Dr. Bridget Welsh on 100 days of Pakatan Administration: Glass half full or half empty?


August 16, 2018

Dr. Bridget Welsh on 100 days of Pakatan Administration: Glass half full or half empty?

by Dr. Bridget Welsh@www.malaysiakini.com

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“Harapan continues to be hampered by a trust deficit. Many of its own members are attacking one another. Conspiracies about alliances, intensive politicking and reports of infighting (often played out in the press) are taking away from what Harapan should be focused on – governing. After 100 days, these sorts of things should be declining, not increasing in prominence.”–Dr. Bridget Welsh

COMMENT | Today, Pakatan Harapan faces its 100-day report card. The idea of ‘100 days’ is somewhat arbitrary and any assessment in the early days of any administration should also be treated with caution – including this one.

This is especially the case given the difficult conditions Harapan has inherited, not only the financial liabilities caused by reckless spending and serious graft, but decades of erosion in institutional competence and good governance.

The problems lie not only with the political system but extend into society where social relations are deeply coloured by race and resentment as well as uneven education and entitlements which reinforced inequalities.

Let’s start with the positive

Let’s start with the positive, however. First of all, Harapan has shown that it can work together as a new coalition, and it has found its footing. While there have been moments of frustration – immature behaviour from those coveting position they somehow think they are entitled to – the five parties (with Warisan) have worked out many of their key differences and put in place a cabinet that while may lack in experience, is arguably the most talented and clean government in decades.

Over the past three months, these officials on the whole have worked hard to learn the ropes in environments that have been at times hostile and unwelcoming. They have been under the microscope and faced intense public pressure.

While there have been mistakes in (mis)handling questions on issues such as the United Examination Certificate (UEC), lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights and foreign workers (and these speak to broader needs for greater reflection and engagement on these controversies), to date these mistakes have not fundamentally damaged the goodwill Harapan has from the majority of the electorate. One hundred days on, surveys show that the majority of Malaysians continue to support the bringing about a stronger ‘new’ Malaysia.

Second, there have been some important reforms introduced. Most of these have been internal and off the radar. The first has been granting more power to Parliament, an important strengthening of the checks and balances. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the Electoral Commission (EC), Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), The National Audit Commission, Public Service Commission, Education Service Commission and Judicial Appointments Commission all report directly to Parliament rather than the prime minister.

Decentralisation of power

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These initiatives have been led by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is now engaging in a meaningful decentralisation of executive power. Comparatively, Mahathir has also allowed ministers greater autonomy than in the past.

Third, there has been considerable restructuring of departments with the bureaucracy, with different agencies and units now coming under different jurisdictions. Some of these initiatives streamline governance and decision making, although not all of the restructuring has been clearly explained, leaving the impression (and in some cases, the reality) that turf wars are about politicking and positioning rather than governance. A good example is the divisions of the Ministry of Finance.

 

Fourth, there have been important reversals in entrenched exclusionary practices of the previous BN government. This week, the announcement of the end of propaganda outfits of the Biro Tatanegara (BTN) and National Service programme was made. Over the past three months, there have been scores of questionable contracts cancelled as part a broad review of spending and graft. Most of these have been done on an “ad hoc” basis but taken collectively, there have been important reviews in largely an inward-oriented process of assessment.

Fifth, there has been greater attention to corruption and abuses of power, particularly surrounding 1MDB. While many bemoan the slow handling of the serious corruption violations, including those associated with former Prime Minister Najib Razak, there has been a stream of reports of assets captured, investigations opened, scores of bank accounts frozen and, in some cases, charges filed. The MACC has been working overtime in carrying out investigations with greater independence than before.

Finally, there has been greater inclusion of Malaysia’s diversity in government and political life. From the composition of the cabinet to patterns of public engagement, more groups have had access, and with the greater press freedom, more issues have been raised in public, including many sensitive ones.

Despite continued reliance on race and religion on the part of the opposition parties (UMNO and PAS), there has also been considerable debate on a range of issues that speaks to underlying aspirations for different narratives and political participation. Even in Parliament, the focus has increasingly been on policy issues. In the spirit of the post-GE14 ‘durian runtuh’, the bitter and the sweet have offered more to the public to taste.

These changes speak to the new political environment as Malaysia’s ongoing transformation is unfolding. On the whole, the focus has been on the past, cleaning up the situation inherited and, in many cases, reversing unpopular policies. The guiding framework for changes has been the Harapan manifesto, which has proven to be both a basis for action and burden in that many of the proposals are financially untenable.

