Will this be Mahathir’s finest moment?


December 17, 2018

Will this be Mahathir’s finest moment?

by Kim Quek

https://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/456486

 

COMMENT | I refer to Rais Hussin’s article “Mahathir’s resignation is not an option” which is a response to my own “Mahathir must step down to save Reformasi.”

Reviewing the above two articles, I would contend that the issues at hand are: The potentially devastating impact on Pakatan Harapan arising from the anticipated mass migration of defecting UMNO MPs to Bersatu, and whether Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad should step down at this juncture.

Defecting UMNO MPs

What motivates UMNO MPs to defect in the first place?Considering that the intention to defect occurred so soon after losing the election, the probability of this being motivated by a drastic change of political ideology is almost nil.

Such speedy decisions to switch camp from the opposition to the ruling coalition are invariably prompted by the desire to seek greener pastures, as well as to escape criminal investigation and prosecution, as almost all of them have been tainted by corruption during the corrupt rule of UMNOo and Najib Abdul Razak. They are pure opportunists, and many are intended escapees from the law.

Their massive influx would reflect the complete lack of integrity and principles of Harapan in general and Bersatu in particular.

Fatally for Harapan, it will be taken as a grand sell-out of the electorate, who had voted Harapan to power precisely because they had been repulsed by the despicable UMNO leadership.

And whatever Bersatu may say, it can not remove the widespread perception that it is implicated in such mass movement of defectors.

Former minister Hamzah Zainuddin’s declaration of 36 UMNO MPs having signed a pledge of loyalty to Mahathir is the latest incident, among many others, that has given fuel to such perception.

Mahathir as a reformist PM

What is the root cause of UMNO’s decadence, which subsequently leads to its almost instant virtual collapse?

Answer: racism and corruption. The former breeds the latter, in addition to fracturing the country along racial lines, breeding mediocrity and brain drain which have caused our prolonged economic malaise – all under UMNO’s hegemonic rule.

The Reformasi movement founded by Anwar Ibrahim in 1998 was precisely intended to overcome all these vices, which includes wiping out corruption, restoring justice and equality, reforming the tattered institutions and restoring the rule of law, thereby putting the country on the path of healthy national integration and robust economic growth.

The Harapan coalition has therefore an enormous task at hand. In addition to reforming the broken institutions, the impaired governance and restoring the rule of law, it must at the same time tackle racism which is the mother of these evils.

Among these urgent tasks, institutional reforms and reform of biased mindsets on race and religion of the majority of our populace are basic, the success of which should serve as a solid foundation upon which ‘New Malaysia’ will thrive.

It goes without saying that to successfully implement such a heavily reform-loaded agenda, the leader must be a reformist of deep conviction of such reforms.

In this respect, Mahathir’s background would make him ill-fitted as leader of this reformist coalition, considering the fact that most of his current task would involve dismantling or reforming or rebuilding the governance infrastructures which he built during his long reign as UMNOPresident and Prime Minister.

And this is reflected in his delay or refusal to repeal many repressive laws, to abolish racist institutions, to reveal comprehensive recommendations for institutional reforms.

It is also reflected in his lack of enthusiasm to reform the biased mindset on race and religion, and the lack of action to gradually and strategically phase out pervasive racial discriminations and reintroducing meritocracy in education, state-controlled enterprises and public service.

While it is unfair to demand full performance on such reform agenda from Mahathir, in view of his political background, the same cannot be said of Anwar, founder and leader of the Reformasi movement and successor-designate to Mahathir.

Anwar would be a shoo-in for this task. Apart from being the architect of the reform concepts of this movement, he was also instrumental in formulating the election manifestos for the 12th and 13th general elections, which later served as a blueprint for the manifesto which helped Harapan to win a sweeping victory in the 14th general election.

Anwar has built up the movement from cradle to its present maturity, for which he has endured incomparable sufferings and political persecution almost continuously throughout the past two decades of struggles.

He is not only the most knowledgeable person on such reforms, but he also has the grit, guts and gumption to see the reforms through to their fruition.

