Save Malaysia from debilitating Bumiputraism


May 2, 2016

Save  Malaysia from debilitating Bumiputraism–The Agenda of the Third Force

Time to save Malaysia from neo-liberal capitalists, naked political opportunism, and racial discrimination.

by Dr Kua Kia Soong

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Kua-Kia-Soong

The Bigots and Extremists rule the day–How is this related to Neo-Liberalism, Dr. Kua? Socialism is Dead

In March 2008 the two-front system that we had called for in the 1990 general elections finally came about, producing an alternative, namely Pakatan Rakyat (PR), to the Barisan Nasional. Barely eight years later, those days of hope have been dashed by the recent split between DAP and PAS in 2015 and now, the bickering between DAP and PKR and their failure to present the BN with a one-to-one challenge in six seats at the Sarawak state elections.

The name calling by DAP leaders we thought was only reserved for the PAS leaders has now been used against PKR leaders as well.

Dearth of leadership & alternative policies in PR (now the so-called Pakatan Harapan–Coalition of Hope)

Without a doubt, the PR coalition was held together at the start by the PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim, even though their alternative policies to the BN were never entirely clear. Their neo-liberal tendencies led to BN-type policies in the development of the states they controlled, ie. Selangor and Penang, policies which have produced little change in the living conditions of the lower income groups.

Private developers have had a field day in these PR-held states since 2008 with the promise of more multi-billion projects in reclamation, undersea tunnels, highways and luxury development.

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The Rosmah-Centered Authoritarian of Malaysian Politics

Policies aside, Anwar’s leadership in holding the PR coalition together started to suffer a setback possibly because he was deflected by his sodomy trial as well as self-centred opportunistic tendencies among the component parties in PR.

This was clearly seen during the asinine ‘Kajang Move’ in 2014 when there was a “resignation of convenience” by the incumbent PKR Adun after internal politicking between the PKR Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim and the PKR strongman Azmin Ali who was opposing him.

The cost of this short-sighted ‘Kajang Move’ was to force a by-election and leave constituents without representation for weeks. It exposed an irresponsible attitude of PR in taking the Malaysian electorate for granted by forcing a by-election just to facilitate the entry of Anwar Ibrahim into the Selangor state government. It was a most cynical violation of the public trust.

The Checkmated Anwar Ibrahim

More costly for the PR coalition, the Kajang Move had been carried out without adequate consultation with the other PR partners and fissures soon began to appear between them. Three decades of engagement with PAS, the largest Malay-based party in the coalition, was about to come asunder.

The dearth of leadership in PR was clear when the former Menteri Besar was openly maligned as inept and corrupt by lesser DAP politicians to justify his ousting. It was also clear the PAS President was not consulted over this irresponsible political move. The Kajang Move showed not only contempt for the voters in Kajang but also insensitivity toward the PAS leaders who were part of the PR coalition.

Bad mouthing the PAS President

Malaysia’s Political Nightmare–Corruption

After months of name calling against the PAS President Hadi Awang, which can only be described as ‘kurang ajar’, Pakatan Rakyat was officially disbanded on 16 June 2015 after the DAP declared it could no longer work with PAS. It was a sad day for all Malaysians who had hopes for a viable alternative to the Barisan Nasional.

The long-term effect of such uncouth bad mouthing of the PAS leader remains to be seen. The DAP will have to measure the relative weight of their token Malays in the party against the loathing towards DAP among not only UMNO supporters but now also PAS supporters.

Is this behaviour the result of insensitivity, the lack of wisdom or naked opportunism that has blinded the DAP leaders to common sense needed to engage with PAS leaders and members if they are genuinely interested in “winning over Malays to the DAP”?

The DAP is now willing and able to work with the man who has been responsible for privatising practically all of Malaysian industry and destroying whatever semblance of democracy we had in his 22 years in office – all because of the stated need to “save Malaysia”.

Naked opportunism the main culprit

The DAP’s significant political turnaround in their current readiness to work with the erstwhile oppressor and autocrat of Malaysia requires a more responsible political economic analysis by the DAP leadership to justify this volte face. They also owe the Malaysian people an analysis of class oppression in Malaysia today and how this ties in with their new agenda to “save Malaysia”.

