Book Preview: Illusions of Democracy in Malaysia


November 22, 2017

Book Preview: Illusions of Democracy in Malaysia

When compiling the first volume of Malaysian Politics and People: Misplaced Democracy, we brought together a group of Malaysian specialists to reflect on the aftermath of the 13th General Election. We argued that Malaysia was moving towards a change whose nature was yet to be determined. Three years later this has been confirmed, but the changes are by no means linear. The opposition has become emboldened while new forms of resistance have emerged in arts and activism—but they have also become more fractious. The government has been plagued by financial crises and scandals but has been able to maintain its hold on power, drawing PAS outside of the opposition coalition.

In our latest volume, we once again bring together a collection of international and local researchers to take stock of the nature of Malaysian politics and society the lead up to the much anticipated 14th General Election. Reflecting on the changes of the last three years and firmly rooting our analysis in the reality of Malaysia as a semi-democratic state, we once again find that change will remain a certainty but that the direction of this change has become all the more acute and urgent in the face of political scandal and state authoritarianism. Could Malaysia fall deeper into authoritarian tendencies, as many worry with the passage of the National Security Council Bill 2015 and the detention of opposition figures and restrictions on their travel? Will the Prime Minister be willing to relinquish power in the event of an opposition electoral victory? Or will change emerge more incrementally? Could an opposition party take power with a radically reformist agenda to democratise Malaysian society or will the elitist tendencies in Malaysian politics continue? Finally, what other forces—be they in the field of foreign policy, the economy, minority & LGBTQI rights, the environment, education or migration—will shape the future of Malaysia’s politics and its people?

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A desire to answer these pressing questions led us to publish Illusions of Democracy: Malaysian Politics and People Volume II. We hope that it contains the beginnings of an answer to these questions, and serves to promote critical interrogations of Malaysian politics and society from a variety of fields and areas of study.

Pieces by Delphine Alles & Louise Perrodin, James Chin and Tricia Yeoh, build upon and bring up to date their analyses in the first volume regarding Malaysian foreign policy, non-Malay bumiputera and Malaysia’s oil and gas sector respectively. Divided into four sections, this latest volume covers the manipulation of ethno-politics, the role of Malaysia in the international system, the place of ‘Others’, from LGBTQI to Shia minorities and finally the mismanagement of Malaysia’s resources, both financial and natural. In doing so, they develop important new areas of research from Lawrence Ross’s study of silat martial arts to Amanda Whiting’s detailed study of emergency legislation, Dominik M. Müller’s study of anti-Shia hatred in Malaysia and Alessandro Uras’s study of Malaysia’s South China Sea dilemma.  Other pieces reflect more contemporary concerns—Kerstin Steiner provides an important account the of 1MDB scandal at the intersection of economics, politics and law in Malaysia, whilst Aida Arosoaie and Mohamed Nawab Osman explore the impact of ISIS discourse on Malay-Muslim society in an analysis rooted in the long-term trajectory of Islamisation. Azmil Tayeb and Yew Wei Lit provide an up-to-date account of the developing environmental movement in Malaysia while in another chapter Azmil Tayeb analyses the dynamics of federalism in Malaysia in the case of Islamic education in Kelantan. Finally, other chapters return to well-covered ground in Malaysian studies, bringing new and fresh perspectives. Gerhard Hoffstaedter and Louise Perrodin’s piece on refugees in Malaysia, through a case study of Chin and Rohingya refugees, exposes the connections between Malaysia’s ethno-centric political and social life and the lives and organisation of refugee groups. Angela M. Kuga Thas takes up the study of LGBTQI minorities in Malaysia alongside the ‘Islamic State’ issue and the attempts to unite Malay Muslims to maintain UMNO’s electoral dominance, while Mohd Nazim Ganti Shaari analyses Malaysian constitutional identity formed by the constitutional role of the Malay rulers, Islam and Malay elements.

Malaysia’s Scandal Ridden Prime Minister Najib Razak–Mugabe-like Fate awaits him

Put together, these chapters grapple with what it means to study a country caught between democracy and authoritarianism and what it means to study politics outside of liberal democratic norms. They contribute towards the deconstruction of Malaysia’s political structure and its political, economic, social and legal system. They challenge the illusions which continue to sustain a semi-authoritarian democratic system.

Finally, the extraordinary participation of the political cartoonist Zunar in our discussion and reflection is, to us, a way to actively include artistic activism at the heart of intellectual and academic debate. Zunar’s work, which offers a passionate yet sharp account of the current situation, is a perfect symbiosis between a reasoned analysis of contemporary Malaysian politics and the more intimate voice of perceived reality. It is all the more precious as an expression of an authentic Malaysian voice which will continue to be heard through time and across frontiers.

Sophie Lemière is the Jean Monnet Postdoctoral Fellow at the European University Institute, Florence, Italy. She holds a PhD and a Masters in Comparative Politics from Sciences-Po (France). She is the author of Misplaced Democracy: Malaysian Politics and People.

 

 

No End in Sight to the Brexit Madness


November 22, 2017

No End in Sight to the Brexit Madness

The slow-motion self-immolation that is Brexit continues for the U.K. Speaking in Brussels on Monday, Michel Barnier, the senior European Union official in charge of negotiating the terms of Britain’s departure, confirmed that British banks were set to lose their so-called E.U. passport, which currently enables them to offer services throughout the twenty-eight nations in the bloc. “On financial services, U.K. voices suggest that Brexit does not mean Brexit,” Barnier said. “Brexit means Brexit, everywhere.”

As if to reinforce the point, a meeting of E.U. ministers on Monday confirmed that two big E.U. agencies that are currently headquartered in London, the European Banking Authority and the European Medicines Agency, would be moving to Paris and Amsterdam, respectively. “The twenty-seven will continue to deepen the work of those agencies, together,” Barnier said. “They will share the costs for running those agencies. Our businesses will benefit from their expertise. All of their work is firmly based on the E.U. treaties which the U.K. decided to leave.”

