Mahathir–The Game Changer for Bersih 4?


September 1, 2015

Malaysia: Mahathir–The Game Changer for Bersih 4?

by Scott Ng

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

mahathirbersih-4The Game Changer for Bersih 4 or a Free Rider?

Mahathir Mohamad’s presence at last weekend’s Bersih rally marked a watershed moment in Malaysian politics. Perhaps it was not the watershed moment Bersih was looking for, but it was of singular significance nonetheless, considering the less than illustrious history Mahathir has had with street demonstrations, something many felt compelled to point out.

Up till that point, Bersih 4 had been impressive, but lacking the needed impact to turn heads in Putrajaya. The crowds were well-disciplined and jovial, everything was proceeding as planned, but there was no spark to ignite the moment, unlike previous Bersih rallies, where turmoil defined the protests as some of the most significant in Malaysian history.

There was also the matter of the crowd’s racial composition, as the low Malay turnout led to government mouthpieces spinning Bersih 4 into a Chinese-DAP movement as opposed to a truly Malaysian one. The full spectrum of Malaysian colour needed to be on its most extravagant display, but it fell short and Najib celebrated another victory as media headlines painted the day’s procession as a largely tame event.

Then the rumblings started. Mahathir will be at Bersih. Tun M is coming. He’s coming when we need him. And sure enough, Mahathir appeared out of the blue, causing a media frenzy that shot Bersih back into significance. Although he left as quickly as he came, he had ignited a spark for Bersih. Immediately, Najib’s damage control team went into overdrive. They accused Mahathir of being a hypocrite and traitor, having betrayed Umno by having the sheer, unmitigated gall to step foot among the rabble rousers. How dare he consort with the enemy, they screamed.

Mahathir would make his intentions known the next day as once again, word spread of his impending arrival at the rally, this time accompanied by photos of him and his wife making their way to the crowds along with former law minister Zaid Ibrahim. And sure enough, he came and delivered a speech from the steps of Central Market.

In his speech, Mahathir made four very bold statements that may lay the foundations for future protests. One, he emphasised that he was at the rally for the people, placing importance on people power in the effort to oust Najib. Two, he announced that all UMNO MPs had been bribed by Najib, along with all of Umno’s division chiefs. Three, he proclaimed again that Najib’s RM2.6 billion did not come from the Arabs, but from 1MDB. Four, he told everyone to keep demonstrating, saying it was one of the last resorts in their attempt to be rid of Najib.

Mahathir’s presence changed the perception that Bersih 4 was a “Chinese thing” and legitimised Bersih and all future rallies as avenues to oust Najib, regardless of the intentions or agendas of the organisers. As an elder statesman, his words carry more weight than the voice of the multitudes, especially to the Malays.

Bersih 4.0 in Jalan Tun Perak

Despite all this, some, including some people in Bersih, felt that it was an apt time to make Mahathir account for his past sins. Yes, his sins are numerous, and yes, there are people who cannot forgive him. He paved the way for Najib to act the way he does.

You can hate him all you want, you can criticise and you can mock, but do not pretend that you did not need him. He came when you needed him the most, deeply aware that some people in the crowd despised him.

Some have called this Mahathir’s repentance. Perhaps it really is his repentance for hand picking what many consider to be the worst Prime Minister in Malaysian history. Perhaps removing Najib is the last goal he needs to achieve so that he may rest a little easier when he goes off for his long sleep. If the old man wants to repent, who are we to stop him or mock him?

Mahathir changed the game for Bersih and the people. He repainted the battle lines as no longer being a case of “DAP/the Opposition against UMNO,” but a case of “The rakyat versus Najib.” Whatever you think of him, Mahathir came through for the people last weekend. Perhaps we should be focusing on that a little more.

It’s the Economy, Mr. Najib, so don’t blink


August 31, 2015

It’s the Economy, Mr. Najib, so don’t blink

by Martin Khor@www.thestar.com.my

FT Najib

TODAY(August 31) marks the completion of 58 years of Merdeka. On the economy, there is much to be proud of, with nearly six decades of generally good growth. One key reason is that the national economy has become well diversified. At Independence, Malaya was dependent on exporting just rubber and tin.

Through the years, more commodities including palm oil and petroleum were introduced and the raw materials were processed and manufactured, for example, into rubber gloves and furniture.

The manufacturing sector also diversified to include electronics. Construction has boomed and has high potential. There have been mistakes, too, along the way. Policies could have been better designed and implemented. And growth, though quite well-distributed, could have been more inclusive.

There are many regions and communities still left out of development. This Merdeka, we should resolve that those living at the bottom of the pyramid should receive the most attention and resources.