As Harapan has been in government, they have differed on whether some of the policies are politically viable, such as the UEC, and this shows that coalition dynamics are still evolving.

Legitimate criticisms

There are, however, quite different interpretations of the changes taking place, not only across the political divide but among different stakeholders. Legitimate criticisms can be made, as there is inadequate attention to addressing problems being currently experienced and indications of future trajectories.

The Economy

Foremost are percolating concerns about the economy. Harapan did a good job in managing the initial transition, instilling confidence. As time has progressed, this confidence has waned. While there has been a retail boom and a boost in some sectors from the end of the Goods and Service Tax (GST), many Malaysians have not witnessed a significant drop in prices.

Many businesses used the opportunity to rake in profits at the expense of consumers, a development that contributed to the negative impact of the GST originally. Many of the deep vulnerabilities with cost of living are still present, and deeply felt by vulnerable populations. There are worries that the return of the SST will lead to a similar negative impact on consumers.

Investors who have been waiting for approvals have been put on hold, now for most of 2018 as decisions were put off earlier in preparation for GE14. Impatience is growing. At the same time, the contract-driven domestic businesses are being dislodged from their hold on government largesse, and with these displacements, there is resentment.

In the climate of greater austerity, public spending is less of a driver for the economy. Collectively, there is a perceived slowdown in some quarters, which has been exacerbated by a lack of clear policy direction for the economy. To date, attention has focused on ending projects, not the experience of ordinary people. Harapan needs to be reminded that the main concern that brought them into power involved bread-and-butter issues.

 

This was closely followed by calls for reform. There are many visions of what the reforms should be and how they should be prioritised. The Institutional Reform Committee has made its recommendations and the public is looking for more substantive initiatives than those implemented to date.

Keep in mind, no draconian laws have been removed although a repeal of the anti-fake news bill has been tabled. No meaningful anti-corruption measures have been introduced, especially to prevent corruption in the Harapan government. The investigation of Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu’s aide for “crowdfunding” speaks to the problem of the urgent need for anti-corruption checks.

Programmes to prevent Police abuse and reduce trafficking have yet to be brought in, despite their inclusion in the manifesto. The need for Independent Police Complaint and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) and investigation into human trafficking crimes in Wang Kelian is long overdue. The same lack of attention to improving electoral administration is also evident. Even in the area of child marriage – preventing the young from abuse – has been mired in a muck of unprincipled platitudes.

Along with the economy, Harapan based its legitimacy in GE-14 on bringing about change, and further delays in bringing about substantive reforms promised in the manifesto will undermine its support among its political base.

Malay votes

A problem that Harapan has experienced in the first three months is a fixation with those that did not vote for them. Harapan itself has focused on the “half empty” glass with high levels of sensitivity to what the rural/semi-rural Malay base may think of the new government.

My estimates of the results show that Harapan won 23.5% of the Malay vote nationally (compared to 44.5% won by UMNO and 31.9% won by PAS). There is indeed a Malay minority of support for Harapan.

Insecurity about a Malay deficit has been driving defensive responses and contributed to overcautious and doubletalk on many issues of race and religion. Harapan has unfortunately continued to use a simplistic ethnic lens to understand Malaysia’s diverse and complex society. This is hampering the evolution of a different narrative, a different Malaysian future.

Anwar Ibrahim

It has not helped that not all of Harapan seems to be on the same page about working collaboratively. While the coalition has come together, the splits that undercut support for Pakatan Rakyat are still present.

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In the last three months, questions have been asked about PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim’s commitment to political reform, and whether his personal ambitions are colouring his actions, including an unsettling interview in Utusan Malaysia and an UMNO-like ‘defend the royalty’ narrative. At the same time, grouses are being made about the appointment of former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin and perceptions of persistent patronage, with resentments growing and accusations being hurled. Despite taking on the task of governing, suspicion of Mahathir also persists.

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Rafizi’s Ambition knows no limits

Harapan continues to be hampered by a trust deficit. Many of its own members are attacking one another. Conspiracies about alliances, intensive politicking and reports of infighting (often played out in the press) are taking away from what Harapan should be focused on – governing. After 100 days, these sorts of things should be declining, not increasing in prominence.

