New Revolutionaries – The Solution to Race Politics

May 31. 2012

Project Malaysia

New Revolutionaries – The Solution to Race Politics

By Zubin Rada Krishnan

Zubin Rada Krishnan returned to Malaysia returned to Malaysia in 2004 after graduating from Oxford with a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. He has spent most of his time since working in the business advisory arm of KPMG in Kuala Lumpur.

The running of the body politic along racial1 lines is a reflection of the pervasiveness of ‘racial politics’ in every aspect of Malaysian life. From business fiefdoms to food courts, from the playground to Parliament – the dispersion of power and the making of decisions are dependent on race.

Weighed down by history

From where will the solution to the ubiquity of racialism arise? Often, we look to an answer to filter (or even be imposed) from the top down. From the corridors of power, we expect pluralism and less reliance on racial and sectarian factors in the decisions that shape our nation. The remedy though, may lie closer to us than the lofty politics of the state.

Unfortunately, attempts by Malaysian political parties and their politicians to move the political sphere beyond racial lines have made marginal progress at best, and at worst, match the nastiest chauvinism of race-based partisanship. Noble are the goals of the Democratic Action Party, ostensibly based on the principles of racial equality2 and the Parti Gerakan Rakyat and its analogous non-ethnic stance. However, reality portrays a truth that meanders away from these intentions. The truth is that Malaysian politics has been played within an arena constructed on the foundations of racialism.

The failure of the Malayan Union in 1946 influenced the emergence of UMNO, the MCA and MIC – each setting out to defend their respective communities’ interests during the formation of a post-colonial nation. Concessions and settlements between communities allowed a fine balance to be struck, but on the basis of race.

Our political institutions (like our formal party system and the less formal norms of conduct and customs within politics) were crafted at a time when men who self-identified as Malay, Indian or Chinese were unsure of their future position in a new state free of colonial shackles. Each group pushed and shoved to gain traction in a perceived zero-sum game, where one lost if another gained. Such were the attitudes and behaviour of citizens toward politics – this was the political culture of the era. The political arena (consisting of our political institutions) set up during the birth of our nation was a reflection of this political culture and perhaps a necessary compromise to ensure the birth of an independent Malaysia.

Valiant efforts have been made to move beyond race within this old political arena. Ideas for escaping the stranglehold of the racial zero-sum game, were espoused not only by those of non-ethnic parties but also by progressive members of communitarian parties like Datuk Zaid Ibrahim and Dato’ Onn Ja’afar. The results,however, have been circumscribed by historical exigencies – since communitarian parties win votes on the basis of race, they force their competitors into the same game.

Examples are not hard to find, take how the DAP has sought to win support through the championing of Chinese rights, most notably through the buttressing of Chinese vernacular education, and how Gerakan’s membership base is almost four-fifths Chinese in spite of its multi-ethnic principles. The way the game is defined constrains the way players can compete – this has been the story of the struggle by parties for non-ethnic politics in Malaysia.

The power of trust and the new revolutionaries

The body politic is too ensnared in the political culture of yesteryear to be a source of the solution to ‘the politics of race’ in Malaysia, because of historical circumstance, politics is race. Rather, the transcendence of racial cleavages will come about because the political arena necessarily reflects the man in the street – just as ours did when it was newly birthed, fifty-one years ago. And because it must reflect this man, it will only change when he changes.

For the Malaysian to transcend race, it must not take priority over other considerations when dealing with others. He must be able to connect with and trust his fellow man on a basis other than his bloodline. Such connections can be wrought through the development of civil society and social capital.

The concepts of civil society, and its vital byproduct, social capital, are increasingly salient in Malaysian public discourse3. Civil society is best described as the space between the power of the state and the lives of citizens – it is the space where NGOs, knitting circles, chambers of commerce and other voluntary groupings bring people together in a non-coercive manner. The valuable product of effective civil society is social capital. This is the sum of the connectivity between fellow citizens and encompasses the concomitant values of trust and reciprocity that arise because of these connections4.

We arguably, as a nation, already have a relative surfeit of social capital – but that of the inward-looking, bonding type. This kind of social capital is the result of groupings of people that are already alike and is what binds and reinforces ethnic groups.

