Bangsa Malaysia? Liew’s Canard

August 20, 2018

Bangsa Malaysia? Liew’s Canard

by S. Thayaparan

“Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.”

― Noam Chomsky, ‘Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda’

COMMENT | I noticed a radio station that before the elections did not cover politics is now covering politics with a newly discovered vigour. I really have no problem with this. Indeed, journalists from what was the alternative media before the elections have now become “mainstream” in the sense that where mention of them was verboten before the elections, now they and their opinions have become important in this “new Malaysia”.

I noticed that in one of these radio stations’ latest gimmick is centred upon the “Bangsa Malaysia” kool-aid, which I do have a problem with.

Ever since I started writing for Malaysiakini – seven or eight years ago – the major theme of my articles has been a rejection of state propaganda. However, rejecting state propaganda is like shooting fish in a barrel. Far more dangerous was the propaganda of the then opposition, carried out mainly by the DAP, which was the Bangsa Malaysia canard.

Image result for Liew Chin Tong--A Loud Mouth

An Empty Vessel makes the most noise–Stop Waffling: “I may be Chinese culturally but politically I participate in public life as a Malaysian, not as a Chinese.” Hey, look at yourself and your own party before you talk.  I see no difference between Pakatan Harapan (DAP, PKR, Bersatu, Amanah, Warisan),  and the New Opposition (UMNO, MCA, MIC, Gerakan and PAS)–Din Merican

I had assumed that after May 9 and the realities of power sharing at a federal level between various Malay-Muslim power structures and the DAP, this nonsense would be dropped. But the reality is that if anything, it has become more virulent. DAP’s Liew Chin Tong’s latest piece is evidence of this.

The piece starts off with a justification of why the 100 days promises were difficult to sustain, which as usual – for some local politicians – meant alluding to the American experience. Cherry picking from the American experience is a mistake that most local politicians make. For the record, most criticism of the 100 days promises of Pakatan Harapan is not that they could not fulfil those promises but rather they were waffling on them.

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The Way Forward–Bangsa Malaysia which was officially introduced by Dr Mahathir in 1991, as part of the package in his Vision 2020 project is horse manure today.

Nearly every promise they kept had to be dragged out of Harapan and this is a good thing. Politicians do what is politically expedient, while the citizenry who voted for them have to keep them in check. But this preamble of the hardships Harapan faced when committing to their promise is merely a prelude to the rise of the Bangsa Malaysia canard that Liew is shovelling at us.

Liew says, “For instance, I may be Chinese culturally but politically I participate in public life as a Malaysian, not as a Chinese.”

Really? Forget that the personal is political, but what does political life really mean? Political life in the Malaysian context is defined by constitutional provisions that are manipulated by Malay power structures to maintain racial and religious hegemony at the expense of the minorities. To claim that one participates in political life as a Malaysian is absurd when the majority ethnic group in this country participate in politics as Malays.

Never mind the lunacy of such a claim when the DAP made it very clear that the reason why they joined forces with Bersatu’s Dr Mahathir Mohamad was because they needed the “Malay” vote to save Malaysia.


The point being that “political life” was defined along racial lines, political strategies was endorsed along racial lines, and the outcome of this election is because the majority Malay community was politically fractured. There is a reason why Liew talks about the majority of Malaysians that were happy with the results. The reality is that a majority of Malays did not vote for this coalition.

In fact, the current Prime Minister warned of this very situation when he cautioned that UMNO would fall if the Malays were not unified back in the day when he was called ‘Mahafiruan’ by his political enemies.

The reality

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“Unlike what Liew contends, the past 100 days did not see the emergence of the Bangsa Malaysia identity but rather that the reality of the power-sharing formula meant that the DAP finally understood what it meant to be MCA. PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim’s rejoinder of not spooking the Malays is a direct refutation of this Bangsa Malaysia horse manure.”–S. Thayaparan

This is not a disconnect. I do not think that this is even some sort of cognitive dissonance. The reality is that most political operatives understand that this Bangsa Malaysia is horse manure. They know that when it comes to Bangsa Malaysia, it does not withstand constitutional scrutiny or even ideological scrutiny but more importantly, it means cannibalising your community to further mainstream Malay agendas.

