To Prime Minister Najib: Stop lecturing the World

October 2, 2015

Najib at Unga 2015

Five years ago I stood before this assembly and called for a Global Movement – of Moderates of all religions, of all countries – to marginalise extremists, reclaim the centre, and shape the agenda towards peace and pragmatism. We in Malaysia have followed up, both with practical action and by building intellectual capacity.

…We believe that moderation is key. Moderation is not about being weak. On the contrary, it is courageous and shows strength. The strength to push for peace and put the people first.It is a principle that runs through all civilisations and faiths. Islam embodies it in the concept of “wasatiyyah”, Confucianism as “chung yung” – both of which mean “middle path” or “the Golden Mean.” But this is a principle we must rediscover, and at the 26th ASEAN Summit in Malaysia this April, we reaffirmed our commitment to this approach when we adopted the Langkawi Declaration on the Global Movement of Moderates.

Malaysia stands ready to share its experience; of upholding Islam and marginalising extremism; of implementing the objectives of Shariah while practicing democracy; of maintaining a multi-ethnic society where different faiths coexist and prosper; and showing that Islam can not only succeed, but drive progress and successful economic development.–Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Seri Najib Razak

Nice words, indeed, but they lack credibility. Suddenly, we have become a model Islamic state. He should deal with problems at home and stop playing the politics of race and religion before lecturing to the rest of the world.

Our economy is a total mess. Our bonds have become junk bonds; our stock market is a non-performer; Din Merican at his UC Officethe ringgit, now at rm4.50 to the US dollar, is drifting south towards rm5.0; our foreign exchange reserves are below USD100 billion; corruption is rampant and public and investor confidence in Najib as Prime Minister cum Finance Minister is at an all time low.

Come home and fix our problems and lead. Show us that you have the conviction and courage to do what is right. Take the heat or, if not, get of the kitchen.–Din Merican

Prime Minister Najib Razak@ the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly New York, 1 October 2015

Congratulations on your appointment as President of the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Your experience and wisdom will be invaluable in guiding us.

This session’s theme – ‘The United Nations at 70: the Road Ahead for Peace, Security and Human Rights’ – is timely. For we urgently need to find new approaches, to rise above the political divide and put people first, in an age when the old ways are proving inadequate to the challenges we face today.

We are a world of nation states. But new conflicts and threats imperiling our peace and security do not recognise borders. Non-state actors, such as the so-called Islamic State, threaten to destroy sovereign states.

They don’t confine their horrific acts of cruelty within official boundaries. Expert at using social media to recruit followers in faraway countries, they lure them with false promises, persuading many young people that their barbaric actions will bring them closer to God.

It is sickening, and there could be no greater a slur on Islam – a religion of peace, moderation and justice. But these extremists cannot be defeated by traditional military means alone.

Five years ago I stood before this assembly and called for a Global Movement – of Moderates of all religions, of all countries – to marginalise extremists, reclaim the centre, and shape the agenda towards peace and pragmatism. We in Malaysia have followed up, both with practical action and by building intellectual capacity.

Central to this effort is reaffirming Islam’s true nature, as we must acknowledge that we are not winning the propaganda war against the so-called Islamic State. Their twisted narrative is not being adequately countered to prevent many misguided people from joining or supporting from afar.

So it is more important than ever that we spread awareness of authentic Islam. Most especially when conflicts persist and people lose hope. For it is there that extremism finds fertile soil. And those who fight for extremism – for a perversion of true Islam – are one of the main drivers of the current migration crisis from the Middle East.

Islam unequivocally prohibits killing civilians during war. It explicitly protects minorities and respects those of other faiths. It urges the pursuit of knowledge, and stresses both justice and compassion. As the Prophet Muhammad said: “You will not enter Paradise until you have faith; and you will not complete your faith, till you love for one another what you love for yourselves.”

This means there should be no strife among Muslims. Not between Shia and Sunni, who may take different paths, but seek the same destination.

Islam condemns the destruction of historical sites that are part of the world’s cultural heritage. The lies of IS include the claim that it is their duty to destroy historical sites, because the Prophet Muhammad destroyed the idols that had been introduced into the Ka`ba in Mecca.

This is based on a false analogy. The Ka`ba was built by the Prophet Abraham for the worship of the One True God, and later generations added the idols. The Prophet Muhammad was commanded to purify the Ka`ba of these idols for its use by his followers, to bring it back to its original form.

