Selangor’s Political Quandary : How did we get there ?


January 29, 2014

Selangor’s Political Quandary: How did we get here?

by Nathaniel Tan@http://www.malaysiakini.com

In December 2013, a man named Zul Hilmi was beaten within an inch of his life while detained by the Penang police. He may be incapacitated for life. Last week, 6,000 migrants were rounded up by the authorities, only a quarter of which were found to be undocumented and arrested. Nobody knows how many were victims of abuse and shakedowns.

This year, prices of basic goods and utilities continue to skyrocket, further breaking the backs of Malaysia’s working classThe country is falling to pieces, and what dominates our headlines?

dsai14PKR’s internecine struggles. I wish we could ignore it wholesale, but being weak and human, it seems I too, will be adding my voice to this regretful din. It seems to me that the dreaded day has come – the day where sanity deserts us in favour of much less savoury pursuits, the day that the line is at last crossed.

It’s been an emotional week or so, but I shall do my best to leave that out of this article for now, which will likely be the first in a series. For today, let’s just take a relatively impassive look at the road that brought us here, and do our best to see what is going on for what it truly is. After the recap, perhaps we’ll be in a better position to do more detailed analyses.

I must confess, I have been out of the state government loop for all the months since I lost my job there, and out of the party loop for years. The following is based on what I read in the same news everyone else reads, and a little based on my personal observations of the movers and shakers in this game over the years.

Recap

Let’s begin with a chronology. The first shot in this latest round of conflict comes in the form of a Sin Chew Daily report last week, saying that the PKR Supreme Council has decided to replace Khalid Ibrahim as Menteri Besar of Selangor.(It has been a running joke that PKR supreme council meetings are perhaps the least secret meetings in the country. If you want some information to leak, that’s the best place to table it.)

The following day, PKR Secretary-General Saifuddin Nasution held a press conference saying: No such thing, Khalid continues as MB.A while after that, Sin Chew sends out a mass SMS blast to its subscribers, saying that Khalid has resigned as MB. This very quickly turns out to be untrue, and a glaring embarrassment for Sin Chew.

Fast forward a few days, and Joceline Tan of The Star publishes an article saying that KhalidJoceline-Tan will soon make way for Anwar Ibrahim to take over as MB. At this point it was becoming like the boy who cried wolf. Imagine my disappointment when we were eventually forced to admit that Tan was, for once, more or less right.

The rumours ceased being rumours the minute Lee Chin Cheh stepped down as Kajang state assemblyperson. Some 18 hours later, Khalid announces at a press conference that Anwar will indeed be PKR’s candidate for Kajang.

This was a turning point for PKR, it certainly was for me personally.I cannot possibly state with confidence what really led to this sequence of events. I can only speculate, based on my views regarding the balance of probabilities (a term I learnt thanks to the Teoh Beng Hock legal team).

Azmin Ali wants to be MB, there are few things as obvious. He took this pursuit to the point of launching an open rebellion after GE13. Despite his failure, Azmin retained all his posts. While most seem to be concerned about his removal as Selangor state development agency PKNS director, I think the question we should be asking is; how did he retain the post for so long?

Had the roles been reversed, I’m certain Khalid would have swiftly and surely met the political fate that awaits all those guilty of treason and mutiny.

The reason the punishment for treason is so strong is obvious, as who would tolerate keeping such blatantly disloyal people around, much less in power. Not being punished, Azmin simply continued his efforts.

People also like to describe what is happening as the Khalid-Azmin spat. I’m less certain however. If someone walks up to you in the middle of the road, and starts punching you in the face, are you having a spat?

Things started heating up this year because of the upcoming PKR elections.A long time ago I compared Azmin to Michael Corleone, the Godfather. (Spoiler alert: At the end of the first movie, Michael – who appeared weak and timid as the new Godfather – suddenly launches a brutal set of surprise attacks, in which he simultaneously eliminates all his competitors with extreme prejudice.)

At first, it felt like Azmin was trying to employ the same tactic.Along with the “If you can’t convince them, confuse them” media hullabaloo regarding Selangor, the controversy surrounding another of Azmin’s competitors, Nurul Izzah Anwar, also came to light around this time.

Malaysiakini article quotes devoted Azmin man Eekmal Ahmad as tweeting: “I don’t care who marries whom, who has a scandal with whom and why they were unfaithful. That is not my business.I have heard of this divorce issue awhile ago, and it is said that there is a third party. I don’t care about that. You live your life…”

If these words truly were as quoted, than they represent nothing more than disgusting, rank, hypocrisy. There is nothing more repellent than appearing to take the moral high ground while so blatantly spreading malicious gossip.

The question then becomes: Did the timing of these revelations indicate that this was yet another prong of the Godfather-style attack?

Conspiracy theories

Coming back to Selangor: Lee Chin Cheh was an Azmin-linked man who replaced the more independent-minded, well-regarded Lee Kim Sin in Kajang – one of the three seats in Selangor (the other two being Semenyih and Kota Damansara) in which I speculate Azmin’s politicking led to disastrous results.

Lee – to the best of my knowledge – is also the only man to be asked: Were you the one who made the leaks to Sin Chew? He vehemently denied the accusation.Lee was also ultimately the man who turned rumours into reality, with his resignation.

One could be forgiven for interpreting everything that happened up to this point as part of some Azmin-masterminded scheme.The twist comes when Anwar was in fact announced to be the candidate for Kajang.

This implies two possibilities. The first is that Azmin pushed for a compromise candidate,MB Khalid Ibrahim seeing that he could not unseat Khalid himself. Perhaps he hoped for a more pliant MB, who would be aligned to his interests.

While possible, I think the facts do not support this interpretation. Looking at the fallout, I believe that it is more likely that Azmin has always had his eyes on the throne, and has no intention of letting anyone besides himself occupy it.

Reading between the lines, I speculate that the truth is closer to the following. Anwar has begun to fear Azmin greatly, and is no longer confident of his own position. Instead of backing Khalid as an alternative to Azmin, it appears he is unwisely giving in to the endless complaints of PKR politicians about Khalid, who have never been satisfied with Khalid’s stubborn stance that principles trump political pragmatism.

(I can practically see said politicians – many of whom I have been honoured to consider friends – jumping up and down at such a characterisation. It saddens me, but be that as it may, we’ll save for another time the details about how it is only people in politics who have expressed serious dissatisfaction with Khalid.)

Anwar  along with many PKR liberals the rest of us love to love, has always seen little political capital to be gained from backing Khalid.

Azmin has a sizeable team of his own, which he maintains with an almost beautiful, strict adherence to the most traditional principles of feudal politics, but many people in PKR simply do not like or trust him either.

220px-Anwar_Ibrahim-editedSo, this team starts to think of a third alternative. Eventually, demonstrating the complete loss of perspective that infects far too many in the industry of politics, somebody says: How about Anwar for MB? (Is this a testament to his ability to make enticing promises about what will happen when he controls Selangor’s resources?

There are pages to be written about why this is a bad idea, but for now, let us say that this idea seems to check off enough boxes of enough people in PKR that the idea becomes a reality.

Of course, Anwar – the man who said he would step down after GE-13 if Pakatan Rakyat did not win – vehemently denies wanting to become MB. Clearly, there must be another reason why he now wants to add Kajang assemblyperson to his list of duties.

(It is difficult, and probably very ungracious of me, to write these things of a previous employer who came and stood outside the police station in solidarity when I was arrested many years ago – something I will always appreciate. I have held my tongue for many years, and have never been given sufficient cause to speak ill. Yet I regretfully cannot stay silent forever.)

In denial

Azmin-KhalidAzmin wastes no time in putting on his spin. He is quoted as saying: “Anwar Ibrahim contesting there will send a message to the public that we are serious about Selangor and will use the state as a launchpad for Putrajaya.”

It would appear that PKR was not serious about Selangor previously. (Also, I like how people assume Anwar will win – but perhaps this was the plan of the Azmin camp all along, to finish Anwar off for good.Alternatively, perhaps at some later point, someone else will argue that instead of taking over the post, Anwar is being put there just to provide a counterbalance to Azmin, and so on and so on.

I am reminded of the Prime Minister’s remarks about the reduction of kangkung prices.These are all perfect examples of politicians who are submerged so deep in the foulness of their schemes, that they have quite literally lost touch with reality.

That they would imagine Malaysia’s collective stupidity to have reached the level where we would be swayed by such obvious rubbish is a sign that things have gone too far.

It is nothing short of sad that it has come to this. I personally feel that what has happened is a challenge to our integrity and conscience. I feel that we are being tested, to see if those who have been loyal to the cause all this while would blindly follow these ‘leaders’ anywhere.

If that is what they are expecting, they have another think coming. Politicians like to believe in grey areas, and there is merit to that sometimes; but quite frankly, sometimes black is black, and white is white.


NATHANIEL TAN found writing this article difficult and sad. He does not believe it is 100 percent proper for members of the party to say such things, and has thus with a heavy heart started making the necessary remedies.

UMNO’s Saifuddin calls for removal of Election Commission Chief!


by Eileen Ng
JANUARY 14, 2014

 Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, speaking at a forum on electoral forum yesterday, says the Election Commission needs a new chairman who is not beholden to Barisan Nasional. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, January 14, 2014.


Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, speaking at a forum on electoral forum yesterday, says the Election Commission needs a new chairman who is not beholden to Barisan Nasional. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, January 14, 2014.

Umno’s Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah has joined the chorus calling for the removal of the Election Commission (EC) members, especially its chief, Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusof.

He said there was a need for a new EC chairman, who was impartial, in the wake of the public’s loss of confidence in the commission.

“We need someone who is passionate, independent and who does not say things on behalf of BN,” he said, referring to the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional. “You are not helping BN anyway,” he said at an electoral forum last night.

Newly elected chairperson of electoral reform coalition Bersih 2.0 Maria Chin Abdullah had called for the removal of all EC members, citing loss of confidence.

She had said a petition drive would be launched to be delivered to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

The statement came in the wake of an admission by former EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman that past redelineation exercises were designed to keep certain parties in power.

Abdul Rashid led the EC in managing six out of the 13 general elections, as well as four redelineation exercises.

Saifuddin, who is CEO of the Global Movement of Moderates Foundation, said a more independent EC would enable both BN and the opposition Pakatan Rakyat pact to come together to negotiate on the proposed redelineation exercise.

PKR strategic director Rafizi Ramli said the people had talked about reforming the EC for years and had even taken to the streets in support of electoral reforms.

He agreed that both Abdul Aziz and his deputy, Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, needed to be removed but noted that there was a “total mobilisation” by BN in defence of the two officials.

Rafizi said the lack of response from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to Abdul Rashid’s admission was a manifestation of how BN was retreating instead of going forward towards bipartisanship to strengthen democratic institutions.

On the redelineation exercise, the first-term Pandan MP said PKR’s stand was that it should be done on a basis that ensured equitability and fairness rather than the number of seats.

“Any change has to be structural in nature. The dissatisfaction is not in the number of seats but how the seats were gerrymandered in such a way that Parliament does not represent the voices on the ground.”

He said the matter could only be resolved if all political parties agreed on an acceptance variance on the size of constituencies and an assurance that minority interests would be looked after.

Meredith L Weiss, visiting associate professor in Southeast Asia Studies at John Hopkins University, suggested that there was a need to come up with a mechanism on campaign financing to enable the EC to monitor not just candidates’ spending during general elections but also those who are donating to their campaigns.

Social activist Hishammuddin Rais alleged that the EC was doing a “con job” and that Pakatan Rakyat or any other alternative force would never win the general election if the same structure was in place.

“We need to change this,” he said.

Bersih– Art Harun’s Final Thoughts


July 14, 2011

Bersih – My Final Thoughts

Wise men profits more from fools than fools from wise men; for the wise men shun the mistakes of fools, but fools do not imitate the successes of the wise.” – Cato the Elder (234 BC – 149 BC) from Plutarch, Lives.

In my opinion, the biggest mistake that the government had made in the Bersih issue was to isolate a large section of society from itself, anger them and convert them into  Bersih sympathisers and/or supporters.

At some point of time before the Bersih rally – in my opinion it was about the time Pak Samad Said was hauled to the Police station – the Bersih movement had transcended its electoral reform objective into a full scale platform for the people to vent their frustrations, disappointments, angst and anger to the government.

