Malaysia in the dumps

October 22, 2016

Malaysia in the dumps on account of Najib’s racist politics and bad economics

by Greg Lopez

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Malaysia has been governed by the same ruling coalition (Barisan Nasional) since independence in 1957. This coalition provided capable leadership to address the four cross-cutting issues that enabled high and sustainable growth. But the Najib Razak administration appears not only to be faltering in managing these challenges but is actively undermining these achievements to remain in power.–Greg Lopez

Malaysia’s leadership troubles could provide a valuable lesson for other middle-income countries on the importance of effective leadership to sustain long term growth. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has denied allegations of corruption made by The Wall Street Journal. But can a leader and his administration that has been rejected by the electorate drive long term growth?

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In May 2008, the United Nations Commission on Growth and Development issued a report that attempted to distil the strategies and policies that produced sustained high growth in developing countries. It is clear from the report that politics and leadership are key to successful development. In particular, there are four cross-cutting issues that good leadership delivered: promoting national unity; building high quality institutions; choosing innovative and localised policies; and creating political consensus for long-run policy implementation.

Malaysia is among 13 nations (Botswana, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malta, Oman, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand) that the report identified as having sustained growth rates of above 7 per cent for 25 years or more. These 13 countries had five strikingly similar characteristics: they fully exploited global economic opportunities; they maintained macroeconomic stability; they mustered high rates of savings and investment; they let markets allocate resources; and they had committed, credible, capable governments.

Malaysia has been governed by the same ruling coalition since independence in 1957. This coalition provided capable leadership to address the four cross-cutting issues that enabled high and sustainable growth. But the Najib Razak administration appears not only to be faltering in managing these challenges but is actively undermining these achievements to remain in power.

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The Wharton educated Playboy

At the 13th Malaysian general elections, the Barisan Nasional coalition only managed to secure 47.4 per cent of the popular vote while the opposition coalition secured 50.9 per cent. This is the first time that the ruling coalition has lost the support of the majority of Malaysians. Najib took a presidential approach to the election and committed to spending an estimated US$17.6 billion of targeted development pledges and 1 Malaysia Programs. So it was a shock when the majority of Malaysians opted for a ragtag coalition that included an Islamist party and a socialist party led by a discredited leader.

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Malaysia’s Rosie Mansor, not Rosie O’donnell

Malaysia’s Najib’s popularity had been on a downward trend, from a high of 72 per cent in May 2010 to below 50 per cent in January 2015. But the series of damaging allegations has not only damaged his reputation irrevocably, it has also cemented a negative perception of the government. The majority of Malaysians no longer look favourably upon their government and its institutions. The most recent survey — polled in October 2015 after Najib admitted receiving a US$700 million ‘donation’ into his private bank account — found that 4 out 5 Malaysians were unhappy with the current government.

More damaging perhaps is the fact that only 31 per cent of Malays — the bedrock of support for the United Malays’ National Organisation (UMNO), the dominant party in the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition — were happy with the government’s current performance. The fall among Malays is drastic. It stood at 52 per cent in January 2015 and had never gone below 50 per cent since the independent pollster Merdeka Centre began tracking this data in February 2012. More Malaysians are also of the opinion that the country is heading in the wrong direction. Significantly, this change in sentiment began in the beginning of 2014, several months after the 13th general elections.

In response, Najib has taken several measures to protect his leadership position. These measures have further undermined Malaysia’s national unity, institutions and policy process.

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Najib and Hadi–Malaysia’s Political Laurel and Hardy

Despite the rhetoric of being the leader of all Malaysians, Najib has actively pursued a ‘Malay and Islamic’ supremacy strategy. And he has cosied up with UMNO’s mortal enemy, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party. The rise of fundamentalist Islam — as in the rest of the world — is a threat in Malaysia. But Najib has sought to bolster his credentials by appealing to conservative Muslims. This has empowered and emboldened the conservative Islamic elements within Malaysia.

Policy making and implementation have been insulated from public scrutiny since the government of long-serving former prime minister Mahathir Mohamed. But under Najib it has even been insulated from scrutiny by the cabinet, let alone the parliament. All major decisions are made by the prime minister and implemented through a hybrid organisation within the Prime Minister’s Department.

