MALAYSIA: ‘Same Old’in Sarawak Election Campaign (Part 1 of 5)


May 4,2016

MALAYSIA: ‘Same Old’in Sarawak Election Campaign (Part 1 of 5)

by Dr. Bridget Welsh

Bridget_welsh_PUBLICFORUM_190414_TMIAFIF_002

Billed as one of the most important elections in the Malaysian state’s history, Sarawak heads to the polls on 7 May. But the campaign has sent confusing messages and failed to inspire voters, reports Bridget Welsh.

As the lackluster 11th Sarawak 2016 election campaign comes to a close on Friday, consistency rather than change has predominated.Most Sarawakians on both sides of the political divide had made up their minds on how they will vote before the campaign began. So far, the campaign has done little to change their orientations, and even less to inspire Sarawakians to vote at all. Political parties have mainly relied on old strategies, offering little new in their engagement with the electorate.

Strongman versus pressure politics

The main substantive campaign issue is autonomy, the mantra of ‘Sarawak for Sarawakians’. The prominence of this call is different than earlier campaigns but not new to Malaysian electoral politics as Sabahans will understand.

 Concerns about autonomy in East Malaysia have been long-standing and extend for decades to when the two Borneo states joined the Federation. Not surprising, all of the parties in the Sarawak polls are calling for greater control of decision-making at the state level in areas involving language, immigration, education, religion and resources (oil royalty). Where they differ slightly is in their priority in areas of governance, with those aligned with the BN tapping into immigration and those in the opposition pushing harder on issues of religion and resources.

The parties also differ in how they will implement autonomy. Current Chief Minister Adenan Satem has personified autonomy around himself, portraying the image that voting for him will assure the protection of state rights. He follows this pattern set by his brother-in-law, current Governor and former Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud.

Adenan has projected the view that his working relationship with the federal government will assure protection, and that he is ‘his own man’. This argument runs that a strong mandate for Adenan will strengthen his hand with the federal government. The choice by ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) to focus on autonomy aims to neutralise traditional opposition demands for fairer representation for citizens in the state. It echoes electoral strategies adopted in the recent past, where the new incumbent co-opts ‘reform’ to win support.

The opposition on its part has repeated its call for checks and balances, arguing that a strong opposition is necessary to assure that the substantive issues related to autonomy are implemented. They are calling for pressure politics. Given that these issues have been traditional ones for the opposition, and they have been their strongest advocates by putting them into the public arena and introducing measures in the legislature, they are hoping that the electorate does not forget their commitment — even as these issues have been effectively co-opted by the incumbent government.

At stake for Sarawakians are two different visions of state representation, one based on repeating the independent strongman politics of Taib that Adenan is portraying versus the long-standing call for alternative voices in government.

Shadow of Pak Lah

Closely connected to calls for greater representation is the personification of political power in Sarawak. This is also not new. Personal politics and personality have been at the core of East Malaysian politics. They help us understand the fragmentation of the candidate slates and account for the long tenures of many of the incumbents. The campaign around Adenan and the use of his coattails for his team is not new. We saw this in the 2004 General Election, where former premier Abdullah Badawi, or Pak Lah, was showcased as ‘his own man’ and different than his predecessor.

Like Adenan, Abdullah was chosen by a predecessor who had become a political target for criticism. Although in Adenan’s case, he is part of the Taib family and has consistently been a part of the previous leadership, never challenging Taib or openly criticising his policies during his tenure. This is opposed to Abdullah, who was relegated to the political wilderness for a few years as ‘Team B’ and more openly campaigned against his predecessor to win support. Adenan has used the time since he was appointed in 2014 to try to distinguish rather than distance himself, featuring similar “nice guy,” “reformer” and “clean” traits that were part of comparable electoral efforts in Malaysia’s past. As with Pak Lah, the Adenan campaign has promised a new leadership.

Sarawakians are facing the difficult decision of whether Adenan can be trusted. Faith in Malaysian politicians is low, and the national politics of taking politicians down has become engrained in the fabric. Sarawakians are more trustworthy than their counterparts on the peninsula. They are also following the national trend and becoming more cynical.

