Is the Malaysia project a non-starter?

August 23, 2016

Is the Malaysia project a non-starter?

by Dr. KJ John

In the Seven (7) Habits series, Stephen Covey’s central thesis is that we must grow or develop habits for growth and development in meaningful and significant ways. He argues that all human or organic systems must first grow from total dependence (and appreciate all its full meanings) to independence or human freedoms, and then, finally and fully appreciate interdependence with others of like-heart and mind. This is also the Hearts and Mind agenda of our NGO.

Full understanding and appreciation of real and true meaning of interdependence must belong to every one of the stakeholders and partners in a shared and common enterprise. It must become a shared vision for posterity; and never to be compromised.

Whether it is the UN or the EU, or even federated states like the US or Malaysia, or our simple OHMSI Sdn Bhd; interdependence properly understood and stewarded defines real and true meanings of the so-called freedom we ‘pretend to enjoy’, it then becomes real ‘merdeka’.

Covey’s 7-Habits

Habit 1: Be Proactive
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Habit 4: Think Win-Win
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
Habit 6: Synergise
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw”

– Stephen R Covey, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’

Malaysia-Land of Beauty

I will try to evaluate our Malaysia project, not simply from a historical perspective, but more importantly from a worldview perspective and see what Covey might be saying to us. Such a perspective puts a very high premium on human values for growth within the ethics and culture of lived life; in seeking to move organic systems from the full dependence towards voluntary and volitional inter-dependence.

The Malaysia project

Malaysia came into existence on September 16, 2016. But, that fact is not clearly taught in history. Not many of us today can change that false reality interpreted today. Before that date we had four independent states called Federation of Malaya, Singapore, and the North Borneo States of Sarawak and Sabah; each with their own unique story about the movement from dependence towards independence and now interdependence.

Rightly or wrongly, for reasons of their own, in August 1965 Singapore chose to leave Malaysia by mutual agreement and consent between the leaderships of Malaysia and the island state. I am not sure if and whether Sarawak and Sabah or the United Kingdom had any direct say in this matter.

Therefore, after a short marriage of two years, Singapore exercised their ‘move from total dependence from the United Kingdom towards independence from the new Malaysia’. They wanted to learn and grow the experience and freedom with true independence.

Sarawak and Sabah may have had views about such a move by Singapore, but I do not know those facts, but they too surely want to experience movement from full dependence towards true independence. And their growth experiences will be surely very different.

Sarawak and Sabah’s self-governance experience

Have the Sarawak and Sabah governments and their political leadership learned true independence and interdependence from their many years as a one-third partner of Malaysia; even as the Malaysia Agreement gave them some clear and separate jurisdictions?

Many of these legal rights and privileges were captured within the revised Federal Constitution of Malaysia and including recognition of their 18 and 20 point submissions. Was there ever consensus on those two documents by the political leadership of Malaysia?

But why therefore, after more than 50 years within Malaysia, do they now put their foot down about Petronas’ governance and staff recruitment strength and raise issues about employment permits? As a public policy person, I am simply wondering loudly.

What have they really learnt about independence, or interdependence, or is it still merely dependence, if anything at all? Or, do these jurisdictional governance regimes feel like, we the Malayans, have thoroughly abused them altogether?

Learning from Covey

In my Pet Theory R, relationships are an important and elemental R. Therefore, building and growing our knowledge about ‘nurturing and growing mature relationships’ using the Covey’s three-step process and applying them to his seven habits for Sarawak and Sabah relationships with Malayans may be instructional:

  • Malaya was proactive in nurturing a relationship with Sarawak and Sabah; Brunei however did not respond in the same way. Why? We still grew Malaysia. Did we ask Indonesia at all?
  • Our end in mind was always National Unity and regional stability; and more recently, we have added words like integration and integrity. I call that agenda: integration with integrity.
  • What is our First Things First? Is it Malaysia, ‘Melayusia’, or ketuanan bumiputra for now or centre versus periphery in governance of lived life and stewardship of resources; including all human beings especially citizens?
  • Do we think win-win every time we have bilateral issues in our relationships concerns? Or, can we really begin to think win-win-win to endure stewardship as the third win for the sake of all human beings?
  • Do we seek to understand before we seek to be understood? I did not understand Sarawakians until I met the Kelabits earlier and now, after I spent 10 days in Baram Valley. Maximus Ongkili, Beth Baikan and Bernard Dompok taught me to learn to understand Kadazans.
  • Have we really learnt to synergise? Why then is the Malaysian Public Service still more than 80 percent made up of peninsular Malays (non-Malays are less than 10 percent I believe)? This issue is reflective of the Petronas case story. Synergy would allow for creating new values; not simply depreciating existing values.
  • Finally, from my experience on the ground, and meeting so many smart and equally ambitious Orang Ulu Sarawak and Kadazans; these questions are my Covey test for all of Malayans to sharpen our saw or ‘tools of execution and evaluation’ so that we can see and learn the real meaning of Malaysian interdependence and not allow it to become a foolhardy project.

