Democracy and Press Freedom


May 18, 2018

Democracy and Press Freedom

by Amb. Dennis Ignatius

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Mahathir Mohamad and Press Freedom

COMMENT | Democracy brings with it its own dividends. One of them is press freedom.

Freed from the shackles of government control, the Malaysian press is already exploring the limits of its new found freedom to articulate news, views and opinions. Our dismal ranking – near the bottom of the list in the World Press Freedom Index (145 out of 180 countries) – will now improve dramatically. Perhaps we might even become a poster boy for press freedom, at least in ASEAN.

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No More Vandalism of the Media

I anticipate that with time we’ll once again have a noisy and assertive press. There are lots of enterprising and intrepid reporters out there who are just raring to do their job once again. We must release them to their professionalism and passion if we want to strengthen our democracy.

I’ve been  a columnist and commentator for almost 10 years now. I know what it’s like to be censored, to feel anxious about crossing some invisible line, to worry about whether I might run afoul of some foul law or upset some powerful person somewhere.

Journalists, columnists and commentators should never have to fear the state. But that’s over and done with; I feel freedom’s caress in a very real way now as I write.

We cannot afford to be complacent about the press ever again. A free press is fundamental to democracy, fundamental to keeping our government honest and accountable, and the people informed.

To that end, we must insist that our new government act quickly to rid our nation of every single repressive law. No journalist should ever have to worry about exposing wrongdoings, malfeasance or corruption no matter who is involved. No editor should ever have to worry about a call from the Ministry of Home Affairs. Both government and public officials need to operate in the full glare of public scrutiny.

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Abdul Rani  Kulup–King of Police Reports–is out of business

As well, we should stop the childish behaviour of making police reports whenever someone says something unpleasant against the prime minister or other public figures, as a group in Kedah did recently (claiming that someone had said something offensive about Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad). Public figures don’t deserve special protection from criticism or insult. In any case, Mahathir himself won’t be losing any sleep over being called names; he’s been called worse before and look where he is now.

Television and the print media should also be free of government control or influence; it gives them too much power to impose their views on the nation. Political parties, too, should get out of the media business. Hopefully, the new government will act decisively to free the media from political control. We certainly don’t want to see the mainstream media now become unthinking and fawning echo chambers of the new government.

Coming back to life

The air of freedom that is already penetrating mainstream media is now forcing them to reinvent themselves. Suddenly, public broadcasting and the print media are coming back to life.

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Hooligans and Racists like Jamal Yunos and his Red Shirts will now have to bear the full brunt of the law if they intimidate journalists and disrupt public order

One TV channel, for example, carried a banner encouraging their viewers to celebrate our democracy. Another long-repressed reporter who had for years considered Mahathir a dirty word suddenly found the courage to give him advice on democracy. Strong stuff by the standards of our hitherto moribund mainstream media but it’s a good beginning.

For the first time, I find myself watching the news on local TV instead of automatically switching to CNN, BBC or Al-Jazeera.

I once wrote for a major English daily but resigned in disgust after a few years and refused to buy any of the local newspapers. Like many Malaysians, I refused to support the ‘dummification’ of the media, refused to be party to lopsided, blatantly dishonest reporting.

Well, I bought my first copy of a local newspaper a few days ago and I confess the content and tone have improved. Perhaps I can now look forward to once again spending part of my day, teh tarik in hand, reading the local papers.

Online news portals like Malaysiakini, Free Malaysia Today (FMT) and the now defunct Malaysian Insider have kept the flame of press freedom burning through the long dark years of oppressive government. So many of their journalists worked long hours with little pay and endured harassment and rejection because they were passionate about their profession.

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Malaysiakini: Free at Last to pursue responsible journalism

Many of us will always be grateful to editors like Steven Gan, Nelson Fernandez and Jahabar Sadiq for their courage in publishing all our highly critical and near subversive articles about Umno-BN and the Najib administration when no one else would. They upheld freedom of expression and the right to criticise the government when both were abandoned by mainstream media. They and their staff ought to be hailed as heroes of our democracy.

In the new environment of press freedom, online media like Malaysiakini and FMT will now become mainstream. Perhaps it’s time for a print version of Malaysiakini or an FMT daily or even a KiniTV channel. One thing is sure: competition will result in better and more qualitative news coverage and lead to a flowering of investigative journalism. What a thrilling prospect! Politicians take heed.

