Malaysia not a secular state : says who ?

Malaysia not secular state, gov’t says
By Ram Anand

posted from Taipei, Taiwan

Jun 17, 2014

PARLIAMENT The government has stressed that Malaysia is not a secular state due to the special position of Islam in the framework of the federal constitution.

Article 3(1) and 50.4 percent of the 30 million population in Malaysia being Muslim do not make the Federation an Islamic state.

Article 3(1) and 50.4 percent of the 30 million population in Malaysia being Muslim do not make the Federation an Islamic state.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Jamil Khir Baharom said so in a written answer to Oscar Ling Chai Yew (DAP-Sibu) in Parliament last week.

Jamil Khir also stressed that the constitution does not provide for the civil court to have jurisdiction over matters under the purview of the Syariah Court.

“Regarding the question as to whether Malaysia is a secular state or an Islamic country, it is stressed here that Malaysia is not a secular country,” Jamil Khir said in his answer.

He said that this was based on “history” where Malaysia was established based an Islamic sultanate government and Malay sultans are heads of Islam for the respective states.

“This is further strenghtened by Article 3 of the federal constitution, which clearly states that Islam is the religion for the federation,” Jamil Khir further said.

Jamir Khir said that secular countries do not have a religion as the country’s religion.

Ling had asked Jamil Khir about the implementation of hudud and and whether Malaysia is a secular or Islamic state.

However, Jamil Khir stressed that the government is still studying the feasibility of implementing hudud in Malaysia.


Obama in Malaysia: A Strategic Partnership?

by Joshua Kurlantzick via Council on Foreign Relations
April 8, 2014

During his upcoming late April trip to Asia, President Obama will visit two nations in Southeast Asia, Malaysia and the Philippines, in addition to stops in Northeast Asia. The White House already has been briefing reporters on the overall messaging of the trip, and the specific themes the president plans to hit in Malaysia and the Philippines. In Malaysia, it appears from several news reports and from speaking with several administration officials, President Obama will add to the Malaysian government’s self-promotion that Kuala Lumpur is a successful and democratic nation, an example of other Muslim-majority countries, and a force for moderation in the world. The president apparently plans to hit these themes despite the regional anger at Malaysia’s handling of the Malaysia Airlines vanished plane, which exposed to the world many of the problems with Malaysia’s governance.

No matter, say some Southeast Asia experts. Some of Obama’s advisors, and many Southeast Asia experts, are urging the president to use the trip to cement a strategic partnership with Malaysia and establishing a roadmap for the kind of higher-level strategic cooperation that the United States already enjoys with Singapore and Thailand, among other countries in the region.

This approach to the Malaysia visit would mean downplaying – or simply not even discussing – serious regression in Malaysia’s domestic politics, including the recent sentencing of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to five years in jail for sodomy, the highly flawed 2013 national elections that barely kept Prime Minister Najib tun Razak in office, and the increasingly shrill, anti-Chinese and anti-Indian rhetoric and legislation of the Najib government, hardly the kind of sentiments a supposed leader of political moderation should be espousing. According to this logic, if President Obama were to bring up such unpleasant issues as the Malaysian government’s crackdown on opponents over the past year or its unwillingness to reform pro-Malay policies that have entrenched a culture of graft and self-dealing at many Malaysian companies, that would sink the visit.

Under Najib, Malaysia and the United States have, on a strategic level, moved beyond some of the acrimony of the Mahathir and Abdullah years, and have made progress on a wide range of military-military and diplomatic cooperation. Najib definitely deserves some credit for this rapprochement, though growing Malaysian fear about China’s South China Sea policies are probably the main driver behind closer strategic ties with Washington.

But simply ignoring the disastrous Najib policies on human rights, political freedoms, and economic liberalization would not be a wise move by Obama. For one, it would play into the narrative that Obama cares little about rights and democracy promotion, a narrative that has gained significant force not only in Washington but also among many Southeast Asian activists and young people in general. And ignoring Malaysia’s opposition politicians, who won the popular vote in the 2013 national elections and enjoy their strongest support among young Malaysians, would be alienating the biggest growing pool of Malaysian voters. As in other countries in the region, like Cambodia and Indonesia, these young voters are increasingly favoring opposition parties or new figures like Jakarta governor Joko Widodo, breaking from long-ruling, autocratic parties. The United States should be cultivating these young voters who will prove critical to the region’s democratization. This new generation will eventually power the Malaysian opposition, in some form, to the prime minister’s office. It would be a shame if the United States president had ignored them, and their party leaders, before then.

Rosmah’s Gifts and Ethics

April 28, 2013

Rosmah’s Gifts and Ethics


Recently Caretaker FLOM, Rosmah Mansor, said that she accepted all the gifts offered to her by foreign dignitaries because it would be rude not to accept them and what was a poor FLOM supposed to do?

“When people give you something, of course it’s not nice to reject it,” Rosmah wrote in a self-titled biography launched yesterday by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“And when I’m given the gifts, I wear them. Why would you want to just keep them in a safe when the items were given sincerely, are beautiful and can be used? It’s a waste if they’re just kept in a safety deposit box,” the wife of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak added. (from Malaysian Insider here)

Well clearly there is another way to handle these situations. The Daily Beast is reporting that the Sarkozy’s used to lavish their friends with expensive gifts. The Obama’s received from the Sarkozy’s over $41,000 worth of bags, towels, etc. Hillary Clinton received three Hermes scarves.

How does the United States handle this? It’s simple. Sitting elected officials are not permitted to accept gifts from anyone. There are Ethics Committees in all branches of the US government that regulate what employees of the US government are allowed to receive and not receive. For example here is a snippet form the Senate Ethics Committee website:

No Member, officer, or employee shall knowingly accept a gift except as provided by the Gifts Rule.

A Member, officer, or employee may accept a gift, other than cash or cash equivalent, having a value of less than $50, provided that the source of the gift is not a registered lobbyist, foreign agent, or private entity that retains or employs such individuals.  The cumulative value of gifts that may be accepted from any one source in a calendar year must be less than $100.  Generally, gifts having a value of less than $10 do not count toward the annual limit.  See Senate Rule 35.1(a)

The White House/Executive branch has similar rules outlined in detail here. It’s clear why such rules need to be in place. When you are in the seat of power, small (or large) gifts from foreign and domestic agents can be used as leverage in any sort of negotiation that comprise the integrity of the relationship. The onus should be on the public servant to want to defend his integrity to the fullest degree.

Which takes us back to Rosmah’s absurd statement. It speaks for itself when you’re talking about a party which is propped up by patronage and corruption. Accepting a few Hermes scarves, Rolex watches etc. is practically a non-issue when you think about the billion of dollars squandered away in no-bid contracts, flawed procurements and under the table deals.

The need for greater transparency in these dealings is essential. But fundamentally, people must elect leaders who they believe have a strong ethical compass that would make them think twice about these types of transgressions.

Malaysian Economy: Is the Party Over?

April 26, 2013

Malaysian Economy: Is the Party Over?

By Azeem Ibrahim from the Huffington Post

Dr Azeem IbrahimWith an election in the near future, scheduled for May 5th, Malaysia’s economy is under scrutiny. Is it really as good as the present government says it is in its campaign propaganda? The usual indicators look good — growth is 5 percent this year, inflation is low at around 2.5 percent and unemployment is low and stable at about 3 percent. Malaysia has enjoyed vigorous growth and change in the 50 years since it became independent and it is now the 37th largest economy in the world.

But after more than 50 years of one-party administration, the country is now at a crossroads with the ruling coalition facing formidable opposition. The economy is a major campaign issue as the country has been running considerable budget deficits since 1998, with the government offering subsidies and cash handouts to maintain itself in power. Since 2008 the government’s debt has escalated exponentially and is projected to be RM 779 billion by 2017 — creating a major problem of domestic debt for future governments to face.

Government borrowing, excessive spending on huge infrastructure projects, the flight of capital overseas, and a downturn in gas and palm oil prices are combining to create concern about a potential economic dislocation, prompting warnings from financial analysts in the region.

Malaysia’s rising ratio of household debt to its GDP reached 80.5 last year, as the country’s middle class has taken advantage of easy credit. Now there is the risk of being caught in a credit bubble, similar to the sub-prime crisis in the U.S. in 2008 which forced foreclosures and the collapse of several major financial institutions.

With 30 percent as the acceptable debt service ratio, it is a matter of increasing concern that people are using more than half of their disposable income to pay off household debts. The ratio of household debt to disposable income in Malaysia is 140 percent, one of the highest in the world and above that of the U.S. at 123 percent and Thailand at 52 percent. Unless there is a rise in productivity and household incomes for Malaysia’s five million working population, this trend is not sustainable.

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s policies of short term gains andNajib latest generous corporate welfare to maintain popular support contrast with the long term vision of the Pakatan coalition led by Anwar Ibrahim. Noting that “Malaysia’s fiscal space has shrunk considerably since the 2008 global financial crisis”, policies need to be put in place to spare the people the austerity measures being adopted by several of the troubled Eurozone countries.

The need is to curb household debt, to broaden the tax base, repeal subsides gradually, trim certain expenditures and generally bring the fiscal house in order without creating the pain of a sudden adjustment. Instead of raising the debt ceiling again and again, Malaysia needs to grow government revenue and rein in sovereign debt, as Malaysia’s debt to revenue ratio is approaching that of Italy’s.

In all the government’s campaign promises there is nothing to address the growing problem of blatant corruption in high places and the widening income disparities since taxes were lowered for the wealthy. Malaysian taxes are the second lowest in South East Asia, with Singapore lowest with personal income tax capped at 20 percent. Singapore has since instituted a tax on services and consumption, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) at 7 percent, a move currently under discussion in Malaysia.

To ensure that growth is sustained, Malaysia needs to implement numerous reforms which have already been outlined in the Government’s New Economic Model. Unfortunately, many of these proposals remain simply paper promises and Malaysia can no longer afford business as usual. Criticisms are common about the lack of transparency of government statistics which are skewed in favor of the incumbent regime. A retired Malaysian international banker recently described official government reports as “Alice in Wonderland statistics.”

Anwar with Hadi and Kit SiangThis would change with a victory for Pakatan Rakyat. Anwar Ibrahim’s vision of good governance, based on fairness and justice and free of race considerations is reinforced by World Bank studies that compare Malaysia with more successful countries such as China, Indonesia and Vietnam. The latest IMF report card on Malaysia indicates the need for fiscal and structural reforms and an ambitious consolidation plan, with tax reform and expenditure rationalization.

