Message to Harapan Government– NIP Wahhabism in the Bud


November 18, 2018

Message to Harapan Government— NIP Wahhabism the Bud

By Fathol Zaman Bukhari

https://www.ipohecho.com.my/v4/article/2018/11/16/spread-of-wahhabism

Professor Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid of Universiti Sains Malaysia’s damning statement that Muslims in Malaysia are “slowly but surely becoming radicalised” should not be taken lightly. I knew this was coming as ominous signs are so plentiful and obvious that even the most cynical can no longer dismiss them as inconsequential.

The Islamic scholar implored that the new Pakatan Harapan Government take precautionary measures to arrest the spread before things get out of hand.

“Before the situation becomes untenable like what is happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it’s better to nip the problem in the bud. We need to do whatever possible to see it done. Revamping the school curriculum is one possible way to correct the situation,” he said.

Islam preaches compassion, love and tolerance but what we see in the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan is something else. All of those benign virtues associated with Islam are being systematically destroyed by people who use religion for their very own selfish ends. I concur with the academician that religious extremism has no place in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Malaysia.

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The radicalisation of Islam in Malaysia, incidentally, did not happen in a few short years. It is like an underground fire that is fueled by methane gas. You don’t see the flame but the burning continues and the heat permeates through the vents. It becomes volatile and deadly once the flames reach the surface and start to engulf the surrounding. This is the scenario I can think of.

According to Fauzi, Islamic theology taught in government schools in the early 1990s has shifted from traditional to one derived from the Middle East, especially from Saudi Arabia. The views are one-sided, sidestepping the norms while embracing a more radical form of mind-set, one of exclusivity, supremacist, with diminishing respect for the practitioners of other religions. Thus minorities and those with differing views are considered “aliens” or “non-conformists.”

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The term “liberalism” is often bandied about. If being a Muslim and you don’t conform you are a “liberal” and is regarded an outcast destined to burn in hell. The naivety is simply mind-blowing. The only similarity I can allude to is the Inquisition in 12th century France which later spread to Spain and Portugal. The objective of the Inquisitors was to “combat dissent and public heresy committed by baptised Christians.” And the targeted groups were mainly converts who were erroneously labelled as suspects due to the “assumption that they had secretly reverted to their former religions.

Incidentally, the last public execution of the Inquisition was in Spain in 1826 when a school teacher was garrotted (strangled) for being a disbeliever and attempting to spread his belief to his students.

Things were definitely different, pre- and post Merdeka in 1957. And being someone from that era I can safely vouch for it. In 1979, following the Iranian Revolution that helped catapult Ayatollah Khomeini into power, the equation changed dramatically. The revolution sparked interest in Islam all over the world.

Iran is a proponent of the Shia form of Islam which is strongly opposed by the Sunnis in other parts of the Muslim world led by Saudi Arabia. The oil-rich Saudi government, in wanting to counter the spread of Shia teachings, took advantage of this change offering scholarships and money to institutions and charities in the developing Muslim world. Malaysia was one of the many beneficiaries.

 

This, the Saudis believe, would help impose their brand of conservative Islam popularly referred to as Wahhabism or Salafism within their area of influence, including Malaysia.

In the 1980s and 1990s many Malaysians, especially Malay Muslims, went overseas for higher education. Due to the interest in Islam, many headed to the Middle East especially Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt to pursue religious studies. This was made possible by the generous scholarships offered by the Saudi Arabian government. Over there they were exposed to the Wahhabi/Salafist way of thinking and practices.

When these students returned they got into the mainstream education system and becoming the ideal source for the Wahhabi/Salafist way of thinking which preaches intolerance, extremism and exclusivity. Some gained entry into the civil service, becoming influential bureaucrats, lawyers, academicians and politicians. These people are now in positions of power thus allowing them to make decisions for the good and bad of all of us. That explains why the thinking of these “misfits” are so skewed

Wahhabism was started by Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792) who was dismayed by what he saw in Istanbul. The Ottoman Turks’ way of life, he reasoned, was revolting. He then decided to propagate his version of “a pure and unadulterated Islam.”