Whatever it is, the sooner the media is revamped and given the freedom to do their duty without fear or favour, the safer our democracy will be.


DENNIS IGNATIUS is a former ambassador. He blogs here.

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

Foreign Policy Perspective: The Return of Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in an Election Stunner


May 18, 2018

 

Foreign Policy Perspective: The Return of Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in an Election Stunner

By Richard Javad Heydarian

https://www.cfr.org/blog/strategic-implications-malaysias-election-stunner

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Malaysia’s recent national election was a stunner for many reasons. Not only did the election return a nonagenarian to power, but it also ended the six-decades-long one-party hegemony of Barisan Nasional (BN). For the first time in Malaysia’s post-independence history, the opposition is in power. Crucially, long-time opposition leader and democracy activist Anwar Ibrahim has been pardoned and released from prison, enabling him to eventually take the helm of the Malaysian state, paving the way for deep political reforms.

Yet Mahathir Mohamad’s return to power is not only potentially transformative for Malaysian domestic politics. It also has far-reaching strategic implications. First of all, Malaysia may revisit its increasingly cordial, if not acquiescent, bilateral ties with Beijing, which heavily invested in upgrading relations with the previous Najib Razak administration.

Similar to the case of the Philippines during the Benigno Aquino III administration, domestic anti-corruption initiatives in Malaysia could have a significant impact on external relations with China. Former President Aquino III’s good governance reforms primarily targeted Beijing-backed projects launched under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration. These anti-corruption efforts against China-backed projects, along with Aquino III’s tough South China Sea policy, led to an overall deterioration in Philippine-China bilateral ties, which reached its apotheosis in 2016 as the Philippines won a decision at an international tribunal in The Hague against Beijing’s claims to an expansive “nine-dash line” of territory in the South China Sea.

Malaysia under Mahathir may quickly implement anti-corruption reforms; he has already apparently barred Najib from leaving the country, and vowed that the government will reopen investigations into the 1MDB state fund scandal. A major issue driving the Mahathir-led Pakatan Harapan coalition victory was the nationwide uproar against the 1MDB corruption scandal.

The former Prime Minister and his associates have been accused of embezzling as much as $1 billion from the state fund. The 1MDB debacle also sparked international investigations into the Najib government, as the United States, Singapore, and Switzerland, among other countries, froze accounts and launched investigations against Malaysia’s investment fund body.

But as Western governments began threatening criminal probes against top Malaysian officials, Najib began to fortify strategic and economic relations with China, which became a key source of investments for Malaysia. And the former prime minister was unapologetic about it.

As the new Mahathir government moves towards potentially prosecuting Najib after placing him under a travel ban, greater scrutiny of Chinese investments could be coming. Before the election, Mahathir complained about the potential for rising housing costs for Malaysians triggered by an expansion in real estate projects by Chinese companies, and a potential influx of Chinese property buyers. “Here we gain nothing from the [Chinese] investment… [W]e don’t welcome that,” he recently lamented. Mahathir also has repeatedly expressed concerns about over-reliance on Chinese technology, engineering and labor for Malaysian infrastructure projects.

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Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad will review relations with Xi Jinping’s China

Among China-led projects that could be reconsidered is the $13 billion East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) railway, connecting Kuala Lumpur with less developed eastern regions. Mahathir has indicated that he may scrap the whole project. He has also warned about the threat of a debt trap, citing the case of Sri Lanka, which was forced into humiliating debt-for-equity deals with China due to its inability to repay ballooning debts to Chinese state firms.

Secondly, Mahathir likely will take a stronger stance against China’s growing strategic assertiveness across Southeast Asia. Under the Najib administration, Malaysia remained reticent to openly highlight Beijing’s behavior in the South China Sea, eager to maintain booming economic ties with China.

Under Mahathir, Malaysia’s policy of strategic acquiescence toward Beijing could change. Unlike Najib, Mahathir seemingly views China as a potential strategic threat. He has described the Xi administration as “inclined towards totalitarianism” and increasingly belligerent, a government that “like[s] to flex [its] muscles” and “increase [its] influence over many countries in Southeast Asia” in a “very worrisome” manner. Mahathir further has warned against growing militarization of the South China Sea, where Malaysia is one of the four Southeast Asian claimant states.

