How Will Malaysia’s Najib Razak Fare in 2018?


January 12, 2018

How Will Malaysia’s Najib Razak Fare in 2018?

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been doing the Christmas/New Year rounds, touting his government’s successes while predictably ignoring his crackdown on dissent, the jailing of the country’s more popular opposition leader, religious bigotry fed by Islamic hardliners, and the problematic aspects of his own record.

It’s a festive message typical of Najib’s New Year addresses. But it is also a recipe which bodes badly for a leader who, though widely expected to capitalize on a heavily gerrymandered electoral system and probably win a national poll due within the first half of 2018, is nonetheless badly damaged by scandal and continues to undermine his country’s future prospects.

Rarely has a political leader of any political stripe clung to power in the face of such a breathtaking array of charges and investigations into colossal corruption and even murder. Despite this, Najib has ignored calls for his resignation, which in a real democracy would have been a mere formality.

That’s why his gestures of goodwill — to many an empty vessel of self-promotion – over the festive season are struggling to find any traction, particularly the lectures from his New Year’s address.

Lines like “I believe that the fathers of our independence would be proud to see what their countrymen and women have achieved” were as glib as they were predictable.

“Our economy beat all expectations” was hardly convincing, especially when he added, “because of the efficient, business-friendly environment this Government has been creating.”

This was mixed with some spin-doctoring like, “Malaysia’s leadership was also recognized at the United Nations”; gross annual assumptions like, “for it was a year in which we redoubled our efforts to ensure good governance in all sectors”; and a warning that his government “is cracking down on the crony capitalism culture.” Few Malaysians would find these remarks credible given Najib’s own record.

Image result for Najib Razak and FELDA Scandal

Another Financial Scandal–FELDA–under Najib Razak’s watch

Then, he took aim at his critics while hinting at a leadership challenge, commenting that “neither is it acceptable for a former leader to attempt to overthrow a democratically elected government in the hope that his ambitions for his son may be realized.”

It was a veiled reference to Malaysia’s longest serving leader Mahathir Mohamad, who has led calls from within Najib’s opponents for the premier to step down. In the process, the former prime minister has won over many of his own political detractors. Meanwhile Mahathir’s son, Mukhriz, has said he harbors no designs on the leadership.

But Najib did not end it there.“In a democracy all that should matter is the wishes of the people as expressed at the ballot box, not the selfish dynastic desires of one man,” he said.

That was an odd line given Najib’s own record, but even more galling for those familiar with Malaysian history, given that Najib’s father also served as Prime Minister.

Stranger still was Najib’s reference to the “wishes of the Malaysian people.” If he truly values popular sentiment, then Najib might consider releasing Anwar Ibrahim from prison and installing him as prime minister, given he won almost 51 percent of the popular vote at elections almost five years ago but lost through gerrymandering.

The trials and tribulations of Najib’s scandalized time at the helm of Malaysian politics have been scrutinized by journalists, the police, and authorities across the world.

As long as Najib and his unpopular first lady Rosmah Mansor remain ensconced, the murder of Mongolian model and translator Shaariibuugiin Altantuyaa as well as their personal records of dealings will remain in the international debate, alongside a French court case into Malaysia’s acquisition of two submarines amid charges of graft.

Beyond this, Najib’s appeasement of Islamic hardliners has badly tarnished Malaysia’s reputation as a secular state and compromised a cornerstone of any democracy: the separation of powers between church and state, and arguably the courts as well.

A blanket ban on non-Muslims using the word “Allah” made about as much sense as a police investigation into a teenage boy who “liked” Israel on a Facebook page. It should be noted that such anti-Israel sentiment didn’t stop Najib from reportedly employing an Israeli public relations firm to spruce up his image.

Image result for Najib Razak and Jerusalam

 Foreign Policy–Playing with Saudi Arabia (on Yemen), United States and Israel (Jerusalem) and Palestine–driven by domestic politics.

Najib’s Middle East policy, according to political commentator Din Merican, is muddled and smacks of “sheer hypocrisy.” He opposes U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel but maintains close ties with the Israeli government while boasting of his friendship with U.S. President Donald Trump, who is threatening to cut financial aid to the Palestinians.

