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Singapore: Six leaders of City Harvest Church found guilty on all charges

After a two-and-a-half year trial, the City Harvest Church (CHC) case in Singapore has been concluded. The founder of the church, Kong Hee and the other five leaders were sentenced on October 21. They are facing three to ten charges, including criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts, and are facing up to sixty years of prison.

The City Harvest Church is regarded as the largest church in Singapore and Kong Hee was involved in the inappropriate use of CHC funds. Kong was charged for misappropriating S$ 24 million of church funds to finance the Crossover Project for his wife, Ho Yeow Sun, in 2007 and 2008. Another S$ 26 million was used to cover up the initial amount through sham investments in two companies owned by CHC supporters, music production firm Xtron and glass manufacturer Firna, the court heard.

Judicial Commissioner of the Supreme Court of Singapore See Kee Oon says that he could not believe that the accused believed the sale of Ho’s album could generate profit. See also indicates that even though the six accused returned the funds and did not take profits, they cannot be exempted from punishment.

CHC says that they are disappointed by the verdict. Kong and the other accused are prepared to seek legal advice and are considering an appeal.

Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像

Photo Credit: Reuters

Malaysia: Opposition leader files no-confidence motion against prime minister

Leader of Malaysia’s opposition party, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, has filed a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Najib Razak. Wan Azizah emphasizes that the motion is not against the government, but the prime minister. The lower house of the Parliament has accepted the motion.

On October 22, Wan Azizah held a press conference saying that there is enough reason for trusting most of the lawmakers, not just the 88 opposing MPs (Member of Parliament), but also MPs in Barisan Nasional (BN). They have lost confidence in the leadership of Najib. Wan Azizah believes that lawmakers will vote consciously, putting aside political differences and giving first priority to national interests. She thinks all lawmakers will stand on the same side.

The Speaker of the House urged the opposition to submit a list on Oct 21, proving that the majority of MPs support the motion of no confidence so that he can put pressure on Parliament to debate. Regarding this, Wan Azizah says that there is no request in the process of the motion, neither in the rule of the Parliament.

According to the procedure, though the Office of the Speaker has received the motion, the lower house of the Parliament has not yet decided whether it will be included in the agenda of the next parliament.

Azizah stresses that the motion is directed towards the prime minister, rather than the government. Many lawmakers believe that state leaders cause the current economic, social and political crisis in Malaysia.

Although there are other external factors that led to the devaluation of the Malaysian Ringgit, for example, the fall of the international crude oil prices, economic experts believe that one of the factors causing the devaluation of the Ringgit is the scandal of 1 Malaysia Development Berhad and the MYR$ 2.6 billion political contribution issue.

She criticizes that the Najib-led government is increasingly authoritarian, suppressing objections by various laws. More than 100 social movements protesters, scholars, students and journalists have been investigated or charged.

Azizah adds that former Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail has been terminated from his post, former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and former Minister Shafie Apdal replaced, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officers transferred and so on. All show that someone tried to interfere with the investigations.

She says that with the Chairman of Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and three members appointed by the cabinet to prevent the investigation for the management of 1Malaysia Development Berhad, relevant organizations no longer conduct the task fearlessly.

However, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad says that the relevant no-confidence motion will not succeed because UMNO lawmakers are trying to protect their leaders. They choose not to talk to protect their own interests and the government leaders held dissident have been expelled.

Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像

Photo Credit: Reuters

Indonesia: President to relax restrictions on foreign investments

In an interview before he visited the US, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said he would assess the limits on foreign investments in Indonesia’s strict regulations. He says these relevant laws are why Widodo hasn’t been able to fulfill his promise of a couple billion US dollars of foreign investment.

Widodo also says that in his agenda of next week’s visit, the prospect that Indonesia would join Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be an important issue. He will meet US President Barack Obama next Monday to discuss topics including trade, anti-terrorism and strengthening cooperation in the world maritime shipping.

Widodo indicates that the TPP agreement reached by the US and 11 other countries is worth taking notice. Their output accounts for a quarter of the global GDP, but Widodo does not say whether Indonesia will seek to join the TPP.

However, a senior assistant of Joko Widodo says to the Wall Street Journal that Indonesia plans to join the TPP in the next few years. Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political and Legal Security Luhut Pandjaitan says Indonesia will focus on regional economic agreements first, which will begin at the end of this year.

The Indonesian president says that the government is planning to relax restrictions on foreign investment regulations, especially the strict restriction of complete rejection of foreign e-commerce. He says that e-commerce has great potential, with an estimated output value growing from US$ 1.3 billion in 2015 to US$ 13 billion in 2020. An Indonesian official says that the government is considering allowing 45 to 55% of foreign investments in local e-commerce companies.

Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像

Photo Credit: Reuters

Translated and compiled by Wen-yee Lee and Eric Wong
Edited by Olivia Yang