Malaysia is currently occupying multiple land features, including the Swallow Reef, a reclaimed island with its own naval base. Historically, China has been less assertive within Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea than it has been in the economic zones of the Philippines and Vietnam, due to cordial bilateral relations with Malaysia. In recent years, however, Chinese navy and coast guard have been more active within Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone in the area. Nonetheless, the Najib administration adopted a softer tone than other Southeast Asian states such as Vietnam and the Philippines, which filed an arbitration case against China.

Finally, Mahathir could place his country, once again, at the center of Southeast Asian affairs, where senior, high-profile figures tend to play an outsized role in setting the regional agenda.

 

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In fact, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional organization largely owes its existence as well as peaceful evolution over time to the efforts of powerful, often domineering regional leaders like former Singapore Prime Minster Lee Kuan Yew as well as Mahathir during his previous two-decades-long stint as Malaysian Prime Minister from the 1980s to early 2000s Mahathir shaped ASEAN’s relations with great powers, including China, and its response to regional economic and strategic crises, especially the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.

Mahathir’s return to the center of power in Malaysia could also provide leadership and foster internal coherence within ASEAN, which has increasingly lost its way in recent years due to in-fighting among member states and the growing influence of China in Southeast Asia.

Mahathir is expected to build on the efforts of his predecessors, who managed to improve historically tense relations with neighboring Singapore, the current chairman of the ASEAN, over the past two decades. His personal gravitas, as a regional elder statesman, could also mean greater deference among his significantly more junior colleagues in the regional body.

“Notwithstanding his age (ninety-two years old) and his need to focus on domestic political challenges including the 1MDB scandal, rising inequality, and rebuilding political institutions, Mahathir’s return to the stage could give more purpose and substance to the ASEAN.”–Richard Javad Heydarian

In recent years, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has a dominant figure within ASEAN. Yet Duterte has been mired in controversy, coming under fire for his human rights record and, especially, too cozy relations with China. Last year, with the Philippines holding the organization’s rotating annual chairmanship, ASEAN kept largely silent over South China Sea disputes as well as the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, probably the two largest regional challenges. As a result, ASEAN often appeared irrelevant in shaping regional affairs.

Notwithstanding his age (ninety-two years old) and his need to focus on domestic political challenges including the 1MDB scandal, rising inequality, and rebuilding political institutions, Mahathir’s return to the stage could give more purpose and substance to the ASEAN. Throughout the decades, Mahathir has been a constant fixture in regional meetings, seen as a regional bigwig and an indispensable source of strategic wisdom across Southeast Asia. Indeed, it is likely that Malaysia’s Prime Minister will once again try to leverage his influence within ASEAN to advance not only his country’s interests, but also make the regional body a more relevant player in addressing key challenges, including in the South China Sea. Mahathir’s unlikely and stunning return could be not only a game changer domestically, but for the whole Southeast Asian region.

Richard Javad Heydarian is a nonresident fellow at ADR-Stratbase Institute, Manila, and the author of The Rise of Dutere.

Advice for Malaysia’s Prime Minister


May 16, 2018

 Advice for Malaysia’s Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir,

It’s been a while since I have seen you personally. It seems you have been well, especially since last week when your upstart coalition won control in Malaysia’s first surprising election.

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Destiny brought them together for Reformasi towards Democracy and Good Governance. Anwar Ibrahim knows what Freedom means.

During my two years at Bloomberg’s office in Kuala Lumpur, from 1996 to 1998, I regularly attended press conferences you held as Prime Minister. You once chided me for seeking too many details in your answers. That annoyed me, because when one was based in KL — as opposed to stopping by to write a quick dispatch, as most Western journalists did — nuances and details mattered greatly. I’ll give you this: You were very available and ready with an answer to almost any question. You didn’t hide behind mystique, like Suharto in Indonesia. Look what happened to him!

The time I spent in Malaysia was formative. I have an enormous reservoir of fondness for the country and its rich culture and, yes, awe at its political brutality. As one who watched what went wrong 20 years ago (remember when you jailed your finance minister?), let me offer some advice as your team settles in.