What our country needs in order to break past the ‘politics of race’ is a profusion of bridging social capital – that which is outward-looking and which entails the building of trust across social cleavages.

Hopeful and idealistic these ideas might sound, but the creation of this type of social capital is actually quite ordinary – it manifests anywhere people come together and share values free of race. From the football pitch to social clubs and not necessarily anywhere glamorous, when Malaysians unite on commonalities besides race, they transcend the very concept. Such connections mean that people begin to cooperate on a plane above racial origin and we begin to find that “trustworthiness lubricates social life“.5

We need revolutionaries for change

This new notion of ‘we’ based on race-blind trust in contrast to the old battlefield of ‘us versus them’ may not however, manifest naturally. We need revolutionaries. But not the self-styled rebels who stand in the street braying and waving the flags of partisanship. The spotlight of the media may not be trained on these new revolutionaries; these ordinary people who stand up and take action to grow our civil society and our stock of social capital. From the mundane rock band fan clubs and local badminton leagues, these new revolutionaries will rise forth and usurp considerations of race from their routines, fostering trust across race lines so that it becomes a force of habit.

Our political arena was created in the image of the political culture of an era past. It will be forced to adapt if Malaysian attitudes and behaviour towards politics change – if Malaysians surmount race in their everyday life, what use will they have for a political arena that is racially defined? And who are these new revolutionaries who build ties between men instead of fortresses? They will have to be you and me. Collectively speaking,We.

Wait, this sounds familiar

Perhaps decades-old political institutions like our party system are beginning to reshape themselves in the form of the political culture of a new Malaysia. Maybe what we see is mere politicking.

Establishing race-blind trust between Malaysians

The most tangible way we can prompt a clear and sustainable end to the ‘politics of race’ is to keep struggling to solidify our civil society and by doing so, establishing race-blind trust between Malaysians. To be sure that the political arena will rid itself of the ‘politics of race’, we need to remove it from our lives first. Only when we look ourselves in the mirror and see unity can we expect the political arena to reflect this image.

1 The difference between race and ethnicity is actually quite significant, what we Malaysians refer to as race, is more like ethnicity. For the purposes of this piece they will be taken to mean the same thing – solidarity between people based on (real or assumed) shared bloodlines and customs.

2 Setapak Declaration, from the first DAP National Congress in 1967

3 Notably due to a few incisive speeches made by HRH Raja Nazrin

4 This definition of social capital is largely drawn from Robert Putnam’s seminal works

5 From Robert Putnam’s ‘Bowling Alone’

MACC Graft Probe on NFC: Just to clear Shahrizat

May 31, 2012

MACC’s Cow Sense–The Malaysian Insider

Here’s a question for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). Who accused Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil of being involved in the process of awarding the RM250 million government soft loan to the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) operated by her family?

Short answer, no one. Long answer, not one person ever did.

So, clearing the Wanita UMNO chief of any involvement in the scandal is not even news because she wasn’t accused of that. And if MACC and Shahrizat are crowing about this, they have as much cow sense as the cattle in the Gemas farm.

Let’s be clear why Shahrizat’s name has been dragged into this and the government had to drop her from the Cabinet by not extending her tenure as senator.

Her family is accused of abusing public funds meant for a cattle-rearing project for their own shopping spree of luxury properties in Malaysia and abroad. They had admitted as much, saying the funds were being put to some use while waiting for the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industries to do its part of the deal.

Of course, it begs the question whether public funds meant for one project can be used in other ways while waiting for something else to happen. The short answer, no. The long answer, of course not.

MACC operations evaluation panel (PPO) chairman Tan Sri Dr Hadenan Abdul Jalil was stating the obvious today when he said that investigations into Shahrizat’s involvement in NFC were now closed.

“We have found she was not involved in the process of awarding the loan,” Hadenan told reporters at a press conference today.

“The decision to award the contract to the company and to award the loan does not involve her,” he added.

Malaysians are just outraged that a company with no experience in cattle farming got the money and instead of working on the project, it used the funds for something else. Because there are farmers out there in Malaysia who could use a bit of that money for their own cattle farms.

