UMNO’s Stagnant Pool, Contaminated Bottom Feeders and the Malay Psyche

September 10, 2018

UMNO’s Stagnant Pool, Contaminated Bottom Feeders and the Malay Psyche

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

The occasion of the recent launch of the book, Anatomy of an Electoral Tsunami jointly written with Terence Netto and Cmdr S. Thayaparan provided questions and issues which should be of interest to a larger public.

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According to the Guest of Honor, Tawfik Ismail, the defeat of UMNO in GE-14 was because the party had become a stagnant pond of water breeding only bottom feeder fish.

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In his speech which he subsequently elaborated to the media, he described UMNO as having no inlet and no outlet. “In such a pond, fish which are of beauty cannot survive, all that can survive are the bottom feeders.”

Tawfik argued that UMNO,  founded in 1946, ended in 1988 during the political crisis when the High Court ruled that UMNO was an illegal party.

“It (UMNO) had actually died in 1988, it was killed off. So ….we need to keep that in mind when we talk about why the tsunami changed things,” he said in reference to the recent election.

Since then he noted that by voting in the old guard as leaders during the recent party elections, the same mentality was still at work. “At the moment UMNO is directionless. They don’t have any ideology or new ideas that attract young people. They are feeding on themselves. They are a self-supporting group.”

He said the party remained the same post GE-14, was still filled with bottom feeders and [they] have not changed their approach to politics.

“The garbage that’s coming out doesn’t inspire much confidence in the species which is now the Opposition,” he commented, “with race and religion still being harped on”.

 Can UMNO Escape from the Stagnant Pool?

 Tawfik is no ordinary UMNO member or leader. As noted in my speech thanking him for gracing the launch, he is the son of a great Malaysian, Tun Dr. Ismail who played a key role in our early nation building. He was also a former parliamentarian in the Sungai Benut constituency in Johor from 1986-90.

 I pointed out that Tawfik himself in his own way has tried to shape UMNO and Malaysia for the better. An advocate for a secular, open and multi-racial Malaysia, he belongs to that small group (perhaps generation is a better term) of UMNO leaders who could have brought a different leadership and change to the party and nation.

 Can a similar group of moderate, secular and more multi-racially oriented UMNO leaders emerge to lead the party to regain the trust and respect of Malaysians? Can UMNO escape from the noxious and fetid pool it is trapped in?

Tawfik provided no answers or clue to this poser during his presentation.

 UMNO’s Role in the Creation of the Malay Psyche

I had no knowledge of what Tawfik would speak on at the launch. Neither did he have any  inkling as to what I would be touching on in my presentation.

But as it turned out, my prepared speech was a partial elaboration of Tawfik’s concerns with a slightly different tack.

 In it I noted that high-level corruption and economic excesses and crimes are among the easiest of the improprieties and legacy of the BN regime that the PH government has to deal with.

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 More resistant to remedying are the policies, programmes and mindsets, which the country’s state apparatus and most institutions of Malay dominance in public and private sector life (educational, media, professional, socio-cultural organisations, religious bodies, etc) have propagated to a largely captive, and passive, audience.

As explained in a recent article by Fathol Zaman Bukhari, editor of Ipoh Echo:

“The Malay psyche is not something difficult to fathom. It is the result of years of indoctrination (brainwashing) by a political party that is long on hopes but short on ideas. Fear mongering is UMNO’s forte because the party believes that Malays are under threat. That their religion and their sultans are being assailed and belittled by imaginary goblins and make-believe enemies … Anyone other than a Malay and a Muslim is considered unworthy to assume any sensitive appointments, which are only reserved for Malays. But on hindsight, it is the Malays who have let the nation and their own kind down.”

In the introduction to the book, I had argued that “it is this less easily definable, less financially quantifiable, but more ubiquitous, and ruinous feature of nation-building directed and manipulated by the previous leadership for the last 60 years, which needs to be contended with and purged of its negative and toxic ethno-religious content if the new Malaysia is to have any chance of succeeding.”


