Malaysia’s ideological disease terrorises all the same

Aren’t we tired of supporting leaders and government who do not have a clear and comprehensive understanding of sustainability? In Malaysia, we are destroying the environment, as if there is a Planet B we can move to.

Malaysia’s ideological disease terrorises all the same

March 24, 2019

by Dr. Azly Rahman


COMMENT | My previous column warning of inciteful preaching, which reached 30,000 readers in three days, was removed from Facebook for “violating community standards.”

As if there is a contagious ideological disease plaguing those who do not understand what the message of peace looks like. Somebody didn’t like my message of peace. Fine. I’ll continue writing. I’ll continue to wage peace using the internet, still a powerful medium of dialogue.

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There was some consolation though: Such a beautiful Friday prayer session I saw live from New Zealand. Poignant and filled immensely with the message of peace. Such a beautiful display of respect and love by New Zealanders  including Prime Minister J. Arden being there to comfort Muslims who lost their loved ones.

In a 2017 study on the “most Islamic country in the world,” New Zealand was at the top spot, and Saudi Arabia in comparison, was 47th in the list. This is the meaning of an Islamic state and the Islamicity of it: social justice, human rights, sustainability and personal freedom – the antidote to terrorism, to ideological diseases.

Religious aggression

I thought of this question this week: of peace, conflict, and the root cause of terrorism, as well as where the country is going to when it comes to environmental degradation.

How shameful America is when it comes to gun control laws, compared to New Zealand’s ban on assault rifles.

Of course, the issue is complex because it is about rights: to bear arms, and how American are so institutionalised about amendments that protect this and that right. But I do believe that gun control begins with parents banning toy guns in the house – violence need not be a plaything.

We are living in a world where a contagious disease of a different kind exists: ideology. Of the link between consciousness, culture, and economic conditions. This manifests in violence that has become more structural or unseen, engulfing the minds of the masses.

Consider the advancement of terrorism in our region, as Islamic State moves its operations to Southeast Asia. Poverty and lack of exposure to liberal education are the main causes of the rise of terrorism. Address these, as they contribute to the advancement of this ideological disease.

My advice to Muslims: Preach not about Islam if you still have a poor understanding of the wisdom of it. Of the concept of the four branches of knowledge, shariat-tariqat-hakikat-makrifat. Just live a life based on that.

If every Muslim preaches to himself/herself and to the family first, we don’t need preachers preaching jihad.

Private religion. The thousand-year-old Holy War seem to be reenacting globally in newer forms and styles, with the semiotics and semantics of terror. And now, we want to bring back IS fighters, lack the will to prosecute polluters and harbour hate preachers. What’s wrong with us?

Environmental aggression

Consider the environmental terrorism we are witnessing. Of what happened recently in Pasir Gudang.

Malaysians need to know the companies that pollute rivers and dump waste. They need to also know which powerful people own them. The pollution in Pasir Gudang could have killed dozens of schoolchildren and citizens. Which company is responsible?

The government should go after companies that pollute and poison the rivers, as well as the ones that destroy our rainforests and mangrove reserves. Name the companies involved in destroying our environment and which powerful and wealthy people own them.

The media should be more active in exposing the interlocking directorships of these corporate criminals destroying us. Name the company that dumped poison into Sungai Kim Kim near my hometown. Who owns it? Johoreans want to know!

Unless the Pakatan Harapan government doesn’t care, it must help citizens fight ecological terrorists – the companies that destroy our environment. States such as Johor seem to be ravaged by mindless industrialists who do not care about environmental impact.

Aren’t we tired of supporting leaders and government who do not have a clear and comprehensive understanding of sustainability? In Malaysia, we are destroying the environment, as if there is a Planet B we can move to.

Parent action groups in Malaysian education and NGOs must help parents and citizens in Pasir Gudang go after those responsible. Our children must be given the right to demand a saner, cleaner, and safer planet.

Economic aggression

As we speak, we are reading more about how gung-ho our economic plans are. Bordering on economic terrorism, a nucleus in this contagious ideological disease.

You pour in billions of ringgit into Kedah, for example, and let East Malaysia continue to live in poverty?

Is this the new regime’s smartest developmentalist ideology? Or the same old system of patronage? I grab power, I design projects, my party members benefit. This ideology of developmentalism is not sustainable if it continues to create haves and have-nots in society.

Worse, these projects created and monopolised by politicians are to ensure their children will be well-fed for seven generations. A shrewd Machiavellian will have the different groups fight over crumbs and illusions, while he orchestrates the biggest robbery.