In the months after the Brexit vote, which took place almost a year and a half ago, “Leave” supporters used the fact that the U.K.’s economy continued to expand and create jobs to claim that the prophets of doom had been mistaken. But to those Britons who are willing to acknowledge reality, these latest developments were the latest confirmation that the consequences of the historic vote are now starting to be felt. “While not surprising, these moves mark the beginning of the jobs Brexodus,” Vince Cable, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, and a prominent opponent of Brexit, said. “Large private-sector organizations are also considering moving to Europe, and we can expect many to do so over the next few years.”

To be sure, the country’s economy hasn’t collapsed. The gross domestic product is rising, and the unemployment rate has fallen to 4.3 per cent, its lowest level since 1975. But the rate of G.D.P. growth has fallen this year, and consumer-price inflation has risen because a fall in the value of the pound has made imported goods more expensive. This has hit living standards. Earlier this month, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, an independent think tank, estimated that Brexit has already cost each British household about six hundred pounds, which is roughly eight hundred dollars. “It is almost certain that the relative deterioration in the UK economy and the accompanying fall in living standards over the past year are a consequence of the vote by the British people to leave the European Union,” Garry Young, a senior economist at the institute, wrote.

If Theresa May’s government had presented a credible path to the prosperity that it claims will accompany Britain’s departure from the E.U., the economic slowdown could perhaps be written off as an inevitable and temporary transition cost. But, of course, no such credible path has been offered. Beset by internal divisions, ministerial departures, and the hangover from a disastrous general election that saw it reduced to a minority in the House of Commons, May’s government has stumbled along, making barely any progress in negotiating the terms of Brexit, which was originally pegged for March, 2019.

In September, May announced that Britain wanted to push Brexit back two years, until 2021, and said that it would abide by all the E.U. rules during the transition period. But, even after that concession, the negotiations with Brussels remained bogged down. At the end of last week, Donald Tusk, the E.U.’s President, said that, if Britain wanted talks to begin a new trade agreement that would preserve its access to the huge European market, it would have to make concessions in a number of areas, including the settlement of Britain’s financial obligations to the E.U.; the legal protections that would be afforded E.U. citizens living in the United Kingdom; and the future of the border between Northern Ireland, which is leaving in the E.U., and the Republican of Ireland, which isn’t.

In his speech on Monday, Barnier, a former Foreign Minister of France, appeared to broaden the E.U.’s demands, strongly hinting that, if Britain wanted a favorable trade deal, it would have to abide by European regulations in many areas, even though it would no longer be a member of the Union. “The U.K. has chosen to leave the E.U.,” Barnier said. “Does it want to stay close to the European model or does it want to gradually move away from it? The U.K.’s reply to this question will be important and even decisive, because it will shape the discussion on our future partnership and shape also the conditions for ratification of that partnership in many national parliaments and obviously in the European parliament.”

Image result for Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, and Michael Gove

Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are backing the embattled Prime Minister Theresa May

Although Barnier’s language was polite, his meaning was clear: the E.U. will not countenance Britain trying to set itself up as a haven from regulation and taxes for international companies that want to do business in Europe but don’t like being subject to oversight from Brussels. And, indeed, that is precisely the scenario that some of May’s colleagues—including Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, and Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary—have in mind. In their vision, post-Brexit Britain would turn into a European version of Singapore or Hong Kong during the days of British colonial rule. “We may choose to remain identical to the EU or we may embrace a vision more aligned with pro-competitive regulation,” Johnson and Gove wrote, last week, in a letter to May. “Other countries must know this choice is in our hands, and they must know it on day one.”

To give them a bit of credit, May and Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, seem to grasp that Johnson and Gove are pursuing a fantasy. They understand that the E.U. won’t allow Britain to both have its cake (access to the giant E.U. market) and eat it (freedom from E.U.-style regulation). They also recognize that if companies such as Honda and Nissan no longer have free access to and from Europe for the outputs and inputs of their British factories, they will have little choice but to relocate at least some of their facilities to the Continental mainland. The same goes for big international financial institutions, such as Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs.

Image result for brexit and the future of  London as a financial center

 Bye, Bye, London Post-Brexit?

So May and Hammond are still trying to pursue a so-called soft Brexit, which would preserve as much market access as possible. But, at every turn, they and their allies are being undermined and vilified by the Little Englanders and the conservative Fleet Street newspapers. Last week, the Daily Telegraph published photographs on its front page of fifteen Conservative M.P.s who have had the temerity to suggest that the parliament should have the right to sign off on the final Brexit deal. The paper labelled them “The Brexit mutineers.” Some of these M.P.s subsequently received threats.

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With opinion polls suggesting that most Britons, if given a chance, would now vote to remain in the E.U., a second referendum seems like a good idea.

“How can this be happening in a country known for its pragmatism?” the Oxford economist Simon Wren-Lewis asked in a blog post. How indeed? With opinion polls suggesting that most Britons, if given a chance, would now vote to remain in the E.U., a second referendum seems like a good idea. But the opposition Labour Party, for reasons of its own, has already committed to accepting the first Brexit vote. About the only people calling for a do-over are the Liberal Democrats, who have just twelve seats in the Commons, and a few figures who are even less popular, such as Tony Blair and Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman. (In a tweet last week, Blankfein said, “So much at stake, why not make sure consensus still there?”) The country is still in the grip of Brexit madness, and, sadly, there is no relief in sight.

