Rethinking race and its appeal in Malaysia


July 11, 2018

Rethinking race and its appeal in Malaysia

by Tan Zi Hao

Tan Zi Hao is a PhD candidate in Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore. He is also a conceptual artist whose artworks can be viewed at http://www.tanzihao.net. As both artist and writer, he is interested in the arts, language, cultural politics and mobilities.

http://www.newmandala.org/imagined-minorities-rethinking-race-appeal-malaysia/

Image result for Rethinking race and its appeal in Malaysia

Despite the game-changing outcome of the 14th General Election, the spectre of race lingers in Malaysia. Appointing an ethnic Indian and Christian Tommy Thomas as the Attorney General has already attracted some predictable flak. When Hindu Rights Action Force 2.0 (Hindraf 2.0, a Hindraf splinter group) demanded that MARA University of Technology (UiTM) be opened to entry by all races, an online petition was immediately kickstarted and has collected more than 150,000 signatures in the first two days. The new Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng—also Malaysia’s second Chinese finance minister after a 44-year break—was condemned for uploading a Mandarin translation of his statement, even though it was officially released in Malay, and later translated to both English and Mandarin.

Image result for Racism in Malaysia

If race remains as a potent category of exclusion, its perpetuation must have an emotional appeal rooted in the realities and assumptions of those who embrace it. However, public intellectuals who wish to do away with racism tend to give a response that is dismissive in nature: sociologist Kua Kia Soong proposes outlawing racism, law lecturer Azmi Sharom considers racists bereft of ideas, Dialog Rakyat committee member and academician Omar Abdul Rahman pushes for a greater collective effort in eradicating racism.

But these criticisms refuse to acknowledge the sentimental affect of racism. Key to most racial thinking is the seductive appeal of imagining one’s own race as a living minority in need of some protection. It enables a majority to be convinced of their own vulnerability, and to live as, to borrow from Benedict Anderson, an “imagined” minority. Without a doubt, the most vocal imagined minorities in Malaysia are the ethnic Malay majority, and the largest ethnic Chinese minority. They are the two “racialised” ethnic groups who succeed in the enterprise of self-minoritisation.

Image result for Racism in Malaysia

To be an imagined minority is not only to assume victimhood, but to believe in the appeal that one’s own vulnerability is racially unique and significantly more urgent than that of others. The more vulnerable your “race”, the better your prospects. Unsurprisingly, the most controversial of all race-related debates in Malaysia revolved around the competitive narcissistic posturing of the Malays and Chinese. Actually-existing minorities—such as the Orang Asli, Orang Ulu and Dayak, or Anak Negeri—hardly make the cut.

The Malays and Chinese each have at their own disposal a plethora of rhetoric to foster their brand of imagined minorities. Among this is their special attention directed to tradition and heritage. From national institutions (e.g. Muzium Negara, and the Malay Heritage Museum) to privately-funded Chinese cultural institutions (e.g. the Malaysian Chinese Museum or Johor Bahru Chinese Heritage Museum), in museumising what is in dire need of preservation they are able to articulate better their vulnerability.

Each of these museums emphasises narratives of loss and sacrifice, while de-emphasising narratives of elitism and privilege. Whenever narratives of privilege are presented, they are framed as an overdue accomplishment, an exemplary success whose arrival is the fruit of previous sacrifices. Additionally, while anti-colonial struggles are highlighted and detailed, complicity with colonialism is sloppily summarised and omitted.

Beyond infrastructural facilities, another effort in self-minoritisation is to think through racially-oriented solidarity movements and protests. For the Malays, Muslim solidarity movements with the Palestinians, Rohingyas, Pattanis, or Moros, yield a new awareness of being an imagined minority in places beyond Malaysia; for the Chinese, issues pertaining to the dignity of the Chinese language and the official recognition of Chinese independent high schools offer an avenue through which the imagination of being minorities can be constantly reinvigorated.

These movements are valid political expressions. But it remains crucial to question their almost organic proclivity for attracting only a specific ethnic, racial, or religious group. At the outset, their protests appear as reactionary and racially exclusivist, but in fact the principal premise is strikingly similar: a vulnerable minority against a dominant majority, the powerless against the powerful. The very impossibility of imagining cross-ethnic solidarities in these essentially anti-hegemonic movements in Malaysia is, in and of itself, a testament to how one is more appealed to race (or religion) than to the actual oppression at stake.

Image result for Mahathir Mohamad and The Malays

That these solidarity movements only lend credence to identitarianism should compel us to question the limits of solidarity among Malaysians. Can a Malay who antagonise the Israeli occupation of Palestine stand in solidarity with a Chinese who calls for the abolishment of Bumiputra policies in Malaysia? Can a Chinese who insists on the recognition of Chinese independent high schools stand in solidarity with a Malay who demands for the recognition of the Pattanis in Thailand’s deep south?

More provocatively, can a Malay who applauds Indonesia’s assimilationism that had stigmatised and marginalised the Indonesian Chinese minority truly empathise with the marginalised Pattanis?

Truly empathise with the marginalised Pattanis? Can a Chinese who disregards the implicit Chinese privilege in Singapore genuinely lament the prejudicial effects of Bumiputra privilege in Malaysia?

These hypothetical questions, at a cursory glance, have little to do with race, but they bespeak the exclusionary temperaments of racial thinking.

The affect that these protests reveal, or at any rate create, is more fundamental than what the movements advocate. One finds in these ritualistic public demonstrations the highest realisation of imagined minorities: the subliminal emphasis on racial–religious identity over power inequality helps mould the psychological temperament that one is born into victimhood. They become symbolic tokens for self-minoritisation. Whereas the abovementioned museums exhibit narratives of loss and sacrifice, these protests stage and perform them, in public and in action. Under this operant self-minoritisation, it is not too far-fetched to claim that to become a “Malay-Muslim” or a “Chinese” in Malaysia, is to first learn to become a victim and to think like minorities.

“Opponents of racism need to understand that proponents of racial politics do believe in race. We need to listen to and explain these affective temperaments rather than dismissing them outright. It is only by first understanding the appeal of race and the complex imagination it summons that one can begin to find ways of uprooting racism”.–Tan Zi Hao

Many who still question why an ethnic Malay majority requires institutional protectionism miss the point. Recall what Arjun Appadurai provocatively identifies as the “anxiety of incompleteness”, whereby postcolonial ethnic majorities are burdened by an unfinished project of obtaining authenticity: equipped with temperaments of loss, a demographic majority will remain “incomplete”, “inauthentic”, and live as imagined minorities in fear of actually-existing minorities.

What is lost to the Malays in colonialism is lost to the Chinese in migration. Both imagined minorities seek to rectify their “incompleteness” by pinpointing, even racialising, one another as the dominant “imagined majorities” obstructing their attainment of an originary authenticity.

There is a seductive appeal to this track of imagination that liberal analysts and public intellectuals disregard. It is an imagination that is grounded on the fact of being “Malay” and of being “Chinese”.

However unscientific or unfounded these racial categories, the temperaments contained in them are disturbingly honest, intimately personal and subjective. Part of the affect of being “Malay” is to first identify how “Chinese” became the cause of their grievance, vice versa.

Opponents of racism need to understand that proponents of racial politics do believe in race. We need to listen to and explain these affective temperaments rather than dismissing them outright. It is only by first understanding the appeal of race and the complex imagination it summons that one can begin to find ways of uprooting racism.

Tawfik Ismail to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad: Close Jakim


June 2, 2018

Tawfik Ismail to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad: Close Jakim and stop playing footsy

by Sheith Khidhir Bin Abu Bakar http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for Tawfik Ismail

A frequent critic of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) has voiced his opposition to a plan to evaluate the agency’s role, saying it should be dissolved straight away.

“Jakim is redundant as a religious body,” said Tawfik Ismail, who served as MP for Sungai Benut from 1986 to 1990.

He spoke to FMT in reaction to Putrajaya’s announcement that a committee would be appointed to decide whether Jakim should continue with its current role or “revert to its original purpose”.

Explaining his assertion that the department is redundant, he said: “In the case of halal certificates, the state religious departments are empowered to issue them. If ingredients need to be checked, we have the health and agriculture ministries, which have all the necessary equipment and expertise.

Image result for Jakim

“Moreover, if an item is halal in, say, Egypt or Saudi Arabia or Jordan, why would it need the Malaysian halal certification? This adds to the cost, putting consumers at a disadvantage.

“And there are complaints that the manufacturer has to pay all charges for a Jakim team to verify the halal quality of a product, even if the product is manufactured in Malaysia.”

Tawfik questioned whether the attempt to save Jakim was really an attempt to save Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s face.

“Mahathir doesn’t want to admit that setting up Jakim was wrong and that it was done only in an attempt to paint himself as more Islamic than PAS.”

He also said he suspected that Jakim had gone beyond what Mahathir initially had in mind for it, adding that this might be the reason for the controversial actions taken in recent years by itself and other religious bodies that likely followed its example.

“There were the ridiculous issues over hot dogs and root beer, the court action against Borders Bookstore, and the shaming of Mustafa Akyol.”

Image result for Jakim and  Mustafa Akyol

In May 2012, Borders manager Nik Raina Abdul Aziz was charged by the Federal Territories Religious Department (Jawi) for allegedly selling a book that defiled Islam. The civil Court of Appeal eventually found that the book, Irshad Manji’s “Allah, Liberty and Love”, had not been prohibited by any religious authority or the home ministry at the time the charge was made in a shariah court.

The appellate court concluded that Nik Raina was charged simply because she was a Muslim and because Jawi could not exercise its jurisdiction over her employer or her non-Muslim supervisor. It ruled that the proceedings against her were “unreasonable” and “irrational” and offended “the principle of fairness and justice”.

Last September, Akyol, a Turkish journalist, ran into trouble with the religious authorities during a visit to Malaysia for allegedly teaching Islam without credentials.

FMT’s attempts to reach Jakim for its comment on Putrajaya’s plan have failed.

The Sage of Yayasan Pok Rafaeh’s Interview With Nanyang Siang Pau


May 6, 2018

GE-14: 72 hours to Polling Day, May 9, 2018. Voters who  have access to my blog in Malaysia should read this insightful analysis of Malaysian politics by Tun Daim Zainuddin, whose views I respect, before they go to the Polls. Rationally speaking, you will have no choice but to vote for Pakatan Harapan and make Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad as our next Prime Minister. Like most of us including me deserve a second chance to correct our mistakes.

