Kedah’s Kassim Ahmad : Modern Day Hang Jebat


July 1, 2015

Kedah’s Kassim Ahmad : Modern Day Hang Jebat

by Shahril Ahmad@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Malay scholar and public intellectual Kassim Ahmad may have unwittingly cast himself into the role of Hang Jebat by his latest blog post.

kassim-ahmadAt 80+ he remains a fighter and seeker of Truth

In his 1964 dissertation, Perwatakan dalam Hikayat Hang Tuah, Kassim had dared to challenge traditional Malay thinking by contending that Hang Jebat, not Hang Tuah, was the true Malay hero for his earnestness in defending honour and principles, even if it meant turning against the Sultan.

Fast forward 51 years to last weekend, and we find Kassim challenging Malay thinking once again. The occasion this time was a press conference last Friday following a meeting of the UMNO Supreme Council. Party President Najib Razak told the gathered press that the 59-member council had decided to postpone UMNO’s general assembly and elections by another 18 months and that the decision complied with the party’s constitution.

The purpose, Najib said, was to enable the party “to focus on service to the rakyat, to reduce tensions within the party and to prepare for the 14th general elections.”

“The question UMNO members and the rakyat ought to ask,” Kassim writes, “is whether the reasons are valid. Will the general assembly prevent service to the people? Will it really be an obstacle in the party’s preparations for the next general election?”

“I think otherwise,” he says. “The general assembly will cure everything.” It will, he suggests, provide government leaders with a platform to brief delegates. It will also provide the delegates the opportunity to reprimand party elders and propose moves that the party should take.

“All this will only serve to improve service to the people and strengthen UMNO to face the next general election,” Kassim adds.

Kassim thinks that deferring the general assembly will only increase criticism of Najib’s administration.“It seems that Najib and the Supreme Council are afraid to face the delegates,” he says. “They appear intent on hiding certain weaknesses.”

“Yet, truth emboldens us while wrongs raise fears,” he says, adding that the UMNO leaders must be brave enough to receive constructive admonishment and suggestions from party delegates, claiming that it will strengthen the party and bring it greater victories in the future.

Malay folklore tells the tale of the covenant struck between Sang Sapurba, of royal descent, and local chief Demang Lebar Daun, who abdicated his throne in favour of the former.

Agreeing that his descendants shall henceforth be the subjects of Sang Sapurba and his descendants, Demang Lebar Daun made one request – that his descendants be treated well by their new rulers.

“If they offend,” Demang Lebar Daun was supposed to have said, “they shall not, however grave their offence, be disgraced or reviled with evil words. If their offence is grave, let them be put to death, if that is in accordance with the divine law.”

Sang Sapurba agreed. “In turn, your descendants shall never, until the end of time, be disloyal to my descendants, even if my descendants oppress them and commit evil.”

The pact was agreed to, but with the provision that if either side departed from the terms, so would the other.

Fast forward now to the age of Hang Tuah. Perhaps it was Sultan Mansur Shah who broke the pact when he sentenced the loyal Hang Tuah to death.

Raja adil raja disembah, raja zalim raja disanggah (A just king is a king to venerate, a despotic king is a king to repudiate),” Jebat bellowed as he ran amuck.

And so it is told that the Sultan, on learning that Tuah was still alive, summoned him and ordered the killing of Jebat. Tuah, ever loyal to the Sultan, obliged. Jebat, despite his loyalty to his comrade, would succumb.

Dictionary.com defines “democracy” as “a government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.”

Kassim Ahmad knows this. To him supreme power in UMNO lies with its delegates. Which is probably why he questioned the decision of the body which by name is supreme – the Supreme Council of UMNO – to cast aside the general assembly.

To him also, council members would have been like Tuah, showing misplaced loyalty to their leaders at a time when the people whom they were elected to serve had genuine concerns that needed to be addressed.

Who else then to play Jebat, anti-hero to the masses but defender of the honour and principles of true democracy? Stand proud, Pak Kassim. Hopefully, you will not stand alone.

UMNO tangguh Perhimunan Agung kerana Perdana Menteri Najib takut menghadapi kenyataan

Oleh: Kassim Ahmad

27 Jun, 2015

Dalam satu kenyataan semalam, Presiden UMNO Najib mengumumkan Majlis Tertinngi (MT) UMNO telah menangguh Perhimpunan Agung Tahunannya sehingga 18 bulan untuk menumpu kepada perkhidmatan kepada rakyat, mengurangkan ketegangan dalam parti serta membuat persediaan untuk mengahadapi pilihanraya umum ke-14.

Soalan yang perlu ditimbulkan oleh ahli UMNO dan rakyat, adakah Perhimpunan Agung menghalang perkara-pekarang yang disebut oleh Najib sebagai alasan penangguhan? Betulkah Perhimpunan Agung akan menghalang perkhidmatan kepada rakyat? Betulkah Perhimpunan Agung akan menghalang persediaan untuk menhadapi pilihanraya umum akan datang? Saya fikir sebaliknya. Perhimpunan Agung akan membaiki semua itu.

