The end of communal politics?


(Source: MageP’s Lab)

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Frankly speaking, most of the time, I just couldn’t understand why the minority coalition parties like MCA, Gerakan, MIC and etc. continue to stick with Umno in BN even though they continue to be harassed and humiliated by their big brother?

Let’s take a look at the recent Permatang Pauh by-election. During the campaign period, Bukit Bendera Umno division head Ahmad Ismail had allegedly said Chinese were “squatters” in the country, who were both selfish and unjust, at a ceramah on Aug 24 whilst trying to buttress support for BN candidate Arif Shah Omar Shah in the by-election contest against opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim.

MCA being the usual MCA, feeling intimidated by the allegation, started to make furious calls openly demanding an apology and explanation from Ahmad.

MCA Youth has submitted a letter yesterday demanding an open apology, retraction and a promise not to make similar statements in the future while Federal Territories MCA Youth today launched a signature campaign outside the MCA headquarters in Kuala Lumpur to condemn Ahmad, demanding that he be sacked from his party.

The questions are: Is Ahmad going to apologize? Let’s presume he is going to.

If that’s the case, is he going to show the sincerity and feeling repent of his remarks hurled against the Chinese community?

Again, even if he does, MCA is fighting a non-cause as history has shown us that the similar antic will resurface in the future, it’s only a matter of time before the racial remarks will be repeated?

I can’t help but to wonder, the public protest organised by the MCA Youth to show their displeasure is the only channel for them to highlight their frustration to the big brother? Does that mean MCA, Gerakan, MIC and the rest of the ministers representing the smaller component parties have no say at all during the Cabinet meeting, hence the public dissent?

The same goes to Gerakan too. It’s acting president Koh Tsu Koon, being his ownself only can afford to say that Barisan’s defeat in the by-election is another wake up call for the ruling coalition.

What a shame, especially when he continues to show dissatisfaction and at the same time, Umno continues to ignore him at their own peril.

Why? Probably Umno knows that Tsu Koon will continue to stick together irregardless of the difficult situtation the party is being put in since Gerakan has nowhere to go! No?

Then, how about the tsunami wave of change in the recent General Election? Isn’t that a wake up call for BN too? If it’s indeed a wake up call, why BN continues to act arrogantly and takes the rakyat for granted? What is the role of Gerakan who claims to act as the Opposition within the BN in fighting to ensure that BN does wake up from the painful lesson? Is it because they’re too afraid to speak up or there isn’t any opportunity at all for them to speak up, ever since the heavy defeat suffered by most of the Gerakan candidates, including Tsu Koon himself?

Why can’t he understand Gerakan is no longer relevant, especially when former party stalwart Toh Kin Woon who is dubbed as the “Conscience of BN” left Gerakan to openly expressed his support towards the “movement led by Anwar”? What about many Gerakan leaders who had lost hope towards Gerakan and gradually deserting the party in seeking a more ideal ideology like the one practised by the Pakatan Rakyat coalition?

Nevertheless, the entire affair which have taken place so far, I’m sure, has set the minority component parties in ruling coalition into deep thinking mode on whether they still can play an effective role in building a better Malaysia for us to live in, or else, necessary reform must be taken to rejuvenate themselves before they can convince the people that they, together with their big brother Umno have indeed awaken from the disastrous outing on March 8 and the most recent by-election.

Perhaps, the high-level acceptance shown by the people towards the “People’s Government” by the PR coalition proves that Malaysians nowadays are a lot more mature than what the Government wants us to be, which means, the beginning of the death of sectarian politics long practised in this country, hence the irrelevance of racial based parties in Malaysia’s political landscape.

WILL SOMEBODY BE HONEST AND OWN UP!


(Source: Zorro-Unmasked)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

NO, there is no blame game….it is blatantly a no name game. Nobody is owning up to WHO GAVE THE DIRECTIVE TO BLOCK Malaysia Today.
When Global Voices picked up this story, you know that the whole world know about this clowning that is going on in 51 year old independent country……and laughing out loud.

