CIMB Group Nazir Razak’s Departure sends the wrong message: Competent Professionals are not wanted, only politics matter


September 25, 2018

CIMB Group Nazir Razak’s Departure sends the wrong message: Competent Professionals are not wanted, only politics matter

by Ho Kay Tat@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for CIMB's Nazir Razak

 

“Don’t be afraid to speak up – express your opinions with honesty.”–Nazir Razak. He has integrity. I admire him for this rare attribute. It is the reason why Nazir is respected and highly regarded in Cambodia. He will be missed by his staff as a role model of professionalism.–Din Merican

COMMENT | CIMB Group Holdings Bhd chairperson Nazir Razak was an early and vocal critic of 1MDB and the opaque manner it was managed.

It is, therefore, sad that he is now a casualty of the 1MDB fallout, as the new government which came to power on the back of public anger over the financial scandal makes further leadership changes at government-linked companies (GLCs).

Most people will point out that Nazir had received money (now discovered to have originated from 1MDB) from his brother Najib as contribution to be passed to others for the 2013 general elections. Like many, he would not have imagined back then that the money came from 1MDB and he has since expressed regret about what he did. It was a mistake.

When 1MDB was set up in September 2009, Nazir had questioned the need for another sovereign wealth fund and the fact that 1MDB was not governed under the GLC framework of governance. After 1MDB issued its first bond – the RM5 billion 30-year sukuk arranged by AmBank Bhd – he criticised the mispricing of the bond, which was issued at a steep discount and carried a high coupon rate of 5.75% despite being guaranteed by the government.

Suspicious about where 1MDB was heading, Nazir issued a directive that CIMB does not do any business with it. It was a decision which upset some of his staff because of the loss in potential revenue from corporate lending and investment banking transactions, and there were billions worth of deals between 2010 to 2013.

When the troubles at 1MDB began to surface with the delay in the release of its audited accounts sometime in late 2013, Nazir worked hard behind the scenes to engage his brother and other senior government officials to address the problems. He warned them of the threat an implosion of 1MDB would pose to the country’s financial well-being – which is what has happened now.

After it became clear to him that no action will be taken, Nazir began to make his views public especially via his Instagram postings.

In January 2014 he penned an article ‘Remembering My Father, Tun Razak’ as an oblique reminder to his brother not to taint the reputation of their father.

Nazir wrote that one minister who served under his father told him: “As the custodian of the nation’s coffers, his frugality was legendary. You had to account for every cent, or he would be on your back.”

In February 2015, responding to a New York Times article which quoted a Najib’s spokesperson as saying that the prime minister was wealthy because he had inheritance money, Nazir and his three other brothers issued a statement to dispute what was said.

“We wish to put on record that Tun Abdul Razak was a highly principled man, well-known to all who knew him for his frugality and utmost integrity and any statement or inference to the contrary would be totally false and misleading to his memory and to his service and sacrifices for the nation.

“We take issue with anyone who taints his memory, whatever the motive. We would also like to add that our whole family is united on this issue,” said the statement which was signed by Nazir, Johari, Nizam and Nazim.

Attacked by pro-UMNO bloggers

Nazir was among those who pressed for Parliament to investigate and he criticised 1MDB’s first CEO Shahrol Halmi and Arul Kanda Kandasamy when they refused to attend the inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Because of his criticisms of 1MDB, Nazir was attacked by the mainstream media controlled by UMNO as well as by UMNO-sponsored bloggers. He and his family were also victims of a blogger – Ahrily90 – who posted vicious attacks on them.

The Edge on Feb 4, 2015 exposed that this blogger was the same person who attacked our chairperson Tong Kooi Ong and Dr Mahathir Mohamad who, like Nazir, had been asking questions about 1MDB.

Ahrily90 was also behind two websites (since taken down) that promoted Jho Low as a smart financier and generous donors to various charities. This confirmed to us that our criticisms of 1MDB were correct and that Jho Low and his cohorts were getting uncomfortable with all the questions we were asking.