First, the cabinet must prove it can govern. This takes priority over the hasty prosecution and jailing of anyone for their role in the 1MDB scandal, egregious though it was. A culture of state cronyism grew up over six decades and won’t be reversed in six days or six weeks. In any case, you weren’t elected just because of that scandal; your predecessor’s party lost the popular vote not just this year but also in 2013, before most people had even heard of 1MDB. The cabinet must disprove defeated leader Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s jibe that your bloc is a “motley” collection. They must prove they can set and execute an administrative agenda that prioritizes decisions affecting the daily lives of people.

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Nobel Laureates Nelson Mandela and Frederik de Klerk

Neither of us wants this period of democratic flowering to run aground over perceptions that adults have left the room. Cited in the Wall Street Journal, Paul Wolfowitz likened the born-again alliance between you and Anwar as akin to that between the last apartheid-era South African President, F.W. de Klerk, and the revolutionary Nelson Mandela.Image result for democratic party of japan

Forget Mandela and De Klerk. Just avoid being the DPJ. — Bloomberg Opinion

Here’s another comparison, one you will want to avoid: the short, chaotic rule of Japan’s Democratic Party from 2009 to 2012. That was supposed to be a new era. Instead, it came crashing down in a single term, collapsing under its own weight of inexperience and expectations that were way too high. The Liberal Democratic Party, which dominated the country since the American occupation, came storming back under Shinzo Abe, and nobody has taken the DPJ seriously again.

Don’t be afraid to break the mold. Just because you made mistakes the first time, including centralising power and taming the bureaucracy, you weren’t always entirely wrong. Along with much of the West, at the time I thought you were wrong to buck the free-market, austerity-minded consensus of the International Monetary Fund and the US Treasury. In the end, your capital controls and decision to fix the currency weren’t a disaster, and it’s the IMF itself that engaged in soul-searching about its mistakes.

When you saved important Malaysian companies, you were scolded for bailouts. You were certain the West would do the same thing if it had to. Yep, then 2007-2009 came along and, sure enough, dozens of systemically firms in the US and Europe were certainly bailed out. You were rightly condemned for remarks that had an anti-Semitic feel to them, but sadly those low points have since been matched and exceeded by political discourse on the American right.

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After Tun H.S. Lee and Tun Tan Siew Sin, Lim Guan Eng is the Non-UMNO Finance Minister of Malaysia. His supporters and friends wish him well

It was a bold move to give the finance ministry to Lim Guan Eng, leader of the Democratic Action Party, one of the key groups within your new coalition. It’s the first time in four decades the job has gone to someone of Chinese descent. Given politics in Malaysia has often been conducted along racial lines, with Malays dominant, this is huge. Lim says he is, above all, a Malaysian. True enough. And exactly what he had to say.

Yet you haven’t quite given him the reins. Until Lim clears up some legal issues that he says were harassment from the former regime, you, Mahathir, will keep finance for yourself. Resist the temptation to make this indefinite. One of the legacies of 1998, starting when you ousted Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, is that prime ministers have been determined never to let the Ministry of Finance become a separate power base. They kept the role for themselves. I get the rationale, but it would be rich in symbolism and would help dispel concerns about your authoritarian instincts if you relinquish this one.

One of the biggest questions, particularly because you are 92 years old, is what comes next. I’ll write you separately on that one. Hint: It all hinges on how you handle the dynamics with your former rival Anwar.

Now in government, the former opposition simply has to get it right. Forget De Klerk and Mandela. Just avoid being the DPJ. — Bloomberg Opinion

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

Anwar faces difficulties in power


May 16, 2018

Like Suu Kyi, Anwar faces difficulties in power

by Ross Tapsell and Kean Wong

https://www.smh.com.au/world/oceania/like-aung-san-suu-kyi-anwar-faces-difficulties-in-power-20180515-p4zfh4.html

Malaysia has been stable, predictable, even boring, for Australians looking at its Southeast Asian neighbourhood, which has experienced great upheaval in the decades since the Vietnam War and the Asian Financial Crisis of the 1990s. Malaysia’s ruling coalition of Barisan Nasional was in power for more than 60 years, rigging the elections system enough to allow them to maintain its rule. Now, in a surprising turn of events, that system has failed them. And no one is really sure what comes next.