Mahathir’s finest moment?

Mahathir is a politician extraordinaire. He is unique in modern history. After autocratically ruling the country for 22 years, he returned to the political scene many years later to lead a reformist coalition and succeeded in overthrowing the decadent regime which had ruled uninterrupted since independence 61 years ago and crowned himself Prime Minister at the incredible age of 93.

He has made many mistakes in the past, but he has also made the greatest contribution to the country – dethroning the almost unbeatable, corrupted-to-the core autocracy, thus giving the nation a new breath of life.

However, his greatest challenge is yet to come.

At this moment, when the mass of UMNO defectors are at his doorstep ready to boost up his relatively small party, will he embrace them to strengthen his hand to rule to his heart’s content?

Or will he have the wisdom at this final hour to recognise the sacrosanct call of history – relinquish power now, and let his reformist successor lead the next leg of the nation’s journey?

The former choice would almost certainly cause the coalition to lose credibility with its supporting electorate and cause dissension within the coalition and demoralise the entire reform movement.

While the latter choice would give a fresh impetus to the current reform agenda that would enable the nation to scale new heights and make this his crowning moment that would seal his status as founder of the ‘New Malaysia’.

Whatever Mahathir decides, it may mark another turning point for the country.


KIM QUEK is the author of the banned book The March to Putrajaya, and bestseller Where to, Malaysia?

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

The Malay Dilemma revisited


December 17, 2018

The Malay Dilemma revisited

 by Dennis Ignatius

Image result for mahathir mohamad
 

In what may well be a prelude to a significant policy shift, Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has taken to warning Malays that they are being left behind, that they are not on par with other races, that they are increasingly confined to the urban fringes where infrastructure is poor.

With rhetorical flourish, he even confessed to an audience at UiTM recently of being ashamed that “in our own country we are left behind….” It is an idea straight out of his ‘Malay Dilemma’ thesis.

Left behind?

But left behind? Is Mahathir really serious?

Image result for The Malays
www. freemalaysiatoday.com
The narrative that Malays are being left behind is, for the most part, simply a political construct that is being promoted to justify the continuation of race-based policies that essentially favour the elites at the expense of the poor and serve the interest of Malay power structures.”–Dennis Ignatius

Go into any government department or university, go to a cabinet meeting or to parliament, go to Mindef or Bukit Aman, go into the nation’s corporate boardrooms or banks, go to Damansara Heights, and you’ll find the Malays firmly entrenched there, and rightfully so, as homeowners, entrepreneurs, bankers, scientists, doctors, vice-chancellors, professors, engineers, architects, civil servants, etc. They are holding their own very well and are second to none.

If anything, it is the non-Malays who are falling further and further behind in many of these sectors as a result of skewered government policies.

Even the notion of urban racial disparity that Mahathir has used to justify not having local council elections, was disproved a long time ago. According to 2010 census data, Malays are in the majority in all but a few urban centres. In Kuala Lumpur, for example, the Malay population in 2010 stood at 49.5%, outnumbering the Chinese population, which stood at 43.2%. It is much higher than that now.

Simply put, a lot of these race-based assumptions may have been true twenty or thirty years ago but not anymore; yet they continue to be bandied around as fact and used as a basis to formulate policies.

Who is to blame?

And if Malay urban areas lack infrastructure, shouldn’t city administrators be taken to task for their failure to serve all the residents of the city? It makes no sense at all to somehow blame others for the unequal distribution of facilities and opportunities when the administration is itself overwhelmingly in Malay hands. Perhaps, if our politicians and city administrators were not so busy exploiting their own positions for personal gain, the poorer areas of our cities might get the attention they rightly deserve.

It is, in fact, mind-boggling that so many Malay politicians continually harp on how poorly the Malays are doing when all the power to correct the situation has been in their hands for more than 60 years. Instead of fear mongering and race-baiting, they should look at their own performance and their own policies and figure out how to do a better job of governing the nation to the benefit of all its citizens.