Because there are Malaysians out there who get their loan applications rejected even if it is not a government soft loan.

Because it looked like the financial records of the company showed Shahrizat’s family was living the high life from the company that was funded by public money. Perhaps she might have benefited? We don’t know. Because the MACC didn’t look into that.

They just investigated if she had a role in approving the loan. Why would she be involved? Was she in the particular ministry? Was she in the Treasury? Did the matter even come up at any Cabinet meeting where she attended?

Why is the MACC pulling wool over our eyes? Why are they even investigating this aspect which is not even a complaint from anyone?Why is the MACC spending public funds to get its officers to investigate a non-story?

Why do they have cow sense instead of common sense? What is the MACC supposed to do? Will they ever do it?

Today’s conclusion by the MACC just shows how little transformation has happened since the anti-graft agency was upgraded into a commission.They should have been a lot smarter than they revealed themselves to be today.Is there a wonder that people have little faith in the MACC?


MACC Graft Probe on NFC: Just to  clear Shahrizat

by Clara Chooi@

“The way they investigated it is as if they were merely trying to find a reason to let Shahrizat go. What the MACC needs to prove is that there was no influence whatsoever from Shahrizat that allowed her family to get the contract although they had absolutely zero experience in cattle-farming.”–Rafizi Ramli

The Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) was accused today of whitewashing Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil’s National Feedlot Centre (NFC) graft investigation , with PKR’s Rafizi Ramli pointing out that he had not even been questioned by investigators despite being responsible for most of the allegations against the Minister and her family.

Rafizi, the man who led a relentless campaign to expose alleged misappropriation of public funds in the management of NFC, pointed out that he had been the one leading the series of exposes on the NFC since the RM250 million federally-funded cattle funding project hit media headlines late last year.

“Seeing as I was the one who exposed all these issues in the NFC, one has to wonder – why have I not been called in to see the MACC when I have been the loudest in this issue?” he told The Malaysian Insider when contacted this afternoon.

Rafizi said that to completely clear Shahrizat’s name, the MACC must now explain why the RM250 million project had been awarded to a company owned by the Wanita UMNO chief’s family members, even though it has zero experience in farming.

He said it was too simplistic to clear Shahrizat just because she had not been directly involved in awarding the contract, saying it was obvious that the former Minister would not have been “so stupid” to sit on the tender committee that decided on the award.

“The way they investigated it is as if they were merely trying to find a reason to let Shahrizat go.What the MACC needs to prove is that there was no influence whatsoever from Shahrizat that allowed her family to get the contract although they had absolutely zero experience in cattle-farming,” he said.

Earlier today, MACC Operations Evaluation Panel (PPO) chairman Tan Sri Datuk Hadenan Abdul Jalil (not related to Shahrizat) revealed that Shahrizat has been cleared of any wrongdoing in the RM250 million NFC scandal, which has been dominating media headlines for months since last year.

Hadenen told reporters the MACC has declared investigations into Shahrizat’s involvement closed after finding that the former Minister had not been directly involved in the process of awarding the loan to the National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp), a company where her husband and children sit as directors.

“The decision to award the contract to the company and to award the loan does not involve her,” he had said.

With the MACC’s decision on Shahrizat, Rafizi said the onus was now on the agency to explain to the public its reason for not taking any further action against the tender committee that had selected the NFCorp to lead the federally-funded cattle farming project.

The committee, pointed out Rafizi, had been chaired by Datuk Seri Najib Razak at the time, and had included then Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is currently Deputy Prime Minister.

“There were six bidders for the project and of all, only one had some experience in farming. The NFCorp, was clearly only set up recently and was not fit to run the project,” he said.

“So the fact that the tender committee chaired by Najib went ahead to award the project to Shahrizat’s family clearly indicates an element of corruption… otherwise, it would be quite difficult to fathom why Najib and the committee was so stupid as to award the project of this magnitude to a company with no experience,” he added.

As such, said Rafizi, it was only “logical” to find the link between the committee and the company in question in order to determine if any corruption was involved in the contract award.