Malaysians want an end to stagnant wages and earning levels and an end to the Malaysia being caught in the Middle Income Trap with little hope of higher productivity and wages. Malaysia’s dream of joining the league of high income developed nations as envisaged in its Vision 2020 will not happen on its current course.

Anwar Ibrahim will bring about the necessary changes based on the needs of the people of Malaysia, not be deferring to the bankers, corporations or profiteering capitalists. He understands that is time for more egalitarian policies to put an end to the stifling of initiative and competition through the old affirmative action policies favoring Malays. Preferential treatment for ethnic Malays and some indigenous groups, collectively known as Bumiputra, have led to inequalities in awarding government jobs and contracts and also the provision of education and cheaper housing.

It is also time to end the practice of using low-cost foreign labor for assembly work and to invest instead in a research and development base for new industries. This would help reverse the much-discussed phenomenon of the migration of talent out of Malaysia, and would turn the brain drain into an economic gain. Productivity and inclusiveness lie at the heart of Malaysia’s transformation programs and according to the latest Malaysia Economic Monitor Report, this is an historical opportunity for change.

It remains to be seen whether Anwar Ibrahim’s message will reverberate sufficiently among the voters next month, to bring about a change in direction and a change in leadership for Malaysia, bringing with it the opportunity for the country and its people to realize their full democratic potential.

Dr. Azeem Ibrahim is the Executive Chairman of the Scotland Institute and a Fellow at the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding

NPC Newsmaker Program: Turning Point in Malaysia: Will the Ruling Coalition Finally Lose Power?

From National Press Club

WASHINGTON, April 23, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — On May 5, Malaysians will vote in their 13(th) general election since gaining independence in 1957 — and for the first time, the outcome of the election is in doubt. Disenchantment with the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, the growing influence of online media and an explosion in the number of young voters (20 percent of the electorate is under 30 and eligible to vote for the first time) could propel the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition to victory.

At a National Press Club Newsmaker news conference on Wednesday, April 24, John Mallott, the former U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia and one of the foremost experts on Malaysian politics, will analyze the forces at play that could make this election an historic turning point for a significant U.S. trading partner and military ally.

While the opposition currently enjoys a slight lead in national polls and a dominant position in online media, the ruling coalition controls the mainstream media and has prevailed in all 12 previous elections. Concerns about electoral fraud are high — international observer delegations have routinely criticized Malaysia’s Election Commission for its handling of previous elections.

The ruling coalition has been plagued by a series of high-profile corruption cases and widespread criticism for poor handling of race relations, including requiring non-Muslims to abide by strict statutes of Muslim law. The opposition coalition controls five of Malaysia’s 14 states and territories and has established a record of building surplus budgets, attracting foreign investment, improving social services and promoting equal citizenship rights for all ethnic groups. But it has also been hampered by internal conflicts over application of Islamic law.

Some observers maintain that a change in government would be destabilizing for Malaysia, while others contend it’s crucial for bringing about the reforms necessary for Malaysia to function effectively as a pluralistic society in a globalized world.

This National Press Club Newsmaker news conference will take place on Wednesday, April 24 at 2 p.m. in the club’s Zenger Room on the 13(th) Floor of the National Press Building, 529 14(th) St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20045.

SOURCE National Press Club

Looking Back @BERSIH2.0

April 27, 2012

Looking Back @BERSIH2.0

by Political Observer

Last year the Bersih rally was a complete and utter disaster for the UMNO-BN government. The arrest of 2000 people and use of excessive force on so many left UMNO in an unenviable position with 2011 being the year of the Arab Spring. Immediately after the demonstration Prime Minister Najib Razak held an interview with CNN International Host John Defterios. 

(Remember that since this interview was conducted it was revealed that FBC communications, the company that John Defterios was the Vice President of) had been hired by the Government of Malaysia to place favorable content about the country in major international news outlets. BBC formally apologized for airing content that was essentially paid-for advertising by the Malaysian government. CNBC and CNN International have not admitting to any wrong doing, although the extent to which corporate sponsors fund those two organizations is fairly obvious and well known.)

In the soft-ball interview at around 2:00 in Defterios asks Najib about the demonstrations in Malaysia. Rather than make reference to the Police brutality, arrests, use of tear gas and water cannons, possible attack on a hospital, Defterios decided to completely shirk his journalistic responsibility and tossed a softball to Najib. Defterios’ demeanor also suggests he’s somewhat mocking or belittling the BBERSIH movement. 

Najib was then able to completely evade the issue and say that Malaysia is a democracy and the fact that UMNO lost 5 states in the  2008 general election is enough evidence as such. 

Defterios, rather than follow up with what was obviously the most important story of the day vis-a-vis Malaysia, and even raise some of the points BERSIH was demanding.The most hilarious part is immediately after airing clips of tear gas, water canon and police officers beating up demonstrators, Najib is asked if he was satisfied with the security response and he says, 

‘It was quite mild…because although they were taken in…they were released after eight hours and they were treated very well. There was no undue use of force and the demonstrators were dispersed using minimum force.”

Such comical detachment from reality can only remind us of the classic moment from BERSIH1.0 when Information Minister ZAM was on Al Jazeera opposite Anwar Ibrahim responding to questions about the use of force in 2007:

There seems to be a pattern emerging of Malaysian government spokespersons looking quite foolish on international media news broadcasts.

Anwar’s Credibility Gap widening or a J-Spin?

March 13, 2011

Anwar goes on the defence


By Joceline Tan@

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is at his lowest ebb since March 2008 and he is turning to the ceramah circuit to defend himself against multi-pronged attacks. 

ONE of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s oldest and most loyal friends ended his days as a widower on Thursday night.Tumpat MP Datuk Kamaruddin Jaffar, better known as Datuk KJ, remarried a year after his first wife died of cancer and the guests of honour were Anwar and Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim.

But the honour of making the speech was given to PAS politician Dr Syed Azman Syed Ahmad of Terengganu. Dr Syed Azman was the matchmaker for Kamaruddin and his Malacca-born wife and he almost brought the house down when he teased the newly-weds: “Last week, we failed to capture the Merlimau seat but, never mind, Datuk Kamaruddin has successfully conquered Malacca.”

On attack mode: Anwar, seen here in Penang, has hit the ceramah circuit again. He is training his guns at his long-time nemesis Dr Mahathir, whose memoirs touch on Anwar’s sex life.

It was a relaxing affair for many of the Pakatan Rakyat politicians that evening, and particularly for Anwar who has been increasingly under siege.

The PKR de facto leader is at his lowest point since his post-2008 political comeback. For a couple of years after the March 8 “tsunami”, it seemed like Anwar could walk on water. But very little has gone right for him in recent months, be it his party affairs or the sodomy trial.

PKR people still insist he is Pakatan’s Prime Minister-in-waiting. But most PAS and DAP leaders have stopped talking about the road to Putrajaya. They are more concerned about whether they can hold on to their seats now it is clear they are unable to hold on to the Malay vote.

Anwar has just climbed back from the precipice in the sodomy trial. The trial had been inching towards revealing the identity of Lelaki Y (Male Y), the term investigators used for the mystery man whose DNA was allegedly found in Saiful.

On Tuesday, the courts ruled that several items with the DNA of Lelaki Y could not be tendered as evidence. It was a big win for Anwar’s legal team because the evidence would have tied him to Lelaki Y.

He must have felt great relief because his detractors had begun taunting him as Lelaki Y when he campaigned in Kerdau. He was greeted with banners that said, “Mr Y, selamat datang ke Kerdau” – and that was one of the more polite banners.

UMNO's Matahari

On top of that, he had to endure a “joint ceramah” with his female nemesis Ummi Hafilda Ali who was speaking just a stone’s throw away from him. People on his side of the ceramah could hear quite clearly what she was saying about him, and it was not pleasant stuff.

PKR secretary-general and Machang MP Saifuddin Nasution denied that Ummi rattled his boss that night.“Anwar has been through a lot. It takes more than that to upset him,” said Saifuddin.

But PKR politicians are rather wary of her given the crowds she pulled in Kerdau and Merlimau. Besides, who else apart from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has spoken so explicitly and daringly about Anwar?

Anwar’s detractors would like to think that his downward slide began after he failed to deliver on his September 16, 2008 claim.But the real slide started after PKR’s trouble-ridden elections last year and the defections from his party. It gave the impression that he could not control PKR and that his priorities were too wrapped up in his court case.

” A Doctor in the House” revives 1998 Sodomy Story

Timely Released to Inflict Maximum Damage to Anwar's Reputation

Some think that Anwar is in the midst of one of those perfect storms. Apart from the trial, the publication of Dr Mahathir’s memoirs has sort of switched things up. It could not have been worse timing for Anwar. Dr Mahathir has repeated his accusations about Anwar’s sexual exploits, this time in print.

At the book launch, a mischievous Dr Mahathir said he was “trembling” at the thought of being sued. Of course, he was telling Anwar to “bring it on, man, bring it on”. The people around Anwar are furious about the book.“I’m not buying the book. It’s a story we have heard before,” said Muaz Omar, an aide of Azmin’s.

Target Mahathir

At the PKR political bureau meeting two nights after the book launch, several party leaders felt that Anwar should not let Dr Mahathir get away with what he has written. “Anwar’s stand is that he had long ago decided to move on where Dr Mahathir was concerned. He said he’s not interested in challenging an old script and he doesn’t want to be stuck in another court case,” said Saifuddin.

Anwar prefers the court of public opinion rather than the court of law. He has been on a ceramah blitz ostensibly to promote the Pakatan manifesto, the Buku Jingga, but also to counter the renewed attacks against him.

Dr Mahathir has become a central target of his attacks the last few days. He does not rebut what Dr Mahathir is saying about his sexuality but he has hit out at the former premier’s cronies and his children’s businesses and wealth. He seems to be steering clear of Ummi, though.

A Clinton Snub

Anwar also suffered a setback when a hoped-for meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not materialise. Shortly before Clinton’s visit, a news portal reported that a meeting was being lined up. It was a rather strange report because the meeting was apparently never on the cards.

