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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Image result for Anwar Ibrahim

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.

Image result for mahathir mohamad wins malaysia's ge-14

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.

Mahathir’s Bersatu– A Reformed UMNO?


June 25, 2018

Mahathir’s Bersatu– A Reformed UMNO?

by S. Thayaparan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

“We belong to a plural society and in this society, the Malay-bumiputera agenda must be carried out.”

– UMNO Acting President Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi

 

COMMENT | Since I fancy myself as a sort of political Cassandra as opposed to a political Pollyanna, I am always interested in what former political prisoner Anwar Ibrahim has to say about Malay politics. His recent comments about how UMNO is not completely destroyed and has to reinvent itself has become a political Rorschach test for people who voted for Pakatan Harapan.

Image result for Najib Razak visits Anwar in Hospital

 

I wrote about this when Prime Minister (then) Najib Abdul Razak visited Anwar when he was recovering from surgery last year – “Despite establishment narratives that non-Malays – the Chinese specifically – seek to supplant Malay/Muslim power in Malaysia, the reality is that this could never happen. Why this is the case is beyond the scope of this article, but since Malay powerbrokers hold the keys to Putrajaya, the sight of Malay political opponents meeting always arouses speculation and yes, insecurity amongst the non-Malay demographic, especially those invested in regime change.”

Add to this, Najib’s telephone conversations with Anwar on the night of May 9, the seemingly never-ending public squabbles of PKR, the narratives of how Anwar “can’t be trusted”, the perception that PKR’s schism is the foundation for collusion with UMNO or PAS, and anything Anwar says is an invitation to vilify the former political operative who laid the foundation for the eventual takeover of Putrajaya.

Image result for Mahathir and UMNO

“It is no longer enough to remove Najib Razak from power. UMNO itself must be defeated”, Dr. Mahathir said. Will he  break up the political party he created in 1985 and abandon the Malay agenda he initiated when he first came to power in 1981 and held to the premiership for 22+ years?

I have always cautioned that this idea that UMNO and all it stands for is a relic of bygone Malaysia is foolish. Race and religious politics are sown into the fabric of Harapan with materials provided by the former UMNO regime. UMNO and PAS, and those that voted for them – comprising about 52 percent of the popular votes in GE-14 – are a formidable base which is currently being ignored by the numerous changes taking place in this country.

Let us forget about the narratives of a possible collusion by elements in Harapan and UMNO for a moment. Some folks have said that the people are the opposition. Great, but who do Malaysians vote for if Harapan does not live up to expectations in the Peninsular?

I doubt Chinese support for DAP will end anytime soon and since the “running dog” narratives take some time take root, it’s all good on their front. But if you are Malay, you got a “reformed UMNO” and PAS to choose from and this is where things get dicey real fast. By “reformed”, I mean an UMNO that is still entrenched in its ideology but with a new coat of paint to regain support from the Malays who voted against Najib.

Bridge between Bersatu and DAP

In all these think pieces I read online, it is PKR that is described as the bridge between Bersatu and DAP. In other words, the bridge between the so-called rural Malays and the urban Chinese. This, of course, is often portrayed as a class issue, but public comments from various Harapan leaders betray the reality that this is a race issue.

Bersatu was supposed to be the UMNO of Harapan – the linchpin for the new deal that would ensure that the races would cooperate in the old alliance way before the dark times of UMNO ‘ketuanan’ hegemony. It did not work out that way. UMNO still commands the Malay base and now PAS is slowly demonstrating that its outlier status is a political advantage in this new Malaysia.

Public comments from certain UMNO leaders – Khairy Jamaluddin for instance – of turning UMNO into a multiracial party could be post-traumatic stress from the recent elections. However, what he does represent even though the old guard of UMNO may not like it, is a leader who balances ‘ketuanan’ ideology with the pragmatism of compromise that is needed to win the cash cows which are the so-called “urban centres” that PKR is supposedly a bridge to. The UMNO meet-up will determine which forces in the party hold sway, of course.

It remains to be seen how exactly Bersatu handles the challenge of reforming the rural polities which was needed to take Putrajaya, or so we are told. And this also involves the greater need to reform the system where dominant race-based Malay power structures rely on to sustain them.

This is important because dismantling the architecture that enables the propagandising of race and religion is needed for the survival of non-Malay power structures in the long run.  Bersatu didn’t win this election for Harapan; it was a former UMNO grand poobah, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, who did. Systemic reform without any thought or consideration to reforming structures that enable race and religious imperatives to remain entrenched  is foolhardy.

Take this lowering the voting age to 18 for instance. Great idea but I really hope Harapan strategists are discovering how deep the radicalisation process is when it comes to religious schools and the like. Young Muslims from these types of schools have to wait a few years before voting but 18 is just about the right age when the propaganda and religious delusions are still fresh in their minds and they want an avenue to express them. Not to mention, the years of indoctrination by a system created by the very person who has gained messianic status by true believers.