It is certainly a sad day for Malaysians who have hoped for an alternative to the BN and who have carefully nurtured a working relationship with PAS since the Eighties, to see this Alternative Coalition wrecked by total lack of sensitivity to coalition principles, human relationships and dearth of leadership.The DAP leadership is now banking on their token Malay centrists and the former PAS “New Hopers” to get by.

No doubt the DAP will be complacent to rule Penang but succeeding to drive PAS out of PR is undoing more than thirty years’ work engaging with PAS to build the Alternative Coalition. The positive aspect of the last thirty years included PAS’ participation at so many May Day, anti-war and Bersih rallies. This has been an important contribution to inter-ethnic integration in Malaysia and the attempt to build an alternative to the BN.

What is to be done?

The squabbles within Pakatan Harapan over the apportionment of seats have to do with naked opportunism and the lack of higher principles in their respective party ideologies. The politics of opportunism can also be seen with the party elite monopolising federal seats and state seats in the same term and with no fixed term set for the party leader.

Nevertheless, with leadership and an adopted procedure as can be seen in the BN, even that naked opportunism can be managed with due diligence.

For now, we are back to square one as far as engagement with PAS is concerned. It remains to be seen how DAP’s alliance with PKR will hold. It is time for progressive Malaysians to take stock of the political situation and to consider what is to be done in the struggle to make Malaysia truly democratic, free and just for all Malaysians, and especially for our working peoples.

Building the socialist alternative

While there was hope of an alternative coalition to challenge the Barisan Nasional that has been in power for nearly sixty years, Malaysians were prepared to be patient until BN was deposed. It is now clear that some of these opposition parties are ideologically similar to BN in their commitment to neo-liberal capitalism evident in their own state policies.

With our hopes dashed, it is time to build a Third Force that is people-centred, free and equal and led by those who are committed to a common platform set on an alternative road to development.It is time to reclaim the national assets that have been sold to private magnates and to ensure there is fair redistribution of income to the people. There is a need for state intervention and nationalisation of basic resources such as oil and gas; utilities such as water, energy; health, education and social services.

We need progressive taxation to check unfettered capital transfers by speculators and finance moguls and to balance rampant income inequality. Such a socialist alternative differentiates itself from the Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Harapan.

Save Malaysia from Neo-liberal capitalism

Malaysia needs to be saved from neo-liberal capitalism that was unleashed by Mahathir when he came to power in 1981.

Mahathir is indeed the “father of neo-liberalism in Malaysia” after selling off our national assets through his privatisation policies in his 22 years, our national resources hived off to crony capitalists under the guise of affirmative action. Mahathir succeeded in creating private Malay capitalists out of the erstwhile state capitalists who had entrenched their power after May 13, 1969.

Privatisation in Malaysia since the eighties has not demonstrated that increase in efficiency, productivity, or competition, the elimination of sources of state deficit as privatisation has been purported to produce. The failures of MAS, Proton, KTM and other corporations testify to this fact. In most cases, privatisation has merely substituted a private monopoly for a public one without producing any of the benefits that are supposed to come from competition.

Neoliberal policies represent the political requirements of global capital, harmonising the national with the global economy, freeing capital from social forms in which it is under or open to state control and thereby turning those forms into corporate private property as Mahathir succeeded in doing. It will be more and more difficult to maintain a public sector to alleviate the living conditions of workers and the poor when all these public services have been privatised.

Save Malaysia from racism and racial discrimination

Malaysia needs to be saved from racism and racial discrimination. For years now and especially since the New Economic Policy, “race” (“bumiputeraism”) has been used to divide the Malaysian masses so that they cannot unite against their common oppressors and exploiters. Racial discrimination further worsens the plight of workers in the non-Bumiputera communities. Neither the BN or PH have categorically pledged to abolish the New Economic Policy that has been the racist/ populist strategy to try to win over the Bumiputeras and to enrich the well-placed Bumiputeras.

Powerful capitalist interests control our resources and markets and thrive on the cheap labour of Malaysian workers and migrant labour even in the states run by Pakatan Rakyat. The price has been paid by workers and the poor whose living standards continue to be pushed downwards.

