MP Nik Nazmi brings back memories of the Anwar-led 2008 Pakatan Rakyat


February 16,2018

Nik Nazmi brings back memories of the Anwar-led 2008  Pakatan Rakyat

By Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad  the MP for Setiawangsa.

https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/464186?fbclid=IwAR25cGcttcKWep_VuYlXm9uT0Vhj3nuWoO3kgVCarZFwiZ2X8e8PkOTaVB0

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MP SPEAKS | This week, seven former UMNO MPs joined Bersatu. Bersatu has also declared its entry into Sabah, contrary to its pledge before the 2018 election.

I have consistently said that I am against this—and many of my colleagues in Pakatan Harapan feel the same way.

Let us focus on the challenges facing us in the present and how to move forward into the future. One thing that we need to do is to be willing to listen to all arguments—including the ones we don’t necessarily agree with.

It has been argued that these defectors are needed to shore-up Malay support for Harapan.

It has also been argued that the move is necessary to counter the emerging UMNO-PAS alliance, which is allegedly increasingly popular on social media as well as to strengthen our coalition’s standing in rural areas — such as the East Coast and Northern Peninsula.

It is true that Harapan did not win the popular vote in the last election—garnering only 48.31% of it. Indeed, much of the 50.79% of the vote that Barisan Nasional and PAS won was from Malays in the East coast and Northern Peninsula Malaysia as well as from Muslim Bumiputeras in Sarawak.

And it does appear that Malay sentiment towards Harapan is not exactly glowing. Although much of this is driven by the shrill and manufactured voices of UMNO and PAS surrogates, there is genuine concern among many Malays that the community is under threat: both politically and socio-economically.

Defections will not guarantee Malay support

But is taking in defectors from UMNO the best way to assuage these concerns?

Why can’t the various components of Harapan evolve so that we can, finally, access, engage and win the support of all Malaysians, including the rural Malays?

Why do some of our leaders seem intent on taking short-cuts, rather than the path of hard (but ultimately rewarding) work? Have we totally abandoned the idea of bipartisanship?

Why do some Harapan leaders assume that the Malay community will necessarily be impressed by taking in these defectors? Is the rural Malay community that monolithic? Is quantity really that more important in governance and politics rather than quality?

But if taking in defectors is not the way, how should Harapan resolve its “Malay dilemma”?

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Negara ini bukan  Tun Dr.Mahathir punya. Ini adalah Malaysia–Negara kita semua. 2008 GE Tagline–UBAH SEBELUM PARAH

One way is to double-down on conservative Malay politics, including turning back on reform because it will allegedly weaken the community. This is the path that PAS has taken. That was their choice to make and theirs alone, but it also means they are no longer the party of Dr Burhanuddin al Helmy, Fadzil Noor and Nik Aziz Nik Mat.

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Dr.Syed Hussin Ali-The Intelletual behind PKR

The alternative is to stick to the progressive, inclusive promises we made via the Buku Harapan.

Our GE-14 campaign manifesto was a document that all Harapan parties agreed to. But it was also a platform that addressed the aspirations and problems of all segments of Malaysian society, including the Malays.

The Buku Harapan can be executed. We couldn’t deliver all of the 100 day promises—but it doesn’t mean that it cannot be realised. The same applies to the other pledges.

Some things may need to be sequenced, but they must be done if the country is to survive and thrive. We should not simply cast the Buku Harapan aside due to political exigencies.

Harapan won because it gave Malaysians hope

It is cynical and disingenuous to say that Harapan won only because of the 1MDB scandal and the anger towards Najib Razak. That’s simply not true.

Our critics—but also our own leaders, legislators and supporters—should give us more credit than that.

Malaysians voted for us not only out of anger over BN’s scandals and mismanagement, but because they believed that Harapan had a better vision for the future of the country. They voted for us because Harapan gave them hope. What I am saying is this: Harapan should learn to take “yes” for an answer.

Malaysians gave us an adequate majority on May 9

There is no need to worry about our parliamentary majority (which is adequate to govern). Unless some quarters have some political calculations to undermine the Harapan consensus.

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As I have said many times before, a two-thirds majority is sometimes more trouble than it is worth.

It is only moral and just that constitutional amendments—when they become necessary—be done via a bipartisan consensus, by talking and working with the Opposition and civil society.

Harapan should roll up our sleeves and get down to the business of governing the country. And “governing”, means reforming our economy and making it work for all Malaysians.

Malays will benefit from progressive politics

Part of this involves winning over the Malays to the idea that progressive politics and governance is in their interest. And it is.

Who makes up the majority of the urban poor? The Malays.

Who makes up the majority of low-wage earners? The Malays.

Who makes up the majority of the petty traders struggling to earn a living? The Malays.

Whose families are the majority of those struggling to service high household debts? The Malays.

Who are the majority of smallholders struggling from low commodity prices and delays in government payments? The Malays.

Delivering an economy that solves the plight of these segments of society, even in a non-racial manner, will do more to win over Malay voters than trying to outflank UMNO and PAS on the right – or luring opposition crossovers.

