Snatch The Match From That Monkey Najib Before He Burns Down The Village

April 19, 2018

Snatch The Match From That Monkey Najib Before He Burns Down The Village

M. Bakri Musa
It would take more than just a monkey with a match to burn down a village, despite the dwellings being made of wood and having flammable thatched roofs. Those homes have withstood generations of indoor wood-burning stoves and nightly mosquito-repelling ambers underneath their floors. There would have to be more, as with a long spell of dry hot weather and mountains of ignitable garbage strewn around.
      Yet when the kampung does get burned down, everyone would be shocked. The immediate reaction would be to blame the idiot with the match, and the fury heaped upon that poor soul would then be merciless.
      Consumed with vengeance and with little inclination or intelligence for reflection, the necessary probing questions would never get raised. As with who gave the idiot the match or why was he not supervised. Few would notice much less ponder why the strewn garbage was allowed to accumulate and thus pose a fire as well as health and other hazards.
      The kampung that is Malaysia has not burnt down, at least not yet. Malaysians are still smug and remain blissfully unaware of the long dry spell and the tinder dried debris that has been stacking up. Nor do they realize the danger posed by the idiot running around with a match in his hand and threatening more mischief. God knows he has wrecked enough damage already.
Being in the tropics, Malaysians are used to hot weather but the current hot political climate is very recent. The 1969 “incident” excepted, political riots and turmoils are not yet the norm. Malaysia has been thankfully spared such scourges as the assassinations of leaders and politicians, the staple of Third World politics.
Image result for Chimps of Malaysia
The BERUKs of Malusia
If Najib and his Barisan coalition were to prevail in the upcoming general election on May 9, 2018, however slim their victory, that would be akin to giving the village idiot a match, and then encouraging him to continue playing with it amidst the flammable debris and the high-voltage political atmosphere.
     The flammable debris are our failing institutions. Malaysias are also now deeply polarized, lending to the current highly-charged political climate. The last time Malaysians were stridently divided was during the 1969 election. Then the ruling coalition’s defeat in a few states and its loss of a supra majority at the federal level triggered a horrific race riot that killed thousands and maimed many more. Parliament had to be suspended and the nation ruled by decree. The scar of that national tragedy has now thankfully been sealed with a thick scab. It is unlikely that it would be rubbed open again despite the mischievous attempts by many.
     The polarization then was interracial, between Malays and Chinese to be specific, and the outbreak of violence was localized only to Kuala Lumpur. Today the schisms and polarizations are widespread but not interracial despite crude attempts by many to make it so, rather intra-racial, among Malays. Only East Malaysia is spared. As such Malaysians, in particular Malays, do not or refuse to recognize or even acknowledge this new threat to the nation. Therein lies the danger.
     Yet the evidence is glaring. I have never seen more ugly or blatant displays of vicious and visceral hatred directed at Najib and Mahathir. The two leaders themselves have set the pace and tone. Others too like their HRHS The Sultans and ulamas have taken sides. Their revulsion, as well as that of their followers, is so open. Such gross and uncouth displays are so un-Malay. I fear that should something untoward were to happen to Najib or Mahathir, that would trigger a vicious civil war among their fanatic followers, meaning, Malays.
Image result for Chimps of Malaysia
     Throughout history the most savage conflicts are intra rather than interracial. Witness the ongoing carnage in the Middle East. I am referring not to the Arab-Israeli dispute but the continuing savageries among the Arabs. The Korean Peninsula is still a tinderbox, ready to explode and taking the world with it. Then there was the earlier Chinese civil war. It would be a futile exercise to venture whether the Chinese suffered more under the Japanese or during their own civil war. It would not be an exaggeration to assert that the Japanese Occupation at least interrupted the brutalities the Chinese inflicted upon each other.
Image result for chief of malaysian armed forces
They are partial to UMNO Malays, thanks to Najib’s “cash is king” lure.
What is so volatile about the current threat facing Malaysia is the absence of any restraining element to buffer or dampen this intra-Malay schism. Our institutions–from the sultans and the Election Commission to the Armed Services and the police–have failed us. The Sultans and Agung are not the “protectors” of Islam and Malay customs as they claim, or as tradition and the constitution would have it. They are partial to UMNO Malays, thanks to Najib’s “cash is king” lure.
Image result for Clown Prince ofJohor
     The Chief of the Armed Forces had to retract his earlier statement proclaiming his troops’ and officers’ loyalty to Najib. That General forgot his oath of office, to serve King and country. Likewise the Registrar of Societies; she did her “job” in a single blow (pardon the pornographic pun) by denying the registration of Mahathir’s new party, a powerful opposition force. Meanwhile that clown Prince and Sultan wannabe in the southern tip of the Peninsula thinks he can titah (command) his fantasized “Bangsa Johor” as to which party to vote for! His father the sultan had gone even further.I would have expected Malaysian minorities to buffer or dampen this dangerous intra-Malay rift if nothing else for their (non-Malay) own self-interest. Instead they are sucked in by their own miscalculations into this perilous undertow.
Image result for Free People of Sabah and Sarawak reject racist Malaysia
A sliver of hope is Sabah and Sarawak. Perhaps because everyone there is a minority, Malaysians there are inclusive and tolerant. They have gone beyond; they have not let their ethnic and cultural identities define or limit them. It is sad that their exemplary collective stance is lost on their fellow Malaysians in the peninsula.
Image result for The late Chief Minister of Sarawak for Sarawak
 Sarawakians must honour Tan Adenan Satem
The fact that UMNO, a national party otherwise, does not have a beachhead in Sarawak, explains why the particularly virulent racist virus that has infected UMNO’s body and mind in the Peninsula has not spread east across the South China Sea. I hope East Malaysians will keep it that way.