Many Sarawakians recognise that the multitude of promises Adenan is making echoes unrealistic goals of the past. Adenan is building up expectations, with the repeated potential for disappointment.  Voters question whether he will have the power and political will to implement the promises after the election, especially given that Adenan will be a lame duck after he has won office as he has stated that he only wants one term.

Undermining leadership

Questions about Adenan’s leadership are understandable, given the prominence of his persona in the campaign. Two areas are prominent.

The first involves the perceived abuse of political power for electoral gains by Adenan, namely the use of Sarawak’s immigration authority to prevent opposition politicians and activists from entering the state. Scores of people have been denied entry, to prevent the opposition crowds from building and weakening the opposition machinery. On their part, peninsula-based BN politicians and government department and activists have been given access.

Deemed ‘extremists’ and ‘troublemakers’ many of those denied entry have used Skype to engage voters, but the dampening impact on ceramah crowds has been evident. This is in spite of more Sarawakians following the campaign online. This ‘strongman’ denial of entry and subsequent calls for politicians to write letters as pleas for entry as occurred for the female leader of the opposition, Anwar’s wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, feed the portrayal of a man in control. They simultaneously reveal a politician with weakness, as these measures suggest fear, and have raised questions about fairness in Adenan’s leadership. The denials of entries have backfired among many voters, who no longer see the chief minister as ‘Mr Nice Guy’.

Another factor undermining Adenan is Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. The relationship between the two men is challenging to navigate as they are mutually dependent, as Adenan needs funds from the federal government to support his campaign. Najib on his part needs a decisive victory in the Sarawak polls to sustain his power, given the seriousness of the corruption, embezzlement, and abuse of power allegations being made in multiple investigations in the 1MDB scandal.

Striking a balance where Adenan is in charge, but Najib gains credit is difficult. In the 2011 polls, the relationship between Taib and the Najib campaign was problematic, as the latter tried to control the campaign. A similar pattern has occurred in 2016, with Najib’s pictures of ‘Saya Sayang Sarawak’ and with Adenam himself featured all over rural areas, and coverage of his promises overshadowing Adenan’s.  It is not clear whether this is a Najib or Adenan campaign. Clearly, it is both.  Rural folk often highlight the similarity in the appearance of both men.  Najib’s significant presence is a liability for Adenan, as the premier is deeply unpopular and he undercuts the chief minister’s claim of independence. It appears as if Najib has hijacked Adenan’s thunder to serve himself.

Disconnecting messages

Amidst the personas, voters are navigating the messages of the various campaigns. The campaign messages showcase disconnection between their slogans and delivery. The Sarawak United Peoples Party’s (SUPP) slogan ‘United We Can’ is perhaps the most ironic, as the party remains dangerously divided. The splits in the party have the potential to lead to further downfalls of its leaders, as SUPP has yet to meaningfully justify why Sarawakians should vote for their party. They are effectively no longer their own players, as has occurred to other non-Malay parties in the BN.

The opposition parties are also delivering disengaging messages. The Democratic Action Party’s (DAP) ‘4Real Change’ raises questions about delivery, especially since they are not working with other parties in their campaign. One feature of the 2016 campaign is that for the opposition it is a step back to the past of 2001, even 1999 when parties worked against each other rather than together. While in urban areas there is little open vitriol against each other (with the BN the main target), the fact that they are competing with each other undercuts messages of ‘change’.

Voters are not clear what is meant by ‘real change’ as this theme has been so overused that is has lost meaning. Indeed, the fact that even the BN is using the word, in its call to remove the DAP from Kuching (notably the Kota Sentosa seat where DAP Chairman Chong Chieng Jen is contesting), shows how unclear the word has become. On its part, the People’s Justice Party’s (PKR) focus has been on autonomy, but the word ‘trust’ has featured in much of its campaign posters, with questions arising from its use given the distrust in the opposition evident in the split among the various parties. The opposition’s lack of collaboration in the campaign has undermined their momentum and undercut their connection with voters, especially younger and swing voters. They have damaged themselves.

Playing cards and scandals

As the campaign draws to a close, political parties are fighting hard. To date, what distinguishes Sarawak’s campaign has been the lack of prominence of the racial card. Religion, however, has been mobilised by the BN, which has used funds to woo Christians, estimated to comprise 40 per cent of the electorate.

