Standing Up for and Doing what is right–End Discrimination in its all Forms

February 2, 2018

Standing Up for and Doing what is right–End Discrimination in its all Forms

by Maryam Lee

Image result for Mahathir Mohamad QuotesPKR’s President Dr Wan Azizah Ismail is now is Nominee Deputy  Prime Minister. Can you take her seriously?

COMMENT | The last time I was at the Islamic International University of Malaysia (IIUM), the organisers of a Women’s Day event called security on me because I wouldn’t move from my seat.

I was there for a ridiculous debate entitled “Do Muslim Women Need Feminism” where both debaters were men, and they were both anti-feminism.

Apparently, I was seated in the “men’s section” of the hall and so subsequently, I was asked to move to the “women’s section” of the hall.

“Gender segregation in a university?” I thought. What are we? Five-year-olds?

I declined the request to move. I was nowhere near a man anyway and even if I was sitting close to a man, what is wrong with that? We were all adults in a public forum at a public space. What is so inappropriate about that?

The organisers were shocked at my answer. They could not believe that I refused to move. I told them that I would not move for that ridiculous reason.

“I’m sorry, you really have to move, this is the rule,” they said. “It’s a stupid rule,” I replied.

“Sorry that you think it is stupid, but you have to move,” they insisted. “No, I don’t. This is a university, not a kindergarten. I’ll sit wherever I want to sit.”

Still seated, I told them for the last time, I was not going to move. They asked me to move several more times, but I ignored them. They threatened to move me by force, I warned them I’d fight back if they touched me. I guess that was when they started calling the security.

To be honest, it felt like a Rosa Parks moment. But instead of it being a racial segregation issue, this was a gender segregation issue.

It was the year 2016 and a publicly funded international university still has such a baseless ruling. Adults who are smart enough to be enrolled into tertiary education are treated like children who are told where to sit their butts in a public lecture hall.

I’d like to think that this does not happen all the time at IIUM, but apparently it was an actual policy at the university, and normal classes also segregate men and women, not just public forums.

I looked at the lecturers who were right at the front and centre of the hall. There they were, seats mixed, men and women side by side. Classic authoritarian set-up – always a different rule for those in power while the mass majority abide by a different, discriminatory ruling unquestioningly.

Eventually, they gave up on me. Angrily.

Doing the right thing

I could understand the anger of the event organisers, and I certainly did not go there as an outsider to be a women’s rights hero.

It was simply the right thing to do. To stand up (or sit, in this case) for your right to question authority, especially on baseless rules that discriminate based on something you cannot control, be it race or gender.

IIUM, a university famous for its crackdown on students who think differently, had punished a friend of mine, Afiqah Zulkifli, simply for organising a forum on the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) together with Hanif Mahpa, Afiqah’s fellow colleague in the Student Representative Council at the time. They pleaded not guilty and defended themselves at a university trial, but lost the case and were suspended for one semester.

It is not far-fetched to say that public universities in Malaysia are authoritarian in nature. Hence, it is no surprise that they treat their students like primary school children.

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Malaysia’s Political Opposition 360

This has been the case since then Education Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad amended certain sections of the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 in 1974 to ban university students from being politically active, or more accurately, to ban university students from criticising the government.

He was the Education Minister from 1974 to 1977, and he did not regret making that move because it was for “our own good”. Mahathir, doing the thinking and decision-making for us since the 1970s. As if we have no self-determination.

Image result for Mahathir Mohamad QuotesTun Dr. Mahathir did that to Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Hussein Onn. We Malaysians are his guinea pigs. Many years ago, Tun Hussein Onn told me that for the  rest of his life he regretted his decision to appoint Tun Dr. Mahathir as his successor.–Din Merican


This is the Mahathir I know. And yet we are forgetting that. We are forgetting how much damage has been done in the name of “controlling the peace”. Mahathir even joked about it in his so-called satirical piece, “I, dictator“.

No, it was not funny. It is not satire if it’s true. My friends and I suffered long years of authoritarian rule in university because of what Mahathir did in 1974.

How many more decades of youths being actively silenced do we have to experience before we realise that bringing Mahathir back into the picture is never the solution?


We have ceased to nurture the ability of university-going youths to mobilise for social causes, and often those who do make it have to carefully toe lines set by the government. Which is why you do not see them actively challenging the status quo, but merely promising to “reform it from the inside”.