“And the only link between the selected company and Najib and Muhyiddin was Shahrizat,” he said.

Shahrizat, who is the wife of NFCorp chairman Datuk Seri Mohamad Salleh Ismail, had been linked to the scandal by PKR because of her husband’s position, and their three children’s directorships in the same firm.

The former Women, Family and Community Development Minister had been questioned by the graft watchdog earlier in February after returning to her ministerial duties.

She had earlier taken three weeks’ leave to allow authorities to investigate claims of abuse of power against both her and her family.

Shahrizat stepped down as Minister after her double-term as senator expired on April 8.

The RM250 million publicly-funded cattle-raising scheme was first coined a “mess” in an article in English daily The Star after it made it into the pages of the Attorney-General’s 2010 Report for failing to meet production targets.

The term was later repeated by other media organisations to describe NFCorp after PKR launched a series of exposés to show that the project’s funds had been allegedly abused.

The company’s assets were frozen after investigations were launched by the Police and the MACC following the revelations.

Shahrizat’s husband, Dr.Mohamed Salleh Ismail was charged with criminal breach of trust and violating the Companies Act in relation to RM49 million in federal funds given to NFCorp last March 12.

The 64-year-old was charged under Section 409 of the Penal Code relating to CBT for misappropriating RM9,758,140 from NFCorp’s funds to purchase two condominium units at the One Menerung complex in Bangsar for the National Meat and Livestock Corporation (NMLC) on December 1 and December 4, 2009.

He was also charged under the same section for transferring RM40 million of NFCorp’s funds to the NMLC between May 6 and November 16, 2009.

He was further charged in both cases for using the said funds without any approval from company’s annual general meeting, which is an offence under Section 132 of the Companies Act 1965. If found guilty, he faces between two and 20 years’ imprisonment, whipping, and a fine for the offences under the Penal Code.

Dr. Mohamad Salleh also faces a five-year jail term or RM30,000 fine for the charges proffered under the Companies Act.

He pleaded not guilty to the CBT charge as well as two counts under the Companies Act in the scandal that has opened Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the Barisan Nasional (BN) government to damaging attacks ahead of elections that must be called by March next year.

Shahrizat cleared by MACC: That’s a Foregone Conclusion

May 31, 2012

Shahrizat cleared by MACC: That’s a Foregone Conclusion

It pays to be a Member of UMNO Kleptocracy of Good Standing

Former Women and Family Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil has been cleared of having had a hand in awarding the multi-million ringgit National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) project to her family members.

“We found that Shahrizat was not involved in the process – in awarding the project to the company and the RM250 million loan,” Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) operations review panel chief Hadenan Abdul Jalil said today.

The NFC has been accused of mismanaging the loan. Shahrizat’s husband Mohamed Salleh Ismail is the company’s chairperson with her children its directors.

Speaking on the matter briefly, Hadenan said the panel has decided to wrap up the matter.

Shahrizat relinquished her ministerial post on the expiry of her senatorship on April 8, but decided to continue as the Wanita UMNO Head and Wanita Barisan Nasional (BN) head.

She has repeatedly claimed she had nothing to do with the controversies surrounding the company and its management of the loans.

The project, meant to reduce Malaysia’s dependence on beef imports, received a negative assessment in the Auditor-General’s Report 2010 as being very far off-target. NFC has also been accused of abusing its government soft loan for the cattle breeding and beef supply project on purchases unrelated to the project.

In March, Salleh, 64, was finally charged with misappropriating RM9,758,140 to fund the purchase of two condominiums  at One Menerung’ in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur.

The trial begins on November 5.

–by S.


Note: The RM250 million publicly-funded cattle-raising scheme was first coined a “mess” in an article in English daily The Star after it made it into the pages of the Auditor-General’s 2010 Report for failing to meet production targets. The term was later repeated by other media organisations to describe NFCorp after PKR launched a series of exposés to show that the project’s funds had been allegedly abused.

The company’s assets were frozen after investigations were launched by the police and the national anti-graft body following the revelations.

Shahrizat’s  husband Dato Dr. Mohamed Salleh bin Ismail was charged with criminal breach of trust and violating the Companies Act in relation to RM49 million in federal funds given to NFCorp last March 12.

