Bersatu’s inexorable move to becoming a sanitized, immunized and Bersih UMNO Terbaru 3.0


January 3, 2019

Bersatu’s inexorable move to becoming a sanitized, immunized and Bersih UMNO Terbaru 3.0

Opinion  | By P. Gunasegaram

Published:  |  Modified:

  QUESTION TIME | If anything, Bersatu’s recent annual general assembly starkly shows one thing – that it is merely an extension of the old UMNO (Baru,) and will use the model of Malay supremacy,ty and put back in place corruption via patronage politics.

The only way to check that unfortunate retrograde policy is for the other Pakatan Harapan partners, especially those who have three to four times the number of MPs Bersatu has, to exert their combined muscle to rightfully regain more influence in the coalition and restore the original reform agenda pre-GE14.

At the AGM, Bersatu vice-President Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman, also a former Election Commission (EC) chairperson, termed pushbacks against delegates’ demands to be given government resources to help the party retain power as “stupid”.

Bad enough that you have the former EC chairperson advocating breaking laws but this same person was shockingly appointed in August last year to head a Putrajaya committee that will make recommendations on electoral law reform in two years time.

This same Abdul Rashid had been heavily criticised by both PKR and DAP, the dominant parties in Harapan, over his tenure from 2000 to 2008 as the EC chairperson. This continues a tendency for Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to appoint tainted,controversial and/or discredited people to important positions.

This includes Daim Zainuddin to head the Council of Eminent Persons; former Inspector-General of Police Abdul Rahim Noor (who brutally assaulted Anwar Ibrahim and gave him a black eye while in Police detention) to negotiate security arrangements with Thailand and former discredited aAtorneys-General to important positions.

Abdul Rashid’s comments at the Bersatu assembly are particularly galling and provocative and advocate extra-judicial measures to keep and extend Bersatu’s hold on power. These are clearly against the law but Abdul Rashid (photo) received a misplaced standing ovation from Bersatu delegates.

“Looking at the situation now, we cannot defend our position as the governing party because the division chiefs are being left out. It is lucky that the Prime Minister gave me a job with a big salary so that I can support my division,” said Abdul Rashid, apparently referring to his appointment to the government’s election reform committee.

“But the others, we don’t need to be arrogant by saying we shouldn’t give them jobs, that we would be taking away the jobs of others, that we should not take this or that. That opinion, to me, irresponsible. In the election, we must win by hook or by crook,” he said.

He added that although he did not like the idea of using government resources, it had to be done.

“All division chiefs should be given activities so that they can have the opportunity to defend their divisions,” he said.

Abdul Rashid also urged the government to restore the parallel village chief system practised by the previous BN government. “And our people must occupy these positions,” he said.

Village chiefs are traditionally appointed by the state government but the previous BN government appointed parallel village chiefs in states not under its control. The Harapan administration has abolished this parallel system.

“All development projects should be channeled to these (parallel) committees and the division chiefs must benefit,” he said as the crowd cheered him on.

Blown to smithereens

It is unthinkable that this man, who clearly advocates moves against current elections laws, heads Putrajaya’s committee on electoral reform. If anything, he will probably advocate changes in the law to allow these offences to take place.

Harapan leaders should forthwith put their foot down and demand that Abdul Rashid be removed as the head of the electoral reform committee as he has clearly shown, by his words at a public gathering, that he is not a fit person to come up with electoral reforms which are up to international standards.

That he had so much support from Bersatu delegates for his views is worrying, with other leaders echoing his sentiments. While Bersatu head Mahathir has said that what Abdul Rashid says is his personal opinion, he should immediately review Abdul Rashid’s position as head of the electoral reform committee.

The original UMNO  was founded in 1946 to champion Malay rights in the lead up to independence. Its founder Onn bin Jaffar left UMNO after the party refused to open membership to non-Malays. Tunku Abdul Rahman took over the helm and became Malaysia’s first Prime Minister.

That UMNO was de-registered in 1987 after the courts declared it illegal. Then prime minister Mahathir formed UMNO Baru or UMNO 2.0 and organised members of UMNO, who supported him to join this UMNO Baru, excluding others who did not. There was a breakaway group called Semangat 46 formed, headed by Mahathir’s then opponent , Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

Mahathir altered the constitution of the original UMNO considerably by making it next to impossible to remove a sitting UMNO Baru President. This resulted in a progressive erosion of government accountability and transparency, eventually leading to 1MDB and its excesses. And UMNOMNO-BN’s first loss in the general election last year.

As droves of MPs start to desert UMNOo Baru, Bersatu may well become Umno 3.0 if it accepts these UMNOo MPs as members. That will irrevocably change the complexion of the coalition and alter the balance of power within Harapan.

Other coalition partners, in particular, PKR and DAP, should clearly resist this and state their irreversible opposition to such moves, simply because all UMNO and BN MPs are tainted because they knew full well of the corruption and theft within 1MDB when they decided to stand for elections.

If all of the UMNO MPs are accepted within the Bersatu fold and become Harapan members effectively and those within Bersatu who call for extrajudicial measures to remain in power are not checked, it is inevitable that Bersatu will become UMNO 3.0 and the strongest party within the Harapan coalition.

With that, the hopes of the majority of Malaysians for a fairer, more equitable country, where everybody is considered Malaysian and where corruption is a thing of the past and accountability and good governance will be practised, will be blown to smithereens.


P GUNASEGARAM says we have to guard our newfound freedom zealously instead of surrendering it back to UMNO goons and gangsters who want a return to the past. 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.

