Anti-ICERD rally a win for New Malaysia but a setback for Harapan’


December 9, 2018

Anti-ICERD rally a win for New Malaysia but a setback for Harapan’

by Lim Kit Siang  |  Published:  |  Modified:

 

MP SPEAKS | The peaceful holding of the anti-ICERD rally in Kuala Lumpur yesterday is a victory for New Malaysia but a setback to Pakatan Harapan.

As Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin rightly said after the rally, it was a demonstration that the Pakatan Harapan government will always respect the rights of the people to speak and assemble peacefully, as long as these rights are practised according to the provisions of the law and the Malaysian Constitution.

The former UMNO-BN government have never recognised, respected and upheld the constitutional and democratic right of Malaysians to speak and assemble peacefully, as witnessed what happened to the five Bersih rallies from 2007 to 2016 – Bersih 1 on November 10, 2007; Bersih 2 on July 9, 2011; Bersih 3 on April 28, 2012; Bersih 4 on August 29 and 30, 2015; and Bersih 5 on November 19, 2016.

But there is a major hitch – the organisers of the of the anti-ICERD in Kuala Lumpur did not want a New Malaysia, which was born on the historic day of May 9, 2018, to re-set Malaysian nation-building policies to save Malaysia from the trajectory of a rogue democracy, a failed state, a kakistocracy( cronyism+ and a global kleptocracy and awaits Malaysians to give it flesh, blood and soul to be a world top-class nation – united, democratic, just, progressive and prosperous – which may take one or two decades to accomplish.

The organisers of the anti-Icerd rally came to destroy and not to create a New Malaysia. I said it was a setback for the Pakatan Harapan to build a New Malaysia because yesterday’s rally would not have happened if the Harapan government had handled the Icerd issue better.

As constitutional law expert from Universiti Malaya, Professor Shad Faruqi, has stressed, most of the criticisms against ICERD have no legal basis.

He said: “However, as hate and fear are potent weapons in politics, the perpetrators have succeeded in polarising society and raising the spectre of violence.”

As Shad Faruqi has pointed out, Icerd is neither anti-Malay nor against the Malaysian Federal Constitution. Since yesterday, Malaysia has become the laughing stock of the Muslims in the world, as 99 percent of the 1.9 billion Muslims of the world live in 179 countries which have ratified ICERD, including 55 of the 57 Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) nations.

UKM research fellow, Dr. Denison Jayasooria, wrote a good article in Malaysiakini entitled: ‘Examining Icerd ratification among OIC members’, where he reviewed the ratification by OIC member states, including Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Palestine, and he concluded: “As far as I note, none of them has objections or placed reservations in the name of Islam.”

IiVERD ++ also does not undermine the power of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, resulting in the abolition of the system of Malay Sultans.

There are 38 countries with the monarchical system, out of which 36 countries have ratified the Icerd including the United Kingdom in 1969, Norway (1970), Sweden (1971), Denmark (1971), Netherlands (1971), Jordan (1974), Belgium (1975), Japan (1995), and Saudi Arabia (1997).

There are absolutely no indications that the ratification of ICERD by these 36 countries have undermined the monarchical system as to lead to their abolition.

But as Malaysia is a plural society, it is of utmost importance that the unity and harmony of our diverse races, languages, cultures and religions in Malaysia must be the paramount goal of the nation.

For this reason, Malaysia should not ratify ICERD until the majority of the races and religions in Malaysia are comfortable with it, support it and understand that it poses no threat to the various races, religions or the Federal Constitution but is a step forward to join the world in promoting human rights.

The Harapan government should not have allowed the organisers of the anti-Icerd rally to hijack, twist and distort the ICERD debate with the toxic politics of lies, hate, fear, race and religion to incite baseless fears that Icerd is anti-Malay, anti-Islam and anti-Malay Rulers, which camouflaged an agenda to allow those responsible for sending Malaysia into the trajectory of a rogue democracy, a failed state, a kakistocracy and a global kleptocracy to make a political comeback and to destroy efforts to re-set nation-building efforts to create a New Malaysia.

This is a lesson the Harapan government must learn quick and fast, or both Harapan and the great vision of a New Malaysia will be destroyed.


LIM KIT SIANG is Iskandar Puteri MP.