The use of religion has been contradicted by broad trends to undercut freedom of religion in Sarawak and the slating of candidates by the BN that have conservative views that are not in line with more tolerant calls of moderation. Whether the BN can win back Christian support lies with the priorities of the churches themselves, whether they buy into the wooing effort, how they perceive Adenan’s sincerity and the choice of moral example they will set.

The opposition is relying on the 1MDB scandal to swing the electorate. This issue is difficult for many Sarawakians to connect to, especially in rural areas. Many do not believe it at all and do not see how the issue affects them directly. Others are outraged, and this undercurrent is strong among those who hold political leaders to standards. These issues about rights and scandals have become even more serious for Malaysia’s future, but it is not clear whether national concerns will displace local interests.

Sarawakians, like many Malaysians, are tired. The campaign has not yet inspired, and as such voter engagement has been markedly lower. There is a palpable lack of enthusiasm for either side, with a focus on livelihoods and ordinary routines. This is in part because the 2016 campaign has been in fact quite routine itself, offering little new and relying on the old strategies and tactics. The question ahead will be whether the same old campaign approaches will yield the same old results.

Bridget Welsh is Professor of Political Science at Ipek University, Senior Research Associate at the Center for East Asian Democratic Studies of National Taiwan University, Senior Associate Fellow of The Habibie Center, and University Fellow of Charles Darwin University.

http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/2016/05/03/same-old-in-sarawak-campaign/

This article is part of a five-part series on the Sarawak 2016 state election. The next article will focus on voting trends and constituencies. Bridget Welsh thanks Sarawakians for sharing their views and kind hospitality.

Zeti gets glowing tribute from Barrons’Pesek


May 3, 2016

Zeti gets glowing tribute from Barrons’Pesek

 by FMT Reporters
 www.freemalaysiatoday.com

It says smart, strong and charming Zeti Akhtar Aziz was “the glue that held Malaysia’s economy together amid failed reforms”.

None of these Task Force Professionals could stand up the Force behind Najib

Former Bank Negara Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz has received a glowing tribute from American financial magazine barrons.com, in which she was called “the glue that held Malaysia’s economy together amid failed reforms and scandals”.

The magazine’s executive editor, William Pesek, wrote: “Globally respected Zeti was a vocal thorn in the Prime Minister’s (Najib Razak) side, calling for investigations into a state-owned fund he oversaw.” This was in reference to Najib’s link to 1MDB, as well as the billions in donations found in the premier’s personal accounts.

“Najib didn’t fire Zeti; he waited out the end of her term (last Friday). It comforted many that Najib didn’t replace her with a crony or a cousin, but with one of her deputy governors.Still, Najib dragged the decision out until the very last moment – two days before Zeti left the building. But let’s pause for a different snapshot: how Malaysia just lost its most globally respected public official and the implications of her departure,” the article said.

Pesek, a self-professed “unabashed Zeti fan”, said the “smart, strong and charming” Zeti was the reassuring face of “an economy with a knack for bizarre international headlines”. He listed instances where Zeti was apparently there to “calm nerves”, held things together and pushed back when the administration tried to “pull the wool over (the eyes of) 30 million people”.

“It was nothing short of breathtaking to watch her make uncharacteristically blunt statements about funding irregularities Najib tried to sell as a foreign conspiracy to destablise Malaysia.When Zeti said the scandal (1MDB) was denting confidence, she was fighting for Malaysians, not the ruling party – a rarity in Kuala Lumpur.As many foreign central bank peers and investors told me over the years, it made the outside world feel better to know Zeti was at the top of the power pyramid,” Pesek wrote.

He raised the question whether Zeti’s replacement, the “Harvard-educated Muhammad Ibrahim”, would follow in her reformist footsteps.

“Perhaps he too will have the mettle to speak truth to powers, both internationally and domestically. All we can do is hope.”

Pesek then called Malaysia’s affirmative action policies benefiting the majority Malay population as “apartheid economy which kills innovation and productivity, and drives many of Malaysia’s best and brightest to Singapore and Hong Kong”.