More importantly, we cannot allow a pathological liar and crook, Najib Razak and his band of UMNO and Barisan Nasional thieves to ruin our country, unless we are a nation of masochists.–Din Merican

The Sage of Yayasan Pok Rafaeh’s Interview With Nanyang Siang Pau

Image result for Tun Daim Zainuddin

Tun Daim Zainuddin with Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahjm–Together Again for  Malaysia’s sake

TOPIC 1 : General Election

Q1 :      With the establishment of Pakatan Harapan lineup, many people believe this was the strongest and tougher opponent ever to BN, especially with Tun Dr Mahathir take the leading role, what is Tun comment?

Answer :

1.    Many believe so. This is the strongest and toughest opposition as now they have Tun Mahathir, Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang, Mat Sabu plus their lieutenants, supporters and volunteers. They also have YB Muhyiddin, YAB Lim Guan Eng, YAB Azmin Ali and YB Mukhriz. On paper, this is very formidable. I don’t think their supporters want them to be paper tigers.

2.    Previously voters had party loyalties but now, voters vote based on policies. Policies must be in line with what the voters think can be implemented; otherwise they are just empty promises. It has to be realistic and convincing.

3.    Tun Mahathir was an UMNO President and held office as the PM for 22 years. They have Deputy Prime Ministers, Menteri Besar and ministers in their parties. Lim Kit Siang was leader of the Opposition for a long time. Of course this is a big credit to the current Opposition.

Image result for pakatan harapan leaders

Based on the actions and statements from BN and UMNO leaders, it clearly shows that they are worried and very scared. I am not happy that some statements have been too personal. This goes against our culture and beyond politicking. This is not healthy. Leaders must always set a good example to the people.

Q2 :    Tun Dr Mahathir as an asset or liability to Pakatan Harapan? Did this latest opposition front lineup works?

Answer :

4.    Of course to PH, he is an asset but in the eyes of BN, they have to say he is a liability. A few members of the PH component parties initially protested. In politics, you can’t expect everyone to agree to everything. lf we believe in democracy, we must respect the decision of the majority. But those who disagree, they can object.

5.    From what l have read, these are equal partners. It means no party dominates. Before this, there were those who called Tun Mahathir a dictator and they said dictators don’t change. Dictators don’t listen to others. We have heard that Tun Mahathir said he does not agree that tolls should be abolished but he was overruled. Isn’t this a sign of change?

6.    Do dictators give up office voluntarily? Under Tun Mahathir, his old party was declared unlawful. It was de-registered. He didn’t interfere with the ROS(Registrar of Societies) or the Courts. He was called MahaFiraun but he allowed Semangat 46 and PKR to contest in the elections. Those who used to be under him are now saying he was a dictator. Why didn’t they resign like Musa Hitam and Tengku Razaleigh? Is it because they prefer to retain their positions and have no principles?

7.    Clearly PH is not BN. lt is inconceivable that Lim Kit Siang, Mat Sabu, Anwar Ibrahim  and his family will allow Tun Mahathir to bulldoze everything. Tun Mahathir is a highly intelligent man and he knows that the present generation is very different from those of the 80s and 90s era.

8.    Tun is very pragmatic and reads the ground well. Although he is 93 years of age, he understands the needs, expectations and aspirations of the young.

9.    The reading is that UMNO and BN have not changed. Rakyat think PH and the component parties have read the situation correctly.

Q3 :        Is there really a “dream team” for Pakatan Harapan? Can Tun Dr Mahathir and Dato  Seri Anwar Ibrahim sincerely forgive each other for the sake of common political ground?

Answer :

10.    Dream team only exists in dreams. PH has many intelligent young leaders who subscribe to the ideals of democracy. The experienced leaders were idealistic and have made huge sacrifices to their freedom. Some were detained for their beliefs.  Now all of these leaders are together fighting against corruption, kleptocracy and wastage. They promise to respect and honour the supreme law of the country that is our constitution.

11.    lf we read and understand the constitution, we cannot ask for more. All of us must respect and follow the law. Nobody is above the constitution.

12.    The opposition pledge their promises in their recent manifesto. If they don’t keep their promises, voters will reject them in the next elections. Democracy gives voters the chance to choose the government.

Image result for pakatan harapan leaders

13.    I know both Tun Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim quite well. Since their reconciliation, l have spoken to both. Tun Mahathir and Anwar had worked together before, until they went their separate ways. We read their statements. YB Dr Wan Azizah and YB Nurul Izzah have accepted this reconciliation and if the family members accept, who are we to question? Yes, they have come together for a common cause that is to save this country. What bigger sacrifice do we want from these leaders?

Q4:    Did Tun believe that, the claim by DAP leader, they wish through Tun Dr Mahathir influence, will stir the necessary Malay Tsunami to make an inroad to Putrajaya?

Answer:

14.    Tun Mahathir still has influence among different age groups. He was PM for 22 years. He retired voluntarily. He developed this country and gave pride to Malaysia and Malaysians. In 22 years, you can’t expect perfection. Mistakes were made but overall, he did an excellent job. This was recognized by Time Magazine which described him as “The Master Planner”. He is the builder of modern Malaysia and nobody can deny this.

Image result for Tun Mahathir the Builder by TIME Magazine

Those who were part of the team should be proud of what was achieved. I am very proud. During his tenure, he overcame two recessions and the country did better after he introduced some new policies to take this country forward.

15.    During the two recessions that the country faced, he made sure the government took care of the rakyat. He had strong confidence in his policies and he was so brave to call for elections during these difficult and critical times. The rakyat rewarded him with a 2/3 majority in Parliament on both occasions.

16.    So those in their 50s and 60s know his services to Malaysia and his achievements. They believe in him and l think they will give their full support to him. The younger generations are exposed to the world and with the state of the art technology, they can get instant news. In the past, the young generation were normally anti-establishment and voted for the Opposition.

17.    PH does not really need a Malay tsunami to win the election. A swing of around 10% is sufficient. The urban areas traditionally vote for the Opposition. Now with smart phones and advance technology, even semi urban areas get instant news. This will become a danger to BN.

18.    What is left are rural areas. News about Felda, Tabung Haji and other agencies are widely spread. If the rural people who traditionally support UMNO receive these news, support for UMNO will be affected and eroded. l am told second generation settlers are very angry with the government. l remember l cautioned the government about the impact on the listing of Felda, but when you are no longer in government, who will listen to you? TH depositors are not happy too.

19.    I believe DAP is predicting a Malay Tsunami based on these factors, but do you need a Malay Tsunami to get to Putrajaya? l don’t think so.

Q5/6 & 7:    What are Tun prediction of the 14th GE possible outcome? Did BN will eventually fall finally? Or other way round, BN make a strong come back, even recapture the two third majority in parliament?  If yes, what are the major factor? If BN facing another major setback, what are the major reason?

Answer:

20.  Let me make it very clear l am not in the business of predicting election results. I have retired from business too. l don’t do any research. But l meet a lot of people. l read analysis from the think tanks, hear from politicians representing all the parties in Malaysia, from journalists, taxi drivers’ talks in coffee shops and suraus. I receive news from Whatsapp and I watch YouTube. I have old and new friends who give me feedback. Then l make my own conclusions.

21. The Opposition according to many is the strongest ever. They managed to put their differences aside and put up a united front which is very rare in Malaysian politics. Imagine a common logo and DAP sacrificing its rocket. This is the best evidence of sacrifice for common cause. This is the biggest news for the rakyat. They have one main agenda that is to topple BN hence attack is mainly concentrated on Najib given that he is seemingly their Achilles heel.

 

Image result for Najib Razak the crook
Malaysians reject UMNO-BN and Najib Razak’ s Toxic Leadership

22.    BN’s biggest problem is to explain 1MDB to urban voters. I think the government’s biggest blunder was not to address this scandal when it first surfaced. The government should have just admitted that 1MDB is a big mistake. Rakyat will eventually forgive but what they can’t forgive is when the government is abusing the law and hide their wrongdoings.

23.  Sacking the DPM and a senior minister did not solve the problem, rather it may have done the opposite. It is now an international scandal involving so many countries. We have no control over other countries nor their media. These days we get instant news. The government and ministers can deny but these denials make the educated and urbanites very angry and they distrust the government. Whatever good the government does is being negated by the 1MDB scandal. How can one deny DOJ’s report when there is mention of MO1.  And a minister in the PM’s department confirmed to BBC that only idiots do not know MO1 is Najib. This is major scandal which the Government needs to address in order to regain trust from the rakyat but yet, in parliament this subject cannot be raised.

24.    We have 3 former cabinet ministers made known their views on certain issues. Two were immediately condemned. Instead of replying point by point on matters raised, they were accused of having ulterior motives or revenge. People think this country has reached a stage that supporters of government have become irrational, intolerable and have no ability to rebut logically.

25.   In the rural areas they are blaming the government for high cost of living. The Opposition put the blame on GST and tell the people that the government is forced to introduce GST because they have to repay the loan from 1MDB. The government so far fails to explain why the cost of living has gone up. Mere denials by saying that things here are cheaper than in Singapore are just silly and lame. They are being ridiculed by the Opposition. The Opposition, on the other hand, has promised to abolish GST. 1MDB and GST are the two factors that are very difficult for the government to answer.

26.  Will BN win? BN and its predecessor, the Alliance Party has been running this country since independence. In any country, this is indeed too long.

27.  But BN is the incumbent and has many advantages. Recent delineation of constituencies and Anti-Fake laws are signs of fear but of great advantages to the incumbent. Rahman Dahlan is a big fan of the Anti-fake laws.

28.   BN is trying to take advantage of these two recent laws to win the elections. lf these work then together with the uncertainty of the postal votes by civil servants, BN will win and maybe win big. The foreign media have been highlighting this as stealing. lf voters are angry and believe the government is stealing the elections, they will vote against BN, and this will ultimately be their downfall. This will create history. For those who believe and support a genuine practice of democracy, this is cause for celebration.

29.  We can read the moods, the various actions, the talks in the coffee shops, the chatters among taxi drivers or Grab drivers. The anger over GST, the high cost of living in the country, IMDB, the scandals in MARA, FELDA, Tabung Haji and FGV, the depreciation of ringgit, and the issues on unemployment when graduates have to become Grab drivers and sell nasilemak. We are seeing more graduates are currently unemployed. The government is not creating skilled jobs as their focus is more on services sector. This is one of the main cause of the high unemployment rate especially for fresh graduates. These are of great concern to all.