Fathol Bukhari  mentioned Najib and his UMNO clique as those who have let the Malays and the nation down.He was being politically correct and polite.

 Lest we underestimate the magnitude of the reform challenge, let us not forget that most of the present crop of Pakatan’s leadership – Dr Mahathir, Anwar, Muhyiddin, Mukhriz, and others – have been among the supporters or leaders of the indoctrination movement in its diverse manifestation. They have been responsible for the Malay psyche, which needs transformation if the new Malaysia is not to remain a mirage.

 Recently, Siti Kasim, the extraordinary lady who is a columnist with The Star and the sole reason I buy the paper on a Sunday put out this challenge to the Malay leaders.

Without a change from the religious-centric environment the Malay society is currently in, and an education system that indoctrinates rather than enhance critical thinking, Malay society will continually drift towards the insularity of religious conservatism and away from progressive capabilities to succeed in the modern world. And population demographic with UMNO DNA will ensure that a progressive Government will eventually lose out.

Therein lies the real Malay dilemma. Would any of the Malay leadership be willing to change its society from a religious centric one to one that is progressive and modern in character? Do you want our Malay society to continue to regress and be uncompetitive? Do you want it to drag the rest of us down the road of conservatism and economic ruin?

As Malay leaders, do you placate or do you lead for change? How do you lead that change? I am sure Malay leaders and many others in the community must be sharing the same concerns and asking the same questions that Siti, Fathol, Tawfik and others are pursuing.


Low Hanging Fruit of Change

 Here is a suggestion I threw out to the audience at the launch.

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 Pluck the low hanging fruit of changing consciousness and transforming the Malay psyche. Use a strategy which does not need millions of dollars of consultancy funds, establishment of national councils that need 1 or 2 years to produce a report which is then seen as window dressing or put into cold storage.

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As a start, I suggested that the writings of independent Malay intelligentsia and intellectuals – Pak Samad, Syed Hussein Alatas, Rustam A. Sani, Kassim Ahmad, Siti Kassim, Zaid Ibrahim, Syed Akhbar Ali, Din Merican, Prof Tajuddin Rasdi, Mariam Mokhtar, Marina Mahathir, Zainah Anwar, Farouk Peru, Hishamuddin Rais, A. B. Sulaiman, Azly Rahman, Bakri Musa, Hussein Abdul Hamid (Steadyaku47), Dr. Syed Husin Ali, Dr. Syed Farid Alatas and others – be compiled and widely disseminated.

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As these writings are almost entirely in English, bring together an editorial group to translate to Bahasa Malaysia the selected articles and commentaries.

Print them in a bright and attractive magazine format – perhap 10 pages weekly – and leave this as a free handout where Malays and especially the youths congregate – 7-11’s, McDonalds, MRTs, LRTs, bus stations, university canteens, mosques and so on.

Also put them out in Bahasa, Tamil, Mandarin and other Malaysian languages in the social that we can have a frank exchange and analysis of the Malay psyche – its positive and negative aspects as it pertains to nation building.

The second thing I would suggest is to take leaders of Malay political parties and NGOs, editorial writers and key staff from Malay media such as Utusan to the highways – Grand Saga, Lekas and Silk Highway in Selangor and elsewhere in other states – to spend time observing the phenomenon of Malay youth racing on the highways. I would also take them to drug addict haunts and other areas where Malay B40 and also where the Malaysian underclass live so that they are in touch with reality and can put their minds on how to deal with these social realities instead of engaging in diversionary or opportunistic rhetoric and politics.

 But even these may be measures too difficult to implement in our race and religion obsessed nation.


“Fix It” man Tun Daim Zainuddin tells it all

September 8, 2018

“Fix It” man aka Sang Jedai Tun Daim Zainuddin tells it all



DID you catch the Tun Daim Zainuddin interview on TV3 last Wednesday night? He spoke on a wide range of issues, sharing insights and juicy behind-the-headline anecdotes. Those who missed it can click on Youtube. You won’t regret it.

Tun Daim Zainuddin being interviewed by Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar and Mustapha Kamil on TV3 last Wednesday night.