It is only a matter of time before Mahathir’s past catches up with him again, and students begin to regain lost memory.When that time comes, authoritarian universities will no longer be relevant. Till then, I say, long live student autonomy, long live freedom of thought and conscience.

MARYAM LEE is a writer with a chronic tendency to get into trouble. What she lacks in spelling when writing in English is made up for with her many writings in Bahasa Malaysia. She believes in conversations as the most valuable yet underrated cause of social change. She wants people to recognise silence and give them a voice, as she tries to bring people together through words.



Best-Selling Author Tells GW Students to Reflect and Contemplate

January 30, 2018

Best-Selling Author Tells GW Students to Reflect and Contemplate

Dr.William Deresiewicz said students should learn to think before trying to change the world.



Author William Deresiewicz urged students to reflect and think before committing to improving the world. (Harrison Jones/GW Today)


By B.L. Wilson

At elite private colleges, the social cost of dissent is high and progressive consensus tight, according to William Deresiewicz, author of the best-selling book, “Excellent Sheep,” comparing universities to what sociologists call “total institutions” such as monasteries, prisons, mental institutions and the military.

This is notwithstanding the desire of students at colleges like George Washington University to have an impact and make the world a better place.

“Your generation is to be commended for this new spirit that is broad among America’s youth,” Dr. Deresiewicz said, “a zeal for activism and social justice that hasn’t been seen since the 1970s.”

Dr. Deresiewicz told students that “reflection, contemplation, analysis, study – in a word thought” should precede their commitment to making the world a better place.

Image result for the george washington university mount vernon campusMount Vernon, located in Fairfax County, Virginia, was the plantation home of George Washington, the First President of the United States. The property alongside the Potomac River was first owned by Washington’s great-grandfather back in 1674, who became a successful tobacco planter through the help of slave labor and indentured servants. Young George Washington came into possession of the estate in 1754, when he was about 23 years old, but he didn’t become the property’s sole owner until 1761. The estate served as the centerpiece of Washington’s military and political life,and the site stands as a powerful symbol regarding the birth of the American nation.
Image result for Din merican at Mount Vernon

Introducing the author to students and faculty crowded into Ames Hall on the George Washington University Mount Vernon Campus, Maria Frawley, executive director of the University Honors Program and professor of English, said, part of his book’s subtitle, “The Way to a Meaningful Life” is what appealed to her. “It is what all of us educators and students care most about,” she said.

Recent tensions on college campuses between freedom and equality and the struggle over restrictions on offensive speech, Dr. Deresiewicz said, prompted him to come up with a response.

He contended that the homogeneity of student populations at elite college campuses who often are from liberal upper and middle classes, multiracial, but predominantly white accounts for a progressive dogma of opinion that almost approaches religious dogma.

“Secularism is taken for granted. Environmentalism is a sacred cause. Issues of identity – principally the holy trinity of race, gender and sexuality – occupy the center of the discourse,” Dr. Deresiewicz said. “The assumption, on the left, is that we are already in full possession of the moral truth.

“The central purpose of a real education, as in liberal arts education,” he said, “is to liberate us from what Plato called doxa or opinion by teaching us to recognize it, to question it and to think our way around it.”

A liberal arts education includes not only disciplines such as the humanities, English, history, philosophy but also the sciences in which the pursuit of knowledge is conducted for its own sake, he said.

You read King Lear not to master it, he suggested. “You read King Lear for what it does to you, for the way it changes you,” he said, “and hopefully that experience enhances your mind’s capacity for experience, and the ability to learn from it.”

Bringing the talk back to where he began, Dr. Deresiewicz said the humanities lead to reflection on the big questions that are persistent questions because no one has the answers. “The heart of reflection is self-reflection,” he said. “The essence of knowledge is self-knowledge.”

Reflection, he said, can help students achieve wisdom, an application of knowledge often associated with age. “For all the desire to change the world,” he said, “it will likely take a long time to have the real power to do so.”

Asked where he would draw the line in making students uncomfortable, Dr. Deresiewicz said even though right wing groups are often deliberately provocative, he agreed with a University of Chicago dean that colleges should provide no spaces safe from debate and uncomfortable discussions.

Allen Wang, a GW freshman and an international business major, said, “Students come to GW because it is very powerful in specific tracts such as international affairs and public health. But the talk was extremely topical and eye-opening and, more importantly, inspiring because of the spirit Dr. Deresiewicz tried to communicate about academic uncertainty and the truth.”


