Dato Dr Mahmood Merican: Be Kind to Your Fellowmen and Love our Nation

September 30, 2013

Dato Dr Mahmood Merican: Be Kind to our Fellowmen and Love our Nation

“Now at the end of my long lecture and near the end of my long career and my life the one worthwhile message I can leave you is “Be Kind”. It is easier than to be wise. We can be kind with our time, energy or money. Or we can be kind with just a smile, a word or a gesture. Kindness or charity is basic to the points I made in the talk: good and ethical medicine, cordial interracial relations, affirmative action, help for the disadvantaged, love for our fellowmen and for our nation.”–Mahmood Merican

Event Title: 12th Tunku Abdul Rahman Lecture
29-Sep-2013 to 29-Sep-2013 Past Event
Venue: Medical Academies of Malaysia,
210, Jalan Tun Razak, 50400 Kuala Lumpur
Secretariat: G-1 Medical Academies of Malaysia 210 Jalan Tun Razak 50400 Kuala Lumpur Tel: 603 40234700, 40254700, 40253700 Fax: 603 40238100
Organizer: Academy of Medicine of Malaysia & Ministry of Health Malaysia
Theme: delivered by Dato Dr Mahmood Merican
Master of the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia, Dr Chang Keng Wee,

Dr Mahmood Merican2I thank you for the honour you bestow on me by inviting me to deliver this, the 12th Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra  Lecture.

I accept the honour with trepidation in view of the greatness of Tunku, our First Prime Minister. The Tunku to whom we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude, in particular, for four major achievements:

  1. Winning Merdeka from the British and winning in a uniquely peaceful way in 1957.
  2. Steering the independent nation through 13 years till his retirement in 1970
  3. Successfully creating the enlarged nation, Malaysia, in 1963 and
  4. Leaving a legacy of charm, moderation and inclusiveness in our culture.

I believe Dr Chang chose me because I am old. Old enough to have known Tunku personally and to have lived through British colonial times, then the Japanese occupation, to have studied during the tumultuous years of our agitation for Independence and the Communist Emergency and to have worked as a doctor over a period concurrent with the Merdeka years. I graduated from University Malaya then in Singapore a year after Merdeka in 1958. That’s how old I am. Otherwise Dr Chang would not have chosen me.

I first met Tunku in December 1957. I was then a medical student in Singapore and President of the University of Malaya Students Union. It was soon after Merdeka and Tunku came to declare open the King Edward VII Hall of Residence in the grounds of the Singapore General Hospital.

Tunku was an aristocrat and a leader. He was also tall and big. Like every other student I held him in awe. But on that morning he spoke with such relaxed candour and humour that we were all put at ease. He said he hoped for two things:

  1. One was that “ from these portals will issue a steady stream of qualified doctors” to relieve the shortage in the government medical service and
  2. “My other hope is that when the students here leave this Hall to practise the art of healing, they will continue to practise the art of living with others in harmony and a gracious atmosphere”

Let me lead off first with Tunku’s first hope of “a steady stream of doctors” to see how we have done healthwise for our country. After that I will return to Tunku’s second hope for our practising “the art of living in harmony and a gracious atmosphere”.

On Tunku’s hope for good doctors and good health care for the country, we have done very well indeed though, of course, there are some concerns. Many present here in this hall deserve credit for how well Malaysia has implemented public health and preventive medicine and has kept up with the remarkable advances in clinical medicine. Our health indicators such as life expectancy, infant and maternal mortality show the overall health of the people to be comparable with advanced countries.

There are also undesirable changes including the rising cost of medical care, the commercialisation of healthcare, a lowering of ethical standards and a lowering of training standards – this last due to the recent meteoric rise in the number of medical schools and the annual number of new graduates for whom we simply do not have enough hospital facilities and specialists to adequately train during their housemanship and early years of practice.

These less desirable developments have contributed to  a waning of respect for doctors. Sadly, present doctors will not receive the high respect that old doctors like me enjoyed in days gone by. Commercialisation of healthcare and lowering of ethical standards are among the causes. It is appropriate that this Congress with the theme of  “Towards Excellence in Healthcare” incorporates the National Ethics Seminar.

Ethical practice is basically placing the interest of the patient as the paramount consideration.

Let us now turn to Tunku’s second hope – that we continue to “practise the art of living in harmony and a gracious atmosphere”.

It is a hope and a prayer.Racial harmony continues to be our greatest concern.

It was 1957 when Tunku expressed these hopes. If ever there was a time when we can say there was harmony it was then when we had just achieved Merdeka. At least among English educated students race was not a concern. We lived, played, studied and laughed together and even laughed at each other without risking offence. During my days in the university I always had a Chinese roommate.

Tunku then epitomised unity. To quote Tun Mohamed Suffian Hashim, the distinguished former Lord President (as the Chief Justice was then called), Tunku “won the confidence of the Sultans, united the leaders of the three main parties to form the Alliance, won the love of the Malays and the trust of the non-Malays.”

Under his leadership the country made great strides, overcame the Communist menace, developed rapidly and then grew larger with the creation of Malaysia in 1963, 50 years ago.

Yet in 1969, 12 years into his stewardship, racial riots erupted on May 13. About 200 people died. Many more were injured. Vehicles and buildings were burnt.

On that fateful day I was in charge of the Orthopaedic Department of the General Hospital Kuala Lumpur, my boss, the late Datuk (later Tan Sri ) Dr Abdul Majid Ismail, being overseas then. Normally already understaffed and overcrowded with patients the hospital, especially the Orthopaedic and Surgical Departments, had to deal with the casualties. I must pay tribute to all the staff and the volunteers who for several days never left the hospital.

