FOCUS On POVERTY alleviation, not income creation for billionaires–Mahathir’s outdated policy prescriptions


January 16, 2019

FOCUS On POVERTY alleviation, not billionaires —Mahathir’s outdated policy prescriptions

by P. Gunasegaram

Image result for the malaysian maverick by barry wain

QUESTION TIME | When Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad sank low to say that wealth should be distributed equally among races, he indicated plainly that he has no solid plan to increase incomes and alleviate poverty for all Malays and Malaysians. His priorities are elsewhere.

Note that he talks about the distribution of wealth, not increasing incomes, which is more important because this is what will eventually result in a proper redistribution of wealth by valuing fairly everyone’s contribution  to wealth creation.

During his time as Prime Minister previously for a very long 22 years from 1981 to 2003 out of 46 years of independence at that time – nearly half the period of independence – he had plenty of opportunities, but squandered them.

He did not care for the common Malay, but was instead more focused on creating Malay billionaires overnight through the awarding of lucrative operations handled by the government or government companies previously, such as roads, power producers, telecommunications and others.

He depressed labour wages by bringing in millions of workers from Indonesia, and subsequently Bangladesh and the Philippines, to alter the religious balance in Sabah. A significant number of them became Malaysian citizens over the years, altering the overall racial and religious balance in the country.

By doing that he let his own race down, many of whom were workers and small entrepreneurs whose incomes were constrained by imported labour. Even now, Mahathir has not shown a great willingness to increase minimum wages, which will help many poor Malays and bumiputeras increase their incomes.

As Mahathir himself well knows, distribution is not an easy thing. Stakes held by others cannot be simply distributed, but they have to be sold, even if it is at depressed prices as it was under the New Economic Policy or NEP, when companies wanted to get listed.

Instant millionaires

There are not enough Malays rich enough to buy these stakes, but many of them in the Mahathir era and earlier, especially the connected elite, became rich by purchasing the 30 percent stakes for bumiputeras that had to be divested upon listing by taking bank loans.

By simply flipping the stakes on the market at a higher price after they were listed, they pocketed the difference and became instant millionaires.

Image result for the permodalan nasional

It was Mahathir’s brother-in-law – the straight, honest and capable Ismail Ali – who was the architect behind the setting up of Permodalan Nasional Bhd or PNB to hold in trust for bumiputera stakes in major companies. PNB now has funds of some RM280 billion and has been enormously successful in this respect.

But Mahathir, with advice from Daim Zainuddin who became his Finance Minister, still cultivated selected bumiputera leaders, many of them Daim’s cronies, and gave them plum deals. A slew of them who were terribly over-leveraged got into trouble during the 1997-1998 financial crisis.

The government, often through Khazanah Nasional Bhd, had to rescue some of the biggest ones, resulting in Khazanah holding key stakes in many companies such as Axiata, CIMB, PLUS and so on. Recently, the government has been talking about, not surprisingly, selling these stakes to investors, accusing Khazanah of not developing bumiputera entrepreneurship, which was not anywhere in its original aims.

It becomes more obvious what Mahathir is talking about. Redistribution of wealth now will come out of the selling of government (Khazanah) and PNB stakes to individual Malay entrepreneurs to equalise wealth distribution among the races. To make it more palatable, some willing Indian entrepreneurs, too, may be found.

The modus operandi will be to sell the stakes when prices are depressed and perhaps even to offer a bulk discount to these so-called entrepreneurs who, of course, will not only be among the elite, but who are cronies. That will ensure a steady flow of funds into Bersatu in future from donations to help make it the premier party in the Pakatan Harapan coalition.

Image result for the malaysian jomo and gomez

Mahathir knows full well that equal wealth distribution is impossible – it’s never been done anywhere before and makes wealth acquisition disproportionate to intelligent effort and hard work, a sure recipe for inefficiency, corruption and patronage. As eloquently argued by prominent political economy professor Terence Gomez, patronage is king in new Malaysia – if it was cash during Najib’s time.

