How can Malaysia become a developed nation? –Practise meritocracy

January 15, 2019

How can Malaysia become a developed nation?

-Practise Meritocracy.



2020 will soon pass us by. 2050? Maybe. If we Practise Meritocracy

On June 12 last year, while delivering his keynote address at the 24th Nikkei Conference on the Future of Asia, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia could achieve developed nation status provided that the right policies were in place, and that Malaysians worked very hard.

When he stepped down as Prime Minister back in 2003, he believed that Malaysia could attain developed nation status by 2020. But the policies put in place were changed by the succeeding Prime Ministers. Even if we work extremely hard, we cannot achieve this by 2020. Maybe by 2025.

In 1970, when the New Economic Policy (NEP) was introduced, our GRP per capita was the same as Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea. After 49 years, the GDP per capita of these countries respectively is four, three and 2.5 times bigger than ours. These countries do not even have timber to build houses. They import almost everything.

At one time, we were the world’s biggest producer of tin, rubber and palm oil. We also had petroleum. Yet we could not become a developed nation. Why?

The biggest albatross was the implementation of the NEP. The policy of helping the Malays become competitive was very good, but it was poorly implemented.

Of late, many government officers including former Prime Minister Najib Razak have been charged with corruption over huge sums of money. Najib, as 1MDB chairman, had RM2.6 billion supposedly channeled into his personal account. He said it was a generous donation from the Saudi Royal Family.

Corruption is ruining Malaysia, which is now branded as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, worse than many countries in Africa.

My proposal: Practise Meritocracy.

Managing the country is like managing thousands of companies and conglomerates. Mahathir must appoint the best people as Ministers and Deputy Ministers, irrespective of race. If these leaders are really good, they would know how to make rules and regulations to help the people do better than before.

The government must always appoint the best people in its civil service. It must also practise meritocracy in promotions at all levels of management so that the whole machinery can operate efficiently.

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This reminds me of an experience I had when I was on the Board of Directors of IJM Corporation Bhd. All the Directors were engineers, and our Chief Financial Officer was WHO practiseD meritocracy ( pic above Krishnan Tan). When we wanted to borrow huge sums of money from the bank for some projects and expansion, Krishnan suggested that a more effective and less costly way would be to issue irredeemable convertible unsecured loan stocks or ICULS.

As engineers, we did not know anything about ICULS. We all agreed that Krishnan was the best man to manage the company. So we appointed him as CEO in 1984. His management was so efficient that the company continued to make more and more profit every year. As a result, the company’s share price continued to climb. The current market capitalisation of IJM Corp is about RM12 billion.

The private sector knows how to practise meritocracy to make a profit. If the government also practises meritocracy, Malaysia will become a developed nation.

The key to success is to practise meritocracy.

Koon Yew Yin is a retired chartered civil engineer and one of the founders of IJM Corporation Bhd and Gamuda Bhd.

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

What’s behind Anwar’s visit to India?

January 15, 2019

What’s behind Anwar’s visit to India?

It is common knowledge that South and Southeast Asia have extensive historical links. For thousands of years, there have been economic, cultural and religious interconnections.

Diplomacy has been a key activity which spurred widespread trade, investment and people-to-people ties between India and Malaysia. Through this, a steady Indian diaspora established itself in Malaysia.

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Statistics from 2017 show that 8% (or 2.4 million) of Malaysia’s population comprise Indians. This makes it the Asian country with the third largest population of Indians or non-resident Indians. Only Nepal (four million) and Saudi Arabia (three million) are ahead. For these reasons alone, it is not surprising that Malaysia’s political elite take a keen interest in India.

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Anwar Ibrahim arrived in India for a five-day visit on January 10. He delivered a speech at the 4th multilateral Raisina Dialogue, organised by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Observer Research Foundation. The Raisina Dialogue is India’s flagship annual geopolitical and geostrategic conference. This year’s theme was “A World Reorder: New Geometrics; Fluid Partnerships; Uncertain Outcomes”.