KJ JOHN, PhD, was in public service for 32 years having served as a researcher, trainer, and policy adviser to the International Trade and Industry Ministry and the National IT Council (NITC) of the government of Malaysia. The views expressed here are his personal views and not those of any institution he is involved with. Write to him at with any feedback or views.

Who’s afraid of Dr M?

August 18, 2016

Who’s afraid of Dr M?

Cmdr(rtd) S.Thayaparan

My strong suspicion is we get the world we deserve.”

– Ray Velcoro in ‘True Detective’

In my last article, I made three points. The first, that the creation of another Malay power structure was unproductive and what the Najib refuseniks “need to do is work with the opposition without causing any more political fissures”.

The second was that “having the same interests [in removing Najib] and ‘not repeating the mistakes of the past’ are mutually exclusive”. The third, to “radicalise the Malay community by advocating ideas that would make any red shirt-clad Malay nationalist quiver with rage because it comes from former UMNO power brokers.”

I would like to elaborate on these three points because I am an outlier “keling” and sometimes, something more is needed than just “podah”. By registering this new ‘Malay’ political party, former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is attempting to do what political prisoner Anwar Ibrahim failed to do.

Do not get me wrong, Anwar had much success in changing the political landscape of this country but he did not manage to galvanise the Malay vote to the point where PKR alone, up to a point until Anwar landed in Sungei Buloh, was a credible alternative to UMNO.

This is why PKR’s over reliance on PAS has resulted in the neutering of the oppositional front. However, the charges that this is “just another racist party” are disingenuous considering the ethos of the so-called alternative pact. From a purely descriptive stance, there are only multiracial opposition parties in Malaysia. In substance, these parties are either pandering to the Malay vote or outright concerning themselves with furthering the agenda of the ‘Malay’ polity to sustain political survival.

Therefore, what we have in the Peninsular are mainstream Malay power structures like UMNO and PAS, a political party like PKR whose leadership has publicly stated that the Malay vote is paramount to their survival hence political rhetoric and policy decisions are based on the sensitivities and preoccupations of this particular community.

Meanwhile, DAP continues to seek ways to increase its Malay membership in an effort to shed its so-called Chinese chauvinistic image, only to be hampered by operatives suffering from foot-in-mouth disease, an epidemic that the DAP leadership seems reluctant to confront.

The idea that this new Malay political party could galvanise the rural Malay vote is misguided. About the so-called “rural vote”, I said this in a piece on the recently concluded by-elections – “So if UMNO delivers everything it says it will deliver, the cycle of complicity will continue. Disenfranchised people will continue voting for a regime which puts rice in their bowls. I am not talking about the urban class but rather those people who have depended on real power, federal power exercised corruptly for their benefit. That is the culture some people forget that we are dealing with. We nurtured this culture.”

The only way this new party is going to get the rural Malay vote is to outspend UMNO or to destabilise the UMNO state level machinery. The latter is possible considering the Mahathir sympathisers within UMNO but unless this new party is willing to commit massive sums, the idea of outspending the King of Cash is ludicrous.

A shared goal

My second point is where it gets messy. The agenda of removing the current UMNO Prime Minister, which no doubt is a shared goal, and with reforming the system, are unfortunately (in my book) mutually exclusive. Many of my friends have taken exception to this statement arguing that they are not mutually exclusive. I sympathise with their argument and indeed in the past have put forward the same argument.

An Indian opposition supporter sent me an email, questioning how I could advocate the opposition working with Mahathir after he used the “keling” word. The first thing I did was send him links of every racist or bigoted utterings of oppositional political figures and asked how could I sincerely advocate for the opposition?

This is not meant as some sort of apologia on behalf of the former prime minster but rather that nobody in Malaysia get to ride on his or her high horse. Political adversaries working together is unfortunately what democracy is all about and this has nothing to with having a saviour – an unfortunate straw man – but capitalising on political and resources to overcome a political foe who is turning this country into another failed Islamic state.