30.   The Director General of Immigration has indicated that the country needs to give priority to local workers, and they are trying to reduce the number of foreign workers in the country. This issue has been long standing. People are asking where are the enforcement agencies? If this is not handled aggressively, the DG said that Malaysians might be “Kuli di negara sendiri”. [1] And according to one research group(Ipsos), unemployment is Malaysian’s biggest worry and this is partly related to foreign workers [taking up the jobs], as well as a concern that they are not getting the jobs that fit their aspirations, needs and lifestyle [2]. Their concerns are not unwarranted, last month BNM says that only 1 out of 5 jobs that were created last year was filled by locals, the rest were filled by the foreigners. This never happen before. No wonder the number of unemployed graduate continue to increase.

31.    In its manifesto, BN has promised to create 3 million new jobs. So if the ratio is 1:5, it means that locals will get 600,000 jobs and foreigners will get 2.4 million jobs.

32.    People talk of corruption, government’s spending wastages and huge national debt. These are legitimate issues. When even those employed can’t buy houses then the government faces real problems. In Klang Valley, apartments are unsold and there is a glut of office space, yet more buildings are under construction. [3][4][5]

33.    The government is not sitting still. ln response to high food prices, it offers BRIM. This helps the poor. BRIM was recommended by Bank Negara as a one-off help but it has now become a government policy. l personally think BRIM cannot go on forever. This is a temporary fix, not the permanent answer to help those who need help. In its Manifesto, BN promises to increase BRIM. I said BN can’t rely on BRIM forever in order to gain popularity. People need jobs so that they can get good income to sustain their lives.

34.    According to the government, for every US$1 (RM4.17) increase in crude oil price, the government’s revenue increases by RM300 million. And the government is projecting by end of 2018, the average price hits US$62, which is a total of US$10 increase, multiplied by RM300 million, it would equal to RM3 billion additional income.[6]  If l were in the government, instead of giving more BRIM, l would reduce the GST by 1% and this will significantly help to reduce the burden and sufferings by the rakyat.  [latest oil price according to Johari is USD70 per barrel]

35.    The government has announced an increase in amount for BRIM and will cost about RM4 to RM6 billion, plus another RM1.4 billion token for civil servants. Are these part of the budget? Where is the money coming from?[7]

36.    The 1Malaysia shop failed and Mydin explained the reasons very well in an interview he gave.

37.    Many are not happy with the government, and its actions also show it is scared. A government must always be confident. However, to introduce redelineation of constituencies without adding seats makes people accuse the government of wanting to steal the elections. So we have foreign media again, writing disparaging things about the government. Then comes in the Anti-Faked news’ law which can sentence a person to a six year imprisonment. There are already many laws to handle fake news like the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, the Evidence Act 1950 and the Printing Press and Publications Act 1984. [8]

38.    Many read this as the moves to scare and silence the Opposition. The foreign media think so. And both the US State Department and the UN have also expressed their concerns [9]. Many believe that the government is stopping the Opposition from talking about 1MDB during the election campaign. We can’t blame people if they think the government is scared to face the Opposition and this law is an attempt to curb freedom of speech and expression. The government does not realize that they can only alter the reality so much. The people will get their news somehow. [10]

39. As I mentioned earlier, the foreign media have said that the government plans to steal the election. The Indian government introduced something similar as Anti-Fake news but later withdrew this law as there were fierce objections and the government fear that it will lose the support of the people [11]. The Guardian has reported that “fake news” is indeed a powerful strategy to undermine trust in media and has quoted that Trump has been adept at saying all news against him as fake news and using “fake” to his advantage. [12]

40.    Rahman Dahlan said that the Opposition is investing in falsehood [13]. Zunar the cartoonist is very angry that BN has altered his cartoon to portray that he supports BN. He is facing so many charges in court [14]. The Economist wrote that the Malaysian government is guilty of falsehoods, and asked will the government prosecute itself [11].

41.  We take one an example on MRT. The government said they have completed the project ahead of time and below budget by RM2 billion. [15] Some people claimed that this is only half truth. According to Budget 2011, the overall cost of MRT is RM40 billion but the first phase of MRT, the government has spent more than RM32 billion. This is excluding Phase 2 and Phase 3. The Minister’s statement cannot be true.

42.   In recent BN’s Manifesto, Najib has announced on TN50 of which he pledged BN’s promises to the young. And one thing stood out from the rest. In the poster that was released, the iconic Petronas Twin Towers have disappeared [16]. People say this is very childish. Some are asking why BN is lying. I used to know that only David Copperfield, the magician can make buildings disappear. Some say that if BN can make the twin towers disappear, a manifesto can just be a blatant lie and your votes can go missing too.

43.    The joke going around KL; if you test positive first time then go for second test and if you are from Umno or BN, the result will surely be negative.

44.    The PM said DAP is the brains behind the opposition pact and is using Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to split the Malay votes. The Malays especially in PH feel insulted. PH’s reply is simple. If DAP is the brains, how come they could not defeat Tun Mahathir over 22 years? PH said Tun Mahathir is a strong leader, a man of sturdy conviction, remarkably intelligent and a true patriot. So maybe Najib dare not accept Lim Kit Siang’s many challenges as he believes Kit Siang is the “brains”and to Najib, Malays have no brains.

45.    This is the stage for the election. Some think and hope for a hung parliament. l don’t see that although PAS plans to be the king maker. My view is whoever wins more rural seats especially in Felda and gain supports from the youth will form the next government. You don’t need a tsunami for that.

46.    I don’t think anyone knows for sure the answer on who is going to win. I can only say this is the most important election since Independence. It is about the future direction of the country. One promotes familiarity and more of the same and the other champions change and reform. As a voter, which one is more attractive?

47.    PH says BN cannot change as they want status quo and almost all institutions are directly under the PM. The present government survives because of the present structure. PH offers change and reform and rule of law based on participating democracy. PH is giving options to the people to choose which system they prefer. Many said our institutions exist but they are hollow.

48.    I think the young should play their role. I quote Pope Francis calling the young to take action – “Dear young people, you have it in you to shout. It is up to you not to keep quiet. Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out? Please, make that choice, before the stones themselves cry out”. In United States, students demonstrated and one slogan was ‘opposite of progress is congress.’ In Malaysia we hear people say opposite of debate is parliament.

49.    The youth might not realize but the EC statistics show the 21 to 29 age bracket account for 17% of the electorate while those in the 30 to 39 age group comprise 23.9%. These two age groups encompass nearly 41% of eligible voters and seemingly tend to be anti-establishment [17][18]

50.    I believe that the youth has a major role to determine the outcome of this election. They can’t be fence sitters or observers. They must exercise their duty and responsibilities as concerned citizens. They are the ones who must decide the country’s future, their future and their children’s future. The youth must not abdicate their role to decide the future of our beloved Malaysia. I have faith and confidence in our youth. They are smart enough to make the right choice for the best of this country.

51.    Democracy will die if citizens and especially the youth think they are powerless. This thinking is wrong. Voters have the power. In fact, voters are the power. Exercise it. Real democracy gives voters the choice. Plato said “the price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men” and he is right. We hear some believe that cash is king. Truth is; your vote is king.

52.    Those in power define democracy according to their fancy. Sukarno had guided democracy and he defined it. Today in Hungary the PM called it “illiberal democracy”. Portugal and Turkey too practice this system. lt is supposed to be for the 21st century. They oppress minorities or attack independent judges or journalists and according to them, to protect the people and the nation.

Image result for Fareed Zakaria

Fareed Zakaria commented on the difference between a liberal democracy and a mere democracy. The former practices rule of law and the latter is exclusively ruled by the majority. In the last elections, BN did not even get the majority of the votes.

Q8:  What are Tun prediction of BN component parties like MCA, GERAKAN and SUPP fate?

Answer:

53.    MCA and Gerakan have been losing support and as one minister said; DAP represents the Chinese (as shown in the last elections). MCA needs Malay votes to win elections. I think Umno thinks it does not need Chinese’ support anymore as shown by the recent redelineation exercise. Even the Chairman of EC confirmed that the delineation was to make constituencies race based. It is unbecoming for the EC Chairman to confirm this publicly. And UMNO seems to prefer PAS. At least we see their Presidents together and very cordial towards each other. The PM and Mustapha Mohammad were photographed together with PAS leaders.

54.    The second Finance Minister said he does not need Chinese and Indian votes to win his seat. Isn’t this clear UMNO does not need MCA, Gerakan, MIC, etc? Are the opposition and the rakyat wrong to believe that UMNO’s plan is just relying on Malay votes hence the redeleniation exercise and the close rapport with PAS.

55.    MCA and the rest of component parties have lost credibility with the voters because they were silent on 1MDB. Their silence on 1MDB reflects their subservient approach towards UMNO. Not a word about Jho Low and they never asked why is he hiding. Why hide unless he has committed some crime? Surely, they must have read all the foreign reports and watch TV news and videos. To non-Malays and urban people they can only come to one conclusion; these parties support corruption and kleptocracy. What kind of example are they giving to the young? Where is their principle in politics and life?

56.    By their silence, it seems that they endorse Kleptocracy which no one in his right mind can accept. The government admitted it adopted the wrong business model on 1MDB. You can’t succeed in a business with RM1 million paid up capital and borrowings of USD11 billion. Ask those in business whether this is what they call business. The PM himself said mistakes were made. But sadly, MCA, Gerakan and MIC have not uttered a word. I was asked on 1MDB years ago and my replies are on record. Why create 1MDB as a sovereign fund when we already have Khazanah?

57.    MCA in the last elections promised not to join the cabinet if Chinese voters rejected them.  They were rejected and later broke their pledge. How can the Chinese trust them? They have no credibility. UMNO seems to reject them as shown by the delineation exercise. And UMNO has also made a cruel attack on Malaysian’s most successful businessman : Robert Kuok. And don’t forget that Robert is from Johor and has helped the Johoreans and Malaysians. What has happened to government’s policy to produce “glocal” businessmen? What other conclusions can you come to when you study the delineation exercise? These parties committed suicide by voting in Parliament.

58.    MCA has insulted Tun Mahathir who was our PM for 22 years by calling him an “old horse”. People get very angry and replied it’s better to have an old horse with brain rather than the young horse with no principles. The latest slogan is “Undi Biru Tua jangan PM tua” but many said that they prefer an old man who fights for the people than a party who is silent on 1MDB and corruption.

59.    Tun Mahathir has proven to be agile and sharp. It is a sign of a nation’s progress that a 93-year-old person is able to sustain a punishing political campaign, offering quality arguments and content. He even challenged Najib to debate with him.

60.    MCA can continue to insult Tun Mahathir but in a recent study conducted by a UK research center, the finding was Tun Mahathir is the most admired man in Malaysia and Najib is no. 14.  [19][20]

Q9:    Is that possibility BN may lose more state? Selangor and Penang outcome?