The Indian Express quoted Anwar as saying he is “a very old India watcher and frequent visitor”. Maybe so, because Anwar knows Malaysia cannot afford to ignore India. Several domestic currents in both India and Malaysia have direct implications for regional politics and bilateral relations. And currently, whatever happens in or to India has direct repercussions for Malaysia. Communalism, religious extremism and democratic legitimation are three trends which both nations need to guard against.

Communalism and religious extremism

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Anwar’s speech in New Delhi was replete with attacks on nationalism, jingoism and xenophobia. Some of us may not yet be familiar with the term “jingoism”, but Anwar has been using it for decades. For instance, in 1995, at the International Conference on Jose Rizal, he spoke of Rizal, Rabindranath Tagore and the Asian Renaissance. His message then was that Asian countries must have the political will to battle corruption and the abuse of power. However, he used the concept of jingoism to warn against a total rejection of alien ideals in the process of cultural rebirth. Rather than chauvinistic nationalism (which is what jingoism is), Anwar was all for synthesising the ideals of justice and compassion that exist in all civilisations of the north, south, east and west. He recognised these as universal values.

In 1994, at the International Conference on China and Southeast Asia in the 21st Century in Beijing, Anwar again mentioned jingoism. He spoke of the travels of Vasco da Gama and Zheng He (Cheng Ho), and international trade. His main point was that Asian societies should not succumb to the globalisation of Western interests, but instead counter economic protectionism while promoting a global trading platform that serves Asia’s interests. But Anwar cautioned Asians not to be the chest-banging King Kong at the expense of recognising a global system with multiple centres.

It is clear that we should not reject everything Western. Western civilisation has a good track record of rediscovering and reinvigorating its classical roots during its encounter with Islam. Much of Western science, art, mathematics, literature, music, technology and astronomy got a re-boot during the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods.

Anwar’s latest jingoistic comments in Delhi seemed to focus on the threats to international peace and security. He referred to nationalism in Europe, communalism in India, and wars and conflict in the Middle East. We can all agree that Donald Trump’s “nativist” economics and Europe’s unhealthy nationalism is the very communal politics of the far right that is so familiar to India and Malaysia.

India and Malaysia have been preoccupied with identity politics for decades. Call it what you want, but communalism, racism and ethnocentrism are “three sides of the same coin”. In India’s case, it has lingered for over a century. For Malaysia, it has been 61 years and counting. Both nations have had to come to terms with this, more so in the 21st century. The nation state, whether we like it or not, is subject to global geopolitical trends. Trump’s wall idea and Europe’s anti-immigration laws are couched in economic truisms, but generally, they reek of racist and communal effluvium.

After four years in power, the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (part of the National Democratic Alliance, NDA) has declined 7%. After six months in power, the popularity of Dr Mahathir Mohamad and PPBM (part of the Pakatan Harapan alliance) has declined 19%. The main reason for the drop in BJP’s popularity was the Modi government’s failure to fight communalism. A key politician in the ruling PH coalition attributed its popularity decline to another “communal” excuse – that the goodwill of the Malays was fast eroding due to unfulfilled pre-election promises. One only has to look at the discourse around the Felda settlers, education policies, the ICERD fiasco, resistance to the Unified Examination Certificate, the Seafield Temple debacle and the “cross-on-building” mishap.

So, was Anwar deft in resurrecting the issue of “jingoism” in Delhi last week? Probably. The extreme patriotism and chauvinism in current Malaysian politics is akin to excessive bias in judging one’s own race and religion as superior to others. Fully aware that these sentiments are very much alive in our own political climate, Anwar may have made that speech in a convoluted attempt at bridging closer bilateral relations. Or it could be a case of “misery loves company”!

