Book Preview: Illusions of Democracy in Malaysia


November 22, 2017

Book Preview: Illusions of Democracy in Malaysia

When compiling the first volume of Malaysian Politics and People: Misplaced Democracy, we brought together a group of Malaysian specialists to reflect on the aftermath of the 13th General Election. We argued that Malaysia was moving towards a change whose nature was yet to be determined. Three years later this has been confirmed, but the changes are by no means linear. The opposition has become emboldened while new forms of resistance have emerged in arts and activism—but they have also become more fractious. The government has been plagued by financial crises and scandals but has been able to maintain its hold on power, drawing PAS outside of the opposition coalition.

In our latest volume, we once again bring together a collection of international and local researchers to take stock of the nature of Malaysian politics and society the lead up to the much anticipated 14th General Election. Reflecting on the changes of the last three years and firmly rooting our analysis in the reality of Malaysia as a semi-democratic state, we once again find that change will remain a certainty but that the direction of this change has become all the more acute and urgent in the face of political scandal and state authoritarianism. Could Malaysia fall deeper into authoritarian tendencies, as many worry with the passage of the National Security Council Bill 2015 and the detention of opposition figures and restrictions on their travel? Will the Prime Minister be willing to relinquish power in the event of an opposition electoral victory? Or will change emerge more incrementally? Could an opposition party take power with a radically reformist agenda to democratise Malaysian society or will the elitist tendencies in Malaysian politics continue? Finally, what other forces—be they in the field of foreign policy, the economy, minority & LGBTQI rights, the environment, education or migration—will shape the future of Malaysia’s politics and its people?

Image result for Malaysian Politics and People: Misplaced Democracy. Volume 2

A desire to answer these pressing questions led us to publish Illusions of Democracy: Malaysian Politics and People Volume II. We hope that it contains the beginnings of an answer to these questions, and serves to promote critical interrogations of Malaysian politics and society from a variety of fields and areas of study.

Pieces by Delphine Alles & Louise Perrodin, James Chin and Tricia Yeoh, build upon and bring up to date their analyses in the first volume regarding Malaysian foreign policy, non-Malay bumiputera and Malaysia’s oil and gas sector respectively. Divided into four sections, this latest volume covers the manipulation of ethno-politics, the role of Malaysia in the international system, the place of ‘Others’, from LGBTQI to Shia minorities and finally the mismanagement of Malaysia’s resources, both financial and natural. In doing so, they develop important new areas of research from Lawrence Ross’s study of silat martial arts to Amanda Whiting’s detailed study of emergency legislation, Dominik M. Müller’s study of anti-Shia hatred in Malaysia and Alessandro Uras’s study of Malaysia’s South China Sea dilemma.  Other pieces reflect more contemporary concerns—Kerstin Steiner provides an important account the of 1MDB scandal at the intersection of economics, politics and law in Malaysia, whilst Aida Arosoaie and Mohamed Nawab Osman explore the impact of ISIS discourse on Malay-Muslim society in an analysis rooted in the long-term trajectory of Islamisation. Azmil Tayeb and Yew Wei Lit provide an up-to-date account of the developing environmental movement in Malaysia while in another chapter Azmil Tayeb analyses the dynamics of federalism in Malaysia in the case of Islamic education in Kelantan. Finally, other chapters return to well-covered ground in Malaysian studies, bringing new and fresh perspectives. Gerhard Hoffstaedter and Louise Perrodin’s piece on refugees in Malaysia, through a case study of Chin and Rohingya refugees, exposes the connections between Malaysia’s ethno-centric political and social life and the lives and organisation of refugee groups. Angela M. Kuga Thas takes up the study of LGBTQI minorities in Malaysia alongside the ‘Islamic State’ issue and the attempts to unite Malay Muslims to maintain UMNO’s electoral dominance, while Mohd Nazim Ganti Shaari analyses Malaysian constitutional identity formed by the constitutional role of the Malay rulers, Islam and Malay elements.

Malaysia’s Scandal Ridden Prime Minister Najib Razak–Mugabe-like Fate awaits him

Put together, these chapters grapple with what it means to study a country caught between democracy and authoritarianism and what it means to study politics outside of liberal democratic norms. They contribute towards the deconstruction of Malaysia’s political structure and its political, economic, social and legal system. They challenge the illusions which continue to sustain a semi-authoritarian democratic system.