Robert Mugabe–The Man who ruined Zimbabwe


November 21, 2017

The man who ruined a country

How Robert Mugabe held on to power for so long

His secret was to talk eloquently, and carry a big stick

Print edition | Middle East and Africa

Nov 16th 2017 | HARARE–The Economist

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The Zimbabwean Dictator Robert Mugabe
IT WAS the dismissal and flight abroad of Robert Mugabe’s oldest and trustiest lieutenant that finally led to his downfall. Grace Mugabe, the 93-year-old president’s avaricious wife, was thought to be behind the sacking. Younger than her husband by 41 years, she plainly sought to inherit the throne. Yet she overplayed her hand. Within a week the armed forces’ commander, alongside an array of generals, declared, without naming her, that Mrs Mugabe must be stopped. He demanded, also without naming names, that her nemesis, Emmerson Mnangagwa, must be reinstated as heir apparent. Mrs Mugabe’s allies were denounced as “counter-revolutionaries” who had played no part in the “war of liberation” that 37 years ago had brought Mr Mugabe to power.
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The Avaricious Wife of Robert Mugabe–FLOZ Grace Mugabe

A few days later armoured troop carriers rolled into Harare, the capital. Soldiers took control of the state broadcaster and surrounded Mr Mugabe’s residence. In the small hours of the morning another general announced on television that the army was in charge. But the coup was not a coup, he insisted. Various traitors had merely been rounded up and the Mugabe family detained for their own safety. Mr Mnangagwa was set to return from his brief exile. The Mugabe era was at last ingloriously over. As The Economist went to press, events were still unfolding pell-mell. But the latest signals suggest that the fate of Zimbabwe, at least for now, is in the hands of the 75-year-old Mr Mnangagwa.

Image result for mnangagwa the crocodileEmmerson “The Crocodile” Mnangagwa (center)

 

Known as “the Crocodile” for his habit of waiting quietly before sinking his jaws into his next victim, Mr Mnangagwa has none of his erstwhile master’s wit and charm. A former guerrilla and longtime political prisoner during the era of white supremacy that ended with independence under Mr Mugabe in 1980, for the next two decades he was minister of state security and of justice. He acquired a fearsome record of repression and an unrivalled knowledge of where the bodies—literal and metaphorical—were buried.

A pragmatist to the core, Mr Mnangagwa’s first act on the day he took over his department in 1980 was to visit the police station where he had been tortured by the white regime after his capture for trying to blow up a train. The leg-irons from which he had been hung upside down were still there, as were the white officers who had beaten him. Yet, according to an account by Martin Meredith, a historian, he promised them a “clean slate” in the new country.

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Zimbabwe Army General Constantino Chiwenga Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces

 

Soon enough, however, he was making his own use of such men. He is accused of complicity in the brutal suppression of the minority Ndebele tribe in the early 1980s, when about 20,000 people, most of them civilians, were murdered by the Zimbabwean army. (He denies this.) He had a hand in the Zimbabwean army’s deployment in the 1990s to the Democratic Republic of Congo, which it plundered. In 2008, when Mr Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party lost a parliamentary election and the first round of the presidential one, he orchestrated a lethal wave of violence that forced the winning challenger, Morgan Tsvangirai, to withdraw from the second round. Standing for election to a parliamentary seat against the main opposition party, he was himself twice embarrassingly defeated. But Mr Mugabe ensured he would always retain a senior government or party post.

In the past few years, as Mr Mugabe’s physical and mental powers have declined, Mr Mnangagwa has fostered a reputation, with Western governments among others, as a man to do business with—and as the president’s likeliest successor. Well before the coup, one Western diplomat remarked that he would be ruthless and powerful enough to grab power quickly should it slip from Mr Mugabe’s hands, “with at most a few tens of deaths” forestalling a drawn-out power struggle that could result in a lot more killing. And he has courted multilateral financial institutions such as the IMF and World Bank.

Mr Mnangagwa has also let it be known that he would reverse the racist “indigenisation law” that requires businesses to be mainly owned by black Zimbabweans or by the state. He has argued for some kind of settlement, including compensation, for the white farmers whose properties have been confiscated since 2000, acknowledging that their skills are needed to rebuild what was one of Africa’s most productive agricultural economies. Such a settlement might spur Western governments to start offering large-scale aid again. On the domestic front he has put out secret feelers to the opposition, hinting at a unity government after Mr Mugabe goes.

Fall from Grace

That happened faster than expected, once Mrs Mugabe had persuaded her wobbly husband to dispatch his senior vice-president into the wilderness on November 6th, egged on by the president’s outrage after she was booed at a meeting.

Mrs Mugabe’s bid for power has had a long gestation. Backed by a relatively younger coterie of Zanu-PF ministers known as the “G40” (“Generation 40”), she had already managed to eject one rival, Joice Mujuru, from the vice-presidency in 2014. In gunning for Mr Mnangagwa—a few days earlier she had described him as “the snake [who] must be hit on the head”—it seemed she was finally bidding to replace her husband. At a church meeting earlier this month, it was reported that she declared she was ready to succeed him, saying “I say to Mr Mugabe you should…leave me to take over your post.”

The former secretary, who had become Mr Mugabe’s mistress as his first wife lay dying, did not realise how despised she is within the ruling Zanu-PF party. She rashly picked fights with two of its sturdiest factions—the securocrats and former bush fighters—in her bid to eliminate rivals for the presidency. Yet the biggest fall was not that of Grace but of Mr Mugabe himself, a man who was among the last of Africa’s presidents-for-life. His reign lasted so long that the vast majority of Zimbabweans remember no other ruler. And he bragged that it would continue “until God says come join the other angels”.

Despite his viciousness and incompetence, he was hailed as a hero by many Africans. Some saw in him a symbol of resistance to the old imperialist powers. At meeting after meeting of the African Union, he could count on a rousing ovation, as he railed against whites and the injustices that he imagined rich countries, chief among them Britain, and mysterious groups of homosexuals, were inflicting on Zimbabwe. Yet for all his bluster, blame for the immiseration of Zimbabwe rests chiefly on his shoulders. His ruinous policies caused the economy to collapse, impoverished his people and destroyed their health (see charts).

That need not have happened. For a few years after independence, Zimbabwe prospered. Mr Mugabe shelved the full-blown Marxist economic policies he had espoused during the years in prison and in the guerrilla camps. He allowed the white farmers, who had once wanted him dead, to preserve Zimbabwe as the region’s breadbasket. There was an unwritten understanding, he felt, that they should grow food and tobacco but keep out of politics.

