Malaysia: Dr.Meredith Weiss on GE-14


July 7, 2018

Malaysia:  Dr.Meredith Weiss on GE-14

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On May 9, 2018, Malaysians threw the bums out, voting decisively against the Barisan Nasional (National Front, BN), the coalition of broadly right-wing and center parties that had governed Malaysia since independence in 1957. The election poses the question: has Malaysia bucked a global anti-democratic trend?

The conventional wisdom is that a feisty, beleaguered opposition coalition made up of a somewhat motley mix of leftist catch-all, progressive Islamist, and communal parties bested the behemoth BN by force of ideals, pluck, and the charisma of a former “dictator,” as the new prime minister now delights in branding himself. The BN’s decrepitude, born of too many years of untrammeled authority and political inbreeding in a cronyistic, dynastic order, cleared the way for new leaders. All the while, rising costs of living, increasingly stark economic inequality, and spreading awareness that the state- and party-controlled mainstream media were not telling the whole story had left the mass of voters hungry for change.

The Malaysian narrative is one of voters reflecting critically on a well-lubricated patronage machine and rejecting it, at least in part, out of aspirations for democracy, justice, and good governance. But like any good story, this one has a more complex plot line than that, peppered with stratagems, reversals, and ironic turns. What too-pat narratives obscure is the wider context and what we might expect — and voters might seek — to change or maintain.

The Scene As It Stands

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At the helm now, thanks to a weird twist of fates and strategy, is one-time Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, one of the world’s longest-serving heads of government — and also now among the oldest, as he approaches his ninety-third birthday. Although he did voluntarily step down in 2003, after twenty-two years in office, Mahathir has continued to yank at the strings of state since then, and had become increasingly apoplectic at incumbent Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s running the party and government, per Mahathir’s reading, into the ground through rent-seeking verging on plunder.

To hear breathless popular accounts of the “Mahathir factor,” one might assume ethnic Malays — who, together with smaller indigenous groups, collectively termed Bumiputera, comprise slightly more than two-thirds of the population — to be blindly feudalistic, swiveling to heed the call of their once and future master. (Just under one-quarter of Malaysians are of Chinese ethnicity and about 7 percent, Indian.) Mahathir does have his devotees, but to some extent, this common narrative reflects media sensationalism more than reality. Frustration with rank corruption, inequality, and poor governance galvanized many or most opposition supporters, independently of the icon propounding those messages. Nevertheless, Mahathir’s savvy articulation of his coalition’s objectives and BN pathologies, as well as his charisma, helped to tip the scales.

Initially organized as the three-party Alliance, the BN structures itself largely along communal lines. Its core parties represent ethnic Malay, Chinese, and Indian Malaysians, respectively. First among nominal equals — and increasingly dominant over the years — is the United Malays National Organisation, UMNO, Mahathir’s home since its founding in 1946 until he left and launched Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Malaysian United Indigenous Party, PPBM) in 2016.

Essentially ideology-free otherwise by this point, the BN claims support for having delivered development, with something for (almost) everyone. Opposition parties tend to cluster largely in an Islamist camp dominated by the Parti Islam seMalaysia (Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, PAS), or else along class lines, from a Socialist Front defunct by the early 1970s; to the social-democratic Democratic Action Party (DAP), rump successor to the People’s Action Party after Singapore’s short-lived merger with Malaysia in the mid-1960s; to the small but embedded Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM).

To take on the BN required merging these camps. First-past-the-post voting rules, coupled with heavy-handed gerrymandering and constituency malapportionment, often make three-cornered fights difficult for the opposition; pre-election coalitions are a must. That imperative is at the heart of any assessment of how far Malaysian political alternatives have come and where they may be going: Malaysia’s sociopolitical landscape makes for quirky pairings.

Coalitions require glorification of the least common denominator. Starting in the late 1990s, that galvanizing, offensive-to-few message came to be “justice,” centered initially around sacked, then imprisoned former UMNO deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim and his purpose-built Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR, People’s Justice Party). Now, in the wake of one of the world’s largest money-laundering and graft sagas, that of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) sovereign-wealth fund, the message centers around an obvious anti-corruption theme.

The coalition had maintained a non-communal premise since an initial foray as the Barisan Alternatif (Alternative Front) in 1999. Now it includes a Malay-communal party: Mahathir’s PPBM, made up mostly of his fellow exiles from UMNO. Having made incremental, inconsistent headway in cementing cooperation and securing seats since the late 1990s, the opposition coalition — reconstituted first as Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Pact), then as Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) — gained control of several states, and now the federal government.

In the last election, in 2013, Pakatan Rakyat won a slim majority of the popular vote but fell short of winning the federal government. This time, Pakatan Harapan won the government with just shy of a popular-vote majority, given divided support for the BN and the no-longer-in-Pakatan PAS, which remains independently potent in Malaysia’s northeast.

The BN is left in shambles, its remains eroding further by the week. Pakatan Harapan is up and running, but it is not entirely clear yet how far or how fast.

Pakatan Harapan will surely make positive, progressive changes to what has become an ossified, decreasingly legitimate, increasingly illiberal system. Already they have begun investigating ousted prime minister Najib Razak and wife Rosmah Mansor — whose penchant for exorbitantly priced handbags rivals Imelda Marcos’s yen for shoes — and the 1MDB saga, the convoluted, seedy story of how Najib and various others misappropriated an estimated several billion dollars from a state investment fund launched in 2009.

More than that, the new government has spoken plausibly of plans, once parliament convenes in July, to revise or revoke controls on media, association, and speech; to release the political reins on schools and universities; to implement open tender and stronger oversight on government contracts; and more. Heads of statutory boards are starting to roll, and bloated or needless government agencies are coming under scrutiny.

Most cabinet appointments, finalized only in mid June, reflect real expertise rather than political concessions, as under the BN model. The coalition itself is far more equally balanced among its component parties than the BN ever has been — and that those parties do differ in meaningful ways, in their goals or membership, ensures a wider range of alternatives may reach the policy table.

Already the results have reset the stage for states’ rights, too. Leaders of awkwardly incorporated, underdeveloped Sabah and Sarawak, states on the island of Borneo, hundreds of miles across the South China Sea from the peninsular mainland, have broken with the federal BN — not just eviscerating their former coalition, but staking a firm claim to fairer status and reward in the federation.

If Malaysia is to emerge from its increasingly authoritarian past, having this new government emplaced is a good thing. Yet of course, it will not change all things, and it may achieve far less than years of opposition manifestos have pledged in terms of ushering in a more equitable, consultative order.

Two lenses are especially germane in understanding the capacity and limits of reform, given this mix of old and new: economic policy, including the extent of communalism (as codified especially in far-reaching race-based preferential policies); and the tension between a highly personalized (however party-centered) and more issues-based or ideological politics.

Where Paths Lead

First, economics. Survey after survey suggests the key issue for Malaysians, election after election, is the economy, and particularly rising costs of living. However, a thick tangle of affirmative-action policies to favor Bumiputera, dating to British colonial times but strengthened under the 1970s New Economic Policy (NEP) and a series of successor plans, tempers what it means to prioritize household economics.

The UMNO-led BN has held pro-Malay policies to be sacrosanct. Revising the criteria for qualification to be need-based rather than race-based would not dramatically shift the beneficiaries; race and class substantially align, particularly since the benefits of preference have flowed disproportionately to already-wealthy “UMNOputera,” the well-connected ruling-party elite. A better lens on economic voting in Malaysia considers not just financial standing, confidence, and progress since the last election, but which party voters trust to manage the economy.

Here we see an ethnic divide, with Malay voters typically disproportionately trusting UMNO, whatever they think of the party otherwise. The most plausible explanation is that these voters believe the best way to ensure their economic wellbeing is by maintaining preferential policies, on which opposition parties, but never UMNO, have equivocated.

The Malaysian constitution grants Bumiputera special stature in the polity; accumulated norms (backed by potent sedition legislation) translate that standing to irrefutable political dominance and economic privilege. At no time has Pakatan seriously challenged Malay primacy, but they have promised a less communally structured economy.

Pakatan’s embrace of the communally focused PPBM shifts the key. Critical to the coalition’s gains this time, especially in winning over Malay voters, appears to have been the reassurance Mahathir — whose early writings inspired and informed the NEP — and his party offered, that Pakatan would uphold pro-Malay policies. Now in office, the coalition has limited room for maneuver, especially with their main opposition still Malay-based (in UMNO as well as PAS) and only a slim parliamentary majority.

Importantly, since taking office, Mahathir and his government have insisted on their determination to maintain an even keel: to push back against some mega-investment from China, perhaps, and to cancel at least one particularly costly boondoggle — a high-speed rail line between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore — but to keep investors confident.

Mahathir is Malaysia’s original mega project mastermind: the “national car” intended to galvanize industrialization in the 1980s (Proton, short for Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional, or National Automobile Company, 49.9 percent owned by China’s Geely Holdings as of last year), the Petronas twin towers, an extravagant new capital at Putrajaya: glamorous, expensive grand gestures intended to signal Malaysia’s developmental success. His newly appointed finance minister, the DAP’s Lim Guan Eng, previously the chief minister of prosperous, opposition-held Penang state, likewise caught flak there for his coziness with developers and embrace of ambitiously grand infrastructure and real-estate projects.

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Mahathir’s Council of Eminent Persons (L-R): Robert Kuok, Zeti Aziz, Hassan Marican, Dr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram and CEP Chair Person Tun Daim Zainuddin

An appointed Council of Eminent Persons, named after the elections to advise on economic policy, includes the renowned, respected, and progressive economist Jomo Kwame Sundaram, but also billionaire tycoon Robert Kuok and Mahathir’s erstwhile UMNO bagman Daim Zainuddin — so their advice could pull in any of several directions. (Already, members have come under fire for meddling beyond their mandate.)

These economic impulses and incentives taken in sum, we should assume an at least somewhat more transparent, less cronyistic system, but still with a heavy emphasis on foreign investment–led, large-scale developments (with requirements intact to ensure Malay contractors’ protected share in the bounty), faith in the blessings of neoliberalism, and politically fruitful (commonly dubbed “populist”) wealth-sharing to amplify otherwise-tepid trickle-down effects.

More broadly, both coalitions are neoliberal at their core. Both offered a host of makeshift measures to reduce the pinch of rapid, top-heavy development, ranging from targeted cash-transfer and voucher schemes (for children, students, seniors, newlyweds, the bereaved, housewives, entrepreneurs, and the poor), to subsidized utilities, to reduced road tolls. But neither suggested any fundamental branching from that economic path beyond, for instance, expanded educational opportunities to prepare Malaysians better to embrace the modern economy.

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Indeed, Pakatan essentially shut out the anti-capitalist Parti Sosialis: in allocating seats, the coalition offered the socialist party a meager one constituency in which to contest (in which PSM was the incumbent). When PSM insisted on standing in others, Pakatan revoked even that paltry offer and competed against PSM’s Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj, defeating him. (In pushing on to prove their point, both sides took the very real chance of splitting the vote and delivering the seat to the BN.)