I talked about this here – “When it comes to racial politics, minorities squabbling for the political interests of majoritarian stakeholders is painful to watch. Malays from either side of the political divide at least sometimes can meet halfway on those politically-designed issues of race and religion. Throw in culture and you have Malay power structures at war, but not tearing each other’s eyes out like how the non-Malay component parties do in the service of gaining political power for their Malay overlords.”


Unlike what Liew contends, the past 100 days did not see the emergence of the Bangsa Malaysia identity but rather that the reality of the power-sharing formula meant that the DAP finally understood what it meant to be MCA. PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim’s rejoinder of not spooking the Malays is a direct refutation of this Bangsa Malaysia horse manure.

The religious and racial issues, whether it is the restructuring of Biro Tatanegara (BTN), the waffling on the National Security Council (NSC), the various racial and religious incidents or policies that the DAP has been strangely quiet on, demonstrates that the Bangsa Malaysia kool-aid means nothing when it comes to the realpolitik of race and religion in this country. Actually, most of my articles leading up the 100-day mark are about these racial and religious tensions in the post-May 9 milieu.

Liew says that there is a need to define what this new Malaysia stands for. Liew says for him, it means that we all see ourselves as first and foremost Malaysian citizens. What does this even mean? Everyone in Malaysia have always seen themselves as Malaysian citizens – that is, if we are lucky enough to have our citizenship acknowledged by the state – but the problem has always been that the state does not view us as equal citizens. Put simply, politics does not view us as equal citizens.

This is the danger of the Bangsa Malaysia kool-aid – it attempts to hide this stark reality.

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.

A New Malaysia? #3: reform roadblocks with Bridget Welsh & Shamsul AB

August 19, 2018

A New Malaysia? #3: reform roadblocks with Bridget Welsh & Shamsul AB


In this podcast, New Mandala’s editor Liam Gammon talks to Associate Professor Bridget Welsh about how the institutions Pakatan Harapan inherits from BN complicate reform efforts, and ANU’s Dr Ross Tapsell talks to Prof Shamsul AB about the social and ideological constants that GE14 didn’t change.

This podcast was produced with the support of the Malaysia Institute and the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

Casting a ‘cursor’ on Harapan’s critics

August 17, 2018

Casting a ‘cursor’ on Harapan’s critics

by Dean

Image result for may 2018 elections-- umno defeated

The Old UMNO Rogues in New Clothes

COMMENT | I’ve always been deeply sceptical about the power of magic, and thus more driven to spelling-out my opposition to the ills of the world than casting spells against them.

But since the Pakatan Harapan coalition gained the seemingly miraculous electoral victory that ended six decades of UMNO-led Barisan National misrule, and in the process fulfilled the RAHMAN prophecy that N for Najib would be the last UMNO-BN Prime Minister, I’ve started to see sorcery in a whole new light.

For example, I formerly assumed that the small blinking verticle line on my screen was simply an aid to type the hundreds of columns I wrote, in what seemed like a hopeless mission to rid Malaysia of the evils of BN. But now, I suspect that blinking line may be a ‘cursor’ in more ways than one.

So here goes my latest attempt to heap curses on the heads of the countless evil spirits of the former regime who have thus far survived to bedevil the nation despite the Harapan government’s best efforts to exorcise them.


Evil spirits like the multitude of former BN ministers, cronies, supporters and propagandists who, despite having been obscenely enriched by their regime’s massive thefts and corruptions, still imagine that they can sufficiently jinx Harapan with their bad ju-ju to as to escape justice and get back into power, as current Umno president Zahid Hamidi claimed was possible before the end of Harapan’s first term in office.

Evil spirits like all those who ordered or were otherwise involved in the covering-up of capital crimes ranging from the murders of Altantuya Shaariibuu, Kevin Morais, Hussain Najadi, and Teoh Beng Hock to the countless dubious cases of death in suspicious ‘shoot-outs’ with the police or in official custody.

