Two Kerbau Men of Malaysian Deliverance


December 4, 2017

Two Kerbau Men of Malaysian Deliverance

by Terrence Netto@www.malaysiakini.com

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No Harapan–A Coalition of Convenience has seldom worked before

COMMENT| Over the now fast-fading year, two narratives have marked the politics of the opposition in Malaysia.

One is on the ostensible destroyer of constitutional government metamorphosing into improbable rescuer of the country from kleptocracy.

The other narrative is the man whose eyes have so long been firmly fixed on the main chance that the more it eludes him, the shakier his judgment of the paths by which to get there.

Critics who think Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s credentials as a democratic reformer are bogus, slight an important strand in the Machiavellian approach to his political craft: the salutary sense of responsibility for what he has wrought prompts the Herculean effort to set right what has gone wrong, for which he has been hugely culpable.

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Says Netto: “Friends of Anwar Ibrahim, aware of the ambition that seethes within him, cannot seem to help him turn an obsession into irony; in politics, it is the alternative to stalemate, ignominy, and sterility.”

On the other side of the opposition’s narrative equation is this: Friends of Anwar Ibrahim, aware of the ambition that seethes within him, cannot seem to help him turn an obsession into irony. That enterprise is always useful. In life, it is the great antidote to insomnia; in politics, it is the alternative to stalemate, ignominy, and sterility.

All this is prologue for the point that last weekend’s pow-wow held by the opposition Pakatan Harapan to establish focal points for proceeding – such as who will be Prime Minister and who will be deputy should the coalition win an imminent general election (GE14) – was stymied for lack of consensus.

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Pakatan Harapan has formally proposed Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as its candidate for Prime Minister and Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as his Deputy if the coalition triumphs in the next general election.–The Star.com.my

The reason: the Harapan presidential council’s choice of Mahathir as PM and Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as Deputy should the coalition win GE14 was not assented to by the weekend’s conclave because the gaoled Anwar has to approve it first. So insisted the PKR complement at the weekend’s durbar.

PKR’s obduracy has had this ironic effect: their de facto leader who was the principal adhesive in the improbable opposition coalitions that had seminally denied the ruling BN its two-thirds parliamentary majority in 2008 (GE12) and bested BN in the popular vote in 2013 (GE13) has now mutated to become the main impediment to the coalition’s progress.

This ironic development rendered the one-and-a-half day conclave sterile rather than what it should have been – decisive moment in the shaping of the Malaysian deliverance from the precipice to which 60 years of UMNO-BN rule has conduced.

When seen against the backdrop of the Registrar of Societies’ foot-dragging on recognising Harapan as a political entity and approving its logo, the outcome damages the standing of Sungai Buloh’s most famous resident.

Prior to this, Anwar Ibrahim was the most consequential leader of the post-May 13, 1969 era of Malaysian history – on account of his ability to reshape the assumptions of the people has long aspired to lead.

Now, after last weekend’s meeting, he appears to be churlish holder-up of the consensus that should have seen Harapan progress from the Mahathir-initiated Citizens’ Declaration rejecting kleptocracy of March 2016, to the moment last weekend of a decisive coalescence of the forces ranged in support of urgent political reform.

In one of those ironies in which history abounds, this moment is the antithesis of that watershed one just over a decade ago when in a brilliant act of political divination, Anwar leveraged on an unexpectedly impactful event – the Hindraf organised March in Kuala Lumpur of bedraggled Indian Malaysians on Nov 25, 2007 – to steer the electorate to a seminal denial of BN’s traditional supermajority in parliament.

How has this reversal come about? A politician of Anwar’s sensitivity has to be wading in a political river’s currents rather than marooned on its banks to have a feel of a shifting public’s pulse.

Incarcerated, he is abnormally dependent on what his cohorts tell him of what is happening beyond the walls of the prison.

Because PKR is a congeries of disparate political forces, different rapporteurs tell him different things.

If he had been out in the open air, his sensitive political antennae would pick up the important signals and act accordingly.

In prison, processing what he hears from others and filtering it through the distorting prism of his vaulting ambition, Anwar has become a weathercock, drifting on winds of circumstance.

That is the reason why he is sympathetic to a faction of PKR (factional strife in PKR is largely the result of his mishandling of rivalries within the party) which wants the 21 seats won by PAS in GE13 to be uncontested by Harapan, an issue that was raised over the weekend.

This is something that, if insisted upon, will result in PKR losing votes and may even eventuate in a DAP decision to go it alone in GE14.

The non-Muslim aversion to PAS is running at an all-time high and can turn against PKR if the party insists on cohabitation with what the “nons” see as bogus Islamists.

Attenuated from political realities, physically enfeebled by imprisonment, Anwar is out of sorts.

Meanwhile, battling age and infirmity, Mahathir is rising in the estimation of the leadership cohort of Harapan.

All of last week he was rumoured to be ill and in bed. But when the weekend’s deliberations began he rose to the occasion – to listen carefully, summarise succinctly what was said, render with clarity his take, and point the direction in which things should go.

It was as much a physical feat of endurance as it was a political tour de force.