There is no reason why, 58 years after Merdeka, Malaysia cannot cater to the needs and interests of the poor and vulnerable. Despite the achievements, the economy is now facing what could be its greatest test. We are already inside the start of an economic crisis, and it will get worse before it gets better.

The fall in prices of petroleum and palm oil has rightly been blamed. Our economy is still reliant on commodities and thus affected by the booms and busts of the global commodity cycle, which turned downwards in the past couple of years. Even more important, Malaysia has also become dependent on another boom-bust cycle – that of global finance, the rapid inflows and outflows of funds.

This cycle is even more volatile and dangerous than the commodity cycle. Volatile because the flows can be huge and can change suddenly, and dangerous because the change can damage many parts of the system. There is a large body of literature on the dangers of global financial flows, when trillions of dollars of short-term funds go hunting for investment venues and modes in search of higher yield.

These funds choose Malaysia and other emerging economies to place many billions of dollars. When fundamentals or perceptions change, the funds move out.

Allowing the free flow of speculative funds is not a good idea. When too much comes in, effects include stock market and property price bubbles and currency appreciation.

And when the investors exit, there are other bad effects, as is now becoming evident. Foreign funds in the stock and bond markets are leaving the country. The ringgit has fallen more than 20% since a year ago, with expectations of further falls prompting further outflows. Local capital flight is also taking place.

Since the trade surplus has declined, it cannot fully offset the outflow of funds. Thus the overall balance of payments is now negative and this is reflected in the falls in the foreign reserves from US$132 bil (or RM424 bil at the exchange rate then) on August 29, 2014 to US$94.5bil (or RM356bil) on August 14, 2015.

Unless the investor mood reverses, there is potential ground for higher foreign outflows. The relevant foreign funds are in four categories: equities, bonds and deposits (denominated in ringgit) and loans to Malaysia denominated in foreign currency. Foreign investors have around RM300-400bil in the stock market. This year up to 31 July, they pulled out RM11.7bil from the stock market, according to MIDF Research. Foreign funds invested in bonds denominated in ringgit are high and falling fast. Foreigners own RM206.8bil of government and corporate bonds at end-July, down from RM226bil at end-2014 and RM257bil in July 2014, according to government data.

They also own deposits in Malaysian institutions of RM91bil as at end-March. Thus, there are RM600-700bil of foreign funds in the country as equities, bonds and deposits. If a sizable amount moves out, this would further drain the foreign reserves which stood at RM356bil on Aug 14.

On top of this, the public and private sectors also had RM399bil of external debt (of which RM157bil is short-term) denominated in foreign currencies as at end-March 2015, according to Bank Negara.

The country has thus become dependent on foreign funds and lenders to maintain their assets in and loans to Malaysia. The foreign reserves are still quite high, but has been declining and subject to future stress if outflows continue.

It is timely that an economic task force has been set up by the Prime Minister and it should examine all facets of the emerging crisis.

Should the country re-establish a currency peg? If this is done, there should also be controls on capital outflows, otherwise the fixing of the currency may not prevent and may instead cause further large capital outflows. The 1998-2000 policy measures that overcame the crisis were successful because they were done in combination: a fixed exchange system; control over certain types of capital outflows; and reflationary monetary and fiscal policies. One without the others would not have worked.

The committee should also consider whether it was wise to have recently liberalised the financial system so much, to now have such free inflows and outflows of funds. Excessive fund inflows and debts could have been limited in the first place, as done in some other countries. Local institutions should also not have been encouraged or allowed to invest so much abroad; now it is not easy to get them to reverse the flow.

The policies have resulted in high dependence on foreign funds, and the economy being susceptible to the stress of capital outflows. We shouldn’t welcome or attract all the funds that want to enter to do so, and then later bewail the fact that these same funds now want to exit when the economy cannot afford them to do so.

In any case, it is important to give priority to reviving the economy, which is now clearly under stress and already inside a crisis.

 

In the Spirit of Merdeka, fast forward Bersih


August 31, 2015

COMMENT:  I disagree with you,  Mr Ng.  Bersih 4.0 on August 29-30, 2015 is not “the nexus of negativity”. It is a gathering of thousands upon thousands of Malaysians who demand free and fair elections, and good governance. They choose to express their discontent with the Najib administration in a mature, orderly and peaceful manner.

Din and Kamsiah at Bersih4.0We were among the many Malays who were at Bersih 4.0 with fellow Malaysians

It is not a Malay versus the Rest affair. That is what Najib and his cronies, apologists, sycophants and paid spinners would have us believe. In stead, it is a clear demonstration that Malaysian people power is alive and can no longer be ignored.

Malaysian democracy is very much in vogue. This is the most positive development from Bersih 4.0  and the significance of Merdeka 58, not the expensive display of meaningless pomp, arrogance and defiance, and pageantry which I saw on television this morning.