He was far less tolerant of the Ndebele, a minority ethnic group who continued to back his long-standing rival for national leadership, Joshua Nkomo. He pretended that scattered instances of banditry amounted to a massive armed revolt, and ordered his North-Korean trained Fifth Brigade to crush it. The massacres, torture and rape he inflicted on the Ndebele were on a larger scale than anything that occurred during the long war against white rule. In those early days, Western governments and aid agencies, keen to promote Zimbabwe as a donor-funded success story, generally looked the other way.

During the 1990s, however, corruption began to erode Mr Mugabe’s authority. Towards the end of that decade, a group of aggrieved and landless “war veterans”, many of them obvious impostors, successfully agitated for big handouts, after complaining that they had missed out on the patronage dished out to the bloated elite. This blew a hole in the budget and caused the IMF to withdraw support.

Instead of pulling back, Mr Mugabe spent more. “Have you ever heard of a country that collapsed because of borrowing?” he asked, as he opened the taps on spending and threatened to grab white-owned farms and hand them to his supporters. Soon after, he called a referendum on a constitutional change to bolster his power as president and enable him to confiscate land without paying compensation.

At this point, in 1999, a trade union-led movement rose up, with the help of some whites, including some of those farmers hitherto protected by Mr Mugabe in return for their quietly prosperous life. After his constitutional proposal was voted down, by 55% to 45%, he lost his temper, setting off a reckless campaign of land grabs. In remarkably short order one of Africa’s most advanced economies collapsed. Short of taxes and revenues raised from the export of crops such as tobacco, the government soon began to run out of money. Gideon Gono, then governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, simply printed more of it. “Traditional economics do not fully apply in this country,” he said. “I am going to print and print and sign the money…because we need money.” Inflation reached 500 billion percent, according to the IMF, or 89.7 sextillion percent, according to Steve Hanke of Johns Hopkins University. (Measuring hyperinflation is hard.)

At the same time, Mr Mugabe embarked on a murderous campaign to quell the opposition, led by a courageous if sometimes clumsy trade unionist, Morgan Tsvangirai, who refused to give up. In 2008 he soundly defeated Mr Mugabe in the first round of a presidential election, while his party won, more narrowly, the general election. Mr Mugabe was evidently shaken to the core, perhaps, like so many dictators, because he had come to believe that his people loved him.

For five weeks, a cowed electoral commission refused to divulge the result, eventually massaging the figure of Mr Tsvangirai’s victory down to just under 50%, thus requiring a second round. The mayhem that then followed was so vicious that Mr Tsvangirai felt obliged to bow out.

Eight months later a unity government was formed. A dollarised currency had begun to rescue the economy but Mr Mugabe failed to implement any of the major reforms that were meant to restore a semblance of democracy. Mr Tsvangirai and his party had been tricked, humiliated and discredited by the time of the next election, in 2013, since when the economy has plummeted again. No one knows the exact figure, but a good 3m Zimbabweans—some say 5m—out of a population now estimated by the UN to be nearly 17m, have fled the country, to South Africa and overseas.

What next?

If Mr Mnangagwa succeeds in taking back the reins of government, his first task will be to consolidate power within Zanu-PF. Whether Mr Mugabe formally hands over or is kept on as a kind of ceremonial president is barely relevant, though it would be neater if the old man were ushered into as dignified a retirement as soon as is feasible in these ugly, humiliating circumstances.

Mr Mnangagwa’s main concern will be to ensure that Mrs Mugabe and her G40 are dismissed. Many have already been locked up. Bigwigs who will probably sink with her include Saviour Kasukuwere, who enacted the racist indigenisation law; Ignatius Chombo, the finance minister; Jonathan Moyo, a serial plotter and former regime mouthpiece; Patrick Zhuwao, a nephew of Mr Mugabe; and the head of the police, Augustine Chihuri.

A Zanu-PF congress originally scheduled for next month, at which the top spots in the party are dished out and endorsed, may be brought forward. A drastic purge of anyone suspected of siding with Mrs Mugabe is likely, and could be bloody. The formal coronation of Mr Mnangagwa, or his anointing as the undisputed heir to the throne, is likely then to take place.

It is possible that Mr Mnangagwa may call for a government of national unity in the run-up to the general and presidential election constitutionally required by the middle of next year. If a president dies or resigns, the ruling party has 90 days to nominate a replacement, who then completes his predecessor’s term of office.

The opposition is woefully fragmented, though its main leaders have made progress in the past year towards forging a broad front. Mr Tsvangirai, much diminished by his five hapless years as prime minister in coalition with Mr Mugabe, who ran rings around him after the bloodily disputed election of 2008, is probably still Zanu-PF’s chief opponent. But he has cancer and several of his ablest lieutenants have defected from his Movement for Democratic Change.

Ms Mujuru, for a decade Mr Mugabe’s vice-president and long a prominent figure in Zanu-PF, might ally herself to Mr Tsvangirai’s party. Simba Makoni, a decent former finance minister who defected from Zanu-PF, won 8% of the presidential vote in 2008. A respected banker and former industry minister, Nkosana Moyo, has set up a new group. It is vital that the opposition coalesces behind a new leader. No obvious chief contender has yet emerged.

Outsiders, in Africa and beyond, are offering to help. The two African bodies previously most involved, the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a 15-country regional club led by South Africa, are sure to make high-minded noises, but their readiness in the past to whitewash Zimbabwe’s rigged elections and to wink at the violence and deceit that kept Mr Mugabe in power for so long give no comfort to Zimbabwe’s battered opposition or to its benighted citizens. Few trust them to give the real opposition, rather than Zanu-PF factions opposed to Mrs Mugabe, a fair deal.

Zimbabwe is bankrupt. It needs the IMF, the World Bank and an array of Western creditors to forgive debts and offer fresh loans. But that must be strictly conditional on political reform. Foreign aid agencies already feed many Zimbabweans who would otherwise starve—in some years, millions of them.