Sasterawan Negara, Dato A. Samad Said

 To put it crassly, from that point of time, Bersih became a platform for many people to show their middle finger to the government, for whatever personal reason(s) they may have.

All the government had to do in the early days of Bersih 2.0 was to deal with Bersih and its demands. The demands were not about the escalating inflation and price of household items; not about Teoh Beng Hock or Sarbani; not about corruption; not about electricity rate hike; not about Astro price hike; not about the police, MACC or whichever agency.

The demands were just about a fair and just election or what was perceived by Bersih as such. That was it. It was politically related but not politically motivated. (For the uninitiated, there is a difference between the two). The fact that some opposition political parties were in solidarity with Bersih did not demote Bersih into a political party with the inevitable and attendant political baggage. 

The premise of Bersih was an idea, a thought. The idea was our election process is not fair. The resulting conclusion from that idea was that our electoral process needs reform or at least a change. That was all.

Being an idea, or a thought, Bersih operates and infects the masses insidiously. It is in their head that the idea is planted. It is not in their behaviour. A Bersih sympathiser or supporter, with the said planted idea, would not act in a way an Al-Qaeda member would. He or she was not going to strap C4 around his or her body, go to the mall on a Sunday, and buy the proverbial ticket to heaven by blowing himself or herself up.

Planted with that idea, a Bersih sympathiser or supporter would try to convince others that that idea was correct. That idea will infest and continue to infest.

The wearing of yellow t-shirts with the word Bersih was just a way or means employed by carrier of such idea to make known that he or she subscribed to that idea to the open world.

The yellow t-shirts were not even a manifestation of the idea which he or she carried.  With or without the yellow t-shirts, the idea still infests their mind. Similarly, the colour of the t-shirts, did not matter. It could have been pink for all they cared but the idea stayed the same. 

The idea, as I said earlier, was that the election process is not fair and it needs reform. And so, this was what, allegorically, the government was facing about a month before the rally. There were some yellow mosquitoes flying around in some wet markets; shopping malls; seminar rooms and o the streets. That was it. Nothing more.

It was like the proverbial bloody fly in the car cockpit. Irritating, yes. Annoying, yes. Threatening, absolutely not.

And how exactly did the government react to these handful yellow mosquitoes? Well, it took out some really large and heavy cannons and shot the mosquitoes!

The government firstly denied that our election process was not fair. That was okay. Because by doing that, the government was actually trying to supplant an opposing idea. But what it did later was beyond rationale. Any strategist, political or otherwise, worth his or her salt,  would cringe in disbelief.

It went out seizing the yellow t-shirts. People who wore the offending attire were arrested. How did arresting people wearing yellow and seizing the yellow item assist in erasing the idea which Bersih had planted? The idea was in the head. That idea did not reside in the yellow t-shirts.  That was  the government reacting according to the proverbial “marahkan nyamuk kelambu dibakar” (loosely translated, angry with the mosquitoes, burn the mosquito net) way.

First, the public reaction was one of disbelief. Soon it became a joke. The government, the police, the Home Minister and all else who were perceived to be the instigator to the act of banning the colour yellow became a big joke.

The joke then became even a bigger joke. That was when the government and its machinery, direct and indirect, embarked into phase two of their “war propaganda”.

I have stated in The Doctor is Not In that an oppressor would cling to every “fact”, even manufactured ones, to justify its oppression. I quoted Umberto Eco, in “Turning Back The Clock” who said:

“In general, in order to maintain popular support for their decisions, dictatorships point the finger at a country, group, race, or secret society that is plotting against the people under the dictator. All forms of populism, even contemporary ones, try to obtain consensus by talking of a threat from abroad, or from internal groups.” (emphasis is mine).

How true is that? Umberto Eco could have been talking about Malaysia actually. Did he have a digital crystal ball or what?

Barely recovering from shaking our collective head over the arrest of people wearing yellow, the government went into ape mode. Bersih was infiltrated by communists. It was also funded by Christian groups. Some Ministers and the Ploice then said there were evidence that Bersih had certain “foreign elements” bent on creating havoc and overthrowing the government.

All classic wartime propaganda. But really, who was at war? Nobody except for the government.

Sticking with the “war” theme, the government’s well known, but the most laughable and idiotic shit stirrer, Perkasa and its leader, Ibrahim Ali, launched a counter movement and called themselves Gerak Aman (Peace Movement, in English), with Ibrahim Ali as its “war general.”

So, we had a peace movement with a war general. And a war general without any war to go to. He then promptly issued a really peaceful statement, ie, the Chinese had better stocked up food and not come out to the street on July 9th.

This was followed by some silat organisation declaring that it will “wage war” against Bersih participants. The next day this organisation appointed itself as the “3rd line of defence” of Malaysia, an appointment which was duly accorded official approval by none other than the Prime  Minister himself later.

At this point in time, the government’s handling of the Bersih issue had moved from disbelief-dom, to jokes-ville and now to a surreal and burlesque town. The government had then managed to anger the Bersih sympathisers and supporters; isolated the Christians and Chinese; and turned itself into some kind of a mixture of Robin Williams and Russell Brand (no insult meant to Katy Perry, of course).

Ambiga, the  Chairperson of Bersih was instantaneously declared as an enemy of Islam. Quite how Bersih’s electoral reform agenda became intertwined with race and faith is quite beyond many to conjure. But enemy of Islam she was. That managed to isolate the non-Muslims and even the  thinking Muslims form the government’s stance.

 So, after that, the pesky yellow mosquitoes problem had turned into a full scale stampede of biblical proportion, joined in by the elephants, lions, tigers, snakes and what have you. Congratulations.

The climax of all of these – the mother of all fcuk ups – to me, was the mounting of roadblocks during the morning peak hours from Wednesday the 6th of July onwards.

By this time, even the normal apathetic middle-class Malaysians who could not even be bothered to register themselves as voters became agitated and upset.

This apathetic middle-class are a very comfortable lot. They will not move their ass to do anything if that would mean bringing themselves out of their comfort zone. Finding the TV remote control is bringing themselves out of  their comfort zone, to these people. They will not be arsed to do anything until and unless they become uncomfortable.

And of course, being stuck in a traffic jam in their second-hand BMWs, Benz and whatever was uncomfortable to them. And they told themselves, enough with this crap. I am going to show my middle finger to the police!

By this time, almost the whole section of the urban society was isolated by the government. Even the civil servants who were late for work were thinking of joining the rally.

Speaking of the police, apart from being busy carrying guns and waving the traffic to pass by, they managed to find parangs and molotov cocktails at Sogo. There you  have it. Bersih was bent on creating havoc.

Why parangs? Why not guns and bombs? And to think about it, the molotov cocktails were made in plastic bottles. Who in their right mind would make molotov in plastic bottles, hullo? From which university did the guy graduate? Off campus? Online course?

Disbelief. Joke. Burlesque. Ridicule. Anger.

What a transformation. The easiest thing to do was to fight the idea that our election process needs reform. That was all that was needed. An idea is fought by firstly, showing that that idea is not quite correct. Or that it was not credible. Then neutralise that idea with a better and more acceptable idea.

An idea is not fought by arresting the people having that idea. Or by banning a colour depicting subscription to  that idea. Or by declaring the person heading the movement perpetuating that idea as anti-Islam. Or that it was Christian idea. Oh my God. Fail!

Now, let’s not talk about what happened during the rally. Suffice if I say that the people joining the rally were not the hooligans they were made out to be. We all could watch all the YouTube videos and decide for ourselves.

The thing which I want to comment about is this. If the government’s handling of Bersih before the rally was beyond belief in its irrationality and unreasonableness, its handling AFTER the rally is not any better, if not far worse.

The IGP became a laughing stock when he quickly announced that only 6000 people attended the rally. Then the Home Minister chipped in to say the police was fair and in fact very restrain in their approach on the 9th of July. The Prime Minister said the police were a picture of tranquillity and displayed a monk-like attitude towards the rally goers.

Ha ha and ha.

KL Police: No tear gas fired into the hospital !!

The Minister Liow denied teargas was fired into compound of Tung Shin. Chua Soi Lek, not be left out, chipped in to say the police had to teargas the hospital in order to protect the patients. And today, 11 doctors from that hospitals states their willingness to affirm affidavits under oath that the police did in fact shoot water and teargas into the compound of the hospital on July 9. They said the Police even entered into the buildings to search for rally goers. (the full report is here).

The Prime Minister had left for the UK. The mainstream media went ape-like in blaming Anwar and mocking his injury. This obsession with Anwar Ibrahim is actually quite irritating. let me tell you all something. Most rally goers did not give a hoot about Anwar that day. That day was not about Anwar. It was about their middle finger which they had wanted to point to some others.

The international press – which of course, in the government’s book, are always bias and out to pursue their secret agenda against our country – have not been kind to the government. Even the Jakarta Post editorial (Malaysia is rich but not free) was not flattering. Yesterday, Bloomberg’s William Pesek was scathing in his opinion. Pesek is an influential writer and Bloomberg is a reference  point for many foreign investors. (his article is here). So, what’s the plan here?

Someone died during the rally. Have we heard a word of sympathy or condolence from the government’s side? I have not. All we had was the usual defensive “don’t blame me” statements.

Are we human? Or have we stopped being human? Since when?

Stepping forward to be of service to the public


By Neville Spykerman

SHAH ALAM, March 8 — They are young, smart and highly opinionated; pretty typical of young corporate climbers anywhere in the country. But these seven people have given up, or are putting on hold, promising careers in the private sector for public service in Selangor.

While some campaigned for political parties and were caught up in the euphoria of Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) unexpected take-over of Selangor two years ago, others came on board simply to help make a difference and have remained apolitical.

There is 26-year-old Iliyas Jamil, formerly a management consultant with Shell Brunei, who now works as an economic development officer for the mentri besar’s office.

“In the career I left, I worked to improve a company. Here, I can make an impact on a state,” said the UK graduate — in economics — when asked what compelled him to take a pay cut for public service.

But it has not been smooth sailing all the way. Adjustments had to be made as everything in government — even if it is Opposition-led — takes a longer time.

“Previously I could just send out an e-mail, but here a letter may take a few days because I would need a reference number and everything needs to be filed.”

Making a difference (clockwise from left): Ginie Lim, Iliyas Jamil, Noor Amin Ahmad, Sangetha Jayakumar, Brian Yap, M. Devendran. — Picture by Choo Choy May

Iliyas, who is coordinating the state government’s Klang River rehabilitation and development project, added that he’s not involved in politics though.

Like Iliyas, Noor Amin Ahmad joined the state government to try and make a difference in Selangor.

The 28-year-old forestry and science graduate who previously was an associate with the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs is now an assistant communications officer with the state.

“I may not agree with all the state’s policies but I believe I can bring about change from within,” he said.

Then there is Brian Yap 32, who gave up a better-paying job — he himself admits was more “fun” — because of his “belief in the country and its people” which he points out has been heading in the wrong direction for a long time.

“Talent is being wasted because of bad governance and corrupt leaders,” said the political secretary to Selangor executive councillor Elizabeth Wong.

He admits though that working with the state government and its civil servants is not easy.

“It’s difficult to change things, but it’s necessary to get things done,” said the journalism graduate.

Yap, who worked as a writer/columnist and former editor of a lifestyle magazine, added he has always been interested in social-economic issues as well as politics. However, he is not a member of any party.

Law graduate Sangetha Jayakumar, 27, says she was in the middle of chambering during the last general elections and could not wait to join her father, Selangor executive councillor Dr Xavier Jayakumar as a member of his staff.

“I could not just sit back after Pakatan Rakyat took over Selangor, I wanted to be involved.” said Sangetha, who has put a career in law on hold.

“My father never wanted me here, I want to be here,” she said.

However, she admits there have been moments where she feels frustrated and overwhelmed.

“While there are civil servants who work very well with us, there have been cases of clear sabotage.”

She said there was a state event where a book written by former mentri besar Datuk Seri Khir Toyo was deliberately slipped into goodie bags which were to be handed out to participants.

However, Sangetha said such incidents have taught her to always be on her toes and vigilant.

Also working with Dr Xavier is 26-year-old finance graduate M. Devendran who is a field officer.

Formerly a database analyst, Devendran joined the state after he was retrenched during the economic down-turn last year.

“It’s been a fulfilling and learning experience, especially when dealing with the demanding public.”

Devendran, whose role includes disbursing funds to temples, said he sometimes faces unreasonable people who want more than the state can give.