If voting changed anything, they’d have made it illegal’

This resistance to neo-liberal capitalism can only be led by a Third Force that tries to empower oppressed people in the process of democratic participation. Popular democratic participation is not just in economic but also political institutions. Real democracy will never be attained merely through periodic general elections and relying on parliament alone. As Emma Goldman put it, “If voting changed anything, they’d have made it illegal!”

Peoples’ power comes about through direct action, based on the self-organisation of workers and other communities in their struggle against capital, with directly elected workplace and community councils taking responsibility for their own affairs and linked to decisions for society at large. The idea is to create an entirely new form of politics centered on direct popular power. When working class people are organized, they can start to believe in their capacity to change the world.

This is the task before us. Can you see any alternative?

Kua Kia Soong is the advisor of SUARAM (Suara Rakyat Malaysia).

 

President Bill Clinton’s Lecture @Georgetown-Purpose


May 1, 2016

President Bill Clinton’s  Lecture @ Georgetown University, Washington DC–Purpose

Earlier today I posted this April 21, 2015 Lecture by the 42nd President of the United States, President William Jefferson Clinton, to guests, faculty and students at Georgetown University, Washington  DC–where he attended the Walsh School of Foreign Service  in 1968 before going to Oxford and Yale– on  Facebook of The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations, The University of Cambodia, Phnom Penh for the benefit of my colleagues and Masters and Doctoral students.

In his Lecture, President Bill Clinton spoke about inclusive politics and inclusive economics and the purpose of public service, citing many examples of leaders in politics, business and civil society when he was in the White  House. I hope my fellow Malaysians in Kuala Lumpur and other parts of our country, my associates and friends and readers who support my blog can get the drift of Bill Clinton’s message  and reflect on his thoughts about the true purpose of public service.

I am sure our Prime Minister has own purpose to be in public service. But you can bet that  Najib’s  purpose is not something the 42nd President of the United States has in mind.–Din Merican

Thank You, Zeti, says Prime Minister Najib Razak


May 1, 2016

Prime Minister  Najib thanks Ex-Bank Negara Governor Zeti

by Bernama

Prime Minister Najib Razak today expressed his appreciation to Zeti Akhtar Aziz, whom he described as having served the nation in the most outstanding manner as the Governor of Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM).

Najib said Zeti had led and implemented initiatives to ensure the stability of the country’s banking and financial sectors, besides placing Malaysia’s economy on a strong footing.“Malaysia takes pride in the contribution and achievements of Dr Zeti, a woman who also received international recognition and awards, all this while.

“Thank you Dr Zeti and I wish you success and the best of luck,” said the Prime Minister in his Facebook entry, today.Zeti, who retired on April 30, was chosen as one of the best central bank heads in the world by the magazine, Global Finance in 2009.

The daughter of Royal Professor Ungku Aziz Ungku Abdul Hamid and a noted cultural figure, Allahyarhamah Sharifah Azah Mohamed Alsagoff, Zeti joined BNM in 1985 as Deputy Manager in the Economics Research Department. Dato’Muhammad Ibrahim succeeds her as the new BNM Governor.

Through The Looking Glass – Into The World Of Najib Razak COMMENT


May 1, 2016

Through The Looking Glass – Into The World Of Najib Razak COMMENT by The Sarawak Report

'Seditious' cartoonist Zunar gives his take on the Sarawak scene

The present election abuses in Sarawak, spearheaded by Najib Razak, present a truly appalling spectacle.Blatant and jaw-dropping bribery, bullying and law-breaking by the ruling BN party have reached unprecedented levels, even for Malaysia, as every day reports of new excesses continue to shock.

But the desperate Prime Minister plainly does not care.  He has personally taken charge of the whole charade, touring around the state handing out money “from BN” to everyone he wants to bribe.

The Chief Crook and Associates in Laughter–Rakyat Bodoh da!

Meanwhile, opposition leaders and activists are being openly barred from the state or told by the score that they have to leave in advance of the election, so that they cannot be present to assist in monitoring the count. So much for Adenan reforming the bad old ways of Taib Mahmud.