Practices do not change overnight, and arguably they realistically cannot be expected to do so. The trajectory overall has been positive. This does not mean that attention should not be drawn to areas where there is dirt in the glass, and a possibility for a brighter future.

 


BRIDGET WELSH is an associate professor of political science at John Cabot University in Rome. She also continues to be a senior associate research fellow at the National Taiwan University’s Center for East Asia Democratic Studies and The Habibie Center, as well as a university fellow of Charles Darwin University. Her latest book (with co-author Greg Lopez) is titled Regime Resilience in Malaysia and Singapore. She can be reached at bridgetwelsh1@gmail.com.

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

Can Anwar be PM this time around?


August 15, 2018

Can Anwar be PM this time around?

P Ramasamy

 

ADUN SPEAKS | Anwar Ibrahim nearly succeeded in taking up the post of Prime Minister when he was the Deputy UMNO Chief and Deputy Prime Minister when Dr Mahathir Mohamad was in his first role as prime minister of the country.

However, Anwar’s quick rise within the ranks of the party and government led to his dismissal and subsequent imprisonment on a charge of sodomy.

It was the incarceration of Anwar that led to the reform movement with far-reaching political implications.

The reform movement that galvanised people across racial and religious lines sowed the seeds of the political decay of Umno and BN. The victory of the Pakatan Harapan coalition, and with PKR winning the most number parliamentary seats, is testimony to the powerful forces having their roots in the reform movement.

Anwar must be credited for being the force and personality who gave hope and trust to those Malaysians who wanted a better Malaysia.

Anwar was perceived as a threat and was charged, with sodomy again, and jailed the second time by the BN regime under Najib Abdul Razak. And, with the election victory by Harapan this year, on terms agreed by its component parties, Anwar was pardoned and released from his captivity.

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It was also agreed that Mahathir would serve as the Prime Minister for two years following which Anwar would take over as Prime Minister.

Anwar has been released and he recently he won the presidency of PKR, uncontested. The question now is when is he going to stand for election to Parliament – provided someone in his party is willing to vacate a seat.

As per the agreement before the election, Mahathir will be the prime minister for two years after which he will relinquish the post to Anwar.

Mahathir, being a man of his words, there is no question of him not stepping down.

Spoilers bent on derailing the process…

As we understand, he entered the political arena merely to oust the kleptocratic Najib government from power and to pave the way for better governance of the country.

 

While everything seems to point in the direction of a smooth transition of power from Mahathir to Anwar, there, however, are spoilers who are bent on derailing the process of this smooth democratic transfer.

It has not been proven, despite the challenge thrown by Mahathir, that there those within PKR who have joined forces with one or two powerful figures to ensure that Anwar does not assume the post of prime minister after the two-year period.

There are some who are claiming that Mahathir might not easily give up his post and that he had hinted a few times in the past that he might stay longer if the situation warranted it.

I am not sure whether we can create mountains of these insinuations and indirect statements, but nowhere is there solid proof that Mahathir might overstay in the post.

Mahathir might be credited for providing the critical leadership to Harapan in unseating the BN regime. However, let us not forget the formidable role of Anwar in creating and sustaining the forces, together with the DAP leadership, in creating a new Malaysia.

Twice Anwar has been “cheated” of the opportunity to become Prime Minister. I hope this time around he succeeds!


P RAMASAMY is Penang Deputy Chief Minister (II) and Perai Assemblyperson.

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

Foreign Affairs:The Modi-Erdoğan Parallel


August 15, 2018

Foreign Affairs:The Modi-Erdoğan Parallel

by 

http://www.project-syndicate.org

While Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not achieved the degree of “state capture” that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has, he is also 11 years behind. And the path the two leaders are on is similar enough to invite comparison – and provoke concern.

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NEW DELHI – Comparisons are generally invidious, especially when they involve political leaders from different countries. But, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rose to power 11 years before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, there is much about their personal and professional trajectories that makes comparison irresistible.

Both Erdoğan and Modi come from humble, small-town backgrounds: Erdoğan sold lemonade and pastries in the streets of Rize; Modi helped his father and brother run a tea stall on a railway platform in Vadnagar. They are self-made men, energetic and physically fit – Erdoğan was a professional soccer player before becoming a politician; Modi has bragged about his 56-inch (142-centimeter) chest – not to mention effective orators.