The “Arabisation” of Malay Muslims has accelerated over the years. Today “uncovered” women are a rarity. And if you do meet them they are among the few who dare to be different. To the diehard believers, this phenomenon is the result of the proliferation liberalism that corrodes their way of life. The traditional yet alluring kebaya modern, the choice dress of my mother and aunties in the 1950s right to 1970s, had given way to the drab and soulless “tudung” and “telekung” which are designed to conceal the female figure.

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Why no skull cap for Anwar Ibrahim?

Male members are more adept at sporting a goatee and wearing a skullcap, as this is deemed appropriate and in sync with the dress code of Wahhabis. The more Arab one looks and talks, help to improve one’s religious credentials. It is about being as close as what was witnessed in 6th century Mecca and Madinah.
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So “selamat pagi” becomes “assalamualaikum” and “akhirat” becomes “jannah”. It is definitely chic to lace one’s speech with some Arab-sounding words although they may mean little or nothing to both speakers and listeners. The absurdity is getting a little out of hand, I dare say. But to the adherents this is God-sent.

The troubled interfaith relations prevalent today are the result of this exclusivist Wahhabi/Salafist thinking which has crept into the education curriculum and mind-set. Renowned Muslim scholars are labelled “secular” and “liberal” to keep the Muslim masses from hearing them out. Those who do not toe the line are banned from speaking out. Fatwas (religious edicts) issued are seldom explained. Questioning a fatwa is considered blasphemous.

Notwithstanding the brouhaha surrounding the controversial Department of Islamic Development (JAKIM), no solutions are yet forthcoming. Funding for the department’s many questionable activities has never been accounted for.

Where will all this lead us to? Your guess is as good as mine. With the emergence of Malaysia Baru (New Malaysia) this inadequacy will be addressed in due course. But looking at what’s been happening, I have my doubts.

Hopefully, I will be proven wrong.

Rafizi Ramli: I conceded defeat for the greater good


November 17, 2018

Rafizi Ramli: I conceded defeat for the greater good

By http://www.malaysiakini.com

PKR POLLS | Rafizi Ramli said he conceded defeat to Mohamed Azmin Ali in the PKR Deputy Presidency race, despite having reasons to appeal, for the greater good of the party.

Rafizi Ramli: Be honest with yourself and admit you lost to Economics Minister Azmin Ali. Learn to accept the choice of PKR members and fall in line.–Din Merican

In a lengthy statement this evening, Rafizi said he would not have suffered the same impact as Azmin had the latter lost the race.

“He is a senior minister, a two-term incumbent and former Menteri Besar. Losing to an unemployed person will force him to disappear from the political arena,” said Rafizi. In view of this, Rafizi said it was unlikely that Azmin’s supporters would have taken defeat easily.

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Economics Minister Dato Seri Azmin Ali  defeats Rafizi Ramli

Throughout the statement, Rafizi mentioned four times that Azmin’s winning margin was only two percent of the total votes cast.

“The election result is very clear. Azmin’s popular vote is only 51 percent – that’s a two percent margin over mine. It reflects the (diametric) directions (in the party) which are equally strong and important.

“The message being sent by the members, which allowed Azmin – a senior minister, incumbent of eight years and former Menteri Besar – to win with less than two percent (margin), is a message which he has to reflect upon,” said Rafizi.

Given that the winning margin was so small, Rafizi said that the many irregularities he had raised in the past – unfair handling of the elections, missing votes, “data wiping” in Julau and the disruption of Internet connections, among others – were reasons to hold a fresh election, but he didn’t pursue it.

“I have a strong case to insist on fresh elections … However, I am aware that the interest of the party and our struggle was above all. “We offer ourselves (as candidates) to serve the public … If the party is embroiled in a protracted feud, then it contradicts our purpose, which is to serve,” he said.

He said that, for example, had he pursued fresh elections for the Julau division and won, which he was confident that individuals such as Sarawak PKR information chief Vernon Albert Kedit would have lodged a report with the Registrar of Societies and brought the matter to court.

During the election on November 10, the unofficial results indicated that some 1,600 members from the Julau division had voted in favour of Rafizi over Azmin, who received about 240 votes.

Rafizi had claimed that the tablets used for the e-voting system were compromised and demanded fresh elections. The elections committee (JPP) head Rashid Din said that this was not true and instead accused Rafizi of having a case of sour grapes after failing to mobilise members to vote.