The historical sites being destroyed by IS were never used for the worship of the One God and then later desecrated; so the argument for destroying them does not and cannot apply. Moreover, God informs us that these sites we travel by, and which denote past civilizations — some of which were global superpowers of their time, but are now no more — are signs to remind us not to be arrogant, but to walk the earth humbly.

We must combat IS’ warped ideology in this way: explaining why their path is un-Islamic; why their actions are evil, theologically incoherent and a travesty of Islam – which commands us to be knowledgeable, compassionate and humble.

The Malaysian Government has helped develop an important body of scholarship that does just that. An international group of Sunni and Shia scholars representing a cross-section of the global Muslim community was convened in Kuala Lumpur. Its mission was to define an Islamic State, based on the continuity of Islamic religious thought through the past 14 centuries.

It is nothing like the entity in Syria and Iraq that usurps that name. The scholars unanimously emphasized that an Islamic State must deliver justice in all its forms – political, economic and in the courts – to its citizens. It must be based on the objectives of Shariah, or Maqasid Shariah, which is to protect and enhance life, religion, intellect, property, family and dignity.

An Islamic State must defend the different peoples under its rule, and preserve their religions, languages and historic sites – because God commands us: “Indeed, we have made you nations and tribes, that ye may know one another.”

He could have created us as one religious community, but He did not do so – in order to test us – and orders us to compete with each other in being virtuous. A true Islamic State therefore aids God’s Divine Intent in testing humanity, and urges us to compete in virtue, in knowledge, kindness, compassion and humility – but, crucially, not coerce us in this.

These are Islam’s true principles. The so-called Islamic State knows nothing of Islam’s noble ideals, of its compassion, or of the solemn duty to care for and learn about our fellow man. They are violating the Divine will. They are desecrating the name of our religion through their self-proclaimed caliphate – to which no true Muslim will pledge allegiance.

This is the message we must spread, to Muslims and non-Muslims. And I call on the Ummah to rise with one voice, and let the world ring when we say to IS: You do not represent us.

Let no one doubt how seriously Malaysia regards the problem of militants: both those who wish to use Kuala Lumpur as a transit point, and those who wish to sow violence and destruction at home.

Much of this work cannot be revealed for security reasons. This may lead some to think that because Malaysia has not suffered from a successful terrorist attack, we do not have national security challenges. That is not the case.

Our tireless, ever-vigilant security forces have intercepted many would-be IS recruits transiting through Kuala Lumpur. It is because of our efforts that they have not fallen into the darkness that blights Syria and Iraq.

But some have. We have identified 39 Malaysians who have travelled to join IS. And we have arrested over 100 of our citizens suspected of links to IS. These threats are real.

There are people who want to bring terror to our streets.We will not stand for it, neither will they succeed. For Malaysia has been, and will always be, a land where many faiths and ethnicities freely prosper and thrive.

But we must strive harder to combat this threat together. Militaries and intelligence services need to share information, and countries need to collaborate more, daring to pre-emptively arrest as necessary.

We have instituted legislation to allow this. When evidence is irrefutable, we will unhesitatingly take action. If our citizens’ lives are threatened by bombing a mall or a station, we would be negligent of their trust not to intervene before it is too late.

2015 gave us examples of inspiring new approaches. For example, the United States restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba. This was a historic achievement, an exemplary display of moderation in action. It took courage. It would not have happened had those wishing to cling to old political divisions held sway.

Forward-thinking leaders put their people’s interests first. Similar courage, Mr President, is needed to permanently address the injustice suffered by the Palestinians since 1948.

Decades of impunity and the systematic dehumanisation of Palestinians has culminated in increasing violence, increasing illegal settlements, and increasing violations of rights. The frustration and anger felt by Palestinians resonates with Muslims worldwide.

If the world continues to turn a blind eye to their sufferings, we risk another catastrophe in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. We will also fail to uphold the right to self-determination, which was at the very basis of the United Nations when it was created 70 years ago.

On that note, given the Rosh Hashanah violations of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and aggression against its worshippers three weeks ago, I call on the Israeli government to live up to Judaism’s highest ethical principles, and the essential message of the Torah as succinctly expressed by the first century BC sage Hillel. When asked to describe the Torah in a soundbite, he said, “That which is hateful to you, don’t do to your fellow human being.”

This dictum, known universally in all religions as the Golden Rule, could herald the dawn of a much needed revised relationship between Muslims and Jews.