Anwar’s other agenda in Delhi was to meet with Rahul Gandhi, President of the Indian National Congress party. Known as India’s “crown prince”, Rahul has been known to say that Hindu extremist groups could pose a greater threat to the US than Muslim militants. Comments like these have caused a storm in India. Also, in 2011, Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation, the IRF, donated Rs 50 lakh (approximately RM20 million) to the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust. At that time, Manmohan Singh, a congressman, was Prime Minister. India was governed by the United Progressive Alliance coalition. The donation was made after Naik was barred from entering Theresa May’s UK in 2010 due to his “inflammatory speeches”. In a desperate bid to escape inquiry over terror-related and money laundering charges, the donation was the next logical step. The congress has since claimed it returned the IRF donation. Nevertheless, what’s done is done.

Why, then, did Anwar feel the need to meet with Rahul last week? Naik is a permanent resident of Malaysia, much to the chagrin of many Malaysians. In December last year, Naik and his wife were “touring” Perlis, where the televangelist spoke at mosques, Islamic centres and universities in the state. The tour was organised by Muslim activist Zamri Vinoth, who is a staunch supporter of state mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin. Naik’s Facebook page has approximately 17 million likes, which gives us an idea of his massive popularity among Muslims in Malaysia. At this juncture, we can only speculate on the details of the Anwar-Rahul meeting. Until more information is revealed (if at all), my hunch is that Malaysia is trying to find a way out of the diplomatic mess surrounding Naik’s permanent resident status, Malaysia’s refusal to extradite him, and the need to maintain a working bilateral relationship with India.

Democratic legitimation

Modi and Mahathir pride themselves on leading governments that are committed to the rule of law. Modi has been viscerally attacked by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The latter claimed that under Modi, corruption had peaked and the “credibility of institutions systematically denigrated”. Manmohan said, in no uncertain terms, that “democracy and the rule of law are under attack”. He accused the NDA of failing to home in on the rights of women and farmers, on youth unemployment and the rising prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas.

Mahathir and the PH government are being attacked, too. An impatient public has become restless amid unfulfilled pre-election pledges. From the abolition of tolls to the eradication of money politics and cronyism, PH’s failures have been attributed to Mahathir’s policies which were set in motion decades ago. This is grossly unfair and analytically warped. Even if undemocratic policies were in place during Mahathir’s first term as Prime Minister, the scourge of corruption and cronyism continued and peaked with the last of the BN mavericks.

Malaysians should stop finger-pointing and finding petty excuses. Anwar gallantly decided to address the Raisina Dialogue. In Delhi, he reiterated that both he and Mahathir are committed to reforms and to “cleaning up the system”. They both know, though, that the system is still disease-laden. The latest political appointees at government-linked corporations such as PTPTN, MARA Corporation and the National Kenaf and Tobacco Board are three cases in point.

India and Malaysia seem to look up to each other as influential Asian powers that are democratically matured. But outside the pristine settings of bilateralism and diplomacy, both nations are nursing mutually inflicted wounds. The good old days of Jawaharlal Nehru and Tunku Abdul Rahman are over. It is vital to deal with jingoism at home as courageously and confidently as we do on the international stage.

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

A Divided PKR House cannot stand

January 13, 2019

A Divided PKR House cannot stand

by FMT Reporters

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All the President’s men are against Azmin Ali

PETALING JAYA: PKR Vice-President Zuraida Kamaruddin today launched a veiled attack on party supremo Anwar Ibrahim in a lengthy article published by Utusan Malaysia, questioning party leaders and those whom she said undermined democracy by propping up the top line-up with their own men.


“In most established parties in Malaysia, the early stage of damage is now taking place among the grassroots. There are those in the party leadership who wantonly deny the voice of the grassroots.

“For instance, there are parties which appoint those who lost in the party elections by placing them in the same rank as those who won. This is a blatant betrayal of the grassroots’ wishes,” said the housing and local government minister, who was aligned with deputy president Mohamed Azmin Ali in the recent party elections.

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Azmin and former Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli, who has branded himself an Anwar loyalist, were locked in a fierce contest for the deputy presidency. Azmin managed to retain the post by winning narrowly in several states.