When a directive is given it must be given by someone. But in this case that someone seems to be no one. This is politics Malaysiana. Nobody in the government has the common decency to own up. Like most failed corporations (which the Auditor General revealed we have many, especially the government-backed ones) the buck keeps being passed around like musical chairs. But the music never stops and somebody snoozes on.

But the guy who lost an island to that little red dot, declared that the MCMC had every right to block MT. Big Mouth can bark any which way he wants because nobody listens to him except Google who may now not want to invest here with a multi-billion ringgit data centre. He really has outlived his shelf-life.

SO WHO GAVE THE ORDER?


I asked around at Visu’s birthday bash and came out with no answers. I had to go seek out HANTU. He gave me a list and asked me to do an ini-mini-minor-more stuff. Oh yes the list, preposterous but deliriously and riotiously entertaining: Let the game begin: PP-weary Najib, Just-returned Dotty. sick IJNed Police Supremo, the out-going AG, the in-coming AG of the anti-Anwar/RPK operation centre. NO, not the PM for sure as he is not aware of what’s happening.

if you have the names

you can join in the game

ini-mini-minor-more
shame the bugger, we all swore

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Freedom of speech is not a privilege but a fundamental right of all free people.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

dang, I must be off….haven’t bought ‘tea lights” yet for tonight’s candlelight vigil for our ISA detainees.


Merdeka Day: A Dream or a Nightmare?


Kuala Lumpur
August 31, 2008

Happy Merdeka or should it be Unhappy Merdeka? No Malaysian Jalur Gemilang is on display, reflecting the mood of Malaysians on the occasion of our 51st anniversary of Independence. Even the Prime MInister’s speech to the nation sounded bland. It was totally uninspiring; in fact, his appeal for national unity was at best hypocritical, given the display of extreme Malay nationalism of his party, UMNO, which we witnessed during the March 8 General Election and the August 26 by-election in Permatang Pauh.

There is growing disenchantment with the leadership of Badawi and Malaysians are completely fed up with the performance of the UMNO-led and dominated Barisan Nasional government in recent years. Are we in a period of national mourning? I wonder.

Almost everyone left town since last Friday (August 29) to enjoy the long weekend with their families and friends in their home towns, Kuala Lumpur is empty and it is pleasure to drive around since there is no the usual traffic jam except for Saturday (August 30) when the Police and the FRU cordoned off the area in the vicinity of Kelab Sultan Sulaiman, Kampong Baru, where the PKR Wanita held a family day partly to celebrate Anwar Ibrahim’s crushing defeat of his UMNO opponent, Arif Shah in the Permatang Pauh by-election on August 26 but mainly to bring families,relaties and friends of PKR members together on the eve of Merdeka Day. The function ended peacefully, and the presence of the FRU and Police was unnecessary and costly.

I do not know what you will be doing on Merdeka Day. I have decided to switch off the TV and read a good book. Here is an interesting piece from Sim Kwang Yang for your reading pleasure.

I share Sim’s laments and concerns as he is of my generation. When we were growing up, we mixed freely and visited one another without fear that we are less Malay, less Chinese or less Indian. After 51 years, we are divided on the basis of class, race and religion. Our government was less corrupt during those early years, compared with the last 27 years (since 1981). What happened is entirely our fault because we were indifferent and allowed our leaders, the so-called Tuans, to act with impunity. It is time we change that and tell the present leadership that enough is enough. >

May our 52nd anniversary of independence be a less depressing one.—Din Merican

Sim Kwang Yang | August 30, 08

Merdeka celebration seems muted this year.

The severe cut in budget allocation probably has something to do with the reduced scale with which our nation’s independence is being commemorated.

Last year, the half-century independence celebration cost the nation some RM100 million.It seems like an obscene amount of money just to parade the pomp and ceremony of patriotism.

Now that the country is engulfed in a global crisis in oil and food prices with inflation rate hitting the highest peak in 27 years, such lavish spending on Merdeka celebration would not go down so well with a rakyat that has just given the BN the worst thumping in 50 years!

