September 29, 2014
COMMENT: How did UMNO become a party of weak members who are afraid to speak the truth to power in the first place? The Tun had forgotten that UMNO Baru, which he is now criticising, was of his own making. After 1987, he had removed critics like Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Tun Musa Hitam and others who went on to form Semangat 46, since he would not tolerate criticisms from party members.
Today, this UMNO is inundated with members who have neither the conviction nor the guts to attack Najib’s policies and programmes, let alone criticise, or remove him. UMNO members are no longer men and women who think of their party and our country first. Self interest overrides that. In fact, they can now be bought with contracts and other inducements to support the UMNO President. Taking on the patron and dispenser of political handouts is, therefore, an act of sheer folly.
Tun Dr. Mahathir was successful in a creating a powerful UMNO presidency by changing the rules of party elections so that it has become almost impossible for anyone to challenge Najib and his cohorts. He should not complain about a task he systematically executed. Until UMNO becomes more democratic, open and accountable, reform remains a pipe dream. –Din Merican
UMNO needs to be reformed, says Tun Dr.Mahathir
by Koh Jun Lin@http://www.malaysiakini.com
Mahathir said this when asked to comment on former New Straits Times (NST) Group Editor-in-Chief Dato’ A Kadir Jasin’s statement that UMNO is too weak to oust its current President Najib Abdul Razak.Mahathir also confirmed earlier reports that he had written a letter to Najib criticising him and saying that he is withdrawing support for Najib. However he was later asked by an intermediary to retract it. “I just said I would withdraw. I didn’t receive any reason (for the request), since he asked me to withdraw. Later on, I decided that the letter has no effect on him, so that is when I put it on my blog. I said that leaders must accept criticism,” he said.
According to an Asia Sentinel report, the intermediary was UMNO Secretary-General Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor and purportedly contained seven demands. However, Tengku Adnan had denied the report, saying “There is no such thing”.IPP purchases ‘public money’When asked what he thinks about Najib’s move to ignore his advice and whether it would be detrimental to the country, Mahathir replied, “I think a leader must listen to everybody, not just somebody around me.”
To a question about Kadir’s blog post that Mahathir is “curious” about 1Malaysia Development Berhad’s (1MDB) acquisition of independent power producers (IPPs), Mahathir said he raised the question because the public has the right to know. “This is public money. Although it is borrowed money, it belongs to the government, and government spending must follow certain procedures.You cannot just spend money as you like,” he said, before elaborating on the parliamentary procedures involved.
He clarified that he was not speculating on any ulterior motive behind the deals. In his blog, Kadir claimed that Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) could acquire the IPPs for a token sum of money if its power purchasing agreement in not renewed.
The agreements last 21 years for gas-fired plants and 25 years for coal-fired plants, he said, and some of these that have been purchased have less than seven years left on the agreement and have long recovered their costs and substantial profits. “Dr Mahathir was curious why 1MDB bought the ageing IPPs when the government could wait a few more years and get them for ‘free’. Something is amiss,” he had written.
September 29, 2014
Civilisational clash ‘not of our doing’
by Dr. Farish M. Noor@www.nst.com,my
THE ongoing bombardment of Syria — ostensibly to remove the threat of the Islamic State (IS) — has sparked off a bout of serious questioning about the propriety of the campaign, and whether such a strategy would actually work.
Interestingly, many of these questions are also being raised in the Western press, where opinion makers have argued that such a strategy may well end up entrenching IS further and angering ordinary civilians, who will also be the victims of such attacks, for it is well-known that “smart weapons” are seldom truly smart, and that civilian casualties are bound to be incurred.
But more worrying still is the talk of a “war against evil” and the need to fight against IS in the defence of “civilisation”, “law and order”, and “justice”.The somewhat simplistic dialectics of such arguments are embarrassingly clear, where the insurgents of IS are being labelled as uncivilised and barbaric, while those who attack them have summarily assumed the mantle of a higher moral authority.
Under such circumstances, is it any wonder if critical thinkers the world over have opined that what we are seeing today is a nasty prelude to a larger conflict that will be fought along the fault-lines of culture and civilisation?
Lest it be forgotten, we need to remember that IS does not represent the civilisation of Arab-Muslims in any way. In their deeds and words IS does not represent the same grand civilisation that was the product of thinkers like al-Ghazali, Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd and Ibn Khaldun.
