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

GE-13: BN Victory with a Smaller Majority?


February 10, 2013

GE-13: BN Victory with a Smaller Majority?

by Neil Khor  (02-09-13)@http://www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT: In the past couple of weeks, Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders have been consistently warning Malaysians that if we go to the polls wanting “change for the sake of change”, we may end up with a Pakatan Rakyat government. Development would grind to a halt and our lifestyle will never be the same again.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad (right) even reassured Malaysians that even if Tun Dr MahathirPakatan were to win, he will not “run away”. He felt certain that Pakatan would systematically go after those friendly to the BN and this will be bad for peace and development.

Dr Mahathir also said that it is up to UMNO to decide the fate of PM Najib Abdul Razak if the latter does not do as well as Abdullah Ahmad Badawi after the 2008 general election.

In all approval ratings, Najib continues to do much better than UMNO and the BN. It is quite clear that the BN wants voters to think very hard or at least approach the ballot box with some level of ambivalence. We may then vote more cautiously.

Najib frowningIn the meantime, all BN service centres have come to life and the government is going into over-drive handing out BR1M, aid to school students and even vouchers for smart phones.

Those of us who are members of PERKESO and are above 40 years old, have received vouchers for free medical check-ups. Perhaps, if we are very lucky, the government will cancel income tax for 2013!

Indian Community given special attention

Special attention has been given to the Indians. Since 2008, the Federal government has spruced up “Little India” in Brickfields, provided aid to Tamil schools, did away with Interlok as a national text-book owing to passages deemed offensive to the Indian community, increased the intake of Indians into the civil service and now looking seriously into the applications for citizenship for stateless Indians.

Selangor has just cancelled a development project near Batu Caves as the project was deemed to be unsuitable so near a sacred Hindu temple.  But perhaps what takes the cake is the legalisation of Hindraf with all parties falling over themselves to create a strategic alliance with the Hindu rights group.  By recognising Hindraf, the government indirectly acknowledges the legitimacy of the movement’s grievances.

The “Allah” Issue

For Muslims, the ‘Allah’ issue is the centrepiece of a very clever public relations exercise. Whilst Dr Mahathir said that UMNO does not share all the views of PERKASA, the Pakatan said that UMNO’s right wing has out-sourced its strident Malay rights agenda to PERKASA.

Whatever the truth is the effect has been brilliant. Christians are suddenly cast as challenging Muslims on their insistence that they be allowed to use the word ‘Allah’ when referring to God. Muslims now have a choice – side with BN, the religious establishment and the rulers to guarantee the status-quo or vote Pakatan and take a risk.

The Sabah RCI, which continues its slow grinding process, will yield all the necessary surprises distracting Malaysians from the unfolding BN election machinery. It will, in the process, taint both Dr Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim.

Let history do its work

But Dr Mahathir is not leading the Opposition coalition whilst Anwar is and all that BN needs to do is to let history do its work.

DSAIAnwar’s (left) complicity, his history with the BN and his close relationship with Dr Mahathir will be his undoing. Mr Teflon, no sex crimes can stick to the former Deputy Prime Minister, but what about his close relationship with Dr Mahathir?

In the meantime and as expected Sabah’s fractious political opposition is disintegrating.

Sabahans are right on one thing, so long as Peninsular-based political parties do not get the boot, Sabah will never be united.

So, there is really very little hope as both sides of the political divide will never leave Sabah alone. Yes, the ground may be shifting but it will take a miracle for one to one fights to take place. In short, BN has the advantage here and will probably retain the state.

So, if all the stars are aligned, why are BN leaders all warning Malaysians that if we voted based upon sentiment, we will live to regret it.

No matter how bad things are, we have a good life the logic goes. No matter how unfair the government is, the MCA is telling the Chinese that they have their Chinese schools, they can make money and they can eat pork. Do not take these things for granted.

