Bersatu’s inexorable move to becoming a sanitized, immunized and Bersih UMNO Terbaru 3.0


January 3, 2019

Bersatu’s inexorable move to becoming a sanitized, immunized and Bersih UMNO Terbaru 3.0

Opinion  | By P. Gunasegaram

Published:  |  Modified:

  QUESTION TIME | If anything, Bersatu’s recent annual general assembly starkly shows one thing – that it is merely an extension of the old UMNO (Baru,) and will use the model of Malay supremacy,ty and put back in place corruption via patronage politics.

The only way to check that unfortunate retrograde policy is for the other Pakatan Harapan partners, especially those who have three to four times the number of MPs Bersatu has, to exert their combined muscle to rightfully regain more influence in the coalition and restore the original reform agenda pre-GE14.

At the AGM, Bersatu vice-President Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman, also a former Election Commission (EC) chairperson, termed pushbacks against delegates’ demands to be given government resources to help the party retain power as “stupid”.

Bad enough that you have the former EC chairperson advocating breaking laws but this same person was shockingly appointed in August last year to head a Putrajaya committee that will make recommendations on electoral law reform in two years time.

This same Abdul Rashid had been heavily criticised by both PKR and DAP, the dominant parties in Harapan, over his tenure from 2000 to 2008 as the EC chairperson. This continues a tendency for Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to appoint tainted,controversial and/or discredited people to important positions.

This includes Daim Zainuddin to head the Council of Eminent Persons; former Inspector-General of Police Abdul Rahim Noor (who brutally assaulted Anwar Ibrahim and gave him a black eye while in Police detention) to negotiate security arrangements with Thailand and former discredited aAtorneys-General to important positions.

Abdul Rashid’s comments at the Bersatu assembly are particularly galling and provocative and advocate extra-judicial measures to keep and extend Bersatu’s hold on power. These are clearly against the law but Abdul Rashid (photo) received a misplaced standing ovation from Bersatu delegates.

“Looking at the situation now, we cannot defend our position as the governing party because the division chiefs are being left out. It is lucky that the Prime Minister gave me a job with a big salary so that I can support my division,” said Abdul Rashid, apparently referring to his appointment to the government’s election reform committee.

“But the others, we don’t need to be arrogant by saying we shouldn’t give them jobs, that we would be taking away the jobs of others, that we should not take this or that. That opinion, to me, irresponsible. In the election, we must win by hook or by crook,” he said.

He added that although he did not like the idea of using government resources, it had to be done.

“All division chiefs should be given activities so that they can have the opportunity to defend their divisions,” he said.

Abdul Rashid also urged the government to restore the parallel village chief system practised by the previous BN government. “And our people must occupy these positions,” he said.

Village chiefs are traditionally appointed by the state government but the previous BN government appointed parallel village chiefs in states not under its control. The Harapan administration has abolished this parallel system.

“All development projects should be channeled to these (parallel) committees and the division chiefs must benefit,” he said as the crowd cheered him on.

Blown to smithereens

It is unthinkable that this man, who clearly advocates moves against current elections laws, heads Putrajaya’s committee on electoral reform. If anything, he will probably advocate changes in the law to allow these offences to take place.

Harapan leaders should forthwith put their foot down and demand that Abdul Rashid be removed as the head of the electoral reform committee as he has clearly shown, by his words at a public gathering, that he is not a fit person to come up with electoral reforms which are up to international standards.

That he had so much support from Bersatu delegates for his views is worrying, with other leaders echoing his sentiments. While Bersatu head Mahathir has said that what Abdul Rashid says is his personal opinion, he should immediately review Abdul Rashid’s position as head of the electoral reform committee.

The original UMNO  was founded in 1946 to champion Malay rights in the lead up to independence. Its founder Onn bin Jaffar left UMNO after the party refused to open membership to non-Malays. Tunku Abdul Rahman took over the helm and became Malaysia’s first Prime Minister.

That UMNO was de-registered in 1987 after the courts declared it illegal. Then prime minister Mahathir formed UMNO Baru or UMNO 2.0 and organised members of UMNO, who supported him to join this UMNO Baru, excluding others who did not. There was a breakaway group called Semangat 46 formed, headed by Mahathir’s then opponent , Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

Mahathir altered the constitution of the original UMNO considerably by making it next to impossible to remove a sitting UMNO Baru President. This resulted in a progressive erosion of government accountability and transparency, eventually leading to 1MDB and its excesses. And UMNOMNO-BN’s first loss in the general election last year.

As droves of MPs start to desert UMNOo Baru, Bersatu may well become Umno 3.0 if it accepts these UMNOo MPs as members. That will irrevocably change the complexion of the coalition and alter the balance of power within Harapan.