Finally, the extraordinary participation of the political cartoonist Zunar in our discussion and reflection is, to us, a way to actively include artistic activism at the heart of intellectual and academic debate. Zunar’s work, which offers a passionate yet sharp account of the current situation, is a perfect symbiosis between a reasoned analysis of contemporary Malaysian politics and the more intimate voice of perceived reality. It is all the more precious as an expression of an authentic Malaysian voice which will continue to be heard through time and across frontiers.

Sophie Lemière is the Jean Monnet Postdoctoral Fellow at the European University Institute, Florence, Italy. She holds a PhD and a Masters in Comparative Politics from Sciences-Po (France). She is the author of Misplaced Democracy: Malaysian Politics and People.

 

 

Robert Mugabe–The Man who ruined Zimbabwe


November 21, 2017

The man who ruined a country

How Robert Mugabe held on to power for so long

His secret was to talk eloquently, and carry a big stick

Print edition | Middle East and Africa

Nov 16th 2017 | HARARE–The Economist

Image result for Mugabenomics in action
The Zimbabwean Dictator Robert Mugabe
IT WAS the dismissal and flight abroad of Robert Mugabe’s oldest and trustiest lieutenant that finally led to his downfall. Grace Mugabe, the 93-year-old president’s avaricious wife, was thought to be behind the sacking. Younger than her husband by 41 years, she plainly sought to inherit the throne. Yet she overplayed her hand. Within a week the armed forces’ commander, alongside an array of generals, declared, without naming her, that Mrs Mugabe must be stopped. He demanded, also without naming names, that her nemesis, Emmerson Mnangagwa, must be reinstated as heir apparent. Mrs Mugabe’s allies were denounced as “counter-revolutionaries” who had played no part in the “war of liberation” that 37 years ago had brought Mr Mugabe to power.
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The Avaricious Wife of Robert Mugabe–FLOZ Grace Mugabe

A few days later armoured troop carriers rolled into Harare, the capital. Soldiers took control of the state broadcaster and surrounded Mr Mugabe’s residence. In the small hours of the morning another general announced on television that the army was in charge. But the coup was not a coup, he insisted. Various traitors had merely been rounded up and the Mugabe family detained for their own safety. Mr Mnangagwa was set to return from his brief exile. The Mugabe era was at last ingloriously over. As The Economist went to press, events were still unfolding pell-mell. But the latest signals suggest that the fate of Zimbabwe, at least for now, is in the hands of the 75-year-old Mr Mnangagwa.

Image result for mnangagwa the crocodileEmmerson “The Crocodile” Mnangagwa (center)

 

Known as “the Crocodile” for his habit of waiting quietly before sinking his jaws into his next victim, Mr Mnangagwa has none of his erstwhile master’s wit and charm. A former guerrilla and longtime political prisoner during the era of white supremacy that ended with independence under Mr Mugabe in 1980, for the next two decades he was minister of state security and of justice. He acquired a fearsome record of repression and an unrivalled knowledge of where the bodies—literal and metaphorical—were buried.

A pragmatist to the core, Mr Mnangagwa’s first act on the day he took over his department in 1980 was to visit the police station where he had been tortured by the white regime after his capture for trying to blow up a train. The leg-irons from which he had been hung upside down were still there, as were the white officers who had beaten him. Yet, according to an account by Martin Meredith, a historian, he promised them a “clean slate” in the new country.

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Zimbabwe Army General Constantino Chiwenga Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces

 

Soon enough, however, he was making his own use of such men. He is accused of complicity in the brutal suppression of the minority Ndebele tribe in the early 1980s, when about 20,000 people, most of them civilians, were murdered by the Zimbabwean army. (He denies this.) He had a hand in the Zimbabwean army’s deployment in the 1990s to the Democratic Republic of Congo, which it plundered. In 2008, when Mr Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party lost a parliamentary election and the first round of the presidential one, he orchestrated a lethal wave of violence that forced the winning challenger, Morgan Tsvangirai, to withdraw from the second round. Standing for election to a parliamentary seat against the main opposition party, he was himself twice embarrassingly defeated. But Mr Mugabe ensured he would always retain a senior government or party post.

In the past few years, as Mr Mugabe’s physical and mental powers have declined, Mr Mnangagwa has fostered a reputation, with Western governments among others, as a man to do business with—and as the president’s likeliest successor. Well before the coup, one Western diplomat remarked that he would be ruthless and powerful enough to grab power quickly should it slip from Mr Mugabe’s hands, “with at most a few tens of deaths” forestalling a drawn-out power struggle that could result in a lot more killing. And he has courted multilateral financial institutions such as the IMF and World Bank.

