PAS in Moral Decay


May 30, 2015

PAS  in Moral Decay: In UMNO style Politics of Greed and Nepotism

by Bridget Welsh@www.malaysiakini.com

bridgetwelshPAS is losing its moral foundation. The 61st Muktamar election will determine whether PAS will move to the dark side, namely further away from the principles and integrity that has given the Islamic party a comparative advantage in winning support from Malaysians…

This move away from merit, spirituality and performance to family standing and name accentuates the cancer of greed in PAS. It appears to be not just about position and wealth, but also about the family’s position and wealth. PAS is following in UMNO’s trajectory of consolidating political elites rather than allowing a fairer and just playing field for contestation.

This moral decay has been accompanied by a practice of moving away from political accountability, aka UMNO style, on the part of some leaders to PAS members and the public at large.–Bridget Welsh

COMMENT: As PAS prepares for the most divisive and decisive Muktamar (Party Convention) in its history next week, serious questions are being asked about the Islamic party’s direction.

The media has focused heavily on the troubled relationship with Pakatan Rakyat, with the frayed relationship between DAP and PAS over hudud taking centre stage. Others have focused their analyses on PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang who has brought the party to its current state.

The issues go much deeper than personality and policy differences – they go to the core of PAS as a religious political party, revealing that PAS is losing its moral foundation. The 61st Muktamar election will determine whether PAS will move to the dark side, namely further away from the principles and integrity that has given the Islamic party a comparative advantage in winning support from Malaysians.

Moral decay

The crass fight for power and position within the party and for leadership of the opposition has revealed a pattern among PAS contenders of ignoring the adage “the means is as important as the ends”.

In the past two years, we have witnessed lying, deception, personal and physical attacks from PAS that sharply deviate from decency. The gamut extends from behaviour surrounding the ‘Kajang move’ last year and governance in Kelantan to the current party election campaign. These sort of actions are sadly the practices that are often associated with politicians, especially in Malaysia’s political muck, but PAS has usually stayed above the fray, or at least been perceived to do so.

The sheer viciousness on social media and in campaigning by some PAS contenders for positions has actually made UMNO’s antics pale in comparison.

Many in the grassroots are confused and conflicted, as the dynamic has not been one in fitting with the identity of a party that claims it is morally principled. Among parts of the public at large, there are growing calls to have nothing to do with PAS at all.

The moral decay in how PAS engages politically has deeper roots than party positioning. There has been a concerted effort to bring UMNO culture into PAS. This dynamic has been driven by UMNO through infiltration as well as many PAS leaders adopting the mode of UMNO politics.

Beyond the use of personal attacks, this has taken the form of increasing materialism of some PAS leaders and members. When the party is now spiritually led by a wealthy businessman who has a history of taking government contracts, it is clear that the spirit of simplicity is eroding as part of the today’s PAS.

The key driver appears to be greed, as some PAS leaders now showcase their wealth in unprecedented ways. Those on the front line of materialism are many of the leading ulama contesting for positions in this all-out war for power. This materialism and selfishness is now spreading like a cancer inside the party.

The focus for some has moved to making money and using political position for economic advancement rather than genuinely living a simple life and bringing about good governance. The charges of corruption and complicity in Kelantan and elsewhere surrounding logging concessions and land deals have enhanced the sense that some PAS members are in it for themselves rather than the people.

PAS leaders have yet to come clean on how much wealth they have, and more importantly how they have made it. The party’s sense of public service has deteriorated to be increasingly replaced by personal service.

Growing nepotism

Along with materialism, nepotism in the party has grown. PAS has historically had greater opportunities for leaders to advance based on performance rather than family name, especially compared to other Malaysian political parties. This Muktamar, candidates are running on their father’s standing, with little records in their own right or substance.

In some cases, the sons are also running on platforms that violate the very principles their fathers upheld, as can be seen with the sharp difference between Nik Mohamad Abduh Nik Abdul Aziz (photo) and his father, respected deceased spiritual leader Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, over cooperation with Pakatan.

