Old Malaysia’ in Cameron Highlands


January  31, 2019

‘Old Malaysia’ in Cameron Highlands

OPINION  |  Dr.Bridget Welsh
Published: 30 Jan 2019, 8:50 pm
www ,malaysiakini.com

 

COMMENT | Although not to the degree touted by the BN as a ‘referendum,’ the Cameron Highlands by-election does offer important lessons.

So far, in valuable analyses, the focus has been on ‘ethnic voting’ patterns (in which the Malay community showed the most swing away from the new federal government), the choice of candidates and the need to shift campaigning practices in rural/semi-rural areas.

While these issues were important in shaping the final vote, they miss the larger point: Pakatan Harapan’s biggest mistake in Cameron Highlands was that it adopted the practices and assumptions of BN in the election. In Cameron Highlands, Harapan locked itself into a ‘campaign as usual’ mode that did not effectively embrace the reform momentum that put it into office or move its campaign out of the ‘old Malaysia’ mode.

Analysis of results

A number of studies have examined the results. Below, using a statistical method of ecological inference, is my analysis of estimates of voting behaviour in Cameron Highlands. There are three important findings.

First, turnout dropped across the different ethnic communities, especially among Chinese and Indian voters. This is not a surprise given the timing of the by-election before Chinese New Year, but speaks to fatigue and disinterest among voters across communities and within Harapan’s political base.

Second, the swing in support along ethnic lines is biggest among the Malays – a large swing of over 31.5% to BN. This was followed by an estimated swing in Indian support for Harapan, by 5.1%, and estimated swing in favour of BN by Orang Asli voters of 5%. The BN’s victory was tied to the candidate and race-based mobilisation.

Finally, Harapan witnessed an erosion in its political base, losing support in terms of both turnout and among Chinese voters, although not to the extent as losses in other communities. Harapan’s Cameron Highlands defeat should be seen as their own weaknesses in the campaign.

Persistent racial mindset

I argue that a crucial part of the erosion of support comes from Harapan’s adoption of ‘old Malaysia’ practices. Perhaps the most rigid of these practices is the continued insistence of seeing Malaysians race first. No one denies the importance of ethnic identity in Malaysia, which is tied to rich cultural practices embedded in social and political life for decades. Yet, at the same time, the myopic and shallow focus on race constrains much-needed reform in political engagement.

BN survived 60-plus years by using ethnic politics to legitimise and maintain its hold on power. They are continuing to rely on this old model for political survival today.

In Cameron Highlands, their victory was tied to two racialised factors: the strategic upfront choice of a candidate for his race – Ramli Mohd Noor representing Orang Asli – and the insidious behind-the-scenes anti-Indian/pro-Malay racism that was emotionally used as a tool to bring back the support of the Malay community and secure a BN victory. The BN fed on sentiments of ethnic displacement and insecurity, especially among the Malay community, as they have done for years.

The mode has changed somewhat, however. Victimisation has taken on even greater traction for those displaced by Harapan’s control of government. There is a deepening of insecurity.

Also, the current political environment has fostered alliances among opposition parties, with UMNO taking a backseat behind the BN label. PAS and Umno’s adoption of a ‘Pan-Malay’ sentiment is not new (as it featured in GE14), but it has gained ground. At its core, the alliance is a political strategy for the return to power of elite who have been displaced rather than genuine representation of the Malay community at large.

It builds primarily on the same negative sentiments that got UMNO kicked out of office – anger and resentment, and, as such, does little to actually empower the Malay community, or any other for that matter. The BN, however, cannot be faulted for relying on what it has done for decades. It won them a seat in parliament.

BN’s dominant narrative

Harapan, on the other hand, allowed the BN to dominate the campaign using race. Not only did Harapan not project a viable alternative narrative, it adopted racial politics full on.

By concentrating on the Orang Asli, a community who has seen decades of exploitation and neglect (even effectively ignored by Pakatan when it was in opposition), Harapan reinforced the focus on specific communities rather than voters at large.

This fed into the sense that Harapan is representing minorities rather than majorities, playing into the sentiments being stirred on the ground. The voting analysis shows it did not yield them results, as their share of the Orang Asli voted decreased.

Perhaps the worst example of Harapan’s old Malaysia campaigning style was the BN-like promise of minority ethnic representation in cabinet, sounding so similar to BN songs sung in the Teluk Intan by-election and elsewhere. It is no wonder that BN won; the campaign was their race-based song.

Najib, Najib, Najib

Harapan opted to play the Najib card in his home state. Harapan continues to believe that it can get mileage out of attacking the former prime minister, the same man on whom they have imposed multiple charges for alleged serious crimes. This strategy failed, and has been decreasing in effectiveness since GE14. The more Harapan focused on Najib, the more sympathy was stirred among his traditional support base.

 

Despite the evidence, many in UMNO’s political base continue to believe in Najib and do not see wrongdoing, in part because it would mean they were also responsible for facilitating the wrongdoing themselves. For others, especially in Umno’s political base, the focus on Najib further reminded them of their political displacement.

It is important to remember that the 1MDB scandal had less impact in rural and semi-rural areas in GE14 as well. This refrain also had less impact on Harapan’s political base. Urban voters understand that Najib faces a court process, and they were angry, but this sentiment is no longer as strong as it once was given the fact that Najib is no longer in office.