Race and religion

While all these racial and religious issues are being played up, huge businesses dealings are being made by politicians. As usual.

We have to teach the masses to see beyond false consciousness, to identify this contagious ideological diseases. In Malaysia, politicians use religious preachers as spiritual trouble makers, to blind the people of real race and class issues.

Terrorism can only be eliminated when all religions are seen as equal and practical, and class divisions and poverty ended.

The more you give power and your ears to the TV preacher, the more he’ll become big headed. All television evangelists wish to make money, whether you call it Peace TV or God’s Cable Channel. Big business for the gullible.

Today, everybody wants to push their own truth, not knowing that everyone is a truth in itself to be constructed. At my age, the dialogues of religion, spirituality, existentialism happen only within me, bored I am of public forums on truth.

All religions need not be defended if the devotees keep their understanding to themselves and enjoy the journey. You bring in a radical preacher into your country, he’ll bring his country’s violent conflict to mess up your society.

Politicians hiding behind the gown of religious fanatics and hate speech champs have no moral direction. Vote them out! Let us continue to support each other in fighting hatred and hate speech. Begin at home. Educate for basic respect for others.

Wage peace

What is the root cause of terrorism? The manufacturing and creating of deadly crises, so that the global arms industry – of light arms to massive smart bombs – may flourish.

Poverty, rock-logic religion, the lack or total rejection of liberal education, and for the inciters, power to influence and the huge appetite to be megalomanic preachers – these are the root cause of the ideological disease.

Power given by the ignorant and powerless to worship those who are masters of deception, perception, and religious and ideological militancy – this is what fuels the deadly cells of violence. That contagious ideological disease we’ve been talking about.

But today, my heart goes to those in Christchurch massacred after Friday prayers. By a terrorist. By a force growing larger than the IS, in due time: white supremacist terrorists. A global contagious ideological disease finally been diagnosed as how it should be.

Wage peace, not war. Contain the ideological diseases spreading like wildfire. This is rent we must pay for living in this increasingly violent world.

AZLY RAHMAN is an educator, academic, international columnist, and author of seven books available here. He grew up in Johor Bahru and holds a doctorate in international education development and Master’s degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies communication, fiction and non-fiction writing. He is a member of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honour Society in Education. Twitter @azlyrahman. More writings here.

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

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Investing in care key to boosting economic growth

March 23, 2019

Investing in care key to boosting economic growth

Authors: Elizabeth Hill, Marian Baird and Michele Ford, University of Sydney

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The need to increase women’s labour market participation and economic security is on the ‘to do’ list of most governments and major global institutions. By 2025, global GDP could increase by 26 per cent — US$28 trillion — if women participated in paid work to the same extent as men.

But if this goal is achieved, who will look after the children, the elderly, the disabled and ill? Although both women and men participate in care, global estimates show that women assume responsibility for around three-quarters of all unpaid domestic and community labour.

Tensions between women’s participation in paid work and unpaid care work are especially acute in Asia and the Pacific. In this region, women perform more than four times as much unpaid labour as men. Managing this unpaid workload makes it difficult for women to increase participation in paid employment at a level commensurate with their increasing levels of education and training.

Home to over half the world’s population, the Asia Pacific is diverse and changing rapidly, with economic growth delivering new opportunities for women. Hundreds of millions of young rural women have been drawn into factory work, English-speaking women are employed in call centres and back-office processing centres, and highly educated women are engaged by local and global firms in the full range of professional services. This changing employment landscape, alongside other social and economic changes, has significant implications for households and for the care work traditionally performed by women.

Data from Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Myanmar reveal some of the key points that must be addressed if women’s participation in paid work is to increase. In all four countries women’s labour-force participation remains below men’s, even though it has increased steadily since 2000. High rates of informal employment, common to the region, mean that most women in paid work remain beyond the purview of labour laws and have little or no access to critical social protections like paid maternity leave.

Even when women are formally employed and covered by workplace laws, problems with implementation are pervasive and leave black letter law impotent in the daily lives of many women workers. The gender pay gap, limited access to career progression and associated under-representation in senior management roles weaken many women’s attachment to the labour market.

Demand for care is also intensifying. Despite falling fertility rates, care for children remains a pressing issue in Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Myanmar. Rapidly ageing populations also raise the demand for care services. Between 6 and 10 per cent of the population in all four countries is projected to be over 65 years of age by 2026.