Despite Najib’s active pursuit of policies that are detrimental to Malaysian foundations, his economic track record appears to be sound. Malaysia could become a high income country by 2020. Yet Malaysians remain unimpressed by Najib Razak.

Institutions are not built in a day and the impact of Najib’s measures on Malaysia’s longer term growth prospects remain to be seen. For now, other countries caught in the middle-income trap should closely observe the developments in Malaysia.

Greg Lopez is a lecturer with Murdoch University Executive Education Centre, Western Australia. His research interests are in the interaction between states, societies and markets in the ASEAN region.


2016 US Presidential Elections: The Power Nativist Populism

October 17, 2016

2016 US Presidential Elections: The Power Nativist Populism

by Matthew J. Goodwin


Don’t underestimate the power of nativist populism. That’s the harsh lesson we in Britain learned less than four months ago, when Brexit blew up in our faces and confounded nearly every prediction. It’s one the Austrians and French are learning even now, as they keep counting out (then are forced to count back in) right-wing populist backlashes to the establishment. And it’s the lesson that American pundits who are already predicting a comfortable victory for Hillary Clinton over the embattled Donald Trump—if not a historic landslide—should take on board before they start relaxing too much in the next few weeks.

Of course, every election, and country, is unique. And with little more than 20 days left until America elects its next president, there is reason for the new sense of confidence in the Clinton camp. In recent weeks, Trump has been engulfed by scandal, and Clinton’s position has strengthened considerably in the polls.

But recent elections outside the United States should check too much complacency in the Clinton camp, especially when the side that is perceived to be losing is preaching nativist populism to voters who have been economically left behind and feel culturally under threat from ethnic change. Voters, in other words, who are especially motivated to vote for change. Less than four months ago the United Kingdom held a national referendum on whether it should exit the European Union, known as Brexit. Ahead of that contest, the betting markets, pundits and media were united in predicting a comfortable win for the pro-EU side, who wanted the U.K. to remain in the EU. Most of the polls, too, put “Remain” ahead (especially polls conducted by telephone), while the few online polls that suggested a Brexit victory were dismissed as rogue outliers riddled with sampling errors. Pundits pointed to the unfavorable ratings of leading Brexiteers like Nigel Farage who, they argued, were too divisive for Brexit to win. Others pointed to how even most voters accepted there did not seem to be much of a plan for life after Brexit. The Remain camp, we were also told, had the superior ground game—it seemed to be knocking on more doors, had more offices and had a developed strategy for targeting young university towns.

These assumptions continued to guide the national debate right up until the contest itself. In the prediction markets, throughout the final week of the campaign, the percentage chance that Remain would win did not fall below 75 percent. In the final days, seven polling companies issued their “final” polls, none of which forecast the eventual result. In three cases, the result was within the margin of error, though only one had put Brexit ahead, while the remaining four had overestimated support for Remain. Every single poll, noted the British Polling Council, even those within sampling error, had overstated support for Remain. Even on the day of the vote, three polls put Remain ahead, one by a striking 10 points.

The betting markets were just as confident; on the morning of the referendum, they put Remain’s chance of victory at 76 percent and, by the close of voting, at 86 percent. When you asked voters who they expected to win, it was the same story; in the final 24 hours of the campaign, only 27 percent expected Brexit to triumph. Those who sought to keep Britain in the EU, having recruited President Barack Obama to their cause, expressed relief. An anxious Prime Minister David Cameron was told to relax.

Almost everyone was proved wrong by the massive turnout of Brexit voters, who had been derided by established politicians as loons and racists and who were not expected to be organized, especially at the polling stations. “Leave” won 52 percent of the vote across the U.K., and nearly 54 percent in England. This figure rocketed higher in poorer industrial and rural communities that had been cut adrift by globalization and felt under threat from unprecedented levels of immigration—the analogue to many Trump voters today (as even Trump himself has suggested, tweeting that he would soon be known as “Mr. Brexit”). Support for Brexit reached striking levels among those same groups of voters who are now backing Trump—nearly 60 percent among voters on low incomes, over 70 percent among manual workers and 75 percent among people with no qualifications. In forgotten England, the anti-elite and anti-immigration message had spread like wildfire. The left behind mobilized in a big way.