As many contemporary Muslim leaders have argued, what we see in the ranks of IS is a travesty of Arab civilisation that was once the fountainhead of science and rational thinking. But equally worrisome is the language and vocabulary of IS’s opponents, who have applied to them a pathology that is general, sweeping and reductionist.
To argue, as some Western leaders and policymakers have, that IS is the result of blind hate and anger, would be to reduce the frustrations and anxieties of millions of Arabs to bare emotions and reactionary action, without any attempt to understand and recognise the very real political-economic underpinnings of such collective anxiety.
It is dumfounding that hardly any of these leaders have noted the obvious fact that IS has emerged in a region that has been torn apart for three decades, since the Iran-Iraq war, that was also supported by external states and other actors.
It is equally perplexing to note that none of these leaders have acknowledged their own culpability in their policy of intervening in that region — in the name of “regime change” — and by doing so, weakened the states of the Arab world to the point where none of them can really rein in radical movements and splinter groups like IS. Do we seriously expect a moderate society to emerge from a region that has been reduced to a war zone for so long?
It is for this reason that the term “Clash of Civilisations” is so misleading, and dangerously so. As a glib slogan that reduces and over-simplifies the complexity of the problems of the Arab world, it is a convenient by-word that allows external actors and players to absolve themselves of their own responsibility for the mess they have created.
The term is dangerous in the manner that it reduces the phenomenon of violent radical resistance to the level of primordial irrational sentiments, and reinforces the racist stereotype of Arabs as inherently violent and pathologically fatalistic.
In dealing with the real problem of groups like IS, a degree of honest, objective analysis is required that would also unveil the hidden hands at work, the connections with external agendas and interests.
What we do not need at the moment is some convenient slogan that white-washes the facts about intervention, regime change/manipulation and their monstrous outcomes.
And, we need to remember that the idea of the “Clash of Civilisations” itself is a concept that was never invented by us, but rather imposed upon us and other communities — perhaps in an effort to deny our genuine political-economic needs and aspirations, and to discard serious critical thinking for simplistic oppositional dialectics instead.
September 29, 2014
A Modest Proposal for the Champions of Ketuanan Melayu
Part 2: Molding our Students
by Dr. M.Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California
[In Part One I suggested that our current obsession with the presumed deficiencies of our race and our undisguised resentment over the successes of others are but expressions of frus (frustration) and fury for our own lack of competitiveness and productivity. We should focus instead on remedying both, and begin with our young, especially those promising ones at our SBPs.]
It may seem obvious but needs to be stated explicitly: We must prepare these students for top universities the moment they step foot at a SBP. That’s how they do it elsewhere. American students aspiring to top universities begin their preparation upon entering high school, or even earlier. The courses they take, their extra-curricular programs as well as their summer activities are all geared towards this central mission.
My grandchildren who are in an American school in Singapore have assigned reading lists for the summer, and they are still in primary school! Likewise, SBP students must have mandatory reading lists and writing assignments during their long holidays. The purpose is two-fold. One is to prevent attrition of knowledge and study skills during the long hiatus, and the other, to inculcate the habit of reading and writing. It impresses upon them that those skills are not just for examinations.
Once when I took my family on an overseas trip, my son’s teacher asked him to keep a journal to be shared with his class while my daughter was assigned to study a Malay folk tale. In high school my son was invited to spend his summer break at Ames Research Center.
I speak with some experience. When my daughter entered Harvard Law School over 15 years ago, she was the first Malaysian to enroll there. There has not been another since. One of my sons works for an agency that prepares students for selective universities.
We should prepare all SBP students for recognized matriculation examinations like IB, American AP, or British “A” level, and start them from day one. Consequently it would serve no purpose for them to sit for SRP and SPM. Those tests have little predictive value anyway; their philosophy and assumptions are also very different.
Since these students have limited English proficiency coming as they are from the national stream, why not have their first year at SBP be full English-immersion akin to the Special Malay or “Remove” Classes of yore? Better yet, make all SBPs English-medium. That however, is no panacea. MARA already has a few English-medium SBPs but their students’ achievements remain disappointing. We need to do more.
I envisage admitting the students in the middle of their Form II instead of Form I, as at present, based on their SRP scores as well as their Form I and first term of Form II performances. By the time they sit for their IB or “A” level five years later, their cohorts in the regular school would be in the middle of their Upper Six.
Their college counseling should start right away, as with preparing for their PSAT and SAT. There must be adequate resources and personnel to guide these students in their college choices, but more on that later.