Excepting an unenamoured few, all who watched and have been observing since the time of the Citizens’ Declaration of March last year know that when push comes to shove, the denizen of Permatang Pauh cannot match the nonagenarian from Titi Gajah, Kedah Darul Aman.

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Still a Force to be reckoned with in Malaysian Politics while Anwar Ibrahim Languishes in Sungai Buloh Prison

It appears that, as the great bard said, age cannot wither Mahathir nor the daunting challenges Harapan faces stale his resilience.

The narrative of national rescue, pace the weekend’s cogitations at the Perdana Leadership Centre in Putrajaya, has recessed for Sungai Buloh to take things in. Anwar risks more by stalling than by inaction caused by fear of being swept up by forces he can no longer control.

Pakatan Harapan– The One Platform Party in Disarray


November 29, 2017

To  Anwar Ibrahim from an old Friend–Open Letter

There is reliance on only one policy plank. Label Najib a kleptocrat and attack him non-stop on 1MDB…In strategic terms, it is an instance of what Dr Wong Chin Huat terms “strategic ambiguity” – avoid the thorny issues and focus on safe issues like corruption and living costs. Mahathir’s strategy goes even further – “Topple Najib first, leave everything for later”.

It is easy to see why PH is adopting this strategy. Dr Wong calls it “communal incoordination”. In more simple language, it means if you try to please the Chinese, you lose Malay votes; if you try to please the Malays, you lose Chinese votes. So just concentrate on the issues both sides can agree on i.e. corruption.–Dr. Ronnie Ooi

by Dr. Ronnie Ooi

Dear Anwar,

You may remember me from the time we worked together in Majlis Belia Malaysia (MBM) when I was chair of MBM Penang and worked with your late brother Rani and others.

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Anwar Ibrahim cannot do much since Najib Razak has placed him in Sungei Buloh Prison

I left for the UK in 1990 mainly because of disillusionment with the political situation. I returned in 2008 as Prime Minister Najib Razak was in his liberal phase and things looked quite hopeful.

I feel somewhat guilty that, as a friend, I had not come forward earlier to offer to help, but I wanted a quiet life. I now put pen to paper with some reluctance but unfortunately, I think the warning lights are flashing for Pakatan Harapan (PH).

I feel I cannot in good conscience keep quiet any longer. I point to these warning signs not to discourage people from continuing or joining the fight, but as an indication that PH has weaknesses which must be reviewed.

I am making this letter public as I do not know how else I can be certain of getting my views to you. Besides these proposals will be of interest to the rakyat.

The resignation of three founding members of Bersatu (PPBM) on the grounds that the leadership is unable to accept criticism, is worrying. One bad apple is to be expected, but three all at once?

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UMNO style shadow play (wang kulit)–Advantage Najib Razak

The Merdeka Centre Youth Opinion Survey shows that high dissatisfaction with the government is not translating into support for the opposition. Most telling of all is Zaid Ibrahim, Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s greatest cheerleader, now advises Malays to emigrate if they have the chance.

The weaknesses of Pakatan Harapan

There is reliance on one man, Dr Mahathir, in the belief that his name plus the 1MDB and other financial scandals will be sufficient to trigger a Malay tsunami. I truly admire him for coming out of a comfortable and privileged retirement to lead the opposition. But I do worry whether his age prevents him from understanding the demands and aspirations of today’s voters, especially the youth.

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That’s Fine, Tun Dr. Mahathir when you were the Prime Minister. Today, Najib Razak is in charge of Malaysia and he can shut you up.

There is reliance on only one policy plank. Label Najib a kleptocrat and attack him non-stop on 1MDB.

In strategic terms, it is an instance of what Dr Wong Chin Huat terms “strategic ambiguity” – avoid the thorny issues and focus on safe issues like corruption and living costs. Mahathir’s strategy goes even further – “Topple Najib first, leave everything for later”.

It is easy to see why PH is adopting this strategy. Dr Wong calls it “communal incoordination”. In more simple language, it means if you try to please the Chinese, you lose Malay votes; if you try to please the Malays, you lose Chinese votes. So just concentrate on the issues both sides can agree on i.e. corruption.

Politics of hope vs politics of hate

I do not want to hurt your feelings Anwar, but it is best to be blunt. What PH is offering the voters of GE14 is the politics of hate (hate Najib), and the politics of personality (Mahathir can solve everything).

There is no message of hope, nothing of policy. It looks back to the past (what Najib and Mahathir have done), not how to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

Elections are won on the politics of hope, although I admit the politics of hate can be a useful aid.

Trump won the American presidency elections because his message of hope to his right-wing supporters was very clear and powerful i.e. “Build the wall, keep Muslims out, make America great again” and his message of hate was also useful – “Crooked Hilary”.

Hilary lost because, although she had a message of hate (“Trump temperamentally unfit to be President”), her message of hope was muddled and unclear.

Chong Eu won Penang on the politics of hope i.e. “Economic development, Free Trade Zones, Penang bridge”. He had no message of hate.