Concerning ideas that “correct past mistakes”, what new ideas have the opposition actually advocated? The New Economic Policy (NEP) is redefined as class-based with the provision that the ‘Malay’ community as the majority will benefit the most. Supposedly secular parties fund Islamic organisations in an effort to get more ‘Malay’ votes.

Academics that propose equal opportunity laws or advocate ideas that slay communal scared cows are vilified as “idealists” and lectured on the “reality of our political system” or reminded that UMNO is the biggest racist party ever when in substance; their preferred political alliance operates in the same if subtle manner.

In one of my numerous pieces about the racial game here in Malaysia, I wrote, “In addition, this idea that voting across racial lines as some sort of evidence of burgeoning multiracial solidarity is complete bunkum. The real test is when people vote across ethnic and religious lines in support of ideologies that run counter to the interests of their communities and by this I mean egalitarian ideas that run afoul of constitutional sacred cows and social and religious dogma.”

Indeed, opposition parties like to promote the idea that they have dropped their racial and cultural baggage but the reality is that political expediency wins out every single time because people say one thing but do and mean another. I am referring to the voting public and not only politicians.

With regards to PAS and DAP, I wrote this: “The old PAS and the old DAP were offering up ideological alternatives to Barisan National that the voting public rejected for various reasons. I would argue that the DAP and PAS of old were more ideologically pure than they are now but that is a story for another time.”

This brings me to my final point, radicalising the Malay community. I have written how the non-Malay community played a big part in the mess we find ourselves by sustaining Umno all these years. I also concede that the opposition for whatever reasons is chasing the Malay vote at the expense of egalitarian ideas, therefore offering no real alternative for Malaysians to take refuge in, intellectually and spiritually.

In a piece praising PKR operative Wan Ji Wan Hussin, I wrote, “I have always been sceptical of the opposition and downright scornful of the UMNO establishment. While UMNO during elections season attempts to bribe non-Muslims with goodies – and it is open season on non-Muslims when votes need not be counted – the religious politics of the opposition has been a mess of political opportunism and homages to political correctness. Neither approach is suitable for the long-term social and political stability of Malaysia.”

We have had many Malaysians who champion egalitarian ideas. PSM for instance is one such political organisation that states their ideas and goals clearly but observe how they are treated by the average opposition supporter and intelligentsia.

Therefore, I know where I stand politically and hopefully some readers do too. In one of my earlier pieces, I wrote about how the Indian community should slay some of their scared cows. I also wrote of the DAP and the Chinese community, which was met with howls of racist indignation.

I will not be held responsible for whatever problems facing the ‘Malay’ community using the “we are all Malaysians” argument. Malays should speak up for themselves, demand leadership from their own community much like how minorities everywhere in the world demand it. Do not blame the existential crisis of the Malay community on the non-Malays and use the idea of a Malaysian identity as short hand to circumvent hard questions about one’s own community.

I would argue that every minority community in this country has done its share of soul searching and even though we may find fault in what they have discovered or are discovering, this idea – actually, I would use the term propaganda that being “Malaysian” means ignoring race and culture in favour of bromides – is the kool aid Malaysia does not need.

Good News: A More Assertive Sarawak after 50+ Years in Malaysia

August 17, 2016

Good News: A More Assertive Sarawak after 50+ Years in Malaysia

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Sarawak’s Popular Chief Minister–Standing Up for State Rights

The latest East Malaysia/Putrajaya controversy stemming from the Sarawak government’s announcement of a moratorium on all new applications for work permits from Petronas personnel from outside Sarawak intending to work in the state has several important dimensions.

On the surface it appears a straightforward dispute. The imposition of the work permit freeze has been justified by the finding of the state’s think-tank group Suarah Petroleum Group (SPG) that the national oil company has hired hundreds of new staff from the peninsular at the expense of Sarawakians. In response Petronas has taken a conciliatory stance and maintained that it expects the majority of the workforce required to meet the new manpower demand from its Sarawak operations to constitute Sarawakians “as per existing recruitment practices”. But is this all there is to the spat or is much more at stake?

What’s At Stake–State Economy

First and foremost are the political ramifications arising from this exercise of state rights under the Malaysia Agreement negotiated to bring Sabah and Sarawak into Malaysia in 1963. During the last state election Chief Minister Adenan Satem rode on the bandwagon of greater state autonomy to secure a massive victory. He is now making good his electoral promises to the state’s voters.