`malaysia merdeka 50th anniversary 280807 ethnicWhat it shows is that the grand celebration last year, and many years before that, were all popped up by huge allocation of public funds. When the degree of national joy on Independence Day is measured by how much money is available to make things happen, something is seriously wrong with our country.

Sarawakians and Sabahans will grumble about the injustice of the Malay nationalist grand narrative to no end. Once again, they will remind the world about the historical fact that Malaysia came into being on 16 September 1963, and not 31 August 1957. But these are the marginal voices out there, on the other side of a vast expanse of sea water, seldom heard in Kuala Lumpur, and so hardly deserve serious attention. The official history book cannot be wrong, or at least that is what many Malaysians think.

This year though, the voices of discontent from the East may have to be taken seriously. Sabah MPs from the ruling coalition have been making rebellious noises in Parliament. Some are eloquent in ways only Sabahan and Sarawakian MPs are capable of.

What is the use of living in a big house, they asked, if you are denigrated to a small corner near the stinking toilet? Would it not be better if you move into the master bedroom in a smaller house? Needless to say, I share their sentiment entirely.

Anwar Ibrahim factor

Suddenly, their words resonate ominously following the by-election at Permatang Pauh on the eve of Independence Day this year. The head honcho of PKR and Pakatan Rakyat, Anwar Ibrahim, has just won a significant victory in a three-corner fight, defeating the BN candidate by a two-to-one majority. Apparently, the multiracial electorate of that constituency in Penang felt revolted by the sodomy charges brought against him.

anwar pc permatang pauh 02 260808Anwar has on many occasions reiterated his plan to persuade sufficient MPs from the BN in East and West Malaysia to defect to the opposition by Sept 16 to form a majority in Parliament, and thereby bring about a regime change. If and when that happens, the PM will probably recommend to the Agong to dissolve Parliament to pave way for another general election. If the Agong should refuse his request, and exercise his discretion in appointing Anwar as the new PM, as is provided for under the Federal Constitution, then what will happen?

Already, there are the odd over-imaginative commentators who wonder aloud whether the ensuing confusion would entice the armed forces to take over the government in a coup-de-tat. I suppose they have been mistakenly inspired by events in Thailand. But I doubt very much if that will happen. Our military has never enjoyed the kind of influence in national politics as the Thai soldiers. They have had a half-century tradition of obedience and loyalty to their political masters in the civilian government.

So I am waiting to celebrate my National Day on Sept 16. Events in the next two and a half weeks ought to be messy. Everybody would be holding his breath to see whether or how Anwar Ibrahim is going to pull another giant rabbit out of his huge political hat! At least, you cannot blame Malaysian politics for being dull these days!

Nevertheless, we are so embroiled in the daily political drama unfolding before our eyes that perhaps there has not been sufficient reflection on the true meaning of independence.

Certainly, for young Malaysians, it means just another public holiday, for shopping and lazing around. On the eve, it offers another occasion for them to descend upon Bukit Bintang in large numbers for another orgy of noisy and boisterous fun and the countdown to midnight.

Fearful negative connotations

What independence means is nothing less than national liberty, freedom from the yoke of colonialism, the right to determine our own destiny, and the power of self-determination so that our citizens will enjoy the fruit of their labour. We are supposed to be the master of our own destiny. Those were our dreams, and the dreams of our founding fathers.

Independence also means freedom from the bondage to a foreign power, from being taxed without our consent, and the lack of the responsibility for the defence of our homeland.

These ringing words that were so powerful and loud in the 50s and 60s are now seldom heard, as if they have been forgotten. In fact, we discover that those laws and regulations that were enacted and used to fetter the freedom of Malaysians by our former colonial masters are now used to oppress dissidents and critics of the government.

merdeka 51st celebration 290808In fact, freedom is now painted as a word with fearful negative connotations. Day in and day out, we are reminded by our elected leaders that freedom is equal to license, the nihilistic idea of doing what one wants without responsibility and restraint.

Freedom has been equated with seditious tendency, with people going wild and violent because they have ultra-sensitive religious and racial nerves, and with riots and rampant killing on the streets that will destroy stability and economic development.