The voters in these constituencies did not vote for Harapan. They knowingly chose the vision that BN and PAS had for Malaysia. Their MPs moving over to Harapan will not likely make them feel any differently.

Instead, solving the bread-and-butter-issues of the voters will go a long way in addressing their racial and religious insecurities.

Harapan should trust our defend our Constitution

We must also learn to trust our Constitution and our system of governance, even as we repair both from decades of abuse.

Setting up the latest incarnation of the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) is the Prime Minister’s prerogative and so is its composition — although there were some interesting omissions.

The members who were selected are distinguished and respected in their several fields — one wishes them every success.

But the NEAC’s emergence has — fairly or unfairly — led to speculation over the performance of the Cabinet. There are perceptions — again, fairly or unfairly —that attempts are being made to circumvent the normal process of Cabinet-based governance in the management of Malaysia’s economy.

It is easy to dismiss these criticisms as grouses, but they have a real impact on how voters view this current Pakatan Harapan government.

If we lead, the people will follow

I hope this is something that the leaders of our government and alliance will take into account moving forward, especially when dealing with defectors and in how the administration’s agenda is to be executed.

The ends do not justify the means. Like it or not, processes sometimes matter as much as outcomes.

Malaysia needs solutions that work for the many, not the few. We need policies for these day and age. Too often we seem to be indicating of going back to the economic prescriptions of Old Malaysia.

Sticking to the spirit of Buku Harapan is the way forward.

This will go a long way towards winning over Malay fence sitters and not side-line our non-Malay and politically liberal supporters.

While UMNO and PAS embark on a journey rightwards, we should not dance to their tune.

But we must allow them the space to be a functioning Opposition that keeps us in check.

That is what leadership is. Pakatan doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Let’s be sure of who we are, what we want to do and where we want to go. If we are sincere, the people — including the Malays — will follow.


Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad is the MP for Setiawangsa.

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

History:When facts of the Cambodian tragedy get distorted by the US


February 8, 2019

History:When facts of the Cambodian tragedy get distorted by the US

By Thomas Fowler
ttps://www.khmertimeskh.com/50575270/when-facts-of-the-cambodian-tragedy-get-distorted-by-the-us/

Lon Nol with U.S. Vice President Spiro Agnew in Phnom Penh, 1970. wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

Historical negationism or denialism is an illegitimate distortion of the historical record which the US Embassy in Phnom Penh has resorted to when it publicly stated in social media that Washington was not involved in the March 18, 1970 coup led by Lon Nol, argues Thomas Fowler.

Last Thursday, January 31, the US Embassy in Phnom Penh released a statement that claimed, “We would like to highlight that the US was not involved in the coup leading to Lon Nol coming to power. Up to now, there has not been any evidence proving the US was involved.” Unfortunately, this is nothing more contrary to the truth. We are faced with what historians call negationism – the illegitimate distortion of historical records.

There is a long history of fatal relations between Cambodia and the US. During the two decades following independence, while Prince Norodom Sihanouk was in power, Washington denied the many attempts to overthrow and even assassinate him.

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Based on a strange US concept which is named “plausible deniability”, senior officials are able to deny knowledge of or responsibility for any damnable actions committed by others in an organisational hierarchy. In the case that illegal or otherwise disreputable and unpopular activities become public, high-ranking officials may deny any awareness of such acts to insulate themselves. The expression “plausibly deniable” was first used publicly by CIA director Allen Dulles.

In 1956, the US National Security Council decided to support with money, arms and ammunitions the Khmer Serei, an extreme right militia based in South Vietnam and Thailand led by Son Ngoc Thanh and opposed to then Prince Norodom Sihanouk. But in the same year, Washington vehemently denied any support to these rebels.

In 1959, there were three attempts to overthrow Prince Norodom Sihanouk and even assassinate him. Traitors like Son Ngoc Thanh, Dap Chhuon and Sam Sary, all against Prince Sihanouk’s principle of neutrality and all passionate supporters of the US, were CIA operatives as has been proven by archival material. But in 1959, the Americans denied that Washington was involved in the plots for a regime change.

In 1963, the Khmer Serei’s activities increased dramatically as they were integrated partly in the Special Forces under US command. But in 1963, yet again, the State Department informed Cambodia’s Ambassador in the US that there was no evidence of American involvement with the Khmer Serei.

Since the archives of the CIA and the National Security Council for this period have been opened to researchers, we know all the details of these attempts. We even know that they were hidden from President John F Kennedy who was only informed a few days before his assassination in November 1963.

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Similarly, it was not until William Clinton’s Presidency that we learnt the truth about the bombings of a country that had not declared war on anyone: 2,756,941 tons of bombs were dropped on Cambodia from October 4, 1965 to August 15, 1973 through 230,516 bomber missions which destroyed 115,273 targets. Until then, the Pentagon recognised “only” 539,129 tons, which still represents three times the tonnage of bombs dumped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki between 1942 and 1945.

The March 18, 1970 coup led by Lon Nol and Sirik Matak, joined soon by Son Ngoc Thanh, was coordinated by the CIA station and US military intelligence in Saigon, with the involvement of the US embassies in Phnom Penh and Saigon.

