Ambiga on Human Rights In Malaysia

May 20, 2015

Phnom Penh

Ambiga Sreenevasan on Human Rights @ ASEAN People’s Forum


“What have we done to deserve this stifling of various freedoms by Putrajaya? (Government of Malaysia).”What a great question for us to ask ourselves and ask of this Barisan Nasional Government.

We love our country, pay our taxes faithfully (albeit, grudgingly at times), volunteer for social causes, donate to needy causes, celebrate our diverse cultures and faith, live peaceably and in harmony with our neighbours and thank God for our many blessings as Malaysians. And what do we get in return?

We get plundered, lorded over, insulted and told to migrate if not happy by our public servants. Yes, please don’t ever forget, they are our servants! The word ‘minister’ was from the Latin word for ‘servants’. Let’s get that right from the start, lest we forget who the real boss is in a democracy.

When we want to protest about how we are treated we are told (by our servants) we have to get permission. When we speak we have to worry about 3 a.m raids by Police with balaclava and sub-machine guns. We draw cartoons or make satirical videos but must not offend ‘she with the big hairdo’ or get charged with sedition. We tweet but the King of Twit (The Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar) monitors our tweets and sends his hounds after us.

Meanwhile we have delusional Ministers telling us not to worry. We have the best education and universities in the world. Our Manglish is better than our neighbour down south. Our Proton is better than BMW. We have the best democracy in the world. Yeah, best my  sweet charity. We don’t hear them boasting that we are Number 1 in corrupt business practices or that we conduct one of the worst election processes in the world.

Yet in everyday life all these self-congratulatory claims make no sense. Many of our graduates cannot get employed and when they do, they are paid RM2,000 a month or thereabouts. Our median monthly salary is RM1,500. Minimum wage is RM900, for many, before ‘deductions’.

How come after more than five decades of this government’s ‘management’ of our economy, over 4 million households and almost 3 million singles still qualify for Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M) handouts. That’s almost 23 million of our 30 million population, 76 percent.

Where has all our wealth gone ? 1Malaysia Development Berhad, Bumiputra Malaysia Finance, Port Kelang Free Zone, MAS, Perwaja, Maminco, etc? To add salt to our many financial injuries, they tax us with the Goods and Services Tax (GST) because otherwise the country would go bankrupt! Cost of living is going up but our income is stagnant because we cannot compete. We cannot compete because they have messed up our education system, or to put it another way, they have messed up our children’s future!

Food costs will go up because we are a huge net importer of food and the Ringgit is sliding south against the US dollar. Our nasi lemak and wantan noodles have already gone up if you have not realised by now. And we have another minister assuring us that with GST, prices of goods will go down, if not, cook more at home or in your dorm. Cook with what? Our rice, flour, sugar, beef, milk, fish and vegetables are mostly imported with US dollar.

Ahmad MaslanAhmad Maslan (CGPA-3.85) and his Boss

Hello? You do not need a CGPA of 3.85 to know that, it is just common sense . Pride does not feed hungry stomachs

Blessed with arable land and good weather all year round, we should be exporting food worldwide. But no, we will have none of that. Instead of growing and cultivating edible crop and livestock, we cut down our thousand-year old forests and replace them with oil palm with which we cannot fill our stomach with (unless you want a quick death) and depend on cheap foreign labour to harvest.

My beef with oil palm is that it does not enrich the workers, only the already filthy rich tycoons. Maybe some of us are proud of our billionaires making it into Forbes’ top billionaires list but pride does not feed hungry stomachs.

To compete with other producers globally we use cheap foreign labour not only for our plantations but also for our factories. Paying them minimum wages, we suppress our own Malaysian workers and we do not bother with increasing productivity and investing in innovation so that we can earn higher income, so that more of us can “afford” to pay income tax and not ‘qualify’ for BR1M.

When our ministers boast of the millions qualifying for BR1M, it’s like saying, “Hooray! Look at the huge number of poor people we have to help.” How retarded can we get?

So again, we ask ourselves, what have we done to deserve this? Actually, come to think of it, we have brought this upon ourselves. We have faithfully voted in this same government all these past 13 general elections, in 10 of which we gave them two-third majorities to amend our federal constitution over 700 times. Malaysia Boleh (Malaysia Can).