There has been a cooling on the part of the US administration towards Anwar’s cause and Clinton’s stance during her recent visit was in sharp contrast to that of Vice-President Al Gore at the height of Sodomy 1.

Moreover, Clinton’s visit follows improved ties between the United States and Malaysia. The Obama administration sees Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak as a Muslim leader with whom they can sit down and have a dialogue.

In that sense, Anwar’s crusade against APCO may have more to do with APCO’s role in presenting Anwar’s sodomy case to US lawmakers than APCO’s so-called Jewish connections.

The lobby group has explained the trial in a way that Americans can relate to, that it is an alleged sexual harassment involving an employer and a subordinate and the trial is a result of a report lodged by a complainant, unlike the first trial where the Government was the main initiator.

But the most damaging strike has been the Wikileaks report quoting Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew as saying that Anwar knowingly walked into a trap. Singapore has played down the report but has not denied its contents.

Najib’s Moderate Islamic Brother: Turkey’s Recep Tayyib Erdogan

The success of Najib’s visit to Turkey was another blow to Anwar who counts Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a friend and supporter.

Erdogan had welcomed Najib in Ankara, saying, “this is my brother Najib and I am happy to have him here.”

Their scheduled 10-minute four-eyed meeting over-ran into 45 minutes and Erdogan insisted on a joint press conference. The Turkish Premier also eschewed protocol and insisted that Najib ride in the same car as him. It was a political coup of sorts for Najib.

All these events add up to a challenging time ahead for Anwar and his party.“I can’t blame Anwar if he feels he is all alone. He has been consumed by successive crises and there are now less people whom he can count on to defend him and do the attacking. To him, the trial is to stop his political ambitions and his goal of power, and it is taking a lot out of him,” said Merdeka Centre director Ibrahim Suffian.

Reporters covering his trial said he seems to be holding up well and is still able to see the lighter side of things. For instance, when a witness was asked to identify him, Anwar, who was sitting in the dock, playfully dodged as though trying to hide.

He is reportedly upset that PKR members have not been turning up in court to show him their support. Recently, party members received the following SMS from PKR Tanjung Karang chief Yahya Sahri: “Salam, sokongan DSAI di mahkamah amat merosot hampir tiada. Saya ingin mencadangkan agar kita atur kawan-kawan kita drp cabang turun beri sokongan moral, klu kita bergilir pun ok, satu cabang klu hantar 20 org pun dah ok. Jadual mahkamah akan saya sms.” [Greetings, support for DSAI in court has dwindled significantly, nearly none. I wish to suggest that we arrange for our friends from the (PKR) divisions and branches to give moral support  even in batches of 2o people in turn would be fine. I will sms court times.]

Yahya was urging PKR divisions to send members whether in rotation or groups of 20 to show moral support for Anwar because the number of supporters in court had dwindled to almost nil.

PKR de facto Leader in a “Distraction Mode”

Anwar is the ultimate political animal. A lesser person would have cracked under the pressure. He told Saifuddin that when he goes on the ground and sees a big crowd, he feels motivated. The crowds at his ceramah have indeed been growing and a lot of it has to do with his trial approaching a critical stage and the sensational evidence coming out.

Anwar, said academic Prof James Chin, is in “distraction mode”.“He cannot devote his full time to Pakatan or PKR. The trial is taking away his attention and focus. But everything hinges on the next general election. If Najib does not get his two-thirds majority, he is in trouble. If Pakatan does badly then they are in trouble,” said Chin of Monash University Sunway Campus.

The attacks by Dr Mahathir, said Chin, has impact among rural Malays but less so among the urban crowd.

Anwar: A liability for Pakatan?

Anwar’s supporters also bristle at the suggestion that he has become a liability for Pakatan. But privately, PAS and DAP leaders are frustrated that Anwar has overwhelmed their political agenda.

Anwar, said blogger Syed Azizi Syed Aziz who is better known as Kickdafella, has image problems in the rural Malays areas and that becomes a problem for PAS. Outwardly, DAP and PAS still stand by him but, privately, they are riddled with doubts about the trial and his ability to hold things together.

Moreover, Generation Y, the youth cohort born between the mid 1970s and 2000, is not rallying around Anwar the way Generation X took to the streets to support him during his first trial. Generation Y is neither loyal to Anwar’s politics nor affiliated with the ruling coalition. They are as critical of Pakatan politicians as they are of those in Barisan.

As such, Pakatan’s claim that young voters are with them is not exactly true. The young voters are still out there and their vote will go to the party that can offer them a better future – and that means education, jobs, homes and a lifestyle of their choice.

Anwar is in a difficult political situation and he will be fighting many fronts in the months ahead.

Mahathir’s Memoirs isn’t the last word on His Era

March 11, 2011

Mahathir’s Memoirs isn’t the Last Word on His Era(1981-2003)

by Terence Netto

The self-description of a life in an autobiography or its stepchild, memoirs, is an uneasy task to anyone who has lived in the maw of febrile political events.

Practitioners find it difficult to tread the line between their involvement and the detachment that is necessary if their narratives are to be considered as contributions to the historical record.

Inability to steer by that fine thread usually results in the genre falling between two stools: the self-serving tract or the evasive testimonial.

But what about the mendacious account, the one that’s deceitful about the facts and gives such a patently one-sided version that the stones cry out for reproof?

Those versions can only be gainsaid by the accounts of other participants in the same dramas, personae not necessarily more capable of the detachment that helps build up the historical record, but whose accounts could serve the purpose of dispatching drivel to where it ought: the trash bin.

Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad‘s much-awaited memoirs, ‘A Doctor in the House’, reportedly went through 17 drafts before it was launched earlier this week, something like seven years and four months after his retirement.

The wait appeared to take as long as his premiership, which was 22 years and three-and-a-half months – too long a span, as even Mahathir admits, but the fault for that, typically, was not his.

The blame lay in Anwar Ibrahim‘s alleged sexual misdeeds which caused a storm whose swells Mahathir had to navigate safely before actually handing over to another successor. As ever, with Mahathir, the fault is with the others.

A season of memoir-publication

Whether that was always true can somewhat be deduced from the accounts of Mahathir’s sometime coadjutors, former deputy prime minister Musa Hitam and former finance minister Daim Zainuddin.

Both were about to come out with their memoirs but held back to allow their former boss to bat first in Malaysia’s hitherto unprecedented season of memoir-publication.  Musa and Daim are expected to rewrite parts of their books in response to Mahathir’s patently self-serving account of affrays in which Musa and Daim were part.

Daim’s account would be the more eagerly awaited as Mahathir has implied he had to be jettisoned because of the miasma of corruption that clung to the former economic czar. Mahathir also says in his memoirs that Daim was covertly against the capital controls he introduced in 1998 in the face of the currency and stock market crisis that laid siege to East Asian economies.

Certainly, Daim would have something to say about all this. It has been bruited about on the grapevine that he felt he did a lot for Mahathir and that the latter was ungrateful for what Daim did to rescue the economy twice, in the recession of 1985-87 and the crisis of 1997-98.

In retrospect, a career such as Daim’s – covertly powerful, beneficent and sinister in equal parts – could only have been possible under an authoritarian leader like Mahathir. Their alliance was a potent one of convenience. Both were men of high and scheming intelligence. Both had their share of arrogance, greed and ambition; both wore it with one another the way two temporarily allied conspirators could, probably sublimating the inherent tensions in a stream of acerbic commentary on the menagerie of knaves and inferiors around them.

Musa to return salvo?

With Musa, Mahathir’s relation would have been different. He was a genuine democrat where Mahathir was an authoritarian to the manner born.

Mahathir claims he told home minister Musa that he did not want the ISA to be used during his term of office.Well, Mahathir has been on record as saying many things, such as that Musa, Ghafar Baba and Anwar would succeed him when he left the office of PM.

In the event, only his fourth deputy, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, succeeded to the office – and Mahathir promptly helped yank him off the stage; so much for the assurances of Mahathir.

Musa used to say that after his exit from active politics, whenever he met Mahathir on a social basis, his former boss would banter with him, reminding him, only half in jest, of how Musa had stabbed him in the back.

From Musa’s forthcoming memoirs, presumably, we can get to know what he felt about Mahathir’s barb and its justification or lack thereof. His account, like Daim’s, is bound to be grist for the chattering classes.

‘May you live in interesting times’ goes the Chinese saying that has particular resonance for Malaysian politics.

In fact, there’s doubt about its Chinese provenance, like the doubt Mahathir conjures about his ancestry, because the saying appears naturally crafted for the byzantine ways of Malaysian politics.

The upcoming memoirs of Daim and Musa should help us around the twists and turns. But there’s no certainty that Mahathir would not, subsequently, add another round of convolution to the whole morass.

From Euphoria to Doom: Wither Pakatan Rakyat?

March 9, 2011

From Euphoria to Doom: 3rd Anniversary of 2008 Political Tsunami

by Masterwordsmith-Unplugged

“Today, 8th March 2011, is the third anniversary of the 8th March 2008 ‘Revolution’. Has the Revolution lost steam? Will the next general election see the opposition make more gains or is it downhill from hereon? This is what many are asking and most are of the opinion that March 2008 was a flash-in-the-pan. The next general election is not for Barisan Nasional to win but for Pakatan Rakyat to lose” –Raja Petra Kamarudin (RPK)

Actually, I did not want to write about the 3rd anniversary of the 2008 tsunami because there is nothing to celebrate. In fact, I hang my head down in shame for all that has been happening. From a high point of euphoria, we have descended into the doldrums of doom with hope that seems to be diminishing by the day. In his latest post HERE, RPK said that “The next general election is not for Barisan Nasional to win but for Pakatan Rakyat to lose.” What led to this despondent state of affairs?

Are we really headed for doom? Where is the hero that will prevent us from being decimated by all the squabbling and controversies? What do we see at the moment? Top on the list is the fast diminishing support from voters who are unlikely to continue to stand behind Pakatan Rakyat candidates who refuse to stand TOGETHER for Malaysians. However, is there really increasing support for BN? The record shows that both coalitions have won eight of 16 by-elections which means that when the next GE comes, anything could happen so it is not the end until the fat lady sings.

Pakatan Rakyat: Facing the Backlash of the Gambling Ban

Time and time again many have asked PR to take the bull by the horns and deal with issues e.g PKR internal problems, the PAS gambling ban etc. but have they done what is needed? Have they put the rakyat first in their deliberations and actions? They have to be serious in their leadership role not only because it is the right thing to do for us Malaysians but because to do otherwise would be absolutely foolish and politically self-destructive.