Like others who lived through it I want to stress we must never forget the lesson of May13.

The riots exploded 12 years into the premiership of a kind, tolerant and generous leader, the Tunku.

Why May 13?

The basic essential cause was racial polarisation – the mutual resentment between Malays and Chinese – the Malays feeling themselves being dispossessed in their own country, the Chinese feeling themselves to be discriminated against. Malays were aggrieved not only with their poor economic status but also with the challenge to their political strength.

In the run up to the 1969 Elections communal appeals by politicians heightened racial grievances and resentment. The opposition parties made large gains. Their exultant victory parade ignited the riots.

The outlook for the country then was truly gloomy. It is to the credit of the administration and of leaders like Tun Abdul Razak, who succeeded the Tunku as Prime Minister, and his Deputy Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman that order was quickly restored and measures taken to set the country back on the path of progress.

The New Economic Policy (NEP) was launched to attain national unity by a two-pronged strategy of eradicating poverty irrespective of race and restructuring society by eliminating the identification of race with economic function.

The Policy has succeeded remarkably well in reducing poverty. It has to some extent elevated the economic standing of the Malays and their participation in the professions. Malays, however, have not progressed as much as they should in commerce and industry. In these fields the Chinese have gone farther ahead. Certain Malay attributes such as their politeness, self effacement, their attitude to money and immersion in religion, while desirable in themselves, place them at a disadvantage in the competitive world.

Observing over the years, I have to say that racial polarisation is even worse now than at the time of the riots. The racial divide has been accentuated by differences in a whole range of things: divisions of vernacular schools, national and private schools, divisions between rural and urban living, job segregation, rich and poor and differences in culture, language and religion. Interracial ill feelings have been recklessly fanned by politicians seeking votes and lately by irresponsible users of the internet venting their prejudices.

Almost every day we get incidents or pronouncements that grate on one or other race. For example; when a good Chinese student fails to get his desired course or scholarship it is instantly loudly blamed on racial discrimination although it arose out of an administrative lapse- something that has happened to Malay candidates too. Candidates not offering alternative university options and lacking in extracurricular points, although excellent academically, can be denied by the computerised selection system. A problem that can be sorted out with the relevant admission bodies without blowing it up in the media.

Another example is the claim of Ketuanan Melayu. It inflames some of us. It dismays some others. Yet just a moment’s reflection shows how ridiculous is the claim. The Tuan or Master race is the poorer race, less educated, living mostly in the kampong and less robust and healthy having a shorter life expectancy, not to mention other health indicators. The supposedly Subject race, much richer, controls much of the economy and commerce and clearly has the means to better enjoy life.

Lee Kuan Yew too in his latest book talks about the “dominance of one race” in Malaysia. During the years Singapore was a part of Malaysia Kuan Yew questioned the special rights of the Malays and of the Malay Agong and Sultans. Much of what Kuan Yew demanded would have angered the Malays. Even Tunku Abdul Rahman, the epitome of magnanimity, tolerance and inclusiveness, could not accept it and asked Singapore to leave Malaysia in the interest of, in Tunku’s own words, “the security and peace of Malaysia as a whole”.

In a recent comment Dr Chandra Muzaffar lamented that Kuan Yew “chose to be an ethnic hero” instead of a bridge-builder helping to develop a cohesive nation. Dr Chandra noted that the special rights in the Constitution are a part of the social contract in which Malays at Independence conceded citizenship to millions of non-Malays, whereby Malays, who before were the definitive people of a country in large part comprising Malay Sultanates, became just a community in a multicommunal or multiracial nation.

Yes, Malays do have special rights. Former Deputy Prime Minister, Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, likened the special rights and affirmative action to the handicap in golf. It is “mainly intended to enable them- to borrow an expression in golf – to have a handicap, which would place them in a position for fair competition with better players.” That Malays need a handicap is a humiliation for them.

Like keen golfers Malays have to strive and be coached to improve their skill and competitiveness to then no longer need or want the handicap.

Tun Mahathir, doctor that he is, talked of crutches. In a recent discussion of affirmative action he said, “ We still need the crutches, but maybe not on both sides; we could discard one crutch and then we’ll exchange the crutch for a walking stick. Eventually, we will throw away the walking stick. I pray and hope that this will be soon..”  Some successful Malays, less realistic, wish to have the crutches discarded now, for we can’t walk tall with crutches.

I like to quote at some length another comment on affirmative action specifically the New Economic Policy (NEP):

“No medicine is without its adverse effects. Yet that does not stop us from taking medicines. Why? Because we reckon we will feel still worse without them. For all its shortcomings there is no question that we are still better off with the NEP than without. To realise the truth of this, you have only to ask yourself the question: “What if there was no NEP?” (I continue to quote)“To me the answer is obvious. There would have been a disaster scenario. There would have been an enormously widened gulf between Malays and non-Malays, and there would have been a dangerously lopsided economy, inviting Malay despair, disaffection, hatred and violence. All this weighing of who gains and who loses obscures a fundamental fact that if the Malays lose, then the Chinese lose too because if racial hatred tore the country apart, then everyone loses.”

You would think that passage is written by a Malay politician or civil servant defending NEP. Surprisingly, it is actually by a Chinese Malaysian businessman, Ye Lin-Sheng, in his book “The Chinese Dilemma”. This  book should be essential reading for all Malaysians along with Tun Mahathir’s “The Malay Dilemma”.

