The Malays are weak, says Dr. Mahathir.

January 10, 2017

The Malays are weak, says Dr. Mahathir. That’s rather bizarre logic

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini

“I’m a realist, I do what I can do, if I can’t do, I don’t.”

De facto Opposition Leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad

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What if I said that Malays have a lazy, rent-seeking culture, relying on political and social influence to gain wealth and unable to retain power despite all their special privileges? Would this be wrong? Would this be racist? Would this be seditious?

How about if former Prime Minister and now de facto Oopposition Leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad said this? Would it still be “racist”? Would this be considered some sort of truth telling? Would it make a difference when he said this last week or when he was Prime Mminister of this country?

More than a decade ago, in an UMNO General Assembly speech (which also coincided with a celebration of sorts – 21 years in office), Dr.Mahathir as UMNO President engaged in some “realist” assessment of the Malay community he had led for over two decades.

As reported by Malaysiakini, he claimed – “If today they (Malays) are colonised, there is no guarantee they will have the capacity to oppose the colonialists.” The former Premier said Malays had failed because they were lazy and sought the easy way out by reselling their shares, licences and contracts to non-Malays.

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“They cannot be patient, cannot wait a little, they want to be rich this very moment… no work is done other than to be close to people with influence and authority in order to get something. After selling and getting the cash, they come back to ask for more”,he said.

Therefore, there is a rather bizarre logic in his thinking when he said that he had no regrets about stifling dissent in young Malay people during his tenure. Bizarre because the former Prime Minister has never been afraid of using the stereotype of the Malay community as a means of galvanising support.

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And this extends to the other communities as well. Well by “others”, I really mean the Chinese community because as we all know the Indian community is absent from the discourse. In the same speech at the 2002 UMNO General Assembly, he also referenced the Chinese community – the very community that UMNO has always demonised as a threat to Malay hegemony but in reality, meant they were perceived as a threat against UMNO hegemony.

He said, “If we take out the Chinese and all that they have built and own, there will be no small or big towns in Malaysia, there will be no business and industry, there will be no funds for the subsidies, support and facilities for the Malays. Learn from the Chinese.”

Only Mahathir could balance such contradictions, playing the racial card against communities, including the one UMNO claims to represent. Which is why in Mahathir’s thinking there is really no reason why he should not be standing shoulder to shoulder with his former opponents in an attempt to bring down the Najib Abdul Razak regime.

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This is  truly bizzare

He really does not care what political pundits, who seek to remind people of what he did during his tenure, say because he knows that he then enjoyed the support of the majority of Malaysians and he did this using the kind of realpolitik that oppositional parties during his regime did not grasp or were uninterested in learning.

While some opposition supporters blather on about “truth and conscience” but offer no real evidence that these form the desideratum for oppositional forces in this country, the former prime minister has no problem twisting the facts on the ground or contorting social and economic realities to fit his narratives.

A clear example of this would be when in an interview, he acknowledged that discrimination was part of the system but that there were communities who thrived in spite of it – “The Chinese in Malaysia have no special rights, they experience discrimination. But they are more successful than us.”

This is exactly the system a Gerakan political operative was talking about when he mocked the opposition for subscribing to the same system as BN. And the same kind of thinking that for years sustained BN which led to the creation of the leviathan which in the Najib regime. We get the world we deserve.

Slaying sacred cows

And keep in mind that during Mahathir’s tenure, UMNO defined oppositional racial preoccupations because the slaying of UMNO sacred cows were the very definition (and still is) of any kind of egalitarian agenda that would truly “save Malaysia”. All those other so-called racial preoccupations, religious, social and economic are a direct result of the UMNO agenda and the mendacious ‘social contract’.

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Not True, Mahathir forgets easily

However, since the short-term goal of saving Malaysia means removing Najib, the real power brokers, those invested in the system – and they are not only Malays – would like to keep the gravy train moving, only with a different railroad engineer.