Najib the Bugus Warrior Bugis Ayam

Dalam Perhimpunan Agung, Presiden UMNO dan Perdana Menteri bersama-sama menteri-menteri lain boleh memberi taklimat kepada para wakil dan seterusnya kepada rakyat . Para wakil boleh menegur, bertanya dan memberi cadangan kepada ahli-ahli MT dan Jemaah Menteri. Ini semua akan membolehkan ahli-ahli MT dan Jemaah Menteri memberi perkhidmatan yang lebih baik kepada rakyat serta memperkuatkan UMNO untuk menghadapi pilihanraya umum akan datang.>

Sebaliknya, penangguhan akan menimbulkan banyak masalah dan menambah kritikan rakyat kepada kepimpinan Najib, seperti yang telah disuarakan oleh bekas Perdana Menteri Tun Dr. Mahathir.

Kita nampak Najib dan MT takut hendah menghadapi para wakil. Ada kelemahan-kelemahan yang hendak mereka sembnyikan dari para wakil dan rakyat. Tetapi, seperti kata pepatah, berani kerana benar, takut kerana salah. Kita nasihatkan beranilah berdepan dengan para wakil, sampaikan taklimat tentang keadaan Kerajann dan parti, terima teguran mereka yang membina dan cadangan mereka yang baik. Ini akan memperteguhan parti dan akan membawa parti mencapai kemenangan yang lebih besar di masa hadapan.

Saya membuat kritikan ini kerana saya sayang kepada UMNO. Saya juga ahli UMNO sejak 1986. Saya ahli, tetapi saya bukan pakturut. Tuhan Sendiri mengarah saya menyerukan kebaikan dan melarang kejahatan. Persis inilah yang saya kena lakukan. Saya harap Najib dan Majlis Tertinggi UMNO akan dengar kritikan saya.

KASSIM AHMAD seorang penulis bebas Malaysia. Lama web beliau www.kassimahmad.blogspot.com

UMNO

Muslim MPs ask where Malaysia is headed


July 1, 2015

COMMENT: We know the answer. So do these Muslim lawmakers. What is the point of Din and Ly2talking now, since we need urgent and drastic action. Malaysia has become a failed “Islamic state”(Mahathir’s version). Our country is divided along religious and racial lines.

The evidence is for all to see. Fortunately, the maturity of Malaysians in general has prevented our country  from  going into a state of “religious war” under this weak and corrupt leadership of chicken Najib. But then for how long?

It is amazing that the Prime Mnister is not able to discipline his Minister of Religion, Jamil Khir Baharom, a bigot from my home state Kedah, and overzealous officials in JAKIM and JAWI. Just sack all of them.

Have these Muslim lawmakers cared that these institutions have persecuted my good friend, 80-year old public intellectual Kassim Ahmad for expressing a contrarian view on Hadith and Nik Raina of Borders Book for selling Irshad Manji’s book which was not banned at the time when JAWI officials raided her bookstore in Mid-Valley, Kuala Lumpur a few years ago. Both these individuals are innocent and should not have been dragged to the sharia and civil courts.But they were humiliated and made to look like common criminals.

What about those religious policemen, snooping into the private lives of Muslims? Of course, they exempted themselves and our political bigwigs. Our ulamas and conservative Muslim intellectuals insult Muslim women and dictate how they should live their lives and how they should dress. We have a Housewives Club which tells them to be prostitutes to satisfy their husbands’ sexual appetites. What a shame. These developments are giving Malaysia a very bad international image.

Talk is cheap. Truth be told ,they have no conviction and the guts to stand on reason and logic and tell Najib to stop playing religion and race for his politics of survival. Cowards die a thousand times. So, there is only one way left for reasonable and tolerant Malaysians to react, and that is to vote them all out in the next General Elections.Din Merican.

Muslim MPs ask where Malaysia is headed

by Joseph Sipalan

Muslim lawmakers from both sides of the political divide have raised concerns over the seeming trend of Muslims imposing their beliefs on others, questioning if this is reflective of a wider agenda that is backed by Putrajaya to turn Malaysia into an Islamic state.

The federal lawmakers noted that the federal government appeared either unable to stop or even condoning of incidents in which Islamic sensibilities are imposed on the larger society by religious authorities and individuals.

malaysia-women-islam

“This issue bothers me because as our forefathers taught us, religion should be about faith and (is) personal,” UMNO’s Pulai MP Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed told Malay Mail Online via text message.

“I suspect the longer-term objective of these groups is to usurp power through religious means and therefore avoid being legitimately elected. While I respect their motives and intentions, the elected government of the day must control the actions of these groups and act in the interest of all the citizens of the country,” he added.

Chicken Najib 2

On Wednesday, the Malaysian Bar criticised Deputy Education Minister Datuk Mary Yap for reportedly saying that non-Muslims should consume food and drink discreetly and outside the view of fasting Muslims, in response to outrage over a “joke” told by a teacher in Kedah to non-Muslim students about drinking urine.

The Kedah incident is reminiscent of a 2013 incident in which a Sungai Buloh primary school encountered controversy after non-Muslim students were pictured eating in a toilet during Ramadan.

DAP’s Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari argued that such posturing over religion would ultimately lead up to ridiculous rulings that benefit no one.