Other coalition partners, in particular, PKR and DAP, should clearly resist this and state their irreversible opposition to such moves, simply because all UMNO and BN MPs are tainted because they knew full well of the corruption and theft within 1MDB when they decided to stand for elections.

If all of the UMNO MPs are accepted within the Bersatu fold and become Harapan members effectively and those within Bersatu who call for extrajudicial measures to remain in power are not checked, it is inevitable that Bersatu will become UMNO 3.0 and the strongest party within the Harapan coalition.

With that, the hopes of the majority of Malaysians for a fairer, more equitable country, where everybody is considered Malaysian and where corruption is a thing of the past and accountability and good governance will be practised, will be blown to smithereens.


P GUNASEGARAM says we have to guard our newfound freedom zealously instead of surrendering it back to UMNO goons and gangsters who want a return to the past. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com

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

A neo-BN New Year


December 31, 2018 Opinion  |  S Thayaparan

A neo-BN New Year

https://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/458280

Opinion  |  S Thayaparan
Published:  |

 

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language

And next year’s words await another voice.

And to make an end is to make a beginning.” (Little Gidding)

TS Eliot

COMMENT | Another new year is upon us. I know some people feel as if Pakatan Harapan is the new BN. I have pushed this narrative in nearly all my writings. I desperately sound the alarm bells that Harapan is becoming neo BN – but I do not do this out of spite.

I do this because I come from a generation that saw how BN evolved. A generation that witnessed alliance politics morph into something ugly but more importantly, saw how the public supported a corrupt system out of pragmatism or fear or just plain self-interest.

Image result for lim kit siang

I remember when Lim Kit Siang and the opposition were decimated in one election, and how those of us who were rooting for him were shocked that people did not vote for at least the DAP, which offered something else to the politics that were tearing us apart. However, this is the past. Admittedly, things have changed.

These days I see articulate young leaders toe the party line. I see young leaders more interested in maintaining party discipline, egged on by the base who assume that they speak for all Malaysians.

I see a kind of fascistic patina slowly forming around young leaders more interested in inter-party ascendance than inspiring people – young people especially – that things can change if only you worked hard enough for it. Hate to break it to you but playing the political party game works well on social media but it doesn’t inspire people – especially young people – to vote for the change they want.

It is pointless chronicling the whys and hows of the fall of Najib Abdul Razak. When the old maverick claims that Bersatu was needed in the removal of Najib, I think it is more complicated than that. I think he was needed for the removal of Najib.

Image result for political frogs in malaysia

 

UMNO Kataks have morphed into  Neo-Bersatus  

Dr. Mahathir Mohamad always knew how to play the political game better than his comrades in UMNO. If Najib had just listened to him, I doubt we would be having this conversation.Image result for Dr.mahathir the maverick

.

However, the removal of Najib is more than just the legacy of the old maverick. It demonstrated that a ruling coalition could fall. I want young people to take note of this. From what I gather, young people are infatuated with the old maverick and while I understand this, I hope the young people who were standing in the sidelines in the 14th general election now understand the future of this country – and more importantly, the power they could wield in determining this future.

Going through my files, I reread an article in the BBC earlier this year about the power young Malaysians have but do not wield. It is an interesting article, not only because it neatly condensed many of the data points that I have put forward concerning the youth vote in this country but it also reminds us that young people have the power to change things.

“If this is genuine lack of interest, it is reflected in one poll by Merdeka Center, an independent Malaysian polling organisation which last year looked at how young people in West Malaysia felt about politics. Merdeka Center found that as many as 70 percent of them do not believe that their vote will bring about tangible changes in the government and don’t think their elected representatives really care about people like them.”

Young voters are the key, even if they do not care. Look, while I think that DAP, PKR, and Amanah are making an effort, I also think that there are many young people in Bersatu who know that things need to change. I mean, look at someone like Wan Saiful Wan Jan. Smart guy, but he has to conform to the politics of Bersatu, which is an early UMNO pastiche.

Honestly, I tried to give Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman (photo) the benefit of the doubt but if someone like Wan Saiful had brought the kind of American-inspired conservatism to Bersatu, which is what he did when he was in Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas), this would have been a good thing. Bersatu, whether we like it or not, has the best chance to lead the way but if it continues down this path, we are going down the crapper.

Jostling for power, contracts

Change does not take time. Political will stalls for time. We can move forward slowly or you could convince people that you are moving, but walking slowly on the same spot. I keep getting these clips of the old maverick saying that the education policy needs to change. I keep seeing young and old political operatives in Bersatu talking about how the Malays cannot rely on the tongkat and Bersatu needs to lead the way.

I have heard all this before. Maybe you have too. Take education for instance. Firstly, why doesn’t someone give Azly Rahman a job sorting this mess out, but more importantly, if Bersatu and Harapan have the political will to slowly remove the tongkat and change the education system, they would make some good faith gestures.