It was a frustrating time for us as our efforts were going nowhere. 1MDB, by then led by Arul Kanda, kept refuting our reports and denied that anything was wrong.

Image result for nazir razak and Tun Razak

 

I can reveal that The Edge and Nazir worked together, in our respective ways, to expose the wrongdoings at 1MDB to get the government to act against those responsible.

Work was done behind the scenes for a solution. But none could be found.

Instead, in July 2015, Najib sacked his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin and removed investigators. And The Edge and The Edge Financial Daily were suspended as part of the crackdown.By then, there was nothing more Nazir could do.

He was misled by his own brother. Nazir was also personally conflicted – his brother was the creator of the monster that he had warned against. Despite that, Nazir was probably the only corporate leader who had publicly voiced out concerns about 1MDB. He could have chosen to keep quiet.


HO KAY TAT is publisher of The Edge.

The above commentary was originally published here. The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

CEP’s Dr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram–A Life of Public Service


September 24, 2018

CEP’s Dr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram–A Life of Public Service

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The Council of Eminent Persons (CEP), sometimes described as the Council of Elders, was set up to advice the Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s new Pakatan Harapan government.

However, the CEP has also attracted a fair amount of controversy, including criticisms from within Harapan about the council’s role and powers.

One of the council’s members, economist Jomo Kwame Sundaram, addresses those criticisms in a question-and-answer format.

Question: You have been quite quiet since you were appointed to the CEP.

Jomo: Yes. Given all the speculation and tendentious publicity, I did not feel it was helpful to provide more fuel to the fire. As you know, myths about the CEP thrived, and all manner of things were attributed to the CEP, often wrongly.

There were also things we did in our individual capacities, which were being attributed to the CEP. As a result, the initial goodwill, credibility and legitimacy the CEP enjoyed were undermined, and instead of being an asset to the government, especially the PM, we became the butt of many criticisms, including from within the Harapan coalition, largely due to misunderstandings and misperceptions.

I think I speak for all CEP members that if the PM needs our services, we will gladly serve in our individual capacities, and hopefully, become less of a liability to him.

Why are you reported to be against publication of the CEP report?

The issue is complex and nuanced. First, producing a single report for publication was not in the PM’s appointment letter or announcement.

Undoubtedly, some other bodies in the past, viewed by many as precedents, did produce reports after working for much longer periods, but some did not. For example, Tun Razak’s National Consultative Council after May 1969 did not do so.

Our brief was to help the PM, and the new government, with some immediate tasks at hand, especially the PH manifesto pledges for the first 100 days. To do that well, we tried to offer advice as soon as possible for him to consider and act upon, which is different from producing a report after 100 days.

But a report has been submitted to the PM?

While CEP members were agreed on most matters, there were also some disagreements, for example, on government-linked companies. As is known, some of us disagreed on privatisation policy decades ago, which has a bearing on contemporary debates.

It may be impossible to resolve some such differences, even after further discussion. In such situations, what does one do? Remain silent, or publish the chair’s view, as long as that is made clear.

The CEP chairperson has come under particular criticism from certain quarters.

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Former CEP Chairman Tun Daim Zainuddin–The Silent Man of Action

I am not sure what you are referring to, but his longstanding relationship to the PM was undoubtedly crucial to the CEP’s establishment and functioning, and the object of criticism by his or the PM’s detractors.

There were also many criticisms of his trip to China, but again, such criticisms were undeserved, in my view. Governments dispatch special envoys all the time to deal with sensitive matters discreetly.

But you were a critic of the earlier Mahathir administration.

Indeed, I was critical of some aspects, but if you read what I wrote, my criticisms were always intended to improve government policy, and I also shared his aspirations for the country, especially development, industrialisation, Wawasan 2020, economic nationalism, nation-building, the so-called Asian financial crisis.

The CEP has not been meeting after the 100 days, but yet a report has just been submitted to the PM.

While we have not met or reviewed draft reports since, our chair has been helping the MACC on certain urban land abuses, as he should. Remember he has vast experience in such matters for half a century, even before he was involved with UDA, the Urban Development Authority.