Second, like the government it replaces, Pakatan is highly leader-centered, to the point of obscuring an emphasis on issues or ideology. Its commitment to term limits is a definite improvement (while Mahathir’s old age offers reassurance of his own commitment not to outstay his welcome; the plan is to hand the reins to Anwar within about two years). Yet Malaysian politics has been and remains deeply clientelistic across parties, despite  significant overseas and internal rural–urban labor migration, economic diversification, and sufficient state capacity that party machines should be off the hook for welfare services. A “personal vote” matters even when parties are at their most pulled-together — and even those candidates able to coast on their party’s coattails prioritize “going to the ground” for grassroots constituency service and mingling among the masses.

However much media and pundits exaggerate the extent of his personal responsibility for Pakatan’s win, Mahathir did help to tip the scales, and it remains to be seen what Mahathir the man represents vis-à-vis a reform agenda. More to the point, that the best Pakatan could do in terms of a broadly palatable leader — realizing the imperative in Malaysia of a leader to lead the charge, no matter how deeply unpopular their rival — was the long-retired Mahathir, architect of the system now in place and whom so many within PH once reviled as a despot, could bode poorly for its sustainability and depth of support.

On the other hand, Pakatan has a clear advantage on this score — though less in Mahathir’s PPBM than in its partner parties. Spurred not least by predations during Mahathir’s previous longue durée, Malaysia has developed a vibrant civil society, encompassing not only largely urban, middle class–based advocacy NGOs, but also mass-based Islamist organizations, deeply embedded communal and cultural associations, and more. Many of these groups, from Chinese educationists to Muslim dakwah activists to human-rights campaigners, have a clear political, and often partisan, orientation. That rootedness in civil society gives Pakatan not only a loyal base of volunteers for get-out-the-vote and other efforts, but also reinforces its orientation around issues of better governance, social justice, and civil liberties.

That said, Pakatan’s record of governing at the state level revealed greater ambivalence than many activists had expected about their collaborating with advocacy NGOs in particular. Even many Pakatan legislators who cut their political teeth in those same NGOs came to consider their one-time colleagues too single-issue-oriented or impatient for improbably sweeping change and found the constant pressure irksome.

Promises of reserved seats for civil society activists in appointed local councils, for instance — as a stopgap remedy until Pakatan could restore local-government elections, halted since the 1960s — withered in Pakatan-held Penang and Selangor over the past decade. (Pakatan’s national manifesto does not promise restoration of local-government elections, but pressure is sufficiently high that progress toward that goal seems likely.)

Moreover, women’s organizations in particular have urged all parties to improve the gender balance in representation in public office. While these efforts have yielded aspirations and quotas, no party has come close to meeting them, even for appointed offices with a clearly sufficient female pool from which to draw. So while the close ties between civil society and Pakatan parties bode well for generating sufficient new leaders to sustain real competition, among candidates with skills and experience for leadership roles, recruitment could still fall short in terms of enhancing representativeness and idealism in practice.

And at the end of the day, there is always another election ahead. Pakatan developed under BN rule; it may hesitate to change the rules of a game it has only so newly mastered. Nor can it risk losing its lead. Some Pakatan support is proactive: champions of change, away from the too-long-entrenched BN and toward cleaner, more accountable and responsible governance. Some, though, is reactive: voting against Najib, but without necessarily seeking any dramatic overhaul beyond that purge — hence the appeal of not-too-different PPBM and Mahathir.

To win a second time, Pakatan needs to keep both camps in its corner. Unless electoral rules change (unlikely, although entirely reasonable to consider) or something else goes really awry in Malaysia (always possible), the wider frame of these recent elections suggests observers keep their expectations of systemic change in check.

Malaysia is unlikely to return to the old Mahathirian model, which Najib stretched to its extremes, of an excessively strong executive, rapacious ruling party, and snowflake-sensitive public authorities. On the other hand, quick, dramatic change toward a much more politically competitive or economically progressive order is equally unlikely, given the pull of the status quo. (Nearby Indonesia, having just marked twenty years since the Reformasi that ousted Suharto and his New Order regime, is a sobering Exhibit A.)

What the wider context suggests is something in between: an order that increases the political space for, and responsiveness to, alternative voices and ideas, within and outside parties; that does less to stifle efforts within civil society toward more coordinated, efficacious advocacy; and that encourages — even just by dint of a multipolar electorate and fissiparous coalitions — real competition around principles as well as personalities.

Malaysia has opened the door to fundamental reform, even if new leaders do little more than peek around the corner in these early stages, and even if its citizens opt ultimately to update the décor rather than shift the socioeconomic foundations of the state.

About the Author

Meredith L. Weiss is professor of political science at the University at Albany, State University of New York.

Rejoinder by  Dr.Rais Hussin: Bumiputeraism is not the root issue

http://www.malaysiakini.com

American political scientist Dr. Meredith Weiss has done extensive field research in Malaysia. The country needs more academics like her to cast light on the dynamics of Malaysia. However, the accolades stop there. Her article in Jacobin recently has all the drama and flair of a New Yorker literary piece. Yet, it went off on a tangent. How?

First, Weiss warned that the new electoral landscape is not necessarily new. While she did not warn of the spectre of Mahathirism, which implies a return to authoritarianism, she hinted strongly at the complexity of unravelling the National Economic Policy, which in her view amounted to all the same anyway. Again, how?

Entrenched Malay interests in the political, corporate and other sectors would be too deeply embedded. A single electoral victory from Pakatan Harapan, even one led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad, now the seventh prime minister of Malaysia, would not be enough to alter the dramatic and complex landscape.

Second, Weiss averred that any reforms would not be smooth sailing, especially when the tensions between the top members of the coalition look all but impossible to overcome.

Therefore, the significance of May 9, 2018, would fade in due course. The internal solidarity of the elites forged before and on that date would crack. While she didn’t specifically mention the causal or ideological factor that could lead to its fissure or implosion, Weiss implied that their personal animus and histories are enough to warrant deep concern.

Third, Weiss argued that Pakatan Harapan is bound to make progress in light of the insidious practices of UMNO that had set the bar so low, the mere rejection of corruption alone would be Harapan’s defining moment. Just by saying ‘no’ and the latter would enjoy more confidence from the public. Wrong.

In fact, Weiss is wrong on all counts. To begin with, the optic she adopted is one devoid of variant analysis. Even before the events took place, she had already claimed that everything else would either fail or fail to move forward. But then how does Weiss explain the power of the May 9 election?

Voters were given a choice between more billion-dollar handouts and subsidies by the Najib-led BN, or liberation from becoming the object of international ridicule.

While 45 percent of the voters rooted for UMNO, this also marked the Malay behemoth’s dramatic fall from grace. From a high of 88 parliamentary seats in the 2013 election, Umno now only has 52 parliament seats, and the numbers are still dropping as elected UMNO members declare themselves independent.

Corporate and economic reforms are bound to be difficult. Not for the reason of race or race-based preferential policies alone i.e., bumiputeraism, which pervades Weiss’ article, but the massive size of the national debt due to liabilities from government-linked companies.

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Research by Edmund Terence Gomez and his associates show close to 900 such entities have accepted some form of government bailout and are swimming in a sea of red ink. The gravity of the situation begins from the Gordian knot of these companies, not the problems rooted in bumiputeraism.

Finally, why should the egos of the different Harapan personalities matter, when the coalition has merely won the general election once? Unlike how UMNO warlords, who had won in quick succession since 1955, had a sense of self-entitlement and invincibility, Harapan leaders know that if they screw up, the coalition will be booted out regardless of whether Mahathir or Anwar Ibrahim is at the helm. In other words, perform, or be put out to pasture.

Not surprisingly, some MPs had tried to remain in their comfort zones before the election but this backfired for some.

Tan Kee Kwong was not even nominated by his own party. He had to give up his Wangsa Maju seat to another PKR candidate.

Liew Chin Tong, marginally lost his seat in Ayer Hitam in Johor, thus depriving him of the chance to be the transport minister, as his successor Anthony Loke admitted.

Indeed, DAP fielded more Malay candidates under 40 across the board in GE-14, more than even what UMNO could attempt. These and other factors are more important to understand how the new Malaysia came to be rather than how old Malaysia will be resistant to change.

To begin with, sheer defiance of a kleptocratic regime is a given. Members of UMNO like Bung Mokhtar even claimed that the ill-gotten gains of Najib Razak are the assets of UMNO. Najib, meanwhile, insists many were gifts accumulated over his over 36 years in politics. Does he mean the business of being a politician is to be in business? Now that Najib has been arrested, more of the truth will be unveiled.

Anyway, Weiss is welcome to undertake more research on Malaysia. But she should understand that change, in fact, is happening at breakneck speed. There is the Council of Eminent Persons, the Harapan manifesto, and cabinet orders to reform the country within 100 days and over the next five years. Meanwhile, 17,000 political appointees have been terminated, and more are expected to face the same fate.

Even politically appointed Ambassadors of Najib Abdul Razak will not be spared. Heads of government-linked investment companies, such as Abdul Wahid Omar of PNB, have resigned.

Rome was not built in a day. The Harapan government is learning through adaptation to see which elements of the previous policies can be kept, and which policies cannot be phased out immediately, or, suspended, in order to allow a thorough review of various projects with Chinese private construction companies.

If Weiss were in Malaysia at Mahathir’s side, she would be shocked at how the doyen of Malaysian politics is slashing the excesses of the previous government, in order to set things right. It is far too easy to be an armchair critic, and Weiss seems to have made that faux pas to critique from the safe confines of her ivory towers in US.


RAIS HUSSIN is a supreme council member of Bersatu and heads its policy and strategy bureau.

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

 

The Way Forward: Education and Opportunity for All, Not Race-Based


June 29, 2018

The Way Forward: Education and Opportunity for All, Not Race-Based

By Teoh King Men@wwwfreemalaysiatoday.com

READ: http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2018/06/26/dr-m-malays-will-continue-to-get-special-privileges/

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Dr Mahathir says: Malay Special Privileges to continue–Any Problem with that? No, Politics, please.  Just Do it differently by stopping to spoon feed the Malays.–Din Merican

Malaysia is now one and a half months into a political term under a new government that they thought would bring hope and reform to the Malaysian establishment. Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s coalition was voted into office on May 9 in a historic unseating of the BN coalition for the first time in six decades since the country gained its independence. It was also unprecedented that an ex-prime minister was voted back into office – this time leading the opposition against the party he formerly led, and joining forces with Anwar Ibrahim, a man he was once partly responsible for putting into prison on disputed charges of sodomy.

We voted, and in the end fairness and truth prevailed. The tide turned against BN on election day as millions of disillusioned, disenfranchised Malaysians took to the ballots and chose Mahathir. Wearied by the kleptocracy, cronyism and corruption that had been gnawing away at the heart of our public institutions for years, the people in the end sided with the coalition that promised widespread reform in our constitutional, political and electoral systems.

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It is time at long last that corruption is put to an end and the branches of government are kept separate with an end to inter-branch collusion. We are now one step closer to a new Malaysia where racial inequality and discrimination will be stamped out of public policy and business practices and Malaysians will no longer be defined by their race or religion. This was shown when, two weeks into the new Malaysia, the newly appointed finance minister responded to a question about being the first Chinese Malaysian to be made finance minister in 44 years. Lim Guan Eng said: “I’m Malaysian, I don’t see myself as Chinese.”

However, I awoke to the disappointing news that Mahathir, in one of his press interviews as prime minister, had said that “Malays will continue to get special privileges”.