Unlike some oppositional voices who pontificate about “principles” or at least attempt to control the discourse, demonising those who dredge up so-called ancient history and engaging in victimhood to facilitate political expediency, the former prime minister is clear about the purpose of his alliance with the oppositional forces in this country.

As he told me when I brought up the trust deficit when it comes to opposition supporters and his new role as oppositional leader – “If Najib is there, the opposition will suffer. If Najib is there, even UMNO will suffer, the whole country will suffer. I think the opposition is not supporting me, they are interested in removing Najib. I have the same interest. It is okay to work together – only on that issue, not on other issues.”

Furthermore, he has had no problems claiming that he would slay Malay sacred cows for the benefit of the community – “I cannot predict how much longer this (affirmative action) will go on but at the moment, we are trying out… some kind of experiment… by withdrawing some of the protection in education,” he said. “We want to see whether they will be able to withstand the competition or not. Obviously if they prove themselves able to, we can think of reducing further some of the protection.”

This was always the stick component of the carrot-and-stick approach, and the former Prime Minster knew very well that affirmative action programmes had a deleterious effect on the Malay community.

Moreover, when he hinted that he would slay sacred cows, he was greeted with rapturous applause as some sort of truth sayer by the very same Umno who now endorse the Najib regime’s attempt to further consolidate power and engage with Mahathir’s sworn enemy, PAS.

But of course, now that the Malay community is fractured and the Malay opposition needs to reassure the Malay community, all those special privileges, all those affirmative action programmes, everything that the former prime minister said was holding back the Malay community, are off the table.

The only thing that discerning Malaysians have to take away from any of this is that Mahathir acknowledges that he failed to change the Malay community – “What else (can I do) … I have tried to be an example, tried to teach, scolded, cried and even prayed. (But) I have failed. I have failed to achieve the most important thing – how to change the Malays.”

When asked if there was anything he would do differently, he claimed that he wanted to be a “normal” UMNO member because he could not do anything for the Malays. Well, he is not even a member now and he is the power behind a nascent Malay power structure.

The big question is, will he fail again. More importantly, is changing the Malays really the agenda of the game for him or anyone else.

UMNO Grand Poobah, MCA, Hudud and Divisive Politics

December 2, 2016

UMNO Grand Poobah, MCA, Hudud and Divisive Politics

by Cmdr (rtd) S. Thayaparan

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UMNO’s Grand Poobah and Poobah Jr.

“Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”

– Barry M Goldwater

Not many people know this but close friends know that I have a soft spot for Barry Goldwater; some mistakenly now say was the Donald Trump of his time. Far from reality of course but American punditry being what it is, these misconceptions are peddled as the truth. The above quote deals with Christian American extremists but replace Christian with Muslim, the general principle shines through that religion and politics do not mix.

Which I realise seems like I am backtracking from an earlier article of mine where I argued, “We have to be careful when we cross that line between church and state but cross it we must, if we want to save our country.”

However, PAS’ latest hissy fit that it would derail the proposed amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 in retaliation for non-Muslims interference for their carefully laid out plans for turning Malaysia into an Islamofacist state is laughable because these amendments are needed as Islam often interferes in the private and public lives of non-Muslims in Malaysia.

PAS Secretary-General Takiyuddin Hassan talks about “playing fair” but I would argue that people who oppose this bill are the only ones who are thinking fairly in this country. In numerous articles, I have explained how Islam has had an overt effect on the non-Muslims polities of this country. The literature of how a Wahhabi-influenced Islam has taken this country down an intolerant road is cogent, probative and indisputable.

This threat by PAS is exactly why many others and I warned the opposition that they were playing with fire when they embraced PAS and propagated the ‘PAS for all’ propaganda. I know many opposition supporters have no interests in articles like these but instead of going after MCA when it comes to this issue, there should be some attempt at bipartisanship between the opposition parties and their BN counterparts.

This need not be a hug fest but when a BN component party takes a position that aligns with the opposition, the discourse should be moved in the direction of commonality instead of wallowing in the clichés of “running dogs” and dredging up the numerous scandals of the Najib regime that frankly has not gained traction where it counts.

