Theresa May’s Government Lives on—and So Does the Brexit Chaos


January 18,2019

Theresa May’s Government Lives on—and So Does the Brexit Chaos

If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, and the other members of the government should be confined to a psychiatric hospital. Having narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in the House of Commons on Wednesday, in which a loss would almost certainly have led to a general election, May and her colleagues are now looking to resurrect her Brexit plan, or a slightly refined version of it, which was subjected to an overwhelming defeat in the Commons on Tuesday evening.

With just ten weeks until March 29th, when Britain is supposed to leave the European Union, May is hoping that the prospect of the country crashing out without any withdrawal agreement—an outcome that could cause shortages of essential medicines and industrial parts, as well as bedlam at the Channel ports—will persuade a majority of parliamentarians to back her plan as the least bad option available. Of course, this is precisely the same logic that the Prime Minister was relying on when she delayed a vote on the Brexit plan until Monday, after the New Year, and she ended up suffering what was widely described as the biggest loss ever inflicted on a sitting British Prime Minister. But, after what she has been through in the past couple of years, May can perhaps be forgiven for getting a little addled. The entire country is a little addled. More than a little.

In making the closing argument for the motion of no confidence during Wednesday’s debate, Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, was careful to acknowledge the efforts that May had already made to solve the political equivalent of Goldbach’s conjecture. “I think the country recognizes that effort,” Watson told the packed chamber. “In fact, the country feels genuinely sorry for the Prime Minister. I feel sorry for the Prime Minister. But she cannot confuse pity for political legitimacy, sympathy for sustainable support.” May’s strategy had failed utterly, Watson said, and “the cruellest truth of all is that she doesn’t possess the necessary political skills, empathy, ability, and most crucially the policy, to lead this country any longer.” The question facing the House, Watson said, was whether it is “worth giving this failed Prime Minister another chance to go back pleading to Brussels, another opportunity to humiliate the United Kingdom, another chance to waste a few weeks. The answer must be a resounding no.”

Making the closing argument for the government, Michael Gove, the minister for the environment, sought to divert attention from the humiliating setback that May had suffered, and the fact that more than a hundred Conservative M.P.s had rejected her plan. He turned his invective to Watson’s boss, Jeremy Corbyn, the leftist leader of the Labour Party, whom the Tories still view as their trump card. After noting that Watson hadn’t mentioned Corbyn during his speech, Gove, who is known at Westminster as a clever and slippery fellow, gleefully caricatured many of the Labour leader’s positions, claiming that Corbyn rejects Britain’s role in NATO and wants to get rid of the country’s nuclear deterrent. (A longtime antiwar activist, Corbyn has held these positions in the past, but official Labour policy, which Corbyn now supports, rejects them.) “No way can this country ever allow that man to be our Prime Minister,” Gove said, to loud cheers from the Conservative benches.

Since ten M.P.s from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which holds the balance of power in a narrowly divided Commons, had agreed to support the government, Gove knew that he and the Conservative government were on safe ground. But although the subsequent vote—of three hundred and twenty-five votes to three hundred and six—assured May’s survival, it merely confirmed the Brexit stalemate. A bit later in the evening, the Prime Minister emerged from 10 Downing Street to say that she had invited M.P.s from all parties to meet with her in an effort to find a way forward. Corbyn quickly rejected the offer, saying that the Labour Party wouldn’t join the talks unless May explicitly ruled out a no-deal Brexit—an option favored by some right-wing Conservative M.P.s.

So the show goes on, a very dark comedy. The hardline Conservative Brexiteers, led by the faux aristocrat Jacob Rees-Mogg, are encouraged because they have defeated May’s plan, and they know the default position is that Britain will crash out on March 29th.

Like a First World War general, May is soldiering ahead. Corbyn, relieved for now of the alarming prospect of having to step into May’s shoes, still says that he wants to honor the result of the referendum—in which many working-class, Labour-supporting areas voted Leave—but also to negotiate a better exit deal. (How he’d manage this, he hasn’t said.) But many Labour Party members—a large majority of them, according to recent polls—want to stay in the E.U., and seventy-one Labour M.P.s have now expressed support for the People’s Vote campaign, which is advocating a second referendum. In the coming days, Corbyn will face strong pressure to clarify his position and commit to another referendum.

 

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How and when will it all end? On Thursday, the government announced that Parliament would debate and vote on May’s “Plan B” on Tuesday, January 29th. M.P.s who spoke with the Prime Minister said that she still thinks she can tweak her deal and win, but few people outside of Downing Street believe it. The E.U. has ruled out making any more significant concessions. Both major parties are horribly split. And when the pollsters present the British public with the three options on offer—a no-deal Brexit, a Brexit on May’sterms, or a decision to Remain—there is no clear majority for any of them.