In the urban areas and amongst the educated elite, hatred of what Najib is doing is very strong and for many of them, probably even a majority, the politics of hate is sufficient. They willingly accept Mahathir’s position of “Topple Najib first, leave everything for later”.

But the rural Malays have received benefits from the government, and although they may be disturbed by allegations of systemic corruption, they will not have the hatred of Najib that the urban voters have.

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The registration of Pakatan Harapan is held up by the Registrar of Societies–Checkmate?

To say to the rural Malays “Topple Najib first, leave everything for later” is like saying, “Your house is in bad condition. We will tear it down for you. When you are homeless by the road side, only then we will think how we can build a new house for you.” No sane normal person will allow his house to be torn down until he is certain he will get a better replacement.

Four steps to bring about the politics of hope:

1. Mahathir’s position of “Topple Najib first, leave everything for later” has to be discarded

This position prevents PH from telling the people how life under PH will be better and it prevents PH from hearing what the people want to say.

The Merdeka Centre Youth Opinion Survey found that 40% of respondents were not registered as voters, 70% were not interested in politics and 71% felt politicians do not listen to them.

If PH says to these youths “Mahathir knows best”, they will turn their backs on PH. If PH is willing to listen to them, to discuss how best to meet their hopes and aspirations, PH will win their support and votes and by doing so, win GE14.

2. Saving Malaysia requires a two-election process

Those who think that toppling Najib will solve all problems mistake the PM to be the cause of the country’s problems, whereas he is only the symptom. The real cause is the growing distrust and antagonism between the Malay and non-Malay communities, which sustains and protects leaders like Najib.

Removing Najib will not prevent a Najib clone from emerging a few years later if this inter-communal antagonism is not tackled.

There is a deep fault line in PH. Bersatu (PPBM) is constructed to be like UMNO to attract discontented UMNO members. But, as a result, their core political ideology of discriminating in favour of Bumiputeras conflicts with PKR’s and DAP’s core ideology of economic policies based on need and not race.

This means that whilst Bersatu and PKR/DAP/Amanah are completely united that Najib must be toppled to save Malaysia, there is no agreement over what Dr Wong terms inter-communal bargains on issues like economic redistribution and social inclusion, religion and lifestyle, language and education.

The way to resolve this contradiction in objectives is simple: use GE14 to defeat the BN government to bring about institutional change and use GE15 to resolve the breakdown in the inter-communal bargains concerning economics, education, etc.

GE14 is about whether voters want an honest government, GE15 is for voters to decide how best to resolve inter-communal antagonism.

In GE14, Bersatu (PPBM) and PKR/DAP/Amanah work together to fight Najib’s BN. In GE15 Bersatu (PPBM), possibly in combination with a BN without Najib, may be contesting against PKR/DAP.

If we try to solve everything in one election, a voter who would like to vote for an honest candidate may instead vote for a dishonest candidate of his own race if he fears domination by another race.

If we do not separate out an election for an honest government from an election over communal anxieties and inter-communal bargains, we may have a dishonest government for a very long time.

I am excited to see Dr Wong Chin Huat recently come up with roughly the same idea, which he terms a two-step transition pact.

3. PH must show its commitment to institutional reform

PH must set up a readily available central reference of all its proposals for institutional reform.

Some of the questions PH must answer are:

  • What oppressive laws are they going to repeal or amend? We must remember that when Najib proposed repealing the Sedition Act, Mahathir was in the forefront of UMNO criticism of the move. Mukhriz is on record expressing “his disappointment at the abolition of the ISA”.
  • How should the Universities and University Colleges Act be amended to enable the brightest of our youth to play their proper role in our society?
  • How does PH intend to prevent a recurrence of the 1MDB scandal?
  • The Prime Minister has too much power. How does PH intend to reduce the power of the PM?

Proposals for institutional reform require only mental effort, unlike physical projects which require time-consuming study and planning. It is too late now for PH to promise the rakyat it will build 100,000 low-cost homes but there is still plenty of time before the election for PH to say whether it will or will not repeal the Sedition Act. Besides, there are many social activists who can help PH draft and finalise details of proposals for institutional reform.

To prove the truth of what I am saying, Anwar, in the second part of my letter to you, I will set out my ideas on how the powers of the Prime minister should be reduced.

4. Announce a limited-time fixed programme election manifesto

Because institutional reforms require only changes in laws and legal procedures, they can be implemented in a short time, say a year, especially if a lot of work has been done before the election.

PH should therefore announce that, if they win GE14, they will govern for only one year, to implement a limited, specific and publicly-agreed programme of eradicating corruption in government, carrying out institutional reform, repealing oppressive laws, and undertaking any such other programmes as PH component parties can agree on, such as abolishing the GST.

Following this, an early GE15 will then be called, at which the parties will be able to fight each other over their different political ideologies.

Advantages of a limited-time fixed programme election manifesto:

  1. Policy differences in economic re-distribution, education, etc cannot be postponed for the normal government term of five years. But they can be postponed for a period of one year.
  2. Many people have doubts about a PH government. They are more likely to give PH a chance if they can throw out a bad PH government after one year.
  3. With a fixed programme, Malays who fear that PH will be dominated by the DAP, can see exactly what they will get under a PH government.

