Trump and New World Order


February 28, 2017

Trump and New World Order

Brought to you by Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy featuring Dr. Amitav Acharya

Published on Feb 27, 2017

The election of Donald J. Trump as the US President has caused much anxiety about its damage to the liberal international order. But Trump is the consequence, rather than the cause, of the crisis and decline of the existing order. That decline, as foretold in Acharya’s 2014 book, The End of American World Order, has to do with the liberal order’s own internal limitations – aggravated by a long-power shift in world politics – that a complacent liberal establishment in the West had glossed over earlier. Recognizing the broader and multifaceted nature of those challenges is key to any hopes for building world order 2.0: a decentered and pluralistic Multiplex World, with its own challenges and opportunities.

Amitav Acharya is the Boeing Company Chair in International Relations at the Schwarzman Scholars Program, Tsinghua University, Beijing, and Distinguished Professor of International Relations and the UNESCO Chair in Transnational Challenges and Governance at the School of International Service, American University, Washington, DC.

This talk is moderated by Prof Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS.

Wisma Putra and the North Korean Murder Snafu


February 28, 2017

Wisma Putra and the North Korean Murder Snafu–A Message to Foreign Minister Anifah Aman

by Dato Dennis Ignatius

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The heinous assassination at KLIA of Kim Jong-nam, half-brother of North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un, by North Korean agents grabbed headlines around the world. It was another reminder of the depravity, recklessness and ruthlessness of the regime in Pyongyang.

The assassination, however, also put the spotlight on Malaysia once again with the international media converging on Kuala Lumpur to cover the story. As is usual in such situations, our policies, personalities and processes come under scrutiny as well.

Wisma Putra’s role

Although the case is still ongoing, one thing is already clear: we would benefit from a more coherent and coordinated response particularly when dealing with a fast developing issue in the full glare of the world.

While the Police rightly took the lead in investigating the crime, Wisma Putra, which should have stepped in to cover the diplomatic and international dimensions of the case, was largely aloof, at least in the days immediately following the incident.

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Indeed, sources within the international media lamented privately that no one in Wisma Putra was willing to speak to them on or off record or answer questions relating to the case.

It was only after the North Korean Ambassador launched his unfounded and outrageous broadside against the government’s handling of the case that Wisma Putra finally found its voice and even then only to rebut the Ambassador.

Perhaps that was what Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Rahman Dahlan, was hinting at when he said, following last Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, that Cabinet wanted Wisma Putra to be more proactive on the matter.

Diplomatic immunity

Wisma Putra’s lack of intervention has also contributed to the ongoing confusion regarding the status of diplomatic personnel caught up in such cases. As late as yesterday, senior Police officers were still insisting that a North Korean diplomat either cooperate with the Police or face arrest.

The Vienna Convention (1961), of which both Malaysia and North Korea are signatories, is very clear on this – under no circumstances can a duly accredited diplomat be detained or interrogated unless his own country formally revokes his immunity. The only recourse that is available in such cases is to declare the offending official ‘persona non grata’ and insist that he leave within 24 hours.

This is basic diplomatic practice which no country would want to ignore, no matter how justified the circumstances, because it puts its own diplomats everywhere at risk. Certainly, Malaysia would not want to violate such a sacrosanct principle of inter-state relations.

Need to get our act together

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Wisma Putra needs to be professional and proactive

The fault, however, has as much to do with Wisma Putra’s failure to provide clarification in a timely fashion as with the way government agencies operate in times of crisis and the manner in which inter-agency cooperation is managed; there are simply no clear-cut rules for determining who takes the lead in such cases.

Clearly, we have learned little from previous experiences like the MH370 saga about the critical importance of putting in place a well-defined crisis response team together with a central spokesperson, someone who is trained, professional, knowledgeable and fluent in English to handle the press, serve as the main conduit for information and speak on behalf of the government as the situation develops.

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Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak is always in La Laland, instead of getting down to the serious business of government

This is pretty standard operating procedure in other countries; there is no reason why it can’t be done here as well.

A muddled Foreign Policy

The assassination also brought home the incoherence of Malaysia’s current policy towards North Korea.

That North Korea is a rogue nation, a serious threat to international peace and stability and a horrifically abusive regime is no secret. The real question is why Putrajaya has allowed North Korea to turn Malaysia into one of its most important bases of operation in the region from which to carry out clandestine activities, circumvent UN sanctions and engage in all sorts of illicit enterprises to earn hard currency for the regime.