Had the dispute over the party elections continued this weekend, when the party was holding its national congress, it would only bring the new PKR President and Prime Minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim into disrepute, said Rafizi.

Looking ahead, Rafizi said his next mission was to meet PKR grassroots in order to help them organise themselves. He also pledged to set up a co-operative to help PKR members who “did not benefit from this struggle”.

He also thanked supporters from across the country who helped him campaign for free. “I do not have any (government) positions and I am not wealthy enough to pay you all, but you all served as volunteers,” he said.

Rafizi will speak as the outgoing PKR Vice-President during the party’s national congress in Shah Alam, Selangor on Sunday.

Why I am very disillusioned with PKR


November 7, 2018

Why I am very disillusioned with PKR

 

 

Opinion

by Francis Paul Siah@www.malaysiakini.com

–“The majority of Malaysians are not interested in your internal party problems. They are fed up”.–Francis Paul Siah

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COMMENT | I didn’t mince my words when I sent this message to a very dear friend who is a key leader in Sarawak PKR the day he and his party comrades lodged a report at the Kuching MACC over alleged ambiguities in the Julau PKR division. “Do you know that all of you look like clowns in the media requesting the MACC to go after one of your own MPs?

“What nonsense is this? You cannot even resolve a simple problem within a small division in your party and you expect us to believe that you can run the country!

“Again, I say ‘paloi’ to all those fighting one another in PKR. Sorry, my friend. The majority of Malaysians are not interested in your internal party problems. They are fed up”.

My friend attempted this feeble response: “So what do you expect us clowns to do? Keep quiet and let them destroy our party? It’s quite obvious that party members often do not see what is wrong within their own organisation and it takes an outsider to awaken them with the truth.

So let the truth be told.

Replying to my friend, I said that no one is destroying PKR from outside. It is PKR leaders themselves, due to their greed and lust for power, who are destroying the party. When they have power, they cannot handle it.

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I’ve just viewed the video of the fracas in Keningau in which PKR Deputy presidential candidate Rafizi Ramli was allegedly assaulted. It should have been a typical BN vs Pakatan Harapan scene during an election. Now, it’s a PKR vs PKR brawl. How sickening is that?

Many of us are probably aware that a top PKR leader is a notable schemer. He has been scheming throughout his long political career. At times, one wonders whether his political enemies only exist in his imagination. Such a leader who frequently indulges in shadow boxing is unfit to lead any organisation, let alone the nation.

Whether my friends in Sarawak PKR trust my words or not, this was my sincere message to them:  “You guys in Sarawak PKR deserve better. I do not see any problem in Sarawak PKR. You are all decent and responsible folks. Why get entangled in nonsense imported from Malaya?”

“And why do you need the whole Sarawak PKR committee to be present to lodge a report against a member who only joined the party five months ago? You are all giving (PKR Julau MP) Larry Sng too much ‘face’ when he doesn’t deserve it? Wrong move!”

“The problem with PKR leaders now is that when there is no enemy to fight, they fight among themselves. No different from those UMNO parasites whom Malaysians had just said good riddance to. Very disappointing and sad indeed!”

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I ended with this poser to my friend: “So what if (deputy president) Azmin (Ali) wins? So what if Rafizi wins? What do Sarawak or Sarawakians benefit? Only some of you in the party will probably gain from the spoils of war if your ‘ayam sabong‘ (fighting cock) is victorious. Is this what the PKR election is all about – just for the benefit of a few in the party?”

Internal strife, bigger problems

What is happening in PKR today has greatly disappointed Malaysians. PKR emerged as the biggest party in the Harapan coalition after GE-14 because of the support of Malaysians who wanted change. All the Harapan candidates who contested under the PKR symbol (except in Sarawak and Sabah) had greatly helped the party gained prominence too. PKR leaders should do well to bear that in mind.

A few months later, PKR turned out to be one big mess, a party which has lost the respect of many, mine certainly. The ongoing party polls are getting messier and dirtier with the police and MACC now involved. This makes the UMNO elections, with the alleged involvement of money politics, pale into a fight among kindergarten kids.