Understanding Mahathir’s motives–UMNO 2.0


December 18,2018

Understanding Mahathir’s  motives–UMNO 2.0

Opinion  |  P Gunasegaram

 

QUESTION TIME | Harapan leaders who wanted reform and a new Malaysia free of corruption, patronage and blood-sucking politicians who steal unashamedly from the people must be regretting that they ever let Bersatu and its chairperson Dr Mahathir Mohamad into the coalition.

For what he has done is to re-introduce this whole party-hopping play, which he did previously in Sabah to destabilise the fairly elected government, and now to increase the numbers of his own party which did rather poorly in the last elections. (For those who still think Mahathir won the elections, I have an alternate view, backed up with numbers which shows he likely did not.)

Does anyone really think that Umno MPs would start jumping ship like rats from a vessel which has not even sunk yet if they did not have some other place to go? Surely they must have a rather strong inkling of the place to go to. Why, there may even be money politics involved.

So far, 17 MPs have resigned from Umno, taking the number of seats it holds down to 37 from 54, making PKR the party with the single largest number of seats with 50, followed by DAP with 42. Some MPs have already been accepted into Bersatu whose number has now gone up to 16 from 13.

And where do you think this bunch of unprincipled, opportunistic lawmakers will be heading if they want to avoid the consequences of their actions in supporting the most kleptocratic government the world has ever seen?

The one that holds the reins of power with just 13 seats out of 52 contested, the lowest win rate of any Harapan partner, from the last elections, that’s who – Bersatu. And perhaps Amanah as well which holds just 11 seats.

While PKR and DAP leaders have said that they will not accept any from this dishonourable lot who UMNO ticket and have now suddenly realised the errors of their ways, Amanah continues to vacillate while Bersatu says it will vet them before accepting them into their fold.

Amanah and Bersatu, with 13 and 11 respectively, are the smallest parties in terms of number of MPs, with PKR outnumbering them with 48 (immediately after elections before defections) and DAP 42.

Despite Harapan de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim saying publicly that theories over the impending defection of Umno members are meant to drive a wedge between him and Harapan chairperson Mahathir, even he must privately feel threatened by this development which could very well derail his chances of becoming PM.

Disproportionate numbers

It is becoming more and more obvious that Mahathir wants the two years he asked for to be Prime Minister, not so much to do what is needed but to strengthen his position so that he will be difficult to remove when the time comes for him to make way.

Despite having a small minority of seats, Mahathir used so-called prime ministerial prerogative to give members of his party wildly disproportionate numbers in terms of his ministers and deputy ministers. All of them except for himself, his son Mukhriz and Bersatu President Muhyiddin Yassin are novice MPs, ministers and deputy ministers.

Mukhriz became Menteri  Besar  of Kedah (despite PKR getting eight seats against Bersatu’s five). Apart from Mahathir and Muhyiddin, Bersatu got four full ministers, all of whom were first-time MPs and first-time ministers as well. This includes a 25-year-old whose first full-time job turned out to be a minister, probably a world record.

He also allotted his own party six Deputy minister positions which means every MP in Bersatu became Prime Minister, Home Minister, Chief Minister, full Cabinet Minister or Deputy minister – undemocratic because it was not representative.

There were many other more qualified material for ministers within PKR, both Malays and non-Malays, but it was clear that Mahathir was going to be in control despite Bersatu just holding 11 percent of total parliamentary seats of the Harapan coalition.

Why did he do this? Because looking back  he wanted control of the cabinet, he wanted to be boss and he wanted to buy time so that he could get more MPs into Bersatu and diffuse the power that PKR and DAP, both multiracial parties, held within Harapan.

Mahathir will not give up his aims of Malay supremacy without a fight. If getting rid of Najib was his only aim, he should have made way for Anwar by now. But no, his aims are larger than that which is why he jumped on to the winning bandwagon.

Mahathir never believed in consensus. For him, there is only one leader and that has to be him. Consultation is not his style. There was almost an early break-up in Harapan when he made Lim Guan Eng Finance Minister without consulting PKR. The DAP, delighted with Lim’s appointment, constantly said “prime ministerial prerogative” to Mahathir’s many questionable decisions – but not anymore.

Mahathir started to push – the more he could get away with- the more he pushed. Manifestos were not cast in stone; Harapan wrote the manifesto thinking they won’t win. Local council elections will raise racial problems. Icerd goes against the constitution. We need a third national car. He said all this and more.

All tainted

When Kim Quek wrote an article saying Mahathir should step down for reform to take place, Bersatu’s strategist Rais Hussin came up with a reply of which probably the main relevant point was that representation from Malays should not be spurned too quickly.

Sure, yes. But won’t that be accepting MPs who had already compromised themselves? There were previous reports that UMNO divisions got money from its former president Najib Abdul Razak’s accounts with funds that came from 1MDB. All BN MPs must have known, given the level of reporting which included filings by the US Department of Justice, that Najib had stolen money from 1MDB.

Yet they supported him – not one of them went against Najib.  By that token alone, it would be fair to assume that each one of these MPs who now want to join Harapan through Bersatu was complicit in the kleptocrat government. In other words, they are all tainted – no need for Bersatu to vet them.

Was it not Mahathir’s aim to get rid of kleptocracy and let the law take care of those who conspired with Najib?

Why is he now doing things that go against this aim? The only answer is that Mahathir is prepared to tolerate corruption and even kleptocracy so long as the Malays held power – not power sharing but supremacy of the Malays, Ketuanan Melayu.