Answer:

61.    The mood as of now is for change. But whether there will be change will depend on the voters. The conditions, according to many reports are ripe for change. Voters will study the manifestos and listen to speeches. But most importantly, for the parties to win, they have to put the right and clean candidates with integrity. The locals must like the candidates and trust them to be their future wakil rakyat.

62.    Before this, the Opposition used to say BN means “BarangNaik”. BarangNaik has become a reality. Now the Opposition says BN means “Bini Najib”. A vote for BN means a vote for “Bini Najib” as many believe that she is running the government. The opposition says that UMNO believes in RAHMAN (Tunku Abdul Rahman, Abdul Razak, Hussein Onn, Mahathir Mohammad, Abdullah Badawi and Najib Razak, and noticed that Najib’s name is the last) and Najib has selected May 9 as polling day, which falls on Wednesday or “Rabu”. They are now saying “rakyat akan buang UMNO’ on this day. On the May 9, 2016, Philippines has elected new President. On  May 9, 2017, South Korea has elected new President and on 9th May 2018, God willing, Malaysia will elect a new Prime Minister. The rakyat are now giving the PM a big “thank you” for R.A.B.U.

63.    From many feedbacks received, if Mukhriz spends time in Kedah and with Tun Mahathir’s influence, BN will lose Kedah. For Penang and Selangor, PH will retain the states. Both states have sorted out their candidates.

64.    I think BN will retain Perlis. For Perak, if PH has a good candidate for Menteri Besar, they will take back the state. Voters are still very angry with the way BN has “stolen” the state.  YAB Zambry is a popular MB but is quite a loner.

65.    Negeri Sembilan has a long history of infighting. This time it will depend on how UMNO treats local leaders. If this is not handled well, and if PH has good candidate for Menteri Besar, then PH has a slim chance of winning. In Melaka, UMNO is not happy with the leadership but PH must get good candidates to mount a challenge. Did you notice the empty chairs at UMNO’s functions and the open protests in Perlis, Kuala Pilah, Melaka, Tanjong Malim, Batu and Gua Musang? Are these the signs that people are no longer scared?[21][videos]

66.    On Johor, it is a known fact that it is UMNO’s stronghold but PH has a chance if Muhyiddin spends more time there. Shortly after PH launched its logo in Pasir Gudang, TMJ(Tengku Mahkota Johor) has issued a statement but claimed that it is not a political statement.

Image result for Tengku Mahkota Johor

Many read this message as UMNO is losing ground and the Palace has read the situation well. People will make their own judgements. The State Government has commissioned a study on its support. People say that the MB may lose his seat but rakyat is very sympathetic of him. Those who used to work with the MB believe that BN will lose the state. But as I said earlier, the voters want candidates with integrity and with principles. They know what is good for them. Big crowds come out to listen to ceramah from PH but big crowds is meaningless unless they are translated into votes.

67.    The Palace of Selangor and Perlis have issued statements that they are above politics.

68.    It’s a 50/50 chance in Sabah. However, we know that Sabahans are fiercely independent and have changed state government many times. YB Shafie Afdal has spent a lot of time in order to win.

69.    For Sarawak, BN will win.

Q10:    Are Chinese Majority constituencies the hardest part for BN in the coming election?

Answer:

70.    l have answered earlier.

Q11:    What are Tun advice for BN to convince the Chinese support in the GE?

Answer:

71.    BN can’t convince them with the government’s latest delineation exercise as MCA, Gerakan and MIC did not object. You observe that PAS on the other hand objected. MCA, Gerakan and MIC show that they just follow UMNO blindly. At least in 1959, Tun Lim Chong EU was brave to challenge the UMNO leadership. He fought for MCA and did it for the interest of his party and his race. TS Tan Koon Swan too was brave and fought for his community.

72.    We forgot PPP. This party was not happy as the Cameron Highland’s seat was not given to the party. With Umno working with PAS, many guess PPP is no longer relevant and reports say PPP has sacked it’s own president.

Q12/13/14: Any possibility of fallen of additional BN state to opposition? The outcome of front runner state like Johor? Negeri Sembilan? Perak? Kedah?  Did BN have a chance in Selangor ?  Did the issue of 1MDB, RM2.6 billion donation, have any impact on the GE? Especially the rural area and Malay Kampong?

Answer :

73.   l have answered earlier. The donation of RM2.6 billion has not been convincingly rebutted and most of us have read the DOJ report.

74.    Some of the attacks have become counterproductive. Have you heard or come across any political party running down and condemning its own excellent record and then ask voters to vote for the same party? The official and main stream media praised Tun Mahathir on his 22 years premiership but only to condemn him now.

Image result for Rais Yatim and Rafidah Aziz

75.    Some attacks are very crude, un-Malay and un-Malaysian. The attacks confirmed these ex-leaders have a lot of influence. The attacks on Rafidah and Rais Yatim show desperation and these attacks are very personal. UMNO should answer them intelligently and with facts. Both Rafidah and Rais had been in politics for a long period of time. Both of them have served as ministers. They are very intelligent and talk facts. I don’t think it’s a good idea for anyone to challenge them. The ground says that if you touch a hornet’s nest, you will get Rafidah.

76.   The rakyat find personal attacks distasteful. They believe we are very cultured and prepared to hear debates or listen to arguments on policies during both Tun’s time and Najib’s. For example, under Tun Mahathir, issues such as economic growth, FDIs, north/south highway, KLIA, Petronas twin towers, KL tower, Felda, Tabung Haji, Mara, EPF, international relations, operation lalang and sacking of CJ and Forex loss were all raised. Under Najib, economic growth, GST, depreciation of ringgit, high cost of living, BRIM, NFC, PFI, KWAP, GLCs, MRT, ECRL, abolishment of lSA, introduction of POTA, SOSMA, Anti-fake news, AG’s early retirement, 1MDB, judges appointed above the age of retirement, national debts, Parliament, MACC, police, Chinese investments and many more are topics for debate.

77.  Najib can debate with Tun Mahathir, but on economy and finance each side can nominate their representative to debate. These debates would educate voters and will be very informative. I think rakyat want to hear from both under one stage or platform.

TOPIC 2: UMNO

Question 1/2/3  :    How do you see those ex leaders’ effect on states like Kedah, Sabah and Johor?  Cooperation with PAS has always been an issue and it has pros and cons to BN itself, will there be any chance of cooperation between the two parties in certain issues in coming PRU?

Answer:

1. UMNO’s ex leaders still have great influence. Look at the time UMNO spends on attacking ex-leaders especially Tun Mahathir.

2 Both parties need to discuss the role of the caretaker government after parliament is dissolved.   Maybe Dr Rais Yatim can write an opinion so both parties can agree on the ground rules. Can caretaker government give financial help when Parliament is dissolve?

3.  Let’s educate the rakyat with facts and figures so they have the knowledge to make a valued judgment about their own future. This is far better than abusive and crude language and behavior. Politicians must show a good example. We adopt free market practices in economy to grow. Likewise, in politics we must welcome a market of free ideas and live in harmony. Victor Hugo said “markets open to trade and minds open to ideas, will become the sole battlefield”.

4.  On Cooperation with PAS, the leaderships are very close but this is not reflected at the grass roots level. They have been at each other all these years. PAS used to call UMNO members infidels. They prayed separately. In UMNO’s history, when it was weak it would court PAS and invariably PAS would throw its support for UMNO. Once UMNO regained its strength it will find excuses to kick PAS out.

5.  PAS is against GST but in the Parliament, they always supported the government on budgets. This is strange logic. Surely PAS is not confused. As I said, PAS wants to be a kingmaker but they have make it very clear that they will not work with DAP which is a component party under PH. The public conclude that PAS just wants to help BN and in particular UMNO. Yet BN has MCA, Gerakan, MIC and parties in Sarawak and Sabah that oppose the RUU355. BN and in particular UMNO, has delayed this bill for a long time, just to pretend that it supports the bill. UMNO knows that if this bill is allowed to be debated, the non-Muslims will not support and this may cause a split within BN. Sadly, PAS’ leadership keeps giving hope to its members. But most of them know that UMNO is just playing politics.

6.  I have been following speeches made by PAS’ leaders during this campaign. They are putting up 160 candidates which means a party with most candidates. Yet in most speeches they condemn Tun Mahathir and seems to praise Najib, l suppose this is what they mean by “kingmaker”. When they dropped an incumbent, they said “we are resting him, not dropping him”. PAS leaders confuse us with many contradicting statements. They say there is no need to get rid of a person like Najib but just advise him. They want to correct the system from within. If we follow their logic Mugabe should not be toppled. South Africa should have kept Zuma. Indonesia and Philippines made mistakes getting rid of Suharto and Marcos. Brazil and Peru should get advice from PAS. UMNO has made a mistake about Tunku Abdul Rahman and should not have forced him to retire.

7.  It seems like PAS does not understand UMNO’s culture. UMNO’s President always tells members to be loyal to him. Loyalty to the President is their culture, and even when the president makes big blunders everybody should remain loyal. How do you change from within? And who is PAS to advise and change UMNO from within? The rakyat is right to be very suspicious of PAS’ real intention in this election.

8.  The rakyat are not sure if PAS is truly an Islamic party as it seems unwilling to fight corruption. They use the same tone and language as UMNO’s. UMNO uses the word ‘derma’, now PAS also uses the word ‘derma’. When people hear the voice recording involving Nik Abduh, some conclude that PAS and UMNO are working together in this elections. From this picture, people are wondering what Najib is discussing with PAS leaders. Was it the economy or 1MDB? [picture] Some of PAS’ grassroot members are frustrated as they still hold onto the late mandate from Nik Aziz. Nik Aziz who said that “when one befriends UMNO, there will be no other who will befriend him as Allah will only help those who are honest to fight for Islam”

9.  You listen to Hadi and his speeches which, to an ordinary man sounds quiet strange where mostly in support the government.

10.  PAS wants to have Islamic tax on savings, maybe to replace the GST.  I hope PAS has the experts in taxation law so that they can advise how to implement this. lf the government tax the people on savings, it means that there will be double tax because only those who have money save. And these people has already been taxed. If this tax is implemented, will people save their money in our banks and financial institutions or keep it overseas?

