that started arising about the same time as the air disaster.
Sabah kidnaps have had more impact than MH370 on Chinese tourist numbers, says minister; BY EILEEN NG Published: 17 June 2014 | Updated: 17 June 2014 2:32 PM - See more at:; "Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said as of April this year, China cancelled 76 flights to the state capital city, Kota Kinabalu.... National carrier Malaysia Airlines saw 10 scheduled flights from Shanghai cancelled, while China Southern Airlines cancelled 22 flights from Shenzhen. Chinese low-cost carrier Spring Airlines cancelled 44 flights from Shanghai to Sabah.... "Yes, what happened in Sabah has had a worse impact than the MH370 incident," he told Azmin Ali (PKR-Gombak)...."

Brazil's Vale in Malaysia (update 1b): Distribution in 10 days and 35% reduction in carbon emissions per tonne of ore

This is interesting. Vale spends US$1.4 billion in Lumut to build its new Asia port terminal at Teluk Rubiah, Perak in the Straights of Malacca. Valemax 400,000 tonne vessels are just huge! We had neighbours who are engineers from Brazil to help implement this project. Progesys notes that "the stockyard is designed to be able to handle 30m tons of iron ore annually and can be expanded to take a maximum capacity of 60m tons per annum."

Is this akin to what's happening in palm oil merchandising? The likes of Wilmar and Musim Mas have taken strategies to have terminals / bulking / capacity / logistics in key end use regions such as Africa (Wilmar noted to have bought / built / booked up capacities to better serve Africa buyers) and Europe (Musim's biodiesel acquisitions). From key industry sources, it is notable to hear Malaysia earlier had an allocated budget to help build up joint terminal / bulking facilities in strategic locations, but this never got off the ground on apparent commercial disinterest or dissension. Malaysia palm oil is facing stiff competition from Indonesia palm oil. On the latter's upstream expansion, it is inevitable that it gains market share.

16 November 2014: Vale 10 days distribution with major GHG savings, Vale surprise loss, LMT's exclusivity concession compromised

New Strategically Located Deep Water Bulk Ore Handling Terminal and Distribution Hub Opens -
Thirty Million Tonnes per Year Capacity Available for Iron Shipments; 12 November 2014;  "The new facility is a point where the ore can be stored and blended. Located in the Straits of Malacca, distribution of the ore will take a mere ten days, as opposed to the 45 day trip from Brazil allowing a much reduced delivery time for the iron ore to Vale’s clients in Asia and Southeast Asia. Murilo Ferreira, Vale's Chief Executive Officer, said: "Teluk Rubiah is a cornerstone of Vale's business strategy of investing in solutions which aim to enhance the company's capability to supply iron ore more efficiently to the Asian markets. The distribution centre brings our mines closer to our customers in Asia." .. With Teluk Rubiah, Vale will have the opportunity to blend ores with different grades from its production systems, which were always sold on the market separately, each one with different specific features, providing greater flexibility for supplying iron ore. Furthermore, the distribution centre, combined with a fleet of very large ore carriers, represents a more sustainable solution, contributing to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for iron ore delivered in Asia. Teluk Rubiah is capable of receiving the somewhat conceitedly named Valemax vessels, which allow for a 35% reduction in carbon emissions per tonne of ore transported. From there, the iron ore is transported in Capesize vessels to its port destinations...."

Vale Posts Surprise Loss as Currency Compounds Iron Rout  By Juan Pablo Spinetto   October 30, 2014; "Vale SA (VALE5), the world’s largest iron-ore producer, posted a surprise loss after a weaker Brazilian real boosted dollar-denominated debt and falling commodities prices pushed down sales to the lowest since 2010. Vale swung to a net loss of $1.44 billion, or 28 cents a share, in the third quarter from a profit of $3.5 billion, or 68 cents a share, a year earlier, it said today in a statement. The average of nine analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg was for profit of 32 cents a share, excluding some items. Shares fell the most in Brazil’s benchmark index today... Iron-ore prices have fallen by more than half since a 2011 peak as Vale, Rio Tinto Group and BHP Billiton Ltd., the three largest producers of the steelmaking raw material, boost supply to gain customers. Results were impacted by $2.68 billion in foreign exchange and monetary losses on debt and derivatives...."