Turnout rates among poorly educated white voters threw cold water on the earlier claim that the angry white man would not show up, that he would be pushed aside by young cosmopolitans and the big cities. Overall turnout was high, at 72 percent, the highest for any U.K.-wide vote since 1992. Subsequent analysis of how this affected the vote suggests that Brexit won by mobilizing people who never normally vote, something that Trump hopes to emulate. The unexpectedly high turnout, especially in blue-collar communities, is why turnout models in the polls that were based on turnout at previous elections performed poorly; they failed to account for the mobilization of unlikely voters. Turnout was much higher among the Brexit-voting over-55s and strikingly lower among young voters who had promised to vote. Some estimate that whereas 64 percent of young people who were registered to vote did vote, this figure was 74 percent among people ages 55 to 64 and 90 percent among those ages 65 and above. In the aftermath of the Brexit victory, a petition emerged to overhaul the result through a second referendum. The largest number of signatures were in young and trendy areas like the London districts of Camden and Hackney, where voters had failed to turn out when it mattered.

The Brexit vote is a powerful reminder not only of how identity can trump economics but also of how supporters of populist insurgents are often more loyal than many think. While the pro-EU side had focused relentlessly on dry arguments about jobs, wages and appeals to economic self-interest, Brexit was pushed over the line by a campaign that tapped into an intense cultural angst among blue-collar, left behind and older voters. The core message of “Take Back Control” had resonated strongly among these voters who had long felt cut adrift from mainstream politics and under threat from rapid ethnic change. That culture was as important as economics was reflected in the fact that it was in communities that had experienced the most rapid ethnic change over the past 10 years where support for Brexit was often strongest. Presented with an opportunity to reassert their conservative values and disdain for a liberal mainstream, they took it. The intense power of this identity angst should have been diagnosed given that ahead of the referendum most voters readily admitted to pollsters that they would be willing to suffer an economic hit if, in turn, it meant they had greater control over borders and immigration. Political and media elites failed to diagnose the simmering anger and mistakenly believed that it could be soothed with appeals to rational choice.

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In the U.S. election, it is clear that the strategy of the Trump campaign is to rile up the passions of America’s disaffected in the same way—to the point where many people at his rallies are now saying they’re doubly motivated to go to the polls to ensure that the election isn’t “rigged,” as the candidate himself has been urging them to do.

Other experiences in Europe underline the durability of support for right-wing populists. Since the 1980s, the media and liberal progressives have written off anti-immigration and anti-elite populist parties, but they never go away and have only accumulated support. In Austria, since the mid-1980s, the populist xenophobic Freedom Party has sustained a strong following; today it is on the verge of possibly winning the presidential election in December. In France, Marine Le Pen is currently forecast to reach the final second-round of the presidential election next spring despite her party being widely written off after her father was defeated in the same contest in 2002 and then saw a drop-off in support in 2007. This durability flows from an economically disaffected, socially conservative, white, less educated and male electorate that has mobilized despite talk of its members’ alienation and apathy.

It is also worth noting another contest in Britain: In 2015, conventional wisdom had again mistakenly told us that the progressive, social democrat Labour Party would likely triumph. The polls and commentariat were united in claiming that no party would secure an overall majority, that Britain was thus headed for a hung parliament and that—most likely—there would be a coalition headed by the uninspiring but nonetheless competent Labour leader, Ed Miliband. Labour, we were told, also had a superior ground game (rooted in Labour’s promise to hold “four million conversations with voters in four months”). When some of the world’s most renowned political scientists gathered at a conference to share their increasingly sophisticated forecasts of the election, not a single one predicted the outcome—a majority Conservative government. The polls, too, had been wrong. A subsequent inquiry revealed they had consistently overestimated Labour support and were among the most inaccurate since election polling had begun in 1945. Their samples had too many “easier to reach” Labour voters and not enough harder-to-reach older and more socially conservative voters.

Donald Trump will most likely fail to win the presidency, not least because the mechanics of the race differ from those contests above in important ways. The electoral college stacks the deck against the Republicans; there is a sharp gender gap in current voting intention (which was not evident at Britain’s EU referendum); and the Trump candidacy is perhaps the most divisive in modern American history. But at the same time, recent history from across the Atlantic reveals why you should never dismiss the appeal of a populist insurgency, place blind faith in the polls and forecasts nor assume that populist voters will not mobilize when—in their eyes—it matters most. Anger goes a long way at the polls. Trump is still the underdog, but those who claim to be experts would still be foolish to completely write off the power of the revolt on the right.