The focus on the past, however, was a common BN practice, another one that Harapan has adopted in its hustings. Rather than focus on what it is doing in government, they continued their opposition mode of attacks on a man no longer in government. Ironically, this served to empower Najib as his name was headlining the campaign rather than those in Harapan, or Harapan’s candidate in Cameron Highlands for that matter.

Harapan seems not to fully appreciate that it needs to focus on what it is doing now and will do in the future if it is to maintain support, and show how it is working to deliver for the rakyat. They need to embrace their role as government, not the opposition. Instead, they played an old record that did not jive.

Clean election

Of all the old practices that Harapan seems to be adopting, the most ironic of those in Cameron Highlands was the violations of good electoral practices.

The by-election was called because of vote buying in the first place. Less than one day into the campaign, these issues were raised on the part of Harapan, along with questions about the use of government resources and ‘promises’ from government. The campaign finished with the Harapan candidate infringing election procedures by wearing the coalition logo in a polling station.

 

The irony is striking. One of the main reasons voters in Harapan’s political base voted for the coalition was electoral reform. This election could have served as an opportunity to embrace a fairer and cleaner electoral process. Despite denials and explanations, Harapan came off as not differentiating themselves adequately from BN in its ‘irregular’ campaign practices. In fact, they seemed to be replicating them.

The trend appears to be for the Harapan to use patronage and promises as a means to garner suppMort. Harapan has yet to realise that given the differences in the coalition and the reality of less resources at hand, they are unable to replicate UMNO on the ground, or PAS for that matter. Continue reading

Mahathir’s way vs Mandela’s


January 31, 2019

Mahathir’s way vs Mandela’s

www,freemalaysiatoday.com
Image result for Mahathir and Mandela
Sport, Foreign Policy and Politics
Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in ways little else does. It speaks to youths in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”–Nelson’ Madiba’ Mandela

 

Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has been Malaysia’s most inspiring politician since he led an unlikely coalition of opposition parties to defeat the previously all-powerful Barisan Nasional coalition in the country’s 14th general election.

Image result for mahathir and mandela

 

It was a triumphant return for the 93-year-old ex-Prime Minister with a reputation of having his own way, more so with revelations he croons to the Frank Sinatra classic “My Way”.

Five years after his death, Nelson Mandela remains South Africa’s most inspiring politician. It had been so from the moment he was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment as a 44-year-old freedom fighter in 1962. On May 10, 1994, four years after his release, the 78-year-old anti-apartheid icon became the first black to be elected president in South Africa’s first  democratic election.

One issue the hard-hitting Mahathir has revived since becoming Prime Minister again is Israel and the Jews. In a BBC interview last October, he was unsurprisingly unapologetic in calling the Jews “hook-nosed”, among other criticisms of the Jewish state and people. Various foreign governments and international human rights groups have condemned his “decades-long record of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories”.

In recent weeks, the issue re-surfaced with Mahathir behind Malaysia’s decision to bar Israel and its athletes from participating in the 9th World Para Swimming Championships, which Sarawak successfully won the bid to host in July. This week, the International Paralympic Committee stripped Malaysia of the right to host the world event due to Putrajaya’s decision to bar Israel’s participation.

Nearly 25 years ago, Mandela faced quite a similar dilemma, albeit of a much bigger scale. Before he came to power, the all-white South African government had already won the bid to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup. The new President had less than 12 months to act before the event started. The whites in South Africa loved rugby as much as the blacks hated it. The green jersey of the Springboks – the national team – was a hated symbol of apartheid repression to the blacks. They cheered when the international sports community boycotted South Africa. Every foreign team received their undivided support when it played against the Springboks.

In that environment, Mandela, the man incarcerated for 27 years for his stubborn resistance to Apartheid, made the startling decision to embrace the Springboks. He was booed when he first tried to persuade the majority blacks to join him. The minority whites and most of the players were uncomfortable. But Mandela persisted in his campaign to get the divided nation to rally behind their national team which traveled around the country to introduce the game to children in poverty-stricken black townships.

In the month-long tournament, the unfancied but inspired Springboks went all the way to qualify for the final against rugby powerhouse New Zealand. The whole country was in a frenzy. Before the match started, Mandela walked down to the field wearing the green team jersey and cap to greet the players. The 65,000-crowd of mostly white South Africans was stunned in disbelief but moments later erupted into chants of “Nelson! Nelson! Nelson!”

The underdogs won 15-12. One anti-apartheid veteran described the scene when Mandela finally handed the World Cup to white Springboks captain Francois Pienaar: “There wasn’t a dry eye in the stadium. There wasn’t a dry eye in the country. Everybody celebrated. Every black township, every white suburb: One country at last!”

The historic episode also inspired the critically acclaimed movie “Invictus”.