For 50 years, we may have said farewell to our former British colonial masters, but their colonial instruments for the oppression of the people and the suppression of their fundamental liberties have been preserved, reinforced, and abused by the same group of ruling elite to ensure their hold on political power.

Like their former colonial tuans, the new ruling class in the new nation-state has monopolised all rights towards the articulation of national interest. In the name of that national interest, which only they can narrate, they – like their colonial masters before them – severely limit citizens’ rights to free speech, free expression of ideas, freedom of the press, and freedom of association. Until today, an assembly of more than five persons is still considered by the police as an illegal assembly. What has our half century of independence achieved?

In the half century until today, I have grown from a young boy of nine to an old man of 60. I have watched how political discourse in our public sphere has been dominated by the language of fear, especially the language of xenophobic fear of one race for another. Like their former colonial masters, the post-independence ruling elite have entrenched this pathos of nameless fear to divide and rule a nation of many races, and a small multiracial handful of politicians and their cronies grow fabulously rich overnight.

‘I have a dream’

In the past week, numerous orators in the American Democratic Convention have made reference to the fact that this year marks the 45th anniversary of the “I have a dream” speech made by Martin Luther King. Meanwhile, they proceeded to nominate an African-American to be a presidential candidate for the first time in their history.

bill hilarry clinton campaign 061007 obamaIt must be noted that King’s dream is not a dream only for Afro-American dream; it was meant to be the reformulation of the American dream. Barack Obama’s campaign is run entirely on an appeal towards reviving and reinventing this American dream, rather than succumbing again to Bush’s past campaign of xenophobic fear.

Back in Malaysia, we have Malay dreams, Indian dreams, Chinese dreams, Sarawakian and Sabahan dreams. We have as many dreams as there are ethnic communities, thanks to the 50 years of race based politics. So where is the one Malaysian dream to unite and define our polyglot citizens into one proud people.

2008 has been a watershed in our history. To describe any historical event as a watershed is to indulge in cliché I know. In this case, the cliché may be warranted.

From here on, the political waters in our country may be flowing in a different direction. The idea of justice for all may be just the kind of concept that is needed to transcend the narrow constricting strait jacket of racial politics. The old idea of “justice” needs to be beefed up, but the ten-thousand mile long march must begin with the first step.

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Merdeka: Dream or nightmare?

Budget 2009: What the experts say


August 29, 2008
Several experts share their views with Malaysiakini regarding the Budget 2009 unveiled by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

MCPX

David Cohen, director of Action Economics, Singapore:

It is a populist budget to deflect the growing popularity of Anwar (Ibrahim). (Prime Minister) Abdullah (Ahmad Badawi) is obviously under pressure as witnessed by the rollback in fuel prices last week.

Lee Heng Guie, chief economist at CIMB Bank:

I think most people already expected a budget that won’t have many negative points. So this is one factor that helped the market to rise and also because overseas markets were good last night. But the overall mood is still cautious because there is still uncertainty.

Given the tough macro situation, they may have little choice but to spend more now. Whether it’s the right choice depends on how they fine-tune the deficit going forward.

Khoo Kay Peng, political and economics analyst:

Anwar can, if he wishes, make any amendments he thinks are necessary. We don’t know what alterations he will make, but for example he has mentioned before the RM10 billion extra allocation for the growth corridor projects – which Abdullah asked for in the mid-term review.And Anwar has said that we do not need any new mega-projects at this point in time.

Whatever it is, there is uncertainty and this will keep the markets quiet. Even when Anwar comes into power as he says, investors will want to see how he performs, what sort of plan he’ll raise then.

For Abdullah, he needs to have a yardstick, a performance yardstick instead of just voicing hot air bubbles. He needs to stimulate local consumer demand, find concrete measures to increase wage-earners’ pockets, and look at transportation as he has promised. There must be more buses and other forms of public transportation put on the roads.

Also, on whether the government has enough money, nobody really knows because there is a lack of transparency. Abdullah must find concrete ways to cut down public administration, reduce bureaucracy, for example shift us more to e-government. We have one of the biggest bureaucracy in the region, we are too labour-centric and this is why we have the image of being not efficient. Yes, in the past the public administration is used as a political tool, a vote bank. But we must take politics out of the equation. Anyway, it hasn’t help them (Abdullah and his Umno party) in the elections anymore.