Postal votes from thousands of absent West Malaysian soldiers are being utilised to flood constituencies they are not from;  the practice of refusing to issue ID cards to opposition communities persists and of course the gerrymandering alone means that the opposition would have to win over 70% of all votes to even gain a simple majority of seats.

Browbeaten and exhausted opposition folk, who have no money, compared to resources of hundreds of millions of ringgit, fleets of helicopters and all the apparatus of the state in the hands of BN, can only stand by and protest.

Public money from 1MDB is being thrown at Sarawak

RM2 million for St Jude’s Church in Bunan Gega - even more for mosques

Najib and Adenan are clearly perfectly willing to use money that has been stolen from the state, through 1MDB and timber cronies, to lavish on communities, who know that they only see this manna from heaven when elections come around.

Gifts of a couple of million ringgit to a church here, cheques of thousands of ringgit to schools there, crackly notes for every voter….The fact that these gifts are peanuts, compared to what BN’s politicians have looted from the people of Sarawak, in terms of their natural resources and land rights, is something they have taken care to hide. During their decades of cynical exploitation this ruling clique have sneered that Sarawakians are “blind” to the wealth of their own state.

The shocking and blatant examples are numerous - here from one of our own comments

To observers from the outside world it is all, therefore, a total shocker: a sham election if there ever was one.

And another instance from our comment column

Najib no longer cares about appearances

However, Najib has plainly ceased to care about appearances, if he ever did.  In his looking glass world it simply doesn’t matter that he is blatantly indulging in such outrageous abuses and illegalities, because he will make sure his client Malaysian media reports a completely different story for his domestic audience.

Those who don’t comply are already being harassed and threatened by Najib’s stack of new laws designed to ‘protect a democratically elected government’ from ‘seditious forces’ etc etc.

Adenan bought in

The Institute of Journalists has protested at this persecution of their members, trying to report the truth, but Najib, supported by Adenan, has shown no hesitation in abusing his authority over the Election Commission, the police, the civil service and even the once independent judiciary to ignore all such complaints.

Thus he determines to bludgeon a “great victory” in Sarawak.  If in the end this also demands a further bit of cheating at the ballot box, so what?  The opposition can always be banned from the count or their officials bought over by huge bribes, the logic goes. It’s all happened before.

Najib will then announce through the looking glass world of his Malaysian media that the glorious result has entirely vindicated his position – in a nutshell, that he has been “cleared” by the electorate. “Foreign” critics and domestic “subversives” will be told to take a hike.

The fact that the world knows that the money Najib has been lavishing in Sarawak was stolen from the public purse will be ignored – the anonymous ‘Saudi Royal donor’ can always be said to have returned back what was previously allegedly returned to him – who cares?  The Prime Minister will present himself as an all Malaysian hero and the whole of the domestic media will be forced to report the matter in this fashion – or else risk jail.

Maybe this ‘victory’ will present him with his widely mooted opportunity to slam his own former party leader, the 90 year old Dr Mahathir behind bars, for having dared point out his grand theft from 1MDB?

Looking Forward to being in Jail with Bro Anwar Ibrahim

The opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, has already been trapped in jail for over a year, for the sin of being far too effective an opponent for Mr Najib …. another outrageous advantage granted to BN over the leaderless PR coalition in Sarawak.

To Najib’s way of thinking it simply doesn’t matter if the world knows the truth, even most Malaysians, because as long as he can mobilise huge sums of cash then he can control the party leaders in charge of UMNO and control the electoral charade he calls democracy.

The reality is different

However, in the real world on the other side of the looking glass from Malaysia, an entirely separate scenario is starting to unfold, which Najib Razak appears determined to ignore, in a triumph of wishful thinking over stark reality.

Najib and those around him have lost their judgement if they think Malaysia can defy the rest of the world economy, along with the global regulators and enforcers of law and order, simply to save the position of one man, who has been caught stealing vast sums from his own country.

Yet whilst he has cavorted around Sarawak the past few days, handing out cash, the Prime Minister cum Finance Minister has failed to issue one word about the fact that the instrument of this theft, 1MDB, has now gone into default.  A US$6 billion cross default looms large and he stays silent.