RAM Ratings reaffirms Lumut Maritime Terminal’s notes Thursday, 13 November 2014
KUALA LUMPUR: RAM Rating Services Bhd has reaffirmed the A1/Stable rating of Lumut Maritime Terminal Sdn Bhd’s (LMT) RM60mil Bai’ Bithaman Ajil Islamic debt securities (2004/2017) (BaIDS). It said on Thursday the rating remains anchored by the continued steady cashflow from LMT’s operations and maintenance agreement with Lekir Bulk Terminal Sdn Bhd (LBT), which at present caters to the coal-unloading requirements of TNB Janamanjung Sdn Bhd.
“The company’s rating is moderated by the dependence of its small port operations primarily on hinterland cargo, keeping a lid on growth potential.  “Meanwhile, revenues from the sale of land in the Lumut Port Industrial Park – which LMT has developed – are expected to taper, given limited land left to be sold, which will somewhat reduce its income diversity,” said the ratings agency. Perak Corporation Bhd, which is listed on the Main Board of Bursa Malaysia, holds a 50% stake plus one share in LMT.... LMT has a 20-year concession agreement (CA) with the Perak Government where it has exclusive port operations within a 30-km radius. However, the agreement ends in July 2015. “It remains to be seen whether the CA will be extended beyond next year, and we note that LMT’s exclusivity had been compromised in 2011 following the State Government’s approval of the establishment of a private jetty in Teluk Rubiah by Vale International SA,” it added.

10 November 2014
Brazilian giant seeks to erode its geographic disadvantage in supplying Australian customers as falling iron ore prices hurt producers' margins; UPDATED : Saturday, 08 November, 2014, 5:43am by Bloomberg in Singapore and Rio de Janeiro; "Vale inaugurated a US$1.4 billion port terminal in Malaysia as the world's biggest iron ore producer seeks to cut costs of shipping to Asia from Brazil with prices at five-year lows.... The facility on the Malacca Strait to stock and blend supplies would help Rio de Janeiro-based Vale compete against BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto Group in Australia, said Paul Gait, an analyst at Sanford C Bernstein.... Up to last month, eight Valemax vessels - the biggest ore carriers that can haul as much as 400,000 tonnes - had already called at the Teluk Rubiah site to discharge cargoes, with five smaller Capesizes loaded, Vale said.... "Vale is significantly farther away from the main centres of demand than its Australia competitors," Gait said. "What Vale can do is to lower the apparent cost of logistics, shrink the world, if you will, and make distance not matter so much."... Iron ore tumbled 44 per cent this year as increased supplies from Vale, BHP and Rio created a glut, prompting producers to squeeze costs to preserve margins...."

source: Teluk Rubiah: Vale of Tears for the “Malaysia Project” By Mariam Mokhtar
March 1, 2012;