Governments are vital in delivering social services to help households reconcile their work and care responsibilities. Currently most Southeast Asian governments report low public expenditure on such essential care infrastructure as public childcare, aged care services, age or disability support pensions and maternity leave.

Governments are beginning to pay attention to these issues, but Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam still spend less than the regional average on these services. Yet recent International Labour Office calculations show that even low-income countries can afford the cost of social protection for the most vulnerable citizens.

Inadequate government provision of social services infrastructure leaves millions of households across Southeast Asia reliant on low-paid, unregulated and mostly female domestic labour. The unregulated nature of this work leaves many care workers vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. The long hours associated with many of these jobs makes it difficult for these women workers to manage their own care responsibilities. Decent jobs for informal and formal domestic care workers will be essential in making sure that all women are able to reconcile their work and care duties.

Investment in care infrastructure must be part of the workforce participation agenda. Official efforts to improve economic empowerment and security for women requires unpaid care work to be recognised, reduced and redistributed. This will require considerable expenditure on essential care infrastructure and may challenge small and low-income countries in Southeast Asia. But failure to build gender equitable workplace and public care infrastructure will leave global calls for an increase in women’s labour market participation floundering.

Care infrastructure includes legislated workplace policies that allow for family and community care, publicly funded formal care services, and decent work and wages for the care workforce.

While care work is essential to the gender equality equation, it is rarely included in standard prescriptions for increasing women’s economic participation. This is partly because women’s unpaid household labour is not included in GDP, leaving care work invisible to policymakers. But the significant gains to national prosperity and well-being attached to women’s increased economic participation make this an urgent issue.

Workplace and public policy design that promotes recognition and redistribution of care between men and women is essential for gender equality at work and in the home. If women are to take up their rightful place in the region’s workplaces, men will have to step up and take on additional care work. Generating a global understanding that care roles can and should be shared between men and women can act as the first step towards more gender-equal work and care.

Elizabeth Hill is Associate Professor of Political Economy at the University of Sydney.

Marian Baird is Professor of Gender and Employment Relations at the University of Sydney.

Michele Ford is Director of the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre and an ARC Future Fellow at the University of Sydney.

This article is abridged from a version that appears in the latest issue of East Asia Forum Quarterly, ‘Investing in Women‘.



The End of the Road for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal

November 24, 2018

The End of the Road for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal


 On Friday 16 November 2018 the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) handed down a guilty verdict against ageing former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan in what’s known as Case 002/02. Out of fears that they would die before a verdict was reached, the case against them had been split into multiple parts. As such, they were already found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison in Case 002/01.

So what’s so significant about last week’s verdict?

First and foremost is the crimes that were considered as part of Case 002/02. The first conviction against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan had related primarily to the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh in April 1975 and to a specific instance (at Tuol Po Chrey in Pursat province) where members of the previous government’s military were killed. This second part of the case considered a much broader range of crimes, and crimes that reflect the experiences of many more Cambodians during the Khmer Rouge regime.

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Case 002/02 included crimes related to the appalling conditions in cooperatives and worksites, torture and killings at security centres, discrimination against the Vietnamese, ethnic Cham minority, and Buddhists, and forced marriage. In a survey conducted in 2008, when Cambodians were asked which crimes Khmer Rouge leaders should be held accountable for, only 4.9% of them mentioned forced evacuation, which had been the focus of Case 002/01. On the other hand, 80% listed killing, 63% listed starvation, 56% listed forced labour, and 33% referred to torture. Trials such as those before the ECCC are meant to do more than just sentence perpetrators; they are tasked with contributing to a sense of substantive justice, and with helping to find the truth about what happened. So, although these two defendants had already been convicted and sentenced, it had not yet been for what were considered to be the right crimes.

There are two particular crimes worth drawing attention to: forced marriage and genocide.

Forced marriage

The Khmer Rouge’s policy of forced marriage, and the rape that occurred within those forced marriages, was not well known before the ECCC, despite estimates now that  400,000 people were forcibly married under the Khmer Rouge. It is largely through the testimony of civil parties (victims who have become parties to the proceedings before the ECCC) and through the advocacy of their lawyers that this issue was brought into the spotlight.

In harrowing testimony, victims recounted how they were too scared to refuse to be married but that they “could see that some people shed their tears quietly”. Couples would be monitored in their homes the night of their marriage by Khmer Rouge cadre to ensure they consummated the marriage. Another victim recalled, “I had to sleep with my husband because I would be in danger if I did not sleep with my husband. Because there was a militiaman eavesdropping, I submitted myself to be a wife. I could not avoid, so I tried to take this”. Women who refused to have sex with their new husband were sometimes raped by local Khmer Rouge leaders.

Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were convicted of crimes against humanity for both forced marriages and the rapes that occurred with them. This conviction is significant from an international law perspective for recognising forced marriage as a gendered crime that was committed against both male and female victims, and for addressing it at a national scale. It is also highly significant to those victims who came forward after decades of silence. However, the ECCC has also been criticised for not addressing sexual violence that occurred under the Khmer Rouge in contexts other than forced marriage.


Undoubtedly, the genocide conviction issued by the ECCC received the greatest attention from the Case 002/02 verdict.

Nuon Chea was found guilty of genocide against the Vietnamese and the Cham, and Khieu Samphan was found guilty of genocide against the Vietnamese (but not the Cham, with the Trial Chamber finding that “the evidence did not rise to the level of proving that Khieu Samphan actively assisted or facilitated the execution of the genocidal policy against the Cham”). Curiously, the summary of the judgement notes that “Judge YOU Ottara appends a separate opinion on genocide to the Judgement”. This is the first separate opinion issued by a single Cambodian judge, but its contents are not yet known.

There is immense power in the label of genocide. The actions covered by the conviction for crimes against humanity are just as horrific, yet it is those considered genocide that often attract far more attention. This is just as true in Cambodia, where the Khmer Rouge period is referred to as a genocide in Khmer (ប្រល័យពូជសាសន៍).

Legally, however, genocide only refers to the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”. This has led to divisive debates amongst scholars of Cambodia over whether some or all of the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge could be considered genocide. It also means that the experiences of ethnically-Khmer Cambodians (the vast majority of the population) are not covered by the definition, and the ECCC has not found the crimes committed against them to be genocide.

Here is where the verdict is ripe for misinterpretation. News headlines are very carefully crafted to engage readers by referring to genocide without explicitly misrepresenting the verdict (for example, the New York Times said “Khmer Rouge’s Slaughter in Cambodia is Ruled a Genocide”). For most people, Cambodian and foreigners alike, the details of this verdict will have little to no impact compared to the overarching label of genocide. However, there is a longstanding concern that if it enters into public consciousness in Cambodia that the ECCC found the treatment of the Vietnamese was a genocide but that the treatment of the Khmer was not, that this could further inflame anti-Vietnamese sentiment.

A complicated legacy

The final question to ask about the ECCC and Case 002/02 is: where to from here?

Last week, a summary of the judgement was read out before the Trial Chamber and released online. However, the full judgement is not yet available, with the only information given is that it will be released “in due course”. This decision has been criticised in a report from Stanford University’s WSD Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice noting that Cambodia’s (notoriously weak) judiciary often relies on summary judgements without full reasoning, and that the ECCC had a chance to leave a different legacy.

The timeline for appeals will not start until this full judgement is released, although both defence teams have already flagged their intention to file appeals. In Case 002/01 the judgement was announced in August 2014 and the appeals proceedings concluded in November 2016. The current completion plan for the ECCC, foresees an appeal judgement in Case 002/02 in the third quarter of 2020.

As for trials against other suspects, myself and other New Mandala contributors have written about the reasons why it is highly unlikely these contentious cases will go ahead. In the aftermath of the Case 002/02 verdict, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said that since there are “no more” top Khmer Rouge leaders, the government’s policy is that “now this process has ended”. It is hardly surprising, but serves as additional evidence that once the Case 002/02 appeals conclude, so too will the ECCC.

Rebecca Gidley is the author of Illiberal Transitional Justice and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

A Foxy Political Partnership In Malaysia

August 4, 2018

A Foxy Political Partnership In Malaysia

by Francis Paul Siah

COMMENT |Let me be clear at the outset. The term “cunning foxes” is not meant in the derogatory manner, but as a salutary description of two of Malaysia’s foremost veteran leaders.

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Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim are the duo who matter most in the country today. They are the supreme leaders, whether you recognise them as such or not and whether you support them or not.

It’s heartening to note that even the majority in the opposition hatiove come around to accept that the Mahathir-Anwar combination is what matters. At least, that seems to be the case.

Except for a few rabble-rousers in UMNO criticising the Pakatan Harapan leadership, most senior leaders within the opposition ranks have largely refrained from lashing out at Mahathir or Anwar, and rightly so.

Together, Mahathir and Anwar call the shots. What they do or say has a bearing on the direction the nation is heading. The mistakes they make will have dire consequences too.

On them lay the hopes and dreams of the majority of Malaysians, for the next five years at least.