Some CEP meetings were like master classes where I personally learnt more than I could ever hope to learn from reading.

So, are you for or against publication of the report?

It is really up to the PM. There are many options, including partial publication. Remember there are some highly sensitive matters, in terms of official secrecy as well as other matters which may be sensitive in terms of market behaviour, international diplomacy or even legal procedure.

As someone who has been critical of the abuse of secrecy in the past, I must also acknowledge that there are legitimately sensitive matters, and full transparency may not always be in the public interest.

If the CEP had a different proposal on some issue from the one eventually adopted by the Harapan government, what is the point of publicizing such differences with the government of the day after the fact? It is likely to be used by detractors for their own purposes rather than for better purposes.

Also, as you know, two committees were set up. The Institutional Reform Committee prepared a long report with a view to publication, and the PM may wish to publish it. The other one on 1MDB has contributed to expediting investigation and action, but I doubt their recommendations were intended for publication.

So, you will have nothing to show for your 100 CEP days?

Serving the national and public interest was our priority, not publicity or publications.

What are you doing a month after the CEP’s 100 days ended?

No longer an elder, I already feel younger.Many people expect me to write about the CEP, its work and its recommendations. I have no such plans, but am very busy with earlier unfinished and postponed work as well as new work to help the new administration, preferably under the radar.

The Threat of Tribalism


September 23, 2018

The Threat of Tribalism

The Constitution once united a diverse country under a banner of ideas. But partisanship has turned Americans against one another—and against the principles enshrined in our founding document.

 by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld

  • October 2018 Issue
  • Is Democracy Dying?

 

 

 

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series that attempts to answer the question: Is democracy dying?

The U.S. Constitution was and is imperfect. It took a civil war to establish that the principles enumerated in its Bill of Rights extended to all Americans, and the struggle to live up to those principles continues today. But focusing on the Constitution’s flaws can overshadow what it did achieve. Its revolutionary ambition was to forge, out of a diverse population, a new national identity, uniting Americans under a banner of ideas. To a remarkable extent, it succeeded.

Even at the country’s founding, Americans were a multiethnic, polyglot mix of English, Dutch, Scots, Irish, French, Swedes, Italians, Germans, Greeks, and others. They tended to identify far more strongly as Virginians or New Yorkers than as Americans, complicating any effort to bind the new nation together with common beliefs. Early America was also an unprecedented amalgam of religious denominations, including a variety of dissenters who had been hounded from their Old World homes.

The Constitution managed to overcome these divisions. The way it dealt with religion is illustrative. Colonial America had not embraced tolerance; on the contrary, the dissenters had become persecutors. Virginia imprisoned Quakers. Massachusetts whipped Baptists. Government-established churches were common, and nonbelievers were denied basic civil and political rights. But in a radical act, the Constitution not only guaranteed religious freedom; it also declared that the United States would have no national church and no religious tests for national office. These foundational guarantees helped America avoid the religious wars that for centuries had torn apart the nations of Europe.

“Living in a society that was already diverse and pluralistic,” Gordon Wood wrote in The Radicalism of the American Revolution, the founding generation realized that the attachments uniting Americans “could not be the traditional ethnic, religious, and tribal loyalties of the Old World.” Instead, as Abraham Lincoln put it, reverence for the “Constitution and Laws” was to be America’s “political religion.” Americans were to be united through a new kind of patriotism—constitutional patriotism—based on ideals enshrined in their founding document.

“Americans have come to view the Constitution not as a statement of shared principles but as a cudgel with which to attack their enemies.”

The dark underside of that document, of course, was racism. Alone among modern Western democracies, the United States maintained extensive race-based slavery within its borders, and the Constitution protected that institution. Only after the cataclysm of the Civil War was the Constitution amended to establish that America’s national identity was as neutral racially and ethnically as it was religiously. With the postwar amendments, the Constitution abolished slavery, established birthright citizenship, guaranteed equal protection under the law, and barred racial discrimination in voting.