These two books would help Malaysians understand each other better. If the majority of Malaysians can have a rational and unbiased perspective, our interracial problems would sink into insignificance.

Ladies and Gentlemen

We are too fond of emulating the West without thinking for ourselves to see the difference between what the West proclaims and what it practises and the difference between what the Western media project and the reality. There is much in the West that we do well to reject. But one achievement of the West we should energetically emulate is their technology. Technology has enabled them to advance and to subjugate the world. Yet we choose to learn vernacular Science and Mathematics – a retrograde step, oddly enough, supported by the Opposition.

If Malays wish to survive and not be left further behind, they must embrace Science and English. But the signs are that Malays are turning more to religion. They are naturally spiritual and more concerned with the hereafter. Islam rightly understood and interpreted can be a force for progress. But Malays appear to be adopting a narrow restrictive trend, becoming preoccupied with details of dress, beauty contests, heterosexual handshakes and overly meticulous definitions of halal. The recent demolition of a mosque because some Buddhists meditated in it is symptomatic of this trend. Also, we appear to be adopting an unnecessarily hostile stance towards Shiah Muslims, thereby risking importing the murderous animosity between Sunni and Shiah, that bloodies so many Muslim countries. Are these the actions of the progressive moderate Muslim model we aspire to be? I believe Tunku would be as dismayed as I am.

We need to shift the emphasis to more fundamental values central among which is caring for and love for our fellowmen.

On 28 September 1978 exactly 35 years ago as Master of the Academy I was privileged to confer on Tunku the Honorary Membership of the Academy. I hope our remembrance of him today pleases his soul.

Although certain trends would upset him, much has been achieved of which we can be justly proud. It is sad that some Malaysians are so devoid of this pride or patriotism for their own country that they denigrate Malaysia not only here but also abroad.

In Vision 2020 Tun Dr Mahathir has set us a commendable target to become a developed nation not just economically but also morally and ethically. We must keep aspiring high and constantly examine our attitudes and actions to be consistent with our high aspirations.

I lived through May 13 and with others mended the injured. We must be thankful that we have since had peace in stark contrast to the racial, tribal and religious clashes that make daily headlines in the media- murderous clashes in so many countries all over the world. We know our complex situation makes a repeat of May 13 possible. Try to understand the interracial tension. When an action is contemplated consider the impact it can have on this tension. You can love your race – it is natural. But love your nation more. To do otherwise is to make the possible conflict inevitable.

I like to end on a personal note. Friends have asked me, now that I have worked 55 years, what do I do. I still work – work is a privilege – but I work only a few hours a week at the clinic I share with my very long time partner, Datuk Dr Yeoh Poh Hong. The rest of my time I enjoy reading, enjoy my family, golf and charity. Charity I like to think of as my second career. With doctors charity begins as soon as they start work. On retirement or semi-retirement they have more time for charity.

Now at the end of my long lecture and near the end of my long career and my life the one worthwhile message I can leave you is “Be Kind”. It is easier than to be wise. We can be kind with our time, energy or money. Or we can be kind with just a smile, a word or a gesture. Kindness or charity is basic to the points I made in the talk: good and ethical medicine, cordial interracial relations, affirmative action, help for the disadvantaged, love for our fellowmen and for our nation.

I end with a verse from a poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

So many gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
While just the art of being kind
Is all the sad world needs.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox 1855-1919

Towards a World Class Education

September 30, 2013

Towards a World Class Education

by Dr. Farish Noor @www.nst.com.my

dr-farish-m-noor1THAT those in the corridors of power now recognise the urgent need to restore the standing and prestige of our national institutions of higher learning is a timely development indeed and even more urgent is the need to take some pragmatic and practical steps in the right direction.

Malaysia, with an emerging youth sector that will soon be demanding access to higher education as a means of attaining upward social mobility, cannot take higher education for granted, and in time to come, may also realise that an improved higher education system would also add to the country’s pull factor if and when Malaysia is seen as a destination for foreign scholars as well.

However, as has been noted by myself and many other academicians, the major stumbling block Malaysia faces at the moment is the lack of access to the global academic arena and the relatively low profile that our institutions have in relation to better-known universities and colleges in the developed Western world.

That it has come to this is a sad reflection of how our standing has fallen ofum-logo late, though it was not always the case: Universiti Malaya was once regarded as among the best universities in Asia, and among its alumni are many academics, technocrats, businessmen and leaders of other countries in Asia today.

It has been argued by some that one factor that may have contributed to our relative decline was and is the phenomena of linguistic nationalism that ultimately led to the shift to Bahasa Malaysia, perhaps at the cost of English.

Though this shift did not necessarily erode the standard of teaching and knowledge production in our institutions of knowledge, it did mean that fewer and fewer academics and students outside Malaysia were able to access, and appreciate, whatever developments and discoveries were being made in our universities.

Education BlueprintExpensive Education Blueprint

The pressing question at the moment is this: how can we raise the profile of Malaysia’s universities in as quick a period as possible, without compromising standards of teaching, knowledge production and academic integrity?

There are no simple answers to the question here, for the matter at hand extends beyond mere epistemic concerns and spill over into the domain of the political as well.

Yet political decisions can be made if there is enough political will and mettle to address the realities of the day. The linguistic-nationalists among us may balk at the idea that English is the dominant language in global academic circles at the moment, but that is the reality one has to swallow.

If they are dismayed by the sad realities of the age we live in, they might find comfort among French, German, Japanese and other academics who likewise have come to accept the fact that the world does not speak those languages.