Just when I, among many hopeful young Malaysians, thought we would read of widespread reform in a new Malaysia, more disheartening details were laid out, with Mahathir continuing to say:

“Malays still needed assistance in the availability of scholarships to study overseas.For example, when I was in the UK, I met a number of Chinese students. They were there because their fathers, their parents were able to pay for their studies there. But I find that Malay parents, by and large, cannot afford to have university education for their children.”

Mahathir said the Chinese were largely in business and that “in business, you can make tonnes of money”. In contrast, he said, the Malays were largely civil servants and wage earners who could not afford to send their children to university.

I beg to differ with our Prime Minister as this is an utterly backward perception. He makes sweeping generalisations about Malays being poor and unable to afford quality education for their children. While it is true that most of the families who are able to send their children overseas for education are Chinese, the Prime Minister should make no mistake: NOT all Chinese are well-off – the Chinese who cannot afford quality education are the ones who, by the very fact that they are in the lower income bracket, do not have their concerns raised and heard in much of our political discourse.

As such, the affirmative action policies have done more harm than good to the poorer Chinese, particularly as public education admissions are rationed to Malays with priority, depriving otherwise industrious and bright Chinese youths of a chance to develop their full potential in a wholly pro-Malay system. Over the long run, this will drive many capable people who happen to be Chinese out of a unified local labour market or out of the country altogether, leading to what economists pejoratively call a country’s “brain drain”. Worse still, and more fundamentally, it breeds and fuels resentment, and resentment only leads to more tension and conflict between the races in our society.

Don’t judge a book by its cover!

A person’s poverty or wealth is not inextricably tied to the colour of their skin, so don’t judge a book by its cover!

Students who are able to study overseas are not necessarily from families that are wealthy; more so, it is a result of the enormous value that some families place on their children’s education. This has been my experience being born into a low or medium income family. And from what I have experienced and seen, my peers and friends around me have found that studying overseas is definitely not an easy journey. It comes with the colloquial blood, sweat and tears every step of the way.

Many parents make many sacrifices, save every single penny they can, whether by getting a loan, refinancing their house, moving to a smaller house, withdrawing their EPF money, driving a second-hand car, or tightening their living allowances, are among many measures taken. It doesn’t only apply to students who study overseas but students in private colleges in Malaysia enrolled in external programmes.

Reform and provide quality education for all

So, the question is, why would the wage-earner parents sacrifice so much to send their children for overseas education or to private colleges? It is about quality education. It is the general perception of our society and the increasingly prevalent view held by employers that applicants with an overseas university degree are more qualified than applicants with locally awarded degrees. The problem is more indicative of a general negative regard that Malaysian employers have towards our national education. Reform needs to be implemented so that our education can be seen as on par with that of the countries to which so many of our disenfranchised students flock.

So why should race have a role to play in the education system? Do race and quality education intertwine? Why would there be a need for special privileges when we know that the problem runs more than skin deep?

In my humble opinion, every student should be treated equally as quality education should be enjoyed by every young Malaysian regardless of race or religion.

Instead of having special privileges, systemic reform is much needed by the government in achieving an inclusive and quality education for all. The government should aim to provide equal access for all, and eliminate gender, race or wealth disparities in the vision of quality education which is also one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (Goal 4) for which we ought to strive.

Teoh King Men is a law graduate and youth advocate.

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

GLC’s: Pagar makan Padi


June 26, 2018

GLC’s: Pagar makan Padi

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Image result for tawfik tun dr ismail

 

 “ Yes, they enjoyed their position admittedly through patronage, but it would have been a competitive climb for them nevertheless. Is the mood for revenge against the previous regime making us senseless to the long-term damage to Malay progress in commerce?”–Former UMNO MP Tawfik Ismail

 

As the heads and top officials in Government-linked corporations (GLCs) continue to be lopped off and voices are raised on how to reform these enterprises, the wisdom of the new Pakatan government in taking off the kid gloves in dealing with GLCs has been questioned.

The plain truth, however, is that the shortcomings and failings of these enterprises have been known for a long time – long before Dr Mahathir described them as becoming “monsters”.

Image result for Dr Lim Teck Ghee

Crowding out private enterprise, given privileged access to contracts, benefiting from favourable government regulations and capitalizing in less discernible but nonetheless effective ways familiar or accessible only to insiders, the negative impact of these ubiquitous and often monopolistic  bodies has been accentuated by their lead role in the poor governance and corrupt practices that have blighted the nation’s economy and society.

 Self Censured Analysts

 Most analyses of GLCs in the past and continuing today – even if critical -have either ignored or tended to avoid forthright and frank discussion of the main reason for the establishment and dominance of GLCs – the mission focus on the Malay agenda.

The key questions to be asked are:

what is this Malay agenda; whose interests does it serve; and should a race-based agenda be the driver or leitmotif of GLCs which rightfully belongs to all stakeholders in the country.

These questions need to be put out and answered in the public sphere regardless of whether the GLCs can be reformed and reconfigured in accord with truly national aspirations.

Perkasa Inaugural Congress, 2010 and GLCs      

I had posed and tried to answer this question in response to Ibrahim Ali of Perkasa who, in the inaugural Malay rights group congress held on 27 March 2010, had said that “We are not only looking at their (GLC) performance but also the role they play in helping Malay entrepreneurs.”

I had replied then that:

“The Malay and Malaysian public should look forward to hearing the outcome of Perkasa monitoring the GLCs and learning the truth about how these bodies are standing in the way of, or seriously implementing, their mission of fulfilling the Malay agenda.” See http://www.cpiasia.net/v3/index.php/141-cpi-writings/lim-teck-ghees-contribution/1888-perkasa-glcs-and-the-new-economic-model

At that time, in 2010 eight years before the present debate, I noted too the considerable success of GLCs in furthering the Malay agenda from the following indicators:

  • GLCs are major shareholders of corporate equity. They comprise 36 per cent and 54 per cent of the market capitalization of Bursa Malaysia and the benchmark Kuala Lumpur Composite Index.
  • Seven out of the top 10 listed companies are under majority ownership of the government.
  • Senior GLC positions are largely determined along ethnic lines. GLC directors, management and staff are largely Bumiputeras.
  • Non-Malay owners of listed and unlisted companies often have no choice but to work with influential Bumiputera and GLCs to help protect their interests through obtaining sub-contracts or becoming suppliers of goods and services.
  • Non-Malays may own 40 per cent of corporate equity Based on the government’s flawed calculations but GLCs are the major players and have control over the economy.

Malay Agenda Accomplishments Since NEP

I had also noted that much of the new wealth in the country is in Malay hands. These sources of wealth include the plantation sector which is dominated by Felda and PNB companies;  the smallholding agricultural sector where the Malays are the major group amongst the 112,635 Felda settlers; the hi-tech aerospace industry; the defense industry; the petroleum and gas industry where apart from Petronas and MMC, the Malays have substantial holdings in key MNCs such as Shell, Exxon, BP; the finance and banking sector where eight out of 10 banks are Bumiputera- owned and controlled; the automotive sector where Malay interests are dominant in Proton, Perodua, DRB Hicom, UMW and Naza, and where the system of APs ensures a steady stream of income for select Bumiputeras; the energy and utilities sector where TNB and Malakoff are key players; the more recently contentious MARA’s digital malls and so on.

Perhaps most successful of all in accomplishing the Malay agenda was that the NEP objective of building a strong Malay professional and technical elite class had been reached well before the time of Perkasa’s inaugural congress.

From a very small base of professional and technical workers in 1970 (Bumiputera comprised 4.9 per cent of registered professionals at that time) the Malay component of the country’s professional and technical workers in 2010 was the biggest amongst the various racial groups. According to the Malaysian government’s Third Outline Perspective Plan (2001-2010), the Bumiputera community comprised 63.5 per cent of the ‘Professional and Technical’ category of employment in 2000.

This growth of a strong Malay professional class within a short period of 30 years – with some finding employment and high positions in GLCs as noted by Tawfik Ismail-  is possibly the fastest recorded by any marginalized community anywhere in the world.

That this information is not widely known is not due to modesty. It is part of political spin aimed at playing up to Malay insecurity, under-reporting Malay achievement and emphasizing the non-Malay, that is, Chinese dominance of the economy.

This new privileged class (and its leadership institutions such as the GLCs) could also be the main reason accounting for the phenomenon of “pagar makan padi”.

Tackling Malay poverty

I had also argued that in the economic sphere there is still work to be done to uplift the lot of the poor Malays (see article on the country’s underclass –https://dinmerican.wordpress.com/2018/06/11/new-malaysias-underclass-what-to-do/). I noted that the task is less formidable than what official statistics may make it out to be.  This is because Malay poverty – as distinct from Bumiputera poverty – is over-estimated by the statistical practice whereby the Malay figures are lumped with the figures of recent migrants from Indonesia who have obtained Bumiputera status as well as the other Bumiputera from East Malaysia.

The great majority of the former group — Javanese, Sumatrans, etc — who have assimilated into the country’s population especially after the 1970s came with little in assets or income. Inclusion of these poor “pendatang”, despite their upward mobility after migration here in the official statistics, has impacted in distorting the racial distribution of household income.

Without them (and Bumiputra communities in Sabah and Sarawak), the ‘native’ or ‘indigenous’ or ‘local’ Malay achievement, as distinct from Bumiputera achievement, will be higher in all the social and economic indicators – especially the key one of land ownership – used by the Department of Statistics to measure inter-ethnic differences.

 The Malay Agenda and the country’s future

In the weeks and months to come, the ruling PH government will unveil more of its economic policies and programmes to replace the BN’s ineffective, unproductive or discredited ones.

Image result for Mahathir's Malay Economic Agenda?

 

Looking beyond 1981– 2020: Will the Malay Dilemma be resolved under Mahathir 2.O Administration? NO until we empower and challenge the Malays and stop spoon feeding them like UMNO did to remain in power for 60 years.

We need to stop manjaing (pampering) them and  should make them self-reliant and resourceful. I understand what Dr. Lim Teck Ghee and Tawfik Tun Dr. Ismail are trying  to hint at. Let us challenge Malaysia’s Status Quo.–Din Merican

It is extremely unlikely given the BN’s prioritization of the Malay agenda that the Malay position in various sectors of the economy has stagnated or fallen back since 2010 and that it deserves attention and propping up through a larger allocation of the nation’s financial resources to support. This issue needs strong and independent empirical evidence to verify.

It could also be that GLCs should continue to play a key role in enabling achievement of whatever is authoritatively established as an uncompleted or lagging Malay agenda as well as the priorities in the larger national agenda. This also needs similar rigorous analysis to establish.

Image result for Dr. LimTeck Ghee

But the hard questions – driven not by “revenge politics” but by sensibility and prudence – still need to be asked of the Malay agenda in this new era of accountability, transparency and good governance:

What is this new Malay agenda today; which part of the old Malay agenda has yet to be achieved or realized; which targets have not been attained; and how will reconfigured or reformed GLCs help the Malays and the nation arrive at final accomplishment of the Malay agenda?

 

New Malaysia’s Underclass: What to do?


June 11, 2018

New Malaysia’s Underclass: What to do?

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

“What’s important is that we will need to think out of the box and have the courage to challenge long held orthodoxy; or we will end up with more of the same old Malaysia”.–Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Underclass by Definition

  1. the lowest social stratum in a country or community, consisting of the poor and unemployed.