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MCA’s Ti Lian Ker and UMNO’s Nazri Aziz

This is why MCA religious harmony head Ti Lian Ker’s response against PAS’ threat is something that Malaysians should take heed of instead of merely indulging in partisan politics. While MCA President Liow Tiong Lai’s clarification on his conflicting stand on hudud is welcomed, Malaysians should also take heed of what MCA Wanita chairperson Heng Seai Kie said of the wakil rakyat being elected to serve the people instead of representing the preoccupations of a certain faith.

Moreover, honestly MCA has by far had a more accessible position on this subject instead of the conflicting messages coming out of the Muslim wing of the opposition front and their non-Muslim supporters.

Ti made three important points in his response to PAS.(1) “Muslim criminal offenders (will) face harsher punishments under the hudud enactments (in certain states) as opposed to all suspects being equal before the Penal Code. Implementation of the criminal code must apply equally to all perpetrators.”

He reaffirmed the secular and egalitarian principles of a functional democracy and judicial system. Furthermore, he reminded these religious extremists that all Malaysians should be treated equally before the legal system and that penalising a specific polity because of their faith, should be unacceptable for those claiming to want an egalitarian Malaysia.

(2) Ti said there was no such thing as quid pro quo when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of all Malaysians.

There can, and should be, compromise in certain issues but when it comes to the constitutional rights of Malaysians, there is no such thing as compromise. We do not barter certain rights at the expense of our Muslim brothers and sisters.

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Besides, Malaysian history has shown – and let’s face facts this happened under MCA’s watch – that kowtowing to Islamic extremism when it came to UMNO, had a horrendous effect on the stability and security of Malaysia. As far as appeasement is concerned, Churchill had it right – “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”

And (3) and perhaps the most important point, “Ti also challenged Muslim lawmakers in DAP, PKR, Amanah and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia to publicly declare if they will support PAS’ threat against non-Muslims to derail the amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976.”

Signed declaration

I would go further. I want a signed declaration from Muslim oppositional MPs that they will not support PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s bill and will endorse the amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976.

Why is this important? Besides the obvious reasons of course, but the reality is that for far too long Muslim opposition MPs have played this game where they paid lip service to secular and egalitarian principles because they did not want to be perceived as going against Islam and the Malay community.

Well guess what, by virtue of being an opposition MP, the narrative has already been established and promulgated that opposition Muslims MPs are collaborators with the Chinese DAP, agents of foreign powers, aligned with the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) movement, enemies of Islam and traitors to the “Malay race”.

There is really no drawback for publicly stating your position on this bill, unless of course your position is that you don’t support this bill, then the question becomes why is it, Malaysians who want change are voting for you?

DAP’s M Kulasegaran also cuts straight to the chase when he points out the hypocritical moral stance of the PAS MP who made the threat when he writes – “By making the threat, Takiyuddin has inadvertently stated that he would rather vote against having genuine Muslim converts as long as stiffer syariah punishment is enacted.”

The honourable gentleman from Ipoh Barat has always managed in a calm rational manner to point out truths without slipping into the deep partisanship that is contemporary Malaysian politics and has always been a thoughtful politician who writes on issues without banging the war drums – unless needed.

Kulasegaran’s and Ti’s positions should be the common stand taken by MPs regardless of party affiliation and is the kind of position that BN and opposition MPs should get together on instead of grandstanding.

The grand UMNO Grand Poohbah said this recently – “So, when we determine the direction, it will be a vision of all Malaysian citizens, including the younger generation.”

If Muslim opposition MPs really care about the future of all Malaysians, they will not support a bill that would ultimately destroy the Malay community. And that’s a religious truth you can have faith in.


Najib’s Handmaiden of Electoral Fraud

September 21, 2016

Malaysian Election Commission — Najib’s Handmaiden of Electoral Fraud

The final nail was knocked in the coffin of a fair, independent and non-partisan commission a long time ago. But that does not mean the Malaysian electorate should be made perennial pall bearers of that coffin.

by  Lim Teck Ghee

The public and opposition parties should be very concerned with the latest round of electoral boundary changes in the country’s parliamentary constituencies. This is yet another effort to rig the electoral system to ensure UMNO and BN dominance and political hegemony.