“It turns off foreign executives, investing in Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam instead.”

Zeti was also commended for taking a technocratic, rather than a blusterous approach, when the ringgit was falling and she was thrust to the limelight.

Pesek queried how anyone else but Zeti, especially someone beholden to Najib and his inner circle, would have fared in the last 10 months, as questions swirled around 1MDB.

Muhammad may be as “liberated and feisty” as Zeti during his stint, but there’s ample reason to worry as his every word, deed and gesture will be scrutinised for any signs of sympathy for Najib’s government, Pesek wrote.

Zeti’s departure isn’t a pretty picture for investors hoping for a more transparent and vibrant Malaysia, Pesek concluded.

 

Malay Stereotypes in Academia and Business


May 2, 2016

Malay Stereotypes in Academia and Business

by Dr. M. Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California

Malay Academic Inferiority stated at this age

This burden of self-affirmation and stereotype threat can crop up well beyond our formative years and at the most unexpected venues. During the Alif Ba Ta Conference a few years ago, organized by the UMNO Club of New York and New Jersey at which I discussed self-affirmation and stereotype threat, a group of students confided to me their experiences in the special matriculation class preparing them for American universities. Midway through that class they were given a test. Those who excelled were sent abroad earlier.

Even though the class was filled predominantly with Malays, for the group selected to leave earlier, non-Malays were over represented. How do I explain that, the students inquired? I immediately sensed their burden of stereotype threat – Malay ineptitude in academics.

Matured with a wrong attitude towards Learning

So I asked them what they had done between their school examination in November the preceding year until they were enrolled in that special class the following July. To a person they all replied “Nothing!” Yes, nothing! Then I also asked them whether they had discussed with their successful and predominantly non-Malay classmates how they managed to do so well, specifically what were they doing from January till July when they started their matriculation classes together. The Malay students could not answer me.

Obviously they never thought to ask or were too embarrassed to discuss that sensitive topic with their non-Malay classmates, or their teachers. For their part, their matriculation teachers, unlike my Mr. Peter Norton at Malay College in the 1960s during my Sixth Form years there, merely accepted the fact as it was.

Whenever I meet Malaysians at elite American campuses I always try to discern through casual conversation what schools they attended (in particular their matriculation classes) in Malaysia and what made them choose America and pick that particular university. Invariably those students (even Malays) came from other than our national schools, reflecting the quality of such schools. Further and far more crucial, they had spent the six-or seven-month hiatus following their November SPM examination enrolled in private pre-university classes.

So when they were selected into the government’s special matrikulasi class, they were already six months ahead as compared to their Malay classmates who did “nothing.” That is a significant advantage in what would typically be a two-year course at most.

The Malay College IB Program

Malay College recently (July 2011) started its International Baccalaureate (IB) program after over a decade in planning. Again, the students were those who did well in their SPM the previous November. Apart from its radically different learning and teaching philosophy, IB is all English. Meanwhile those students had spent the previous 11 years in Malay medium. I suggested to those in charge that they should enroll the students earlier (as in January) so they could have six months of “pre-IB” where they could improve their English and other skills.

The response? No funds lah! I hope the first batch of students had done well. Should they fail or even just not excel, then expect those ugly stereotypes to be resurrected. The burden would fall not only on them but also on those following and on Malays generally. They will certainly not blame the teachers or the organizers of the program.

The government had already spent hundreds of millions of ringgit to set up the IB program, yet it could not secure extra funds to ensure that it would succeed.

An UMNO Crony

Meanwhile in the business sphere, when Bank Bumiputra collapsed in the 1990s, ugly stereotypes on Malay aptitude for and competence in commerce were again resurrected, and not just by non-Malays. That too was very ugly, and the public behaviors of the key players merely reinforced those stereotypes. Conveniently forgotten was that the bank failed not because it was run by Malays, but because of corruption, incompetence and political patronage, the very same afflictions that burdened GLCs in China (CITIC), India (Air India), and America (Freddie Mac).

From BMBB to 1MDB

Today a generation later, the same tragic story is being repeated with 1MDB, another GLC, this time at a much greater cost and with the nation’s highest leader involved. Again here the main players are Malays. Just in case the point is missed, they brought in a non-Malay to resolve the mess. Never mind that he was no more successful than his predecessor.