“Should we ban Ramadan bazaars so Muslims don’t need to look at food? When our Hindu friends fast for Thaipusam, do we go out of our way to accommodate them by not drinking or eating in front of them?” he said when contacted.

Zairil admitted that there is “no quick solution” to the religious polarisation the country is facing, but stressed that the first step to fixing the situation is to take governments and political parties out of the equation.

“It’s not even about tolerance here. The problems are cropping up today because of the incessant politicising of ethno-religious nationalism, so much so that the state flexes hegemony, thus influencing the people.

“Why do we even have JAKIM (Malaysia’s federal Department of Islamic Development) when Islam is a state issue? That’s a fundamental question because the authority of JAKIM appears to go against the 9th schedule of the Federal Constitution.

“I am suggesting that matters of faith should belong in the realm of civil society and not the state,” he said.

Nur Jazlan insisted that there is no place in Malaysia for state-sanctioned enforcement of Islam, claiming that the “collapse” of Islamist party PAS ― which is facing a split after delegates elected a new leadership made up entirely of the ulama or clergy class at their recent Muktamar – is proof that the public wants moderation over religious orthodoxy.

“The best way to develop Islam is to teach and encourage personal observations, and not enforce it to the whims of others, especially unelected ones,” he said, without referring to any group or individuals.

The Kedah school incident cropped up amid growing concerns of creeping Islamisation in Malaysia, in which the norms of the increasingly conservative Muslim majority are gradually being imposed on the rest of the country both directly and covertly.

Incidents that support the view include Muslim protests against Oktoberfest-themed events open only to non-Muslims, uproar over a gold-medallist Muslim gymnast over her leotard, and at least four reported cases of arbitrary dress codes at government departments and agencies that denied entry to non-Muslims over their dressing that was deemed indecent.

http://www.themalaymailonline.com

Najib, UMNO Baru and 1MDB keep lying


June 30, 2015

Najib, UMNO Baru and 1MDB keep lying till the end of time

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.malaysiakini.com

Ismail Sabri Yaakob warned that anyone who slanders Najib Abdul Razak and the government over 1MDB would be punished. This demonstrates two things: that Umno Baru promotes ministers to their level of incompetence, and that spending taxpayers’ money is easy, because it does not appear to belong to anyone in particular.

The irony is that it took former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, with his severely blemished past, to show that the only way UMNO Baru politicians assuage temptation (spending public funds) is by yielding.

Ismail, who is UMNO Baru supreme council member, reminded the rakyat to be wary of unsubstantiated sources such as Sarawak Report and The Edge, with their evil agendas. He said that those who discussed Najib’s involvement in the 1MDB scandal could be relying upon inaccurate information about the dealings between 1MDB and PetroSaudi.

Warning that stern action would be taken against Sarawak Report and The Edge for harming national interests, he said, “When the 1MDB issue erupted, many people believed in The Edge, which frequently reported biased news and was criticised for sabotaging the economy.”

Ismail, who is also the Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister, pleaded with Malaysians to have faith in the government, and said, “We should trust the government and the minister’s explanation…”. He urged the rakyat to ignore information garnered from social media or from bloggers and refer instead to the authorities for verification.

Asking the authorities to verify information is an impossibility and shows how naïve Ismail is to think he can fool the rakyat. Najib has dodged answering questions about 1MDB and helped extend the 1MDB scandal.

Integrity flies out the window, where party politics are concerned. Everyone has a price and Najib knows that UMNO Baru divisional heads are demanding, and expensive. Would Ismail like to verify the allegations about UMNO Baru heads receiving substantial contracts and fiscal rewards for showing their loyalty to Najib?

Veteran UMNO Baru politician Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said, “These days UMNO Baru divisional leaders as well as parliamentary members earn up to RM50,000 a month, some even earn hundreds of thousands”.

He said that on March 8, over 160 UMNO Baru divisional leaders, including those who support Mahathir, had attended a meeting with Najib to show their allegiance to him.

‘No lah. Everything is above board!’

The typical response from the authorities, on whether this meeting took place, or that loyalty is accompanied by a price tag is this; “No! UMNO Baru politicians are clean and law-abiding. No one is above the law. We love Najib.”

The opposition MP for Petaling Jaya Utara, Tony Pua, claimed that the purchase of property by Mara in Melbourne is a covert attempt to save 1MDB. Do similar property purchases, by government-linked companies (GLCs), both in Malaysia and abroad, constitute a form of illegal kickback for corrupt officials?

We can predict the response; “No lah. Everything is above board! Mara is not corrupt.” Ahmad Maslan, the UMNO Baru Information Chief, announced that his party’s elections would be postponed till after the 14th general election (GE14), to strengthen the party and focus on the needs of the people. UMNO Baru secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor admitted that the postponement was because of an internal political crisis.

Critics claim otherwise and say that the delay is due to Najib needing more time to resolve the 1MDB crisis. Additionally, UMNO Baru has to resolve its in-fighting, and more importantly, Dr Mahathir’s relentless attacks on Najib. The authorities’ verification? “No. The postponement has nothing to do with 1MDB or Mahathir’s criticisms.”