If PAS is in the ruling government, no matter what the Pakatan says, the general tenor of Malaysia will be more conservative. Yes, there are some bits of the government that are corrupt but which government on earth is perfect. Even Singapore, on the happiness index, life is not as good as in Malaysia. We have to tolerate a little bit of corruption for the “freedom” we enjoy.

azlanFor those who are still not convinced, the BN is bringing Psy to Penang, a direct challenge to the DAP’s Ubah Gangnam-style.

Why change when we have never had it so good. In fact, the government will continue to give out BR1M, continue subsidies indefinitely and yes, I repeat again, give us a big ang pow by cancelling income tax for 2013. Heck, why not cancel income tax permanently if it wins two thirds majority!!

So, can the BN really lose? It seems that from the antics of BN leaders, there is a possibility that the ruling government will not perform as well as Najib expects and so far the campaign reeks of desperation.

We should prepare for the worst. A BN win with a smaller majority and with a few more state governments going to the Opposition. It will most likely be a heavily UMNO-dominated government with small coalition partners, the biggest casualties being the MCA, MIC and Gerakan. It will be a ruling coalition that might find it impossible to govern effectively. It will most likely be one more GE before BN is defeated.

In the weeks ahead, expect the situation to be tense as politicians go head-on in Malaysia’s hottest and most contested elections in history.

Pride comes before Destruction


January 22, 2013

Pride comes before Destruction

by Mariam Mokhtar (01-21-13)@http://www.malaysiakini.com

According to one Sabahan, there is so much crime in Sabah that squatter houses, too, have grilles on the doors and windows, and that these cost more than the houses themselves.

For four decades, ordinary Sahabans have been angered by illegal immigration and the social and economic problems associated with it, such as a shortage of housing, a lack of employment and educational opportunities, high levels of crime and massive overcrowding.

Despite the limited terms of reference of the Royal Commission of  Inquiry (RCI) ordered by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, the RCI has revealed disturbing aspects of former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s bid to remain in power. Soon, the RCI will be overshadowed by the side-show that Mahathir may have helped arrange.

NONEThe star-performer is the self-styled motivational guru Sharifah Zohra Jabeen Syed Shah Miskin (right). One wonders if Zohra has replaced the virgin queen, Ummi Hafilda Ali, who used to come to Mahathir’s aid and helped distract the rakyat with golden showers and salacious revelations.

There was once a time when the government would detain reporters and send them to Kamunting, ostensibly for their own safety. Zohra was denied this privilege because Najib has abolished the ISA. Last week, Zohra bowed to overwhelming pressure and heeded Police advice to cancel her seminar on ‘How to Make Your First Million’.

I can give you the gist of the RM200 per person seminar. It is an open secret that the first million is easy to make; join UMNO, then claw your way to the top by backstabbing and badmouthing everyone who stands in your way.

There are tell-tale signs that that you have “made it” and joined the UMNO elite. In the election canvassing that takes place every five years, UMNO delivers bags of rice to the masses, but the UMNO elite receive Birkin bags.

Households that qualify are given a one-off payment of RM500 (and possibly another RM500 if the situation demands it) but the elite get several million ringgit in hard cash, stuffed in suitcases.

The poor may get a discount on their smartphones, but the elite are given the contracts to sell the phones.  The rakyat may be given tins of powdered milk as freebies during canvassing, but elite members are given millions of ringgit to buy a few cows and many luxury condominiums.

Zohra has not much in humility

A video of the shameful conduct of Zohra emerged a month after the incident. Despite the public opprobrium which she received, Zohra showed everyone that she is miskin by name and miskin (poor) by nature.

She lacks the intellect to reflect on her poor behaviour. She did not have much in the way of humility. She displayed an inferior understanding of people’s feelings and she was a poor communicator.

Instead of eating the humble pie, she has become more arrogant and haughty. Instead of acknowledging that she was tactless and rude, Zohra issued a statement from her hiding place, in which she declined to apologise but “forgave” KS Bawani, the student who suffered Zohra’s acid tongue.