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Evil spirits like the judges and lawyers who contrived to pervert justice on behalf of the UMNO-BN regime; Police of every rank who were not only so rankly corrupt, but often partners in the very crimes they’d falsely sworn to fight; civil servants of every grade who served only themselves and their political patrons; electoral commissioners who saw their commission as to keep UMNO-BN in power by hook and mostly by crook; immigration officials so crooked that they moonlighted as people-traffickers; customs staff in cahoots with and in the pay of big-time smugglers.

The list goes on and on to be virtually endless. As does the catalogue of anti-democratic and unconstitutional laws passed by the UMNO-BN regime in a thankfully ultimately futile effort to keep itself endlessly in office.

Some have criticised Harapan for not achieving enough to right UMNO-BN wrongs so far. But as far as I’m concerned, the 100 days or so they’ve thus far had in office has been way too short a time for them to make much progress against six decades of the previous regime’s criminality, corruption, incompetence, racism, religion and sexism.

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The New Pakatan Harapan Partner to win the hearts minds of the Malays with Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, endorsed by DAP’s Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng

Especially in light of the fact, and it’s a very important fact indeed, that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed and his Pakatan Harapan colleagues are, or at least claim to be, determined to proceed according to the previously much-abused rule of law.

The identification, proper investigation and professional prosecution of suspects takes a great deal of time, money and patience, but it’s well worth the wait if the outcome is a cleaner, fairer, more progressive and more prosperous Malaysia.

Speaking of which, it seems to me from my regular reading of Malaysiakini, some of the most strident critics of Pakatan’s alleged lack of achievement in its first 100 days have been members of PAS, the very party that’s most devoted to keeping Malaysia in the dark ages.

So hypocritical in its ‘pious’ intentions, that it’s obsessed with crusading against and if possible persecuting LGBTs and others that it deems to as departing from what it presumes to define as ‘normal’ sexuality, yet prepared to turn a blind eye to Umno/BN-style corruption and other species of criminality.

Of course nobody, and certainly not I, can legitimately claim that Pakatan is above constructive criticism for its inevitable mistakes and failings, and indeed it is working as fast as seems humanly possible to eliminate the Anti-Fake News Act and sundry other such barriers erected by Umno/BN to deny Malaysian citizens the right to voice their criticisms.

And nobody can deny that Pakatan has already made some mistakes, both by commission and omission, and will undoubtedly make many more. At least we can hope, however, that, unlike in the case of UMNO-BN, such mistakes have been and will be made in good faith, and corrected if enough people protest against them.

But, to repeat my intention in this column, here’s putting a hex, or indeed as many hexes as possible, on all those members and supporters of the former regime who are determined to obstructively and destructively criticise the Pakatan Harapan government with hopes that they can destroy it before it has a chance to do its best… and a cursor on all their houses.

DEAN JOHNS, after many years in Asia, currently lives with his Malaysian-born wife and daughter in Sydney, where he coaches and mentors writers and authors and practices as a writing therapist. Published compilations of his Malaysiakini columns include Mad about Malaysia, Even Madder about Malaysia, Missing Malaysia, 1Malaysia.con and Malaysia Mania.

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

Dr. Bridget Welsh on 100 days of Pakatan Administration: Glass half full or half empty?

August 16, 2018

Dr. Bridget Welsh on 100 days of Pakatan Administration: Glass half full or half empty?

by Dr. Bridget

Image result for bridget welsh

“Harapan continues to be hampered by a trust deficit. Many of its own members are attacking one another. Conspiracies about alliances, intensive politicking and reports of infighting (often played out in the press) are taking away from what Harapan should be focused on – governing. After 100 days, these sorts of things should be declining, not increasing in prominence.”–Dr. Bridget Welsh

COMMENT | Today, Pakatan Harapan faces its 100-day report card. The idea of ‘100 days’ is somewhat arbitrary and any assessment in the early days of any administration should also be treated with caution – including this one.

This is especially the case given the difficult conditions Harapan has inherited, not only the financial liabilities caused by reckless spending and serious graft, but decades of erosion in institutional competence and good governance.