Pragmatism has to be the order of the day here, and I have witnessed first-hand how practical steps can be taken to resolve the question of how to raise the profile of a country’s education sector.

During my last years as an academic in Germany, I noted that even Germany’s hallowed halls of learning have come to accept the necessity of making room for English: Berlin’s Graduate School project was aimed at luring non-German students to pursue their higher studies in the country and it was a school where the mode of instruction was in English.

Prior to that, the biggest problem faced by foreign students in Germany (where education costs are surprisingly reasonable, even relatively cheap by comparison) was the need to take a two or three-year course in academic German.

Then we have the Indonesian model next door to consider as well. Indonesia happens to have a large, lively and, I would argue, exceptionally well-appointed higher education sector.

Its universities are among the most diverse and progressive I have ever taught and researched in, but again the major drawback is that almost all of the courses offered are in Bahasa Indonesia — which is a negative push factor if you happen to be a prospective student from India, China or elsewhere.

Of late, however, efforts have been made to improve the standard of English in universities. The Indonesian government has earmarked a number of university journals — ranked as the best in the country — for special consideration and has made it necessary for them to publish in English. (I know this to be true as I happen to sit on one of the editorial boards.)

Compelling Indonesian scholars to write and publish in English also means that the journals would have editorial boards made up of foreign academics, raising the standard of peer review and thus raising its standing among other journals as well.

Thus, after decades of linguistic nationalism, Indonesia’s universities are now slowly but surely making their entry into the arena of international academia, which is highly competitive.

This was another example of how simple decisions may have long-lasting and even permanent consequences, for the better.

Malaysia’s case is, of course, particular to itself, but the ever-competitive nature of higher education today means that whatever reforms that need to be made have to be made soon and with a degree of political will and conviction.

Here, one hopes that the leaders who take such steps will have the grit and wherewithal to bite the bullet when necessary, even at the risk of appearing unpopular in the short run. But whatever decisions Malaysia may take in the near future, the fact is that the world is not about to slow down for Malaysia to catch up.

Higher education serves many other purposes than simply the acquisition of knowledge and skills, for it also secures the mobility and competitiveness of nations. If even powerful economies like Germany can and have adapted to the realities on the ground, surely Malaysia must rise to the challenge, too.

Backstabber’s guide to UMNO polls

September 30, 2013

Backstabber’s guide to UMNO polls

by Mariam Mokhtar@ http://www.malaysiakini.com

Mention the word UMNO Baru and people will think of the 3Cs – corruption, cheating and cronyism.

Thousands of miles away, Najib Abdul Razak told the UN General Assembly that “the greatest threat to Muslims today, is not from the outside world, but from within”. His words are poignant and have some gravitas, for they reflect the conditions at home.

Dr MThanks to former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the public has become extremely mistrustful of politicians. Thanks also to Mahathir, the biggest challenge which Najib will face at the next UMNO-Baru elections, is ironically, within his party.

Many factors will affect the battles during the upcoming Umno-Baru election, including wit and financial considerations. The two men, President Najib, and Deputy President Muhyiddin Yassin, ‘won’ their seats unopposed.

The three hotly contested vice-presidential positions are being challenged by six men – Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Hishammuddin Hussein, Mohd Shafie Apdal, Isa Abdul Samad, Mukhriz Mahathir and Ali Rustam.

The following is a backstabber’s guide to the race.

Najib, the Jekyll and Hyde character: Abroad, he preaches moderationNajib PM and is praised for his over-reaching and inclusive views. At home, he is timid and panders to the extremists and ultra-nationalist factions. He appears to undergo a personality change as soon as he steps onto Malaysian soil.

If the characterisation of Najib as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is too harsh, perhaps, Humpty Dumpty is more apt. Having reached the pinnacle of his position (the top of the wall), Najib’s fall from grace could not be reversed by all the king’s men or all the king’s horses.

Muhyiddin Yesman: This veteran politician is allegedly taking instructions from Mahathir, to pave the way for his son Mukhriz to be a future PM.Most will remember Muhyiddin for his “Malay first, Malaysian second” remark.

DPMIn his version of unity and reconciliation, Muhyiddin once said that anyone had a right to form their own Chinese or Indian version of the Malay extremist group, Perkasa, provided the association was formed with good intentions. What are Perkasa’s good intentions, critics wondered?

Anyway, full marks to Muhyiddin, for wanting a harmonious and multiracial society, based on intolerance and bigotry.

Ahmad Zahid Hamidi: In the game of ‘cabinet musical chairs’, Zahid Loud Mouth Zahid Hamidiswopped roles with Hishammuddin Hussein as Home Minister.

An abrasive character, who lacks tact and diplomacy, Zahid is inclined to tell anyone who disagrees with him, who is displeased about the cheating in GE13 or who is worried about the political system, to leave the country.

When a Singaporean Muslim opened his heart and his premises to a Buddhist group, Zahid stripped him of his permanent residence permit and charged him with insulting Islam.

Zahid has amazing ‘new broom sweeps clean’ powers. Within days of assuming his cabinet post, he found 250,000 Shiite Muslims hiding in the country and 260,000 hardcore criminals terrorising the streets. He is prone to incoherent rages.

UMNO-manlinessHishammuddin Hussein: Critics wonder if this self-deluded macho man, who allegedly fashions himself after the children’s action figure, Action Man, was given the post of defence minister because he allegedly likes to be seen in leather jackets and dark sunglasses, staring through powerful binoculars looking at boys (with their toys).