“Sometimes they accuse us of being no different that the previous state government and don’t understand that we have our guidelines,” he said, adding that he has had to bite his tongue and accept the criticisms.

 

Mohd Rafizi Ramli (left) gave up a high-paying corporate job to be a civil servant because he did not want to be “an armchair critic.” — Picture by Choo Choy May

Mohd Rafizi Ramli, 33, formerly a general manager at Pharmaniaga Berhad but who now works with the Selangor economic adviser, said he “took the plunge” because he did not want to be an armchair critic.

 

“I believe you cannot be waiting on the sidelines if you really want to see change happen,” said the engineering graduate who went on to become a chartered accountant.

Coming from a corporate environment, Rafizi said he is still adjusting to government bureaucracy.

“In a company, speed is important but in government, it’s normal for decisions and processes to take a longer time.”

Journalism graduate Ginie Lim, 29, who joined the state government as its public relations officer last year, says her role provides her a platform to make a difference.

“I was initially reluctant to take up the position but I did try to promote ‘new politics’ which is not based on race but common values,” said the PKR member and party worker.

She said her task is sometimes hampered by bureaucracy.

Lim said she feels that civil servants in general want to get their jobs done but are constrained by the system.

“I am still learning how to get around the red-tape in order to get information out to the public and the press.”

While all seven of them continue to grapple with their new roles, one thing is clear. They are living example of what Gandhi said about change: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

 

March 8 sparked Spirit of Defiance


March 5, 2009

March 8 sparked spirit of defiance

by Aidila Razak

Two years since the opposition won five states in the 12th general election on March 8, 2008, the euphoria has all but died down, no thanks to rampant politicking on both sides of the spectrum.

Speaking alongside social activist Haris Ibrahim to a full house at the Assumption Church in Petaling Jaya last night, author Kee Thuan Chye made no bones about the sorry state of Malaysian politics.

But the author of bestselling book March 8: The Day Malaysia Woke Up said that Malaysians must regain the optimism to “make irreversible the trend to take Malaysia out of the dark ages”.

“After March 8, I hoped the government would undo the damage that had been inflicted on our country by the man who screwed up our institutions, created a culture of fear, fostered the negotiated contract, invested our money in white elephants – and still doesn’t know when to shut up,” said Kee, without naming the person.

He accused Barisan Nasional coalition leader Najib Abdul Razak of confusing Malaysians by simultaneously expounding national unity through the 1Malaysia concept and yet tacitly supporting Malay rights group Perkasa.

Malaysians now braver

Rather cheekily, Kee said the image of its MCA president Ong Tee Keat confined to a wheelchair – while recovering from knee surgery – while accompanying Najib on his Chinese New Year rounds, epitomised the current state of MCA.

Most disappointing, Kee noted, was the fact that Pakatan Rakyat too has failed to live up to their promises made during the run up to March 8, and failing to fufill their pledge to topple BN through defections in the Sep 16 fiasco.

NONE“(Pakatan leader) Anwar (Ibrahim)’s attempt to take over government on Sep 16…merely exposed his true ambition—to be prime minister, above all else… (Does Pakatan) have their act together or not? Can they be trusted?” he asked.

Having painted a gloomy picture, Kee however, changed tack by reminding them that March 8 has led to a fundamental change in Malaysian mindsets.

“Malaysians are becoming more courageous…we are struggling to shake off the culture of fear and I think we are succeeding. There is a new spirit of defiance now,” he said.

Kee noted that Malaysians are no longer afraid of racial and religious clashes, and are wise enough not to be provoked by groups marching with animal heads or desecrations of places of worship. The most precious gift that March 8 has given the nation, Kee said, was the gift of choice.

Choose without fear

“Choice is what we have now. We should exercise that choice – for the betterment of our country. And exercise it without fear,” he said to roaring applause.

NONEHe was followed by Haris who reminded the audience, who were mostly comprised of middle-class professionals not to turn a blind eye to marginalised groups.

The audience were so taken by the two speakers that some asked if they would represent them by standing in the next elections, and to change the system from the inside.

“I’d rather be on the outside and do what little I can because politics will compromise my principles,” replied Kee.

Haris, however, reluctantly appeased the audience by saying that he will stand for elections, but only if he cannot find another credible candidate to do so. The forum ended after two hours, leaving many disappointed with the short Q&A sesssion.

Zahrain’S Resignation: KeADILan Has No Place For Opportunists


February 12, 2010

LATHEEFA KOYA ,Information Chief, Parti KeADILan Rakyat : Press Statement

Parti KeADILan Rakyat views the resignation of Bayan Baru MP Dato Seri Zahrain Mohd Hashim with regret but not surprised, and recognises it as part of a necessary streamlining process to ensure that the party and its coalition partners in Pakatan Rakyat are best positioned to serve the people in the future.

Zahrain’s resignation is clearly a pre-emptive move as he is facing a disciplinary proceeding following his recent press attacks on Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, and it is likely that he would have been sacked had he been found guilty. A show cause letter had been issued to him on 8th February 2010 requesting him to respond by 12th February 2010.

Parti KeADILan Rakyat recognises its duty to uphold the will of the people as expressed by the voters at the March 8, 2008 general election. Its stance is clear. Those who do not believe in the struggle for social and economic justice are not welcome in the party. The painful process of weeding out opportunists will have great long-term benefits to truly effect change in Malaysia.

This comes at a time when the party is facing many challenges because the ruling Barisan Nasional views it as a clear threat to its thus far unbroken hold on power. These challenges include the current trial of PKR leader Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim on a unjust charge. At this time of increased pressure, those who are lacking in commitment may waver and leave the party, betraying the rakyat who elected them and exposing their true agenda.

However the party is determined to continue to hold its representatives accountable to the mandate entrusted to them by the people.

UMNO in deeper crisis: A Step Backwards and Return to Semangat-46(?)


http://www.malaysiakini.com
Athi Veeranggan | September 14, 2008

The government crackdown on Friday where three individuals were arrested under the Internal Security Act indicates that all is not well in the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

MCPX

The arrest of blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, Sin Chew Daily senior journalist Tan Hoon Cheng and DAP MP Teresa Kok under the tough security law – which provides for detention without trial – has irked many journalists, politicians and social activists.

PAS Parit Buntar MP Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa argued it was unfair to arrest a journalist for doing her job while “the man who spat the venom roams free”.

ahmad ismail and umnoContacted after Tan’s arrest on Friday, suspended UMNO chieftain Ahmad Ismail – the man who allegedly made the racist remarks reported by Tan – appeared to be in a jovial mood in Kuala Lumpur and was not perturbed by the incident.

However, within hours of Tan’s arrest, a large group of journalists, politicians, social activists as well as members of the public gathered outside the Penang police headquarters in Georgetown to show their support for the journalist.

Another crowd gathered outside the Central Seberang Perai district police headquarters in Bandar Baru Perda, Bukit Mertajam, where the reporter was held for three hours before she was transferred to the state headquarters.

A candlelight vigil was also held to protest against the use of the draconian ISA.

Scores of politicians from the state’s ruling party DAP, PAS and even Gerakan and MCA arrived at the scene to condemn the arrest.

‘Face-saving measure’

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, himself a former ISA detainee, said he could understand what the trio were experiencing.

“Please don’t ask me about my ordeal. I don’t want anyone to suffer it,” the DAP secretary-general told the media.

“Their arrest was against universal human rights, democratic values and press freedom,” added Penang DAP publicity secretary Wong Hon Wai.

Some felt the presence of Gerakan and MCA politicians was a ‘face-saving’ measure to avoid blame over their role in the Ahmad controversy.“If not for them and Penang UMNO leaders, things would not have blown up,” observed Hindu Action Network coordinator G Mugunthan.

He described Penang Gerakan’s 200-metre anti-ISA march from its headquarters to Sin Chew’s Georgetown office on Saturday as a publicity stunt.

isa 3 teresa raja petra tan hoon chengGerakan secretary-general Chia Kwang Chye and vice-president Dr Teng Hock Nan were there to also expressed their displeasure against the ISA detention.

But when asked whether BN leaders, who blew Ahmad’s infamous remarks out of proportion, should also be arrested, both remained tightlipped.

“They would not feel sorry because they want to regain their lost power at all cost,” said an anti-ISA activist, adding that Ahmad’s episode was a ‘typical BN drama’ to fish in troubled waters.

Umno in turmoil?

Activist Anil Netto linked the ISA detentions with UMNO’s infighting over the 2010 transition plan and the much-touted Anwar Ibrahim’s Sept 16 political coup.

Many have alleged that the Ahmad controversy was choreographed by UMNO-BN ‘to create a chilling political atmosphere via communalism’ so as to justify a massive crackdown on government dissidents.

The Sin Chew report on Ahmad’s speech belittling Chinese Malaysians as “immigrants squatting in the country” was first played up by BN components – MCA and Gerakan – before DAP followed suit to lodge a series of police reports.

While DAP kept its distance from turning it into a racial issue, MCA and Gerakan harped on the matter.

Many felt that the imbroglio would have ended if Ahmad had emulated Perak’s Sungai Rapat assemblyperson Hamidah Osman, who promptly apologised after uttering racist remarks against Indian Malaysians in June.

The unapologetic Ahmad was subsequently suspended by the party, but it was a case of too little, too late.

abdullah ahmad badawi pak lah pc 050908 04Some political analysts claimed that the Ahmad controversy and ISA detentions were scripted and directed by hidden hands to topple the premier to pre-empt Sept 16.

“It’s the same classic story of an UMNO-BN screenplay to tense up the situation so that it can strengthen its waning power,” said Mujahid.

On such previous occasions, UMNO was successful in resurrecting its power, but this time, it might not succeed due to several factors.

Chief among them is that the opposition is now led by a multi-racial coalition. Other factors include the prompt dissemination of information via the Internet, international pressure, widespread disenchantment against BN and possible royal intervention.

Like a lit candle spurting briefly before its demise, many view the latest incident as a desperate attempt by the Umno-BN government to stop the inevitable.

Razaleigh-Muhyiddin ‘dream team

It is also speculated that turmoil has besieged Umno, with a faction within the party forming a ‘dream team’ against party leader Abdullah and his deputy, Najib.

“It would reunite two of the biggest rivals UMNO has ever seen – Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. And go beyond that,” said Singapore’s bilingual MyPaper in a report on Friday – the day the crackdown was launched.

Former UMNO president Mahathir had quit the party in March and vowed to return only when his successor Abdullah is no longer at the helm.

mahathir pc 260608 05The report stated that last Saturday’s meeting of “Umno veterans” was not merely an effort to bring back Mahathir, but would also change the power equation in UMNO and put the 2010 transition plan in jeopardy.

“Mahathir will now reportedly throw his support behind Tengku Razaleigh, the man who came closest to defeating him in an UMNO election.

“Muhyiddin, who has publicly said Abdullah should not wait until 2010 to step down, could be Tengku Razaleigh’s running mate in this Dream Team.”

However, the report claimed that Muhyiddin has told friends he would be more than happy to step back for Rais Yatim, the veteran foreign minister.

According to the report, the ‘dream team’ would also include Mahathir’s son Mukhriz, who will be gunning for the UMNO Youth chief post in December’s party polls.

tengku razaleigh forum 260408 ku li speakingThe newspaper also quoted a Razaleigh aide as saying that the prospects of a ‘dream team’ is giving the incumbent leaders sleepless nights.

“With the support of Mahathir, Muhyiddin and Rais, Tengku Razaleigh will definitely get the minimum number of nominations needed to contest the No 1 post,” said the aide, who was not named.

Quoting sources, MyPaper also reported that Najib was so worried that he sought an appointment to see Mahathir and the duo met early last week.

“There have been no press reports on the meeting, but MyPaper understands that Mahathir made it clear to Najib that he was ‘quite committed’ to the dream team,” read the report.

Rubbish and Desperate for Attention


Comment:

The Barisan Nasional which received a thrashing from Malaysian voters at the March 8 General Election apparently is still in a state of denial, but it is not alone. Enter Rashid Rahman, the Chair Person of the Elections Commission whose term of office was extended by 1 year with an amendment to our constitution. He decided to come out of his self imposed silence—maybe too shocked at first—to make arguably the most ridiculous statement of 2008. He characterised the last polls as the best ever. I suppose he expects us to congratulate the commission under his leadership for its outstanding work. Or is he looking for yet another extension to his contract? I say to him, please go ahead “ampu diri sendiri”(flatter yourself).