The problems lie not only with the political system but extend into society where social relations are deeply coloured by race and resentment as well as uneven education and entitlements which reinforced inequalities.

Let’s start with the positive

Let’s start with the positive, however. First of all, Harapan has shown that it can work together as a new coalition, and it has found its footing. While there have been moments of frustration – immature behaviour from those coveting position they somehow think they are entitled to – the five parties (with Warisan) have worked out many of their key differences and put in place a cabinet that while may lack in experience, is arguably the most talented and clean government in decades.

Over the past three months, these officials on the whole have worked hard to learn the ropes in environments that have been at times hostile and unwelcoming. They have been under the microscope and faced intense public pressure.

While there have been mistakes in (mis)handling questions on issues such as the United Examination Certificate (UEC), lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights and foreign workers (and these speak to broader needs for greater reflection and engagement on these controversies), to date these mistakes have not fundamentally damaged the goodwill Harapan has from the majority of the electorate. One hundred days on, surveys show that the majority of Malaysians continue to support the bringing about a stronger ‘new’ Malaysia.

Second, there have been some important reforms introduced. Most of these have been internal and off the radar. The first has been granting more power to Parliament, an important strengthening of the checks and balances. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the Electoral Commission (EC), Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), The National Audit Commission, Public Service Commission, Education Service Commission and Judicial Appointments Commission all report directly to Parliament rather than the prime minister.

Decentralisation of power

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These initiatives have been led by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is now engaging in a meaningful decentralisation of executive power. Comparatively, Mahathir has also allowed ministers greater autonomy than in the past.

Third, there has been considerable restructuring of departments with the bureaucracy, with different agencies and units now coming under different jurisdictions. Some of these initiatives streamline governance and decision making, although not all of the restructuring has been clearly explained, leaving the impression (and in some cases, the reality) that turf wars are about politicking and positioning rather than governance. A good example is the divisions of the Ministry of Finance.


Fourth, there have been important reversals in entrenched exclusionary practices of the previous BN government. This week, the announcement of the end of propaganda outfits of the Biro Tatanegara (BTN) and National Service programme was made. Over the past three months, there have been scores of questionable contracts cancelled as part a broad review of spending and graft. Most of these have been done on an “ad hoc” basis but taken collectively, there have been important reviews in largely an inward-oriented process of assessment.

Fifth, there has been greater attention to corruption and abuses of power, particularly surrounding 1MDB. While many bemoan the slow handling of the serious corruption violations, including those associated with former Prime Minister Najib Razak, there has been a stream of reports of assets captured, investigations opened, scores of bank accounts frozen and, in some cases, charges filed. The MACC has been working overtime in carrying out investigations with greater independence than before.

Finally, there has been greater inclusion of Malaysia’s diversity in government and political life. From the composition of the cabinet to patterns of public engagement, more groups have had access, and with the greater press freedom, more issues have been raised in public, including many sensitive ones.

Despite continued reliance on race and religion on the part of the opposition parties (UMNO and PAS), there has also been considerable debate on a range of issues that speaks to underlying aspirations for different narratives and political participation. Even in Parliament, the focus has increasingly been on policy issues. In the spirit of the post-GE14 ‘durian runtuh’, the bitter and the sweet have offered more to the public to taste.

These changes speak to the new political environment as Malaysia’s ongoing transformation is unfolding. On the whole, the focus has been on the past, cleaning up the situation inherited and, in many cases, reversing unpopular policies. The guiding framework for changes has been the Harapan manifesto, which has proven to be both a basis for action and burden in that many of the proposals are financially untenable.

As Harapan has been in government, they have differed on whether some of the policies are politically viable, such as the UEC, and this shows that coalition dynamics are still evolving.

Legitimate criticisms

There are, however, quite different interpretations of the changes taking place, not only across the political divide but among different stakeholders. Legitimate criticisms can be made, as there is inadequate attention to addressing problems being currently experienced and indications of future trajectories.