No one, perhaps not even the PKR leadership, expected the party elections to turn out this way – one gigantic mess which could split the party right down the middle.

And we were told earlier that a party election is normal and part of the democratic process and that this would be a friendly contest within the family. Haven’t we heard enough of such crap from politicians?

I’ have posed this before in a previous article, so let me repeat it to the warring factions in PKR: Are you all happy to see either Azmin or Rafizi destroyed politically or would you be happier to see them working together and contributing positively for the betterment of the nation and people? At this stage of the game, I predict a victory for Azmin. I also foresee more internal strife and bigger problems for PKR in the weeks and months down the road.

And one more thing – I also think it’s okay for Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to renege on his promises by saying, “Oh, when I said it, I didn’t know we were going to win the elections”. So PKR, don’t say you have not been warned. The people are watching.


FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at sirsiah@gmail.com

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

Welcome to Malaysia’s Brave New World


November 5, 2018

Welcome to Malaysia’s Brave New World

by: John Berthelsen

https://www.asiasentinel.com/econ-business/malaysia-brave-new-world/

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“Euphoria is dying off and bodies like Bersih, he continued, have started criticizing the new government. Many from civil society are keeping silent. “I suppose the saving grace is that Najib and his cohorts are gone. But that can’t console people forever.”_- J. Berthelsen

Six months into the rule of Malaysia’s new reform government, the bloom has started to fade as the Pakatan Harapan coalition attracts growing criticism while it seeks to find its feet against the political and economic debris left by the outgoing Barisan Nasional, driven from power on May 9 after six-plus decades in office.

The problems the government faces were starkly outlined on Nov. 1 by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng in a marathon 14,000 word speech outlining the 2019 budget, in which he stated that the previous government, which he characterized as “kleptocratic,” had understated debt and liabilities by nearly 40 percent, rising to a stunning RM1.05 trillion (US$256.8 billion) in an effort to hide corruption, and that debts from the scandal-scarred 1Malaysia Development Bhd development fund could total as much as RM43.9 billion, not including RM7 billion in interest secretly paid on 1MDB debts using taxpayer money illegally.

To Malaysia’s credit, the frighteningly poisonous racial equation, in which ethnic Malays make up about half the population, the Chinese 23 percent and Indians 7 percent, with the rest split between expatriates and bumiputera tribes in East Malaysia, seems to have cooled markedly. The previous government’s attempt to use fundamentalists Islam to pound minorities has largely ceased although UMNO and the fundamentalist Parti Islam se-Malaysia continue to attempt to fan the flames. It remains to be seen what strains there are between the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party, Mahathir’s Parti Bersatu Pribumi, and Anwar Ibrahim’s moderate, urban Malay Parti Keadilan Rakyat – and what internal strains there are inside PKR.

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The country is faced with a long series of monumental tasks – rebuilding a judiciary that was thoroughly corrupted by the previous government’s 61 years in power. The education system is a shamble, built on Malay privilege instead of academic achievement.  Lim called attention to educational shortcomings with a long series of measures allocating funds to lower-income students, upgrading failing schools and educational infrastructure, training and vocational education programs. Other sources say the government is being hamstrung to a certain extent by a civil service loyal to the previous government.

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A series of murders including that in 2006 of Mongolian translator and party girl Altantuya Shaariibuu, AMBank founder Hussain Najadi and prosecutor Kevin Morais (pic above), all believed to be at the hands of high government officials, remain to be solved or even looked into.

The new government, caught by circumstances, has compounded its problems by campaigning against a deeply unpopular Goods and Services Tax (GST) implemented by the government of former Prime Minister Najib Razak, and then actually repealing it once in office, leaving a gigantic hole in government revenues.

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‘–at the same time it has agreed to go along with Mahahir’s ill-conceived hobby horse, another national car project.

…That is despite 30-odd years of his previous ill-conceived hobby horse, the Proton national car, which cost the treasury billions of ringgit and billions more to consumers in lost opportunity costs from paying through the nose for heavily tariffed competitors. “- J. Berthelsen

It is seeking to fill the hole with a variety of piecemeal taxes – at the same time it has agreed to go along with Mahahir’s ill-conceived hobby horse, another national car project. That is despite 30-odd years of his previous ill-conceived hobby horse, the Proton national car, which cost the treasury billions of ringgit and billions more to consumers in lost opportunity costs from paying through the nose for heavily tariffed competitors.