A recent UN report noted, for example, that North Korea has flouted UN sanctions by relying on middlemen and front companies in Malaysia [and China]. It cited specifically the case of a Malaysia-based front company controlled by North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau which is tasked with overseas operations and weapons procurement.

North Korea also uses cities like Kuala Lumpur to access the international banking system in violation of UN sanctions.

Because of the relatively lackadaisical attitude towards North Korea, Pyongyang has gradually expanded its operations in Malaysia to the point where there are now about 1000 North Koreans operating in Malaysia, one of the largest North Korean expatriate communities in the region.

Given that North Korea is a highly regulated Stalinist-like state with no free enterprise and absolutely zero individual freedoms, it would be naïve to believe that North Koreans living in Malaysia are merely private businessmen, entrepreneurs or simple students. They are all agents of the state sent here on one sort of mission or another.

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The lack of proper oversight and surveillance of North Koreans in Malaysia also makes it doubtful whether any one actually knows what all these North Koreans are really up to. It was reported, for example, that one of the North Koreans implicated in the assassination came in on a work permit two years ago but never worked at the designated company.

Even before the assassination, Malaysia, with its generous visa-free regulations and lax visitor controls, had already garnered a reputation as an international haven for all kinds of shady people and activities. As was widely reported at the time, al-Qaeda, for example, held an important meeting in Kuala Lumpur prior to the 9/11 attacks.

The North Koreans are now exploiting this vulnerability for their own purposes.

Naïve and gullible

There is also obviously a certain amount of naivety, even gullibility, on the part of our officials when it comes to dealing with countries like North Korea. During the 13th Malaysia International Branding Showcase event last year, one of our senior trade officials gushed that “North Korea is now looking at using Malaysia as a gateway to Southeast Asia markets as it finds the country business friendly with pro-business policies.”

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Kang Choi, North Korean Ambassador to Malaysia

North Korea, which has hardly any exports worth talking about, was certainly looking at using Malaysia as a gateway but not for the kind of activities that our trade officials had in mind.

BERNAMA (the national news agency), meanwhile had discussions with North Korea to enhance cooperation in information-related areas while one private Malaysian university–HELP University–even awarded Kim Jong-un an honorary doctorate in economics, apparently for his “untiring efforts for the education of the country and the well-being of its people.”

One has to wonder what motivates such patently misguided and fatuous decisions.

Stung by the North Korean Ambassador’s undiplomatic and unwarranted criticism of Malaysia’s handling of the case, many of our ministers have now joined the chorus of condemnation against North Korea.

Our Minister of Tourism, Nazri Aziz, for instance, warned Malaysians not to travel to North Korea noting that with North Korea one could never predict what would happen. “They do all sorts of unimaginable things,” he cautioned.

He is, of course, quite right but then North Korea has always been unpredictable and unsafe. What the minister should be explaining is why North Korea was even allowed to open a tourism office in Kuala Lumpur and why Air Koryo was allowed to fly into KLIA until 2014 when the service was suspended due to UN sanctions.

For all the wrong reasons

The decision in 2003 to establish a resident diplomatic mission in Pyongyang was also baffling. Bilateral trade is almost non-existent and there are no pressing bilateral matters that require sustained engagement with North Korea.

How establishing a resident mission could ever be justified under such circumstances is a mystery.

It does suggest perhaps that we seem to establish diplomatic and consular missions too hastily and for all the wrong reasons. Instead of concentrating our limited manpower and financial resources to where it can make the most difference, we spread ourselves out across the globe – 111 diplomatic and consular posts in 85 countries – in the mistaken belief that diplomatic missions automatically translate into greater influence, respect and international standing. Singapore, by comparison, has no more than 45.

Reviewing relations with North Korea

For all these reasons, the Cabinet’s recent decision to review relations with North Korea is long overdue.

It’s time that Malaysia ally itself with all those, including China, South Korea and Japan, who are deeply concerned with North Korea’s egregious behaviour and the threat it poses to peace and security in the region.

Once the investigations into the assassination are completed, Malaysia should, therefore, move to downgrade relations with North Korea. Among the actions that can be considered is closing our diplomatic mission in Pyongyang, expelling the North Korean Ambassador (for his undiplomatic behaviour) and all other North Korean diplomats implicated in the assassination, revoking the visas of North Koreans working in Malaysia, ensuring strict compliance with all UN sanctions against North Korea and suspending all bilateral cooperation agreements.