Energy enviro-trade politics and WTO concerns on private standards

Just sharing some nice coverage of Canada - Keystone energy-enviro (geo)politics. Investigative articles by Bloomberg looks at the problem that Canada (considered an ethical oil exporter) has had in now trying to export product from its new Alberta oil frontier to the US and China:
I find this quite interesting in two areas of resource-based industry and Malaysia research interest: a) that it parallels changing enviro-trade requirements on palm oil (although this is happening via private standards and not at G2G level**) and b) with Petronas' exposure in Canada and the changing global oil trade.
On trade issues, I just read the useful newsletter update that crossed my desk from trade lawyers, Fratini Vergano; writing on 2 May: "WTO SPS Committee Members fail again to advance their work relating to private standards - At a meeting of the WTO Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (hereinafter, SPS Committee) on 25-26 March 2014, WTO Members continued discussions relating to private standards for food safety and animal and plant health, but failed to resolve any issues. WTO Members have raised concerns regarding private standards for almost 9 years, yet little progress has been made.....In 2013, China and New Zealand submitted proposed definitions of the term ‘private standards’, which differed greatly, but they continued working on a joint proposal for a working definition of the term. Following an SPS Committee meeting on 16-17 October 2013, it was announced that China and New Zealand had produced a compromised draft definition and were in the process of working with other WTO Members to draft a definition that could be accepted by the entire SPS Committee...At the most recent SPS Committee meeting on 25-26 March 2014, some Members were not able to accept the draft... The issues relating to regulation of private standards have dragged on for almost 9 years. Reportedly, at the most recent SPS Committee meeting, China maintained that it would be “disaster” if a definition is not agreed upon soon. Additionally, it was reported that China’s concerns were shared by El Salvador, India, Ecuador and Belize, which is said to be concerned for its papaya and citrus exporters. As the focus of market access has shifted from tariff measures to non-tariff measures, private standard requirements imposed by retailers are one of many (de facto, if not de jure) non-tariff barriers that can create additional unjustified costs for exporters when those costs are not justified for SPS reasons...."

Khor Yu Leng giving a seminar at Institute of China Studies, University of Malaya

07 March 2014 | Friday 
3.00 - 5.00 pm
Seminar Room
Institute of China Studies
Fifth Floor of Za'ba Library Building
University of Malaya

China is Malaysia’s top trading partner but China’s FDI in Malaysia lags in relative terms. China and Malaysia have jointly established the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park (MCKIP) and Qinzhou Industrial Park (QIP) to further boost bilateral trade and investment. Investment promoters see Malaysia as a country for China to reach markets within country-of-origin rules; and the state of Pahang where the MCKIP is planned will likely be selected as the gateway for bringing investment and jobs into the Malaysia Eastern Corridor, which covers an economically lagging area on the peninsula. Sources indicate that the industrial park projects are linked to two significant land deals. The first may relate to the QIP land swap arrangement for land in the Binhai township. The second, at the MCKIP, is said to include the conversion of some state-controlled land for the use of the industrial park. Country data indicates a large imbalance in FDI flows with the broad conclusion that Malaysia OFDI flows to China exceeds the reverse by a factor of five to eight times or even more. However these statistics may still misrepresent the picture since many Malaysian tycoons use Hong Kong as a base for their investments into China. To begin to correct this imbalance, Malaysia will quickly need to draw in China OFDI equivalent at least to what it has received in recent years from Germany. Such a rapid transformation in Malaysia-China investment outcomes is unlikely without more significant investment drivers in place. The relatively small size of the MCKIP (just over a tenth of the size of its twin project in Qinzhou) is suggestive of a continued imbalance in Malaysia-China foreign investments.
About the speaker
Khor Yu Leng is a political economist and graduate of Oxford University and the London School of Economics. First working in the financial sector, she is now an independent analyst, working on customized research and qualitative analysis reports for global corporate clients. She is a specialist in market research, resource-based industries, frontier markets, sustainability and risk. Yu Leng was Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore for 2013. “ISEAS Perspective: The Significance of China-Malaysia Industrial Parks“ was issued 17 Jun 2013 and she is currently working on a co-author academic article on Malaysia-China investment ties. Yu Leng has been interviewed or cited by international media including the Financial Times, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, BBC News and Al Jazeera. 

*As the Institute of China Studies is located in a library building, seminar participants are advised not to bring in any briefcases or bags to avoid possible delay caused by the usual necessary library bag checks, or having to leave the bags or briefcases outside the library entrance. Please come in through the main entrance of the Za’ba Library. Also, please refrain from parking outside a parking bay to avoid having your vehicle clamped by campus security. (In case of serious parking problem, please call our office for assistance: 03-79565663, 03-79561695 or 03-79588173) Please do not hesitate to contact us for enquiries and to confirm your attendance.