But his brand of ketuanan through UMNOand his UMNO-like Bersatu – which only allows Malays as members – is what brought the country to its knees leading to rampant kleptocracy. It has hurt the Malays most, except for the connected few commonly known as the UMNOputras.

This is, after all, a multi-racial country with Malays accounting for just over 50 percent of the population. Honest, corruption-free power-sharing is what is required with regard for all, and especially the poor, to take the country forward and bring it away from the UMNO-style patronage and corruption, especially since the last half century after May 13, 1969.

Mahathir will not give up his aims of Malay supremacy without a fight. If getting rid of Najib was his only aim, he should have made way for Anwar by now. But no, his aims are larger than that which is why he jumped on to the winning bandwagon.

It is easier to understand Mahathir’s actions when we understand his motives. Mahathir is a Malay supremacist and therefore he will be a hindrance to honest reform. Harapan needs to think about how they can reform – with or without him. And how they are going to do it.

No mean feat, that.


P Gunasegaram worries for the future of reforms with the current developments. Even the Malays don’t want UMNO 2.0 which may be why they rejected Mahathir’s Bersatu in GE14.  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.

When it comes to ICERD, New Malaysia is the Old Racist Devil again


November 25,2018

When it comes to ICERD, New Malaysia is the Old Racist Devil again–BACK TO UMNO 1946. This time with PAS

By S Thayaparan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

I said the old devils are at it again,

And it’s right now like it was back then,

The old devils are at it again.

– William Elliot Whitmore, ‘Old Devils

Image result for icerd malaysia

COMMENT | In an interview, DAP’s Lim Guan Eng was reported to have said “the situation needed to be pacified, it should not stop people from continuing to express their views on ICERD (International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination).”

Really? So, let me get this straight.

Image result for icerd malaysia

ICERD–MY  WAY or JUST HIT The North-South Highway

 DAP, which has not given its official stand on the ratification of ICERD, wants people to express their views on this issue?  DAP, who routinely mocks MCA for being subservient to UMNO wants people to express their views even though it has not declared its own position on the issue after the cabinet decided (by consensus) not to ratify Icerd?

DAP, the purveyors of the Bangsa Malaysia Kool-Aid, wants people to express their views, even though it has warned the Chinese community (and others) to be wary until after the December 8 anti-ICERD celebration?

So, the Finance Minister of this country, who has made these tirades about speaking the ‘truth’ even though it is economically or politically disadvantageous to do so, suddenly seems to have lost his ability to speak when it comes to the issue of ICERD.

But don’t worry folks, I am sure you will speak up on this issue, even when Lim, if asked to comment, will just deflect, leaving you holding the bag.  Another DAP leader, says this country needs a vision which highlights the virtue of the middle ground.

When politicians babble on about the middle ground, what they forget to tell you is that it is contextual. Here in this country, when I talk to people about what they think the middle ground is, they speak of middle Malaysia with two definitions.

Image result for icerd malaysia

The first is the social contract. It is not a real document but rather it is an unspoken understanding. The middle ground is that there are policies and ideologies in place that benefit the majority, and as long as minorities can exist comfortably, albeit with limited freedoms, they must not question the inequalities of the system, even if that system which claims to “uplift” the majority is in reality detrimental to the community.

The second definition was borne out of the political turmoil that split the Malay community when Anwar Ibrahim was ejected from the UMNO paradise. Or at least, that’s the narrative that we are most familiar with.  This middle ground is defined by concepts like equality, secularism and numerous other progressive ideas championed by the urban educated electorate.

So when people talk of Bangsa Malaysia for instance, they are really talking about the idea that everyone is equal in law and the aspirations to certain fundamental freedoms that people in other countries take for granted.

Here’s the thing though, ICERD was that vision of a middle ground that Pakatan Harapan claimed fidelity to. It is in their manifesto and the rhetoric of the more outspoken members of its coalition.

Rational (Harapan-aligned) critics of ICERD did not make the argument that the treaty would destroy the Malay community because they could not point to anything that did that.

What they argued was that the ratification of ICERD would be politically disadvantageous – or so they claim – and that the present government would lose its credentials as protectors of race and religion. This neatly falls into the first definition of the middle ground.

The reality is that ICER was a symbol and a declaration which is actually a baseline for functional democracies for the second definition. The religious far-right who oppose Icerd did so because they believed in the supremacy of their race and religion. What Icerd did was to say everyone should be equal.

Threats of violence work

By not ratifying Icerd, the government did two things. First, it legitimised the views of people like PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang. This really does not bother me. Hadi is the politically incorrect face of Malay supremacy.

As I said earlier – “The funny thing is that state governments controlled by the opposition bend over backwards to accommodate Muslim preoccupations and have to continuously defend themselves against charges of racism and yet the mainstream Malay establishment does not disavow someone like Hadi.”

Think of it this way. Has any Malay-Muslim Harapan politician come out and say that Hadi is wrong when it comes to issues of race and religion? Have any of these politicians offered an antithetical view of Hadi’s numerous toxic narratives?

Sure, some political operatives have made meek protestations and gingerly attempted to offer a counterview, but nobody has had the cojones to say Hadi’s view of Islam is wrong.

So I am not so worried about the first point because the foundation of mainstream Malay politics is racial supremacy, but what has happened over the years is that mainstream Malay power structures have done a reasonable job in balancing Malay and non-Malay expectations so we did not turn into just another failed Islamic state.