The Economy

Foremost are percolating concerns about the economy. Harapan did a good job in managing the initial transition, instilling confidence. As time has progressed, this confidence has waned. While there has been a retail boom and a boost in some sectors from the end of the Goods and Service Tax (GST), many Malaysians have not witnessed a significant drop in prices.

Many businesses used the opportunity to rake in profits at the expense of consumers, a development that contributed to the negative impact of the GST originally. Many of the deep vulnerabilities with cost of living are still present, and deeply felt by vulnerable populations. There are worries that the return of the SST will lead to a similar negative impact on consumers.

Investors who have been waiting for approvals have been put on hold, now for most of 2018 as decisions were put off earlier in preparation for GE14. Impatience is growing. At the same time, the contract-driven domestic businesses are being dislodged from their hold on government largesse, and with these displacements, there is resentment.

In the climate of greater austerity, public spending is less of a driver for the economy. Collectively, there is a perceived slowdown in some quarters, which has been exacerbated by a lack of clear policy direction for the economy. To date, attention has focused on ending projects, not the experience of ordinary people. Harapan needs to be reminded that the main concern that brought them into power involved bread-and-butter issues.


This was closely followed by calls for reform. There are many visions of what the reforms should be and how they should be prioritised. The Institutional Reform Committee has made its recommendations and the public is looking for more substantive initiatives than those implemented to date.

Keep in mind, no draconian laws have been removed although a repeal of the anti-fake news bill has been tabled. No meaningful anti-corruption measures have been introduced, especially to prevent corruption in the Harapan government. The investigation of Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu’s aide for “crowdfunding” speaks to the problem of the urgent need for anti-corruption checks.

Programmes to prevent Police abuse and reduce trafficking have yet to be brought in, despite their inclusion in the manifesto. The need for Independent Police Complaint and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) and investigation into human trafficking crimes in Wang Kelian is long overdue. The same lack of attention to improving electoral administration is also evident. Even in the area of child marriage – preventing the young from abuse – has been mired in a muck of unprincipled platitudes.

Along with the economy, Harapan based its legitimacy in GE-14 on bringing about change, and further delays in bringing about substantive reforms promised in the manifesto will undermine its support among its political base.

Malay votes

A problem that Harapan has experienced in the first three months is a fixation with those that did not vote for them. Harapan itself has focused on the “half empty” glass with high levels of sensitivity to what the rural/semi-rural Malay base may think of the new government.

My estimates of the results show that Harapan won 23.5% of the Malay vote nationally (compared to 44.5% won by UMNO and 31.9% won by PAS). There is indeed a Malay minority of support for Harapan.

Insecurity about a Malay deficit has been driving defensive responses and contributed to overcautious and doubletalk on many issues of race and religion. Harapan has unfortunately continued to use a simplistic ethnic lens to understand Malaysia’s diverse and complex society. This is hampering the evolution of a different narrative, a different Malaysian future.

Anwar Ibrahim

It has not helped that not all of Harapan seems to be on the same page about working collaboratively. While the coalition has come together, the splits that undercut support for Pakatan Rakyat are still present.

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In the last three months, questions have been asked about PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim’s commitment to political reform, and whether his personal ambitions are colouring his actions, including an unsettling interview in Utusan Malaysia and an UMNO-like ‘defend the royalty’ narrative. At the same time, grouses are being made about the appointment of former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin and perceptions of persistent patronage, with resentments growing and accusations being hurled. Despite taking on the task of governing, suspicion of Mahathir also persists.

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Rafizi’s Ambition knows no limits

Harapan continues to be hampered by a trust deficit. Many of its own members are attacking one another. Conspiracies about alliances, intensive politicking and reports of infighting (often played out in the press) are taking away from what Harapan should be focused on – governing. After 100 days, these sorts of things should be declining, not increasing in prominence.

Practices do not change overnight, and arguably they realistically cannot be expected to do so. The trajectory overall has been positive. This does not mean that attention should not be drawn to areas where there is dirt in the glass, and a possibility for a brighter future.