Currently Israel has forced its authority over Islam’s Third Holiest Site – in defiance of the jurisdiction of King Abdullah of Jordan, the lawful Custodian. It is therefore Israel’s duty to facilitate Muslims from around the world to visit. For this is an aspiration that all devout Muslims harbour and pray to be able to realise in their lifetime.

Putting people first will not always be easy. But the problems of today require new and global solutions.

Malaysia will raise these issues as a member of the UN Security Council – and reforming the Security Council to better reflect 2015’s realities, not 1945’s, represents a good start towards building a new, adequately responsive global architecture.

We in Malaysia know how much that is needed. We were extremely disappointed that the proposed resolution to set up an international tribunal into the shooting down of flight MH17 did not go through because a veto was imposed. We will continue to seek justice through other legal options, because we owe it to the families of those who perished in this outrageous crime.

But whether it be reform of the UN, tackling extremism or dealing with migration, greater mutual effort is necessary. We must look into ourselves and our own traditions to create new mechanisms. We believe that moderation is key.

Moderation is not about being weak. On the contrary, it is courageous and shows strength. The strength to push for peace and put the people first.

It is a principle that runs through all civilisations and faiths. Islam embodies it in the concept of “wasatiyyah”, Confucianism as “chung yung” – both of which mean “middle path” or “the Golden Mean.” But this is a principle we must rediscover, and at the 26th ASEAN Summit in Malaysia this April, we reaffirmed our commitment to this approach when we adopted the Langkawi Declaration on the Global Movement of Moderates.

Malaysia stands ready to share its experience; of upholding Islam and marginalising extremism; of implementing the objectives of Shariah while practicing democracy; of maintaining a multi-ethnic society where different faiths coexist and prosper; and showing that Islam can not only succeed, but drive progress and successful economic development.

As we cooperate to solve the scourges of poverty, hatred, war and man-made and natural disasters that have given us the refugee crises we see today, we must draw from our spiritual traditions – and that generosity of spirit which goes beyond legal requirements.Surah `Abasa, the 80th chapter of the Quran, opens with God criticizing the Prophet Muhammad – whom we Muslims regard as God’s Beloved – because he frowned and turned his face away when one of his followers, a poor blind man, interrupted to ask him a question while he was occupied preaching to a rich and powerful unbeliever.

If God promptly rebuked the Prophet Muhammad, how much more will we, the community of Muslim world leaders especially, stand to be rebuked by our Creator if we “frown and turn our faces away” from our fellow-Muslim poor and marginalized, now fleeing Syria in massive numbers – causing social and economic stresses in Europe? Don’t we stand partly responsible for any ensuing European hostility towards Islam, the faith we love, and towards our fellow Muslims?

This is why Malaysia has taken, over the years, many people fleeing war, starvation and persecution. We currently have hundreds of thousands of irregular migrants, and we took in more earlier this year when there was a dire humanitarian situation in the Andaman Sea.

I am pleased to announce today that, to help alleviate the current refugee crisis, Malaysia will do its share, and open our doors to a further 3,000 Syrian migrants over the next three years.

49. New international solutions are needed to deal with the migration crises. The millions fleeing are people – like us. They should concern us all. We must respect our common humanity.

For it is only when we transcend the silos of race and faith; only when we look at images of desperate migrants, the victims of extremists, and those whose lives are degraded by hunger and poverty – and see not strangers, but our brothers and sisters; and it is only when we see that dreadful picture of three year old Alan Kurdi washed ashore – and recognise our own children in that tragic boy’s innocent face – that we will act as our better selves. People around the world cry out for our help. We cannot – we must not – pass on by.

Malaysia in a total economic and financial mess due to incompetent and corrupt leadership

October 1, 2015

Malaysia in a total economic and financial mess due to incompetent and corrupt leadership

by John Berthelsen

The Racist NaibHe is Bad News for Malaysia

A perfect storm of bad economic news appears about to inundate a rudderless government in Malaysia as political squabbling paralyzes leaders, according to sources in Kuala Lumpur. Fiscal revenues are going through the floor, the currency is diving and inflation has risen from 0.1 percent in February to 3.3 percent in July and is expected to rise.

With a huge projected fiscal deficit and steep bond indebtedness, the country may be faced with borrowing on the international markets. But with a sliding currency and allegations of massive corruption threatening the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak, borrowing costs are likely to be through the roof.