Both Erdoğan and Modi were raised with religious convictions that ultimately shaped their political careers. Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have both promoted a religiously infused, nationalist creed that they argue is more authentic than the Western-inspired secular ideologies that previously guided their countries’ development.

Yet, to win power, Erdoğan and Modi did not count exclusively on religious voters. Both campaigned on modernist platforms, arguing that by implementing business-friendly policies and reducing corruption, they could bring about greater economic prosperity than the establishment they sought to supplant.

Here, Erdoğan and Modi press both the past and the future into service. Erdoğan extols the Ottoman Empire’s legacy, while telling voters that they are not only “choosing a president and deputies,” but also “making a choice for our country’s upcoming century.” Likewise, Modi constantly evokes the achievements of ancient India, which he claims to be reviving in the name of creating a better future.

In short, Erdoğan and Modi have consolidated their power by glorifying the past, while portraying themselves as dynamic, future-oriented agents of change – heroes galloping in on white stallions, swords upraised, to cut the Gordian knots holding their countries’ down.

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“What Turkey has experienced – and India has not – are bouts of military rule. In fact, India’s democracy is deeply entrenched, making it less vulnerable to capture by a single ruler. That partly explains why it is so difficult for many Indians to imagine their country following in Turkey’s footsteps to become a majoritarian illiberal democracy with an autocrat in charge.”–Shashi Tharoor

At the same time, Erdoğan and Modi have painted themselves as political outsiders, who represent the “real” Turks or Indians long marginalized by cosmopolitan secularists. With popular discontent high when they rose to power, such political messaging fell on receptive ears. The narrative of resentment against the established secular elites, peppered with religious-chauvinist discourse and historical revisionism, facilitated their emergence as voices of the middle classes of the hinterlands and second-tier cities and towns.

When Erdoğan first became prime minister in 2003, his position was bolstered by booming global growth, emboldening him to start transforming the Turkish polity. His political formula – a potent compound of religious identity, triumphalist majoritarianism, hyper-nationalism, increasing authoritarianism (including institutional dominance), constraints on the media, strong economic growth, and a compelling personal brand – carried him to re-election as prime minister twice, and from there to the presidency in 2014.

Whether consciously or unconsciously, Modi has adapted Erdoğan’s formula to his own effort to reshape India. He has sought to marginalize Muslims and reinforce Hindu chauvinism. Minorities in general feel beleaguered, as Modi’s nationalism does not merely exclude them, but portrays them as traitors.

Moreover, in Modi’s India, political loyalties are often purchased, and institutions are subverted to serve a narrow sectarian agenda. Dissenters in the media and the universities have faced intimidation. The only area where Modi has been tripped up is GDP growth, owing to his government’s gross economic mismanagement.

On the international stage, too, there are notable parallels between how Erdoğan and Modi conduct themselves. Both pursue activist foreign policies aimed at boosting their domestic image, and have cultivated diaspora support. Erdoğan’s speeches in the Balkans might antagonize the United States and Europe, and even Serbs and Croats, but they raise his stock with Turks. When Modi addresses stadiums full of Indian expatriates on his visits abroad, his speeches are aimed squarely at audiences back home.

Soner Cagaptay, a Turkish analyst and author of a book on Erdoğan, recently remarked, “Half of the country hates him, and thinks he can do nothing right. But at the same time, the other half adores him, and thinks he can do nothing wrong.” The same is true of Modi in India.

Of course, there are important differences between Turkey and India. For starters, Turkey’s population, at 81 million, is less than half that of just one Indian state, Uttar Pradesh, with its population of 210 million. Turkey is 98% Muslim, while India is only 80% Hindu. Islamism, as Hindu chauvinists never tire of pointing out, is a global phenomenon; Hindutva is not. Turkey has no equivalent of Mahatma Gandhi, with his message of non-violence and co-existence drilled into the head of every Indian schoolchild.

Moreover, Turkey is more or less a developed country, while India still has a long way to go to reach that point. And, unlike India, Turkey was never colonized or partitioned on religious grounds, as India was to create Pakistan (though the exchange of populations that accompanied Turkey’s separation from Greece comes close).

What Turkey has experienced – and India has not – are bouts of military rule. In fact, India’s democracy is deeply entrenched, making it less vulnerable to capture by a single ruler. That partly explains why it is so difficult for many Indians to imagine their country following in Turkey’s footsteps to become a majoritarian illiberal democracy with an autocrat in charge.