However, at a time when the PR leaders should come together and reason to see how to attack the common enemy, they are facing the backlash from voters because of the gambling ban. It is not so much the public outcry against gambling per se but rather the insensitivity to the needs of those of different religious beliefs and the impact on illegal gambling. In other words, PR is digging its own grave at an unprecedented speed what with:

* the departure of Zaid Ibrahim and the formation of KITA.
* the internal squabbles of PKR.
* Selangor water woes.
* Sodomy II trial.
* defections.
* the absence of public statements from the coalition as contrasted by differing views from leaders of the coalition such as on the gambling ban.
* the increasing distrust and fear/wariness of PAS.
* failure to deliver.
* how the needs of the rakyat have NOT been prioritized.
* the gambling ban.
* poor public relations strategies.
* failure to handle internal problems and to deal with objections/public outcry
* and many other shameful issues which have been headline news.

Are our politicians too proud to admit that they have erred? Have they been so complacent with the high points of the 2008 victories and the aftermath to the extent that they are of no earthly use because they have yet to come down from their cloud 9?

Are they busy taking care of their own turf and bickering over seats for the next elections? Are they foolishly complacent into thinking that the disgruntled rakyat WILL support them?

Knock, knock knock! Reality bites! Real hard bites too! Pakatan MUST consolidate. They MUST come together to see how best they can go to battle. This is the time to improve their artillery, train their foot-soldiers, improve their public relations techniques, spruce up their report card, go down to the grass root levels to seek out support and to lobby instead of floating around in their airy-fairy land doing sword-fighting antics against their friends instead of foes!!!

Pakatan Rakyat MUST remember that the rakyat are their bosses and if we are NOT happy in our appraisal of what has and has NOT been done, we will have no qualms about showing them the door just as we did to BN in the previous election.

Honestly, I do not understand their warped mentality. At this time, BN is at full turbo speed zooming to the rakyat, forking out aid, giving out goodies, delivering well-written speeches, painting a hunky dory pic of BN while PR members are taking turns to shoot themselves in the foot.

Good heavens! Please stop all this monkeying around and get down to the brass tags of serving the people. Time is running out, you are playing in injury time and there have been too many red cards issued to you.

Wise up or prepare to be shipped out! That, my dear, is the hefty price you may have to pay for your false pride and complacency!

Mahathir on Mahathir

March 8, 2011

In posting this article, I must extend my apologies to Frank, Mongkut Bean, Tok Cik, Tean Rean, Danildaud and  all my good friends who feel that I have given Tun Mahathir too much exposure on this blog. Also to my most severe in-house critic, Dr. Kamsiah. I have always attempted to be fair to and yet critical of my hometown hero. This is hard  for  me  to do, although he destroyed the judiciary and other institutions of governance in order to  execute his Vision and plans for Malaysia. He did what he had to do, I would rationalise.

That said, my comments in Tom Plate‘s book, Conversations with Mahathir, stand because they were written after some agonising reflections on my part of the man I knew growing up in Alor Setar,Kedah Darul Aman in the 1950s .I also served him for  a few years when he was Chairman, Kumpulan FIMA Berhad before I joined Sime Darby in 1978. He was different then, for he was a very good boss and an excellent motivator.–Din Merican

Mahathir on Mahathir: A Doctor in the House

by M Krishnamoorthy (March7, 2011) @

Dr Mahathir Mohamad dedicated 20 pages of his memoirs into detailing how he came to know about Anwar Ibrahim‘s alleged sexual liaisons with men and women, leading to the latter’s sacking in 1998.

In the chapter ‘Anwar’s Challenge’, Mahathir states: “Four years after IGP Tun Hanif first told me about allegations linking Anwar to homosexual activities, someone sent me the book ‘50 Dalil Kenapa Anwar Ibrahim Tidak Boleh Jadi Perdana Menteri‘ (’50 Reasons Why Anwar Ibrahim Cannot Become Prime Minister’).

“The book was clearly a sensationalist attempt to make money so I did not read it, but the rumours about Anwar refused to go away.”

He then cites, “Then in 1997, I received a letter from a woman named Ummi Hafilda Ali. Its contents disturbed me as there were more specific allegations of sodomy against Anwar.”

Meanwhile, Mahathir says: “The police had continued their observations of the deputy minister’s activities, as was their usual practice. Even if I had asked them to stop, I doubt they would have. This time they had evidence, including pictures and confessions of people involved.

Relating events that led to firing of Anwar, Mahathir narrates how he interviewed four girls who told him about how they were persuaded to see a very influential person by an Indian man they knew by the name of Nalla.

“He had taken each girl separately to a house in Kenny Hills. There they met a person they recognised as the deputy prime minister. They were asked to undress with the purpose of having sex.

“Two of them said they refused but the other two consented. They were willing to talk to the police and to me but were adamant that they should not appear in court to give evidence.”

Mahathir said he then called the UMNO menteris besar, chief ministers and state heads to Sri Perdana for a meeting and asked the police to make the witnesses he had interviewed available.

“I then briefed party leaders about what I had learnt about Anwar and showed them pictures of the witnesses.”

Tell-all book

This was among the many chapters in the 800 page memoirs, which also details his earliest memories of childhood; through Malaya’s struggle through the sunset of British colonialism, World War II, and Independence; and to his life as a doctor.

In a tell-all book, Mahathir states categorically that he is a Malay.  “Some claim that my father was Malayalee and was fluent in both Tamil and Malayalam. Some have even written that he was a Hindu who converted to Islam to marry my mother. Others say they have seen documents clearly stating my ethnicity. I admit that some Indian, or more accurately South Asian blood flows in my veins, but from which part of the Indian subcontinent my ancestors came I do not know,” he says in the beginning of Chapter three of the 62 chapter memoirs, which is 843 pages long.

On Singapore’s leader Lee Kuan Yew (left) he says: “I had clashed with Lee many times when we were MPs in the 1964 and 1965 parliamentary sessions. I did not like his endless preaching of about what Malaysia should do or should be like.

“Bitter over the painful separation, he called Malays ‘the jungle Arabs’, likening them to the desert Arabs of who he seemed to have a low opinion. I doubt he would disparage the Arabs today as Singapore is now far more active than Malaysia in wooing investors from the Middle East, and being the model as well as their advisers for development.”

On the bright side, he says, “Despite our past clashes, I was determined to have friendly relations with Singapore when I became Prime Minister.”

Operations Lalang

In addition to a lot of personal, if controversial anecdotes, Mahathir narrates his constant struggles as a politician to improve the lot of his fellow citizens; his single-minded pursuit of his country’s goals; his greatest fears; and his most cherished hopes.

In a 20-page chapter on Operasi Lalang, he says: ” I told Musa Hitam, my then deputy prime minister and minister of Home Affairs, to tell the IGP very early in my premiership that I did not intend to use the ISA.

“How then could I have allowed Ops Lalang, biggest of such police operation in Malaysian history, to happen just six years later?”

In 1987, with the Chinese language issue, university rallies, UMNO’s accusation of mass conversions of Malays into Christians and a Malay soldier running amok and firing M-16 in Jalan Chow Kit, he says: “The police felt that a repeat of the May 13 riots of 1969 was more than likely. The IGP advised me that pre-emptive arrests under the ISA had to be made quickly if public order was to be maintained.

“Agreeing to follow the IGP’s recommendations meant having to overcome my own conscience.”

On former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin (right), he says: “He was repeatedly accused of lining his pockets and taking kickbacks from contracts. No clear evidence was ever produced, but once again the whispering grew louder and more spiteful. People came to see me to complain about him, and when I demanded evidence, they could not produce.”

Daim, as usual, ignored all the talk about him. “He must have learnt the rumours but he chose not to reply. When the talk got to be too much and I could not bear it any more, I arranged for him to resign.

“In the end what worried me were not only the rumours of cronyism but also tales of his supposed disloyalty. He was supportive during the financial crisis, at least in front of me.”

Mahathir said he was later informed by Abdul Ghani Othman that Daim had called a number of menteris besar, telling them not to support his idea of currency controls.”Since nobody else came with similar complaints I just discounted the story. But when it had all become too much, I didn’t accuse him of anything but sent word through a mutual friend that I wanted him to resign.”

On succeeding as prime minister from Hussein Onn, he says: “As deputy prime minister, I was a man chosen by a leader who did not have strong support in the party. I was obviously not going to have an easy time and Hussein could not provide much protection for me.

“Hussein had depended on Razak for support when he was chosen as deputy prime minister. When Razak died, Hussein had no great grassroots base to speak of. “The arrests and detention of the so-called communists’ sympathisers high in the party seemed to suggest that his office was influenced by communists.”

The book will be launched tomorrow at 3pm in the East Atrium Concourse (in front of MPH Bookstores), Mid Valley Megamall.It will retail at RM100 and is published by MPH Group Publishing.

March 8, 2011

The Malaysian Insider says: Mahathir’s Memoirs is a great work of fiction

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s autobiography “A Doctor in the House” should be read by all Malaysians because it is an enjoyable book. It is after all a great work of fiction.

Reading the book, one will have to come to only one conclusion — he was not guilty of any wrongdoing in his time as Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister.Take Ops Lalang for example.

Dr Mahathir says that he disliked the Internal Security Act (ISA) because he was once a potential detainee as well, or so he claims.In his autobiography, Dr Mahathir puts forward the argument that he never wanted anyone arrested during one of his administration’s biggest crisis in 1987.

But he was convinced by the police that some arrests would have to be made to prevent another May 13. Dr Mahathir writes that he thought only a few people would be detained, but was flabbergasted by the final number, which was 554.We are sure many Malaysians were also flabbergasted.

He also claimed he was not told that newspapers such as The Star, Sin Chew Daily and Watan would be banned. That’s a good one Doc.

As for the sacking of Tun Salleh Abas as Lord President in 1988, Dr Mahathir makes a fantastic revelation.He claims that Salleh was actually removed because the latter had complained about the noise coming from the renovation works of the King’s private home.

Dr Mahathir says he does not have a copy of the letter and acknowledges the fact that the Attorney-General did not use it during Salleh’s tribunal hearing. He wrote that it would be the A-G who would be in the best position to verify his claim.