The 64-year-old was charged under the Penal Code relating to CBT for misappropriating RM9,758,140 from NFCorp’s funds to purchase two condominium units at the One Menerung complex in Bangsar for the National Meat and Livestock Corporation (NMLC) on December 1 and December 4, 2009. He was also charged with transferring RM40 million of NFCorp’s funds to the NMLC between May 6 and November 16, 2009.

He was further charged in both cases for using the said funds without any approval from company’s annual general meeting, which is an offence the Companies Act.

If found guilty, he faces between two and 20 years’ imprisonment, whipping, and a fine for the offences under the Penal Code. Dr. Mohamad Salleh also faces a five-year jail term or RM30,000 fine for the charges proffered under the Companies Act.

He pleaded not guilty to the CBT charge as well as two counts under the Companies Act in the scandal that has opened Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the Barisan Nasional (BN) government to damaging attacks ahead of elections that must be called by March next year.



London chants to Our March for Democracy

May 30, 2012

London chants to Our March for Democracy

Freemalaysiatoday commentary(05-29-12)

A Prime Minister in Malaysia is a master in his home but when he goes abroad he has no home to protect him from the rough weather outside.

On his own shores he wields considerable power and can command the state to do his bidding whenever he wants to advance his political agenda and interest.

He can order the Police to beat up citizens to a pulp. He can direct the army to stop his opponents from gaining power. He can do a thousand and one foul things to stay in office against the wishes of the people. Nobody can touch a strand of his hair. He is the lord of all he surveys.

But when he flies to a faraway land, he loses his aura of invincibility. He is exposed to criticisms and can become a target of protests. And so it was with the Prime Minister of Malaysia when he stepped on British soil lately. At home he dealt harshly with a popular movement for reforms and used a newly enacted law to crack down on his political opponents. His government even sued the organisers of the April 28 rally for their troubles. He must have patted himself on the back for playing the role of a saviour.

Abroad, his heroic acts did not cut ice with Malaysians who know the crackdown on the protesters in Kuala Lumpur on April 28 was not the right thing to do. They heckled him, chanting a household mantra that he finally could not ignore. There was no one to shield him from this sudden gust of wind that blew through the hall. He heard at close quarters the cry that shook his country not too long ago. He could not close his ears or shut his eyes.

This is London where there are no walls to imprison the minds or dull the human spirit. This is not Kuala Lumpur where minds are shackled and bodies trampled upon. This is Britain where political power changes hand as often as the season when voters had had enough of the incumbents. This is not Malaysia where Prime Ministers and their cronies seem to own the country and will do everything in their power to cling to their wealth, perks and positions. The end justifies the means here.

The London protest signals an important change in the attitude of Malaysians abroad. They are willing to openly confront their Prime Minister to show their displeasure over unhealthy political developments back home. By that bold act, they have destroyed the myth that a Prime Minister is untouchable by virtue of his high station in life.

More importantly, the message conveyed is that there are Malaysians who are willing to carry the torch of dissent on the world stage and loudly proclaim their solidarity with their fellow citizens fighting for a clean cause on the domestic front. For sure, Malaysians who brave tear gas, water cannons, police beatings will not be alone in their campaign for a better Malaysia.

All over the world people are rising up against unjust governments after decades of repressive rule. Dissent is a universal thread that runs through all societies and has become a common culture. If Malaysians too are taking to the streets, it is simply because they are fed up with having to put up with all the shenanigans, nonsense and lies of the government all these years.

The Asian culture of showing respect and obedience for those in authority and not questioning them in public obviously did not work. Instead, it has worked to the distinct advantage of crooked politicians, who would rather have a pliant public blind to the misdeeds of the government than a vocal one keeping vigilant watch on the conduct of the government.

Malaysians abroad have taken up the call for reforms, which is a good sign that the flame of democracy will not be extinguished. The state may grind to dust the movement for change but it cannot crush the spirit that moves the people to defy injustice and seize the day for democracy.

The Prime Minister cannot expect to get civil treatment from angry citizens overseas or reverent silence from enraged citizens at home any more: the chant for clean governance will continue to fill the air and reverberate all around him at home and abroad.