The 1MDB scandal again resurrected yet another stereotype, this time on the Chinese. One of the players, the few except of course for Najib who came out like bandits literally, was a Malaysian Chinese character close to Najib’s family.  Here we have the all-too-familiar story of a scheming Chinese taking advantage of a dumb Malay leader. Well, that dumb Malay leader part of the stereotype is true. At least Malaysians should be comforted by that fact. Imagine if we had a Malay leader who was smart as well as corrupt. The damage he would inflict could be horrendous! Count your blessings, Malaysians!

He did not do well academically

Linked to stereotype threat is the maintenance of the integrity of self-affirmation. When we see something that threatens our self-image, for example, Malays not doing well academically, we shift the focus elsewhere. Thus we say we do not care for “secular knowledge;” we are more into “spiritual” and “real” knowledge, the kind that would get us into Heaven. In that way we protect ourselves as non-Muslims would certainly not be competing with us in that field. If Muslim Chinese and Indians were to later beat us and excel in the same field, then we would have to spin yet another fanciful narrative.

When I see Malays focused on religion and the Hereafter and neglect their worldly obligations, I see that as nothing more than a manifestation of this threat to their self-affirmation rather than a genuine love for religious knowledge or concerns with personal salvation.

A similar phenomenon is seen in children. When kids run a playground race, those who are left behind would rationalize that they are not really “racing” or competing. Or, it’s only a “practice.” Likewise when I am sailing; I am always racing, that is, when I am overtaking the other sailboats. When I am being overtaken, well, I am out just for a leisurely afternoon cruise!

Both stereotypes and self-affirmation threats can be remedied. We do not have to be resigned to being their victims. To do that however, we first have to free up our minds from those cluttered and unproductive mental patterns. We have to create new or modify existing narratives to be more reflective of reality, one that would also be more useful and productive.

We can learn much from the insights of modern neuroscience on how to better understand and appreciate our current particular dilemmas.

Save Malaysia from debilitating Bumiputraism


May 2, 2016

Save  Malaysia from debilitating Bumiputraism–The Agenda of the Third Force

Time to save Malaysia from neo-liberal capitalists, naked political opportunism, and racial discrimination.

by Dr Kua Kia Soong

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Kua-Kia-Soong

The Bigots and Extremists rule the day–How is this related to Neo-Liberalism, Dr. Kua? Socialism is Dead

In March 2008 the two-front system that we had called for in the 1990 general elections finally came about, producing an alternative, namely Pakatan Rakyat (PR), to the Barisan Nasional. Barely eight years later, those days of hope have been dashed by the recent split between DAP and PAS in 2015 and now, the bickering between DAP and PKR and their failure to present the BN with a one-to-one challenge in six seats at the Sarawak state elections.

The name calling by DAP leaders we thought was only reserved for the PAS leaders has now been used against PKR leaders as well.

Dearth of leadership & alternative policies in PR (now the so-called Pakatan Harapan–Coalition of Hope)

Without a doubt, the PR coalition was held together at the start by the PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim, even though their alternative policies to the BN were never entirely clear. Their neo-liberal tendencies led to BN-type policies in the development of the states they controlled, ie. Selangor and Penang, policies which have produced little change in the living conditions of the lower income groups.

Private developers have had a field day in these PR-held states since 2008 with the promise of more multi-billion projects in reclamation, undersea tunnels, highways and luxury development.

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The Rosmah-Centered Authoritarian of Malaysian Politics

Policies aside, Anwar’s leadership in holding the PR coalition together started to suffer a setback possibly because he was deflected by his sodomy trial as well as self-centred opportunistic tendencies among the component parties in PR.

This was clearly seen during the asinine ‘Kajang Move’ in 2014 when there was a “resignation of convenience” by the incumbent PKR Adun after internal politicking between the PKR Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim and the PKR strongman Azmin Ali who was opposing him.

The cost of this short-sighted ‘Kajang Move’ was to force a by-election and leave constituents without representation for weeks. It exposed an irresponsible attitude of PR in taking the Malaysian electorate for granted by forcing a by-election just to facilitate the entry of Anwar Ibrahim into the Selangor state government. It was a most cynical violation of the public trust.