The most pressing requirement is for a properly supervised election. Given the failure of the AU and SADC to monitor past polls properly, it is essential that beefier bodies, including the UN, the European Union and the Commonwealth (from which Zimbabwe withdrew in 2003 after its suspension the year before), supervise the next vote. American bodies that are experienced election-watchers such as the Carter Centre and the National Democratic Institute must be involved, too. The Elders, a group of former world leaders, including Kofi Annan, once head of the UN, and Jimmy Carter, a past American president, could advise. Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s shrewd former president, has been suggested as a mediator.

Since Mr Mugabe expelled the Swedish head of an EU mission that was monitoring a presidential election in 2002, he has almost never again let in such intrusive bodies or such dignitaries, especially any that smack of past colonial rule. Old party stalwarts, including the coup leader, General Constantine Chiwenga, and Mr Mnangagwa himself, have opposed what they call neocolonial interference. Sometimes China is cited as a friend that, unlike Western powers, will dispense aid with no questions asked. But of late it has sounded less willing to bankroll Zimbabwe.

If a new government wants economic help, it must accept a measure of oversight. Outsiders will not dispatch the aid needed to set Zimbabwe on the path to recovery unless its new government is clearly representative and respects human rights.

Zimbabweans are resilient. Their country is rich not only in natural resources but also in talent, much of which would return home if the country were better governed. Zimbabwe’s infrastructure is still better than in many other African countries. During most of his long tenure, Mr Mugabe and Zanu-PF did their best to ruin the place. Mr Mnangagwa may be the man to oversee the post-Mugabe transition. But as soon as possible a new generation must take over and make a completely fresh start.

 This article appeared in the Middle East and Africa section of the print edition under the headline “The man who wrecked a country”

 

Deal Between Anwar and Najib Razak? :The Worst Possible News for Malaysia


November 21, 2017

Deal Between Anwar and Najib Razak?: The Worst Possible News for Malaysia

by P. Gunasegaram@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Anwar and Najib

Is there something brewing here which is suggestive of some kind of a deal materializing between these two once staunch allies? Like they say, there are no permanent enemies in politics and politics is the game of the possible, or is it the impossible? Never mind, you get the drift.–P. Gunasegaram

QUESTION TIME | In Malaysia where conspiracy theories arise at the drop of a 10-sen coin, the visit by Prime Minister Najib Razak to jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who is in hospital following a shoulder operation, has started tongues a-wagging. And how they are wagging!

Is there something brewing here which is suggestive of some kind of a deal materialising between these two once staunch allies? Like they say, there are no permanent enemies in politics and politics is the game of the possible, or is it the impossible? Never mind, you get the drift.

After all, who would have thought that former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, widely held responsible for Sodomy 1 which put Anwar in jail for six years until 2004, would now be working with him to topple BN and Najib? If that can happen, why not a reconciliation, or even a deal, between Najib and Anwar for mutual benefit?

 

Even the burying of past differences between Mahathir and Anwar is difficult to understand. How does a person who spent years in prison, was beaten after he was arrested, had his life ruined and political future now in tatters, forgive the person who was held to be most responsible for this?

And was it not what Mahathir did in terms of consolidating his power within UMNO – technically UMNO Baru as the old UMNO was dissolved as part of plans implemented by Mahathir – that now makes it near impossible to remove a sitting UMNO President and Prime Minister because of all that such a person has at his disposal in terms of power?

Now this, Najib visits Anwar in the hospital with his wife Rosmah Mansor and with Anwar’s wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail present and the gossip bandwagon goes berserk, although it is more likely to topple than to sustain over the next few days.

Here was the man who pushed Sodomy 2 against Anwar with Anwar’s accuser having seen him – Najib – before making his police report. And Anwar is in jail again for a further five years from 2015, more or less putting paid to his political career unless Pakatan Harapan wins the next election. The chances of that are pretty low right now.

How could Anwar countenance a visit from this man who was responsible for his prison sentence in the first place with a lot of people believing that Anwar’s sentence was terribly unfair with admission of evidence that could have been tampered with? If Anwar’s trial was fixed, as he himself claimed, then only one person could have been responsible.

How could he even consent to see this person? As difficult as this is to understand for people like me, those who understand Malay culture say that nothing should be read into the meeting. The PM went to see a former friend and ally who was ailing – nothing more, nothing less.

But talk is not so easily stopped because Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, at one time one of Anwar’s closest friends and allies, visited him as well. Perhaps there is nothing but those visits perhaps indicate to Mahathir that two can play the game – if Mahathir can reconcile with Anwar, Najib can reconcile with him too, with all that it implies for Mahathir.

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What about the stolen money?–1MDB 

But is it as simple as all that really? No. Because if somehow Najib and Anwar ally, who becomes the enemy then? Surely not Mahathir now. And what about 1MDB? What does it mean for all that the opposition has been saying about billions stolen and still unaccounted for?

And what about the allegations, with some evidence, that UMNO and BN are tainted with 1MDB money and that they support Najib only because of that? Will all this be conveniently swept under the carpet forever more and everybody lives together happily ever after?

There can be only one deal that will allow this – in that permutation or combination of both, Anwar has to become Prime Minister, no less. That will entail Najib continuing for a while and then making way for Anwar – which means that Anwar has to be within BN or some larger conglomerate.

Anwar Ibrahim– A political chameleon or a publicity seeking politician?

How that may form boggles the mind but remember that after the May 13, 1969, riots and emergency rule, Najib’s father Abdul Razak Hussein persuaded (coerced?) the substantial opposition then into a coalition in 1973 forming Barisan Nasional, with the only significant party out in the bitter cold – that being DAP. If Anwar and Najib make a deal whereby Anwar is rehabilitated and Najib carries on, for a while at least, that is the worst possible news for Malaysia because all sections of the political divide – both ruling and opposition parties – will implicitly sanction the greatest theft this country has ever known and multiple events of gross mismanagement and lack of governance.

I don’t believe this will happen but I would have been far more comfortable if Anwar had not consented to meet Najib – and yes, if he had not done a deal with Mahathir too. But then who am I but just another insignificant citizen of Malaysia?