This is where UMNO or PAS could benefit more than a regime which has to compromise on its racial and religious imperatives – Bersatu – for the sake of the multiracial power-sharing formula that BN never paid much attention to. This, of course, is but one example of the fault lines that exist when making policy.

In all cases, deradicalisation should be central even in the more obvious of policy shifts. Is the Harapan regime up to this? Only time will tell, and there is only a small window of opportunity because personalities are old and the young blood is waiting in the wings.

So how do we combat the grand narratives of Malay supremacy in Harapan and UMNO and PAS? How do we ensure that these narratives are weakened over time? Here are some points to consider.

Decentralisation

Another Malaysiakini columnist Nathaniel Tan talks about regionalism. That is an important starting point I think. Federal power should be decentralised. This halts grander narratives of Malay and Islamic hegemony with local issues that could be dealt with state power. When people have a sense that their state governments can solve their immediate needs, there is no need to kowtow to federal power which brings with it forms of subservience that is detrimental to the democratic process.

This also should extend to local council elections. This brings communities together on issues of needs. If all politics are local, then people from communities rather than political parties determine what is important to them and this also safeguards against political interference.

More importantly, the media should be regional as well. Mainstream media news outlets shape the news often ignoring state level and local community level issues. This creates the impression that federal narratives – those that involve race and religion – are monolithic. This really isn’t the case. This is not something that the state governments or the federal governments should be involved with but rather independent regional media outlets, discussing local issues and ensuring that local politics remains in the forefront.

If you are really serious about people being the opposition – whatever that means – this is a good way to do it, further weakening the grand narratives of race and religion by concentrating on local issues which sometimes have nothing to do with what goes on in the urban polities.

In order to weaken racial and religious hegemony, it is important to diffuse power. The question has always been, is there a coalition willing to do this?

When people ask me who the clear winners are in this election, my answer is always PAS. What PAS has demonstrated is that it can survive definitely without BN and time will tell if it can survive without the Harapan regime. Mind you, the relationship between PAS and Harapan has not been as fraught as it has been with UMNO.

UMNO and PAS, and once the former gets their acts together, could turn out to be a formidable opposition, especially considering that sooner rather than later, Harapan will have to tackle issues concerning race and religion. We have witnessed a distinct lack of commitment among Malay power structures to buck the Islamic and Malay trend when it comes to voting on major issues involving race and religion. Will this change now that Harapan has taken federal power?

It is nonsensical to make the argument that UMNO needs to reform – become multiracial – when the there is a Malay power structure like Bersatu in Harapan chasing the same base. The great fear of UMNO has materialised – that is, the Malays are divided.

What people should be concerned with is the interactions between diffused Malay power structures in this new political terrain, and concomitant to this, the shape these interactions coalesce into.

 

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.

The Hunter and the Hunted


June 23, 2018

The Hunter and the Hunted

by R.Nadeswaran@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for R. Nadeswaran

R.Nadeswaran–The Malaysian Investigative Journalist

COMMENT | The terms – felon, conman, outlaw and crook – are only applicable upon conviction in a court of law. Until then, if he had attempted to cover his misdemeanours and delinquencies, he remains a dissembler or fibber. If through a series of explanations which cross the thick line between offering an excuse and telling an untruth, he remains a prevaricator, fabricator or in much simpler language – a liar.

But those in the relentless hunt for the truth are not likely to give up until they reach their goal. The hunted will also not ease his unyielding attempts to avoid the goal. (To the uninitiated, “goal” is a form of an enclosure which was also an archaic  term for “jail”.)

While the hunted tries to wriggle out of his self-inflicted woes, those who had previously sought and received a share of the spoils – from chunks to crumbs – seem to have jumped the sinking ship. Others have decided to fight it out like lions and tigers for control of their remaining territory.

The man who brought in the druids, shamans and oracles to offer “protection” has abandoned the hunted too. The prayers and chanting for all the wrongs and sins of the hunted, his wife and the family, have ceased.

This man himself is of soiled character. He was the chauffeur until he “stole” the boss’ wife and moved up to hob-nob with the Joneses. He brought the soothsayers from all parts of the world in looking forward to monetary rewards.

He was not disappointed. Several government contracts came his way. Unfortunately, through bad business practices and in some cases arrogance because of his links with the hunted, his empire collapsed. Now, the man is on the run with six bodyguards in tow leaving a trail of creditors – from small-time contractors to financial institutions. In the past, when creditors tuned up at his door, his riposte was threatening: “I will let loose my bulldogs on you.”