“I cannot recall Britain falling so low,” Philip Stephens, a veteran political commentator for the Financial Times, wrote in Thursday’s paper. “The Suez debacle in 1956? As supplicant at the door of the IMF 20 years later? These were moments of national shame. They were moments also that passed. The impact of Brexit has been cumulative. Each chapter in the story heaps on more humiliation. However it ends, the damage will not be quickly undone.”

And who, ultimately, is to blame? Before the vote on Wednesday, a BBC News crew approached David Cameron, the former Conservative Prime Minister who decided to hold the 2016 Brexit referendum, near his home in West London. He said that he didn’t regret that decision, even though the result went against his wishes. (He was a Remainer.) Then he set off on his morning jog.

A previous version of this post misstated the day that the vote on Theresa May’s Brexit plan took place.

https://www.newyorker.com/news

How can Malaysia become a developed nation? –Practise meritocracy


January 15, 2019

How can Malaysia become a developed nation?

-Practise Meritocracy.

 
2020
 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My proposal: Practise Meritocracy.

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

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

Image result for Krishnan Tan

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

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

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

The key to success is to practise meritocracy.

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

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

Walls, Partisanship and the Shutdown


January 9, 2019

Newsbook

Newsbook

By Concepción de León

 

Eighteen days into the partial government shutdown, President Trump is preparing to deliver a national address on immigration to make his case for a border wall again. These three books offer perspective on the current shutdown: the inner workings of the government offices affected, the political precedent for the present bipartisanship and the debate over a border wall.

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THE FIFTH RISK
By Michael Lewis
221 pages. W.W. Norton & Company. (2018)

Lewis has a reputation for livening otherwise dry material, and according to our reviewer, “you’ll be turning the pages” of this story about government bureaucracy. The fifth risk in his title (after an attack by North Korea or war with Iran, for instance) is project management, or rather the mismanagement he details within the Trump administration. Key government positions remain unfilled, and others are occupied by nonexperts in their respective offices. “The Fifth Risk” provides insight into how government offices function, particularly under the current administration.

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THE RED AND THE BLUE
The 1990s and the Birth of Political Tribalism
By Steve Kornacki
497 pp. Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers. (2018)

 

In this book, Kornacki argues that the political battles between President Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, including a 21-day long government shutdown over budget disagreements, set the stage for the political divisions of today. “The early Clinton era is presented as a parade of confrontations — over welfare, balanced budgets, health care — that, for a time, emboldened Gingrich’s showdown wing of Republicanism,” wrote our reviewer. The government shutdown of 1995-96 is the longest on record, and this book explains the political tensions that caused it.

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WALLS
A History of Civilization in Blood and Brick
David Frye
320 pp. Scribner. (2018)

The idea of building walls to protect and separate societies is not new, and in this accessible history, Frye chronicles walls from ancient Greece to Berlin to China. He explains that early walls were built as protection from neighboring tribes, and how the walls in China assured traders safe passage. In addition to exploring walls’ role in the development of civilization, Frye also reckons with the psychological impact they can have on the migrants and refugees they keep out.

Follow New York Times Books on Facebook and Twitter (@nytimesbooks), sign up for our newsletter or our literary calendar. And listen to us on the Book Review podcast.

 

 

 

Related Coverage

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/08/books/trump-shutdown-wall-immigration.html

 

 

 

PKR’s infighting will be the downfall of Harapan


January 2,2019

PKR’s infighting will be the downfall of Harapan

Opinion  |by  S Thayaparan

Published:  |  Modified:

 

“I see a bad moon a-rising

I see trouble on the way

I see earthquakes and lightnin’

I see bad times today.”

– Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Bad Moon Rising”

COMMENT | The mistake some people make is to choose sides when it comes to the camps in PKR. This is problematic because when proxies from either camp highlight issues affecting the rakyat, the issue gets lost in a quagmire of partisan posturing.

The fight within PKR is not some great ideological divide, as some participants would have you believe. It is rather about craven political moves to secure hegemony. There is nothing radical that the winner of either camp would inject into mainstream Malay politics. This is really a game of knaves.

Someone once asked me who do I prefer, PKR Deputy President Mohamed Azmin Ali or Vice-President Rafizi Ramli. I said, in a perfect world, they would be working together. Both have demonstrated a remarkable ability to remain relevant and contribute to Malay politics in a way that is – unfortunately – essential in running this country. Azmin plays it close to his chest, while Rafizi puts it out there.

People forget that these two leaders managed to hold it together even though they were at odds with each other. While I may have disagreed with Azmin holding onto PAS as Selangor Menteri Besar far longer than he should have, the moves Rafizi made to further his agenda in PKR were just as self-defeating.