Mahathir does not have the wherewithal to lead anymore, if he ever had it in the first place. Eight months after GE14, he is still bereft of a plan to increase incomes and improve livelihoods. He needs to recognise he does not have one and that he stays in power because of the strength of the other parties in the coalition.

Wrong direction

The only way to close the wealth gap is to increase future incomes across all races. Anything else is the expropriation of other people’s wealth. In the meantime, the holding of wealth in trust by state agencies is perfectly acceptable because the income comes back to the government.

This can be wisely used to improve the quality of education, get better quality investments, raise productivity and hence labour wages, and provide equal opportunities for growth and innovation among all communities. As so many people have said before me, you can equalise opportunities, but not outcomes.

So far, 61 years of UMNO-BN have not managed to equalise opportunities for all as the government education system is in shambles, among others. And eight months of Harapan is heading in the wrong direction under Mahathir.

Despite Bersatu being a party expressly formed to fight for Malay rights, Mahathir’s party had the lowest support from Malays of parties looking after Malay rights, including Umno, PAS, PKR and Amanah.

He is still stuck in a mode to widen his rather narrow and vulnerable power base (his Bersatu won only 13 seats of 52 contested, the worst win rate of any party in the coalition) unethically by attracting tarnished MPs from Umno into the Bersatu fold, in the process willing to break agreements with other coalition partners and doing/advocating things which are against the principles of a properly functioning democracy.

He has also said he will not honour some manifesto promises, saying that these were made when Harapan did not expect to win the elections – a rather lame excuse. He has not even made solid moves to undo repressive laws introduced by his predecessor Najib Abdul Razak.

Mahathir, obviously, has no intention plan to improve the livelihood of the common Malay and all Malaysians;  he is stuck in old-school forced distribution which is injurious to the economy, maybe even fatal in the long term.

 Malaysians don’t want the creation of Malay (or any other ) billionaires from government wealth.


Old wine in a new bottle is still sour. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com

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

 

 

As 2018 comes to an end


December 23, 2018

As 2018 comes to an end

 

QUESTION TIME | While 2018 draws to a close, bringing with it a time for reflection, some serious questions are being asked as to the state of the country and what it means when Malaysia’s oldest party, UMNO, faces collapse from within as elected representatives desert it in droves for what they think are greener pastures.This will cause problems in Pakatan Harapan, for it threatens to significantly alter the delicate power balance within the coalition, which may see a sudden burgeoning of power for Bersatu with all its attendant implications. And then there are the power shifts within PKR itself. All of these spell uncertainty ahead.

But even so, things are much better right now than a year ago, despite the many problems that need to be resolved. If the challenge of removing BN after 61 years has been successfully overcome, surely the ones facing the nation right now can be more easily settled.

One year ago, the nation was already in the throes of election fever. There was desperation, despair, denial, and fear on both sides – fear that they might lose the elections with all implications for both sides. And the rakyat worried like never before about whether the unbridled kleptocracy would end or not.

In the end, they took the right and brave decision to throw out a corrupt and thieving government, paving the way for a former prime minister of 22 years to return to the helm for the interim and de facto Harapan leader Anwar Ibrahim to take over the reins later.

That unprecedented overthrow of UMNO-BN was, without doubt, the highlight of the year with all the drama of a 92-year-old waiting at the palace to be installed as the next prime minister as agreed by the Harapan coalition.

Along with that drama, there was another one unfolding which saw Anwar finally getting an unconditional pardon and released from jail. There was much jubilation and elation at Harapan’s victory, and everyone admired Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s energy and persistence throughout the process, something remarkable for a man his age.

Inevitable problems

But the inevitable problems began to surface. First, it was the cabinet composition and then the formation of the Jedi-like so-called Council of Eminent Persons headed by the controversial Daim Zainuddin (photo).

It was clear that this council, with a declared lifetime of 100 days was more powerful than the cabinet itself and was making many decisions which should rightly have been decided at the ministerial level.

Daim’s reports to Mahathir still remain confidential, with the public in the dark about the measures recommended by the council. Despite the council no longer sitting, Daim still continues to exert considerable influence in government, leading to discomfort among some members of Harapan.