Najib’s handling of two downed airliners fell short of the mark, as was the case with his handling of the crisis with North Korea, after assassins chose to kill Kim Jong-un’s estranged half-brother Kim Jong-nam inside a Malaysian airport.

But on the economic front, the latest scandal has been breathtaking.Authorities in Singapore and in the United States, Switzerland, and Hong Kong are still investigating the disappearance of more than $1 billion from the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund amid allegations it was stolen by people close to Najib.

They believe that money went into his personal bank account, although Najib and officials from 1MDB have denied any wrong doing.

Despite the denials, a string of arrests has followed and sentences meted out by the courts over the past year, which, despite Najib’s feigning of indifference, must have unnerved him.

An election must be called by mid-year. But though Anwar may be released by then, the upholding of his 2014 conviction for sodomy, sharply criticized by civil society groups as being politically motivated, means he won’t be allowed to contest the poll.

The important issue between now and then is whether or not Najib’s own party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), will attempt to limit the political fallout by ousting him before the poll (rather than sometime after) or take their chances on a scandalized leader whose tenure has proven remarkable for the sheer scale of the allegations brought against him.

Image result for Najin and China

Selling 1MBD assets to China

Najib’s Christmas cheer and message of hope and stability for the New Year was calculated and timed for a holiday noted for goodwill and cultural celebrations. Whether he is still around to trot out similar disingenuous lines 12 months from now remains to be seen.

Luke Hunt can be followed on Twitter @lukeanthonyhunt

 

The Sins of Najib Razak


January 4, 2018

The Sins of Najib Razak

Image result for Trum[p and Najib razakMalaysia’s Kleptocrat shakes hand with America’s Super Mario at The White House last year

In a year that had its fair share of symbolic moments, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak took home a fistful of trophies.

One prize was his cameo meeting in September with US President Donald Trump at the White House, which counts as a juicy political point for the coming general election.

 Najib brought “strong value propositions” for Trump in the form of a multi-billion dollar commitment to buy Boeing jets, an offer to push AirAsia to buy General Electric engines and a pledge to increase investments in American infrastructure.

With this gesture “to strengthen the US economy”, the premier secured numerous pay-offs, including blunting the barbs of his critics on the US Justice Department’s investigation into the troubled state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

Though there was some collateral damage from the trip, the net gain from an electoral viewpoint would be in the PM’s favour, although Najib did remark that his comments on helping the US were misconstrued.

The tacit endorsement which Najib has earned from his meeting with the US leader would play well in rural electioneering, especially since his Washington trip was followed immediately by another photo op with British premier Theresa May.

On the home turf, Najib raised his score as the commander-in-chief of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition through a number of moves that served to blindside the opposition parties or at least, put them on the back foot.

In early April, the government made the unprecedented move of clearing the parliamentary order paper of its business to make way for a Private Member’s Bill.

Image result for Hadi Awang and Najib Razak

The next day, PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang tabled a motion to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, seeking to grant the Syariah Court powers to impose stiffer penalties on all crimes except those with the death sentence.

The enhancement of the Syariah Courts’ powers, a prize long sought by PAS but hitherto beyond its parliamentary reach, is the clearest indication to date of the coming together of the Islamist party with Umno in an electoral alliance, despite their long history of political enmity.

The shifting alignment only reflects the growing importance of religion as a cement to hold together the fractured Malay voter base.

Another aspect of this theme is the hosting of the King Salman Centre for International Peace at the Islamic Science University of Malaysia, following Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud’s visit to Malaysia in March.

Not only does this move strengthen Najib’s legitimacy as a leader among Muslims, but it also burnishes his credentials as a key ally in the global fight against terrorism.

All this would go some way towards mitigating the damage that his one-time mentor turned nemesis, the tenacious former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has been inflicting on his image since the elder leader joined forces with the opposition parties.

 

Among the list of sins that is being laid at Najib’s feet is the view that he has sold out the country’s strategic interests to obtain a funding lifeline from China. The East Coast Rail Link, among a laundry list of infrastructure projects, has been singled out for particular criticism. The PM’s team has worked hard at fending off these claims, and Najib has retorted that he would never sell Malaysia’s sovereignty.