School system needs to match transformation society has undergone

January 20, 2018

School system needs to match transformation society has undergone

Despite emergence of small families and well-educated but working parents, education structure has changed little in past five decades, Michael Heng points out


Schools in Hong Kong and many cities elsewhere in Asia have not undergone significant changes since the 1960s while family structure, the economy and other elements of society have experienced great transformations. Just to name four changes that have direct bearing on education. First, families have become smaller; many children have either one or no sibling. Second, most parents today are pretty well-educated — at the very least they are literate. Third, jobs for university or polytechnic graduates are more difficult to come by. Fourth, there is an ample supply of teachers’ college graduates.

In the 1960s, schools focused mainly on transmitting knowledge to students. In line with this exam results were the key criteria to measure school performance. Not many schools had well-trained teachers. Where students felt their teachers failed their expectations, they had to turn to some kind hearted and brainy fellow classmates for help. In many cases, their parents were too poorly educated to help, and they could not afford private tuition. In such conditions, other important matters related to full development of an individual were pushed into the background. One hardly heard of schools being responsible for helping students develop social and communication skills and guide them in coping with personal problems, failures in life, etc.

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Fast-forward to the 2010s, schools have changed. Though there has been open recognition of the roles of schools in the full development of an individual, the main emphasis is still on exam results. Even with a growing army of well-trained teachers and better-educated parents, we see a booming private-tuition industry. Our mindset and practices on educating our young are stuck in the 1960s, despite conditions having changed so much.

Image result for malaysian education system

With only one sibling or no sibling, a child has lost the family environment and does not acquire the habits and skills to cope with older and younger siblings. This inadequacy is often not addressed by schools, which put children of the same age in the same class. As an alternative, primary schools can have just two kinds of classes. One kind comprises classes with children aged 6, 7 and 8, and the higher for children aged 9, 10 and 11. They not only learn from the teachers, but from each other. The younger ones do content-learning from the older ones, while the older ones learn how to teach the younger ones. There is a “risk” the older ones will fail to teach the content correctly to younger ones. But there are textbooks, well-trained teachers, and well-educated parents to correct errors. Moreover, children are exposed from a young age to develop independent thinking and to absorb materials through questioning and critical thinking. Such mental habits are immensely useful for independent pursuit of knowledge. For those familiar with Montessori educational philosophy, the approach sounds familiar.

Image result for the montessori method

Schools should also be reorganized in terms of time and space. Since both parents of most young families work, schools can be organized to keep students at school while parents are working. All kinds of interesting activities can be organized to fill in the hours. Homework in the traditional sense should be done during these hours. “Weaker” students should be assisted by “stronger” students, making tuition redundant. Off-school hours are free from homework and can be fruitfully spent on such activities as community work or learning extra languages.

As a very rich city, Hong Kong can afford to have small classes. Unlike a class of 40 students, where teachers sometimes have to struggle just to maintain discipline and order, what about a class of 20 to 25 students? Any person with teaching experience can testify to the benefits of small classes in schools. To offset the negative aspects of living in a concrete jungle, schools should have bushes, flowers, vegetables, plants and trees to cultivate an early respect for the natural environment.

Besides transmitting book knowledge, there are other dimensions of education — cultivating good character, attitude toward work, social-justice awareness, proper human interaction and ability to cope with failures and setbacks in life.

Good character is more than integrity and being upright. It includes the ability to help others, especially the weak and disadvantaged. Here schools should design incentives to encourage such behavior. For example, classes can be assessed on cooperation and mutual assistance among students, as a balance to competitive exams.

The major spiritual traditions attach great value to productive work, whether well-paid or otherwise. Such attitude is important especially in the current labor market where well-paid professionals may lose their jobs through no fault of their own. Those who perceive all productive work as respectable will be more flexible in facing the situation. Of course, social attitudes must also change to make it easier for redundant staff.

The author is a retired professor who had academic appointments in Australia, the Netherlands, and at six universities in Asia. He has been trained as a school teacher and has also taught in secondary schools. 


On Knowledge and statecraft

January 24, 2017

On Knowledge and statecraft

by Muhammad Husni Mohd Amin

Image result for Najib, Zahid Hamidi and Hishamuddin HusseinThe 3 UMNO Goons–Dr. Zahid Hamidi, Hishamuddin Hussein and Najib Razak. They do not qualify as Philisopber-Kings. They are Malaysia’s penyamun tarbus.