After subsiding for a while, the problem of “frogging” – leaping from one party to another – has resurfaced with a vengeance with some 17 UMNO MPs having resigned and a handful joining component Harapan parties, mostly Bersatu.

There is considerable discord over this party hopping, with PKR and DAP clearly against it while Bersatu is as clearly for it because of the small number of MPs it has and the potential for such moves to increase its numbers and influence. Bersatu has even set up a vetting process to consider who should be admitted.

Far-reaching consequences

This is going to be a serious problem for Harapan going forward, because it has the potential to cause far-reaching changes within the ruling coalition which will alter its balance of power and may even set off a race among coalition members, except DAP, to get some of the defectors into their fold.

As much as there is uncertainty now over what will happen to Harapan and the reforms and changes it promised, it is still far better than the situation a year ago, with ominous consequences for the country if BN-UMNO was yet again re-elected.

In the end, faith prevailed and collectively we turned away from the abyss that faced us by voting out an allegedly kleptocratic government and averted near-certain disaster.

Subsequent events have shown that we were right about the magnitude of the problems facing the country, and that steps are necessary to ensure we, as a nation, don’t face a similar problem in future.

If everybody involved in the reform movement remembers the past and how near we were to a colossal breakdown of epic proportions in government due to extensive and ingrained corruption, outright pilferage of borrowed money, and the constant raising of race and religion as issues to mask deficiencies, then they will realise the need for reform to stop corruption and theft.

That would mean not allowing into government anyone who is even remotely connected with the previous government’s unprecedented kleptocracy, no matter how small the role they played in that. That means no hopping MPs.

And that means standing up for these reforms and facing up to those who now want to forget them. Only that will ensure a better Malaysia going forward, even if there is some initial cost to this vital long-term benefit that we need in order to sustain this country of ours as a viable nation.


P . GUNASEGARAM wishes all Malaysiakini readers and subscribers a merry Christmas and happy new year. His column will resume next year. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com

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

Message to Pakatan Harapan Politicians–Stop the Blame Game


November 16,2018

Message to Pakatan Harapan Politicians–Stop the Blame Game

by S.Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

“It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones.”
– Calvin Coolidge, former US President

COMMENT | Now-retired Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) chairperson Daim Zainuddin’s rejoinder to the Pakatan Harapan government to stop playing the blame game is one of the more honest moments the establishment has had since gaining power on May 9.

Image result for daim zainuddin

“It has got to a point where every time the new government is waffling, demurring or flat-out reneging on their campaign promises or proposing unpopular policies, they blame the former UMNO regime.”

The minority (voters) who voted the previous government out do indeed know why they are happy to see the fall of UMNO, but for the majority Malays who voted for UMNO and PAS, all they see is the new administration blaming those whom they voted for.

They read about partisans who mock the UMNO  base, even though the Malay power structures in Harapan are desperate to shore up Malay support with the elected reps from the disgraced Najib regime.

Part of this is because of the platform that Harapan ran on. Before joining Harapan, Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, in various interviews, claimed that the primary goal was to remove a kleptocrat and that there were other “issues” that he could work with the coalition on, but which were secondary.

When he formally joined Harapan, he had to sublimate his own baggage of autocratic tendencies to work out a compromise with brokers in the coalition, that included a host of issues that were related to reforming the system.

He had to do this because his Bersatu was literally a newborn, while the other partners in the coalition, excluding Amanah, already had an established  base with ideas of institutional reforms which would truly save Malaysia. The formation of Bersatu itself was one of racial necessity, or at least this was the coalition’s party line.

Remember, it was not as if systemic corruption was unheard of in Malaysia. It is pointless dragging up the polemics of the then opposition when it came to the corruption and abuse of power during Mahathir’s regime.

Image result for daim mahathir

The fact is that Najib’s regime corruption was so blatant, the regime’s attempt to stifle dissent so heavy-handed and its attempts to shore up Malay-Muslim support so detrimental to non-Malay interests, that a sufficiently diverse minority was moved to replace UMNO-BN.

