Malaysia: Time for radical thinkers in our varsities


August 18, 2018

Opinion

Malaysia: Time for radical thinkers in our varsities

Dr.Azly Rahman
 

“Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.”

– Plato

 COMMENT | I once taught Thinking Skills, Foreign Policy, and Ethics. My approach towards teaching thinking was about increasing the capacity of the mind to explore newer perspectives, make critical judgement, and envision a scenario of a society of peace and justice, based on the principles of multiculturalism.

Image result for dr. mahathir mohamad and freedom of expression

Maybe it is Biro Tata Negara (?)

I value such an experience and have grown with it. We need to create and nurture a culture of thinking in a world that is increasingly hostile to radical and ethical ideas.

What could be even more important now as we enter a new phase of Malaysian intellectual evolution, at a time when we hear stories of vice-chancellors are enemies of the people’s mind and are being removed?

In my teaching, the approach combines universal ethical values, creativity, critical thinking and problem solving, and futuristics. I think there is value in such an approach.

If we can radicalise student thinking, teach them to stand for their rights, give them choices in thinking, have them articulate great ideas in their own words, we can make them better graduates.

We can train them to become good ethical revolutioners who will remove oppressive and corrupt leaders and redesign a society that will continue to rejuvenate itself. We can teach them to continue to demand the resignation of corrupt leaders – or even have an entire cabinet resign.

We can also teach them to punish polluters, especially corporations that dump poison into our rivers or release deadly smoke into our environment. We can create socially-conscious futurists out of our children.

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Futurists conjure scenarios of societies they want to have – build from the ruins of one that has crumbled out of the need for greed and economic speed.

Radical futurists create newer social order reconstructed out of the ruins of the ones ruled by leaders addicted to raw power; power employed to rape the environment and humanity these leaders are entrusted to “govern”.

But first, we must have the teachers and lecturers prepare for all these as well. We have many bright, young, academics eager to explore newer perspectives on politics, economic, and cultural aspects of our world. Can they do these in a cognitively-controlled environment? How do we help them?

Critical thinking is not about ‘criticising’

It seems that there is a deeper meaning to “critical thinking” than just “criticising” something or anything.

It is a process of the personal evolution of metacognition (beyond cognition itself); to understand one’s own thinking process and to govern it with the tools one acquires through interacting with the environment and processing information that will become meaningful through the complex neural connections made in the brain.

There has to be a good repertoire of knowledge in one’s consciousness in order to understand the “dialectical and dialogical” aspect of thinking.

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Our education system must encourage this development through the love of reading – the exploration of good and great books taught by teachers who love books and have the passion to challenge students to think and think.

Thinking must be encouraged; students must live their daily lives in classrooms without fear of being punished or ridiculed for thinking critically and creatively.

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Our classrooms must encourage dialogues and debates even if the subject matter is sensitive, difficult, painful, and intellectually challenging. We must have good teachers to groom students to become brave thinkers and communicators of ideas.

These professors themselves must embody the virtues of radical thinking and become beacons of hope for newer thinkers, much like what Socrates was to the Athenians in fifth century BC.

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Thinkers of the Axial Age–Socrates, Plato and Aristotle

Radical thinkers must be celebrated and honoured, not imprisoned and shamed. Only a shameless government doing shameful acts would jail good, ethical, socially-conscious thinkers who speak truth to power.

If in our universities, thinking means thinking about what the state dictates and students are being punished for speaking out on issues that concern their role as future inheritors of their society, we have a got a national problem. How do we make our universities even free from the dictates of the new regime?

Higher order thinking

The essence of higher order thinking skills is the “Why” question and the “What if” and “Why not this”. These questions help our students to critique dominant paradigm and allow them to conjure newer perspectives, much like what radical social futurists would do.

What is the culture of critical thinking in our Malaysian classrooms these days? Is it enabling the culture of thinking or retarding it?

Image result for The Godfather of the Trumpian America First Age

The Defender of the Trumpian Age–Where was this Italian American educated?

Critical thinking is also not about running in the streets screaming for this or that change; it is a process of intellectual embodiment and the democratisation of one’s personal understanding of the intellectual basis of change.