BRIDGET WELSH is an associate professor of political science at John Cabot University in Rome. She also continues to be a senior associate research fellow at the National Taiwan University’s Center for East Asia Democratic Studies and The Habibie Center, as well as a university fellow of Charles Darwin University. Her latest book (with co-author Greg Lopez) is titled Regime Resilience in Malaysia and Singapore. She can be reached at

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

Malaysia: Feudal Politics Alive

August 11,2018

Malaysia: Feudal Politics Alive

by James Chai

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COMMENT | Many Pakatan Harapan supporters are extremely fearful of criticising Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s government.

They take criticism to be like throwing stones at an already-delicate glasshouse. If we criticise this supposedly infant government, it would tumble and we would usher  another era of BN-UMNO and Najib Abdul Razak. Thus, what we should do is be staunch defenders of Mahathir’s government; anyone who thinks otherwise is a BN supporter on a hangover.

But this fear is wholly irrational. Criticising the current government will not cause it to tumble; criticising Mahathir’s regime will not bring us back to Najib’s regime; criticising powerholders does not make you a corrupt, unprincipled, unkindly BN supporter.

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I have no doubt that many fearmongers are driven primarily by the good intention of protecting the precious spoils of the sweet May 9 victory. But if we truly intend to prevent a return of BN-UMNO and Najib, then we must be ready to criticise our government openly and frequently.


What we should fear is not criticism; what we should fear is the fear of criticism.

Why we should criticise

First, we should always be prepared to criticise the government because it is in the public interest to do so–to hold government accountable. While Najib may have treated the government coffers as his personal property, we must ensure that Mahathir’s government recognises the fundamental principle that governments are public trustees of our tax money.


It follows logically that every decision the government makes must be transparent, and upon any suspicion of wrongdoing, we must be ready to demand an explanation and/or criticise. For example, before the government embarks on a major project such as a third national car or the maintenance of the National Civics Bureau (BTN), we are entitled to demand full disclosure and explanations. If there are no explanations forthcoming, or if they were unsatisfactory, we must criticise.

Second, we are entitled to criticise because the politicians in government are chosen by us. They are not humans of a special kind chosen by the heavens; they are merely our representatives. So if we are unhappy with a particular action or inaction, policy or decision, then we are entitled to criticise.

Third, and most important, criticisms of Mahathir’s government is the true litmus test of accountability. The essence of accountability is seen not when you successfully criticise your opponents – that is too easy. The true test of accountability is whether you can start criticising your allies on the same side. Because if you can hold accountable peers who have erred, then our country has passed the test for accountability. You must always be ready to criticise the government.


We have a weak government if it constantly requires defending. The government has at its disposal all the resources, expertise, and willpower available in the country  to respond to criticism and act accordingly.

The only exception, perhaps, is when the criticism is disproportionate or factually incorrect. But other than that, no criticism should be feared.

Why would the most powerful entity of the country require defending? What the government requires is not praise or defence; what it requires is criticism to keep it in check.

Power corrupts

We must always be vigilant and guard against the insidious risk of corruption of power. History showers us with plentiful tales of how even the most honest politician in the world may eventually be corrupt when he becomes too comfortable with power.

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The Laksamanas of the New Malaysia Government

To limit power, we must create viable systems. We must make sure the prime minister only holds two terms in office; does not concentrate all state powers in his hands; and does not do anything without prior consultation.

But lest we forget, the single most important component of this accountability system is the people. We can have the most progressive laws and constitution in the world, but without the people and their willingness to criticise, nothing will matter.

Our duty as citizens is not to hope for politicians to be incorruptible. Our duty as citizens is to create systems to make sure that even the most dishonest politician has no opportunity to be corrupt. And we do this by criticising openly and frequently.

You will have a functioning democracy only if you can keep it.

I don’t blame anyone who still fears to criticise, though. It takes some getting used to. We have lived so long under an authoritarian regime. Our residual feudalistic instincts made it easier to keep our eyes, ears, and mouths shut. We have yet to awaken from the tragic days of BN-Umno and Najib.

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Malay Feudal Lords on Display–Artifacts of the Past?