11.  Hadi’s statements do not help PAS. Based on his statements, PAS may even lose Kelantan, and Tengku Razaleigh is determined to win Kelantan for BN. However, my journalist friends told me that PAS may retain Kelantan as the Kelantanese hate UMNO. But recently, Rafizi Ramli said that things have changed and PH is gaining ground. People from Kelantan came to see me and told me that PH may have a chance. We can see the split in PAS with Nik Omar joining PH.  In fact all three of their past presidents’ sons have left PAS to join PH.

12.  The close relationship between the two party leaders confuse members. Both agree DAP is a threat to the Malays. This stand is illogical. Agong is Malay, Rulers are Malays. The PM and Menteri Besar are Malays. Majority of rakyat are Malays. By 2030, the numbers of Malays and Bumiputera are expected to increase further but the non-Bumiputera will see reduction. We know that this is just to frighten the rural people and their statements don’t make any sense.

Image result for Forest City Johor

13.  There will only be changes in population if more developments such as Forest City in Johor are built. Forest City has garnered a lot of media attention and was heavily criticized by the Opposition due to its seemingly heavy reliance on mainland Chinese buyers to acquire its myriad apartments. [24] Forest City will only succeed if it brings value to the local population, or else it will quickly become a ghost city [25]. An assistant professor of geography at Montreal’s McGill University told The New York Times that where else in the world has a foreign company created new land in another country, populated it with people from its home country and asserted sovereignty over it? This is a brand-new level of colonial expansion. [26]

14.   Lim Kit Siang told the Malays not to be misled by Umno’s lies as majority of the voters are still Malays and the overwhelming majority of parliamentary and state assembly constituencies are Malay voter-majority constituencies [27]. Statistics show in 1957, the Malay population stood at 49.8 percent, with the Chinese population making up 37.2 percent, and that the numbers have shifted since.  In 2010, the percentage of Malays in the Malaysian population increased to 55.07 percent, Chinese reduced to 24.34 percent, Indians dropped to 7.35 percent, non-Malay bumiputera maintained at 11.94 percent and 1.3 percent others. He also highlighted the Statistics Department’s prediction that the Chinese population will continue to shrink to 19.6 percent in 2023, and 18.9 percent in 2035 and went on to say that Malays won’t lose power.

15.  When Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Hussein Onn opposed Tun Mahathir, he never attack them. He was very civil and he respected their freedom to attack him.  ln fact they supported DAP but Tun Mahathir never told the Malays if Semangat 46 were to win, DAP would run the country. Simply because Tun Mahathir knew that this is nonsense.

16.  Some has looked at the racial ratio of candidates that will compete in the upcoming election. Based on parliamentary seats’ distribution from PH, Malay Muslim candidates are 175, Chinese 37 and Indian 10 people. The propaganda by BN to scare the Malays that the PM will be a Chinese is just baseless and it’s nonsense. Some people from BN and PAS  seems to have these wild imaginations.

17.     Perak Gerakan adviser told the Chinese that they should vote for Umno and BN or else they will have to embrace PAS. Some laughed at this statement and some said that this is a threatening statement made by Gerakan. [28]

18.  Nazri Aziz is pleading with the Chinese voters not to vote DAP and PH. He told the Chinese that BN and the Chinese are together. The Chinese asked MCA and Gerakan is this the same Nazri Aziz who called Robert Kuok a “pondan” and insulted the Chinese? And his cabinet colleague proudly said he does not need Chinese or lndians’ votes to win his seat. They want MCA and Gerakan to explain to them why they must support those who have insulted them. [29]

19.  A former Menteri Besar said it is not impossible for BN to work together with PAS in this election. [30] And there were also claims that PAS is receiving money from UMNO and BN.[23] The rakyat said, no wonder UMNO and PAS is singing the same silly songs.

20.   PH is not BN. Malaysians believe in the leaders of PH; Anwar Ibrahim Mat Sabu and DAP and all have accepted Tun’s leadership. The people know that these leaders are fighting for a common cause; to save the country.

21.   We hope that this election will be the cleanest election possible. We have seen in 2013, laws were breached. Complaints were made but no action taken. An NGO did their own research and their findings were that the election commissions were not carrying out their duties as stipulated in the constitution. The judges were too lenient with the offenders. ln current elections, we read news that the caretaker government is disbursing money to various parties yet the election commissioner seems to be blind on these blatant breaches of election laws.

22.   It has been reported that the UK government has discussed the importance of free and fair elections in the country, according to a series of parliamentary replies given in the UK House of Commons. The UK seems to follow Malaysia’s political situation closely and also encouraged the government to invite external election observes in advance of the 9th May election. [31]

23.   In India, they are very strict and look at what happened to lndra Gandhi. Justice Sinha has convicted then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of electoral malpractices. This judgement was hailed all over the democratic world as a great triumph of an independent judiciary.

24.   The Election Commission of Malaysia has to be independent and must play their role well. I heard some people are calling the EC or SPR (in Malay) as Suruhanjaya Penipu  Rakyat. This is demeaning and tragically sad.

Topic 3: Economy

Questions 1/2/3/4/5      Latest government decision to frozen the luxury property development at the midst of tackle of oversupply of the luxury and commercial property, can Tun enlighten us on these matter. One of the most concern of Malaysia was the skyrocket price of housing, beyond majority Malaysian mean , worsen one, even the “affordable” home, also cannot afford, what’s is Tun comment? What’s are Tun suggestion to overcome these pressing problem?

From the majority benchmark and statistic, Malaysia are on the good position and well manage of country economy, the concern of the peoples, just not have these good feeling or doesn’t experience the positive one, Tun opinion?

The GST and the impacts, some even request restore the SST, what are Tun comment.

Answer:

Image result for Forest City Johor

25.   I am maybe better with property than other subjects. Those who have been watching and following this sector have been worried about the number of luxurious condos being constructed especially in Kuala Lumpur. The same applies to commercial buildings and shopping malls. The government gives the impression that it wants to have as many highrises to show that there is big surge in the growth of the construction sector to fuel the economy. But the reports are out there for people to read. There is a huge glut in both these markets.

26.   The value of the unsold homes – which do not include service apartments and SOHO (small office/home office) units – is 82.8% higher than a year ago, risking the sector to systematic impact in the event of financial shocks.

27.    We read reports about the huge overhang. We are told developers can now get high plot ratios and because of that, the price of land has also jumped. Delay in getting approvals has caused the increase in the holding costs. There is also talk of corruption. These factors have pushed up prices of the end product. Most cannot afford to buy. So, we have empty buildings. Developers even sell with zero down payment and speculators bought many apartments with a view to make a quick profit. Then the price of oil dropped. Most Oil and Gas companies had to cut costs. Petronas was reported to retrench 6000 employees. Major oil companies followed. Speculators decided to cut losses and developers have had to hold the properties.

28.     History tells us if the property sector faces problem, it drags the economy down with it. l don’t know if we have learnt our lesson. The Government recently bought 51% of a building from Mulia group and we are told that the project is good.  If so, why should Mulia sell? It is silly for developers to sell good project, and PNB is also building its new HQ.  Maybe it has a lot of money but that money belongs to the ASN and other unit trust holders.  Is this the right time to build?

29.   The Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH) in its property market report 2017 said there is a rising concern on the overhang for residential units. Bank Negara has sounded its alarm bells over the property gluts. In its 2017 annual report, the central bank said there were 129,052 unsold housing units at the end of third quarter of 2017. More than 80% of the unsold units were priced at RM250,000 above.

30.   The alarm bells from Bank Negara came in a bit late. They should have advise the banks on the risks that they are taking sooner. How come the Treasury too ignores the obvious? They have the experience in monitoring all sectors so that no sector is overheated as this will cause a disruption to the economy and the banking sector.

31.    During my time, l called the stakeholders and got their views and advice and told them the government wanted them to correct the unhealthy situation immediately or I would be forced to take drastic actions to save the economy and the country. The government must not allow the free market to run wild.

32.    I think government has made right move even though l think should have been done much earlier. But what happened to KL city plan 2020? lt was unveiled in 2008 but until now, it has not been gazetted. Now “Selamatkan KL”, a collation of residents association have pressured DBKL to gazette it, but DBKL seems to be in no hurry. Now we understand why developments in KL is very messy. The opposition is saying that if BN can’t manage KL city, how is it going to manage the country?

33.   Malaysians cannot afford to buy houses because salaries are low and there is a mismatch between increase in salaries and expenditures. We are not creating high income jobs. Jobs created are for unskilled group and are taken up by foreigners.

34.     The government wants to help those without houses and have created many agencies but sometimes they overlap. State governments have SEDC which originally just focused on building houses. In the 60s Selangor was very successful. l don’t know what SEDCs do now. Then they also have MBI or Menteri Besar Incorporation. Competition is good provided all these are run professionally and there is no political interference. For example if we are serious we cannot have a politician as chairman. Get a successful developer for that position. We have Prima after Syarikat Perumahan Rakyat Malaysia and earlier Uda. With all these agencies, we still fail to produce houses that the rakyat needs. [32]

35.     The government has made announcements that banks will lend up to RM300,000 for buyers to buy Prima houses. But how many can afford to borrow as their salaries are too low and the cost of living is very high? We have also read reports that there are those who are not eligible getting Prima houses and they are renting them out. Rakyat ask what is new?The opposition makes fun of BN’s manifesto on urban development.

36.      In BN’s Manifesto, it has announced that they will help the people to secure the loans from the banks to purchase “affordable house”. Plainly BN has not learn any lesson and has no clue on how to address and solve the problem. Read what Bank Negara has reported. The income is low and prices are high. The rakyat are not prescribed with the right help. In 2013, the PM said that the government would build 1 million units of affordable houses, with PR1MA to build half of them, but until end of 2017, PR1MA have sold not more than 12,000 units.[30] It clearly shows that the rakyat do not have the purchasing power to buy even the house that is called “affordable” to them.

37.     If Singapore can succeed and we have many successful property companies, it is illogical to see our people cannot afford to own houses. We should ask ourselves what has gone wrong. Wrong policies or wrong people entrusted to deliver?

38.     In Treasury, they have the housing loan division to cater for civil servants. We have MBSB. Then banks have special unit dealing with housing loans and EPF allows some withdrawals for housing yet the rakyat complain they can’t afford to buy houses. l suggest whoever wins the upcoming election must seriously study this problem. They must get input from stakeholders and publish the proposal so the rakyat knows what the government intends to do. They can find out if they are able to afford the houses built for them.

39.      I’d like to give a simple example. My family foundation built 100 houses to be distributed to the poor. They will rent at a nominal rate, just suffice to keep the place clean and to pay for security. After 10 years, these people will get the houses for free. The houses were completed a long time ago. Liability period is over and but until now the state government cannot identify the poor in the district. To date, they managed only to approve 40 people. We asked the mosques to assist and names were given. But sadly until now, the houses are empty. This is my experience.