Putting into context the myth of lazy natives

January 2, 2019

Putting into context the myth of lazy natives


Ethnic, religious and political groups in power have systematically used ideology as tools to subjugate the masses. Historically, colonial empires were skilled at this.

The Spanish, Portuguese, French and British colonial officers and scholars wrote about the backwardness, indolence and tardiness of the “natives”. It was their mantra, so to speak.

Currently, the US as a 21st century colonial power (some may dispute this) engages in such practices. For example, the ideology of terrorism and terrorists has been manipulated manifold.

The US does not spread notions of a lazy native though. Times have changed. They have zeroed in on the religiously-aggressive and the economically-manipulative “other”. This is to suit the American global economic agenda, beginning with the late Bush Sr.

It is obvious from the events in the Middle East, namely the demonisation of Iran, and the lack of a concrete solution to the Yemeni crisis. We need not even mention here the continued support for Israel’s state brutality towards the Palestinians.

Then we have the “hegemonic” behaviour of China, the “hidden agenda” of the Belt and Road Initiative, and the “Chinese threat”. Rising India has so far been spared, but I envisage a change in tune as we creep into the year 2019 and beyond.

Back home in Malaysia, the Pakatan Harapan government has gotten embroiled in an ideological debate. Notions of ideological oppression of the masses have resurfaced.

We are in a post-colonial era, but the colonial narrative lingers on. Is it necessary? Is it misplaced? Is it false?

It all began when a few Malay leaders decided that it was time for the Malays to buck up, to cease being “lazy”, to “catch up” with other communities and to be more “entrepreneurial” and hardworking like the Japanese. Mind you, these are Malay leaders appealing to the Malay masses. No question of racism or bigotry here.

Nevertheless, there have been visceral attacks and debates about the hidden agenda of the current leadership. Some chronology is needed here (because Malaysians easily forget).

In 1970, Dr Mahathir Mohamad published The Malay Dilemma. In June, 2002, we might recall Mahathir’s tearful resignation in the midst of the Umno general assembly. He announced he was resigning from all his party and government positions. He attributed his resignation to the failure of the Malays to change their mindset. He accused the Malays of basking in a culture of extravagance and taking the easy way out.

In January, 2018, speaking at his Vision 2020 Forum as chairman of PPBM, he said the Malays are “not so committed, not so hardworking and sometimes, not so trustworthy”.

He said the Japanese took pride in their work and had a strong sense of shame. But the Malays have hardly any sense of shame. He said, “even if they (the Malays) do bad work, it is okay (for them)”.

In September 2018, at the PPBM second anniversary celebration, Mahathir reiterated how the Malays are lazy and untrustworthy. However, he did say something different. He said the Malays “don’t pay attention before deciding to do something. We lack mastery of the knowledge and information needed to make good decisions”.

At the September 2018 Kongres Masa Depan Bumiputera dan Negara, Mahathir again spoke about the failure of his past 22 years to change the attitude of the Malays, towards work and success. He did get a loud applause, though, for saying that the government is not here to victimise the Malays.

In November 2018, Mahathir warned “Malaysians” (not Malays) that they would soon be overtaken by its poorer neighbours because Malaysians “expect handouts rather than work hard”. Mahathir gave the example of dependence on BR1M.

Most recently, in December 29, Mahathir said that the Malays have to change their value system in order to succeed. He said affirmative policies are not enough to make a successful Malay; Malays must change their mindset, their character.

There have been several backlashes over the years against Mahathir’s decades-long critique of the Malay attitude and the Malay mindset. Understandably so.

However, what is unacceptable is that the so-called intelligentsia or “learned” strata of Malaysian society has failed to calm the mood and pacify the discontented. Instead, they continue to take on the role as “government-bashers” and superficial politickers, apologetics and defenders.

Some, sadly, are just incapable of applying subtle analytical tools of which great scholars are credited for. There is a multitude of published material on ethnocentrism, bigotry, colonialism, imperialism and oppression.