BERSIH'S demands

Those who were at Dataran Medeka and its surrounds want positive change; they want a responsible and accountable government. Read the 5 Bersih demands carefully. Because Prime Minister Najib can longer be trusted, they want him to step down. That is Demand No. 6. And it was a simple and clear message delivered in a resounding way.

Najib lacks credibility and there is a crisis of confidence and capital and financial markets are reacting negatively by dumping our stocks and shares and selling the Malaysian ringgit. Until this leadership question is settled,  we face uncertainty which can lead to the worst economic crisis we have witnessed in 58 years.

solat at Bersih 4.0The Malays were there. Make no Mistake about this

How can you expect us to lay down our arms and celebrate when we know that Najib is corrupt and incompetent and the root cause of current political, social and economic problems. He cannot be trusted to focus on his duties.

Our Prime Minister is only interested in remaining in power and will stop at nothing to ensure he survives politically. And if he has to go down, he will take Malaysia with him. So, this struggle for change must be relentless; it must not stop until we succeed in our mission. Fast Forward, Bersih.

IGP Khalid A Bakar

Finally, I congratulate Bersih 4.0 organisers and the Royal Malaysian Police for ensuring public order. To the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar,  I say “terima kasih daun keladi, kalau boleh macam ini lain kali”. –Din Merican

In the Spirit of Merdeka, fast forward, Bersih

by Scott Ng

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Tunku QuoteA Timely Reminder to our Current Prime Minister: Stop Playing Politics with Race and Religion

For two days, Dataran Merdeka, the place where Tunku Abdul Rahman declared our independence from the British, was the focal point of the nation. The place that celebrates our country’s greatest achievement became the nexus of this country’s negativity, expressed not by those who were against the government, but also by those who viewed the protest as unpatriotic. And the rhetoric has been ugly, to say the least.

The accusations levelled at Bersih by pro-government media and bloggers and the cries of “Where are the Malays? Don’t they care about this country too?” from the protestors defined the worst of us. They represent the basest, most repulsive urge we have, the need to blame and demonise those who are different from us. That’s ironical, for sure, given how much we harp on what it means to be Malaysian in our multi-cultural society.

Today, however, is an occasion for all Malaysians. Without Merdeka, none of us would be where we are today, in this beautiful, often schizophrenic country that somehow keeps a hold on our heartstrings no matter what is going wrong. Without the bravery of our forefathers – Malay, Chinese, Indian, Orang Asal it matters not – there would not be the Malaysia that we call home.

There is so much hate and anger in the air that we have even forgotten to celebrate Merdeka this year. This is not to say that the rakyat are angry without reason. There are indeed many reasons to be angry right now, but we must not forget that fateful day 58 years ago that our forefathers won the right to self-determination, the right to live in a way only we Malaysians can live.

Just for today, it is time to lay down arms. In the name of those who came before us, and those who sacrificed for us, this is a day to celebrate.

This day exemplifies the will of Malaysians to live a life as free as anyone else in the world, on our own terms. This day represents the end of oppression, the end of coercion, the end of having our voices ignored. It is a day of freedom and emancipation. If we do nothing else, we should be shouting Merdeka from the rooftops to reinforce the fact of our independence, and to bring to mind what we struggled against as a people.

If only just for today, let us be undivided by ideological, communal, or political lines. Let us just be a people who finds themselves on the cusp of something tremendous and who must reconnect with the same spirit that once made us great. As Merdeka leads to Malaysia Day, we must keep up our faith in what makes us who we are, and hold fast to the spirit of Merdeka, to the dream of a nation of equals, working together for the success of our grand experiment.

Zahid Hamidi: Malaysian Politics’ One -Trick Pony


August 29, 2015

Clean Malaysia.2015

Zahid Hamidi: Malaysian Politics’ One -Trick Pony

by Terence Netto@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT If there is a one-trick pony in Malaysian politics, it’s Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. He’s got only one trick up his sleeve and it’s a sledgehammer which he is pleased to deploy, especially when he’s got his back to the wall.

That a politician of his dearth of skills can rise to the No. 2 position in the country is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in an UMNO that has dominated Malaysia’s politics to its detriment since Independence.

That this dominance has brought the country to decay can be seen from the contagion of controversies that presently beset it.

The distresses have reached a point where the only way out is for the No. 1 man to exit office, but this is not to say that the No. 2 should then take over.

The sober-minded know that often in politics, the choice is not between good and better; more commonly, it is between the undesirable and the intolerable. But in the case of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his Deputy, the selection is between the intolerable and the execrable.