Yes, perhaps we got the government we deserve. But better late than never as they say. As Malaysians we deserve better, much better. The next time we cast our votes, we should vote for a better future, remembering what a lousy management we have had for the past five decades. We should vote to take back our power to sack non-performing public servants and install competent, honest and selfless servants.

Malaysian Bar Council initiates Campaign to Repeal POTA

May 17, 2015

From Democracy to Dictatorship: At what stage is Malaysia?

In 1887 Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at  University of Edinburgh  had this to say about the fall history-of-democracy-stephen-stockwellof the Athenian Republic some 2,000 years prior:

“A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse over loose fiscal policy, (which is) always followed by a dictatorship.”

“The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

From bondage to spiritual faith;
From spiritual faith to great courage;
From courage to liberty;
From liberty to abundance;
From abundance to complacency;
From complacency to apathy;
From apathy to dependence;
From dependence back into bondage.”

Thank you, Commander (rtd) Thaya Param for sending this to me. Let  our intelligent, clear sighted and articulate readers and commenters decide at what stage Malaysia is in, given the introduction of draconian laws like the Prevention of Terrorism Act,  the Sedition Act and Official Secrets Act, a subdued and muzzled media and subjugated Judiciary, a rubber stamp Parliament, rampant corruption, religious bigotry and racist politics with toxic institutions like the Police, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and Attorney-General’s Office, and  an incompetent civil service.

Worst of all, we have a mismanaged economy by a dishonest, lying, corrupt  and weak political leadership aided and abetted by fawning and self serving politicians of all stripes and colours. Is Malaysia still a democracy? –Din Merican in Phnom Penh.

Malaysian Bar Council initiates Campaign to Repeal POTA

by James

Regressive, unnecessary and open for abuse, like the old Internal Security Act, makes judges into rubber stamps’.

Zunar in POTAThe Bar Council began a national campaign today (May 16) to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), currently awaiting royal assent, calling it “regressive, unnecessary, as well open to abuse” much like the now-repealed Internal Security Act.

Bar Council President, Steven Thiru said the law reduced the judiciary into being a mere rubber stamp or, worse, completely bypasses it. Misuse of the ISA had scarred the country for many years, he said.

Speaking at a forum to begin the repeal campaign, Thiru said the ISA, the terrorism act and recent amendments to the Sedition Act were abhorrent to the rule of law and made major encroachments on and eroded the independence of the Judiciary.

Steven ThiruHe said Malaysia had spoken in favour of a United Nations resolution which called for recognition of human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law as being complementary and mutually reinforcing with effective counter-terrorism measures. However, Malaysia had failed to its obligation to stand its pledge and had taken a short cut by legislating the Prevention of Terrorism Act without learning from the experiences of other nations on the forefront on global counter-terrorism.

“When you take short-cuts on rule of law, when you breach your obligations under the law, you do not make advances in the fight against terrorism. Indeed, you radicalise more people into terrorism. You make it worse,” Thiru said.

He acknowledged that counter-terrorism was a complex issue with no right answer, but felt judicial scrutiny and pota1oversight were crucial in order for far-reaching laws such as POTA not to be abused.

The law contained broad language and definition, and an ambiguous reach, Thiru said, open to be used on everyone and anyone; ministerial assurances that it would not be abused were simply not sufficient.

“Good men come and go. The law remains. It is the law that has to be clear. Having good men to look at the law is a bonus”.

Thiru said the Bar council is obliged to stand up for the independence of the Jjudiciary, in being placed between the might of the Executive and the common man on the street. “If the Bar is relegated, or the hands of the Bar tied in representation, then the men and women on the street are left without protection,” he said.

New Political Party in Malaysia–Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia (Ikatan)

May 15, 2015

Phnom Penh by The Mekong

Tan Sri Kadir,

I am sorry that I am unable to be with you and your friends at the launch of Ikatan. It is interesting to note Din MericanYthat 76 you still have enough energy and determination to be in the rough and tumble of Malaysian politics. It will be tough to make a comeback given the fact you have been associated with UMNO Baru, a corrupt and racist party over many years and have served both Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Your immediate challenge to convince voters that your party is in for the long haul, not a flash in the pan; that you have the sustaining power in terms of finance and organization;  and a team of outstanding and highly motivated leaders, political strategists, and operatives to carry your message throughout the length and breadth of our expansive country. I  think you now must explain fully why this change of heart and the need to return to politics.