But while it is true that Modi and the BJP have not achieved the degree of “state capture” that Erdoğan and the AKP have, they are also 11 years behind. And the path they are on is similar enough to invite comparison – and provoke concern. The warning bells are ringing: like the Turkish lira, the India rupee has lost over 5% of its value in the last month. With upcoming elections in both countries – Turkey this month, and India in Spring 2019 – will voters heed the alarm?

Woodward and Bernstein: Watergate echoes loud in Donald Trump era


August 13, 2018

Woodward and Bernstein: Watergate echoes loud in Donald Trump era

Veteran journalists may have thought their biggest story was behind them, then Trump came along. ‘This is worse than Watergate’, says Bernstein

Bob Woodward, left, and Carl Bernstein appear at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington on 29 April 2017. Photograph: Cliff Owen/AP

Carl Bernstein received an email from Bob Woodward the other day. “Can you believe this?” it read, “44 years!”

It was a reference to President Richard Nixon’s resignation on 8 August 1974, following years of dogged reporting by the Washington Post’s Woodward and Bernstein into the Watergate break-in and cover-up.

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The most famous double act in journalism were in their early 30s at the time and, like the Beatles when they broke up, could have been forgiven for assuming that the biggest story of their career was behind them. But then along came Donald Trump with Watergate echoes too loud to ignore. “Woodstein”, as the affectionate compound noun has them, are elder statesmen now but the hunger is still there.

Woodward’s upcoming book, Fear: Trump in the White House, shot to number one on Amazon.com within a day of its announcement. It is expected to be the most authoritative account yet of the first 18 months of the administration.

Bernstein was among three CNN reporters who recently broke the story of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s allegation that the Republican candidate knew in advance of the June 2016 meeting between his son, Don Jr, and Russian representatives.

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Bernstein is clearly galvanised by covering a big story again but there is no hint of glee. “I would hardly call covering Trump a joyous experience,” he told the Guardian. “I think that this is a dangerous time for America, that we have a president with no regard for the rule of law or for the truth. I say those things not pejoratively. It’s reportorially established and I think that’s what’s so extraordinary.”

Some parallels with Watergate are inescapable, he said. “Obviously there are similarities, not least of which is part of the story is about undermining the electoral process. You’re also dealing with cover-ups in both instances and special prosecutors.”

But the differences from that era appear more profound to him. Bernstein explained: “This is worse than Watergate in the sense that the system worked in Watergate and it’s not apparent yet that the system is working in the current situation. No president has done anything like Trump to characterise the American press and its exercise of the first amendment as the enemy of the people, a phrase associated with the greatest despots of the 20th century.”

 
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Reporters Bob Woodward, right, and Carl Bernstein, whose reporting of the Watergate case won them a Pulitzer Prize, in the Washington Post newsroom in 1973. Photograph: AP

Currently writing a memoir of growing up in the newspaper business from age 16 to 21, Bernstein has seen many presidents come and go but Trump is “sui generis”, he believes. “One might have thought that Richard Nixon was but they’re very different. Even using the word demagogue and saying that the president of the United States is a habitual liar, one would not have said that about Nixon. He lied often to hide his criminality but what sounds pejorative when I’m on the air is reportorially about him being a habitual liar, about what demagoguery is.

Woodward, 75, and Bernstein, 74, never stopped reporting or writing. Bernstein is a political commentator for CNN whose books include A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Woodward has worked at the Post for nearly half a century and is now associate editor. He has written several bestselling chronicles of presidencies from Nixon to Barack Obama.

Fear: Trump in the White House, out next month, is his 19th book and one of most eagerly awaited. Publisher Simon & Schuster teases that it will show the “harrowing life” of the Trump administration, drawing upon “hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, contemporaneous meeting notes, files, documents and personal diaries”.

The title is based on a remark that Trump made to Woodward and another Post reporter in a 2016 interview: “Real power is through respect. Real power is, I don’t even want to use the word, fear.”

Former Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, who in May chaired a panel discussion with Woodward, Bernstein and Trump’s first Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, said: “I think a lot of the old juices are flowing. The experience both of them had with Watergate in many ways has prepared them to deal with the challenges of the Trump administration. They’re now in the same position as they were before as young reporters.”

Yet the political and media environment has changed in unthinkable ways. The Post office where, under swashbuckling editor Ben Bradlee, Woodward and Bernstein hammered out reports on typewriters, and where newspapers ran off underground presses, has been demolished. Now owned by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, the Post has moved into hi-tech headquarters geared up for the digital age. From Facebook to Fox News, the media is fragmented and polarised with disputes over what constitutes truth itself.