40.    The economy according to figures released is doing well with respectable growth. The inflation rate is expected to ease to 2.6% this year due to the soothing effect of fuel related items [30]. The PM in early April claimed that the country in 2017 has registered growth of 5.9%, which was among the top gainers in the world. But some economists argued that this growth was below than the average for the emerging and developing Asian countries, which was around 6.5%. In fact, we were behind Vietnam (6.8%) and Philippines (6.7%).

41.    The Government is happy but the rakyat is not happy. The Government says the Opposition is politicking when it tells the rakyat that the country is about to be bankrupt. As l said earlier, in order to settle this, we must hold a debate and let the rakyat listen and make their own conclusions. Rakyat is not happy about the high cost of living. Even if there is growth, they don’t feel it. Any policy must benefit the rakyat. Rakyat must feel they benefit from it.

42.        The government does not care about this. Instead, they claimed that they have successfully curb inflation below 3% for the last 8 years. The press should ask the housewives if they agree inflation is 3%. But in reality, the rakyat is suffering from the price increase of necessary items. As compared to 2010, data for 2018 has shown that the price of chicken has increase by 38.6%, meat by 80.9%, cooking oil by 61.2%, sugar by 78.8% and flour by 24.4%. The price of toll has increase by the range of 30 to 80% and fuel by 22%. [

43.        We can’t blame the rakyat for complaining. The statistic and the reality doesn’t match. Household income between year 2009 and 2016 has increased at a slower rate of 73% as compared to the household expenditure of about 84%. The salary of the middle income earner has only increased by only RM17 in 2016. More than half of working Malaysians earn less than RM1700 per month. This is national data and statistic. Clearly rakyat not feeling the benefit of the economic development. A Grab driver told me recently, if the economy is as good as proclaimed by the government, why now the rakyat has to work two jobs?

44.      Hadi said the problem with the economy today started in the 1980s. In other words, Hadi is now admitting that the economy is not doing well. I was the minister in the 2nd half of the 1980s. Hadi should give details to this claim and check the records before making any statements. Hadi continues to say that these problems started from those who are now leading PH. He must be referring to Tun Mahathir. But Tun Mahathir has retired in 2003. If Umno and BN cannot handle the economy for the past 15 years and still blaming Tun Mahathir for their inefficiency, then BN doesn’t deserve to continue running the country.

45.        Let the economists explain. lf growth is based on borrowing, it can never sustain. From the year 2009 to 2017, the national debt has increase to an average of 11% per year. That is almost double from the average rate of the country’s economic growth of 4.7%. This does not take into account the debts on MRT, ECRL and few others.

Image result for ECRLMalaysia

46.     On ECRL, the Kelantanese say that they have have never ask for ECRL and are very surprised that BN is so eager to have this project. They checked and found that cost to Chinese contractor was RM 55 billion and may increase. Some said that the local contractors can do around RM 32 billion and many wonder why BN is willing to pay more.

47.     The Treasury Secretary General said that the GST waiver would ensure that the cost would not go beyond RM55 billion. This explanation is not acceptable. The local contractors who build roads, hospitals and other infrastructure complains that they have to pay GST. Some said “kita belisimen, paku pun kena GST”.[36] Why is the double standard? So with GST the actual cost for ECRL is higher and that is the reason why the government is not imposing GST for this project? What is puzzling is why the civil servants are replying? How do I distort the facts as I am repeating them?

48.    Kelantanese are not happy with the cost of ECRL. They said the high cost will result in higher ticket price and its better to fly with Air Asia. Some argued that if BN is really sincere, why not use that RM55 billion to develop Kelantan. This is their line of campaign against the government.

49.       Lots of money is promised, a bit is now given, but the balance will be given only if BN gets supports and wins the election. Is this right? Where does the government gets the money? Is this part of the budget? As it stands, the additional increase in operational expenditures from the supplementary budget, higher BR1M payout and higher pay for the civil servants will be more than projected revenue. This is fiscally irresponsible. How are we going to pay? We can’t borrow for operational expenses, borrowing is only allowed for development purposes.

50.      YB Nurul Izzah has challenged the PM to reveal the details of all the country’s investments by China. The rakyat has the rights to know of such deals, because they are the “main stakeholder,” especially when it involves billions of ringgit worth of taxpayers’ money. The rakyat cannot understand why the government is reluctant to reveal these information.

51.      Najib says that the country would go bankrupt if the opposition wins, and the stock market or the currency will drop. He says removal of GST will cripple the country. Well, the stock market barely moved between 2013 and 2017, and the ringgit has lost almost one-third of its value in the last six years against the US Dollar. Our foreign reserves in USD is lower now than in 2008. This happens during BN administration, not PH. We continue to be in deficit. Even with GST, we are still in deficit. Debt continues to increase. Don’t forget that when the government borrows, the rakyat has to pay. BN’s mantra that ‘wang GST dikembalikankepada rakyat’ is foolish. Rakyat is asking, there was no GST before and yet we can build this country. GST was introduced 3 years ago and for the last 57 years, we were doing fine. Why now with GST our lives are getting harder? The government so far, is unable to provide convincing answers.

52.      BN asked, where would PH finds the money if we remove GST. But if we end corruption and cut wastages, it would be more than enough to cover the shortfall from the removal of GST. We must acknowledge that the problem is debt and spending, and yes it is a huge challenge. But the challenge can be overcome and these exercises requires a competent team at the ministry of finance, which in the opinion of most is currently not there. However, PH is confident that theywill put in their best people, all the experts and economic team with experience and expertise to help the Treasury. Tun Mahathir and Anwar were both the Ministers of Finance.

53.      The Mufti of Pahang said that PH specifically DAP has to apologize to the people for breaking their promises in the last election. The Mufti went on to say that it’s against Islamic teaching for one to break his promises but we wonder why this is applicable to PH only? BN has been breaking its promises since it won the election. Ahmad Maslan promised that with GST, the price will go down. This is not happening. Now we ask the Mufti, doesn’t BN too need to apologize to the people? [37]

54.      The Mufti of Negeri Sembilan said he is worried that Tun Mahathir will become a “munafik” or “hypocrite and he gave an example of Abdullah Ubay; who went against the instruction of Prophet Muhammed in one of Islamic wars. The opposition has replied to the Mufti and also asked why are the Muftis taking sides in politics?[38]

55.     The other day, I saw on Sinar TV a debate was held between BN’s rep and the rep from the opposition. To me, it was good. Let the leaders debate too. If the youth dare and are willing to debate live in media, why BN leaders refuse to accept the challenge?

56.     Both sides must not be overly confident. They must listen to the voices of the rakyat. In politics, there are full of dramas. But just remember the words of Plato where he said “the price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men”. So go out and vote.

 

 

 

Malaysia GE-14: Voting for Islamisms beyond the ballot box


April 30, 2018

Malaysia GE-14: Voting for Islamisms beyond the ballot box

 

Image result for Islam beyond the ballot box

Political Islam at GE-14 isn’t just a race between parties as democratisation throws up alliances and fractures to define Muslim society.

Malaysia’s 14th General Election (GE-14) is not so much a contest between Malays and non-Malays, Muslims and non-Muslims, Islamists and secularists, but more about various competitions of ideas among Muslims of different backgrounds.

With Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM, or Malaysian United Indigenous Party) in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) opposition coalition, this election is not a clear-cut contestation between racialised and non-racial politics. With the Islamist party PAS opting out of the opposition group to form its own bloc, and the PAS breakaway Amanah positioning itself as an alternative to PAS, it’s unclear how Islamist-minded Muslims will vote on May  9 at GE-14.

Those Malays with Bumiputera policies in mind might vote for the ruling UMNO or PPBM, while Islamist-minded voters might vote for PAS, Amanah, and Anwar Ibrahim’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR). Of course, Islamism and Bumiputraism do not necessarily oppose each other, and in some cases there are overlaps. Such crisscrossing and fluidity of Malay Muslim politics makes this GE14 highly unpredictable.

Image result for political islam in malaysia

 

Political Islam in Malaysia is not just about an Islamisation race between PAS and UMNO, and there are new, old, and emerging actors in shaping discourses and practices of political Islam today. Instead of a dichotomy between Islamism and post-Islamism, the various spectrums of political Islam are results of entanglements between democratisation and Islamisation processes in Muslim societies.

With the diversity and complexity of political Islam across the different regions of Malaysia, there are political parties, non-government organisations, and popular preachers competing to win over urban Muslim support. We should not assume that there is a clear-cut divide between rural and urban Muslims, or that urban Muslims are a monolithic entity—there are differences depending on educational background and socio-economic status.

Positioning itself as a “third force” and a kingmaker, PAS is struggling to keep its support base intact, ensuring it remains as Malaysia’s only influential Islamic party. Besides Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah, Selangor is another state where PAS has a strong base among Muslims, with support from blue-collar workers to the middle class and professionals. However, many of these urban pious Muslims are not hardcore PAS supporters—at GE-14 they might also vote for Amanah and PKR, as these two parties also have Islamic credentials.

In order to engage with its middle class and youth members, as well as to win over support from a broader set of pious Muslims, PAS leadership knows its religious credentials alone are not enough. Party strategists have recently introduced the idea of “technocratic government” (kerajaan teknorat) and running events such as town hall meetings featuring the party’s youth leaders from professional backgrounds. Yet on other occasions many party ulama and ustaz often declare that PAS is the only party upholding the Islamic agenda in Malaysia, that “Undi PAS, dapat pahala” (Vote PAS, gain rewards in the afterlife). A vote for PAS is akin to a ticket to heaven.

Even though the PAS manifesto does not highlight the controversial parliamentary amendment of the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (better known in the public debate as RUU 355), in various ceramah (rallies) leaders often mention RUU355 to justify PAS’ split from its former alliance, Pakatan Rakyat, and its criticisms of stalwart opposition party Democratic Action Party (DAP) for not respecting Islam. In industrialised Selangor, PAS is fielding a mixture of professionals and Islamic preachers as candidates, including a non-Muslim Malaysian Chinese. However, despite the perceived warming relations with UMNO, there is dissatisfaction towards PAS’ current leadership and the inconsistent party strategy may cause some of its members to quietly switch their support to PH.