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Anwar Ibrahim

Malaysia has now entered uncharted waters, matching the uncertainty of the South China Sea that divides the peninsula from East Malaysia’s states of Sabah and Sarawak. First, prime minister Najib Razak was implicated in one of the world’s largest corruption scandals, with millions of dollars found in his personal bank account in what the US Department of Justice declared was the biggest kleptocracy case it has ever investigated. But Najib’s government was routed at last week’s polls. Winning in its place is a coalition called Pakatan Harapan (or “hope”), five parties with a broad array of agendas and visions for Malaysia.

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was last week sworn in again, this time as the 7th Prime Minister, in a deal he took to voters where he would seek to release jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim via a royal pardon from the King, stepping aside after an expected two years to enable Anwar to take over. Anwar is expected to be released this week, as early as today.

In Australia, two former Prime Ministers reflect the ambivalence and sometimes confused views many share about a “predictable” Malaysia. As Tony Abbott tweeted last week: “PM Najib Razak was a good friend of Australia and a voice of decency and common sense at international gatherings. On the big questions he got much right and his time in government saw strong and effective cooperation between our countries.” Kevin Rudd avoided mentioning Najib, but shared Abbott’s view that this “new” Malaysia has far-reaching consequences for Australia and the region. “This is a stunning development with profound implications for Malaysia, South East Asia and China,” he tweeted. Malaysia is a key partner for Australia in responding to a rising China.

But what will this new Malaysia look like? For this unfinished nation’s burgeoning civil society, the “reformasi” (or Malaysian reformation) movement that was sparked off by Anwar’s sacking and jailing by Mahathir 20 years ago still drives the democratisation hopes represented by Anwar.

For many urban Malaysians, over 70 per cent of the country, Anwar personalises the non-racialised political and economic reforms they yearn for, with many assaulted and jailed over the past decades by BN governments led by Mahathir and Najib. Anwar’s coalition politics contrasted its inclusive nature against the “Malay supremacy” policies that were a feature of BN’s rule.

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Opposition party supporters cheer and wave their party flags on election night.

But, like Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar, Anwar faces difficulties. Mahathir’s new party ran on a policy to maintain these Malay-first policies, and is buffeted by a still hardy Islamist PAS party as well. This new government would not have won without Mahathir’s leadership and this promise. The opposition coalition was able to placate and win over millions of semi-rural and rural Malay voters previously beyond Anwar’s reach, partly because Mahathir represents Malaysia – and ethnic Malay leadership – at its peak in the 1990s, when Malaysia hosted the world’s tallest buildings and the stock market was the biggest (briefly) in Asia. Mahathir also played off his elder statesman role in the campaign by cutting through to rural voters with simple attacks against Najib, shredding him with accusations of “thief!”. The enmity was starkly and deliberately drawn, and it worked.

Understanding and engaging with this new, possibly fractured Malaysia will be essential to the region’s security, economy, and political developments. This new Malaysia is a win for democracy – and a big win for Australia’s own values. But this will require Australia and its democratic neighbours to invest in this win like never before.

Ross Tapsell is Director of the ANU’s Malaysia Institute. Kean Wong is the Malaysia Editor of the ANU’s Southeast Asia website, New Mandala.

GE-14: Malaysians Voted for Big Change. Now work hard for its success. There is no such a thing as a free lunch


May 15, 2018

GE-14: Malaysians Voted for Big Change. Now work hard for its success. There is no such a thing as a free lunch

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By Janice Fredah Ti

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

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Pakatan Harapan–Stop Bickering and Got on with the Business of Government

Let’s examine the word “revolution”. It’s usually used to describe the forceful or even violent overthrow of a government by a huge part of the population. It brings to mind chaos, fighting, tear gas and chemical-laced water unleashed against citizens; citizens fighting the authorities; police, ambulances, sirens, injuries and even death.

However, my understanding of the word “revolution” is not limited to just that. Revolution, to me, means a big change. It means any movement or activity brought about by concerned citizens to bring about a paradigm shift in the mindset of fellow citizens, that will hopefully eventually effect a major shift in any given political or socioeconomic situation through entrepreneurship, education, the ballot box and others.