While Malaysia is too far removed to be directly engaged in dealing with the North Korean problem, we can play a small and meaningful part in making UN sanctions against North Korea more effective, depriving it of an important base of operations in the region and helping further isolate the rogue regime in Pyongyang. And Malaysians would certainly be the safer for it too.

Jeffery Sachs on his new book, Building the New American Economy


February 27, 2017

Jeffery Sachs on his new book, Building the New American Economy–Smart, Fair, & Sustainable

 

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Money is politics is a serious problem in America today–Jeffery Sachs

Professor Jeffery Sachs discusses his new book, Building the New American Economy– Smart, Fair, & Sustainable. I agree with this Columbia University don that America needs a make over by a progressive President like a President Bernie Sanders. Unfortunately, Americans have to learn to live with a Republican President Donald J. Trump and a Republican controlled  House of Representatives and the Senate. To these politicians, sustainable development is a Grecian nightmare.

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Trust (s0cial capital) is diminishing in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. The last decade has been 10 years of greed and widening income inequality in American polity. Politics ought to return to the politics of IDEAS, says Sachs. Listen him and decide what you think of his book.  –Din Merican

Don’t be discouraged. Just click and you can watch it directly on youtube.com

Ahok wins Round One of Jakarta’s Gubernatorial Elections–Good News


February 24, 2017

Ahok wins Round One of Jakarta’s Gubernatorial Elections–Good News

by Charlotte Setijadi

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Incumbent Governor of Jakarta Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (popularly known as Ahok) is a dynamic Governor of Jakarta

Unofficial results of the Jakarta gubernatorial election last week show that embattled incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (popularly known as Ahok) has won with 43 per cent of the votes.

However, since Purnama and his running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat failed to secure the 50 per cent threshold needed for an outright victory, the election will go to a run-off scheduled for April 19.

They will go head to head against former Education Minister Anies Baswedan and running mate Sandiaga Uno, who came a close second with 40 per cent of the votes.

Former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s son Agus Yudhoyono and running mate Sylviana Murni are out of the second-round race after coming last with less than 18 per cent of the votes.

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The first-round election result came after months of controversy and civil unrest following allegations of blasphemy against Purnama for allegedly insulting the Quran. The case centred on an edited video showing him telling a small crowd in Jakarta’s Thousand Islands Regency not to be “fooled” by those who use Al Maidah verse 51 of the Quran to convince Muslims that it is a sin to vote for a non-Muslim leader.

Purnama, a Christian of Chinese descent, has pleaded his innocence and apologised. But the ongoing blasphemy trial has clearly hurt his campaign.

Before the blasphemy allegations, Purnama’s electability rating was at over 50 per cent, indicating that a first-round victory was not only possible, but likely.

His opponent Baswedan was a known political figure, but he was a newcomer to Jakarta politics, and many voters distrusted him for quickly switching political camps to Prabowo Subianto’s coalition after he was sacked from the Education Ministry in President Joko Widodo’s last Cabinet reshuffle. Similarly, Agus Yudhoyono was a completely new political figure and largely seen as a puppet for his ambitious father’s political manoeuvres.

While Purnama’s ethnicity and religion had always brought about protests from radical Muslim groups such as the Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI), the straight-talking and brash governor consistently achieved more than 70 per cent in performance satisfaction ratings with programmes such as the JakartaT project and swift slum evictions around the city’s clogged-up river banks.

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Furthermore, with President Widodo’s PDI-P party behind him (in coalition with Golkar, National Democrat and Hanura parties), Purnama had the strongest party mechanism support, not to mention the many people in Jakarta who supported him through grassroots channels.

This was why Purnama’s Al-Maidah comment was a gift for the Islamist factions and for his political opponents, as well as those of his close ally Widodo.

Purnama’s electability ratings plummeted to almost 20 per cent at their worst in early November 2016. The blasphemy issue divided Jakarta, and race and religion dominated public discourse during the election campaign.

Suddenly, a vote for Purnama was a vote against Islam, and the far-right Islamist factions were quick to garner anti-Ahok sentiments. Because of this case, previously marginal radical Muslim vigilante groups such as the FPI became political players to be reckoned with.

Indonesian Police Chief Tito Karnavian and Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto had to meet FPI leader Rizieq Shihab to urge calm following the successful mass mobilisation of anti-Ahok Muslim protesters.

While his opponents never directly condemned Purnama for blasphemy, they certainly benefited from the Islamist sentiments.