PAS’ Pokok Sena MP, Mahfuz Omar wants Muslims to reject Najib’s ploy, to use RM20 million from Yayasan 1MDB to pay for the redevelopment of a mosque in Kampung Baru and turn it into a “national landmark”. Mahfuz accused Najib of using Muslims to “forgive 1MDB”, and that Najib wanted to “sanitise” 1MDB’s controversies by giving money to build mosques and helping to fund the pilgrimages of religious scholars to Mecca.

We can predict the response of the authorities to Mahfuz’s assertions, “No. It is not true that 1MDB’s funding for mosques is used to appeal to the Muslims. UMNO Baru is merely helping to protect Islam and promote the Malays.”

Ismail knows, and his knowledge is confirmed by the preceding examples, that trying to verify any facts with the authorities is a pointless exercise.

He may be interested to know that the rakyat’s list of queries is much longer and includes questions on who killed Altantuya Shaariibuu, the purchase of the Scorpene submarines, the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC), the cargo manifest of MH370, the RM24 million ring, the jailing of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on trumped-up charges, human trafficking, Taib Mahmud, Batang Kali, Memali, Kampung Medan, Mahathir and May 13.

UMNO Baru treats information, in one of the following ways – denial, pay-out, violence, threats of jail, lawsuits and silence. UMNO Baru politicians have spun so many webs of deceit, that they now believe their own lies. Naturally, they think that Najib and UMNO Baru can do no wrong.

Najib misses opportunity in 11MP


June 29, 2015

Najib misses opportunity in 11MP

 by Ramesh Chander and Bridget Welsh
The credibility problem with the 11MP goes far beyond the macroeconomic assumptions underpinning the plan. The Najib government is creating arbitrary targets that are not in line with standard international practices.–Chander and Welsh

11th Malaysia Plan2As debate in Malaysia’s Parliament draws to a close on the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP) that lays out targets for the country to achieve “developed” nation status by 2020, the focus has primarily centred on the unrealistic assumptions contrived for the macro-economic framework for the blueprint.

Little attention has concentrated on the consistency of the assumptions and how the 11MP compares with previous policy frameworks. A close look at the 11MP reveals serious gaps and shortcomings, raising questions about whether the proclaimed milestones of development by 2020 can indeed be achieved.

Underlying macro-economic fallacies

DatukChanderThe 11MP argues that Malaysia will become a “developed” or “high-income” nation by 2020. This is in line with the long-standing Vision 20/20 targets laid out two decades ago. The current plan argues that this transformation will be achieved with the economy growing at an average rate of five to 6% per year over the next five years resulting in the GNI per capita level of US$15,690 by 2020.

The macro-economic assumptions underlying this trajectory have been questioned and have not been seen as credible.

Scholars have highlighted that the Plan begins by failing to acknowledge the shortfalls in projected growth targets in previous plans and thus begins from an unrealistic starting point. Targets set out in the 10th Malaysia Plan had postulated an average annual growth rate of 6.5% a year over 2010-2020. However, during the first half of the decade the level achieved fell short and only reached 5.5%.

Simple arithmetic indicates that the country will need to grow at a rate faster than 6.5% in the second half of the decade, to compensate for the prior shortfall. The Malaysian economy must thus achieve a real growth of 7.7% per year over 2015 to 2020 if the targets set in the previous 10MP are to be met.

Other assessments have pointed to inflated projections of growth resulting from a failure to account for conditions in the international economy, particularly lower revenues coming from the global drop in oil and gas prices, the slowdown in China’s manufacturing and lower investment and potential capital outflows from Malaysia tied to quantitative easing in the United States accompanied with a rise in interest rates.

Concerns have also been raised about inflated assessments within Malaysia’s economy. For instance, the overall growth in GDP is postulated in part on the assumption that that household consumption will contribute positively to overall growth.

This assumption appears to ignore the role of large household debt, estimated at 88% of GDP, that will reduce household consumption. Household consumption has been a main driver in the economy over the past few years, primed by public spending. Consumption has been further dampened by the introduction of the GST which has not only reduced demand, but also hampered business due to poor implementation, especially among small business and in country’s narrow private sector.

Malaysia is reaching record levels of inflation, officially at 2.9% but unofficially much higher. Net exports are likely to only provide a limited amount to GDP as Malaysia’s prime markets are likely to record modest growth as traditional sectors of oil and gas and other commodities such as palm oil under deliver due to lower prices.

The most troubling issue is the lack of a clear driver for growth in Malaysia’s economy. Public sector spending, already strained by high public debt and a growing deficit that passes the 3.5% threshold when one considers off-budget and contingent liabilities, is lower in real terms than in the 10MP and the proposed engine for growth laid out in the 11MP, the private sector, is in need of serious reforms to engender a more competitive and conducive environment for growth.

The 11MP has effectively abandoned any real economic reforms, as it comes after Najib’s expansion of chosen Bumiputera affirmative action programmes after the 13th general election and increased politicisation of government procurement, a key tool used to shore up political support.

The problems with the macroeconomic foundations of the plan have dominated the debate surrounding the 11MP, with the economic fundamentals seen as less than credible and undermining the basis for the blueprint.

Rather than acknowledge realities, Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s government has chosen to paint an overly optimistic and unrealistic fallacy, to not come clean in relation to the macroeconomic circumstances facing the nation.  This fallacy affects confidence, and undermines the ability for the country to actually reach the touted 2020 goals.