Helping to contain Mahathir’s virulent campaign to unseat Najib, the quick-acting Royal Commission of Inquiry into Bank Negara’s foreign exchange losses in the 1990s has shifted some attention away from his litany against the PM to the debacle that took place under Mahathir’s watch.

While the inquiry report is being challenged by Mahathir, it continues to have life enough to give Najib and his team ammunition for their battle with detractors.

Even if the electorate were unimpressed by their leaders’ quarrels over past and present scandals, they would likely be motivated by the long list of benefits that Najib announced in his budget for next year.

From a reduction in income tax rates to easier hiring of domestic help and discounts on study loan repayments, to name a few, the message that Najib has sought to convey to voters is that his government is listening to their needs.

In keeping with this softer touch, Najib paid a courtesy call on de facto Pakatan Harapan leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim when the jailed opposition leader was in hospital for an operation on his shoulder joint in November.

If nothing else, the gesture would sit well with voters who see it as a sympathetic or even magnanimous act by the nation’s leader.

That’s a good feeling to ride, going into perhaps the toughest election challenge that the BN has faced in decades.

Image result for Mahathir takes on Najib razak

 

But still, for Najib, the coast is not as clear as he would wish it to be. He has to face the increasing number of voters unhappy with the rising cost of living, the never-ending problems with FELDA and its companies (whose settlements in the Malay heartland form the core support of UMNO and the issue of 1MDB that will not easily fade from the scrutiny of international media. Also, the emergence of new politics in Sabah and Sarawak, for which the political mantra — Sabah for Sabahans and Sarawak for Sarawakians — could sway both sides of the political divide.

– http://www.theedgemarkets.com

 

Politics and the Changing Face of Corporate Malaysia


January 3, 2018

Politics and the Changing Face of Corporate Malaysia

by Chua Su-Ann

 

http://www.theedgemarkets.com/article/state-nation-politics-and-changing-face-corporate-malaysia

Image result for terence gomez book

Dr. Edmund Terence Gomez and Dr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram

THE face of Corporate Malaysia has changed many times over the decades and it is not driven by pure market forces. Instead, it is inextricably linked to state intervention in the economy and politics, says Universiti Malaya’s Prof. Dr. Edmund Terence Gomez.

“The nature of state intervention in the economy is very much driven by the politics of the country,” Gomez says at a lecture at Monash University Malaysia in Bandar Sunway, Selangor.

His lecture illustrated the scale and implication of the nexus between politics and business. These are among the findings that will appear in his book Minister of Finance Inc: Ownership and Control of Corporate Malaysia.

Image result for terence gomez book

From Gomez’s research, there are several defining moments that are inextricably linked to Malaysia’s politics and history.

“Many of the outcomes we see today have been shaped by who was the prime minister at particular moments in Malaysian history,” says Gomez.

The first defining moment, according to him, was in 1970 when the New Economic Policy (NEP) was introduced by then Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein (dec 1976) to fight poverty and redistribute wealth more equitably. It was then that the government decided to cast away its laissez-faire policy and actively intervene in the corporate sector.

“The NEP was a policy that the country needed. It involves state intervention to rectify the problems that had occurred under colonial rule where the bypassing of Malays in business was a key problem,” says Gomez.

According to his analysis of the most valuable companies in 1971, the key players in the economy were foreign-owned firms and family businesses — owned mostly by the Chinese — which controlled 61% and 23% of the economy respectively.

It was in the 1970s that the state intervened by creating well-funded public enterprises that went out and acquired the assets of foreign companies.

The next turning point came in 1981, when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad became Prime Minister.

Image result for dr. mahathir mohamad

Malaysia’s Father of Crony Capitalism

“He decided that the purpose of the NEP was to create bumiputera capitalists or bumiputera businessmen, not GLCs (government-linked companies). The [NEP’s] emphasis on education diminished and its focus moved to business,” says Gomez.

This is notwithstanding the fact that the most valuable companies in 1997 were still government controlled, including Telekom Malaysia Bhd, Tenaga Nasional Bhd, Malayan Banking Bhd and Petronas Gas Bhd, all in the top four.

But it marked the start of an era where many public enterprises were privatised in order to help create a class of bumiputera capitalists.