This incident should have been a temporary frenzy and yes, we are angry because it is obvious that Zohra’s behaviour is unacceptable. Some UMNO leaders and members of the BN coalition have distanced themselves from her, but it appears that Zohra is determined to prolong this crisis into a full blown affair.

The reason must be to take our attention away from Mahathir’s alleged crimes in the Sabah votes for citizenship fiasco.  Just a few months ago, Najib outlined the terms of reference for the Sabah RCI. Many have criticised the RCI for its limited scope and because its findings will not be revealed before GE13.

NONEIf the RCI proves that UMNO won elections by fraud and cheating, it brings into doubt the legitimacy of this and previous UMNO-BN governments. By cheating, UMNO has disenfranchised the people of Malaysia and forced us to wait until GE13 to gain our choice of ruling party.

Proof of fraud and cheating will confirm that UMNO-BN should not be the current government. Will the RCI be another whitewash or will its members seek to save their own skins, by leaving the sinking UMNO ship?

As the extent of Mahathir’s Project IC is slowly being revealed, the importance of this RCI is increasing.

Mahathir won’t go without a fight

Just as Mahathir thought he had undermined Najib, his hopes were damned. So he tried to deflect some of the rakyat’s abhorrence of Project IC, by tarnishing the name of Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Father of Independence.

Will the RCI bring about the fall of Mahathir? No. He may have cut a pathetic figure recently but he will not go without a fight. Although the rakyat have a strong case against him, Mahathir has too many people in his pockets. They owe their success to him and he will call in his favours.

The rakyat is leading the Opposition fight to topple the Mahathir regime, but their wish will not be fulfilled, just yet.

Both Najib and Mahathir are locked in a deadly battle. Najib cannot bring about Mahathir’s fall, because to do so would bring the fight right to his front door. He, like Mahathir, has a dirty past. The best Najib can do is to hold out for a few more months.

If Najib were to destroy Mahathir now, it would start a media frenzy, which would eclipse the one Zohra is facing today.  Zohra’s gaffe has caused quite a stir. She tried to put on a brave face and refused to apologise, thus avoiding an admission of guilt. Ironically, her intransigence has damaged UMNO by rallying the rakyat to vote for the Opposition.

Bawani-Zohra Episode emblematic of Malaysia in an “Amuck-Latah” Mode


January 17, 2013

Bawani-Zohra Episode emblematic of Malaysia in an “Amuck-Latah” Mode

by Dr. Azly Rahman@http://www.malaysiakini.com

Dr Azly RahmanAs a student of Cultural-Philosophical Studies with a passion in radical educational change framed within the context of cybernating-hypermodern societies such as Malaysia, I see the “Bawani-Zohra Affair” as emblematic of a nation gone berserk on the issue of freedom of speech and the culture of dialogue and public discourse.

We are in an ‘amuck-latah’ mood. The nation, at least in cyberspace, is furious (amuck) of what happened, and the protagonist of the propaganda machine fumbled big-time (latah) assuming that the teaching techniques of the “top-down, humiliate-first, no-apologies later” of many a Biro Tata Negara speaker can still be deployed unreservedly onto university students at the time when amateur videos can go viral, when tweets can flow like a tsunami, and when Facebook pages can be created in a fraction of seconds.

That’s the mistaken assumption – that the Frankenstein called “social media technology” will also not run amuck helping those silenced to have their poetic justice, and those humiliated to become an honourable being raised to the level of stardom, overnight.

Listen, ListenIt is said that at times, you do not need to find the revolution – for the revolution will find you. The revolution found both Bawani and Zohra in such an ‘absurd’ way, such as in many of the plots of French surrealist dramas like Eugene Ionesco’s rhinoceros running wild on the city streets, and Kafka’s character moving from desolation to awareness in “Metamorphosis”.