No, this isn’t saying that that’s the choice we are faced with. It’s that both leaders in combination have succeeded in dividing the country between those who want to be freed of stupidity and those in whose material interest it is to support a benighted tyranny.

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Zahid certified this division through the banning notice he issued yesterday against the wearing of the yellow Bersih T-shirts whose sales have been brisk the past week.

Yellow a color of resonant significance

The yellow of Bersih has been a color of resonant significance since Queen Elizabeth (photo) used a yellow dress with a yellow floral arrangement in the backdrop of a reception hall in Buckingham Palace when the English monarch received Najib and wife Rosmah Mansor who were on state visit when Bersih were planning a their second march a few years back.

Yellow, contrary to its nominal signficance as an emblem of cowardice, has become in the protest march parlance in Malaysia the color of defiance and even subtlety.

The rapid turnover in T-short sales and the reported RM2 million in collections by Bersih for this their fourth protest march planned for today and tomorrow must have caused panic in government ranks.

Panic is not something that is calculated to bring out the best in the government. Accustomed to bringing out the mailed fist when under duress, the government has relied on the home minister for its final thrust to foil today’s gathering by Bersih when all other devices for heading off the protest had failed.

The government had tried subterfuge, offers of alternative venues, and there was the threat of anti-Bersih action by vigilante groups which was quickly retracted, and, lastly, the resort to a warning by the Armed Forces chief that the military will intervene if an emergency is declared in the event of disturbances.

Liable to compensatory action by victims

Even an attack imputing disloyalty by Bersih in wanting to stage their protest on the eve of the annual Merdeka Day commemoration failed to make a dent on their determination to go ahead.

When all these variations on a general theme of dissuasion proved of no avail, in stepped the Home Minister with the only prohibitive weapon he has in his arsenal – a banning of the yellow Bersih T-shirts.

How efficacious this ban is going to be can be inferred somewhat from what retired judge Gopal Sri Ram (photo) has said about the extent of the ambit of the Printing and Publications Act under which the banning order was issued.

The former jurist who has returned to legal practice has been vocal in recent years in pointing out legal niceties which in the case of yesterday’s banning order, does not include T-shirts in its ambit.

In an opinion that may well stay the hand of the banning authority, the learned lawyer contends that arrests of yellow Bersih T-shirt wearers would be liable to compensatory action by the victims. If this is true, Zahid may have bitten off more than he can chew. He’s had plenty of practice for this overreach.

Two years ago, almost to the month, the Home Minister made headlines, when in the face of rising instances of gangland shootings, he said police would shoot first and leave the ask questions for later.

It was a stance of breathtaking insolence. For if he has stubbed his legal toe in the dark of trying to thwart the Bersih 4 march, he will have asked for it.

Bersih 4.0 Update from freemalaysiatoday


August 29, 2015

Obama and Michelle Bersih 4.0

Best wishes from President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC to all Malaysians at Bersih 4.0. The US President is montoring the situation closely from the East Wing. Let us show him and Michelle that we are a disciplined and peace-loving people who stand up for the Rule of Law, Freedom, Justice, and Democracy.–Din Merican

LIVE at Bersih 4: All peaceful around Dataran Merdeka

Stay tuned for updates on the Bersih 4 rally progressing in downtown Kuala Lumpur now.

UPDATED

5.12pm: Opposition leader Wan Azizah and her daughter Nurul Nuha are seeing leaving Dataran Merdeka and will return after the Maghrib prayers.

solat at Bersih 4.05.00pm: Muslim rally goers do not forget their religious obligations and perform the Solat Asar in front of the City Hall building.

4.58pm: Ambiga is seen leaving Dataran Merdeka and informs reporters she will be returning at 10pm tonight.

4.54pm: Speaking to rally goers, Ambiga said she misses the presence of PAS whose members were a no-show at the rally. She also says the main thing the government must do is “get rid of GST”.

ambiga4.50pm: What is believed to be a home-made bomb has exploded at Jalan Kinabalu. FMT Reporter Adam Abu Bakar, who was 30 metres away from the blast, said it was thrown from the flyover to the road below. There were no injuries.

4.44pm: City Hall officers have arrived to monitor and assist rally goers.

DBKL

4.36pm: With the skies turning cloudy, some rally goers are spotted leaving the scene. When asked why he was leaving, one man, who did not wish to be named, said he was headed back to Gombak.

pulang3 media pulang

4.21pm: Bersih 4 rally goers are seen sitting peacefully on the roads along Jalan Tun Perak and Jalan Raja Laut. Earlier performers of the group BangsArt sang the song “Hidup Rakyat” (Long live the people) accompanied by drum beats.

Meanwhile Police presence at Dataran Merdeka is reported as being minimal. No FRU in sight.