Gomez’s analysis of the top 30 most valuable Malaysian companies in 1997 shows that prominent businessmen controlled 11 of the top 30 firms. They included Tan Sri Halim Saad (United Engineers Malaysia Bhd, Renong Bhd), Tan Sri Tajudin Ramli (TR Industries Bhd, Malaysian Airline System Bhd), Tan Sri Rashid Hussain (Development and Commercial Bank Bhd), Tan Sri Yahaya Ahmad (Edaran Otomobil Nasional Bhd, Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Bhd, Heavy Industries Corp of Malaysia Bhd) and Tan Sri Azman Hashim (AMMB Holdings Bhd).

Then came the 1997 Asian financial crisis, another turning point. “The financial crisis came and all this fell apart. We see the move from private businesses to GLCs coming to the fore and taking control,” says Gomez.

Analysis of the most valuable companies in 2001, after the financial crisis was over, shows the fall of the bumiputera capitalist class. Among the top 30 most valuable firms, Rashid’s RHB Capital comes in at No 14 and Azman’s AMMB Holdings clocked in at 23rd.

Similarly, in 2013, the year of the last general election, the only two bumiputera-controlled companies in the top 30 list were SapuraKencana Petroleum Bhd (controlled by the Shamsudin family) and Azman’s AMMB Holdings at No 15 and 20 respectively.

“The key figures in 2001 were the GLCs, and 12 years later, in 2013, the key figures in the corporate sectors were still the GLCs. The GLCs have emerged as key players in the economy and have sustained themselves,” say Gomez.

What does this say about the GLCs? Gomez cautions against assuming that GLCs are underperformers or run-of-the-mill firms. “What we are seeing here are dynamic firms maintaining their performance as the top companies in the country.”

By 2013, seven of the top 10 companies were GLCs, which also made half of the top 30.

During Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s time, he pushed for GLC transformation, which saw a new class of professional managers take the reins at important companies.

The other interesting development in 2013 is that foreign-controlled firms were re-emerging as important players in the economy. They included DiGi.Com Bhd, British American Tobacco (M) Bhd and Nestlé (M) Bhd, which are among the top 30 most valuable companies in Malaysia in 2013.

Gomez also points out another important finding — manufacturing firms are no longer a major force in the economy. “The industrial elite of old have fallen away. Industrial companies have not been investing in R&D. They have been fearful of the state,” says Gomez.

“Where are all the companies involved in the high-technology sector or highly innovative companies? If you look at this list, we are looking at companies involved in utilities, finance, construction and property development. It’s not going to take you anywhere in the long run.”

Where does it leave us today?

The first phase of Gomez’s research focuses on the government-linked investment companies (GLICs), which are major players in the economy by virtue of their web of ownership and control over a vast empire of companies.

The seven GLICs analysed by Gomez’s team are Minister of Finance Inc, Permodalan Nasional Bhd, Khazanah Nasional Bhd, Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (KWAP), the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), Lembaga Tabung Haji and Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera.

These GLICs control over 68,000 companies directly and indirectly with minority interest. “The seven GLICs control important companies in the economy. They have majority ownership of 35 public-listed companies and in terms of market capitalisation, they control about 42% of the entire Bursa Malaysia,” Gomez says.

He argues that this is of concern because this points to extreme concentration of power in Minister of Finance Inc.

The nature of corporate control was different under the different prime ministers. “The nexus between state and business is under constant transition. Under Razak, it was about public enterprises, Mahathir was about big business, Abdullah was focused on SMEs and [Datuk Seri] Najib [Razak] is back to the GLICs.”

As Gomez describes it, Dr Mahathir was “extremely involved” in the economy while Abdullah was not very involved. Najib, on the other hand, is selectively involved in the economy.

“There is an unprecedented concentration of power in the executive. The key company here is MoF Inc, the super entity … What does this control allow the executive to do?” he asks.

Gomez is proposing several reforms to reduce this concentration of power. He says that to ensure proper checks and balances, the prime minister cannot also maintain the finance portfolio.

Gomez is also calling for an operational oversight body for GLICs and GLCs, instead of concentrating it in the Ministry of Finance. This could provide policy coherence and coordinate GLIC and GLC activities to achieve specific social and economic objectives.