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

Special Report

The ICERD Outrage

Malaysia is one of only two Muslim-majority countries in the world that have not ratified ICERD.

Rejoice, for this is genuine Rule of Law


October 24, 2018

Rejoice, for this is genuine Rule of Law

Opinion  |  Dean Johns

 COMMENT | Feelings of schadenfreude, the expression for which we’re indebted to German, and is defined in English as ‘pleasure at learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures or humiliations of others’ may not be a terribly noble, but it’s a fact of life that this happens to be one of the many ways in which we humans are flawed.

Or at least I’m happy to admit that I am.

If there’s one class of fellow humans I hate, it’s liars, frauds and fakes. And thus I’m over the moon at the spectacle of former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak, former first lady of Malaysia Rosmah Mansor and current UMNO President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi facing their moments of truth.

Of course, none of them has admitted the truth of the countless charges or masses of evidence against them.Nor, admittedly, as some readers are sure to rightly remind me, are they required to do so, given their right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

A situation that is far more generous than prevailed back when fake UMNO-BN “justice’” was meted-out against innocent witness Teoh Beng Hock, who fatally “fell” from a 14th-floor window at MACC headquarters; Scorpene-scandal translator Altantuya Shaariibuu who was shot and then disposed of with C4 explosive and countless “suspects” summarily executed in suspicious “shoot-outs” with the police.

But these UMNO-BN suspects have at least been questioned, investigated, accused and charged, and thus I feel justified in feeling a small frisson of schadenfreude in anticipation of a far bigger one when they eventually face trial and thus the possibility of conviction and imprisonment.

And not just imprisonment, as that would be mere retribution. They should also be required to make restitution to Malaysia and Malaysians of all their fraudulently-acquired assets.

Unfortunately, such a desirable and indeed delightful result is way in the future for the few big fish the law has netted so far, but there are plenty of smaller-fry alleged UMNO-BN fraudsters for the forces of law and order to bring to book and thus sustain our schadenfreude in the meantime.

In fact, many of them, both already and yet-to-be charged, are apparently so incurably addicted to falsehood, fakery and fraudulence as to be beyond redemption.

Najib (centre in photo), for example, had the effrontery, not to mention the deficiency of any sense of irony, to claim that he turned up in court yesterday to lend Zahid his “moral” support.

And for his part, Zahid himself saw fit to engage in his customary fake piety, proposing that the same God he formerly credited with choosing him for high political office is now putting him to a test that he intends to pass by clearing himself of the charges he faces.

‘Trying times’

Meanwhile, as usual, his sanctimonious accomplices and supporters in his alleged preying on the populace were urgently praying and urging others to pray to the same God.

UMNO Vice-President Ismail Sabri Yaakob urged “all Malaysians, supporters and members of UMNO to stand firm (in support of Zahid) and pray.”

Image result for Wanita UMNO Chief Noraini Ahmad

And similarly, Wanita UMNO Chief Noraini Ahmad declared that “the movement was praying for Zahid in hope that God would help him through this (sic) trying times.”

 

Zahid’s wife, Hamidah Khamis  had a somewhat different take on the Divinity’s role in the situation, making the point that “calamities as a punishment from God would hit Malaysia if problems such as the LGBT movement and alcoholic parties” – as well, implicitly as Zahid’s prosecution – “were not prevented.”

All such fantasies on the part of the fraudulent are nothing but further fuel for us schadenfreude fans, of course. But, to finish this column on a more positive note, as dedicated as I and doubtless many others are at seeing as many frauds as possible getting their just desserts, we’re also delighted that lots of genuine people will benefit.

Our honest, upstanding friends in the legal fraternity, for example, who have years of prosecution and defence briefs to look forward to now that the genuine rule of law appears to be back in force.

Not to mention the majority of true, honest-to-goodness Malaysians who have spent so many years waiting, and some of them possibly even praying, for freedom at last from UMNO-BN-style lies, fraud, fakery and also far worse.


DEAN JOHNS, after many years in Asia, currently lives with his Malaysian-born wife and daughter in Sydney, where he coaches and mentors writers and authors and practises as a writing therapist. Published compilations of his Malaysiakini columns include “Mad about Malaysia”, “Even Madder about Malaysia”, “Missing Malaysia”, “1Malaysia.con” and “Malaysia Mania”.