If until May 9 he was untouchable, the banks have now moved in demanding repayment of millions in loans. How he is going to get out of the mess is anyone’s guess. But then, would you be disappointed or surprised if he joins the hunter and share the dark secrets of the hunted in return for freedom?

Image result for Mahathir and Najib

Then there’s another man who could walk in and out of the any of the several mansions belonging to the hunted. Having been short-changed in some deals, he decided to squeal – identifying the many shady characters that participated, partook or offered advice on the injudiciousness and indiscretion.

The shady lawyers who were instrumental in the midnight meeting where the decimation of senior government officials was discussed are considering various options. When the future of the then MACC Chief and the then Attorney-General was debated, the passive one suggested that they be asked to resign honourably. But the more aggressive one banged the table and insisted on an immediate purge.

“Show them no mercy. Send them to the slaughter house,” the hunted and his siblings, who co-acted as advisors, were told. In a reversal of roles, they just followed thy servant’s command. The days of these men of the law making headlines are over. They have retreated into their cocoons and even the slightest grunt or groan, if heard by the hunter or by the hunted, will mean trouble.

Writing on the wall

Many read the writing on the wall and have exited via the back door while others are waiting to be shown the door. In both instances, they have been and will walk down a creaky and inflexible staircase.

Others who handled finances and were part of the thievery have conveniently “migrated” to neighbouring countries. But their freedom is not likely to last long. The long arm of the law will get them.

The supply of ‘dedak’ or animal feed to many has been cut. With the hunted’s coffers drying up and with the cash in the condominium taken away for safekeeping, there’s no more automated teller machine (ATM) dishing out money like Smarties or M&Ms from a vending machine.

Already, some have begun to sing like canaries awaiting some form of amnesty, reprieve or forgiveness. But no one is in the mood to forgive and forget and move on. This has become an overused cliché – most recently repeated by the hunted but rejected by the hunter.

The time has come for the hunted to pay his dues. His guilt will be proven and he will join a long line of hunters who became the hunted. No one is going to show mercy or have any sympathy because the level of imprudence and thievery are inexcusable.

Image result for Rosmah Mansor

When citizen’s funds have been misused and their personal freedom and rights have been impeded or trampled upon, there’s no room for any option or discretion. Once indicted, the iron gates are going to be clanged shut, padlocked and the keys kept in the hunter’s custody for a long, long time. It will be a deterrent for those who cannot control his greed and or his wife.

She may live happily ever after knowing that some of the ill-gotten gains will remain untouched by the hunter – for her to enjoy. After all, finding another soul mate (she’s experienced in this) will never be a problem with all the dosh that she is flushed with.


R NADESWARAN is a veteran journalist but has decided to turn storyteller for a change. It may not have been a parable but this story of the hunter and the hunted will certainly put the fear into the few who have been putting their hands in the till. Comments: citizen.nades22@gmail.com.

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

GE-14: Penang is a Pakatan Harapan State


April 29, 2018

GE-14: Penang is a Pakatan Harapan State

by Dr. Bridget Welsh

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Penang Ferry

COMMENT | Penang is safely in opposition hands, with Pakatan Harapan expected to win a majority of parliamentary and state seats. This does not mean, however, that there are not political undercurrents that are shaping the results. In fact, many seats are competitive, including Permatang Pauh, Anwar Ibrahim’s traditional constituency where his daughter Nurul Izzah is contesting.

To understand why, given that the state is an opposition stronghold, it is necessary to look at a nexus of local and national issues.

Disgruntlement over development

Many middle-class Penangites, especially those on the island, are unhappy with the pace and mode of development in the state. Congestion and (over)construction have evoked strong reactions from those concerned with their impact on the environment and quality of life.

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The Sultan Abdul Halim Bridge ( 2nd Penang Bridge)

Critics contend that caretaker Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s development vision is not that different from that of BN’s – focused on ‘hard’ physical infrastructure rather than ‘soft’ human capacity enhancement. There are lingering concerns, for example, with the undersea tunnel, both its conception and financing.

This is compounded by a sense of dismissal of these concerns, with inadequate outreach to many in civil society who expect more engagement in governance. Lim’s government has evoked the ire of not only the local press, but many who are openly vested in bringing about better development for the state.

Weak BN state leadership

The BN opposition led by Gerakan’s Teng Chang Yeow is trying to capitalise on these resentments, with this ‘51 Unfulfilled Promises’. His confrontational approach has not gone down well, in part because the attacks on the DAP in Penang have been seen to be excessive.

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The Iconic Penang Bridge

Few can distinguish the local concerns from the broad demonisation of the party on the part of the BN government that has occurred since 2013. The genuine issues are overshadowed by the onslaught of attacks, most evident with the charges laid against the chief minister. Among ordinary voters, the trial of Lim has backfired, and in fact strengthened Lim as the opposition heads into the election.