IN Plato’s Republic, the philosopher-king is a leader who loves and embodies the cardinal virtues of wisdom, temperance, courage and justice. Therefore, the community that produced him would dispense with the mechanisms of democracy meant to curtail misuse of power by corrupt politicians who preyed upon the masses because of their ignorance.

Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said, “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except all those others that have been tried.” This may only refer to the inadequacies of the present set-up in producing leaders who do not require constant oversight.

The leader reflects the people. The Prophet said, “As you are, so shall your leader be.” He also said, “Each of you is a shepherd (ra‘in) and each of you is responsible for his flock (ra‘iyyah)”.

The Arabic word ra‘iyyah, from which the Malay word rakyat originated, has its root in ra‘in, which also means guide, guardian or caretaker. In the worldview of Islam, both the leader and the people form a unity; they are like a single body.

The Prophet also prophesied the emergence of leaders (umara) who “will be corrupt but God may put much right through them”. Therefore, the people are obliged to be thankful when leaders do good and patient when the leaders commit evil.

Image result for al-ghazali


The Proof of Islam, Imam al-Ghazali, in his Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din (Revival of the Religious Sciences), stated that religion is established through the sultan, who is not to be belittled.

We should not justify a wrongdoing when it is proven, but our limited senses may often lead us to believe that no good may come out of the things we perceive as evil because we think evil is the absence of good.

While weed follows the cultivation of rice and there seems to be no good in growing weed, it does not stop us from planting and harvesting the rice.

A well-known Sufi figure, Fudayl ibn ‘Iyad, said, “If I had one supplication that was going to be answered, I would make it for the sultan, for the sultan’s well-being and righteousness means well-being for the land and its people.”

Another Sufi figure, Sahl al-Tustari, was once asked, “Who is the best among men?” He replied that it was the ruler, which surprised his inquirers because it was thought that rulers were the worst.

Sahl continued, “Don’t be hasty! God Most High has two glances every day: one is for the safety of the Muslims’ possessions and another for their bodies. Then, God looks into the Register of Deeds and forgives him all his sins (for his protection of both).”

But the precondition for forgiveness is that the ruler must protect both.The establishment and statecraft of our centuries-old Malay sultanates mirrored those in Islam’s civilisational epicentre, which in turn were modelled after the Prophet’s Medina.

While colonial rule modernised our country’s administration, it did not abolish the sultanates but merely interrupted them. However, colonisation also displaced the ulama’s traditional role in advising the Rulers.

It also severely impaired the ability to follow the Prophetic practice called shura in consulting scholars and learned men as well as the ability to recognise and acknowledge them properly. This is the reason for today’s greater need for checks and balances.

Even so, we are lucky to be blessed with a unique system that combines constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. This is the time when rulers work closely with the ruled towards the common good.

While our Rulers do not interfere in politics, adherence to royal protocols should not conceal the fact that the Rulers are in the best position to decree the people so that they would choose the best stewards for the nation.

Image result for UMNO members

UMNO is full of learned members –the dedaks led by Big Momma

The counsel of learned people is important in guiding a ruler’s politics because statecraft is like a knife in the kitchen – a housewife could wield the knife as a utensil or a burglar as a weapon.

Muhammad Husni Mohd Amin is senior research officer at Ikim’s Centre for Science and Environ­ment Studies. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

Debate Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi

December 25, 2017

Debate Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi

by S.Thayaparan

COMMENT | “Iksim propounds the view that Islam does not come under the jurisdiction of any political power. According to it, religious enforcement authorities come under the patronage of the Sultans, not state governments. This is a remarkable vision of an autonomous, almost all-powerful, religious elite that is like a state within a state.” – Shad Saleem Faruqi

I have often referenced Pprofessor Shad Saleem Faruqi’s articles in my articles, sometimes agreeing; sometimes disagreeing with what he writes.

If someone were to tell me that Shad’s intention in anything he ever wrote was to insult or breach the peace, I would burst out in hysterical laughter. This academic (unlike this writer) has never written a polemic, as far as I can tell. In addition, I have probably read everything this man has written.

If you have not read the article, that has got Iksim all in a rage, I suggest that you read it and determine if anything in that article warrants the state security apparatus “probing” this academic under section 504 of the Penal code.