For too long we have seen our students doing that, yet the nature of protests could be traced to what politicians wanted or use the students to advance this or that politician’s desire for total power.

Thinking is a process subjective and individually unique in nature, first and foremost. The great American feminist and anarchist Emma Goldman once said, “If I cannot dance to it, it is not my revolution.” Such is a reminder of thinking as an existential act.

Today it must not be about blindly supporting the dying regime of Najibism nor the re-surfacing of Mahathirism. It has to be an act of deconstructing both and unshackling the prison-house of one’s thinking.

It is a process of constructing a “republic of virtue” in which each citizen is a philosopher-ruler in her own right. Each individual, perhaps like the notion held by the Buddhist, is “aware” of the surrounding, mastering her own environment, aware of cause and effects of beingness, to identify oppressive signs and symbols that govern her and others, to destroy structures that are shacking, to essentially be able to look at her life like a crystal ball.

Is this idea of creating world-wise radical intellectual and movers and shakers possible in our Malaysian educational system?

This is the greatest challenge of this century, for our nation especially. If we wish to remove, the University and University Colleges Act (UUCA) which has in it the ‘Pledge of loyalty to the state’, and remove all acts that are anathema to a healthy thinking culture, we must rethink how we think.

We owe a good education system to our children – a system that will encourage children to systematically revolt against systems, especially against those which still want to divide and rule based on race and religion. Especially against yet another regime that might also use the tools of colonialism and apartheid, even against its own people, retarding the grown of a progressive generation.

We are not yet free. We might still be moving from one totalitarian system to another. Hegemony in transition, as the Italian thinker Antonio Gramsci would say.

I think, therefore I exist (cogito, ergo, sum) Rene Descartes said. I’d say we think, therefore we revolt – we must work towards that.


 

Dr. AZLY RAHMAN is an educator, academic, international columnist, and author of seven books. He grew up in Johor Bahru, and holds a Columbia University doctorate in international education development and Master’s degrees in five areas: education, international affairs, peace studies communication, and creative writing.

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

Anwar Ibrahim, stop the PKR Contest


August 18, 2018

Anwar Ibrahim, stop the PKR Contest and get down to the serious business of promised reforms

Image result for Anwar Ibrahim and PKR

The pre-election scuffles within PKR are threatening to tear apart the party as well as the hopes of all who see it as the way forward for the new Malaysia.

COMMENT

 

By Watson Peters

Most Malaysians would agree that while Dr Mahathir Mohamad was the catalyst that caused the change of the Barisan Nasional (BN) government, that result was not the fortuitous consequence of some fortuitous social process. It did not appear out of thin air. It was the natural and inevitable consequence of a government that could not continue to base itself on arbitrary applications of power that sought to eliminate all forms of dissent and non-conformity.

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Azmin Ali –The Man who stood with Anwar Ibrahim and PKR through the years

The sole unwavering sentinel at the PKR guardhouse from day one has been Azmin. His loyalty to the Reform Malaysia cause cannot and should not be doubted.–Watson Peters

The process of change began with the cruel, baseless and repeated incarcerations of Anwar Ibrahim and was sustained by the momentum of the Reformasi movement and PKR which has continued carrying the “Reform Malaysia” torch since 1998. People who were not particularly fond of Anwar became Anwar supporters overnight.

The Anwar family became the best-loved family in the hearts of most Malaysians. While PKR may have fewer than one million members, it has millions more supporters and sympathisers across the whole spectrum of our nation

The current PKR election has denigrated into an internecine warfare that threatens to tear apart not only the fabric of PKR, but also the hopes of millions who see PKR as the hope and way forward for the new Malaysia.

The public utterances by some PKR leaders are rather discouraging and indeed disheartening. This looks like a classic case of talking the party and the government into trouble.

Given that the new government has not properly warmed its seat yet, the issue really is whether it is necessary to have the contests at this time.

Could not the many good leaders in PKR work together for the common good rather than for well-disguised personal objectives?Could not the contending forces lay down their armoury and allow the Pakatan Harapan government settle down in its business of running our country and leading us to a better future?

It is a tragedy to see how the contest for the post of Deputy President between Rafizi Ramli and Mohamed Azmin Ali is turning out. To compound matters, the contest has filtered down to the other echelons of leadership.