 

With the leadership of former PAS progressives and activists from IKRAM (an Islamic NGO), Amanah is positioning itself as an Islamic alternative to PAS. Former PAS and IKRAM leaders might have different opinions on the kind of Islamism Amanah should represent, but they in general agree that the party is endorsing a more inclusive and progressive Islamic agenda, as well as focusing on substance instead of form. Because of this, Amanah leaders advocate Maqasid Syariah, a concept that highlights Islamic values such as social justice, good governance, and multicultural co-existence. The party also claims to represent the spirit of the late Tok Guru Nik Aziz, the highly respected former PAS spiritual leader and Kelantan Chief Minister.

So far, Amanah has not broken through PAS’ traditional influence in Islamic schools and mosques. But Amanah has been running extensive campaigns on social media to win over pious Muslims while seeking allies in broader Malaysian society. Amanah did not perform well in two 2016 by-elections but that failure is not a good indicator of the party’s prospects at GE14, especially in urban and peri-urban seats. The nomination of Nik Omar, the eldest son of Nik Aziz, as a candidate of Amanah in Kelantan has also boosted the party’s religious credentials among pious Muslim voters.

Often overlooked as a party with Islamic credentials is PKR. The Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement (Angaktan Belia Islam Malaysia, or ABIM) has played an important role along with other more secular forces in establishing this multi-racial party. The party’s de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim positions himself as a “Muslim democrat”, and there are many Malay Muslim leaders with strong Islamic backgrounds in the party, many of them activists from ABIM and IKRAM.

Image result for political islam in malaysia

ISMA’s President Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman. The right-wing Malay Muslim movement has a growing base of young professionals.

Islamic NGOs such as ABIM, IKRAM and ISMA (Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia, or Malaysian Muslim Solidarity) have helped shape the practices of political Islam in Malaysia. These three tarbiyah and dakwah organisations have, in different ways, been influenced by the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. Closely associated with Anwar Ibrahim, ABIM has gone through different political engagements at different times over the years. ABIM has taken a moderate approach to political Islam, balancing between global Islamic aspirations with local traditions.

Many of its politically active current and former members are with PKR, some are in Amanah and, to a lesser extent, in PAS and in UMNO. Some ABIM leaders also play important roles in the operation of Darul Ehsan Institute (IDE), a think tank associated with the PKR-led Selangor state government. IDE promotes the idea of Maqasid Syariah and claims that the Selangor government is implementing Islamic values with its good governance. It is important to note that caretaker prime minister Najib Razak is also claiming that the federal government is fulfilling Maqasid Syariah. What constitutes Maqasid Syariah, and how this has been deployed by different groups and for different reasons deserves further analysis.

IKRAM, formerly Jemaah Islam Malaysia (JIM), is another active player in contemporary Malaysian Muslim politics. IKRAM is ideologically rooted in the Muslim Brotherhood. It has close relations with the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) in Indonesia. Yet, unlike PKS which is perceived as being exclusive and conservative in Indonesia, IKRAM is seen in a Malaysian context as being inclusive and progressive. It has developed close relationships with non-Muslims in various social movements such as Bersih 2.0, the electoral reform group. A wing of IKRAM, Hidayah, has also been running Chinese New Year celebrations in mosques, to promote the idea that Islam is a blessing for all.

Since 1998, when the sacking and jailing of Anwar Ibrahim sparked off the reformasi movement in Malaysia, some IKRAM activists joined opposition politics, mainly in PAS and PKR. In 2015, together with former PAS leaders, IKRAM members played a vital role in the forming of Amanah. Almost half of the grassroots leaders of Amanah have IKRAM backgrounds. In GE14, many IKRAM members are campaigning for the opposition coalition, especially for Amanah candidates. Citing Indonesia as an example, many Amanah and IKRAM leaders have reasoned that it would be good for Malaysia to have more than just one Islamic party. The election results will show if Amanah can legitimise itself as an Islamic alternative to PAS. A big challenge for Amanah and also IKRAM is that their leaders and members are mainly from the educated urban middle class and professionals, raising questions whether they can appeal to the broader Malay Muslim community.

Even though its exclusionary messages do not represent the views of many Malay Muslims, ISMA has made news headlines for its controversial statements, for example when it insulted Chinese Malaysians by calling them foreigners (pendatang). ISMA shares similar features as IKRAM, as both groups are influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood and their members are mostly educated, urban Muslim middle classes and professionals. Yet, unlike IKRAM, ISMA is more Malay-centric and less inclusive. In the previous 13th general election (GE13), ISMA contested in some seats as a “third force” under the flag of Berjasa, a small Islamic party, because it disagreed with PAS’ electoral pact with DAP. In this GE14, ISMA withdrew itself from contesting, instead positioning itself as an electoral pressure group.

ISMA launched a campaign called “Voter Awareness Movement” (Gerakan Pengundi Sedar, or GPS) and urged Muslims to vote for “credible Muslim candidates” (calon Muslim berwibawa). According to ISMA, a credible Muslim leader should be free from corruption, morally good, and uphold the Malay Muslim agenda. Even though it claims to be neutral, ISMA has often criticised the DAP and Muslim leaders in the opposition coalition. As its online campaigns have shown, ISMA tries to stimulate moral panic (over issues such as LGBT rights and alcohol consumption) and encourages a siege mentality among Malay Muslims (over issues such as alleged Christianisation and losing political power to “foreigners”). However, given that PH has accommodated elements of Bumiputraism and Islamism, the ISMA campaign is unlikely to have a major impact among Muslim voters.

In Indonesia, even though it did not run for elections, Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) was politically influential, and it was a key actor behind the mobilisation against former Indonesian governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (popularly known as Ahok). However, in Malaysia, despite gaining followers, the local branch of this anti-democracy, transnational Islamist group, Hizbut Tahrir Malaysia (HTM), has had very little impact on Malaysian politics.

Image result for tok guru nik aziz

Besides political parties and NGOs, many Muslim preachers and intellectuals with strong Islamic credential have also contributed to the dynamic of political Islam in Malaysia. Popular preacher Ustaz Ahmad Dusuki Abd Rani is running for PAS in Kota Anggerik, a state assembly seat in Shah Alam. Ustaz Ahmad Dusuki often gives religious talks in mosques, on TV and radio stations, and has a large number of social media followers – more than one million on Facebook and 200,000 on Instagram. Yet it’s uncertain whether his popularity will translate into electoral support. Another celebrity preacher Ustaz Azhar Idrus, despite not contesting, frequently appears at PAS events. Of course, not all Muslim preachers are PAS supporters. For example, Perlis Mufti Mohd Asri Zainal Abidin (Dr Maza) and popular preacher Rozaimi Ramle are perceived as being critical towards PAS and sometimes subtly giving their support to Pakatan Harapan.
Image result for Dr Maza

Perlis Mufti Mohd Asri Zainal Abidin (Dr Maza)

There are many Muslim activists and intellectuals in Amanah and PKR. Recently, Maszlee Malik, a prominent Muslim intellectual, lecturer and activist joined PPBM and is running as a candidate for a parliament seat in Johor state. He is also an active IKRAM member. In UMNO, the leading Islamic figure is Asyraf Wajdi, who is contesting in Kelantan. He was the former Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, in charge of religious affairs. He was once the president of PKPIM, a student wing of ABIM. Both Maszlee Malik and Asyrat Wajdi were former lecturers at the International Islamic University of Malaysia.

In short, besides PAS, there are many actors in political parties and NGOs, and preachers who are playing increasingly important roles in reshaping discourses and practices of political Islam in Malaysia. Which version of political Islam is more appealing among pious urban Muslims? Although Islam is a prominent issue, it is not the only determining factor in Muslims’ voting decision. The election results may not entirely reflect what Malaysian Muslims think of Islamism, but it might be a good indicator of the development and transformation of political Islam in Malaysia.

A ‘Malay Malaysia’, but in what sense Islamic?


March 30, 2018

A ‘Malay Malaysia’, but in what sense Islamic?

by Anthony Milner

http://www.newmandala.org/malay-malaysia-sense-islamic/

Image result for Islamic Malaysia

The Najib government needs to win new legitimacy at GE-14 if it’s to juggle Malay, Islamic, and royal claims, amid a restive East Malaysia.

The government’s determination to focus on the Malay community is shrewd politics, but it also plays into a major transformation taking place in Malaysia, the consolidation of a specifically Malay Malaysia.

What exactly this Malaysia will look like is not certain, but there is a demand for a stronger Islamic role. The Malayisation process has been underway for decades, and is partly a matter of demographic change. At the time of independence (1957), Malays were only about half of the country’s population; today they are a clear majority in Peninsular Malaysia, and together with other indigenous peoples (the bumiputra, “sons of the soil”) make up over 68 per cent of the Malaysian total. Building a Malay Malaysia will entail reconsideration of the nation’s founding document.

The (Najib) government’s determination to focus on the Malay community is shrewd politics, but it also plays into a major transformation taking place in Malaysia, the consolidation of a specifically Malay Malaysia.–Milner

Image result for Islamic Malaysia

The Future of an inclusive, secular and liberal Malaysian Malaysia is bleak.

At a glance, the constitution of 1957 displays the strong influence of the English-speaking world, with its Westminster parliamentary system and Australian/United States federal structure, and has been said to imply a “liberal-democratic order”. But the constitution also includes local formulations that over time have influenced Malaysia’s identity as a nation, and they all bear on the process of building a more Malay nation.

First, the “sovereignty, prerogatives, powers and jurisdiction” of the nine monarchs of Malaysia are stressed, and in a manner conveying (in the words of one prominent legal scholar) that the role of the monarch “far exceeds” specific “constitutional provisions” [fn1]. Second, “the Malays” are declared to have a “special position” in the country, and are assured a particular share of appointments in public service and educational opportunities. Moreover, the constitution names Malay as the “national language”. Third, although the constitution is sometimes seen as inaugurating a secular polity, and declares itself to be “the supreme law of the Federation”, it contains the potent but confusing statement that Islam is “the religion of the Federation”. Multiple monarchy, Malay pre-eminence, and Islamic priority: these features together help make Malaysia internationally distinctive. The meaning and significance of each element, however, continue to be debated.

Image result for Jamal Yunos and The Red ShirtsUMNO’s Jamal Yunos and his Red Shirts are endorsed by Prime Minister  Najib Razak

 

 

Following race riots between non-Malay (Chinese and Indian) and Malay Malaysians in 1969, the Malay character of the country was sharpened, with a greater stress on the Malay language and culture, as well as promoting Malay economic opportunities. In the 1980s the concept of “ketuanan Melayu”, often translated as “Malay dominance”, was enunciated. Besides UMNO, other organisations such as Perkasa (formed in 2008) and more recently the Red Shirts have played an activist role in promoting Malay rights. With respect to religious identity, Pas has long urged a greater role for Islamic doctrine in the legal system and Malay society generally. Particularly during the Mahathir administration (1981–2003), the government itself instituted policies to enhance the role of Islam, for instance through the creation of an Islamic bank and an Islamic university, and the strengthening of the role of Islamic courts.