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

 

Thayaparan on Pakatan’s GE-14 Manifesto: It’s void ab initio


October 13, 2018

Thayaparan on Pakatan’s GE-14 Manifesto: It’s void ab initio

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for rais hussin

It ain’t got a Thing if It ain’t got a Swing–Duke Edward Kennedy Ellington

“Every page should explode, either because of its staggering absurdity, the enthusiasm of its principles, or its typography.”

― Tristan Tzara, ‘Manifesti del dadaismo’

COMMENT | Is the Pakatan Harapan manifesto worthless? Yes, it is. Most manifestos or campaign promises are suspect but now we know that the Harapan manifesto was void ab initio (void from the beginning).

Image result for s thayaparan caricature

Politicians who make campaign promises make an attempt to fulfil them and would make excuses if they could not. What they never do is say: “We made a bunch of stuff up to get your votes which we knew we could never fulfil.” This is exactly what the old maverick has said.

Claiming that you made promises while actually believing that you could not win is really dumb. I mean, the people who voted for you had faith in the movement and obviously thought you could take Putrajaya.

It’s funny, isn’t it? That we now have the prime minister saying that those promises were made when Harapan operatives did not really believe that they could take Putrajaya. I wonder what Prime Minister-in-Waiting Anwar Ibrahim’s promises to the folks at Port Dickson are worth.

 

Mahathir is not some neophyte political operative. He is a seasoned political operative who managed to get people to vote for his coalition even with the systemic corruption, systemic discrimination and race-based ideology for decades. Granted he was operating in unfamiliar terrain with the then opposition but even in this marriage of political convenience, surely he must have believed in some parts of the manifesto, right?

Surely there must have been Harapan political operatives who did believe in the manifesto and did not just say things because they believed they could not win. Was that really the strategy? Make a bunch of stuff up and then if victory was miraculously achieved, claim that they could not fulfil those promises? Moving forward, how can people ever trust anything Harapan officials say when it comes to policy?

Image result for rais hussin

Bersatu’s Rais Hussin claimed that a lot of thought went into the manifesto but apparently the Prime Minister does not think it means all that much. All these people that Rais (photo above) talks about, who put in the hard work of drafting the manifesto, did they not have access to the facts when they promised they could abolish tolls, for instance?

 

We always get this horse manure that the manifesto promises cannot be kept because new information has been “discovered” but really, the Harapan political elite had been claiming that we were reaching failed-nation status, hence whatever “new information” that has been discovered could not be possibly worse than the apocalypse they believed would happen if they did not win.

Remember that they claimed that the government was bankrupt at one point. Surely all this must have gone into the number-crunching done by Rais’ so-called experts when they were formulating the well-thought-out manifesto, no?

Flip-flopping on Sedition Act

If you buy this “new information” excuse, you do understand what this really means, right? That Harapan operatives were talking without having full access to the facts. They were making promises while ignorant of the facts and either they knew it or did not care. Claiming the discovery of new facts that make certain promises unworkable is the height of political mendacity.

And please, while this “new information” may fly with die-hard supporters, do you know what is the most important feature of a corrupt regime like Najib’s administration? Information leaks. You really believe that Harapan operatives were not getting information from whistle  blowers and sympathisers from the BN regime? You really believe that BN plutocrats were not leaking information to the political operatives from Harapan to hedge their bets?

Sure, some information especially dealing with massive corruption deals were “classified” but business dealings of the UMNO hegemony were not exactly sacrosanct especially when Mahathir, an arch-establishment figure, took over Harapan.

 

I argue here that this idea of not fulfilling election promises was because the base was quiet on this issue. Harapan is waffling on its promises because its base does not demand that these promises be kept. Often, this base and various political pundits make excuses for why Harapan needs time to fulfil certain promises instead.

This may be true in specific issues – like education reform, for instance – but when it comes to repealing certain laws, abandoning certain propaganda organs, or just fulfilling certain promises such as recognising the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC), this excuse of needing more time is indeed a weak one.

You may have come across some cretins who claim that they believed that Harapan is right to have said anything to win. In other words, voters are so dumb that they will believe anything political operatives tell them because they despise the UMNO regime.