That’s convenient. These are just two examples of Dr Mahathir’s amazing stories.He has been an amazing story-teller after all for most of his life. And his book is certainly ‘unputdownable.’ So go ahead. Buy the book. It is a must-read.

Don’t Politicise Sensitive and Racial Issues, says Malaysia’s King

March 7, 2011

DYMM Yang Di-Pertuan Agong: Don’t Politicise Sensitive and Racial Issues

DYMM The King and His Prime Minister

DYMM Yang Di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin today expressed concern over the tendency of certain quarters to raise sensitive and racial issues and politicise matters which they should not.

He said the sovereignty of the Malay rulers, the position of Islam as the religion of the federation, the special position of the Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak, and the legitimate rights of the other races encompassing citizenship and fundamental rights, as enshrined in the Federal Constitution, should not be questioned so as to avert disunity.

At Parliament House

“I urge all quarters to uphold the rule of law and the constitution,” he said when opening the first meeting of the fourth session of the 12th Parliament.

Tuanku Mizan said that though Islam was the religion of the federation, there was healthy practice of moderation in the country which enabled other religions to be practised in peace and harmony and these religious festival days were also recognised and regarded as public holidays.

He said it was hoped that to ensure peace in the country, non-governmental organisations would avoid touching on issues which could jeopardise harmony and undermine the nation’s image when implementing their programmes and activities.

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong said that although the economy was now going through rapid recovery, as a nation that practised open economy, Malaysia must be sensitive to external factors such as the uncertain global economy which posed a challenge to efforts towards strengthening the country’s economy and subsequently the efforts to achieve a developed nation status with high income in 2020.

However, the King hoped that the Government Transformation Plan and Economic Transformation would benefit the people fully so that they could enjoy the improvement in the quality of life including education, health, housing transport and public amenities.

Tuanku Mizan also congratulated the government on Malaysia’s success in being placed on the 10th spot in the World Competitiveness Report 2010 but hoped Malaysia would not be quickly satisfied with the achievement.

On education quality, the King said educational transformation at the school level, particularly pertaining to the standard of curriculum introduced would be able to raise further the education quality. Tuanku Mizan also called for an improvement in the quality and skill of teachers and lecturers in teaching and learning besides maintaining dedication and integrity.

The King welcomed the strategic cooperation between the police and armed forces in tackling crime such as using military camps to train police personnel, to absorb former soldiers into the police force and to carry out joint patrols.

“I’m most impressed by this development because previously such strategic cooperation had been rare. It was a positive development that would bring much benefits to the people and country,” he said.

In tackling corruption, Tuanku Mizan called on all quarters to give solid support and confidence to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in fighting corrupt practices, power abuse and irregularities in the country.

The Yang Di-Pertuan Agong recorded his appreciation to everyone involved in ‘Ops Piramid’ to bring back Malaysian students from Egypt following the unrest in that country recently.

He also congratulated national athletes who had brought glory to the country at the international level, including at the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and the Suzuki AFF Football Championship, besides hoping that Malaysian athletes would continue to perform excellently at the Olympic Games 2012 in London.

Dr Dzul on Kerdau and Merlimau

March 7, 2011

After Kerdau and Merlimau–Reform or Face a National Revolt!

by Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad  (March 6, 2011)

I’m fully conscious of how the BN’s mainstream media (MSM) would demonise and ostracise me for what I’m about to say. I’m nonetheless going to say it in simple and unequivocal term. Simply put, if I were to call the shot in N28 Kerdau by-election, I would want my party to boycott the election. Period.

The BN’s MSM would then have a field day in making PAS their punching bag and would go to town for weeks on end on this huge political meal. They would be apparently vindicated for all their claims that the opposition is bankrupt of ideas and issues to fight them on any further political contestation.

On the back of the looming 13th General Election (GE) coming ever closer, the decision to boycott would arguably be a political suicide for PAS and the Pakatan. Political analysts might argue that the opposition has finally succumbed to the psychological war of the BN’s ‘propagandist firepower’. It doesn’t take a pundit to tell you that.

That’s the usual ‘in-the-box-kind-of-thinking’ that invariably ends up in political parties quite unwilling to brace drastic unconventional ideas and maneuvers. That’s the thinking that underpins the predictable decision of most political parties of whatever ideological persuasions in the face of challenging situation.

What’s my rationale for proposing this drastic action? Am I already conceding defeat on the 11th hours? Am I now perceived as mitigating the adverse impact of another PAS’ defeat? Say what you like.

I’ve been part of the strategic teams of many a by-election especially after the 12th GE. Some we have won and others we lost. The sweetest victory was of course Kuala Terengganu and the more bitter defeat was Galas. On both occasions power changed hands.

Quite contrary to the idea of running from defeat, I have a strange feeling that Kerdau is fast making me upbeat especially towards its finishing line. I’m not commenting on Merlimau as I’m not aware of the realities on ‘ground-zero’ in that BN’s state of Melaka.

Let me say it again. I’m not looking for an upset in Kerdau but is seriously hoping for a reduction of the majority the BN’s candidate secured in the last GE.

I’m not being wishful but given our campaign ‘blitz’ which put the Pahang’s MB defenceless to the finishing line, this writer is hardly surprised if the voters so decide to protest against UMNO-BN’s decades of malaise and negligence.

No one in his right frame of mind would miss noticing that Kerdau is a ‘cowboy’ town. After 53 years Kerdau has never got on to be in the radar of development. It’s the PM’s home state mind you. So simply said again, I’m not running from defeat.

However, this piece is at best purely academic as far as a boycott is concerned, as polling is well underway for both Merlimau and Kerdau, before this writer could publish or upload this piece.

But I felt the compelling need to say and share it with the entire nation, before the results are announced this evening. I’m dead serious. If anything this piece and the likes of this writing, if widely enough read and disseminated, could very well be the genesis of a pending ‘national revolt’, not quite like the middle-eastern turmoil now on world stage that Najib dreaded.

But strangely quite alike though, as it will also represent the utter disdain and hatred of the rakyat or the citizens, for what is here now dubbed in “Political Science” as an ‘Electoral Authoritarianism’ (EA). Malaysia is now listed as one by the author of ‘The Logics of Electoral Authoritarianism”, Professor Andres Schedler (2006).

Simply defined, EA is how government abuses power as to distort and contain a true electoral competition and denies equal access to the media of competing parties and subverts a free and fair election.

In the eyes of an enlarging enlightened sections of the Malaysian electorates and citizenry, Malaysia is indeed guilty of perpetuating ‘electoral authoritarianism’ with impunity. For that, Najib and his cohorts please take note!

If PM Najib wants to put the “Ben-Ali-Mubaarak-Gaddafi-type Revolt” at bay in our beloved land of Malaysia, act urgently to redress and reform the many excesses and sins on ‘electoral authoritarianism’ that has continued unabated for far too long in this country!

My arguments, with respect to a boycott call on Kerdau by-election and now urging immediate reform, are essentially premised on, but not limited to the following basis and evidences.

  1. Najib now infamous saying, “We don’t buy votes, but if you support us we can increase your allocation tomorrow or later. But show support for Barisan Nasional first”. Now that could only equal to his atrocious words of “You help me, I help you” in Sibu i.e his promise of delivering RM5 million on Monday if Robert Lau wins on Sunday now is iconised as the ultimate of ‘vote-buying’ in the lexicology of our local EA. If that is not vote-buying, what is?
  2. Najib began as early as on the second day of the campaign period to blitz Kerdau with ‘goodies’ and handouts as follows: RM400,000 for a hall in Kampong Seri Kerdau, RM150,000 for a Balai Bomba, RM100,000 for Hindu Temple and RM9.25millions on a water treatment plant in Batu Sawar. That’s a hefty RM10.4million, well exceeding the constituency budget allocation. Where are funds coming from? UMNO’s coffers or cronies’ or tax-payers’?
  3. Abuse of usage of public premises for party political campaign listed below:
    1. Public Field in Teluk Sentang,
    2. Mosques and Schools in Batu Sawar,
    3. Community Hall in Jengka 23 Felda,
    4. Broadband Centre for Jengka 25
    5. Community Hall in Kuala Tekal
    6. Kerdau’s Felda’s office.
  4. Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Ahmad Maslan’s announcement that the federal government will settle the CESS payment of RM13,000 for each settler in Jengka 22 next Monday is a surely a covert inducement for settlers to vote for BN come polling day for the Kerdau by-election on Sunday. (Cess payments are monies deducted from the sale of rubber for the purpose of replanting rubber plantations with oil palm. However, when settlers made the decision to switch from rubber to oil palm in 2004, cess payments worth RM12,000 that each settler had accumulated over the course of more than 20 years were not paid by Felda. Felda had paid the settlers RM5,000 each but the Land Development Authority still owes the settlers RM13,000 each, including interest). The bone of contention is why only pay those in the Jengka 22 in the N28 Kerdau constituency, while all Felda settlers Pahang have long been waiting for what are rightly theirs!
  5. The vicious and baseless attack on Dato’ Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, the Director for PAS’ Strategic Centre for the N28 Kerdau by-election by the MSM. The footage was widely covered and repeated by the BN’s TV channels including the ‘independent’  TV3.  This should be the last straw of it all. Seen and peceived by many as failing to respond to all the allegations of a failing Pahang state, as concertedly attacked by PAS’ election machinery, as depicted by Auditor General’s report, UMNO took the final hours of campaign to level a smear campaign on him, accusing him of abusing and capitalizing on a Felda settler’s financial hardship to his advantage. All these heinous hate campaign were fortunately clarified by those involved but wasn’t at all featured in the BN’s MSM. Abuse of MSM and denial of opposition’s right to MSM has become more rampant of late.

Based on a snap-shot of the abuses and excesses of a regime that practices “Electoral Authoritarianism”, I for one would not have hesitated to give the Election Commission and now Najib an ultimatum –Respond or face a National Revolt!

For the information of all well-wishers of democracy and in all fairness to us in PAS/Pakatan, we had submitted on 2 occasions, memorandum to the EC, MACC and the PDRM in protest of all these abuses and subversion of democracy.

It does not take a lawyer to be telling you that Najib and his cohorts are abusing the provision of the Election Offences Act of 1954 aimed at curbing abuses and corrupt practices of contending parties in an electoral process.