First, they would recognise the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC). Then they would do away with Malay-only institutions. They would recognise the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd) for instance, and not in various political ways, propagate the “do not spook the Malays” meme.

What we are hearing from the supposedly closed-door Bersatu AGM is the same game of federal control, of power, through proxies. This is why people are jostling for power, contracts and positions. Decentralise power, which would allow state-level affirmative action programmes for all races. I bet my last ringgit that more Malays would benefit from these programmes than non-Malays, if that is the fear of Malay and non-Malay political operatives.

This way you could name the new agenda the Best Ultra Malay Initiative – BUMI – and nobody would care if everyone was getting the help they need, regardless of race. But everyone knows what separates Bersatu and the far right of Umno and PAS – polemics not policy.

And while I am bitching about policy, this 1am closing time for nightspots in the Federal Territory is the dumbest and I would say a mendacious policy of the Harapan regime. Interfering in business – the price of KFC too high, really? Is it mendacious when you claim we have a trillion ringgit debt?

There is a whole host of small businesses attached to nightclubs, not to mention the traders who service the after-hours crowd in local fare, that would be affected by this malicious rule.

What Harapan is doing is destroying part of the culture of this country. Big City culture and what they want to do is to turn it into what some parts of this country are. Remember this day, because no matter what some people say about closing hours in the West, what we have here are sub rosa moves by the Islamist to slowly impose hegemony, Harapan style. This is just the beginning.

Who knows what the following year will bring in the permutations of Malay power. Frogs jumping, political opponents having lunch, internecine conflicts among Malay brokers in the major parties.

In this climate, do you blame people for feeling jaded and thinking that nothing changes?

I have two hopes for the new year. The first that young people discover the power they wield. And the second that the people who supported Harapan pressure the government so it does not become another BN.

Have a productive new year, Malaysia, whoever you are.


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

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

The Inevitability of Trump Impeachment


December 28, 2018

 

Even Republicans may be deciding that the President has become too great a burden to their party or too great a danger to the country.

By Elizabeth Drew

The Inevitability of Trump Impeachment

Ms. Drew is a journalist based in Washington who covered Watergate.

An impeachment process against President Trump now seems inescapable. Unless the President resigns, the pressure by the public on the Democratic leaders to begin an impeachment process next year will only increase. Too many people think in terms of stasis: How things are is how they will remain. They don’t take into account that opinion moves with events.

Image result for The Inevitability of Trump Impeachment

Whether or not there’s already enough evidence to impeach Mr. Trump — I think there is — we will learn what the special counsel, Robert Mueller, has found, even if his investigation is cut short. A significant number of Republican candidates didn’t want to run with Mr. Trump in the midterms, and the results of those elections didn’t exactly strengthen his standing within his party. His political status, weak for some time, is now hurtling downhill.

Image result for The Inevitability of Trump Impeachment

The midterms were followed by new revelations in criminal investigations of once-close advisers as well as new scandals involving Mr. Trump himself. The odor of personal corruption on the President’s part — perhaps affecting his foreign policy — grew stronger. Then the events of the past several days — the president’s precipitous decision to pull American troops out of Syria, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’s abrupt resignation, the swoon in the stock market, the pointless shutdown of parts of the government — instilled a new sense of alarm among many Republicans.

The word “impeachment” has been thrown around with abandon. The frivolous impeachment of President Bill Clinton helped to define it as a form of political revenge. But it is far more important and serious than that: It has a critical role in the functioning of our democracy.

Impeachment was the founders’ method of holding a president accountable between elections. Determined to avoid setting up a king in all but name, they put the decision about whether a president should be allowed to continue to serve in the hands of the representatives of the people who elected him.

The founders understood that overturning the results of a presidential election must be approached with care and that they needed to prevent the use of that power as a partisan exercise or by a faction. So they wrote into the Constitution provisions to make it extremely difficult for Congress to remove a president from office, including that after an impeachment vote in the House, the Senate would hold a trial, with a two-thirds vote needed for conviction.

Lost in all the discussion about possible lawbreaking by Mr. Trump is the fact that impeachment wasn’t intended only for crimes. For example, in 1974 the House Judiciary Committee charged Richard Nixon with, among other things, abusing power by using the I.R.S. against his political enemies. The committee also held the president accountable for misdeeds by his aides and for failing to honor the oath of office’s pledge that a president must “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

The current presidential crisis seems to have only two possible outcomes. If Mr. Trump sees criminal charges coming at him and members of his family, he may feel trapped. This would leave him the choice of resigning or trying to fight congressional removal. But the latter is highly risky.

I don’t share the conventional view that if Mr. Trump is impeached by the House, the Republican-dominated Senate would never muster the necessary 67 votes to convict him. Stasis would decree that would be the case, but the current situation, already shifting, will have been left far behind by the time the senators face that question. Republicans who were once Mr. Trump’s firm allies have already openly criticized some of his recent actions, including his support of Saudi Arabia despite the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and his decision on Syria. They also openly deplored Mr. Mattis’s departure.