When Daim says that Harapan needs to fulfil its election manifesto, the reality is that the current Prime Minister has admitted that the campaign manifesto is a fiction based on the belief that the coalition could not win this election. In other words, it was a “say anything” manifesto.

This, of course, was met with blowback from other Harapan coalition members, but the cynicism of the old maverick’s statement is the kind of realpolitik that he and his kind of politicians have trafficked for decades.

Blaming a kleptocrat is easy. The real problem starts when the Harapan regime has to differentiate itself from the UMNO regime. This is where the trouble starts. It started when Harapan began waffling about removing certain laws.

Indeed, anecdotally speaking, there are more Harapan political operatives, Malay and non-Malay, who want election promises kept – or so they tell me – than the politburo of Harapan, which has never failed to find an opportunity to blame the former regime for Harapan’s lack of political will to carry out eforms

This is not that straw man argument about giving the coalition more time. There are already apologists who claim that the 100-day promises are a burden too heavy to carry. This is about outright not fulfilling promises and cynically expecting the base to support such decisions.

The shackles of reforms

And this is the problem right here. We are dealing with politicians whose currency is autocracy and a supplicating base, which was the norm for decades. These so-called reforms in the Harapan manifesto are in reality shackles for politicians who are used to dealing with the public, not as servants of the state, but rather as potentates to be followed.

Part of this is partisan politics, of course. These days, Mahathir has a loyal following in the Harapan political elite and amongst a certain segment of the Harapan base.

Image result for Tok PA

 

 

He gets to accept someone like Mustapa Mohamed – better known as Tok Pa – into Bersatu, claiming that the criteria for such entry was that Tok Pa had been cowed when it came to standing up to Najib. One assumes, I suppose, that his cowardice evaporates before the majesty of Mahathir and he will suddenly discover the strength to fight for his constituents now that he is in Bersatu.

When Cynthia Gabriel of the Governance, Integrity, Accountability and Transparency (Giat) coalition threatens to name and shame establishment politicians who do not declare their full assets and not just their incomes, she is vilified on social media.

Gabriel is just doing her job like she was when she was speaking truth to UMNO power, but now, she is vilified. One Harapan political operative even emailed me asking where “she gets her funding from.”

Before May 9, when Gabriel had said the same when she was raging against UMNO hegemony, Harapan partisans were ready to canonise her. This same political operative was worrying about her safety.

Image result for cynthia gabriel

As for what she thinks of her job, Gabriel said it all here, when she accepted the US-based National Endowment for Democracy’s (NED) 2017 Democracy Award: “This is not something (in which) we can just say ‘enough’, or it’s time to shirk away and do nothing about it. It is important to stay the course, fight the good fight, it is important to seek the truth.”

You see, what is important is not just removing the kleptocrat. What differentiated Harapan from UMNO-BN was those promises in the manifesto which curtailed executive power, restored individual freedoms, reformed public institutions, and, most importantly, curtailed the power of the state security apparatus to hamper all of the above.

I mean, for a time there was talk of hate speech laws. This from a coalition which was targeted by the Umno state using instruments of the state for speaking truth to power. At a time when the Harapan government were waffling on repealing laws which limited our freedoms, there was actually talk of creating new laws which did the same.

Then, of course, Mahathir says this for justifying the retention of the Official Secrets Act 1972: “The law is not perfect. It is open to abuse, but you hope to find people who will not break the law, who will obey the rule of law. That is what is important.

“The last government did not follow the rule of law. They did what they liked with the law. The main thing is to find a government that will not break the laws.”

Does anyone really think that we have found a government which does not break laws?


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

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

 

Zaid Ibrahim retracts ‘billionaire’ statement against Daim, will ‘cease writing altogether’


https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2018/11/10/last-testament-by-zaid-ibrahim/November 11, 2018

Zaid  Ibrahim retracts ‘billionaire’ statement against Daim, will ‘cease writing altogether’

 

Published by Malaysiakini

 READ ON:  https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2018/11/10/last-testament-by-zaid-ibrahim/

Former de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim has retracted his remarks claiming that former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin and his “billionaire friends” are in control of the country.