It is the conviction of this writer that Malaysia may not well see the equivalent of the Middle Eastern upheaval soonest. But if this regime persists and perpetuates “Electoral Authoritarianism” with little or no regards for the demands of electoral reform by both civil society and opposition political parties, Najib is indeed courting the like of another and bigger peaceful assembly of 500,000 protestors @well-wishers of democracy prior the 13th GE.

Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, Member, PAS Central Working Committee and Malaysia MP for Kuala Selangor.

The Najib Factor in Merlimau and Kerdau

March 7, 2011

The Najib Factor in Merlimau and Kerdau By-Elections

By Jahabar Sadiq
Editor, The Malaysian Insider

ANALYSIS — In just three years, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has promoted himself and his agenda to revive Barisan Nasional’s (BN) fortunes for another string of by-election wins yesterday while Pakatan Rakyat (PR) has floundered due to a cohesive strategy and policy.

BN won both the Merlimau and Kerdau state seats with significantly higher majorities than in Election 2008, where it had lost 82 Parliament seats and four state governments to a loose political pact led by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The pact later coalesced as PR but remains as loose as it was on March 8, 2008 when it shattered the veneer of popularity for then-Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his UMNO, the dominant partner in the BN.

Abdullah never recovered from the blow of Election 2008, just four years after he brought BN to its biggest victory ever in the 2004 elections where the ruling coalition won 91 per cent of the parliamentary seats and all states except Kelantan which PAS has kept since 1990.

Najib took over in April 2009, weighed down by scurrilous gossip that linked him to the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder and an UMNO that could no longer command the majority of Malay support, its raison d’etre since the party was first founded in 1946.

Instead of pushing a damaged UMNO and a hurt BN, Najib has pushed himself to the fore with economic policies and a moderate tone to win over Malaysians, including the Indian community that deserted the ruling coalition in the aftermath of the HINDRAF march in November 2007.

He started with 1 Malaysia, proceeding to unveil his New Economic Model (NEM) with the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) and later the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) which covers nearly 200 projects and business opportunities.

The jury is out on the programmes and the funding but Najib has enjoyed a comfortable level of personal popularity since succeeding Abdullah, although UMNO itself has yet to recover from the bruising Election 2008.

A measure of his success is the young candidates UMNO has put up in the last three by-elections, or whom Najib has dubbed “winnable candidates” in his quest to renew and reform the party revived by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad after it was declared illegal in 1988.

“Basically, even if you don’t trust UMNO, you can trust Najib. That’s the message,” an analyst told The Malaysian Insider last night. The analyst also said facing Najib in the past two years has been an increasingly rudderless PR where de facto chief Anwar has been distracted by yet another sodomy trial, the first which pushed him out of contention as prime minister in 1998.

Anwar has thus far kept quiet over this past week’s brewing spat between allies PAS and DAP over Kelantan’s anti-gambling laws. All three parties had ironically promised last year not to allow football pools which was initially licensed to a Berjaya Group unit but has since been rescinded.

“PR is far from united as Anwar is the glue for PR but the trial is taking its toll and has reduced him to a figurehead,” said a PR leader who declined to be named.

In many ways, he added, the past three years have seen a reversal in fortunes for both Najib and Anwar.“Anwar led us to a string of victories from Election 2008 to some of the by-elections but that seems so far away now. Najib is on the rise,” warned the leader.

“We have to get our act straight, work on our strengths and ensure the momentum of 2008 is not lost,” he added.

For the record, PR has won eight out of the 15 by-elections held since Election 2008.Political analyst Datuk Dr Zainal Kling said the double win last night could be used as a benchmark of public support although the political tsunami that swept during the 2008 general election has not subsided.

“This is because we are yet to be sure of support by urban voters but there are signs that public support has returned to BN,” he told state news agency Bernama.Zainal said this was due to hard work by Najib who created policies like the GTP, ETP and National Key Result Areas (NKRA).

“The BN government has to double its efforts to maintain the existing momentum, because the opposition always come out with plans and agenda to attract interest of the people,” he said.

INTI International University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid said BN cannot be too comfortable with the wins as history has showed that small errors can lead to a political tsunami like in 2008.

“However, Barisan Nasional is now on the right track to face the next general election,” he told Bernama.Najib has not indicated when the general election is but last night’s victories and the impending Sarawak state polls appear to suggest that it could be as soon as this year, as he said in an interview with the Reuters news agency during last week’s official visit to Australia.

UMNO officials have cautioned Najib against calling for snap polls soon as the party has yet to recover its popularity, an UMNO warlord told The Malaysian Insider recently.

“We briefed him about the preparations on the ground but told him he might be popular but the party isn’t as popular as him,” the warlord said, attributing most of the wins to Najib’s policies.

In yesterday’s polling, BN retained the Merlimau state seat when UMNO’s Roslan Ahmad defeated PAS candidate Yuhaizad Abdullah with a majority of 3,643 votes. Roslan obtained 5,962 votes compared with Yuhaizad’s 2,319.

In Kerdau, BN candidate Syed Ibrahim Syed Ahmad defeated PAS candidate Hasanuddin Salim by a majority of 2,724 votes. Syed Ibrahim obtained 5,060 votes to Hasanuddin’s 2,336 votes.–

A Triumph of Bipartisanship in Malaysian Politics

March 3, 2011

A Triumph of Bipartisanship in Malaysian Politics

by Terence Netto@

A conference in Kuala Lumpur next week, called the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Consultation on the International Criminal Court (ICC), represents a rare triumph of bipartisanship in Malaysian politics.

The conference on March 9-10, to be held in Parliament House, has resulted from the collaboration of Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz and DAP MP for Ipoh Barat M Kulasegaran, who has parlayed his interest in the law to deterrent effect against “crimes against humanity”.

Initially adverse to each other – Nazri had in one speech in the term of the 12th Parliament (2004-08) called Kulasegaran a racist 36 times – the two MPs from Perak have shed their reflexive partisanship to come together on the issue of the universality of the ICC.

In May last year, ‘Kula’, as he is commonly referred to, who handles the international affairs portfolio in DAP, succeeded in getting Nazri, minister in charge of parliamentary affairs, to attend a conference in Kampala on the ICC.

The MP for Padang Rengas sat throughout the two-day conference in the Ugandan capital and took notes on the deliberations of delegates who were mainly from Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), the international NGO that has become a pressure group for wider acceptance of statues of the ICC.

In other words, PGA wants all 200-plus members of the United Nations to become signatories of the ICC, the body that since its setting up in 2002, has become the chief vehicle for the prosecution of individuals thought to be guilty of “crimes against humanity”.

Malaysia not signatory of ICC

According to Kulasegaran, some 80 percent of UN members have already signed up as ICC members. Malaysia, like the United States, China and India, has reservations about the ICC and are reluctant to join.

Kulasegaran is cautiously optimistic that Nazri’s interest and assiduity at the Kampala conference last year augured well for a change in the Malaysian government’s position on the ICC.

“As far as the former minister of foreign affairs, Syed Hamid Albar, was concerned, the Malaysian government’s reservations about the ICC were that acceptance of its jurisdiction would detract from our status as an Islamic country and a constitutional monarchy,” said Kula.

“He felt that as an Islamic country we cannot accept another legal jurisdiction and as a constitutional monarchy we derogate from the supremacy of our law under our monarchial disposition,” Kula elaborated.

“But I told him that a country like Jordan which is an Islamic country and an absolute monarchy has become a member and so there is no reason for Malaysia to stay away,” he asserted.

“Nazri appears to keep an open mind about the issue of our membership but the critical person is the attorney-general whose opinion would be decisive in this matter,” offered Kula.

AG to attend conference

Attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail is scheduled to take part in the conference whose keynote address will be delivered by Sang-Hyun Song, the famed Korean jurist who is president of the ICC.

The conference is being held at a crucial moment in world affairs because of the “crimes against humanity” perceived to have been committed in Sri Lanka, when that country’s armed forces obliterated the Tamil Tigers’ insurgency in 2009, and presently in Libya, where the Gaddafi regime has resorted to brutality in a, thus far, unsuccessful attempt to quell widespread unrest.

The thrust of ICC statues requires members to institute internationally monitored mechanisms for the prosecution of “crimes against humanity” that are reported to have been committed within a nation-state.

The ICC will institute such mechanisms if the nation-state declines to carry out their own – internationally monitored – investigations and prosecutions.

All it requires is for a resolution of the United Nations Security Council for an ICC investigation-cum-prosecution to proceed.

Dictators in need of medical treatment

In recent years, Sudan’s ruler, Omar Bashir, has been indicted by the ICC for genocide in Darfur. Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic, and Charles Taylor of Liberia, have been hauled up before the ICC for similar offences.

Suffice to say, the impunity once enjoyed by brutal dictators for “crimes against humanity” is becoming a thing of the past.One has only to recall the famous case in 1997 when former Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet was placed under house arrest in London by then British home secretary Jack Straw on the strength of a warrant for his arrest issued by a Spanish judge under European Union strictures.

The case became an international cause célèbre as both sides to the issue debated the proprietary of the EU statues with regard to a man who had repaired to London for specialist medical treatment.

Pinochet was finally released but the contretemps did have a deterrent effect of sorts. Sometime shortly afterwards, Izzat Ibrahim, then deputy to Saddam Hussein in running the Baathist regime in Iraq, checked into a hospital in Austria for treatment.

When a judge in Vienna applied for a warrant of arrest, the leukemia-stricken Izzat slipped out of the country before the order could be served on him.

Who would discount that among the effects of the Regional Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Consultation of the ICC next week in Kuala Lumpur would be that ailing members of the Burmese junta would think twice before checking into a Singapore hospital.Burma’s dictator Than Shwe sought treatment in Singapore a few years back. Unlike Izaat, he was unfazed, but for how long more.

To Ranau from Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

February 6, 2011

To Ranau from Kota Kinabalu

by Din Merican (February 5, 2011)

A Foggy Day in Kinabalu National Park

Dr. Kamsiah and I left in early this morning for Ranau, some 90 kilometers away from Kota Kinbalu. We were headed on the long and winding road to Kinabalu National Park at the base of the great Mount Kinabalu. This is Dr Kamsiah’s first trip, although I have been to this world heritage  Park several times.

Experiencing English Spring at the Park

Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate; it was drizzling, cold and damp, typical English spring weather. The fog made the journey up risky, but thanks to  the driver who had local knowledge of Ranau and its surrounds and his skillful driving, we reached Kinabalu National Park (1.563 metres above sea level) safely. It took us two and half hours to get to the destination.