Dr Ramon Navaratnam, prominent economist and president of Transparency International :

On thee one percent reduction of income tax for the highest bracket, the rich can take care of themselves very well – therefore the tax cut was unnecessary.

The middle and lower income groups are the mainstay of Malaysia and the groups which will agitate for change. It would have been better to address their needs. The poor should always be the priority.

There seems to be a shift in budget strategy whereby it attempts to address basic needs and not on unnecessary mega projects.

However attempts to share wealth when inflation is not controlled, will still see the erosion of income for the low and middle income groups.

Tricia Yeoh, director Centre of Public Policy Research:

Such a record expansionary budget with huge funds is theoretically a good thing, given the urgent need to generate growth in the face of economic slowdown.

However, it can only be considered a thoroughly good thing if we can be assured that the money will be channelled in the right direction, without any unnecessary leakages.

Unfortunately, the past track record of government has been poor in this respect. With a rampant culture of corruption and weak institutional structures, this may lead to continued wastage and abuse. I would therefore emphasise strengthening the institutions of governance, so that the funds are actually optimised and maximised.

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Badawi’s 2009 Budget


Last Friday (August 29, 2008), the Prime Minister as Finance Minister tabled his 2009 Budget totalling RM207.9 billion (development expenditure: RM53.7 billion and operating expenditure for running UMNO-led Barisan Nasional Government: RM154.2 billion).

The New Straits Times(August 30, 2008) says the budget “enhances the purchasing power of the people with tax cuts and a variety of other measures to stimulate the economy”. The Star calls it “Right track”and Utusan Malaysia, the UMNO controlled newspaper, describe it as “Bajet Prihatin”.

I will have my take on it on Monday (September 1, 2008) after I have read the Treasury Report and the entire Budget speech. In the meantime, here is a report by Beh Lih Yi from http://www.malaysiakini.com (below):

Anwar: Fundamental flaws remain
Beh Lih Yi | August 29, 2008 9
The Budget 2009 unveiled by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi today has failed to address‘fundamental flaws’, according to new Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.

MCPX

budget 2009 290808 06“There are some sweeteners here and there but it fails to address some fundamental flaws in the economic policy, issues of efficiency, governance and endemic corruption,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby after the PM’s budget speech this afternoon.

He said these sweeteners do not commensurate with the vast increases in inflation and living cost. Hence, he added, the largely disappointing budget will not alleviate the problems and suffering of the poor.

The Budget 2009 was the first time for Anwar – who was newly sworn in as the Permatang Pauh MP yesterday – to be present in the House since 1997.

In 1997, Anwar who was then the deputy premier tabled Budget 1998 in his capacity as the finance minister. He was sacked from government the following year after an acrimonious fallout with then premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

‘We’re stuck in the old policy’

Elaborating on the Budget 2009, Anwar said the issue of competitiveness was not addressed.

“We continue to be in a state of denial. We are not able to shift from the obsolete economic policy, the rampant corruption and the failure to become more competitive because we are stuck in old policies.

“I see no way how we can attract foreign investment. Without foreign investment, Malaysia can’t propel its economy and unfortunately this is not addressed,” he said.

budget 2009 290808 04Other than foreign investment, Anwar also regretted that the “endemic corruption, the tenders awarded to cronies and their families, failure to cut cost and be more efficient” were not addressed.

He explained that it was an ‘exceptional case’ for Malaysia to continue to record a expansionary and deficit budget since the country is an oil producing country.

“Malaysia is the only country that continues to register a major deficit. It is understandable for a country that does not have resources (but we are not),” he said.

Meanwhile, Anwar rebutted Abdullah’s criticism towards the end of his speech where the premier hit out at the opposition for trying to seize power through “illegitimate means.”

The PKR supremo has consistently claimed that the opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat which he leads will obtain an extra 30 seats through defections from BN MPs – and then take over the federal government.