Arbitrary targets of ‘developed’ status

The credibility problem with the 11MP goes far beyond the macroeconomic assumptions underpinning the plan. The Najib government is creating arbitrary targets that are not in line with standard international practices.

One key concept embodied in 11MP is that of a “highly” or “developed country”, its origin needs to be understood.The World Bank classifies countries by income categories (low, middle, high income) to serve the Bank’s needs to establish operational and lending markers. Its website makes clear that low-income and middle-income economies are sometimes referred to as developing economies. This term is a convenient categorisation, it is not intended to imply that all economies in the group are experiencing similar development or that other economies have reached a preferred or final stage of development. The Bank makes it clear that classification by income does not necessarily reflect development status.

The Bank prepares its classification of countries annually on the occasion of its fiscal year (ending in June 30). The per capita GNI calculations used in the classification employ a well-established methodology known as the Atlas method for converting per capita incomes expressed in national currencies into a common measure (the US dollar).

The method takes into account exchange rate fluctuations in cross-country comparisons.  The Atlas conversion factor for any year is the average of a country’s exchange rate (or alternative conversion factor) for that year and its exchange rates for the two preceding years, adjusted for the difference between the rate of inflation in the country, and through 2000, that in the G-5 countries (France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States).

For 2001 onwards, these countries include the eurozone, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. A country’s inflation rate is measured by the change in its GDP deflator. The calculations are done annually and are not comparable from year to year and cannot, therefore, be projected. In other words, the use of per capita incomes as a measurement is not a standard that is used for planning purposes as it does not allow for proper comparison and assessment over time, nor does it have any real meaning when projected in the future as there are too many unknowns to evaluate its value in the future.

Najib’s figure of US$15,000 in the 11MP has been arbitrarily chosen and has no real meaning. It is a concocted notional figure and then fancifully set as a goal. The reality is that, given the World Bank’s methodology, the cut-off for distinguishing “high-income” countries from “middle-income” countries cannot be determined at the present point in time for a date in the future.

Projecting future per capita GNI levels (in accordance with the Atlas methodology) requires an array of assumptions pertaining to inflation trends, exchange rates and the emergence of unexpected shocks.

The 11MP fails to offer any clues as to how the Najib government came to choose the figure of US$15,000 as the determining cut-off and what are the assumptions about the factors that would underlie it emerging in the future. In using the US$15,000 per capita target as the goal as it has, the credibility of the 11MP has been affected.

Missing details on poverty

A basic good practice in planning is to carefully lay out the methodology and assumptions in the numbers used for projections and assessments.

Nowhere is this more important that in the analysis of poverty. With self-congratulatory language, Najib’s 11MP claims that poverty incidence has declined from 3.8% in 2009 to 0.6% in 2014.

No details are provided about the estimated poverty lines used in the calculations. This is unlike previous plans, notably the 9MP. The failure to outline the methodology attempts to skirt the persistent concerns regarding how Malaysia’s poverty measurements do not conform with international practices.

Malaysia’s measurements are seen to define poverty below the bar used in international levels and to use “households” rather than “persons”, obscuring the real scope of poverty in society. In the absence of details, it is inappropriate to make grand claims in poverty reduction.

The perfunctory and non-transparent analysis of poverty in the current plan raises concerns. Even if we take the number of households listed as “poor” at face value, when converted to number of “persons” basis, (persons per households) the number in poverty is actually a staggering number – almost a million and a half of all Malaysians live in absolute poverty.

The 11MP offers no real discussion regarding the composition of these communities, namely that disproportionately the majority live in Sabah and Sarawak, are women and children and come from families of multiple generations of impoverishment. It is a most serious state of affairs that after almost four decades of the NEP, significant numbers of poverty exist even when a low bar is used to define it.

Not only do the poverty numbers reflect the current failure of the NEP to deliver upon development to all Malaysians, they reveal the shortcomings of the Najib government in its focus on short-term measures of millions of cash handouts and lack of meaningful policy programme to address the status of the country’s poorest citizens.

The thin accompanying “strategy papers” with the 11MP do not include substantive ideas to address poverty, from rural development to urban exclusion. What the 11MP reveals is the lack of the political will to acknowledge the need to make adjustments and develop meaningful policy programs on poverty.

The lack of a connection to the current conditions faced by Malaysians is especially troubling. No bridget-welshassessment is made of the impact of the reduction of subsidies. The Plan wholly ignores the question of how implementation of GST or the granting of BR1M (1Malaysia People’s Aid) cash handouts affects poorer Malaysians. The impression given is that poverty gains are to be lauded and the ongoing problems largely ignored.

A new beginning is needed. To sincerely and fully address the issue of poverty, it is imperative that Malaysian policy-makers first apply the internationally accepted concepts and methodology employed to derive the various Poverty Line Income (PLI) measures and the estimates of poverty incidence.

The current methods are deeply flawed and are not conducive to an honest discussion of the problem of poverty. To the extent there are efforts to distort real conditions facing Malaysians, the lack of proper measurement fundamentally affects the analyses and conclusions.