The significance of birthright citizenship cannot be overstated. We forget how rare it is: No European or Asian country grants this right. It means that being American is not the preserve of any particular racial, ethnic, or religious subgroup. The United States took another century to begin dismantling the legalized racism that continued unabated after the Civil War. Nonetheless, the core constitutional aspiration—in the 1780s, the 1860s, the 1960s, and the present—has been to create a tribe-transcending national identity.

When we think of tribalism, we tend to focus on the primal pull of race, religion, or ethnicity. But partisan political loyalties can become tribal too. When they do, they can be as destructive as any other allegiance. The Founders understood this. In 1780, John Adams wrote that the “greatest political evil” to be feared under a democratic constitution was the emergence of “two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other.” George Washington, in his farewell address, described the “spirit of party” as democracy’s “worst enemy.” It “agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.”

For all their fears of partisanship, the Founders failed to prevent the rise of parties, and indeed, it’s hard to imagine modern representative democracy without multiparty electoral competition. They were right to be apprehensive, as is all too clear when you look at the current state of America’s political institutions, which are breaking down under the strain of partisan divisions.

The causes of America’s resurgent tribalism are many. They include seismic demographic change, which has led to predictions that whites will lose their majority status within a few decades; declining social mobility and a growing class divide; and media that reward expressions of outrage. All of this has contributed to a climate in which every group in America—minorities and whites; conservatives and liberals; the working class and elites—feels under attack, pitted against the others not just for jobs and spoils, but for the right to define the nation’s identity. In these conditions, democracy devolves into a zero-sum competition, one in which parties succeed by stoking voters’ fears and appealing to their ugliest us-versus-them instincts.

Americans on both the left and the right now view their political opponents not as fellow Americans with differing views, but as enemies to be vanquished. And they have come to view the Constitution not as an aspirational statement of shared principles and a bulwark against tribalism, but as a cudgel with which to attack those enemies.

Of course, Americans throughout history have criticized the Constitution. Progressives have tarred it as plutocratic and antidemocratic for more than a century. In 1913, in An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, Charles A. Beard argued that the “direct, impelling motive” behind the Constitution was not “some abstraction known as ‘justice,’ ” but the “economic advantages” of the propertied elite.

In recent years, however, the American left has become more and more influenced by identity politics, a force that has changed the way many progressives view the Constitution. For some on the left, the document is irredeemably stained by the sins of the Founding Fathers, who preached liberty while holding people in chains. Days after the 2016 election, the president of the University of Virginia quoted Thomas Jefferson, the school’s founder, in an email to students. In response, 469 students and faculty signed an open letter declaring that they were “deeply offended” at the use of Jefferson as a “moral compass.” Speaking to students at the University of Missouri in 2016, a Black Lives Matter co-founder went further: “The people vowing to protect the Constitution are vowing to protect white supremacy and genocide.”

Just a few decades ago, the cause of racial justice in America was articulated in constitutional language. “Black activists from Martin Luther King, Jr., to the Black Panthers,” wrote the law professor Dorothy E. Roberts in 1997, “framed their demands in terms of constitutional rights.” Today, the Constitution itself is in the crosshairs.

Many progressives, particularly young ones, have turned against what were once sacrosanct American principles. Freedom of speech is an instrument of the dehumanization of women and minorities. Religious liberty is an engine of discrimination. Property rights are a shield for structural injustice and white supremacy. In a recent poll, two-thirds of college-age Democrats said that “a diverse and inclusive society” is more important than “protecting free speech rights.” Only 30 percent of Americans born in the 1980s believe that living in a democracy is “essential,” compared with 72 percent of Americans born in the 1930s.

Several progressive organizations, including the ACLU, remain staunch defenders of the Constitution. At Yale Law School, where we teach, students working in our clinics have won important courtroom victories vindicating constitutional rights. But a significant generational shift appears to be in progress. One of our students told us: “I don’t know any lefty people my age who aren’t seriously questioning whether the First Amendment is still on balance a good thing.