No matter how stringent the selection process, inevitably there will a few who would not thrive in the residential school environment. While every attempt should be made to help them, but if they do not measure up, then they should be returned to regular schools. They are not failures rather they are better suited for day school.
Three features of the Korean schools are worth emulating. First is the mentoring system where first-year students are paired with a senior. Second, those students are constantly exposed to successful role models, fellow Koreans as well as non-Koreans who are graduates of top universities. Those students get first-hand perspectives beyond what could be gleaned from the college brochures. Likewise, our SBPs should invite Malaysians who are graduates of top universities to give talks to and inspire these students.
The third striking feature is that the students’ time is structured during their entire waking hours. They are always involved in something, if not with their classes and class assignments then debates, sports, music, and a myriad of extra-curricular activities. When students are occupied, they are less likely to get into trouble.
MCKK (The Malay College Kuala Kangsar) obtained excellent results during the time of Principal Howell when he instituted daily afternoon “preps” in addition to the evening ones. When you have high expectations and demand more from your students, they respond. The converse is even more consequential. If you have low expectations or reward those who do not strive, as with sending them to third-rate universities abroad, then you are imparting the wrong message. That would be akin to membajakan (adding fertilizer) lallang. Even without the extra help, those weeds would snuff out the lengkuas. In a rentier economy, we are busy fertilizing our lallang.
MARA is membajakan lallang by sending hundreds of its students to third-rate universities abroad. The money could be better spent to strengthen its matriculation programs and SBPs at home. MARA should adopt tougher standards and send only those who have been accepted to top universities. Currently it sends students abroad even for sixth form. It is cheaper and far more effective to prepare those students in Malaysia. MARA’s current policy only perpetuates this culture of mediocrity.
September 28, 2014
Najib: Moderation the way to check extremism
by Mergawati Zulfakar in New York
NEW YORK: Malaysia pushed further its moderation agenda on the global stage amid growing concern over increasing violent extremism, religious intolerance and threats of a self-declared Islamic State.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the moderation agenda should involve all religions to pursue the path to peace.“The fight against extremism is not about Christians versus Muslims or Muslims versus Jews but moderates versus extremists of all religions.We therefore need to rally a coalition of moderates, those willing to reclaim their religion and pursue the path to peace,” Najib said in his address at the 69th United Nations General Assembly here.
The Prime Minister in his 20-minute speech on Friday welcomed Pope Francis’ visit to Palestine and his efforts to bring moderate Palestinians and Israelis together to pray for peace.
“By demonstrating moderation in the political process, we can ensure no one is left outside society.By practising moderation in religion, we can marginalise the extremists,” he told the gathering of world leaders and dignitaries. His wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor was also present.
Najib said Malaysia rejected the so-called IS, which is defined by extremism, and condemned the violence being committed in the name of Islam.Muslims, he said, were watching in despair as Islam, a religion of peace, had been used to justify atrocities.“We know the threat to world peace and security is not Islam but extremism: intolerant, violent and militant extremism.”
It was time, he said, for the world to respond differently as previous wars against terror attacked one evil only to see a greater evil emerge.
“First, security and statehood must be returned to the people of Syria and Iraq and secondly, we must pursue a different kind of politics.We must break the cycle where one group gains power only to wield it against the other. We should commit to more inclusive politics.”
Malaysia, Najib said, was ready to share its moderation approach, which he believed could make a valuable contribution to fragile states and international affairs alike.The Prime Minister said countries must confront extremist propaganda and defeat the message that seduced the young into acts of violence.
“This is the work of a generation. To begin, we should focus on the real world conditions that allow disillusion to grow.That means building sustainable economies that bring opportunity for our people and addressing legitimate concerns that drive radicalisim The fight against extremists must be won not just in Syria and Iraq but in Britain, Belgium, the United States and Malaysia,” he said.
“We must confront the myth that committing atrocities in the name of an Islamic State is an act of faith and that death brings martyrdom.Now is the time to advance a vision of peace and moderation. Let us show that Muslims, united in faith, can be a powerful force for progress, knowledge and justice, as we were in the greatest periods of our history,” he added.
September 27, 2014
Politicians Come and Go But People Remain
The Malaysian Insider COMMENTARY
The Selangor Menteri Besar imbroglio seems over and the State Ruler yesterday in not so many words, blamed the nine-month saga on the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) and PKR and their Kajang Move. HRH The Selangor Sultan is right, of course.