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Scholarly studies by local and foreign academicians of similar exercises in the past have shown a clear pattern of the manipulation of electoral boundaries at both national and state levels. This together with the great disparity of voter numbers among the constituencies, use of the governmental machinery in support of UMNO and BN candidates; the incidence of phantom, postal and absentee voters; and various other irregularities and unethical practices have debased the credibility and legitimacy of the electoral process.

That these frauds against the opposition have strengthened UMNO’s and BN’s standing in Parliament and state assemblies by distorting electoral outcomes is beyond a shadow of a doubt.

In the last election, the BN polled 5,237,699 votes, or 47.4% of the vote. The opposition PR polled 5,623,984 votes, or 50.9% of the vote. However, the BN won the election with 133 seats against the opposition’s 89. The PR increased their vote by 2.9%, while the BN vote fell by 3.9%, yet the PR made a net gain of only 7 seats.

This outcome did not happen by accident but by deliberate design and manipulation. If the proposed changes go unchallenged, we can expect more skewed outcomes in the coming GE that will make a greater mockery of the “one person, one vote” principle.

Electoral Commission: Handmaiden of BN Hegemony

Malaysians are well aware that the Electoral Commission is the key stake player in ensuring free and fair elections. However, the EC has become another of the vital institutions established to safeguard and support our system of parliamentary democracy which have been coopted by the ruling establishment to maintain its monopoly of the government.

The framers of our original Constitution must be turning in their graves to see what has happened to the EC.

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The beginning of the end of the Electoral Commission’s independence took place in 1962 with the Constitution (Amendment) Act. According to Professor H. E. Groves, who edited the first major commentary on the Malayan Constitution, and was also dean, and president of various academic institutions, cited by Lim Hong Hai in his article, Electoral Politics in Malaysia: ‘Managing’ Elections in a Plural Society ( see

It is apparent that the new amendments as to elections converted a formerly independent Election Commission, whose decisions became law and whose members enjoyed permanent tenure, into an advisory body of men of no certain tenure whose terms of office, except for remuneration, are subject to the whims of parliament. The vital power of determining the size of constituencies as well as their boundaries is now taken from a Commission, which the constitution-makers had apparently wished, by tenure and status, to make independent and disinterested, and has been made completely political by giving this power to a transient majority of parliament, whose temptations to gerrymander districts and manipulate the varying numerical possibilities between “rural” and “urban” constituencies for political advantage is manifest.

Professor Groves wrote this critique in 1962. But even he must shocked at how the system of elections in Malaysia has been manipulated during the last 50 years to keep BN in power.

He would also probably agree with this latest critique of how UMNO-BN has been able to win the last GE:

The key fact about the Malaysian electoral system is that it is designed to preserve the power of the Malay Muslim population over all other racial and religious groups, and within that population, to ensure the dominance of the main Malay party, UMNO. Since only 54% of the population are Malay Muslims, and since not all of them vote for UMNO, this requires rigging the electoral system to ensure UMNO’s continued dominance. UMNO supremacy is also safeguarded by an alliance with small parties representing the Chinese and Indian communities (MCA and MIC respectively) in the National Front (BN) coalition. (Adam Carr, How They Stole the Malaysian Election)

Preventing Another Stolen GE

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Don’t let Najib and his 1mdb fraudsters get away–G0 and Register in full force and vote for a Better Malaysia. Remember you can make a difference. Otherwise you deserve Najib and UMNO-BN Government and Crooked Rosmah Mansor.–Din Merican

There are several short-term recourses that Malaysians have to check the EC’s latest attempt at gerrymandering.The first is that a group of no less than 100 registered voters of an affected constituency can protest. This, however, is on an individual and ad hoc basis when in fact the entire system of delineation needs to be put under scrutiny and reformed.

