Politics and the Changing Face of Corporate Malaysia

January 3, 2018

Politics and the Changing Face of Corporate Malaysia

by Chua Su-Ann



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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.

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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.

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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.”



Nor Mohamed Yackop– Not Sacked but elevated under Mahathir, Badawi and Najib Razak

September 9, 2017

Nor Mohamed Yackop– Not Sacked but elevated under Mahathir, Badawi and Najib Razak

Image result for nor mohamed yakcop deputy chairman, khazanah nasional berhad

Khazanah Nasional Berhad’s Deputy Chairman–The Currency Trader  Rogue who broke Bank Negara Malaysia–Nor Mohamed Yakcop. He was never made to account for his excesses. Instead, under Mahathir, Badawi and Najib Razak was elevated. That is the genius of Malaysia

ANWAR Ibrahim wanted to sack Bank Negara Malaysia’s (BNM) Assistant Governor Nor Mohamed Yakcop for exceeding his boundaries in forex trading, the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the forex losses, heard today.

Anwar, who was then Finance Minister, told the RCI that Nor Mohamed had not only exceeded his boundaries, he had also failed to provide an accurate report on the losses suffered by BNM through forex trading.

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“The final explanation (by Jaffar) was accurate because (it) verified that Nor Mohamed exceeded the mandate given to him. “(Nor Mohamed) did not give an accurate report to him (Jaffar).

“I instructed that Nor Mohamed be sacked, if possible at 4.00pm (during their meeting),” said Anwar in reference to a conversation he had with the then Bank Negara Governor Jaffar Hussein in 1994.

Anwar added he would have initiated the sacking if Nor Mohamed refused to resign. Nor Mohamed resigned from his position in April 1994.

Anwar, the de facto leader of PKR and Pakatan Harapan, also criticised Nor Mohamed for the latter’s testimony at the RCI yesterday where he had said he deemed the forex losses as a lesson that helped the country in facing the Asian financial crisis.

“His assertions are absurd. You must be accountable (for what has happened),” said Anwar when the matter was prompted by RCI panel member Saw Choo Boon today.


In his testimony yesterday, Nor Mohamed took accountability over the forex losses and admitted he was responsible for BNM’s forex trading from 1986 until 1993, before his resignation. He said that he accepted his fair share of accountability over the forex losses incurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Nor Mohamed also told the RCI panel that he never discussed the forex transactions in the years between 1986 and 1993 with both Anwar and then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.


Malaysia: Cabals, Feudalism, and Apartheid

September 4, 2017

Note: Thanks to LaMoy, my buddy in the US, I am able to post my friend Dr. Murray Hunter’s 2015 article. Apparently, it was one of a number of articles Murray wrote on the Malaysian political economy while he was at Universiti Utara Malaysia, Sintok, Kedah. He must have been a pain to the university authorities. Murray now is teaching at one of the top universities in Bangkok, Thailand.

Related imageDr. Murray Hunter


Murray and I are in contact with each other on e-mail and Facebook. We are both academicians at institutions that respect academic freedom. It is my intention to invite him to come with Phnom Penh at a mutually convenient time to deliver a few lectures on governance at Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations, The University of Cambodia. –Din Merican

Malaysia: Cabals, Feudalism, and Apartheid

by Dr. Murray Hunter


Image result for tajuddin abdul rahman timbalan menteriUMNO’s racist Cabinet Minister, Tajuddin Abdul Rahman


“I am a businessman, not a politician” Tajuddin Abdul Rahman Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry at the opening of Herbal Asia, Matrade Exhibition Centre, 1st October 2015.

Unlike most of the rest of the world that is heading along the track of multiculturalism, Malaysia seems to be locked in a limbo of racial introspection it cannot get out of.


This introspection is, however, more than mere racism, it is the overt part of an elaborate structure that has maintained a small elite in power for over 45 years, since the notorious May 13th riots back in 1969.

The direct discussion of this subject has basically been criminalized since the 1970s and deemed too sensitive to debate, which means there has been little public discourse on the matter of who really exercises power, how, and for whom within the country.