The Checkmated Anwar Ibrahim

More costly for the PR coalition, the Kajang Move had been carried out without adequate consultation with the other PR partners and fissures soon began to appear between them. Three decades of engagement with PAS, the largest Malay-based party in the coalition, was about to come asunder.

The dearth of leadership in PR was clear when the former Menteri Besar was openly maligned as inept and corrupt by lesser DAP politicians to justify his ousting. It was also clear the PAS President was not consulted over this irresponsible political move. The Kajang Move showed not only contempt for the voters in Kajang but also insensitivity toward the PAS leaders who were part of the PR coalition.

Bad mouthing the PAS President

Malaysia’s Political Nightmare–Corruption

After months of name calling against the PAS President Hadi Awang, which can only be described as ‘kurang ajar’, Pakatan Rakyat was officially disbanded on 16 June 2015 after the DAP declared it could no longer work with PAS. It was a sad day for all Malaysians who had hopes for a viable alternative to the Barisan Nasional.

The long-term effect of such uncouth bad mouthing of the PAS leader remains to be seen. The DAP will have to measure the relative weight of their token Malays in the party against the loathing towards DAP among not only UMNO supporters but now also PAS supporters.

Is this behaviour the result of insensitivity, the lack of wisdom or naked opportunism that has blinded the DAP leaders to common sense needed to engage with PAS leaders and members if they are genuinely interested in “winning over Malays to the DAP”?

The DAP is now willing and able to work with the man who has been responsible for privatising practically all of Malaysian industry and destroying whatever semblance of democracy we had in his 22 years in office – all because of the stated need to “save Malaysia”.

Naked opportunism the main culprit

The DAP’s significant political turnaround in their current readiness to work with the erstwhile oppressor and autocrat of Malaysia requires a more responsible political economic analysis by the DAP leadership to justify this volte face. They also owe the Malaysian people an analysis of class oppression in Malaysia today and how this ties in with their new agenda to “save Malaysia”.

It is certainly a sad day for Malaysians who have hoped for an alternative to the BN and who have carefully nurtured a working relationship with PAS since the Eighties, to see this Alternative Coalition wrecked by total lack of sensitivity to coalition principles, human relationships and dearth of leadership.The DAP leadership is now banking on their token Malay centrists and the former PAS “New Hopers” to get by.

No doubt the DAP will be complacent to rule Penang but succeeding to drive PAS out of PR is undoing more than thirty years’ work engaging with PAS to build the Alternative Coalition. The positive aspect of the last thirty years included PAS’ participation at so many May Day, anti-war and Bersih rallies. This has been an important contribution to inter-ethnic integration in Malaysia and the attempt to build an alternative to the BN.

What is to be done?

The squabbles within Pakatan Harapan over the apportionment of seats have to do with naked opportunism and the lack of higher principles in their respective party ideologies. The politics of opportunism can also be seen with the party elite monopolising federal seats and state seats in the same term and with no fixed term set for the party leader.

Nevertheless, with leadership and an adopted procedure as can be seen in the BN, even that naked opportunism can be managed with due diligence.

For now, we are back to square one as far as engagement with PAS is concerned. It remains to be seen how DAP’s alliance with PKR will hold. It is time for progressive Malaysians to take stock of the political situation and to consider what is to be done in the struggle to make Malaysia truly democratic, free and just for all Malaysians, and especially for our working peoples.

Building the socialist alternative

While there was hope of an alternative coalition to challenge the Barisan Nasional that has been in power for nearly sixty years, Malaysians were prepared to be patient until BN was deposed. It is now clear that some of these opposition parties are ideologically similar to BN in their commitment to neo-liberal capitalism evident in their own state policies.

With our hopes dashed, it is time to build a Third Force that is people-centred, free and equal and led by those who are committed to a common platform set on an alternative road to development.It is time to reclaim the national assets that have been sold to private magnates and to ensure there is fair redistribution of income to the people. There is a need for state intervention and nationalisation of basic resources such as oil and gas; utilities such as water, energy; health, education and social services.