“There was a lot of euphoria when Pakatan won the elections, but expectations were also very high,” said a prominent business source in Kuala Lumpur. “They have a small window. If they don’t deliver, that window will start closing.  But unfortunately, politicians will be politicians. They are inexperienced, and the euphoria is wearing off. So far, we have had no exciting government programs. New Malaysia is like Old Malaysia, minus Najib Razak and his 40 thieves.”

Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor have both been arrested and are expected to go on trial next year. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been confiscated by Malaysian and US authorities although hundreds of millions more, perhaps billions, remain outside he government grasp.  Jewelry, handbags, watches, cash and other riches belonging to Rosmah that have been confiscated total at least US$273 million, putting her in a league even above Imelda Marcos, the wife of the late Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos, who held the public record for corruption. It remains to be seen if the Najibs surpass it.

The businessman’s assessment could be a bit pessimistic.  The government has abolished with capital punishment and the press appears to remain largely free despite reluctance on the part of the government to abolish a “fake news” bill pushed through at the last minute by the previous administration in an effort to muzzle pre-election critics.

But a sedition act used against the previous government’s foes remains on the books and has been used against critics. Civic organizations including Suaram have called attention to government inactions on a variety of rights issues. There is also concern on the part of the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, known as Bersih, and others that MPs from the thoroughly disgraced United Malays National Organization are migrating to Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, headed by once and current Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, diluting the reformist zeal of the Pakatan Harapan coalition.  Although as many as 40 UMNO MPs are said to be contemplating such a move, Mahathir said they would be vetted individually and known crooks would be kept out.

But, said Kim Quek, a spokesman for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat in an email, “I foresee mounting tension when UMNO MPs slip into Bersatu, one after another quietly, causing endless suspicion…and mounting public disapproval.”

The headwinds outlined by Finance Minister Lim paint a pessimistic picture for both business and government. With the Trump administration cracking down on trade in Washington, DC, and the global economy beginning to slow, the budget, at a record RM314.6 billion, is forecast to run 3.7 percent of GDP in the red with economic growth expected to slow to 4.8 percent from 5.9 percent in 2017.  The ringgit, Malaysia’s currency, has fallen by 10 percent against the US dollar, in line with troubles across the world as interest rates rise in the United States, causing a flight out of emerging markets.

Lim, in his speech, set out a series of measures designed to help business and vowed to get government out of commerce, saying “clearly, government owned companies have been competing directly with private companies in non-strategic sectors. The outcome was the apparent ‘crowding out’ of private sector investments where private companies are unable to grow and compete.”

The private sector, he said, must lead, and the finance ministry is expected to establish a task force designed to evaluate and reduce duplication of functions,  a ray of hope that the country’s notorious rent-seeking government-linked companies, which funneled millions from inflated contracts to UMNO, could be cut back and its even more notorious cronyism could be reduced.

“Going forward, the government will focus its expenditure and investments only in strategic sectors and areas where the markets are unable to meet the needs of the people,” he said..

Nonetheless, business investment remains lackluster while the sector tries to figure out which way the government is going to go.

“Malaysia will undoubtedly be affected by the US-China trade war given that both these countries are among our top three trading partners,” Lim said in his budget speech. Exports remain a significant driver of the economy, particularly including electronics, oil and gas and palm oil.

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Comeback kids: Like Dr M, other political figures have had second and even third acts during their careers, including (from left) Netanyahu, Abe, Berlusconi and Churchill    

Leadership remains somewhat unsettled, with Mahathir, at 93 the world’s oldest government leader, committed to staying for two years after the formation of the government. Anwar Ibrahim, now 71, has been waiting in the wing for decades, from the time when he was Mahathir’s chosen successor only to be fired and jailed after disagreements in 1998. Although he said he would study abroad and recover from his most recent imprisonment, he forced a by-election to return to parliament a few weeks ago, disconcerting some of his followers, who accused him of acting too quickly.