In turn, this leads to the adoption of ineffective policies. The World Bank and UNDP, two leading global agencies in analysing poverty, use the concepts of “absolute” and “relative” poverty.

There are no valid reasons Malaysia should deviate from standard international terminology and standards. A meaningful step toward reducing poverty involves using national estimates based on population-weighted estimates from household surveys, rather than unrealistic lower-than-normal bars based on notional estimates of food consumption baskets utilising caloric values that are widely seen as less reliable measures.

A struggle over how to understand and measure poverty is evident in the 11MP. A pitch is made for the introduction of a new “Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index” based on a tool used by UNDP.

In an elaboration of the index, details are provided of the weights that will be adopted for each of the component elements making up the composite index. The choice of weights is critical to the viability of the overall index.

In the citation provided, no rational is given as to how the weights would actually be calculated. This gap in information does not offer an improvement on current measures as it continues arbitrary calculations of Malaysia’s poverty levels.

It is crucial that these measures be determined transparently and consistently in line with international standards. The 11MP also introduces a new concept, namely that of “B40” households, made up of the households at the bottom 40% in terms income distribution. Some 2.7 million households make up this group. The mean average monthly income of these households is claimed to be RM2,537. The plan projects that their incomes will more than double to RM5,270 by 2020.

While some elaborations are provided, there are unanswered questions concerning the consistency of these numbers with other indicators in the 11MP and how these numbers can be achieved given the flawed macroeconomic assumptions underlying the plan as a whole.

The overall picture that emerges is that the 11MP is labouring hard to project “feel good” numbers without providing details.The numbers, even though precise to the last digit, are not supported by information concerning data sources, concepts employed and assumptions made in the projections. As Malaysia employs numbers not in line with accepted international practices, this information is necessary for credibility.

While the authors can be forgiven for not incorporating such details in the actual plan document, there is hardly any justification for not providing the relevant detail in the so-called strategy papers or in technical appendices.

Deviating from the past

A centrepiece in all Malaysian five-year plans, beginning with the 3rd Malaysia Plan, has been treatment of the two prongs of the NEP, namely the eradication of poverty irrespective of race and the greater equitable distribution of wealth.

The issues with the former are outlined above. The latter is essentially missing in the 11MP altogether. In Malaysia, the distribution of wealth has focused upon ownership of share capital by race.

All plans since 1970 have incorporated tables showing the progress made towards attaining the 30% target for Bumiputera ownership of share capital. It is thus truly surprising that this principal goal of planning in Malaysia since the early 1970s has essentially disappeared altogether in the 11MP.

A reference is made that the 30% target remains unfulfilled as of now, and a claim is made that the targets will be met by 2020, but no data is included to allow for assessment or evaluation.

Unlike all earlier Plan documents, the 11MP does not include a table detailing the ownership of share capital.  This is indeed puzzling, and raises questions about the intentions of the Najib government.

One possible explanation could lie with an attempt by the Najib government to skirt the controversial discussions regarding how estimates to measure share values of different communities have been prepared.

The use of nominal values has been extremely controversial. The impression given, however, in the failure to properly include this issue of equity ownership in the 11MP is that it is no longer a priority of the Najib government.

Missing information also surrounds the important area of development expenditures. Malaysia’s five-year plans have consistently included detailed accounts of where money will be spent, outlining the spending priorities of the government for long-term planning.

These expenditures have been tied into the broader goals of plans, including poverty reduction and increasing incomes.

While a number of projects are listed in 11MP, the relationship between these projects and the broader well-being of all Malaysians has not been laid out. A core element in planning involves a thorough and transparent accounting of public spending, sadly missed from the 11MP. Given the billions of funds that are being pumped into the Malaysian economy, as the Najib government has outlined over RM400 billion in expenditure while in office, the tie between spending and broader planning goals is a serious omission.

Raising questions, losing confidence

The 11MP stands out in how information is presented and not presented – the arbitrariness of numbers, concerns with distorted realities, lack of detail in assumptions and methodologies, distracting new concepts that further move away from international standards and major gaps in information and analysis that allow for the emergence of constructive and conducive policy platforms to address the country’s policy challenges, from poverty to raising incomes

All previous plans and mid-term reviews have gone beyond outlining aspirational targets and seriously attempted to lay out policy reforms tailored to the targets.

The 11MP has deviated from this approach. It has failed to outline meaningful measures that are needed to remove the constraints that are holding the country back, entrapped as a middle income country. It appears that the Najib government is not genuinely interested in planning, or does not have the capacity to effectively formulate policies for Malaysia’s development.

In the 11MP, the Najib government has missed an important opportunity to move the country forward, to build faith in the current leadership and to show that the Prime Minister has a plan to strengthen Malaysia. Rather than inspire confidence, the 11MP raises questions about how the touted targets will be achieved and whether Malaysians, especially poorer citizens, will get the governance they need. – new mandala, June 29, 2015.

* Dato’ Ramesh Chander was the first head of Malaysia’s Department of Statistics. He served as a senior adviser to the World Bank’s chief economist/senior vice-president before retiring from the Bank.

* Dr Bridget Welsh is a senior research associate at the Centre for East Asian Democratic Studies at National Taiwan University.