He was interviewed by retired but still active journalists, Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar and Mustapha Kamil. They were colleagues in the Media Prima group of companies until a few years ago.

Johan maintains a weekly column in The Star newspaper while Mustapha is an active commentator on Facebook with a big following.

Friends who saw the interview gave their thumbs up. A television interview is different from a newspaper interview. Speaking on air, viewers can see the expressions and listen carefully to the words and the manner in which they were uttered.

An UMNO activist told me the following day that Daim has not lost any of his sharpness when answering questions. He said it was a typical Daim show — short and crisp; straight to the point; and he didn’t duck any question thrown at him.

But the UMNO man said Daim was more talkative than usual, in so far as media interviews are concerned. I thought so too. To me, this was expected because Daim, as Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s closest confidante, was sharing insights on events before, during and after the May 9 General Election.

Daim is head of the Council of Eminent Persons, a body set up by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government three days after it kicked out Barisan Nasional (BN) and Datuk Seri Najib Razak from Putrajaya.

The council’s main objective was to dive deep into the administration with microscopes to find out the who, what, why, when, where and how the previous regime ran the country.

Daim is not new to such assignments. Dr Mahathir had, in the late 90s, tasked Daim with tracking the economy and to suggest solutions to the problems faced by the country following the Asian financial crisis in 1997/98.

Daim set about his task by tracking every aspect of the economy on a daily basis. It was a painstaking exercise but one that eventually helped Dr Mahathir to bring the country out of its huge problems.

One could say that Daim is Dr Mahathir’s “fix-it” man. If there’s anything difficult, and complicated, that needed to be corrected, just send Daim. But Daim would be the first person to reject such acclaim, countering that no single person could do such a job.

That task of tracking the economy was done by the National Economic Action Council which Dr Mahathir himself chaired. The NEAC was placed under the Minister of Special functions, a post held by Daim.

So it was really a no-brainer for Dr Mahathir to pick Daim to dig deep into the Najib administration to find out what went wrong.

Four months and one day after the general election, people are still talking about and analysing the history-making polls.

Many people on the ground had anticipated a change, but they had not dared predict such a huge upset.

Daim’s take on GE-14 was typical. He told the interviewers and the audience that UMNO and BN think-tanks had told him that their party was not going to make it. And this helped Daim and PH leaders to work out an appropriate strategy, giving them the additional confidence that they would win big.

I said typical because Daim has an information gathering mechanism that is reliable and accurate. In the 2008 general election, Daim told the country via an interview with a Chinese newspaper that the BN would lose five states.

The BN, then led by Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, did lose five states — Penang, Perak, Kedah, Selangor and Kelantan. Kelantan was already an opposition state then.

This time around, the strategy was straightforward: discredit the BN and its leaders and make Dr Mahathir the rallying point to save the country.

Remember the “You’re not alone” poster? This worked well as other personalities came out to show their support for Dr Mahathir, with Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz being one of the most visible and vocal.

Wednesday’s interview also had Daim giving his views on why BN was rejected by the people. UMNO leaders were simply arrogant, he said, adding that they were also ill-mannered and complacent. UMNO’s fixed-deposit constituencies came under attack from the PH forces, a great number of them comprising ordinary folks who had grown tired of the old coalition.

Abuse of power and a head who could not be criticised plus a civil service that saw some key senior officers taking part in political campaigns eventually led to BN’s downfall.

Duit tak turun (the money didn’t come down),” Daim said, referring to money meant for campaigning purposes was not properly distributed, thus hampering work on the ground.

Well, it’s all gone down as part of the country’s political history. Daim has a vast reservoir of first-hand knowledge in many aspects of the country’s development, with personal involvement in many of them too.

This interview would be seen again and again and widely analysed by those interested in the country’s welfare. If the programme was not capped to one hour, more juicy stuff would have been revealed.

The UMNO activist reviewed the interview many times and concluded that Daim is as relevant as ever. Not many people doubted that.