  2. a group of people with a lower social and economic position than any of the other classes of society; “they are an underclass who lack any stake in popular capitalism and who are caught in the dependency culture”

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Poverty right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur

In the euphoria and after glow of the recent election and current preoccupation with correcting the excesses and abuses of the Barisan Nasional (BN) government, it is all too easy to forget about or ignore the plight of the Malaysian poor and underclass class.

Whatever is the actual poverty situation – we can expect the dispute over definition and numbers to continue endlessly – and whether we can believe the previous government’s boast that only 1% of the country’s households can be considered to be poor – the reality confronting our politicians and policy makers is that the country’s underclass (and this includes many more households than just those adjudged to be living below the poverty line) is sizable, growing and has remained relatively intractable and unyielding to the billions of ringgit poured into the group in the last few Malaysia Plans.

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A young Penan Maiden–A victim of Neglect

Why have so many socio-economic development and poverty alleviation projects failed to make a significant dent in the plight of the underclass should be an important part of the discourse among politicians. It also needs to be a concern for all stake players engaged in forging a new Malaysia that does not replicate the missteps, mistakes and wrongly focused projects and programmes deployed by the previous government in dealing with the underclass.

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Barisan Nasional Leaders in Sarawak–where are they today?

Here are some suggestions on the fresh start needed in Pakatan’s development planning which can make a greater impact in tackling the multitude of obstacles and problems that stand in the way of improving the lives of the underclass:

  1. Ditch or minimize approaches which reinforce rather than reduce dependency. Malaysia is not at the same development stage that it can afford the extensive social safety nets found in developed nations. Expensive subsidy programmes of any kind – and this includes the replacement for BR1M, and petrol subsidies – should be pruned back and targeted at a small number of the most vulnerable such as the elderly or female headed households. Able working age adults below a certain age – say 60 years – should not be eligible for any form of subsidy programme.

  2. Review all costly agricultural and rural development projects to assess their impact and real benefits. In view of continuing rural to urban migration, it is in urban and semi-rural areas where the underclass is mainly clustered and where public expenditure will have greater impact on the poor and vulnerable.

  3. Fragile families are a significant contributor to the intergenerational reproduction of poverty and should be a key concern for the authorities. They are also likely to be a major factor accounting for the racial and class disparities which have caused so much angst within the nation since the tendency towards fragility seems to be more pronounced in the Malay and Bumiputra community.

  4. Together with a focus on fragile families, there is a need to jumpstart the national family planning programme which has been put in cold storage for several decades. It is clear that given the relationship between very large and large families and underclass status – evidence for this can be found in many countries around the world – early family planning interventions will be able to help many large-sized poor and middle class families avoid later life marginalization by improving their socio-economic position through better planning and early intervention in their childbearing practices.

  5. A community’s socio-cultural and religious practices may either stand in the way or assist in the upward mobility of its most needy members. There needs to be an openness and readiness for politicians and policy-makers to discuss these issues and take corrective action even if it may involve touching on sensitive or taboo concerns.

  6. We have had a top down approach to development which has resulted in a stream – even, torrent – of opportunities and rewards especially for the elite and their support group in the civil service and professional class.  This top down approach, compounded by leakages and corrupt practices, needs to be replaced with, or at least complemented by one where resources and opportunities are directly channeled to and managed by groups at the community and grassroots levels. Although the decision has been made to abolish JKKKP’s, a revival of JKKK’s with membership of these committees extended to include youth and women members can provide an impetus to local level development. When led by motivated community leaders, JKKK’s can become a catalyst in local level development and slow down the burgeoning of the underclass.

  7. Experience in other countries has shown that the great wealth of technical expertise and human resources brought to bear on anti-poverty work – especially in terms of the administrative apparatus engaged in planning and implementation – has turned out to be a liability by diverting resources away from the target group to pay for staff salaries and operating costs. Some of the most reputable NGOs in other parts of the world engaged in anti-poverty work have ended up with three quarters or more of donor funds being used to meet administrative expenses. Information on public expenditure intended for poverty and underclass target groups should be widely disclosed and disseminated, especially to the target groups to ensure transparency and accountability.

  8. Lastly, in view of the fact that the larger proportion of the underclass comprises members of the Malay community, it is imperative that successful members of the community step up to the plate to help the less fortunate members move out of their depressed situation. This has to begin with a critical and honest appraisal of the causative factors found within the community which accounts for why the Malay underclass continues to grow despite the government’s best efforts in the last fifty years.

       Image result for the orang asliThe Orang Asli of Malaysia

What’s proposed here is an example of the changes – and paradigm shifts – needed to conventional strategies and current wisdom if we are to make greater progress in arriving at a fairer and more equal society.

They may or may not work. What’s important is that we will need to think out of the box and have the courage to challenge long held orthodoxy; or we will end up with more of the same old Malaysia.

Big Questions For Malaysia


May 10, 2018

Big Questions For Malaysia–What’s Next after Change of Government?

by Mike Minehan

ideaschannel.com/index.php/analysis/2800-big-questions-for-malaysia

Image result for Man of the Moment Mahathir Mohamad

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Elect, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

The seismic shift that is the recent change of government in Malaysia raises more questions than it resolves.

These questions are:

1. How will the economic and social distortions caused by the former regime’s preferences for powerful Malays be resolved? This group of powerful Malays are members of the majority ethnic group who were originally cemented into power by the new Prime Minister himself. How threatened will they feel now that they have lost power, and will their influence be diminished?

2. How will the defeated Barisan Nasional coalition be able to regroup into an effective opposition after six decades of uninterrupted rule and after persistent and prolonged accusations of corruption?

3. Will the former Prime Minister, Najib Razak, be prosecuted for corruption following revelations while he was in power that billlions of dollars had been siphoned from the State Investment Fund 1MBD? US investigators say that at least $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund by associates of Najib between 2009 and 2014, including $700 million that landed in Najib’s personal bank account. The new Prime Minister Mahathir says he is not seeking revenge, but he qualified this statement by saying that those found to have breached the law will be prosecuted.

The missing billions from 1MBD made headlines around the world, and this issue is probably the major factor that motivated voters to change government. The BBC Malaysian channel explains:

But back to other questions about Malaysia that also need to be resolved:

4. Will the new Prime Minister Mahathir really allow Anwar Ibrahim to succeed him as Prime Minister in 2 years’ time as he has promised? Anwar is currently in jail, serving his second sentence for sodomy – which he claims was politically motivated. Anwar was a former protege of Mahathir, but Mahathir had him jailed in 1999 when it seemed he was becoming too powerful and popular. Mahathir and Anwar joined forces in 2018 to defeat Najib, but this is a very unlikely political alliance with a very uneasy history.

5. Now that the Mahathir coalition has enjoyed such a resounding victory, will the role of the conservative Islamic party PAS be diminished?

6. Will Mahathir be able to reduce the cost of living in Malaysia? Corruption, and the higher cost of living brought about in part by Najib’s introduction of a 6 per cent VAT-type goods and services tax, were the core of the new coalition’s election platform. And if Mahathir can’t reduce the cost of living (a virtually impossible task) how will voters react?

7. And finally, will a 92 year old (the age of the new Prime Minister) be able to defy time and grasp the reins of power effectively again? Can a nonagenarian live up to the weight of expectations now on his shoulders?

Interesting times…

The Sage of Yayasan Pok Rafaeh’s Interview With Nanyang Siang Pau


May 6, 2018

GE-14: 72 hours to Polling Day, May 9, 2018. Voters who  have access to my blog in Malaysia should read this insightful analysis of Malaysian politics by Tun Daim Zainuddin, whose views I respect, before they go to the Polls. Rationally speaking, you will have no choice but to vote for Pakatan Harapan and make Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad as our next Prime Minister. Like most of us including me deserve a second chance to correct our mistakes.

More importantly, we cannot allow a pathological liar and crook, Najib Razak and his band of UMNO and Barisan Nasional thieves to ruin our country, unless we are a nation of masochists.–Din Merican

The Sage of Yayasan Pok Rafaeh’s Interview With Nanyang Siang Pau

Image result for Tun Daim Zainuddin

Tun Daim Zainuddin with Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahjm–Together Again for  Malaysia’s sake

TOPIC 1 : General Election

Q1 :      With the establishment of Pakatan Harapan lineup, many people believe this was the strongest and tougher opponent ever to BN, especially with Tun Dr Mahathir take the leading role, what is Tun comment?

Answer :

1.    Many believe so. This is the strongest and toughest opposition as now they have Tun Mahathir, Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang, Mat Sabu plus their lieutenants, supporters and volunteers. They also have YB Muhyiddin, YAB Lim Guan Eng, YAB Azmin Ali and YB Mukhriz. On paper, this is very formidable. I don’t think their supporters want them to be paper tigers.

2.    Previously voters had party loyalties but now, voters vote based on policies. Policies must be in line with what the voters think can be implemented; otherwise they are just empty promises. It has to be realistic and convincing.

3.    Tun Mahathir was an UMNO President and held office as the PM for 22 years. They have Deputy Prime Ministers, Menteri Besar and ministers in their parties. Lim Kit Siang was leader of the Opposition for a long time. Of course this is a big credit to the current Opposition.

Image result for pakatan harapan leaders

Based on the actions and statements from BN and UMNO leaders, it clearly shows that they are worried and very scared. I am not happy that some statements have been too personal. This goes against our culture and beyond politicking. This is not healthy. Leaders must always set a good example to the people.

Q2 :    Tun Dr Mahathir as an asset or liability to Pakatan Harapan? Did this latest opposition front lineup works?

Answer :

4.    Of course to PH, he is an asset but in the eyes of BN, they have to say he is a liability. A few members of the PH component parties initially protested. In politics, you can’t expect everyone to agree to everything. lf we believe in democracy, we must respect the decision of the majority. But those who disagree, they can object.

5.    From what l have read, these are equal partners. It means no party dominates. Before this, there were those who called Tun Mahathir a dictator and they said dictators don’t change. Dictators don’t listen to others. We have heard that Tun Mahathir said he does not agree that tolls should be abolished but he was overruled. Isn’t this a sign of change?

6.    Do dictators give up office voluntarily? Under Tun Mahathir, his old party was declared unlawful. It was de-registered. He didn’t interfere with the ROS(Registrar of Societies) or the Courts. He was called MahaFiraun but he allowed Semangat 46 and PKR to contest in the elections. Those who used to be under him are now saying he was a dictator. Why didn’t they resign like Musa Hitam and Tengku Razaleigh? Is it because they prefer to retain their positions and have no principles?

7.    Clearly PH is not BN. lt is inconceivable that Lim Kit Siang, Mat Sabu, Anwar Ibrahim  and his family will allow Tun Mahathir to bulldoze everything. Tun Mahathir is a highly intelligent man and he knows that the present generation is very different from those of the 80s and 90s era.

8.    Tun is very pragmatic and reads the ground well. Although he is 93 years of age, he understands the needs, expectations and aspirations of the young.

9.    The reading is that UMNO and BN have not changed. Rakyat think PH and the component parties have read the situation correctly.

Q3 :        Is there really a “dream team” for Pakatan Harapan? Can Tun Dr Mahathir and Dato  Seri Anwar Ibrahim sincerely forgive each other for the sake of common political ground?