Malaysians have a crucial task in this upcoming May 9 General Election. They must snatch that dangerous match away from that idiot Najib and his band of mischievous UMNO monkeys. He and they have done enough damage to Malaysia. Stop them before they burn the whole country down.


The Reagan revolution is officially over

April 18, 2018

The Reagan revolution is officially over

by Fareed Zakaria

Image result for fareed zakaria and Henry Kissinger

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s decision to retire from Congress is being interpreted as a sign by many that Republicans will do poorly in the midterm elections. That may be true, but the exit of the Wisconsin Republican also symbolizes a broad shift that has taken place within the party. It marks the end of the Reagan revolution.

Image result for Paul Ryan and Ronald Reagan

The GOP of the 1950s and ’60s was the party of American business, drawing broad support from white-collar professionals and country-club businessmen. It had a straightforward chamber of commerce orientation, arguing for low taxes, few regulations and fiscal responsibility. But it was a minority party, willing to go along with the basic contours of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

To understand the extent of Roosevelt’s imprint on American politics in the mid-20th century, consider this fact: From 1933 to 1969, the only men who occupied the Oval Office were FDR, fervent disciples of FDR or, in the case of Dwight D. Eisenhower, a general handpicked and promoted by FDR. It is said that when Richard Nixon entered the White House in 1969, his already healthy paranoia grew, because he believed, not without reason, that he was a lonely Republican in a federal government that had been stacked with liberals for almost half a century.

In foreign affairs, the Republican Party in the 1950s had only recently shrugged off its isolationist posture but was still cautious about international engagement. On civil rights, the party was progressive and activist. Chief Justice Earl Warren, a former Republican governor, issued the Supreme Court’s landmark decision outlawing school segregation, and Eisenhower dispatched federal troops to Arkansas to enforce the ruling.

Nixon ushered in the beginnings of the party’s first transformation. It had long had a nationalist and nativist side, but Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson’s embrace of the civil rights movement created the circumstances for one of the great flips of U.S. history. The Democrats, heretofore the party of the Jim Crow South, became the party of civil rights, while the Republicans, the party of Lincoln, began to mirror the resentments of Southern whites against the federal government and civil rights legislation. But in other areas of domestic policy, Nixon governed as a liberal. He created the Environmental Protection Agency and managed the economy much like any Democrat would have. “We are all Keynesians now,” he is famously quoted as saying.