Sarawak  for Sarawakians

Although the decision to freeze the issuance of work permits was announced by the state’s Deputy Chief Minister Douglas Unggah Embas, it bears all the finger prints of Adenan. On  July 28, speaking to party members, Adenan warned that his (and by extension, the state’s) patience was running out at the slow progress of the talks over the devolution of federal power to the state. According to reports covering the dinner event, he told party members “We are not happy. I can tell you we are not happy, with the present arrangement… I told the Prime Minister himself, I do not want, in the coming General Election, to be seen defending the Federal Government if they do not concede, if they do not give us concessions on our requests.”

He also warned that should the devolution talks not succeed, he could not guarantee a BN victory as the Opposition would take it up. “So there must be results before the coming General Election to show the people that we mean business, et cetera, et cetra,”

It is evident that a bigger battle is being waged behind the scenes over the longstanding oil revenue issue with Sarawak pushing for a 20% royalty, a four fold increase from the present 5% it has been receiving. If Putrajaya concedes to this, it will severely impact Petronas revenue and contribution to the federal budget.

No attempt has yet been made by Bank Negara, the Ministry of Finance or any other economic agency to calculate the impact of any change in the royalty rate on federal revenues so sensitive and contentious is the topic. What is clear is that even a smaller royalty increase for Sarawak – say 15% instead of 20% – will invariably result in demands for increases in royalty payments by the other three oil and gas producing states, Sabah, Kelantan and Trengganu.

Currently, the federal government receives revenues from Petronas through royalties and taxes as the government, and dividends as Petronas shareholder. Between 2008 and 2011, Petronas contributed an average of 35%-40% of federal government revenue annually. By comparison, in 2011, individual income tax only amounted to 10% or RM20bil while corporate income tax amounted to RM47bil or 24% of government revenue (which would be smaller if the Petronas share is not included).

Despite the sharp decline in petroleum prices during the last two years, Petronas remains the number one cash cow for Putrajaya for now and in the foreseeable future. Should Petronas oil and gas royalty payment to state governments be recaliberated, it will adversely – and perhaps drastically – affect the financial underpinnings of the federal government.

And if that happens, it could be a catalyst to change in economics and politics in ways which cannot be easily deciphered at present. One sure thing though – Putrajaya and our political masters will have to find new forms of fiscal skullduggery if they are to maintain their inefficient, profligate and corrupt lifestyle.

The jettisoning of a federally determined – some say, imposed – royalty rate in favour of a more fairly negotiated one between center and state appears to be the first target that advocates of state rights and autonomy from East Malaysia are focusing on. However, a much larger agenda of change is being pursued, and this is not simply by the hawks of state rights.

Here again Putrajaya needs to pay special heed to what Sarawak’s Chief Minister is saying. During the same dinner event, he pointed to a joint resolution, passed unanimously in the state assembly in 2014, seeking for the state’s powers to revert back to the 1963 agreement. Adenan maintained that the resolution was supported by a “groundswell of feeling among all Sarawakians of all colours” for the devolution of Federal power. “And that we are not a state within Malaysia, and that we are party to the formation of Malaysia. There is a strong feeling, and one of the reasons we won is that we are seen by the people of Sarawak as championing this cause. And now they want to see the results.”

In the 18 Points and 20 Points Agreements, the list of subject areas to safeguard the autonomy and the special interest of the people of Sabah and Sarawak seeks to protect, among others, the region’s rights on religion, language, education, administration, economy, culture and the special position of indigenous races.

Notable in the two agreements is also the statement that “There should be no right to secede from the Federation.”

On this point, Adenan was careful to point out that he did not support any move to secede. According to him, “We will not secede from Malaysia. No. We will not. We will pursue only the matters which are within the Constitution which have been neglected either by negligence or ignorance, with all due respect to some of our predecessors”.

Putrajaya should be relieved and thankful that the spectre of a Brexit breakup for Malaysia does not appear to be a possibility as the two states fight to regain the rights which they have been unfairly deprived of during the past 50 odd years of being in the Federation.

Aren’t we truly Anak-Anak Malaysia? No, not according to UMNO

August 16, 2016

Aren’t we truly Anak-Anak Malaysia? No, not according to UMNO

by Lyana Khairuddin

Malay zenophobia

BY NOW, I think almost everyone is familiar with the decision by Festival Filem Malaysia (FFM) to separate the categories for Best Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay into Bahasa Malaysia and non-Bahasa Malaysia categories. The reason given by the organisers for this move was the need to uphold Bahasa Malaysia in films, thus a film needs to have 70% of its script in the national language for it to be considered an excellent Malaysian movie.