A political construct

The narrative that Malays are being left behind is, for the most part, simply a political construct that is being promoted to justify the continuation of race-based policies that essentially favour the elites at the expense of the poor and serve the interest of Malay power structures.

Of course, there are many Malaysians who need help – farmers, fishermen, rural and urban poor; no one will grudge them greater support and assistance. But let’s have a targeted needs-based approach that really works, that will make a real difference. A needs-based approach will do more to uplift the disadvantaged Malays (as well as others) than many of the current policies that only benefit the crony-elites.

Building a culture of confidence

Instead of perpetuating a siege mentality – that the Malays are about to be overwhelmed by other communities – the government should celebrate the tremendous advances that the Malay community has made in the years since independence and how Malays have taken their place as leaders and change-agents in every area of national life.

Creating a culture of suspicion, fear and envy of other communities might be expedient in the short-term but it is ultimately fatal to our nation’s progress. Surely that’s one of the most important lessons we must learn from the past 60 yeas of UMNO’s racist policies.

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

 

Thinking beyond Harapan’s Disruptive Politics


December 16, 2018

Thinking beyond Harapan’s Disruptive Politics

Opinion  |  by Azly Rahman
www. malaysiakini.com

Image result for anwar ibrahim

COMMENT | Like many Malaysians, left simultaneously bedazzled and fuming by desperate politicians jumping ship and welcomed aboard by those on the sinking ‘Bahtera Merdeka’, I was angry. I still am.

I wrote a series of social media posts to register my disgust towards the nature of Pakatan Harapan’s politics, and how this is going to lead the coalition and the country towards disruption.

The years leading to the next general election will see politicians busy focusing on how to kill each other politically, if not sending each other to jail, rather than helping communities. Time and resources to do good, whether utilitarian or ontological, will be wasted.

What exactly should be our agenda? What do the people want from those elected into office and paid handsomely to talk and argue in Parliament? What was the promise and how do we reclaim the agenda?

But first, some of my notes of disgust:

  • Disruptive politics at its disruptive best – this is what Pakatan Harapan is offering its voters who are now devastated.
  • Politics based on lifelines and the avoidance of life in prison is politics not alive. Dead as deadwood.
  • Just when Malaysians are about to learn what hope for reform means, we have the gates open for pirates who abandoned the mothership.
  • How nervous will leaders of Harapan component parties be now about the future of their jobs, as well as when the rebranded Umno emerges?
  • The question is: can a fragile democracy such as Malaysia afford a zero-opposition policy? That would be crazy.
  • Let the corrupt leave their caves, but close the gates of the sanctuary. Let a strong opposition grow from the ruins of the old.
  • Other parties must preserve integrity at a time when it is for sale. Time to review the coalition.
  • People were angry there were groups that spoiled the votes, like #UndiRosak. Now, are we seeing a damaged government evolving?
  • What then is the difference between the old and the new regime, if the old crooks are invited back, in the name of a two-thirds majority?

Our first move

Where do we go from here – from the premise of change and the reality of disruption to a properly framed course of action? What ideas do we need to push in order for our nation to progress along the path of our common dream?

This is what we need to see evolving: brand-new political will, radical political change, an overhaul of the system and a fresh new mandate.

We need a prison complex big enough to incarcerate the long corrupt; a plan to redistribute wealth, dismantle educational apartheid, rewrite Malay and Malaysian history, and rethread the moral fibre of security personnel.

We need the widespread arrest of political tyrants, a restructuring of the casino capitalist economy, the restructuring of local government, and a clampdown on racist hate groups.

We need a return to the rule of law, to an agricultural society, to a cooperative system, as well as experiment with a radically new form of communal living.

We must dismantle systems that allow corporate giants to continue to prey upon the weak, strengthen labour, re-educate political officials on management, ethics, and political philosophy, and punish polluters and the destroyers of forests.

We need to separate religion and state, do away with useless cultural and religious rituals, and restructure society based on the principles of radical multiculturalism and the celebration of transcultural philosophies.