Najib’s Words and Actions: A Glaring Disconnect

May 30, 2012

Najib’s Words and Actions: A Glaring Disconnect

by Dato Dennis Ignatius@

“The measure of a man is what he does with power” – Plato

By all counts, Prime Minister Najib gave a sterling performance when he spoke to the Malaysian community in London a few weeks ago.

He said all the right things about democracy and his own commitment to making Malaysia a better country. As the most articulate and erudite (?) Prime Minister we have ever had, he can be impressive and inspiring.

He said, for example, that what mattered most in a democracy was the choice of the people and agreed that the people should have the choice to choose their own government. He also said his government wants to engage the people, listen to the people and do what is best for them while acknowledging that the era of “the government knows best is over.”

It’s always thrilling to hear a Malaysian Prime Minister articulate such powerful sentiments, sentiments that speak to our deepest hopes; not surprisingly, many cheered him on.

But what is the meaning of democracy and what is the measure of the man? Democracy is a much abused word. Political leaders everywhere tend to bend it to  their own purpose. And so we have even the North Koreans calling themselves a democratic republic.

Abraham Lincoln said that democracy is “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” Such a political system is premised upon determining the true will of the people through free and fair elections. As well, it is reflected in a system of governance that is transparent and accountable and that respects the rights and dignity of the people. Such a government is not master of the people but servant.

Is this Najib’s vision of democracy? Do we have a system of free and fair elections? Do we have an elections commission that has integrity and impartiality? Is each vote equally weighted? Are all political parties on a level playing field with fair access to the media and an equal opportunity to present their case to the people? Are there clear checks and balances to ensure political parties do not manipulate the vote through corruption and money politics?

The answer to all these questions can only be a resounding “no”! This is not the ranting of a few Malaysians living abroad or George Soros junkies, or Zionist conspirators; it is the view of the overwhelming majority of the people of Malaysia as a recent Merdeka Centre poll indicates. The poll found that Malaysians have no confidence in the electoral process, with nearly 92% of them wanting to see the electoral rolls cleaned up before the next elections.

Simply put, the  electoral system in Malaysia today is heavily slanted in favour of the government. The will of the people cannot be adequately ascertained under such a system. In fact, the system has been manipulated to thwart the will of the people instead of giving expression to it.

And, when tens of thousands of ordinary people gathered together to press for free and fair elections, they were met with razor wire, tear-gas, chemical spray and all the power of the state. And not content with that, the government subsequently demonized the demonstrators and their leaders as communists, coup plotters and hooligans bent on violence.

BERSIH leaders have since been harassed and intimidated by pro-government goon squads and now face criminal charges as well. And whether or not it was appropriate for the Leader of the Opposition to participate in the BERSIH rally, he should not face criminal charges for doing do so.

And then we have senior Barisan National leaders warning that there would be violence and chaos if the opposition wins. Such kinds of threats and innuendo are shocking and completely incompatible with democracy.  The government, however, allows such threats to stand by its failure to rebuke them and reassure the people that their choice will be respected and honoured whatever happens.

Is this the measure of Najib’s democracy?In his London speech, Najib also made much about the responsibilities of citizens in a democracy but judging from all that we are seeing, it is clear that what the government  demands is the  unquestioning support and blind loyalty of the people. To differ or disagree is to be counted a traitor, an agitator, an extremist, a racist or an agent of some foreign power. The term for this is not democracy but servitude.

And that brings me to the measure of the man.Time and again, Najib has given great speeches promising reform, transformation and change. He talked about making Malaysia the best democracy in the world, about ending the abuse of power, about reforming our national institutions, about tackling corruption and mismanagement, about confronting racial and religious intolerance.

What do we have forall the rhetoric over all these years but a bunch of meaningless acronyms, a few worthless committees and commissions, a clutch of empty gestures and Orwellian sleights of hand. What we are left with is a man who abuses the word democracy and who does not measure up to the challenges he has set for himself.