Image result for datuk noor farida ariffin

Instead of engaging intellectually with Shad, Iksim resorted to the Islamists playbook and issued a public statement claiming that Faruqi and the G25 (Noor Farida Ariffin specifically) were attempting to cause racial disharmony and subverting the Islamic agenda as enshrined in the Federal Constitution. You can read the full statement here but the relevant passage is this:

“Tohmahan-tohmahan liar berkenaan termasuk oleh Prof Emeritus Shad Saleem Faruqi dan Datuk Noor Faridah Ariffin dari puak G25 dilihat sebagai satu cubaan untuk mencetuskan perasaan permusuhan antara kaum dan agama di negara ini. Kedua-dua mereka jelas menentang pemikiranpemikiran ke arah mendaulatkan Islam sebagai agama Negara sekalipun ia jelas termaktub dalam Perkara 3(1) dan sumpah Yang di-Pertuan Agong di bawah perkara 37(1) Perlembagaan Persekutuan.” 

In the quote that begins this piece, the good professor, questions Iksim’s perspective that Islam does not come under the purview of any political power likening such a perspective to a “state within a state.”

If you read the press statement and consider Iksim’s rationale for going after Shad and the G25, you would come to the realisation that their “unique” interpretation of the Malaysian constitution and of Islam in general, is exactly the “state within a state” idea that Shad alludes to in the quote I referenced.

Have you noticed that Islamists always claim that the people they target are attempting to cause tension amongst the various ethnic groups here in Malaysia? Is there any evidence of this? Are non-Muslims threatened or provoked by what people targeted by groups like Iksim say and do? I would argue that the only people threatened or provoked are the Islamist and the reason why they are threatened is that their views or beliefs are challenged.

Furthermore, Iksim has not rebutted the points raised in Shad’s article. They have not claimed that what he wrote was false or fallacious. They have not denied the agenda he attributes to them. What they have done, is use the state to sanction the professor and intimidate any others who subscribe to his views.

Indeed by their own admission (as quoted by Shad referencing their March 28 booklet), – “secularism, liberalism and cultural diversity are elements that will undermine the Islamic agenda and destroy the country’s sovereignty”.

In other words, according to Iksim, everything that non-Muslims value and probably a majority of Muslims are detrimental to the Islamic agenda in this country. Therefore, when Umno potentates talk of cultural diversity and protecting the faiths of non-Muslims, this is detrimental to the Islamic agenda of this country.

When UMNO potentates talk about the rich cultural diversity and the need to respect different cultures as envisioned by the founders of this country and which is great for tourism, this is detrimental to the Islamic agenda of the country.

When “liberalism” redefined as “moderation” – Islamic or otherwise – is bandied about as the foundation for economic, social and religious success by the establishment, this undermines the Islamic agenda in this country.

And you know what, they are correct. If you believe in the kind of Islam they believe in and the kind of Islam that the House of Saud, is slowly and painfully attempting to reject, all these concepts are detrimental to turning this country into an Islamic state.

An Islamic state where the primacy of syariah law and the submission of Muslims and non-Muslims to a theocratic hegemon is the natural order of things which is the desired state – and state of being – of Islamists like Iksim.

‘Islamists not interested in debate’

A couple of months ago, the crypto-fascists got their knickers in a twist when I wrote that, liberalism is only a threat to the kind of Islam tyrants preach – “Those people who fear ‘liberalism’ however they define it, in reality, fear the loss of power when empowered societies choose alternatives. So yes, liberalism is a threat to the kind of Islam they preach. Mind you they may actually win in a ‘fair’ democratic contest because that is one of the perils of democracy. Beyond institutional safeguards, democracy is a risky endeavour, but I would take it to anything these Islamists have to offer.”

While Shad Faruqi has invited them to debate and challenge his views, the reality is that Islamists are not interested in debate or discussion. Their only interest is submission. This is why they have no need for freedom of speech and expression.

There is enough empirical evidence to demonstrate that such concepts are anathema to the kind of Islam they wish to promulgate.

In many of my articles where I discuss the numerous provocations of the state-sanctioned Islam in the private and public lives of non-Muslims in Malaysia, I have always made it clear that the people feeling the brunt of a state-sanctioned religion is the majority, Malay Muslim population.

I have also made it clear, that Malay Muslim public intellectuals, academics and writers, are at the mercy of the state conspiring with various Islamists groups – sub rosa and overt – who sanction behaviour that they and they alone determine to be a threat to the state sanctioned religion.

Ultimately, Siti Kassim (will someone elect her already) has the right of it, when in her Facebook page, she wrote: “We must stand with Professor Shad Faruqi. We should never allow these extremists group taking over our country. Never. Never. Never.”