A year after his retirement from politics, Mandela himself gave an explanation which is worth quoting in full:

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in ways little else does. It speaks to youths in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”

Peter Raja is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

Khun Anand Panyarachun and the Making of Modern Thailand


January 30,2019

Book Review:

Khun Anand Panyarachun and the Making of Modern Thailand

Dominic Faulder (Editions Didier Millet, Singapore, 2018)

 

The personal cost of Thailand’s political turbulence is often opaque to outsiders. It was surprising for this reader to discover that Anand Panyarachun, scion of the Thai establishment, was once himself caught in the swiftly changing tides of Thai power politics. In the bout of indigenous McCarthyism that followed the October 1976 anti-student thuggery at Thammasat University, scores were also settled amongst the elites. This saw Anand, then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, investigated as a communist sympathiser.  Stood down from his position, Anand spent some weeks in limbo before being exonerated, by which time he had already decided that his career as a diplomat was over and business would be his next pursuit. It was not the last time that the outspoken public figure was to incur the wrath of powerful figures, including in military and judicial circles.

Dominic Faulder’s new biography is a very welcome addition to the rather sparse English-language offerings on former Thai political leaders. While Anand’s life was depicted in a 1999 biography in Thai, this is the first consolidated portrait in English, covering Anand’s career as diplomat, politician, businessman and philanthropist. As Faulder intends, the account of Anand’s life is also a very accessible and vivid account of Thai diplomatic and political history. Particularly well covered are two decades: the 1970s, as Thailand “separated” from the United States and its military bases, and the 1990s, when Anand as a two-term prime minister set in train what many mistakenly thought was to be a permanent democratic trajectory.

Born of a mother of Hokkien Chinese background, and a father of Mon ancestry, whose own forbears had held senior positions in the Siamese bureaucracy, Anand’s family name was bestowed by Rama VI. It drew on the Sanksrit-Pali for wisdom, panyaa and the name of the Ramayana hero, Arjuna. After growing up in Bangkok, including living through the Japanese occupation, Anand followed in his father’s footsteps with a British public school education.

Schooling in England at age 16 in 1948 brought with it a tough first year of “unrelenting cultural immersion”.  But by the time he graduated from Cambridge in 1955, after spending 7 continuous and formative years in England, he had become in his own words, “practically bicultural”.

Excellent English language and sharp critical thinking skills meant that after joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in 1955 his career progression was rapid. Helped by a close relationship with foreign minister Thanat Khoman, Anand was appointed Ambassador to the United States at tender age of 39, a position he later held while concurrently representing Thailand at the United Nations.  Interestingly, at this time Anand and the Thais were elder mentors to the relatively inexperienced Singaporean diplomats, a situation that would be hard to imagine today.

Anand’s forthrightness and unwillingness to suffer fools were on display from early in his career, as was his strong belief that MOFA should lead on foreign policy. From time to time, both characteristics brought him into conflict with the Thai military, at no time more so than when he took a hard line on negotiating the terms of the exit of United States forces from Thailand under then Foreign Minister Chatichai Choonhaven. His willingness to insist on MOFA’s prerogatives on foreign policy made him enemies in the Thai military, who then sought his downfall following the 1976 violence. The account of this difficult period in Thailand’s alliance with the United States is one of the book’s highlights, as is the account of Anand’s visit to China accompanying Prime Minister Kukrit Pramoj in 1975, including meetings with the ailing Mao.

Many will also read with great interest the telling of Anand’s two formal forays into politics in the early 1990s. Never a member of any political party, Anand’s clean reputation lead to him being tapped twice for short stints as prime minister, each time as a way of circumventing political crises. The exact circumstances of Anand becoming an appointed, rather than elected, prime minister are given close attention in this book and are revealing of patterns of Thai politics, and in particular the role of the monarchy. The book also gives good accounts of key achievements of the Anand governments, including the ASEAN free trade agreement, the Cambodian peace process and the effective response to HIV/AIDs.

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Anand’s direct, confident manner led some to question his “Thainess”. Certainly he was sometimes warned by colleagues to soften his approach in debating his peers and disciplining his staff.  But to Tej Bunnag, a contemporary of MOFA who also ventured briefly into politics, “Anand is very Thai but of a certain kind”, with a personality reflecting his background as “the youngest son of a very distinguished family”.

While it is tempting to imagine that more politicians like Anand in Thailand’s leadership class might be the solution to Thailand’s struggles with democracy, it is probably also true that his uncompromising manner would be difficult to sustain over a longer period. And while it is true the man and his political record reveal few blemishes, one area where Anand might now admit he might have done more is with respect to unionism. As Prime Minister Anand presided over legislation that one activist called “the most crushing blow ever for the Thai labour movement”. Unfortunately as this review was written, Thailand had just claimed the unenviable title of world champion of income inequality, with 1% of the population possessing 66% of Thailand’s wealth.

In his post-prime ministerial career Anand continued to sit on numerous boards, including banks, as well as take an active role in his first choice of business, Saha Union. He also worked on several international and national inquiries and commissions, including for the United Nations. Probably his most significant contribution, with many recommendations yet to be implemented, is with respect to the troubled South. Anand took charge of a National Reconciliation Commission after the violence flared again after 2004, but the political division since the 2006 coup has stymied progress. Anand remains committed to decentralisation and devolution of power to Thailand’s outer regions, not only the southern border provinces but also the north. On this score, Anand remains more liberal than many of his colleagues in the ruling elite.