His fondness for using binoculars meant that he missed the 510,000 hardcore criminals and Shiite Muslims that Zahid found with ease.

Mohd Shafie Apdal: The only defining feature of this Sabahan is the S Apdalinfamy he gained as a result of the allegation that he gave out RM1.5 million to his mistress, at a time when the BR1M payments of RM500, was deemed sufficient to keep the rakyat sweet and willing (to be shafted repeatedly by UMNO Baru).

The alleged affair had been an open secret and was exposed when the actress’ driver, lodged a police report after he had been accused of absconding with some of the loot.

isa-samad1Isa Abdul Samad: If only the government of UMNO Baru could recycle rubbish as well as it recycles its veteran politicians.

This recycled politician was once the target of Mahathir’s ire, when the former PM moaned that UMNO Baru should not condone corrupt politicians. Isa was stripped of his UMNO Baru vice-presidency and suspended for six years, later reduced to three, on appeal.

Isa was rewarded for his years in the wilderness by Najib, who made him the chairperson of FELDA, a gold mine for those who know where to look for the treasure.

Mohd Ali Rustam: Another recycled politician who was disqualified in theAli Rustam 2009 Umno Baru elections, after being found guilty of money politics.

As the former Chief Minister of Malacca, he used the trappings of power to fund his son’s wedding, claiming that he wanted his adoring rakyat, around 130,000 of them, to share and partake in his personal happiness.

Following allegations of corruption, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission launched an investigation and said: “We are going item by item, to see how much money was spent and who paid for it.” Presumably, they are still going through the list, because we have heard nothing.

Anyone who has ever wanted an adventurous ride in a cherry-picker (the machine which Tenaga wiremen use, to lift them to the tops of overhead poles), can have one at the end of the ride in Ali’s RM16 million monorail, which travels two feet before stopping dead in its tracks. The stranded passenger will be plucked from the monorail and deposited on land by a cherry-picker – Malacca’s own version of a thrilling theme park ride.

Mukhriz Mahathir: We will have to wait for his father Mahathir’s nextMukhriz Mahathir2 press release to learn about Mukhriz’s good works and future aspirations. Whenever Mukhriz starts talking, people glance at their watches and say they have to rush for an appointment.

Mukhriz may have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but he is tainted with the Mahathir brush.His dad is a bore with a capital B, when he reminds us that UMNO-Baru must inject young blood and elect smart people into the party. It is possible that Mahathir was referring to Khairy Jamaluddin.


Najib’s predictions about the internal threat are coming true. His party has decided to deploy the police, to protect the ballot papers to be used in the party election.

This speaks volumes about the state of affairs within UMNO Baru. The cheating in the UMNO-Baru elections will make GE13 look like a model of a fair election!

Making Corruption History – Cakap Kosong le Ah Jib Hor!

September 30, 2013

Making Corruption History – Cakap Kosong le Ah Jib Hor!

by Dr. M.Bakri Musa
Morgan-Hill, California

bakri-musaIn San Francisco recently, Prime Minister Najib confidently declared “to make corruption part of Malaysia’s past, not its future.” The man’s delusion never ceases to amaze me. The reality is of course far different; corruption defines the Najib Administration.

Nonetheless if Najib is serious, then he should heed Tengku Razaleigh’s call for Najib to declare his assets. Otherwise it would be, to put it bluntly in the vernacular, “Cakap kosong je ‘Jib!” (Empty talk only!)

Integrity Minister: A Joke?

New NajibTengku Razaleigh’s suggestion, if implemented, would do far more good than all of Najib’s lofty declarations of “changing organizational as well as business cultures” or creating “a new governance and integrity minister” (Paul Low) and “elevating the anti-corruption agency.” Malaysians have heard all those ad nauseum, not only from Najib but also his predecessors.

If after doing what Tengku Razaleigh had suggested Najib still aspires higher, he could begin by getting rid of those tainted individuals in his administration. Then if he is really committed to clean and effective governance, he should select only those with unquestioned integrity and solid accomplishments to be his new ministers and advisors.

As Najib is slow to grasp concepts, let me elaborate on those three simple suggestions.Consider asset declaration.

Najib does not need yet another highly-paid consultant or Idris Jala of Pemandu advising him how to do it. There are plenty of effective models out there, including one recommended by the OECD. The simplest is the one used by American public officials including the President, Cabinet secretaries, and Supreme Court judges. It covers their spouses and all dependent children.

Here is President Obama’s, available publicly at: docstoc.com/docs/156786412/Obama-Financial-Disclosure. The simple eight-page report lists his assets and income, transactions during the year, gifts received (he had none), liabilities (his home mortgage), and contracts he is a party to (his old faculty appointment).

Simple yet effective! As the declaration is filed annually, citizens could tract any sudden ballooning of assets, income, or extra-generous gifts that could prompt further enquiry, as well as monitor contracts and activities that could pose as potential conflicts of interest.

Obama and his senior officials go further; they release their full income tax returns annually.

Shahrizat A. Jalil

Shahrizat A JalilIf Najib were to do likewise, rumors of his wife buying million-ringgit rings and getting extravagant gifts would not have arisen, if indeed they were baseless. If Najib’s ministers were to similarly declare their assets, then we would not have the silly specter of a cabinet minister feigning ignorance of her husband’s quarter-billion ringgit government-funded business, as Shahrizat tried to do recently. The pathetic part was that she truly believed that the public would buy her swiftly-concocted story.