The writer is chairman of Yayasan Salam Malaysia

A Momentous Merdeka Day in 2018

August 31, 2018

A Momentous Merdeka Day in 2018

by Steve Oh

Steve Oh’s Message to Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s 7th Prime Minister

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“There is no independence in the true sense of the emancipation of a nation until the people are free to think, act and exist in a total state of freedom.

May God bless Malaysia still. May Mahathir live longer still and have the humility to walk with God and the people, act justly and have the wisdom of Solomon to govern the nation.

May the government carry out its duties with diligence, honesty, fairness and utter competence. Merdeka then is meaningful.”

COMMENT | Merdeka 2018 is momentous.

I hope for the sake of Malaysia, it will be the final time citizens celebrate their national day with the exhilaration of deliverance from an oppressive political yoke still fresh in their minds.

In 1957, the country was set free from British colonialists. There was a similar euphoria. But the fledgling nation, after deposing the affable first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, was recolonised by a new group of myopic local leaders led by Razak Hussein that included Mahathir Mohamad, Musa Hitam and other UMNO young Turks . The neocolonialists imposed upon the people a yoke heavier than the British yoke.

Fast forward to 2018, and the nation will reverberate once again with freedom and shouts of acclamation on August 31.

After May 13, 1969, she was hijacked and subjected to a lifetime of abuse. Race, closely accompanied by religion, constricted the nation. The nation still forged ahead economically but became tangled in draconian laws and discriminatory policies; was pitifully abused, serially raped and treacherously plundered. Polarisation of the people was purposely planned and executed.

It is treachery of the worst kind when a government led by Najib Razk betrays the trust of the people, divides and steals from them and tries to get away with deception, conspiracy and lies.

Preaching unity and the usual platitudes, it carried out an agenda of subversion, undermining the rule of law and brought the nation to the brink of economic and social disaster. The courts of power became the circuses of clowns, and like Nero the Roman emperor, fiddled away the nation’s future.

Many became cynical, others despondent, yet many never lost hope and worked for change. Still others prayed.

Then the “miracle” the people had worked and prayed for took place on May 9 this year. The nation was emancipated from the abusers, the rapists and the thieves. The treacherous king of kleptocrats now faces justice and the long arm of the law. Those who are culpable will be punished.

The blood spilled and lives taken of innocent victims will be vindicated. The masterminds of the much-publicised slayings of Altantuya Shaariibuu, Kevin Morais (photo) and Hussain Ahmad Najadi, among others, will face justice. The true kidnappers of Pastor Raymond Koh and others will be revealed.

Divine justice

Like many others in a religious Malaysia, I believe in God and the universal law of reaping what you sow. Nothing escapes the truth of time. In time, the truth will surface. And the guilty will be shamed. They will never evade divine justice.

God answers prayers still. For nearly 30 years, even in a faraway land, without fail when I water-hosed my potted plants, I asked God to destroy the evil that had gripped the nation. God answered. He has changed the course of history and saved Malaysia from certain ruin.

Many unsung heroes cried to God for deliverance and he heard their pleas. Often, over the years, I wrote in Malaysiakini of the “higher official who watches over the officials” and will intervene to achieve his purpose. I make no apology for my utter confidence in the God of Justice.

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A Good and Decent Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Badawi turned out to be considering the plunder of the Malaysian state under Najib Razak

Malaysia is a unique nation and deserves to succeed. Former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi hit the nail on the head when he lamented the nation’s “third-world mindset” despite its “first-class infrastructure”.

What will derail the nation is not the cessation of Chinese railway projects but the constricting ideas of the misguided. I’m glad there are “watchmen” – including women – over the country who sound the alarm against the extremists.

The danger of religion is that it can be abused to lead a nation down the slippery slope. To the credit of concerned Muslims like those in the G25 group, their voice of reason resounds through the corridors of power and the public arena.

When religion slices through the heart of a nation and splits it in two, when self-proclaimed defenders of faith become a threat to those they purport to protect, it is time for the state to act and rein in the bigots.

When my father died two years ago at 96, I did not shed a tear. Deep in my heart I know he lived a full life and, in faith, I shall see him again in the place I know. I miss him nearly every day.