Go where no one else has gone before

Confronted with difficult questions, Malaysians, both politicians and the general public, have a habit of sweeping them under the carpet and pretending to themselves that there are no problems.

They insist on remaining within their comfort zones, rejecting the mental discomfort of thinking new thoughts. They bury their heads in the sand, dreaming of a PH victory in GE14.

They get very angry when disturbed from their dreams, demanding why their side’s weaknesses are being advertised to the enemy.

But exposing weaknesses before the election campaign starts allows time for them to be corrected. Burying heads in the sand prevents solutions to problems being found. If solutions are missed, we suffer defeat when it could so easily have been a victory.

My voice is not loud enough to be heard by the people. But if you, Anwar, speak, people will listen. If you think my ideas are good, let us work together to implement them. If you think them bad, do not hesitate to say so, in order that better solutions can be found.

To members of the public reading this, I say: we best serve the party we support not by keeping quiet but by giving them feedback and ideas. Those who have feedback and ideas to give are invited to contact me at roonieooi@malaysiabebas.com so that by banding together, we have a stronger voice.

To solve Malaysia’s problems, we need to go where no one else has gone before. Remember: he who dares, wins.

Your old friend,
Dr Ronnie Ooi

Dr Ronnie Ooi is a former politician and medical practitioner based in Penang.

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2017/11/29/an-open-letter-to-anwar-ibrahim-4/

Najib Razak-Anwar Ibrahim Meet– A Rorschach Test of Malay Politics


November 22, 2017

Thayaparan on The Najib Razak-Anwar Ibrahim Meet–A Rorschach Test of Malay Politics

“Maybe the Najib-Anwar hospital visit was just an innocent meeting, but the most important thing the land of endless possibilities has taught me is that all deals are possible, but sticking to them is another story.”–S. Thayaparan
 

And that’s that.”

– Ace Rothstein (Casino)

COMMENT | The visit by the current Umno grand poohbah Najib Razak and the grand poohbah-in-waiting Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to the bedside of political prisoner Anwar Ibrahim who is recovering from surgery has become a kind of Rorschach test of how people interpret Malay political and social culture.

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Indeed, in Malaysiakini columnist P Gunasegaram’s piece, he makes it very clear that for people who “understand” Malay culture, this meeting is nothing more than a meeting between two former allies turned political opponents at a time when one is convalescing.

It does not take someone with an in-depth understanding of Malay culture to realise that these meetings between Malay potentates present good optics – in press speak – to their political bases.  Anwar, who has been imprisoned and vilified by the UMNO hegemon, appears composed and magnanimous while Prime Minister Najib and Deputy Prime Minister Zahid present themselves as benign and mindful of Malay civility and compassion, even to rebels who would choose to usurp their power.

Despite establishment narratives that non-Malays – the Chinese specifically – seek to supplant Malay/Muslim power in Malaysia, the reality is that this could never happen. Why this is the case is beyond the scope of this article, but since Malay powerbrokers hold the keys to Putrajaya, the sight of Malay political opponents meeting always arouses speculation and yes, insecurity amongst the non-Malay demographic, especially those invested in regime change.

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Beyond that, the meeting has fuelled speculation that a possible deal could be brokered between the disparate Malay power structures that have caused so much trouble for the current Umno regime. Not only has Najib have to deal with the charismatic Anwar, guard his flanks against the religious machinations of PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang, but he also has to deal with the master of realpolitik Dr Mahathir Mohamad who is probably playing the last and great political game of his life. The stakes are high.

Here is a conspiracy for you. Perhaps the “delay” in the Registrar of Societies (ROS) registration of Pakatan Harapan as a coalition is to pave the way for a smooth transition of power between disparate Malay power groups and stifle the rebellion of the Najib refuseniks. Without a registered and formalised opposition, it would be easier to use legalese to justify unexpected mergers and yes, acquisitions.

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Remember, this is not the first “deal” between Anwar and the Najib regime. There was also that deal brokered by Indonesia’s Jusuf Kalla in 2013 that both camps reneged on for various reasons. Why such a deal was needed – to respect the outcome of the general elections – is beyond me, but apparently, it was. I wrote about it, of course, when it first surfaced, once again questioning the type of “friends” Anwar has a history of investing in.

“About the only credible aspect of Jusuf’s opinion was his perception that both Anwar and Najib were confident of winning the recently concluded general election. I will note however that I am surprised in the former’s belief simply because the grassroots from the various oppositional factions were unsure of just how great the vocal showing of support would translate into votes.”

“‘How can you talk reconciliation when you demonise your opponent in this manner?’ asked Anwar to the Wall Street Journal when he acknowledged the deal but claimed it was void because of the virulent bigoted campaign waged by the UMNO state against its political opponents.

“The reality is that both sides have been demonising their political opponents. It is precisely these kinds of political stratagems, which many argue is against ‘Malay’ culture but offer no evidence to support this contention, who also argue that Malay solidarity trumps, ideology or anything else that could cause a split in the Malay polity.”