The second is for the public and civil society organizations to insist that the Commission provides a full explanation of the rationale for each change and also why changes have not been made in other constituencies. “No changes unless it is on a full, transparent, justifiable and accountable basis” should be the demand.

Meanwhile, leading members of the new party, PPBM, under whose watch similar electoral manipulation has taken place in the past, and who presumably harbour many secrets of previous electoral fiddling – especially Dr. Mahathir, Muhyiddin and Mukhriz – need to speak out and rally the opposition on this important development.

The final nail was knocked in the coffin of a fair, independent and non-partisan commission a long time ago. But that does not mean the Malaysian electorate should be made perennial pall bearers of that coffin.



Exit, now BNexit, Collapsit?

July 27, 2016

Exits, now BNexit, Collapsit?

by Dean Johns

Rogues Gallery

I’ve been enjoying lots of exciting times lately. First arriving in London in time to experience the immediate aftermath of Brexit, which for many people over there was a matter for bitter Regrexit, and now returning home to the welcome spectacle of 1MDB getting its long-overdue Wrexit.

And the even more entertaining sight of the culprits doing their damndest to Rejexit, in every way from Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s urging for people not to ‘pre-judge’ the named alleged culprits to the ludicrous claim by BN mouthpiece the New Straits Times that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has been swayed by anti-regime bloggers and others.

Of course, as a friend living in Malaysia has reminded me, I shouldn’t be celebrexing the downfall of the 1MDB-BN gang too enthusiastically at this early stage.

My friend’s BN-supporting relatives, he reports, are still determinedly denying the guilt of all the crooks currently being targeted by the US DOJ, and there must be countless more Malaysians that are similarly desperately striving to delude themselves.

After all, it is not just Najib allegedly aka ‘Malaysian Official 1’ who is responsible for the clearly evident fact that, as the DOJ has asserted, the Malaysian people have been ‘defrauded on an enormous scale’ by way of 1MDB.

Equally culpable are not only Najib’s partners-in-crime like accomplice Jho Low and stepson Riza Aziz, but also countless accessories allegedly including the entire BN cabinet, the Attorney-General and Inspector-General of Police, plus all of Najib’s apologists in the so-called mainstream media and those who have supported him and his regime in a series of fraudulent elections.

And let us not be blinded by the sheer scale of the 1MDB scam to the fact that BN members, cronies and supporters have been guilty of defrauding the Malaysian people on a massive scale for decades.

The entire regime apparatus supported that act of political, social and racial treachery, and has since been complicit in Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s allegedly repressive and rapacious 22-year premiership, and now Najib’s reprise of more of the same.

Compelling suspicions

Indeed, BN at large has been more than complicit in Najib’s case, as its members elevated him to the position of prime minister despite his being notoriously tainted by compelling suspicions of his involvement in the Scorpene submarines kickback scandal and the associated murder of Mongolian ‘model’ Altantuya Shaariibuu.

These suspicions were almost as international as those currently swirling around Najib’s involvement in the 1MDB fraud.

As Hamish Macdonald of the Sydney Morning Herald wrote when BN awarded Najib the top job back in 2009, “Malaysia (has sworn in) perhaps one of the most questionable current politicians in any of the world’s democracies as its new Prime Minister, in a triumph of party-machine politics over sound governance and morality.”

And as former BBC correspondent in Malaysia, Jonathan Kent, similarly commented on Najib at the time, “it is really rather unusual for a head of government to find himself linked to the brutal murder of an attractive young woman or to huge and questionable commission payments for the purchase of armaments.”

Undaunted, however, BN members saw fit to inflict Najib on Malaysia the better to serve his and their own alleged lusts for power and plunder, and seven years more of regime secrecy, lies, evasions and crimes against the people, culminating in 1MDB, have been the result.

So when the international pressure inspired by the 1MDB swindle finally grows too intense to bear, it is not just Najib who has to go, only to be substituted with some other BN crook that’s just as bad or even, if possible, worse.