We need to cut down on TV time and introduce the reading of the great works of arts, humanities, literature, and philosophy, as well as curb rhetoric on Islamic or any religious state.

We need all these and more to turn the system on its ugly head.

Image result for tunku abdul rahman

As revered founding father Tunku Abdul Rahman – himself a victim of a political coup by racialised politicians – said in 1957 when he proclaimed the country’s independence:

”…But while we think of the past, we look forward in faith and hope to the future; from henceforth we are masters of our destiny, and the welfare of this beloved land is our own responsibility.

“Let no one think we have reached the end of the road: Independence is indeed a milestone, but it is only the threshold to high endeavour – the creation of a new and sovereign state.

“At this solemn moment, therefore I call upon you all to dedicate yourselves to the service of the new Malaya: to work and strive with hand and brain to create a new nation, inspired by the ideals of justice and liberty – a beacon of light in a disturbed and distracted world.

Indeed, when people believe in the future of their nation, it will be strong. That belief in Malaysia must be rekindled and recreated.

The next agenda

The agenda for true reform must be honoured by the present regime, provided that the component parties come together, study Tunku’s vision, recall what they themselves promised, remove the ills plaguing communitarian and sectarian politics, and the mad spy-versus-spy world in which we scheme against one another and build personal and family empires.

As it is, the scenario does not look good, because we are moving towards yet another form of authoritarianism, don’t-care-for-the-people-ism, plus a whole set of ‘isms’ that are disruptive to what we wish for as an independent nation: sustainability, peace, and social justice.

It is a complex issue for a complex plural nation with complex needs, governed by complex people and a regime not willing to use political will to address such complexities.

Whereas life is quite simple. We feed our needs first, rather than our greed.

Honour your promises, Harapan!


AZLY RAHMAN is an educator, academic, international columnist, and author of seven books available here. He grew up in Johor Bahru and holds a Columbia University doctorate in international education development and Master’s degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies communication, fiction and non-fiction writing. Twitter @azlyrahman. More writings here.

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

Did Malaysians vote Harapan for UMNO to rule again?


December 15, 2018

Did Malaysians vote Harapan for UMNO to rule again?

by  Charles Santiago  @ www. malaysiakini.com

 

MP SPEAKS | Party-hopping by Malaysian politicians isn’t anything new. But it raises the question as to whether it’s ethical to do so, as defections are a violation of the people’s mandate.

Having said that, I do understand that using the legislation to curb switching sides may take a whack at a person’s right to freedom of association.

But what’s happening over the last few days in Sabah and further rumoured party-hopping by UMNO politicians to Bersatu are definitely not due to a loss of confidence in its leadership or irreconcilable differences.

It’s out of fear and the need to ensure one doesn’t get nabbed by the anti-graft commission for corruption and abuse of power.

The back-door deals to remain relevant in politics and to stay out of prison are unacceptable and makes a fool of Malaysians who voted in Pakatan Harapan, believing our governance would be transparent and accountable.

We are muddying our administration by receiving tainted and corrupt politicians, who are desperately abandoning a sinking ship for vested interests.

It’s unthinkable that we refuse to use our discretion to swat them away like flies.

The Malaysia Baru or New Malaysia cannot be about wheeling and dealing; it cannot be about strategising for political longevity or dynasty; it cannot be about emboldening one’s political party and it certainly cannot be about favouritism and positioning who sits on the throne next.

We cannot afford to be arrogant just because we won handsomely at the last general election. We are not the kingmakers. The people are.

If we care to listen to the ground, we will hear deafening opposition to receiving UMNO politicians into the Pakatan Harapan fold.

We hear, once too often, that politics is littered with broken relationships and strange bedfellows. As an activist, I always knew that many politicians find manipulative ways to ply their political trade.

But I was hoping that these belonged with the former UMNO-led BN government.

It’s not too late, however, as Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad can still say no to party defections by politicians who believe they can switch from sinners to saints.


CHARLES SANTIAGO is the Klang MP.