Image result for Thailand's Khun Anand

A staunch monarchist, Anand has never served on the Privy Council and appears unlikely to do so. In the words of businessman Prida Tiasuwan, Anand is “pale yellow” in his approach to the monarchy. A massive reader, a gregarious and willing public speaker, with a sharp and analytical mind, Anand as a royalist democrat has been a significant contributor to Thailand’s public life and national development.

 

Faulder’s account of his life is highly readable. It is not without some flaws; the book sometimes gets into trouble when freelancing on history. For example, the claim that Thailand never joined the League of Nations is mistaken; while it was never member of the League Council, the executive body of the General Assembly, it was an active founding member of the League itself. Anand himself seems sketchy on Siamese history. For example, when he states that Thailand as an uncolonised country was left untutored on international relations, Anand seems to overlook the role of the several capable and trusted foreign legal advisers employed by Thai kings, such as the Belgian Gustav Rolin-Jaequemins employed by Chulalongkorn or the American Francis Sayre employed by Vajiravudh.

A book cannot be all things to all readers, but there were some questions I would have liked to have seen explored. What for example, are Anand’s attitudes to Buddhism, to modern China, to the future of US–China relations? Does Anand himself speak Chinese? Based on many interviews with Anand, the book in the end is a sympathetic biography. Faulder does seek to gently challenge Anand, seeking for example his reaction to Duncan McCargo’s “network monarchy” thesis and the suggestion that he is part of this network. But the additional interviewees are also somewhat biased towards the “yellow” royalist side of politics. It may have been interesting to know how some of the Red Shirt or Pheu Thai leadership or even Thaksin Shinawatra clan remember Anand. These are however, relatively small quibbles, and the book is highly recommended.

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Dr Greg Raymond is Research Fellow at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre in the Australian National University’s Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs. He is currently writing a book on Thailand’s alliance with the United States, with John Blaxland. His book on Thai strategic culture, Thai Military Power: a Culture of Strategic Accommodation was published by NIAS Press in 2018. Before joining the ANU, he worked extensively in the Australian Government, including in strategic and defence international policy areas of the Department of Defence.

Personal Reflections of a Malaysian Member of Parliament


January 30, 2019

Personal Reflections of a Malaysian Member of Parliament

Image result for William Leong

by William  Leong,MP

A donkey carrying baskets was told by his shepherd master to flee when enemies approached. The donkey asked if the enemy would put another pair of baskets on him and if not, why flee.

In a change of government, the poor change nothing beyond the name of their master.–The Shepherd and Aesop’s Fables

Nothing Changed Beyond the Name

There will be many analyses of the Cameron Highlands by-election result. It is obvious Pakatan Harapan did not win sufficient Malay support and there was a lower voter turnout compared to the 14th General Elections. In the ultimate analysis, the result is a reflection of Malaysians agreeing with Aesop’s donkey. Other than a change of the Prime Minister and name of the coalition, the Pakatan Harapan government has not implemented the promised substantive reforms. The danger arising from the Cameron Highlands result is PH will be engaged in a race to the bottom of ethnic extremism with UMNO-PAS. With it comes greater ethnic tensions and deeper ethnic cleavages. All of us, Malaysians, like Martin Luther King Jr. have a dream. We have all been inspired by the song “We Shall Overcome.” It has become the anthem against injustice. It is a song about a promise: “We shall overcome someday. Deep in my heart, I do believe.” But in the light of recent events, May 9 was not the day. We shall have to overcome on some other day.

Nothing Changed Beyond the Name

Elite Capture of the Government Inequality and racial politics in Malaysia is inter-related. The country’s persistent and growing inequality between the rich and the poor, economic deprivation suffered by various groups and deepening social fragmentation is due to racial politics. Race-based politics have been perpetuated by the political and economic elite in order to maintain their wealth, influence and control of political and economic power.

Inequality and race-based  politics in Malaysia is inter-related. The country’s persistent and growing inequality between the rich and the poor, economic deprivation suffered by various groups and deepening social fragmentation is due to race- based  politics. Race-based politics have been perpetuated by the political and economic elite in order to maintain their wealth, influence and control of political and economic power. The country into a dysfunctional state is also due to elite capture of the BN government. It is a result of the political-economic elite’s insatiable  It is a result of the political-economic elite’s insatiable greed.

The political-economic elite uses the political power in their hands to control the government institutions responsible for distribution of resources and to ensure that policies that benefit them are retained at the expense of a dis-empowered majority. The political-economic elite through political patronage maintain a system to establish monopolies and activities to extract rent. They manipulate politicians and administrators to cater to their narrow economic interests through inequitable practices that tend to discriminate against other groups.

A massive rural development fund was launched by the Ministry of Rural and National Development in 1959 by Tun Abdul Razak then Deputy Prime Minister, since then UMNO politicians became not only interested in the business of politics but also more interested in the politics of business – generating income, wealth and influence in the business of rural development. The development projects were won by UMNO politicians and subcontracted to Chinese contractors.  It came to be planted in the minds of many young Malays and aspiring entrepreneurs that there seemed to be a shortcut, a “political way” to make the materialistic leap to become rich rather quickly.