4.20pm: Bersih 4.0 chair Maria Chin Abdullah calls on MPs to table a motion of no confidence against the Prime Minister once Parliament reconvenes in October. She says this is the main message from Bersih 4 to the government apart from calling for institutional reforms.

4.05pm: The crowd from Menara Maybank is approaching Dataran Merdeka.

4.00pm: Crowds cheer as Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng approaches the Dataran Merdeka area. He addresses the crowd, criticising Prime Minister Najib Razak for the RM2.6 billion donation he received and the falling ringgit. He says with the GST, the poor have become even poorer. “Everything has gone up (in price). I believe when the country’s leaders see us gathering here today, they will not be able to sleep.”

He adds, “The ringgit has dropped so badly to the extent we can’t go anywhere, not even Thailand. That’s why we come to Dataran (Merdeka) because that’s the only place we can be.”Maria Chin Abdullah is also around the vicinity.

3.40pm: The crowd from Sogo arrives at Dataran Merdeka. There are reports that some people are leaving the rally grounds.

dataran ramai

3.32pm: GHB’s Mat Sabu arrives in Dataran Merdeka and tells Bersih 4 organisers to ensure rally goers do not enter Dataran Merdeka. He says the programme will start at 4.30pm when Bersih 2.0 chair Maria Chin Abdullah arrives. He tells rally goers to sit down, be quiet and to get to know each other.

3.30pm: GHB’s Ahmad Awang addresses the crowd and says he hopes this will be the last time that there will be a Bersih 4 before the Opposition defeats UMNO-BN and takes over Putrajaya.

Meanwhile Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali says that will such a good turnout, he is confident that Prime Minister Najib Razak can be ousted from Putrajaya.

3.20pm: Some rally goers are sitting on the roads along Jalan Tun Perak, slowing down the march to Dataran Merdeka.

3.15pm: Crowds are swelling around Dataran Merdeka as they are joined by over 3,000 from Masjid Negara shouting “Bersih! Bersih! Hidup Rakyat!”.

Rally goers from Brickfields numbering 5,000 have arrived at Central Market.

3.01pm: The estimated crowd from Menara Maybank walking towards Dataran Merdeka is 20,000.

2.45pm: GHB’s chairman Mat Sabu, in a fiery speech outside Masjid Negara, says all Malaysians gathered today would do so peacefully for the next 34 hours. “We are here today to save the country, the people and to say no to corruption. Tomorrow at midnight we will all shout “Merdeka!”

mat-sabu2

2.35pm: The rally goers at Jalan Parlimen leading to Dataran Merdeka are told to sit down. Malaysiakini reports Bersih 2.0 secretariat member Shukri Razab as saying,”Ladies and gentlemen who gather in front of the barricades, please do not storm in as Bersih has made a promise (not to do so). And the police will also take care of our safety.” 

2.30pm: Rally goers start their march from Brickfields carrying a large banner that says “Tangkap Najib”.

tangkap-najib

2.25pm: The march from Menara Maybank to Dataran Merdeka has begun.

2.20pm: Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng addressing the crowd at Menara Maybank says, “We gather here today not for power, positions or money. We gather here not for ourselves, but for our children.”

2.19pm: GHB’s Mat Sabu tells rally goers at Masjid Negara that their presence at Bersih 4 today is a clear indication of their desire for Prime Minister Najib Razak to resign.

mat-sabu

2.17pm: Wan Azizah addresses the crowd gathered in front of the Sogo Shopping Complex.

wan-azizah

2.15pm: Maria Chin Abdullah in her speech at Menara Maybank, says the march today is to demand the Prime Minister step down so that Malaysians will get a clean government. This was followed by a two-minute long cheer by the almost 8,000 rally goers gathered there.

Meanwhile Khalid Samad who spoke at the same venue commended rally goers for being brave enough to have come out and demand for the prime minister to step down. He said Malaysians were people of great dignity. Khalid also said he would support a vote of no confidence on the prime minister because he has embarrassed Malaysians. His speech was followed by shouts of “Bersih! Bersih! Bersih!”

2.10pm: MP for Kota Raja Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud from GHB who is at Masjid Jamek calls for Prime Minister Najib Razak’s resignation and says the people are tired of his leadership.


dr-Mariah

Ambiga meanwhile tells rally goers at Brickfields that the people want clean elections and a clean government, “Hidup Bersih Hidup Rakyat!” and proceeds to lead the march to the Central Market.

ambiga

2.00pm: DAP Parliamentary leader and MP for Gelang Patah Lim Kit Siang arrives at Masjid Negara while Opposition leader Wan Azizah and daughter Nurul Hana have arrived at Sogo Shopping Complex.

Number of rally goers at Central Market are approximately 4,000 at this point.