By supporting staged rallies against Prince Sihanouk, Khmer Serei forces were transferred step-by-step though the months by the CIA from South Vietnam to Phnom Penh with the order to organise deadly anti-Vietnamese demonstrations in the capital city. Of course, then US president Nixon and then state secretary Henry Kissinger denied their involvement in this regime change. As does the US embassy today in Phnom Penh. And Mr Kissinger is still alive.

These are the facts and they are indisputable. In 1993, all the details of US involvement were described to me by Douglas E Pike in a discussion we had while he was the director of the Indochina Archives at the University of Berkeley. As Foreign Service officer, he had been stationed at the US embassy in Saigon in the 1960s and in 1973-1974.

Until March 1970, with the exception of the neighboring provinces of Vietnam, Cambodia was considered an “oasis of peace”. Even if he had on his own side opponents to his policy of neutrality, Prince Norodom Sihanouk’s power was disputed only by two political movements: the Khmer Serei with bases in the two neighboring countries and as we have seen receiving US military assistance and, on the other side of the political spectrum, the Communists, who were subjected to fierce repression and were reduced to a militia not exceeding 3,000 men.

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With the coup of March 18, 1970, Cambodia as a whole became an extension of the Vietnamese battlefield. What some still call a civil war was actually one of the theaters of the global conflict between the West and Communist world – a situation that, for fifteen years, Prince Sihanouk had tried to avoid defending the neutrality of his country.

Most historians agree today that the coup and extreme violence of the US bombings offered the Khmer Rouge the opportunity to develop and build up their cadres – to the point that their numbers reached 120,000 five years later, at the time of their victory.

There were 7.3 million Cambodians in 1970. In 1979, just before the country was liberated from the tyranny of Pol Pot, the population was decimated to 4.8 million. This is the US legacy in Cambodia.

From 1970 to 1975, Cambodia was a victim of foreign interferences and Cambodians became mere instruments in a proxy war. This story would be repeated between 1979 and 1991, and each time it has been proven that the US had a role in inflicting pain and suffering among the Khmer people.

Thomas Fowler is a Phnom Penh-based Cambodia watcher.

 

 

How Japan unleashed Lu Xun’s ferocious literary passion


February 3, 2019

BOOKS

Books

How Japan unleashed Lu Xun’s ferocious literary passion

by Damian Flanagan

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Lu Xun

If you were to muse on the contribution of Japan to world literature in the 20th century, a host of authors’ names — from Soseki to Tanizaki, from Endo to Murakami, from Akutagawa to Kawabata — might come rushing to mind. Yet you might not realize that one of the most revolutionary moments in modern world literature occurred in Japan, but involved not a Japanese, but the most celebrated of all modern Chinese authors.

The scene: a biology class at Sendai Medical College in January 1906. The lecture finished, some lantern slides of photographs from the recent Russo-Japanese War that had raged in northeastern China were shown to medical students.

In one of the slides, Chinese bystanders apathetically surrounded a Chinese prisoner about to be executed as a traitor for providing information to the Russians. The Japanese classmates shouted and whooped “banzai” in approbation but, seated among them, a solitary Chinese student secretly burned with shame at the sight of his countryman humiliated in this way. What particularly appalled him was the attitude of the Chinese onlookers in the image who, though physically fit, seemed spiritually diseased.

Common medicine, the Chinese student realized, was never going to change this situation. What his countrymen needed was spiritual medicine. In that moment, he realized he needed to dedicate himself to something that would truly enlighten and modernize his nation: literature.

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That student was Lu Xun, now widely regarded as the most important writer of modern Chinese literature, commemorated with major museums in both Beijing and Shanghai. He was born in Shaoxing in 1881 and died in Shanghai in 1936, and is best known for his savage satires on the plight of his native China in the early 20th century.

In his short stories “A Madman’s Diary” (1918) and “The True Story of Ah Q” (1921), Lu penned his devastating critiques of the disappointments of the Xinhai Revolution of 1911 and China’s ongoing social malaise.

He also wrote many wonderful stories looking back to his youth in rural China, such as “Nostalgia” (1909), in which his childish imagination is terrorized by Confucianism and thrilled by his house servant’s memories of the Taiping rebels, or the affecting portrait of a destitute, petty scholar in “Kong Yiji” (1919).

But it was Japan that unleashed Lu’s literary talent. As a young man, he was dismayed by some of the practices of traditional Chinese medicine and determined that he would bring the enlightenment of Western medicine to China. He arrived in Japan to study medicine in 1902, aged 21, and after concentrating on learning the Japanese language, proceeded in 1904 to Sendai Medical College.

Yet by 1906, Lu had abruptly abandoned those studies. Whether the lantern slide incident was the actual trigger or a bit of later self-mythologizing is hotly disputed, but what is clear is that Lu began proposing a radical new agenda: Literature was a nation’s true medicine.

Why literature and not philosophy or politics? And what prompted him to turn to literature that year?