This has helped to enshrine a structure of political-cabalism, based upon a neo-Malay-feudalism, which has used a form of ‘Malaysian apartheid’ to support this elite in position and privilege over the rest of Malaysians they rule (as opposed to govern).

Ever since the British Colonial era, Malaysia has been divided and described through racial paradigms. The major races that represented the Malay Peninsula got together to negotiate and steer Malaya to independence in 1957, and into the Federation of Malaysia in 1963. Perhaps the most important artefact from this era is the race is still recorded on Malaysian Identity Cards today, which is hurting the sensitivities of a number of Malaysians.

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 4th Prime Minister–The Comeback 92-year Old Kid

However with a rekindled Malay nationalistic sentiment remerging in the 1960s, an opportunity after the 13th May 1969 racial riots arose for a group of Malay politicans to seize the reigns of power. Mahathir Mohamad, supported by a group of ‘ultras’ including Syed Nasir Ismail, Musa Hitam, and Tunku Razaleigh, moved to dispose of the then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, representing the moderate Malay aristocracy.

(Tun) Abdul Razak Hussein (father of the current Prime Minister) was installed as Prime Minister in what some describe as a ‘coup’ to succeed Tunku Abdul Rahman in 1970.

As Tunku Abdul Rahman had already invoked a state of emergency in 1969 after the 13th May riots, and ruled by decree through the National operations Council, (Tun) Abdul Razak as Prime Minister through was able to use this short window was to pass through the New Economic policy (NEP) without any hindrance, as parliamentary approval wasn’t necessary. The NEP was based upon many ideas within Mahathir Mohamad’s book The Malay Dilemma, extremely controversial at the time.

At the time, the NEP was seen, even internationally as a necessary affirmative action policy. The NEP stipulated the use of quotas in granting educational places at school and universities, the use of quotas in the public service, favouritism to Malays in the granting of business licenses, the development of Malay reserve land restricting non-Bumiputera purchases, subsidies on the purchase of real estate, quotas on public equity holdings, general subsidies for Bumiputera businesses, and exclusive Bumiputera mutual funds (ASN, ASB), which gave better rates of return than commercial banks.

When the Malaysian Parliament was reconvened in 1971, both the Sedition and Internal Security Acts were strengthened to limit any discussion about matters concerning Malay special rights, the Malay rulers, and citizenship, under the premise of preserving ‘intercommunal harmony’. These restrictions also applied to members of parliament, thus weakening the principal of ‘parliamentary immunity’, i.e., the NEP was above parliamentary sovereignty, which attracted much international condemnation at the time.

It is during this time that a concerted covert effort was made to create a ‘secret leadership’ to maintain and support what was called the ‘Malay Agenda’. According to an interview with an anonymous high ranking official within the Razak Government at the time, most executive positions, civil service placements, and high ranking police and army personnel were filled with people sympathetic to the ‘Malay Agenda’.

The author’s source also stated that it was during the Razak era that selected bureaucrats and other people stated creating and acquiring corporate assets with the objective of channeling funds back to UMNO to fight future elections, to ensure victory.

The ‘Malay Agenda’ meant running government and agencies within government with the objective of looking after ‘Malay’ interests ahead of others. The ‘Malay Agenda’ was rarely spoken about in the open but had a wide appeal among all levels of Malay society, including some members of royal families, at the time.

This was the start of crony capitalism in Malaysia, the making of a kleptocracy. This loose ruling political-cabal was developed in the Malay-feudalistic tradition, in the sense that it required giving total loyalty to the leader of UMNO, the Prime Minister, without question.

A very small proportion of this group became very rich through the implementation of this special agenda. These original beneficiaries are now considered socially as the ‘old money’ in Malay society today.

Malaysia rejected multiculturalism for its own form of ethno-religious form of ‘Malaysian apartheid’, supported by the Malay-feudalistic social structure that was enhanced rather than dismantled over the two decades after independence from Britain. The mythology that the Chinese, who already control the economy, also aim to take political control of Malaysia was dissipated as propaganda to install a fear into the Malay population. Propaganda became one of the prime tools used by the government with the formation of the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) to indoctrinate civil servants and students on the “Malay agenda”.