Gomez points out that the professional managers of the GLICs and GLCs should be given autonomy to run their respective companies. “Professional managers with autonomy but accountable to parliamentary select committees headed by opposition members. This can be done tomorrow.”

 

 

Malaysia: Najib Razak set to strengthen grip on power


December 16, 2017

Malaysia: Najib Razak set to strengthen grip on power

by James Chin, University of Tasmania

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

Image result for Najib Razak remains strong in UMNONajib’s political status and reputation as Malaysia’s Teflon prime minister is assured with the help of DPM Dr. Zahid Hamidi and PAS’Hadi Awang

2017 could not have been a better year politically for Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. On the surface, Najib appeared to be in political trouble with the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MBD) scandal hanging over his head and with his arch-rival former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad leading the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) opposition coalition. But in reality, Najib could not be politically safer. With a general election due early next year, he is in a solid position to be re-elected.

 Najib would certainly be pleased with the personal deal he struck with Abdul Hadi Awang, the leader of Parti Islam Malaysia (PAS). Under Hadi, PAS has refused to join the PH, citing the omnipresent influence of the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party (DAP). Hadi claims that the DAP’s secret agenda is to stop the creation of an Islamic state and to promote Christianity. While this may be a real fear in the Malay community, the more tangible reason is Hadi’s personal disgust with Mahathir for successfully oppressing PAS’s political agenda when he was in power.

Najib, on the other hand, is playing along nicely with Hadi. Najib has promised Hadi that the United Malays Nationals Organisation (UMNO) (head of the ruling political coalition) will support RUU 355 — an amendment to increase judicial penalties under Sharia Law. Most legal experts believe that once RUU 355 is passed by parliament, it will be the first step in altering Malaysia’s largely secular federal constitution. The unwritten deal between Hadi and Najib is that once Najib wins the general election, UMNO will adopt RUU 355 as a government bill.

Image result for Najib Razak remains strong in UMNO

If the deal holds, PAS will field as many candidates as it can against UMNO in the 110–20 largely rural Malay-majority seats. While on the outset this looks terrible for Najib, it must be understood in the context of Mahathir’s PH also going after these Malay seats. It is impossible to win a general election in Malaysia without winning a large proportion of Malay seats.

Malaysia operates under a first-past-the-post electoral system, so with the opposition vote split between PAS and PH, UMNO will win the bulk of the Malay seats and will therefore win the general election. Najib is so confident of this strategy that he has told his inner circles that UMNO is aiming to take 140–160 seats in the 222-seat parliament.

Image result for dr. mahathir mohamad and Sultan of Selangor

The Tiff with HRH Sultan of Selangor puts the Political Opposition at a serious disadvantage while Prime Minister Najib Razak surges ahead with strong UMNO and PAS support

By contrast, without the powers of patronage and the government machinery, opposition leader Mahathir is finding it increasingly difficult to influence the electorate. Mahathir’s problem is his strongman legacy. Many in the middle-class and the opposition want him to apologise for human rights abuses during his 22 years in power, including the jailing of opposition leaders under the infamous Internal Security Act. Mahathir has steadfastly refused to do so and merely said he ‘regrets’ some of his actions.

There is a sense among urban voters that Mahathir cannot be trusted and is only using the opposition to capture power. Some fear that once in power, he will revert back to his authoritarian ways. Hence, there is a real danger that educated, urban voters will protest Mahathir’s recalcitrance by simply staying at home during the general election rather than voting for the opposition, which indirectly helps Najib.

The 1MDB scandal also does not appear to have gained political traction. Despite the best efforts of the opposition to paint Najib as a kleptocrat and an international pariah, Najib managed to meet US President Donald Trump in the White House. Najib even had the nerve to tell Trump that Malaysia was going to ‘make America great again’ by investing more than US$20 billion in the United States.

Immediately after Washington, Najib flew to London to meet British Prime Minister Theresa May. The photo ops with Trump and May effectively numbed the opposition’s propaganda campaigns in Malay rural areas.

Najib also blunted the opposition’s claim that Saudi Arabia was unhappy with Najib for implicating the Saudis in 1MDB by hosting King Salman in Malaysia. Najib even took King Salman’s first selfie and the Saudis promised investments in Malaysia worth US$7 billion.