President Ronald Reagan finished what Nixon started, turning the GOP into an ideologically oriented party, staunchly advocating free markets, free trade, limited government and an enthusiastic internationalism that promoted democracy abroad. The old country-club Republicans were never true believers, but they accepted Reagan’s redefinition after its electoral success, as demonstrated by the alliance between the Gipper and his vice president, George H.W. Bush.

Related image

The Reagan redefinition of the party, as a quasi-libertarian organization, persisted through the Clinton years, though the GOP continued to bring along its socially conservative base. The party leaders and its official ideology were Reaganite.

Then came Donald Trump. Early on, Trump seemed to recognize that the Republican Party had changed and that the core ideological appeal was no longer about economics but nationalism, race and religion. His first major political cause was birtherism, the noxious and false claim that President Barack Obama was secretly a Muslim born in Kenya.

When Trump ran for the Republican nomination in 2016, he was virtually alone on the podium in rejecting the Reagan formula. He dismissed any prospect of entitlement reform, while criticizing foreign interventions and democracy promotion. Even on free-market economics, he flirted with all kinds of liberal ideas, including big infrastructure spending and universal health care.

But he was consistently hard line on a few core issues — immigration, trade, race and religion. On all these, he stuck to a tough nationalist, protectionist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and pro-police line. And, as a rank outsider, he defeated 16 talented Republicans. Libertarianism, it turned out, was an ideology with many leaders — Republican senators, governors, think-tankers — but very few followers.

A month before the November 2016 election, when everyone expected Trump to lose, Ryan got on a call with other Republican congressmen and told them to feel free to distance themselves from Trump. After the call, the speaker’s approval rating among Republican voters dropped almost 20 points. The base of the party — now older, whiter, and less educated — was with Trump, not Ryan.

Ryan had his faults. He embodied the hypocrisy of Reaganism, advocating fiscal probity while exploding the deficit. He was a bad legislative strategist, unable to repeal Obamacare after years to prepare for it. But he was a genuine and ardent Reaganite. His successors will not be. The second transformation of the Republican Party is now complete.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

GE-14: Najib Razak’s Black Wednesday (May 9, 2018– Malay Tsunami this time?

April 12, 2018

GE-14: Najib Razak’s Black Wednesday (May 9, 2018– Malay Tsunami this time?

by Dr. Chin Huat-Wong

COMMENT | Deliberately choosing a weekday for polling is another back handed admission by caretaker Prime Minister Najib Razak that he strongly believes in a ‘Malay tsunami’, which could be a ‘Malaysian tsunami’ if turnout among non-Malays remains high.

I recently predicted that Najib would go for a weekday polling day after he deregistered Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s party Bersatu through the Registrar of Societies. It is a telling sign of a desperate man, and his second desperate act yesterday again reveals his fear.

For nearly two years, regardless of their political leaning, analysts have been predicting a Barisan Nasional (BN0 victory, mostly due to three factors: redelineation, PAS as a spoiler and a low turnout.

Compared to 2013, the opposition has only one advantage: Mahathir, who never lost any single political battle after 1969. Mahathir leading Pakatan Harapan has fuelled speculation that a Malay tsunami will occur, but there hasn’t been any conclusive evidence of this.

Some would even flatly dismiss such a possibility, predicting that Harapan will come in third in terms of Malay support, after UMNO and PAS, believing that Malay politics remains stuck in an UMNO-PAS dichotomy.

Swing and turnout

Ultimately, how different the outcome of the election will be from the last depends on two factors: swing and turnout.

Think of all eligible voters as two groups. There are those who cast a valid vote in the last election, and therefore with a voting pattern that can be collectively recognised. Let’s call them ‘old voters’.

Then there are the ‘new voters’, who didn’t vote in the last round – due to not being registered, choosing not to vote, or casting a spoilt vote, intentionally or not – and therefore with a voting pattern that cannot be collectively recognised.


Using the last election as the baseline, we can predict the election outcome by guessing what would happen to these two groups of voters: how many old voters will change their voting pattern, and what is the net outcome? How many new voters will vote, and which parties will benefit from their support?