Answer :

10.    Dream team only exists in dreams. PH has many intelligent young leaders who subscribe to the ideals of democracy. The experienced leaders were idealistic and have made huge sacrifices to their freedom. Some were detained for their beliefs.  Now all of these leaders are together fighting against corruption, kleptocracy and wastage. They promise to respect and honour the supreme law of the country that is our constitution.

11.    lf we read and understand the constitution, we cannot ask for more. All of us must respect and follow the law. Nobody is above the constitution.

12.    The opposition pledge their promises in their recent manifesto. If they don’t keep their promises, voters will reject them in the next elections. Democracy gives voters the chance to choose the government.

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13.    I know both Tun Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim quite well. Since their reconciliation, l have spoken to both. Tun Mahathir and Anwar had worked together before, until they went their separate ways. We read their statements. YB Dr Wan Azizah and YB Nurul Izzah have accepted this reconciliation and if the family members accept, who are we to question? Yes, they have come together for a common cause that is to save this country. What bigger sacrifice do we want from these leaders?

Q4:    Did Tun believe that, the claim by DAP leader, they wish through Tun Dr Mahathir influence, will stir the necessary Malay Tsunami to make an inroad to Putrajaya?

Answer:

14.    Tun Mahathir still has influence among different age groups. He was PM for 22 years. He retired voluntarily. He developed this country and gave pride to Malaysia and Malaysians. In 22 years, you can’t expect perfection. Mistakes were made but overall, he did an excellent job. This was recognized by Time Magazine which described him as “The Master Planner”. He is the builder of modern Malaysia and nobody can deny this.

Image result for Tun Mahathir the Builder by TIME Magazine

Those who were part of the team should be proud of what was achieved. I am very proud. During his tenure, he overcame two recessions and the country did better after he introduced some new policies to take this country forward.

15.    During the two recessions that the country faced, he made sure the government took care of the rakyat. He had strong confidence in his policies and he was so brave to call for elections during these difficult and critical times. The rakyat rewarded him with a 2/3 majority in Parliament on both occasions.

16.    So those in their 50s and 60s know his services to Malaysia and his achievements. They believe in him and l think they will give their full support to him. The younger generations are exposed to the world and with the state of the art technology, they can get instant news. In the past, the young generation were normally anti-establishment and voted for the Opposition.

17.    PH does not really need a Malay tsunami to win the election. A swing of around 10% is sufficient. The urban areas traditionally vote for the Opposition. Now with smart phones and advance technology, even semi urban areas get instant news. This will become a danger to BN.

18.    What is left are rural areas. News about Felda, Tabung Haji and other agencies are widely spread. If the rural people who traditionally support UMNO receive these news, support for UMNO will be affected and eroded. l am told second generation settlers are very angry with the government. l remember l cautioned the government about the impact on the listing of Felda, but when you are no longer in government, who will listen to you? TH depositors are not happy too.

19.    I believe DAP is predicting a Malay Tsunami based on these factors, but do you need a Malay Tsunami to get to Putrajaya? l don’t think so.

Q5/6 & 7:    What are Tun prediction of the 14th GE possible outcome? Did BN will eventually fall finally? Or other way round, BN make a strong come back, even recapture the two third majority in parliament?  If yes, what are the major factor? If BN facing another major setback, what are the major reason?

Answer:

20.  Let me make it very clear l am not in the business of predicting election results. I have retired from business too. l don’t do any research. But l meet a lot of people. l read analysis from the think tanks, hear from politicians representing all the parties in Malaysia, from journalists, taxi drivers’ talks in coffee shops and suraus. I receive news from Whatsapp and I watch YouTube. I have old and new friends who give me feedback. Then l make my own conclusions.

21. The Opposition according to many is the strongest ever. They managed to put their differences aside and put up a united front which is very rare in Malaysian politics. Imagine a common logo and DAP sacrificing its rocket. This is the best evidence of sacrifice for common cause. This is the biggest news for the rakyat. They have one main agenda that is to topple BN hence attack is mainly concentrated on Najib given that he is seemingly their Achilles heel.

 

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Malaysians reject UMNO-BN and Najib Razak’ s Toxic Leadership

22.    BN’s biggest problem is to explain 1MDB to urban voters. I think the government’s biggest blunder was not to address this scandal when it first surfaced. The government should have just admitted that 1MDB is a big mistake. Rakyat will eventually forgive but what they can’t forgive is when the government is abusing the law and hide their wrongdoings.

23.  Sacking the DPM and a senior minister did not solve the problem, rather it may have done the opposite. It is now an international scandal involving so many countries. We have no control over other countries nor their media. These days we get instant news. The government and ministers can deny but these denials make the educated and urbanites very angry and they distrust the government. Whatever good the government does is being negated by the 1MDB scandal. How can one deny DOJ’s report when there is mention of MO1.  And a minister in the PM’s department confirmed to BBC that only idiots do not know MO1 is Najib. This is major scandal which the Government needs to address in order to regain trust from the rakyat but yet, in parliament this subject cannot be raised.

24.    We have 3 former cabinet ministers made known their views on certain issues. Two were immediately condemned. Instead of replying point by point on matters raised, they were accused of having ulterior motives or revenge. People think this country has reached a stage that supporters of government have become irrational, intolerable and have no ability to rebut logically.

25.   In the rural areas they are blaming the government for high cost of living. The Opposition put the blame on GST and tell the people that the government is forced to introduce GST because they have to repay the loan from 1MDB. The government so far fails to explain why the cost of living has gone up. Mere denials by saying that things here are cheaper than in Singapore are just silly and lame. They are being ridiculed by the Opposition. The Opposition, on the other hand, has promised to abolish GST. 1MDB and GST are the two factors that are very difficult for the government to answer.

26.  Will BN win? BN and its predecessor, the Alliance Party has been running this country since independence. In any country, this is indeed too long.

27.  But BN is the incumbent and has many advantages. Recent delineation of constituencies and Anti-Fake laws are signs of fear but of great advantages to the incumbent. Rahman Dahlan is a big fan of the Anti-fake laws.

28.   BN is trying to take advantage of these two recent laws to win the elections. lf these work then together with the uncertainty of the postal votes by civil servants, BN will win and maybe win big. The foreign media have been highlighting this as stealing. lf voters are angry and believe the government is stealing the elections, they will vote against BN, and this will ultimately be their downfall. This will create history. For those who believe and support a genuine practice of democracy, this is cause for celebration.

29.  We can read the moods, the various actions, the talks in the coffee shops, the chatters among taxi drivers or Grab drivers. The anger over GST, the high cost of living in the country, IMDB, the scandals in MARA, FELDA, Tabung Haji and FGV, the depreciation of ringgit, and the issues on unemployment when graduates have to become Grab drivers and sell nasilemak. We are seeing more graduates are currently unemployed. The government is not creating skilled jobs as their focus is more on services sector. This is one of the main cause of the high unemployment rate especially for fresh graduates. These are of great concern to all.

30.   The Director General of Immigration has indicated that the country needs to give priority to local workers, and they are trying to reduce the number of foreign workers in the country. This issue has been long standing. People are asking where are the enforcement agencies? If this is not handled aggressively, the DG said that Malaysians might be “Kuli di negara sendiri”. [1] And according to one research group(Ipsos), unemployment is Malaysian’s biggest worry and this is partly related to foreign workers [taking up the jobs], as well as a concern that they are not getting the jobs that fit their aspirations, needs and lifestyle [2]. Their concerns are not unwarranted, last month BNM says that only 1 out of 5 jobs that were created last year was filled by locals, the rest were filled by the foreigners. This never happen before. No wonder the number of unemployed graduate continue to increase.

31.    In its manifesto, BN has promised to create 3 million new jobs. So if the ratio is 1:5, it means that locals will get 600,000 jobs and foreigners will get 2.4 million jobs.

32.    People talk of corruption, government’s spending wastages and huge national debt. These are legitimate issues. When even those employed can’t buy houses then the government faces real problems. In Klang Valley, apartments are unsold and there is a glut of office space, yet more buildings are under construction. [3][4][5]

33.    The government is not sitting still. ln response to high food prices, it offers BRIM. This helps the poor. BRIM was recommended by Bank Negara as a one-off help but it has now become a government policy. l personally think BRIM cannot go on forever. This is a temporary fix, not the permanent answer to help those who need help. In its Manifesto, BN promises to increase BRIM. I said BN can’t rely on BRIM forever in order to gain popularity. People need jobs so that they can get good income to sustain their lives.

34.    According to the government, for every US$1 (RM4.17) increase in crude oil price, the government’s revenue increases by RM300 million. And the government is projecting by end of 2018, the average price hits US$62, which is a total of US$10 increase, multiplied by RM300 million, it would equal to RM3 billion additional income.[6]  If l were in the government, instead of giving more BRIM, l would reduce the GST by 1% and this will significantly help to reduce the burden and sufferings by the rakyat.  [latest oil price according to Johari is USD70 per barrel]

35.    The government has announced an increase in amount for BRIM and will cost about RM4 to RM6 billion, plus another RM1.4 billion token for civil servants. Are these part of the budget? Where is the money coming from?[7]

36.    The 1Malaysia shop failed and Mydin explained the reasons very well in an interview he gave.

37.    Many are not happy with the government, and its actions also show it is scared. A government must always be confident. However, to introduce redelineation of constituencies without adding seats makes people accuse the government of wanting to steal the elections. So we have foreign media again, writing disparaging things about the government. Then comes in the Anti-Faked news’ law which can sentence a person to a six year imprisonment. There are already many laws to handle fake news like the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, the Evidence Act 1950 and the Printing Press and Publications Act 1984. [8]

38.    Many read this as the moves to scare and silence the Opposition. The foreign media think so. And both the US State Department and the UN have also expressed their concerns [9]. Many believe that the government is stopping the Opposition from talking about 1MDB during the election campaign. We can’t blame people if they think the government is scared to face the Opposition and this law is an attempt to curb freedom of speech and expression. The government does not realize that they can only alter the reality so much. The people will get their news somehow. [10]

39. As I mentioned earlier, the foreign media have said that the government plans to steal the election. The Indian government introduced something similar as Anti-Fake news but later withdrew this law as there were fierce objections and the government fear that it will lose the support of the people [11]. The Guardian has reported that “fake news” is indeed a powerful strategy to undermine trust in media and has quoted that Trump has been adept at saying all news against him as fake news and using “fake” to his advantage. [12]

40.    Rahman Dahlan said that the Opposition is investing in falsehood [13]. Zunar the cartoonist is very angry that BN has altered his cartoon to portray that he supports BN. He is facing so many charges in court [14]. The Economist wrote that the Malaysian government is guilty of falsehoods, and asked will the government prosecute itself [11].

41.  We take one an example on MRT. The government said they have completed the project ahead of time and below budget by RM2 billion. [15] Some people claimed that this is only half truth. According to Budget 2011, the overall cost of MRT is RM40 billion but the first phase of MRT, the government has spent more than RM32 billion. This is excluding Phase 2 and Phase 3. The Minister’s statement cannot be true.

42.   In recent BN’s Manifesto, Najib has announced on TN50 of which he pledged BN’s promises to the young. And one thing stood out from the rest. In the poster that was released, the iconic Petronas Twin Towers have disappeared [16]. People say this is very childish. Some are asking why BN is lying. I used to know that only David Copperfield, the magician can make buildings disappear. Some say that if BN can make the twin towers disappear, a manifesto can just be a blatant lie and your votes can go missing too.