The views expressed here


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

Fear and Manipulation of the Malay mind


December 11 ,2018

Fear and Manipulation of the Malay mind

by Mariam Mokhtar

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for icerd malaysia

Some people claim that the winners in the anti-ICERD rally were the conservative Malay-Muslims, and the losers Pakatan Harapan (PH) and to a lesser extent UMNO.

I beg to differ.

The real winners are the bullies and racists who threaten violence simply to get their way. Ketuanan Melayu or Malay supremacy tactics were paramount at the rally, with displays of silat groups and banners reminding everyone that Malaysia belongs to the Malays.

Prayers at the rally for the destruction of the PH administration were childish and showed that these bullies lacked creativity and brains. If their taunts and threats fail, God’s name is invoked to perpetuate a culture of fear.

The true losers are Malaysians, particularly the Malays. Here was a golden opportunity for Malaysians to rebuild the nation as a united people, through meritocracy. But fear triumphed.

Malaysians are now forced to play second fiddle to a handful of insecure Malay-Muslims who cannot grow up and cannot tolerate others being their equals. These insecure, belligerent people are determined that Malaysia should live in a toxic atmosphere. Think of the jealous boyfriend or husband who says, “If I can’t have you, no one else can.”

If these insecure people cared to read history, they would find that the foundation of Malaya/Malaysia was built on the blood, sweat and tears of all races. PAS leader Hadi Awang said non-Malays should be grateful that the Malays allow them to live in Malaysia. But he is misinformed. The original settlers of both East and West Malaysia were the Orang Asli – and Malay-Muslims repay their generosity by trampling on their rights.

Bullies and racists may have triumphed this time, but the Malays should heed the hidden messages from the anti-ICERD rally.

The rally served only to distract Malaysians, especially the Malays. Over the past few weeks, several Malay leaders were arrested and charged with money laundering, abuse of power, and stealing from the people. The rally allowed them a brief respite where they tried to be heroes once again.

Individuals such as former Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor may have felt like they regained their relevance, if only for an afternoon. They needed to remind the Malays that they champion their rights. The rally gave them ample opportunity to garner moral support from their sympathisers.

Interviews with people who attended the rally showed that some had no clue what ICERD means while others said the gathering was a relief from their day-to-day routines. The coach was free. They were allegedly given a small allowance, but it was still money in their hands. They were given free food and a chance to tell the folk in their villages that they had visited Kuala Lumpur.

The Malays in Malaysia are the poor relations of their cousins overseas. The Malays who have left Malaysia are confident and successful; they do not need crutches to survive. In the days before the ICERD issue, I met many middle-class and wealthy Malays who denounced the treaty as they believed ratifying it would mean the Malays losing their right to education. Have they been to schools where the dropout rate of Malays is high? Have they asked how the children perform at some Felda schools?

One professional Malay living and working in Malaysia claimed the special privileges of the Malays would be lost and Islam would be phased out if the ICERD were to be ratified. This person is perhaps oblivious to the fact that Malays who are spoon-fed become lazy and demotivated. Malays do not enjoy special privileges or a special position. There is nothing special about having a millstone around one’s neck.

A Malay engineer visited Dataran Merdeka in the early hours of the morning, before the rally started, to take a selfie. He disagreed with ICERD because he enjoys an Ali Baba work relationship. Others see him as a successful engineer, but would he agree to meritocracy and equality in the workplace?

After PH won GE-14, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad stood by his decision of Tommy Thomas as the Attorney-General. He was equally adamant that Lim Guan Eng should be the finance minister, yet when Malay extremists threatened to wreak havoc, he faltered. Why? Was he reverting to his Umno heredity or was this a politically expedient move?

PH carried the hopes and ideals of Malaysia Baru, but when it came to ICERD, it failed the people.

Why aren’t the Malays informed that ICERD is not the end of their little world? ICERD would have been the key to a more exciting future in which they would continue to play a positive role alongside other Malaysians. And their success would have been achieved under their own steam, through their brilliance and hard work.