The second point is far more dangerous. When Harapan rejected ICERD, they sent a message to the religious far-right that their threats of violence work.Now, some would say, hasn’t this always been the case? No, this time is different because Harapan, which claimed to be a progressive force, caved in to the religious far-right.

This was not the UMNO decades-long hegemon playing to the gallery. This was a supposed multiracial coalition telling the racial and religious far-right that they were afraid to confront them even though they had federal power.

It sent a signal that the Harapan government could be brought to its knees when the issues of race and religion are used. The problem here is that the racial and religious far-right could turn every issue into a religious or racial issue and by attrition, bring down a democratically-elected government.

If this sounds scary, it really isn’t. What the Harapan government should do is determine which kind of middle ground they want to occupy. This would mean jettisoning those ideas which they have long promulgated to rile up the base.

Chin Tong is wrong when he talks about a non-Malay periphery electorate wanting to fight fire with fire. What they want – and I doubt they are a periphery – is for Harapan to occupy the second definition of the middle ground. This puts them in conflict with those who view the first definition as pragmatic and conducive to maintaining power in this system.

Harapan, and the DAP specifically, has to find its scrotal sac and define the middle ground even if it means acknowledging that there is no new Malaysia, only a BN Redux.


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.

 

Can UMNO-BN defectors ever reform?


November 3, 2018

Can UMNO-BN defectors ever reform?

By Dean Johns

http://www.malaysiakini.com

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

 

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

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

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

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

 Image result for pakatan harapan

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

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

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

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

Image result for pakatan harapan

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

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

Little sign of regret

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

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

 Image result for muhyiddin yassin

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

 Image result for pakatan harapan

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

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

Image result for anwar ibrahim

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

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

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

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


aysiakini.

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Casting a ‘cursor’ on Harapan’s critics


August 17, 2018

Casting a ‘cursor’ on Harapan’s critics

by Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for may 2018 elections-- umno defeated

The Old UMNO Rogues in New Clothes

COMMENT | I’ve always been deeply sceptical about the power of magic, and thus more driven to spelling-out my opposition to the ills of the world than casting spells against them.

But since the Pakatan Harapan coalition gained the seemingly miraculous electoral victory that ended six decades of UMNO-led Barisan National misrule, and in the process fulfilled the RAHMAN prophecy that N for Najib would be the last UMNO-BN Prime Minister, I’ve started to see sorcery in a whole new light.

For example, I formerly assumed that the small blinking verticle line on my screen was simply an aid to type the hundreds of columns I wrote, in what seemed like a hopeless mission to rid Malaysia of the evils of BN. But now, I suspect that blinking line may be a ‘cursor’ in more ways than one.

So here goes my latest attempt to heap curses on the heads of the countless evil spirits of the former regime who have thus far survived to bedevil the nation despite the Harapan government’s best efforts to exorcise them.

 

Evil spirits like the multitude of former BN ministers, cronies, supporters and propagandists who, despite having been obscenely enriched by their regime’s massive thefts and corruptions, still imagine that they can sufficiently jinx Harapan with their bad ju-ju to as to escape justice and get back into power, as current Umno president Zahid Hamidi claimed was possible before the end of Harapan’s first term in office.

Evil spirits like all those who ordered or were otherwise involved in the covering-up of capital crimes ranging from the murders of Altantuya Shaariibuu, Kevin Morais, Hussain Najadi, and Teoh Beng Hock to the countless dubious cases of death in suspicious ‘shoot-outs’ with the police or in official custody.

Image result for The UMNO Bomohs

Evil spirits like the judges and lawyers who contrived to pervert justice on behalf of the UMNO-BN regime; Police of every rank who were not only so rankly corrupt, but often partners in the very crimes they’d falsely sworn to fight; civil servants of every grade who served only themselves and their political patrons; electoral commissioners who saw their commission as to keep UMNO-BN in power by hook and mostly by crook; immigration officials so crooked that they moonlighted as people-traffickers; customs staff in cahoots with and in the pay of big-time smugglers.

The list goes on and on to be virtually endless. As does the catalogue of anti-democratic and unconstitutional laws passed by the UMNO-BN regime in a thankfully ultimately futile effort to keep itself endlessly in office.

Some have criticised Harapan for not achieving enough to right UMNO-BN wrongs so far. But as far as I’m concerned, the 100 days or so they’ve thus far had in office has been way too short a time for them to make much progress against six decades of the previous regime’s criminality, corruption, incompetence, racism, religion and sexism.

Image result for mahathir mohamad and zakir naik

The New Pakatan Harapan Partner to win the hearts minds of the Malays with Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, endorsed by DAP’s Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng

Especially in light of the fact, and it’s a very important fact indeed, that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed and his Pakatan Harapan colleagues are, or at least claim to be, determined to proceed according to the previously much-abused rule of law.

The identification, proper investigation and professional prosecution of suspects takes a great deal of time, money and patience, but it’s well worth the wait if the outcome is a cleaner, fairer, more progressive and more prosperous Malaysia.

Speaking of which, it seems to me from my regular reading of Malaysiakini, some of the most strident critics of Pakatan’s alleged lack of achievement in its first 100 days have been members of PAS, the very party that’s most devoted to keeping Malaysia in the dark ages.

So hypocritical in its ‘pious’ intentions, that it’s obsessed with crusading against and if possible persecuting LGBTs and others that it deems to as departing from what it presumes to define as ‘normal’ sexuality, yet prepared to turn a blind eye to Umno/BN-style corruption and other species of criminality.