Add to that the demand yesterday from Bank Negara that 1MDB further repay the US$1.8 billion it deceptively ‘invested’ into PetroSaudi.And to that the blood-curdlingly deadly investigations that are daily progressing in Singapore against the managers of BSI Bank, who processed the cash stolen through Good Star by Jho Low along with other key accounts for 1MDB, SRC and Aabar Investments PJS Limited.

Not only has the Singapore Commercial Affairs Department described this BSI investigation as the most complex cross-border money-laundering exercise they have ever undertaken, they have also highlighted the “staggering amounts of money” involved.

The rest of the world, Luxembourg, Abu Dhabi, Switzerland, the United States and a growing list of other investigating jurisdictions are all shocked too – and they clearly mean business given the actions and statements of recent weeks.  Now the wheels are in motion does Najib seriously think he can stop this process in a wider world, where he has no powers whatsoever?

This is money that was taken out of 1MDB and then laundered through a network of companies managed by Jho Low and later his accomplices from Aabar.  A great deal of this money went to Najib and his step-son’s Hollywood production company.

The details are complex and need to be teased out, but sooner rather than later players are going to be prosecuted and the money trail revealed.Does Najib think he can escape the situation by continuing to say black is white in his looking glass bubble of Malaysia and handing out yet more of the stolen public cash to his client party fixers?

What happens when the global economy inevitably reacts to the revelation that Malaysia is being run by a master thief and criminal, whose bank accounts are frozen world-wide and whose pet fund is billions of dollars in the red? How will Malaysian business respond to a plunging ringgit, which this will inevitably trigger?  Suddenly, Najib’s cash will seem less helpful to his crony clients and business borrowers.

Malaysians will discover that their country has become an international scandal with a world record thief for a leader, taxes rocketing to bail him out and a plunging currency to boot.

So, although Najib thinks he can use all his concentrated powers to force black to be called white in the domestic media, the truth is that this Prime Minister has lost control. He can no longer steer events, even though he tells himself he can….. because the alternative is something he fears to contemplate.

http://www.sarawakreport.org/2016/04/through-the-looking-glass-into-the-world-of-najib-razak-comment/?utm_source=Sarawak+Report&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=fb78fbe98a-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_term=0_97635b3a5d-fb78fbe98a-291721933

Psychology matters a great deal


May 1, 2016

Psychology matters a great deal in determining shifts in the economy.

by Robert J. Shiller
“We don’t know whether any specific event — say, an unexpected spike in oil prices or a decline in the stock market — will help transform any of the current social stories into a truly virulent economic disruption. We don’t know what is coming or when. But history does tell us that human imagination can spontaneously transform discrete events into world-shaking narratives of unexpected colour and force.”– Robert Shiller –Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics 2013

Economists are good at measuring the past but inconsistent at forecasting future events, particularly recessions. That’s because recessions aren’t caused merely by concrete changes in the markets. Beliefs and stories passed on by thousands of individuals are important factors, maybe even the main ones, in determining big shifts in the economy.

That is likely to be the case again, whenever we next endure a global recession. Worries that a big downturn might be imminent seem to have abated, but they still abound. In April, for example, the International Monetary Fund reported in its World Economic Outlook that while very modest growth is likely this year, the world economy was in a “fragile conjuncture.”

It is therefore worth asking what actually sets off a real global recession. Most discussions focus on leading indicators — statistics about economic variables that have preceded recessions. While these kinds of correlations can sometimes be useful in forecasting, they provide little understanding of why major changes are taking place. Leading indicators don’t usually address ultimate causes, nor do econometric models that try to predict events.

In fact, it’s instructive to remember that global recessions have usually begun suddenly and been a real surprise to most people. As I have argued in this column and with George A. Akerlof in Animal Spirits (Princeton 2009), such events can largely be ascribed ultimately to contagious stories of wide significance. Basically, global recessions tend to begin when newly popular narratives reduce individuals’ motivation to spend money. Psychology matters a great deal.