Let us hope there will be more to come and lot of changes in personnel in the civil and foreign service and GLCs.

Given that, a revolution is hard to define. It’s hard to determine when it starts or comes full circle. But a half-revolution – that is what I’d like to explore today.

Given our unique political conundrum, made worse by economic uncertainty, Malaysians cannot be faulted for toying with the word “revolution”. One minute, we’re plagued by political fatigue and on the verge of giving up; the next, someone mentions “revolution” and we’re instantly energised!

But what exactly is a revolution in the Malaysian context? Are we managing our expectations, are we leaving things to chance, are some people blindly following so-called leaders, and are others being misled?

Many of us do not like the fact that we are dependent on opposition political parties for any possible change in government. However, many believe that we are. Efforts to create a meaningful and sizeable third force by informed and concerned citizens over the years have met with very little success. Smaller parties like PSM are doing great work but unfortunately, they have not been accepted into the main opposition coalition, perhaps due to ideological differences.

The main opposition pact, Pakatan Harapan (PH), consists of PKR, DAP, PPBM and Amanah. We also have the runaway faction of the standalone PAS, PSM and other smaller parties. Putting aside PAS for now, what is PH doing in terms of effecting a paradigm shift in the minds of the general population to bring about the much needed change in government?

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Governing Malaysia is no circus with clowns. It is hard work and sacrifice. There is no such a thing as a free lunch.

PH parties have been fighting among themselves. They were involved in multi-cornered fights in the Sarawak state elections, giving the enemy an easy victory much to the bewilderment and disappointment of those who placed their hope in them. Are we to trust them with federal power if they can’t sort themselves out in state elections?

Some remain silent while others flip-flop on important matters like RUU 355. Shouldn’t PH, as the main opposition coalition, have a collective stand on major issues concerning the people?

PKR’s Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail even went on record in an interview with Al Jazeera to say, albeit vaguely, things most would not like to hear on the hudud issue. She closed the interview by saying she was only a seat-warmer for Anwar Ibrahim.

DAP’s arrogance meanwhile has shot through the roof, what with the production of tacky video clips which supposedly serve to amuse a particular set of audience. And more than one DAP representative has used racial slurs in a public speech.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as Malaysia’s main opposition coalition is concerned, but it should not be taken lightly.

As if the ruling government’s circus of incompetent and corrupt members was not bad enough, the main opposition has started its own circus as well.

It all began with a major upset that occurred in the already-polarised nation torn apart by a government gone mad. A movement started by former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad emerged out of no where in 2016, and to date, all it has succeeded in doing has been to further divide the people, much to the amusement of the ruling government.

Why has this happened? Why is the nation divided by a new movement that didn’t quite accomplish its mission?Because it was started by none other than Mahathir himself, and supported by a string of stars in a line-up consisting of the ever-important who’s who of opposition political parties and civil movements.

For several months there was major confusion, debates, quarrels, and coffee shop talk that resulted even in the loss of friendships as people could not understand why others supported or refused to support such an initiative.

Some are adamant that the engineer of Malaysia’s current situation cannot be supported at any cost; that it would be an insult to former ISA detainees and their families (who, by the way, are very much alive and among us still); that he has never been sorry for what happened or for what resulted in Malaysia today; and so on and so forth.

This group of people think if Mahathir wants to start something, by all means he should but it is way too early to throw any support behind him. Others meanwhile are inclined to think that since Mahathir is taking this step, he should be supported regardless of his past deeds or association with current UMNO leaders, or for that matter, even his personal agendas if any.

The second group just want Barisan Nasional’s (BN) current top guy out, it seems. Some are fine with a reformed UMNO in the event that Mahathir does return to his former party, while some hope he will continue leading the opposition. Some don’t care about anything as long as the current top guy (Najib) is out. Who is right and who is wrong?

The leaders of some civil movements became involved, resulting in many Malaysians jumping into the fray to sign the Citizens’ Declaration without too much consideration. If you believe this is the right thing to do, well, they have rightly influenced people to the right path, otherwise they have misled them.

I am sure many would not disagree that a huge number of Malaysians would support and sign anything without question or analysis for the simple reason that their idols are there.