Anwar said the premier made these remarks because he was worried about the possible crossovers.

“They still have the audacity to talk about democracy and to preach about democratic process. Mind you, democracy means in terms of governance, an independent judiciary and free media which they don’t have.

“To my mind, it is really disappointing they have not seen the demand and the vast calls for reforms,” stressed the opposition leader.

What other Pakatan leaders say

Lim Guan Eng (DAP-Bagan), Penang chief minister:

debat of land scandal 200808 lim guan ying pc(Our hope for a) RM200 million soft loan for heritage conservation has not been met. Instead, there is a RM15 million allocation for both Malacca and Georgetown. It’s a good start but I think it is still insufficient. Heritage conservation is quite an expensive business, it’s national pride. The Penang state government feels that much more resources should be put into this.

We are also disappointed there is nothing about the Mengkuang dam (in Penang) being mentioned. This is very critical for Penang’s water needs. We were hoping that (Abdullah) will announce the construction of the RM1 billion dam so that we can ensure Penang’s water supply, otherwise we may have critical water shortages in 2012.

In that respect, we are disappointed that Penang has not been given its due attention. We will continue to be hopeful and continue to ask the prime minister to reconsider.

Kamaruddin Jaffar (PAS-Tumpat), PAS secretary-general:

kamaruddin jaafar 00The high deficit this time shows inefficiency in the government system. We are also surprised that the premier did not take the opportunity to announce anything about petroleum prices because if his idea is to counter inflation, the fastest and most effective means would be to cut back petrol prices at the kiosk level – but they have not chosen to do that today.

The pump priming of mega projects were still announced. We are concerned with that as we believe most of them have been awarded through direct negotiations and therefore yet again, inefficiency creeps in. The public is not getting their money’s value.

This is a post-Permatang Pauh (by-election) budget.


Liew Chin Tong (DAP-Bukit Bendera), DAP strategist:

liew chin tongThis is the biggest ever budget. Anwar’s last budget, Budget 1998 was only RM68 billion. Budget 2009 costing RM207 billion is a huge jump from last year.

This is an election budget at the wrong time. However, we can see the prime minister has taken a cue from Pakatan, such as the electricity fee waiver which is similar to the water tariff waiver implemented by the (Pakatan-led) Selangor state government.

However it is a good thing – a learning process for (the BN-controlled) government and now there is competition for better policies.

Another interesting thing to note is the development allocation for the Prime Minister’s Department has increased tremendously from RM3.6 billion last year to RM10.22 billion this year. This is a fund to buy over the MPs and to do politically linked works.

The DJ is back


The DJ is back. Let us start with some rock n roll and rhythm and blues. I am presenting Fats Domino, Bill Haley and His Comets and Roy Orbison for your listening pleasure. Have a good weekend. Don’t expect too much from Badawi’s 2008/2009 Budget which table in Parliament this afternoon; otherwise you will have a depressing weekend.—DJ Din Merican

ps. I have asked Johnny Tillotson to join, and dedicate “Poetry in Motion” to my Big Apple Kedahan, Mr. Bean. When this was first released in Malaysia, I was in Kulim to enjoy my academic year end holidays. Kulim is not far from Penang, even then (1961).

Go for Barack Obama, Jong, Mr. Bean and others, but let us not forget that Senator John McCain who I met in Phnom Penh at a US Embassy function a few years ago is a formidable opponent and a war hero. We need to watch the debates for a clear indication of who will emerge to be the next President after George W. Bush. But I think it will be a close Presidential race. May the best man will win. Leave it to the American people to decide who they wish to be their President.

Fats Domino- Blueberry Hills

Bill Haley and His Comets–Rock Around the Clock

Roy Orbison–Pretty Woman

For Mr. Bean in New York City: Take It Away, Johnny T

IS ANWAR AN IMF BOY?– No, he is Pro-Economic Growth with Social Justice


August 29, 2008

by Allyn Young(2008)*

When Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad finally announced the inevitable sacking of his Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Anwar Ibrahim on September 3, 1998 following the introduction of Keynesian-style capital controls a day earlier, a group of anti-imperialists and third world nationalists proclaimed that Mahathir had finally laid to rest the so called neo-liberal malaise that Anwar had purportedly subjected the Malaysian economy to with disastrous results.

