Monday, March 11, 2013

Fear of incursionists carrying out protracted guerilla warfare

By Habhajan Singh
A prolonged guerilla-style militant presence in Lahad Datu and other areas in Sabah is one of the concerns on the minds of the Malaysian security authorities who are still trying to figure out how the engagement with the so-called Sulu sultanate army escalated into a gunfight that led to deaths on both sides.
“There is a concern that the situation may escalate into a long-drawn guerilla war. You have some 30,000 to 40,000 Sulu people in Sabah,” one senior government official told The Malaysian Reserve.
“We are not sure what led to the killing (by the Sulu sultanate army). The police were not aggressive. This is one of the things that is baffling us,” added another official who is in the loop on the security response in Lahad Datu.
After the Sulu army made their way to Lahad Datu on Feb 9, and holding their position past the Feb 26 deadline imposed by the Malaysian side, March 1 saw a dramatic escalation of the stand-off when two Malaysian police commandos were killed and three others injured in a gun battle with the Sulu terrorists.
All 12 members of the Sulu group in the gun battle were subsequently killed in the incident.As at press time, the death toll had increased to 60 — 8 Malaysians and 52 Sulu terrorists.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak visited Lahad Datu for the first time yesterday, announcing the establishment of a special security area to safeguard the sovereignty and security of the state’s east coast. It encompasses the districts of Kudat, Tawau, Kunak, Sandakan and Lahad Datu.
“This Special Security Area will have Lahad Datu as its central command and several temporary cabins will be placed there so that it can begin functioning immediately,” Bernama quoted him telling a news conference after checking on and attending a briefing on the ongoing “Ops Daulat” operation against the armed incursionists.
The security officials who spoke to The Malaysian Reserve also said the Malaysian authorities were “quite clear” that the incursion by the Sulu army was more to do with Philippines internal politics rather than the claim for Sabah.
“It’s more to destabilise the present Philippine administration, and less to do with any real claim over Sabah,” said one official.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino will be facing mid-term elections in May and presidential elections in 2016.
There is speculation that the incursion could have been linked to forces that wanted to apply pressure on the president as the local elections come closer.
But some quarters believe that it could genuinely be related to Sulu claim over Sabah, a matter that Malaysia claims to have been firmly settled in 1963 when Sabah joined Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya to form the enlarged entity called Malaysia.
Phillipines’s Inquirer News, for example, reported that Malaysia pays a token sum of RM5,300 a year to the Sulu sultanate as lease on Sabah, adding that there are reports in Manila that the paltry amount may be one of the reasons for Jamalul Kiram III to send the “Royal Security Forces to the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo” to Sabah on Feb 9 to occupy the territory.
As to why negotiations were allowed to prolong, the officials who spoke to The Malaysian Reserve also said that the Malaysian authorities went into the situation with the mindset that they were dealing with parties that were not entirely alien to them.
Malaysia was actively involved in brokering the historic peace deal signed in October 2012 between the Philippine government and Muslim rebels to end 40 years of bloody conflict.
“Until the shooting, the Malaysian authorities were willing to negotiate its way out of this. But when the killing started taking place, the whole ball game changed,” said one official.
Yesterday, Bernama reported Najib as saying that Kuala Lumpur will not consider any request for a ceasefire so long as the armed incursionists in Sabah do not lay down arms unconditionally.
Najib said Aquino had contacted him for Malaysia’s reaction to the call for a ceasefire by Jamalul Kiram III, reports Bernama.“I informed Aquino that they need to surrender unconditionally and their weapons have to be handed over to us,” he told a news conference, the report added.
SALUTING THE HEROES: The prime minister (left) says Sabah would continue to be maintained as a state within Malaysia and no one should dispute that absolute status. Najib met with a few armed forces personnel after the briefing on the ‘Ops Daulat’ in Felda Sahabat 16 in Lahad Datu (pic: The Malay Mail)

Malaysia Airline holds Subang staff migration

TheMalaysianReserve (@TMReserve) tweeted at 2:37 PM on Mon, Mar 11, 2013: MAS staff migration from Subang to KLIA put on hold ( Get the official Twitter app at

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Noor Awqaf formed to tap Islamic finance

Noor Awqaf formed to tap Islamic finance

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed to establish a new asset management firm, specialising in Awqaf (Islamic endownments), in Dubai’s bid to become a global centre for the business of Shariah-compliant in line with the emirate’s vision to position as the world’s capital for the Islamic economy.