In “The Political Animals At Large”, a political intelligence piece written by Don Morley and David Bancroft-Turner, the fox symbolises the most outstanding and perhaps necessary trait of powerful politicians. Or what is needed for them to hold on to power.

“Cunning, sly and clever, foxes know their way around. They are really quite adept at negotiating the corridors of power, getting support and being tuned in to the bigger picture. They recognise and take advantage of the weaknesses of others in order to get ahead and further their cause”.

But it also sounds a warning.

“Unfortunately, it is ‘their cause’ that they invariably put first in their decisions and strategies. The objectives of the organisation tend to be neglected, even ignored when it suits”.

In the light of recent events involving Mahathir and Anwar, let us take a closer look at the warning.

Although both men are supposed to be tied together in their organisation, Pakatan Harapan, it is perhaps their personal “causes” that come first when making decisions with the objectives of Harapan being ignored. Indeed, the warning is not way off.

Now, what are the more personal causes of Mahathir and Anwar?

Man in hurry

At 93, Mahathir is a man in a hurry. He was forced to make a return to politics in order to fix the ills of the nation. He knows his time is limited and does not wish to be distracted. That’s fair enough.

Meanwhile, Anwar is getting edgy. Although he does not openly say it, we can sense his impatience to become the next Prime Minister.

Hey, who doesn’t want to fulfill a lifelong ambition as quickly as possible? So, we cannot fault Anwar’s impatience here. He was just a heartbeat away from the pinnacle of power in the past. Now, he is so near again, yet so far.

This is his second and possibly last chance at a shot at the premiership. Any one of us in Anwar’s shoes would do all within our might to ensure that we do not falter at this final shot at the top prize.

The glaring difference between Anwar and Mahathir now is that Anwar has to consolidate himself within his party, PKR. Mahathir couldn’t be bothered about his future in his newly formed Bersatu. He is already the boss and he doesn’t have to fight anyone for a party position.

Anwar is only the PKR de facto leader in name – he has yet to hold an official party post and is expected to go for the party presidency in the coming party elections.

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Enter PKR Deputy President Mohd Azmin Ali at this stage, and everyone gets worked up. Many are disappointed and disillusioned with such intrigues within the Harapan coalition so soon after savouring a sweet GE14 victory. Even a single coalition party in disarray is a big damper.

So the rumour mill has started churning too, faster than we could catch our breath. Mahathir is using Azmin to control Anwar, and to put the PKR de factor leader in his place. Anwar is unhappy with Azmin and is putting up Rafizi Ramli to thwart the ascent of his once-protégé private secretary but now overly ambitious minister.

Anwar has also purportedly described Azmin as a Mahathir barua (lackey), if a leaked audio recording is to be believed.

No smoke without fire

For those of us who know better, we can conclude there is no smoke without fire. Why? The internal feud in PKR is now out in the open. Rafizi has already assembled his team as he eyes the deputy presidency. And he had made it official with a public announcement. So what else is new to many of us?

Many in Harapan, PKR in particular, are just very ordinary politicians (there is no statesmanship caliber in any of them at all). They were shouting “Reformasi” when not in power. Now, they are in power, they want more power to entrench themselves politically. Sad, isn’t it?

As for Mahathir and Anwar, let me state a fact. No one knows Anwar better than Mahathir, and perhaps it’s also true that no one knows Mahathir better than Anwar. Well, apart from their spouses, possibly.

A Malaysian friend living abroad summed it up best when I asked him for his opinion on the Mahathir-Anwar partnership.

“Cunning foxes or not, we have to live with them for now. But I would want both Dr Mahathir and Anwar to be out of the scene completely – the sooner, the better. Drum into Malaysians that the world can exist quite well without them.

“The same goes for many of those lazing around on the opposition benches in Parliament, wasting taxpayers’ money. When will politicians ever learn that they are not wanted anymore? Shame, shame!”

I couldn’t agree more.

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at

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

Dr. Bridget Welsh: The GE-14 aftermath: Hope and Healing

May 14, 2018

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Thank You, Dr. Bridget Welsh (pic above) for the excellent coverage of GE-14. Your writings on Malaysia with the insightful analysis, keen observations and succinct comments  are a delight to read. I am privileged  to know you as a friend, public intellectual and top rate researcher. You will always have a special place in this blog–Din Merican, Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations, The University of Cambodia, Phnom Penh

The GE-14 aftermath: Hope and Healing

Harapan now has the support and goodwill of most Malaysians. Managing expectations and living up to the promise that GE-14 has brought about will be a large responsibility. Healing the wounds inside the system and the country as a whole are essential to meet these responsibilities.