Kinabalu National Park or Taman Negara Kinabalu in Bahasa Malaysia, established as one of the first national parks of Malaysia in 1964 was designated as the country’s first World Heritage Site by UNESCO in December, 2000 for its role as one of the most important ecological sites in the world and “outstanding universal values”(whatever UNESCO means). Located in the Ranau District, it covers an area of nearly 800 square kilometers surrounding Mount Kinabalu which at 4,000-odd metres above sea level is the highest peak in Southeast Asia.

Bad Weather didn’t discourage Dr. Kamsiah

This park is administered by  Sabah Parks. Accommodations in the form of chalets can be found in the park, mostly around the headquarters. Reservations for accommodation and mountain climbing guides are processed through Sutera Sanctuary Lodges.

At Timpohon Gate-Kinabalu National Park

The mountain summit trail begins at Timpohon Gate (1,563 metres above sea level) where we were yesterday. There is also an alternative route called the Mesilau Trail.A notable feature of the park is Low’s Gully. It is a 1.6 kilometre deep ravine stretching 10 kilometres on the side of the mountain peak.

The Deep Valley and Ravine

Despite less favorable weather, Dr. Kamsiah and I went on a walkabout. We  were impressed with the cleanliness and facilities and amenities of the park. The State Government, the Park Warden and his team should be complimented for their commitment to the proper maintenance and upkeep of this national heritage. We had a good time and will return to Mount Kinabalu and its beautiful surroundings some day soon. The Kinabalu National Park is today an extremely popular tourist destination. They come from all four corners of the world.

Malay corporate chiefs acted under instruction from TDM, court told

by Debra Chong
September 2, 2010

Perlis prince, Tan Sri Syed Anwar, as he goes to testify he received ‘instructions’ to act for Umno.

Businessman Tan Sri Syed Anwar Jamalullail’s court testimony today appeared to suggest that it was not uncommon for Umno to “instruct” Malay corporate captains to act as their nominees in the management of Malaysia’s top companies.

The brother to the Raja of Perlis, Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Ibni Al-Marhum Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail,

Tan Sri Syed Anwar Jamalullail Ibni Al-Marhum Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail

was the second defence witness to testify today in a civil suit launched in 2005 by former Realmild director Datuk Khalid Ahmad to gain the second half of a RM10 million payment of five per cent of the company’s shares, which took place during a shake-up and buy-out said to be related to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s sacking from government.

Abdul Rahman had claimed he had received “instructions” to transfer blocks of shares, amounting to some seven million, to Syed Anwar who was to hold them in trust for the powerful Malay ruling political party.

Questioned by defence lawyer Alex De Silva, Syed Anwar said he had been approached by former Finance Minister II, Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop, and “instructed” to turn around conglomerate Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad (MRCB) sometime around mid-2001, just before the former’s brother rose to become the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong.

Syed Anwar added that further instruction was later given by Nor Mohamed – on behalf of then prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi – and to transfer Realmild shares to another businessman, Datuk Abdul Latif Abdullah, in September 2006.

De Silva: When you were given instructions, were you in any position to refuse?

Syed Anwar: No. But I didn’t see any reason not to.

De Silva: What was Nor Mohamed’s position then?

Syed Anwar: I think at that time, he was appointed the Minister of Finance II.

Syed Anwar added there was “nothing in writing” either from Nor Mohamed or any other party to indicate the shares were being held in trust by him for Umno.

Pressed further, he said “it was implied” to be so.

De Silva: Were you aware the true beneficiary was Umno?

Syed Anwar: It was implied, but I was not interested.

In cross-examination from Khalid’s lawyer, Ahmad Fadzil Mohd Perdaus, Syed Anwar said he had never received any “cash considerations” for his role in the corporate dance, but was spurred purely by the challenge to turn around a troubled conglomerate – as Abdul Rahman described in court the debt-ridden MRCB at that period in time.

Ahmad Fadzil: This indicates you had to wait for instruction from the PM?

Syed Anwar: Ya. I suppose that would be right.

Ahmad Fadzil: Effectively, these shares you held were only on instruction from the PM?

Syed Anwar: Yes.

The one-time director of Realmild said he was “surprised” when he was given instructions but had been “mandated” to turn around MRCB and was proud he accomplished his job.

“Actually, it’s not for me to ask. I’d just been given the mandate to turn around [MRCB]. To me it was not strange at all,” he told the court when asked if he did not find it strange to be “instructed” to turn around a conglomerate without any “cash considerations” being discussed.

The court case reveals the chain of command between Umno and certain Malaysian conglomerate leaders in the past.

Syed Anwar, or his full name Syed Zainol Anwar Ibni Syed Putra Jamalullail, has been group chairman of Cahya Mata Sarawak (CMS) Berhad since 2006 and is also currently chairman of EON Bank Berhad, EON Capital Berhad and Nestle (M) Berhad.

Before joining Realmild, the 58-year-old had helped to turn around the Lembaga Urusan dan Tabung Haji (Tabung Haji), the state-run central fund for Muslim Malaysians, also after being approached by Nor Mohamed.

A certified accountant, Syed Anwar kicked off his professional career as a financial accountant with Malaysia Airlines System Berhad (MAS) in 1975 and has worked for global accounting firm, Price Waterhouse in Australia and has held senior posts at several other top companies in Malaysia, including as chairman of MRCB, Media Prima Berhad, DRB-HICOM Berhad, and as a director of Maxis Communications Berhad.

Ketuanan Rakyat is the Way Forward

January 8, 2010

Ketuanan Rakyat, not Ketuanan Melayu, for Malaysia’s Future

By Din Merican*

With Tengku Razaleigh and Dr. Kamsiah Haider at ISEAS Regional Outlook Forum 2010

It is indeed my distinct honour to be invited by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies to speak at this very prestigious annual Regional Economic Outlook Forum, the first in the second  decade of the 21st cenutry. I thank Ambassador K. Kesavapany, its dynamic Executive Director, and his staff for their kind hospitality and consideration. I can now add this to enhance my personal resume! It is always a pleasure to be in Singapore.

I stand before you as a perplexed, embarrassed and frustrated Malaysian. I cannot bring good tiddings for 2010 to you all today when I know all is not well in my beloved country, just across the Causeway from where we are now.

The Teoh Beng Hock Inquest is stalled and the Thai Forensic specialist has been harassed and her personal safety could be compromised because of her dissenting views on Beng Hock’s death.  Two people (a RMAF sergeant and a young businessman, both of Indian decent,) were charged for stealing two fighter jet engines (at rm50 million a piece) of the Royal Malaysian Air Force, and I would have thought that responsibility remains at the top. Apparently, not so in this case. Even God’s name has become an emotional political issue, which is being exploited some reckless politicians and supremacists in UMNO and their supporters.

Anwar Ibrahim goes to trial from January 25 to February 25, 2010

Later this month, Anwar Ibrahim goes to trial for Sodomy 2 and its aftermath is now a matter of conjecture. Would he be treated in the same way as he was in 1998? In the mean time, racial and religious tensions are on the rise and I hope the authorities can manage the situation well. I fear the return of emergency rule when all else fails. But I pray that I am wrong in taking such an alarmist stance.

I have chosen to speak on Ketuanan Melayu (Malay Supremacy) that best describes the politics of UMNO at the present time and also to provide some comments on an alternative concept, Ketuanan Rakyat.  Allow me from the outset to say that Ketuanan Rakyat is the way forward and offers exciting opportunities for Malaysia to redefine and reassert itself as a partner in ASEAN and a member of the world community.

It was in Singapore many years ago that the idea of Malay supremacy was first mooted by a former NST Group Editor, Abdullah Ahmad, better known to us in Malaysia as Dollah Kok Lanas. It was quickly adopted by our 4th Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, aka “The Malaysian Maverick”, to borrow this label from Mr. Barry Wain’s book, in his then political struggle with Tengku Razaleigh for the leadership of UMNO. It was the same Dollah who created the concept of “social contract”. None exists except perhaps what is embodied in the Malaysian constitution.

Ketuanan Melayu: Feudal and Elitist

What is Ketuanan Melayu? It is feudal in conception, and elitist in its execution. It gives us the impression that the Malays collectively are the Tuans of Malaysia while the rest of the population (about 40%) are either pendatangs (immigrants), or aliens who should be grateful to the Malays that they are allowed to live and work in bountiful Malaysia.  Hence, it is important that political power remains in the hands of the Malays with UMNO acting as custodian and protector of Malay sectarian interests.

In truth, the Malays are not the real rulers or tuans; they are being led by an UMNO elite class of politicians working hand in hand with favoured businessmen and bureaucrats. But admittedly, it does make the Malays in general feel good about themselves, that they are actually in charge, and everything revolves around them including the fate of a pluralist Malaysia. It has also enabled UMNO to retain the support of the rural Malay heartland and to justify their policies and actions over the last 3 decades to maintain its hegemony of national politics and the economy.

We are familiar with the consequences of these policies and programme that have come to characterise the Malaysian political and socio-economic landscape. The NEP based affirmative action programmes that were implemented in the 1970s, initially designed to eradicate poverty and unify the country, were intensified under the Mahathir Administration (1981-2003).

While these policies, especially those in connection with the restructuring of the economy via the creation of a bumiputra commercial and industrial community, were successful in accelerating the pace of economic development (Malaysia achieved high rates of economic growth at an average of 8 per cent per annum in real terms), the NEP and its successor the National Development Policy (NDP) after 1990 failed to enhance national competitiveness.

With Prof Ariff (MIER) and Prof Wang Gungwu

Today, Ketuanan Melayu is UMNO’s key to winning the hearts and minds of the Malays. The NEP was (and still is) pursued with such intensity that ethnicity combined with religious obscurantism has become deeply entrenched in Malaysian political culture. In fact, these policies created a new class of state sponsored Malay business community and widened the income gap between the rich and the poor, bringing with it new social tensions that now threaten to social stability and has undermined national unity. Malaysians are today increasingly identified by their ethnicity and religious orientation.

Corruption is systemic and deeply entrenched and despite claims that the NEP/NDP was a success, the Malay commercial class, consisting of those favoured by the dominant UMNO, has become increasingly dependent on a paternalistic, and all knowing and powerful state. Crony capitalism is today the foundation of the post Mahathir era, be it under Badawi and now Najib. This model is based on a strong state with the capacity to dish out projects at inflated cost.