Section 153 of the Malaysian constitution became the proclaimed legal basis of ‘Malaysian apartheid’ measures. The Reid Commission had only intended to be a temporary measure, to be reviewed by the parliament within 15 years. Section 153 states that “….it is the responsibility of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong to safeguard the special position of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak”, thus turning Malay into political construct, as there is no single Malay tribal grouping. The authorities over the years attempted to Malayanize the indigenous peoples of the Malay Peninsula, the Orang Asli, through encouraging their conversion to Islam and adoption of Malays customs.

When Dr. Mahathir came to the Prime Ministership in 1981 due to then Prime Minister Hussein Onn stepping down because of poor health, he pursued an ambitious agenda which included extending the business interests of UMNO. Much of these business interests were controlled by proxies and nominees such as Tajudin Ramli and Halim Saad. Further, Dr Mahathir with his Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim embarked on a program to produce Malay millionaires who would bring up other Malays into the business sphere.

Ironically under Dr. Mahathir, a period of liberalization came with Wawasan(VISION) 2020, where the country grew very optimistic under the premise of ‘Malaysia Boleh’. There appeared to be a great working relationship between the different racial based parties within the Barisan Nasional, and Malaysian appeared to genuinely have pride in their nation.

These short ‘golden years’ for Malaysia were soon eclipsed by the Asian economic crisis of 1997 and the sacking by Dr. Mahathir of his then deputy Anwar Ibrahim in 1998. A bitter election was fought between the BN Government and newly formed Barisan Alternative in 1999, leading to the BN Government winning with a greatly reduced majority.

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5th Prime Minister/Mr. Clean Abdullah Badawi caught in the UN Iraq Oil For Food Scandal

Many misread the Abdullah Badawi period as further liberalization, although he publically fought corruption. However, Badawi still cracked down hard on dissent such as not allowing open discussion on Malaysia’s ‘social contract’, and allowed the police to act heavy handed at the Bersih rally in 2007. A new group of entities entered into the corporate scene which led to a number of scandals, by the notorious ‘boys on the 4th floor’, who included Khairy Jamaluddin. Dr. Mahathir became Badawi’s chief critic. Badawi’s poor election performance in 2008, and criticism of his apparent enjoyment of the trappings of power led to his replacement with Najib Tun Razak in 2009.

Najib Tun Razak came to power promising a transformation of government and a completely new paradigm in race relations with the well promoted 1Malaysia slogan. However, after being the vanguard of moderation internationally, his actions domestically showed none of the moderation he had promised. Najib was totally silent when organizations like Pekasa made outlandish statements about race.

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6th Prime Minister Najib Razak caught in 1MDB Financial Scandal

His greatest modus operandi is silence when government organs and NGOs undertake extreme actions in defending Malays and Islam. Najib’s persona as a moderate leader completely disappeared after the poor election performance in 2013, where he personally blamed the Chinese in his ‘Chinese Tsunami’ statement on election night.

Post GE13, has seen a definitive return to repression by the BN Government in power. Its closely aligned newspaper organ Utusan Malaysia has been continually allowed to publish headlines and statements, such as ‘Apa lagi Cina mahu’, which were inflammatory in the post-election environment.

GE13 also weakened the MCA, Gerakan, and MIC to the point where they no longer have any effective say in government, a far cry from their days of great influence within the cabinet during the 1970s and 80s. All political parties became totally subservient groups within an UMNO dominated BN. This is ironically a result of opposition electoral success in 2013.

Extreme groups have been allowed to make anti-Chinese rhetoric and racial insults with impunity under the Najib Government, thus keeping Chinese groups quiet through producing an atmosphere of fear and tension. This is a purposeful tactic to suppress any opposition.