Panetta said of Woodward and Bernstein: “Their basic expertise was in trying to find the truth but we’re in a time when facts are under attack. They’re dealing with a more challenging world where the mere fact of who they are doesn’t carry the kind of respect it once did.”

In 1974 they co-wrote the book All the President’s Men, which was turned into a Hollywood film starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman and featuring gloomy car park meetings with the mysterious source “Deep Throat”. It might now be tempting for Trump-weary liberals to fantasise about Woodward and Bernstein reuniting to save the republic again.

Asked if there is any prospect of another collaboration, Bernstein replied: “I wouldn’t rule anything out altogether. There’s certainly no plans but we run things by each other and we counsel each other.”

The men’s professional and personal relationship was said to have become strained for a time in the 1970s but they are otherwise very close. “We talk a couple times a week and have for years and obviously there’s some things we can’t share with each other but we have a pretty good idea. We keep a dialogue going about Trump and the story and the presidency. We’ve been doing this for 45, 46 years.”

And does it trouble Bernstein that, as automatically as Laurel and Hardy or Lennon and McCartney, the duo is commonly referred to as Woodward and Bernstein rather Bernstein and Woodward? “Not in the least,” he said cheerfully. “I don’t think you worry about that sort of thing.”

Dr M Bakri Musa’s Advice to Crooked Najib Razak (2011): A Bit of History


August 13, 2018

Dr M Bakri Musa’s Advice to Crooked Najib Razak ( 2011): A Bit of History

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Najib Razak: His Character flaws destroyed  the Malay Psyche, UMNO and Malaysia

If you were given an opportunity for a private meeting with Prime Minister Najib, what advice would you give him?

Dr Bakri:  Najib has a short attention span so I will offer him only two. If I were to give him more, he would probably forget the rest!

One is not an advice but to elicit from him his vision of Malaysia and to inquire what his greatest fear is, politically. The two are related. I think I can anticipate his answer to my second query but as to the first, I have no clue, despite his much-ballyhooed 1Malaysia public relations exercise and its attendant expensive international consultants.

The greatest fear of Barisan, and thus of Najib as its leader, is that it would not regain its traditional two-third majority in the next [2013] general election. You know the fate of Najib’s predecessor Abdullah Badawi when he failed to deliver in 2008.

If that were to be his greatest fear, then imagine it being worse and prepare for that eventuality. If things were to turn out to be not as bad, then he would be relieved and have more confidence in tackling the crisis.

What could be worse than Barisan losing the supra majority? That would be Barisan failing to gain even a simple majority and thus losing the right to rule Malaysia. To add insult to an already unbearable injury, I would have him imagine UMNO winning fewer parliamentary seats than PAS. That would shatter the myth that UMNO is Melayu, and Melayu, UMNO. If that scenario is not scary enough, then add his losing his Pekan seat, as he nearly did in the 1999 elections.

The next election is due no later than March 8, 2013, so Najib has exactly 768 days from today (January 29, 2011) to prepare for that potential political catastrophe. Add a day more if there were to be a leap year in between.

There would be only two choices for Najib. One, knowing that he would lose everything in the next election, he should seize this brief opportunity to enrich himself and his family. Then when booted out he could charter a private jet to whisk him and his family out of the country. That unfortunately is the well-trodden path followed by far too many Third World leaders, the latest being the Tunisian leader, soon to be joined by Egypt’s Mubarak. If Najib were to pursue that course, he would deserve the wrath and curse of all Malaysians. That animus would spill over and stain the memories Malaysians have of his late father.

The other option would be to execute his grand vision of a clean, efficient, and meritocratic nation, as encapsulated in his 1Malaysia aspiration, and help propel Malays onto the global arena, his so-called glokal Malay agenda. Many, including Najib, have already forgotten that slogan.

He could do this by getting rid of all those tainted UMNO characters in his cabinet and party. So what if they were to rebel and plot against him; the result would not be any worse than the earlier scenario I had painted.

Then there are those juicy government contracts. Put them all out to competitive bidding and invite international bidders. If an American company would win it, so what? At least the roofs would not leak or collapse. Yes, those UMNO pseudo entrepreneurs would be ticked off, like bears whose honey jars have suddenly been taken away.