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

 
 
 

Malaysian reform dynamics


December 8, 2018

Malaysian reform dynamics

 

by  Andrew Harding, NUS

http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2018/12/06/malaysian-reform-dynamics/

The pattern of political reform following a regime change is usually predictable: the reformers gain popular support, make changes to the constitution and then use constitutional politics to achieve their ends. But Malaysia’s current period of political change is straying far from this pattern. Instead, Malaysia is proving that peaceful transition and reform may be possible without debates about constitutional amendment.

 

Image result for asri and mahathir

 

The new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government — a coalition of four political parties — was unexpectedly elected to power on 9 May 2018, replacing the incumbent Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition government. Much of the PH’s current political leadership team were part of the BN’s largest member party and now discredited United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), including a former prime minister, two former deputy prime ministers and a slew of former ministers and members of parliament.

The election also revived the political career of former and now incumbent Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Mahathir had gone down in history as one of the strong men of Asian authoritarianism. His recent campaign replaced this image with one of a moderate democrat who believes in a free press, a two-party parliamentary system and the rights of citizens.

Mahathir’s campaigning against his old party carried enough rural Malay voters into the PH fold to overturn the BN’s dominance. Voters were appalled at the level of corruption in former prime minister Najib Razak’s government. The contrast was stark between voters’ own economic struggles — including the extra burden of a goods and services tax — and the wanton expenditure of leaders like Najib and his wife.

While the PH have not yet changed a single word of the constitution, it has already redefined the state as one based on good governance, the rule of law, parliamentarism and the separation of powers. The PH has proposed signing the international human rights covenants (except for ICERD), abolishing the death penalty, and addressing the political and legislative autonomy of East Malaysian states Sabah and Sarawak.

The question now is whether the reform process is politically sustainable and can be constitutionally entrenched.

One challenge facing the PH coalition is that any ordinary legislative changes — let alone constitutional amendments — can easily be blocked in Malaysia’s upper house, which is still controlled by senators appointed by the former BN government. The upper house has already rejected a bill to repeal the Fake News Act that was rushed through parliament by Najib before the election to restrict criticism of the government regarding the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.

There are fears that the PH coalition may simply revert to the Malaysian dominant-coalition stereotype. These are partly fears that the leader of the People’s Justice Party Anwar Ibrahim — the largest party of the PH coalition — will assert what he sees as his entitlement to the prime-ministership.

There are also worries about factionalism within Anwar’s party, quite apart from tensions between the four coalition partners. As matters stand, Mahathir is supposed to hand over to Anwar within two years of the election. At 93 years old, Mahathir could hardly plan to go on longer than that, whatever the politics dictates.

For the time being at least, the reformers are in charge.  Attorney General Tommy Thomas and Legal Affairs Minister Liew Vui Keong are implementing the PH’s campaign promises. These include the good-governance reforms that Mahathir wryly suggests would not have been so extensive had the PH expected to win the election. Bringing those guilty of corruption to account is the major priority at this point, and ensuring that problems such as the 1MDB scandal will not occur again is also high on the agenda.

Despite the flurry of reforms, announcements, prosecutions and policy changes since the election, most legal changes — such as abolition of the death penalty — remain to be implemented. These depend on parliamentary arithmetic.

But over the next two to three years, as current senators leave office, there will be opportunity for the PH government to gain much more control over the reform process. These reforms may well involve changes to the Senate itself, which has far too many appointed members and no longer fulfils its original purpose of protecting states’ rights. This of course assumes that PH will remain stable and reform-oriented.

Entrenching the reforms in the longer-term may also be a challenge. While an extended period of constitutional debate would be beneficial for the somewhat ad hoc current reform proposals, politics can change quickly. This could side-line reform and reemphasise ethnic and religious issues. The PH still has to establish its credentials with the majority of Malay voters. At the same time, Anwar has consistently advocated democratic reforms and suffered in jail as a result of overweening executive power.

These reforms are so long overdue that many of them could become fiats accomplis, or matters of consensus rather than contention. For the moment, the further down this road the reforms go, the harder it will be to reverse them.