In terms of popular vote, the UMNO-BN Government is now in reality a minority one, capturing less than 50% of total votes cast. However through the first past the post voting system, the BN is almost ensured to continue winning elections in the future. This is especially the case with the poor electoral strategy that the Pakatan Rakyat employed last election, focusing on the urban areas, rather than the rural areas. To compete with the BN, the opposition must make major changes to its electoral strategy, but will come up against a ‘hardened Umno’ organization at grassroots level. In addition, the opposition today is in so much disarray, the effective leader of the opposition to the government appears to be Dr. Mahathir.

Rather than reaching out to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of all Malaysians, UMNO has seen the decline of electoral support for BN component parties as an opportunity to consolidate power within its own right. GE13 has allowed UMNO and the political-cabal that controls it to manoeuvre even more on the ‘Malay Agenda’.

Since 2013, economic and social policy has been allowed to degenerate into blatant racial discrimination, and now has become something even more sinister.

The Malaysian civil service is being cleaned out. For example in Sabah, civil servants from ethnic groups like Dusun/Kadazan are slowly being weeded out and replaced. A bureaucratic ethnic cleansing is going on within the civil service. Other indigenous ethnic groups are no longer acceptable. Likewise, the universities are being cleansed of dissidents. There is a purge going on in Malaysia that has even taken the Deputy Prime Minister and attorney general out. This is supplemented with a clampdown on ‘whistleblowers, and anybody within existing agencies that have potential to turn against the political-cabal. Any potential resistance, including reporters and the media, to the political-cabal that currently controls the country is being eliminated. Malaysia is now facing a repressive phase in government that one has not seen since Dr. Mahathir’s “Operation Lalang” in the late 1980s.Only this time it is much wider.

The effects of this imposed policy of ‘Malaysian apartheid’ upon the country today are profound, and can be summarized as follows:

1.A feudal social structure has been developed with four sections of populace;

i) The Malay elite who rules the country and their associates,

ii) A Malay middle class which is predominantly urban,

iii) A Malay rural class, and

iv)  The rest of the Malaysian population.

Politically, this rural Malay class has kept the Malay elite in power, while the educated middle class is turning away from UMNO.

2. A brain drain is happening from Malaysia at present, which does not only include Chinese and Indian, but Malays as well. The political-cabal of elite leaders aren’t really concerned with this brain drain, as this seen as a good opportunity to weaken potential future opposition. This loss of creative and innovative people is leaving a rent seeking mentality within the country, at a time, creativity and innovation is really needed to develop the Malaysian economy. The leadership have intentionally nurtured the development of an unquestioning population, which is reflected in the Malaysian education system, as the best means to maintain a docile electorate that will not look at political issues like corruption very seriously.

3.There has been a general failure to eradicate poverty throughout rural Malaysia, as limited resources have been used to prop up the feudal warlords of UMNO through ‘white elephant’ rural development projects throughout the country. Many UMNO warlords have made it big through receiving contracts while their areas remain inadequate with basic infrastructure, and rural assistance such as farm extension services and even proper roads and irrigation. There are still large numbers of Malays who cannot afford to attend university, through the lack of any general assistance schemes available in most other countries. Poverty is still a major problem within Malaysia, where the government has been claiming undue successes.

4. The Malaysian economy is skewed with inefficiencies and market restrictions that hinder its transformation into a mature developed sustainable economic system. Companies are allowed to have monopolies, the restricted issuance of import permits has created inefficient markets, and general lack of transparency is making the Malaysian market unattractive to investors. A 2012 Asian Development Bank (ADB) report cites the two main reasons for Malaysia’s net capital outflow as the distortions introduced into the economy by the NEP, and the widespread presence and overbearing influence of Government Linked Companies (GLCs). The restriction of tenders to Bumi companies has created an inefficient Ali Baba business model, which raises the cost of both government and business. GLCs and other government owned companies openly compete with entrepreneurs in the market with an unfair advantage, thus stifling innovation, and the willingness of private individuals to take business risks. Malaysia still needs economic growth to absorb new entrants to the workforce in the coming decade.