However, the greatest tragedy is not that we have lived so long under oppressive laws that stifled criticism. The greatest tragedy is when we choose to stifle our criticism voluntarily even when there are no more oppressive laws hanging over us.

The only way to protect the victory of May 9 is to criticise, criticise, criticise. If we fear, then the gloomy clouds may come back to our shores, and we will have tyrants in different clothes.

After all, Najib was not a special kind of evil—he was merely a product of a failed system.

JAMES CHAI works at a law firm. His voyage in life is made less lonely with a family of deep love, friends of good humour and teachers of selfless giving. This affirms his conviction in the common goodness of people: the better angels of our nature. He tweets at @JamesJSChai.

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


Pakatan Harapan’s Islamic Discourse is UMNO’s except it’s hypocritical

August 10, 2018

Pakatan Harapan’s  Islamic Discourse is UMNO’s except it’s hypocritical

by S Thayaparan

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Mujahid Al-Rawa: What value system are you talking about? One worse than UMNO’s? One that limits the minds of Malay Muslims with your religious dogma which you inherited from your previous affiliation  with PAS. –Din Merican

“Any religion-based state has a mission to limit the minds of its people, to fight the developments of history and logic, and to dumb down its citizens. It’s important to stand in the way of such a mentality, to deny it from continuing its mission to murder the souls of its people, killing them deep within while they are still alive and breathing.”

– Raif Badawi, 1000 Lashes, Because I Say What I Think

COMMENT | Pakatan Harapan – either by design, incompetence or maybe just a lack of imagination – is making the Islamic discourse in this country even more toxic than it already is.

Take the Islamic Development Department (Jakim), for instance. This is a religious bureaucracy plugged into every aspect of government. Why hasn’t there been any sustained effort by this so-called religious authority to combat corruption, racism and bigotry? Isn’t this the kind of Islamic moral police that Harapan alluded to when it comes to the religion of the state?

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DPM Dr. Wan Azizah–Are you for real, OR just a seat warmer or stand-in?

The pointless op-ed piece about Women, Family and Community Development Minister Dr Wan Aziziah Wan Ismail, penned by her deputy Hannah Yeoh and panned by Latheefa Koya, is an example of how the political elite attempt to cloud issues that they do not want to deal with.

In past articles, I have written about the tremendous pressure Muslim political operatives are under. I get it, I really do.

It should tell you something about mainstream Harapan dogma when people do not question why Latheefa’s position on the issue of child marriage, for example, is not defended, while the cautious – and I am being charitable here – position of the Deputy Prime Minister is embraced by the political elite who told us before the election that they would defend the secular position in this so-called Islamic state.

The removal of the photos of LGBTQ activists, who by the way were also part of the struggle against the UMNO regime, not only demonstrates the pettiness of the religious bigots in Harapan, but also the hypocrisy of their actions. How many Harapan political operatives met with activists (who were part of the LGBTQ discourse) as part of a grassroots rejection of UMNO?

De facto Religious Affairs Minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa’s double speak of the state protecting these people from a society that rejects them hides the fact that the bigots within Harapan believe that the more disenfranchised you are, the less political cost you incur.

Sooner or later, everyone becomes disenfranchised except the political and religious elites. Keep up the good work Charles Santiago and anyone else who public ally opposes these religious imperatives.

And no Mujahid, I do not want you to arrest them. I want you to keep your mouth shut about them, and instead create a counter-narrative that Harapan’s Islam is about promoting a first class education for your brethren, weeding out corruption in the political and religious class, ensuring the healthcare system is one of the best in the region, and ensuring a plurality of Islamic voices, so young people do not join extremist groups that pose a danger to the citizens of this country.

I have asked this question many times before, but how many times have past UMNO administrations made unilateral decisions which went against the perceived Islamic groupthink to garner votes from non-Muslims? How many times has the UMNO regime retreated from extreme positions to appease their BN non-Malay/Muslim partners?

Did they suffer – before May 9, 2018 – from a Muslim backlash? No, they didn’t. Why? because the majority of Muslims are content to follow their leaders instead of setting the Islamic agenda.