In the meantime, two of Anwar’s deputies – Mohamad Azmin Ali, the Minister of Economic Affairs, and Rafizi Ramli, the Parti Keadilan general secretary,  are staging their own internecine squabble to become deputy party leader with an eye to succeeding Anwar, raising concerns over party – and coalition – unity.  Pakatan Harapan remains a work in progress. Azmin is said to be aligned with Mahathir, Rafizi with Anwar.

That raises the spectre of Mahathir and Anwar continuing to try to do in each other despite public pledges of amity, including Mahathir campaigning for Anwar in the Port Dickson by-election that brought him back into the parliament.

“The Harapan guys thought that since they couldn’t get worse than Najib, people would continue to support them,” another source said. “They forget that there will always be alternatives; if not in the next five years, then in the next 10 maybe.  Inflation is creeping up; wages have not gone up; new taxes are being introduced and people still struggle to put food on the table. Business is slow; businessmen are not re-investing as they are unsure of this government’s policies.”

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Award winning Journalist John Berthelsen

Euphoria is dying off and bodies like Bersih, he continued, have started criticizing the new government. Many from civil society are keeping silent. “I suppose the saving grace is that Najib and his cohorts are gone. But that can’t console people forever.”

Can UMNO-BN defectors ever reform?


November 3, 2018

Can UMNO-BN defectors ever reform?

By Dean Johns

http://www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | As Bersih, Amanah and many concerned individuals have said recently, any move on the part of Pakatan Harapan or any of its component parties to even think about accepting UMNO-BN no-hopers into their ranks, let alone seriously consider doing so, is an absolute outrage.

 

There has been no sign that these 40 thieves have turned over a new leaf; that these pathological liars have seen the light, or perceived the error of their ways.

All of them – without exception – have been either accomplices in or accessories to the massive crimes allegedly committed by their former UMNO-BN leaders, and none have shown the slightest sign of regret, remorse, repentance or intention to reform.

And until they have publicly done so, and surrendered their ill-gotten assets to the national treasury, they should remain criminal suspects, and at the very least be subjected to forensic audits of their financial affairs.

So for Pakatan Harapan to consider admitting UMNO-BN defectors without their confessing, and serving sentences or even periods of probation for their crimes and corruption, or repaying the rakyat, is like placing rotten apples into a fresh new barrel, or incorporating cancer cells into a young, healthy body.

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Or to put this another way, unless and until they sincerely reform, it should be assumed that their motive for aspiring to join Harapan is to insert themselves into a force, hell-bent on undermining and eventually destroying the new government from within.

And thus, far from entertaining their hopes of hopping sides, Harapan should tell off these “frogs and toads”, which happens to be rhyming slang for “road”, which they should be hitting.

Considering that they’ve betrayed the Malaysian people – especially the Malay-Muslim people whose interests as UMNO–BN members they falsely claimed to ‘protect’ – and have now shown their willingness to betray those who voted for them as well as UMNO-BN itself, they can hardly be seen as trustworthy converts to the Harapan cause.

And then there’s the thought that Harapan, and especially its Bersatu component, is already stuffed full enough with unregenerate UMNO-BN renegades and rejects.

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Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is the most prominent example. While admittedly it seems unarguable that Harapan could not have won without him, many of us strongly suspect that he’s still the same old autocrat and even the same old mad hatter at heart.

And that it was his personal hatred for ex-premier Najib Abdul Razak in particular rather than for UMNO-BN in principle that impelled him to make a comeback as the head of Pakatan Harapan.

Little sign of regret

Certainly, despite his appearing to be a reformed character, he’s shown little sign of regret for the countless crimes, corruption and perversions of justice that characterised his 22 years as President of UMNO Baru and UMNO-BN Prime Minister.

Nor has there been any sign that any of his sons are about to be retrospectively investigated any time soon for past scandals and dubious business successes.

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Then there’s Najib’s onetime Deputy Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, whose highly likely involvement in or at least strong support of UMNO-BN malefactions back then, is somehow never mentioned, and whose ‘conversion’ to Harapan principles and values has gone largely, if not, totally unexamined.

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There are some, I know, who suspect that Mahathir and Muhyiddin, now that they have used Pakatan Harapan as a vehicle to wreak vengeance on Najib, will eventually reveal that, far from being agents of reform, are actually on a secret mission to re-form a revised or alternative version of UMNO-BN.