Most observers in Malaysia believe that Najib remains insulated from political overthrow by the paid for loyalty of the 192 United Malays National Organization cadres in the Barisan Nasional, or national ruling coalition. But a major financial crisis could change the equation.

Najib skips town

As the economy grows weaker and the scandals percolate, Najib has left the country, first to London for a trade show, then to the United Nations, where he was to address the general assembly. From there, he and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, were due to fly on an official private jet to Milan, Italy, where she is to sponsor an Islamic fashion show.

“Malaysia is quickly entering into the throes of a financial crisis,” according to Focus-Economics, a consensus website of leading global economists. “External factors, such as the slowdown in China, concerns over how sound Malaysia’s financial markets are, as well as uncertainty regarding the extent of the impending Federal Reserve rate hike, have forced the Central Bank to reduce its foreign reserves substantially in order to support the currency. Investor confidence is being further tested by the political situation in the country.”

Malaysia has been almost paralyzed by a lengthy corruption scandal in which unknown Middle Eastern sources were discovered to have poured US$700 million into the Prime Minister’s private account at AmBank in Kuala Lumpur in 2013, only to have it disappear back out to a Singapore account, and then to disappear altogether shortly after. At the same time, the country is being rocked by the RM42 billion 1Malaysia Development Bhd. financial scandal in which billions allegedly have been siphoned off from the state-backed investment fund and billions more have seemingly been lost to bad investments. There is concern that the magnitude of the projected losses faced by government-linked banks could threaten the country’s financial system.

Stock market heads south

Attempts to prop up the stock exchange using RM20 billion from a revived government investment fund – regarded as too little, too late – bought a two-day bounce on September 16 before the market slide resumed. At 1623.27, it is now 14.57 percent off its April peak, making it the worst-performing bourse in the region.

The ringgit fell in value against the US dollar from 3.5687 in August 2014 to 4.4570 this week before the central bank intervened, a 19.93 percent drop. The central bank has spent at least US$60 billion over the past several months buying ringgit – at least a third of the country’s international currency reserves.

BNM Governor ZetiZeti still as the Ringgit takes severe beating

As of September. 15, reserves had fallen to US$95.0 billion, enough to finance only 7.3 months of retained imports, raising concerns over how long the country can continue to support the currency, although both Najib and Central Bank Governor, Zeti Akhtar Aziz have repeatedly said there will be no currency controls. The falling currency is raising the cost of imports of goods and services, which made up 69.9 percent of GDP in 2014.

International investors bail out

International investors have lost faith over falling commodity prices and the continuing political crisis, now exacerbated by international investigations into money-laundering in Switzerland, France, the UK and the United States. External debt in Malaysia, as reported by Bank Negara, the central bank, reached an all-time high in the second quarter of this year at RM79.4 billion.

A-Malaysia-More-CorruptThe World Bank’s latest forecast for Gross Domestic Product growth for 2015 is 4.9 percent, down from 6.5 percent in July 2014. It may get worse. According to the International Monetary Fund’s most recent report on emerging markets, “the weak commodity price outlook could subtract almost 1 percentage point annually from commodity exporters’ rate of economic growth over 2015–17 as compared with 2012–14.”

With energy exporters such as Petronas, the national energy company, “the drag is estimated to be larger, about 2¼ percentage points on average over the same period, reflecting a sharp downturn in oil prices over the past year.”

In the current fiscal year, Petronas contributed RM26 billion to the budget, with another RM26 billion taken from the Petroleum Development Tax, for a total of RM52 billion from Petronas reserves. Officials are privately forecasting that because of the collapse of oil prices, the two funds will contribute only RMB10 billion each, leaving a shortfall of RMB30 billion.

Tax collections fall sharply

According to in-house figures, income tax collections are expected to fall by 20 percent to 30 percent from RMB160 billion in fiscal 2014, a drop of another RM30 billion to RM50 billion owing to weak consumer sentiment and the slowdown in business activity. Operational expenditure for Fiscal 2015 is approximately RM230 billion.

“They can’t reduce it unless they begin to cull civil servants,” a well-placed business source told Asia Sentinel. “The deficit is 52 percent, with off-balance-sheet contingent liabilities another RMB18 billion. That’s like Italy and Spain and we haven’t taken into account 1MDB yet. How are they going to borrow? The ratings will be horrendous next year and cost of borrowing very high given Malaysia’s junk status. I fear they will start selling crown jewels, such as assets in government companies.”