Of course, some old voters may change their voting pattern by not voting this time, hence affecting turnout, rather than producing a swing.

In 2013, 11.05 million people cast valid votes for the parties. Where will their hearts go this time? Now, 14.85 million are registered. Which parties will get the bulk of the 3.7 million new voters?

If turnout rate is high, gerrymandering calculation is thrown out of the window by uncertainty.

What is a ‘Malay tsunami’?

PAS playing spoiler and the Malay tsunami are both generally about the swing. How many Malay (old) voters would ditch Najib, UMNO and BN? Would these voters go Harapan’s or PAS’ way?

But Malay tsunami can also refer to turnout. Will Malay (new) voters turn up in droves and vote against Najib, UMNO and BN?

By definition, a Malay tsunami means a substantial Malay swing and a strong leaning among new voters towards Harapan (or PAS) that dislodges UMNO. This does not cover fragmented Malay votes that produce UMNO as a minority winner.

When Najib repeatedly claimed there is no Malay tsunami, he was saying that, with PAS playing spoiler, there is no Malay swing or a new voters tide towards Harapan.


With the bulldozed delineation that increases the number of Malay-dominated constituencies and the percentage of Malay voters in many mixed constituencies, this means a high turnout of non-Malays alone can only save Harapan’s one-third parliamentary strength.However, it can never be enough to oust UMNO.

Najib’s supposed big gains

Given the redelineation outcome and unpredictability of this Malay tsunami, one can safely predict that Harapan has no chance at all of winning power without at least an 85 percent turnout.

A low turnout of 70 percent will be enough to allow BN to regain its two-thirds majority, even if its vote share drops to 40 percent. So, Najib should be very confident, since he believes that no Malay tsunami will occur.

If the non-Malay turnout can be suppressed by encouraging resentment against Harapan (as “the other rotten apple”), Najib is set to score an immense victory, starting with a two-thirds majority in the Parliament.


Najib would then be able to quickly pronounce Mahathir’s political death if Harapan cannot retain its one-third, and push Bersatu and Amanah towards oblivion. He would have done what Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Anwar Ibrahim both failed to do.

Najib’s ally PAS would have proven its own indispensability to any opposition coalition, even if it loses every parliamentary seat it contests.

In the eyes of hardline Islamists, PAS’ electoral disaster would be the necessary sacrifice to uphold Islam and Abdul Hadi Awang, its most steadfast champion – after all, as the saying goes, “kejar dunia, akhirat lari; kejar akhirat, dunia akan mengikuti.” (Chase the worldly, and lose sight of the afterlife; chase the afterlife, and the worldly will follow).

Harapan would soon be pointing fingers at one another over PAS’ exit. Next, pressure would be mounted on PKR, Bersatu and Amanah to be more pro-Malay and more supportive of PAS’ agenda. DAP might even have to leave the opposition coalition to fend for its non-Muslim and secular base.

With an opposition completely in disarray and PAS setting the agenda, Najib would be safe, as no foreign powers would have the appetite to pursue 1MDB at all costs. And if there is an economic uptick, Najib may even slowly regain his popularity as the opposition and civil society lose their vigor.

Why is Najib so desperate?

Najib should be confidently smiling at his unstoppable victory, but why is he so desperate to deregister Bersatu?

It is in UMNO’s playbook to buy votes and rig constituency boundaries, but Mahathir never did deregister Tengku Razaleigh’s Semangat 46 or Anwar’s PKR on the eve of an election. Mahathir beat his enemies in the battlefield instead of denying them their party label, because a straightforward victory would give him more legitimacy.

Malay politics places a high value on machismo, admiring warriors and detesting cowards. And what can be a greater act of cowardice than taking away one’s enemy’s party logo?

So, why is Najib so desperate, that he who boasts a warrior’s lineage would risk being chastened as a coward?

Why would Najib give Harapan a convenient explanation that their defeat is due to foul play, rather than to the opposition’s disunity or the people’s apathy?

Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Razak seen with loyal supporters is cautiously optimistic of remaining in Putrajaya

What more viable explanation can there be than Najib strongly believing that a Malay tsunami will occur? His acts have betrayed his claim.