BERSIH is right in describing Rashid’s comments as “rubbish” (below). It would do Rashid a lot of good to just shut up, or preferably get lost. The Malaysian voter is smart and knows what is going on. This time, they voted in the Pakatan Rakyat, which controls Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor and Kelantan and denied the Barisan a two third majority in Parliament.

The swing was too big for the Election Commission chairman to save Badawi from humiliation. Imagine what would have happened if the Election was truly free and fair. It does take an Einstein to tell us that Badawi would have been the Leader of the Opposition. As it is, 81 seats in Parliament for Pakatan Rakyat are enough to send a message to the Barisan Nasional and UMNO in particular that its time to lead our country is about to come to an ignominious end.

My advice to Rashid Rahman is to stand down since he will not be able to undertake much needed major electoral reforms. In fact, he should be held to account for all irregularities under his watch. —Din Merican

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Best polls ever? Rubbish, says BERSIH

Andrew Ong

May 3, 2008

The Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (BERSIH) has criticised Election Commission (EC) chairperson Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman for claiming that the March 8 general election was the best polls ever.

Bersih said that Rashid had failed to acknowledge numerous irregularities and the about-turn in the use of indelible ink had still cast doubt on the the fairness of the elections.

abdul rashid abdul rahmanOn Thursday, Rashid was quoted by the New Straits Times as saying that the 12th General Election had the least number of problems ever and was thus “one of the best elections ever”.

He hit out at critics for levelling accusations of foul play during the elections but did not comment on the amazing gains by the opposition.

“They (critics) found that everything was all right, but they kept quiet,” he added.

indelible ink 020607In its rebuttal, Bersih said the EC’s last minute decision to scrap the use of indelible ink to prevent multiple voting was among key issues that marred the elections.

“Despite the National Fatwa Council approving the use of the ink in August, EC did not made the necessary legislative amendments for the use of the ink,” said the coalition in the faxed statement.

BERSIH reiterated their stand that the opposition parties would have performed better should the use of the ink be maintained.

“Thus the last-minute cancellation casts serious doubts on the legitimacy of the current Barisan Nasional government,” said the coalition.

Multiple Voting

Four days before the polls, the EC scrapped the use of the ink on claims that there would be elements of sabotage by unknown individuals who would mark legitimate voters with the ink to prevent them from voting.

polling day 080308 spr counterUntil now, none of the alleged saboteurs have been brought to book. The EC had also claimed that barring voters with stained fingers from voting would be against the Federal Constitution.

BERSIH also stressed that other demands made by the coalition, such as the ‘cleaning’ of the electoral roll, abolishment of postal votes, longer campaign periods and equitable media access, were not granted.

“Multiple registration of voters also cast a lot of doubts. Postal votes had also possibly saved Barisan Nasional in many ‘hot seats’ such as Setiawangsa,” added BERSIH.

Previously, BERSIH and several opposition parties had repeatedly challenged the integrity of the electoral roll which are peppered with names of dead or non-existent voters.

The fear is that such names would be used during the polls in a phenomenom known as ‘phantom voting’.

Royal Commission

Another trend noted by BERSIH in the past was individuals being registered to vote by a third-party, normally in unfamiliar areas, without their knowledge. One such case involved prominent blogger Ahirudin ‘Rocky’ Attan.

In view of these allegations, BERSIH has challenged Rashid to support the coalition’s demand for a Royal Commission on Electoral Reform (RCER) to investigate the conduct of general elections.

BERSIH said such a commission was necessary in view of Rashid’s own admission in January last year that election laws were outdated and should be subject to an independent body’s review.

WHICH WAY FOR UMNO?


After the Malaysian polls, parties must embrace new competition in policy-making

April 26, 2008

Dr. Ooi Kee Beng

THE remarkable results of the Malaysian general elections of March 8 almost certainly mean that the country’s politics has changed forever. Five states are in opposition hands and the government has lost its two-third majority in Parliament. At the individual level, a sense of empowerment is widely felt in the northern states that fell to opposition parties.

Even supporters of Barisan Nasional (BN) parties such as Gerakan, which governed the state of Penang for 38 years, are pleasantly surprised by the sense of relief felt in coffee shops and on the streets.

With this change in political climate comes a mindset shift. Suddenly, a concept of “new politics” has appeared in contrast to “old politics” and to the discourses that emanated from the race-based system of the BN.

Public enthusiasm has entered the political arena in a way not seen in decades. This is evidenced by the sharp increase in membership that opposition parties have experienced over the last month, as well as by the sudden rise in popularity of all the newspapers in the country.

The strategic thinking of all of Malaysia’s political parties cannot but change to accommodate this. Where the opposition parties are concerned, the main challenge is to avoid disappointing voters. This is easier said than done for a variety of reasons.

First, state power is restricted by federal authority, and the depth at which state level reforms can go is in many areas consequently dependent on the goodwill of the federal government.

Second, the competence of their elected officials may not be what it should be, given how suddenly their former fate of being the eternal opposition was changed on March 8, 2008.

Third, there is an inevitable disconnect between what voters think the new state governments should achieve and what these governments wish to achieve or are capable of achieving.

But given how bad the state of governance was perceived to be before the elections, the public is bound to exercise patience with the new governments.

Member parties of the ruling coalition, on the other hand, are having a harder time adjusting to the new terrain. On the peninsula, most of them saw their strength radically diminished, even to the point of
eradication.

The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which had been growing in dominance within the coalition ever since it was formed, now must rely on support from East Malaysia to stay in power.

UMNO is thus in crisis again. The last time that happened was in 1998, when Dr Mahathir Mohamed, who was Prime Minister then, sacked his deputy Anwar Ibrahim. The subsequent revolt — the Reformasi — saw Umno suffering defeats at the hands of the opposition in the 1999 elections.

A decade before that, UMNO’s crisis involved being declared illegal in the aftermath of a political clash between Dr Mahathir and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. Mr Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was Umno’s highly-successful answer in the 2004 general elections to reverse the anti-UMNO swing among Malay voters.

By 2008, however, the answer had become the quandary. The same old names are back in the fray. In that context, Mr Anwar is the one who has most successfully reinvented himself and is now better placed than any of the others to decide the direction of Malaysian politics. His achievement of getting the opposition parties to work together has been much more significant than most had expected before this year’s
polls.

UMNO’s dilemma goes much deeper than merely a bad election. For one thing, the vehicle on which the party depends to stay in power is the BN. That coalition is looking very weak, making its claim of representing all races through its race-based member parties shaky indeed.

For another, its contention of representing the Malay community is no longer tenable. With the Parti Keadilan Rakyat now the largest opposition party in Parliament, the Malay vote is split three ways.

In declaring multi-racialism and social justice as its goals, KeADILan has captured the urban middle-ground among all the races. Its Islamic ally, Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), in toning down its rhetoric on the Islamic state, has made major inroads into UMNO territory, making it acceptable to non-Malay voters for the first time.

UMNO is thus losing discursive relevance more quickly than it is losing political power. With a grand battle for the party presidency approaching, and Mr Abdullah’s position weakening, UMNO’s future has to go in one of two directions.

First, it can persevere for a return of its former glory and defend its badly-discredited techniques of patronage. To do this, it must rely heavily on its East Malaysian allies and retain the racialist character of governance. This conservative option will meet less resistance within the party but is also short-sighted in its ambitions. Its second and more long-term option is to adapt to “post-March 8 politics” and to accept the fact that its dominance has been broken for good.

It may still be the biggest party for now, but it can no longer take that status for granted. There are signs that Premier Abdullah is trying to respond to popular demands for change. He is doing this by honouring judges sacked for dubious reasons —although without apologising to them — by deciding to form a judicial commission and by wishing to make the Anti-Corruption Agency an independent body.

With four parties actually running state governments, it is inevitable that the essence of the “new politics” will be one of policy competition.

In the foreseeable future, UMNO PAS, KeADILan and the Democratic Action Party must act with the full consciousness that voters are watching and are endlessly comparing them one to the other.

Dr Ooi Kee Beng is a Fellow at the Institute of South-east Asian Studies. His latest book is Lost in Transition: Malaysia Under Abdullah.

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.

Najib and Dr M in the making?


Kim Quek

April 23, 2008

“Najib does not look like Mahathir, but he sounds like Mahathir.”

That seems to be a common impression of Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s callous statement that followed Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi’s heart-warming speech over the 1988 judicial crisis during the Bar Council’s dinner on April 17.

In a speech that ended with the audience’s prolonged applause and standing ovation, Pak Lah (the PM) tacitly expressed remorse for the wrong done to the six Supreme Court judges and the judicial system and undertook to commence judicial reforms starting with the setting up of the long sought after Judicial Appointments Commission.

abdullah ahmad badawi  2008 cabinet line up 180308 06Though there was no official apology, Pak Lah’s heartening words of recognition and comfort to the former judges and his promise of “goodwill ex-gratia” payment to them are unmistakably acts of admission of errors and atonement. Though these acts were deemed short of expectations (full measures should have included an apology and a full investigation), the former judges and their families felt relieved and consoled to various degrees for having being finally vindicated, and the audience in general felt elated by the prime minister’s historical announcement. None in the audience that night could mistake the PM’s statement as anything other than genuine contrition and desire to make good not only to the judges but to the entire judicial system.

While the warmth generated by Pak Lah’s statement was still lingering, Najib’s incongruous statement the following day must have jolted many to the reality of present day Malaysian politics. Obviously referring to Pak Lah’s speech, Najib said:

“The ex-gratia payment is not tantamount to revisiting whatever that has been decided. It is not to be construed as any form of apology but this is our way of addressing some of their personal considerations and some of the personal experiences, hardship that they have gone through.

“That is all … so it is to be seen in that light. It should not be construed as anything beyond that.”

Najib’s flat denial

This Najib statement is a flat denial of any wrong done against the judges, and the payment, according to Najib, is not to compensate for the wrong done but something to meet the “personal considerations” and “personal experiences, hardship” encountered by the judges. What a mouthful of nonsense is that? If no wrong has been done, why bother to pay anything at all? If the judges were rightfully sacked and suspended as implied by Najib, then these judges should have been reprimanded instead of being lauded and rewarded with presumably hefty sums of money.

By maintaining Najib’s position, he has practically exposed Pak Lah to potential ridicule for squandering large sums of taxpayers’ money on some high officials who have already been designated as having betrayed the trust of the state.

Contrast Najib’s cold words of denial against Pak Lah’s generous words of praise and conciliation.

Pak Lah described the six judges as “towering judicial personalities” representing a “venerable institution which could be trusted to deliver justice… a model for other countries – independent and credible”. Referring to the judicial upheaval of 1988, Pak Lah said: “Rightly or wrongly, many disputed both the legality and morality of the related proceedings. For me personally, I feel it was a time of crisis from which the nation never fully recovered.” As for the “goodwill ex-gratia” payment, it was meant “to recognise the contributions of these six judges to the nation, their commitment towards upholding justice and to acknowledge the pain loss they have endured …a heartfelt and sincere gesture to mend what has been.”

What interpretation can we draw from these plain words of Pak Lah other than an honest admission of the executive having done these great judges grievous injury, causing the nation to suffer till this day? Against this praise worthy gesture, which won stumping approval from an audience which represents the cream of the nation, isn’t Najib’s negative and arrogant statement an insult to the prime minister personally and the height of insolence against the nation, which had been yearning for so long for this historic day of a new beginning for the judiciary?

The second point of confrontation posed by Najib’s statement is his denial of the fallen state of our judiciary.

Not sharing the same zeal

Pak Lah has frankly admitted that the “level of trust and respect for the judiciary” had declined. He spoke of prevalence of “perceived corruption and perceived decline in quality.” He said the business community was concerned “about the fairness and capacity of Malaysia’s judiciary in settling disputes.” He further said “some Malay rulers have openly voiced their disquiet on what they see as a decline, requiring nothing short of a judicial renaissance. Some retired judges have related troubling tales of impropriety.”