Matthew J. Goodwin is Professor of Political Science at the University of Kent and Senior Visiting Fellow at Chatham House. He is author of Revolt on the Right: Explaining Public Support for the Radical Right in Britain.


Violence is in UMNO’s DNA–An Addiction to May 13

October 14, 2016

Violence is in UMNO’s DNA–An Addiction to May 13

by  Cmdr (rtd) S. Thayaparan

“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” 

– Isaac Asimov, ‘Foundation’

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Red Shirt Commander-in-Chief

I have no idea if Sungai Besar UMNO chief Jamal Md Yunos made the alleged seditious Facebook post warning of a repeat May 13 on November 19 but I could care less if he did. Part of my apathy is because all this fall under the free speech which I support but more importantly, I see no reason to get upset or make police reports because (1) establishment politicians have issued similar warnings, and (2) it is not as if the police are going to investigate this latest incitement by an UMNO political operative.

As for (2), a good example would be when Sabak Bernam district police chief Nor Azmi Isa said there was no reason to investigate the egg pelting of a Bersih supporter because nobody was hurt. Silly me, I thought it was assault but maybe Bukit Aman should send out a memo that the police would only investigate cases were somebody was hurt. By the way, the definition of “hurt” will be defined shortly (forget the Penal Code) after the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) have arrested all those who take to Twitter and Facebook and “hurt” the feelings of those the state deemed worthy of protection.

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The Ikan Bakar Man

After all, the leader of the red shirts has publicly stated that more aggressive responses would be meted out to Bersih, not to mention threats of vehicular manslaughter against the protestors exercising their democratic rights. Either Jamal has watched far too many ‘Fast and Furious’ movies – one is excessively many except if the person is a Jason Statham fan, then any ‘Furious’ movie with him in it is worth a watch – or he does not understand physics.

However, threatening Malaysians with violence, especially racial violence associated with May 13, is what UMNO does best. Anyone interested in a brief summary with links to pro-opposition and pro-establishment narratives should refer to Greg Lopez excellent summary in the ‘New Mandala’. I quote this paragraph of his piece to make a point:

“However, one thing became very clear after May 13. Any attempt to challenge UMNO would be met with the strongest response – legitimately or illegitimately. May 13 established the concept of Malay supremacy through the blood of hundreds if not thousands of Malaysians, especially of Chinese heritage. This led to most non-Malays having no options but to accept UMNO hegemony (ketuanan Melayu/Malay supremacy) or leave Malaysia. Many choose to migrate – a trend which has continued as a result of systematic discrimination against the non-Malays.”

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The Buffoon UMNO Information Chief

Six years ago, Penang opposition leader Azhar Ibrahim in a spat with Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng not only referenced May 13 but also “saying UMNO has three million members, that he could call in the Malay ‘Tiga Line gang’ and asking the army to take over the duties of the police.” Of course, calling in outsourced thugs to secure political victory or usurp political power is a threat many in UMNO have no problem making.

Indeed, in my piece ‘In defence of our realm’, I took an exception to the police report filed by the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) against Perak opposition leader Nizar Jamaluddin because he claimed that Prime Minister Najib Razak was having secret backroom talks with the security apparatus of this country.

The issue was this: “In 2010, Azhar Ibrahim was suspended for six months from the Penang state assembly for making ‘references to the May 13 incident and inviting the Armed Forces to take over the government’, not to mention his threat that Malay triad organisation ‘Tiga Line’ would be called in to teach the state government a lesson.”

“So, why no report against the UMNO assemblyperson? UMNO distanced itself from these inflammatory remarks, but my question is, why didn’t MAF chief General Zulkifeli Mohd Zin lodge a police report alleging sedition against UMNO’s Azhar?”

Political violence is new norm

Meanwhile, with UMNO potentates distancing themselves from the red shirts, the idea that political violence is the new norm is taking root in a political landscape dominated by an incompetent opposition and a kleptocratic regime riddled with internal schisms. And while a few members of UMNO make the appropriate noises about rejecting political violence, the reality is that because of the way UMNO is run, the line between being a UMNO member and outsourced thug is non-existent.