It always seemed to me that Mr. Trump’s turbulent presidency was unsustainable and that key Republicans would eventually decide that he had become too great a burden to the party or too great a danger to the country. That time may have arrived. In the end the Republicans will opt for their own political survival. Almost from the outset some Senate Republicans have speculated on how long his presidency would last. Some surely noticed that his base didn’t prevail in the midterms.

But it may well not come to a vote in the Senate. Facing an assortment of unpalatable possibilities, including being indicted after he leaves office, Mr. Trump will be looking for a way out. It’s to be recalled that Mr. Nixon resigned without having been impeached or convicted. The House was clearly going to approve articles of impeachment against him, and he’d been warned by senior Republicans that his support in the Senate had collapsed. Mr. Trump could well exhibit a similar instinct for self-preservation. But like Mr. Nixon, Mr. Trump will want future legal protection.

Mr. Nixon was pardoned by President Gerald Ford, and despite suspicions, no evidence has ever surfaced that the fix was in. While Mr. Trump’s case is more complex than Mr. Nixon’s, the evident dangers of keeping an out-of-control president in office might well impel politicians in both parties, not without controversy, to want to make a deal to get him out of there.

Elizabeth Drew, a political journalist who for many years covered Washington for The New Yorker, is the author of “Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon’s Downfall.”

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

 

 

 

Anti-ICERD rally a win for New Malaysia but a setback for Harapan’


December 9, 2018

Anti-ICERD rally a win for New Malaysia but a setback for Harapan’

by Lim Kit Siang  |  Published:  |  Modified:

 

MP SPEAKS | The peaceful holding of the anti-ICERD rally in Kuala Lumpur yesterday is a victory for New Malaysia but a setback to Pakatan Harapan.

As Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin rightly said after the rally, it was a demonstration that the Pakatan Harapan government will always respect the rights of the people to speak and assemble peacefully, as long as these rights are practised according to the provisions of the law and the Malaysian Constitution.

The former UMNO-BN government have never recognised, respected and upheld the constitutional and democratic right of Malaysians to speak and assemble peacefully, as witnessed what happened to the five Bersih rallies from 2007 to 2016 – Bersih 1 on November 10, 2007; Bersih 2 on July 9, 2011; Bersih 3 on April 28, 2012; Bersih 4 on August 29 and 30, 2015; and Bersih 5 on November 19, 2016.

But there is a major hitch – the organisers of the of the anti-ICERD in Kuala Lumpur did not want a New Malaysia, which was born on the historic day of May 9, 2018, to re-set Malaysian nation-building policies to save Malaysia from the trajectory of a rogue democracy, a failed state, a kakistocracy( cronyism+ and a global kleptocracy and awaits Malaysians to give it flesh, blood and soul to be a world top-class nation – united, democratic, just, progressive and prosperous – which may take one or two decades to accomplish.

The organisers of the anti-Icerd rally came to destroy and not to create a New Malaysia. I said it was a setback for the Pakatan Harapan to build a New Malaysia because yesterday’s rally would not have happened if the Harapan government had handled the Icerd issue better.

As constitutional law expert from Universiti Malaya, Professor Shad Faruqi, has stressed, most of the criticisms against ICERD have no legal basis.

He said: “However, as hate and fear are potent weapons in politics, the perpetrators have succeeded in polarising society and raising the spectre of violence.”

As Shad Faruqi has pointed out, Icerd is neither anti-Malay nor against the Malaysian Federal Constitution. Since yesterday, Malaysia has become the laughing stock of the Muslims in the world, as 99 percent of the 1.9 billion Muslims of the world live in 179 countries which have ratified ICERD, including 55 of the 57 Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) nations.

UKM research fellow, Dr. Denison Jayasooria, wrote a good article in Malaysiakini entitled: ‘Examining Icerd ratification among OIC members’, where he reviewed the ratification by OIC member states, including Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Palestine, and he concluded: “As far as I note, none of them has objections or placed reservations in the name of Islam.”

IiVERD ++ also does not undermine the power of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, resulting in the abolition of the system of Malay Sultans.

There are 38 countries with the monarchical system, out of which 36 countries have ratified the Icerd including the United Kingdom in 1969, Norway (1970), Sweden (1971), Denmark (1971), Netherlands (1971), Jordan (1974), Belgium (1975), Japan (1995), and Saudi Arabia (1997).

There are absolutely no indications that the ratification of ICERD by these 36 countries have undermined the monarchical system as to lead to their abolition.

But as Malaysia is a plural society, it is of utmost importance that the unity and harmony of our diverse races, languages, cultures and religions in Malaysia must be the paramount goal of the nation.