Beyond publicly declaring his assets, if Najib still aspires for a clean administration, then he should remove those tainted individuals in his administration. Since Najib is blind to reality, I will help him identify such proven shady characters

Isa Samad

isa-samadGUILTYThe most glaring is Isa Samad, former Negri Sembilan Chief Minister (and current FELDA Chairperson). Dispensing with his lackluster tenure as the Chief Executive of that state, the man was found guilty of “money politics,” UMNO’s euphemism for plain ugly corruption. Meaning, he is corrupt even by UMNO’s lax standards, assuming the party has any!

In any system with even a semblance of integrity, slimy characters like Isa Samad would have been jailed. In China, they would be executed. Yet Najib appointed Isa to helm the billion- ringgit FELDA Global Holdings, a GLC. One wonders why Najib is so enamored with this character. The more intriguing question is why the powerful hold Isa has on Najib?

Ali Rustam

Ali RustamThen there is Ali Rustam, also a former Chief Minister of Malacca. Like Isa, Ali too was found guilty of money politics. At least voters in his state were wise enough to boot him out. Now Ali is eyeing for the UMNO Vice-Presidency, as is Isa. Watch it, Najib will also do an Isa on Ali, that is, appoint him to a senior lucrative position, making a mockery of Najib’s aim of making corruption history.

Then if after getting rid of the Isa Samads and Ali Rustams Najib still harbors even higher aspirations, like wanting a crisp and efficient administration, then he could entice capable Malaysians to join his team.

I suggest co-opting Keadilan’s Rafizi Ramli. This bright young man has done more than anyone else to heighten public consciousness of corruption at high places. Rafizi shamed the anti-corruption agency. Appointing Rafizi would also go a long way towards a “unity” government. Only the likes of Shahrizat would not welcome his appointment.

At the very least Rafizi’s appointment would significantly lower the average age of Najib’s cabinet as well as drastically elevate its collective IQ!

Tengku Razaleigh: Take Over from Ah Jib Hor

kuliAt the other end of the experience spectrum is Tengku Razaleigh. He is from Najib’s own party too. If Najib is deeply serious about and truly committed to memperkasakan ekonomi Melayu (enhancing Malay economy) as he asserted recently, well, the Tengku has been there and done that, and remarkably well too! Look at Petronas and Pernas. Malaysia’s finances too were robust when he was Finance Minister.

Yes, at one time he helmed the once powerful Bank Bumiputra, now long gone. If Tengku’s detractors want to taint him with that scandal, remember this. Tengku Razaleigh is one of the few if not only public figures to have successfully sued for libel the venerable Financial Times when it tried to implicate him.

Co-opting Tengku Razaleigh would give the Najib Administration some adult supervision. Better yet, Najib should seize the opportunity and take a sabbatical, just like what Lee Kuan Yew once did. Take a temporary leave from UMNO and Malaysia; learn about the real world beyond government. Najib would learn that there is a vast other universe out there not dependent on public paychecks or political patronages.

At another speech during his recent San Francisco trip, Najib chided his critics especially those residing abroad who “criticize the country but they do not have any idea on how to contribute to the country.”

Najib: You have insulted US, Malaysians

HonourNajib is not only slow in grasping concepts but he is also not a careful reader. We do not criticize Malaysia, only his inept leadership. Nonetheless since Najib has asked for specific ideas, here is one.

Take an extended sabbatical. Let someone like Tengku Razaleigh take over. Three or four years hence, in time for the next election, resume your prime ministership.

Meanwhile learn as much as possible about the much bigger and considerably more wonderful world beyond UMNO. You will be a more effective leader for that, and Malaysia would be a much better country, both while you were gone and after you return.

When popularity is a bane

September 29, 2013

Published: Friday September 27, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Friday September 27, 2013 MYT 6:53:03 AM

When popularity is a bane

Sometimes tough measures must be taken, even if they prove unpopular.

zaidA POLITICIAN needs to be popular at all times, for his “legitimacy” comes from being elected as President of the party that commands the largest number of seats in Parliament.

There are other ways of being Pesident of course – a former UMNO President was in power for 22 years and in that time, only one election for president was ever held.He was able to convince Supreme Council members that an election for the top posts would destroy the party.

Persuasion is an option for those who find democracy too difficult to PM-Msia-Daymanage. I am sure Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who has been returned unopposed as UMNO President, wants to remain as Prime Minister for a few more terms, and to do so democratically so he can complete the reforms he has in mind for UMNO as well as for the country.

Certain measures that the country needs are not popular but he will be doing a disservice if he abandons them just to be popular with his party and the voters.

Leadership is necessary on a number of critical issues and it is important that this message is not lost amidst the popularity contest of UMNO’s General Assembly at the end of the year.

The country’s finances are not in great shape despite what investor Marc Faber said about Malaysia being a great place to invest in. We are in deficit and have been for many years now.

Our household debt is seriously high, even if the Bank Negara Governor has chosen to politely describe it as “not alarming”.Our dependence on Petronas to supplement the Budget is worrying.

The fact that the United States is also in serious deficit does not mean we can follow suit: we don’t have weapons to sell nor the ability to . We must try to balance the Budget and we can only do so if we have more revenue.The inflow of foreign money has reduced dramatically and the new mood in the United States Treasury suggests their usual “expansionary policy” will no longer be in play.

We need to be certain that if there is another financial crisis like the one in 1998, we are ready for it.I believe it’s time the Government introduced the GST – perhaps in small doses – because we desperately need to widen the tax base.

This is where a dialogue with the Opposition will be useful. The country must come first and there is no point in blaming past policies for the current state of affairs.