Coupled with this is a sense of hypocrisy. Many of the concerns leveled locally by the BN in Penang echo similar issues raised with their own tenure at the state level. It does not help the BN that the attacks are being led by someone who was in the previous government, as this undermines their credibility. Perhaps even more striking is the comparison made between the charges Lim is facing and those that caretaker Prime Minister Najib Razak is not.

The BN in Penang is seen as weak, as both Gerakan and MCA are considered to be subservient to UMNO. In fact, under the Najib government, these two Chinese component parties are perceived to be even weaker than in the past. Recall it was this subservience to UMNO that contributed to the ouster of the Koh Tsu Koon government in 2008. Many Penangites will not vote for parties that cannot stand up on their own.

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DAP-Pakatan Harapan’s Lim Guan Eng

Electorally, the BN has effectively been led by UMNO in the state, and given the changed demographics of the state – with Malays making up larger numbers than Chinese now – there are more demands for UMNO to lead in Penang. For many, it is understood that a vote against Pakatan in Penang is a vote to bring UMNO into power in the state. This time, however, should BN return to power, UMNO would lead from the front, rather than from behind.

Chinese power and DAP’s Malay deficit

Another important underlying reason for the support among some Pakatan supporters is that Penang is the only state led by a non-Malay. It is the last bastion of Chinese Malaysian political power, which has been displaced within BN. There is long-standing resentment of this displacement – not only within Penang but across Malaysia. Penang has symbolic power, nationally and locally.

Image result for Syerleena Abdul Rashid

It is this symbolism that is equally resented in Malaysia’s racialised politics. Within the state and in Malaysia as a whole, Malay support for DAP has declined, especially since 2013. Despite the entrants of dynamic young Malay leaders such as Syerleena Abdul Rashid contesting in Seri Delima, the strategy to bring Malays into DAP ranks has not succeeded in translating into meaningful support among Malay voters. DAP is now more reliant than ever on its coalition partners for Malay support. At the same time, its partners have to face a backlash from some Malays for working with it.

This is playing out in many of the mainland Penang seats, where Malays are more concentrated. Nibong Tebal and Tasek Gelugor, for example, are competitive seats, as are a few of the state seats including Bukit Tengah, Seberang Jaya and Sungai Bakap. This sentiment also contributes to why Umno holds onto power in Balik Pulau, where there is a strong Umno incumbent. PKR is on the frontline of Malay anger against the DAP. Meanwhile, the strength of the alliance with Bersatu is being tested in Tasek Gelugor, with candidate Marzuki Yahya.

The erosion of Malay support is exacerbated by PAS seeking revenge in Penang – against the DAP for displacing and disrespecting the party in the state, and against PKR for working with DAP and choosing them as coalition partners at the national level.

PAS is comparatively weak in Penang, but it can shape the balance in Permatang Pauh in the state seat of Permatang Pasir, for example. It is also shaping the vulnerable contest of the Bukit Tengah state seat, where its demonisation of former Alor Setar MP Gooi Hsiao-Leung for questioning RUU355 is a continued PAS vendetta. PKR is further weakened by infighting, enhanced by the poorly-timed party purges, making the party more vulnerable than in the past.

Penang then and now

Penangites have a deep-seated belief in their role in shaping the future of their state and the nation. They take pride in being the pioneers of national development in the 1980s, and today they are pleased with the international recognition of the state has as a tourist attraction and vibrant manufacturing centre. Penangites have a global vision. They are sophisticated and hard working.

Many are post-modern in outlook, focused on the environment and ethical concerns. It is not a coincidence that Penang was the birthplace of the consumer movement and continues to have active watchdog organisations like Aliran. The political role the state plays in leadership is thus important. This is why, for most Penangites, they will vote opposition, holding the view that this is the more responsible vote for the future.

There will, however, be more strategic voting – split-voting at the parliamentary and national level – and potentially reduced majorities in some areas, tied to the weaknesses of the ruling coalition noted above, three-cornered fights and a desire to send the state government a signal to be more responsive to legitimate criticism.

Penang will send a message about how power should be practised and the place Malaysia wants to be moving forward.


BRIDGET WELSH is an Associate Professor of Political Science at John Cabot University in Rome. She also continues to be a Senior Associate Research Fellow at National Taiwan University’s Center for East Asia Democratic Studies and The Habibie Center, as well as a University Fellow of Charles Darwin University. Her latest book (with Greg Lopez) is entitled ‘Regime Resilience in Malaysia and Singapore’. She is following the 2018 campaign on the ground and providing her analyses exclusively to Malaysiakini readers. She can be reached at bridgetwelsh1@gmail.com.

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

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