1.Upward social mobility is by climbing the rungs of the political ladder and money politics was born. Following the first Bumiputera Economic Congress in 1965 and the second three years later in 1968, detailed strategies and programmes were made to implement the nationalist economic agenda which culminated in the New Economic Policy in 1971. The evolution of the Bumiputera Commercial and Industrial Community (BCIC) progressed in tandem with the protracted affirmative action under the NEP.

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Terrence Gomez and K.S. Jomo have pointed out that most Malay businessmen wanted state intervention to preserve their special privileges. They contended that such Bumiputera capitalists were rent-seekers rather than genuine entrepreneurs. They regarded the activities of these Bumiputera capitalists as unproductive and a hindrance to economic development.

2. The Najib administration in its failed attempt to implement the New Economic Model admitted to the scourge of political patronage and rent-seeking behavior of these political-economic elite. 3. The National Economic Advisory Council (“NEAC”) in its publication “The New Economic Model for Malaysia Part 1” stated as follows:

“Ethnic-based economic policies worked but implementation issues also created problems. The NEP has reduced poverty and substantially addressed inter-ethnic economic imbalances. However, its implementation has also increasingly and raised the cost of doing business due to rent-seeking, patronage and often opaque government procurement. This has engendered pervasive corruption which needs to be addressed earnestly.”

Terence Gomez in his book “Minister of Finance Incorporated: Ownership and Control of Corporate Malaysia” has drawn attention to the disturbing development that control of corporate Malaysia has been taken over by the Government-Linked Investment Companies (“GLICs”) which included Khazanah Nasional Berhad, Permodalan Nasional Berhad, with the Ministry of Finance at the apex of the structure. Gomez has pointed out that the nexus involving politics and business has fundamentally shifted from UMNO politicians to the office of the Minister of Finance which was then concurrently held by 4 the Prime Minister during the time of Najib Tun Razak.

4 Gomez in a recent article “Patronage is king in new Malaysia” voiced his concern that under the Tun Mahathir administration, control of the GLICs have been removed from the Ministry of Finance and transferred to the newly created Economic Affairs Ministry while Khazanah Nasional was placed under the Prime Minister’s Department.

At the Congress on the Future of Bumiputeras and the Nation, Tun Mahathir stressed the need to reinstitute thepractice of selective patronage targeting Bumiputeras.

5. Gomez posed the question whether PH will carry out divestment of the GLICs businesses to create a new breed of powerful well-connected business groups, even oligarchs.

Fallacious Racial Arguments

Racial Myths Debunked

It is based on the argument that by the elite’s predominance, the elite is able to provide for those “included” in the dominant racial group while excluding those in the “Other” racial groups. It is only in this manner, so the argument goes, that members of the “in” group can be assured of improvement to their economic well-being and survival at the expense of the “Other.”

Scholars have explained that ethnic tensions are created by ethnic activists and political  entrepreneurs making blatant ethnic appeals to outbid moderate politicians, thereby mobilizing members of their ethnic group, polarizing society and magnifying inter-ethnic dilemmas. Non-rational factors such as emotions, historical memories and myths create a vicious cycle that threatens to pull multi-ethnic societies apart.

6. The political-economic elite have perpetuated these myths and fallacies to maintain their dominance and influence. They hijacked and abused the NEP and racial preferential policies for their personal gain while the objective of creating an independent Bumiputera entrepreneur class remains unrealized.

The corruption, plundering and kleptomania exhibited by the previous BN regime have shattered the fallacies of racial politics. These political elite not only stole from the national coffers but also robbed the till of sacred institutions established to promote Bumiputera well-being such as FELDA, MARA, Tabung Haji and others. By their misconduct the myth that only ministers and government officials from UMNO or endorsed by UMNO can be trusted to take care of the Malays has been debunked. The deception sustained throughout the years that the personality, integrity and capability of the elected representative are not factors for consideration as long as he is a Malay from UMNO has also been fully exposed. The fiction that non-Malays cannot be trustedto take care of the Malays is being dispelled with the appointment of non-Malays as the Finance Minister, Attorney-General, Chief Justice and others. In the process, it is revealed those who benefited the most from the distrust, suspicions, hatred and fear among the various ethnic groups are the political-economic elite themselves while the largest group of the impoverished after 5 decades of the NEP continue to be the Malays and Bumiputeras.

Centripetalism put into practice

The changeover from BN to PH have allowed PH elected representatives, government agencies and institutions to depoliticize ethnicity by resolving the people’s problems on cross-ethnic basis. Malay constituents can take their problems directly to their non- Malay PH elected representatives without having to go through the local UMNO division chiefs. The non-Malay constituents similarly can approach their Malay PH elected representatives without having MCA or MIC local leaders as intermediaries. The constituents enjoy the confidence that the matters are resolved on an objective basis and not subject to ethnic interests or considerations.

In this way politicians can take moderate positions that accommodate all ethnic groups and avoid extreme or divisive positions. In the process the politicians gain support from across the ethnic divide. This process is now endangered if ethnic extremists are allowed to take central stage again  and the space for moderates diminishes.

Patching Up the Tattered Myths

On May 9, the Pakatan Harapan government was given a golden opportunity to restructure the  policies putting an end to divisive racial politics. It was a chance of a lifetime to put right the growing inequality of income, wealth and well-being of Malaysians irrespective of race and religion, to enhance social cohesion, provide for all their right to flourish and live the life they value in dignity and restore the nation to its rightful global economic order. It was bought and paid for by the blood, sweat and tears of those who sacrificed their careers, reputation and freedom over 20 years, for some stretching back 40 years or more.