I personally think they have misled the people – not all, but many. We could argue until the cows come home, but don’t we all know of someone who has regretted signing the Citizens’ Declaration for one reason or another? This is the first step towards the grand disunity about to besiege the nation.

Based on the premise that a revolution is the result of unity and a paradigm shift in the minds of citizens, is this a revolution… or half a revolution?

Then came the formation of Mahathir’s new party PPBM, which initially accepted only Bumiputera membership. This was later revised to allow non-Bumiputeras to become associate members with no voting rights. I’m not sure how many, but I’ve been made to understand that quite a few non-Bumiputeras accepted this arrangement, including my own friends.

Have we not fought against racism for so long? Have we not complained about the current administration’s racially biased policies? Have we not completely despised groups like Perkasa (coincidentally, Mahathir is the VIP patron) and the infamous Ikan Bakar Tak Laku? And we are now told to accept a new racist party into the main opposition fold, because apparently, “we have no other choice”.

It’s mind-boggling, but again – is this leading us to the revolution we seek, or only half a revolution?

After an agonising wait, GE14 has finally been called. Most of us have been there, done that, seen and heard it all. Social media, which is a big part of many voters’ lives, is threatening to explode with the insults and quarrels from both sides of the political divide.

Understandable, many want change. But what change? Change is a process and a journey, not an event called GE-14. And a change to something worse is also called change.

PH, which has been entrusted to make this change, is now led by the very same person whom many acknowledge laid the foundation for the kleptocratic and autocratic government that we have today. To make things worse, he recently sought to exonerate himself from two of the nation’s saddest and darkest events: Ops Lalang and the prosecution of Anwar Ibrahim. How convenient!

For those who must believe that it takes a thief to catch a thief, please carry on. For the rest of us, this is not palatable. It was never an issue of forgive and forget, but more of what possible reforms PH can bring forward with Mahathir in the coalition. What reforms could possibly take place with someone who apologises and makes a U-turn in six hours? PH is taking us for a ride, lock, stock and barrel.

Someone once said, “Change can never take place from the level of consciousness it was created.”PH – are you leading us to a revolution, or half a revolution?

If PH is serious about change and good governance, why are its parties, particularly PKR, fielding last-minute parachute candidates, worse still those who are not local, for state seats? Last-minute decisions for something as important as what they call “the mother of all elections”?

The power struggle is so blatant, and they are trying to tell us that they are for the people? How are they different from the very people they wish to bring down – BN? Try harder next time, PH.

PH, we want a revolution, not half a revolution. Many are angry at my disapproval and constant bashing of PH, as well as what they call my idealism. They say I am seeking perfection when the reality is that it doesn’t exist. I don’t think idealism is exactly the opposite of realism, but let’s save that for another day. If idealism involves not voting for a half-baked opposition coalition which could have presented itself as a sincere catalyst of change through real hard work and good planning, I am fine with idealism for now.

Happy voting, abstaining, or spoiling of votes!

Janice Fredah Ti is an FMT reader.

The views expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect that of FMT.

 

 

Dr. Mahathir’s Pakatan Harapan overthrows the Corrupt Najib-led Barisan Nasional (BN)


May 15, 2018

Dr. Mahathir’s Pakatan Harapan overthrows the Corrupt Najib-led Barisan Nasional (BN)

by  Clive Kessler, UNSW

http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2018/05/14/mahathirs-motley-crew-win-in-malaysia/

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“…Mahathir expressed his regrets and contrition. But that was not why people voted for him. They voted for the alternative offered, not for its salesman. They voted not out of any naive nostalgia for Mahathir but rather out of a yearning for how they remembered themselves in his time in power: a time when (unlike the Najib years from 2009 to 2018) they had found it possible to feel good about being Malaysian.”–Clive Kessler

 

In the end, Malaysia’s general election result came as a surprise. Outgoing prime minister Najib Razak had, with enormous thoroughness and with the enthusiastic cooperation of the Election Commission, imposed campaigning and voting-day restrictions to ensure only one possible outcome: victory for the country’s ‘permanent government’, centred upon Najib’s United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). Or so it seemed.