Of course nobody, and certainly not I, can legitimately claim that Pakatan is above constructive criticism for its inevitable mistakes and failings, and indeed it is working as fast as seems humanly possible to eliminate the Anti-Fake News Act and sundry other such barriers erected by Umno/BN to deny Malaysian citizens the right to voice their criticisms.

And nobody can deny that Pakatan has already made some mistakes, both by commission and omission, and will undoubtedly make many more. At least we can hope, however, that, unlike in the case of UMNO-BN, such mistakes have been and will be made in good faith, and corrected if enough people protest against them.

But, to repeat my intention in this column, here’s putting a hex, or indeed as many hexes as possible, on all those members and supporters of the former regime who are determined to obstructively and destructively criticise the Pakatan Harapan government with hopes that they can destroy it before it has a chance to do its best… and a cursor on all their houses.


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

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

Zainah Anwar looks back on Malaysia’s GE-14- From 2008 to May 9, 2018


June 27, 2018

Zainah Anwar looks back on  Malaysia’s GE-14- From 2008 to May 9, 2018

http://www.thestar.com.my

Image result for Zainah Anwar

 

She writes:

It may have been a shock win for Pakatan Harapan in the recent election, but the writing has been on the wall for Barisan Nasional for more than a decade.

AH, finally, change has come! It was simply inevitable.

Inevitable change: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announcing his resignation when Barisan lost GE14 after the people rejected the corrupt practices of some of the Barisan politicians.

I have been writing for over a decade of the politically manufactured extremism and intolerance within Malay society and how the 2006 UMNO General Assembly was the turning point when a party that had prided itself as the bedrock of centrist politics, presented an extremist face to Malaysians on live television.

“UMNO had become a gravy train for personal wealth accumulation for most of its leaders and members. The party had so lost touch with the ground that it no longer cared for public opinion. Their rhetoric of Malay dominance, and race and religion under threat was delusional when more and more Malays were rejecting them in favour of a multi-ethnic opposition promising good governance and equitable citizenship rights”.–Zainah Anwar

 

The histrionics of race and religion under threat, the keris waving, and the full display of Malay-Muslim machismo alienated and scared not just the non-Muslims, but the many moderate and progressive Muslims in the country. UMNO had crossed the line. The belligerent UMNO speakers thought they reflected the mood on the ground, only to fast discover that the ground had shifted from under their feet, as the President tried vainly to do some damage control with his closing speech.

By the 2008 general elections, the resounding victory that then Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi enjoyed in 2004 based on his change agenda was overturned. The rakyat inflicted the most crushing blow to Barisan Nasional. Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor fell to the Opposition, and the ruling party lost its much vaunted two-thirds majority.

It all went wrong within just four short years. Abdullah Badawi had led Barisan to its greatest electoral victory ever, winning 199 of 219 parliamentary seats in 2004. He promised to eliminate corruption, to introduce open tendering for government contracts. He regarded the NGOs as the eyes and ears of the government, he stood up for women’s rights and a progressive Islam (Islam Hadhari) that must be re-interpreted to deal with changing times and circumstances. He promised a kinder, gentler Malaysia and more open and democratic politics.

While many of us shared in the fifth Prime Minister’s vision of a democratising, transparent and accountable government and his promise of an inclusive rule for all Malaysians, his failure to deliver on much of this grand vision and his inability to take charge of his change agenda in the face of resistance from powerful centres of power within UMNO, within the civil service, the Police, and even within his own cabinet eventually led to a massive loss of confidence. It was not supposed to be business as usual. But on the ground, it was much too much of the same thing.

From the endless manufacturing of a siege and crisis mentality among the Malays to supremacist speeches in the name of race and religion, from the Lingam tapes to judicial integrity, from rising crime to rising prices, local development without public representation, political leaders behaving badly, and allegations of corruption and cronyism that did not abate…the electorate was in no mood to wait for the promised change to come or to even acknowledge that some change had indeed taken place.

Anything but UMNO

I had written after the 2008 general elections that the massive public repudiation of Barisan was not just a repudiation of the Prime Minister Badawi’s rule, but of all the corrupt, immoral, authoritarianism of Barisan politics and governance in its 50 years of domination. The public has had enough.

That Pakatan Rakyat won votes on a platform of change from “Ketuanan Melayu” to “Ketuanan Rakyat” and a smorgasbord of promises to make democracy and good governance work for ALL citizens was beyond UMNO’s comprehension.

While the new alliance was fast capturing the shifting mood of Malaysian voters to a new political centre of equitable and fairer terms of engagement among the citizens, and between the citizen and the state, and generating excitement among young voters and community groups that their voices could indeed bring change, UMNO members were more preoccupied with power grabbing in the run-up to party elections in December 2009.

They might win party elections whooping their “Ketuanan Melayu” battle cry, but they would cause the party to lose the next general elections, I predicted. The ground had shifted, but they dug deeper into their bad old bag of tricks of race, religion, money politics, and self-enrichment. I never understood what was there for MCA, Gerakan and MIC to stay on with UMNO and its intemperate and relentless stomping and condoning of ethno-religious supremacy that was driving away Chinese and Indian voters into the waiting arms of PKR, DAP and even PAS. The mood indeed was anything but UMNO.

It was clear by 2008 that Malaysian politics was taking off into an epochal transformation from race-based to issue-based, I felt. Increasingly, Malaysians were building new solidarities based on issues, not race or religion. Be it human rights, women’s rights, free and fair elections, democracy, good governance, anti-corruption, freedom of the press, detention without trial, death in custody, local government, environment, land rights, quality education, arts and culture, … it would be issues that would bring Malaysians of all ethnic backgrounds together, I wrote then.