This move away from merit, spirituality and performance to family standing and name accentuates the cancer of greed in PAS. It appears to be not just about position and wealth, but also about the family’s position and wealth. PAS is following in UMNO’s trajectory of consolidating political elites rather than allowing a fairer and just playing field for contestation.

This moral decay has been accompanied by a practice of moving away from political accountability, aka UMNO style, on the part of some leaders to PAS members and the public at large. In this party election campaign many have argued that individuals are entitled to positions just because they occupy them rather than for how they carry out their duties. There is no desire for meaningful debate, discussion or resolution of the controversies that have underscored the tensions within the party and within the opposition as a whole.

Instead a culture of ‘dodge and denial’ has taken root, accompanied by a ‘with us or against us’ mode (with candidate lists for delegates to follow when voting) that holds honesty and transparency at bay.

Betrayal and fratricide

If it is not enough that a less principled culture has infected PAS, there is an even more painful dynamic at play – betrayal. Members in the party and the opposition have experienced a loss of trust as attacks have gone inward rather than outward. PAS is not alone in fueling the discord within the opposition, but what distinguishes the betrayals in PAS is that there has been open fratricide, aiming to annihilate the other side.

After decades of comradeship and shared struggle, the targets have become their own brothers and sisters. It is clear that some in PAS are willing to kill their own for their own interests and have lost sight of the need for inclusiveness and diversity in PAS leadership as a whole.

The irony is that those engaged in fratricide have used ‘party loyalty’ as a weapon for attack, not realising that the impact has been one of self-destruction for PAS as the attacks have undermined the cohesiveness of the party and its national reputation.

Betrayals within the party have been accompanied by betrayals to voters. Many Chinese, Indians, East Malaysians and Malays who see hudud as not the right measure at this time and/or fundamentally unconstitutional, feel that PAS has betrayed their trust. The fact is hudud was not part of the political platform of GE13 in Pakatan and PAS is seen as hijacking the opposition in its imposition of this narrow agenda.

The Late Bernard Zorro Khoo, Haris Ibrahim , Din Merican and Raja Petra Kamaruddin campaigned for PAS in 2008 GE. All these men have been let down by Hadi Awang and the Ulamas

The Late Bernard Zorro Khoo, Haris Ibrahim , Din Merican and Raja Petra Kamaruddin campaigned for PAS in 2008 GE. All these men have been let down by Hadi Awang and the Ulamas

In this single-mindedness myopic focus onhudud on the part of some leaders, PAS has send signals that it cares little about Malaysia as a nation as a whole – betraying East Malaysians in particular but others who see rights and religion in a much broader and inclusive way. For many voters, PAS has come off hypocritically as calling for laws that tell others what to do, when many in their own party are not practicing nor respect such moral principles themselves.

In this one-note call for hudud, the impression of PAS as a party incapable of addressing other issues such as the economy has also been reinforced. With hudud, PAS leaders are magnifying their own trust and governance deficits with the public.

A record for surprises

But some PAS leaders went further in their betrayal with regular meetings and open cooperation with UMNO and public call for a ‘unity government’. These actions are duplicitous of the majority of Malaysians who voted for the opposition.

Voters rightly ask how PAS can claim to represent justice, good governance, fairness and moral principles when some of its leaders are working with those who do not abide by these principles.

When serious scandals from 1MDB – involving the funds of taxpayers, including religious pilgrims – are openly tainting the government, voters ask how could a party that says it is principled even associate with the actions that antithetical to the principles touted by a religious party.

PAS delegates will make their decision next week. In voting they will be deciding not just for themselves but for the very soul of their party, its moral and spiritual core. A vote for greed, nepotism, unaccountable government and betrayal will send a clear sense to the public that PAS no longer offers the electorate a national moral alternative.

Many delegates are wrestling with these troubling issues and recognise that in the slate of options, there are choices that move the party back toward a brighter future. PAS muktamar have a record of surprises and wisdom and this cannot be ruled out as the battle for PAS’ soul plays out.