Yet, our scholars have failed to contextualise the undercurrents. I must admit though there have been noble efforts to bridge the gap between rhetoric and reality, but till now, it has been a dismal failure.

A case in point is a recent forum held by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of the Malay World and Civilisation (Atma), entitled “Mitos Melayu Malas: Penilaian Semula Pemikiran Syed Hussein Alatas & Realiti Hari Ini”.

Four renowned scholars on the subject were invited as panelists. Together they made up an impressive pool of social anthropologists, historians, sociologists and philosophers of science. It was also moderated well, as was seen and heard from the introductory message.

An interesting introductory snippet (by the moderator) to the forum concerned the findings of a survey. The survey was conducted on social media. Questions were asked, such as whether the Malays are lazy or not, and whether the respondents had read Alatas’ book, The Myth of the Lazy Native: A Study of the Image of the Malays, Filipinos and Javanese from the 16th to the 20th Century and Its Function in the Ideology of Colonial Capitalism.

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A majority of respondents said they totally disagree that Malays are lazy. A majority of respondents said they read Alatas’ book. A majority of the respondents said they did not know why the book was written.

I found that the latter response was critical in that it had major implications for the purpose of the forum. It also had serious implications for the trajectory of our nation’s progress.

It was obvious that the important message of Alatas’ classic was not captured. And indeed, one of the panelists had trouble finding the book to begin with, not to mention that he admitted that he did not read it in its entirety. Equally surprising is that he is a representative of the Majlis Perundingan Melayu (MPM). One would think such an NGO would be abreast of a spectrum of publications directly relating to the struggle and cause of the Malays.

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Syed Hussein Alatas’ magnum was revered by the Columbia University’s towering intellectual Edward Said. Almost all who know of Alatas’ writings say he was “ahead of his time”. The Atma forum also recognised this.

The works of both Alatas and Edward Said have been widely misunderstood and misapplied, though.

In my write-up here, I wish to focus on the misapplication of Alatas’ work. It concerns the approach to understanding the Malays. To me, Mahathir understands them well. So did Syed Hussein Alatas.

Contrary to what many may think, his Myth of the Lazy Native is timeless, and very relevant today, despite our post-colonial polity. Currently, the many superficial analyses of his work has resulted in nauseating statements that “the Malays are really not lazy”.

Alatas’ analysis of the colonial suppression of the “natives” for their socio-economic agenda is relevant in today’s Malaysia. Also, Said’s orientalist discourse runs parallel to Alatas’ “lazy native”.

On the one hand, the orientalists (colonialists) accused their subjects of being lazy, stereotyped the country folk as indolent, refusing to work and their lack of contribution to the overall growth of the empire. This was justification for the imperial powers to subjugate the locals and take over “for the betterment of development”.

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On the other hand, Alatas’ definition of bebalisma (in his other book Intellectuals in Developing Societies) is akin to Mahathir’s untiring call for the Malays to work harder and be more competitive. The objective, though, is not one of subjugation. It is far from the colonial agenda. Both Mahathir and Alatas had their Malay objectives and welfare in mind.

Malaysian society should see Mahathir’s comments and Alatas’ scholarship for what they really are: an appeal to blast the Malays out of their insecure, interstellar realm, to spur them into a world where they can compete on equal footing, as entrepreneurs, scholars, decision-makers in government and grounded educators without the “malas”( Lazy) baggage.

Alatas may have dedicated an entire book (or two if one includes the book Intellectuals in Developing Societies) to how the Malays evolved as backward, but he also gave us the foundation on which to transform how the Malays should feel and think about themselves.

We should look at the Myth of the Lazy Native as an evergreen work that resonates today. The fact that Alatas analysed colonial Malaysia and the Malays as a reality and “myth” respectively, is empirical in nature.

Ideologically, though, the myth is really not a myth anymore. Before I am accused of misconstruing Alatas’ work or of falsely declaring that the Malays are indolent, let me explain.

First, I implore scholars and all thinking Malaysians to realise the relevance of Alatas’ works as well as the relevance of Mahathir’s criticisms. Alatas gave us the analytical tools to observe the backwardness in society.