Anwar was branded as a puppet of the IMF, who was simply seeking personal glory ‘by choosing to sell the interest of Malaysians to foreigners’. Mahathir – himself considered an authoritarian leader who had destroyed the key institutional instruments of governance in Malaysia to check any credible challenges to his leadership – became an icon among these anti-imperialists the world over.

Using evidence from my advisory role, this commentary is targeted to correct this presumptuous claim. Instead of focusing on the scientific and historical evidence associated with epistemology, the anti-imperialists and pseudo critics of the Washington Consensus( IMF, the World Bank and the US Treasury) found a straw man in Anwar and a savior in Mahathir to build this ‘great story’ of how Mahathir saved Malaysia from certain collapse by ‘discontinuing Anwar’s deleterious neoliberal financial policies’.

While I have much to say about the circumstances that faced Malaysia in 1997 which offered the country the option of seeking capital controls when Korea, Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines had to go cap in hand to the IMF, I focus on Anwar’s actions as Malaysia’s Finance Minister.

Anwar had time again insisted in some of his meetings that the free flow of capital and the Malaysian ringgit was causing havoc to exchange rates and the stock market. He even lamented once over the massive offshore ringgit kept in Singapore that affected Bank Negara’s capacity to manage monetary policy. He cited that instruments were necessary to provide sufficient control of the ringgit against volatile fluctuations caused by currency traders. What he did not share with Mahathir was his stand on corruption and cronyism.

I remember Anwar saying that all Government linked Companies(GLCs) destabilized by losses should be supported with fresh loans but only after proper audit scrutiny. Now no scholar or sensible politician – whatever their ideological learnings – would support bailouts that arise from losses in consumer benefits through a misallocation of funds to the corrupt and incapable. Anwar was in support of Keynesian style packages but wanted them introduced alongside instruments that would weed out corruption.

Anwar was also serious about fiscal policies to take account of distributive justice in the months between December, 1997 and April, 1998. In fact, he had dismissed a report prepared by a team of IMF-style consultants on measures to rescue the East Asian economies affected by the 1997-98 Financial crisis. He had written on the cover of that report that it must be rewritten to address problems of social justice.

I was approached by his advisors to rewrite the report and took it on eventually after his team headed by Khalid Jaafar agreed to allow me to change it completely. It was unfortunate that Anwar did not manage to present it as he was replaced by Daim Zainuddin and sacked by Mahathir.Yet, there is enough historical evidence to back Anwar’s claim that he is a believer in social justice. After all, mentored by the widely respected social activist and former University of Malaya academic Professor Dr Syed Husin Ali during his undergraduate days, Anwar was arrested and jailed for his role in championing the rights of the poor during the Baling riots and the protests he commandeered as a student union leader at University of Malaya in 1974.

It must be said that the young and brash leader of the 1970s was then a champion of the poor at a time when government policy was very much in line with the dictates of the IMF and the World Bank. However, he had become a mature leader in the 1990s following his apprenticeship as the Finance Minister of Malaysia from 1995 to recognize the need to connect distributive justice with sound economic principles. In addition, in the spirit of intellectual discourse, Anwar had also developed the capacity to exchange views with experts from different schools of economic philosophy in a cordial and constructive manner. As a result, he enjoyed strong friendship with several heads of governments and global organizations.

Anwar remains a strong advocate of the humane economy as articulated in his Malaysian Economic Agenda and reflected in the 2008 Election Manifesto for Pakatan Rakyat, which he again stressed during his ceramahs and meet- the people- sessions during the campaign for the Permatang Pauh by-election. The fact that he won decisively over his UMNO opponent showed that his economic agenda founded on sound economic growth and distributive justice was fully endorsed by voters.

——————-
*Allyn Young (2008) is a pseudonym used by a Cambridge educated economist who lectures at one of the major public universities in the Kuala Lumpur area.