Endless possibilities

The most interesting part is the one “both sides said that the other had rejected a clause in the pact that the winner was to offer the loser a role in a ‘reconciliation government’.” This, of course, is interesting for a whole host of reasons but this was made at a time when former Prime Minister Mahathir was not part of the opposition alliance.

The inclusion of Mahathir in the opposition alliance has changed everything. Forget about the fact that a certain section of the electorate is disillusioned with this new alliance and are contemplating sitting out this election but more importantly, Malay power structures are hedging their bets when it comes to the final showdown between Najib and the man the opposition once called a dictator.

All these issues of electoral malfeasance are business as usual for UMNO and anyone who has ever been associated with UMNO, but what the regime really fears is the internal sabotage and the loyalty Mahathir commands in the bureaucracies at the state and federal level.

We have to remember that the opposition is what it is today because even in the opposition, Malay/Muslim power structures war amongst themselves. Contemporary Malay opposition narratives are defined by the PAS ejection from the opposition, PKR and PAS doing a tango when PAS has already made it clear what it thinks of the opposition, the unthinkable inclusion of a “Malay” rights party (Bersatu) into a supposedly egalitarian alliance, and finally the various turf wars between Malay opposition politicians.

Considering the history of the participants, the backdrop of pragmatic politics and the state-sanctioned narratives of what it means to be “Malay”, it would be naive not to consider that deals could not be made between disparate Malay power structures.

We are not talking about genuine political movements but personality cults fuelled by racial and religious politics. If Anwar could reach a compromise with the former prime minister who was instrumental in his transformation from politician to political prisoner, why not some kind of deal with a potentate who if rumours are to believed wants a clean exit?

And if Najib can find common ground with Hadi Awang of PAS, even though this goes against traditional UMNO narratives about PAS, then why not find common ground as a means to reshape once and for all Malay power structures in this country much like the way how Mahathir did during his tenure?

Maybe the Najib-Anwar hospital visit was just an innocent meeting, but the most important thing the land of endless possibilities has taught me is that all deals are possible, but sticking to them is another story.

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

Deal Between Anwar and Najib Razak? :The Worst Possible News for Malaysia


November 21, 2017

Deal Between Anwar and Najib Razak?: The Worst Possible News for Malaysia

by P. Gunasegaram@www.malaysiakini.com

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Is there something brewing here which is suggestive of some kind of a deal materializing between these two once staunch allies? Like they say, there are no permanent enemies in politics and politics is the game of the possible, or is it the impossible? Never mind, you get the drift.–P. Gunasegaram

QUESTION TIME | In Malaysia where conspiracy theories arise at the drop of a 10-sen coin, the visit by Prime Minister Najib Razak to jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who is in hospital following a shoulder operation, has started tongues a-wagging. And how they are wagging!

Is there something brewing here which is suggestive of some kind of a deal materialising between these two once staunch allies? Like they say, there are no permanent enemies in politics and politics is the game of the possible, or is it the impossible? Never mind, you get the drift.

After all, who would have thought that former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, widely held responsible for Sodomy 1 which put Anwar in jail for six years until 2004, would now be working with him to topple BN and Najib? If that can happen, why not a reconciliation, or even a deal, between Najib and Anwar for mutual benefit?

 

Even the burying of past differences between Mahathir and Anwar is difficult to understand. How does a person who spent years in prison, was beaten after he was arrested, had his life ruined and political future now in tatters, forgive the person who was held to be most responsible for this?

And was it not what Mahathir did in terms of consolidating his power within UMNO – technically UMNO Baru as the old UMNO was dissolved as part of plans implemented by Mahathir – that now makes it near impossible to remove a sitting UMNO President and Prime Minister because of all that such a person has at his disposal in terms of power?

Now this, Najib visits Anwar in the hospital with his wife Rosmah Mansor and with Anwar’s wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail present and the gossip bandwagon goes berserk, although it is more likely to topple than to sustain over the next few days.

Here was the man who pushed Sodomy 2 against Anwar with Anwar’s accuser having seen him – Najib – before making his police report. And Anwar is in jail again for a further five years from 2015, more or less putting paid to his political career unless Pakatan Harapan wins the next election. The chances of that are pretty low right now.

How could Anwar countenance a visit from this man who was responsible for his prison sentence in the first place with a lot of people believing that Anwar’s sentence was terribly unfair with admission of evidence that could have been tampered with? If Anwar’s trial was fixed, as he himself claimed, then only one person could have been responsible.

How could he even consent to see this person? As difficult as this is to understand for people like me, those who understand Malay culture say that nothing should be read into the meeting. The PM went to see a former friend and ally who was ailing – nothing more, nothing less.

But talk is not so easily stopped because Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, at one time one of Anwar’s closest friends and allies, visited him as well. Perhaps there is nothing but those visits perhaps indicate to Mahathir that two can play the game – if Mahathir can reconcile with Anwar, Najib can reconcile with him too, with all that it implies for Mahathir.