A man without the courage of his own convictions is a man with neither courage nor conviction.Najib ended his London speech by calling on all Malaysians to speak up against those who abuse their positions, who seek to impose their views on the majority. Let us all respond to his call and send him a resounding message that enough is enough.

Najib-Mahathir Pact: Return of Mahathirism

May 30, 2012

Najib-Mahathir Pact: Return of Mahathirism

by Nawawi Mohamad and Wong Choon Mei

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has been praised by many, especially UMNO members and other apple polishers. He has been praised for the privatization of Malaysia, his Vision 2020, his political maneuvers and economic policies, but none of these have made Malaysia a great nation.

Instead, as a result of Mahathir’s ham-fisted policies, Malaysia has been downgraded and perceived to be trolling at the lowest levels with other rogue regimes such as Zimbabwe and Myanmar. Even Vietnam has caught up, while Indonesia has left us far behind.

No wonder the 86-year-old Mahathir is trying to salvage his legacy, but even his best-seller biography A Doctor in the House won’t make him popular again. In the eyes of his countrymen, whatever that Mahathir has done, planned, implemented and envisioned, has failed miserably.

Not tough enough! More clampdowns needed!

To Mahathir, it may well seem that his plans have suddenly gone into disarray right in front of his own eyes. He can’t accept that it could be him at fault and instead is blaming his successors for not clamping down harder on the people.

And this is why the political temperature in the country has shot up of late with police brutality becoming the norm in policing techniques and everyday life.

Mahathir is still very powerful, bolstered by the enormous wealth accumulated by his sons, cronies and family during his 22-year rule from 1981 to 2003. He knows he has made many mistakes but won’t admit it and this is why current premier Najib Razak is scrambling to please him.

Without Mahathir, Najib would be kicked out as the UMNO President and thereby the country’s PM almost immediately. Without an electoral  mandate of his own and facing serious infighting from within his own UMNO party, Najib knows his limitations.

This is why the 58-year-old has U-turned on all his earlier grandiose promises of reform, although critics may also be right in their view that Najib was never really serious about bringing much-need change to Malaysia either.

Wants to be THE BOSS once again

As every facet of Malaysia goes down one by one, Mahathir remains in a state of denial. Publicly, he says he can’t bear to see Malaysia sliding within his own life time and he can’t do anything about it. But don’t rush to empathize, one might be mistaken.

Critics say he does not care that much about Malaysia at all. Mahathir is only interested in his own legacy, which has crumbled, and of course to see his son Mukhriz made the Mentri Besar or chief minister of Kedah before being catapulted into the PM’s chair when it is time for Najib to step down.

Najib may have taken over from Abdullah Badawi but there is no doubt he indirectly inherited the mountain of socio-economic problems dogging Malaysia from Mahathir. It is Mahathir who led Malaysia into huge debt as the great majority of his mega projects were implemented on borrowed money.

National oil firm PETRONAS was milked dry to bail out the firms controlled by his cronies and sons whenever these projects turned sour as they invariably did. With such rampant corruption and mismanagement, plus a policy priority to enrich the elite leaders in UMNO, the privatization of Malaysia became dysfunctional without any proper business management practices. This in effect made Malaysia incompetent and uncompetitive.

Now, Mahathir wants to wear his ‘economic top dog’ hat again. It is clear he still wants to call the shots. Just days ago, he told a foreign news interview that a Greek pullout from the Euro Zone, plus even a China economic slowdown, could not affect Malaysia.

But who is he kidding? Central Bank Negara chief Zeti Aziz has admitted that it would be “unimaginable” if Greece failed to stay on the Euro course for financial reform. Trade-dependent Malaysia would surely be hit one way or another by the ensuing global ripple and the more so when its National Debt is now at RM560 billion and growing.

So why did Mahathir try to gloss over the possibility of financial catastrophe but minced no words when he talked about Najib’s “weak” position. The older man readily said that despite being able to escape the effects of an external economic meltdown, Najib should defer holding the 13th general election till later this year.

“Being weak, he has to respond to the criticisms. But when you are faced with this problem anything you do is not enough… maybe sometime in the next five months before the end of the year,” Mahathir told Bloomberg, referring to the best timing for the GE-13.