And some of the same conspiracy theorists are similarly suspicious of the intentions of Anwar Ibrahim, if and when he replaces Mahathir as Prime Minister. Despite his apparently impeccable credentials as the former leader of the Reformasi movement and such a bitter enemy of Mahathir and Najib that each of them jailed him for years, many still see him as being cursed with UMNO-BN DNA.

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But whatever the true motivations and intentions of these and other former leading members of UMNO-BN, the last thing the Pakatan Harapan coalition or the citizens of Malaysia need right now, is to risk accepting allegedly reformed deserters from this defeated and disgraced regime, lest they re-form and threaten the new government.

Exactly eight years ago, I suggested in a column entitled ‘From Putrajaya to Putrajail’, they should be hauled into court and, following a fair trial, of course, be sentenced to years in the UMNO-BN.

*DEAN JOHNS, after many years in Asia, currently lives with his Malaysian-born wife and daughter in Sydney, where he coaches and mentors writers and authors and practises as a writing therapist. Published compilations of his Malaysiakini columns include “Mad about Malaysia”, “Even Madder about Malaysia”, “Missing Malaysia”, “1Malaysia.con” and “Malaysia Mania”.

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


aysiakini.

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On Malaysian Education


 

On Malaysian Education

by Dr. Sharifah Munirah Alatas

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

There is no need to revamp our higher education system, because there is a system already in place. On paper, at least, the system is spectacular.

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Just look at the facts that we are regularly bombarded with. Five of our 20 public universities have attained research university status. Five have also been given autonomy in administration, human resources, financial and academic management and student intake.

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This move, supposedly is to encourage excellence among our institutions of higher learning. Several initiatives have also been undertaken by the federal government in the past, including the establishment of Malaysian university branch campuses in other countries.

There are lofty plans to create more Malaysian Chairs at universities abroad and to improve the world ranking of Malaysian universities.

Currently, there are seven foreign universities with branch campuses in Malaysia. Part of the system too is that a target has been set of 100 researchers, scientists and engineers (RSE) per 100,000 workforce by 2020.

Also, the previous Malaysia Plan (10MP) had set a goal to improve the quality of academic staff in public universities, by increasing the number of academics with PhD’s. The ambition is to have 75% of academics with PhD’s in public universities.

Last but not least, we are proud of Setara, MyQUEST, MQA and numerous acts and accreditation agencies that allegedly regulate the provision of high quality public and private higher education in Malaysia.

What is all the fuss about our education system then? Why was there an uproar, and subsequently an increasing disappointment among parents and other citizens’ groups with the appointment of Maszlee Malik as our minister of education?

I think many older Malaysians have an intuitive sense about the reasons for the apparent under performance of our education system. However, to date, there has not been a critical and decisive articulation of what has really failed.

It is not the system as much as the mind, the thinking and the lack of an awakening which have failed in nurturing this system.

Australia’s former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd hosted a dialogue with Dr Mahathir Mohamad last month at the Asia Society in New York. Mahathir responded to a question about what needs to be done to improve Malaysia’s education standard and how to inculcate noble values among children in Malaysia. His key answer was to increase the use of English as it is a universal language.

Although I am in full support of this, our education ministry must dig deeper. There has been so much (too much in fact) talk about adopting the Finnish system of education.

Minister Maszlee said Malaysia should focus on a learning system that is technology-centric, with an emphasis on the English language.  Agreed.

What I disagree with, though, is his far-reaching ambition for Malaysian youth to embrace multiple languages.

We cannot be fluent in our mother tongue, let alone English, what more a third or fourth language?

Dr Maszlee did make an intelligent point, however, when he said that we needed to further the “formative years” in a student’s learning cycle by focusing on gathering information, critical thinking and “bringing out the humanity in them”.

These are indeed very noble values that all education policies should embrace. However, in what direction is the Education Ministry steering these goals? Was Maszlee actually conceptualising the need for future intellectuals? After all, Finland is known for it’s lively, rich and independent intellectual tradition.

The Finnish model

Five months since Maszlee’s statement about adopting the Finnish system of education, Malaysians are still in the dark about what that means and where we are heading. So, let me try to fill in the gaps.