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What about the stolen money?–1MDB 

But is it as simple as all that really? No. Because if somehow Najib and Anwar ally, who becomes the enemy then? Surely not Mahathir now. And what about 1MDB? What does it mean for all that the opposition has been saying about billions stolen and still unaccounted for?

And what about the allegations, with some evidence, that UMNO and BN are tainted with 1MDB money and that they support Najib only because of that? Will all this be conveniently swept under the carpet forever more and everybody lives together happily ever after?

There can be only one deal that will allow this – in that permutation or combination of both, Anwar has to become Prime Minister, no less. That will entail Najib continuing for a while and then making way for Anwar – which means that Anwar has to be within BN or some larger conglomerate.

Anwar Ibrahim– A political chameleon or a publicity seeking politician?

How that may form boggles the mind but remember that after the May 13, 1969, riots and emergency rule, Najib’s father Abdul Razak Hussein persuaded (coerced?) the substantial opposition then into a coalition in 1973 forming Barisan Nasional, with the only significant party out in the bitter cold – that being DAP. If Anwar and Najib make a deal whereby Anwar is rehabilitated and Najib carries on, for a while at least, that is the worst possible news for Malaysia because all sections of the political divide – both ruling and opposition parties – will implicitly sanction the greatest theft this country has ever known and multiple events of gross mismanagement and lack of governance.

I don’t believe this will happen but I would have been far more comfortable if Anwar had not consented to meet Najib – and yes, if he had not done a deal with Mahathir too. But then who am I but just another insignificant citizen of Malaysia?

 

The Tyranny of Malaysian Democracy


October 3, 2017

The Tyranny of Malaysian Democracy

For better or for worse, our hope lies in this bunch of former political enemies (Mahathir, Kit Siang and Anwar) pulled together by fate and a common foe. We cannot afford to take the wrong road again.

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When we cease to think and act, we lose our identity and dignity

COMMENT by Cogito Ergo Sum*| Like everybody else, I am subjective. And like most reasonable Malaysians, I am now more than a little concerned about the current trends and future direction our nation seems to be hurtling towards.

I am as old as Malaysia and have witnessed this nation grow from a fledgling, newly independent state to one that has become a regional and international player in sports, diplomacy and the world economy. It was also, at one time, a paragon of multicultural tolerance and showcased that diversity and unity could be one.

The government of the day, for most of the days in the past, was a benevolent one that provided a vision and clear direction for us to progress with the times technologically, socially and economically.

Along the way, something went terribly wrong. We are now a nation of bigots where once tolerance flourished. Prejudices based on race, religion, gender, creed and colour are now the order of the day, not the exception.

Democratic Leadership of the Corrupt Sort

Despite the institutionalized apartheid policies in the guise of affirmative action that were constructed, people were still able to eke out a decent living and make enough to put aside for a rainy day. And give their kids good education with moral values.

But all that changed almost suddenly. We are now well-known for repressing dissent, jailing social activists and opposition members, 1MDB, and GST. And the list goes on.

A Nation in Debt

We now have a domestic debt of over 80 percent, which means that 80 percent of salaries and wages are set aside for debt repayment and the balance for food, shelter, transport and health. It is impossible to save anything, much less to even have a decent meal once a month.

To exacerbate the problem, we seem to be jailing and punishing the very people who have championed the struggles of the people. Two days ago, Tian Chua (centre in photo), the PKR MP for Batu in Kuala Lumpur, was jailed for being present in a police restricted area.

Malaysian Law is an Ass when our Judges are slaves to Political Power

But his defence was that he was forcibly brought into the restricted area after taking part in an elections reform rally, Bersih in 2012. Surely common sense must prevail. If the facts are correct, according to Tian Chua, the courts should have found the charge defective and released him, even if he withdrew his appeal. What has happened to the concept of judicial review?

Desperation and depravation

In any democracy, the ballot becomes the silver bullet for ills ailing society. If a government fails in its elected duties, you change it in the next polls. But that hope for a fair and clean poll is now fading. Disingenuous and not so subtle methods are underway to ensure that the incumbents are returned, come hell or high water.

Gerrymandering and altering election boundaries are in full swing and there are efforts to stop them by various NGOs and individuals. But the courts do not seem to be very impressed with these efforts and neither do they seem too keen to upset the apple cart.

As desperation turns into depravation, the ruling regime is conscious that for the very first time in 60 years, dissent and dissatisfaction are now rampant, cutting across racial, religious, and social barriers. And that it could be facing a catastrophic and historic defeat is a very real possibility now.

The desperation becomes more and more apparent by the ludicrous replies given by various officials and ministers to genuine concerns and questions by the opposition and pressure groups.

Joy Ride  on a Military Aircraft at Taxpayers’ Expense

One such reply that stands out is the use of military assets to fly Sarawak chiefs to Putrajaya to thank them for fighting the communist some 47 years ago!

One wonders what four Prime Ministers were doing in four decades of being in power and all of them seem to have forgotten to reward the Sarawak chiefs.

Our “fixed deposits” seem to have garnered no interest in forty years. That latest gaffe is just the tip of the iceberg of a slew of idiotic responses to come out of the corridors of power over the last two years or so.