Ahmed Kalim, Deputy Group chief executive officer, Noor Investment Group, and Tayeb Abdel Rahman Al Rayes, secretary-general of Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation (Amaf), have signed the MoU to set up Noor Awqaf LLC in the UAE. Noor Awqaf will complement the work of Amaf in offering enabling financial services to Awqaf entities around the world.

The initiative is in line with the recent announcement of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to transform the emirate into the world’s capital for Islamic finance and other businesses based on Islamic principles.

Noor Awqaf has been set up as an independent limited liability company, with an initial issued and paid-up share capital of Dh10 million. Noor Awqaf is 60 per cent owned by Noor Investment Group and 40 per cent by Amaf. It will manage Awqaf funds and provide other asset management services. It will also offer due diligence, financial analysis and assistance in the creation and implementation of strategic objectives for Amaf and other similar entities around the world. One of the Islamic economy sectors that will be targeted by Noor Awqaf is the $2.1 trillion Halal industry.

Noor Awqaf intends to build a business model to position Dubai as a Halal centre which facilitates and adds value to the globally expanding market force, in food, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, additives and ingredients, lifestyle and services sectors.

Dr Ahmed Al Janahi, deputy group chief executive officer, Noor Investment Group, said: “The cooperation with Amaf, which is aligned with Dubai’s vision to shape the future of the Islamic economy, is in line with our strategy to give back to the society through support for charities and foundations in the UAE. We will provide expertise with respect to the set-up and management of Noor Awqaf, including fund and asset management services, the creation of appropriate legal structures and the investment of funds under management.”

Al Rayes said: “The cooperation with Noor Investment Group, to establish an independent company, will ensure the enhanced management of the Awqaf fund, in addition to extending product and financial services to other funds. Amaf will on its part provide access to its relationship with other entities and expertise in Awqaf best practices, policies and procedures.”  

HwangIM taps into Islamic finance for new fund

Hwang Investment Management has launched he latest addition to their in-house managed, income series of funds, the Hwang AIIMAN Select Income Fund. The firm seeks to tap into the Shariah-compliant equity market, fast growing sukuk and Islamic money market instruments.

“HwangIM has been building up our offerings and performance track record in the income fund space since 2004, following the launch of our first Shariah income fund, Hwang AIIMAN Income Plus Fund. Since the 2008 global financial crisis (GFC), the demand for simpler, stable, income-type funds grew in prominence and it was obvious that investors were not keen on taking excessive risks. We have since shifted our focus to offering such products with the commitment to deliver positive absolute performance over three to five years horizon regardless of market conditions,” said David Ng, HwangIM’s chief investment officer.

The Asian Islamic Investment Management is the fund’s external fund manager.

Akmal Hassan, chief executive officer of AIIMAN added, “AIIMAN SIF is an opportunity for investors to diversify into global Islamic stocks which have been more resilient against its conventional peers as proven during the GFC but identifying the right stock to pick is key to delivering performance. Our experience in bottom up stock picking quality names and high growth stocks that are not dependent on global economic growth and are generally defensive has allowed our portfolios to weather multiple crises and with minimal impact. Additionally, AIIMAN SIF’s investing strategy will emulate the strong performance of the Hwang Select Income Fund, which has successfully and consistently charted 8% returns per annum for the past seven years.”

Targeted at investors with moderate risk appetite, the Fund will invest a minimum of 60% of its net asset value (NAV) in sukuk and Islamic money market instruments and a minimum of 40% of its NAV in Shariah-compliant equities. For money market instruments, the Fund’s investments in sukuk would consist of Malaysian and foreign-issued sukuk whether issued by government or companies. Additionally, the Fund will invest in equities with the anticipation to gain income from dividends.

The Fund’s offer period is from March 1-21 2013  at the price of 0.50 ringgit per unit with its initial investment is 1,000 ringgit and additional investment is 100 ringgit. 