For this reason, Malaysia should not ratify ICERD until the majority of the races and religions in Malaysia are comfortable with it, support it and understand that it poses no threat to the various races, religions or the Federal Constitution but is a step forward to join the world in promoting human rights.

The Harapan government should not have allowed the organisers of the anti-Icerd rally to hijack, twist and distort the ICERD debate with the toxic politics of lies, hate, fear, race and religion to incite baseless fears that Icerd is anti-Malay, anti-Islam and anti-Malay Rulers, which camouflaged an agenda to allow those responsible for sending Malaysia into the trajectory of a rogue democracy, a failed state, a kakistocracy and a global kleptocracy to make a political comeback and to destroy efforts to re-set nation-building efforts to create a New Malaysia.

This is a lesson the Harapan government must learn quick and fast, or both Harapan and the great vision of a New Malaysia will be destroyed.


LIM KIT SIANG is Iskandar Puteri MP.

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

Special Report

The ICERD Outrage

Malaysia is one of only two Muslim-majority countries in the world that have not ratified ICERD.

The dangers of feudalism in Malaysian society


December 7,2018

The dangers of feudalism in Malaysian society

 

Image result for dr syed hussein alatas--"Intellectuals in Developing Societies”.
 

We Malaysians are so used to feudalism. The culture of patronage and neo-feudalism is firmly entrenched in the 21st century Malaysian mindset. A feeding tube, through which “bebalisma” trickles, regularly nourishes this culture.

Bebalisma is a concept encompassing the notions of foolishness, idiocy, brainlessness, irresponsibility, unintelligence and half-wittedness. The late Syed Hussein Alatas, lexiconnoisseur par excellence, devoted an entire chapter to bebalisma (Chapter 3) in his masterpiece, “Intellectuals in Developing Societies”.

Image result for dr syed hussein alatas--"Intellectuals in Developing Societies”.

A Corrupt and Disgraced feudal  Malay Politician

The development of Malaysia’s post-colonial politics has been chequered by these notions. Our political history exposes an intellectual development that has gone awry. We can blame none other than our enduring culture of patronage and neo-feudalism. It continues to be the assembly line in which bebalisma is efficiently manufactured, packaged and recycled for eager market consumption. Post-May 9 political transformations have not been spared. I take note of a few developments post-GE14 to demonstrate that feudalism is very much alive despite prevailing anti-corruption, anti-racist and anti-bigotry sentiments that brought the Barisan Nasional administration to its knees.

In October, the central leadership of DAP rightfully called for the prohibition of elected representatives and councillors from accepting titles and awards while still in active political service. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong and state rulers were informed of DAP’s decision that titles and awards should be accepted only after the awardees have proven themselves in active service with positive results.

Awards during service is unjustified and leads to complacency. Given the feudal mentality of Malaysian society, a Datuk, Datuk Seri, Tan Sri or Tun has the upper hand in many aspects of governance including access to corrupt practices. We have seen in the previous administration how this abuse gained momentum, and the attention it was given by the media. For instance, in 2017 a series of print and online newspapers carried stories of “Datuks breaking the law”. One newspaper even suggested that at the rate so many Datuks and Datuk Seris are getting into trouble, “the Prison Department might have to build a new wing just to house these VIPs”. The editor of that newspaper had a welcoming tongue-in-cheek sense of humour. However, such humour is premised on acceptable norms but unacceptable cultural values.

Datuks and Tan Sris are VIPs, but whether they are given preferential treatment or not as criminals should not be open to debate. I would like to see more of our media focusing on the phenomenon that our feudal past should stay in the past. Furthermore, the donning of the notorious “orange lock-up” attire is befitting for all criminals, irrespective of whether they were former leaders in government. A criminal is a criminal. Society was cheated, individuals were hurt, citizens’ rights were looted. A title should not have the power to minimise such violations of societal values.

The general public and the ruling elite must change the prevailing perception of what it means to be respected in society. Feudal notions of respect are superficial and empty. An individual earns respect based on services rendered, not on how many lines your name is.

These services have to benefit a majority rather than a select minority with vested interests. The feudal attitude that is so prevalent in Malaysia has resulted in what Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has bemoaned for a long time, more so since he took office in May this year. The sense of shame among Malaysians is at an all-time low.

But how can one feel ashamed of being corrupt or committing academic fraud if punishment is going to be only skin-deep? Feudalism dictates leniency. Since the release of the National Unity Consultative Council blueprint in October this year, there has been a renewed urgency to tackle racial and religious tensions. Last week’s disturbing incident in Seafield, USJ 25 (Sri Maha Mariamman temple), though, tells me more about the misperception of values as opposed to politicking based on race and religion. Let me explain.