You have made all the encouraging remarks at the launch, giving hope to Malaysians who are desperate for change. I wish you and your team, backers and supporters all the best. As an old friend and fellow Kedahan, you have my good wishes for your continued good health. Your second chance has come but please be sure that you remain true to your cause and not succumb to the temptations of power.--Din Merican

New Political Party in Malaysia–Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia (Ikatan)

Former Information Minister Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir today launched a new political party named Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia (Ikatan) which he claims to be ‘pro-rakyat’.

“After struggling so hard for more than two years and with the help of a court order, Ikatan is finally registered,” Kadir said in his speech to some 300 people in attendance at the launching ceremony in Seri Kembangan.Kadir said his party was neither pro-BN nor pro-opposition and was instead closely aligned with the spirit of the country’s founding fathers and the aspirations of the country’s future generations. He also explained that the party’s focus would not be on the next general election, which is due in 2018.

“Hence, we are free to push our position on the various issues facing the country that would bring maximum benefit to the rakyat, the country and to our future generations. We need not be ‘populist’,” Kadir added.

‘We will be more issue-based’

Asked at a press conference held after the launch, Kadir said Ikatan would make a stand (on whether to contest in the next general election or not) when the time comes. As to whether the party planned to work together with other political parties, Kadir reiterated that the party is not placing its focus on the next general election.

“We are more concerned about various issues in the country. As such, we will be more issue-based.If we are on the same wavelength with Pakatan on certain issues, then we are with them. It’s the same if the government has good policies. What is good for the rakyat, we will give our support,” he said.

He also expressed confidence that many out there actually supported the party. “Many want to support us, but they are probably scared that they will not get contracts. “Many out there support us. But I prefer new faces. Although they are new, they know what’s happening in the country,” he said, adding that the party will be guided by the values of the country’s founding fathers.

Pointing out how the current spirit has veered far from the spirit then, issues such as corruption and power abuse are rampant today, he said.

“Back then, all these things did not happen. Our leaders knew that they cannot touch the rakyat’s money,” Kadir said, adding that the rakyat were initially successful due to the strong foundations set by the founding fathers.

Nevertheless, as based on 6,000 years of human history, Kadir said bad habits would set in for any government that remains in power for more than 30 years, continuously. “The present government in our country has been in power continiously for more than 57 years. It is not surprising that decadence and corrupt practices have set in.

“Corrupt practices are committed on a huge scale, without any feeling or consideration for the ordinary rakyat,” he said. Kadir also expressed confidence that without corruption, Malaysia would have long become a high income and developed country.

‘Close one eye, or else…’

“When you are already corrupt, it comes naturally to abuse power, which leads to wastage. If the political leadership is like that, when those under you want to steal a little, you close one eye. Because if you don’t, then your secret will be out. So it’s just like ‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine’,” he said.

Stressing that he was speaking on behalf of the souls of those who have passed on, Kadir added that he believes they were all “crying in their graves” as they  looked at the country’s current state. He also denied that he had launched the party because he was “ambitious”.

“I have been a minister, I even had to pujuk Pak Lah (former prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, right) for nine months for him to let me resign.I deserve to have a good life, but I can’t sleep soundly thinking about our founding fathers,” he said.

Asked on whether the party supported former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad or Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak in the tiff between the two, Kadir said his party would wait for investigations that are currently under way. “If the Prime Minister is wrong, then he is wrong and he will be punished. If he is not wrong, then what can we do? We just want investigations on 1MDB to be expedited. If he is not wrong, we won’t say he is in the wrong because that would be opportunistic politics,” he said.

Asked to comment on Najib’s leadership, Kadir said he preferred not to be “personal”. “We will not be personal in fighting for issues,” he said.

Meanwhile, the 76-year-old said they were determined to be a “massed-based” party with divisions and branches throughout the country.

“On Malaysia Day (Septeber 16), we hope to introduce to the rakyat the whole national leadership of Ikatan from all over the country. The recruitment drive for members starts today and those interested can register online,” he said.