Admittedly, both Rafizi and Azmin are great leaders to have within the ranks. They may have different modus operandi but that need not be at cross-purposes.

It is particularly painful to hear accusations of disloyalty aimed at Azmin. Malaysians remember how, in the aftermath of Anwar’s incarceration and while Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, or Kak Wan, as the figure head of the Reformasi movement and PKR had to deal not only with an absent husband but also a young family, it was “Anwar’s boys” (as they were popularly known) who were on the ground – marshalling supporters, organising branches and giving flesh to the bare bones of PKR.

Sadly though, over the years most of “Anwar’s boys” have either “run for the hills” or “crossed over to the other side”.

The sole unwavering sentinel at the PKR guardhouse from day one has been Azmin. His loyalty to the Reform Malaysia cause cannot and should not be doubted.

As Selangor menteri besar, he had shown remarkable leadership, maturity and fortitude in the face of numerous challenges, especially in the early days. The scurrilous attacks on Azmin’s loyalty and integrity must be viewed with the contempt they deserve while his elegant non-confrontational reaction must be applauded.

That said, Rafizi is also an irreplaceable component of the PKR engine. His sacrifices for the Malaysian people have not been forgotten. His frequent exposes at great personal risk are still fresh in our hearts and minds.

Given this scenario, it lies upon the shoulders of Anwar as President of PKR and the Bapak Reformasi to intervene immediately and impose peace upon the party.

Democratic rights aside, Anwar can and must convince the contestants to allow the new government to settle down and dig us out of the quagmire we are in. Anwar is the only one who can impose an acceptable modus vivendi and he should not abdicate this responsibility.

It may be good for all the contestants to remind themselves that there is always the next party election, in a couple of years’ time, to re-ignite this contest.

Stop the implosion of PKR and the explosion of the hopes of millions of Malaysians.

Watson Peters has been a practising lawyer for more than 30 years.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s New Dilemma: Pakatan’s Manifesto


August 18, 2018

Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s New Dilemma: Pakatan’s Manifesto

by William Case, Nottingham University Malaysian Campus

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

Image result for pakatan harapan manifesto

Malaysia’s new Pakatan Harapan government rode to power on a pledge to clean up Malaysia’s foul politics. It was wise to focus on the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional’s transgressions: Pakatan’s appeal lay less in its own glowing imagery and manifesto than in the electorate’s widespread contempt for the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which leads the now opposition Barisan Nasional coalition.

 

Pakatan’s manifesto, while helping bring it to power, now poses a dilemma. To firm its support, Pakatan must make good on its promise to cleanse political life, pressing down hard on the reformist pedal. It must show that the arrest of former Prime Minister Najib Razak was not sordid revenge but was instead the start of a renewal. As Pakatan does this, its purges and policy changes will affect the fortunes of those who, over a half-century of operation, have grown deeply entrenched. How likely now are these forces to make trouble?

Part of the answer lies in the nature of the democratic transition that Malaysia is undergoing. Analysts will debate at length how to characterise this process. But for now, in its abrupt and mass-based dynamic, it can be treated as a case of bottom-up transition (where citizens overthrow an authoritarian regime to install democracy), even if conducted peacefully within the electoral parameters of a competitive authoritarian regime.

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In such conditions, while the once-dominant party remains stunned, the new government will grow tempted to drive swift and far-reaching reforms. Against this, the interests of the bourgeoisie and the military are ‘inviolable’ if stability is to be preserved, and hence restraint is needed. In ‘founding elections’ typically held at the end of a transition, the parties representing these the military and bourgeoisie must be ‘helped to do well’, lest the old elites regroup, reactivate their constituencies and through military force mount an ‘authoritarian backlash’.

In Malaysia, ‘founding elections’ coincided with the transition, yielding a process that some analysts are already depicting as a spontaneous ‘democratisation-by-election’. In this situation, there was hardly time on Pakatan’s part — let alone the political wisdom and will — to ponder any need to cushion the blow dealt to UMNO. Nor in the flush of victory did Pakatan contemplate restraint in its pursuit of reforms. Rather, as headlines blared that ‘heads will roll’, the new government moved to flush out UMNO’s allies.