On the right, open hostility to the Constitution is less common; most mainstream conservatives see themselves as proud defenders of the document. But majorities on the right today are nonetheless beginning to reject core constitutional principles.

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President Donald Trump routinely calls the media “the enemy of the American people,” and his view seems to have currency in his party. In a 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center, less than half of Republicans said that the freedom of the press “to criticize politicians” was “very important” to maintaining a strong democracy in the United States. In other 2017 surveys, more than half of Trump supporters said the president “should be able to overturn decisions by judges that he disagrees with,” and more than half of Republicans said they would support postponing the 2020 presidential election if Trump proposed delaying it “until the country can make sure that only eligible American citizens can vote.” If these views became became reality, that would be the end of constitutional democracy as we know it.

The problem runs deeper still. Since the 2004 publication of Samuel P. Huntington’s Who Are We?—which argued that America’s “Anglo-Protestant” identity and culture are threatened by large-scale Hispanic immigration—there have been calls on the mainstream right to define America’s national identity in racial, ethnic, or religious terms, whether as white, European, or Judeo-Christian. According to a 2016 survey commissioned by the bipartisan Democracy Fund, 30 percent of Trump voters think European ancestry is “important” to “being American”; 56 percent of Republicans and a full 63 percent of Trump supporters said the same of being Christian. This trend runs counter to the Constitution’s foundational ideal: an America where citizens are citizens, regardless of race or religion; an America whose national identity belongs to no one tribe.

As professors specializing in constitutional law and comparative politics, we’re often asked whether there’s another country that could serve as a model for the United States as it attempts to overcome its divisions. We always respond no—America is the best model.

For all its flaws, the United States is uniquely equipped to unite a diverse and divided society. Alone among the world powers, America has succeeded in forging a strong group-transcending national identity without requiring its citizens to shed or suppress their subgroup identities. In the United States, you can be Irish American, Syrian American, or Japanese American, and be intensely patriotic at the same time. We take this for granted, but consider how strange it would be to call someone “Irish French” or “Japanese Chinese.”

Most European and all East Asian countries originated as, and continue to be, ethnic nations, whose citizens are overwhelmingly composed of a particular ethnic group supplying the country’s name as well as its national language and dominant culture. Strongly ethnic nations, such as China and Hungary, tend to be less embracing of minority cultures. But even a diverse, multiethnic democracy like France differs markedly from the United States. France has a powerful national identity but insists that its ethnic and religious minorities thoroughly assimilate, at least publicly. (Many believe that France’s attempts to force assimilation, including its infamous “burkini” ban, have backfired with the country’s Muslims, contributing to social unrest and radicalization.) As former French President Nicolas Sarkozy put it in 2016, “If you want to become French, you speak French, you live like the French, and you don’t try and change a way of life that has been ours for so many years.”

America is not an ethnic nation. Its citizens don’t have to choose between a national identity and multiculturalism. Americans can have both. But the key is constitutional patriotism. We have to remain united by and through the Constitution, regardless of our ideological disagreements.

There are lessons here for both the left and the right. The right needs to recognize that making good on the Constitution’s promises requires much more than flag-waving. If millions of people believe that, because of their skin color or religion, they are not treated equally, how can they be expected to see the Constitution’s resounding principles as anything but hollow?

For its part, the left needs to rethink its scorched-earth approach to American history and ideals. Exposing injustice, past and present, is important, but there’s a world of difference between saying that America has repeatedly failed to live up to its constitutional principles and saying that those principles are lies or smoke screens for oppression. Washington and Jefferson were slave owners. They were also political visionaries who helped give birth to what would become the most inclusive form of governance in world history.

This article appears in the October 2018 print edition with the headline “The Threat of Tribalism.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/10/the-threat-of-tribalism/568342/

3 scenarios for post-election Malaysia


September 23, 2018

3 scenarios for post-election Malaysia

Yang Razali Kassim / Khmer Times Share:
Image result for Mahathir Mohamad and Lee Hsien Loong
 

The shocking fall of the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional government in the recent general election was not only historic but also game-changing. As Malaysians usher in a new era, three evolving scenarios are worth watching, writes Yang Razali Kassim.