I was doubtful of a Malay tsunami myself. Now I believe in it, because Najib does. Compared to pollsters’ sample sizes of 1,000 or 2,000 random respondents, Najib has thousands of intelligence agents from the Police, Military, bureaucracy and party. Between pollsters and Najib, I believe in Najib.

Bersatu’s deregistration was followed by the Johor Crown Prince’s “non-partisan advice”, with strong responses from ordinary Johoreans.

And yesterday, a Wednesday, May 9 was set as polling day. Do you see what I see?

Can Wednesday polling suppress votes?

Hoping to suppress votes across the board, Najib seems to believe in not just a Malay tsunami, but a Malaysian tsunami.

Image result for Dr Wong Chin HuatDr. Wong with Bersih Icon Ambiga


Polling on a workday would burden millions of voters who work and live outside their constituencies, especially those who live away from home on the other side of the South China Sea or the Straits of Johor.

It also reduces the number of polling agents and Bersih observers vital to deter electoral fraud. But can it guarantee low turnout? Within hours, the internet is full of three types of responses.

First, working people have begun to apply for leave to go home to vote. In an image that has gone viral on social media, an employee gave her reason for leave on that day: “To save Malaysia!”


Second, some companies have declared polling day to be a holiday. Others, like Marble Emporium, even sponsor the traveling expenses of their staff, citing employers’ responsibility.

Third, people are coordinating carpools or even sponsoring strangers like students to go home to vote.

If enough voters and enough companies do that, on May 9, Malaysia would be virtually on hartal (strike), when people stop their economic activities to make a point.

The last time we had a hartal was 1947, when the leftist coalition AMCJA-Putera rallied Malayans to demand a better country from the British. This time, Malaysians are demanding a better country from UMNO.

Politics is full of unintended consequences. Let’s defy all odds and make an 85 percent turnout happen, like we did in 2013. This time, let’s show Najib what a Malaysian tsunami – not just a Malay tsunami – looks like.

DR. CHIN HUAT-WONG studies electoral, party and identity politics in Malaysia. He is head of the political studies programme at Penang Institute.

Remembering America’s Icons, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.–1968

April 5, 2018

Remembering America’s Icons, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.–1968

by Jeff Shesol@www,

Fifty years ago today, on April 4, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy, then a candidate for President, rode in silence to a rally in a predominantly black neighborhood in Indianapolis. Kennedy scribbled a few words onto a legal pad, but mostly he just stared out the window. Martin Luther King, Jr., had been killed in Memphis earlier that evening. When Kennedy heard the news, aboard his campaign plane, his head snapped back as if he himself had been struck; then he buried his face in his hands. Later, as his car arrived at the rally, his staff scanned the periphery of the park for snipers.

Image result for Kennedy’s speech in Indianapolis was a prayer, a quiet plea for a shared understanding.

Looking shaken, Kennedy climbed onto a flatbed truck to address the crowd. Many had not heard the news about King; they had been waiting in the park for hours, holding “Kennedy” signs. He asked them to put the signs down. “I have some very sad news for all of you,” he said. “And I think some sad news for all of our fellow-citizens and people who love peace all over the world. And that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight, in Memphis, Tennessee.”

Image result for Robert Kennedy's grave in Arlington
Robert Francis Kennedy’s gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery

The crowd convulsed. People fell to their knees and wept. But as Kennedy spoke they became quieter and moved closer to him. “For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people,” he said, “I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my own family killed, but he was killed by a white man.”

Image result for Martin Luther King Jr

He went on: “What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who suffer in our country, whether they be white or whether they be black. . . . Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of his world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.”


And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.–Martin Luther King Jr. 1963

Kennedy’s speech was itself a prayer, a quiet plea for a shared understanding. Its wellsprings were deep in Kennedy’s own experience, after the murder of his brother, John Kennedy, in 1963; the grief he had carried in the years since; all that he had come to understand about the roots of black unrest, the depths of black frustration with the political process, and the growing focus of black communities on self-determination. In Indianapolis, Kennedy had spoken from the heart, without notes, and expected to leave it at that; he planned to suspend his campaign until after King’s funeral. But John Lewis, among other civil-rights leaders, urged him to keep a scheduled appearance the next day at the City Club of Cleveland, and to use the occasion to make a more pointed case for the principle of nonviolence—against a backdrop of rioting and looting that had broken out that night in nearly every major American city except, it turned out, Indianapolis.