But this is dangerous. How can we trust anything political operatives say if they cry wolf all the time or believe that they can say anything, break any promise and the base will not hold them to it? It gets even more perilous when the base is not bound by any ideological beliefs but rather a hatred for a regime for different reasons.

Now, maybe this may not mean anything to the urban, “educated” electorate, who are always telling the rural heartlands that they need to educate themselves about how the former UMNO policies were destroying the country, but how exactly does this play when these so-called ignorant people realise that Harapan does not intend to honour its promises because these were made while thinking the coalition would not win?

Image result for gobind singh deo

Mr. Gobin Singh Deo–Communications and Multimedia Minister

The removal of certain pernicious laws and organisations could be done with the necessary legislative and bureaucratic processes. But even with these, there has been flip-flopping by the Harapan administration.

Having a moratorium on the sedition law as put forward by Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo until the necessary legislative processes were carried out was a simple and honest move by Harapan. But before that, we had numerous political operatives including the Prime Minister flip-flopping on this issue.

Anyway, all this does not mean a thing. We do not have a credible opposition and the base will no doubt have more red meat thrown at it when the next financial scandal comes into view.

It all boils down to how Harapan handles the economy. If it succeeds in a way that the average rakyat does not feel “burdened”, then the burden of this manifesto would not mean anything.


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

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

 

Hard-nosed Leadership


October 4, 2018

Hard-nosed Leadership

 

Image result for Dr Mahathir on Channel 4 TV

by Dr. Sharifah Munirah Alatas

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Channel 4 News, the main news programme on British television, interviewed Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Oct 1. The opening credits already set the tone for the entire five minute, 47 second interview. With Mahathir crowned as the “comeback kid unlikely to be prime minister the second time around”, one could already sense the hard-talk that was going to be aired.

Let me assure readers that I am all for a free and critical media, unafraid to talk turkey, and impartial with the goal of disseminating the bare facts and allowing creative opinions based on those facts.

What concerns me here is not the sides that foreign nations choose to support in domestic politics. We are all aware that the self-interest of nations colour their perception of other countries in the game we call realpolitik.

Of more importance are the issues that were carefully chosen for discussion, how Mahathir answered them, his body language and the issues’ relevance for Malaysians. Let’s go through these one by one. About the topics of the interview, I recall “being in a hurry”, corruption, sodomy and terrorism as the main subjects.

The opening credits cheered Mahathir on for being the oldest Prime Minister in the world with a following remark made on whether he was even older than Queen Elizabeth. Shortly after that, though, the hard-talk began. It filled me with glee because these are the mental calisthenics that invigorate me!

First topic: “You seem to be a man in a hurry, but you don’t have much time to change Malaysia.”

As a Malaysian, I feel Mahathir HAS to hurry. Too much rot has accumulated, accelerated over the last nine years. Even though we have a new government, traces of that rot are still apparent. Most citizens who voted for change earlier this year would agree that cronyism (the daughter-in-law of corruption), nepotism and the “tidak apa” attitude in government are our main problems.

Yes, the issue of corruption, too, was discussed in the interview. The interviewer did not bat an eyelid when he said: “There was corruption too when you took over as prime minister in 1981.” To this, Mahathir responded that this time around, “the government machinery was corrupted”.

What does this mean? Does it mean that this time around, under the Barisan Nasional (BN) government, only the Prime Minister resorted to the blatant amassing of wealth by stealing from the rakyat? Or does it mean that every level of corrupt negotiations, beginning with government and stretching to businesses, the middle class, academia, and the service industry, led to an adverse effect on the entire society, on the common folk?

In the words of the late Syed Hussein Alatas, internationally respected scholar and critic of corruption in developing societies, “In a corrupt society, corruption enters into our lives… (and) becomes such a force that it conditions the socialisation process of younger generations towards a negative direction.”

Post-GE14, we still have to watch out for the “socialisation process” because corruption serves the interest of the ruling class and is the means of maintaining domination.

Rightfully, Mahathir said Malaysia is presently facing “a catastrophe of corruption”. My message here is that the public and the media have to realise that although the era of BN cronyism, corruption and nepotism may be over, after more than two decades of such culture and mindset, it will be difficult to eradicate.

The Pakatan Harapan era has not passed the litmus test yet. We need to soldier on.