Apart from Kadir’s speech and the press conference today, the launch saw party members leading the audience in reciting the “Rukun Negara”. The “Amanat Merdeka” of the country’s first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, was also read by his grandson, Tunku Muinuddin Putra, who is also Ikatan’s Vice-President.

Criminalizing Malaysia’s Opposition

May 13, 2015

Phnom Penh by The Mekong

The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributor

Criminalizing Malaysia’s Opposition

by Nurul izzah Anwar, Member of Parliament

World leaders need to tell Mr. Najib and his cronies that trade and economic considerations, including the much talked about Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, will not be placed above civil and political rights. It’s time for Malaysia’s friends around the world to stop giving our leaders a pass on sharply declining human rights and the rule of law.–Nurul izzah Anwar

Nurul IzzahKUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Last Thursday, my mother was elected the new member of Malaysia’s Parliament from Permatang Pauh, a seat that was wrested away from the opposition through the politically motivated conviction of my father, Anwar Ibrahim, a former Deputy Prime Minister and the country’s Opposition Leader. In February, the highest court in Malaysia sent him to prison for five years on trumped up charges of sodomy. He is serving his third prison sentence since 1999.

In March, I delivered a speech in Parliament focused on good governance and judicial reform on behalf of my father. The reading was deemed seditious by the government, and I was arrested and locked up overnight.

The Sedition Act, which criminalizes speech uttered “to excite disaffection” against the government, is one of this administration’s favorite cudgels. Its definition is so broad that it gives the government sweeping powers to arrest and lock up critics under the guise of punishing “sedition” or in the ostensible pursuit of maintaining public order.

In the last two years, it has been used successfully to harass or prosecute scores of people, mostly government officials, including several members of Parliament. The cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, better known as Zunar, was hit with nine charges under the Sedition Act — mostly based on tweets allegedly attacking the Judiciary over the verdict against my father. His artwork and cartoons were confiscated, and he is now out on bail.

In addition to harassing me and persecuting my father, the state has applied constant pressure on my mother, a state assemblywoman, in hopes that she will wilt both physically and psychologically. The Police have also hinted of their plans to interrogate my younger sister, Nurul Nuha, who is leading March 2 Freedom, a coalition to free my father.

We are running out of family members for officials to arrest on bogus charges. What’s most alarming is that the government’s actions are part of a much larger pattern of threats to the rule of law and human rights. In recent months, every week or so brings news of the politically motivated detention of a government critic. I am out on bail now, but my arrest is intended to silence me and to warn other would-be government critics.

The United Malays National Organization, known as UMNO, and its allies have been in power since independence in 1957. The tempo of state repression quickened two years ago after the 2013 parliamentary elections when the opposition won 51 percent of votes cast, versus 47 percent for the government.

Through gerrymandering and the creation of uneven electoral districts, the ruling coalition clung to power by holding on to 60 percent of the seats. The Electoral Integrity Project, an international organization, recently rated Malaysia as having the worst electoral-district boundaries in the world and among the worst election rules. This places Malaysia alongside countries like Zimbabwe, Angola and Egypt.

The opposition’s showing at the polls two years ago was a political near-death experience for Prime Minister Najib Razak and the ruling party. It was answered with investigations, arrests and imprisonment.

Meanwhile, UMNO, whose main constituency has historically been the ethnic Malay Muslim majority, with help from its pliant coalition partners, has cynically raised the mercury on issues related to race, religion and the Malaysian royal family, so as to keep the mult-ethnic opposition coalition on the defensive.

Religious freedom in a country with sizable Christian, Buddhist and Hindu minorities is now endangered as public figures vying for popular support among Muslims have supported the persecution of religious minorities. Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, have been a prime target.

Last month, for example, in one high-profile incident, demonstrators in Petaling Jaya demanded that Christians remove a cross from the exterior of their church — and the cross was removed. And in 2013, Ibrahim Ali, a leader of Perkasa, a Malay supremacist organization, allegedly publicly endorsed the burning of Bibles.

Instead of focusing on dissenters, government officials should be doing their jobs. For one thing, Malaysia’s economy needs revamping. A sizable portion of the working population in a young country of 30 million citizens still remains eligible for welfare cash handouts. We are too reliant on natural resources. The gap between the rich and poor has been growing and is now among the widest in the region. Our education system remains weak and incoherently structured, creating an unemployable class with poor career prospects.

The Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition that my party is a part of aims to focus on structural reforms in key economic policies with the goal of creating a clean and more effective government. Reducing inequality and the cost of living, providing affordable housing, good governance and a serious fight against corruption are our priorities.

Malaysia’s answer to extremism has been economic opportunity. Now that this deal is faltering, and now that the borders are porous — more than 1,000 refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh landed on our shores on Monday — there is a risk that extremism could find a home here.

It’s encouraging that Mahathir Mohamad, the country’s former long-time Prime Minister, has recently become Prime Minister Najib’s fiercest critic, attacking him as corrupt and incompetent.

But we need louder voices to condemn what’s happening here. World leaders need to tell Mr. Najib and his cronies that trade and economic considerations, including the much talked about Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, will not be placed above civil and political rights. It’s time for Malaysia’s friends around the world to stop giving our leaders a pass on sharply declining human rights and the rule of law.

Paul Low: Race-based Politics is Unavoidable

May 12, 2015

Phnom Penh by The Mekong

MInister Paul Low is right in pointing out that race-based politics is unavoidable in Malaysia. That is the first decent and realistic comment he made since he assumed his ministerial post in Najib’s Cabinet. But apart from saying that “the people” want it and Malaysian politicians are driven by “political survival”, he did not say why this was so. If  politics is not about serving the people, then what is it?

Hudud2For Survival, Najib plays Race and Religion Card

It is going to take time, that is true. There is caveat to this. Malaysian politics will not change unless we start  doing away with raced-based political parties like UMNO, MCA, MIC and  the Islam based PAS.  That is ideal but UMNO does  not  want to be seen to be “abandoning the Malays and Islam”. Remember Dato Onn Jaafar tried it. When he could not, he resigned to set up Party Negara, which did not take off because this great Malaysian was too ahead of his time.

UMNO is still a major player  today. It is backed by racist NGOs like PERKASA and ISMA and others. That is why under pressure from Malay nationalists and pressure groups UMNO has been playing with race and religion to galvanize Malay support, especially in the rural heartland.

UMNO President Najib Razak is not a reformer of the Onn Jaafar mold. He will not do anything that will sacrifice UMNO and  run the risk of being remembered in history as the UMNO leader who abandoned the Malay cause. Maybe he is concerned about his political survival.  But if he continues with mismanaging the economy which is burdening the Malays in particular, he will find that he will lose the support of his party and his UMNO presidency. He will  be humiliated and his premiership  will end as well.

Najib with MCA LeadersMCA Leaders with the Boss

Both the MCA and MIC are losing support of the respective communities. The reason for this clear. They are seen to be lackeys of UMNO. To survive they must reform. That is not possible in the immediate future. The current leaders are perceived to have benefited from UMNO largesse, being content to play a subordinate role to UMNO warlords. Both MCA and MIC must too deal with internal problems. Looking ahead to the next few years as GE-14 approaches, they  could face rejection from Chinese, Indian and other voters.

Pakatan Rakyat did well in 2008 when they fired the imagination of Malaysian voters. In 2013, they received more than 50 percent of the popular vote. We thought we were heading towards a two coalition party system in our country. That prospect grows dim by the day.

Following the Khalid Ibrahim saga and the incarceration of Anwar Ibrahim, we witnessed the political game played by PAS President Ustaz Hadi Awang, who resurfaced as the champion of Hudud Law. His erratic and flip-flopping conduct has put Pakatan Rakyat in a quandary as UMNO seeks to entice PAS away from the opposition coalition by the playing the Islam and Malay unity card. PAS has reached a turning point in its history with a clash between the conservative hardline Ulama faction and the Erodogan moderate group very much in the works. There is now a strong likelihood that should the Ulamas win the contest, the Erodogans may form a new party, PASMA.

Anwar’s party, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) has problems of its own. Who will succeed Wan Azizah as President. It is going to be clash between a young and ambitious group led by party led Secretary-General Rafizi Ramli and Nurul Izzah and others who want to keep  the recently elected Permatang Puah Member as party president for as long as they, and the supporters of Azmin Ali, the  dyanmic incumbent Menteri Besar of Selangor;  the Azmin faction wants to see a change in party leadership so that the party can be a strong coalition partner again.