We need progressive taxation to check unfettered capital transfers by speculators and finance moguls and to balance rampant income inequality. Such a socialist alternative differentiates itself from the Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Harapan.

Save Malaysia from Neo-liberal capitalism

Malaysia needs to be saved from neo-liberal capitalism that was unleashed by Mahathir when he came to power in 1981.

Mahathir is indeed the “father of neo-liberalism in Malaysia” after selling off our national assets through his privatisation policies in his 22 years, our national resources hived off to crony capitalists under the guise of affirmative action. Mahathir succeeded in creating private Malay capitalists out of the erstwhile state capitalists who had entrenched their power after May 13, 1969.

Privatisation in Malaysia since the eighties has not demonstrated that increase in efficiency, productivity, or competition, the elimination of sources of state deficit as privatisation has been purported to produce. The failures of MAS, Proton, KTM and other corporations testify to this fact. In most cases, privatisation has merely substituted a private monopoly for a public one without producing any of the benefits that are supposed to come from competition.

Neoliberal policies represent the political requirements of global capital, harmonising the national with the global economy, freeing capital from social forms in which it is under or open to state control and thereby turning those forms into corporate private property as Mahathir succeeded in doing. It will be more and more difficult to maintain a public sector to alleviate the living conditions of workers and the poor when all these public services have been privatised.

Save Malaysia from racism and racial discrimination

Malaysia needs to be saved from racism and racial discrimination. For years now and especially since the New Economic Policy, “race” (“bumiputeraism”) has been used to divide the Malaysian masses so that they cannot unite against their common oppressors and exploiters. Racial discrimination further worsens the plight of workers in the non-Bumiputera communities. Neither the BN or PH have categorically pledged to abolish the New Economic Policy that has been the racist/ populist strategy to try to win over the Bumiputeras and to enrich the well-placed Bumiputeras.

Powerful capitalist interests control our resources and markets and thrive on the cheap labour of Malaysian workers and migrant labour even in the states run by Pakatan Rakyat. The price has been paid by workers and the poor whose living standards continue to be pushed downwards.

If voting changed anything, they’d have made it illegal’

This resistance to neo-liberal capitalism can only be led by a Third Force that tries to empower oppressed people in the process of democratic participation. Popular democratic participation is not just in economic but also political institutions. Real democracy will never be attained merely through periodic general elections and relying on parliament alone. As Emma Goldman put it, “If voting changed anything, they’d have made it illegal!”

Peoples’ power comes about through direct action, based on the self-organisation of workers and other communities in their struggle against capital, with directly elected workplace and community councils taking responsibility for their own affairs and linked to decisions for society at large. The idea is to create an entirely new form of politics centered on direct popular power. When working class people are organized, they can start to believe in their capacity to change the world.

This is the task before us. Can you see any alternative?

Kua Kia Soong is the advisor of SUARAM (Suara Rakyat Malaysia).

 

President Bill Clinton’s Lecture @Georgetown-Purpose


May 1, 2016

President Bill Clinton’s  Lecture @ Georgetown University, Washington DC–Purpose

Earlier today I posted this April 21, 2015 Lecture by the 42nd President of the United States, President William Jefferson Clinton, to guests, faculty and students at Georgetown University, Washington  DC–where he attended the Walsh School of Foreign Service  in 1968 before going to Oxford and Yale– on  Facebook of The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations, The University of Cambodia, Phnom Penh for the benefit of my colleagues and Masters and Doctoral students.

In his Lecture, President Bill Clinton spoke about inclusive politics and inclusive economics and the purpose of public service, citing many examples of leaders in politics, business and civil society when he was in the White  House. I hope my fellow Malaysians in Kuala Lumpur and other parts of our country, my associates and friends and readers who support my blog can get the drift of Bill Clinton’s message  and reflect on his thoughts about the true purpose of public service.

I am sure our Prime Minister has own purpose to be in public service. But you can bet that  Najib’s  purpose is not something the 42nd President of the United States has in mind.–Din Merican

Paul Krugman, the Conscience of the Liberal, speaks


May 1, 2016

Paul Krugman, the Conscience of the Liberal, speaks on US Presidential Elections–It’s Hillary vs Donald in November, 2016

http://www.nytimes.com

Maybe we need a new cliche: It ain’t over until Carly Fiorina sings. Anyway, it really is over — definitively on the Democratic side, with high probability on the Republican side. And the results couldn’t be more different.