The timing was perfect, like that storm brewing right after the almost-a-million Malaysian march to take over Putrajaya; after the Deepak drama which was over-played, overdosing even the older folks; after the successes of all those BERSIH rallies, and many other watersheds upon watersheds of consciousness-raising events, and ultimately, after the last hurrah circa GE13 – all these ripened the relevance of the fateful “Bawani-Zohra” rendezvous.

Hence, Malaysians saw not only an explosion of anger, but one that fuelled tremendous amounts of creative products, mainly in the realm of multimedia (music videos, Facebook and Internet posters, audio and video materials, and the production of other forms of creative artifacts inspired by the mantra “listen-listen-listen…”).

That is my observation, albeit too, as a ‘participant-observer’ who managed to contribute to the dialogue through my public writings here on Facebook, and in my other column in Malaysia-Today. I have always found examples of the chaos and complexity theory at work in these kinds of phenomena; the “butterfly effect” of Malaysian public discourse, which must be framed in its most kaleidoscopic and multidimensional way.

Mind-controlling machinery?

In this case, a simple few minutes of verbal exchange in a dialogue on a campus situatedAnimals have problems way up in the “boonies” as the Appalachians in Ohio would say, can have far-reaching impacts up till now, leading to even the fall of the Barisan Nasional regime that has, for the last 30 years, been using the universities as a place wherein the human mind – of student, staff, and even faculty – would essentially need to “shut up and listen-listen-listen”.

At the same time, the leaders will be carrying big sticks and speaking not-so-gently, so that the entire mind-controlling machinery can function effectively while being devoid of critical sensibility. For too long, society has allowed such stupefication to happen via the work of government-controlled propaganda-producing agencies trained in Soviet-styled mind-bending, mind-numbing, and mind-emptying strategies so that the dying ideology of one-race dominancy in the self-glorified, ill-intentioned ‘1Malaysian’ sloganism can prevail.

Even when the world outside has mutated multiple times and gone through the process of adaptations as a consequence of globalisation and the continuing relevancy of cosmopolitanism. I don’t know, these are my ramblings for the day, folks… my Joycean stream-of-consciousness mood speaking:

Watching how the Mandelbrott set of Malaysian universities will play out; watching how the butterflies in this absurd drama will flap their wings; and watching how the ancient Malay dialectics of deadly dualism will be spoken.

funny_monkey

The “amuck-latah” syndrome will be transmutated into newer forms in a hypermodern society – in a bipolar Malaysia trying to live in accordance with an ill-constructed ‘1Malaysia’ while society is firmly destroyed by implosive devices akin to the famed ‘C4′ used to end the life of a young Mongolian mother of a very young child some time ago, when truth was still a corpse waiting to come alive.

I don’t know, but there are now minds in those Malaysian universities that are refusing to just “listen-listen-listen” …until the truth explodes and destroys the creators of falsehood. Please share your thoughts… humbly of course. But where do we go from here?

S.Thayaparan responds to his Critic


January 6, 2013

S.Thayaparan responds to his Critic and restates his political stance

http://www.malaysiakini.com (01-05-13)

COMMENT: First off I would like to thank Salas Santino, the writer of ‘Is 2013 crunch time for BN or Pakatan?‘, for taking the time to respond to my piece UMNO’s last tango before its reckoning‘.

However, Santino is operating under a few faulty assumptions that I hope to correct in this response.I apologise in advance for the length of this reply but I wish to be thorough since this is the election season and as someone whose writing is pro-opposition, I wish to state my positions unambiguously.

The writer begins by not “faulting” me for “biasness” every time I write for Malaysiakini but does not explain what this “biasness” is. For my part, it is not that my biasness have been “exposed” in my columns but rather I have declared my support of the oppositional forces in this country and specifically Pakatan Rakyat in numerous pieces that have appeared in Malaysiakini. A cursory reading of any of my articles would have confirmed this.