Many delegates are wrestling with these troubling issues and recognise that in the slate of options, there are choices that move the party back toward a brighter future. PAS Muktamar have a record of surprises and wisdom and this cannot be ruled out as the battle for PAS’ soul plays out.


BRIDGET WELSH is a Senior Research Associate of the Center for East Asia Democratic Studies of the National Taiwan University, where she conducts research on democracy and politics in Southeast Asia.

The Prolific Fault-Finder faces an uphill battle against Najib Razak


May 30, 2015

The Prolific Fault-Finder faces an uphill battle against Najib Razak

by Terence Netto@www.malaysiakini.com

Mahathir-Vs-NajibCOMMENT: Probably the most prolific fault-finder ever in Malaysian politics is Dr Mahathir Mohamad. The faults he has found in others have led to the deposing of one Prime Ministers (Abdullah Badawi) and the replacement of three Deputy Prime  Ministers (Musa Hitam, Ghaffar Baba and Anwar Ibrahim).

This harvest of position-forfeiting flawed individuals is the most extraordinary collection of the fallen a decapitating politician is responsible for. However, in focusing on his third prime ministerial quarry, Najib Abdul Razak, Mahathir’s finds his modus operandi has been well learned and, as a result, a counter of some effectivity is being deployed.

Balthasar GracianThe going is not so easy for Mahathir this time and that is because his adversary has mined some insights from Balthasar Gracian whose understandings of the springs and wheels of political mechanics exceeded Niccolo Machiavelli’s from whom the former Prime Minister has, undoubtedly, learnt an awful lot.

Nobody learns the art of politics from a book, The Prince, certainly not PM Najib whose reading tastes must run to books on management which explains the plethora of managerial jargon in his administration.

It’s unlikely that Najib has ever heard of Gracian, a Spanish Jesuit, an aloof and aphoristic cleric more concerned with worldly affairs than with a spiritual vocation he conceived in the 17th century. In ‘The Oracle’ (1647), Gracian prescribed the route to power. The good priest wrote: “To enslave our natural superiors by the use of cunning is a novel kind of power, among the best that life can offer.”

No doubt, Najib considers Mahathir his natural superior; the oleaginous way he has, until recently, tackled his predecessor has made it difficult for the older man to get Najib in his cross hairs with something less than charity.

That’s probably why there was a time-lag of six months between Mahathir’s withdrawal of support for Najib, announced last August, and an outright declaration of hostilities, made two days after Anwar Ibrahim was consigned by the Federal Court to Sungei Buloh on February 10.

Mahathir has moved with more lethal alacrity when it suited him. It was a mere week between his public humiliation of then Deputy Prime Minister Anwar at the opening of the UMNO building in Penang in late August of 1998 and Anwar’s sacking from party and government in the first days of September that year.

Till the last, Anwar has hoped that what was sinister but hidden in all the preceding weeks would not arrive at the abrupt and cruelly public denouement it did in September.

Mahathir is a systematic and relentless man, moving step by step, stage by stage towards the attainment of his goals. Nothing is spontaneous, everything is planned. Not for nothing was he, a medical doctor, the first occupant of the PM’s office from the sciences and not the humanities, as his three predecessors in the post were.

The scientific habit of holding facts in solution marks his approach to political affairs: he owes no allegiance to what is true, except that which it suits him to say, at any one time, is true.

A plum pudding of a chance

Both Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Mahathir’s second prime ministerial casualty, and now Najib let go a plum pudding of a chance to nail the Mahathir when they had the opportunity.

Abdullah shelved the Royal Commission of Inquiry’s (RCI) report of March 2008 on the Lingam videotape which recommended that legal action be taken against Mahathir and a slew of political and judicial officials for offences that included case- and judge-fixing. Those were no small offences. You only allow someone to get off the hook on those charges if you cared not for what the let-offs do to the system.

Even graver than the fault of case- and judge-fixing is that of granting shady foreigners citizenship, just so their votes can help win elections. In addition to electoral fraud, the sins here savour of treason.