Despite all the talk of a new Malaysian Economic Model based on high value services, research and innovation, I personally do not see any change in the way the UMNO-dominated government operates. It is a prisoner of its own system, or to be more generous of its success, and any attempt to change it will threaten the viability of UMNO itself.

Ketuanan Melayu is basically about the perpetuation of an economic system that is corrupt, divisive and discriminatory, and, in the final analysis, unsustainable and unstable. Even the Najib Government recognises the need to reconnect with all Malaysians under his 1Malaysia concept. But so far, Malaysians are not sure that the Prime Minister can convince his own party to abandon the addictive policies of his predecessors, and opt for an open, transparent and accountable government and fight corruption and abuses of power.

As you all know, March 8, 2008 was a tipping point in Malaysian politics which saw the emergence of a new political force committed to reform and change. Anwar Ibrahim-led Pakatan Rakyat coalition of Parti KeADILan Rakyat, DAP and PAS denied the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional its almost customary 2/3rd majority in the Malaysian Parliament and gained control of Kedah, Penang, Perak (now back under Barisan Nasional), Selangor and Kelantan. The people centred coalition has become the alternative for Malaysians to UMNO-Barisan Nasional.

But will the March 8 political tsunami lead to the emergence of a two party system which offers Malaysian voters for the first time in 50 odd years a choice between the UMNO-Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat? It is too early to say now, maybe it may happen in the latter part of 2010.

Pakatan Rakyat was a loose coalition of Parti KeADILan Rakyat, Democratic Action Party and PAS which was hurriedly put together before the 12th General Election. Now that some 18 months have gone, it has been shown that the coalition can be formalised and function as a true coalition of equal partners with a people-centred (Ketuanan Rakyat) political and socio-economic agenda.

Ketuanan Rakyat: Call for Freedom, Democracy, and Justice

Ketuanan Rakyat (People’s Sovereignty) is a rallying cry for freedom, democracy and justice. Built into this concept is the idea of service to the people by a government that is democratic, competent, open, transparent and accountable. It is a return to the foundations of our federalism as embodied in our constitution, and observance of the principles of good governance and the Rule of Law.

The whole idea is to restore public trust in government. I am, of course, not saying that this is can be done easily as it involves a thorough overhaul of the status quo. It is also threatens entrenched interests. In addition, it requires transformational leaders.

The Merdeka Constitution

It may worth remembering that the 1957 Merdeka Constitution which was retained in its essence when the federation was enlarged to include the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak and also Singapore in 1963, was a delicate piece of craftsmanship. It sought to fuse the disparate and seemingly conflictual strands of Malayan society into a coherent and viable whole.

Essentially, the Merdeka Constitution sought to work this fusion of the diverse elements of Malaysian polity, with the constitutional trappings of governance that would in essence be secular. Also, it sought to position the Malay people as primus inter pares, first-among-equals, in a multi-racial, multi-religious, polyglot population.

The glue binding these seemingly conflictual strands into a single garment of political destiny was democracy under a constitutional monarchy with its underlying concept of countervailing powers, otherwise known as separation of powers. Skeptics said this fusion was inherently unworkable, and not just for reason of the oxymoron reflected in the secularity of the constitutional framework; they feel that the first-among-equals status for the Malays would cause problems.

With ISEAS Executive Director, Ambassador K. Kesavapany

Thus they viewed the Merdeka Constitution’s fusion of inherently contradictory ideological positions – Malays as first-among-equals in an otherwise egalitarian polity, and Islam as the official religion with secularism as the governing ethos — as unworkable. Yes, it was a lack of faith in the Malayan and then Malaysian people’s capacity for democracy that was the unspoken basis for the skepticism about the Malayan and then Malaysian fusion of inherently conflicting constitutional presumptions.

Democracy floundered under UMNO-BN Rule

Under UMNO-BN rule, Malaysia’s experiment with democracy floundered. We have had decades of strong and paternalistic government committed to redressing the inequities of a colonial economic system where the Malays have been left out so to speak. But the colonial system took another form, when UMNO elites came to power, especially after 1969.

Our challenge today is building a more just and equitable system that can reconcile divergent interests and unite Malaysians as Malaysians, not as communities of Malays, Chinese, Indians, Dyaks and Kadazans living in enclaves of their own.

Malaysia today faces a different set of problems characterised by a breakdown in the Rule of Law, the emasculation of the judiciary and civil service, rampant corruption and abuse of power, a breakdown in the system of public governance and accountability and an economy that seems to be stalled by its over-dependence on cheap labour and commodities like palm oil, timber and oil and gas. It is generally accepted across the political divide that it can no longer be business as usual.

Pakatan Rakyat Approach embodied in The Common Policy Framework

The approach taken by the Pakatan Rakyat is different; it is more inclusive and participatory. The ideas on its future policies and programmes are driven ground up, gained from connecting with ordinary Malaysians and listening to the real life problems.

With ISEAS Malaysian Researchers

Let us take the example of Pakatan Rakyat’s Common Policy Framework. It is the outcome of much discussion with people from all walks of life through out the length and breadth of the country, from Perlis to Sabah.  It is drafted by a young team of leaders and thinkers from PKR, DAP and PAS. These policies are reality based and represent a total rejection or repudiation of communal based politics and race based affirmative action programmes which are at the root of the current serious ethnic, social and religious tensions in Malaysia.

The Common Policy Framework (CPF) is a major step in the right direction and that is why I said from the very outset that Ketuanan Rakyat is the future for a prosperous and competitive Malaysia. It was endorsed by delegates to the Pakatan Rakyat convention last December 19, and will be the basis of policies, plans and programmes for the next government, if Malaysians overwhelmingly vote the Pakatan Rakyat in the 13th General Elections.

The CPF deals with 4 pillars of Ketuanan Rakyat, namely, democracy with a constitutional monarchy, and good governance based on the Rule of Law, as a Malaysian way of life, high performance green economy that is strong, competitive, and just, social justice and human capital development, and a return of genuine federalism for better relations between the Federal and state governments with emphasis on the much neglected states of Sabah and Sarawak and a foreign policy that will enhance Malaysia’s relations with its neighbours and the world at large.

Old style politics, a nanny government, and corrupt leaders must be replaced by a new generation of leaders who subscribe to the proposition that people first in words and deeds. It is Ketuanan Rakyat, not Ketuanan Melayu. It takes good people and good systems to make a better Malaysia.

Likely Developments in 2010

Since the forum is also about likely developments in 2010, allow me to share with you my thoughts on the state of Malaysian politics. The political tsunami of March, 2008 brought swift changes in all the main political parties in the Barisan Nasional. At the same time, Pakatan Rakyat of Parti KeADILan Rakyat, DAP and PAS emerged as a new political force with clear shot at Putrajaya.

Some momentum has been lost due to internal squabbles and inter-party bickerings, but with a Common Policy Framework in place, Pakatan Rakyat will now able to work in a more unified and coordinated manner in 2010 and is gearing itself for the next general elections which could be held as early as 2011, if the economy recovers and if there is no emergency rule.

The MCA which suffered severe rejection by voters has yet to emerge from an internal power struggle between rival factions, one led by its President Ong Tee Keat and the other by the Minister of Health, Liow Tiong Lai. Behind the scene bargaining is ongoing to seek a practical solution to MCA’s dilemma. It is likely that with the intervention of Prime Minister Najib, all MCA factions will unite under its incumbent President. It is difficult to assess the damage to its body politic at this stage, but I think MCA’s  loss is DAP’s gain.

Gerakan too saw the retirement of ( now Tun) Lim Keng Yaik, but under the weak leadership of former Chief Minister of Penang and Senator Koh Tsu Khoon, the party is drifting and will likely play second fiddle to MCA and remain a junior partner in Barisan Nasional.

MIC’s President Samy Velu continues to survive. He has been able to introduce a young team of leaders who are loyal to him. His main agenda is to consolidate the party and given the leadership change already in place, MIC stands well poised to regain the confidence of the Indian community in the current year, given the fact the new Makkal Sakti Party is ravaged by dissensions within its ranks. But we cannot expect Samy Velu to relinquish his post any time in 2010.

On the surface, UMNO is united behind its new President. Thanks to Abdullah Badawi, the leadership change was smooth and orderly. Unlike Mahathir, Badawi has refrained from making unsolicited comments which could undermine Najib. The challenge for Najib will come from the ultra nationalist faction led by Muhyiddin Yassin. Najib will face serious challenges internally and from opposing forces in the form of Pakatan Rakyat and civil society.

The true test of Najib’s leadership and strength in UMNO will come from the way he tackles rampant money politics and corruption in government and the economy, and how he copes with the Anwar Sodomy 2 trial which commences on January 25, 2010 for a month and how he deals with its aftermath. But the Prime Minister should not be under-estimated because of his power of incumbency and political savvy. I expect Najib to further consolidate his position in his own party and as the 6th Prime Minister of Malaysia. Right now, I cannot see that he will be able to rein into money politics and infighting for power and influence in UMNO. So there is a leadership crisis of sorts in UMNO.

My comments on Pakatan Rakyat may be a little coloured, but I think I can be candid enough to say with some degree of confidence that leaders and coalition officials are working hard at building a solid coalition as the alternative to UMNO-led Barisan Nasional. I expect to see the establishment of a formal coalition under one banner for the next elections, if the Registrar of Society can give its approval in 2010.
The overwhelming approval of the Common Policy Framework at the First Pakatan Rakyat Convention last December is a clear sign that this Anwar Ibrahim-led coalition will consolidate its position in 2010. Any prediction of its early demise is, therefore, grossly exaggerated. There may be differences among them ,but mechanisms are in place to deal with disagreements and conflicts. On discipline, errant members will be dealt with by the respective coalition partners.

Overall, I think 2010 will be a year of hope and progress amid tensions. Malaysia will be able to ride the oncoming economic tempest, despite our politics.

Thank you.

* Din  Merican is a political and economic analyst and blogger. The views expressed here are strictly personal and do not represent those of Parti KeADILan Rakyat and persons associated with it. The speech (edited for flow and style) was delivered at the ISEAS Regional Outlook Forum, 2010 at Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore on January 7, 2010.