Six civilians were injured, including a policeman and a firefighter. The latter caught the media’s attention as his injuries were critical, apart from him being Malay. What caught my attention though were the appeals made by readers in the comment sections of many online media portals. Many called for an end to senseless bickering by politicians, and an end to politicising race and religion by the opposition. Some made visceral attacks targeted at Malays, while others from various races appealed for normality. One non-Malay reader commented that the Malays are a peace-loving, kind, polite and “soft” people, implying that the temple fracas had nothing to do with race or religion.

I agree, but I also worry that these positive Malay traits are fodder for the perpetuation of a feudal mindset in our society. Manipulators will certainly take advantage of such noble characteristics to claim subservience from the hinterland. Rural folk revere their leaders, especially those with titles. They are regarded as orang besar. The reality is that most rural Malaysians have blind loyalty for their titled heroes. Ongoing support for the likes of our previous leaders and their respective parties is a strong case in point. However, the values of being a kind, polite and “soft” people must be divorced from the backward feudal ideology that has been etched into the Malaysian mindset. The only way we can evolve from this feudal pit of inequality is through education.

Our schools should continue teaching universal moral values. Religious education should be separate from our national education curriculum. More time and resources should be devoted to the teaching of the negative aspects of feudalism and its detrimental effect on the social contract.

Education Minister Maszlee Malik’s call to include the 1MDB scandal in Malaysian history is welcomed. However, if this is not deeply thought through, young minds will fail to see a connection between feudal patronage and corruption. After all, the 1MDB scandal was engineered by many orang besar. Similarly, Malaysians are taught in school to be polite from young, but they should also be taught that stating the honorific Datuk or Tan Sri many times in a single sentence when addressing an orang besar is unnecessary. It does not make the conversation more polite or morally elevated. All it does is prolong an irrational hierarchy in social interaction.

Feudalism being what it is – reverence of a leader, a personality rather than adherence to an ideology – opens society to blatant manipulation. Citizens’ representatives should also be given the choice of whether to accept an honorific or not, without any character assassination should he/she refuse it. In our culture, it is believed that not accepting such awards would be an insult to the Agong or the rulers. On the contrary, I see such a refusal as humble, and an example of a dedicated and selfless “servant” of society. These values should be revered. Such an act of refusal demonstrates great integrity and decency. A feudal mind, however, would think otherwise. A feudal mind would value the financial perks and parking in a no-parking zone.

The overwhelming feeling of privilege and self-deservedness among Malaysians is staggering. For instance, in the world of academia, the highest award given is Emeritus. In Malaysia, we also have Profesor Ulung and Profesor DiRaja, both of which do not make any sense in the global scholarly arena.

On an international level, a professor has reached the highest level of scholarly achievement in a particular academic field based on the decades he or she has devoted to teaching, research and publishing. Recognition of profound academic achievement is also given if students of such professors have achieved their own pristine level of scholarship. Both student and mentor are highly regarded, irrespective of who has been awarded the honorific.

Also, merely the quantity of publications should not be the litmus test of success or failure in the academia. Internationally, academics are given high recognition for quality publications – articles and books that offer cutting-edge discoveries, new theories and creative interpretations that can potentially improve the way we live. An academic could write only a single magnus opus throughout his or her career, and yet go down in history as a legendary scholar and a great mind.

The award of Professor Emeritus should not be dished out irresponsibly. At the monthly staff assembly in the Prime Minister’s Department earlier this week, Dr.Mahathir reminded the government and members of the administration that the power bestowed on them means that they should feel great responsibility to avoid self-benefit and self-interest. Instead, “with great power comes great responsibility”.

Chapter 4 of Alatas’ “Intellectuals in Developing Societies” is entitled “The Fools in Developing Societies”. A serious expose is presented on a somewhat “foolish” topic. The state of being a fool in society is prolonged by titled individuals. These decorated individuals come a dime a dozen. If the deserving are honoured, there would be fewer fools in society. If we learn to appreciate the value of excellence and hard work, we would create a society that strives for such an achievement. In the process the level of competency in all aspects of society will be raised.

In the current Malaysian context, H.G Wells’ “martian red weed” (in “The War of the Worlds”) represents how bebalisma has encroached into every nook and cranny of our lives. It is proving to be a herculean task to re-programme such a mindset.

Many in the top political intelligentsia, the business community and society in general seem oblivious to the “invisible hand” of feudalism. We complain a lot about corruption, racism, bigotry, poor quality of education, the increase in consumer prices, high road accident rates, lack of academic freedom, etc. I hope we will continue to find solutions to these serious problems by invoking a more anti-feudalism, anti-bebalisma narrative.

Thankfully there are segments of Malaysian society which have consciously rejected this feudal hierarchy of “idol worship”. However, our education system must become more involved as the young need to be taught that feudalism is not acceptable just because it is part of our tradition.