 

Corruption: Now the Joke is on Malaysians


November 20, 2017

Corruption: Now the Joke is on Malaysians

by R.Nadeswaran@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Najib Razak-- I am not a Liar

These UMNO Rogues are laughing at us because we are gullible and naive

There was a time when the jokes were on African states, their leaders and how they ran their governments. We despised the apartheid regime in South Africa and laughed at Idi Amin in Uganda and other kleptocrats who stole money and precious metals from their own people. Now, the joke seems to be on us.

Former Kenyan premier Raila Amolo Odinga’s not-so-flattering remarks on corruption in Malaysia made during a 2013 conference at the Wilson Centre in Washington DC, was uploaded to YouTube on 10 days ago.

He spoke as if he was an authority and had full knowledge of Malaysian affairs. Not surprising as a year earlier, he had been conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Leadership in Societal Development by the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology.

How long can Malaysians go on hearing all kinds of hurtful things being said of the country and its leaders? Why aren’t we responding to such insults, instead of pretending that they were never made? The more we play deaf and dumb, the more we become disrespected and slighted.

In 2015, the Wall Street Journal alleged RM2.6 billion had been deposited into the AmBank account of Prime Minister Najib Razak and linked it to 1MDB. Almost immediately, he threatened to sue the newspaper. A year later, nothing materialised but his lawyer, Mohd Hafarizam Harun was quoted as saying that it would be a futile move.

Image result for Najib Razak-- I am not a Liar

The more important issue, the lawyer argued, is the Malaysians’ own thoughts regarding 1MDB, noting that reports and statements from local authorities such as the Attorney-General and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) have cleared the prime minister.

“What matters are the Malaysians, whether you believe with all the public accounts committee report, the attorney-general and the MACC, that the PM is not involved. If you say you do not believe because the international media are saying otherwise, nothing much I can do,” he told reporters, adding that it would show a mindset of continued colonisation with the belief that “the Americans, the British, the whites are far superior” than Malaysians.

Well, that was before the US Department of Justice came out with its deposition on the funds it alleges had been stolen from 1MDB. Since then, there have been other disclosures from other monetary authorities.

Image result for Najib Razak-- I am not a Liar

MIC thinks Najib Razak is the Father of Indian Development and our Indian brothers think so too

Singapore closed a couple of financial institutions; banned a few bankers and even sent three of them to jail. The line that the money was a donation “from an Arab prince” has been demolished on more than to report the big money transfers to Bank Negara.

‘Tidak apa’

ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott told an Australian parliamentary inquiry in October last year that no ANZ employee was involved in what has happened in the AmBank. (The AmBank Group was slapped with a RM53.7mil fine by Bank Negara in November 2015, but the exact reasons for the fine were not specified.)

If the bank has been penalised, what about the account holder? The Police have continuously prosecuted individuals for having monies which they could not account for. And our leaders have often thumped their chest and screamed: “No one is above the law!”

There has been hardly any reaction to the Australian report. To scream “fake news” and consign 1MDB, its humongous borrowings and losses, its links to the Prime Minister and the government to the dustbin are not going to be easy.

The annals of history will record the massive misinformation campaign and its perpetrators of 1MDB and those attempting the cover-up exercise. With the rakyat are being continually starved of accurate data, the government has created a new strain of disease called the truth deficiency syndrome.

Instead of addressing this issue, the government seems laid back and has adopted a “tidak apa” attitude. Lawmakers who raise the issues are not given proper answers in Parliament.

There seems to be no will and determination in wanting to tell the truth and find closure to an issue that has dragged down the country through slime and mud. Does it not matter to our MPs and ministers? What do they tell their foreign counterparts when attending conferences and meetings? Packs of lies?

It has been said that those who are riding the 1MDB tiger refuse to or cannot dismount for fear of being eaten up. If that is so, let it happen.

What about the roles of our elected representatives? Instead of addressing more important issues, they seem to be more apt or fixated with sex. Why else would they be debating the aphrodisiac qualities of durians instead of 1MDB?

Read more at https://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/402499#fc7WYSjfAyZWKyc3.99

 

East-Asian Regionalism — A Bulwark Against a “Post-Liberal” International Order?


November 18, 2017

East-Asian Regionalism — A Bulwark Against a “Post-Liberal” International Order?

http://www.jpi.or.kr/eng/regular/policy_view.sky?code=EnOther&id=5325–www.eastasiaforum.org

By  See Seng Tan (RSIS, Nanyang Technological University)

In his January 2017 address to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Chinese President Xi Jinping positioned himself—unusually for the leader of Communist China—as a defender of globalization and free trade. Without a doubt, Xi’s remarks were directed at incoming US President Donald Trump, whose campaign rhetoric stressed resistance to globalization and promised the likelihood of an increasingly nationalist, isolationist, and protectionist America. Trump is not alone in wanting to reverse the tide of globalization the current pro-Brexit UK government has been singing a similar tune.

Image result for Asia's New Champion China's President Xi

This paper makes three interrelated points. First, the rising nationalist cum protectionist tide in the West is not a foregone conclusion due to mitigating factors that impel the great powers to cooperate, if only instrumentally and in the short term. Second, the history of East Asia from the Cold War to the present has been one where an emphasis on the preservation and protection of neutrality has given way in the post-Cold War period to so-called open regionalism, a broad-based preference for extensive and deep engagement with external powers and access to outside markets and resources. Third, East Asia’s shared commitment to open regionalism makes East Asian Regionalism, despite the present uncertainty surrounding regional trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), an important counter-narrative and alternative model to the isolationist and protectionist zeitgeist.

Is the World Turning Protectionist?