The interview continued to (predictably) touch on sodomy and terrorism. This was couched in the question: “Will you really hand over power to Anwar Ibrahim?” The interviewer went on to quote Mahathir as saying, in the past, that he would not accept a sodomist as a head of country. He also recalled that Mahathir had threatened to deport gay diplomats.

Mahathir gave a classic but practical and genuine response: “Between sodomy and stealing a few billion from the country, I think the stealing of a few billion dollars is more serious.”

So, Malaysians, can we please prioritise in our clean-up agenda? Sodomy is not the issue that has set Malaysia back economically and socially. It is corruption. This is our message to foreign finger-pointers as well.

Moving on in the interview, Mahathir was taken to task for saying that the root cause of terrorism was Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. Then, the question of semitism bared its ugly face.

The interviewer showed no mercy in regurgitating Mahathir’s words of years ago, that Jews have hooked noses and run the world by proxy. He also labelled Mahathir as anti-semitic (which should be understood as a politically engendered concept based on the defeat of Nazi Germany).

Mahathir’s reply, I must admit, was shaky, evidenced as well by his shifting body language. But he did manage the clincher: That they (Israel) have “managed to influence big countries into doing what they benefit from”.

The politics of the Middle East and big powers is not my concern here. My concern is that his reply should resonate with Malaysians – just because one is in a position of power, one should not abuse it and manipulate the lower ranks into accepting agendas of self-interest.

Corruption and the manipulation of racist and bigoted ideology is what I grasped from Mahathir’s Channel 4 interview. Did you?

The interview ended with the interviewer saying “the old Mahathir is still here, spouting offensive and racist views”.

Well, that’s his opinion, based on the context. More seriously, I feel this interview has indirectly sent a crisp message to Malaysians and the government, that our current administration is under scrutiny by its own people and that Mahathir himself has given us the tools to monitor every step – or so I hope.

Sharifah Munirah Alatas is an FMT columnist.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

Longing for a kinder, compassionate, more humane and freer Malaysia.


September 7, 2018

Tough Love: Longing for a kinder, compassionate, more humane and freer Malaysia.

by Zainah Anwar

http://www.thestar.com.my

THIS time last year, I wrote about my longing for a better Malaysia, and how my utter belief that this was possible would always triumph over my many moments of despair. There was just too much good in this country for us to ever give up hope.

Image result for malaysia national day

And this year, as we celebrate our 61st year of Merdeka, I am simply thrilled. Thrilled that what most people thought was impossible, became possible. Malaysia bucked the global trend and voted into power a reformist government, throwing out a kleptocratic government and a ruling party that had held uninterrupted power since independence in 1957.

The election of a reform-minded government that believes in an inclusive Malaysia and eschews the use of race and religion for political gain does not of course mean we are home free. It is important that we who voted for change remain vigilant that the Pakatan Harapan government delivers on its promises of transformation. And to do this transparently and in consultation with stakeholders.

Image result for Malaysia's reformer aT 93

Malaysia’s autocrat turned reformer: at 93 can he deliver?

Politicians and voters now realise the power of the ballot box. It cannot be business as usual, replacing one set of economic and political elites with another set whose priorities will be to divide the spoils of victory.

As we welcome the first Merdeka and Malaysia Day under this new Malaysia, I have many wishes for the kind of country I want to live in.

First, I wish to see our ministers summon the political will and courage, and build their knowledge and strategies on how to deliver their reform agenda. And not least, how to stand their ground and defend what is just and what is right, in the face of opposition. We in civil society are tired of seeing too many ministers over the decades retreating in the face of criticism from ideologues, instead of defending a principled position.

Many NGOs, activists, academics, professionals who have long been working on issues such as human rights, women’s rights, education reform, poverty eradication, and economic justice, stand ready to support this government with the kinds of data, analysis, policy instruments, arguments and strategies needed to deliver on the reform agenda and build public support for this urgent necessity for change.

We want to see this government succeed in making this country a just home for all. We pray this government does not squander that goodwill.