To demonstrate his commitment to meritocracy, visit the top universities of the world and invite those Malaysians there for a private dinner. They might not fall for his cajoling to return but they might just give him some useful advice and brilliant ideas. Who knows, one or two might return. It would certainly be more productive than meeting a Petronas University flunky lobbying for a scholarship, as he did with one Saiful Bukhari.

If Najib were to opt for this second course, he would transform Malaysia come 2013. Voters, seeing the tangible results, may well enthusiastically endorse his leadership. If not, then Najib could at least have the satisfaction knowing that he had given his best.

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My second advice to Najib is a real one, not merely a question for him. It is also very short: Get rid of your wife from the public arena! [Spontaneous enthusiastic applause!] As you can see, I am not the only one who would like to throw him that advice!

If Najib’s wife has the itch to involve herself in the affairs of the state (she has certainly given every indication of her itchiness for that), then lobby her husband to nominate her as a candidate in the next election.

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Note: I had the opportunity of meeting Dr. Bakri and his wife Karen Musa in Los Angeles some years ago. He took me, Dr. Kamsiah, and Semper Fi to Santa Barbara, California for the weekend. I was struck by what he said to me about the Malays as we walked on the beach. He said lamentably, “Din, you can take the Malay out of the Kampong, but you cannot remove  the Kampong out of the Malay”. He was referring to UMNO Malays.–Din Merican

Tribute to ‘legal lion’ Sir Eusoffe Abdoolcader


August 12, 2018

Tribute to ‘legal lion’ Sir Eusoffe Abdoolcader

British High Commissioner Vicki Treadell describes the late judge Eusoffe Abdoolcader as an individual the country should be incredibly proud of.

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KUALA LUMPUR: British High Commissioner Vicki Treadell has hailed the late Eusoffe Abdoolcader, one of the senior judges suspended during the 1988 judicial crisis, as a man of integrity and said he was held in high regard not only in Malaysia but also internationally.

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British High Commissioner Vicki Treadell at Kinokuniya, Kuala Lumpur

She said Eusoffe, who died in 1996, was a witty and wise man. “Integrity, wisdom, humour, passion, romance are the words I came up with (to describe Eusoffe),” Treadell said at an event to pay tribute to the late judge at Kinokuniya Book Store’s Merdeka month celebration.

Eusoffe was lauded as “The Legal Lion of the Commonwealth”, first coined by The Times of London. The “The Legal Lion of the Commonwealth: Judgments” book is the first in a series to revive the history of a man who has been called “Malaysia’s greatest judge”.

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Malaysians, Treadell said, should be “so incredibly proud” of Eusoffe as his judgments were also respected by the international legal community.”

As a jurist, Eusoffe – who graduated with First Class Honours from University of London – was “second to none” and his laser-like intellect and photographic memory would often put someone on the spot.

Treadell also pointed out that Eusoffe was the first Malayan to be given the Keys to the City of London in 1950. “I can assure you not everyone is given the Keys to the City of London. He must have stood out.”

Treadell went on to talk about how Eusoffe was a courageous man who was prepared to stand up to the government of the day or to senior figures in the government.

“If he felt the government had strayed beyond their constitutional place, he was not afraid of doing so and pointing out that actually, they were breaching the constitution and the law.”

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This Judicial Crisis was created by Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in his capacity as Prime Minister No. 4 in 1988. Sir Eusoffe was one of the 5 Judges. After that, the Judiciary became an appendage of the Executive Branch

Eusoffe was among the five Supreme Court judges who were suspended after granting the then Lord President Salleh Abbas an interim order against a tribunal for misconduct.

This after Salleh opposed a bill – that sparked the judicial crisis in 1988 – which sought to divest the courts of the “judicial power of the Federation”, giving them only such powers as Parliament granted them.

 

Salleh went on to express his disappointment with the then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in a letter that was addressed to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and other state Rulers. Salleh was suspended two months later before being removed as Lord President in August of that year.

Inspired by Eusoffe’s life and legacy, his judgments will be used as a teaching tool for young people in a series of human rights writing workshops called “VastWords”, part sponsored by Think City, a subsidiary of Khazanah Nasional.

Between Nov–Dec 2018, the VastWords programme will train 400 students in Kuala Lumpur.The best essays from the initiative will be published in a book, promoting diverse opinions and giving voice to young people’s perspectives on human rights issues in Malaysia.