Zaid said today that he will also cease to make public statements henceforth and stop participating in politics.

“I regret my unfair and unjustified remarks and apologise to both (prime minister) Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Daim for the anguish my writing has caused them both.

“In all my years of writing, I have taken great pains to ensure the accuracy of the information I received, but this one is obviously faulty and has crossed the line of responsible writing. I much regret it.

“To my readers: I have decided it’s best for my self-esteem and my family’s welfare that I cease writing altogether… It’s difficult to write with honesty and some courage without upsetting or hurting some feelings somewhere.

“Not only I will stop writing altogether (sic), I will no longer be a member of any political party. I have wasted enough years in politics, thinking I could make some difference to the country, but it’s not to be,” Zaid said in a statement published by Free Malaysia Today.

Picking ‘unnecessary fights’

Zaid’s move to retract his statement and retreat from the public sphere comes after a series of incidents that began on Wednesday, when he first mentioned in a blog post that Harapan’s manifesto promises of a welfare state were now being overruled by “billionaires and towkays”.

In response, Mahathir had asked Zaid to furnish proof of his claim, quipping that the former minister should show evidence about “how many billions I have”.

Zaid had subsequently clarified that he was referring to Daim and his friends, not Mahathir.He claimed he was severely criticised for his remarks.

“First, (Finance Minister) Lim Guan Eng called and said my statement was uncalled-for as it was not true and not based on facts. He suggested that I make a retraction.

“Then my closest friends asked why I was picking unnecessary fights with so many people.

“Even my family members seemed unhappy. They told me we would no longer have food on the table if I continued giving opinions about powerful people in the country,” Zaid said.

He added that he would now focus on finding ways to “pay the debts I have accumulated in the many years in the wilderness”.

The former minister has had a colourful political history since being sacked from UMNOno in 2008. His last foray into politics involved joining DAP last year.However, he was not fielded as a candidate in the 14th general election.

Looking for Reformasi on the Road to Oz


October 3, 2018

Looking for Reformasi on the Road to Oz

by Kean Wong

View story at Medium.com

Kean Wong, Contributing Editor, New Mandala(left)

After two decades of reformasi, two generations of resistance to ‘Malaysia lama’ spent September addressing capacity crowds of Malaysians abroad about ‘Malaysia baru’ and the horizon ahead.

As the two veteran campaigners for Malaysia’s democracy traversed the Australian continent across September, another leader Anwar Ibrahim formally started his campaign to reclaim parliamentary leadership, nominating for the Port Dickson by-election almost 20 years to the day his jailing sparked off reformasi, the democratic reform movement that led to Malaysia’s regime change on May 9 this year.

Amid this frenetic activity was the background rattle of ruling party PKR’s own tightly contested polls this month, threatening to split it apart in bitter recriminations as two proteges contest to become Anwar’s party deputy. All at a time when this year’s historic victory under the PKR flag has become a drama of a fragile coalition, rather than about how the biggest ruling party enables reformasi coming to pass.

As veteran reformasi activist and PKR Vice-President Tian Chua blitzed three Australian cities in four days over the Hari Merdeka (Independence day) weekend, he provoked a raft of thorny questions about a new Malaysia that were sometimes left unanswered.

Those in two minds about new Malaysia’s ambivalence on liberalism, religious laws, and political values found the DAP icon Lim Kit Siang cajoling and bristling in front of record crowds over such questions a few weeks later. After a half-century as an integral part of Malaysia’s parliamentary democracy, the once-‘Mr Opposition’ Lim now counsels patience and fortitude as an elder in the new government. Like Mr Chua earlier in the month, Mr Lim by September’s end encouraged Malaysians he met abroad to not judge the new coalition government too quickly or harshly.

Syahredzan explains ‘new Malaysia’ in Sydney as panelists (L-R) MP Wong Shu Qi, Lim Kit Siang, and Bersih Sydney’s William deCruz and Mathuri Santhi-Morgan tune in.