Internal squabbling

While internal party conflict is not new, what is new is the context of this fight. PKR is a Malay-led political party struggling to define itself, even more so now with Bersatu in the mix. As a political party for all Malaysians, its Malay leadership is tearing the party apart, with the aid of non-Malay loyalists.

That’s the realpolitik of it. Which is also kind of juvenile. Think back to before the elections, when PKR was in a kerfuffle because of seat allocations – “Admittedly, Azmin claiming that he had no knowledge of the candidates’ list before the big reveal by Harapan bigshots was dodgy and furthered the narrative that it was amateur hour at PKR HQ, not to mention it had a whiff of mala fide. Also the tears flowing at the press conference of Rawang assemblyperson Gan Pei Nei (photo) were self-defeating as was Batu incumbent parliamentarian Tian Chua’s rejoinder to whoever to be careful.”

I just want to see who emerges when the dust settles. Demonising Azmin and going all creamy on Anwar and his camp may make good copy, but the reality is, this squabbling in PKR is damaging the idea – that dream, really – that a multiracial political party can survive in Malaysia. Scratch that – the idea a multiracial political party led by Malays can survive in Malaysia.

A non-Malay political operative from PKR who has chosen – so far – to remain, above the fray (or since, as he says, nobody has really noticed that he was elected) shakes his head whenever he talks about the camps in PKR. “We were given the keys to the kingdom and we are squabbling in the courtyard,” he said.

Another political operative saidthat Azmin is spooked, which is why he is making overt statements in the press or through his proxies. “Look, whatever you say about the PKR elections, his camp did better, right? So why shouldn’t the spoils go to them, this sounds crass but where is the fairness?” the political operative said. “…And, Azmin’s team has more influence, so this is politics, right?”

Is the press a contributing factor in this fight, a grassroots PKR activist asked me. I answered that political operatives use the press to wage their wars, and the latter is always in need of juicy copy because nobody seems interested in the real stuff.

A ‘slaughter’?

I like the preacher Wan Ji Wan Hussin and have written favourably about him before, but him saying that Anwar is going to be slaughtered soon by Azmin is the kind of rhetoric that escalates the conflict.

Even if was true, the fact is by saying it, you are demonstrating that you are on the losing end. A confident opponent does not announce his or her vanquishing before it happens. I do not know about anyone else, but I do not want a weak coterie leading a political party because, in the long term, this would be more damaging to Harapan. And this is what the other camp is doing. Painting themselves as weak.

Similarly, Azmin bitching about the new PKR appointments demonstrates that he is spooked by the possible challenge to his ascension. And yes Azmin’s camp has the numbers and this is the time for magnanimity, not moving in for the kill.

If Azmin played it right, he would have used this opportunity to close ranks, instead of openly challenging the choices of his party’s president, thus presenting himself as a shrewd leader instead of an usurper. If he doesn’t like Anwar’s choices, then by all means take a shot against the king, but he should remember not to miss.

Here and now

And really, what is wrong with Azmin crowing about his achievements over Anwar? Look, even Rafizi (photo) has achievements which are more contemporary to his president’s. Rafizi, and Azmin, are both relevant in a way that seems to elude Anwar.

Politics is essentially a ‘what have you done for me lately’ game, and Anwar – for various reasons – has been out of play. These days, Anwar, unfortunately, says things that spook the non-Malays, while someone like Azmin has been elevated to higher ground, thus commanding a better position.

Maybe this is the deeper implication of this fight. Is Anwar relevant in this political climate? While the Harapan grand poohbah has his loyal and public admirers, Anwar does not, unfortunately. Nor does he have a legacy which he can shake off, unlike the old maverick. In other words, Anwar’s ‘sins’ are never forgiven, while Mahathir’s seem to be.

And who are the other interested parties in the schisms of PKR? Who benefits most from this squabble? There are people in this government and outside of it who never really liked or trusted Anwar. They view his ascension to the highest office of the land as something calamitous.

So what do they do? They stoke the fires. They start memes that make Anwar look bad, but most of all, they align themselves with personalities so people are always asking, what the hell is going on?

And this is really why the fight within PKR is going to be the deciding factor in the longevity of the Harapan regime.

If, for whatever reason, PKR splits apart, the Harapan regime is in trouble. Trouble in the sense that there will be even more truculence in Malay power structures. When this happens, history has shown that it will affect our democratic institutions.

Honestly, at this point, I do not think that Anwar can maintain any sort of equilibrium between the camps. There seem to be no cooler heads in PKR, because the camps are determined to wipe each other out. Anything Anwar says or does comes off as self-serving, while Azmin has to contend with being the villain out to destroy the Reformasi movement.