The embarrassing situation of a Menteri Besar clinging on to power after losing the confidence of his coalition could have been avoided if PR had acted decisively after Election 2013. They did not. And when they finally woke up to the fact that Khalid had to go or cost them the Selangor government in the long run, the Kajang Move was born – ostensibly to strengthen the state government but really to replace Khalid.
The issues against Khalid were many – from the state water industry restructuring programme to the nod for privatised highways and his silence over the settlement for his Bank Islam loan.
Why would a coalition replace a popular Chief Minister unless they had reasons to do so? And just into their second term of office? PKR and PR have explained their reasons although the State Ruler took them to task in the manner they went about to replace Khalid. Fair enough.
Yet, the important thing is this. The coalition had a right to replace Khalid. And once he lost their confidence, he should have gone and a popular replacement, one who has the confidence of the coalition, should have been appointed.But that did not happen.
The mess worsened because scant attention was paid to the Rule of Law, the spirit of the law and the state constitution when naming the new Menteri Besar. The Selangor Palace will have its reasons for its decision but really, it is the people that decide the government that they want.
The power in a democracy where elections are held every few years lies with the people. Just as it is up to the people to throw out a government that has lost their support, it is also up to the government to throw out a leader that has lost their support. Politicians will come and go, but the people remain.
So it is for the people to judge if Azmin Ali and his cohorts perform well. Just as it is for the people to judge the Khalid administration when all facts about the water deal, Kidex and his out-of-court loan settlement are made public.
September 26, 2014
This is a reasonable approach to take since the deals were done during the final days of the Khalid Administration. The substantial increase in the salaries and allowances of ADUNs is not reasonable and should be cut down drastically. I am personally interested in 2014-2015 Selangor state budget proposala as these will signal the start of the new Administration. YAB Azmin, please do what is in the best interest of people of Selangor.–Din Merican
MB Azmin Ali requested to review All Agreements and Deals made by Khalid Ibrahim
With the new state exco line-up over and done with, Selangor Menteri Besar Mohamed Azmin Ali has been asked to start reviewing all past agreements and deals made during the previous administration.
De facto PKR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, in a press conference attended by Azmin and four of the party’s exco members today, said attention should be given to two major deals. The two are: the proposed Kinrara-Puchong Expressway project (Kidex) and the water restructuring agreement, both controversial during Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim’s watch.
“PKR fully supports Azmin’s statement that the new administrators will review all the approvals granted for Kidex, especially as it appears to benefit Putrajaya’s cronies. This also includes the water restructuring deal with Putrajaya,” Anwar said.
He said Khalid had failed to brief the party on the water restructuring deal and its approvals. “The new administration should set the example in being transparent and honest. I give my full and undivided support to the new Menteri Besar.”
The Opposition Leader also said Azmin administration should review the pay hike of assembly members that was announced in November last year as it was deemed too high. “We are aware that the last salary increase and allowances were higher than the salary of the Prime Minister.
“In the last Pakatan Rakyat’s council meeting, Khalid had been advised to lower the hike to a more reasonable rate. But that did not materialise.” Anwar said the party advised Azmin to discuss the matter at the next state assembly.
In November last year, the state legislative assembly had approved the salary hike of all 56 members of the assembly effective January 1, this year, with the Deputy Speaker receiving the highest increase of 373.3%. This sparked criticism from various parties, including Azmin and Anwar who denounced the move. Meanwhile, Azmin told party members that he would ensure that his administration would be manage the state with integrity.
“The de facto leader had earlier mentioned the need to ensure that this new administration will be governed by clear principles of integrity, honesty, trust, good governance and care.And, these will be the core values we uphold.”
Azmin, who is the Bukit Antarabangsa assemblyman, promised to ensure that the wealth of the state would be spent wisely and responsibly. “We strive to ensure the well-being of the people and ensure that the wealth of Selangor will be spent wisely and responsibly.”
Azmin was sworn in as the new Selangor Menteri Besar on Tuesday, ending the long-winded tussle in the state. His new exco line-up includes PKR’s Elizabeth Wong (Bukit Lanjan), Dr Daroyah Alwi (Sementa), Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad (Seri Setia), and Amiruddin Shari (Batu Caves); DAP’s Datuk Teng Chang Khim (Sungai Pinang), Ean Yong Hian Wah (Seri Kembangan), and V. Ganabatirau (Kota Alam Shah); and PAS’s Iskandar Samad (Cempaka), Dr Ahmad Yunus Hairi (Sijangkang) and Zaidy Abdul Talib (Taman Templer). They were sworn in today.