This new taxation will, of course, be unpopular, but we need to increase state revenue so that development efforts will not be stalled.The Opposition must play their part by not being critical of the BN Government’s every development effort.

The fact that the World Bank has projected another 5% GDP growth this year despite the sluggish economic environment elsewhere suggests that the Government has been doing something right.

Helping small and medium-scale industries or SMIs is another must if we want to be economically viable in the new world.

The GLCs and other big companies will of course do their part to undertake long-term investments, but small businesses make up the real engine of growth for the economy. What is our master plan for them?

Which ministry will drive this important part of the economy?I believe the economic advisers in Putrajaya will not regard SMIs as any less desirable than the more “sexy” deals they can put together overseas.

No country in this part of the world – not even Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan – would have succeeded economically if their small industries had not carried them through. Let’s emulate their success story.

The original idea that the Prime Minister mooted, which was to slow down “affirmative” action policies and open up the economy, must not be abandoned.

Nothing needs to be said or done before November this year, but after the party polls, economic opportunities must be made available to those who can increase productivity and induce optimum results.

Malaysia must be developed sufficiently on broad fronts, be it manufacturing, commodities or tourism.Every Malaysian must answer the nation’s call to bring about a positive and constructive change to our country.

We want to be like South Korea and Japan. We must be richer and more powerful in more ways than Singapore.

When such calls are answered by Malaysians, they must be reciprocated with enthusiasm and given all the help they need.The less we talk of divisive issues – better yet, of Malays and non-Malays – the better.

The more united we are, the more productive and prosperous we will become.

Finally, I hope Putrajaya will abandon some of the so-called mega projects until studies are carried out on the suitability of existing infrastructure to make such big projects viable.

I remember the announcement by Petronas that they had to defer the RM60bil Pengerang oil and gas mega plant because there was a lack of water in the area.

I can add a few more important supporting infrastructure projects that we need in southern Johor. In Sabah and Sarawak, there has also been a spate of announcements on such big projects.

That’s understandable after this year’s general election, but I believe theyJens+Stoltenberg can be deferred when the country’s finances are better. This is again not a popular issue to deal with, but it needs to be done.

When Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenburg (left) spent 4% of the country’s oil revenues to balance his Budget, he lost the premiership.

We are already using 45% of Petronas money to pay for salaries and to take care of expenditure – there is only so much money Petronas can give without severely damaging its own viability. The country needs to be managed prudently and the excesses of the past must stop.

These measures will, unfortunately, be unpopular but the present Prime Minister must deal with them, even if his own popularity suffers.

PM Najib at the UNGA, New York

September 29, 2013

The full text of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib’s speech at the 68th United Nations General Assembly in New York

Mr President,


Ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me to begin by congratulating you, Mr President, on your election. I offer you Malaysia’s full cooperation and support as you seek to further the cause of peace and prosperity.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Three years ago, I stood before you and called for a Global Movement of Moderates. It was a call to reject extremism in all its forms. Because the real divide is not between East and West or between the developed and developing worlds or between Muslims, Christians and Jews. It is between moderates and extremists of all religions.

Much has changed since 2010. Then, a current of protest and reform surged through the Middle East and North Africa.Out of the heat of the Arab Spring, new questions arose: about the pace of democratic change, about the role of Islam in politics, and about the need for more inclusive development.But the search for answers to those questions has been put on hold.

As authoritarian regimes have fallen, and governments have been swept away by political change, extremists have tried to fill the space that remains.

Motivated by ideology, politics and religion, they have sought refuge from the hard work of development in the unholy practice of violence. Around the world, extremism is taking lives and crushing opportunity.This affects us all; but it is one people, of one faith, who suffer most. I believe the greatest threat to Muslims today comes not from the outside world, but from within.

The conflict between Sunni and Shia threatens the lives and livelihoods of millions of Muslims. Our religion – founded on peace, and premised on tolerance – is being twisted by extremists, who are deploying false arguments to foster division and justify violence.

Across the Islamic world, extremists are wrapping their perverse agenda in religious cloth; tearing families, countries and the ummah apart.

With each new atrocity, tensions are wound tighter, and peace seems further away.The corrosive influence of extremism cannot be easily countered. But we are not powerless to act. I believe moderation in religion and the political process can stem the loss of life and liberty in the Muslim world.

Behind the tragic violence, there is a battle being waged for the future of Islam. By reaffirming our commitment to moderation – and solving the political problems that drive instability – we can seize back the centre ground.

We can marginalise the extremists. And we can advance an agenda for peace, harmony and justice.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Around the world, Muslims have watched in despair as conflict tears into some of our oldest communities. Rarely in our history has the Ummah faced violence on this scale.

Right now, the world’s attention is rightly focused on Syria. United Nations investigators have concluded that the focus of the war has shifted along ethnic and religious lines, and become ‘overtly sectarian’.

A conflict which began with anti-government protests threatens to descend into a war of ethnic cleansing.With fighters from Hezbollah engaging on Syrian soil, the conflict now threatens Lebanon too.

Last month, after car bombs killed dozens in Beirut, 42 people died in explosions outside Sunni mosques.Communities are dividing along religious lines, with hard-line preachers urging violence between Sunni and Shia.

Meanwhile, the security situation in Iraq continues to unravel, as Sunni extremist groups and Shia militia struggle for control.

In the last four months, nearly 3,000 people have been killed. In the last week alone, three funerals have been bombed in Baghdad. Women and children have been blown apart whilst mourning.