The DAP, on the hand, has no serious issues within its ranks. Party elders are gradually  paving the way for a new generations of very qualified and professional leaders like  Teresa Koh, Tony Pua, Liew Chin Tong, Ong Kian Ming, Anthony Loke, Gobin Singh Deo,  Zairil Khir Johari, Dr. Ariffin Omar, Kula Segaran, just to name a few.  The party is not short on talent. But it must recruit more non-Chinese members to eliminate the stigma of being perceived as a chauvinistic party.

Sanjung-keris-Datuk-Seri-Hishammuddin-Hussein2Malay Supremacy

As far as politics is concerned, Malaysia is into exciting yet uncertain times. The ruling UMNO- Barisan Nasional regime is under threat. Its leader is fighting for his political future. One should not be surprised, in his struggle to survive, he will take his case to the Malay rural heartland, where he can be expected to play the race and religion card. Minister Paul Low is right. We should not expect politics of race and religion  to go away anytime soon.  But that does not mean we must not strive towards an issues-based politics–Din Merican

Paul Low: Race-based Politics is Unavoidable

By Elizabeth  Zachariah @

Race-based politics is unavoidable because politicians rely on it to ensure their survival, a minister said, despite research showing that such voters are increasingly against such politics.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Paul Low said that politicians had to satisfy the wants of the people in rural areas who still voted based on race.

“The last election had shown that race and religion in the rural areas were key factors behind the support for the government in power today,” he said at a forum, The Great Debate: Everything in Moderation, held in Kuala Lumpur last night.

“Suppose politicians say they want to change now, then the question they will ask is, ‘will I receive votes from the people in the rural areas if I change?’ So to politicians, it is a risk. Why should they take a risk?”

His comments caused the moderator, Sharaad Kuttan from BFM, to interject and ask Low if there was no political will to do away with race-based politics.Low replied: “No, it is political survival.”

Another speaker at the forum, writer Niki Cheong quipped that he was “depressed” with Low’s contention.”So the reason why we’re not moderate is because politicians want to win the elections and therefore they tell these people that they have to think along racial lines as this is the only way they can survive.If these people are the ones leading our country, then sorry, I’m depressed,” Cheong said, to laughter from the crowd.

PKR Youth chief Nik Nazmi says the popular vote won by Pakatan Rakyat in the last general election proves that race-based politics is not necessary anymore in Malaysia. .PKR Youth chief Nik Nazmi says the popular vote won by Pakatan Rakyat in the last general election proves that race-based politics is not necessary anymore in Malaysia.  Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad who pointed out that 52% of voters who voted for Pakatan Rakyat in the 13th general election had in fact rejected race-based politics.”So there is a possibility to eliminate race-based politics if there is political will,” he added.

Speaking to reporters after the forum, Low said that there were still many who subscribed to race-based politics and who vote based on that. “The parties are still based on race because there are people who support such parties,” he said.

“People are still ingrained with that mentality. This is why politicians are still catering to it. In the end, it is for their political survival.”

In March, a survey carried out by independent pollster Merdeka Center found that Malaysian voters overwhelmingly want political parties which take care of all Malaysians, rather than ones that fight for just their own race and religion.

The survey, commissioned by The Malaysian Insider, found that the racial rhetoric these parties thrive on was not consistent with what Malaysians want. The major component parties of the ruling Barisan Nasional government – UMNO, MIC and MCA – rely heavily on race-based politics to drum up support.

Low, the minister in charge of governance, integrity and human rights, also claimed that Malaysia needed more time to tackle race and religion issues despite almost 58 years of independence. “We are still a young nation. 53 years (sic) is not enough for a transition period. We are a very young country.

“The United States took some 300 years to tackle racial issues. So 53 years is not enough,” he added. – May 12, 2015.

Cornered Prime Minister Najib comes out fighting

May 11, 2015

Phnom Penh by The Mekong

Cornered Prime Minister Najib comes out fighting

by Terence

COMMENT:  After months of parrying broadsides aimed at him by Tun Dr Mahathir Bin Mohamad, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak yesterday came out counter punching at his tormenter-in-chief. It was a clear sign of the Prime Minister’s desperation at finding the ground shift from under his feet, requiring a switch from defence to offence in the battle to stay alive politically.