The ruling juggernaut, the UMNO-led coalition, had never been defeated since independence in 1957. The coalition finally lost power at the hands of the country’s most potent political duo: Mahathir-Anwar. In the aftermath, at least three evolving scenarios are worth watching:

Scenario 1: A New Order?

If the newly-elected Pakatan Harapan (PH, Alliance of Hope) coalition government can last at least two terms, we will see a different political order take hold. The people’s rejection of the governing Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition and UMNO is a new phenomenon in Malaysian politics. Increasingly, the emerging narrative is that of a “New Malaysia”.

What this New Malaysia is, however, has yet to be clearly defined, as it seems to mean different things to different people. The popular view is that it is simply the antithesis of the old era; anything that was bad about the old must not be part of New Malaysia. Even Mr. Mahathir himself has called for a break from the past:

“The New Malaysia should even be an improvement on the period during which I was prime minister for 22 years.” The government should “have to go back to democracy and the rule of law and respect the wishes of the people.”–Mahathir Mohamad

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Two wishes in particular: First is cleaning up the mess of corruption left behind by the Najib administration. Reformism will be the order of the day, possibly leading eventually to some form of systemic change. Ironically, Mr Mahathir, who was known as an autocrat, has become the “New Reformer,” embracing Anwar Ibrahim’s battle-cry of ‘Reformasi’.

Second, Mr Mahathir and his team will be under pressure to prove that the new government can fulfill the people’s expectations. The previously disparate alliance will have to demonstrate that it will not be a photocopy of the old regime.

Scenario 2: Existential Crisis

All that said, the power vehicle the PH alliance overthrew is not to be trifled with. At the core of the dethroned BN coalition is UMNO, the linchpin party that won independence from the British. Once thought to be invincible, BN disintegrated as soon as it lost power. Several partners deserted it, leaving only three original component parties, the pillar of which is UMNO.

UMNO itself is facing an existential crisis. It is under threat of being deregistered for failing to hold internal party elections, in breach of political regulations. Should it be struck off, this will not be the first time after surviving one in 1987, ironically when Mr. Mahathir was its president; but the political impact of a replay will be far-reaching, as the party, though out of power, still symbolises the aspirations of the majority ethnic group.

In this battle for survival, UMNO is going through an internal debate over direction and its own identity. The future of UMNO now depends very much on how far the younger generation will succeed in taking over the leadership and charting a new course. Nevertheless, the introspective search for a new identity for UMNO is unprecedented, reflecting the country’s new terrain.

The course taken by UMNO will partly be influenced, if not defined, by the broader political landscape now dominated by the Mahathir-Anwar leadership 2.0. Collectively, the deadly duo has come to symbolise a political ethos around “post-identity”. If PH succeeds, Malaysian politics may increasingly move away from primordial attachments towards a common centre, where greater acceptance and tolerance of each other will be the new norm. How far this will go will also depend on how effective the pushback is from a tentative UMNO alliance with the Islamist opposition PAS.

Scenario 3: Beyond the Border

The political shifts do not stop at Malaysia’s border. As one of the most developed economies in Southeast Asia, the country’s political dynamics – especially those that affect its stability and security – will be of importance to its neighbours in the region and beyond.

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Nothing underscores this better than Mr Mahathir’s wooing of Indonesian President Jokowi for a partnership to stave off European pressures on their palm oil industry.

With neighbouring Singapore, Mr Mahathir also created some ripples when he threw a spanner in the works of a joint high-speed rail project signed by the Najib government, though this has been deferred for now. Mr Mahathir also suggested renegotiating the long-standing supply of water from Malaysia’s Johor state, a strategic resource for Singapore.

Mahathir’s biggest challenge is, however, further afield, in Beijing. China is at the heart of some financially troubling megaprojects initiated by Mr Najib. Mr Mahathir has taken issue with the Asian giant for financing these projects, which were placed under investigation in Kuala Lumpur following the defeat of the BN administration.