The answer can be found in Japan’s own relation to literature, which was a relatively new and revolutionary concept in Japan in 1906. People had of course been writing plays, poetry and entertaining stories since ancient times, but the notion — imported from the West — that these could be collectively grouped together and comprise a discipline worthy of the profoundest contemplation was a new one in Japan in the late 19th century. Lu had arrived in Japan when it was in the grip of this literary renaissance.

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Deeply disillusioned with the stifling influence of Confucianism on his return home, Lu’s first attempt to bring literary enlightenment to China was not to write his own stories, but to translate into Chinese, often via the medium of Japanese or German, stories from Britain, America, France, Finland and many countries of Eastern Europe. But his 1909 collection, “Tales from Abroad,” managed to sell just 41 of the 1,500 copies printed.

Among his later translations were pieces written by Natsume Soseki and, partly inspired by Soseki’s memoirs of Britain, in 1926 Lu penned a memoir of his instructor in biology in Sendai called “Fujino Sensei” in which he recounts how Fujino went to the trouble of personally correcting Lu’s weekly lecture notes.

In a famous parting scene, which has captivated the imaginations of Japanese readers ever since, Lu describes being called to his Japanese tutor’s house and receiving a photo of Fujino Sensei with the kanji characters, “sekibetsu” (sadness of parting) written on the back. After returning home to China in 1909, Lu hung it in pride of place on the east wall of his study in Beijing — pointing toward Japan — and wrote that he gained constant inspiration from gazing at it.

During the early decades of the 20th century, in which the Japanese Empire ever more strongly encroached upon China, the writings of Lu were a reminder of the close cultural ties and the warmth of human spirit that could exist between the two nations.

Lu’s writings were first published as a collection in Japanese in 1924 and Rojin, as he is known in Japan, was nowhere greater appreciated outside of China than in Japan itself.

Author Osamu Dazai wrote in 1945 a novel called “Sekibetsu” about Lu and, in 1991, the writer Hisashi Inoue published a play, “Shanghai Moon,” describing Lu’s deep friendship with the Japanese bookseller and publisher Kanzo Uchiyama in Shanghai in the 1930s. Lu even hid in Uchiyama’s bookshop in 1934 to avoid a round-up of left-wing writers.

The sense of literary mission that Lu acquired in Japan never left him. The greatest change he effected was in shifting our understanding of the power and potential of literature itself, of pushing aside the pieties of moralistic philosophy, and presenting literature as something which can move nations, probe the human mind and be the hands-on, skeptical and ever-questioning application of human wisdom.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2019/02/02/books/japan-unleashed-lu-xuns-ferocious-literary-passion/?appsule=1&idfa=05CDB89C-F295-4F5B-ACA3-F800B382CF4D&fbclid=IwAR1-dJXm487sb6hmY5VMunISqX3HgCDciDPeCHgoutFCNw-uOl6lrzDKTSo#.XFZaA80xXIV

How Deng and his heirs misunderstood Singapore


February 3, 2019

How Deng and his heirs misunderstood Singapore

 

https://www.newmandala.org/how-deng-and-his-heirs-misunderstood-singapore/

 

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As official China celebrates the four decades of “reform and opening” that began in late 1978 to early 1979, it is instructive to recall the role Singapore played in this process. The fulsome eulogies for Lee Kuan Yew offered by Chinese officials in 2015, beginning with Xi Jinping himself (who has been noticeably less enthusiastic in his praise for Deng Xiaoping given China’s top leader’s “family feud” over who deserves the most credit for the reforms), are just the most obvious indication that Lee and the “Singapore model” more generally have played (quite literally) an oversized role in China’s rapid transition from Maoism to “Market-Leninism”. Appropriately, Lee was honoured late last year as one of the foreigners who helped China most in its reform process.

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Ezra Vogel’s his monumental 2011 biography of Deng

In November 1978 Deng, newly installed as China’s paramount leader, visited Singapore. Ostensibly the trip was part of a diplomatic campaign by China against what it considered a growing threat from Soviet-backed Vietnam. But in Singapore, Deng instead became obsessed with the city-state’s purported transformation from a backwater fishing village to a leading global city under Lee Kuan Yew and his People’s Action Party’s (PAP) rule.

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In his welcoming remarks, Lee stressed that Singapore’s ethnic Chinese citizens were the sons and daughters of uneducated, landless peasants from Southern China, leading Lee to suggest, as former Foreign minister George Yeo has recently phrased it, if Singapore with its “poorly-educated coolies could make good, how much better mainland China could be if the right policies were adopted.” Deng showed great respect for Lee (going so far as to not smoke in the presence of the fastidious Lee despite the Singapore leader providing him with a spittoon in a well-ventilated room) as he had inherited a broken system that he was quickly trying to fix. In his comments Deng endorsed the (exaggerated) story of Singapore’s miraculous metamorphosis.