The biggest recession of all, the Great Depression, began suddenly with the stock market crash of October 1929, as Christina Romer, former chairwoman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, pointed out in a famous paper. Even before 1929 was over, she found, department store sales and automobile registrations had declined, indicating that consumer spending had already dropped sharply. But why?

Economists were alarmed by the crash, she found, and their warnings helped make consumers wary. But let’s not overestimate the importance of these economic forecasts: Most people never actually read them. They received their information from other channels.

Back then, immediately after the market crash, church sermons were a powerful influence. Congregations were told that many business people had behaved like gamblers and hucksters. Through these sermons and other word-of-mouth sources, moralising about the stock market crash spread, affecting mass psychology. Frederick Lewis Allen, in the epilogue to his 1931 best-seller Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s, wrote that cultural values changed after the crash: People began to dress more modestly, adopting a new formality and religiosity, reviving Victorian sexual taboos. It is reasonable to assume that many of these changes had an economic impact, mainly by discouraging spending.

Similarly in more recent downturns, broad cultural and social changes had big effects, too. Since World War II, there have been four global recessions, according to the International Monetary Fund, which defines such an event very specifically as negative global per capita economic growth over at least one year. In each case, these recessions lasted only one year, although relatively slow economic growth rates were also an issue in periods surrounding them. The recessions ended in 1975, 1982, 1991 and 2009.

As they had with the Great Depression, economists have cited concrete causes for these events. Oil has been named as a fundamental factor in each case, with price spikes blamed on the Yom Kippur war of 1973, the Iran-Iraq War beginning in 1980, the 1990-91 Persian Gulf war and rising energy demand in China and other emerging countries in 2008.

Broader social narratives are sometimes ignored, but they matter, too. Consider the recession of 1975. Along with oil prices, common ways of understanding and describing daily life also changed. The oil crisis was widely said to signal the end of an era of abundance. Lower highway speed limits were imposed to conserve fuel, and cars grew smaller. Americans were told to lower their home thermostats to 68 degrees. In large numbers, people began wearing sweatsuits, flannel leg warmers, thermal underwear and long johns. Among all this austerity, economist E.F. Schumacher’s 1973 best-seller Small Is Beautiful became a global morality lesson.

Let’s jump to the most recent global recession, the one of 2009. Oil prices, subprime mortgages and the freezing up of the financial system after the collapse of Lehman Brothers were all important factors. But why did we have a global recession? The transformation of distinct events into a broad global slowdown occurred through a variety of mechanisms. Reports about financial misdoings, the possible collapse of venerable institutions, rising unemployment caused by advanced technology — all of these affected the psychology of spending.

Where does this leave us now? No single narrative seems to have enough compelling force at the moment to engender a downturn as big as the last one. Many people have been borrowing from older narratives of risk and vulnerability while trying to understand the current economy. Oil prices have been slumping, not soaring, but there are significant worries about outsourcing, downsizing and globalisation, along with deep concerns about rising inequality, refugee and immigrant flows, and what has been called secular stagnation of the economy. Political candidates on both the left and the right have been spinning charged and sometimes disruptive narratives about these issues.

We don’t know whether any specific event — say, an unexpected spike in oil prices or a decline in the stock market — will help transform any of the current social stories into a truly virulent economic disruption. We don’t know what is coming or when. But history does tell us that human imagination can spontaneously transform discrete events into world-shaking narratives of unexpected colour and force.

 

Apathy an attractive option


May 1, 2016

Apathy an attractive option

by Dean Johns

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Dean: There is now every reason to stay engaged–for reasons greater than yourself. Apathy  means Surrender to the Darth Vader Types. Be a Master Yoda. –Din Merican in Cambodia


Some weeks, I have to confess, I totally lost my customary enthusiasm for criticising the power-freaks, incompetents, criminals and outright crazies who make life as miserable as possible for the majority of mankind by posing as political leaders.

And this past week I’ve been especially tempted to give up expressing my antipathy to these bleeders and misleaders, as for a couple of days my attention was diverted from the deadly state of politics by dire personal news.

My doctor doubtless had the best of intentions when she referred me for a chest X-ray. Whether this was a ploy on her part to panic me into stopping smoking after her all her attempts at persuasion had failed, or whether she genuinely suspected that 52 years of the filthy habit had finally given me lung cancer, I’m not sure.