It is therefore tragic that Tun Mahathir and the Pakatan Harapan government did not fully grasp the opportunity offered. Instead, Tun Mahathir and his administration have stopped at only changing the personalities. They have not gone further to carry out the much-needed reforms.

Recent events show, Tun Mahathir does not fully embrace the Pakatan Harapan reform agenda. He has now embarked on a contest to win Malay support from UMNO and PAS by showing that Bersatu is a better champion of Malay rights. In doing so, Tun Mahathir is building a roof of Malay dominance to cover the Pakatan Harapan foundation of multi-racial and multi-cultural beliefs. Tun Mahathir is stitching back and patching up the tattered myths of racial politics. He is resuscitating the old political-economic elite and attracting new ones to come under the Bersatu umbrella. Tun Mahathir is now working to replace UMNO hegemony with a Bersatu hegemony:

 On 1 st November 2018, Tun Mahathir  defended the NEP and its race-enteric preferential programme in opening the Congress on the Future of the Bumiputera and the Nation 2018. He defended the practice of awarding contracts by “direct negotiations” and to continue doing away with meritocracy;

On 1st November 2018, Dato Sri Azmin Ali, the Economic Affairs Minister in his parliament winding-up speech during the debate on the 11 h Malaysia Mid-Term Review said  NEP and said that the PH government will continue with the spirit of the NEP and to realize its objectives;

On 23 rd November 2018, in the wake of UMNO and PAS objections, the cabinet reversed its decision to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). The decision left Gun Kut, a member of the United Nations committee member monitoring the implementation of ICERD dumbfounded. He said the cabinet decision made Malaysia to be seen as accepting racial discrimination;
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By 15th December 2018, a total of 16 MPs have quit UMNO and Bersatu proposes to accept them into its fold. These defectors have not shown they have changed their political philosophy or shed their UMNO culture.

On 29th December 2018, Tun Mahathir at the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s 2nd General Assembly (the “Bersatu General Assembly”) hammered home the final nail in the coffin of multi-racial politics and inclusive policies.Tun Mahathir in his speech at the Bersatu General Assembly said the time has not yet come for multi- racial political parties. Tun Mahathir reprise Malay fears of the other ethnic groups. He reminded the Malays that they would be left behind economically by the other races in their own motherland. He said the Malays need to hold on to political power to save their race. To retain their freedom. To do so, they have to unite behind Bersatu. They have to ensure the government is led by a Malay dominant party. The Malays need to sacrifice themselves for the greater good of their race and for their children’s future such as he is prepared to do, even to the extent of being called a racist.

the other races in their own motherland. He said the Malays need to hold on to political power to save their race. To retain their freedom. To do so, they have to unite behind Bersatu. They have to ensure the government is led by a Malay dominant party. The Malays need to sacrifice themselves for the greater good of their race and for their children’s future such as he is prepared to do, even to the extent of being called a racist.

Although, Tun Mahathir is asking the Malays to march to the beat of a different drummer, he is nevertheless, using the same ethno-nationalist drums beating out the same sounds of “blood and soil” that UMNO uses. In fact, Tun Mahathir pointed out in his speech, Bersatu is the UMNO of 2003.

Back on the Road to Serfdom and Mediocrity

It cannot be doubted that Tun Mahathir is sincere and earnest in his belief that social cohesion and addressing inequality among the different ethnic groups are to be achieved through the racial preferential policies of the NEP and Malay political dominance. There is, however, a viable alternative in the form of needs-based affirmative action and inclusive policies but these are not being taken up. Sadly, we are being taken back down the road to serfdom again. New Malaysia instead of being a society in search of excellence, will continue to perfect mediocrity. Instead of good governance and accountability, political patronage and rent-seeking will continue to thrive. Instead of social cohesion, there will be further social fragmentation, greater mistrust and deeper ethnic division among the citizens than before.

Dreams of equality and social justice have become another case of blowing in the wind. We nevertheless must soldier on in the struggle for justice and freedom. We only lose when we give-up. The original verse in “We Shall Overcome” becomes more relevant to Malaysians.
“ If in my heart I do not yield,
I do believe,
I shall overcome someday”

This article is the personal opinion of the author and is not to be taken as the position of the political party or of any groups or that this opinion is endorsed by them.

William Leong Jee Keen, MP
Member of Parliament Selayang

28 January 2019

Shamsul A.B, “The Economic Dimension of Malay Nationalism.” 2 Gomez Edmund T and K.S. Jomo (1999), “Malaysia’s Political Economy: Politics, Patronage and Profits.

Cambridge University Press”
The New Economic Model Part.1

Edmund Terence Gomez, “Minister of Finance Incorporated: Ownership and Control of Corporate Malaysia.”

Terence Gomez, “Patronage is king in new Malaysia”  Malaysiakini 12 January 2019.