5. Meritocracy doesn’t exist within the Malaysian civil service, universities, or other agencies. People are forced to adopt a feudal stance of seeking favour from superiors to get promotions and survive within these organizations. Under such an environment there is no chance for creativity, critical thinking, or even honesty. ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ is now turning hegemonic is a dangerous way that can spill off Malaysian shores. This stands Malaysian in a poor position to be internationally competitive in the future.

6. The divide and conquer political strategy of the Government, use of bullying through third party NGOs, and straight threats and arrogance has had a major effect upon the people of Malaysia. Many have lost hope and respect for the leadership of their country. Many are now resentful. There is potential for outbreaks of violence due to the uncontrollability of some extreme ‘ultra’ groups allowed to roam free in society today. The country thinks in terms of race, even to the point where a near diplomatic incident nearly occurred with China a few weeks ago, the second most powerful country in the world. This is not healthy and will not stand Malaysia well within the international community. The dissent generated by this ‘divide and conquer’ political strategy is fodder that allows the political-cabal to use state apparatus to strengthen their hold on power, as the current spate of arrests indicates.

7. What the policies of the Government and resulting social structure of society has created is a small elite class of rulers who act upon the axiom that ‘we are the law’. Comments by the Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein (a cousin of the current prime minister), indicate the ruling elite’s distain even for the constitutional monarchy of Malaysia. The elite is now in an unquestionable position of power unable to be dislodged by the rule of law. They are unashamed by scandal and control all the elements of power through their network of loyalists through the civil service, police, armed forces, and judiciary.

8. Finally, it could be argued that Malay self-confidence has been destroyed and replaced with a national inferiority complex, that the elite can use and play to at their whim. There is a condescending attitude by the elite that ’Malays are backward’ and need special protection by the UMNO -BN Government. Thus a whole section of the population is continually told they need help. The concept of ‘Ketuanan Melayu’, according to UKM Professor Noraini Othman has connotations of enslavement, with a Malay master and servant relationship implied. Tun Dr. Ismail Abdul Rahman went further and said that the ‘special position of the Malays’ in the constitution is a slur on the ability of the Malays.

The political-cabal that was set up in the 1970s by Prime Minister Tun Razak, has been transferred across from leader to leader since that time. Each Prime Minister inherited a complete network of loyalists to the ‘Agenda Melayu’ (Malay Agenda).

This has been their strength. However cracks appeared in this political-cabal when Mahathir tried to make an agreement with both his successors, which according to him have not been kept. In addition, the scandals of the present prime minister are beginning to test those loyal to the “Agenda Melayu’, to the point where some may begin to feel guilty about their loyalty to the current leadership of the political-cabal and ‘spill the beans’. Hence the sackings, demotions, transfers and arrests of late.

This, however, will not mean self-destruction to Malaysia’s political-cabal. It’s a fight over control and not reform. Winner will take all. Perhaps Dr. Mahathir was naïve in thinking that he could still exercise control and influence over this political-cabal, once he stepped down from the leadership of UMNO and the nation. This is one of the biggest mistakes of his political career.

The very nature of UMNO itself, once a party of school teachers, junior civil servants, farmers, and fishermen, which transformed into a party of contractors, small entrepreneurs, and professional rent seekers, will serve Najib well as he tries to consolidate his position. The party is run along feudal lines where booty is distributed around the country through lucrative contracts to those who head the party at state and district levels to maintain their loyalty and support. The influence of this on public policy and development planning is rarely discussed, even though it leads to massive misallocations of funds into projects that have little, if any community or economic benefit. This prevents any policy approach to planning and implementation, drastically lowering the quality of government.

Najib can reward his warlords, maintain their loyalty, and even put more of his loyalists in place for the coming election, win it, and even end up having more power than he has now. This scenario is Dr. Mahathir’s worst nightmare, and why he is working so hard to remove Najib before the next election.

To date very few international bodies have heavily criticized this “Malaysian Apartheid”. The Malaysian Government will continue to get away with repressing its populace with divide and conquer tactics. There is no front against Malaysia, like there was against South Africa. No one interested in putting sanctions upon Malaysia.