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy

Letter from The Editor, New

December 24, 2017

Letter from The Editor, New

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The Editor of New Mandala is James Giggacher. James holds qualifications in journalism and international relations from the University of Technology — Sydney and the Australian National University, and has worked across print, radio and television, including stints with national broadcasters the ABC and SBS.

He has also been published across a range of Australian and international media inlcuding The Canberra Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, ABC’s The Drum, SBS News, Business Spectator, CNN, Rappler and The Establishment Post. He’s also contributed to specialist academic websites like Policy Forum, the Asian Studies Association of Australia’s Asian Currents and, of course, New Mandala.

From The Editor

It’s the time of the year when New Mandala joins the rest of Australia to disappear for the Christmas and New Year holiday. We’ll be taking a break from publishing from today, and will be back online in early January.

Who’s going to miss 2017? Certainly, nobody who cares about human rights, ethnic and religious tolerance, or democratic institutions, given what a horror show this year has been for all of those things throughout the region.

New Mandala’s top posts of 2017

Revisit our 20 most-read posts published throughout the year. 21 December, 2017

But bad years for Southeast Asia have a grim tendency to be good ones for this blog. Notwithstanding the subject matter that authors have had to address, the quality of the contributions we’ve hosted this year has been outstanding. (See our list of 2017’s most popular posts at the left, and a few of my personal favourites—yes, I have immodestly included one co-authored by myself and a colleague—at the bottom of this post.)

I’d like to extend my thanks to all of the contributors who volunteered their time to write something up for New Mandala, especially from the time-scarce academics and students among you. Your contributions have been a testament to the benefits of scholars weighing in on debates about political and social developments as they happen, in a format accessible to broad, non-academic audiences.

I should note that New Mandala has been in good company here: the University of Melbourne’s Indonesia at Melbourne and Oxford University’s Myanmar-focused Tea Circle blogs have also done good work throughout the year in bringing important scholarly perspectives on Southeast Asian topics to the table. Let’s hope that what all these platforms are part of is a comeback of the blogging medium, in the face of some stiff competition in recent years from the Twitter thread and Facebook status.

A big thanks, of course, is also due to our readers, and your engagement with the content of New Mandala posts on social media and elsewhere. You might think some takes were brilliant, some were rubbish, but if you happened to be introduced you to a new topic you didn’t know much about beforehand, or were made to see a well-known topic from a new perspective, then this blog has done its job.

Looking forward to 2018

We’re heading into a big year for Southeast Asian elections. Before long Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will pull the trigger on a general election, and New Mandala will once again be a platform for must-read analysis of Malaysian politics, from the fine grained to the big picture.

Our old friend Thailand may well see an election of some description in 2018, if the latest pronouncements from Government House are to be believed. Indonesia will also hold a wave of major regional polls that will set the scene for 2019’s national legislative and presidential elections. Indeed, the presidential election campaign begins, for all intents and purposes, in late 2018 with the registration for candidate deadlines set for October. In Cambodia, July’s general election might be the final nail in the coffin for the pretence of democracy maintained by Hun Sen over the past two decades. In all of these elections, New Mandala will be there for critical, up-to-the minute commentary and analysis.

From next year we’ll also be making a few changes to our modus operandi on Twitter. We’ll be rebooting the @IndoNewMandala account, which you can follow for news and updates on new Indonesia posts, as well as news updates and recommended reads. You can keep up on the latest from Malaysia’s election campaign through out dedicated GE14 stream at @GE14NewMandala. Our Associate Editor Mish Khan will be tweeting from Yangon at @MMatNewMandala, our new dedicated Myanmar feed.

Lastly, I’d just like to say that I’m always keen to hear more from readers about how we can make this site as useful a resource as it can be both for readers and contributors alike. Send me an email any time at to share your thoughts.

To everybody celebrating Christmas: Merry Christmas. And to all, a happy new year and best wishes for 2018.

Editor’s favourites of 2017

Holy places and unholy politics

Ahok’s support of an Islamic pilgrimage site amid Jakarta’s container port illustrates the intricacies and paradoxes of Indonesia’s politics of religion.

A better political economy of the Rohingya crisis

Crude speculation about ‘land grabs’ obscures the complex historical roots of today’s Rohingya persecution.

Class dismissed? Economic fairness and identity politics in Indonesia

Exit polls from the Jakarta election are a good starting point for thinking about the nexus between identity politics and inequality in Indonesia.