Whether through the ballot, or massive public demonstrations of people-power, or rolling national strikes, or a class-action suit in the International Criminal Court, the entire gang of regime criminals has to be got rid of along with Najib, in one great and glorious BNexit.


Malaysian Voters abandon Reformist Political Opposition

June 26, 2016

New York

Malaysian Voters abandon Reformist Political Opposition

by John Berthelsen

Malaysian voters, disregarding arguably the biggest financial scandal in the country’s history, have given the national ruling coalition conclusive victories in two closely-watched by-elections over the weekend (June 18) and handed the scandal-plagued Prime Minister Najib Razak a sweeping mandate to continue in office.–John Berthelsen

After Sarawak and By Election Victories in Perak and Selangor, Najib’s Barisan Nasional is poised for Victory in GE-14

Malaysian voters, disregarding arguably the biggest financial scandal in the country’s history, have given the national ruling coalition conclusive victories in two closely-watched by-elections over the weekend and handed the scandal-plagued Prime Minister Najib Razak a sweeping mandate to continue in office.

The victories in parliamentary seats in Selangor and Perak, both previously held by the Barisan Nasional, as the coalition is known, were by far larger margins than in the 2013 elections. They are an indication that despite allegations that as much as US$4 billion had disappeared from the state-backed 1Malaysia Development Bhd., voters, particularly Chinese ones, are returning to the Barisan fold after flirting with the opposition in both the 2008 and 2013 general elections.

The Malay vote in the two districts was split between three ethnic Malay camps – the Barisan’s United Malays National Organization and the moderate opposition Parti Amanah Negara, which split off from the rural Islamist Parti Islam se-Malaysia last year. The return of Chinese voters – many of them in strongholds more recently dominated by the Democratic Action Party – demonstrated the strength of the Barisan. It is primarily the Chinese who have served as the backbone of the opposition over the past two elections.

As much as anything, however, the vote, and a similarly decisive victory in Sarawak in May state elections, are an indication that a fragmented and frustrated opposition has blown its chance to make headway at a time when the Barisan should be floundering over the 1MDB scandal, an unexplained US$681 million deposited in 2013 in Prime Minister Najib Razak’s personal accounts, and when the country is caught in a broad economic slowdown as a result of falling commodity and crude oil prices.

With Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim in prison on sexual deviance charges that many human rights critics have denounced as rigged, his own Parti Keadilan Rakyat has degenerated into squabbling camps, one headed by his wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and the other headed by Azmin Ali, the Selangor state Chief Minister.  Most recently Rafizi Ramli, the Party Ssecretary-General and a Wan Azizah ally, accused unnamed Selangor officials of trading favors for money and sex.

Likewise – allegedly over skillful maneuvering by Najib to split PAS into moderate and conservative factions over the issue of Islamic law for the state of Kelantan – PAS has also been divided into two parts, neither of them strong enough to take out the other, and splitting what in the 2008 and 2013 general elections had been a formidable vote-gathering machine.

Although some election analysts have said the victories were more for UMNO than for the candidates, they are an indication that Najib’s strength is deeper than among just the 192 UMNO district chiefs who refused to vote to remove him as party head during the height of the crisis late last year over 1MDB, when an almost daily drumbeat of scandal found its way into the opposition press, which survives online. The victories are a clear indication that calls for reform have crested and sentiment is receding.

Unless Najib is indicted in one of the seven international jurisdictions investigating money-laundering charges over 1MDB, and perhaps not even then, he is likely to remain at the head of the country for an indefinite period. He has nullified opposition within UMNO, neutralized two powerful media voices in The Edge Group and Malaysian Insider, and threatened a wide range of civic leaders and groups with sedition charges to shut them up.

The Prime Minister’s strength raises two other issues – first, whether Najib, emboldened by the victories, will call a snap election ahead of the 2018 parliamentary deadline while his opponents have been badly weakened. The other question is whether he will go ahead and allow PAS to push through a private member’s bill that would allow for the implementation of hudud, or harsh Islamic law, in the state of Kelantan, which it holds as an opposition party.