From what I managed to decipher of the letter, there are four major points of contention that the writer has of my piece (or rather me). The first is my characterisation of this upcoming general election. The second, my “elitist” position as far as politics is concerned.The third, my stance on the two-coalition paradigm and the fourth point, the apparent contradiction in my criticisms of Pakatan and BN and my belief in a two-coalition paradigm.

Apparently, to the writer my “confusion writ large” is my contention that this coming election is a “grudge match” between Pakatan and BN. Santino offers two assumptions of his own (coloured no doubt by his own biasness) as to why this characterisation is wrong.

The first is that this coming election would be Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s last shot at the head job in Putrajaya and the second, that this election is for the “soul of Malaysia” which the writer then goes on to buttress with “well-rehearsed points that have long borne the realities of contemporary and even historical Malaysian politics” in contravention of his own rejoinder to me.

NONEAs for the first, what makes the writer think that this is Anwar’s last shot at the title? Anwar has made many claims and gone back on them.

Going by Anwar’s history, I think it would be safe to assume that this may or may not be his last attempt at the throne in Putrajaya and his protestations of the former may be just political spin.

Furthermore, if many others and I assume it is a grudge match, it is an assumption that has at least some credibility since the guts of Pakatan comprises UMNO outlaws and malcontents who for whatever reasons have joined Pakatan as a possible re-entry point into the corridors of power.

Let us not forget that Anwar himself on various occasions has stated that his “retribution” would be against those power players in UMNO and not the regular members. To be fair to Anwar, he has on many occasions stated that his desired goal is to move Malaysia out of this UMNO quagmire and not any personal vendetta against those who have wronged him in UMNO.

In this context, I do not think it is misleading to characterise this election as a grudge match and this is not taking into account the revenge fantasies of partisans who at any chance they get in the alternative media vomit out their desires for retribution against a regime that has wronged them.

People (who the writer likes to remind us) are the vehicle of change, so I see no problem in lumping them in with political parties of their choice. I see no problem with this description because politics is an endeavour fuelled by various human motivations and as always, it is up to us (the people), to monitor the corridors of power and see to it that our voices are heard above the din of backroom dealing.

Populist policies

As for the whole “soul of Malaysia” showdown, this is arrogant partisan posturing that unfortunately is the rallying cry of both coalitions in this country.It would be a credible proposition if the polices of both were completely different, which of course they are not. However, the real problem with this “soul” assumption from my side of the political divide is that it furthers the narrative that UMNO and BN are without support and the whole of Malaysia is behind Pakatan, thereby reducing BN supporters as “ignoramuses” who would be better off under a Pakatan administration with all the flaws the writer himself acknowledges.

In addition, as far as dangling the worthless “ringgit”, is the writer aware that Pakatan is doing the same thing with all its populist policies of free education, subsidised fuel and (sic) affordable housing?

I have no idea where the writer gets the idea that I am “ever so prone to situate politics at the elite level, almost as if ordinary Malaysians would be untouched by all the politics.”If anything in the comments section of my pieces, I am vilified as being too “idealistic” which I take to mean placing principle over political expediency.

Again, a cursory reading of any of my articles would confirm my vox populi stance. If the writer had bothered to do some research, he would have discovered my support for grassroots level movements like Hindraf, PSM, my criticisms of the UMNO system of patronage, the MCA and slowly (emerging DAP) plutocracy, the crass reactionary politics of urban middle-class voters, the impact of Islam on the average Muslim (my disdain for the separate but equal Pakatan stand with regards to hudud is well documented), not to mention the holiest of holies, my no-holds-barred (some would argue, reckless) criticisms of the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM), etc. points to the exact opposite of the writer’s contention.

If anything in most of my articles, I have been raging against the “elitism” in politics and the plight of the disenfranchised that, political elites use as talking points in their political campaigns, a rather unfortunate reality of democracy.