The debacle, protests, and resignations that followed this decision then necessitated our Communications and Multimedia Minister to intervene. As of time of writing, the FFM will have an inclusive Best Picture category, but there will also be a Best Film in the National Language category (where I assume someone would have the task of finely combing through the scripts to ensure it fulfills the 70% requirement).

Confused, yet?

The online discourse that followed the FFM’s decision has made for a bigger discussion on Malaysian identity. Ironically, this discourse occurs in the Merdeka month with the recurring theme of “Sehati Sejiwa” (One Heart, One Soul).

I have lived almost 33 years as a Malaysian. Yet, the only times I have confidently stated “I am a Malaysian” without needing any further elaboration, is when I am overseas.

I do not think that I am an anomaly. The moment we pass through the autogates that scan our red passports to legally allow us back home, Malaysians seem to prefer being boxed by ethnicity and more recently, by religiosity.

We cannot have Unity with Idiots in UMNO

This year, we will celebrate our 59th year of independence and 53rd year of the formation of Malaysia. Yet, we seem to be more divided than ever.

Ironically, OlaBola, one of the two movies affected by FFM’s initial decision, is a movie that celebrates patriotic unity through sports.The other is Jagat, a tragically beautiful movie about the reality of Malaysians who slip through the cracks of our policies as the country moves towards high-income nation status.

I happily paid money to watch both movies in the cinemas and was emotionally affected by both — my personal measure of good movies.

I even watched OlaBola twice, the sucker that I am for the audacity of hope in the Malaysia of my dreams. Jagat made me lament the fate of Apoi, whether Malaysia has done enough to tackle the inequality gap. It also made me lament my privilege as a bumiputra in this country. If these two movies do not represent Malaysia, I don’t know what does.

They are Malaysians, not Malays

As we celebrate our amazing women divers, Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong, who brought us our first silver medal in the Rio Olympics, I see most of us cheering for Team Malaysia without the need to segregate our athletes into Malay and non-Malay categories. Shouldn’t this spirit be extended to all the other fields, be it films, fashion, art, science, social science, and most importantly, in our everyday lives?

Isn’t it past time we truly be proud of and claim ourselves as Malaysians? While we’re at it, we must not confuse unity with hegemony. Malaysia was built on the very foundation of inclusivity, and the diversity in our multi-ethnic and multi-religious society must be seen as our strength.

“Malaysia was built on the very foundation of inclusivity, and the diversity in our multi-ethnic and multi-religious society must be seen as our strength”, says Lyana Khairuddin. Najib Razak, on the other hand, does not agree. He is a racist when it suits him to remain in power.–Din Merican

Such a clichéd call for tolerance, harmony, and unity, however, should not only be restricted at a cosmetic level. Nor should it merely be a dramatised script that we present globally and yet does not represent the reality locally. As we approach our 60th year of independence, Malaysia must begin the hard conversations on what defines our sociopolitical identity.

We must revisit discriminatory laws and even articles in our Federal Constitution that give special privileges simply on the basis of race and critically analyse current data on whether race-based policies need to be revamped, improved or discontinued altogether.

We must take the brave steps towards change for the better. After all, “Indeed, God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” [Quran 13:11]

These hard conversations cannot occur without freedom of speech and collective discourse. We must follow up on the recommendations by the (now silent?) National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) and take on our responsibilities as Malaysian citizens to shape the Malaysia we want.

The lack of political will must be confronted with voters’ aspirations towards a Malaysia that is inclusive and progressive. If the rakyat do not segregate by race, what power do our aspiring and even experienced politicians have to divide us?

Now is no longer the time to romanticise the past. Now is the time to build the Malaysia that is the great nation as aspired to by our founding fathers and mothers.

We must ask ourselves whether we aspire to the same dreams, or have we become too contented with privileges and our own personal, selfish hegemony.

We must start by calling out injustice, reducing corruption, and being accountable for our actions and words. We must prove to dissenters that instead of being confused, we are empowered when we no longer box ourselves into Malays and non-Malays, but as Malaysians. We can start, by claiming that we all are indeed Anak-Anak Malaysia.