Many political analysts believed the government fast-tracked the measure at the end of the most recent parliamentary session as election bait in the two Malay-dominant districts.

PAS had also pushed hard for the hudud introduction ahead of the two by-elections and is expected to use the Kuala Kangsar result despite the UMNO win, where two-thirds of voters are Muslim, to push ahead for the measure.

UMNO-BN candidate Mastura Mohd Yazid, the widow of Wan Mohammad Khair-il Anuar Wan Mohammad, who was killed in a May helicopter crash, drubbed opposition candidates from Parti Islam se-Malaysia and Parti Amanah Negara without campaigning in the Sungai Besar constituency in Kuala Kangsar in Perak.

In the Sungai Besar constituency in Selangor, UMNO state assemblyman Budiman Mohd Zohdi, 44, won with a 9,191-vote margin in a district that barely ended up in the Barisan camp in 2013, beating the PAS contender’s 6,902 votes and Amanah’s 7,609. Some 74 percent of the voters turned out in Sungai Besar and 71 percent in Kuala Kangsar.

The winning margins were far larger than the narrow 1 and 4 percent in Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar respectively that were notched in the 2013 general election, and they also are an indication that the sway is severely diminished for former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has made it a personal campaign to drive Najib from office. At age 90 – 91 on July 10 – his followers are increasingly concerned that his decades as a powerhouse and kingmaker may be coming to a close.

Malaysia: All Hype and Shadows in Sarawak Politics

January 21, 2016

Malaysia: All Hype and Shadows in Sarawak Politics

by James Chin

In the lead up to state elections, old masters still rule from the shadows and stand to gain the most from the vote.


Last week, Adenan Satem, the Chief Minister of Sarawak, announced that his right-wing Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (United Traditional Bumiputera Party, or PBB) will contest 40 of the 82 constituencies in upcoming state elections. The casual remark to the press was no accident and was highly significant for several reasons.

Adenan is signalling that the state elections will most probably be held in March or April this year. More importantly, by telling the world the number of PBB candidates, the incumbent Chief Minister is signalling that politics in Sarawak has not changed since he took over in February 2014. PBB has dominated Sarawak politics since 1970, and nothing has changed since Adenan’s much-hyped takeover in early 2014.

In every state elections since the 1990s, PBB has contested just below 50 per cent of seats. In both the 2006 and 2011 state elections, PBB contested (and won) 35 of 71 seats in the Sarawak Dewan Undangan Negri (DUN or State Assembly).  The implications are clear – PBB can rule on its own at any time, but does not grab more than 50 per cent of the seats to show its commitment to the multiracial, four-party Sarawak Barisan Nasional. In fact, it is widely known that some of the winning candidates in the other Sarawak BN parties are “on loan” from PBB or closet PBB members. Thus covertly, PBB controls more than half the seats in the DUN Dewan Undangan Negeri –State Assembly)

Some context is necessary here. When Adenan took over two years ago, there were expectations that he would reverse some of the excesses involving Taib Mahmud, his predecessor (now Governor). Taib’s widely-reported kleptocracy was reaching a point where even Putrajaya was embarrassed by the constant news reports of his wealth overseas. In Malaysia alone, Taib and his family allegedly owned more than 400 companies, while his holding overseas was conservatively estimated to be around US $15 billion. One website, Sarawak Report, and an NGO, the Bruno Manser Fund, were largely responsible for exposing the extent of his hidden wealth overseas.

Despite all the evidence, Taib was untouchable for a very simple reason. Najib Razak, Malaysia’s Prime Minister, needed him to stay in power after the 2013 General Elections. Razak’s UMNO party won 88 seats while Taib’s Sarawak BN delivered 25 seats. Without Sarawak BN, Najib would have been out of power. Taib’s PBB is currently the second largest party in the federal Barisan Nasional coalition.