COMMENT| Dr Mahathir Mohamad is once again Malaysia’s prime minister. Pakatan Harapan under the strategic leadership of Mahathir was able to create the perfect electoral storm to win over large shares of UMNO’s base, maintain the support of the opposition and bring about Malaysia’s first change of government at the federal level in the nation’s history.

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Malaysia’s 7th Prime Minister–Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

Democracy won out – the people’s votes were counted and a responsible peaceful transition of power took place. Najib Razak’s governance – the greed, the kleptocracy and the sense that he and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, were willing to sell out the country for their own interests, no matter how egregious – served to deeply alienate Malaysians across races and backgrounds and was strongly repudiated.

Millions of Malaysians took the ballot box and follow BN’s advice – ‘Make Malaysia Great Again’.

While I did see an opposition win as a viable scenario in the GE-14 political storm and could feel the strong sentiments on the ground, especially as the campaign gained momentum, I was too cautious in assessing the overwhelming outpouring, weighing in on the power holders holding on. I should have had more faith. I have long recognised the wisdom of ordinary Malaysians, and let despair, past disappointment and cynicism – in part shaped by global trends – overshadow hope.

In the wake of the Harapan victory, I begin my post-election analyses with focus on how hope can be actualised and an important healing process can begin.

Harnessing nationalism

Nationalism was a main driving force of this election as people from all walks of life voted to ‘Save Malaysia’. Most citizens put the love of their country over self-interest, following Mahathir’s own example. The BN’s emphatic loss was in large part due to its failure to look out for the interests of the country – from 1MDB to worrying investments with China.

Malaysians have long come together in crises such as the tragedies of MH370 and MH17. GE-14 represented yet another coming together to address a crisis and provides a positive opportunity for Malaysians to focus on national interest, a reset button.

It is important to capitalise on this spirit of working together, as the challenges of much-needed political and economic reforms extend well beyond one man (and his wife).

Building multi-ethnic bridges

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Focus has been on the multi-ethnic and national dimensions of the results. Caution is necessary in interpreting the results along these lines. While Malaysians from all walks of life voted for Harapan, the campaign was very much shaped along ethnic lines on both sides of the political divide. Even the post-election discussions of crossovers and such speak to the issue of Malay representation as opposed to others.

Ethnic mobilisation – engaging Malays – was at the heart of GE-14. UMNO was abandoned in large numbers with some going to Harapan, but others went to PAS. Arguably the Islamist party took more from UMNO support because it was a more comfortable racialised alternative for many Malays. While Harapan took away the mantle as the protector the nation, PAS has assumed the mantle for the Malays, with religious identity at the core.

Similar strong ethnic sentiments were expressed in Sabah and Sarawak. Acknowledging the persistence of race and religion is essential for any efforts to build a stronger society.

This said, arguably at no other time in Malaysia’s history, with the exception than that of Merdeka in 1957, has there been space to reduce racism and build mutual respect across communities, to realise that Malaysians embrace multiple identities of nation, community and religion and these identities do not have to be played off against one another.

This involves an understanding that Malaysia’s strength is in fact this diversity and difference. To move away from the “us” and “them” is not easy, to try to have trust, faith, tolerance and be respectful can be even more challenging when these practices have been eroded.

Meaningful reform needs to happen to the education system where the values of division are being perpetuated. As a young nation with so much talent, creativity, capacity and hope, the decay and distortions of Malaysia’s education system (often with the frustration and anger of many hardworking teachers) is, for me as an educator, one of the worst legacies of BN governance.

Special attention needs to centre on the curriculum in religious education and revitalising arts and culture. Efforts to work toward mutual understanding have to go beyond the classroom, to build on the extensive respectful quotidian exchanges that happen across races and faiths every day.

Finding moral compass

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They lost their moral compass, thinking that they  did not do anything wrong

In analysing developments in Malaysia (and elsewhere), I have regularly written about the loss of moral compass in the contemporary era. This was clearly the case among the UMNO elites, some of whom wrongly still think that they did not do anything wrong. Those in leadership positions should rightly be held accountable. Moving forward, there is, however, a need for a judicious search for justice.

Practices of corruption are endemic and part of a survival mode inside the system. Some in the Harapan government are also tainted with perceptions of these practices as the ‘UMNO’ culture of economic entitlement from holding office runs deep. This does not excuse them but helps us understand that the rot is systemic.