Tun Hussein Onn: Where is the Original UMNO (1946)?


June 29, 2015

Tun Hussein Onn: Where is the Original UMNO (1946) ?

by Tajuddin Rosli@themalaymailonline.com

Tunku Razak and HusseinMy question is, where is this original UMNO now? The UMNO loved by all Malays, which had united the Malays with other races, which had brought prosperity and tranquility to this nation and its people and which had successfully fought for Independence — that UMNO is no more in existence. It was declared illegal and dissolved by Dr. Mahathir and his friends and replaced by another party named UMNO Baru. If we were to compare UMNO Baru’s form and structure to that of original UMNO, whether from the angle of its constitution or principles, where do we find any similarities between the two? The formation of UMNO Baru is an act of treachery and cannot be forgiven either by the members of the original UMNO or new UMNO. Despite the deterioration in my health including a heart attack, I responded by declaring that I would fight the traitors till the bitter end” — Tun Hussein Onn’s speech to voters in Parit Raja during a by-election in 1988.

Tun Hussein Onn, Malaysia’s third Prime Minister led the country from 1976-1981. Hussein Onn shed tears both on resuming the premier’s office after the demise of Tun Abdul Razak and before leaving the helm for Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. While officially, Hussein left for Mahathir citing ill health as his reason, it was later alleged that Mahathir backstabbed Hussein Onn and used his jedi powers to force the latter out.

While we all know that UMNO was founded by Tun Hussein Onn’s father, Dato’  Onn Jaafar and how Onn Jaafar, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Hussein collectively increased the strengths of UMNO, we forget than Hussein Onn himself opposed Mahathir’s UMNO Baru from the outside. When he was asked why isn’t he a member of UMNO Baru and continuously opposed Mahathir, Tun Hussein replied by saying, “Firstly we are denied membership in UMNO Baru. Secondly, even if we were to be accorded membership, we disagree with its constitution and style of leadership. Thus we have no choice but to stay out and oppose UMNO Baru.”

logo-umno-baru-lama1logo-umno baruUMNO Baru

The 3rd Prime Minister on numerous occasions also expressed despair and heartache at disunity that Mahathir brewed. He once said, “We all want unity. But what is happening now is the worsening of disunity. We want to compromise. We want to reconcile. We want to forget all the differences. We want to return to the right path. But as you all know, all efforts towards unity have failed. Those in power don’t pay much attention to our suggestions. They have turned a deaf ear to our advice. We can all see how anyone who advises or disagrees with those in power will be condemned, suspended or sacked from their position. All efforts from within have failed. That is why we now have to act from outside, as Independents.”

Malaysia’s most loved Prince, Tunku Abdul Rahman walked hand-in-hand with Hussein Onn to oppose Mahathir. While Mahathir only recognizes contributions from the Malays for independence, the man who actually brought independence to Malaya spoke differently. Tunku openly criticised Mahathir for being power crazy.

rMahathir Mohamad-2014The Greedy Man, said Tunku Abdul Rahman

We should be wary of the greedy man who wants to grab everything in this country to satisfy his lust for power. He says it is for the Malays, but in actual fact it is for himself. We must bear in mind that the Malays had never lived in affluence and never had a place in the administration of this country. When this country achieved Independence, we gained power with the cooperation of other communities. We were able to rule our own country. We should therefore, never be arrogant and break our promise to our friends in the other communities who had helped us to achieve independence,” uttered Tunku.

Back then, Tunku kept pleading with the people to reject Mahathir. He constantly reminded, “All power is in the hands of the people, provided the people use the power wisely. Solidarity can only be achieved through UMNO, the original UMNO, not UMNO Baru, which is Dr.  Mahathir’s UMNO.”

Portraying the image of a fragile old man, Mahathir today  quivers and says he is a nobody today and he can only voice his concern against Dato’ Seri Najib as a normal citizen of this country. If memory serves him right, he should be getting flashbacks of what he did to Tunku and Hussein Onn on every occasion Najib snubs him. Mahathir is certainly getting back what he gave others before him. As they say, the globe is round. You are treated the exact same way you treat others.

If you want love, give love; If you want honesty, give honesty; If you want respect, give respect. You get in return, what you give!

Bakri Musa: Get rid of Jakim and Jawi


June 29, 2015

Bakri Musa: Get rid of Jakim and Jawi

by Dr M. Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California

Ramadan brings exuberant displays of piety among Malays, consumed as we are with personal salvation. There is however, little reflection on our salvation as a society.

The Malays are  lazy

Hellfire or the ultimate punishment for us as a society would be to be dumped into the rubbish bin of mankind, dependent on the charity of others while living in a land so blessed by Almighty. The irony, as well as the fact that others thrive in Tanah Melayu, would make the punishment that much more unbearable.

We have ruled this country for over half a century; all instruments of government are in our hands, sultans as well as prime ministers are all Malays, and the constitution is generous to us. Yet we remain in a sorry state, reduced to lamenting our fate and blaming the pendatangs.

This lamentation is heard with nauseating frequency, coming from sultans and prime ministers to pundits and kedai kopi commentators. Seizing on that, some (and not just non-Malays) gleefully trumpet their own sense of superiority or denigrate the Malay culture and character.