If the Indianapolis speech was a lament, the speech he gave in Cleveland was an indictment—delivered more in sorrow than in anger, but just barely. That morning, April 5th, Kennedy sat down for an interview with Jack Paar, who asked what his reaction had been to King’s assassination. “That more and more people are turning to violence,” Kennedy replied. “And in the last analysis it’s going to destroy our country.” His remarks at the City Club were an elaboration on that theme.

The audience—mostly white, mostly businessmen—sat in silence as Kennedy condemned “the mindless menace of violence . . . which again stains our land and every one of our lives” and asked why America should continue to “make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire whatever weapons and ammunition they desire.” He continued, “Too often we honor swagger and bluster and the wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. . . . Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our society can remove this sickness from our land.” He spoke, too, of “the violence of institutions: indifference and inaction and slow decay.” He saw “no final answers.” Yet, he said, “we know what we must do.”

Image result for john f kennedy gravesite photo

President John F. Kennedy’s Gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery

That exhortation, today, is hard to hear. Two months later, Kennedy, as we know, lost his life to that menace—as had his brother, as had King, and as have many thousands of other “human beings whom other human beings loved needed,” as R.F.K. said in Cleveland. We still know what we must do. Kennedy’s question to us, which hangs in the air half a century later, is when we will finally bring ourselves to do it.

Book Review: War Memory and the Making of Modern Malaysia and Singapore

April 1, 2018

Book Review: War Memory and the Making of Modern Malaysia and Singapore 

Image result for Book : War Memory and the Making of Modern Malaysia and Singapore

Kevin Blackburn and Karl Hack
Singapore: National University of Singapore Press, 2012. Pp. 459. Paper.

Reviewed by Sudarat Musikawong, Siena College, USA

War Memory and the Making of Modern Malaysia and Singapore reveals how individual, communal, and state-crafted memory emerge in conflicting claims to post-colonial World War II national belonging that involve selective amnesia.  The authors argue that while Malay “deathscapes” remake the past into nationalist stories of Malay warriors, Singaporean state-craft incorporates a multiracial approach in which the ethnic Chinese sook ching massacre victims of the Japanese occupation came to stand in for collective suffering.  Blackburn and Hack provide careful explanation of prisons turned into tourist destinations, cenotaphs dedicated to soldiers killed, military cemeteries, memorials dedicated to fallen soldiers, commemorations, and monuments of battles support the argument.  Martial post-war memory does the cultural work of forming a sense of nation and belonging crafted through ethnic communal lens.  This book will be of most interest for those studying post-war memory in Southeast Asia, as well as comparative accounts of Japanese occupation.

The Malay Peninsula was a British colony with complex communal ethnic conflicts.  British-imported Indian and Chinese labour for the rubber and mineral industries economically displaced Malays from their resources.  However, British imperialism figures lightly in the book.  In the book, the Japanese invasion and occupation (1941-1945) are dominant post-war memories.  Because the Japanese war strategy was one of rapid conquest and development in their territories, the peoples living in the Malay Peninsula suffered enormously from Japanese repression, mass violence, and displacement in work camps to places like New Guinea and the Burma-Thailand Railway.  The authors demonstrate how numerous nationalist tensions emerged between Malay nationalists (both pro-capitalist and communist), Indian nationalists, Eurasians and British colonialists, and a fractured Chinese community (between capitalist and communist revolutionaries).  After WWII, while countries like Indonesia were able to wrestle away from Dutch rule, the Malays returned to British rule with a promise of eventual independence in 1957.  After a series of communal race riots between Malays and the Chinese in 1945-1946 and again in the 1960s, the peninsula split between Muslim-Malay rule of Malaysia and Sino-Malay establishment of Singapore.