43.    The joke going around KL; if you test positive first time then go for second test and if you are from Umno or BN, the result will surely be negative.

44.    The PM said DAP is the brains behind the opposition pact and is using Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to split the Malay votes. The Malays especially in PH feel insulted. PH’s reply is simple. If DAP is the brains, how come they could not defeat Tun Mahathir over 22 years? PH said Tun Mahathir is a strong leader, a man of sturdy conviction, remarkably intelligent and a true patriot. So maybe Najib dare not accept Lim Kit Siang’s many challenges as he believes Kit Siang is the “brains”and to Najib, Malays have no brains.

45.    This is the stage for the election. Some think and hope for a hung parliament. l don’t see that although PAS plans to be the king maker. My view is whoever wins more rural seats especially in Felda and gain supports from the youth will form the next government. You don’t need a tsunami for that.

46.    I don’t think anyone knows for sure the answer on who is going to win. I can only say this is the most important election since Independence. It is about the future direction of the country. One promotes familiarity and more of the same and the other champions change and reform. As a voter, which one is more attractive?

47.    PH says BN cannot change as they want status quo and almost all institutions are directly under the PM. The present government survives because of the present structure. PH offers change and reform and rule of law based on participating democracy. PH is giving options to the people to choose which system they prefer. Many said our institutions exist but they are hollow.

48.    I think the young should play their role. I quote Pope Francis calling the young to take action – “Dear young people, you have it in you to shout. It is up to you not to keep quiet. Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out? Please, make that choice, before the stones themselves cry out”. In United States, students demonstrated and one slogan was ‘opposite of progress is congress.’ In Malaysia we hear people say opposite of debate is parliament.

49.    The youth might not realize but the EC statistics show the 21 to 29 age bracket account for 17% of the electorate while those in the 30 to 39 age group comprise 23.9%. These two age groups encompass nearly 41% of eligible voters and seemingly tend to be anti-establishment [17][18]

50.    I believe that the youth has a major role to determine the outcome of this election. They can’t be fence sitters or observers. They must exercise their duty and responsibilities as concerned citizens. They are the ones who must decide the country’s future, their future and their children’s future. The youth must not abdicate their role to decide the future of our beloved Malaysia. I have faith and confidence in our youth. They are smart enough to make the right choice for the best of this country.

51.    Democracy will die if citizens and especially the youth think they are powerless. This thinking is wrong. Voters have the power. In fact, voters are the power. Exercise it. Real democracy gives voters the choice. Plato said “the price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men” and he is right. We hear some believe that cash is king. Truth is; your vote is king.

52.    Those in power define democracy according to their fancy. Sukarno had guided democracy and he defined it. Today in Hungary the PM called it “illiberal democracy”. Portugal and Turkey too practice this system. lt is supposed to be for the 21st century. They oppress minorities or attack independent judges or journalists and according to them, to protect the people and the nation.

Image result for Fareed Zakaria

Fareed Zakaria commented on the difference between a liberal democracy and a mere democracy. The former practices rule of law and the latter is exclusively ruled by the majority. In the last elections, BN did not even get the majority of the votes.

Q8:  What are Tun prediction of BN component parties like MCA, GERAKAN and SUPP fate?

Answer:

53.    MCA and Gerakan have been losing support and as one minister said; DAP represents the Chinese (as shown in the last elections). MCA needs Malay votes to win elections. I think Umno thinks it does not need Chinese’ support anymore as shown by the recent redelineation exercise. Even the Chairman of EC confirmed that the delineation was to make constituencies race based. It is unbecoming for the EC Chairman to confirm this publicly. And UMNO seems to prefer PAS. At least we see their Presidents together and very cordial towards each other. The PM and Mustapha Mohammad were photographed together with PAS leaders.

54.    The second Finance Minister said he does not need Chinese and Indian votes to win his seat. Isn’t this clear UMNO does not need MCA, Gerakan, MIC, etc? Are the opposition and the rakyat wrong to believe that UMNO’s plan is just relying on Malay votes hence the redeleniation exercise and the close rapport with PAS.

55.    MCA and the rest of component parties have lost credibility with the voters because they were silent on 1MDB. Their silence on 1MDB reflects their subservient approach towards UMNO. Not a word about Jho Low and they never asked why is he hiding. Why hide unless he has committed some crime? Surely, they must have read all the foreign reports and watch TV news and videos. To non-Malays and urban people they can only come to one conclusion; these parties support corruption and kleptocracy. What kind of example are they giving to the young? Where is their principle in politics and life?

56.    By their silence, it seems that they endorse Kleptocracy which no one in his right mind can accept. The government admitted it adopted the wrong business model on 1MDB. You can’t succeed in a business with RM1 million paid up capital and borrowings of USD11 billion. Ask those in business whether this is what they call business. The PM himself said mistakes were made. But sadly, MCA, Gerakan and MIC have not uttered a word. I was asked on 1MDB years ago and my replies are on record. Why create 1MDB as a sovereign fund when we already have Khazanah?

57.    MCA in the last elections promised not to join the cabinet if Chinese voters rejected them.  They were rejected and later broke their pledge. How can the Chinese trust them? They have no credibility. UMNO seems to reject them as shown by the delineation exercise. And UMNO has also made a cruel attack on Malaysian’s most successful businessman : Robert Kuok. And don’t forget that Robert is from Johor and has helped the Johoreans and Malaysians. What has happened to government’s policy to produce “glocal” businessmen? What other conclusions can you come to when you study the delineation exercise? These parties committed suicide by voting in Parliament.

58.    MCA has insulted Tun Mahathir who was our PM for 22 years by calling him an “old horse”. People get very angry and replied it’s better to have an old horse with brain rather than the young horse with no principles. The latest slogan is “Undi Biru Tua jangan PM tua” but many said that they prefer an old man who fights for the people than a party who is silent on 1MDB and corruption.

59.    Tun Mahathir has proven to be agile and sharp. It is a sign of a nation’s progress that a 93-year-old person is able to sustain a punishing political campaign, offering quality arguments and content. He even challenged Najib to debate with him.

60.    MCA can continue to insult Tun Mahathir but in a recent study conducted by a UK research center, the finding was Tun Mahathir is the most admired man in Malaysia and Najib is no. 14.  [19][20]

Q9:    Is that possibility BN may lose more state? Selangor and Penang outcome?

Answer:

61.    The mood as of now is for change. But whether there will be change will depend on the voters. The conditions, according to many reports are ripe for change. Voters will study the manifestos and listen to speeches. But most importantly, for the parties to win, they have to put the right and clean candidates with integrity. The locals must like the candidates and trust them to be their future wakil rakyat.

62.    Before this, the Opposition used to say BN means “BarangNaik”. BarangNaik has become a reality. Now the Opposition says BN means “Bini Najib”. A vote for BN means a vote for “Bini Najib” as many believe that she is running the government. The opposition says that UMNO believes in RAHMAN (Tunku Abdul Rahman, Abdul Razak, Hussein Onn, Mahathir Mohammad, Abdullah Badawi and Najib Razak, and noticed that Najib’s name is the last) and Najib has selected May 9 as polling day, which falls on Wednesday or “Rabu”. They are now saying “rakyat akan buang UMNO’ on this day. On the May 9, 2016, Philippines has elected new President. On  May 9, 2017, South Korea has elected new President and on 9th May 2018, God willing, Malaysia will elect a new Prime Minister. The rakyat are now giving the PM a big “thank you” for R.A.B.U.

63.    From many feedbacks received, if Mukhriz spends time in Kedah and with Tun Mahathir’s influence, BN will lose Kedah. For Penang and Selangor, PH will retain the states. Both states have sorted out their candidates.

64.    I think BN will retain Perlis. For Perak, if PH has a good candidate for Menteri Besar, they will take back the state. Voters are still very angry with the way BN has “stolen” the state.  YAB Zambry is a popular MB but is quite a loner.

65.    Negeri Sembilan has a long history of infighting. This time it will depend on how UMNO treats local leaders. If this is not handled well, and if PH has good candidate for Menteri Besar, then PH has a slim chance of winning. In Melaka, UMNO is not happy with the leadership but PH must get good candidates to mount a challenge. Did you notice the empty chairs at UMNO’s functions and the open protests in Perlis, Kuala Pilah, Melaka, Tanjong Malim, Batu and Gua Musang? Are these the signs that people are no longer scared?[21][videos]

66.    On Johor, it is a known fact that it is UMNO’s stronghold but PH has a chance if Muhyiddin spends more time there. Shortly after PH launched its logo in Pasir Gudang, TMJ(Tengku Mahkota Johor) has issued a statement but claimed that it is not a political statement.

Image result for Tengku Mahkota Johor

Many read this message as UMNO is losing ground and the Palace has read the situation well. People will make their own judgements. The State Government has commissioned a study on its support. People say that the MB may lose his seat but rakyat is very sympathetic of him. Those who used to work with the MB believe that BN will lose the state. But as I said earlier, the voters want candidates with integrity and with principles. They know what is good for them. Big crowds come out to listen to ceramah from PH but big crowds is meaningless unless they are translated into votes.

67.    The Palace of Selangor and Perlis have issued statements that they are above politics.

68.    It’s a 50/50 chance in Sabah. However, we know that Sabahans are fiercely independent and have changed state government many times. YB Shafie Afdal has spent a lot of time in order to win.

69.    For Sarawak, BN will win.

Q10:    Are Chinese Majority constituencies the hardest part for BN in the coming election?

Answer:

70.    l have answered earlier.

Q11:    What are Tun advice for BN to convince the Chinese support in the GE?

Answer:

71.    BN can’t convince them with the government’s latest delineation exercise as MCA, Gerakan and MIC did not object. You observe that PAS on the other hand objected. MCA, Gerakan and MIC show that they just follow UMNO blindly. At least in 1959, Tun Lim Chong EU was brave to challenge the UMNO leadership. He fought for MCA and did it for the interest of his party and his race. TS Tan Koon Swan too was brave and fought for his community.

72.    We forgot PPP. This party was not happy as the Cameron Highland’s seat was not given to the party. With Umno working with PAS, many guess PPP is no longer relevant and reports say PPP has sacked it’s own president.

Q12/13/14: Any possibility of fallen of additional BN state to opposition? The outcome of front runner state like Johor? Negeri Sembilan? Perak? Kedah?  Did BN have a chance in Selangor ?  Did the issue of 1MDB, RM2.6 billion donation, have any impact on the GE? Especially the rural area and Malay Kampong?

Answer :

73.   l have answered earlier. The donation of RM2.6 billion has not been convincingly rebutted and most of us have read the DOJ report.

74.    Some of the attacks have become counterproductive. Have you heard or come across any political party running down and condemning its own excellent record and then ask voters to vote for the same party? The official and main stream media praised Tun Mahathir on his 22 years premiership but only to condemn him now.

Image result for Rais Yatim and Rafidah Aziz

75.    Some attacks are very crude, un-Malay and un-Malaysian. The attacks confirmed these ex-leaders have a lot of influence. The attacks on Rafidah and Rais Yatim show desperation and these attacks are very personal. UMNO should answer them intelligently and with facts. Both Rafidah and Rais had been in politics for a long period of time. Both of them have served as ministers. They are very intelligent and talk facts. I don’t think it’s a good idea for anyone to challenge them. The ground says that if you touch a hornet’s nest, you will get Rafidah.