Thrust into power again

Our hope lies in the fabric of our political set-up. We now have an opposition that seems to have recovered from its own internal squabbles, cobbled together by a motley crew of ageing and youthful leaders.

For many, the resurgence and leadership of Dr Mahathir Mohamad are as repulsive as the idea of Malaysia being led by the current Prime Minister. His chairing of the opposition Pakatan Harapan seems like a fait accompli after the jailing of Anwar Ibrahim, the former opposition leader.

While the opposition has many young leaders in the likes of Nurul Izzah Anwar, Liew Chin Tong and Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman who will be the next generation of lawmakers, they do not as yet have the political acumen to defeat the juggernaut that is Barisan Nasional. For that, Harapan needs the wiles and cunning strategies of older leaders who have been to the brink and back like Mahathir, Lim Kit Siang and others to out-think and out-fox an aging old and wounded wolf.

Mahathir’s Legacy–A Broken System of Governance

Many institutions of governance today suffer the symptoms and ills of 22 years under Dr Mahathir’s leadership. It is not an exaggeration to say that many challenges today are the 92-year-old’s making. However, there were moments of glory and achievement as well.

The people were not taxed beyond what they could bear. Short of apologising for the past, he has, by his actions and words, shown a genuine interest in getting this once beautiful and tolerant nation back onto its feet.

Image result for Mahathir Mohamad

Whether he has other motives or not, at this present time, we do not know. What we do know is that we lack salt and experienced leaders in the opposition.

 

When our poets, satirists, cartoonists, songwriters and social activists are persecuted, prosecuted and jailed for speaking up, when opposition voices are silenced by the very parliament they have been voted into, we know that democracy has become tyrannical and kleptocratic.

Zunar–The Cartoonist and Freedom Fighter

Harapan needs to tell the people what its game plan is. They need to know and know now, what corrective economic and social measures they have planned after winning over Putrajaya. General broad strokes are no longer enough. The rakyat needs a concrete hope and the brass tacks of programmes for them to believe in.

For better or for worse, our hope lies in this bunch of former political enemies, pulled together by fate and a common foe. We cannot afford to take the wrong road again.

*COGITO ERGO SUM is a Malaysiakini reader.

Puteri Reformasi Nurul Izzah Anwar talks Politics and her Future


September 25, 2017

Puteri Reformasi Nurul Izzah Anwar talks Politics and her Future

by Zikri Kamarulzaman

http://www.malaysiakini.com

INTERVIEW | For almost two decades, Anwar Ibrahim has been the opposition’s bedrock, a political titan who had cast a long shadow over those opposed to BN.

It is a shadow that his party PKR has struggled to step out of, even in his long absence due to imprisonment over sodomy charges.

Image result for nurul izzah anwar at wefin phnom penh

Reverence for Anwar had even stymied Pakatan Harapan at one point, with PKR’s insistence on giving him a top position and delaying the formation of the coalition’s leadership lineup for weeks.

Still, he remains highly regarded, with many still deferring to his judgement or invoking his name in their struggles. But as the 14th general election (GE14) looms, Anwar’s daughter Nurul Izzah feels that it is time for the opposition to step into the light.

“At the end of the day I think even Anwar himself wants us to move beyond his shadow,” the PKR Vice-President told Malaysiakini in an interview on Thursday.

Praising Anwar’s commitment and willingness to sacrifice personal freedoms for a better Malaysia, Nurul Izzah said the former Deputy Prime Minister’s ideals and struggles are embodied by PKR, and is what drives the party forward. however, she said PKR was not a personality based movement.

Her remarks echo that of Anwar’s symbolic statement in June this year, that he would not be seeking a position as Harapan’s candidate for Prime Minister.

His statement came amid long, drawn-out arguments between Harapan and its then-newest member Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia on who should head the new government.

Many in PKR, DAP and Amanah insisted that Anwar was the only choice, but the former opposition leader said such arguments were distracting the coalition from more important matters, such as preparing for GE14.

Malaysia’s Prisoner of Conscience–Anwar Ibrahim

GE14 will likely be the first time since 2008 that Anwar has not been on the ground campaigning for the opposition. He is currently serving a five-year jail term, but is expected to be freed by the middle of 2018 on good behaviour.

Women not given enough priority

Nurul Izzah indicated that his absence will be felt on the campaign circuit, but said many leaders, especially women, have stepped up to the plate.

“We should focus on our core strengths. PKR President Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and (Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s wife) Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, they have their own followers.

“The womenfolk are always, always not given enough priority. I feel that it is a Zeitgeist for female empowerment. It is our moment to seize the future of Malaysia,” the Lembah Pantai MP said.

But to truly step out of Anwar’s shadow, she said, one thing must be done by the opposition, which is to achieve critical mass among all walks of society in order to enact reforms.

“If you want to step out of the shadow, we should harness everyone’s strength… Even harnessing the strength and support of PAS members.

“If we can harness a former dictator (Mahathir) who has embraced reformasi, don’t tell me that you can’t harness everyone else.”