Crucially, Deng and Lee developed a special relationship during Deng’s short visit. Both were anti-colonial leaders at the forefront of their countries’ revolutionary movements and committed to political order over chaos. Ezra Vogel, in his monumental 2011 biography of Deng, comments that:

“Deng admired what Lee had accomplished in Singapore, and Lee admired how Deng was dealing with problems in China. Before Deng’s visit to Singapore, the Chinese press had referred to Singaporeans as the ‘running dogs of American imperialism.’ A few weeks after Deng visited Singapore, however, this description of Singapore disappeared from the Chinese press. Instead, Singapore was described as a place worth studying .…. Deng found orderly Singapore an appealing model for reform, and he was ready to send people there to learn about city planning, public management, and controlling corruption.”

Unlike other Chinese party leaders and academics who, as Kai Yang and Stephan Ortmann have shown, were looking at a variety of potential models such as Sweden (seen then to represent a “‘third way’ between Communism and capitalism” and symbolising “the ideals of social equity and harmony”), Deng was single-mindedly focused on Singapore, a fascination that was initially quite idiosyncratic. He was searching for a model that both legitimated party rule and was adaptable to the country’s rapid industrialisation. Deng’s articulation of the “Four Cardinal Principles” in 1979 showed that he still adhered to party orthodoxy in regard to repressing political dissent and reaffirming the party’s monopoly on power. But Deng was also concerned with how the party could guide China through state-led capitalist growth. In this regard, Deng left little doubt his thinking was closer to Lee’s than Karl Marx’s.

Yet the example of Singapore became central to the Chinese regime’s efforts to legitimise authoritarian rule only after collapse of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European state socialist satellite states and the Tiananmen Square massacre. Deng’s endorsement of Singapore as a model during his early 1992 “southern tour”, undertaken to restart the reform process, led to an outbreak of “Singapore fever” and an obsession with learning from Singapore among Chinese governing elite and academics. In quick follow up to Deng’s praise, a high level Chinese Communist Party (CCP) delegation was sent to Singapore, which quickly produced by book about the city-state that was distributed to all party branches. Hundreds of official trips followed, with Singapore setting up various programs to accommodate the influx of Chinese visitors such as the “Mayor’s Class” at Nanyang Technological University, attended by thousands of mid-level mainland officials.

An authoritarian path to modernity

It has been difficult for China to find examples of a successful combination of centralised authoritarian rule with effective and corruption-free government in a modern society anywhere else in today’s world besides Singapore. Besides the tiny sultanate of Brunei, Singapore is the only high-income country with a non-democratic regime in East Asia and arguably the only clear case globally, as oil-dependent absolute monarchies are rich but not “modern” in most understandings of the term. China’s observers also tend to see Singapore as “Chinese” and Confucian-influenced (ignoring its distinctive national identity and multi-ethnic character), making it seem more culturally appropriate for emulation.

Although Singapore remains a stand-alone example of high income, non-petroleum reliant “authoritarian modernism”, there is historical precedent for the attempt to remain authoritarian while successfully modernising in East Asia. Framed this way, Singapore is much less a “lonely” example of authoritarian modernity than it is a continuation of a historical trend. The “Prussian path” of German authoritarian-led development was followed by Meiji reformers and this model was later diffused throughout East Asia. Singapore is a particularly important example of this phenomenon not only because it wanted to “learn from Japan” (a government campaign in the early 1980s in which Japan had served as an ideological device used to maintain political control and manage social change that accompanied the upgrading of the country’s economy) and constructed a reactionary culturalist discourse (the “Asian values” debate of the 1990s) to help justify continued electoral authoritarian rule, but also because it became the chief model for Deng’s post-Maoist developmentalist leadership.

The chief “lesson” Chinese experts have derived from Singapore’s fight against corruption is the importance of a committed leadership. But this analysis ignores the significance of the rule of law in Singapore, despite its being a tool to “constrain dissent” and increase the PAP’s “discretionary political power”. Theoretically, the PAP is not above the law, while the CCP claims primacy over any laws (euphemistically called “rule by law”), with China’s top judge recently denouncing judicial independence as a “false Western ideal”. By viewing determined leadership as the main lesson from Singapore, while at the same time rejecting an effective and independent legal system which was key to the city-state’s success in combating corruption, the Chinese leadership has picked “lessons” that confirm their own policy style while ignoring others that could potentially raise critical questions about it.

In many important ways, from country size to political “DNA” (i.e. the legacies of totalitarianism in post-Mao China compared to Westminster-style parliamentary institutions in Singapore), the two nations are simply too different to allow for any meaningful policy transfer. Moreover, Chinese observers have largely seen what they want to see: a one-party state ruled by wise leaders and built on Confucian principles which is successful and legitimate.

Rather, the key significance of the Singapore model for China has been primarily as a form of ideological confirmation, as it has provided an alternative telos for China as it modernises. Singapore shows what China can become: a highly modern but still one-party state undertaking carefully calibrated reforms. Thus, small though it is, Singapore has played an outsized role in reinforcing the CCP’s leadership’s belief that it can avoid the “modernisation trap” and remain resiliently authoritarian during modernisation and even after it successfully modernises.