 

The clear messages from Cameron Highlands


The clear messages from Cameron Highlands

By P. Gunasegaram@www.malaysiakini.com

‘There are very clear messages from the Cameron Highlands by-election. Harapan must take heed of these and act accordingly, or face the prospect of dwindling support from the populace – and even a possible loss in GE15. That would be a major setback for reform”–  P.  Gunasegaram

Image result for Defeat in Cameron Highlands

QUESTION TIME | If the Pakatan Harapan coalition was in thinking and strategising mode instead of inter- and intra-party feuding, posturing and jostling for power and privilege, they may have been able to better see what was happening on the ground and prevented a bigger loss in the Cameron Highlands parliamentary by-election on January 26.

This seat was won by BN with a majority of just 547 votes in GE14, but this time around, BN’s majority widened considerably to 3,238 votes with Ramli Mohd Nor garnering 12,038 votes, while the closest contender, Harapan’s DAP candidate M Manogaran, got 8,800 votes.

There are three strong messages that come out from this Cameron Highlands result. It is imperative that Harapan take notice of these if they are to keep up their momentum and continue to fire the imagination of all sectors of the Malaysian public for change.

Even more importantly, coming up to nine months after achieving power, they need to start showing some results instead of bickering among themselves, and in the case of PKR, very tellingly within themselves, to show that they have the wherewithal to take this country decisively to a higher plane and keep going higher.

The first message is this – that an UMNO and PAS alliance can be a strong galvanising force to unite Malays, especially in the clear absence of any party within Harapan to stake a solid claim to represent Malay interests.

It was a matter of time before UMNO and PAS realised that and closed ranks. If Harapan had been in thinking mode, they would have long ago realised this and thought about it. But they needed this Cameron Highlands blast to jerk them out of their reverie, to sit up and take notice. They have lost valuable time.

The last general election results showed decisively that Bersatu, with its 13 parliamentary seats won, was nowhere near a replacement for UMNO. Likewise, PAS defectors’ party Amanah, with 11 seats, was a poor shadow of PAS, but it did much better relative to PAS than Bersatu relative to UMNOmno.

It turns out that the party in Harapan which has the greatest amount of Malay and bumiputera support is the multi-racial PKR, which won 48 seats, twice that of Bersatu and Amanah combined, many of that in Malay-dominant areas (see table below).

This indicates that many Malays are prepared to support a multi-racial party with Malay leadership at the very top with non-Malay leaders too at other levels, provided the party adheres to special privileges for Malays and the bumiputera and is prepared to walk the talk, while at the same time committing to stopping the abuse of such privileges.

It may be too early to dissolve all parties within Harapan to have one single multi-racial party. However, Harapan will do well to look at that, as well as other arrangements such as partial mergers between, say, Bersatu and Amanah or between PKR, Bersatu and Amanah, leaving out DAP if the time for that has not yet come.

Harapan needs to address urgently the vital issue of how to get Malay support. And they should not exclude a possible alliance with PAS for this, thus pulling the carpet from under UMNO.

This may require a leadership change within PAS and the dropping of DAP’s virulent opposition to the Islamic party. To bring PAS into the Harapan fold will help moderate its demands in terms of Islamisation and improve dialogue for a more constructive solution towards religious harmony, which will be acceptable to both Muslims and non-Muslims.

Patience wearing thin

The second message is that the candidate does matter under some circumstances, and it certainly did in Cameron Highlands. Sometimes it is necessary to look for the right candidate instead of blindly getting the previous candidate to stand.

BN was willing to do exactly that to get MIC to give up its claim for the seat and pass it to a qualified Orang Asli candidate who was a former assistant commissioner in the police force and a direct member of BN. If Harapan had been thinking, they could have got him instead.

That move ensured strong Orang Asli support, who formed 22 percent of the constituency against an Indian population of just 15 percent, a Chinese population of 30 percent and 34 percent Malays (adds up to 101 percent due to a rounding error). Also, the candidate is Muslim which would have ensured more Malay support as well.

Harapan will do well to remember that an increasingly discerning public will demand better candidates to be their representatives, not UMNO has-beens. Bersatu, especially, should be looking out for capable candidates for GE15 who are not of the UMNO mould. It is some cause for celebration that an Orang Asli has finally entered Parliament in Malaysia.

The final message is that the public is starting to get disillusioned with Harapan. In the Port Dickson by-election of Oct 13, some three-and-a-half months ago, Anwar Ibrahim won by a 23,560-vote majority, higher than the previous majority of 17,710, despite a lower turnout when Harapan contested against a PAS candidate who got 7,456 votes.

Former UMNO strongman and Najib Abdul Razak ally Mohd Isa Abdul Samad, who contested as an independent, lost his deposit with 4,230 votes, while Anwar’s former aide who accused him of sodomy, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan garnered just 82 votes. According to an analysis by Malaysiakini, Anwar garnered more Malay support in Port Dickson than that obtained there in GE-14.

Yes, the dynamics were different in Cameron Highlands, but Harapan needs to note that the people’s patience is wearing thin. If it can show some tangible results in terms of fulfilling election manifesto promises and outline a definite plan of action, Harapan can do much better in future by-elections.

There are very clear messages from the Cameron Highlands by-election. Harapan must take heed of these and act accordingly, or face the prospect of dwindling support from the populace – and even a possible loss in GE15. That would be a major setback for reform.