According to Bloomberg and Reuters, 45 percent of bonds are held by foreigners, who are likely to bail out and redeem them as soon as they come to term. The bonds are spread over several years, so the foreign redemptions are not expected to pose an immediate problem. But domestic redemptions may well be. Some RM33 billion in bonds are expected to come due in the next quarter. There is no reason to believe domestic investors in government bonds are going to be any more enthusiastic about them than foreign investors, although a significant proportion are probably held by government-linked companies that can be jawboned into renewing them.

Tan Sri Robert Kuok on Malaysia

September 30, 2015

Tan Sri Robert Kuok* on Malaysia

Tan Sri Robert KuokTan Sri Robert Kuok–An Extraordinary Man

THERE is a bit of a romantic streak in South-east Asia’s richest man, it seems.

Four decades ago, Tan Sri Robert Kuok decamped Malaysia for Hong Kong. The ostensible reason: lower taxes in Hong Kong. What some say: a fierce dislike of Malaysia’s controversial New Economic Policy favouring the bumiputeras and the resulting cronyism.

Whatever his reasons, Kuok says of the country in which he was born: “I haven’t lost my affection for Malaysia.”

In a telephone interview with The Straits Times on Tuesday, the tycoon elaborated on his donation of RM100mil to build Xiamen University’s first overseas campus in Salak Tinggi, Selangor.

The largess was announced last week during a lunch with Chinese President Xi Jinping when the latter visited Malaysia. “It is a gesture of appreciation. I only wish Malaysia well,” said Kuok.

The magnate is known for being averse to media interviews and had not granted one to the international media for 16 years, barring one to Bloomberg in January this year. He may have marked his 90th birthday on Sunday, but showed little signs of his age except for some impact on his hearing.

Asked about succession plans for his HK$300bil (RM123.8bil) conglomerate Kuok Group, Kuok firmly insisted that it was a “private matter – a family matter, a company matter”.

“I will not poke my nose into other families’ (businesses), and I hope they won’t poke their noses into mine,” he said.

It was an acerbic retort to a recent cover story by Hong Kong’s Chinese-language Next magazine, which speculated that five of Kuok’s eight children were jockeying to take over the helm.

Unlike peers such as Li Ka Shing, Kuok has yet to announce who will head his empire, which includes three listed enterprises – Kerry Properties encompassing the Shangri-La chain of hotels, the SCMP Group which runs the South China Morning Post and Singapore-listed Wilmar International, the world’s biggest processor of palm oil.

Further incurring his ire was the magazine’s allusion to an “open secret” that Kuok – who is twice married – has a third family in Shanghai.

“I (only) wish that journalists who write those articles can find me a third wife!” he said irritably. On whether he would take any legal action against the periodical, he said: “Those are filthy productions, and if you want me to dive into dirty drains (with them), I hope I’m not that stupid.”

Kuok was more forthcoming in talking about the ties that continue to bind him to his home country.

“Our family enjoyed relative success due to the benevolence of the host country where my parents settled,” he said. Immigrants from Fujian, they ran a shop in Johor Baru selling rice, sugar and flour.

When Kuok senior died in 1948, the then 25-year-old Robert established Kuok Brothers with his brother and other family members. Its success would eventually earn him the moniker “Sugar King”.

Kuok, who was educated at Raffles College where he was classmates with Lee Kuan Yew, later moved his base to Singapore. Tracing those years, he said: “We were minnows in the pond, then we entered the lake where we grew to five to 10 pounds.”

By 1960, he was trading sugar and rice with China, skilfully navigating any political turbulence. “Later, the ocean – Hong Kong and China – attracted my attention and so the fish could become even larger,” he said.

His focus today is on China’s economic development, “instead of interfering in the politics of China”, he said, in apparent allusion to critics who say he is too cosy with Beijing leadership.

Staff from the SCMP for instance, have complained that under Kuok ownership, the paper censors stories it thinks the Chinese government would not like.

But, he said, like the giant leather-backed turtles of Terengganu which return to the same sandy beaches every year to lay their eggs, he feels the primal tug of home.

“Roots are roots, except that my other root is the root of my parents – and that is China. I am twin-rooted.” Asked about the sense of discrimination among the Chinese in Malaysia, Kuok demurred, saying: “This will lead only to highly controversial statements, which is not good for anybody. One must never hurt those Chinese who are living in Malaysia, never be the cause of any kind of inter-racial hostility.