So Abdullah was forced into early retirement and Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak became the sixth Prime Minister, warning UMNO to “change or perish”. He called on UMNO members to be the eyes and ears of the rakyat so that UMNO could read accurately the pulse of the nation and translate that into policy and action. In grand style, he called on the people to restore the bridges that brought us together and tear the walls that separated us. He introduced 1Malaysia and he wanted repressive laws repealed and UMNO party rules to be more democratic.

Regime crisis

That was 2009. But I wrote early on that Najib might have the dubious honour of being the first UMNO President to become Leader of the Opposition, as I saw no mood for change among UMNO leaders and members. They felt they were the only rakyat that mattered. All they were preoccupied with was to use the race card to enrich themselves – to get more handouts and more contracts into their grubby hands.

Almost 11 months after the 2008 elections, UMNO lost a by-election in Kuala Terengganu as PAS, PKR and DAP displayed unprecedented cohesion and dazzled the voters with their unity, sharing the same platform everywhere.

It had made no difference to UMNO thinking and strategising that 74% of the Malays in the Kuala Terengganu constituency polled a week before polling day believed that “Malay political power was weakened by corrupt and self-serving leaders”, while only 17% said it was weakened by “demands made by the non-Malays”.

UMNO had become a gravy train for personal wealth accumulation for most of its leaders and members. The party had so lost touch with the ground that it no longer cared for public opinion. Their rhetoric of Malay dominance, and race and religion under threat was delusional when more and more Malays were rejecting them in favour of a multi-ethnic opposition promising good governance and equitable citizenship rights.

That a newly cobbled coalition of strange bedfellows could present a united front and work together as a team and sell their multi-ethnic agenda to a Malay electorate showed what a pathetic empty shell Barisan as a multi-ethnic coalition had become.

2009 under the new leadership brought no respite to the rakyat. Incident after incident piled up and we felt as if the country was going to implode. Issues on whether one was a Muslim or not, whether a father who converted to Islam had the right to unilaterally convert his underage children, the sentencing of Kartika to caning for drinking a glass of beer, the arrest and prosecution of then former Perlis Mufti for teaching Islam in a private home in Selangor without a letter of authorisation…the endless sledgehammer of persecution in the name of Islam went on.

By 2010, the likes of the belligerent Ibrahim Ali and Zulkifli Noordin had emerged as the poster boys of UMNO and the future the party believed in. It was their voice and those of their ilk that the government of the day seemed to listen to. Not the voice of Malaysians, who believe in our founding fathers’ vision of a modern, democratic, secular, culturally pluralistic and inclusive political community.

 

Unpopular tactic:: Umno continued to play on the race and religion sentiments to maintain power, like its Umno Youth chief Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Tun Hussein, who brandished the “Keris Panca Warisan” at the begining of their assembly in PWTC in 2011.

Unpopular tactic: UMNO continued to play on the race and religion sentiments to maintain power, like its UMNO Youth Chief Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Tun Hussein, who brandished the “Keris Panca Warisan” at the begining of their assembly in PWTC in 2011.

Contrary voices were either cowed into silenced or demonised. More demagogues were organised to whip up Malay sentiment against any attempts to discuss concerns arising from the makeover of the Constitutional idea of “the special position of the Malays” into Malay supremacy.

The idea of Ketuanan Melayu sits uncomfortably among many Malaysians, be they Malays, Chinese, Indians, Ibans, Kadazan-Dusun, Bajaus, Orang Asal, Eurasians…. It is a racial supremacist idea, a far cry from the simple reality that Malays as the majority population of this country will naturally be the politically dominant group. And a far cry from the constitutional notion of the “special position of the Malays” which legitimised affirmative action as a temporary special measure to enable a historically disadvantaged group to catch up.

Obviously, Malaysia had entered into another “regime crisis”. The NEP-era political phase and governing mechanism exhaled its last breath on March 8, 2008.The Opposition had still not coalesced into a viable trusted alternative with a common political vision of Malaysia. The Barisan Nasional government showed no resolve to deal with the concerns and contestations over matters of race and religion, and human rights and fundamental liberties. This pessimism about the future of Malaysia continued to corrode the body politic and the public sense of well-being.

By mid-2010, I pronounced in this column that UMNO was beyond redemption. It had regressed into a dinosaur, too huge, too old, too fossilised in its ways to be able to adapt to new conditions. The sense of privilege and entitlement was too entrenched for UMNO members to ever want to change.

While UMNO politicians and Perkasa pointed fingers at other races as a threat to Malay political survival, the Malays themselves saw something else. A Merdeka Centre survey revealed that 70% of Malays felt that the main threat to the Malay political position in the country was corruption among Malay leaders. Only 22% believed it was due to demands made by other races in the country. This national survey reinforced the Kuala Terengganu findings of January 2009.

The changing values and changing mood were clear. A significant 40% of the Malay respondents believed that citizens should be treated and accorded the same rights in Malaysia, regardless of race and religion. Forty-five per cent believed that government assistance programmes only benefited the rich and politically connected. The two top issues all respondents identified as being the most important in need of change were: “making the country more democratic” and “making our education system world class”. But 66% of the public felt a sense of powerlessness that they could influence government policy.

And yet UMNO continued to play its dangerous game for the future of Malaysia. And it did not care that continuing to abuse race and religion unabated spelt the death knell to its Barisan partners who could never hope to deliver the minority votes necessary for the ruling coalition to maintain power.