Throughout the campaign, both Baswedan and Yudhoyono emphasised their Muslim identities and made shows of Islamic piety to appeal to Muslim voters. Baswedan even went as far as meeting the FPI in a move that shocked those who had seen him as a moderate Muslim politician.

Furthermore, rising anti-Chinese sentiments alleging various Chinese economic and political conspiracies behind Purnama and the President have created legitimate worries among Chinese Indonesians traumatised by past anti-Chinese attacks during times of political instability.

Evidently, the strategy of stirring up race and religious issues had worked.

Despite having a high performance satisfaction rating as governor, Purnama did not win outright and the battle will go into a second and final round. This was a huge blow for his camp as an Ahok victory in the second round will be even more difficult.

So, what can we expect next?

Now that there is more at stake with just two contenders, the political gloves are off and we can expect amplified religious and racial campaigning in the second round. The on-going blasphemy trial will continue to put the case in the spotlight and cast doubts about Purnama’s future.

The question now is whom Yudhoyono’s supporters will back in the second round. Assuming that the majority of Yudhoyono’s 18 per cent of votes came from Muslim voters who had refused to vote for Purnama, the majority will presumably go towards Baswedan as the other Muslim candidate.

However, it is also not all doom and gloom for Purnama. The very fact that he was able to bounce back and secure a first-round election victory despite the blasphemy case and concerted political attacks show that many in Muslim-majority Jakarta were able to see past race and religious issues in their voting decision.

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The second round of the election will be a test of just how mature and open-minded Jakarta voters really are. Purnama and his campaign team must convince moderate Muslim swing voters to focus on his policy achievements and to stand together against the demands of hardline Islamists.

Looking further afield, the political rhetoric, power play and result of the Jakarta gubernatorial election will have major implications for the 2019 presidential polls.

An Ahok defeat will be a major blow for Widodo and his PDI-P party, as not having Purnama as an ally at the leadership of the capital city would weaken the president’s hold on power.

More importantly, it would show that his opponents’ strategy of using race and religious issues as a political tool to destabilise and delegitimise Widodo’s government has worked.

This would in turn set a dangerous precedent in the lead-up to the 2019 presidential election and for the future of Indonesian plural society more generally. — TODAY

* Charlotte Setijadi is visiting fellow at the Indonesia Studies Programme, Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute.

 

Donald Trump–The Reluctant Multilateralist (?)


February 21, 2017

Donald Trump–The Reluctant Multilateralist (?)

by Barry Eichengreen

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Barry Eichengreen is Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and a former senior policy adviser at the International Monetary Fund. His latest book is Hall of Mirrors:The Great Depression, the Great Recession, and the Uses – and Misuses – of History.–www.project-syndicate.org

FLORENCE – Donald Trump did not assume the US presidency as a committed multilateralist. On that, partisans of all political persuasions can agree. Among his most controversial campaign statements were some suggesting that NATO was obsolete, a position that bodes ill for his attitude to other multilateral organizations and alliances.

Last week, however, Trump stepped back, reassuring an audience at US Central Command in Tampa, Florida (the headquarters for US forces that operate in the Middle East). “We strongly support NATO,” he declared, explaining that his “issue” with the Alliance was one of full and proper financial contributions from all members, not fundamental security arrangements.

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This more nuanced view presumably reflects a new appreciation, whether born of security briefings or the sobering fact of actually occupying the Oval Office, that the world is a dangerous place. Even a president committed to putting “America first” now seems to recognize that a framework through which countries can pursue shared goals is not a bad thing.

The question now is whether what is true for NATO is also true for the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, and the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. Trump’s record on the campaign trail and Twitter is not heartening. Back in 2012, he tweeted criticism of the World Bank for “tying poverty to ‘climate change’” (his quotation marks). “And we wonder why international organizations are ineffective,” he complained.

Likewise, last July, he mooted the possibility that the United States might withdraw from the WTO if it constrained his ability to impose tariffs. And he vowed repeatedly during the presidential campaign to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. But the evolution of Trump’s position on NATO suggests that he may yet see merit to working through these organizations as he comes to recognize that the world economy, too, is a dangerous place.

Following the election, Trump acknowledged having an open mind on the Paris climate agreement. His position seemed less to deny the existence of global warming than to insist that policies mitigating climate change not impose an unreasonable burden on American companies.

The way to limit the competitive burden on US producers is, of course, by ensuring that other countries also require their companies to take steps to mitigate climate change, thereby keeping the playing field level. And this is precisely what the Paris agreement is about.