To this end, the new Pakatan government targeted top officials in the Attorney-General’s Chamber and the courts, in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, in the civil service and diplomatic corps, and perhaps most signally, in the sinecures that encrust the boards and management of Malaysia’s hulking government-linked corporations. At the same time, the new government has struck at the mass level, at least in the civil service, by terminating thousands of contract workers who were deployed under UMNO’s old spoils system.

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UMNO’s Man from Pornogo

As UMNO endures rivalries and ruckuses in the wake of defeat, it may be regrouping. In recent internal elections, the party rejected the more reform-minded and tolerant leadership of Khairy Jamaluddin. It has instead installed a ‘right-wing’ president, Zahid Hamidi, recalling the old order with its high-level privileging and ethnoreligious prioritising.

In making full use of Malaysia’s expanded political space, UMNO is working in concert with the Islamic Party of Malaysia to stir the nativist grievances of dispossessed party elites and the anxieties of the wider Malay-Muslim community by criticising Pakatan’s new appointments. And at the same time, UMNO’s print media mouthpiece, Utusan Malaysia, is growing ever more shrill, insisting indignantly on Malay dominance while condemning what it casts as the Democratic Action Party’s ‘racist’ hold over Pakatan.

The resonance of these appeals among ordinary Malays is demonstrated by the vigorous emotive support that the fallen Najib now attracts. These supporters contribute to a legal defence fund on his behalf even as the shrink-wrapped fashion accessories and cash seized from his Kuala Lumpur properties are paraded publicly by police in order to discredit him.

This is bolstering Najib’s position. He has been welcomed back to UMNO’s delegation in the Parliament. He sits alongside Zahid in the opposition’s front rank, and on the parliamentary session’s first day he wore all black as he helped to orchestrate a walk-out. At this point, if not yet a violent authoritarian backlash, we are likely to see a groundswell of Malay-Muslim grievance to the point that Najib’s transgressions will be forgotten. Meanwhile, Najib’s expert legal team will run circles around the government’s newly instituted and untested prosecutors.

Malaysia’s new Pakatan government confronts an excruciating dilemma. To maintain support, it must rapidly undertake far-reaching reforms. But as Pakatan proceeds, old elites, with their prerogatives at risk, will reenergise nativist grievances that may cumulate in backlash. A cruel irony is unfolding. As Pakatan now checks the pace of reforms, UMNO leaders taunt it over broken campaign promises.

William Case is Professor and Head of the School of Politics, History and International Relations at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus.

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.

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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.

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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.

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


August 16, 2018

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

by Dr. Bridget Welsh@www.malaysiakini.com

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

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

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

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

Let’s start with the positive

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

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

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

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

Decentralisation of power

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legitimate criticisms

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

The Economy

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Malay votes

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

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

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

Anwar Ibrahim

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

Image result for Anwar Ibrahim and Sultan of Johor

 

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

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Rafizi’s Ambition knows no limits

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

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

 


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

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

Op Op Sato (Congratulations) to Samdech Techo Hun Sen and Cambodian Peoples Party on the resounding victory in 2018 July 29 General Election


August 15, 2018

Op Op Sato (Congratulations) to Samdech Techo Hun Sen and Cambodian Peoples Party on the resounding victory in 2018 July 29 General Election

Image result for CPP secured resounding victory in 2018 Cambodian General Election

https://www.khmertimeskh.com/522959/cpp-wins-all-national-assembly-seats/

The National Election Committee has tonight announced that the ruling CPP secured all 125 parliamentary seats in the national election last month. The voter turnout was 83.02 percent and there were 6,956,900 valid votes, with the CPP garnering 4,889,113, 77.36 percent.The three closest competitors were Funcinpec with 374,510 votes, the League for Democracy Party with 309,364 votes, and the Khmer Will Party with 212,869 votes.

After the election result was announced, the ruling CPP released a statement acknowledging its resounding victory.

“The CPP regrets that a number of foreign communities did not observe the election process … and accused the election of not being free or fair,” the statement added.

“This attitude is strongly insulting to the nearly seven million voters that casted ballots and it does not benefit the development of democracy and peace in Cambodia.”

Image result for CPP secured resounding victory in 2018 Cambodian General Election

Full story on Thursday’s paper