Mr Mnangagwa has also let it be known that he would reverse the racist “indigenisation law” that requires businesses to be mainly owned by black Zimbabweans or by the state. He has argued for some kind of settlement, including compensation, for the white farmers whose properties have been confiscated since 2000, acknowledging that their skills are needed to rebuild what was one of Africa’s most productive agricultural economies. Such a settlement might spur Western governments to start offering large-scale aid again. On the domestic front he has put out secret feelers to the opposition, hinting at a unity government after Mr Mugabe goes.

Fall from Grace

That happened faster than expected, once Mrs Mugabe had persuaded her wobbly husband to dispatch his senior vice-president into the wilderness on November 6th, egged on by the president’s outrage after she was booed at a meeting.

Mrs Mugabe’s bid for power has had a long gestation. Backed by a relatively younger coterie of Zanu-PF ministers known as the “G40” (“Generation 40”), she had already managed to eject one rival, Joice Mujuru, from the vice-presidency in 2014. In gunning for Mr Mnangagwa—a few days earlier she had described him as “the snake [who] must be hit on the head”—it seemed she was finally bidding to replace her husband. At a church meeting earlier this month, it was reported that she declared she was ready to succeed him, saying “I say to Mr Mugabe you should…leave me to take over your post.”

The former secretary, who had become Mr Mugabe’s mistress as his first wife lay dying, did not realise how despised she is within the ruling Zanu-PF party. She rashly picked fights with two of its sturdiest factions—the securocrats and former bush fighters—in her bid to eliminate rivals for the presidency. Yet the biggest fall was not that of Grace but of Mr Mugabe himself, a man who was among the last of Africa’s presidents-for-life. His reign lasted so long that the vast majority of Zimbabweans remember no other ruler. And he bragged that it would continue “until God says come join the other angels”.

Despite his viciousness and incompetence, he was hailed as a hero by many Africans. Some saw in him a symbol of resistance to the old imperialist powers. At meeting after meeting of the African Union, he could count on a rousing ovation, as he railed against whites and the injustices that he imagined rich countries, chief among them Britain, and mysterious groups of homosexuals, were inflicting on Zimbabwe. Yet for all his bluster, blame for the immiseration of Zimbabwe rests chiefly on his shoulders. His ruinous policies caused the economy to collapse, impoverished his people and destroyed their health (see charts).

That need not have happened. For a few years after independence, Zimbabwe prospered. Mr Mugabe shelved the full-blown Marxist economic policies he had espoused during the years in prison and in the guerrilla camps. He allowed the white farmers, who had once wanted him dead, to preserve Zimbabwe as the region’s breadbasket. There was an unwritten understanding, he felt, that they should grow food and tobacco but keep out of politics.

He was far less tolerant of the Ndebele, a minority ethnic group who continued to back his long-standing rival for national leadership, Joshua Nkomo. He pretended that scattered instances of banditry amounted to a massive armed revolt, and ordered his North-Korean trained Fifth Brigade to crush it. The massacres, torture and rape he inflicted on the Ndebele were on a larger scale than anything that occurred during the long war against white rule. In those early days, Western governments and aid agencies, keen to promote Zimbabwe as a donor-funded success story, generally looked the other way.

During the 1990s, however, corruption began to erode Mr Mugabe’s authority. Towards the end of that decade, a group of aggrieved and landless “war veterans”, many of them obvious impostors, successfully agitated for big handouts, after complaining that they had missed out on the patronage dished out to the bloated elite. This blew a hole in the budget and caused the IMF to withdraw support.

Instead of pulling back, Mr Mugabe spent more. “Have you ever heard of a country that collapsed because of borrowing?” he asked, as he opened the taps on spending and threatened to grab white-owned farms and hand them to his supporters. Soon after, he called a referendum on a constitutional change to bolster his power as president and enable him to confiscate land without paying compensation.

At this point, in 1999, a trade union-led movement rose up, with the help of some whites, including some of those farmers hitherto protected by Mr Mugabe in return for their quietly prosperous life. After his constitutional proposal was voted down, by 55% to 45%, he lost his temper, setting off a reckless campaign of land grabs. In remarkably short order one of Africa’s most advanced economies collapsed. Short of taxes and revenues raised from the export of crops such as tobacco, the government soon began to run out of money. Gideon Gono, then governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, simply printed more of it. “Traditional economics do not fully apply in this country,” he said. “I am going to print and print and sign the money…because we need money.” Inflation reached 500 billion percent, according to the IMF, or 89.7 sextillion percent, according to Steve Hanke of Johns Hopkins University. (Measuring hyperinflation is hard.)