Again, the violence is carried out between Sunni and Shia. In one Iraqi town, four children from one Shia family were slain with knives.In another, local people – neighbours for generations – have built blast walls to keep themselves apart. Forced displacements are growing.

In Pakistan, bombings have wrecked the city of Quetta, killing hundreds. Revenge attacks spread to Lahore; bombs have been detonated in Karachi.

In August, militants ambushed buses, dividing the passengers according to belief; those who answered incorrectly were executed.

Each of these conflicts has a distinct cause, but they follow a darkly familiar path.Emboldened by political failures, radical preachers and militant groups turn civil conflicts into wider religious wars. Yet the preaching of such violence is completely counter to the Islamic faith.

The Quran not only condemns suicide, unjust war, and retribution by force; it also makes clear the Prophet’s desire for Muslims to live in peace with one another and their neighbours.

Verse 8:61 says, ‘And if they incline to peace, then incline to it [also] and rely upon Allah’. Verse 5:32, that ‘whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely’. And verse 2:256 holds that ‘there shall be no compulsion in religion’.

It should come as no surprise that there is no scriptural basis for the atrocities being committed in the name of Islam. Under the six higher objectives of Islamic law, the first and foremost is the protection and preservation of life.

Yet even during Ramadan, our holy month – when contemplation, devotion and compassion reign uppermost in Muslim minds – the extremists would not stop. More than 4,400 people died this Ramadan in Syria; 371 in Iraq; 120 in Pakistan.

This is a burden we can no longer afford to bear. It is time to end the killing, and concentrate instead on building a common agenda for peace and prosperity. There are two things we can do.

First of all, I believe that peace-loving Muslims – the overwhelming majority of Muslims – should unite against the extremists who use our religion as an excuse to commit violence.

And one of the most powerful tools we have to do so is al-wasatiyyah: the practice of moderation. Verse 2:143 of the Quran says that ‘we have made you into a community that is justly balanced’. This concept – of balance and moderation, of social justice within our faith – is a central tenet of Islam. It asks of us that we hold to the principles displayed by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the Medina Charter.

Our task is to reclaim our faith, by articulating clearly the true nature of Islam: the religion of peace, of moderation, of tolerance.We should speak this message clearly, so that all may hear it; and stand firm against the minority who use Islam to further violent and unjust ends.

We should not mistake moderation for weakness. To face those baying for violence and call instead for calm is a sign not of frailty, but of strength.Muslim leaders should speak up and condemn such violence, lest their silence is mistaken for acceptance.

Moderation can be practiced at the national level, as is the case in Malaysia, by choosing mutual respect and inclusivity, and strengthening the bonds between different communities and faiths.

All countries should reinforce their commitment to the principles of moderation; not just in religion, but for sustainable development and stable economic growth.

Moderation can also direct regional policy. It sits at the heart of Malaysia’s efforts to bring peace to the southern Philippines, and to Thailand’s restive south.

And ASEAN, which endorsed the Global Movement of Moderates, has made a commitment to peaceful settlement and the non use of force in territorial disputes.

And at the international level, moderation can guide our approach to the great global challenges of our age: violent extremism, sustainable development, and equitable growth.

Secondly, we should give our all to resolve the political problems which raise tensions in the Muslim world – starting with Syria.We cannot underline strongly enough the need for a Syrian-led inclusive political process.

Malaysia is against any unilateral action to resolve the conflict. All sides must come together to work out a political settlement.

We welcome the recent US-Russia Framework Agreement, condemn without reservation the use of chemical weapons, and call on the international community to intensify their efforts to explore all possible diplomatic options for peace under the auspices of the UN.

We must also find the vision and the political will to commit to a just solution for Palestine.

We fervently hope that progress towards a viable Palestinian state – based on pre-1967 borders, and with East Jerusalem as its capital – will be made, and that the US and other members of the Quartet continue to play their role as honest brokers in the process.

Only with peace can there be development and dignity for the Palestinian people.Finally, we should continue to focus on building stronger and more prosperous societies, predicated on the rule of law and the practice of democracy.

The Arab Spring showed that the Muslim world is crying out for change. Governments must answer that call.We must provide good governance to fight corruption, create jobs to tackle poverty, and deliver sustainable growth that builds a world of opportunity for our citizens.

We must create economies in which people can fulfil their own aspirations, not those of extremists.

By acting to solve our most difficult political problems, we can bring an end to the immediate suffering – in Syria, in Palestine, and in the wider world.By committing to the cause of moderation, Muslims can secure something even greater.

We can reclaim our religion, choosing harmony and acceptance over division and conflict. And we can broadcast a vision of Islam as it is understood by Muslims around the world: as a religion of peace, tolerance, and moderation.

Last month, when militants attacked those buses in Pakistan, a 19 year-old Sunni student named Ghulam Mustafa stood up for such a vision.

Confronting the Sunni gunmen, he said killing Shiites was wrong.Ghulam was shot dead, but his life was not lost in vain.

With guns to their heads, the Sunnis on the bus refused to identify the Shia passengers who the gunmen wanted to kill. In their defiance, we see the true measure of courage, and the true test of faith.

Under unimaginable pressure, facing the greatest possible threat, they chose to stand with their brothers and sisters. They chose unity over division.

Faced with unimaginable pressure, and the greatest possible threat, we must summon the will to do the same.

Thank you.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak delivering the National Statement at the 68th United Nation General Assembly (UNGA) General Debate here today. –BERNAMA (2013) COPYRIGHT RESERVED