However, Swiss Islamic intellectual Dr. Tariq Ramadan foresees a credibility gap for Malaysia in international affairs where he says “As Malaysian Muslims complaining about discrimination by the West, should first acknowledge the injustices against minorities in their own country”. Until Malaysia sorts out its own racism, any stand upon Israel and Palestine seeps into hypocrisy.

This Malaysian Apartheid will continue into the foreseeable future and anybody who tries to oppose it will meet the Roth of bullying tactics to subdue them, as is being played out now with the latest round of arrests. The Malay position will remain a taboo subject for years to come, hence Malaysian sensitivities when any non-Malaysian comments on Malaysian internal affairs.

This also means that the question as to whether the NEP-NDP has been protecting or marginalizing the Malays will not be discussed. This is an important question for the future of Malaysia and the challenges that lie ahead. As former Prime Minister Ahmad Badawi once said “Malays who can’t learn how to walk without crutches will end up in a wheelchair”. Dr. Mahathir took this further and said “Unfortunately, the protection and privileges accorded by the New Economic Policy (NEP) may weaken the Malays further by lulling the next generation into complacency, thinking that the

NEP’s affirmative action will always be there for them to fall back upon….. The NEP can make the users so dependent that their inherent capability regresses.”

This dooms the country into the ‘middle income trap’, where the capabilities, creativity and innovation needed to lift the Malaysian economy into high valued activities, does not exist. Economic and social prosperity is risked so that Kleptocratic rule can continue unabated in Malaysia. Malay self-respect has also been sacrificed in this quest to hold power.

The system of discrimination has only benefited in preserving a feudal hierarchy within Malaysian society where the new lords are political dynasties which are now fighting each other openly using 1MDB as the platform. This is not about corruption, but which family dynasty and surrounding group rules, rather than any promise of social reform.

Open Letter from a 20-year Old Malaysian to Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohammad

The Most Corrupt Malaysian Prime MinisterNote: I received this Open Letter from a 20-year Malaysian who grew up when Tun Dr. Mahathir was Malaysia’s political supremo. Addin makes many interesting comments. I am from Kedah and of the same generation as the Tun. I have been very critical of our PM Number 4.

It is heartening to read the views of a 20-year old and to note that, although more than 5 decades separate us,  Addin and I are on the same page as far as  Tun Dr. Mahathir is concerned.

Choosing and grooming successors is a challenge and painstaking effort for any one. But for a leader, choosing a successor(s) is a critical task.  The late Lee Kuan Yew made it his primary duty and the results of his efforts are for us to see in Singapore today.

On this score, Tun Dr. Mahathir was a dismal failure and we are saddled with the consequences of his poor leadership choices (Abdullah Badawi and Najib Razak).  Although he brought many changes by transforming our country from an agricultural backwater in  a modern and industrialised state, Tun Dr. Mahathir, as I said in Tom Plate’s book, Conversations with Mahathir Mohamad, deformed Malaysian polity in the process.

Enough is said about the man. Let history decide on the man’s legacy  It is convenient  for us to heap all blame for the present Malaysian malaise on Tun Dr. Mahathir. Aren’t we equally culpable? We allowed it to happen.

So, we now need to move forward and focus our attention on the incumbent Prime Minister Najib Razak, his character and leadership. He cannot be allowed to bring shame to our nation in the eyes of the world. We need to restore trust and confidence in our government.–Din Merican

Open Letter from a 20-year Old Malaysian to Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohammad

by Muhammad Addin Aiman

Dear Tun,

Umar Al-Khattab stood up and said “O Muslims, straighten me with your hands when I go wrong”, and at that instance a Muslim man stood up and said “O Amir al-Mu’minin (Leader of the Believers) if you are not straightened by our hands we will use our sword to straighten you!”. Hearing this Caliph Umar said “Alhamdulillah (Praise be to Allah) I have such followers.”- World Heritage Encyclopedia

My name is Addin Aiman. I was born in 1995 during the period when you were leading the country into prosperity. I am writing this letter to highlight one of the flaws of you have, Dr Mahathir, the same as what you did to Tunku Abdul Rahman while Tunku was still the Prime Minister. Eventhough you are an ex-prime minister, you have still gotten the hegemony in deciding the fate of the nation. So, allow me to be critical of the man who shaped Malaysia towards betterment. Put yourself into Tunku’s shoes for while reading this humble letter of mine.