The writer than goes into a long ramble about my preference for a two-coalition paradigm central to which is his dismay of the state of “third world democracies”. He does not define what he means by “functional democracy” and his rejection of so-called “third world” democracies like India and Indonesia, is puzzling since he neither gives reasons why they are dysfunctional nor does he elaborate on how “substantial changes” in South Africa and Fiji, does not accurately reflect the will of the people.

To be honest, I have no idea what point the writer is attempting to convey.There seems to be some confusion on the part of the writer of the concept of a two-party paradigm or rather his conflations of the form of democracies and the post-colonial realities of the countries he cites.

All a two-party paradigm ensures is that conflicting forces through the ballot box influences the way in which the system operates through cyclical elections. Substantial changes are only possible if a discriminate electorate tames the vested interests within these conflicting forces.

Anwar and Pakatan MPs

Anwar Ibrahim and Pakatan’s UMNO-BN Busters

Is this a perfect system? Not by a long shot but the writer does not suggest an alternative.On the other hand, maybe he does. May be he would prefer it Pakatan has a monopoly on “change” for decades? I really cannot tell.

Blind loyalty

The writer has trouble understanding what my “beef” is and goes on to whine that I “can’t have it both ways”. Does anyone else see the problem with this? First, the writer accuses me having “biasness” which he does not define.Then he claims that my criticism of Pakatan and BN is somehow having it both ways. Moreover, how does being critical of both coalitions and subscribing to a two-party paradigm, incompatible?

If anything, by assessing the agendas of the two coalitions and making an informed choice not predicated on blind loyalty, this would ensure that the two-party system works.

The problem here in Malaysia, is that we have never attempted to allow another coalition (for various reasons) the opportunity to lead this country but more importantly, UMNO cannot rely on its track record or at least this is my thinking as an opposition supporter.

However, the punch line is the writer then goes on listing his own criticisms of Pakatan and BN regurgitating the same examples I have used in my various comment pieces.The Perak fiasco, the Kedah shenanigans, “UMNO’s bribery”, the Selangor quagmire, Pakatan “turncoats”, PAS and its “coy Islamic agenda”, Anwar’s September 16, 2008 debacle… nearly every issue on his list with regard to BN and Pakatan, is something that I have written about before and a couple in the very article the writer finds so problematic. So, dear reader, who is the one “re-boiling” boiled eggs, now?

The writer says it is crunch time for Pakatan and BN. This was explicit in my comment piece. He singles me (and by the way, it is “the old commander” not commodore) out for rehashing old issues, which is ironic because rehashing “old issues” sometimes happens in the echo chamber that is the alternative press, not to mention what BN and Pakatan often do.

It would have been beneficial to me, if the writer elaborated on those policy issues of BN and Pakatan that he thinks should be dated and that I may have missed, but what I got was a confusing polemic in which the writer could not even follow his own advice.

PTPTN dataran sit in by studentsAs far as me not dwelling on critical policy issues, perhaps if the writer had done some research, he would realise that policy issues be it the demands of Hindraf, losing the secular battle, the nature of press reforms, affirmative action policies, Pakatan and BN reactionary educational polices (with regards to the PTPTN debate, for example), the Armed Forces, are front and centre of my pieces.

The writer obviously disagrees with the piece but the question is, is it something I wrote or is it something he is projecting on the piece? Santino’s makes many assumptions about my political leanings and my writings in Malaysiakini but offers no evidence to substantiate his claims.

For someone who takes a shot at columnists’ inability to recognise the “truth”, I was hoping the writer would provide some enlightenment as to where most of us writers go wrong. The truth is, I get more honesty from the commenters of my regular pieces than this particular writer.

Santini ends his letter with a quote from my piece he finds confusing. What can I say? It seems perfectly clear to me and to many others who read the piece. Go figure.