“We all feel it, but there may come a day, with the proper platform (do we then talk about it).”What’s most important is the timing.”And the present is not the right time? The man laughed: “Certainly not this morning, to a journalist!” – ANN/Straits Times

Published: Wednesday October 9, 2013 MYT 5:14:00 PM–Still relevant from a self-made man with vision, compassion and superb business acumen

2015 General Elections–Small Steps towards Democracy for Singapore

September 10, 2015

2015 General Elections–Small Steps towards Democracy for Singapore

by Mohd Nawab Mohd Osman

Singapore Elections 2015The final outcome for this contest however will be over the kind of Singapore that Singaporeans would like to see. The Singaporean electorates will need to choose between the PAP’s argument that the party needs solid support from voters to chart a better future for the country or the opposition’s argument that Singapore should see more opposition parliamentarians to act as a check on the PAP.

There’s little doubt Friday’s vote will be won by the long ruling People’s Action Party, and they may make gains in the popular vote. Even so, a richer political system is on the cards.

As the nation gets set to go to the polls, this Friday marks an important date in Singapore’s history. This election is important for several reasons. First, it is the first election since the death of the Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of Singapore. Second, this is a barometer for the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) government since its disastrous performance in the 2011 general elections and the subsequent two by-elections that saw PAP’s support decline further.Third, it is also likely to be the election that would see Singapore’s fourth generation leaders firm up their place within the political system, and hence a change of guard that is likely to take place after the ballot.

A sweeter ground than 2011

At the 2011 election, the PAP suffered one of its worst electoral performances in Singapore’s history. This came in the wake of public discontent related to the government’s immigration policies, which some in Singapore believed have contributed to overcrowding, rising housing prices and increasing fears that the Singaporean identity will be diluted.

Lee Hsein Loong

In response, the PAP introduced a slew of policies aimed at correcting some of the roots of these complaints. The government introduced universal life insurance, accelerated construction of public housing, extended subsidies to lower and middle income voters, and most importantly, slowed the rate of immigration.

While admitting that the government has taken steps to address many problems, Singapore’s main opposition party, the Worker’s Party has taken credit for these changes, arguing that it comes down to  the increased presence of the opposition in Parliament. It is without doubt that many of these policies were well-received by many Singaporeans and the perception of who can legitimately claim credit to these changes will have bearing on the polls.

Some observers have argued that the PAP is riding on the euphoria of Singapore’s 50 years of independence, celebrated earlier this year, and is hoping to cash in on the feel-good factor as a result.

More importantly, Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew’s death in March and the massive outpour of mourning and grief at his funeral could translate to votes for what is perceived to be a government that he built. The impending economic crisis that is likely to hit the Southeast Asian region as a result of the slowing down of the Chinese economy might further strengthen the PAP’s position as electorates tend to vote for stability during times of crisis.

Political instability in Malaysia might also influence Friday’s vote. In the 2013 Malaysian elections, the ruling National Front (BN) coalition lost the popular vote for the first time since the country’s independence. Contrary to perception that a more democratic Malaysia would herald a new era for the country, the country has become politically unstable with bickering and divisions in both the ruling coalition and the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, resulting in the weakening of the Malaysian economy. This could lead to some Singaporean to err on the side of caution and vote for the incumbents rather than ‘risked’ Singapore’s political stability.

A resurgent opposition

The PAP’s declining vote has attracted a record 10 opposition parties to contest this election. Besides the more prominent parties such as the Worker’s Party, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), and Singapore People’s Party (SPP), a number of new opposition parties like the Singaporeans First (SingFirst) and People’s Power Party (PPP) have emerged.

PAP 2015 Eletction TaglineOther more familiar parties include the Reform Party (RP), Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) and the National Solidarity Party (NSP).

Partly as a result of the proliferation of new parties, every constituency is contested in this election. More remarkably, the major parties were able to agree to a one-to-one contest in all the Group Representation Constituencies (GRC) and most of the Single Member Constituencies (SMC).

With the exception of the WP, SDP and SPP (in its previous stronghold of Potong Pasir), the other parties are not likely to gain much traction as they offer little alternative policies, are plagued by in-fighting, and have fielded poor quality candidates.

The contest is likely to come down to the PAP and the WP and perhaps the SDP.The WP and SDP have both fielded strong candidates and have offered alternative policies to that of the PAP. The fact that the SDP and WP are considered a serious threat by the PAP is attested by the fact that PAP leaders have reserved their sharpest criticisms for these two parties .