Alongside the Najib administration’s emphasis on moderation internationally, something welcomed especially in Western countries, the domestic focus on gaining Malay support has encouraged less-moderate initiatives. In August a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said atheists should be “hunted down” and returned “to their faith”. The government also appeared to assist the attempt by Pas to strengthen the Islamic criminal code (hudud) by empowering shariah courts to impose heavier punishments. A further move was the change in leadership of PM Najib’s Global Movement of Moderates, established to further the government’s moderation objectives. The new CEO (appointed in 2015), Nasharudin Mat Isa, formerly a PAS Deputy President, soon focused on how best to implement and explain hudud law in the country. “Malaysia being a Muslim state,” he said, “we can be a model of how that kind of law is implemented in a modern society.” Consistent with this appointment, the Prime Minister explained that moderation would now be pursued on the basis of shariah principles and insisted that “humanism and secularism as well as liberalism” were a “threat to Islam”.

Image result for Book Breaking the Silence: Voices of Moderation

 

The July 2017 banning of the book Breaking the Silence: Voices of Moderation, produced by a group of prominent moderate Muslims called the G25, also illustrated the changing religious climate. In Malaysia’s “constitutional democracy,” the book insists, the federal constitution is the “supreme law of the country,” and “any law enacted, including Islamic laws,” must not “violate the Constitution,” with its stress on such “fundamental liberties” as the “rights to freedom of expression and worship”. Among those opposing the ban, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) argued that the book’s contents were in line with PM Najib’s advocacy of moderation (wasatiyyah) in Islam.

There have been protests from the non-Malay partners in the ruling coalition about the government’s support for religious conservatism. “Malaysia is a secular country,” an officer of the Malaysian Chinese Association declared in March 2017, insisting that the federal constitution requires “defending all religions.” Faced with such views, in March the government backed away from actually sponsoring the hudud bill introduced by PAS. Despite such reversals, however, the momentum toward Islamisation is strong. In 2017, for instance, public whipping was introduced in Kelantan state; and Pahang state adopted the Islamic concept of diyat, which allows a victim’s family to influence sentencing involving the death penalty. Considering these initiatives, it is important to take note of polling that suggests strong support in the Malay community for religious conservatism. Furthermore, in the view of some Islamic activists, current religious initiatives merely follow a long history of burgeoning Islamisation, reaching back before British intervention in the 19th century.

The Constitution’s reference to Islam as “the religion of the Federation” is also increasingly highlighted—placed above the claim that the Constitution itself is “the supreme law”—and seen as a basis for arguing (as a former chief justice did this year) that “anything which is in contradiction to Islam is unconstitutional”. One matter clear in the Constitution is that the nine rulers are “the Head of the religion of Islam” in their respective states. The Conference of Rulers—which in late 2015, in the context of the 1MDB investigation, had questioned the “government’s credibility and integrity in administrating the country”—took an assertive stand on religious matters in October 2017. The Johor sultan had condemned a launderette for adopting a Muslim-only policy. Johor, he said, “belongs to all races and faiths” and is “not a Taliban state.” In response, a religious teacher who supported the ban on non-Muslims insisted that “we are a Muslim country,” and that in taking a stand he was “carrying out my responsibility to spread Islamic teachings.” The Conference of Rulers then stated its concern to protect “the harmony that currently exists within our multi-religious and multi-ethnic society.”

Related

GE14: the polls, the money, the stakes

Ibrahim Suffian, Terence Gomez, Fadiah Nadwa Fikri and Amrita Malhi talk with Kean Wong about what’s at stake in Malaysia’s 2018 elections. 20 March, 2018

 

 

The Rulers were conveying that, despite being “heads” of Islam, and despite the King’s constitutional duty to “safeguard the special position of the Malays,” they consider themselves to be reigning over all their subjects, irrespective of ethnicity. The Constitution, in fact, refers to “rulers,” not “Malay rulers,” and there is a long record of Malaysian rulers speaking in an ethnically inclusive manner. Just what role the rulers might play in shaping a Malay Malaysia, however, will depend not only on their ability to attract non-Malay support but also on their skill in handling the increase in both Islamic and Malay nationalist demands.

If the Najib government fails to achieve a comfortable victory in the coming election, the task of accommodating and juggling Malay, Islamic, and royal claims—and also the growing demand of the East Malaysian states for greater autonomy—will be all the more formidable.–Milner

Malaysia is a society in transition. Malay ethnic demands, far-reaching Islamic aspirations, and royal assertiveness—each in its particular way challenges the liberal, secular structure that many saw being ushered in with the 1957 constitution. These concepts are all, however, embedded in that document—waiting, as it were, for future opportunity. If the Najib government fails to achieve a comfortable victory in the coming election, the task of accommodating and juggling Malay, Islamic, and royal claims—and also the growing demand of the East Malaysian states for greater autonomy—will be all the more formidable.

[1] Raja Azlan Shah, ‘‘The Role of Constitutional Rulers in Malaysia,’’ in F. A. Trindade and H. P. Lee (eds.), The Constitution of Malaysia: Further Perspectives and Developments (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1986): 89.

[2] Arfa Yunus, ‘‘Laws in Contradiction to Islamic Laws are Void, Says Former Chief Justice,’’ New Straits Times, March 25, 2017

This excerpt is from ‘Malaysia in 2017: Clever Politics, Deeper Transformation’, Asian Survey, Vol. 58, Number 1.

Women, Politics and Online Abuse


March 13, 2018

Women, Politics and Online Abuse

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

“What needs to be addressed is how government-sanctioned platforms that could have been used to preach tolerance, love and respect are instead being used to spread evil gospels that preach hatred and overzealous bigotry.”
– Syerleena Abdul Rashid

COMMENT | The online abuse against DAP’s Syerleena Abdul Rashid is typical of the mob mentality of those who attack someone like Maryam Lee or anyone else that goes against the groupthink that certain quarters feel the need of defending.

When Gerakan’s Raja Sara Petra got into a skirmish with DAP’s Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud of DAP a couple of years back, the online abuse she faced was horrific, considering the issue in contention was claims made by Dyana of how Umno had “cheated the Malays.”

While the mob mentality of the opposition revolves around specific narratives, that of establishment partisans usually centres on the role of race and religion and how opposition operatives, either political or social, are eschewing their traditional roles.

Image result for azalina osman said

If you read some of the comments whenever someone like UMNO’s Azalina Othman Said, for instance, says anything, and contrast this with the comments received by opposition operatives like Syerleena, both display a level of misogyny that ironically opposition supporters do not see or seem to understand.

Women who participate in politics from both sides of the political divide tell me that the level of abuse they receive online is far worse than the men, who more or less say the same thing. We are talking about a specific type of hate here.

When opposition women receive abuse from certain quarters of the online community, there are outpourings of sympathy, but when it comes to pro-establishment women, they are reminded that not to expect any sympathy when they put themselves in the position of being “criticised.”

Rational discourse impossible

And if you are a Muslim woman, it is very much worse. Last year the BBC ran an article titled “The online abuse hurled at Malaysia’s Muslim women,” which included quotes from not only Dyana (photo), but also Maryam.

It begins with this, and just gets more depressing: “‘We are seeing a trend where Muslim women (particularly Malay-Muslims) are targeted in a different way, especially when it comes to how they present themselves,’ says Juana Jaafar, a women’s rights advocate who followed the case of the 15-year-old girl. Juana says the attacks became so brutal for the girl, she was forced to delete her account and seek help offline.”

The problem with all this online abuse, either from establishment or opposition partisans, is that it makes rational discourse impossible. Especially when it comes to reforming a religion or challenging the status quo, women, more often than not – especially those who are Muslim – are at the forefront.

Either conservative or liberal, Muslim women are targets for what they say by anonymous cretins, who have no problem spewing racial or religious filth and smugly thinking that are on the “right” side.

When someone like Syerleena criticises the religious institutions which have a profound impact on the lives of Muslims in this country, it is a broader criticism on religious institutions who are do not have the ability to sanction adherents, but which operate on a different level.

For example, I know of many women who self-identify as Hindu or Christian who have been on the receiving end of online and real-life abuse from their communities, because their activism challenges the status quo when it comes to the respective religion and cultures.

As more women participate in the political and religious process of this country, the more opportunities for online and real life abuse they face. Many political operatives in the opposition, for instance, have found themselves on the receiving end of state-sponsored online abuse.

I say state-sponsored because inevitably the fight against the patriarchy here in Malaysia revolves around the state-sponsored religion, which is used as a tool to enforce compliance and obedience in the Malay polity, with the state security apparatus having very little interest in carrying out their obligations towards women they deem are bringing shame to their culture and religion.

Lure of power

It is a good thing that Hindu, Christian and Buddhist religious institutions do not have the same power of the state when it comes to enforcing dogma, or it would be even worse. Can you imagine if the other religions enjoyed the privileges of the state as Islam does?

Seriously, can you imagine being under the watchful gaze of religious departments or religious police and having to be wary of your fellow countrymen who watch your every move and see nothing wrong in telling you that you are going against religion and culture. Can you imagine living like that every single day of your life?

If you have this power, especially of men over women, would you want to give it up? The state and its religious bureaucrats, certainly do not want to. The simmering tensions of what I refer to as the deep Islamic state certainly despises women and men who choose to go against the patriarchy.

I am encouraged that the opposition at least makes an attempt to tackle these issues. The opposition should have a clear strategy when it comes to women’s issues in this country. After all, if I am not mistaken, Muslim women are a big demographic when it comes to the education in this country, meaning there are more women in educational establishments, and thus are fertile ground to mine for votes and change mindsets, while the men in their community don their red shirts and fight the yellow peril.

Indeed, the women’s vote could be a major voting block for opposition operatives already operating under the restrictions and electoral legerdemain of the state.

To be honest, I am sick and tired of hearing how Muslim political operatives either defend the status quo or waffle on about how we need to respect religious differences.

I end this piece with an excerpt from an article by DAP’s Yeo Bee Yin last year about the patriarchy and the rape culture in Malaysia – “Deep down, at the core of UMNO’s Shabudin Yahaya’s ‘marrying the rapist’ and ‘nine-year-old can wed’ notions, are not only his personal perversion but also the manifestation of the deep-rooted patriarchy in Malaysian society.”

 

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.