Remember what UMNO veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said about the establishment – “(Bagaimanapun) jangan memandang rendah kepada kerajaan kerana mereka ada kuasa, ada televisyen, radio, duit dan media. Mereka juga ada alat-alat risikan dan sebagainya. Media dia lebih tahu pada kita. Dia tahu kita belum tahu lagi. Sama ada dengan kekuasaan itu, parti yang berkuasa akan kalah saya tidak tahu.”

So this idea that the criminal underclass and political power – some would argue that there is no difference – within UMNO is not something new except that these days the latter legitimises the former. This is why an organisation like the red shirts have a free reign. They do not answer to anyone except UMNO potentates and they fear no repercussions from the security apparatus because as Razaleigh said, “jangan memandang rendah kepada kerajaan kerana mereka ada kuasa”

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The UMNO Mafia(on extreme left IGP Khalid Ashburn)

And how does the establishment shape the narrative? As recent as three years ago, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi claimed friendship with a so-called secret society like Tiga Line even though it was outlawed by his own Home Ministry earlier in the year.

He said, “The 6,171 Malays, they are not real thugs (samseng), they were Pekida members and were part of the Tiga Line group, Gang 30, Gang 7 – these are festivities (kenduri-kendara) gangsters,” Furthermore he added, “I tell our Tiga Line friends, do what should be done.”

And what exactly should these groups be doing? I would argue that if three years ago you made the claim that Tiga Line was disrupting Bersih activities, you would get UMNO members saying that these thugs are only doing what needs to be done.

Just to add a bit of nuance to this idea of political violence. Some folks would disagree with me for making this link but since I think it is a legitimate point to make, here goes, the current Deputy Prime Minster also made these statements with regards to the ‘shoot first’ policy of the PDRM:

“He was also reported to have advocated a ‘shoot first’ policy for the police at the same event, in dealing with suspected gang members in the wake of a violent crime spree that has resulted in, according to him, Malays making up the majority of the victims.

“He reportedly said there was nothing wrong with arresting the over 40,000 known gangsters in the country, half of whom are Indians.

“‘What is the situation of robbery victims, murder victims during shootings? Most of them are our Malays. Most of them are our race,’ he was quoted as saying.

“‘I think the best way is that we no longer compromise with them. There is no need to give them any more warning. If (we) get the evidence, (we) shoot first.’”

Therefore, while certain UMNO members are distancing themselves from the red shirts, I would argue that separating the red shirt DNA from UMNO is impossible. UMNO does not speak softly and carry a big stick. UMNO is the big stick.

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

Malaysia: Learn from history instead of denying it

October 11, 2016

Malaysia: Learn from history instead of denying it

by T K Chua

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World renown Penang will become UMNO’s Tanjong and my 200 year old alma mater Penang Free School will be renamed Tanjong Free School–Din Merican

Typical of many Third World nations after they achieve independence, Malaysia made  the deliberate move to get rid of the English language, gradually dismantled the colonial (British) system of government and renamed all places associated with their colonial past.

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UMNO has done that, too. Hence, Jalan Birch is now Jalan Maharajalela and Jalan Mountbatten is now Jalan Tun Perak as if we did it out of spite or to get even. This morning, I read there are now proposals to change George Town to Tanjong, Butterworth to Bagan and also some of the streets within George Town to names associated with the country’s pre-colonial era.

After more than half a century of independence, I think many are still not free mentally. They are still suffering from either an inferiority complex, defiance, racism, insecurity or parochialism.

From my observation, usually countries that are most vehement in getting rid of any remnants of colonialism are the very ones that have suffered the most in terms of poor governance, bad economic management and lack of sustained and meaningful development.

 When they fail to deliver meaningful progress to the people, all they need is to shout for another round of jingoism.

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The UMNO Melayus with oversized hangups

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Colonialism took hold because we were weak. If we are not careful, a new form of colonialism will take hold again if we remain weak. What weakened us before is not “George Town” or “Butterworth” but our ill-conceived policies and poor governance.

What is the point of going back to our glorious past when that era was defeated by colonialism? The Chinese are the most “middle-kingdom centric” people of the world and yet today, I do not think they would ever want to go back to an Opium War or their hapless imperial past.