No political will

The then Prime Minister (Najib Razak) made attempts to bring UMNO back to the centre by calling for the voice of moderation to prevail in Malaysia, reminding UMNO members at the 2010 General Assembly that it was the Malay trait of moderation that had enabled the community to be accepted as leaders in a multicultural society.

But wasatiyyah required political courage and grit. No one in UMNO had the political will to follow words with deeds. Its hypocrisy continued to stench. Sisters in Islam was called in twice by the Police for questioning under the Penal Code and the Sedition Act for standing up for Kartika. For the first time too, a state religious authority issued an official Friday sermon attacking Sisters in Islam and urged the congregation to take action against us.

In frustration, I wrote a column in 2011 on whose voice should prevail in this country. Those who perpetually saw race and religion under threat and demanded that every person who believed, thought, behaved, dressed, acted, opined differently should be “fixed” through many state sanctioned operations – boot camps, rehabilitation camps, punished under the Internal Security Act, the Sedition Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Syariah Criminal Offences Act, or just denounced and demonised as enemies and traitors of race, religion and country?

Or those who envision a democratic and just future, where rights are recognised on the basis of citizenship rather than just race, religion, or sex.

The choice was obvious to most of us, the good citizens of Malaysia who loved this country, and who were determined to be resilient, resourceful, and open minded to face the challenges and realities of the 21st century.

The same old script

I was totally frustrated by the endless manufacturing of many more new threats. From the innocuous fun of poco-poco to the relativism of post-modernism, from calling Muslims opposed to UMNO and PAS unification as “pengkhianat Islam” (traitors of Islam) to accusing Christians of plotting to turn Malaysia into a Christian state! All these of course adding to the existing long list of threats that included pluralism, liberalism, feminism, secularism, kongsi raya, open house, tomboys, yoga…

It was hard to understand why these same actors were trotting out the same old script that cost the Barisan Nasional government so dearly in 2008. It’s like as if nobody had learnt any lessons from that political tsunami. Since attacking liberal Muslims and ungrateful Chinese did not work in 2008, they amended the script to add Christians and even the passé Communists. Why would an unpopular political party create more enemies, instead of making friends?

And to be sure they added the promise of the Hudud law and its grim serving of chopped off Muslim hands and feet, stoning to death, crucifixion! What kind of future is that? “It’s ok to implement the Hudud law because it doesn’t affect non-Muslims.” So it’s ok for Muslims to be brutalised? “Non-Muslims should shut up because it doesn’t affect them.” But they are Malaysian citizens who have every right to speak up on laws that allow for brutal and inhumane punishments against their fellow citizens, the majority population to boot. “Muslims who are not experts on Islam should shut up”. Then please take religion out of the public sphere and make it private between us and God.

By 2012, a desperate UMNO, which for two decades under Mahathir’s rule had been consistently opposed to the Hudud law, embraced it as its own. One state assemblyman in Johor proudly proclaimed that the UMNO Hudud would be superior to the PAS Hudud as it would apply to all citizens, Muslims and non-Muslims! And other UMNO leaders and entities in quick succession echoed the call, lest their piety be questioned. And they stoked the debate further by trying to portray the upcoming general elections as a choice between those who wanted the Hudud and the Islamic state and those against.

I wrote then that the choice before us was not between Islam and secularism, not between Hudud law and civil law, not between tradition and modernity. Those were false dichotomies created to divide us. The choice before us was between democracy and despotism, between good governance and corruption, between equality and discrimination, between social justice and inequity.

The UMNO/Perkasa/Utusan Malaysia nexus and its orchestrated battle cry of “Malays and Islam under threat” stoked Malay anxiety – enough to win Umno support and make a nine seat gain in the 2013 general elections. Malays, who saw UMNO as its protector, bought into the emotive appeal that their special rights would be eroded by a Pakatan coalition that stood for affirmative action based on need, rather than race, and Ketuanan Rakyat rather than Ketuanan Melayu.

But the very political strategy that won UMNO support in the rural areas and among some segments of the Malay community, cost Barisan support among the Chinese, Indians and Malays in urban and semi-urban areas. For the first time, Barisan won the national elections with less than 50% of the popular vote.

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The demands for reformasi that began in 1999 with the sacking and incarceration  of Anwar Ibrahim was steaming ahead. Barisan popular votes went down by 10% then and UMNO and Barisan were saved by support from the Chinese, many of whom were spooked by reformasi in Indonesia. 2004 was just a blip in the downward slide with excitement over promises of change by a new Prime Minister. Performing from bad to worse in two successive general elections was unprecedented.

There were yet more calls for change. This time the then Deputy Prime Minister warned UMNO members to “change or be dead”. But no one was listening. Some UMNO leaders continued to blame others for their failures and shortcomings. And this time they told those who disagreed with them to leave the country. In the past, the retort used to be vote us out if you don’t agree, but by 2013 that was too painfully close to the truth to even utter.

At the UMNO general assembly that year, the debate, in content and tone, did not provide voters with any indication or hope that UMNO was capable of change to win back the support it had lost in two successive elections.

The de rigueur threats were made yet again – from “liberalism, pluralism and secularism”, to threats from people who supposedly attacked “Islam, the Sultans, the national language, the NEP” all rolled in one breath, and threats from oh, those forever ungrateful Chinese. And then, of course, the same old demands for more handouts and economic assistance for the Malays. And nary a curious squeak as to why a Malay dominated government that has implemented affirmative action policies for over 40 years, with billions spent on bumiputra empowerment and economic advancement plus dozens of accompanying policy instruments, have still failed to address the needs of those left behind and build the resilient commercial and industrial community as envisaged.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, UMNO  Deputy President, gave a dire warning in his closing speech – that just a 2% swing in votes will cost Barisan to lose power.