P GUNASEGARAM says it is dangerous to ignore the writing on the wall as a new chill wind blows in. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Cambodia’s Foreign Policy: Challenges and prospects


January 29, 2019

Cambodia’s Foreign Policy: Challenges and prospects

Dr.Chheang Vannarith, President of Asian Vision Institute

In terms of contribution to peace, Cambodia has deployed more than 5,000 troops under the framework of the United Nations to various conflict zones. KT/Mai Vireak

Strategically located at the center of the Mekong Region and Southeast Asia, Cambodia has great potential to become a bridging state in the region and strengthen its leadership role within ASEAN and other sub-regional institutions, argues Chheang Vannarith.

Image result for D r.Chheang Vannarith

Small states such as Cambodia have fewer foreign policy options, given the narrowing strategic space for small states to manoeuver. In such a transitional period, Cambodia has to adjust and adapt in order to survive and thrive.

Foreign policy is not only the extension of domestic politics but also the adaptation to external dynamics. Cambodia’s worldview is dynamic – it continues to observe the main trends of regional and global politics, from which multiple futures can be formed.

Image result for National Institute for Diplomacy and International Relations (NIDIR)

Cambodia’s National Institute for Diplomacy and International Relations (NIDIR)

 

Cambodia’s foreign policy has been robustly reformed over the past three years, especially in capacity building and strategic analysis. We have established the National Institute for Diplomacy and International Relations (NIDIR) to equip diplomats with analytical as well as soft skills. We need a few more years to see the fruits of this capacity-building programme.Image result for CAMBODIA

The  Founding principles of Cambodia’s Foreign Policy are permanent neutrality, non-alignment, peaceful co-existence, non-interference, no military alliances or military pacts, and no foreign military bases on its soil. The tenets of Cambodia’s development foreign policy objectives are economic development and poverty reduction, peace and security, cultural identity, and the national role in the global community.

How to transform the regional and international environment into a source of national development has been the priority of Cambodia’s foreign policy. Cambodia has been promoting an open and inclusive international economic multilateral system that is based on international laws and norms.

As a small and open economy, Cambodia is very much connected with other economies, relying on external markets and the inflow of foreign capital and technology. Hence, Cambodia is committed to upholding economic multilateralism through promoting a rules-based international order. Towards this, reforming and making the World Trade Organization (WTO) more relevant to both developed and developing countries is critically important to save the global trading system.

Asean is the cornerstone of Cambodia’s foreign policy as it provides an important shield to protect the sovereignty and independence of its member states, whilst also mitigating and filtering interference from major powers. As long as ASEAN members stay united to protect each other’s interests, I believe that ASEAN can navigate through uncertain and challenging times ahead. Cambodia has largely benefited from ASEANean’s economic integration, although the development gap remains an issue.

Within the context of contestation in the Asia Pacific region, the best scenario of a regional order, from the Cambodian perspective, would be an Asean-driven regional order. Neither a US-centric regional order nor Sino-centric regional order will make our region stable. Only ASEAN can ensure that regional cooperation and integration remain on track, although at a slow pace. Consultation and consensus, non-interference, and equal sovereignty are the norms that need to be nurtured.

National role perception

The perception of Cambodia’s national role does matter in foreign policy. Cambodia aims to become a peace contributor, civilization connector, and a bridging state in the Mekong region and ASEAN. In terms of contribution to peace, Cambodia has contributed more than 5,000 troops under the framework of the United Nations to various conflict zones. Currently, we have 810 troops conducting missions in four countries, including South Sudan, Mali, Central African Republic, and Lebanon.

This month, Cambodia hosted the launch of the Asian Cultural Council (ACC) with the aim to further connect civilisations in Asia and beyond. Building synergies between cultural diversity and sustainable development, peace, connectivity, and innovation is a new era of Cambodia’s cultural diplomacy, which is more proactive and dynamic. Cambodia has more to contribute to the Asian century under the framework of the ACC.

Strategically located at the Hub of the Mekong Region and Southeast Asia, Cambodia has great potential to become a bridging state in the region. To realise this vision, Cambodia needs to build its democratic governance to become a source of inspiration for other regional countries, strengthen its leadership role within ASEANean and other sub-regional institutions, and maintain trust and good relations with all Asian powers, especially China, India, and Japan.

Prospects

Cambodia’s Foreign  Policy will become more robust in response to fast-changing regional and global geo-politics. We have only one choice: adapt or be left behind. Cambodia must adapt itself to an evolving World Order as well as the contest to establish a new regional order in the Asia-Pacific. We need to be steadfast and stay ahead of the curve in our foreign policy strategic vision and tactical approaches. Capacity building and human capital are even more critical. Cambodia needs to invest more in research capacity in order to have more informed foreign policy making and develop a new generation of professional diplomats who are capable of analyzing international trends and building trust and friendship around the globe.

To fill the research capacity gap, Asian Vision Institute (AVI) is founded to conduct academic and policy researches in order to inform policy makers and stakeholders in Cambodia and the region. Multi-stakeholder dialogues on national and international issues need to be encouraged as Cambodia is looking for innovative ideas and solutions. AVI, by connecting people, knowledge and actions in Asia, can help Cambodia to ride the tide of the Asian century.

Dr. Chheang Vannarith is President of Asian Vision Institute