A former Chief Minister of Terengganu (now Deputy Minister of Education), a predominantly-Malay and oil-rich state, asked how could we who have lived here for centuries, control the government, and are in the majority feel threatened by the immigrants. The fact that he posed the question reveals how clueless he was in addressing it. Alas his is the caliber of leadership we have been cursed with.

The issue is not who is in charge rather what those charged with leading us are doing. The Pakistanis and Zimbabweans are in charge 100 percent and have no immigrants to contend with, yet their people suffer.The Chinese in Hong Kong thrived under British rule while their brethren on the mainland starved and perished under Mao’s Cultural Revolution and other “Great Leap Forward” follies. Being led by your own kind is not always a blessing.

As for immigrants, the French, Germans and Americans are much richer and in full control of their nations yet they feel imperiled by poor and unarmed Africans, Turks and Mexicans respectively.

Leaders betraying their followers’ trust or natives feeling threatened by immigrants are not unique to Malays.

UMNO Baru

In an earlier book, Malaysia in the Era of Globalization, I likened the dilemma we face today to that of the Irish of yore. The Irish then felt overwhelmed by the minority English who dominated just about every aspect of life in Ireland except of course the Catholic Church. The Church meanwhile held a tight grip on the Irish, dictating everything from what they could do in their bedrooms to the schools their children should attend.

As the church banned contraception, they had huge unruly broods, with the fathers busy rebelling or drinking. If there were ambitious Irish parents who dared send their children to the much superior English schools instead of the lousy church-run ones, they risked being excommunicated. More Irish left Ireland than stayed.

Substitute Islam for Catholicism and non-Malays for the English, and we have our current mess, except that we are not emigrating en mass. As for the Irish blight of alcohol and fecundity, we have drugs and HIV infections.

Ireland today is very different nation. The Irish are no longer emigrating and the country hosts many IT giants. Ryanair, the Dublin-based discount airline, once attempted a takeover of venerable British Airways.

We can learn much from the Irish, their recent economic setbacks notwithstanding. We can begin by choosing enlightened leaders, meaning, those who can crystallize the problems and then craft sensible solutions instead of endlessly extolling the mythical values of Ketuanan Melayu or mindlessly quoting the Holy Book.

Ireland’s transformational leader Sean Lemass began by clipping the powers of the Church. He removed schools from its control and allowed contraceptives. He lifted censorship so the Irish could read dissenting opinions and view on their television sets the world beyond their government’s propaganda.

Irish kids studied science and mathematics instead of reciting catechism. With family planning the unruly messy Irish brood was replaced by a more wholesome and manageable one.

We have our share of potential Lemasses but we do not nurture or elect them. Our leaders instead are consumed in a destructive and dysfunctional dynamics of triangulation, with one element attempting alliance with the second to neutralize the third. Earlier, Mahathir co-opted the religious to take on the third – the sultans. Today’s weakened political leadership emboldens the sultans to re-exert themselves by aligning with the ulamas. Seemingly progressive Perak’s Sultan gives free rein to his Taliban-like mufti (Harussani) while Kelantan’s is more imam than Sultan, enrapturing Malay hearts. Elsewhere Sultans could not find enough ulamas to heap royal honors.

These sultans and politicians have yet to learn a crucial lesson. The Islamic tiger, once ridden, is impossible to dismount. You would be lucky if it would not take you back to its den. Meanwhile you have to endure where it wants to go, and right now it is headed for ISIS.

Only the emergence of other pillars of leadership could break this dysfunctional triangulation. A potential source would be NGOs; BERSIH’s considerable impact attests to this. Another would be for “towering” Malays to be assertive, especially those not tainted by politics, religion, or royalty. Consider that cartoonist Zunar and Poet Laureate Samad Said have more impact than the much-touted Group of 25 “eminent” Malays comprising retired senior civil servants. For a Malay to reach the top in the civil service is no achievement; it would be for a non-Malay. Thus those 25 “eminent” Malays, despite or perhaps because of their fancy royal titles, are not effective role models or catalysts for change.

Barring disruption of this destructive triangulation or the emergence of a local Lemass, there is not much hope except to pray. However, as per the oft-quoted Koranic verse, Allah will not change the condition of a people unless they themselves do it (approximate translation). Our Prophet Muhammad, s.a.w.,(pbuh) advised us that we must first tie our camel securely and only then pray it does not escape.

malaysia-women-islamThe Hoods in Malaysia like the KKK in the US

Pray we must, but first we have to get rid of JAWI, JAKIM and hordes of similar and very expensive agencies. I could tolerate them as public works programs for otherwise unemployable Malays, but those authoritarian and far-from-authoritative government-issued ulamas are intent on controlling our lives a la Irish priests of yore.

I would then divert those funds, as well as the billions in zakat so generously donated by our people, to improve our schools and universities. Make our religious schools and colleges more like those in America. Catholic schools there like California’s Bellarmine and universities like Indiana’s Notre Dame produce their share of America’ scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs. They also attract outstanding students and faculty from other faiths.

Had that former chief minister dispensed with his Monsoon Cup and ostentatious crystal mosque and instead used the funds to improve his schools, he would have found the answer to his question.