Meanwhile, the vultures circle above.

 


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

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

The thinkers M’sian politics have come to rely on


January 1, 2019

The thinkers M’sian politics have come to rely on

Opinion  Phar Kim Beng

COMMENT | If one has had the benefit of following Malaysian politics since 1970 – a lifetime to many – several thinkers who have influenced the course of Malaysian history have become household names.

Image result for Rais Saniman

 

Dr. Rais Saniman

The New Economic Policy (NEP), for example, was the handiwork of Rais Saniman and Just Faarland. Both believed in affirmative action, though critics who panned NEP have often pointed out that affirmative action is meant for the “minority” – not the majority.

Come what may, Malaysia would have been a racial havoc if NEP, despite all its imperfections, have not been working. Take some of the latest statistics on household income, for example.

Research by Khazanah Research Institute has shown that four out of five Malaysians would retire without sufficient pensions when they turn 55 or 60. Indeed, 15 percent of Malaysia’s population would exceed 60 years of age by 2023, according to Muhammad Khalid, the economic advisor of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. At this rate, Malaysia will begin to age sooner than expected.

The works of the late professor Syed Hussein Alatas has also been wonderfully powerful, as he referred to corruption as a “cancer” that can eat away the health – and wealth – of the country. Events between 2009-2018, through 1MDB, have proven that and more. Our national debt is now at USD 280.7 billion, while our GDP is merely USD 320 billion.

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The scholarship of professors Terence Gomez and KS Jomo have proved to be just as monumental, if not powerful. Since 1990, both scholars have warned of the insidious effects of “privatisation,” which if done incorrectly, can lead to “piratisation,” where the wealth nest of the government and the people are held captive by the vested interest of the narrow band of elites.

While little has been said, or, revealed about the scholarship of Salleh Yappar, a professor at Universiti Sains Malaysia, his papers have identified various forms or varieties of “Islamism”.

They range from the sort one sees in Sufism, such as the order of Nashbandi, to the reformist movement of Angkatan Belia Islam Semalaysia. In fact, Salleh listed close to nine forms of Islamism in Malaysia between 1957-1990. Some of them involves cult like movements like Al Arqam, which has since been banned by Mahathir during his first tenure as Prime Minister.

Though, not strictly Malaysian, the works of William Case at University of Nottingham in Malaysia, have revealed the potentiality of a “pseudo democracy,” that is still “semi authoritarian,” in nature as Australian National University professor Harold Crouch called it.

Other commentators like Patricia Martinez, Noraini Othman, even Dina Zaman, indeed, Marina Mahathir, have warned about the danger of ignoring the gender bias that is embedded in most interpretations of religions.

Instead of “lowering one’s gaze,” as a man is urged by some religious scriptures to do, over domineering male preachers have insisted that women should cover themselves from head to toe.

Come what may, some of the Malaysian scholars in Borneo deserve greater mention too. Professor Jayum Jawan who has an interesting take that Sarawak was never colonised by the British government, let alone James Brooke, is interesting to say the least.

It calls into question the very fabric that makes the Federation of Malaysia: should the rights of the federal government always be greater than the states at hand, including Sarawak, even though it has a history that is unique compared to Peninsular Malaysia?

Elsewhere, professors Chandra Muzaffar,   Dr. Lim Teck Ghee, Francis Loh Kok Wai and Khoo Kay Jin have always highlighted the importance of liberating Malaysia from the iron rule of the bureaucratic or single-party state, especially the feudalism of UMNO.

Indeed, commentators like P. Gunasegaran and Ho Kay Tat have been invaluable to understanding 1MDB, backed by foreign scholarship by Tom Wright and Hope Bradley at Wall Street Journal.

The works of Nanyang Technology University professors Farish Noor and Joseph Liow Chin Yong in Singapore, as was the superb commentary of Dr Ooi Kee Beng, even politicians like Liew Chin Tong and Ong Kian Ming over the years, have made a “New Malaysia” more and more plausible.

That being said, two of the most tenacious thinkers are without a doubt Mahathir and Prime Minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim. Both are determined in their ideals to make Malaysia stronger and better, though with some nuance too.

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Mahathir seems sold on the idea that Look East can redeem Malaysia. Anwar, on the hand, believes that the rise and fall of Malaysia depends on the extent to which it can engineer its own “Asian Renaissance.”

Come what may, 2019 and 2020, are not going to be about transition from one reigning to another incoming Prime Minister only, but the extent to which both can master the art of promoting their ideas and ideals. These ideas and ideals must work too, without which Malaysia is back to the square one of 1970 if not earlier.


PHAR KIM BENG is a multiple award-winning head teaching fellow on China and the Cultural Revolution at Harvard University.

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