One year later, in February 2014, Taib was sworn in as Sarawak’s Governor and Adenan, his hand-picked successor, became Chief Minister. Make no mistake; Adenan was a pair of ‘safe hands’. He was married previously to Taib’s sister and he went to school at St Joseph’s in the state capital Kuching with Taib. Adenan even went to the same university (University of Adelaide) and graduated in the same degree (law). Adenan later served for more than two decades in Taib’s cabinet.

Like Taib, Adenan is a master tactician when it comes to Sarawak politics. He understands that Sarawakians (and Malaysians) have short memories. Rather than addressing the issue of Taib’s misdeeds, Adenan went for something that all Sarawakians strongly agree on — Sarawak has gotten a rotten deal in the Malaysian Federation.

For the past decade, resentment grew among Sarawakians that their state got very little after helping to establish the Malaysian Federation in 1963. The consensus is that Sarawak does not fit into the UMNO’s model of ‘Malay First, Islam First’  governance and that Sarawak would be much better off had it opted for independence.

This wave of Sarawak nationalism could not come at a more opportune time for Adenan, Taib and Sarawak BN. Using Sarawak nationalism gives Adenan two key political advantages. First it gives him the right to shout “Get non-Sarawak parties out of Sarawak. Sarawak for Sarawakians” (better known as S4S), knowing full well that the biggest threat to Sarawak BN are the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the People’s Justice Party (PKR).

Although these two parties are part of their national party, in truth they have a lot of autonomy when it comes to Sarawak issues. However, many people are excited about the need to keep Sarawak-based parties in power and to “kick-out Malayan” parties. At present Adenan’s Sarawak BN component parties are all Sarawak-based.

Second, playing the Sarawak nationalism card allows Adenan to deflect all the unresolved corruption issues related to Taib. Adenan claims that he is in charge, and that things are changing. But in reality, all Taib-related companies continue to get government contracts, and all the projects and dams supported by the Taib administration remain in place.

Adenan will not, as the locals say, ‘lawan towkay’ (challenge the boss) who in Sarawak remains Taib.Taib’s master political move was to simply shift upstairs to the Governorship and control the state from the shadows.  Sarawakians, especially those in the rural areas, seem to think that Adenan is really in charge now that his picture appears daily on the front page of local Sarawak papers.

There is little doubt that Adenan and Sarawak BN will win big in this year’s vote.  In the last state election, Sarawak BN won 55 of 71 seats. Thirteen of the 16 seats won by the opposition were in urban, largely Chinese-majority constituencies. A repeat is expected in the 2016 race.

Sarawak DAP is still the undisputed champion of the urban Chinese, but Adenan’s personal popularity coupled with the Sarawak nationalism card will mean it will be tough for Sarawak DAP’s dream of moving into native and semi-urban constituencies. There is even the possibility that Adenan’s popularity will lead to reduced majorities for DAP in Chinese seats.

But, the two big winners for the upcoming polls will be Najib Razak and Taib Mahmud.Najib can claim some credit for Sarawak BN’s victory given that he has given leeway for Adenan to condemn UMNO publicly in Sarawak. Adenan often openly speaks negatively about UMNO’s race politics in Sarawak and vows not to allow UMNO into Sarawak. This is wildly popular among the “Sarawak for Sarawakians” crowd.

In fact, it is so popular that the main NGO behind the S4S campaign was forced to support Adenan’s call for complete autonomy from Putrajaya, effectively supporting the Sarawak BN and Taib.  A strong showing by Adenan will reinforce Najib’s claim that he can rely on the “fixed deposit” from East Malaysia in the next general elections.

The ultimate winner is Taib Mahmud. Despite all the negative news reports, police reports, documentaries, and worldwide campaigns, he is still untouchable and sitting pretty in the Astana Palace. He is probably more “successful” than either Suharto or Marcos. The only contemporary leader who comes close to what Taib has “achieved” is Hun Sen of Cambodia.

Najib’s 1MDB shenanigans are peanuts compared to Taib and his family’s wealth but attracts all the attention. Is it any wonder that Taib’s nickname is White Rajah of Sarawak?

James Chin is Director, Asia Institute, University of Tasmania