The real test of Trump’s stance on multilateralism will be how he approaches the WTO. Persuading the US Congress to agree on corporate and personal income-tax reform, a $1 trillion infrastructure initiative, and a replacement for Obama’s signature health-care reform won’t be easy, to say the least. Doing so will require patience, which is not Trump’s strong suit. This suggests that he will feel pressured to do what he can unilaterally.–Barry Eichengreen

The same can be said of the Basel Committee’s standards for capital adequacy. Holding more capital is not costless for US banks, as advisers like Gary Cohn, formerly of Goldman Sachs and now the head of Trump’s National Economic Council, presumably tell the president morning, noon, and night. Leveling the playing field in this area means requiring foreign banks also to hold more capital, which is precisely the point of the Basel process.

Trump may similarly come to appreciate the advantages of working through the IMF when a crisis erupts in Venezuela, or in Mexico as a result of his own policies. In 1995, the US Treasury extended financial assistance to Mexico through the Exchange Stabilization Fund. In 2008, the Federal Reserve provided Brazil with a $30 billion swap line to help it navigate the global financial crisis. But imagine the outrage with which Trump’s supporters would greet a “taxpayer bailout” of a foreign country or Mexican officials’ anger over having to secure assistance from the same Trump administration responsible for their country’s ills. Both sides would surely prefer working through the IMF.

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Jim Yong Kim–From Brown University to The World Bank

Trump can’t be pleased that the Obama administration rushed to push through the reappointment of its chosen World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim. But he clearly recognizes the benefits of development aid. While he has said that the US should “stop sending foreign aid to countries that hate us,” he has also observed that failure to help poor countries can foment instability.

This would appear to be an area where Trump will favor bilateral action, which would enable him to assuage his conservative critics by insisting that no US funds go toward family planning, while taking credit for any and all assistance. At the same time, minimizing the role of the US in the World Bank would create a vacuum to be filled by China, Trump’s bête noire, both in that institution and through the activities of the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

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The real test of Trump’s stance on multilateralism will be how he approaches the WTO. Persuading the US Congress to agree on corporate and personal income-tax reform, a $1 trillion infrastructure initiative, and a replacement for Obama’s signature health-care reform won’t be easy, to say the least. Doing so will require patience, which is not Trump’s strong suit. This suggests that he will feel pressured to do what he can unilaterally.

One thing he can do unilaterally is slap duties on imports, potentially in violation of WTO rules. We’ll soon find out whether those rules will deter him.

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/trump-nato-reluctant-mulitlateralist-by-barry-eichengreen-2017-02

Racist Politics in Malaysia–Blame the Whole Shebang


February 19, 2017

Racist Politics in Malaysia–Blame the Whole Shebang

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

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It was obvious that bigotry was never a one-way operation, that hatred bred hatred!”

– Isaac Asimov, ‘Pebble in the Sky’

COMMENT: Readers interested in what I write should consider this a companion piece to my article describing how non-Malay Malaysians (specifically) are a tolerant lot.

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Mahathir’s First Carma (Cari Makan) Journalist–A Kadir Jasin

De facto opposition leader and former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad casually mentioned last week that he was partly to blame for the demonisation of DAP. I suppose this went together with veteran journalist A Kadir Jasin’s admission that he was part of the brainwashing that went, and goes on, in UMNO. They say admitting you have a problem is the first step, but I doubt that the indoctrination of Malay youths will cease any time soon when the opposition is made up of Islamic groups determined to use Islam as a political tool.

I wrote the last part of the above paragraph after the opposition had suffered a setback in the by-election where the current UMNO grand poobah was supposed to receive a black eye but apparently, the opposition punched itself in the face. A reader had emailed and asked if the schadenfreude tasted good, especially since I had predicted the results.

I take no pleasure in any opposition defeat and neither do I take pleasure in a UMNO win. This is the bitter taste of having to choose between the lesser of two evils. Furthermore, when I say “evil”, do not get your panties in a twist because it is an expression and not a description of either political fronts. These days I cannot tell the difference between winning and losing when it comes to “saving Malaysia”.

As I have argued before, a country can recover from corruption scandals, but it rarely recovers from that type of Islam that neutralises the democratic imperative. In Malaysia, where race and religion are not mutually exclusive, the threat from Islamists is coupled with ethno-nationalism.

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The  First Malay Nationalist (or is it Racist?)