At the same time, Mr Mugabe embarked on a murderous campaign to quell the opposition, led by a courageous if sometimes clumsy trade unionist, Morgan Tsvangirai, who refused to give up. In 2008 he soundly defeated Mr Mugabe in the first round of a presidential election, while his party won, more narrowly, the general election. Mr Mugabe was evidently shaken to the core, perhaps, like so many dictators, because he had come to believe that his people loved him.

For five weeks, a cowed electoral commission refused to divulge the result, eventually massaging the figure of Mr Tsvangirai’s victory down to just under 50%, thus requiring a second round. The mayhem that then followed was so vicious that Mr Tsvangirai felt obliged to bow out.

Eight months later a unity government was formed. A dollarised currency had begun to rescue the economy but Mr Mugabe failed to implement any of the major reforms that were meant to restore a semblance of democracy. Mr Tsvangirai and his party had been tricked, humiliated and discredited by the time of the next election, in 2013, since when the economy has plummeted again. No one knows the exact figure, but a good 3m Zimbabweans—some say 5m—out of a population now estimated by the UN to be nearly 17m, have fled the country, to South Africa and overseas.

What next?

If Mr Mnangagwa succeeds in taking back the reins of government, his first task will be to consolidate power within Zanu-PF. Whether Mr Mugabe formally hands over or is kept on as a kind of ceremonial president is barely relevant, though it would be neater if the old man were ushered into as dignified a retirement as soon as is feasible in these ugly, humiliating circumstances.

Mr Mnangagwa’s main concern will be to ensure that Mrs Mugabe and her G40 are dismissed. Many have already been locked up. Bigwigs who will probably sink with her include Saviour Kasukuwere, who enacted the racist indigenisation law; Ignatius Chombo, the finance minister; Jonathan Moyo, a serial plotter and former regime mouthpiece; Patrick Zhuwao, a nephew of Mr Mugabe; and the head of the police, Augustine Chihuri.

A Zanu-PF congress originally scheduled for next month, at which the top spots in the party are dished out and endorsed, may be brought forward. A drastic purge of anyone suspected of siding with Mrs Mugabe is likely, and could be bloody. The formal coronation of Mr Mnangagwa, or his anointing as the undisputed heir to the throne, is likely then to take place.

It is possible that Mr Mnangagwa may call for a government of national unity in the run-up to the general and presidential election constitutionally required by the middle of next year. If a president dies or resigns, the ruling party has 90 days to nominate a replacement, who then completes his predecessor’s term of office.

The opposition is woefully fragmented, though its main leaders have made progress in the past year towards forging a broad front. Mr Tsvangirai, much diminished by his five hapless years as prime minister in coalition with Mr Mugabe, who ran rings around him after the bloodily disputed election of 2008, is probably still Zanu-PF’s chief opponent. But he has cancer and several of his ablest lieutenants have defected from his Movement for Democratic Change.

Ms Mujuru, for a decade Mr Mugabe’s vice-president and long a prominent figure in Zanu-PF, might ally herself to Mr Tsvangirai’s party. Simba Makoni, a decent former finance minister who defected from Zanu-PF, won 8% of the presidential vote in 2008. A respected banker and former industry minister, Nkosana Moyo, has set up a new group. It is vital that the opposition coalesces behind a new leader. No obvious chief contender has yet emerged.

Outsiders, in Africa and beyond, are offering to help. The two African bodies previously most involved, the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a 15-country regional club led by South Africa, are sure to make high-minded noises, but their readiness in the past to whitewash Zimbabwe’s rigged elections and to wink at the violence and deceit that kept Mr Mugabe in power for so long give no comfort to Zimbabwe’s battered opposition or to its benighted citizens. Few trust them to give the real opposition, rather than Zanu-PF factions opposed to Mrs Mugabe, a fair deal.

Zimbabwe is bankrupt. It needs the IMF, the World Bank and an array of Western creditors to forgive debts and offer fresh loans. But that must be strictly conditional on political reform. Foreign aid agencies already feed many Zimbabweans who would otherwise starve—in some years, millions of them.