SBT: S'pore's Islamic finance dream is fading fast

By Siow Li Sen

While Malaysia continues powering ahead in Islamic finance, which is based on ethical principles and bans interest, Singapore seems to have given up the ghost.
At least one leading player has already exited the retail Islamic finance market here to focus on Malaysia.
Even headhunters have been relocating from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur to help international banks set up Islamic finance teams there.
And now a key tax incentive for the business in Singapore has been allowed to lapse.
In last month's Budget, the government said it will tax Islamic finance business at the standard 12 per cent rate instead of 5 per cent, the current rate, when the incentive expires on March 31.
Tax incentives for other financial services, which carry concessionary tax rates of 5 per cent, 10 per cent and 12 per cent, will be extended for five years to Dec 31, 2018.
Normal corporate tax rate is 17 per cent.
Lim Maan Huey, PwC Services partner, said the 5 per cent tax rate on income from qualifying Islamic finance activities was introduced to boost growth in the market when it was in its infancy.
"Several years have passed since its introduction and it was noted that there were not many takers for the 5 per cent rate incentive which probably explains the reason for the lapse," said Mr Lim.
As the region's leading financial centre, Singapore had hoped to play some role in the fast-growing business.
The US$1.3 trillion syariah-compliant finance industry is expanding at an average annual rate of 15 per cent, according to a report from Malaysia's Securities Commission last June.
The Islamic Financial Services Board in Kuala Lumpur predicts the market will reach US$2.8 trillion by 2015.
Kuala Lumpur, the world's largest Islamic finance centre, accounts for about 60 per cent of global sukuk or Islamic bond sales.
Last year, sukuk issuances amounted to all-time high of RM97.5 billion (S$39.1 billion), more than double that in 2011.
No wonder, headhunter Andrew Price relocated from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur two years ago, even though it meant uprooting his wife and children. Business is booming, he said.
"A number of international banks are setting up new Islamic finance teams based in KL for the first time," said Mr Price.
"There is demand for senior guys with good experience to lead the teams and then they need various specialities such as product structuring, marketing, compliance and shariah advisory to support them," he added.

Call for IFSB to make standard mandatory


Making Malaysian-based Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) standard mandatory is essential to grow Islamic finance to the next level, said Bahrain central bank executive director Khalid Hamad Abdul Rahman Hamad.

“The articles of association of IFSB is voluntary and does not require the member countries to adopt. This has to change and IFSB should change its mandate with the acceptance of all the members.

“Once members agree that the standard has to be mandatory, it will help to avoid situations or regulatory arbitrage and then it will take Islamic finance to the next level which is internationalisation,” he told The Malaysian Reserve in a recent interview.

The Kuala Lumpur-based IFSB has been in operation since 2003. It serves as an international standard-setting body of regulatory and supervisory agencies that ensure the soundness and stability of the Islamic financial services industry.

Khalid Hamad noted that growth for a certain industry would require proper regulations, good standards in accounting, practice, prudential and skilled resources.

Though some countries are not ready for Islamic finance, he noted it was developing slowly and in the right way in some jurisdictions.

“There are not enough Shariah- compliant financial instruments world wide,” said Khalid Hamad adding that Islamic finance must invest in Shariah-compliant instruments that create value for the society.

Asked what would be Bahrain’s competitive edge over other Arab countries in the race to be an Islamic finance hub, he said: “I don’t see competition here as each country would promote its speciality. As long there are proper rules and regulations, I see all these initiatives complementing each other. This creates business opportunities for key players to do business across borders.”

He said opportunities in Muslim majority North Africa is massive while Egypt is developing new laws to enable it to issue sukuk.

Commenting on South-East Asia, Kamal Hamad said the growth potential is huge especially for Indonesia.

“They are taking steps to develop Islamic finance and if they do it right, you will see a huge growth,” he said.

The work of the IFSB complements that of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, International Organisation of Securities Commissions and the International Association of Insurance Supervisors.

As at December 2012, the 184 members of the IFSB comprise 55 regulatory and supervisory authorities, eight international inter-governmental organisations and 121 market players, professional firms and industry associations operating in 41 jurisdictions.