Najib Razak, an always wooden and increasingly rattled campaigner, pushed so hard that he drove many troubled voters into the arms of the opposition. Unhappy with Najib’s personal and political style and with the evident excesses of his government — namely its dubious financial machinations and its increasingly authoritarian character — many Malaysians voiced their aggrieved feelings through the ballot.

Yet to vote out Najib and his UMNO grandees, Malaysians had to vote for former long-serving Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, whose own record when it comes to financial mishaps and an authoritarian political manner is far from spotless. The UMNO-Barisan Nasional (BN) campaign dwelt heavily upon those shortcomings. But people regardless voted in great numbers for the opposition coalition that Mahathir led and of which he was the public face.

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To counter the doubts encouraged by Najib’s side, Mahathir expressed his regrets and contrition. But that was not why people voted for him. They voted for the alternative offered, not for its salesman. They voted not out of any naive nostalgia for Mahathir but rather out of a yearning for how they remembered themselves in his time in power: a time when (unlike the Najib years from 2009 to 2018) they had found it possible to feel good about being Malaysian.

The restrictive electoral regimen that Najib and his Election Commission imposed served only to push Malaysian voters towards that alternative. Najib’s people did not allow the opposition coalition to offer a common political logo or voting symbol. They also refused Mahathir’s new party (which was part of the opposition coalition) to register itself and its own campaign logo. This meant the entire opposition was pushed to campaign under the one symbol of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s People’s Justice Party. Najib created a situation where an opposition that had never been able to present a united force was now made to appear cohesive.

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Najib’s forces even insisted that images of Mahathir’s face not be nationally displayed during the campaign period. Official operatives cut his visage out from opposition posters and banners. But by doing so Najib eloquently advertised his desperation and built up Mahathir and the opposition he headed. Najib convinced many Malaysians that he and his political associates, having lost all reason, could no longer be abided.

From the outset of the election results, an official eagerness to preserve calm was evident. As usual the Election Commission declared all the good news for UMNO-BN first and early, and it held back announcing the bad news of the reverses UNMO-BN had suffered until midnight when crowds and energies would be less. The swearing in of the new administration was also delayed until late evening, and a two-day holiday was declared to keep people away from crowded public transport where tempers might fray.

Much remains unresolved. While Mahathir’s Pakatan Harapan coalition team campaigned under one banner, they are a diverse, even motley, collection and face big challenges. Can they form a workable, unified cabinet? Will the new and largely inexperienced ministers respect the boundaries of one another’s portfolio responsibilities? Can they agree upon any clear policy orientations and programs? Will they be able (and allowed) to assume the reins of power in Putrajaya, the federal capital? Will they find the discipline to hold together? Will the civil service and judiciary be amenable to facilitating rule by a Pakatan Harapan government? And will they be allowed to govern in peace?

There will be many, especially among the extremist Malay ethno-sectarian groups and martial arts fellowships who often serve as street-level enforcers for UMNO warlords, who will not be happy with the outcome of these elections. These individuals have both the inclination and capacity to demonstrate their discontent; they have a record of turning to street actions to create civil unrest. If they now choose this path, the new government may have its room for manoeuvre curtailed — if it is not set aside completely to permit a takeover by a non-elected administration, as happened in 1969.

One must remember here that Malaysia’s elections chose not only a federal government but also a dozen state administrations. While nine of these are clearly of an UMNO-BN or Pakatan Harapan hue, the results in three states — including the two principal peninsular states of Perak and Kedah — are on a knife-edge.

After the 2008 elections there was one such knife-edge state (Perak), and the destabilisation and overthrow of its non-UMNO-BN administration provided the opportunity for Najib to oust his prime ministerial predecessor and begin his own doomed prime ministership. The opportunities this time are much greater. Will those with an inclination for creating mayhem control themselves or be controlled? Much rests on these questions and on whether a new, diverse, fragmented and inexperienced administration will find the ability, good sense and strength to handle them.

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A nice irony to conclude Najib’s tragic performance on the electoral stage: to monitor the elections and attest to their integrity, Malaysia invited observers from such places as the Maldives, Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan. What fine and surprising instruction in the ways of electoral democracy and popular sovereignty — courtesy of Najib, UMNO and its Election Commission — they received.

Clive Kessler is Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of New South Wales. He has been studying Malay culture, society, religion and politics since the early 1960s.