It was in recognition of such glaring inadequacy of our judiciary, and of the overwhelming demand by the nation, including “politicians from both side of the aisle,” that Pak Lah proposed the Judicial Appointments Commission, so as to ensure that the best be appointed to the bench, in a transparent and accountable system.

ijok election day turmoil 280407 najib pcAsked to comment on Pak Lah’s proposal, Najib said that this reform measure “means that the government is aware that we do need to ensure that our judiciary has the highest reputation ….” Notice the meticulous effort by Najib to avoid admission of the sordid state of our judiciary and of the need to reform, through his evasive reference to the need to have the “highest reputation”. This again is in contrast with Pak Lah’s recognition for extensive reform when he said: “There is still much to do to renew the public’s trust in the nation’s judiciary and to ensure that justice is consistently delivered. What I have announced tonight is the beginning of a longer process towards reforms.”

That Najib is not in consonance with Pak Lah on the latter’s reform measures is obvious, as further illustrated in a Bernama report on April 20 when Najib was asked to comment on the Anti-Corruption Agency reforms (proposed by ACA itself) that surfaced on the heal of Pak Lah’s judicial reforms. Queried whether these reforms were an effort by the government to rehabilitate Barisan Nasional, Najib said “quite a number of people felt” that the government had not done enough to fulfill the 2004 reform pledges, and therefore these reforms are continuing efforts, but he quickly qualified by saying only “those deemed necessary and appropriate”.

On whether there were other reform plans, Najib said: “We are open to suggestion”.

Najib added: “Of course on overall working of the ACA, for example, there are various views expressed. The government has not made a formal decision (on the ACA), as such, we are still open to it. The prime minister is personally looking into it.”

And on April 21, the prime minister stunned the nation with a surprisingly comprehensive package to turn the ACA into an independent institution that was supposedly modeled after the much praised Hong Kong counter part (Independent Commission Against Corruption). Pak Lah also said there would be a “whistle-blower” protection act to protect informers.

This latest development revealed that Najib not only does not share Pak Lah’s reform zeal but is actually not privy to Pak Lah’s reform plans.

Return of Mahathir?

On the other hand, Najib’s nonchalant reform posture seems to find remarkable resemblance with that of former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who in his latest appearance in the BBC “Hard Talk” programme, dismissed Pak Lah’s reform efforts as mere opportunistic moves to regain lost popularity. Mahathir insisted that the sacking of judges in 1988 was perfectly legal and proper.

mahathir hulu langat 120408 speechMahathir may have repeatedly chafed Najib for lacking the courage to have an open showdown with Pak Lah, but make no mistake, Najib remains Mahathir’s favourite. This was made abundantly clear when Pak Lah for the first time named Najib as his successor in a recent gathering of Umno leaders in Johor Bahru. Mahathir’s instant reaction was that Najib was the ideal candidate to take over from Pak Lah, in spite of Mahathir’s earlier intimidation to back other horses.

There should not be any doubt that if and when Najib takes over, Mahathir’s influence will return. Answering a question in the BBC interview, Mahathir expressed confidence that Umno would regain its glory if Pak Lah was replaced immediately. Knowing Mahathir’s recalcitrance as an autocrat and his disdain for the rule of law, need we to speculate that his path to glory is none other than his well-trodden path of repression – perhaps another Operasi Lalang? And who better to realize that dream than favourite and alter ego Najib?

Those who are agitating for Pak Lah’s immediate step down are precisely the same people who have alienated the masses with unbridled racial arrogance and corruption. Had they heeded Pak Lah’s reform call – such as prompt implementation of the IPCMC and restrain in raiding public coffers – would BN have suffered such humiliation in the recent general election? It is the political system that the people have rejected, not the leader.

The dawn that was ushered in by Pakatan Rakyat is an irreversible historical trend – dismantling of racial bondage and freeing of the democratic spirit – as once the fruits of that trended is tasted, the people will not let go of it. So, one either swims with the current or dies going against it.

source:www.malaysiakini.com

Thanks to Raja Petra and Imran Imtiaz: Face to Face with Dr Bridget Welsh


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There remain important concerns about the electoral process in Malaysia, namely the lack of independence of the Electoral Commission, lack of transparency in the voting roll, continued reports of phantom and “clone” voting, use of state resources in campaigning and vote buying.

Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob is a trained lawyer and Malaysian political commentator. He writes for numerous international newspapers and online journals as well as hosts Face to Face, an interview segment of Malaysian/regional issues and personalities hosted on Malaysia Today. He also serves as Foreign Correspondent for foreign news organisations.

Dr. Bridget Welsh,is Assistant Professor in Southeast Asian Studies at Johns Hopkins University-SAIS, Washington DC. Crisscrossing Malaysia, she observed the recently concluded general elections. Face to Face gets her point of view on the issues affecting Malaysians.

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1. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: What to your mind was the defining element that set apart this Malaysian general election from other elections held in the past?

Bridget Welsh: By far, this election has given ordinary Malaysians a feeling of empowerment. The process of collectively registered concerns as Malaysians – rather than as Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Ibans etc – have inspired Malaysians to look toward the future and believe in themselves and each other. The only historical Malaysian parallel is the first election in 1959, in which the Merdeka Generation joined together to embrace the right to vote in post-independence Malaysia.

2. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: The Rakyat (People) have spoken- 5 States are under opposition party control, the BN has been denied the 2/3 majority in Parliament. Thus, how does Malaysia fare in the region, generally speaking in terms of its practice of democracy?

Bridget Welsh: Elections are only one component of democratic governance. While the opposition has made gains through a free vote, it is a mistake to say that the gains can be equated with a fair process. There remain important concerns about the electoral process in Malaysia, namely the lack of independence of the Electoral Commission, lack of transparency in the voting roll, continued reports of phantom and “clone” voting, use of state resources in campaigning and vote buying. These practices give advantages to the incumbent government, and, with the opposition now in power, it is in the interests of all Malaysians to address electoral reform. As attention turns to the riveting political events post-election, it is important not to forget that someone was shot on election day in Terengganu and reports of the irregularities continued. Fairness in the electoral process involves not just changes in polling, but revisiting how constituencies are distributed and drawn as well as changes in the campaign, particularly opening up the traditional forms of the media and introducing (and enforcing) campaign finance regulations.

Beyond elections, while Abdullah Badawi should be lauded for opening up the political environment in first term, issues involving the right of assembly, right to form and register organizations such as the Malaysian Dayak Congress, and checks on abuses of power/corruption by those in power need to be addressed to strengthen democracy. Malaysians have already brought these issues into the public as part of the reform agenda. The lens that many Malaysians see the issues is historical, rather than regional, and there are efforts to open the system to the pre-1969 period.

Regionally, over the past few years, democracy has suffered setbacks, with the 2006 coup in Thailand and ineffective governance and increase in human rights violations in the Philippines. Indonesia has been the regional model – ironically in light of its long authoritarian past. Recent developments to date in Malaysia signal a possible regional democratic opening. Coupled with Pakistan’s election, there is real hope that the democratic space is widening in Asia. Malaysia is an important marker of change. If the transition to a more competitive political system is managed well, Malaysia may point to a reverse of regional trends. While Malaysia is not yet on par with democratic space in Indonesia, it is far ahead of Singapore and has the potential to develop into a more effective democratic system than Thailand or the Philippines, both of which remain bogged down in elite-infighting. Moreover, Malaysia can serve as an inspiration to more closed states, such as Myanmar/Burma, by showing that change can happen.

3. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: This administration is weak. The tussle between a number of Rulers and Abdullah Badawi’s choice of appointments for Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) is unsettling to an extent. As Abdullah Badawi clings on to power, what would be the end result?
Bridget Welsh: True, Abdullah Badawi does not have a strong mandate. The March 8th elections were perceived as a victory for the opposition, since the results were beyond expectations and the opposition gains were historic records. Yet, the reality is that Abdullah Badawi’s administration still holds onto a comfortable majority. In ordinary circumstances, this majority should be more than adequate to govern.
Yet, unfortunately, for Abdullah it will be extremely difficult to govern. First, all the coalition partners in the BN have suffered electorally. The struggle for power is percolating within the BN itself, and Abdullah faces significant dissention within BN, especially UMNO. As the process moves ahead, with upcoming party elections, there will be leadership challenges in all the parties. Infighting within the BN and especially UMNO will continue. The challengers within all the parties will have strong support, although the procedures within political parties and possible delays in party elections will constrain changes from within parties. The impact will be policy paralysis, policy inconsistency, space for mavericks and protective measures by those in power to act quickly to secure their individual positions within the system, since those in government will not be sure of their positions. Expect a lack of clear direction with possible space for reform oriented initiatives led by the small cohort of reformers in the Cabinet.

Second, despite his high personal popularity and affability, Abdullah’s leadership style and many of his policies were rejected by the voters. In order to win public support, he will have to make significant changes – significant changes. The Cabinet selection sent inconsistent messages as those with perceived records of corruption remain part of the leadership. Inconsistency in messages and indecisiveness contributed to Abdullah’s electoral loss, and these practices seem to be continuing. If they continue, the direction of governance in Malaysia will be unclear and this will create unease among Malaysians and investors. Abdullah and those around him will continue to get the brunt of failure of governance. Being in the position of power will not be enough. He has to deliver reforms and improve the implementation of policies. If he does so, public opinion will change and momentum will develop. Otherwise pressure for his resignation will build. Abdullah is in a fight for his political life.

Third, a crucial issue in the administration’s weakness involves reform within the BN and UMNO’s role within it. The new Cabinet is ethnically skewed, with heavy representation from UMNO and notably Johor. The reality is that the BN would have fallen without East Malaysia, and the lack of appreciation of these states makes the BN government vulnerable. The BN needs to face the difficulty to bridging across the component parties while simultaneously bringing about a soul-searching process of reform within UMNO. To date, the blame game has characterized the post-mortem process, without serious soul-searching on what can be done to make the BN parties stronger. There is a real need to move beyond elite dialogue and reach out to the public and ordinary party members, to strengthen links with the grassroots, to strengthen the party process. Political elites will find that Malaysians still have considerable good will toward many within the BN, but want reforms; they want to be respected and listened to. They want an end to abuses of power, corruption and elite arrogance. Lacking a reconfiguration of how the BN works, and persistence of elite rule, the BN will face even more difficulties at the polls and lack of genuine public support, even from its own ranks.

This brings me to the last issue in your question, the relationship between the Rulers and the Abdullah administration. In fairness, Abdullah Badawi has opened up the system and given the Rulers more space, which they have filled. Abdullah has lost out in negotiations with Rulers from Johor and Perlis to Trengganu. He has been hampered by weakness within UMNO, electorally and his own style. This opening of the system post elections has put the powers of the Rulers center-stage, opening the potential for a reconfiguration of the powers of the Rulers as a whole. This will be played out in the future over judicial appointees. Abdullah has too many fronts of conflict ongoing to successful curb the sultans growing influence.

4. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: The global economic slowdown is expected to have a greater impact on Malaysia in 2009 and beyond. Will this scenario intensify feelings of dissatisfaction among the populace? Probability of violence?

Bridget Welsh: No question, the failings of the Abdullah administration to deliver on economic bread and butter issues contributes to the BN electoral losses. Much of the underlying causes are regional/global in nature, driven by increasing competition for investment from China and India, a weakening US dollar and declining US economy. International conditions will continue not to favour any Malaysian government. Yet, Abdullah’s has failed to appreciate the negative impact of post-1973 record inflation, low wages, and ineffective implementation of policies to improve Malaysia’s competitiveness in the areas of education, services and transaction costs. Corruption has cost Malaysia’s economy billions of ringgit. Critical ahead, will be the steps that are taken to address the underlying domestic factors that reduce Malaysia’s competitiveness. He cannot increase prices by reducing subsidies and thereby increasing inflation and prices without regaining faith in the electorate and pushing the economy forward. Subsidy removal would potentially lead to peaceful demonstrations and a further reduction of support for Abdullah. (The Malaysian public does not use violence as a means of protests. Violence is only possible if the police adopt a confrontation approach toward peaceful demonstrations or elites stir up protests for political ends. With the media more open, these latter measures are more difficult.) So, yes, dissatisfaction will increase with economic problems, but these can be mitigated by effective policy responses. This requires more substantive changes in Abdullah’s economic team, notably removal of individuals who remain tainted with corruption and losses of taxpayer funds.
One important wrench in this economic discussion is the NEP. The reality is that the NEP as implemented reduces Malaysia’s international competitiveness. It has a mixed record in addressing poverty and social advancement among Malays, with the greatest gains in the 1970s when the focus was on increasing educational opportunities and strengthening entrepreneurship with capital for small businessman. The need for reforming the measures for addresses the social safety net across races is part of the reform process ahead. Moving beyond the NEP as implemented now is essential for addressing the needs of Malays as well as other communities, as well as illustrating that Malaysia is able to be proactive in promoting competitiveness. Abdullah’s deepening of the NEP during his administration weakened him since it neither satisfied the Malays, non-Malays or international investors.

5. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: It appears as if UMNO members are in a state of flux. What in your opinion, does UMNO need to do now? Does this spell the end of the reign of UMNO?

Bridget Welsh: UMNO needs to decide its own future and this is a crossroads for the party. At stake is the party’s leadership and identity. The party needs serious soul-searching, not just among the leaders, but with its members and the broader society. Recall the election refrain “ABU” – Anything But UMNO. The position of the party nationally has reached a record historic low. The first step is to move from telling to listening. This should be a massive effort and include a national meeting. The problem of UMNO party identity is deeply rooted, however, since the three questions ahead – continued relevance of racial identity as a means for political mobilization when Malays are now in the demographic majority and have a secure hold on political power, the use of money politics and financial incentives as rewards for members, and the need for party leaders to have a national rather than parochial self-interest – are on the table. The key is discussion, not denial. There are many talented people within UMNO and Malaysia as a whole who can foster healthy discussion. It is desperately needed.

6. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: Let’s talk about the opposition. Can they well and truly live up to their incredible election promises? Will this already loose knit coalition hold out into the next term?

Bridget Welsh: Many of the national opposition promises cannot be delivered since they lack national power – e.g. many of PKR’s promises of reducing subsidies. As an opposition at the national level, their role will likely continue to be primarily agenda-setting and watch-dog. The difference at the national level will be when they form a shadow Cabinet, which will allow opposition parliamentarians to greater develop expertise in policy areas, enrich the policy debate and offer more solutions to the challenges facing ahead. The debate in parliament has to move beyond name-calling, which the opposition plays a role in with the BN.

The opposition’s delivery of promises will be at the state level. The two key states here will be Kelantan and Penang, where the stronger majorities will allow more space for implementation. Leaders in both states will have to deliver on a common opposition wide agenda, from investment in these regions to local elections. If the focus is on maintaining power, rather than illustrating a common purpose in better governance, pressure on and within the opposition as a whole will result. Forging, articulating and building consensus common positions within the opposition will be crucial. The differences in the opposition are well known (Islamic state, Chinese chauvinism) and continue to be serious, thus the need for building a common base of policies.

The problematic areas for delivery are in the opposition states with thinner majorities – Perak, Kedah and Selangor. There the work will be harder for the opposition and promises more difficult to deliver. If the federal government continues to hold/reduce funding for opposition states –which it has done so already – it will only hurt the people in these states, not the opposition and decrease the country’s overall competitiveness. A petty blame game will result in which citizens will lose. This needs to be avoided by national-oriented leadership in both the BN and opposition. The opposition as a whole faces the struggle of resources and need to work with the federal government to solve real problems that people face, from transportation in Penang to investment in Perak.

Another key issue will be the power of personalities and lack of experience within the opposition. The opposition is comprised of individuals committed to change. They are talented in raising the problems, not the solutions. They are used to criticizing, not compromising effectively. The entire mindset of people in “opposition government” – many young people who like many in the BN are committed to Malaysia’s future – will have to change. It will require time and an appreciation that the decision-makers are the Malaysian people, the voters. So, in short, the opposition will hold, if the opposition leaders and members as well as the public push for compromise within the opposition and with the BN and offer solutions to problems. The opposition will have to be reminded that it was the people who put them in power and who can vote them out.
7. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: Can Anwar Ibrahim claim the prize of being Prime Minister? What in your view are his weaknesses at this stage.

Bridget Welsh: The reality is that Anwar Ibrahim has re-emerged as a major contender for power. His rise will depend on the success of the opposition working together, the ability of the BN to reform (thereby reducing his chances) and his acumen in promoting compromise. Anwar Ibrahim faces a few key weaknesses – 1) the political opposition is fragmented and he is weakened by its divisions and the weakness of the opposition – inexperience – noted above. 2) Despite his comeback, Anwar still has a trust deficit among non-Malays who criticize his policies while in the BN (education and Islamization) and now has a trust deficit within the Malay community (in that he is seen by some as violating interests of the Malay community through changes in NEP). He will need to continually address these areas. 3) He lacks resources for his party. The opposition as a whole is now completely overstretched. Thus, a critical issue ahead in fulfilling promises is to build the policy capability of all parties.

8. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: It looks as if race is still a dominant feature post-election. With Malays protesting against the abolition of parts of the NEP/or in Toto and Chinese voters having a completely different world view of the issues. Where is this all heading towards? Will there be or rather what should be the common platform for all the ethnic races?

Bridget Welsh: This will take time. Even PKR which professes multiracialism adopted a quiet racial agenda. The Sultans who are to represent the states are giving race-based formulas which are racial, not Malaysian. The mindset of most voters is still racial. Until political parties offer genuine multiracial alternatives and forge a policy discussion that moves beyond race, a common platform is difficult.

9. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: Will the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) and the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) be able to recover loss ground?

Bridget Welsh: The MIC has faced crises before, but not like this one. I think that this will have serious repercussions on the party and the longer Samy Vellu tries to stay on, the worse it is for the party. The MIC has lost tremendous credibility as a representative of the Indian community, as the results in the election showed, and it will take new leadership and considerable reform within the party to build back its support. The entire structure and identity of the MIC will have to change for the party – making it more inclusive within the Indian community – for the party to regain its position. It needs to be much more vocal on the substantive issues that affect not only the Indian Malaysian community, but disempowered Malaysians of all races.

The MCA by comparison is much stronger. It has suffered bruising electorally before and this round it has won at least a handful of seats. The divisions with the party as yet do not match the intensity of the Team A-Team B fight, although infighting is intense. The party has been undergoing some reform over the past few years, thus it is in a better position to manage the difficulties ahead. Its challenge remains the issue of representation. The MCA’s loss was as much a product of their ineffectiveness in addressing the needs of Chinese Malaysians as well as their style of engagement with the public. The party needs to be more inclusive of the Chinese Malaysian community – move beyond clan associations, engage in dialogue, and reduce elitism. Crucial, is reaching out to younger Chinese.

10. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: What’s your assessment of Najib Razak? The Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Bridget Welsh: He is a good administrator, and has played a key role in the Abdullah administration. This is not generally known about him, and he is not given credit for the important contributions he is making to running government. He is intelligent and strongly committed to Malaysia. There are clearly issues, however, that cloud his leadership, from rumours involving submarine deals to the ongoing Mongolian trial. These issues need to be resolved in a transparent manner in order for Najib Tun Razak to gain greater credibility nationally. His public image needs to be stronger if he is to continue to lead effectively. His strength remains within his own party, not the general public. Today, it is essential to have both party and public mandates.

11. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: Can Malaysia still achieve Vision 2020? Developed Nation Status?

Bridget Welsh: Malaysia has made tremendous progress in development, and should deservedly be acknowledged for this success in areas of growth, per capita income, infrastructure, technology and more. Since I first moved to Malaysia in 1980, I have observed first-hand the country’s progress and the development in the country has been impressive. The focus, however, has been on the “hardware” of development, not the “software” – specifically areas such as education and human capital development. These areas will be critical in the future. The distribution of development gains also needs to be addressed. Since 1997, the gaps in income levels within different ethnic communities have widened. There are regional disparities as well. In light of these current gaps, I do not believe Vision 2020 is attainable throughout Malaysia, notably due to the regional disparities East Malaysia, by 2020.

12. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: If you met Abdullah Badawi today, what would you say to him?

Bridget Welsh: After praising him for allowing a more open system to emerge in Malaysia, I would urge him to listen to a wider group of advisers, empower more effective policy implementers and fulfil the promises of reforms that Malaysians are calling for. I would wish him the best in traversing the difficult road ahead.

Getting Rid of Abdullah is the Solution, says Bakri Musa


M. Bakri Musa
Morgan-Hill, California
April 14, 2008

Johore UMNO leaders had apparently told Prime Minister Abdullah that he must have a succession plan that is “structured, smooth and speedy.” This three “S” strategy missed targeting the biggest political blunder of all, Abdullah himself. The initiative had more to do with saving Abdullah’s “face” than with solving the grave problems confronting the party and also the country.

If UMNO members and leaders were serious, they would focus on getting this harsh and unadulterated message straight to Abdullah: He is unfit to lead the party and country. He has clearly demonstrated this through his deeds (or lack of them) and words. The man is a habitual liar; he cannot separate fact from fiction and distinguish reality from fantasy.

Abdullah’s idea of taking responsibility for his party’s electoral debacle is merely to utter that statement. He has no inkling of what it means to accept responsibility.

Abdullah’s pleading that he is needed to “revive” the party is laughable and at best self serving. If he could not pilot his ship of state competently when the waters were calm, there is no hope that he would be any more capable when it is now stormy, and threatening to get even more so with each passing day. Abdullah is the problem, and a very huge one at that. Consequently his moving out would be a big part of the solution. It would not solve everything of course, but it would remove a major impediment.

His “leadership” has been nothing more than endless sloganeering (Work with me, not for me!”), like the leader caricatured in Shahnon Ahmad’s short story, “Ungkapan” (Sloganeering).

Having grown accustomed to the perks and trappings of his office, Abdullah will not leave voluntarily, much less gracefully. He has to be literally dragged out. Subtleties and hints will not work on this man. He is too dumb to read the signals. He is also insulated, surrounded by courtiers ever willing to spin bad news.

Only Three Exit Strategies

There are only three ways to get rid of Abdullah. One is for him to be successfully challenged as party leader in the upcoming UMNO General Assembly in December. Two, would be for a sufficient number of the ruling coalition members to vote with the opposition in a “no confidence” motion in Parliament. And three of course, would be through divine intervention, not inappropriate for a man who is never shy in parading his piety and religiosity.

Knowing the onerous obstacles placed in UMNO towards challengers, the first option is unlikely. Granted, Tengku Razaleigh – the only one to have come out publicly to challenge Abdullah – is a formidable challenger. More daunting however, is the cultural inertia of Malays, especially those in UMNO. They have yet to learn the essential lesson that challenges and competitions are healthy, not acts of treason or betrayal.

The second path is more realistic. The political resurgence of Anwar is real. Far from being the “Anwar who?” of a few years ago, he is now increasingly viewed not only as the de facto leader of the opposition (even though he is not yet in Parliament) but rightly as Prime Minister-in-waiting. Anwar will be able to contest a parliamentary seat once his statutory prohibition ends on April 14, 2008 .

A vacant seat will surely come up soon as Malaysia has a good track record of MPs dying in office or getting caught in some scandalous acts and thus having to resign. More likely though would be for one of the current PKR MPs to resign, not to pave the way for Anwar (though that would be the convenient and acceptable excuse) but because the job is not as glamorous or challenging as it is made out to be. Many PKR MPs are successful, young and honest professionals; their “elevation” to the “Yang Berhormat” (Your Honorable) status cuts deeply into their income and career prospects.

As for divine intervention, that is beyond my purview. However many a leader had used “medical” reasons as a convenient face-saving cover for resigning. Abdullah could always blame his hemorrhoids or narcolepsy (a pathologic tendency to doze off).

Abdullah is the Problem

When Abdullah assumed office nearly five years ago, I was one of the few who were not enthused about his leadership potential. My conclusion was based on reviewing his performance as a minister. I predicted then that by the time Abdullah leaves office, Malaysians would be counting their blessings if he had not screwed up the country too much, and that the best we could hope for was for him to maintain the status quo.

Alas, I was wrong. I had not counted on the maturity and resilience of Malaysians in overcoming Abdullah’s gross incompetence. Malaysians are also incredibly generous as demonstrated by their giving him a rousing endorsement in the 2004 election in the hope that it would give him the necessary boost and confidence to lead. Unfortunately that too could not override his basic ineptness.

In their collective wisdom, in this recent election Malaysians decided that it was not necessary to deal a crippling blow, only enough punch that would leave Abdullah and UMNO reeling, and in the process trigger an implosion in an already corrupt and dysfunctional organization.

Equally remarkable, Malaysians also demonstrated that they are capable of executing peaceful political change. There was not even a hint of civil disorder following Barisan’s loss of five states. Compare that to 1969 and the horror that followed when the ruling coalition lost only one state.