Finland welcomes foreign students to study in Finland, in various fields, predominantly in forestry, information technology, green technology and medicine.

Part of the reason Finland is an attractive education hub is because of her low cost of living and the superior quality of Finnish universities in the global academic ranking system.

Also, in November 2017, Finnish Ambassador to Malaysia Petri Puhakka declared that his country was in talks with a few local public universities on possible collaboration “to enhance the education sector”.

Almost a year has passed since those talks, but Malaysian parents and educators have seen no such development in our public schools and institutions of higher education.

Will Maszlee ever articulate the essence of the Finnish system, which I believe to be it’s high regard for the intellectual.

Amidst these unanswered questions is a nagging, festering epidemic. Malaysia lacks a dignified pool of intellectuals in all fields of academia. We may have the PhD’s, the engineers, lawyers, doctors, MBAs and computer scientists, but knowledge of a certain subject or the possession of a degree does not make a person an intellectual.

The English philosopher Herbert Spencer had no academic qualifications but he was one of the leading intellectuals of his time.

What Malaysia needs are people who are not just servants of their own special interests (geopolitics, computer design, engine systems or sustainable development), but are dedicated to a larger responsibility.

Image result for Edward Said

In many of Edward Said’s Reith Lectures, he eloquently defined the intellectual as “an exile and amateur whose role is to speak the truth to power, even at the risk of ostracism or imprisonment”. In Malaysia, it is more the norm to see academics and educators succumb to the lures of title, money, power or specialisation.

The intellectual

An intellectual is a person who engages in critical, honest thinking, research and reflection about society, and proposes solutions for its normative problems. When you gain authority, you become a “public” intellectual.

The object of intellectual activity is always related to the wider context of life and thought, penetrating into fundamental values and commitments. This is when an intellectual can become a game changer in our degenerative education quality.

Public university academics and Malaysian educators, on the whole, consistently encourage their students to study well so they can get better jobs and earnings.

Of course they are also told to “contribute to society”, “be a model citizen”, “help towards economic growth”, “be innovators in science and technology”, etc.

Platitudes, in my opinion. Many graduates will get good jobs eventually and they will earn comfortably. Even if lecturers do not tell them this, the majority of students are in institutions of higher learning because their goal is to enter the work force and contribute to the Malaysian economy.

If an intellectual was lecturing he or she would not be caught up with such platitudes. Here is an example of how an academic with intellectual attributes might conduct a class.

First, their mode of in-class instruction would not be a rehashing of facts and figures from the reading list assigned to students.

Second, only 40-50% of their lectures would involve audio-visual aides, especially for social science subjects. In a two-hour lecture, for instance, it is ludicrous to display 30-60 powerpoint slides (assuming a 2-4 minute display per slide) to lecture about the sociology of corruption.

I have witnessed such practices in an undergraduate lecture on media and mass communication in a Malaysian public university.

Third, audio-visual aides are exactly that—aides to assist in delivering the most important points and the fundamental theme of the lecture.

In a Political Philosophy class, one could have a few slides introducing the fundamental thoughts of Adolf Hitler, for instance, and key dates depicting his youth and early political career.

The lecturer would then proceed to relate the information on those slides with past, current and future trends in global geopolitics.

An intellectual would prefer this method because it highlights a certain level of consciousness and insight into vital problems. Universities in Malaysia must focus on the value of discourse in classrooms.

Lecturer-student interaction in a class of 30 students is still viable and more valuable for the development of the mind. After almost two decades as an academic,I have noticed that the trend of lecturers shying away from debate and discussions in a classroom is increasing.

Fourth, universities should be a breeding ground for the intellectual pursuit, the spirit of inquiry and the reverence of scientific and rational knowledge. If academics do not value this, how can we expect the students to develop such a tradition?

A step towards correcting Malaysia’s education woes would be to nurture the intellectual so we can have insight into the wider context of life.

Academics should instinctively direct their research to be relevant to society within the wider context of Malaysian life.

Academics should raise the standard and image of scholarship by abandoning the idea of publishing in order to get promoted.

An intellectual considers promotion a bonus, the key objective being a solution to the festering problems burdening society, be it racial, religious, political, social or economic problems.

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