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UMNO is Anti-Pendatang

Colonialism, too, is part of Malaysia’s history. There would be no Malaya or Malaysia if the British had not come and colonised this region to begin with. If ever there is anything to learn from colonialism, it would be its positive inputs in education, the administrative system and development. If there are names of places associated with our past, it is because this IS our past. Learn from history, instead of denying its very existence or eliminating it completely. Worse, do not resort to parochialism.

TK Chua is a FMT reader.



The Rule of Law in Malaysia

October 9, 2016

The  Rule of Law in Malaysia

by James Giggacher

1MDB shows that an already fragile rule of law is being stretched to the limits, writes James Giggacher.

Malaysia’s rule of law may have reigned supreme in this week’s case of the Budgie Nine – saving the Southeast Asian state from gross national insult at the hands of some silly young Australians. Too bad the same thing can’t be said about another national disgrace, the 1MDB financial scandal.

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The Budgies of Australia

In the face of investigations into the country’s failing sovereign wealth fund, and Prime Minister Najib Razak’s alleged links to millions of missing dollars, the Rule of Law has in fact gone missing in action.

This was certainly the case when Najib sacked Attorney-General, Abdul Gani Patail, who planned to bring charges relating to 1MDB against the Prime Minister in July 2015.In doing so, the Malaysian Prime Minister violated the Malaysian constitution [Article 145 (6)]. Unfortunately, Mr. Patail did not challenge the legality of the sacking in the Malaysian court

The plan was leaked, and Abdul Ghani stepped down, officially for ‘health reasons’. Perhaps he’d heard about what happened to former Mongolian model and Najib’s inner circle mainstay, Altantuya Shaarribuu.

At the same time, Najib removed his deputy and one of his most vocal critics — Muhyiddin Yassin.

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Mamak Mohamad Appandi  Ali–UMNO Crony Attorney-General

The former AG’s replacement, Mohamed Apandi Ali, almost immediately cleared his embattled PM of any wrongdoing. Apandi said that the royal family of Saudi Arabia had gifted Najib $US 681 million, of which $US 600 million had been returned. He also said no criminal offence had been committed. However, several countries, including the US, Switzerland, Singapore and the Seychelles, are still investigating the case.

Reports on the scandal by Malaysia’s central bank and anti-corruption commission have also been dismissed by Apandi; according to him the PM has no case to answer.

And in June, Najib filed court documents that denied graft, misuse of power, and interference in 1MDB investigations in response to a lawsuit brought by former PM and mentor, and now key adversary, Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

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Seeking God’s Mercy

Meanwhile, the almost 700 million dollar question of how 2.6 billion ringgit managed to find its way into Najib’s personal bank accounts has yet to be satisfactorily answered.

So much for due process, democratic safeguards, transparency, and holding those in power to account. But can we expect anything better from a Malaysia still under the sway of long-ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) and its leading party, Najib’s UMNO?

The dismantling of and disdain for judicial and state institutions is not a recent phenomenon. As Jayson Browder notes, BN has long had a poor record of abiding by the rule of law.

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Fighting Fit Rosmah ready to take on all comers

It has consistently leveraged several national laws – including The Peaceful Assembly Act of 2012, the Sedition Act of 1948, and the Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1948 – to curtail freedoms, assembly, political expression as well as intimate activists, opponents, civil society and the media, and ensure its power.

These tactics guarantee the ruling coalition’s stranglehold over Malaysia’s political system “in direct violation of Article 10 of the Federal Constitution in Malaysia.” Article 10 is meant to guarantee Malaysian citizens the right to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association.

An embattled Najib has only sharpened the teeth of a legal system already heavily stacked in his party’s favour. In August he brought in an unprecedented law that allows him to designate ‘security areas’ and deploy forces to search people, places and vehicles without a warrant.

Draconian would be an understatement.Laurent Meillan, from the UN Human Rights Office for Southeast Asia, said that they were “gravely concerned” about human rights violations as a consequence of the act. The act could further restrict already highly limited rights of free speech and free assembly.

And in March this year, the independent news site The Malaysian Insider, went offline. Owners cited poor financial returns and high costs. The then editor, Jahabar Sadiq, said it was because the threat of being charged with sedition that could lead to jail time had become all too real.

The decision to pull the plug came almost three weeks after Malaysia’s Internet regulator — the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission – issued a gag order on the site because of a report alleging the country’s anti-corruption commission had sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against Najib in the 1MDB case – even though he had already been cleared by Apandi.