Najib’s one weak point is the economy — in particular the strength of the Malaysian ringgit (RM), which has lost more than 20 per cent of its value since he came to power. But the business community is slowing getting used to the weakened ringgit: the exchange rate is not expected to go back to RM3 to US$1 any time soon, and most people will tolerate the ringgit at its current level of roughly RM4 to US$1.

Najib has cleverly used the 2018 budget to channel aid to more than seven million Malaysians in the bottom 40 per cent of the population using cash transfers and individual tax cuts. The 1.5 million-strong civil service will get additional days off, unrecorded leave for umrah pilgrimage and easier promotions.

By the end of the year, Najib will be politically stronger. His deal with PAS has effectively blindsided Mahathir and PH, and the 1MBD corruption allegations are by and large considered ‘old news’ by the all-important rural Malay electorate.

Going forward, the only danger facing Najib is Hadi’s health. Hadi has suffered several heart attacks and there is a possibility that a fatal heart attack could occur anytime. If he dies, PAS will split and Najib may not be able to hold the new PAS leaders to the deal made with Hadi.

As long as Hadi lives until the next general election, Najib’s political status and reputation as Malaysia’s Teflon prime minister is assured.

James Chin is Director of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania.

This article is part of an EAF special feature series on 2017 in review and the year ahead.

The Political Manipulation of Fear by UMNO


December 12, 2017

Image result for Quote by FDR

My short message to Rais Hussin: Please do not invoke God’s name whenever we are in a crisis. That is most convenient way out when we are in a fix. The problems we as Malaysians face today especially in politics are of our own making. Therefore, the fear you talk about is something we created  for ourselves. We are scared of our own shadow.. It is better to admit for  all of us that we are all cowards  than throw our hands in the air in despair.

Image result for Din Merican

Najib Razak is not endowed with supernatural powers, although it is said that our FLOM Rosmah Mansor is protected  by a number of powerful shamans from the Indian subcontinent.Our incumbent Prime Minister can be removed from office through the ballot.  If we in large numbers vote against UMNO-BN in GE-14, Najib Razak is gone in a jiffy. No Shamans can help Rosmah too. But the question is will we? –Din Merican

The Political Manipulation of Fear by UMNO

by Rais Hussin

Image result for Najib Razak Bulllshit
He should fear us, not the other way round

COMMENT | Fear is a primal instinct, driven into our brain, to survive the harshest environment since the dawn of the Homo sapiens.

No one can be blamed for exhibiting various forms of fear. During the Jurassic age, where dinosaurs roamed the world, humans existed purely as hunter-gatherers, armed with sticks and spears.

Without the help of iron and bronze, powerful catapults, and fire, Homo sapiens would have lived at the bottom of the food chain.

Things have, of course, taken a dramatic change over the last five centuries. With the advent of what anthropologist Jared Diamond called “guns, germs and steel,” Homo sapiens have transformed their sense of powerlessness not merely against the animal kingdom, but their fellow kind.

Spanish colonialism of the entire American continent, which obliterated the native tribes, where millions died, began on such account. Invariable, to steal a march on their Iberian neighbour, Portugal did the same.

The likes of Vasco Da Gama and Alfonso di Albuquerque first rounded the Cape of Good Hope in Africa, then Goa in India, before crossing the Andaman Sea, to hold the Sultanate of Malacca to a complete siege between 1511 onwards.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra–The First Decent Malaysian Prime Minister

When UMNO, together with other coalition partners, liberated Malaya from the clutches of colonialism from the British in 1957, one of their goals was to free Malaysians from the politics of fear.

But with the communists breathing down their neck, they couldn’t emancipate the country completely and psychologically. From time to time, UMNO and their coalition partners had to point to the threats that exist.

However, there are no communists anymore. In fact, UMNO and MCA appear to enjoy stronger and better trade relations with the Communist government of China now. Each loan from China is ledgered in the  billions of ringgit.

Yet, in spite of this, UMNO has warned Malaysians that it is Pakatan Harapan that they must fear. In the words of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, it is better to have UMNO ruling for “1,000 years”, than the opposition front.

Dr. Zahid Hamid and his Boss united the face of the Political Opposition

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi averred that the opposition front has “six captains in the cruise ship” and will drive the country to nowhere.