Growing out of the “Singapore model”

But more recently China seems to have moved away from adopting Singapore’s “soft authoritarian” style of rule. A recent book by David Shambaugh claims that gradualist political reforms by Xi Jinping’s predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, albeit within a continued authoritarian framework, were “intended to open up the system with carefully limited political reforms,” seeking to “manage political change rather than resist it.” By contrast, Xi’s recent widespread crackdown on dissent has undermining hopes of further, however constrained, political liberalisation. Shambaugh regrets that Singapore’s semi-competitive system, with a dominant party legitimised through limited but significant popular participation, and whose power is constrained by the rule of law, is no longer considered relevant by the Chinese leadership.

Thus, China seems to be moving further away from rather than toward the Singapore model. At the same time, as China takes a more aggressive stance in its foreign policy, particularly the South China Sea, and becomes more confident of its own political and developmental success, its interest in Singapore, which has staked out an independent foreign policy that has sometimes angered the mainland, has declined. After many years in which  officials offered a codified version of the “Singapore story” to Chinese observers, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently described the island state as little more than a “bonsai tree model of what China is” that might be “intriguing to scrutinise” but from which is hard for a gigantic country like China to draw lessons. Seemingly consigned to a historical period of conservative reformism in China, the “Singapore model” now appears to represent a path not taken by the mainland’s hard-line leadership.

This essay draws extensively from the author’s Authoritarian Modernism in East Asia (Palgrave 2019)

 

This is What Inequality Looks Like

Khun Anand Panyarachun and the Making of Modern Thailand


January 30,2019

Book Review:

Khun Anand Panyarachun and the Making of Modern Thailand

Dominic Faulder (Editions Didier Millet, Singapore, 2018)

 

The personal cost of Thailand’s political turbulence is often opaque to outsiders. It was surprising for this reader to discover that Anand Panyarachun, scion of the Thai establishment, was once himself caught in the swiftly changing tides of Thai power politics. In the bout of indigenous McCarthyism that followed the October 1976 anti-student thuggery at Thammasat University, scores were also settled amongst the elites. This saw Anand, then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, investigated as a communist sympathiser.  Stood down from his position, Anand spent some weeks in limbo before being exonerated, by which time he had already decided that his career as a diplomat was over and business would be his next pursuit. It was not the last time that the outspoken public figure was to incur the wrath of powerful figures, including in military and judicial circles.

Dominic Faulder’s new biography is a very welcome addition to the rather sparse English-language offerings on former Thai political leaders. While Anand’s life was depicted in a 1999 biography in Thai, this is the first consolidated portrait in English, covering Anand’s career as diplomat, politician, businessman and philanthropist. As Faulder intends, the account of Anand’s life is also a very accessible and vivid account of Thai diplomatic and political history. Particularly well covered are two decades: the 1970s, as Thailand “separated” from the United States and its military bases, and the 1990s, when Anand as a two-term prime minister set in train what many mistakenly thought was to be a permanent democratic trajectory.

Born of a mother of Hokkien Chinese background, and a father of Mon ancestry, whose own forbears had held senior positions in the Siamese bureaucracy, Anand’s family name was bestowed by Rama VI. It drew on the Sanksrit-Pali for wisdom, panyaa and the name of the Ramayana hero, Arjuna. After growing up in Bangkok, including living through the Japanese occupation, Anand followed in his father’s footsteps with a British public school education.

Schooling in England at age 16 in 1948 brought with it a tough first year of “unrelenting cultural immersion”.  But by the time he graduated from Cambridge in 1955, after spending 7 continuous and formative years in England, he had become in his own words, “practically bicultural”.

Excellent English language and sharp critical thinking skills meant that after joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in 1955 his career progression was rapid. Helped by a close relationship with foreign minister Thanat Khoman, Anand was appointed Ambassador to the United States at tender age of 39, a position he later held while concurrently representing Thailand at the United Nations.  Interestingly, at this time Anand and the Thais were elder mentors to the relatively inexperienced Singaporean diplomats, a situation that would be hard to imagine today.

Anand’s forthrightness and unwillingness to suffer fools were on display from early in his career, as was his strong belief that MOFA should lead on foreign policy. From time to time, both characteristics brought him into conflict with the Thai military, at no time more so than when he took a hard line on negotiating the terms of the exit of United States forces from Thailand under then Foreign Minister Chatichai Choonhaven. His willingness to insist on MOFA’s prerogatives on foreign policy made him enemies in the Thai military, who then sought his downfall following the 1976 violence. The account of this difficult period in Thailand’s alliance with the United States is one of the book’s highlights, as is the account of Anand’s visit to China accompanying Prime Minister Kukrit Pramoj in 1975, including meetings with the ailing Mao.

Many will also read with great interest the telling of Anand’s two formal forays into politics in the early 1990s. Never a member of any political party, Anand’s clean reputation lead to him being tapped twice for short stints as prime minister, each time as a way of circumventing political crises. The exact circumstances of Anand becoming an appointed, rather than elected, prime minister are given close attention in this book and are revealing of patterns of Thai politics, and in particular the role of the monarchy. The book also gives good accounts of key achievements of the Anand governments, including the ASEAN free trade agreement, the Cambodian peace process and the effective response to HIV/AIDs.