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Mr Mahathir himself traveled to Beijing in August to re-negotiate with Chinese leaders the China-funded projects in Malaysia, part of a larger goal to cut down on the massive national debt inherited from the previous government.

At the end of his trip, Mr Mahathir announced at a press conference in Beijing that Malaysia would now cancel the frozen projects – only to tone it down later to “defer” them instead – a decision he said Chinese leaders had “agreed” on. “We do not want a situation where there is a new version of colonialism,” said Mr Mahathir after his meeting with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang.

What is equally troubling Mr Mahathir is the Chinese model of economic collaboration. At issue is Beijing’s preference for extending loans with high interest rates rather than investing directly in the projects, and for payments to Chinese contractors based on timelines rather than project deliveries.

Another is the Chinese propensity to use their own resources, workforce and expertise for the projects, instead of relying on local firms and creating jobs domestically. This model that some call Beijing’s “debt trap diplomacy” has also been questioned in several countries in Asia and Africa for the problems and social tension they generate.

Mr Mahathir, however, is striking a careful balance in resolving the mountain of debt left behind by his predecessor. Important to him also is preserving good relations with a rising economic superpower that is a significant market for Malaysian products. “We do not blame the Chinese government because their companies signed an agreement or several agreements with Malaysian companies under the auspices of the government of the day,” Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah told The Straits Times.

Unlike in the past, the political earthquake in Malaysia this time is clearly reverberating beyond Malaysia’s border. Before he finally calls it a day again expect Mr Mahathir to make more waves as he brings his assertive persona to the international stage, perhaps even to the United Nations. It’s in his DNA.

Yang Razali Kassim is senior fellow with the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. This is part of an RSIS series on Malaysia’s 14th general election and its aftermath.

Malay anxiety, exclusion, and national unity


September 21,2018

Malay anxiety, exclusion, and national unity

A fragmented Malay society is making ‘Malay unity’ more urgent for those defeated by GE-14.

Image result for Rais Yatim

 

Sabah and Sarawak: Give Us Our Freedom and our Rights Back


September 2018

Sabah and Sarawak: Give Our Freedom and our Rights Back

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Image result for sabah and sarawak

Be Forewarned–Cry Freedom

The recent announcement by Tun Dr. Mahathir that the Pakatan Government is committed to returning Sabah and Sarawak their rightful status as equal partners in the federation can be seen in two ways.

If this announcement made in the Prime Minister’s first address to Sabahans since the new government came to power is a sincere commitment and quickly implemented in the key areas of concern in which the two East Malaysian states have had their status and rights undermined and their legitimate needs neglected, then it can help open a more amicable, less contentious and more stable chapter in the nation’s history and development.

However, if it is another political wayang speech aimed at generating a feel good response in the local population, it will reinforce the skepticism and cynicism that the Bornean states will still be treated as “stepchildren” by the new Pakatan government and that nothing will come out from Pakatan’s election manifesto promise of returning the status of the two states according to the Malaysia Agreement of 1963 even after many more than 100 days of the new government has elapsed. Don’t open the flood gates of discontent and nationalism.

Image result for Pandang Ke Sabah

If the latter is the case and/or if the process of the return of local rights and autonomy is delayed by foot dragging or deflected by the politics of disruption and divide and rule as practised by the Barisan Nasional government since the establishment of Malaysia  in 1963, we should not expect a meek or restrained response from an awakened and politicized younger generation of East Malaysians.

Rather, watch out for heightened political resistance from the East Malaysian states which may put the entire Malaysia enterprise in jeopardy.

What is Equal Partnership?

The call for an equal partnership of the three component parts of Malaysia is not simply about a greater share of cabinet minister-ships for the politicians of Sabah or Sarawak or a greater share of oil royalties or better roads. It is also not about just mobilizing a two thirds majority in Parliament to support amendments in the Federal constitution for Sabah and Sarawak to be equal partners in the Federation with the process ending there. Or providing East Malaysians the solitary carrot of a Deputy Prime Minister.