Lim-kitsiang

1.59pm: Former Bersih co-chair Ambiga Sreenevasan arrives at Brickfields.

1.50pm: Bersih 2.0 chair Maria Chin Abdullah arrives at Central Market.

maria-chin

Activist Hishamuddin Rais and former MB of Perak Nizar Jamaluddin have just arrived in Brickfields to a cheering crowd. They crowd is anxiously awaiting for the nod to start marching. MP for Lembah Pantai Nurul Izzah Anwar is expected to arrive at 2.30pm.

According to Malaysiakini, approximately 50 Malaysians have gathered at Suzhou in China to mark Bersih 4. They came wearing the yellow Bersih T-shirts and carrying the Jalur Gemilang.

1.30pm: Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad has been spotted at Menara Maybank.

A huge Bersih 4 bunting carried by three rally goers is spotted. A driver passing by has rolled down his window to shout “Bersih!” with others shouting in unison.

Crowd at Menara Maybank approximately 5,000 now after being joined by those from the Masjib Jamek area. Drivers of almost every vehicle passing by honks in support.Shouts of “Bersih!” dominate accompanied by sounds of the vuvuzela.

Apart from wearing the yellow Bersih T-shirts, some have painted their faces in yellow with the words Bersih 4 on it.

Lawyers for Liberty co-founder Eric Paulsen and PKR’s Batu MP Tian Chua are spotted in front of the Sogo Shopping Mall.

1.16pm: Dr Dzulkifli Ahmad from GHB, who has been spotted, says supporters from Johor, Malacca and Negeri Sembilan are on the way to Kuala Lumpur.

The entrances to Dataran Merdeka are under tight police control by 200 personnel stationed there. Rally goers are steering clear of the area out of respect for Merdeka Day rehearsals taking place there. They have instead starting moving towards the Masjid Jamek area.

About 2,000 rally goers are now shouting “BERSIH!” non-stop.

bersih3

1.10pm: FMT reporters on the ground say the turnout today is peaceful overall with a mixed crowd of Malaysians showing up to participate in the Bersih 4 rally despite it being declared illegal by the authorities.

Every rally goer has also defied authorities by donning the yellow Bersih T-shirt that was declared illegal yesterday because it was an “undesirable item”.

Gerakan Harapan Baru (GHB) leaders however have not been spotted yet leading their supporters.

12.50pm: About 2,000 people have gathered in front of the Sogo Shopping Mall and about the same number at Menara Maybank.

The crowd at Masjib Jamek that has gathered near the LRT station meanwhile has swelled to approximately 1,500.

bersih4 bersih5.

12.45pm: The Malaysian Insider reports that a petition to collect one million signatures for the release of former Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim from prison, has started circulating among rally goers in front of the Sogo Shopping Mall.

Nandos adds to the spice of the rally by distributing free drinks to Bersih 4 rally goers.

According to Malaysiakini, some of those present at the rally were seen holding creative cardboard banners saying “I ‘hv NO MONEY TO PRINT A BANNER. PLEASE DONATE RM2.6 BILLION TO ME!!”

Another says, “People will eat grass if Najib does not resign” while another was spotted carrying a canvas bag with the words, “My Prime Minister embarrasses me”.

12.40pm: Some rally goers making the most of their time downtown to buy lottery tickets for the weekend at Jalan Masjid Jamek.

IMG-20150829-WA0097

12.35pm: FMT reporters say the mood is generally of a festive nature.

12.30pm: Bersih’s Mandeep Singh and student activist Adam Adli are seen leading a big crowd towards Central Market, obstructing traffic.

FMT reporter Arfa Yunus says some rally goers are carrying sunflowers to signify the colour of Bersih 4.  She herself received one. Another reporter Yusoff Mohamed received a bottle of mineral water from a good-hearted rally goer.

PKR Secretary-General Rafizi Ramli is seen looking jovial and posing with a crowd of rally goers as they gesture showing the number 4 to reflect the Bersih 4 rally.

rafizi

12.20pm: Over 300 Bersih rally goers at Menara Maybank have begun to march towards Dataran Merdeka although their group leader Selangor MB Azmin Ali has yet to make an appearance. The others are seen still standing along the roadside of Jalan Pudu.

Meanwhile Police trucks have begun to arrive at Central Market where crowds have reached almost 1,000 in number.

12.15pm: Police trucks and buses begin to arrive at Menara Maybank. Police officers start to control traffic. The crowd has now swelled to close to 1,500.

12.00pm: Crowds at Menara Maybank numbering in the region of 1,200 await the arrival of Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali. Rally goers are waving the Jalur Gemilang as traffic shows significant signs of slowing down.

Over at Central Market, crowds of between 600-700 people begin to gather.