Second, I wish to live in a kinder, compassionate, more humane Malaysia. It pains me to see the frenzy of hate, attacks, violence, demonisation of the LGBTIQ community in the country. Why this obsession with another citizen’s sexual orientation and gender identity? The debate is not about same-sex marriage or even about the halal or haram of their sexuality. It is about the right of LGBTIQ people to freedom of movement, their right to work, to health and to live a life free from violence. Why should that be contentious? They are citizens of this country and entitled to the same fundamental rights that other citizens enjoy.

It is obvious that the issue has been whipped up as a political tactic to generate hate and fear, spearheaded by those opposed to the reform agenda of the new government. So they stir up controversies in order to rebuild lost ground. And politicians fearful of losing popular support cave in, so quickly, so easily, so thoughtlessly.

How could a small, oppressed, and discriminated community who actually live in fear on a daily basis, and who long to live in peace and dignity ever pose a threat to Malaysian society? How could an all-knowing compassionate God ever condone cruelty against his own creations just because they are different? So let’s be confident in our faith and believe that if God really wanted all of us to be the same, he would have done so.

Third, I wish to see an end to corruption that has been long fuelled by the intricate web of business and politics in this country. Professor Terrence Gomez’s just released research findings on Government in Business reveal a mind-boggling labyrinth of thousands of GLCs at federal and state levels, most of them unlisted and thus, unscrutinised. There are of course GLCs that are professionally run. But many also serve as tools of patronage and as vehicles to provide politicians with monthly directors’ fees to support their political ambition – at best.

At worst, official investigations and media revelations of outright corruption, criminal breach of trust, and asset stripping display a spectacle of unbelievable greed and betrayal of trust.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed himself has called such GLCs “monsters” that have deviated from their original noble intention of helping the poor.

The Head of the Council of Eminent Persons, Tun Daim Zainuddin, has promised that this time the government wants to get it right in delivering its bumiputra empowerment policy.

We all wait with bated breath, for this country cannot endure, economically, politically and socially, yet more decades of affirmative action on the basis of race rather than need, and all the consequent distortions and abuses that had benefited the economic and political elites.

Fourth, I wish to live in a country where the political leaders and the citizens embrace our diversity as a source of strength, and not a threat. And to walk the talk. It is imperative that the new government sets the tone that it will not tolerate further manufacturing of a siege and crisis mentality among the Malays and supremacist speeches in the name of race and religion to incite hatred and fear of “others”.

This country was on the verge of implosion, and it was the wisdom of the rakyat that saved us, when with courage we voted into power a reformist party.

I was in Bangkok last week to give a talk on identity politics in South-East Asia together with speakers from Indonesia and Myanmar. They were depressed about the political developments in their countries, and my optimism on Malaysia was tempered by the reality that they too had earlier voted in reformist leaders who have now succumbed to the politics of race and religion in order to remain in power.

But I would like to believe that Malaysia is different as we have strong antecedent resources that will put us in good stead in moving forward on a reform agenda. Most importantly is the entrenched belief that this country cannot survive nor prosper without the three major races accepting each other and learning to give and take in sharing equitably the wealth of the nation. It can never be a winner take all game in Malaysia.

Second, we have a significant minority population. This means there is a limit to how far the majority group can use race and religion to serve the interest of the ruling elite, before paying a high political cost for its relentless transgressions, or complicity in its inaction and silence.

Third, while things are far from perfect, our long record of economic growth, poverty reduction, and strong state apparatus put us in good stead that a more open and robust democracy will not be destabilising, and can lead to a more inclusive Malaysia.

Moreover, a large educated Malaysian middle-class and a strong business community eschew any hint of violence or chaos or extremism, and there is a growing critical mass of voters, not least from among the young, who expect their freedoms and rights to be upheld.

And more than anything, the rakyat feel very precious about what we have achieved. As much as we are willing to give Pakatan Harapan the support it needs and the time, too, to deliver on its reform agenda, we have learnt from the mistakes made in the past. We are no longer willing to acquiesce in silence in the wrongdoings and abuses in powerful places, in return for stability and prosperity.

This is the new Malaysia where it will be tough love for all.

Malaysia: Feudal Politics Alive


August 11,2018

Malaysia: Feudal Politics Alive

by James Chai

Image result for the new malaysian cabinet

 

COMMENT | Many Pakatan Harapan supporters are extremely fearful of criticising Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s government.