Yet, three days ago, the tears welled in my eyes and I felt a tautness in my heart after watching a video I received through WhatsApp.

It was a social experiment organised by Media Prima that took place in the vicinity of Pavilion Shopping Centre in Kuala Lumpur. A giant elevated electronic screen positioned above the crowds came to life with the audible sounds of a talking man and stopped the passersby in their tracks. The presenter asked them some simple questions, one after another.

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“Who likes nasi lemak?” ‘Who has a close friend from another race?’ ‘Who knows how to sing the national anthem Negara-ku?’ They were asked to gather in a marked square if they answered in the affirmative. In the end, the square was filled with the biggest group of Malaysians of all races.


I saw in the video the heartfelt joy of diverse Malaysians – young men and women of different races and religions – unified in their love for their country. They were evidently overjoyed to share so many things in common despite their ethnic and religious differences. The only other time I saw a similar display of spontaneous kinship across race and religion was at the Bersih 5 rally.

Smouldering cinders

Successive governments, leaders, groups and individuals have harped about the uniqueness of Malaysia. Yet the nation still flounders and has yet to come to grips with the devil they know that threatens to derail the nation – the abuse of race and religion. Leaders have yet to act decisively and concretely against the perpetrators of the doctrines that divide, that destroys and that is against the spirit of national unity.

Malaysians know who the devil is that tears the nation apart. Their political sponsors have been sent packing from Putrajaya.

The fire has been put out. But the cinders are still smouldering, their smoke choking the nation and threatening to start bonfires here and there. The nation’s threat lingers and loiters at the corridors and closets of power.

The 1957 Merdeka freed the nation from a foreign yoke. The 2018 “Merdeka” freed the nation from the home-grown yoke.

Will a future “Merdeka” free the nation from the yoke of race and religion that constricts, divides and destroys the unity of the nation?

Believe it or not, the Pavilion event revealed the truth about Malaysia, that the diverse religions and races do co-exist in harmony despite the differences.

Rid the nation of the subversives – those who use race and religion as political weapons to gain the political ascendancy – and you end up with a Malaysia united, prosperous and peaceful.

It is time the new government be bold, be true and be honest in dealing the devil of disunity a fatal blow. Who will it be? Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Pakatan Harapan de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, or some eminent Malay leader?

The metamorphosis of Merdeka is a long journey. It is a historic event as much as an ongoing process. Getting out of jail is one thing, staying out of jail is another. Gaining independence is one thing, giving the people their independence is another.

There is no independence in the true sense of the emancipation of a nation until the people are free to think, act and exist in a total state of freedom.

May God bless Malaysia still. May Mahathir live longer still and have the humility to walk with God and the people, act justly and have the wisdom of Solomon to govern the nation.

May the government carry out its duties with diligence, honesty, fairness and utter competence. Merdeka then is meaningful.

Happy Merdeka 2018, Malaysia!

STEVE OH is the author of the novel “Tiger King of the Golden Jungle” and composer of the musical of the same title. He believes in good governance and morally upright leaders.

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

Celebrating A New Malaysia

August 30, 2018

Celebrating A New Malaysia

by Dr. A Farouk Musa

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A new Malaysia was born after the spectacular 9thMay General Election. Nothing seems to be more profound to me than breathing a new air of liberation from the corrupt and despotic regime. But the long journey of a New Malaysia has just started. This requires a great effort by this multicultural and multi-religious society to work sincerely for change. Like what Mahatma Gandhi used to say: “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.

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Dr. A Farouk Musa and Din Merican share a common vision of a Malaysian Muslim who can learn from “all the different races, religions and cultures” and is “able to celebrate diversity and the differing thoughts and opinions.”