Satisfied Ku Li stays in UMNO


March 28, 2012

Satisfied Ku Li stays in UMNO

by http://www.malaysiakini.com(03-27-12)

Despite the differences of views with UMNO leadership, UMNO veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah says he will not follow the steps of his colleague Kadir Sheikh Fadzir to quit the party.

tengku razaleigh ku li interview 190309 04In an exclusive interview with Chinese Oriental Daily News published today, the Gua Musang MP (right) maintained his loyalty to UMMO and expressed satisfaction with his current status in the party.

“I’m still free to do things and say things I want in UMNO. Although some of my statements will make some people in UMNO unhappy, that does not mean I should leave UMNO,” he was quoted as saying.

He likened the situation to the relationship of two brothers in a family who sometimes quarreled with each other but that does not mean they must disown each other.

The former Finance Minister is currently the President of Amanah Merdeka, a NGO founded by him together with other current and former BN leaders.

Last week Kadir Sheikh, one of Amanah Deputy Presidents and also a former UMNO minister, resigned from the party that he had joined for 56 years. This followed attacks by UMNO leaders and mainstream media over his allegations that UMNO leaders were involved in vote-buying.

On the role of Amanah, Razaleigh said the public perception that it will serve as a third force in the Malaysian political landscape was a misunderstanding because he has no intention to fight BN or UMNO through Amanah.

He said the NGO was initiated by Kadir Sheikh (right) and others, and he reluctantly accepted the Presidency after they aggressively lobbied him. Describing his presidency as a figure head, Razaleigh said he is ready to vacate the post at any time if there was a more suitable candidate. The group, however, is not as active as presumed by some quarters, he said.

“I attended the launching but after that we did not do much. The major reason is we are too busy.”

Although most of the members want Amanah to be registered as a political party and play a significant role in the next general election, Razaleigh held a contrary stand: “I’m one of the minority who opposed it because I”m already a UMNO member. I can’t be a member of two political parties.”

“Some people think I should quit UMNO but I have been active in UMNO for almost 50 years,” he continued, reiterating that he has no intention at all to leave the ruling party.

Dual-party membership disallowed

He clarified that he and his colleagues in UMNO did not quit the party in 1987, instead they had no choice but to form Semangat 46 because they were not allowed by the then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to join the ‘new UMNO’ founded by Mahathir when the original UMNO was declared illegal by the court.

After the 1995 general election, Mahathir requested that they return to Umno, hence they dissolved Semangat 46, he said. Asked why Semangat 46 was dissolved, Razaleigh simply answered that it was because a person is not allowed to have dual-party membership. There was neither any promise by Mahathir nor any request by him when both factions reunited.

NONEOn the allegations that Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim (left) approached him and other BN parliamentarians to join Pakatan Rakyat to topple the federal government on Sept 16, 2008, Razaleigh denied it.

He said Anwar did engage him to form a new government but did not lobby him to join Pakatan.

“At that time I told him I will not follow him. I will continue to stay in UMNO and I wished him good luck. I also advised him not to be over confident because these people (BN MPs) will change their mind anytime and he may be disappointed. But Anwar replied that he will continue to push for it. Looking back now, I was right. The plan was indeed hard to be realised,” Razaleight revealed.

On Anwar’s ability, Razaleigh said he is an outstanding politician who can unite all the three opposition parties but his governing capacity has yet to be tested.

Contrary to the popular perception, Razaleigh commented that the Achilles’ heel of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s administration is the concept of 1Malaysia.“Many people will ask if you really believe in 1Malaysia, why there are still so many racial issues?”

Although Najib (left) is a hardworking politician, Razaleigh noted, one of his biggest challenges is to address the problems inherited from the previous administration, including discriminatory policies, corruption and substandard public delivery system.

“Take the political party as an example. Some people may ask, how can you promote 1Malaysia when the party you lead, that is UMNO, is still a racial party?”

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


March 13, 2011

Anwar goes on the defence

Insight

By Joceline Tan@http://www.thestar.com.my

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.

From Euphoria to Doom: Wither Pakatan Rakyat?


March 9, 2011

http://masterwordsmith-unplugged.blogspot.com

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!