Mahathir and his wardsYou sir, with all due respect, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. the 4th Prime Minister was probably the best Prime Minister Malaysia had had surpassing Tun Abdul Razak or Tunku Abdul Rahman. Bar-none your policies has transformed Malaysia which was merely an agricultural back-water prior to the 80s into a highly-industrialized economy. Your strong demeanour for greater equality can be seen since the early 1960’s where you had been critical of the government for having failed to include Malay’s participation in economy i.e. trade and commerce to the point that you had written an open-letter demanding resignation of the then PM, Tunku Abdul Rahman.

Prior to your ascension to the premiership, you were an exceptional goverment officer in which when you were the Minister of Education who showed no nonsense towards discipline to the point of making yourself arrive office at 6 or 7 o’clock and wait and observe for the MoE staff to clock in. Your strong character led by your conviction in building the nation  brought Malaysia to where it is today, one step closer to becoming developed nation. If it was not  for your policies Malaysia could still be a developing nation for decades to come. Event hough Malaysia is already a highly-industrialized economy, it still managed to hinge on that 5-7 per cent GDP growth figures. Meaning to say that we are still improving even when we are already relatively good. But Malaysia won’t be relatively prosperous as it is today if you were not the Prime Minister for 22 years.

I for one recognise that you are not without flaws. Nobody is perfect. Among your flaws is that you failed to provide the nation with good quality leaders. A good leader is a leader who nicely grooms and selects the people to become future leaders when that leader has moved away from power.

Najib and Tun RazakTake for example the late Tun Abdul Razak. The 2nd Prime Minister was aware that in order to build the nation, his party which has a substantial amount of control over the course of the nation he must pick men and women of quality namely with intellect, passion and integrity to become future leaders. He did this by giving them experience in administering the country to prepare them for bigger responsibilities. Up to this day his proteges are influential people who are still playing key roles in nation-building. Among them are Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz and you yourself. Tengku Razaleigh was given the responsibility to become Finance Minister in his late 30s and as a result of Tun Razak’s grooming, Rafidah Aziz became one of the best politician who brought indusrialization, foreign investment,  and trade oppoturnities in Malaysia.

With the great respect, why the aforementioned is related to your flaws is that you did not do as what Tun Razak would do, which was to choose men and women who would become good leaders. Post-independence up until Tun Hussein Onn’s resignation in 1981, people are appointed based on meritocracy. Relatively inexperienced people that have merit were groomed to become politicians by entering the cabinet or heading top GLCs so that they would make good leaders when they were elevated to positions of  power and authority.

The current state of affairs surrounding the nation alone is the prove of what I have said earlier. When you were the President of UMNO you failed to maintain the quality of the party. UMNO which has great control and power in running the country should not be left in a state of corruption in-terms of integrity and morality. This is because it would be detrimental to the country that hinges heavily on UMNO’s administration. Unfortunately this has happened, specifically during your time as the head of UMNO.

I wish I was born earlier to tell you that it was for very important for you, the then President to protect the sanctity and relevance of UMNO’s struggle.. The sacrifices made by UMNO forefathers with the likes of late Dato’ Jaafar Onn, Tunku, Tun Razak and others must be appreciated. BUT that is not the case now. People in UMNO especially senior party officials are discrediting what UMNO forefathers had achieved for the nation.

This is so because the party that had once been called the (sole) protector of the Malays has turned into a corrupted party with members with inferior moral and ethical values. At the present moment the party has been plagued with so much immorality to the extent that party members that possess merits have no place within the party. Also it is impossible for people ( especially Malays) with a positive idealism who can be useful for the nation to be interested in joining UMNO, even when UMNO is helming the government and country’s administration.