In any event I got a call from her the moment she got the X-ray results, urgently requesting to see me the next day. So naturally I presumed the worst, and forgot politics in favour of frantically trying to figure-out what to do with what presumably precious little remained of my life.

Of course, as you can tell already by the fact that I’m back on deck here at Malaysiakini, the whole thing proved a false alarm.But the experience has proven salutary in some ways, one of which is to give me at least a shred of sympathy for those people I’m forever criticising for their pathetic political apathy.

Only the barest shred of sympathy, however, as it strikes me that the prospect of imminent death is a far better reason for no longer caring about political oppression than the petty self-absorption that appears to motivate most political apathetics.

But then, of course, as I mentioned up front in this column, there is the fact that the sheer quantity of political bad news, not to mention all the lying and spin by the crooks who cause it all, can be absolutely overwhelming of even the least apathetic among us.

To confine ourselves just to Malaysia for a start, it is absolutely paralysing to be continuously confronted by an endless string of political atrocities, currently ranging from the 1MDB fraud to the theft of yet another election, this time in Sarawak, and everything in between, including the retailing of guns and ammunition by a company co-owned by a daughter of the inspector-general of police, and a scheme involving the brother of the deputy prime minister to profit from the import of 1.5 million workers from Bangladesh.

What’s the Difference–Two sides of the same coin in Sarawak

And outside of Malaysia, much of the news is equally bad, if not worse. I can’t decide what’s the most extreme political turn-off in the world right now, but is surely has to be either the continuing destruction of Syria resulting from the al-Assad regime’s UMNO BN-style determination to cling to power, or the endless domination of the North Korean people by the deranged Kim dynasty.

The word ‘deranged’ inevitably takes us to other many other parts of the globe, too. To the Middle East and Africa, for example, where it is utterly impossible to overstate the ravages inflicted on people by Islamic State, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram and sundry other religio-political bands of homicidal maniacs.

By no means exempt from political idiocy

And the so-called ‘free’ world is by no means exempt from political idiocy, as evidenced by the determination by Donald Trump to ‘make America great again’ in even more idiotic ways than even previous Republican presidents like Nixon, Reagan, Bush Senior and Bush Junior have attempted to do it.

While in South-East Asia, the ever-ridiculously corrupt, inept and criminal UMNO BN regime seems about to get a run for its money from the Philippines, whose front-running candidate for the presidency, Rodrigo Duterte, is evidently addicted to making jokes about such deadly-serious issues as rape, and is also alleged to have operated death squads during his term as mayor of Davao.

As for the situation in Australia, words almost fail me. Admittedly it is still a pleasant country to live in for many if not most of us, thanks largely to the proper separation of powers between the government and other institutions, and general adherence to and respect for the rule of law.

But both sides of politics here apparently have a blind-spot for international refugee law, as thousands of asylum-seekers have been incarcerated in so-called ‘detention centres’ or in other words concentration camps for years.

So ridiculously and disgracefully determined have the major political parties been to deny these unfortunate human beings the chance of a new life in Australia that Cambodia, of all countries, was paid A$40 million to accept some of them.

A total of just five refugees have agreed to be resettled in Cambodia, and three of these have since left for their original homelands.In light of such outrageous waste, on top of the sheer inhumanity of it all, I can’t imagine how I could bring myself to vote for either the current Liberal-National Coalition federal government or the major alternative, Labor, so I guess I’ll have to go for the Greens.

Which of course brings me to the thought that at least I have an acceptable option to fall back on. Unlike the people of Sarawak, who are about to face a choice between an opposition composed of the hopelessly-conflicted PKR and DAP, not to mention the impossible PAS, and a long-ruling clique that has ruthlessly robbed the state of its timber resources and thus deprived the populace of its due social and economic progress.

Faced with such a stark choice between a pathetic opposition and a perennially parasitical and outright predatory UMNO BN-backed incumbent government, it’s hardly any wonder that even the most otherwise enthusiastic of voters might see apathy as their most attractive, indeed only option.


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