These ethnic communal tensions, accompanied by Cold War contexts of anti-colonial nation-building and the minority status of Europeans and Indians in the peninsula contributed to a series of different episodes of forgetting and remembering.  For example, the Chinese Malayan Communist Party soldiers had a memorial unveiled on 1 September 1946 to commemorate the lives lost due to a Japanese ambush precisely four years earlier.  But with changing geopolitics, these communists shifted from hero-martyrs to villains.  The Malayan communists were plotting against the return of British rule, then against the Malay state.  The public was denied access to commemorations and the memorial was put in storage.  As communist insurgents, they were configured in public memory as undeserving of public memorials until 2003 when insurgency was no longer at issue [112,120, 278-279].  Another clear example would include how the suffering of Europeans is the subject of ‘Changi Prison tourism’ and championed by the Singapore Tourism Board [79-94]; but although imprisoned Indians had communal commemorations, they have no public site of memory in either country [180, 205-206]. These are the origins of literal nation-making that take place alongside the very different national memory projects of war-time suffering and heroism.

Image result for Mahathir looks to Japan

Mahathir put his experiences during the Japanese Occupation behind him when he initiated Look East Policy as he sought Japanese Investments

One of the challenges of studying memory is that over time, historical complexities and conflicts bring about many moving parts.  But Blackburn and Hack manage the multiple conflicting narratives by layering individual accounts, communal commemoration, and nation-state projects.  While the non-regional expert may be overwhelmed by the details in the first two sections, the “Nations and States” section is a fascinating account of how divergent Malaysian and Singaporean state-craft can be.  By the 1970s-1980s each country’s restructured economy became intertwined with Japanese investments and the demand for Japan to recognize and pay for its war crimes became more vexed and complicated.  Confronted by similar diplomatic pressures to maintain Japanese economic investments each treated Japan’s refusal to offer direct apologies for war-time atrocities and rape very differently—wilful amnesia in Malaysia, selective remembering in Singapore.  In Malaysia, the government’s marginalization of war-time suffering is suggested through Premier Mahathir’s ‘Look East Policy’.  The highlights of this policy included the unencumbered welcoming of Japanese direct investments in the Malay auto-industry, the 1980s exhuming of mass graves for development projects (rather than claims for restitution or recognition), and the Premier’s appeal for Japan to stop apologizing [258-260].  In contrast, the Singaporean state has promoted closely regimented massacre re-enactments, textbook projects, and state-sponsored commercial films, education, and war-tourism projects directed both at domestic and European and Australian tourism.  Of note, the over-enthusiasm of lay actors’ first re-enactment of Japanese war-time cruelties resulted in the traumatization of the entire group (most of whom where school children), physical injuries from being chased by the actors, and the hospitalization of several from the audience [305].

The book argues that both countries have marginalized the deaths and survivors of minor ethnic groups by focusing on the most politically and economically powerful groups.  For example, the following groups have been marginalized from state sponsored projects: the Burma-Thailand railway conscripts, of which 182,000 Asians and Eurasians (mostly Indian rubber tappers transplanted from the Malay peninsula) [199], tens of thousands of Indians sent to New Guinea in forced labour camps (of which 51% died due to harsh conditions and disease) [203], the losses of the communist Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (the MPAJA were mostly Chinese), and European heroes and victims of the Japanese occupation in Malaysia.  These omissions from dominant forms of post-war memory are unsurprising.  Outsiders to the region can imagine the difficulty the authors’ face in providing an all-encompassing account that avoids reproducing dominant hegemonic state narratives.  Scholars of war trauma have pointed to the importance of perspectives of perpetrators, gender analysis, and ethnic/racial minority identities in understanding strategic amnesia. And the book would benefit by including more discussion of Japanese, women’s, and Indian minority memories to examine the role of social amnesia and how it operates in nation-building projects.  War-time memory of soldiers and “freedom fighters” are figures of sacrifice, martyrdom, and heroism are incorporated into Malay nation-building projects.  In contrast, Singapore co-opts suffering as a unifying force [340-341]. To kill for independence from the Japanese is an honor for the sake of the post-colonial nation, but to die in work camps or massacres requires a restorative justice that leaves room to question the ambivalence of collaboration with the Japanese occupation or British colonialism.  One of the most important accomplishments of the book is that it leads to scholars toward new directions in social forgetting by focusing on what is not included in state commemorations and memorial projects.