 

The 77-year-old occasionally displayed flashes of his famed street-fighting rhetoric when parrying questions in jammed venues across Perth, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, before continuing his tour of the Malaysian diaspora this week in New Zealand. Like his former nemesis and now coalition partner Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Mr Lim took all questions, barbed and not, with a deftness and directness that was so alien to the previous prime minister’s leaden events.

He wanted the Melbourne crowd, which packed three rooms with scores more stranded outside on a Saturday evening, to forgive but not necessarily forget the DAP’s old foes. In the new Malaysia the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government hopes to build, “we all need to have a big picture outlook, to have a lo-o-o-ng vision.”

Nobody in the new government joined this endeavour with entirely clean hands, he said, and Malaysians when united demonstrated to the region how corrupt governments could be tossed out peacefully via the ballot box.

“Tainted people? We’re all tainted. To some, Mahathir is tainted,” he told the crowd. “Let’s give a chance to all who’re tainted to turn over a new leaf. We want Malaysia to succeed. In the past, some said ‘Malays must unite’ but today we say ‘Malaysians unite!’. So we must give them a chance. So we can go forward. So that we can be inclusive, so that we can be progressive.”

“That’s why when people ask how can Lim Kit Siang cooperate with Mahathir when he had put Lim Kit Siang in jail? Not only that, Mahathir put my son (new finance minister) Lim Guan Eng in jail, and Guan Eng’s daughter is here!” he said, as the audience applauded his granddaughter in the room.

“Yes, it’s not easy. But there’s the larger interest of the nation. Personally, of course, you’ve jailed me twice (referring to the previous Barisan Nasional regime). You say I’m anti-Malay, I’m anti-Islam, you tell lies about me. But what is the larger picture? If Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai Shek can unite for the larger interest, why can’t we do so too? So we must be above ourselves, we must rise above our personal likes and dislikes. National interest, national good.

“So we’re in uncharted waters, in completely new territory,” he stressed. “There’s no simple answer to solve all problems. Of course there are a lot of reports about Mahathir, about Anwar disagreeing, but nobody can give answers to that. But you must have a positive outlook because we want the (PH) experiment to succeed. We don’t want it to fail. And if we continue with that approach, if Mahathir, if Anwar and everyone else has this approach, it will succeed, whatever difficulties and contradictions that arise. But if our attitude is ‘so what? let it fail’, then it will fail. But we want it to succeed. Of course the differences will develop, it will come. Let’s have a big picture outlook, a long vision. That’s also my message to the Malaysian diaspora. Not just now, tomorrow, the day after, but the next 10, 15, 20 years. Can we survive that?”

Mr Lim proved more gnomic and nuanced off stage the night before in Sydney, at a vegetarian dinner after a more formal panel discussion where he insisted Malaysia was created as a secular state, framed as it was by Sabah and Sarawak when the nation formed in 1963. He was relaxed about his ‘backseat’ role in the new government, he said, bemused when referred to as an ‘elder statesman’ after receiving the Bersih Sydney Democracy Award earlier in the evening. His political secretary, the young constitutional lawyer Syahredzan Johan, drew giggles among the Sydney crowd thanking the “boss” when Mr Lim pointed audience misunderstandings about Malay rights and religion for him to answer.

Mr Lim with Bersih Sydney committee and the Democracy Award, 21 September 2018.

While the crowd had come to hail “the opposition legend”, as someone synonymous with leading the resistance against the UMNO-dominated Barisan Nasional government’s corruption and other abuses since 1969, there was also a reflection of where the past 20 years had left Mr Lim’s DAP and the instrumental role he played in the reformasi coalition.

There were principles of accountability, of good governance that couldn’t be cast aside, he said, that urgently needed reform in any ‘new Malaysia’. He suggested old men like the new nonagenarian Prime Minister, and octogenarian advisors like former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin, were atoning for previous mistakes, keen to leave behind a nation that worked for more than just the few. The Malaysian people had to continue playing their renewed role, he stressed, whether it was through civil society movements like Bersih or other groups, to ensure the new government stayed true to their promises.