It covers a much larger and complex spectrum of perceived injustices, discriminatory treatment and broken promises endured by the two states especially during the past 30 years.

According to pro-equal status activists, key grouses include the following:

  • disproportionally meager returns from the two states’ oil and gas resources

  • de-secularisation and creeping Islamisation

  • internal colonization by the federal civil service establishment which has marginalized local Sarawakians and Sabahans in the running of their own states

  • Putrajaya’s collaboration with corrupt state leaders which has enriched a small minority and despoiled the environment at the expense of the native communities

  • Dr. Mahathir’s infamous “project IC” which resulted in a massive influx of illegal immigrants, their registration as voters in Sabah, and the consequential adverse repercussions on the local citizenry.

  • Politically parties from West Malaysia should not allowed to establish branches in Sabah and Sarawak.

It is noteworthy that when the Cobbold Commission set up in 1962  to determine whether the people of North Borneo supported the formation of Malaysia submitted its report, it had deemed necessary to emphasise the following:

“It is a necessary condition that from the outset Malaysia should be regarded by all concerned as an association of partners, combining in the common interests to create a new nation but retaining their own individualities. If any idea were to take root that Malaysia would involve a ‘take-over’ of the Borneo territories by the Federation of Malaya and the submersion of the individualities of North Borneo and Sarawak, Malaysia would not be generally acceptable and successful.”

This concern has now come home to roost. Today we are seeing more than resistance to the loss of local autonomy promised in the initial Malaysia agreement. New local parties that are emerging are not simply seeking the rescinding of the constitutional amendment of 1983 which downgraded both the states from equal status to one of the 13 states of the Federation. They are also pushing for a larger agenda of socio-economic and political change through return of the rights and interests of the states as enshrined in the 20/18-point Agreements, the London Agreements and the Inter-Governmental Reports.

At the same time, less restrained individual and unorganized groups (through the social media) are also now in larger numbers posing the unthinkable and potentially seditious question as to whether the two states are better off independent than to remain in Malaysia.

What will happen next is in Putrajaya’s ball court.We can expect constitutional change to be a slow and protracted process and to possibly take more than a few years to be successful.

Meanwhile issues of local autonomy especially in economy, education and religion resonate strongly among all communities, especially with the more urbanized and highly educated. The sentiment that the two states has been badly treated by Putrajaya is a widely shared one especially among the young who resent what they perceive as the re-colonization of their state by federal officials pushing the Putrajaya line. These issues can and should be corrected immediately.

However, whilst Putrajaya continues with soothing words about the rebalancing of state and federal rights and powers, the actions of various agencies of government indicate that the old regime’s mindset on race and religion as operationalized by key civil service agencies still remains; and the opposition and intolerance to democratic aspiration for equal status and rights has not changed.

The case of the recent arrests and alleged manhandling of young protesters calling for stronger state rights and demanding equal education opportunities, better public transport and job opportunities among 10 demands is a salutary example.

As one of the leaders of the youthful assembly calling itself Pandang Ke Sabah (Look Towards Sabah) rally noted after the police crackdown on the group of protestors:

“It’s the morning of Malaysia Day, for God’s sake and it was really peaceful. We thought now that we are living in the era of Malaysia Baru, we are free to speak our minds.”

More disappointing and shocking was the recent written reply by the Education Ministry in Parliament that the use of English as a medium of instruction in schools in the two states would violate the Federal Constitution, National Language and Education Act. The new Minister of Education must have approved of this contentious and highly questionable ruling.

In response, Sabah’s  deputy chief minister, Datuk Seri Madius Tangau pointed out that the right to use English as a medium of instruction in national schools was in accordance with the Malay­sia Agreement 1963 and was in no way illegal nor an attempt to challenge Bahasa Malaysia,the national language. He also noted that It was not only not unconstitutional, but a right and the way forward.

Sarawakians and Sabahans can expect many similar instances of Putrajaya’s intransigence and inflexibility before they can win back their equal status and rights.