Download PDF of this review


GE14: Last chance for change

March 22, 2018

GE14: Last chance for change

by Dennis Ignatius

GE14: Last chance for change

We are now at the cusp of GE14, one of the most momentous political events that any of us will quite possibly experience in our lifetime. Rarely in the history of a nation has so much depended upon a single decision: who we vote for will quite literally decide the destiny of our nation.

Image result for malaysia's ge-14

To be sure, many are piqued and frustrated that it has come down to a choice between Najib and Mahathir. But this election is much more than a choice between personalities; it is a choice between two very different futures for our nation.

Politically moribund

UMNO-BN has now been in power for some 60 years. Like all political parties that have overstayed their welcome, they have become politically moribund. They have lost their way, their integrity, their credibility. They have neither the vision to inspire nor the moral authority to lead.

In almost every area of governance and leadership they have failed our nation.They have been extraordinarily incompetent and reckless fiscally, forcing our nation into levels of debt that were unheard of before. Billions of ringgit in public funds have also been looted with utter impunity or squandered through mismanagement and waste. GST is the price we are paying for their profligacy.

The 1MDB scandal, in particular, has been especially damaging to our nation’s international credibility, not to mention the loss to the nation’s coffers. More than 50 years of diplomacy promoting and positioning our nation has gone down the drain as a result.

It should be clear by now that they do not have the political will to eradicate corruption. When the system jails those who expose corruption and protects the scoundrels who rob us, you know the battle against corruption is over, and we’ve lost.

Under their watch, many of our once proud national institutions have been compromised or reduced to mere appendages of the ruling party.

Despite having amassed more power than any other administration since independence, they still feel vulnerable, still feel the need for yet more power, yet more limits on our freedom. Executive power is now so pervasive that we teeter on the edge of autocracy.

Can we trust a political party that has consistently abused their power with yet more power? Under their watch, our democracy has been hollowed out; gerrymandering and malapportionment have made voting itself increasingly meaningless. In fact, this might well be the last meaningful elections to be held in Malaysia if UMNO-BN is returned to power.

In the meantime, life continues to be a struggle for many. Twelve percent of our young people below 24 are unemployed; thousands of graduates cannot find jobs; the majority of young workers cannot earn enough to live decently. And while Kuala Lumpur has more millionaires than Abu Dhabi, 90% of rural, mostly Malay households, have zero savings.

Image result for malaysia's ge-14

And this after 60 years of development, after decades of the NEP and other programmes.

Charting a different course

We must now ask ourselves whether or not we can afford another five years of UMNO-BN rule, another five years of the same failed policies that have impoverished our nation, undermined our unity and weakened our democracy. Can we afford another five years of corruption, scandal and international shame?

If we are willing to look beyond the personalities, if we are willing to overcome our fears and UMNO-BN’s scaremongering, if we are willing to settle for the pragmatic over the ideal, we might just discover that we actually have a unique opportunity to break with the past.

For the very first time, we have a multiracial coalition [Pakatan Harapan] led by experienced political leaders who are genuinely able to unite our nation behind a vision for reform and renewal. They may not be on the same page on all issues but they are united on the things that matter most – respect for the constitution, rule of law, national unity and good governance.

As for Mahathir, there is every indication that he will honour his commitment to ‘reformasi;’ it is his last hurrah and he wants to get it right. In any case, Anwar, Mat Sabu and Lim Kit Siang will be there to ensure that no one hijacks the reform agenda.

It won’t be the end of the struggle to reform our nation but it could well be the beginning that we have long dreamed of.

A second chance

Image result for malaysia's ge-14

It is going to be an uphill battle to unseat UMNO-BN but we are now closer than ever before. The future of our nation is in our hands. We must seize the moment and do everything in our power – campaign, donate, support and vote – to ensure victory.

Few nations get a second chance; this is our tryst with destiny and we must not squander it.