Mahathir-Vs-NajibWeeks of carefully choreographed support from UMNO divisions, BN components and cabinet ministers is beginning to fray at the edges and even at the centre, what with top-tier UMNO leaders starting to voice misgivings about the shenanigans in 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and its cascade of ill-effects on other bodies, amid public unease over the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Former Finance Minister and Najib critic Daim Zainuddin’s (photo) surmise that the array of support for Najib is more form than substance is turning out to be prescient.

Pegged against the ropes, Najib has had to come out fighting, an uncharacteristic reaction given the tenor of his leadership that has inverted the manual on the art – that it is possible to lead from the rear than from the front.

Najib chose Sabah as the venue for the delivery of a direct counterattack not only because Sabah Umno and the state’s BN, despite the quavers of a few, have been steadfast in support of him throughout his current travails, but also because the state has been a bugbear to Mahathir during his 22 years as PM.

Sabah’s unwieldiness continued to dog Mahathir long after he left prime ministerial office in 2003. The festering problem of ‘illegals’ in the state had escalated to warrant the setting up of a Royal Commission (RCI) whose inquiry traced blurry lines of responsibility for the problem up to the federal Home Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

Mahathir was the occupant of both offices when the problem began to metastasise in the 1990s. Its eventual report, whose release was delayed, did not finger Mahathir directly and chose to gloss the issue of who was responsible in an attempt to avoid blame-fixing.

Mahathir had denied all responsibility for creating the Sabah ‘illegals’ problem, but his disavowal has been less plausible than, say, Anwar Ibrahim’s denial that he is a sodomite.

Ironically, the latter sits languishing in jail for the commission of a sexual crime while the former, susceptible to a charge even more grave in the moral calculus of wrongs, plots to cut the ground from under the feet of a second PM to have sauntered into his cross-hairs.

A ‘Waterloo’ for Mahathir?

That Sabah has been a ‘Waterloo’ of sorts for Mahathir has been true since the late 1980s when Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan was recalcitrant to Mahathir’s behests, and extending to the mid-1990s when a stampede of support from the state’s UMNO divisions for Anwar’s quest of the Deputy Presidency rattled Mahathir into retreating from an initial endorsement of incumbent Ghafar Baba.

Also, in yesterday’s campaign swing through Sabah, Najib chose to bring up a crucial chapter in UMNO’s history – its internal elections of 1987 – and used it to inveigh against Mahathir’s alleged ingratitude.

A few weeks ago, Mahathir got the gratitude stakes going by reminding Najib that he had written a letter to his predecessor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, urgng him to choose Najib as his Deputy when Abdullah dithered over a choice he had wanted an UMNO elective assembly to make rather than make it himself.

Mahathir forced Abdullah’s hand in January 2004; this was to prove costly to Abdullah because the disregarded contender, Muhyiddin Yassin, helped end Abdullah’s Mahathir-pressured retirement in early 2009.  Now it is the turn of Najib to remind Mahathir of what he did for him in the crucial 1987 UMNO polls: an eleventh-hour switch of support by Najib to Mahathir in that election saw the incumbent ghost past challenger Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah to retain the party presidency by a whisker. Both Mahathir and Najib are now simply saying to each other, “I’m owed big time.”

Mahathir’s debt to Najib is the weightier because his then six-year premiership received a 16-year extension; it could have been unceremoniously ended in April 1987.

By contrast, Najib still stood a good chance of being Deputy Prime Minister even without Mahathir’s letter of support – his chances of beating Muhyiddin in a contest for the Deputy Presidency were better than even – if Abdullah were allowed to leave the choice, as he preferred, to UMNO’s elective assembly of 2004.

Najib chose to side with Mahathir in 1987 not from principle but out of  naked self-interest: a vacating Anwar handed Deputy Najib the UMNO Youth presidency on a silver platter in return for Najib’s support for Mahathir.

In the 1987 UMNO polls, Najib was ideologically closer to challenger Razaleigh’s Team B than to incumbent Mahathir’s Team A.

Trying to find ‘principle’ in the now periodic UMNO wars of replacement and succession is akin to searching for a needle in a haystack.

The politics surrounding these wars confirm the truth of Ambrose Bierce’s definition of politics: “The strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.”