The de facto Opposition Leader is right when he says that he demonised DAP as DAP and other opposition parties had demonised him. However, the reality is that these political parties were not only demonising their political rivals, they were demonising entire communities.

So, when you want to win, and you demonise your political opponents, and by extension whole communities, the political terrain becomes a battleground for competing racial interests instead of ideological or policy ideas.

This is why I have always been sceptical of the opposition propaganda about voting across racial lines. In one of my numerous articles about race relations in this country, I wrote: “In addition, this idea that voting across racial lines as some sort of evidence of burgeoning multiracial solidarity is complete bunkum. The real test is when people vote across ethnic and religious lines in support of ideologies that run counter to the interests of their communities and by this, I mean egalitarian ideas that run afoul of constitutional sacred cows and social and religious dogma.”

While the former Prime Minister (and now de facto Opposition Leader) and the system contributed to Malay fear of DAP, the whole political system and voting patterns of Malaysians is also culpable for this sad state of affairs. UMNO succeeded because the majority of Malaysians voted for race-based parties. Racial preoccupations were the currency that sustained BN politics and still does.

The problem is that because we do not have an alternative, BN politics is the only game in town. Non-Malay oppositional voices and voters do not demand an alternative but rather that the system continues but in a more “fairer” manner.

DAP and MCA furiously battle for the Chinese vote. Meanwhile Malay-dominated so-called multicultural parties battle with UMNO and now PAS for the Malay vote. Until the former Prime Minister showed up, there was no central theme that united the Opposition.

While the charismatic Anwar Ibrahim and the late Tok Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat discovered that populism does not necessarily mean racial or religious preoccupations when it comes to cobbling together a formidable coalition, the emergence of the former Prime Minister as the de facto opposition leader has given the current UMNO regime an opportunity to:

1) Revisit history.

2) Dredge up the financial scandals of the former Prime Minister.

3) Point out that their strategies for securing the Malay vote is based on his strategies that kept him in power for decades.

If anyone is wondering why questions of race always revolves around the Malay and Chinese dialectic, it is because… well, if you are going to ask this question, you have obviously not being paying attention.

All are participants in race game

When I argued that Malaysians were a tolerant lot, the thrust of the piece revolved around how systemic inequalities were a detriment to the non-Muslim population but I failed to emphasise how the non-Malay communities were active participants in the race game in this country.

Voting for race-based parties meant that we did not have to concern ourselves with egalitarian concepts that would have been the basis for a more democratic system. It was not that we were “immature” or “uneducated”, it was just easier to vote for a political hegemon that provided security and stability for decades but not the rights and responsibilities that are part and parcel of a functional democracy.

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UMNO’s Money Stealing Grand Poobah

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Tolerance may have been a one-way street, it was also the street where we stopped by the sidewalk and spat at the “Malays”. There is the other narrative of non-Malays engaging in subtle and overt racism, all the while supporting racial political parties that claimed inclusiveness.

The majority of us did this to ensure that our racial preoccupations were satisfied by a plutocrat class instead of demanding for an accountable and transparent government, but more importantly demanding for a principled opposition who fearlessly made their positions clear instead of championing communal causes under the guise of “multiracial/culturalism”.

The private sector was (is) dominated by Chinese polity who were perpetuating their own form of systemic inequalities and contextualising this reality as a response to the systemic inequality perpetrated by the UMNO Malay state.

While I think, there is generally “a live and let live” vibe between Malaysians, it would be a mistake to assume that this is some sort of national identity or some form of stable unity. I realise that this is political incorrect to say, but the hard truth is that while race relations have been manipulated by establishment (both UMNO and the Opposition), the reality is that there was always tensions between the various races of this country.

This is why talking about “race” in this country is such a demoralising endeavour. Appeals to emotion replace rational discourse. The fact that our constitution is compromised, the system itself is predicated on maintaining racial and religious superiority, makes any discussion about how the non-Malays react to such a system, their complicity in sustaining the system difficult to articulate.

The fault of UMNO and the Opposition is that nobody offered an alternative and Malaysians never expected anything better.

You know what the big difference is between the corruption scandals of UMNO back in the day and the one now is? The difference is that a vast majority of Malaysians kept voting UMNO-BN back then than they do now. This is a testament to not only the political strategies of Mahathir but also the apathy of the Malaysians. This of course is a boon for the Opposition because Mahathir seems to be the only person who can galvanise the opposition. The more things change, the more they remain the same.