One important step could be to offer an amnesty to those who come forward, especially at the lower ranks, as a way of reaching across the system and starting fresh. This should be coupled with strengthening enforcement and incentives for good practices, a genuine commitment to anti-corruption.

Some of the crimes of the previous administration, however cannot be overlooked. Not only do people like Altantuya Shaariibuu, Teoh Beng Hock, Ahmad Sarbani Mohamed, Kevin Morais, Hussein Najadi, Raymond Koh, Amri Che Mat deserve the truth in their deaths and disappearances, as do countless others who died in Police custody, were buried in death camps and caught up in perilous trafficking rings.

Malaysia’s illegal economy needs to be curbed, and a culture of accountability reinforced. It will be difficult to open old and sensitive wounds but learning the lessons from these experiences and building on the knowledge of the reality of the seriousness of these problems is an integral part of a new beginning, of healing.

Tackling institutional reform

It is a given that Najib did serious damage to Malaysia’s political institutions, from the judiciary and parliament to the media environment and his own party. Mahathir at the helm provides an excellent (albeit ironic) opportunity for reform, given his national and broad mandate. He can indeed correct many of the mistakes he started and has acknowledged.

Lessons show this will take time, prioritisation, trust building, patience and a serious political commitment. Simple measures to repeal draconian laws on fake news, symbolic removal of senior staff who failed in their duties in areas such as the Electoral Commission and positive reinforcement of good practices and those who supported the turnover of power, such as the inspector-general of police, can go a long way. Attention will be paid on developments in the first 100 days.

A crucial part of this institutional rebuilding involves the 1.6 million in the civil service, many of whom voted for the opposition, but also many of whom remained loyal to UMNO. Keep in mind that BN won 35.4% of the country, over a third. The need for outreach to those in the system to dampen the inevitable resistance and resentments tied to entrenched practices that will come is pressing.

As stakeholders and implementors, civil servants are crucial for any successful institutional reform. In moments of change, it is always prudent to look for potential allies and be cautious in rushing to judgement. This does not mean to ignore real threats. GE-14 shows, however, that surprising allies can indeed lead to even more surprising outcomes.

Embracing social transformation

Equally substantive challenges remain in Malaysia’s economy, as acknowledged by Malaysia’s new leadership. Despite platitudes to the contrary, Malaysia is still caught in a middle-income trap. It does not yet have a clear strategy ahead to move out of it. The focus on infrastructure as a driver of growth needs to be complemented with more alternatives.

Serious thought needs to be placed on reforms in the agricultural sector to diversify from palm oil dominance. Equally valuable is consideration of how to strengthen services and ratchet up technology. There are seasoned experts inside the new leadership who understand that vision and long-term planning are better than short-term deals to pay off loans and address scandals. A thorough clean-up of 1MDB and the GLCs (government-linked companies) will go a long way to bringing investment into Malaysia.

The populist thrusts of the GE-14 campaign messages tap into real needs in society. Broadly, growing inequality, declining social mobility and persistent precarity of large shares of Malaysians underscored the resentments toward the Najib government. The GST showcased these vulnerabilities.

Throwing money at these problems through cash transfers such as BR1M did not go to the core of these problems. The poverty and underdevelopment in places such as Sabah, Sarawak and Felda areas remains serious. Equally significant are conditions in northern Terengganu and Kelantan, who cannot be left out of any new sets of initiatives even though they are opposition states.

GE-14 opens up the path for a social transformation, as did the critical juncture of 1969. If there was one positive from Najib’s decade in office, it is that he moved to embrace a more needs-based approach in social policy. This thinking can be foundational in the transformation, as an approach that focuses on one community at the expense of the other, for that race and not another, is part of the reason Malaysia is in the difficulties it now is.

This does not mean that policies cannot be sensitive to ethnic identities and social conditions, and policies will need to be adjusted to address the variation within Malaysia, whether it is rural Pensiangan or urban Kerinchi (not Bangsar South). Now, however, there is an opportunity to have a meaningful discussion about social problems and how they affect the economy and vice versa.

Healthcare, gender relations, family structure and religion are an integral part of robust discussions of policy reform. GE14 may have been essentially devoid of policy debate, but its outcome opens up the possibility of moving political discussions in a new direction.

Harapan now has the support and goodwill of most Malaysians. Managing expectations and living up to the promise that GE-14 has brought about will be a large responsibility. Healing the wounds inside the system and the country as a whole are essential to meet these responsibilities.

If there was one lesson I learned in GE-14, it is to have more faith … and hope.