My last article was more about the hypocrisy of the opposition then any real political influence by a foreign power. Anyway, all of this is just a smokescreen. Three important issues have cropped up which point to the theoretic agenda of the Harapan state – far more important than a bumbling group from DC mucking about our country.

Syariah compliance

The first is the syariah-compliant guidelines for the private sector. What horse manure is this? Apparently, this was in response to the incident where some woman was sacked from her job for not covering up her aurat.

Let me get this straight. We have already had problems in the public sector where religious types dictated how we dress when we interact with the bureaucracy, and now, Harapan wants to impose its “guidelines” on the private sector?

I can just picture it. Private companies who want to do business with the government will suck up to the regime by adopting these guidelines. Some women will advocate for this guideline to be adopted by their companies to ensure that they are not discriminated against, and when there is push back from the company, the religious far right will get involved and Harapan and these bigots will be on the same page.

This is how it starts – innocently enough. Hidden behind a message of fairness is actually the tools for compliance. Guidelines eventually become dogma, and because they think people will not notice – most often they do not – they encroach into our public and private spheres uncontested.

Taxpayer-funded brainwashing

The second is the rebranding of the National Civics Bureau (BTN). I wrote about this here – “Okay, you may say, fine, reform BTN. Sounds simple, right? Has anyone stopped to think why this organisation is needed? Forget about what it is costing taxpayers, but why would there ever need to be a government agency instilling ‘patriotism’ in the civil service and students? Why would the state need to do this except to ensure that people are brainwashed into voting for them?”

People need to question why Harapan is accepting money from kids who break their piggy banks, but has the money to fund what is essentially a state propaganda organ, which would reach into every facet of public, not to mention private life? Do people not see the hypocrisy and danger of an organisation like BTN, revamped or not?

While some Harapan politicians have spoken up on this, the big guns are waxing eloquent about other senior leaders, promoting a third national car, or reminding the rakyat about how bad UMNO’s corruption scandals were. Not to mention the defence that Harapan made these promises not realising they could win has achieved some sort of legitimacy among the faithful.

NSC waffling

The third, and perhaps most important, is the waffling on abolishing the National Security Council Act 2016. All I can say is, you lying sacks of manure.

Before the election, Harapan, the then-opposition, was going on about how this act had effectively turned this democracy into an autocracy. Malay opposition politicians, including our current prime minister, said that this act further eroded the powers of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

In fact, Dr Mahathir Mohamad went so far as to claim that Najib Abdul Razak had given himself the powers of the Agong. Anwar Ibrahim mounted a legal challenge and later withdrew it. This is the most dangerous law this country has.

Now, these duplicitous politicians are claiming: “When it comes to security issues of the country, we will examine all aspects to ensure our country’s safety is not compromised.” Really? What changed? I mean what have you discovered about the security of the country that changed your mind on the utilitarian values of this act?

Did the Najib regime have good cause to table this act? Was the Najib regime aware of things that necessitated such an act that you were (then) ignorant of? Were all criticisms against this act unfounded? Based on ignorance and not fact?

Theocratic agenda

Let me be very clear. I say theocratic agenda because ultimately, religion is the foundation on which unjust laws and propaganda will be used in this country. This is the new virulent strain introduced into the Islamic discourse.

The goodwill Harapan has from its base clouds the discourse in an avalanche of apologia, or more often ad hominems. This adds to the virulence of the discourse, because people lose sight of the real issue and attempt to engage with the straw man arguments. This, of course, only strengthens the Malay far-right position.

The media is concentrating on the plethora of corruption scandals of the past regime, which subsumes other more important long-term issues which have long-lasting effects on the social and political landscape of this country.

Politicians, who before the election were bullish on institutional reform which involved the religious apparatus, now find it profitable to carry on existing narratives that worked so well for BN until the events of May 9. This, of course, is the most dangerous aspect of this new Malaysia.

I get that people do not think it is a big issue. But look back at the history of the country and see the cultural changes that took place. Do you really think corruption has done as much damage as the religious and racial imperatives of the Malay and non-Malay political class?


IRI ’interference’ poses no clear and present danger to M’sia

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.