To be sure, had the election been conducted free and fair, with no stuffed postal ballots and with the use of indelible ink to prevent fraudulent voting, the ultimate message would have been delivered, and Abdullah and his ilk would have been kicked out.

Perhaps it was better this way. For had the Barisan Nasional been voted out, there would have been a dangerous political vacuum as none of the opposition parties could form a government. Their loose coalition, the Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance ) had yet to be ratified. Now having sensed that power is within their grasp, the opposition parties are ready and willing to sink their differences in common cause.

Meanwhile UMNO and its coalition partners are galloping fast towards their collective demise. Their course is irreversible.

Thankfully my earlier dire prediction on Abdullah was misplaced. Abdullah has not destroyed Malaysia , only UMNO and Barisan Nasional. Malaysians can all count their blessings for his legacy not being any worse.

Mahathir’s last stand


source: The Straits Times, Singapore

By Leslie Lopez

LAST month’s stunning election results have once again thrust former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad into the country’s political mainstream.

He has resumed his spirited campaign to oust his successor Abdullah Badawi, whom he accuses of being incompetent and chiefly responsible for the ruling Umno’s poor showing in the elections. But there is a growing view that the government’s defeat in five key states and the loss of its customary two-thirds majority in Parliament represented in fact the final verdict on the 22 years of Tun Dr Mahathir’s rule. That rule was pockmarked with assaults against independent public institutions, rampant corruption, racial tensions and economic fiascos.

While there is widespread anger within Umno towards Datuk Seri Abdullah over the recent election results, party officials say that his main fault was that he attempted to restore confidence in the institutions Tun Dr Mahathir emasculated, but did not have the political will to push ahead with the much-needed overhaul.

Indeed, the political mudslinging and blame game stemming from last month’s polls have reopened the debate on Tun Dr Mahathir’s legacy. In response to his attacks on the government, politicians from both sides of the divide have lashed out at the former premier.

In recent days Umno leaders, including Datuk Seri Abdullah, have chided him for his alleged abuse of power when in office. Opposition leaders have also weighed in.

‘The opposition doesn’t need the unsolicited support of Dr Mahathir to ensure that the Barisan Nasional government is kept on its toes,’ said Mr Karpal Singh, the chairman of the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP).

No stranger to controversy, Tun Dr Mahathir is insisting that he did nothing wrong. ‘My conscience is clear. I have done what was my duty and I owe no one an apology,’ he was quoted as saying in a letter to Mr Singh, made public this week.

For years, Malaysians have viewed Tun Dr Mahathir’s autocratic political style through a soft-focus lens because he presided over a period of heady economic growth. For example, his crackdown on more than 100 government critics in October 1987 was defended as a necessity to prevent the country from descending into chaos. His assault on the judiciary was justified because large segments of the Malaysian public embraced his argument that judges were interfering in the business of government and were challenging decisions by his administration. Even his sacking of former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim in 1998 was often justified on the grounds that it reflected the realities of Malaysia’s take-no-prisoners political culture:

Datuk Seri Anwar paid the price for challenging his boss. But those views are fast dissipating.

As Malaysia grapples with its worst political crisis in decades, Tun Dr Mahathir’s legacy is coming under a not-so-forgiving spotlight. In fact, many analysts and politicians are now blaming the election debacle suffered by the ruling Umno-led Barisan Nasional coalition on the overhang of the Mahathir years. Umno’s sycophantic culture, the confidence deficit in the judiciary and security agencies, and widespread corruption are now viewed as elements framing his legacy.

Many Malaysian politicians believe that Datuk Seri Abdullah’s position as Premier and party president is now untenable and the big question is whether he will be able to engineer a dignified political exit before Umno holds its own party polls some time in December. But his exit will not help rehabilitate Umno, and many party officials close to the Premier blame this on Tun Dr Mahathir. They say the party’s decline began two decades ago after the High Court declared Umno illegal following a bitter leadership contest which almost unseated Tun Dr Mahathir.

He and his allies created a new party, but the democratic procedures that characterised Malaysia’s oldest political organisation were removed. New rules made it virtually impossible to challenge the party leadership. That, say many Umno officials, sowed the seeds for the current disillusionment in the Malay community towards the party.

Tun Dr Mahathir’s assault on the judiciary was the direct result of his problems in Umno. He led a campaign to sack the country’s top jurist after the judge called for a full sitting of the country’s highest court to hear an appeal by his political opponents.

They were seeking an order to overturn an earlier High Court decision declaring Umno illegal.

By removing the top judge and installing more compliant jurists, Tun Dr Mahathir removed potential political threats to his rule, lawyers and Umno officials say.

In all these battles, he won easily because he laid the ground rules and often moved the goal posts to get his way. But one fight that he has not been able to bring closure to is that with his former deputy, Datuk Seri Anwar.

The former premier’s handling of Datuk Seri Anwar’s sacking from Umno and the government in late 1998, and the subsequent imprisonment of Datuk Seri Anwar, ranks as one of his biggest political miscalculations. Even though Datuk Seri Anwar could not stand in last month’s polls, he is widely credited with engineering the non-violent shift in the Malaysian mindset away from the divisive race-based politics that Tun Dr Mahathir promoted.

The public endorsement the opposition received can be viewed as a sharp rebuke to Tun Dr Mahathir.

Tun Dr Mahathir has challenged Datuk Seri Abdullah to carry out an international investigation into the alleged misdeeds of his years in office.

Some Umno leaders close to the Premier think that would not be a bad idea. They say it would provide a diversion from BN’s political muddle and allow Datuk Seri Abdullah to proceed with rehabilitating his party and government.

The Mahathir years were Malaysia’s most tumultuous. They will require careful examination to bring about the reforms Malaysia must undertake to move ahead. ljlopez@sph.com.sg

End of Mahathirism and the Last Keris Standing?


(posted with permission of the writer)

Dr. Azly Rahman @ Columbia

http://azlyrahman-illuminations.blogspot.com/

More than 20 years ago when Francis Fukuyama wrote about the rise and dominance of American-styled liberal ideology, he was partially correct in his proposition that global politics will see the rise of the American Empire and the break up of the Soviet Union. He titled his work on deconstructionism as “the end of history and the last man”.

I recall this theme of deconstructionism eulogised by the German rock group Scorpions in their song ‘Winds of Change’. Fukuyama, then an analyst with Washington-based neo-conservative think-tank RAND Corporation, became an American idol in political science, thanks to Time magazine and the American corporate media sympathetic to the cause/civilising mission of the American Empire.

Partly incorrect and one not so visionary of an analysis however, was his prediction that the world will not see any more ‘struggles via revolutions’ as the thesis-antithesis or the dialectical-materialism of international relations will see the triumph of the ‘forces of democracy’. What eventually happened was not the end of history but the beginning of another form of history, one analysed by a prominent political scientist Benjamin Barber as ‘Jihad versus McWorld’.

The world is seeing the growth of anti-globalisation forces as a threat to the empire. A ‘Balkan-isation’ of international relations was in progress instead of Fukuyama’s prediction of the total hegemony of the American Empire. Small states continue to revolt against the McDonald-isation of American ideology and the inscription of its totalitarianism onto the landscape of the modern world, giving rise to the idea of the continuation of dialectical and historical patterns and not ones that signified the end of all histories.

End of Mahathirism?

Here at home – are we witnessing the end of ‘Mahathirism’? I see a parallel to this syntagmatic idea in the current happening in Malaysian history. The continuing implosion that is destroying UMNO and the rise of progressive forces of Malaysian politics in the post- March 8 2008 era, represents the symbolic end of Mahathirism’s dominance and the beginning of the ‘total rupture’ in Malaysian politics. We are witnessing the end of an epoch and the beginning of deconstructionism. It is an exciting time looking at it from postmodern perspectives, analyzing it from the worldview of postmodern sensibilities.

The impending fall of the Abdullah-Badawi empire is a symbol of the strong winds of change that continue to be fuelled by the advent of Internet technology, the widening of democratic spaces, and the growing threat to the dominance of Pax Barisan-Nasionalisma.

I see the metaphor of ‘tearing down the wall’ in Malaysian political ideological scenario and see the image of Mahathir as metaphor of ‘the last man’ and the end of ‘history as we have learned to be shaped by’. One speaks of ‘isms’ as process-oriented ideological march founded upon the hegemony of an idea whose time was made to come. I see it as a ‘monad’ or a ‘moment in history’ or as Antonio Gramsci would say, a ‘historical block’ that has come about as a consequence of a crystallisation and sub-crystallisation of an idea promoted as ‘intellectual and moral leadership’.

Because Mahathir articulated well his interpretation of the Malay Dilemma and because the Malays in general see it as a document that analysed the past, present, and future of the Malays, the writer of the banned book subsequently gained ascendancy as prime minister. Dilema Melayu/The Malay Dilemma, as scrutinised by the anthropologist Dr Syed Husin Ali for example, was flawed in its analysis of Malay socio-culture and ‘genetic-based’ argument on the inferiority of the Malays.

It became popular because Malay politicians did not read enough to critique the presentation of the dilemma and that the time was ripe to counter any effort to establish a multi-cultural political front to divert the nation off the entrapment of race-based politics. Like Reaganism, Thatcherism, and other forms of ‘isms’ associated with the primacy of corporate-capital nexused in a post-Fordist form of corporate-industrial-political-intellectual complex, Mahathirism is an ideology.

While many may disagree with the ‘personification’ of a neo-colonialist agenda in that term ‘Mahathirism’, and in fact one that might further glorify the person, I see it necessary to continue to have it ‘named’ so that one may deconstruct and rename it.

Total power

Mahathirism, is a symbol of the dominance of one person whose political life- history revolves around the maintaining of, acquiring, sustaining, consolidating, and homogenising total power through a clever crafting of a succession of hegemonic formations. It rests on the philosophy of ‘we versus them’ and the dichotomisation of political forces and on the practices of a more sophisticated version of the colonialist divide, conquer, and rule strategy.

These Machiavellian-formulations rest upon a more advanced system for capitalist formation fondly called ‘the Asian-style democracy’. It is understandable then that the current administration called the nation to embrace the concept of Ying Yang in a nation that dances the hip hop and the elected representatives doing the be bop while the teenagers are going back to doing the rock and roll.

Mahathirism is a moment in history that benefited from the pre-War on Terrorism period of global economic boom, pre-9/11 historicity, and one that helped fuel the economy through borrowed monies and borrowed paradigms of economic development, and one that gave a blank cheque till the year 2020 (Wawasan 2020) to the ruling party.

Mahathirism, psycho-socially is a paradigm that recast the thinker Syed Hussein Alatas’ thesis of the image of indolence, dullness, and laziness amongst the natives. This time, the ‘ills’ are remedied by the imposition of Japanese work ethics, productivity, non-unionisation laws, and other structures of control imposed to turn the Malaysian labour into better human-machines. This in turn will help the national engine of growth run well, so that foreign owners, in collaboration with the new ‘glocal capitalists’, may exploit it more efficiently.

In the now world-renowned political-anthropological study of ‘the lazy natives’, the colonialists painted the image of indolence amongst the Malays, Indonesians and the Filipinos. In today’s analysis, the image of the native is the industrial and modern agricultural worker transformed into lazy thinkers and happy consumers through the structurations of the hypermodern capitalist system.

In Mahathirism, technology shapes consciousness and changes the social relations of production, transforming landscapes of nature into huge real estate projects such as the Multimedia Super Corridor – changing the way we live, transport/teleport ourselves, and the pattern of consumption and leisure. Those who own the means of importing technology from abroad, with paid advice from International Advisory Panels, own the means of transforming consciousness and hence will define the existence of the natives, through the hyper-modern Asiatic mode of production. I think of Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ as a symbol of the theme song of this historical block and quite incidentally a favourite song of many of the Cabinet ministers and Chief Ministers.

Mahathir the author of Mahathirism, through his authorship, created autocratic systems that automate the minds of the natives so that they may become automatons in a system that continue to this day to embrace and celebrate authoritarianism, Asian style. There are many other areas of Mahathirism that I think can be of research interest to Malaysian scholars, especially to those from the Institut Pemikiran Tun Mahathir, Universiti Utara Malaysia itself.

But I suggest these scholars equip themselves with the tools of critical cultural analyses, critical ethnography, radical anthropology, or reflective sociology in order to produce commendable work on Mahathirism – to understand what makes Malaysians afraid to think and speak up and how they have become, as the American sociologist Herbert Marcuse calls, ‘one-dimensional’ beings.