Should Trump and other anti-globalists have their way, how might their behavior impact the liberal international economic order? According to a Brookings Institution report, despite holding the largest share of world trade and foreign capital, the US, relative to its size, is not as globally integrated as other countries.1) What could prove detrimental, however, is if other countries retaliate against US protectionist policies this fact serves as the basis for concerns that Trump could precipitate a trade war. Yet while retaliatory trade behavior might only be a short-term issue, the more fundamental risk is if countries repudiate global norms and institutions that underpin the globalized economy. This is possible if they feel that the US is no longer committed to upholding the liberal economic order and shouldering its burden—a worry that predates the Trump presidency but has since been reinforced by it.2)

Additionally, there is concern whether China, despite President Xi’s performance at Davos 2017, will honor the commitments it has made. These include accepting imported manufactured products and services as well as fully implementing TRIPS (the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) as China promised to do when it joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001.3) Finally, there is also concern about various types of “covert” protectionism (i.e., the so-called behind-the-border barriers) rampant in China and other emerging markets that are challenging to address.4)

Image result for America retreat from Asia under Trump

Recent developments suggest that Trump has been forced by unanticipated events to delay or defer the pursuit of his anti-liberal agenda. The Trump administration has made a series of abrupt reversals in foreign policy, such as revising his earlier opinions about NATO, US involvement in Syria, burden sharing by US allies, the One China policy, US involvement in the South China Sea, and the US Export-Import Bank. It has also retreated from intended protectionist moves toward China because Chinese cooperation is sorely needed to manage a recalcitrant North Korea. Consequently, Trump has gone from accusing China of being the “grand champion” of currency manipulation to declaring they have not manipulated the China’s currency in months. Additionally, since initially proposing a 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods for allegedly hollowing out US manufacturing, the administration has gone quiet (whilst at the same time threatening to impose a 20 percent tariff on Canadian lumber). Crucially, Trump has also expressed strong support for bilateral free trade deals.5)

Whether this retreat from protectionism and isolationism is a temporary or expedient move remains to be seen. After all, there is evidence to suggest that, despite these reversals toward what some observers see as a more traditional US foreign policy,6) Trump appears to persist in his preference for transactional approaches.7) This was apparent during the Trump-Xi summit, where both leaders reportedly deliberated with “a cold calculation of interests” as they mutually exacted concessions from one another while still acknowledging their interdependence.8) In other words, the reversals merely reflect the Trump administration‟s pragmatic response to evolving international conditions that require corresponding changes in reciprocity. These are the quid pro quos that embody transactional diplomacy. Still, by acknowledging mutual dependence, even if only on a transactional basis, a slide towards full-blown protectionism and unadulterated solipsism has been kept at bay.9)

East Asia: From “Neutrality” to “Open Regionalism”

Image result for East-Asian Regionalism -- A Bulwark Against a “Post-Liberal” International Order?

A More Engaged and Assertive Japan under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

It is worth noting that the emergence and evolution of East Asian Regionalism (EAR) did not occur outside the liberal international order but within it. If anything, EAR has sought to complement rather than compete against liberalism. When former Malaysian Premier Mahathir bin Mohamad’s idea of an East Asian Economic Grouping (EAEG)—later amended to an East Asian Economic Caucus (EAEC)—was proposed in 1990, the assumption then was that the EAEG/EAEC would form a Japan-led regional bloc that could serve as a counterweight to emerging—and potentially rival—regionalisms in Europe (such as the European Union, or EU) and North America (such as the North American Free Trade Area, or NAFTA). However, EAR would take a back seat to Asia-Pacific regionalism with the formation of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in 1994. Together with the earlier formation of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) trade forum, the emergence of ARF—with ASEAN as first its midwife and subsequently its anointed custodian—marked a strategic shift in the way ASEAN viewed the involvement of great and regional powers within Southeast Asia. For the ASEAN countries, the Cold War perspective of the great powers as outsiders seeking to intervene, exploit, and divide the region and who therefore must be checked—as embodied in the 1971 ASEAN declaration of the Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN)—was gradually replaced by a post-Cold War perspective of those same powers as external actors with whom Southeast Asians ought to actively engage through multilateral diplomacy, among other means.

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Cambodia and China–Strategic Partners in Development

Far from exclusivist, the new regionalism that emerged in the early post-Cold War years in the Asia-Pacific is what some have termed open regionalism. This concept argues for cooperation across national borders in a region to reduce transaction costs through the collective involvement of governments in “trade facilitation,” or the expansion of open trade.10)

Second, open regionalism is meant to be inclusive in that it seeks to incorporate outside powers such as the US and other eastern Pacific Rim countries into APEC and ARF.11) Belief in such inclusivism—coupled with the perceived need to construct a stable regional balance of power by including outside groups to counter possible hegemonic ambitions—led to a push to enlarge the membership of the East Asia Summit (EAS) to include countries beyond the 10+3 of ASEAN plus Three (APT).12)

Third, open regionalism encourages groups to make their enterprises compatible with institutional arrangements and practices in other parts of the world, including world bodies. For example, the architects of ARF made it clear that the forum is not meant to replace the San Francisco system of military alliances. Instead, it serves as a supplementary mechanism for dialogue and consultation. Likewise with the Chiang Mai Initiative (CMI) reserve currency pool, an institutional expression of EAR and APT, was launched against the backof the crippling Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s. Speculations that the CMI—along with its multilateral component, the CMI Multilateralization (CMIM)—would surpass the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as the region‟s first port of call for financial assistance in times of crisis were put to rest when it became clear that regional countries either prefer IMF assistance or bilateral swap agreements that had no IMF links.13)

This is also evident in how ASEAN and its suite of regional offshoots have avoided asserting themselves as the region‟s savior organizations when troubles hit by limiting their aim and remit. As in the case of the CMI/CMIM, Asian countries involved in territorial disputes have looked to world bodies such as the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ)—as in the cases of the Indonesia-Malaysia dispute over Sipadan and Ligitan, the Malaysia-Singapore dispute over Pedra Branca, and the Cambodia-Thailand disputes over Preah Vihear and its promontory—the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), or the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) for UNCLOS Annex VII arbitrations—activated recently in the case of the China-Philippines dispute over the South China Sea (SCS). Alternatively, they rely on bilateral means of dispute settlement rather than ASEAN-based dispute settlement mechanisms.14)