Fellow coalition leader Tian Chua faced similar questioning a few weeks earlier, when he took to the stage at a ‘Malam Merdeka’ dinner event in Sydney featuring Malaysian dancers, and a performance by legendary chanteuse Saloma’s niece Rozita Rohaizad that included the crowd singing along to the Mahathir-era anthem ‘Sejahtera Malaysia’. Unlike the mostly older crowd that attended Mr Lim’s talk a few weeks later, many younger Malaysians at Mr Chua’s event had been part of the storied overseas voters contingent that had gone to great lengths to vote at the historic 14th general elections (GE14).

The questions posed to Mr Chua suggested the crowd was still unsure about how a disparate coalition worked together, under a former authoritarian leader that had jailed so many in the new government, while doubts about another leader returning to center stage also hovered into view. Where this fits into the past 20 years of acrimony between politicians now unexpectedly triumphant together was not easily answered by Mr Chua.

At the historic NSW Parliament upper house chambers.

“I was quite surprised when Mahathir invited me to his office the day before he quit UMNO. We hadn’t seen each other since 1999, when he had advised me to eat more as I was going in and out of jail so often,” he revealed, as the audience laughed along.

“Both of us we alone in his office, and I started by saying that most of the time we’ve been opposite each other (sic), we’ve disagreed about most things, we have fought over various issues. But one thing I’ve never doubted was his commitment to Malaysia, never doubted his love for the country. That’s what I said to him. But now we could sit down and work out our differences. We wanted the country to be free, to have a proud and better future,” he said, explaining the meeting in 2016.

“Today, whether it’s led by Anwar or Mahathir, Malaysia will be governed by the set of principles laid down in the (Pakatan Harapan GE14) manifesto. It doesn’t matter who takes over from Mahathir, and after Anwar there will be others. We have to follow a new way of governance. We must strike a consensus among those running the country. There will be no more one-man-shows, no more PM-decides-everything. We must all agree, and the leaders must follow this principle.

“It’s inconsequential whether we think Mahathir is a reformed man, or whether Anwar is up for doing the job. It will be a collective effort. Those in Putrajaya must be executing the collective wishes of the Malaysian people. And if any of us deviate from this, you all know what to do! That’s why May 9 can be repeated, the guarantee that helps us stay on the right track.”

This question of Dr Mahathir’s notorious authoritarianism, and how it had damaged Malaysia’s democracy by the time of 1998’s reformasi, intrigued the Australian parliamentarians Mr Chua met with during this short trip.

 

When catching up with Anthony Albanese, the former Australian Deputy Prime Minister who’s now a senior leader of the opposition Labor Party, Mr Chua had explained to his old university comrade how a delicate coalition of parties was galvanised to win power after the previous regime’s scandals proved too much for Malaysians. This Sydney meeting contrasted with one a few years earlier, when Mr Albanese learnt of the outrage over the multi-billion dollar 1MDB heist that was still unfolding, and how opposition parliamentarians like Mr Chua faced arrest and worse as they raised the alarm.

 

The respect for human rights and the supremacy of Malaysia’s Federal Constitution (which had co-drafters from Australia) was a critical part of new Malaysia, said Mr Chua, and keeping the new government true to its word will not only be the task of parliamentarians but also a responsibility of civil society. Adhering to the principles outlined in the winning coalition’s election manifesto will be tough, he admitted, and as Mr Lim echoed a few weeks later, the disappointments will pile up if “practical” timelines for promised reforms are not publically discussed and expectations managed.

“Sometimes people forget that some of us were pushing for the reforms we’re discussing as policy today, before this time 20 years ago. We helped start the reformasi movement, we weren’t parachuted in afterwards,” he said.

But it was the discussions about the tough party elections headlined by Rafizi Ramli’s challenge to Azmin Ali, and the opposing camps Mr Chua and his party peers were slotting into that made his long road trip between the Canberra and Sydney events so weary. The unbridled ambition and the urgency for power often obscured the ideals of the reformasi movement that he felt was still a core part of his identity.

ian Chua and Anthony Albanese, with classic regime change poster as backdrop.

Tian Chua and Anthony Albanese, with classic regime change poster as backdrop.