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

 

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Ethics in Governance: The dethroning of our value system


Ethics in Governance: The dethroning of our value system

by Firoz Abdul Hamid

Image result for Richard P. Feynman

“So I have just one wish for you – the good luck to be somewhere where you are free to maintain the kind of integrity I have described, and where you do not feel forced by a need to maintain your position in the organization, or financial support, or so on, to lose your integrity. May you have that freedom.” 

Richard P. Feynman, a Nobel Prize winner for Physics in 1965

faffTrust. Integrity. Honour. Lexicons or Values? The month of November 2018 witnessed many boardroom dramas. Revelations of Facebook in the New York Times spoke of an unbecoming culture of ‘Delay, Deny and Deflect’ allegedly practised by the most senior people in one of the largest corporations ruling this world today: People who we idolise, our children want to emulate, those who frequent talk shows and international business forums. These are people we trust as exemplars for our companies, yet in a public listed company that necessitates high levels of governance, we hear reports of culture that promotes the contrary.

Image result for saw Carlos Ghosn

And then we saw Carlos Ghosn, the Chairman and CEO of Renault who allegedly used company funds for personal purposes. Another case of a public listed company that missed its mark on governance, it would seem. We had German police raiding Deutsche Bank’s headquarters in Frankfurt as part of an investigation into whether the lender helped criminals launder money through offshore tax havens when it was not long back HSBC was fined for money laundering offences in Mexico.

These cases and companies are by no stretch of the imagination small feat adventures. These companies are and have been emulative models of case studies for management schools, its leaders receive invites to Davos and we in the ‘developing world’ are made to believe that they are who we should model our market success on.

 

Now – zooming into my own country, Malaysia. It is heart breaking to read day in day out, of late, how the house of cards is crumbling in its own weight in some of our companies with long legacies and national agendas, like Felda Corporation where its entire former board has been sued for losses and bad investment decisions. As if this was not heart wrenching enough this week, we then read Malaysia’s 64 billion ringgit ($21 billion) Muslim pilgrimage saving fund, Tabung Haji (TH), is said to be short of  four billion ringgit of deposits. The story which broke in the Singapore Sunday Times alleges that TH faked its 2016 accounts to justify its dividends. This in the same month we were told the movie-bound 1MDB Auditor General Report was tampered with. Having had several books written after it, made into documentaries and now waiting for its casts to be selected so they can film an all-Hollywood movie with all its trappings for more Malaysians to go watch how we were lied to and how our hard earned monies misused – these escapades are no longer amusing.

Added to this, we are witnessing politicians being hauled up for alleged corruption, the existing government (Pakatan Harapan) being questioned for their said promises in their election manifesto and their intent in honouring the promises. Yes in a glass half full scenario one can argue, we are witnessing transparency and rule of law taking its course. But the bigger question really is – how did we get here 61 years since our independence. Shouldn’t the systems, processes and institutions be solid enough to avert such malfeasances? Shouldn’t we have a civil service and/or leaders of government-linked companies who know that political campaigning is just wrong – yet we had very highly educated leaders, not least highly respected ones who ignored this basic ethics.

So my questions are: How did these people get to these positions? Who selected the company boards and its management teams for these companies? What were the criteria of these selection processes and what are their performance measures – or is it arbitrarily done by a few (in the corridors of power) peoples’ likes/dislikes as was suggested in a recent article in The Star?

Shouldn’t the criteria of selection be made public, for after all they are being paid by the public? Shouldn’t they (i.e. those who selected these leaders – CEOs and boards) too be hauled up for accountability when those they selected or appointed fail the country and its people?

Shouldn’t the criteria of selection be made public, for after all they are being paid by the public? Shouldn’t they (i.e. those who selected these leaders – CEOs and boards) too be hauled up for accountability when those they selected or appointed fail the country and its people?

We have CEOs in this country leading companies on behalf of the government who themselves are struggling with words like vision, mission and governance. They simply cannot understand the concept of business judgement and sustainability. Yet these candidates make the cut. I have sadly come face to face with one too many.

We have CEOs in this country leading companies on behalf of the government who themselves are struggling with words like vision, mission and governance. They simply cannot understand the concept of business judgement and sustainability. Yet these candidates make the cut. I have sadly come face to face with one too many.

Image result for mahathir

When I interviewed the current Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, in July 2018, he spoke of his total frustration and exasperation in the breakdown of governance in our public sector and government-linked companies. He stressed on the rule of law being the way forward. This sentiment I am certain is shared by many in the country – from housewives to fishermen, from the jobless graduate to a janitor, from an underpaid and overworked teacher to a well-paid executive in a leather office.

Yet my gut keeps nagging the one question – the ones leading these companies and departments in government are no fools. They ARE well educated, they are sent to programmes (after programmes) and courses by their companies and the regulators regularly here and abroad (all paid for I might add) – yet we find these missteps, these blunders and these blood boiling news of blatant failure in public trust.