Reinforcing the Liberal Message Though EAR

Since the knee-jerk reactions in the immediate aftermath of the US withdrawal from the TPP—in particular, Japan’s insistence that a TPP without the US would be “meaningless”—Australia and Japan have emerged as the loudest voices in favor of an 11-member TPP trade deal sans the US, without ruling out the possibility of the latter’s return to the fold.15) Meanwhile some are hoping that RCEP will launch by the end of 2017, though the best possible outcome is likely to be a framework agreement.16) Much was made at the RCEP Kobe meeting in February 2017 about an inclusive agreement that ensures roles for all stakeholders. The argument by RCEP Trade Negotiating Committee Chief Iman Pambagyo, for example, that RCEP balance the needs of both developed and developing nations implies that progress is likely to be slow and by no means guaranteed.17) APEC supports a third trade pact, the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), but it remains at the consultative stage despite receiving strong support from China when it chaired the 2014 APEC summit.18)

Image result for modi's new india--Act EastIndia’s Act East Policy

Open regionalism inherently and intuitively liberalizes trade and refutes protectionism. Or it tries to. Despite the uncertainty surrounding TPP-11 and RCEP, they remain key reference points for any defense of trade liberalization. There is a longstanding debate over whether regional trade agreements compete with the world trade system.19) But, as we have seen, the ways in which open regionalism has hitherto been conceptualized and practiced in both the economic and security domains in East Asia render EAR a key political counterpoint to the anti-globalization fever that has seized the geo-economic cum geopolitical imaginations of the West. This is perhaps the most important role that EAR can and hopefully will play in the future, namely, as a bulwark against the anti-globalization tide through reinforcement of a liberal message.

Footnotes:

1) Brina Seideland Laurence Chandy, “Donald Trump and the future of globalization”, Brookings, 18 November 2016,
https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2016/11/18/donald-trump-and-the-future-of-globalization/
2) Kati Suominen, Peerless and Periled: The Paradox of American Leadership in the World Economic Order (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012), p. 243.
3) Douglas Bulloch, “Protectionism May Be Rising Around The World, But In China It Never Went Away”, Forbes, 12 October 2016,
https://www.forbes.com/sites/douglasbulloch/2016/10/12/protectionism-may-be-rising-around-the-world-but-in-china-it-never-went-away/#359ae9bc73da
4) “Protectionism: The Hidden Persuaders”, The Economist, 12 October 2013,
http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21587381-protectionism-can-take-many-forms-not-all-them-obvious-hidden-persuaders
5) Geoffrey Gertz, “What will Trump‟s embrace of bilateralism mean for America‟s trade partners?” Brookings, 8 February 2017,
https://www.brookings.edu/blog/future-development/2017/02/08/what-will-trumps-embrace-of-bilateralism-mean-for-americas-trade-partners/
6) David Ignatius, “Trump moves slightly toward pillars of traditional foreign policy”, USA Today, 13 April 2017,
https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/columnists/2017/04/13/trump-moves-slightly-toward-pillars-traditional-foreign-policy/100413776/
7) Greg Jaffe and Joshua Partlow, “Trump phone calls signal a new transactional approach to allies and neighbors”, The Washington Post, 2 February 2017,
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-phone-calls-signals-a-new-transactional-approach-to-allies-and-neighbors/2017/02/02/dcb797fa-e989-11e6-b82f-687d6e6a3e7c_story.html?utm_term=.97755b835303
8) Lexington, “A coldly transactional China policy: Donald Trump‟s first meeting with Xi Jinping was all about business”, The Economist, 8 April 2017,
http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2017/04/coldly-transactional-china-policy
9) Robert Kagan, “Trump marks the end of America as world‟s „indispensable nation‟”, The Financial Times, 20 November 2016, https://www.ft.com/content/782381b6-ad91-11e6-ba7d-76378e4fef24
10) Ross Garnaut, Open Regionalism and Trade Liberalization: An Asia-Pacific Contribution to the World Trade System (Singapore: ISEAS Yusof Ishak, 1996).
11) Amitav Acharya, “Ideas, Identity, and Institution-building: From the „ASEAN Way‟ to the „Asia-Pacific Way‟?”, The Pacific Review, Vol. 10, No. 3 (1997), pp. 319-346.
12) Malcolm Cook and Nick Bisley, “Contested Asia and the East Asia Summit”, ISEAS Perspective, No. 46, 18 August 2016.
13) Hal Hill and Jayant Menon, “Asia‟s new financial safety net: Is the Chiang Mai Initiative designed not to be used?”, Vox, 25 July 2012, http://voxeu.org/article/chiang-mai-initiative-designed-not-be-used
14) See Seng Tan, “The Institutionalisation of Dispute Settlements in Southeast Asia: The Legitimacy of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in De-securitising Trade and Territorial Disputes”, in Hitoshi Nasu and Kim Rubenstein, eds., Legal Perspectives on Security Institutions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp. 248-266.
15) WSim, “Australia, Japan lobby for TPP-11”, The Straits Times, 21 April 2017, http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/australia-japan-lobby-for-tpp-11 “’TPP 11′ to Washington: We’ll keep your seat warm”, Nikkei Review, 16 May 2017,
http://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/International-Relations/TPP-11-to-Washington-We-ll-keep-your-seat-warm
16) Shefali Rekhi, “Will RCEP be a reality by the end of 2017?” The Straits Times, 23 April 2017,
http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/will-rcep-be-a-reality-by-the-end-of-2017
17) Eric Johnston, “16-nation RCEP talks resume in wake of TPP‟s demise”, The Japan Times, 27 February 2017,
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/02/27/business/16-nation-rcep-talks-resume-wake-tpps-demise/#.WR1RaU21v3g
18) Mireya Solís, “China flexes its muscles at APEC with the revival of FTAAP”, East Asia Forum, 24 November 2014.
19) Parthapratim Pal, “Regional Trade Agreements in a Multilateral Trade Regime: A Survey of Recent Issues”, Foreign Trade Review, Vol. 40, No. 1 (2005), pp. 27-48.

* This is a presentation manuscript in the panel “Regionalism After Liberalism”, Jeju Forum, 31 May 2017.