Personal stake in GE-13

Indeed, in GE-13, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and his Pakatan Rakyat coalition are rated to have an even chance of wresting the federal government – the first-ever regime change in Malaysia since the British colonizers left in 1957.

It certainly did not go unnoticed when Mahathir came out strongly to back Najib for ordering the most violent police crackdown on civilians ever during the April 28, 2012, BERSIH 3.0 rally for free and fair elections.

Not only did Mahathir stoutly defend the use of brute force on peaceful marchers, he also accused the BERSIH organizers of conspiring with Anwar and Pakatan to topple the BN government with a Tahrir Square or Arab Spring-type of people’s uprising. No one was surprised when Najib promptly echoed Mahathir’s words.

The older man then followed up by warning that if Pakatan won GE-13, there would be “unceasing violence”.  His political posturing and maneuvering was roundly condemned and his motives slammed as being evil and “dangerous”.

 “What is evident is that Mahathir has a personal stake in the outcome in the next general elections as to cause him to do his utmost, including concocting lies and falsehoods that BERSIH 3.0 was a ‘warm-up’ by Pakatan Rakyat for violent demonstrations to reject the results of the next elections if the Opposition should fail it or that the Malays will lose political power in their own country if UMNO is defeated,” said DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang.

“Could it be that it has sunk in on him after the BERSIH 3.0 rally that UMNO and Barisan Nasional can be voted out of power in Putrajaya in the next general election, and this meant that the long list of financial scandals and abuses of power in his 22 years as Prime Minister could finally be the subject of a full inquiry and he is doing his utmost to prevent the full story of his 22-year premiership from being told?

Mahathir now the de-facto PM

For sure, Mahathir is worried sick for himself and his family. A look as to how Indonesia resolved the corruption of former president Suharto and the fabulous wealth accumulated by his family would indeed spark the chills for Mahathir. Not only would wealth be impounded, jail terms, lengthy court trials and total disgrace are on the cards.

But Mahathir is either made of sterner stuff or believes that his luck has far from run out. Instead of planning or negotiating for the best exit, he is now trying hard to promote his son Mukhriz (right) as the next Kedah chief minister, while making statement and offering unsolicited advice as if he were still the PM.

The drama and Mahathir’s outspoken comments of the past few days have not been lost on other UMNO leaders, nor on their Pakatan rivals.

“There is obviously a huge split in UMNO and they are not able to come to terms. Otherwise there is no reason for Mahathir to publicly advise Najib to delay GE-13. He could have just made a phone call. Mahathir wants UMNO to know that if Najib delays GE-13 to September or even to 2013, Najib still has his support,” PKR vice president Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.

“Yes, Dr M is terrified of losing GE-13 but before that is the UMNO party elections. He and Najib will go all out to ensure their men win and the rest will be sidelined. The Badawi faction, the Tengku Razaleigh faction and even Muhyiddin Yassin (the current Deputy Prime Minister) will find themselves marginalized. This looks like the deal Dr M has struck with Najib. Mahathir will be the de-facto PM, Najib will just provide the facade. He and Rosmah will go on official overseas functions and walkabouts. But the serious social and economic policies will go back to the Mahathir table. Yes, Mahathirism is back and we have to be very careful and on guard.”

Not enough to stop the exodus into Pakatan

The UMNO party polls is slated for December 2012, while speculation is rife that GE-13 will now be in September or even next year and not mid-June or July as previously touted.

A grand BN rally due to take place on June 17 had been expected to provide Najib the platform to declare a July ballot but after the massive fallout from his mishandling of BERSIH 3.0 and Mahathir’s inability to regain public popularity and respect, chances are higher for GE-13 to take place later this year or early next year. BN’s mandate to rule expires in March 2013.

Meanwhile, the expected exodus of UMNO-BN members and civil servants to the Pakatan has moved into higher gear, with the latest snare being the former Solicitor-General Yusof Zainal Abiden, UIA Professor Aziz Bari and Brigadier-General Abdul Hadi Abdul Khattab, who all joined Anwar’s PKR, while former Bukit Aman CID chief Fauzi Shaari joined PAS.

Malaysia Chronicle

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