The party polls had sounded a little like the party fratricide that Mr Albanese alluded to when explaining how yet another prime minister was torn down in Australia the previous week, making it the fifth time in 10 years. The enmity stayed raw for quite some time, and a brutal contest for party power was no way to ensure stability and purpose when in government.

It was a sobering reminder that lingered as we left Mr Albanese’s inner Sydney enclave. Just as we stepped out, the overcast skies broke into a stormy deluge as the Malaysian reformist rushed to the airport for his flight home, straight into another bruising election season.

A version of this was published in The Malaysian Insight https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/99965

Anwar Ibrahim–The Asian Renaissance Man or The Mutant Malay Ultra? –PD Voters Beware


September 26, 2018

Anwar Ibrahim–The Asian Renaissance Man or The Mutant Malay Ultra? –PD Voters Beware

by Patrick Teoh

 

 

Who is Anwar Ibrahim? I am going to share the experience that someone close to me had, firsthand, to shed some light on what we are dealing with.

My niece was awarded a scholarship for further studies in the UK. There was an orientation event before she left. She found herself in a school hall, packed with hundreds of young, eager Malaysians. She was one of just 11 non-bumis present. The guest of honour addressing the crowd was Anwar Ibrahim, then the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sports. He was full-on Ultra with his motivational speech.

The long, loud and spittle-spewing spiel was inflammatory, incendiary, and outright seditious. It was all about these young inheritors of Tanah Air using their Allah- and UMNO-given rights and opportunities to arm themselves with all that’s necessary to make sure the Pendatangs do not rob them of their rightful place and position in their country.

With his stature and his oratorical style, Anwar had the full attention of the young and impressionable audience. My niece wasn’t sure how her fellow awardees actually felt because she was too traumatised to make sense of the situation. She remembered that she very hastily got away from there. And she cried herself to sleep for a quite a few nights, too fearful to share what she had gone through, with family and friends.

Years later, having settled in London, she went to one of the roadshow sessions that Anwar held during his Reformasi days. Seeing the chance, and thinking that he must be a much-changed man by then, she went up to him, reminded him of that speech and asked him: Why? Without batting an eyelid, Anwar replied: Ahh, that’s politics.

Image result for anwar and mahathir

 

For sure, Anwar has benefited a lot for being such a forceful leader and champion of his race. His dramatic fallout with his boss, Dr Mahathir, and his subsequent jail time, along with advancing age, have mellowed him. But has the man changed?

Judging by his recent speeches, Anwar Ibrahim is still very much a man for all audiences, but one who knows who he can be champion for. In a nutshell – the ultimate politician. Beneath the mellow facade lurks a very ambitious and impatient man. Making him more potent is the popular notion that he has been badly wronged. And that the time has come for him to claim his crown.

There is a lot of resistance to that trajectory. But the deal had been struck. If and when Anwar ascends to the throne, will he rely on the failsafe strategy of race-and-religion in his bid to obtain and retain power?

Would this ambitious but beleaguered politician be opting for a divide-and-conquer strategy, taking the country down the path to fundamentalism, and keeping a large part of the population placated, ignorant and compliant?

It’s all familiar stuff – highly workable, failsafe, and easy to achieve – the perfect gameplan for a man in a hurry, someone who is a bit short of the intelligence, substance and conscience that define a real leader of a multiracial country. We are acutely short of such leaders but that should never be the excuse to settle for someone who will choose the fast and easy way to achieve his ‘My Time is Now’ ambition.

 

Image result for Patrick Teoh

 

 

A leader like Anwar must have a system of check and balance firmly in place, to prevent him from resurrecting the structure of UMNO that would enable him, his family, and his cronies to get their stranglehold on the country. We have seen how it is done. This time around, we can make the difference. We have to. Yes – Patrick Teoh

Patrick Teoh

Patrick Teoh (born 16 October 1947) is an actor and radio personality in Malaysia. A career in radio, TV, stage and movies spanning more than three decades has earned Patrick the nickname of “Voice of Malaysia”, bestowed by his fans and the Malaysian mass media.

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