A lot of Malaysians particularly Malays are aggrieved  over the situation surrounding UMNO. Of course they know that UMNO is a corrupted party but what caused the corruption in once esteemed party?

You should know because you were the  Party President for two decades and currently still having dominance in the party. With all due respect, Sir, you have been an exceptional politician since the day you enter politics. Credit must be due but, what you did to UMNO either directly or indirectly is one major taint to your illustrious carrier as both politician and statesmen. The seeds of corruption began to spread in UMNO while you were President. UMNO members began to operate as sly and self-serving Machiavellians in order to fullfil their self-interests and desire instead of party interest and desire. One of the more known Machievellians was none other than Anwar Ibrahim, the man you groomed to become the Prime Minister and ironically the same man who is now fighting for justice, freedom and transparency. Were you not aware that in order for UMNO members to win divisional votes they resorted to bribery? Were you also not aware that to maintain their authority in the party they have to turn to cronyism? Your close party associates and even your protégés had resulted to what I said above, damages. For the fact that you had the power to bring reforms to UMNO, why didn’t you do so?

In contrast, if you look at political parties in developed countries, what is happening there doesn’t apply here. These countries are stable politically, socially and economically because it administrations are spearheaded by political parties and leaders who have integrity and ethics. It is also may be because Party members is to act as buffer between politics and interest of the society. What is happening in UMNO is the opposite. Politics are disconnected from interest of the society and politics for them is based on their selfish and self-centered attitude.

Party members enter UMNO not to partake in the nation-building process but to enrich themselves because UMNO is synonymous with power. With power you can do anything. Nowadays UMNO serves as a wealth making machine. Unlike any other political parties in mature democracies UMNO, unlike the past UMNO, isn’t interested in creating equality and justice, upholding the rule of law and  and  in practising the enlightened progressive  principles of Islam. Power is itself a powerful tool to create changes to the society, but members in UMNO crave for power for misguided and perverted reasons. And these men and women with distorted convictions who have clinched power in UMNO have corrupted UMNO.

Also, as the then Prime Minister you wanted allow the continuation of your legacy, precisely Wawasan 2020  for the advancement and positive progression of the nation but you failed to do so. Your legacy could only have been possible only if you did better in choosing and grooming your successors. You selected the wrong people in UMNO to become leaders of the country who are now ministers and Prime Ministers. Almost all the incompetent and corrupt key players in our country’s administration are people from your UMNO presidential era.

If you were aware of the importance of continuity of efficiency and transparency in the government, you would have selected people based on meritocracy and well ground moral and ethic values. Unfortunately that did not happen. When you were the Prime Minister, cabinet and GLCs appointments were based on loyalty  obedience towards you. Those who disagreed with you would always be left in cold-storage like Tengku Razaleigh and Tun Musa Hitam and others.

Do not get me wrong, every political player must submit their obedience for a leader. Obedience was not the problem for those people who have the merits as politicians and administrators who disagreed with you. It is only because they don’t subscribe to blind obedience.

I am assuming that the justification that you had acted in that way is because you didn’t want externalities to be present when charting and implementing  your policies. You did not want individuals who would not share your vision for a better nation. Although this maybe a valid justification, the manner in which you had acted by associating yourself with Mr. Yes-men and apple-polishers) and elevating them to higher administrative positions have cause much problems.

One of the problems that I can rightfully mention now is the weak administration of the current government led by UMNO. These yes-men or apple polishers that I have said earlier had caused mediocrity to surround decision making and policy of the country. This is because the men and women that you have chosen are nearly of no-capability and doesn’t have the required drive and passion to build the nation.

With the above being said, with all due respect, it is a high-time that you cease your hegemony in the political system to prevent further disruptions. Your concept of protecting your own legacy itself is distorted. I suggest that you leave the people in power to administer the country according to their own respective ways, rightfully.

Remember, if Tun Razak did as what his successors did, you won’t be “Mahathir” in the first place.


M.Addin M. Noor