IMG-20150829-WA0076

11.51am: Malaysian Insider reports from Kota Kinabalu that rally goers have been spotted erecting tents for their overnight camp out at the Teluk Likas public park 2.

11.45am: About 1,000 people have gathered in front of Central Market clamouring for the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak and calling for the release of jailed former Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

FMT reporter Arfa Yunus says it’s like Hari Raya celebrations down at Dataran Merdeka. Individuals without any affiliation to political parties or organisations are handing out drinking water to rally goers free of charge.

bersih6

bebaskan anwar

unnamed (14)

11.30am: Crowds building up at the location of Central Market, Petaling Street, Masjid Negara, Sogo and Brickfields. People have also gathered at Menara Maybank where Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali will lead the rally.

Rally goers are seen waving the Malaysian flag and blaring the vuvuzela. Cars passing keep honking, showing their support for Bersih 4.

Going Rogue: Malaysia and the 1MDB Scandal


August 29, 2015

Bersih4We are Malaysians, so we must be who we say we are.–Din Merican

The respected, admired and well-regarded London School of Economics don, Dr. Danny Quah provides the rationale for Bersih 4.0. And here I quote his eloquent statement:

One of Britain’s greatest friends – a former colony that admired and reflected the grand British ideals of democracy, Rule of Law, free speech, and egalitarianism – has gone rogue…It does not take authoritarian autocracy to run a country into the ground. Regardless of the system of government, it takes only political elites out of touch with their people, a co-opted judiciary, an electoral process that even while open fails to surface progressive leadership, and a system that keeps to the law but fails to protect those speaking truth to power. Malaysia now has all of these sorry attributes.–Dr. Danny Quah

So go forth my fellow Malaysians at Bersih 4.0 and show the world that we want positive change and have the will to make Malaysia great again. We  must, we can, and we will succeed. All that is needed is the collective will to make it happen. We are Malaysians and proud to be Malaysians always, no matter where in this wide world we may be.–Din Merican

Going Rogue: Malaysia and the 1MDB Scandal

http://thediplomat.com/2015/08/going-rogue-malaysia-and-the-1mdb-scandal/

In 1971, more than forty years before the world would turn its attention to the so-called one percent and the problem of income inequality, Malaysia embarked on one of history’s boldest and most noble experiments to reduce social disparity. Malaysia’s New Economic Policy, or NEP, would seek to “eradicate poverty for all” and “eliminate identification of race by economic function and geographic location.” This polity that had achieved national independence just over a decade before, this country that was still a low-income emerging economy, was setting out to solve the massive problem of injustice and inequality over which other societies much more mature continued to struggle.

Malaysia was a democracy that hewed to the Rule of Law. The New Economic Policy (NEP) -1970-1990– would be Malaysia’s key political driver. Over the decades that followed, the NEP’s mantra would serve as a backdrop to almost all political discourse in the country. NEP-themed policies would, among much else, flesh out the concept of Bumiputera – an ethnic-driven formulation of native peoples in Malaysia.

Najib The SapumanMalaysia’s  most tainted Prime Minister 

It is difficult to grow an economy – look at train wrecks strewn around the world. But seeking to do so and at the same reduce ethnic- and rural-urban inequality, and maintain social harmony among diverse ethnic and religious groups is an order of magnitude more arduous. Malaysia succeeded: From tropical jungle, Malaysia has grown to have an average income now well above the world emerging-economy average. Its urban infrastructure and worker skills approach those in the first world. Malaysia’s top bankers, business people, and entrepreneurs are admired everywhere. NEP reduced pockets of extreme poverty and created a significant, thriving, and successful Bumiputera middle class – a group of professionals and intellectuals whose contributions to Malaysian society would be the pride of any country.

And, although from time to time patchily diverging from the ideal, throughout this history Malaysia worked hard to maintain its young democracy and its adherence to Rule of Law, and to support a healthy vigorous open sphere of public debate. Sensitive racial questions were out of bounds, but open questioning of the government was lively. Top government officials routinely had the judiciary rule against them. And a national identity emerged, one that combined the best aspects of local culture and an easy-going, open-minded cosmopolitanism developed from, among other things, the many Malaysians who have seen significant international experience. More so than when at home, Malaysians outside Malaysia saw each other for the warm and lively friends they genuinely were for one another, people who felt driven by a mission to make their country better.

Since his 2009 swearing-in, Malaysia’s current Prime Minister has sought to articulate an international vision for a “coalition of moderates.” As leader of a successful moderate Muslim country, he carried an authority and credibility sorely needed in global discourse. He was widely accepted in international circles, and even famously golfed with Barack Obama.

All this is now at risk.