In the following excerpt from Malaysiakini‘s interview, Nurul Izzah addresses speculation that she will be defending Anwar’s traditional seat Permatang Pauh, as well as whether her siblings will be contesting in GE14.

The interview has been edited for language and brevity:

Will you defend Lembah Pantai? There are rumours that you will move to Permatang Pauh.

I love rumours, Malaysia is built on rumours, at least because we don’t have access to mainstream media. Thankfully, we have Malaysiakini, which can allay some rumours

It has been such an honour (being Lembah Pantai MP) because I contested in 2008 and it was Bangsar, it was Lembah Pantai, it was Kerinchi.

Lembah Pantai is a microcosm of Malaysia, and that’s where I got the chance to represent them. I was humbled by the experience, especially more so winning for a second term the most hotly contested seat (in the Federal Territories) previously held by (UMNO Wanita Chief) Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, and then the new minister (Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin), who controlled the coffers of Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), and who defined the name of the game in terms of political patronage. So, it was so monumental for me.

I’ve learned so much. I would love to serve them (Lembah Pantai constituents) again. But we are all tied to the decisions made by the political bureau. This is exactly my same answer in 2008 when people asked me, “Are you going to contest Lembah Pantai?”.

Now we are making our rounds visiting the constituencies especially where people are in need of help, and we are planning a huge Deepavali get together.

So, for me until D-Day, which is election day, it’s going to be a battle in Lembah Pantai, that is how I look at it.

If PKR’s political bureau decides that you have to go to Permatang Pauh, would you go?

Yes. Of course. As a soldier of the party, I would expect every candidate that hasn’t been dropped to follow the instructions of the party.

There is a certain degree of freedom allocated to you as an individual, but there’s also the responsibility you have towards the organisation, and that’s community responsibility at work.

Assuming you stay in Lembah Pantai, your vote majority fell by over 1,000 votes in GE13. Can you survive?

I was really humbled by that win. It was extremely challenging. You aren’t taking into account the exact number of votes and the exact degree of manipulation.

Who knows exactly how many votes were cast for us? At the same time, you also have the transfer of voters that took place quite alarmingly in the last election, and because of that, I don’t really place much of an issue in terms of numbers.

It’s more of whether the seats are marginal or whether it’s supposed to be a safe cushion for us in the government. We have to ensure there is a high degree of voter awareness. We have to utilise technology whether it is cell phone cameras etcetera, to guard against vote tampering.

We do hope this time around with all this preparation and investment in poll monitors, legal support, there will be a reduction in terms of BN getting fewer opportunities to get away with fraud.

Prime Minister Najib Razak (seen with his Advisors and Sycophants) faces the greatest challenge of his long political career– Credibility. Problems he faces are of his own making. He is seen as a corrupt, dishonest, lying and greedy leader. As a result, he is today the most unpopular Prime Minister in our country’s history. That said, he has all the advantages of incumbency and should not be underestimated–Din Merican

But we have to be realistic. It is life or death for (Prime Minister) Najib (Abdul Razak). It is life or death for his government. They won’t stop at anything.

That is something we have to be prepared for. You have to understand that we used to win due to protest votes. We used to win due to people genuinely giving a chance to the opposition. But this time around, it’s going to be a clear headcount war.

Every person has to be engaged.The approach by Harapan’s secretariat is canvassing, getting out to the voters like never before utilising sentiment analysis, which is what (PKR Vice-President) Rafizi Ramli has been mentioning, also Institut Darul Ehsan has been , targeting people’s sentiments.

These must all coalesce into a targeted smart and sophisticated campaign. Every message counts. We can’t make a mistake because BN (UMNO-BN) will be watching and, of course, their mistakes can be managed very well through a controlled media, but not ours.

So yes, I think because of that, marginal seats are not just ours for winning but also theirs for losing.

Will your siblings be contesting in GE14?

(Laughs). You have to ask them. I think that’s quite a funny question you know… all of us have the Anwar DNA.

I grew up very much in my formative years with reformasi. He was in prison for a long time. I can’t change the fact that I’m very much his daughter. But in terms of learning about human rights, civil rights, that is from (my time in) Abim, Suaram. That formed me into the person I am today.

We (my siblings and I) are all of different cohorts. I’m building a future for Malaysia. I want to represent my generation, and that’s the generation born from 1980, 1985, to 1999. That’s my generation. So I represent them.

I think my sisters and my brothers represent their generation. You don’t need to be a politician to enact change

You have to give them the right to choose. So you have to ask my siblings (whether they want to contest in GE14). For now, they are quite happy in their own chosen vocations.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I want to continue fighting for the ideals I believe in. I want to be proud of the fact that I am a living testament to my children as someone who will do everything I can to secure a better future for them.

MP Nurul Izzah Anwar who was born into a political family is Vice President of Parti KeADILan Rakyat (PKR) which was founded by her father, Anwar Ibrahim. Her mother, Dr. Wan Azizah is PKR President.

And of course, I’d like to always be there as their mother. Supporting them, empowering them. Since they’re the biggest joys for me.

YESTERDAY: No negotiations, Nurul Izzah says Harapan’s stand is clear