Second, as scholars, we should be able to discern the underlying message, which is that exploitation is a function of the manipulative elite. This elite was the colonial power, as embodied in Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (founder of Singapore), the British Raj of the Indian subcontinent and the British East India Company of Southeast Asia. Alatas’ 1977 book was meant to open the minds of societies’ critiques; to be critical of accepted ideologies; to be brave and confident in expressing alternative views; to pay attention before deciding to do something; to master knowledge that is needed to make good decisions. Mahathir, although considered the “elite” is also calling for this transformation.

Third, the manipulation still exists in today’s Malaysia. We are not a colony, but definitely we are manipulated. The manipulation exists in the minds of a segment of the population who feel they need to be “helped”. This is not a cry for help by the minority.

As I recall, all of this was succinctly articulated by Mahathir over a span of many years. All these notions should have been captured by the Atma forum. Instead, I feel it was apologetic and defensive. This is not curative medication for an ailing nation.

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

Marina roasts Lim Kok Wing over his tweet in support of Mahathir

December 29,2018

Marina roasts Lim Kok Wing over his tweet in support of Mahathir


PETALING JAYA: Vocal activist Marina Mahathir today rebuked Lim Kok Wing over his tweet supporting Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, after previously telling the senior politician to “shut up to protect his legacy”.

The renowned educationist had today tweeted that Mahathir was “absolutely right in saying that we just need to set our hearts and minds on achieving greater goals to be a great nation”, tagging Mahathir, Education Minister Maszlee Malik and Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman in the tweet.

In a reply two hours later, Marina, who is Mahathir’s daughter, called on Lim to stop what he was doing in buttering up the prime minister.


Do stop it @limkokwing! Where were you last year? Who was it who told Dad to shut up to ‘preserve his legacy’?

“The point is, would he have (apologised) if we hadn’t won GE14? Hmmmm?” she asked in her tweet.

Lim had, in May 2015, been appointed as Najib’s public relations campaign coordinator.

His appointment, believed to be to help burnish Najib’s image, was announced amid the 1MDB scandal, which had put Najib under the spotlight for alleged corruption.

Mahathir had, in a blog post without mentioning names, said a friend had attempted to persuade him to cease criticising Najib. He blogged that the friend had warned that if he continued doing so, he would lose his legacy.

Marina Mahathir, who is Mahathir’s daughter, calls on Lim Kok Wing to stop what he is doing in buttering up the Prime Minister.

PETALING JAYA: Vocal activist Marina Mahathir today rebuked Lim Kok Wing over his tweet supporting Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, after previously telling the senior politician to “shut up to protect his legacy”.

The renowned Bodekist had today tweeted that Mahathir was “absolutely right in saying that we just need to set our hearts and minds on achieving greater goals to be a great nation”, tagging Mahathir, Education Minister Maszlee Malik and Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman in the tweet.

In a reply two hours later, Marina, who is Mahathir’s daughter, called on Lim to stop what he was doing in buttering up the prime minister.

“Do stop it @limkokwing! Where were you last year? Who was it who told Dad to shut up to ‘preserve his legacy.

’If PH hadn’t won, would you have snuck into our house uninvited at Raya to apologise? Just stop it,” she tweeted using her handle @netraKL.

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A Twitter user @jonathanfun then pointed out that most businessmen had “behaved the same way” under former Prime Minister Najib Razak’s term in office and then switched sides after Barisan Nasional fell, citing the case of AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes.

Marina replied the tweet by saying that Lim was “one of the worst”, and that she “couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw him skulking about our kitchen… #cantstandbullshit”.

“Tbelieved to be to help burnish Najib’s image, was announced amid the 1MDB scandal, which had put Najib under the spotlight for alleged corruption.

Mahathir had, in a blog post without mentioning names, said a friend had attempted to persuade him to cease criticizing Najib. He blogged that the friend had warned that if he continued doing so, he would lose his legacy.