The most pressing requirement is for a properly supervised election. Given the failure of the AU and SADC to monitor past polls properly, it is essential that beefier bodies, including the UN, the European Union and the Commonwealth (from which Zimbabwe withdrew in 2003 after its suspension the year before), supervise the next vote. American bodies that are experienced election-watchers such as the Carter Centre and the National Democratic Institute must be involved, too. The Elders, a group of former world leaders, including Kofi Annan, once head of the UN, and Jimmy Carter, a past American president, could advise. Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s shrewd former president, has been suggested as a mediator.

Since Mr Mugabe expelled the Swedish head of an EU mission that was monitoring a presidential election in 2002, he has almost never again let in such intrusive bodies or such dignitaries, especially any that smack of past colonial rule. Old party stalwarts, including the coup leader, General Constantine Chiwenga, and Mr Mnangagwa himself, have opposed what they call neocolonial interference. Sometimes China is cited as a friend that, unlike Western powers, will dispense aid with no questions asked. But of late it has sounded less willing to bankroll Zimbabwe.

If a new government wants economic help, it must accept a measure of oversight. Outsiders will not dispatch the aid needed to set Zimbabwe on the path to recovery unless its new government is clearly representative and respects human rights.

Zimbabweans are resilient. Their country is rich not only in natural resources but also in talent, much of which would return home if the country were better governed. Zimbabwe’s infrastructure is still better than in many other African countries. During most of his long tenure, Mr Mugabe and Zanu-PF did their best to ruin the place. Mr Mnangagwa may be the man to oversee the post-Mugabe transition. But as soon as possible a new generation must take over and make a completely fresh start.

 This article appeared in the Middle East and Africa section of the print edition under the headline “The man who wrecked a country”

 

Deal Between Anwar and Najib Razak? :The Worst Possible News for Malaysia


November 21, 2017

Deal Between Anwar and Najib Razak?: The Worst Possible News for Malaysia

by P. Gunasegaram@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Anwar and Najib

Is there something brewing here which is suggestive of some kind of a deal materializing between these two once staunch allies? Like they say, there are no permanent enemies in politics and politics is the game of the possible, or is it the impossible? Never mind, you get the drift.–P. Gunasegaram

QUESTION TIME | In Malaysia where conspiracy theories arise at the drop of a 10-sen coin, the visit by Prime Minister Najib Razak to jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who is in hospital following a shoulder operation, has started tongues a-wagging. And how they are wagging!

Is there something brewing here which is suggestive of some kind of a deal materialising between these two once staunch allies? Like they say, there are no permanent enemies in politics and politics is the game of the possible, or is it the impossible? Never mind, you get the drift.

After all, who would have thought that former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, widely held responsible for Sodomy 1 which put Anwar in jail for six years until 2004, would now be working with him to topple BN and Najib? If that can happen, why not a reconciliation, or even a deal, between Najib and Anwar for mutual benefit?

 

Even the burying of past differences between Mahathir and Anwar is difficult to understand. How does a person who spent years in prison, was beaten after he was arrested, had his life ruined and political future now in tatters, forgive the person who was held to be most responsible for this?

And was it not what Mahathir did in terms of consolidating his power within UMNO – technically UMNO Baru as the old UMNO was dissolved as part of plans implemented by Mahathir – that now makes it near impossible to remove a sitting UMNO President and Prime Minister because of all that such a person has at his disposal in terms of power?

Now this, Najib visits Anwar in the hospital with his wife Rosmah Mansor and with Anwar’s wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail present and the gossip bandwagon goes berserk, although it is more likely to topple than to sustain over the next few days.

Here was the man who pushed Sodomy 2 against Anwar with Anwar’s accuser having seen him – Najib – before making his police report. And Anwar is in jail again for a further five years from 2015, more or less putting paid to his political career unless Pakatan Harapan wins the next election. The chances of that are pretty low right now.

How could Anwar countenance a visit from this man who was responsible for his prison sentence in the first place with a lot of people believing that Anwar’s sentence was terribly unfair with admission of evidence that could have been tampered with? If Anwar’s trial was fixed, as he himself claimed, then only one person could have been responsible.

How could he even consent to see this person? As difficult as this is to understand for people like me, those who understand Malay culture say that nothing should be read into the meeting. The PM went to see a former friend and ally who was ailing – nothing more, nothing less.