But psychologist John Bargh has shown through numerous studies that ruling politicians thrive in striking fear in the hearts of the people. The fear they instil is manufactured to create a sense of sheer panic or crisis, in order to cannibalise the voters.

By making the opposition small and insignificant, the ruling party would stand a better chance of consolidating their iron grip. As John Bargh explained: “research has found that when people become new parents of a tiny, vulnerable baby, they begin to believe their local crime rate is going up, even if it is falling.”

“That happened to me,” to which Bargh admits. “After my daughter was born, suddenly we felt that the neighbourhood was getting so dangerous that we had to leave.”

UMNO and BN have always introduced new stop gap measures, such as BR1M (cash transfers) when elections are near. Even the 2018 budget that Najib presented in the Parliament was screamingly front-loaded, that even BN MPs privately admitted that was indeed an election budget.

 

That is not fear-mongering, but vote buying

Front-loaded in the sense that many different cash payouts are dished out to many group of voters targeting the low middle-income and low-income groups, which includes, but is not limited to Felda settlers, farmers, fishermen, civil servants, military, police, teachers etc.

When Malaysians find some petty cash in their hand, they begin to believe that a new government will take them away — not realising the new entity can actually eliminate corruption, malfeasance, abuse of power and other malpractices allegedly perpetuated by UMNO and its coalition partners, to better the living standards of Malaysia.

Ask the voters in Selangor or even Penang, has their welfare improved after UMNO was defeated in 2008? The answer is undoubtedly, and a resounding yes. Even the Malays stood to gain more in terms of support from the Penang and Selangor state governments. With such positive records, Malaysian voters should not be lulled and fooled by Umno again and again.

As the late US President Franklin Delani Roosevelt once said: “One has nothing to fear but fear itself.” How one eliminates fear, in other words, is to stop others from manipulating them. In Malay adage, the advice is even more poignant: “Berani kerana benar.” One should be brave because one is truthful.

Having fleeced the country of billions, making it the worst “kleptocracy in the world,” it is UMNO that has all to fear from the wrath of the people at the 14th general election.

God save Malaysia.

The Moment of Truth for Malaysia’s Race-Based Politics


December 7, 2017

The Moment of Truth for Malaysia’s Race-Based Politics

http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/opinion/article/2123120/moment-truth-malaysias-race-

Image result for najib razak at 2017 UMNO General Assembly

As the UMNO General Assembly gets underway, the time has come to deal with the long-term negative consequences of the party’s Malay-centrism.

by Dr. Ooi Kee Beng

After all the analysing done by pundits on Malaysia’s political dynamics in the post-Mahathir period, the country has now come to the strange point of being in a potential pre-Mahathir period.

There is now the more-than-theoretical possibility that 92-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad will return to lead the country, should the opposition coalition win the coming general election. Though unlikely, the chances of that happening are not exactly slim.

In many ways, Malaysia has been locked in a period of transition for two decades. One could say this was triggered by the Reformasi movement in 1998 when the country’s two top leaders fell out with each other, and behind that, by the socio-economic travails ignited by the Asian Financial Crisis; or one could claim that it began with Mahathir’s retirement in October 2003, or that it started with the surprising results of the 2008 elections when the ragtag opposition managed on election night to win five of the 13 states.

Behind these unending trends lies the fact that a new generation of young leaders – some inspired by the 1998 protests but most thrust into the limelight in 2008 – have been waiting impatiently to take over but are still playing merely a supporting role, not only because the old leaders are still active but also because of the solidity of the discursive and economic domination of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition over the rural population in particular.

Image result for najib razak at 2017 UMNO General Assembly

Supporters of the United Malays National Organisation, or UMNO.

Then there was the advent of the internet news media, a prominent milestone of which was the founding of the Malaysiakini news website in 1999. This was followed a decade later by The Malaysia Insider (brought to its knees by political pressure in 2016 and since resurrected as The Malaysian Insight) and by other websites. Social media also appeared after the turn of the century to act as an effective new tool for political activism.

Where the opposition parties are concerned, we have seen its major coalitions evolve from the Barisan Alternatif in 1999 to Pakatan Rakyat in April 2008 to Pakatan Harapan in 2015, which since then has evolved to include two newly formed Malay-based parties: Parti Amanah Negara (splintered from the Islamist Parti Agama SeMalaysia (PAS) and Mahathir’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (consisting of Umno dissidents).