76.   The rakyat find personal attacks distasteful. They believe we are very cultured and prepared to hear debates or listen to arguments on policies during both Tun’s time and Najib’s. For example, under Tun Mahathir, issues such as economic growth, FDIs, north/south highway, KLIA, Petronas twin towers, KL tower, Felda, Tabung Haji, Mara, EPF, international relations, operation lalang and sacking of CJ and Forex loss were all raised. Under Najib, economic growth, GST, depreciation of ringgit, high cost of living, BRIM, NFC, PFI, KWAP, GLCs, MRT, ECRL, abolishment of lSA, introduction of POTA, SOSMA, Anti-fake news, AG’s early retirement, 1MDB, judges appointed above the age of retirement, national debts, Parliament, MACC, police, Chinese investments and many more are topics for debate.

77.  Najib can debate with Tun Mahathir, but on economy and finance each side can nominate their representative to debate. These debates would educate voters and will be very informative. I think rakyat want to hear from both under one stage or platform.

TOPIC 2: UMNO

Question 1/2/3  :    How do you see those ex leaders’ effect on states like Kedah, Sabah and Johor?  Cooperation with PAS has always been an issue and it has pros and cons to BN itself, will there be any chance of cooperation between the two parties in certain issues in coming PRU?

Answer:

1. UMNO’s ex leaders still have great influence. Look at the time UMNO spends on attacking ex-leaders especially Tun Mahathir.

2 Both parties need to discuss the role of the caretaker government after parliament is dissolved.   Maybe Dr Rais Yatim can write an opinion so both parties can agree on the ground rules. Can caretaker government give financial help when Parliament is dissolve?

3.  Let’s educate the rakyat with facts and figures so they have the knowledge to make a valued judgment about their own future. This is far better than abusive and crude language and behavior. Politicians must show a good example. We adopt free market practices in economy to grow. Likewise, in politics we must welcome a market of free ideas and live in harmony. Victor Hugo said “markets open to trade and minds open to ideas, will become the sole battlefield”.

4.  On Cooperation with PAS, the leaderships are very close but this is not reflected at the grass roots level. They have been at each other all these years. PAS used to call UMNO members infidels. They prayed separately. In UMNO’s history, when it was weak it would court PAS and invariably PAS would throw its support for UMNO. Once UMNO regained its strength it will find excuses to kick PAS out.

5.  PAS is against GST but in the Parliament, they always supported the government on budgets. This is strange logic. Surely PAS is not confused. As I said, PAS wants to be a kingmaker but they have make it very clear that they will not work with DAP which is a component party under PH. The public conclude that PAS just wants to help BN and in particular UMNO. Yet BN has MCA, Gerakan, MIC and parties in Sarawak and Sabah that oppose the RUU355. BN and in particular UMNO, has delayed this bill for a long time, just to pretend that it supports the bill. UMNO knows that if this bill is allowed to be debated, the non-Muslims will not support and this may cause a split within BN. Sadly, PAS’ leadership keeps giving hope to its members. But most of them know that UMNO is just playing politics.

6.  I have been following speeches made by PAS’ leaders during this campaign. They are putting up 160 candidates which means a party with most candidates. Yet in most speeches they condemn Tun Mahathir and seems to praise Najib, l suppose this is what they mean by “kingmaker”. When they dropped an incumbent, they said “we are resting him, not dropping him”. PAS leaders confuse us with many contradicting statements. They say there is no need to get rid of a person like Najib but just advise him. They want to correct the system from within. If we follow their logic Mugabe should not be toppled. South Africa should have kept Zuma. Indonesia and Philippines made mistakes getting rid of Suharto and Marcos. Brazil and Peru should get advice from PAS. UMNO has made a mistake about Tunku Abdul Rahman and should not have forced him to retire.

7.  It seems like PAS does not understand UMNO’s culture. UMNO’s President always tells members to be loyal to him. Loyalty to the President is their culture, and even when the president makes big blunders everybody should remain loyal. How do you change from within? And who is PAS to advise and change UMNO from within? The rakyat is right to be very suspicious of PAS’ real intention in this election.

8.  The rakyat are not sure if PAS is truly an Islamic party as it seems unwilling to fight corruption. They use the same tone and language as UMNO’s. UMNO uses the word ‘derma’, now PAS also uses the word ‘derma’. When people hear the voice recording involving Nik Abduh, some conclude that PAS and UMNO are working together in this elections. From this picture, people are wondering what Najib is discussing with PAS leaders. Was it the economy or 1MDB? [picture] Some of PAS’ grassroot members are frustrated as they still hold onto the late mandate from Nik Aziz. Nik Aziz who said that “when one befriends UMNO, there will be no other who will befriend him as Allah will only help those who are honest to fight for Islam”

9.  You listen to Hadi and his speeches which, to an ordinary man sounds quiet strange where mostly in support the government.

10.  PAS wants to have Islamic tax on savings, maybe to replace the GST.  I hope PAS has the experts in taxation law so that they can advise how to implement this. lf the government tax the people on savings, it means that there will be double tax because only those who have money save. And these people has already been taxed. If this tax is implemented, will people save their money in our banks and financial institutions or keep it overseas?

11.  Hadi’s statements do not help PAS. Based on his statements, PAS may even lose Kelantan, and Tengku Razaleigh is determined to win Kelantan for BN. However, my journalist friends told me that PAS may retain Kelantan as the Kelantanese hate UMNO. But recently, Rafizi Ramli said that things have changed and PH is gaining ground. People from Kelantan came to see me and told me that PH may have a chance. We can see the split in PAS with Nik Omar joining PH.  In fact all three of their past presidents’ sons have left PAS to join PH.

12.  The close relationship between the two party leaders confuse members. Both agree DAP is a threat to the Malays. This stand is illogical. Agong is Malay, Rulers are Malays. The PM and Menteri Besar are Malays. Majority of rakyat are Malays. By 2030, the numbers of Malays and Bumiputera are expected to increase further but the non-Bumiputera will see reduction. We know that this is just to frighten the rural people and their statements don’t make any sense.

Image result for Forest City Johor

13.  There will only be changes in population if more developments such as Forest City in Johor are built. Forest City has garnered a lot of media attention and was heavily criticized by the Opposition due to its seemingly heavy reliance on mainland Chinese buyers to acquire its myriad apartments. [24] Forest City will only succeed if it brings value to the local population, or else it will quickly become a ghost city [25]. An assistant professor of geography at Montreal’s McGill University told The New York Times that where else in the world has a foreign company created new land in another country, populated it with people from its home country and asserted sovereignty over it? This is a brand-new level of colonial expansion. [26]

14.   Lim Kit Siang told the Malays not to be misled by Umno’s lies as majority of the voters are still Malays and the overwhelming majority of parliamentary and state assembly constituencies are Malay voter-majority constituencies [27]. Statistics show in 1957, the Malay population stood at 49.8 percent, with the Chinese population making up 37.2 percent, and that the numbers have shifted since.  In 2010, the percentage of Malays in the Malaysian population increased to 55.07 percent, Chinese reduced to 24.34 percent, Indians dropped to 7.35 percent, non-Malay bumiputera maintained at 11.94 percent and 1.3 percent others. He also highlighted the Statistics Department’s prediction that the Chinese population will continue to shrink to 19.6 percent in 2023, and 18.9 percent in 2035 and went on to say that Malays won’t lose power.

15.  When Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Hussein Onn opposed Tun Mahathir, he never attack them. He was very civil and he respected their freedom to attack him.  ln fact they supported DAP but Tun Mahathir never told the Malays if Semangat 46 were to win, DAP would run the country. Simply because Tun Mahathir knew that this is nonsense.

16.  Some has looked at the racial ratio of candidates that will compete in the upcoming election. Based on parliamentary seats’ distribution from PH, Malay Muslim candidates are 175, Chinese 37 and Indian 10 people. The propaganda by BN to scare the Malays that the PM will be a Chinese is just baseless and it’s nonsense. Some people from BN and PAS  seems to have these wild imaginations.

17.     Perak Gerakan adviser told the Chinese that they should vote for Umno and BN or else they will have to embrace PAS. Some laughed at this statement and some said that this is a threatening statement made by Gerakan. [28]

18.  Nazri Aziz is pleading with the Chinese voters not to vote DAP and PH. He told the Chinese that BN and the Chinese are together. The Chinese asked MCA and Gerakan is this the same Nazri Aziz who called Robert Kuok a “pondan” and insulted the Chinese? And his cabinet colleague proudly said he does not need Chinese or lndians’ votes to win his seat. They want MCA and Gerakan to explain to them why they must support those who have insulted them. [29]

19.  A former Menteri Besar said it is not impossible for BN to work together with PAS in this election. [30] And there were also claims that PAS is receiving money from UMNO and BN.[23] The rakyat said, no wonder UMNO and PAS is singing the same silly songs.

20.   PH is not BN. Malaysians believe in the leaders of PH; Anwar Ibrahim Mat Sabu and DAP and all have accepted Tun’s leadership. The people know that these leaders are fighting for a common cause; to save the country.

21.   We hope that this election will be the cleanest election possible. We have seen in 2013, laws were breached. Complaints were made but no action taken. An NGO did their own research and their findings were that the election commissions were not carrying out their duties as stipulated in the constitution. The judges were too lenient with the offenders. ln current elections, we read news that the caretaker government is disbursing money to various parties yet the election commissioner seems to be blind on these blatant breaches of election laws.

22.   It has been reported that the UK government has discussed the importance of free and fair elections in the country, according to a series of parliamentary replies given in the UK House of Commons. The UK seems to follow Malaysia’s political situation closely and also encouraged the government to invite external election observes in advance of the 9th May election. [31]

23.   In India, they are very strict and look at what happened to lndra Gandhi. Justice Sinha has convicted then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of electoral malpractices. This judgement was hailed all over the democratic world as a great triumph of an independent judiciary.

24.   The Election Commission of Malaysia has to be independent and must play their role well. I heard some people are calling the EC or SPR (in Malay) as Suruhanjaya Penipu  Rakyat. This is demeaning and tragically sad.

Topic 3: Economy

Questions 1/2/3/4/5      Latest government decision to frozen the luxury property development at the midst of tackle of oversupply of the luxury and commercial property, can Tun enlighten us on these matter. One of the most concern of Malaysia was the skyrocket price of housing, beyond majority Malaysian mean , worsen one, even the “affordable” home, also cannot afford, what’s is Tun comment? What’s are Tun suggestion to overcome these pressing problem?

From the majority benchmark and statistic, Malaysia are on the good position and well manage of country economy, the concern of the peoples, just not have these good feeling or doesn’t experience the positive one, Tun opinion?

The GST and the impacts, some even request restore the SST, what are Tun comment.

Answer:

Image result for Forest City Johor

25.   I am maybe better with property than other subjects. Those who have been watching and following this sector have been worried about the number of luxurious condos being constructed especially in Kuala Lumpur. The same applies to commercial buildings and shopping malls. The government gives the impression that it wants to have as many highrises to show that there is big surge in the growth of the construction sector to fuel the economy. But the reports are out there for people to read. There is a huge glut in both these markets.

26.   The value of the unsold homes – which do not include service apartments and SOHO (small office/home office) units – is 82.8% higher than a year ago, risking the sector to systematic impact in the event of financial shocks.