Paspor IndonesiaYet, Najib and his cohort of senior civil servants and former and serving judicial officers contrived to shunt the Royal Commission of Inquiry into illegals in Sabah from arriving at a conclusion that would have been disastrous for Mahathir though the testimony adduced before the RCI moved more plausibly towards indicting Mahathir than the tendered evidence that he committed a sexual crime moved against Anwar in his trials for sodomy.

Fat chance you get any favours from Mahathir for let-offs you grant him once he has already decided that you are his next target.

However, it now seems that the Najib forces have an arrow in their quiver: the newly-formed Citizens Governancefor Accountable Good Governance (CAGG) has asked Mahathir to account for the billions of ringgit in taxpayers’ money that were squandered during the 22 years (1981-2003) that he was PM.

In a nice display of chutzpah, the NGO’s spokesperson Mohd Zainal Abidin said they are not taking sides and would go after other Prime Ministers, including Najib, once they are done with Mahathir.

Mohd Zainal threatened to file a citizen’s lawsuit for the amount of RM50 billion against Mahathir should he not explain the ventures that incurred losses of over RM100 billion under his prime ministerial watch.

This development only means that Mahathir’s battle to oust Najib is more steeply uphill now, with the onus of eviction of Najib on reasonable grounds falling more onerously on Mahathir himself.

Given that Mahathir is the unrelenting sort, he will not give up but will have to come up with more compelling reasons than he has thus far offered for Najib’s ouster.This is now a clash between a relentless force and an immovable object with not a little guile, a la Gracian, behind it.

Who is going to win is not as important as the vitalness of an inevitable byproduct: the battle will destroy in the Malay mind what it has been hard for it to grasp – that UMNO has been more blight than boon to its long-term future.

If that happens, it will be a supremely good upshot.

TERENCE NETTO has been a journalist for more than four decades. A sobering discovery has been that those who protest the loudest tend to replicate the faults they revile in others.
 

Najib and Mahathir locked in the Battle of The Social Media


May 30, 2015

 Najib and Mahathir locked in the Battle of The Social Media

Unlike the previous spats involving Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his rivals, the current war is waged online through blogs and social media.

Mahathir himself reserves his most potent bombshells for his blog postings and later expands on his points when addressing the media or a public function. Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak also ducks, dodges and strikes back through his blog in the form of frequently asked questions (FAQ).

Then, there are the foot soldiers. On Mahathir’s side, there are former newspaper editors A Kadir Jasin, Firdaus Abdullah, Zainuddin Maidin and several others. As for Najib’s garrison, there are the ghostwriters in MyKmu.net, JASA chief Puad Zakarshi and current Sabah state assembly speaker Salleh Keruak.
altantuya

The war between Mahathir and Najib has been brewing in the quiet for long. There were the occasional snipes, but nothing serious. Then on April 2, Mahathir dropped an atomic bomb via his blog, warning that if Najib remained at the helm, Umno would be defeated come the 14th general election. He also hinted that Najib had a role in the  brutal murder of the Mongolian model, Altantuya Shaariibuu (picture above), which was once again denied.

Since then, it has been open season. And the one riddled with most bullet holes is 1MDB, which has come under attack from Mahathir as well as the Opposition. However, Najib has refused to cave in. On the contrary, he has accused the former Prime Minister of peddling lies and twisting facts.

Deeper down the gutter

Sharing his view on the online war, another former editor, Ahiruddin Atan, highlighted images targeting Mahathir that are circulating in the social media. “And we slide down deeper into the gutter by the day,” Ahiruddin lamented.

“You may see these efforts to counter the allegations as a dirty campaign against the old man, but those behind these posters (photo left) think it is only fair to defend Najib against the conspiracy to take him down,” he added on his blog, Rocky’s Bru.

Ahiruddin also noted that Mahathir’s people are not going to stop demonising Najib. “Why, some of them have been preparing for this war for years. The PM’s defenders aren’t going to stop, either. Only Mahathir and Najib can stop this from getting worse But what are the chances of that happening now?” he asked.