They take criticism to be like throwing stones at an already-delicate glasshouse. If we criticise this supposedly infant government, it would tumble and we would usher  another era of BN-UMNO and Najib Abdul Razak. Thus, what we should do is be staunch defenders of Mahathir’s government; anyone who thinks otherwise is a BN supporter on a hangover.

But this fear is wholly irrational. Criticising the current government will not cause it to tumble; criticising Mahathir’s regime will not bring us back to Najib’s regime; criticising powerholders does not make you a corrupt, unprincipled, unkindly BN supporter.

Image result for Feudal Malaysia

I have no doubt that many fearmongers are driven primarily by the good intention of protecting the precious spoils of the sweet May 9 victory. But if we truly intend to prevent a return of BN-UMNO and Najib, then we must be ready to criticise our government openly and frequently.

 

What we should fear is not criticism; what we should fear is the fear of criticism.

Why we should criticise

First, we should always be prepared to criticise the government because it is in the public interest to do so–to hold government accountable. While Najib may have treated the government coffers as his personal property, we must ensure that Mahathir’s government recognises the fundamental principle that governments are public trustees of our tax money.

 

It follows logically that every decision the government makes must be transparent, and upon any suspicion of wrongdoing, we must be ready to demand an explanation and/or criticise. For example, before the government embarks on a major project such as a third national car or the maintenance of the National Civics Bureau (BTN), we are entitled to demand full disclosure and explanations. If there are no explanations forthcoming, or if they were unsatisfactory, we must criticise.

Second, we are entitled to criticise because the politicians in government are chosen by us. They are not humans of a special kind chosen by the heavens; they are merely our representatives. So if we are unhappy with a particular action or inaction, policy or decision, then we are entitled to criticise.

Third, and most important, criticisms of Mahathir’s government is the true litmus test of accountability. The essence of accountability is seen not when you successfully criticise your opponents – that is too easy. The true test of accountability is whether you can start criticising your allies on the same side. Because if you can hold accountable peers who have erred, then our country has passed the test for accountability. You must always be ready to criticise the government.

 

We have a weak government if it constantly requires defending. The government has at its disposal all the resources, expertise, and willpower available in the country  to respond to criticism and act accordingly.

The only exception, perhaps, is when the criticism is disproportionate or factually incorrect. But other than that, no criticism should be feared.

Why would the most powerful entity of the country require defending? What the government requires is not praise or defence; what it requires is criticism to keep it in check.

Power corrupts

We must always be vigilant and guard against the insidious risk of corruption of power. History showers us with plentiful tales of how even the most honest politician in the world may eventually be corrupt when he becomes too comfortable with power.

Image result for xavier jayakumar at swearing ceremony

 

The Laksamanas of the New Malaysia Government

To limit power, we must create viable systems. We must make sure the prime minister only holds two terms in office; does not concentrate all state powers in his hands; and does not do anything without prior consultation.

But lest we forget, the single most important component of this accountability system is the people. We can have the most progressive laws and constitution in the world, but without the people and their willingness to criticise, nothing will matter.

Our duty as citizens is not to hope for politicians to be incorruptible. Our duty as citizens is to create systems to make sure that even the most dishonest politician has no opportunity to be corrupt. And we do this by criticising openly and frequently.

You will have a functioning democracy only if you can keep it.

I don’t blame anyone who still fears to criticise, though. It takes some getting used to. We have lived so long under an authoritarian regime. Our residual feudalistic instincts made it easier to keep our eyes, ears, and mouths shut. We have yet to awaken from the tragic days of BN-Umno and Najib.

Image result for Mahathir the New Emperor

Malay Feudal Lords on Display–Artifacts of the Past?

However, the greatest tragedy is not that we have lived so long under oppressive laws that stifled criticism. The greatest tragedy is when we choose to stifle our criticism voluntarily even when there are no more oppressive laws hanging over us.

The only way to protect the victory of May 9 is to criticise, criticise, criticise. If we fear, then the gloomy clouds may come back to our shores, and we will have tyrants in different clothes.

After all, Najib was not a special kind of evil—he was merely a product of a failed system.


JAMES CHAI works at a law firm. His voyage in life is made less lonely with a family of deep love, friends of good humour and teachers of selfless giving. This affirms his conviction in the common goodness of people: the better angels of our nature. He tweets at @JamesJSChai.

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