However noble the goal of reducing social disparity, and however laudable the democracy, transparency, and Rule of Law to which Malaysia has desperately clung, this NEP half-century has seen the emergence of an increasingly hateful race-based narrative to Malaysia’s political and economic strategies. The Bumiputera concept has become conflated with questions of religion, and threatens the open society that Malaysia has built. That concept is now considered by many – both Bumiputera and non-Bumiputera alike – to hold back continued social development for the country. Significant Bumiputera and rural poverty remain. Ever more frequent accounts have appeared of government agencies intended to reduce Bumiputera poverty yet only enriching the elites of that group. A recent article by one of Malaysia’s most thoughtful interlocutors has had to ask:

Why after decades of rigorous development planning, 40% of Malaysian households earn only about RM1,847 a month? Why after more than four decades of the NEP, 75.5% of those at the bottom are Bumiputeras? Why in spite of the billions poured into education and boarding schools, 64.3% of the Bumiputera workforce have only SPM qualifications? Why some 90% of the unemployable university graduates are Bumiputras? Why of the $54 billion worth of shares pumped to Bumiputera individuals and institutions between 1984 and 2005, only $2 billion remained in Bumiputera hands today?

In March 2010 at an international investors’ conference, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced an urgent need for a revision to the NEP, towards a national development strategy more transparent, merit-driven, and market-friendly, and towards a new needs-based affirmative action. The Prime Minister had just won a resounding electoral victory; he had the backing of all Malaysians. (I am told by reliable sources that even Malaysia’s opposition MPs felt like standing up and cheering.)  But then elements within the Prime Minister’s political party mounted significant pushback, the moment passed, and he did not stay the course. Open democratic process has not kept in check the rise of extremists rallying together the Bumiputera grassroots, good people who have been told this time will be different, this time more of the same will help them, despite its having failed to do so these last 50 years.  Since 2010 no one has been able to recount significant action on that announcement.

A Malaysia of Cronies

All this is background. The practice continues to worsen in a Malaysia of cronies undermining good intentions and exploiting for self-interest the very instruments designed to help others. The latest most visible instance of this is 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, an investment fund set up to steward the nation’s resources. Elsewhere in the world, international scrutiny of sovereign wealth management vehicles has led to their applying the highest possible standards of financial probity; indeed, among the world’s most respected, successful, and scrupulously managed of those is Malaysia’s own Khazanah Nasional. By contrast, 1MDB has seen billions of dollars of public money moved around the world in suspicious circumstances, with allegations that hundreds of millions of dollars were funneled into the prime minister’s personal bank accounts. (Malaysia’s anti-corruption agency has ruled that the money came from legitimate “donations,” without specifying who the donor was.) All of this has dragged down in the world’s eyes Malaysia’s otherwise globally esteemed financial infrastructure.

And the egregious actions continue: shutting down the press has become the next step in that escalation. In July 2015 Malaysian authorities blocked a website that had become a significant and honest whistleblower on high-level developments in Malaysia. That same month Malaysian authorities suspended The Edge newspaper for its reports on 1MDB. Criminal defamation litigation threatened by the prime minister against the Wall Street Journal on its 1MDB reporting turned into a fiasco of the most basic legal ineptitude. Towards the end of July Najib removed from Cabinet his own deputy prime minister, the government’s most significant and prominent voice to raise questions on 1MDB. While four different official Malaysian government investigations are underway, there has now been a sudden replacement of the attorney-general and chief prosecutor. The deputy public prosecutor and others involved in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission have been arrested. The Prime Minister moved four members of the 1MDB parliamentary committee into his cabinet, thereby shutting down all further proceedings even as the committee’s official report comes due. Opposition MPs have been prevented from leaving the country on their way to discussing 1MDB and the political crisis in Malaysia.

In all this turmoil, many of Malaysia’s most remarkable leaders and numerous ordinary people have spoken out on the need for the country to get back to its roots. The country again needs to have a government that runs for the well-being of its people. Malaysia’s current political leadership no longer articulates a vision that serves Malaysia’s people. Malaysia’s leadership is no longer one admired by and hopeful for others around the world.

One of Britain’s greatest friends – a former colony that admired and reflected the grand British ideals of democracy, Rule of Law, free speech, and egalitarianism – has gone rogue.

Gandhi quote

It does not take authoritarian autocracy to run a country into the ground. Regardless of the system of government, it takes only political elites out of touch with their people, a co-opted judiciary, an electoral process that even while open fails to surface progressive leadership, and a system that keeps to the law but fails to protect those speaking truth to power. Malaysia now has all of these sorry attributes.

Danny Quah is Professor of Economics and International Development at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and Director of the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre at LSE. He had previously served on Malaysia’s National Economic Advisory Council, 2009-2011.