Malaysians are also growing weary of the protracted blogfight. There must be a knockout punch soon. But then again, Mahathir had campaigned for more than a year against Najib’s predecessor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. So it might be another long haul match.

The George Washington University–We are making History


May 30, 2015

The George Washington University–We are making History

I was graduated from George Washington School of Business at The George Washington University, Washington DC more than four decades ago. I visited the campus again, this time with my wife Dr. Kamsiah in 2013. We were impressed with the development of the campus with its modern facilities and briefed on its progress in terms of academic excellence, and the size of its student population and alumni who are spread throughout the length and breadth of the world. We are all hard at work to make a difference to the people we teach, and interact and work with in our daily lives.

DM@TSS

I enjoyed my two years at graduate school (1968-1970). The education at The George Washington University transformed my life and enriched my world view. I was well taught and mentored and am eternally grateful that I was given the opportunity to be part of the making of the George Washington University history. I am currently Associate Dean, Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations to share my experiences with young and dynamic students at the highly regarded University of Cambodia in Phnom Penh. –Din Merican

Cambodia economic update : maintaining high growth (English)


May 29, 2015

Cambodia economic update : maintaining high growth (English)

Abstract

Angkor Wat

Cambodia continues to enjoy robust growth, albeit at a slightly slower pace. Real growth in 2014 is estimated to have reached 7.0 percent. The garment sector, together with construction and services, in particular finance and real estate, continues to propel growth. However, there are signs of weaknesses in garment and agricultural production that are slightly slowing growth.

Overall macroeconomic management remains appropriate. Fiscal consolidation continues with further improvements in revenue collection resulting from enhanced administration. Poverty continues to fall in Cambodia (poverty headcount rate in 2012 was 17.7 percent) although the pace of poverty reduction has declined significantly.

Cambodia-Battambang_ProvinzCambodia’s real growth rate is expected to moderate to 6.9 percent in 2015 and 2016, as it confronts stronger competition in garment exports, continued weak agriculture sector growth, and softer growth in the tourism sector. Recent developments include: the garment sector continues to be one of Cambodia’s main engines of growth, the external position remains stable, supported by healthy foreign direct investment inflows, underpinning the overall macroeconomic stability, Exchange rate targeting continues to support price stability, inflation has eased significantly with continuing depressed food prices and the recent decline in oil prices, and financial deepening continues, supporting economic expansion as deposit and credit growth accelerated quickly in 2014.–World Bank. 2015. Cambodia economic update 

Read more

http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2015/04/29/090224b082e1bcd6/1_0/Rendered/PDF/Cambodia0econo0ntaining0high0growth.pdf

Your Weekend Entertainment by The Mekong with Joni James


May 29, 2015

Your Weekend Entertainment by The Mekong with Joni James

FCCPhnomPenhForeign Correspondents’ Club in Phnom Penh

This is a long weekend in Cambodia as Monday is the public holiday. Most Cambodians, like those of us who are not from Kuala Lumpur, will return to their respective towns and communes in the provinces to be with their parents and relatives and friends. The expatriates who remain in the city will  gather at The Foreign Correspondents Club for a hearty meal with wine and some booze to wash away their blues. But the night too early for revelry. Things wont hot up till around 10 pm. local time.

Saturday May 30 is my beloved wife Dr. Kamsiah’s birthday and I regret that I am unable to be withKamsiah and Din4 her. Fortunately, she is now in Jakarta with her daughter to celebrate the occasion. I take this opportunity to convey my love and affection on the occasion of her birthday. To commemorate the occasion, I dedicate the songs by Joni James to wish her good health and happiness on behalf of all of us. I am sure she will be okay as she is in very good company.

I promised my friend, Cheam Tat Phang who is a diehard Joni James fan that I will feature this fabulous singer again. I am glad that after a long lapse of time I am able to do that today . Here’s to you my friend with my good wishes. Without further delay here is Joni James.– Din Merican