We should be able to learn from all the different races, religions and cultures. What more of different civilizations. In order for us to progress as a nation with a Muslim identity, I envisage a more tolerant Muslim society. A society that is able to celebrate diversity and the differing thoughts and opinions. The ability to be able to respect the others of their beliefs; of their cultures, and their life styles. The ability to exercise the rational faculty rather than believing in rhetoric and fear-mongering. The ability to stand up as a proud nation that embraces pluralism and being equitable to everyone irrespective of race and religion.–Dr A. Farouk Musa

I envisaged the change in the mindset of the people especially my Muslim brothers. It is time for us to work for a better future than to regress into the nostalgic time 1400 years ago. Remember that what the Prophet had laid for us was the foundation and framework of a just and equitable society. When his suggestion forbidding cross-pollination of dates that led to a poor yield the following year and later confronted by his companions, he said: “you know more of your worldly issues”. Meaning to say that this worldly issues regarding agriculture, economy, politics, science, technology and so on, are all for us to find the best solution and to progress. He was not appointed by God to teach us all these. It requires our intellect to decipher what is the best solution to all these worldly issues. The act of some Muslim brothers to look into the compendium of hadith to find the answer and solution to worldly problems is not only defeating, but futile in nature.


This is the main change in mindset that I would like to see especially in my Muslim brothers. The ability to utilize the intellectual faculty that was endowed by God rather than searching into the texts. The Qur’an teaches us to use our intellect. The Qur’an did not provide us with answers to all our woes. The Qur’an gives a parable to this invocation via the story of a raven that showed Cain how to bury Abel. The Qur’an says” Then Allah sent a crow scratching the ground to show him how to cover the dead body of his brother. He said: Woe is me! Am I not able to be as this crow and cover the dead body of my brother?” (5:31). Now, if human could learn from a raven on his worldly matter, why was it so difficult for us to exercise our God-given faculty of intellect to find the best solution to all our human problems in our beloved nation?

We should be able to learn from all the different races, religions and cultures. What more of different civilizations. In order for us to progress as a nation with a Muslim identity, I envisage a more tolerant Muslim society. A society that is able to celebrate diversity and the differing thoughts and opinions. The ability to be able to respect the others of their beliefs; of their cultures, and their life styles. The ability to exercise the rational faculty rather than believing in rhetoric and fear-mongering. The ability to stand up as a proud nation that embraces pluralism and being equitable to everyone irrespective of race and religion. A plural society that would put differences aside and work for a common goal to make this country a better place to stay for us and our future generations.


Dato’ Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa is a founder and Director at the Islamic Renaissance Front. This essay first appeared at The EDGE, Special Report on August 27, 2018.

Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s New Dilemma: Pakatan’s Manifesto

August 18, 2018

Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s New Dilemma: Pakatan’s Manifesto

by William Case, Nottingham University Malaysian Campus

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Malaysia’s new Pakatan Harapan government rode to power on a pledge to clean up Malaysia’s foul politics. It was wise to focus on the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional’s transgressions: Pakatan’s appeal lay less in its own glowing imagery and manifesto than in the electorate’s widespread contempt for the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which leads the now opposition Barisan Nasional coalition.


Pakatan’s manifesto, while helping bring it to power, now poses a dilemma. To firm its support, Pakatan must make good on its promise to cleanse political life, pressing down hard on the reformist pedal. It must show that the arrest of former Prime Minister Najib Razak was not sordid revenge but was instead the start of a renewal. As Pakatan does this, its purges and policy changes will affect the fortunes of those who, over a half-century of operation, have grown deeply entrenched. How likely now are these forces to make trouble?

Part of the answer lies in the nature of the democratic transition that Malaysia is undergoing. Analysts will debate at length how to characterise this process. But for now, in its abrupt and mass-based dynamic, it can be treated as a case of bottom-up transition (where citizens overthrow an authoritarian regime to install democracy), even if conducted peacefully within the electoral parameters of a competitive authoritarian regime.

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In such conditions, while the once-dominant party remains stunned, the new government will grow tempted to drive swift and far-reaching reforms. Against this, the interests of the bourgeoisie and the military are ‘inviolable’ if stability is to be preserved, and hence restraint is needed. In ‘founding elections’ typically held at the end of a transition, the parties representing these the military and bourgeoisie must be ‘helped to do well’, lest the old elites regroup, reactivate their constituencies and through military force mount an ‘authoritarian backlash’.