What’s in the name–Razali Ismail

August 16, 2016

What’s in the name–Razali Ismail

by Dr. K J John

The new Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) chief, a well-accomplished foreign affairs officer and previously our highest UN representative for Malaysia, said that “taking to the streets is not necessary”. His unsolicited advice took me by surprise, especially when Suhakam commissioners were observers in the last Bersih March. Where is this Commissioner coming from?

While he is a friend and ally in some work we did in the past; I find his views on the rights of freedom of expression of citizens of Malaysia totally unacceptable. Does he really mean that my freedom of human rights only refer to personal freedoms as defined by him and the government of Malaysia; when most Malaysians are already aware of the alleged lies propagated by the current system of administration?

Why cannot I walk hand in hand with three other friends (male or female), on an agreed and appointed day, pursuing a common route to express objection to the Malaysian culture of closing one eye to wrongdoing? We are speaking and walking against the truths we need to hear and deal with; not just lies allegedly being propagated by mainstream newspapers and all public institutions.

Razali Ismail the man

Wikipedia records the following about this now famous Malaysian man:

After his tenure as Malaysian Foreign Affairs Ministry Deputy Secretary-General, he became increasingly involved with the United Nations. In 1989 and 1990, he headed the Malaysian delegation to the United Nations. At the same time, he was the chairperson of the United Nations Security Council. From 1996 to 1997, he became the President of the United Nations General Assembly.

In the past, he usually headed Malaysian diplomatic delegation to various regional and international bodies such as ASEAN and the Non-Aligned Movement. Until a few years ago, he had been Malaysia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

Up until 2005, he was the United Nations Secretary-Ggeneral’ (Kofi Annan)’s special envoy to Myanmar and played a pivotal role in releasing Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest in May 2002. However, his impartiality as a UN special envoy was questioned by American officials in an embassy cable that was released via Wikileaks, alleging his business ties with the Myanmar military regime. Later however, the Myanmar military junta repeatedly denied him entry to Myanmar, contributing to his decision to quit the special envoy status in December 2005.

Since his objective impartiality was questioned by Wikipedia and it was never corrected; I take it that it is the truth about this man. So, allow me to now question the judgment quality of the current government leadership in appointing him at the critical juncture in our drive for real change in Malaysia.

It is also an issue about the right temperament of new leadership of public institutions within context of a corrupt and non-credible regime in Malaysia. Like the attorney-general (AG) who was unceremoniously removed and an alleged crony appointed to replace him; the same seems to be true about a number of other public institutions.

Credible appointment for commissioners

Public commissions are independent appointments of credible leadership for the public and institutional management of important functions of good governance of our parliamentary democracy. When I joined the public services, there were only two public commissions; the Public Services Commission and the Election Commission.

Today, we have much more and many of them are led by public service individuals, but only of those who have allegedly ‘colluded with right and wrongdoings in their public services of their service career’. I say this in writing and can prove my language if needed, by case-examples. There are some exceptions always.

Let me give one case example to make my point. A few years ago, someone tabled my name for appointment as one of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) advisers. I was never consulted. The only time I came to know about it, was by default.

The newspapers announced the appointment and some of my friends who read only part of the list called to congratulate me for being appointed as executive director of the Oriental Hearts and Minds Study Institute (OHMSI).

Therefore, I looked for that newspaper and read the storyline. To my shock and horror, yes the title was that of my civil society appointment in the NGO we formed, own and run. I was then executive director of OHMSI. But, the person actually named with our title was a more popular person and Tan Sri but an alleged crony of the establishment.

In fact, later in the day at a Wisma Putra event, I met him and he personally apologised to me. Not his fault; he was not consulted, too.

Transparent and credible appointees needed

There are more than 3,000-4,000 appointments in public or official roles which require credibility and honesty of appointment so that the person assuming the role is credible, responsible, and accountable to the Public Interest. I put Public Interest in capitals to make a point. Such individuals must be professional independents.

By Public Interest I mean the interest of the nation-state and not or never the interests of only a sectarian interest of one groups of peoples or one group of those in power! Is that not what the Brexit vote was all about? Is that not why Donald Trump even got nominated as the Republican Party candidate? And why Hillary Clinton is still so unpopular with younger Americans in the US?

After 32 years of Public Service and serving the Public Interest only, allow me to conclude as follows:

The unfortunately reality is that, whether in Public Agencies or Public-Owned Companies, we do not have enough well-qualified appointees (with credibility, competence and accountability) who have spoken up for truth matters. Usually, they are already compromised and their appointments do not allow them to speak up and out; and if they do, they are not renewed for service.