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The dominant United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) has in the meantime gone through its own transformation, taking more and more conservative racial and religious stances the more its defences crumble, which they did in 2008 and 2013. Abdullah Badawi’s huge popularity in 2004 dissipated surprisingly quickly, and his replacement, Najib Razak, the present prime minister, went from being much more popular than his party at the time of his rise to power to being a big burden to its reputation today.

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Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak: An Albatross Around UMNO’s neck

Transitions that go on and on are of course not really transitions any more. Instead, they define the new normal, if for no other reason, then surely by virtue of the fact that the status quo has over time managed to dig itself in. Malaysian politics in the 21st century is now best described as a state of trench warfare. How, or if, this will end any time soon is the big question.

The return of Mahathir in politics should thus be of the greatest interest to Malaysianists. What are the dangers that Mahathir, a man who has been at the heart of Malaysian politics since the 1960s, sees in the Najib administration which brought this nonagenarian out of retirement so fully that he would form a new party, bring it into the fold of the opposition coalition, and manoeuvre himself into the chair of this body?

Why does he eat humble pie the way he has done, and approach Anwar Ibrahim, the man he so mercilessly sacked in 1998 and put in jail, for rapprochement? Why has he been traversing and criss-crossing the country, with his faithful and aged wife in tow, whipping up dissent against Najib, the son of the man who brought him in from the cold in 1972.

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Najib depends on Malay support

Few know more than him how UMNO politics and Malaysian governance have relied on dubious processes covering corruption, political patronage, vote manipulation, mass media control, and draconian laws. What is different now?

The fact that he calls his new party a “Pribumi” party, highlighting the fact that it is a Malay-based party, is key to understanding what the situation in Malaysia is today, at least to his mind. Bersatu is also a race-based party that immediately and paradoxically wishes to go into coalition with Pakatan Harapan, whose expressed concerns are about good governance and not racial one-upmanship, and in which the Democratic Action Party (DAP), long dubbed by Umno as an anti-Malay Chinese-chauvinist party, is a founding partner.

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Within that nascent coalition are three de facto Malay-based parties, the other two being Amanah, and Anwar Ibrahim’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat. For the coming elections, these are arrayed alongside the DAP against Umno, the major Malay-based party, surrounded by its weaker or neutered Barisan Nasional allies, and tentatively supported by the Islamist PAS.

No wonder there is talk about a pending Malay voter tsunami against the federal government in the coming elections. The time seems to have come when the Malay community has to deal with the long-term negative consequences of Umno’s Malay-centrism on Malaysian nation building. The economic burdens on the lower classes are heavy, while national economic figures remain positive, and Umno governs in the face of four Malay parties in opposition to it. (No doubt, PAS seems more willing to put in its lot with Umno than with the others).

A vendor at the Siti Khadijah market in Kota Bharu, Kelantan state. The Malaysian economy is buoyant. Photo: AFP

One big definite change over the last few decades has been the emergence of a large enough educated urban Malay middle class whose members appreciate the social stability and cultural pride that only good governance can bring instead of acting out of highly augmented fear of economic and political irrelevance as a community.

The Bumiputra policy was never supposed to be a goal in itself. In fact, the success of Malay-centric nation building requires Malaysian nation building to remain successful. It is here, I believe, that Mahathir’s dilemma lies. Malay-centrism alone will get the Malays nowhere. As a slogan, Malay-centrism rings hollow if the country becomes ever more divided, the poorer classes become ever poorer, and nothing in its present trajectory promises stronger reasons for national pride in the immediate future.

Reforming Malay politics into a shape that accepts the multiculturalism that so clearly marks Malaysian society and that recognises the challenges the digital age poses seems to be the goal, for Mahathir and many others. There is real fear that Malay-centrism a la Umno has lost the plot, and acting in denial of this fact, is dragging the Malay community – and the country as well – into a political black hole.

Dr. Ooi Kee Beng is the Executive Director of Penang Institute. The think tank is funded by the state government of Penang, one of three states in Malaysia administered by the opposition, including one under PAS