But talk is not so easily stopped because Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, at one time one of Anwar’s closest friends and allies, visited him as well. Perhaps there is nothing but those visits perhaps indicate to Mahathir that two can play the game – if Mahathir can reconcile with Anwar, Najib can reconcile with him too, with all that it implies for Mahathir.

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What about the stolen money?–1MDB 

But is it as simple as all that really? No. Because if somehow Najib and Anwar ally, who becomes the enemy then? Surely not Mahathir now. And what about 1MDB? What does it mean for all that the opposition has been saying about billions stolen and still unaccounted for?

And what about the allegations, with some evidence, that UMNO and BN are tainted with 1MDB money and that they support Najib only because of that? Will all this be conveniently swept under the carpet forever more and everybody lives together happily ever after?

There can be only one deal that will allow this – in that permutation or combination of both, Anwar has to become Prime Minister, no less. That will entail Najib continuing for a while and then making way for Anwar – which means that Anwar has to be within BN or some larger conglomerate.

Anwar Ibrahim– A political chameleon or a publicity seeking politician?

How that may form boggles the mind but remember that after the May 13, 1969, riots and emergency rule, Najib’s father Abdul Razak Hussein persuaded (coerced?) the substantial opposition then into a coalition in 1973 forming Barisan Nasional, with the only significant party out in the bitter cold – that being DAP. If Anwar and Najib make a deal whereby Anwar is rehabilitated and Najib carries on, for a while at least, that is the worst possible news for Malaysia because all sections of the political divide – both ruling and opposition parties – will implicitly sanction the greatest theft this country has ever known and multiple events of gross mismanagement and lack of governance.

I don’t believe this will happen but I would have been far more comfortable if Anwar had not consented to meet Najib – and yes, if he had not done a deal with Mahathir too. But then who am I but just another insignificant citizen of Malaysia?

 

Cambodia: Prime Minister Hun Sen consolidates Political Power ahead of National Elections in 2018


November 21, 2017

Cambodia: Prime Minister Hun Sen consolidates Political Power ahead of National Elections in 2018

by Astrid Norén-Nilsson, Lund University

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

The looming dissolution of the CNRP follows the September arrest of opposition leader Kem Sokha, the flight from the country of leading CNRP parliament members and a clampdown on the press.

Promising the de facto return to one-party rule, the recent political crackdown is indisputably the most serious assault on Cambodian democracy since the 1993 reintroduction of multi-party elections.

Image result for Hun Sen and The Cambodian Peoples' Party

The CPP has delivered Peace, Stability and Development for Cambodians since 1998.

The sheer nerve of the incumbent Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) in invalidating nearly 3 million votes came as a surprise. Until now, the move was considered so unlikely that each successive CPP step to weaken the opposition has been interpreted as an attempt to gain a bargaining chip rather than an overture to foreclose electoral competition outright.

But it is now hard to believe anything but that the CPP is delivering its final blow to the opposition according to a long-term strategy that spans its entire mandate.

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Cambodia–The Kingdom of Wonder

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambodia

Following the post-election protests of 2013–14, which were violently broken up, the CPP neutralised the CNRP through a one year ‘culture of dialogue’ that reined in CNRP’s tough rhetoric. After that, consensual politics were replaced by attacks on a weakened opposition. While recent local elections offered a period of relative calm — presumably because the CPP aimed to test its electoral strength — the CPP is now putting in motion the machinery of legal measures that they have carefully introduced through legislative changes over the past few months.

Political change of some sort in Cambodia has an aura of inevitability since the 2013 elections. This is an aura that the CNRP has fought hard to project, and which the CPP has now unravelled. The CPP is gambling on the presumption that the 44 per cent of voters whose votes were invalidated will not take political action. This is important given that the CNRP has a strong support base among the almost two-thirds of the population who are below the age of 30. Lacking memories of the Khmer Rouge regime, which the precursor to the CPP toppled, Cambodian youth are both less grateful to the CPP and less fearful than their elders. The CPP is putting this emerging fearlessness to the test, and the outcome is unpredictable. The lack of a strong domestic reaction to the undemocratic measures put in place so far opens up a new range of until now unimaginable political possibilities for the emboldened CPP.

 

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For the last two decades Cambodia has been one of the fastest growing countries in Asia with an average annual real GDP growth rate in excess of 7.0  per cent.