Forty-four of the 133 Parliamentary seats Barisan held were regarded as “grey” seats where the party had won by a mere majority of between 0.1 and 5.9%. Without new initiatives to appeal to the electorate, Barisan would be in a “precarious position”, he warned.

I met a few UMNO leaders who were at that general assembly who said they cringed listening to the speeches and the non-debates. They felt they were in a sinking ship.

Then why didn’t you and people like you in UMNO speak out, I asked.One said, “Are you kidding me. I speak out, I turn my back, no one is behind me.” Another said, “I speak out, they will send the income tax guys knocking on my door at 3am.”

The dinosaur was truly paralysed and rotten to the core. Malaysia has changed, more and more Malays were changing, but UMNO remained trapped in a dance hall, partying to its own music, oblivious that extinction was near.

In July 2015, I wrote a column, feeling choked and suffocated that this country and its rakyat were being crushed and pummelled by wrecking balls. The wrecking ball of race and religion, of insatiable greed, of desperation to stay in power, of never-ending sense of entitlements, of unpunished crimes and abuses, of ideology over rational thinking, justice, and fair play. These concerns were nothing new. What was new was the breathtaking scale, the endlessness of it all, and the shamelessness with which the perpetrators displayed their unscrupulous, destructive and criminal behaviour, in words and deeds.

The 1MDB scandal had broken. We began to live in an Orwellian world where bad was good and good was bad, where those who revealed abuses and scandals were detained, questioned, prevented from travelling, charged in court, sacked from their positions, while those accused proclaimed their innocence and carried on unimpeached, and buttressed to remain in power.

By this time, I felt UMNO was committing hara-kiri. It added yet more mind-boggling threats – “national security” and “parliamentary democracy” it seemed were now under threat as more and more damning evidence of kleptomaniac behaviour at the very top was revealed. To continue to talk about it posed a threat to the stability of the ruling party and therefore a threat to democracy and national security! What a mind leap we were supposed to exercise to believe in this Orwellian construction of truth.

I never understood why UMNO leaders or all the Barisan MPs still could not see that their rule was over. If the Prime Minister continued to lead the party, they would lose GE-14. Didn’t they consider working together to put pressure on him to step down in order to save the party and the country? Didn’t they consider working together with the Opposition MPs to mount a no-confidence motion in Parliament? It was staggering that a Prime Minister could ever accept RM2.6 billion dollars into his personal account – and still remain in office. It was as simple as that.

But too many on the UMNO bandwagon remained dazzled by the millions that had been dispensed to them and the many more millions that they could still make in power. So right up to May 9, they believed they would still obtain a handsome victory at the polls. The unthinkable, they thought, could not happen with the money spent, the gerrymandering and malapportionment, the mid-week polling day, the mainstream media on their side, the threat of arrests under the fake news law, the threat of an emergency under the new national security act.

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But we Malaysians have had enough. The promise of change and the reality that it could happen was electrifying as a 92-year-old indefatigable former Prime Minister stomped the country to convince enough of those who were scared of change that they would be in good hands with him at the helm. My friends and I knew this was the best chance to overthrow a party that had been in power since independence day. For the first time ever, we collected money to donate to candidates of our choice.

Many of us in the women’s movement volunteered for Maria Chin, raised funds, managed her Bilik Gerakan, helped with her communications, outreach, worked as PACAs, pounded the streets at markets and neighbourhoods, and trudged up and down low-cost flats, to reach out to the voters in Petaling Jaya.  We headed to as many ceramahs as possible in the Klang Valley. The idealistic fresh faces standing on stage promising a new democratic, inclusive, and clean government gave us hope.

While so many friends were still too scared to predict the outcome for certain, I just felt it in my old bones that Pakatan Harapan would sweep into power.

UMNO has no one else to blame but itself that Malays no longer see it as the protector of the race and religion. In swinging to the far right and representing the interest of only one segment of the Malay community, it lost the faith of many others that it was able to steer a moderate path to maintain Malaysia’s political stability and prosperity in collaborative partnership with others.

Today, the sun is shining again and I am so, so proud to be Malaysian. We bucked the global trend of elections bringing into power conservative and right wing parties. My friends abroad were thrilled that we Malaysians did it! – Through peaceful elections and a relatively smooth democratic transition to a new ruling coalition that stands for reform. If in the recent past they had asked me in despair what went wrong with Malaysia as it became known for the biggest kleptocracy scandal ever, this time with envy, they asked, “How did you do it?”

The Malaysian electorate has for decades wanted to see change in the way this country is governed, how law is applied, how politics is conducted and how business is run. The long standing public demand for greater transparency and accountability, independence of the judiciary, a free and responsible press, free and fair elections, a more just and open political system, an end to police abuse and misuse of power, and an end to the intricate web of business and politics that bred cronyism and corruption, that for decades remained unmet, now seem possible.

For Pakatan Harapan, winning was the easy job. The hard work now begins. And I have no doubt that the rakyat will throw them out if they fail to deliver on their promises. For this election victory is as much ours as it is theirs. It was us who led the demand for change for decades, and we never gave up. We delivered the victory to Pakatan. We all feel very precious about what we have achieved and we will remain vigilant. And we will not be cowed into silence.

Today, we live in hope and optimism that all good things are possible in this new Malaysia. Salam Malaysia Baru, my beloved.