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Anand’s direct, confident manner led some to question his “Thainess”. Certainly he was sometimes warned by colleagues to soften his approach in debating his peers and disciplining his staff.  But to Tej Bunnag, a contemporary of MOFA who also ventured briefly into politics, “Anand is very Thai but of a certain kind”, with a personality reflecting his background as “the youngest son of a very distinguished family”.

While it is tempting to imagine that more politicians like Anand in Thailand’s leadership class might be the solution to Thailand’s struggles with democracy, it is probably also true that his uncompromising manner would be difficult to sustain over a longer period. And while it is true the man and his political record reveal few blemishes, one area where Anand might now admit he might have done more is with respect to unionism. As Prime Minister Anand presided over legislation that one activist called “the most crushing blow ever for the Thai labour movement”. Unfortunately as this review was written, Thailand had just claimed the unenviable title of world champion of income inequality, with 1% of the population possessing 66% of Thailand’s wealth.

In his post-prime ministerial career Anand continued to sit on numerous boards, including banks, as well as take an active role in his first choice of business, Saha Union. He also worked on several international and national inquiries and commissions, including for the United Nations. Probably his most significant contribution, with many recommendations yet to be implemented, is with respect to the troubled South. Anand took charge of a National Reconciliation Commission after the violence flared again after 2004, but the political division since the 2006 coup has stymied progress. Anand remains committed to decentralisation and devolution of power to Thailand’s outer regions, not only the southern border provinces but also the north. On this score, Anand remains more liberal than many of his colleagues in the ruling elite.

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A staunch monarchist, Anand has never served on the Privy Council and appears unlikely to do so. In the words of businessman Prida Tiasuwan, Anand is “pale yellow” in his approach to the monarchy. A massive reader, a gregarious and willing public speaker, with a sharp and analytical mind, Anand as a royalist democrat has been a significant contributor to Thailand’s public life and national development.

 

Faulder’s account of his life is highly readable. It is not without some flaws; the book sometimes gets into trouble when freelancing on history. For example, the claim that Thailand never joined the League of Nations is mistaken; while it was never member of the League Council, the executive body of the General Assembly, it was an active founding member of the League itself. Anand himself seems sketchy on Siamese history. For example, when he states that Thailand as an uncolonised country was left untutored on international relations, Anand seems to overlook the role of the several capable and trusted foreign legal advisers employed by Thai kings, such as the Belgian Gustav Rolin-Jaequemins employed by Chulalongkorn or the American Francis Sayre employed by Vajiravudh.

A book cannot be all things to all readers, but there were some questions I would have liked to have seen explored. What for example, are Anand’s attitudes to Buddhism, to modern China, to the future of US–China relations? Does Anand himself speak Chinese? Based on many interviews with Anand, the book in the end is a sympathetic biography. Faulder does seek to gently challenge Anand, seeking for example his reaction to Duncan McCargo’s “network monarchy” thesis and the suggestion that he is part of this network. But the additional interviewees are also somewhat biased towards the “yellow” royalist side of politics. It may have been interesting to know how some of the Red Shirt or Pheu Thai leadership or even Thaksin Shinawatra clan remember Anand. These are however, relatively small quibbles, and the book is highly recommended.

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Dr Greg Raymond is Research Fellow at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre in the Australian National University’s Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs. He is currently writing a book on Thailand’s alliance with the United States, with John Blaxland. His book on Thai strategic culture, Thai Military Power: a Culture of Strategic Accommodation was published by NIAS Press in 2018. Before joining the ANU, he worked extensively in the Australian Government, including in strategic and defence international policy areas of the Department of Defence.

Know the Difference– Being Jewish and Being Zionist


January 28, 2019

Know the Difference– Being Jewish and Being Zionist

by Dr. Kua Kia Soong

www,freemalaysiatoday.com

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At the outset, let me make it clear that as far as the Palestinian cause is concerned, I am on the same page as Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, although I cannot vouch for his consistency on all the other non-Muslim liberation causes in the rest of the world.

What is disturbing is that through the years, we have witnessed Mahathir’s deliberate refusal to make any distinction between the Jewish people and the ideology of Zionism.

This has huge consequences for how our prime minister stands on racism and racial discrimination in our own country. Those who have followed his political career will note the continuity in his ethos and it was not unexpected that he should once again create a similar rumpus recently on the international stage by conflating Jews with Zionism.

Unashamedly racist paradigm

Mahathir’s first claim to fame (or rather, notoriety) was the publication of his “Malay Dilemma” after the May 13th 1969 racial riots in Kuala Lumpur.

It was banned by the then Tunku–led government when it first appeared and Mahathir was expelled from the ruling UMNO. Apart from being an academic embarrassment because of its unashamedly racist paradigm, it was clearly “seditious” by the definition of the government-of-the-day in its undermining of sacred constitutional provisions:

…the Malays are the rightful owners of Malaya…immigrants (read non-Malay Malaysians) are guests until properly absorbed…immigrants are not truly absorbed until they have abandoned the language and culture of their past.”–Dr.Mahathir Mohamad

Mahathir’s ‘Malay Dilemma’ was an instant hit among the emergent state capitalists in UMNO who were hungry for power since it provided the instant recipe for them to rally populist support for their bid for power just before May 13, 1969. It was the time-tested recipe for opportunistic politicians to use ‘race’ as the rallying cry for political support just as Hitler’s racist polemic, “Mein Kampf” had provided the model for such a political route.