 

With eight months to go until national elections, the previously unthinkable scenario that the CPP will be the only main party to contest the 2018 elections now looms. The crackdown does leave a window open for a resolution allowing the weakened opposition to contest the 2018 elections, perhaps under a different name and with a partly different leadership. The CPP could court elements of the CNRP leadership to head a salvaged party, similar to how Ung Huot replaced Ranariddh as first Cambodian Prime Minister in 1997. If deemed unthreatening, a defanged opposition could be allowed to contest the elections to give an outlet for oppositional energies and a boost to the CPP’s electoral legitimacy.

Its imminent outlawing marks the logical endpoint of the CNRP’s position to obey the rule-of-law designed by the CPP. To continue to exist, the CNRP would have to renege on its twin constraints: bending to the legal framework defined by the CPP and avoiding the possibility of violent confrontation at all costs.

To have a real shot at regime change through elections rather than merely nominal inclusion in some form on electoral rolls, the CNRP would have to find its way back to connect with the electorate in the streets. Capitalising on the party’s dissolution to create popular momentum may be a hard but not impossible feat. The opposition managed to quietly build support in a repressive climate ahead of the 2013 election, and then in that year’s electoral campaign galvanised oppositional energies through mass gatherings. Last year, two and a half years after mass demonstrations came to an end, an estimated 2 million people turned up for the funeral procession of the assassinated government critic Kem Ley.

The CNRP has so far placed its hopes in growing international pressure. But this hope may be in vain, with Hun Sen trying to kill two birds with one stone: the CNRP are accused of conspiring with Western governments and media outlets, which makes Western criticism of the 2018 election wholly irrelevant. From the Cambodian government’s perspective, the transition to a stance backed by China to turn away from the West may now be complete. Whether severe economic and diplomatic consequences could reverse the CPP’s course of action will now be put to the test.

The logic of the situation will compel the CPP to maintain its strong-arm tactics up until the election despite increasing popular alienation. There is no authoritarian nostalgia in Cambodia like that in the Philippines or Thailand. This makes the ongoing crackdown more out of tune with public sentiment and potentially more volatile.

Astrid Norén-Nilsson is an Associate Senior Lecturer at the Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies, Lund University and author of Cambodia’s Second Kingdom: Nation, Imagination, and Democracy.

 

Corruption: Now the Joke is on Malaysians


November 20, 2017

Corruption: Now the Joke is on Malaysians

by R.Nadeswaran@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Najib Razak-- I am not a Liar

These UMNO Rogues are laughing at us because we are gullible and naive

There was a time when the jokes were on African states, their leaders and how they ran their governments. We despised the apartheid regime in South Africa and laughed at Idi Amin in Uganda and other kleptocrats who stole money and precious metals from their own people. Now, the joke seems to be on us.

Former Kenyan premier Raila Amolo Odinga’s not-so-flattering remarks on corruption in Malaysia made during a 2013 conference at the Wilson Centre in Washington DC, was uploaded to YouTube on 10 days ago.

He spoke as if he was an authority and had full knowledge of Malaysian affairs. Not surprising as a year earlier, he had been conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Leadership in Societal Development by the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology.

How long can Malaysians go on hearing all kinds of hurtful things being said of the country and its leaders? Why aren’t we responding to such insults, instead of pretending that they were never made? The more we play deaf and dumb, the more we become disrespected and slighted.

In 2015, the Wall Street Journal alleged RM2.6 billion had been deposited into the AmBank account of Prime Minister Najib Razak and linked it to 1MDB. Almost immediately, he threatened to sue the newspaper. A year later, nothing materialised but his lawyer, Mohd Hafarizam Harun was quoted as saying that it would be a futile move.

Image result for Najib Razak-- I am not a Liar

The more important issue, the lawyer argued, is the Malaysians’ own thoughts regarding 1MDB, noting that reports and statements from local authorities such as the Attorney-General and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) have cleared the prime minister.

“What matters are the Malaysians, whether you believe with all the public accounts committee report, the attorney-general and the MACC, that the PM is not involved. If you say you do not believe because the international media are saying otherwise, nothing much I can do,” he told reporters, adding that it would show a mindset of continued colonisation with the belief that “the Americans, the British, the whites are far superior” than Malaysians.

Well, that was before the US Department of Justice came out with its deposition on the funds it alleges had been stolen from 1MDB. Since then, there have been other disclosures from other monetary authorities.

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MIC thinks Najib Razak is the Father of Indian Development and our Indian brothers think so too

Singapore closed a couple of financial institutions; banned a few bankers and even sent three of them to jail. The line that the money was a donation “from an Arab prince” has been demolished on more than to report the big money transfers to Bank Negara.