WP’s alleged mismanagement of its town council (Singaporean MPs manages municipal matters within their constituency), and the SDP’s manifesto have taken centre stage in the election hustings.

Issues affecting the Malay community

The election hustings have been particularly interesting for the Malay community. For the first time in the last decade, a Malay candidate, Damanhuri Abas from the SDP has openly criticised the government over issues that are deemed to be important for the Malay community, such as Malays in the Singapore Armed Forces, and the wearing of headscarfs .

For its part, the PAP has tried to prop up its support within the Malay community by fielding Malay candidates who are highly qualified and deemed to be close to the Malay ground. At least three of the four Malay candidates have been active in Malay/Muslim organisations over the last decade. This strategy has also exposed a key weakness of the opposition parties.

With the exception of Damanhuri, most Malay candidates fielded by  opposition parties are unknown to the community and have less than stellar credentials when compared to their team-mates from other communities.

While the small pool of credible Malay candidates could explain this weakness, the notion that less credible Malay candidates could be coat-tailed into parliament as a result of their team-mates’ stronger credentials could have negative consequences for the Malay community.

Opposition parties will need to rectify this weakness especially if they seek to position themselves as an alternative government to the PAP and recruit Malay candidates of ministerial calibre.

Heralding a new political landscape?

This election could prove to be an instrumental one in shaping the future of Singaporean politics and society. There is little doubt that the PAP will form the government after the election. Even the WP has indicated that it is not yet ready to form the next government.

The final outcome for this contest however will be over the kind of Singapore that Singaporeans would like to see. The Singaporean electorates will need to choose between the PAP’s argument that the party needs solid support from voters to chart a better future for the country or the opposition’s argument that Singapore should see more opposition parliamentarians to act as a check on the PAP.

Finally, it is likely that this election will see the PAP improving its performance marginally perhaps winning 62 to 63 per cent of the overall votes.

This would be largely attributed to the likely poor performance of most of the smaller parties. The WP could capture the single seat of Fengshan and possibly win the East Coast Group Representative Constituency (GRC) -although this is still too close to call.

The SDP is likely to make a serious dent in the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC and will be in an excellent position to capture its first GRC in the next election due in 2020.

In sum, the upcoming election will see Singapore make its slow and incremental towards a more democratic society, an ideal enshrined in the nation’s constitution.

Mohamed Nawab Mohamed Osman is Assistant Professor and coordinator of the Malaysia Program at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah- Malaysia’s Man of the Moment

September 8, 2017

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah- Malaysia’s Man of the Moment

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Tengku Razaleigh HamzahWith our country facing an unprecedented political crisis, it is time to seriously look at the options available in terms of our national leadership. For it is manifestly clear that Prime Minister Dato Seri Najib Razak has lost not only credibility but also the trust and confidence of the nation and not just U’MNO members (except those whose loyalty have been bought) Continue reading

Believe or Not: Malaysia is not going bankrupt

Believe or Not: Malaysia is not going bankrupt

by Bernama

The claim by certain people that Malaysia will be bankruptIrwan siregar mamak following the ringgit slump and drop in oil price is wrong, says Treasury Secretary-General Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah. He said the country’s economy was still growing strong at the rate of more than 5% and new approaches would be undertaken to ensure continued prudent spending by the Government.

Mohd Irwan said Malaysia was not the only country facing difficulties.“Many countries that are dependent on a commodity-based economy, such as Australia, Russia and Brazil, are experiencing a worse decline in the value of their currencies due to the drop in the world oil price and strengthening of the US dollar,” he said.

 “Currently, our economy is still growing and stronger compared to that during the 1997-1998 financial crisis where it was negative,” Mohd Irwan said during the recording of TV Alhijrah’s special talk programme “Tea Time with the managing director of Shell Malaysia, Azman Ismail” here yesterday.

“At the moment, we are still able to pay the salary of our civil servants,” he said.“If the country is bankrupt, we will not be able to pay them.”

Mohd Irwan said the setting up of the Special Economic Com­mittee, chaired by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar, recently was part of Government efforts to overcome the current economic challenges.

Economic CommitteeNazir Razak withdrew

He said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak would soon announce the measures to be undertaken based on the proposals of the committee, besides the 2016 Budget, on October 23.

“These are among the Government’s plans; not all are pretty as each country has weaknesses but we try to increase the good things so that the country’s economy remains strong,” he added. — Bernama