Tearing down Mahathirism

Spaces of dialogue are being created, a symbol of the tearing down the walls of Mahathirism. The deafening call for an inquiry into the award of Approved Permits, the setting up of the Malaysian Institute of Integrity, the repeated calls to provide the academic community with signs and symbols of academic freedom, the boycott of campus elections, and the growing demand of the economically marginalised to be attended to – all these represent the possible end of Malaysian history as we know it. All these culminated in the major rupture of the empire of the National Front. Teh end fo Mahathirism signalled the beginning of three fronts– Barisan Nasional, Barisan Rakyat, and Barisan Bloggers — vying for power in a world increasingly mediated by digital communication technologies. The Axis of Contradictions (National Front-People’s Front-Bloggers’ Front) present an interesting synthesis out of the dialectical materialism of the evolution of Malaysian radical-alternative politics. Mao’s theory of knowledge can be tested here if one wishes to study the cognitive aspects of the “Malaysian Revolution” or “Asian Implosion and Evolution or Implovolution” of March 8 2008.

‘The centre cannot hold’ goes the cliche for post-modernism borrowed from the words of WB Yeats, one apt to be applied to this Fukuyama proposition in Malaysian politics. Speaking of the incapacitation of our thinking and reflecting capacity, I am reminded of the lyrics of Pink Floyd’s ‘Brick in the Wall’ which goes, ‘all and all we’re just another brick in the wall..’ as we look at the condition of human existence in the world of the global production system.

Mahathirism represents that world – of silencing the masses so that they may work and produce with unquestioning devotion/bakthi and dharma to the new colonial masters of Japan, the United States and Europe. The slogans Kerja Sebagai Ibadat, Kepimpinan Melalui Teladan, Bersih, Cekap, Amanah and I.T. untuk Anda represent the slogans for the monad/Gramscian historical block/Asian Despotism that characterised the socio-political milieu of the Mahathir era. This is the sangsara of the philosophy of economic development based on the pursuit of artha (harta= material wealth). The system creates the Duryodhanas (durjanas=corporate pirates and raiders) of the global capitalist system that become ‘glocalised” in the neatly but hegemonistically explained language of Friedmanian economics.

As a keen student/observer of totalitarianism and hegemonic systems created by human beings, I am interested in analysing how these struggles for a cosmopolitan, cosmotheandric, and ‘conscientisation’-ised pattern of struggle continue. I am reminded by the theme of an essay ‘Postmodernism, or the cultural logic of late capitalism’ by American literary theorist Frederic Jameson as I write about the ruptures, the waning of affect, the sense of fragmentation, and the clichés and subalternisation of the Grand narratives in Malaysian politics in general, and in the deconstructionism of Mahathirism in particular.

Will the events after April 14, 2008 tear down the wall completely? Or a second ‘mental revolution’ to debunk and revise Sanusi Junid’s thesis in Revolusi Mental, produced in the late 1970s do that?. But Sanusi Junid’s thesis is also well-debunked as it is derived from the paradigm of Mahathirism and the urge to promote the ethos of Reaganomics and the ideology of Asian corporate capitalism. Sanusi Junid in fact need to read Lacan and Derrida to deconstruct his own worldview on mental revolutions. I suppose the “utopianism” conjured by the intelligentsia will always contain the seeds of dystopianism that have germinated as evident by the destruction that has happened in the four years of the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi rule. A nation does not live on borrowed ideology of JD-Rockefellarism alone.

I suggest Malaysian social scientists interested in deconstructionist theories study these developments – so that we may construct newer theories of hegemony and totalitarianism, inspired by and in honor of the work of Syed Hussein Alatas. Let us explore what the new myth of the lazy natives mean through our analysis of ‘the end of Malaysian history and the last man’, or rather to analyse the end of Mahathirism and the last keris standing.

After Mahathirism and the end of history, what must we expect? Will the perfect society organized around truly egalitarian principles with transcultural philosophy as the guiding light be the end of it all? Or will we see perpetual peaceful, Internet-inspired revolutions laced with creative and ethical anarchism be the feature of this Malaysian state?

Husam Musa: Interview (Part 2)


source:www.malaysiakini.com
PAS veep tells Umno to ditch Abdullah

Beh Lih Yi & Fathi Aris Omar

April 9, 2008

Umno has received a timely advice from an unlikely source as the powerful ruling party’s internal crisis intensified after Barisan Nasional’s unprecedented electoral defeat on March 8.

Giving his unsolicited suggestion, PAS vice-president Husam Musa said Umno members should show embattled party chief Abdullah Ahmad Badawi the exit before the party is shown the exit from the government.

husam musa bangsar 080408 rightIn an interview with Malaysiakini on Monday, the Kelantan-based PAS leader argued that Umno members should rethink whether they want a weak Umno – the backbone of BN – under Abdullah as the party faces a risk of being overthrown “anytime after April”.

“The Umno ship is going to sink through his leadership. For us in the opposition, it’s good to have a weak opponent but it’s bad for the nation because we can’t move forward with a weak leader,” he said in the hour-long interview in Kuala Lumpur.

“Umno can continue to have him as prime minister and president, we don’t mind. Abdullah wants to wait until December 2008 to see whether he still gets the support, but he can’t prevent anything that is going to happen before December,” the PAS leader added.

Umno is to hold its party polls during its annual general meeting in December. So far, former party vice president Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has offered himself to contest for the top post.

Anwar’s eligibility to contest

The possible scenario, Husam suggested, would include the ambitious Pakatan Rakyat to take over the federal government if some 30 BN MPs defected to the opposition alliance. Such a crossover would allow the opposition coalition to gain a simple majority.

anwar ibrahim pc 180208 01“(PKR de facto leader) Anwar Ibrahim is eligible to contest anytime after April… When he goes in (Parliament), I don’t think he will just go in as an ordinary MP. With Anwar inside the House, anything can happen,” argued Husam further.

Anwar’s ban from active politics, a result of his conviction under corruption charge, will be lifted on April 15, next Tuesday. The opposition figurehead is widely speculated to contest in a by-election for him to make a comeback to Parliament.

Calls on Abdullah to step down as Umno president and prime minister – a post which he held since 2003 – over the dismay election results have grown louder in recent weeks, alluding to a damaging internal crisis in the party.

Abdullah however has defiantly said he would hold on the premiership and would wait till the Umno party’s election in December to let the party delegates decide his fate as the leader.

abdullah ahamd badawi investment malaysia 250308 03“Abdullah claims he still has the supports but that is not true, the only support he got came from the ‘fixed deposit’ from Sabah and Sarawak,” added Husam.

Contrary to common political analysts’ views, Husam also argued the post-election cabinet line-up introduced by Abdullah has not helped to strengthen the latter’s position as premier.

He was of the view that the new cabinet was ‘tainted’ by figures such as de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim and Rural and Regional Development Minister Muhammad Muhd Taib.

Zaid was found guilty of money politics by the Umno disciplinary board in 2005 while Muhammad was charged – but cleared later – in Australia in 1996 of making false declaration on carrying in the equivalent of RM2.4 million in different currencies.

Wrong to blame Razaleigh

On BN’s performance in Kelantan, Husam – a leading potential successor to Kelantan Menteri Besar Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat – said it was wrong for Abdullah to point fingers at Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who is also Kelantan’s Gua Musang MP.

umno 2007 tengku razaleigh ku li 081107The PAS politician pointed out that if Razaleigh was to be blamed for the BN’s perfomance in Kelantan, it would be worse off for Abdullah who as the BN chief lost in four other states.

“Furthermore, Tengku Razaleigh has never been given the (Kelantan Umno) state chief post or any prominent role. He was not consulted on major decision about Kelantan,” argued Husam.

After coming under continuous attack, Abdullah went offensive over the weekend by firing back at his leading critics which included his predecessor Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Anwar and Razaleigh.

The premier said Razaleigh “should look at himself” as to why Kelantan remained in PAS hands and alleged the latter had made no effort to help BN to recapture Kelantan from PAS.

Part one

Husam: Islamic state not on Pakatan agenda

BN doesn’t discriminate, Azalina tells MBs


Comment:

April 9, 2008

Have common sense and good practice returned to the Ministry of Tourism under Azalina Othman Said? I have my doubts, given her track record at the Ministry of Youth and Sports which was severely criticised by Government auditors. Let us not forget that she was behind the proposal to convert the Tun Razak Rubber Research facility in England into a world sports center for the training of our sportsmen and women at a cost of a few hundred million ringgits. Pray that the mess will not be repeated at the Ministry of Tourism under her.

In the first instance, why terminate its MOUs with Selangor and Penang and rearrange the funding mechanism? Secondly, can she assure the public that her proposal to use ministry-controlled committees to fund tourism projects in the Pakatan Rakyat controlled states is going to be a more transparent, accountable and effective system? Thirdly, will it be more efficient to do so?

On the face of it, it would appear to me that she is adopting the “wang ehsan approach” which had led to abuses in Terengganu where billions of ringgits in oil revenues due to the state were entrusted to UMNO Terengganu when PAS in control of the state (1999-2004). Today, Terengganu’s wang ehsan is not fully accounted for and the Prime Minister has chosen to sidetrack the issue to avoid controversy.

UMNO-BN is well known to “punish” voters who elect the “opposition”. It fails to appreciate that once elections are over and government is formed at the Federal and State levels, we are all back to being ordinary citizens of Malaysia and as such are entitled to fair and equal treatment, irrespective of our political preferences. Unfortunately, it would require some political sophistication and maturity to appreciate the difference.

The time has come for us to abandon this punitive approach practised by UMNO-led BN government since Malaysians pay income and other taxes and are entitled to fair treatment. But then, this government led by UMNO cannot take petty politics out of public administration. Surely, Malaysians deserve a better deal.—Din Merican

Chan Kok Leong
April 8, 2008

Newly-appointed Tourism Minister Azalina Othman Said refuted two Pakatan Rakyat chief ministers’ claims that her ministry was punishing tourists by terminating its memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with the states.

During the launch of ‘Colours and Flavours of Malaysia’ at Kuala Lumpur today, Azalina said the accusations by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim were unfair.

“This ministry will continue the projects as promised earlier. We do not make changes unnecessarily.”

On the way the funds are channeled – instead of money going to the Pakatan state governments and it will now go to ministry-controlled committees – the minister said that it was the federal government’s perogative.

“It applies to all the states which is being led by opposition government. This has happened for the past few years with Kelantan and we’ve never discriminated as far as tourism projects are concerned. We’ve been very fair.”

On whether opposition-held states will be left out of tourism projects, Azalina said the ministry will accept any proposals that is “in the interest of the people”.

“But if they (opposition) decide to join Barisan Nasional, it would be much better,” she said.

“As far as we are concerned, the existing programmes will go on. We do not discriminate. I would like to inform Lim Guan Eng and Khalid Ibrahim that they must understand that the BN government doesn’t discriminate in tourists programmes or tourists going to such programmes.”

She cited the Penang Music Festival and Langkawi Water Festival as examples of plans which will go on whether the state is opposition-held or not.

On why her ministry is channeling the funds to a different committee and not the state Tourism Action Councils (TAC) like other BN-held states, Azalina said it was a “technical” matter.

Ministry to take over TACs

Tourism Ministry secretary-general Dr Victor Wee explained that there were two issues in the matter.

Firstly, TACs in the opposition states will no longer be headed by the state excos for tourism and will instead be led by him or a person appointed by the minister, he said.

“And second, is the way the funds will be channeled. The funds will no longer go through the states but through a federal mechanism. Because of the nature of the new political scenario, the MOUs with the states will be cancelled.

“This, however, doesn’t mean that the TACs or the state tourism offices will be closed. Activities will continue to be carried out at the state level and funds will continue to flow too.”

Wee said that the state tourism councils, with a new chairman, will continue to bring all the stakeholders together to run the tourism programmes.

On whether the Pakatan state governments will have access to the funds, Azalina said: “The difference is who signs the cheque – they sign the cheques or we sign the cheques?

“This is the federal government, so we sign the cheques. What’s the big deal?”

She added that all the programmes were already planned and promoted overseas since last year and that they can’t cancel them now, even if the states are run by opposition governments.

“The only changes we are making is the appointment new personalities in the tourism council. This is a federal policy which we have done in Kelantan, and we will do that for (all) the opposition-held states.”

source: http://www.malaysiakini.com