‘Tidak apa’

ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott told an Australian parliamentary inquiry in October last year that no ANZ employee was involved in what has happened in the AmBank. (The AmBank Group was slapped with a RM53.7mil fine by Bank Negara in November 2015, but the exact reasons for the fine were not specified.)

If the bank has been penalised, what about the account holder? The Police have continuously prosecuted individuals for having monies which they could not account for. And our leaders have often thumped their chest and screamed: “No one is above the law!”

There has been hardly any reaction to the Australian report. To scream “fake news” and consign 1MDB, its humongous borrowings and losses, its links to the Prime Minister and the government to the dustbin are not going to be easy.

The annals of history will record the massive misinformation campaign and its perpetrators of 1MDB and those attempting the cover-up exercise. With the rakyat are being continually starved of accurate data, the government has created a new strain of disease called the truth deficiency syndrome.

Instead of addressing this issue, the government seems laid back and has adopted a “tidak apa” attitude. Lawmakers who raise the issues are not given proper answers in Parliament.

There seems to be no will and determination in wanting to tell the truth and find closure to an issue that has dragged down the country through slime and mud. Does it not matter to our MPs and ministers? What do they tell their foreign counterparts when attending conferences and meetings? Packs of lies?

It has been said that those who are riding the 1MDB tiger refuse to or cannot dismount for fear of being eaten up. If that is so, let it happen.

What about the roles of our elected representatives? Instead of addressing more important issues, they seem to be more apt or fixated with sex. Why else would they be debating the aphrodisiac qualities of durians instead of 1MDB?

Read more at https://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/402499#fc7WYSjfAyZWKyc3.99

 

Governance Matters–Effective Action speaks louder than words


November 17, 2017

Governance Matters–Effective Action speaks louder than Political Talk

by TK Chua

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

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For whatever reasons or motives, I think we have showered enough praise on Dr. D. Jeyakumar, the MP for Sungai Siput and Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), the only “socialist party” in Malaysia. It is a plus if he is humble and willing to serve his constituents diligently.

But first and foremost, why did he become a politician? He must have believed that his policies and “system of government” would bring the people a better life.

Why do people face systemic problems every day – the problems that the government system is supposed to resolve for them? How effective can he be by helping five people here and two people there, when society churns them out by the thousands each year – problems that are generated out of deliberate marginalisation, neglect, discrimination, incompetency and ignorance?

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Lee Lam Thye and Michael Chong have also done the same thing for many years. They helped some people, no doubt, but have they brought societal change to Malaysia? If anything, they have made those who were supposed to do their jobs even more complacent and lazy. When a person gets beaten up, why must he see Chong and not the Police?

Similarly, why can’t the built-in system in Sosco or any government institution provide efficient and equitable services for the people?

We elect MPs because we want better governance and policy changes, not just to provide day-to-day services to the people.

I maintain that if our governance is right, our civil service professional, and our government competent and corruption-free, the services rendered to the people will be above board and fair.

Over many decades, we have fought over ideologies. From my observations, ideologies do not put food on the table or bring people a better life. Both communism and socialism have failed, as has unfettered capitalism or a version of the two extremes.

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Najib Razak believes in 1Malaysia Governance: Lu Tolong Gua, Gua Tolong Lu

What matters the most is pragmatism, “corruption-less” government and good governance. Seriously, does it matter if the government is neoliberal or neoclassical?

Let’s be realistic: Jeyakumar and PSM can’t bring systemic change to this country, at least in the foreseeable future. Instead of creating dissension, he and PSM should join forces with right-minded politicians and political parties to bring fundamental changes to this country.

TK Chua is an FMT reader.

Comment: Dr Jeyakumar was a devoted Member of Parliament, Sungei Siput, Perak. He earned the reputation of being the man who defeated MIC President Samy Velu. He is a committed socialist. While we may recognise his service to his constituents, we should not glorify him. Here, I agree with TK Chua.

Ideology no longer matters these days. Tell me what is communism with Chinese characteristics? It is no longer Maoism. I think it is Confucian capitalism. Times have changed and so have expectations. Politicians have become dinosaurs for not keeping up with the times. They are short of deliverables; in fact, they have not produced results in terms of improving the lives of the people they seek to serve. Ideology does not create and public goods. What is lacking today is good governance. This seems to be a global problem. Look at Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Congo, and Yemen. –Din Merican