Since the demise of Hitler and his race-steeped ideology and the price paid in blood by the freedom-loving peoples of the world, racism, racial discrimination and other forms of intolerance have been outlawed in the world community by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights 1948, the International Convention on the Eradication of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) 1965 and the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) in 2001.

Although Malaysia has yet to ratify I-CERD, we are signatories to all these UN treaties.

Glad to be labelled anti-Semitic!

But why is Mahathir so recalcitrant about his blatantly racist attitude towards Jewish people as an ethnic community?

“I am glad to be labelled anti-Semitic,” Mahathir wrote in 2012 on his personal blog. “How can I be otherwise when the Jews who so often talk of the horrors they suffered during the Holocaust show the same Nazi cruelty and hard-heartedness.”

He wrote in his 1970 book “The Malay Dilemma” that “the Jews are not merely hook-nosed, but understand money instinctively.” He was not embarrassed about repeating this recently on international cable TV.

Not all Jews support Zionism

Much of Malaysians’ antipathy towards Israel can be attributed to our government’s longstanding support for the Palestinian cause. But Mahathir’s rancour extends far beyond geopolitics, spanning anti-Semitism of yesteryears including alleging international Jewish conspiracies to blaming the 1997 Asian financial crisis on a Jew, George Soros:

“The Jews rule this world by proxy,” he told the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit in 2003.

If Mahathir had studied abroad as I have, he would have come across many Jewish academics, students and politicians who are anti-Zionist activists.

 

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One of the most notable anti-Zionists and pro-Palestinian activists is, of course, Noam Chomsky.

One of the most notable anti-Zionists and pro-Palestinian activists is, of course, Noam Chomsky. There is even a Palestinian solidarity group called ‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP) based in Britain that advocates for human and civil rights, and economic and political freedom, for the Palestinian people. It opposes the current policy of Israel towards the Palestinian territories, particularly the territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and seeks a change in their political status. The membership of JfJfP is primarily made up of British Jews.

“Zionism is itself a racist nationalist movement that has had as its goal the creation and support of a Jewish national state in Palestine. Certainly, not all Jews support Zionism nor do they support Israel’s discriminatory and repressive actions against Palestinians. “–Dr.Kua Kia Soong.

More Jews live outside of Israel and not every inhabitant of Israel is Jewish; there are also many non-Jews living in Israel. Many Jews, both living in Israel and elsewhere support a Palestinian state alongside Israel as a possible solution to the conflict. In other words, not all Jews identify with Zionism and it is mischievous to conflate ‘Jews’ with ‘Israelis’ and ‘Zionists’ just as it is wrong to say that “all ethnic Chinese in Malaysia are rich” or that “all Chinese must be held responsible for the persecution of the Uighurs in Xinjiang, China”.

Likewise, Mahathir’s stereotyping of ethnic Chinese

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Much of Mahathir’s portrayal of Chinese Malaysians echoes his stereotypical anti-Semitic slurs. In his ‘Malay Dilemma’, Mahathir describes Malaysia’s Chinese as “predatory immigrants” who exhibit an “unlimited acquisitiveness” that threatens the “complete Sinicization of the economy.” They are mistrusted as disloyal and mercenary, enriching themselves at the expense of the country’s other communities. Has he ever shown remorse and rectified his racist thesis in the “Malay Dilemma”?

Ostensibly to “correct the racial imbalance”, the New Economic Policy has provided a carte blanche for the new Malay ruling class to amass wealth in the name of their “race”. Mahathir has justified this blatantly racist policy thus:

“The best way to keep the shares in bumiputera hands is to hand them over to the bumiputeras most capable of retaining them, which means the well-to-do.”

Today, race has been so deeply institutionalised that it is a key factor determining benefits from government development policies, bids for business contracts, education policy, social policy, cultural policy, entry into educational institutions, discounts for purchasing houses and other official policies. Practically every aspect of Malaysian life is permeated by the so-called “Bumiputera policy” based on Malay-centrism.

No wonder the time is not ripe to ratify I-CERD

In the decades since, Mahathir has continued to resort to racial chauvinism whenever popular support has ebbed, stirring anxiety about Chinese investment and immigration following disappointing electoral showings in 2008 and 2013. He castigated Najib for “giving too much to the Chinese” after the disastrous GE13 results.

The recent anti-ICERD rallies organised by UMNO and PAS have now given the prime minister the excuse to say the country is not yet ready to ratify ICERD. The real question is: Is Mahathir ready to eradicate racism, racial discrimination and related intolerances from his own mental paradigm?

As someone has said, “Wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age. Sometimes age just shows up all by itself!”

Kua Kia Soong is the adviser to Suaram.

The views of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of FMT