In Malaysia, ‘founding elections’ coincided with the transition, yielding a process that some analysts are already depicting as a spontaneous ‘democratisation-by-election’. In this situation, there was hardly time on Pakatan’s part — let alone the political wisdom and will — to ponder any need to cushion the blow dealt to UMNO. Nor in the flush of victory did Pakatan contemplate restraint in its pursuit of reforms. Rather, as headlines blared that ‘heads will roll’, the new government moved to flush out UMNO’s allies.

To this end, the new Pakatan government targeted top officials in the Attorney-General’s Chamber and the courts, in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, in the civil service and diplomatic corps, and perhaps most signally, in the sinecures that encrust the boards and management of Malaysia’s hulking government-linked corporations. At the same time, the new government has struck at the mass level, at least in the civil service, by terminating thousands of contract workers who were deployed under UMNO’s old spoils system.

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UMNO’s Man from Pornogo

As UMNO endures rivalries and ruckuses in the wake of defeat, it may be regrouping. In recent internal elections, the party rejected the more reform-minded and tolerant leadership of Khairy Jamaluddin. It has instead installed a ‘right-wing’ president, Zahid Hamidi, recalling the old order with its high-level privileging and ethnoreligious prioritising.

In making full use of Malaysia’s expanded political space, UMNO is working in concert with the Islamic Party of Malaysia to stir the nativist grievances of dispossessed party elites and the anxieties of the wider Malay-Muslim community by criticising Pakatan’s new appointments. And at the same time, UMNO’s print media mouthpiece, Utusan Malaysia, is growing ever more shrill, insisting indignantly on Malay dominance while condemning what it casts as the Democratic Action Party’s ‘racist’ hold over Pakatan.

The resonance of these appeals among ordinary Malays is demonstrated by the vigorous emotive support that the fallen Najib now attracts. These supporters contribute to a legal defence fund on his behalf even as the shrink-wrapped fashion accessories and cash seized from his Kuala Lumpur properties are paraded publicly by police in order to discredit him.

This is bolstering Najib’s position. He has been welcomed back to UMNO’s delegation in the Parliament. He sits alongside Zahid in the opposition’s front rank, and on the parliamentary session’s first day he wore all black as he helped to orchestrate a walk-out. At this point, if not yet a violent authoritarian backlash, we are likely to see a groundswell of Malay-Muslim grievance to the point that Najib’s transgressions will be forgotten. Meanwhile, Najib’s expert legal team will run circles around the government’s newly instituted and untested prosecutors.

Malaysia’s new Pakatan government confronts an excruciating dilemma. To maintain support, it must rapidly undertake far-reaching reforms. But as Pakatan proceeds, old elites, with their prerogatives at risk, will reenergise nativist grievances that may cumulate in backlash. A cruel irony is unfolding. As Pakatan now checks the pace of reforms, UMNO leaders taunt it over broken campaign promises.

William Case is Professor and Head of the School of Politics, History and International Relations at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus.

A New Malaysia? #2: Media with Boo Su-Lyn & Zurairi AR


A New Malaysia? #2: Media with Boo Su-Lyn & Zurairi AR



In this podcast, Dr Ross Tapsell, Director of the ANU Malaysia Institute, speaks with Boo Su-Lyn and Zurairi Abdul Rahman about what has and hasn’t changed about the way the media reports politics and policy after Malaysia’s 14th general election.

This podcast was produced with the support of the Malaysia Institute and the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

About the guests

Boo Su-Lyn (Twitter: @boosulyn) is an assistant news editor and columnist at The Malay Mail. She is a co-founder of BEBAS, a movement that promotes equality, secularism and an end to racial and religious discrimination.

Zurairi Abdul Rahman (Twitter: @zurairi) is an assistant news editor and columnist at The Malay Mail. He previously wrote and researched at The Malaysian Insider. He was a co-founder of Unscientific Malaysia (2008–2011), a local online community which promotes science and scepticism.