“Personalities surely played a role; say what you like (or dislike) about Clinton, but she’s resilient under pressure, a character trait notably lacking on the other side. But basically it comes down to fundamental differences between the parties and how they serve their supporters.”–Krugman

Think about where we were a year ago. At the time, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush were widely seen as the front-runners for their parties’ nods. If there was any dissent from the commentariat, it came from those suggesting that Bush might be supplanted by a fresher, but still establishment, face, like Marco Rubio.

Secretary Hillary Clinton

Most Experienced and Prepared for the Job as US President and Commander-in-Chief

And now here we are. But why did Clinton, despite the most negative media coverage of any candidate in this cycle — yes, worse than Donald Trump’s — go the distance, while the GOP establishment went down to humiliating defeat?

Personalities surely played a role; say what you like (or dislike) about Clinton, but she’s resilient under pressure, a character trait notably lacking on the other side. But basically it comes down to fundamental differences between the parties and how they serve their supporters.

Both parties make promises to their bases. But while the Democratic establishment more or less tries to make good on those promises, the Republican establishment has essentially been playing bait-and-switch for decades. And voters finally rebelled against the con.

First, about the Democrats: Their party defines itself as the protector of the poor and the middle class, and especially of nonwhite voters. Does it fall short of fulfilling this mission much of the time? Are its leaders sometimes too close to big-money donors? Of course. Still, if you look at the record of the Obama years, you see real action on behalf of the party’s goals.

Above all, you have the Affordable Care Act, which has given about 20 million Americans health insurance, with the gains biggest for the poor, minorities and low-wage workers. That’s what you call delivering for the base — and it’s surely one reason nonwhite voters have overwhelmingly favored Clinton over a challenger who sometimes seemed to dismiss that achievement.

And this was paid for largely with higher taxes on the rich, with average tax rates on very high incomes rising by about 6 percentage points since 2008. Maybe you think Democrats could and should have done more, but what the party establishment says and what it does are at least roughly aligned.

Things are very different among Republicans.Their party has historically won elections by appealing to racial enmity and cultural anxiety, but its actual policy agenda is dedicated to serving the interests of the 1 percent, above all through tax cuts for the rich — which even Republican voters don’t support, while they truly loathe elite ideas like privatising Social Security and Medicare.

What Donald Trump has been doing is telling the base that it can order a la carte. He has, in effect, been telling aggrieved white men that they can feed their anger without being forced to swallow supply-side economics, too. Yes, his actual policy proposals still involve huge tax cuts for the rich, but his supporters don’t know that — and it’s possible that he doesn’t, either. Details aren’t his thing.

Establishment Republicans have tried to counter his appeal by shouting, with growing hysteria, that he isn’t a true conservative. And they’re right, at least as they define conservatism. But their own voters don’t care.

If there’s a puzzle here, it’s why this didn’t happen sooner. One possible explanation is the decadence of the GOP establishment, which has become ingrown and lost touch. Apparatchiks who have spent their whole careers inside the bubble of right-wing think tanks and partisan media may suffer from the delusion that their ideology is actually popular with real people. And this has left them hapless in the face of a Trumpian challenge.

Probably more important, however, is the collision between demography and Obama derangement. The elite knows that the party must broaden its appeal as the electorate grows more diverse — in fact, that was the conclusion of the GOP’s 2013 post-mortem. But the base, its hostility amped up to 11 after seven years of an African-American President (who the establishment, dominantly White, has done its best to demonize) is having none of it.

The point, in any case, is that the divergent nomination outcomes of 2016 aren’t an accident. The Democratic establishment has won because it has, however imperfectly, tried to serve its supporters. The Republican establishment has been routed because it has been playing a con game on its supporters all along, and they’ve finally had enough.

And yes, Trump is playing a con game of his own, and they’ll eventually figure that out, too. But it won’t happen right away, and in any case it won’t help the party establishment. Sad! ― The New York Times

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