Who exactly is in charge one can’t help but wonder? Who is checking and monitoring these boards and CEOs and their management teams? In a 2014 debate at the Oxford Union, Christopher Hedges, a journalist and writer, argued that often we really do not know who is covering up for who. The committees know they are being lied to. The whole system is designed to cover up each other and this right to the door of parliamentary committees or its equivalent.

 

A friend of mine in his recent fit of frustration of this barrage of government-linked companies news argued that maybe they (the public sector and government-linked companies) have no sense of accountability because they know these funds are government-guaranteed. At the most they would be suspended or demoted within the public sector (unless clear proof of corruption). He also said that the infamous ‘passing of the buck’ rotates from the board to the CEO, to the audits (internal and external), back to the umpteen committees we have in an organisation as a feel-good factor, never mind our love for taskforces as soon as we hit a wall of problems yet no one is really in charge. No clear accountabilities. No clear indication where the buck stops.

Image result for Arnold J. Toynbee,

The well-known historian Arnold J. Toynbee, who famously wrote the nine-volume book A Study of History said that civilizations start to decay when they lose their moral fibre and the cultural elite turns parasitic, exploiting the masses and creating an internal and external proletariat.

He emphasized the importance of spiritual dimension in shaping civilisations. Toynbee studied the rise and fall of 21 civilisations and amongst others concluded civilisations fail when pride and hubris kicks in. Standard. We all know this. But he also speaks of the importance of the creative minority. This is the group of people who are able to challenge the status quo. Able to unfix and fix problems. Most of the time we have people who create a problem and then have no clue how to fix them. We also have those who give solutions to a problem but have no clue how it should then work.

The creative minority, Toynbee argue are those able to decipher what ails the society, and produce solutions that works in  order that society/civilisation moves to its next echelon of dignity – or growth as we call it today. These people are beyond your standard technocrats. They understand human dimension, sociology, culture and, in essence, they build the very fundamentals and the fabric of a strong society. When a society loses this creative minority, and when hubris and arrogance kicks in, the all famous ‘yes man’ syndrome will be its default setting. That’s when you start witnessing the house of cards fall right before your eyes.

The Roman Empire rose because of its greatness in structure and discipline. Its ultimate demise happened when lawlessness crept in, similar to the Ottomans. Hubris ruled and a sense of conceit and arrogance became honourable to embrace. The entire Abrahamic depiction of Pharaoh (the master) and Moses (the slave) plays out in every aspect of society even now in the 21st century. Today we can safely say the story of Pharaoh and Moses is well and truly alive in many parts of our own society, waiting to be destroyed by the parting of the Red Sea. In his recent essay, Terence Fernandez, a Malaysian journalist,  for instance wrote of the culture of sabotage in the public service and how it is affecting the new government operating and this after walking into a post-election (GE14) with such hope for change.

The entire governance system in Malaysian institutions needs to see a deep overhaul and the leadership at the very top has to own this problem and set it right. For if we do not, no amount of measures, programmes, talks, committees, task forces or retreats will save the day. It is a fundamental change of value system and culture necessary -one that takes time — one that isn’t always popular with politicians who by and large work towards the next election, and certainly not a top priority for three-to-five-years contract chief executives whose key performance measure is bottom line.

Malaysia needs to expand and grow its creative minority. We need many more who are able to stand up in the crowd and say: this is wrong and, no, this will not work. We need people who speak truth to power in our public sector and government-linked companies. We really are in desperate need of more people with moral courage in our boardrooms and the corridors of power, people who are able to rationally articulate wrong when it simply is wrong. This does not require an Ivy League degree. It does not require scores of titles. It requires a culture that incentivises moral courage. For this to happen throughout the entire value system, its incentives and remuneration system and culture must change. This has to be led by the CEO of the country (our Prime Minister), not a task force.

In the wake of the brutal Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi’s, murder in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, US President Donald Trump was faced with making a call on his stand on the case and he said (and I paraphrase) – the front and center is American interest and that is jobs and money. When interests are aligned to parameters that change with the next stock market cycle and speculative traits, a company really is doomed to fail. A country on its way to destruction. A civilisation on its journey to ruins.

If we do not exert values, by that, good values, on our core interests to growth, for fear of losing our jobs, titles and status, we are literally opening the doors for our children to bear the burden of our own self-interests. To put it simply if not bluntly, if we do not stand apart with moral courage and are willing to take the bullet for speaking the truth today in highlighting wrongs in our companies and institutions, what we are essentially doing is diverting that bullet for our kids and grandchildren to take, for our sins.

That really is the simple truth. This is why Feynman’s quote above is so poignant for our times.

(Firoz Abdul Hamid is an Investvine contributor. The opinions expressed are her own.)