BRIDGET WELSH is an Associate Professor of Political Science at John Cabot University in Rome. She also continues to be a Senior Associate Research Fellow at National Taiwan University’s Center for East Asia Democratic Studies and The Habibie Center, as well as a University Fellow of Charles Darwin University. Her latest book (with co-author Greg Lopez) is entitled Regime Resilience in Malaysia and Singapore. She is following the Malaysian GE14 2018 campaign on the ground and providing her analyses exclusively to Malaysiakini readers. She can be reached at

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

Fracas at Nothing to Hide2.0 Forum

August 13, 2017

Fracas at Nothing to Hide2.0 Forum

COMMENT: What a shame! Najib Razak is unable to debate Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. At 92, the former Prime Minister is still a formidable debater. And it is also clear to me that Najib is scared of his own of his own shadow. If so, he cannot be helped. He is wasting money engaging these thugs to disrupt the public forum (ceramah).

Najib Razak cannot run away from the facts which are already known to us Malaysians and the international community, that is, he is a very corrupt politician, a liar and an incompetent Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Today’s fracas is nothing but an act of political desperation. It will not dissuade Malaysians from attending future ceramahs by the political opposition. On the contrary, we can expect larger crowds at future gatherings.

What is the Royal Malaysian Police doing? Perhaps, they are waiting for orders from their Inspector-General of Police.

Image result for IGP Khalid

The Police are busy checking round the clock all postings on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. The IGP is equally occupied sucking up to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister-Home Affairs Minister.

We know that Khalid Abu Bakar is a weak IGP who got the job because he will be an obedient UMNO servant.  So do not expect the IGP to act. Knowing how the Police in particular the Special Branch operate, it is more likely that their agent provocateurs could be among the UMNO thugs. And the whole thing could have been pre-arranged to scare the 92-year old rather than harm him.

Mariam is right when she suggested that at GE-14 we should overwhelmingly vote against Najib and his UMNO-BN. We can longer allow a corrupt and cowardly politician and his associates to remain in office even for another 24 hours. They should summarily be shown the exit door.–Din Merican

UMNO Biadap Culture on Display: Attacking  Tun Dr.Mahathir Mohamad

by Mariam Mokhtar

When a 92-ye-old man is attacked, there is only one conclusion: Najib is very afraid.


An attempt to undermine former PM, Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s ceramah, called “Nothing to Hide 2.0” broke up in chaos and pandemonium, when some Malay thugs, set off flares, threw bottles at the audience, and hurled slippers at the nonagenarian.

Mahathir had been invited to the “Nothing to Hide 2.0” forum which had been organised by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) .

It was supposed to be a debate between Mahathir and the incumbent PM, Najib Abdul Razak; but we know that Najib has an aversion to debates and usually skips the country, when things are getting too hot to handle. He runs away (only this time, he has no place where to run to).

Said one political observer, “This is the modus operandi of UMNO-Baru. They send their thugs to a peaceful event. They do this to create fear, to get the public to stay away and to send a message to the person or people who are staging the event, that they do not care about people’s rights, or safety, or democracy.

“The thugs, masquerading as the people who are going to a ceramah, will do anything to disrupt a normal event.”

His friend said, “They threatened Zunar, the cartoonist, and wrecked his exhibition and sent UMNO-Baru thugs to wreak havoc.

“It was UMNO-Baru thugs who planned an assault on the Penang State Assembly a few years ago, because they were displeased with a state assemblyman’s comments.

“UMNO-Baru thugs, attacked peaceful supporters and sent threatening messages to the Bersih 2.0 committee members, like Maria Chin and Ambiga Sreenevasan. Many other Opposition politicians are also targeted by this vile UMNO-Baru thugs. Their leaders run away, but they send their hooligans in.

Najib is very afraid

Image result for Najib is scared

Today, who else do you think fears a 92-year-old man most?None other then Najib Abdul Razak and UMNO-Baru.

The more thugs attack a 92-year-old man, the more the moderate and usually reserved Malays will wonder why such tactics are employed. They will start to ask questions. Why? What harm can an old man do?

If the Malays were fence-sitters before, they will not be fence-sitters any longer.

This is NOT just about two adversaries having to fight a public political fight. The thugs sow more violence, but they will only make Malays question where their values have gone.

Desperadoes will do anything to stay out of jail. They are prepared to sacrifice the harmony of the nation. Pity we have such a weak IGP.

Let us show these UMNO-Baru thugs (and their backers including Najib Razak and UMNO-BN the exit at GE-14.