The lesson? Smuggling budgies and smearing the flag is a clear no-no. Smuggling billions and smearing the nation’s sovereign wealth fund is a-ok. It all goes to show that in Malaysia there is the rule of law – but most of the time there’s the law that lets BN rule.

James Giggacher is an associate lecturer in the ANU Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs and editor of New Mandala.

National Ideology (Rukunegara)–The Unity Glue

October 3, 2016

Malaysia: National Ideology (Rukunegara)–The Unity Glue

by Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos

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 A nation without an ideology is like a teenager without a direction. A direction of some sort, even a broad and general one, for example, to appreciate life and its gifts is essential to determine the quality of life.

It also acts as a fence that reminds the teenager to be wary of influences that may make him unappreciative of life’s gifts, such as indulgence in drug abuse.

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Likewise, a nation will just float along aimlessly and in conflicting directions if the people lack a national ideal they can use as a yardstick. I have written many times before, asking what is our national dream and philosophy, keeping in mind we are a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and cosmopolitan nation.

We require a common national philosophy and a set of national values that can unite us as Malaysians and guide our Malaysian spirit to evolve and grow. Like nurturing a child, a nation requires constant nurturing, too.

Today, we perceive our nation to be in a state of ethnic, religious, social and economic tatters. Madness in behaviour and speeches, and mediocrity in work and productivity appear to have become a national norm.

Our leaders have to be proactive to reverse this trend and correct the perception. If the leaders are able to remove the political cataract blinding their eyes, they will see the nation is crying out for a direction and a national philosophy all Malaysians can identify with.

As a nation that achieved independence, we were learning how to co-exist as Malaysians due to our diverse backgrounds.

We had our first racial clash, albeit politically originated, in May 1969. That was our first and I am sure our last bitter experience of a civil clash.

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As a result of this bitter experience, our past leaders were wise to recognise the need for a national ideology which can be a guiding force to unite and provide a national direction for the people.

The National Consultative Council, headed by the late Tun Abdul Razak, had the unity and “soul” of the nation in mind when the principles of the Rukunegara were formulated.

What is so special about the Rukunegara? Firstly, everyone seems to have forgotten it was formalised as a national ideology through a declaration by none other than DYMM Yang diPertuan Agong on  August 31, 1970.

I learned the Rukunegara in school and I recall reciting it at school assemblies. It represented our national values. It has five main principles namely, Belief in God, Loyalty to the King and the country, upholding the Constitution, Rule of Law, and good behaviour and morality.

The purpose of instilling these five principles is explained by the preamble to the Rukunegara. The preamble provides Malaysia aspires to achieve a greater unity for all her people by:

  • Maintaining a democratic way of life;
  • Creating a just society in which the wealth of the nation is equitably shared;
  • Ensuring a liberal approach to her rich and diverse cultural traditions, and;
  • Building a progressive society which shall be oriented to modern science and technology;

The Rukunegara contains not only universal values so relevant to a diverse society like ours, but it also sets a clear direction which we all can share to make this nation great. We really need to be united by common values before we are pulled apart by mischief makers in our society who are bent on dividing us.

Image result for The Racist Red Shirts in Malaysia

Image result for The Racist Red Shirts in Malaysia

What is urgently required now is the rebirth of Razak’s political will to give life to the principles of Rukunegara. I support the increasing call that the Rukunegara is made as a preamble to the Constitution of Malaysia.

This will allow the courts to interpret the Federal Constitution within the context of the national philosophy particularly with regards to the protection of the fundamental liberties of the citizens as enshrined in the Constitution.

It will also enable the protection of the constitutional monarchy and the parliamentary democratic political structure of our country.

If our current leadership has Razak’s wisdom, foresight and courage, I foresee discussions, conversations and the political will to promote the Rukunegara to the position it was meant to be.

However, as JUST International President Dr Chandra Muzzafar recently pointed out, since the 1980s, the Rukunegara seemed to have been systematically shunted aside. Is it any surprise then there is a feeling today that our nation seems to have lost its soul while we may have generally achieved major material progress?

I appeal to our current leadership to put back the soul in our nation.

* Jahaberdeen is a senior lawyer and founder of Rapera, a movement which encourages thinking and compassionate citizens. He can be reached at