27.    We read reports about the huge overhang. We are told developers can now get high plot ratios and because of that, the price of land has also jumped. Delay in getting approvals has caused the increase in the holding costs. There is also talk of corruption. These factors have pushed up prices of the end product. Most cannot afford to buy. So, we have empty buildings. Developers even sell with zero down payment and speculators bought many apartments with a view to make a quick profit. Then the price of oil dropped. Most Oil and Gas companies had to cut costs. Petronas was reported to retrench 6000 employees. Major oil companies followed. Speculators decided to cut losses and developers have had to hold the properties.

28.     History tells us if the property sector faces problem, it drags the economy down with it. l don’t know if we have learnt our lesson. The Government recently bought 51% of a building from Mulia group and we are told that the project is good.  If so, why should Mulia sell? It is silly for developers to sell good project, and PNB is also building its new HQ.  Maybe it has a lot of money but that money belongs to the ASN and other unit trust holders.  Is this the right time to build?

29.   The Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH) in its property market report 2017 said there is a rising concern on the overhang for residential units. Bank Negara has sounded its alarm bells over the property gluts. In its 2017 annual report, the central bank said there were 129,052 unsold housing units at the end of third quarter of 2017. More than 80% of the unsold units were priced at RM250,000 above.

30.   The alarm bells from Bank Negara came in a bit late. They should have advise the banks on the risks that they are taking sooner. How come the Treasury too ignores the obvious? They have the experience in monitoring all sectors so that no sector is overheated as this will cause a disruption to the economy and the banking sector.

31.    During my time, l called the stakeholders and got their views and advice and told them the government wanted them to correct the unhealthy situation immediately or I would be forced to take drastic actions to save the economy and the country. The government must not allow the free market to run wild.

32.    I think government has made right move even though l think should have been done much earlier. But what happened to KL city plan 2020? lt was unveiled in 2008 but until now, it has not been gazetted. Now “Selamatkan KL”, a collation of residents association have pressured DBKL to gazette it, but DBKL seems to be in no hurry. Now we understand why developments in KL is very messy. The opposition is saying that if BN can’t manage KL city, how is it going to manage the country?

33.   Malaysians cannot afford to buy houses because salaries are low and there is a mismatch between increase in salaries and expenditures. We are not creating high income jobs. Jobs created are for unskilled group and are taken up by foreigners.

34.     The government wants to help those without houses and have created many agencies but sometimes they overlap. State governments have SEDC which originally just focused on building houses. In the 60s Selangor was very successful. l don’t know what SEDCs do now. Then they also have MBI or Menteri Besar Incorporation. Competition is good provided all these are run professionally and there is no political interference. For example if we are serious we cannot have a politician as chairman. Get a successful developer for that position. We have Prima after Syarikat Perumahan Rakyat Malaysia and earlier Uda. With all these agencies, we still fail to produce houses that the rakyat needs. [32]

35.     The government has made announcements that banks will lend up to RM300,000 for buyers to buy Prima houses. But how many can afford to borrow as their salaries are too low and the cost of living is very high? We have also read reports that there are those who are not eligible getting Prima houses and they are renting them out. Rakyat ask what is new?The opposition makes fun of BN’s manifesto on urban development.

36.      In BN’s Manifesto, it has announced that they will help the people to secure the loans from the banks to purchase “affordable house”. Plainly BN has not learn any lesson and has no clue on how to address and solve the problem. Read what Bank Negara has reported. The income is low and prices are high. The rakyat are not prescribed with the right help. In 2013, the PM said that the government would build 1 million units of affordable houses, with PR1MA to build half of them, but until end of 2017, PR1MA have sold not more than 12,000 units.[30] It clearly shows that the rakyat do not have the purchasing power to buy even the house that is called “affordable” to them.

37.     If Singapore can succeed and we have many successful property companies, it is illogical to see our people cannot afford to own houses. We should ask ourselves what has gone wrong. Wrong policies or wrong people entrusted to deliver?

38.     In Treasury, they have the housing loan division to cater for civil servants. We have MBSB. Then banks have special unit dealing with housing loans and EPF allows some withdrawals for housing yet the rakyat complain they can’t afford to buy houses. l suggest whoever wins the upcoming election must seriously study this problem. They must get input from stakeholders and publish the proposal so the rakyat knows what the government intends to do. They can find out if they are able to afford the houses built for them.

39.      I’d like to give a simple example. My family foundation built 100 houses to be distributed to the poor. They will rent at a nominal rate, just suffice to keep the place clean and to pay for security. After 10 years, these people will get the houses for free. The houses were completed a long time ago. Liability period is over and but until now the state government cannot identify the poor in the district. To date, they managed only to approve 40 people. We asked the mosques to assist and names were given. But sadly until now, the houses are empty. This is my experience.

40.    The economy according to figures released is doing well with respectable growth. The inflation rate is expected to ease to 2.6% this year due to the soothing effect of fuel related items [30]. The PM in early April claimed that the country in 2017 has registered growth of 5.9%, which was among the top gainers in the world. But some economists argued that this growth was below than the average for the emerging and developing Asian countries, which was around 6.5%. In fact, we were behind Vietnam (6.8%) and Philippines (6.7%).

41.    The Government is happy but the rakyat is not happy. The Government says the Opposition is politicking when it tells the rakyat that the country is about to be bankrupt. As l said earlier, in order to settle this, we must hold a debate and let the rakyat listen and make their own conclusions. Rakyat is not happy about the high cost of living. Even if there is growth, they don’t feel it. Any policy must benefit the rakyat. Rakyat must feel they benefit from it.

42.        The government does not care about this. Instead, they claimed that they have successfully curb inflation below 3% for the last 8 years. The press should ask the housewives if they agree inflation is 3%. But in reality, the rakyat is suffering from the price increase of necessary items. As compared to 2010, data for 2018 has shown that the price of chicken has increase by 38.6%, meat by 80.9%, cooking oil by 61.2%, sugar by 78.8% and flour by 24.4%. The price of toll has increase by the range of 30 to 80% and fuel by 22%. [

43.        We can’t blame the rakyat for complaining. The statistic and the reality doesn’t match. Household income between year 2009 and 2016 has increased at a slower rate of 73% as compared to the household expenditure of about 84%. The salary of the middle income earner has only increased by only RM17 in 2016. More than half of working Malaysians earn less than RM1700 per month. This is national data and statistic. Clearly rakyat not feeling the benefit of the economic development. A Grab driver told me recently, if the economy is as good as proclaimed by the government, why now the rakyat has to work two jobs?

44.      Hadi said the problem with the economy today started in the 1980s. In other words, Hadi is now admitting that the economy is not doing well. I was the minister in the 2nd half of the 1980s. Hadi should give details to this claim and check the records before making any statements. Hadi continues to say that these problems started from those who are now leading PH. He must be referring to Tun Mahathir. But Tun Mahathir has retired in 2003. If Umno and BN cannot handle the economy for the past 15 years and still blaming Tun Mahathir for their inefficiency, then BN doesn’t deserve to continue running the country.

45.        Let the economists explain. lf growth is based on borrowing, it can never sustain. From the year 2009 to 2017, the national debt has increase to an average of 11% per year. That is almost double from the average rate of the country’s economic growth of 4.7%. This does not take into account the debts on MRT, ECRL and few others.

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46.     On ECRL, the Kelantanese say that they have have never ask for ECRL and are very surprised that BN is so eager to have this project. They checked and found that cost to Chinese contractor was RM 55 billion and may increase. Some said that the local contractors can do around RM 32 billion and many wonder why BN is willing to pay more.

47.     The Treasury Secretary General said that the GST waiver would ensure that the cost would not go beyond RM55 billion. This explanation is not acceptable. The local contractors who build roads, hospitals and other infrastructure complains that they have to pay GST. Some said “kita belisimen, paku pun kena GST”.[36] Why is the double standard? So with GST the actual cost for ECRL is higher and that is the reason why the government is not imposing GST for this project? What is puzzling is why the civil servants are replying? How do I distort the facts as I am repeating them?

48.    Kelantanese are not happy with the cost of ECRL. They said the high cost will result in higher ticket price and its better to fly with Air Asia. Some argued that if BN is really sincere, why not use that RM55 billion to develop Kelantan. This is their line of campaign against the government.

49.       Lots of money is promised, a bit is now given, but the balance will be given only if BN gets supports and wins the election. Is this right? Where does the government gets the money? Is this part of the budget? As it stands, the additional increase in operational expenditures from the supplementary budget, higher BR1M payout and higher pay for the civil servants will be more than projected revenue. This is fiscally irresponsible. How are we going to pay? We can’t borrow for operational expenses, borrowing is only allowed for development purposes.

50.      YB Nurul Izzah has challenged the PM to reveal the details of all the country’s investments by China. The rakyat has the rights to know of such deals, because they are the “main stakeholder,” especially when it involves billions of ringgit worth of taxpayers’ money. The rakyat cannot understand why the government is reluctant to reveal these information.

51.      Najib says that the country would go bankrupt if the opposition wins, and the stock market or the currency will drop. He says removal of GST will cripple the country. Well, the stock market barely moved between 2013 and 2017, and the ringgit has lost almost one-third of its value in the last six years against the US Dollar. Our foreign reserves in USD is lower now than in 2008. This happens during BN administration, not PH. We continue to be in deficit. Even with GST, we are still in deficit. Debt continues to increase. Don’t forget that when the government borrows, the rakyat has to pay. BN’s mantra that ‘wang GST dikembalikankepada rakyat’ is foolish. Rakyat is asking, there was no GST before and yet we can build this country. GST was introduced 3 years ago and for the last 57 years, we were doing fine. Why now with GST our lives are getting harder? The government so far, is unable to provide convincing answers.

52.      BN asked, where would PH finds the money if we remove GST. But if we end corruption and cut wastages, it would be more than enough to cover the shortfall from the removal of GST. We must acknowledge that the problem is debt and spending, and yes it is a huge challenge. But the challenge can be overcome and these exercises requires a competent team at the ministry of finance, which in the opinion of most is currently not there. However, PH is confident that theywill put in their best people, all the experts and economic team with experience and expertise to help the Treasury. Tun Mahathir and Anwar were both the Ministers of Finance.

53.      The Mufti of Pahang said that PH specifically DAP has to apologize to the people for breaking their promises in the last election. The Mufti went on to say that it’s against Islamic teaching for one to break his promises but we wonder why this is applicable to PH only? BN has been breaking its promises since it won the election. Ahmad Maslan promised that with GST, the price will go down. This is not happening. Now we ask the Mufti, doesn’t BN too need to apologize to the people? [37]

54.      The Mufti of Negeri Sembilan said he is worried that Tun Mahathir will become a “munafik” or “hypocrite and he gave an example of Abdullah Ubay; who went against the instruction of Prophet Muhammed in one of Islamic wars. The opposition has replied to the Mufti and also asked why are the Muftis taking sides in politics?[38]

55.     The other day, I saw on Sinar TV a debate was held between BN’s rep and the rep from the opposition. To me, it was good. Let the leaders debate too. If the youth dare and are willing to debate live in media, why BN leaders refuse to accept the challenge?

56.     Both sides must not be overly confident. They must listen to the voices of the rakyat. In politics, there are full of dramas. But just remember the words of Plato where he said “the price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men”. So go out and vote.