Malaysia: Questions to ponder


July 26, 2015

COMMENT: I cannot disagree with Zainah Anwar on the issues she raised in her article.  Spot on, but we have reached beyond theKamsiah and Din 2015 CNY pondering stage since the rot started long before Najib became the 6th Prime Minister in 2009.

Who was the Prime Minister who brazenly stated that our country is an Islamic state and who played the race card? Let us not forget that he came to power on the back of ultra-Malay nationalism and Islamism. Who destroyed our system of governance to leave as his legacy a powerful office of Prime Minister and a UMNO President who cannot be challenged.

He now is the man who is leading the charge to overthrow Najib from high office. He cannot conveniently say that he is not good at picking his successors (Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Najib Razak). He eliminated some outstanding UMNO leaders like Tun Musa Hitam, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim and created UMNO  Baru so that he could govern without opposition from his party and Parliament with the help of a compliant Judiciary and a civil service which  he could manipulate to achieve his political goals and perpetuate his rule (he did it for 22+ years).

Mahathir Lawan Najib

Today we have become a failed nation led by a kleptocracy under the leadership of a weak and corrupt Prime Minister Najib Razak.  UMNO is beyond redemption. In stead, we have to ponder whether UMNO of pagar makan padi types should continue to govern our country.

For me the answer is clear: No, UMNO which is trapped in a culture of patronage, cronyism, and corruption cannot be expected to revamp itself and govern differently. But what is the alternative?

Right now, given the fact the political opposition is in total disarray and UMNO is without a replacement, we have no choice but to endure the pain and agony of Najib’s transformational leadership for a few more years. The Economist could be right in coming to this conclusion. May God save Malaysia.–Din Merican

Malaysia: Questions to ponder

As issue and more issues made the headlines, will there be an implosion of all the things that Malaysia had built over the years?

I AM beginning to feel as if this country and its rakyat are being crushed and pummelled by wrecking balls.

JELAJAH JANJI DETEPATI / KULIMThe wrecking ball of race and religion, of insatiable greed, of never-­ending sense of entitlements, of unpunished crimes and abuses, of ideology over rational thinking, justice, and fair play.

These concerns are nothing new. What’s new is the breathtaking scale, the endlessness of it all, and the shamelessness with which the perpetrators display their unscrupulous, destructive and criminal behaviour, in words and deeds.

 The seeds of this rot were sown a long time ago. Any dominant party in power breeds its own seeds of destruction. For too long, too many of its leaders and party apparatchiks get away with all manner of transgressions. They tend to believe they are immune from any form of retribution.
LOW_YAT_HOOLIGANS_120715_TMISETH_0

I was in Geneva two weeks ago and UN officials and activists I met were asking what was happening to Malaysia.How did things get this bad? We were once a model country that others looked up to as a prosperous, progressive, politically stable, multi-ethnic society. We are a high middle-income developing country, not a basket case.

Now we are looking more and more like another banana republic, with scandals galore making global headlines. The deep concern many feel that these wrecking balls could lead to an implosion of everything that we have built over the ­decades is real. And what is scary is that there are people who are priming for trouble to break.

The Low Yat plaza riot will not be the last in their scheme of things. Thank God, the IGP and his forces acted fast in nipping the problem in the bud and stating the facts clearly and unambiguously. It was a crime; not about one race trying to cheat another.

Najib and 1MDBAll those who exploited the situation by making hate speech to manufacture racial conflict must be charged for their role in inciting violence.

Lessons must be learnt fast if we want to stop those determined to destroy the country in order to remain in power and preserve what they believe are their lifetime entitlements – on nothing but the basis of birth.

As desperation over the inevitable closing chapter sets in, there will be more attempts to ignite fires of racial conflict.

The truth is the ruling elite is becoming more and more beleaguered – under the weight and scope of allegations of misappropriation of public funds, plummeting popularity and finding itself devoid of new blood and new ideas, and certainly bereft of courage and will to bring the transformation needed to win back public support.

Let’s manufacture more threats to add to the standard “Malays under threat”, “Islam under threat”. Now it’s “national security under threat” as more and more damning evidence of mind-blowing brazen sleaze and corruption is revealed.

Who is really threatening whose survival? And what has happened to the warnings given at the UMNO General Assembly last year that UMNO must “change or be dead”? It looks like the choice UMNO has made is very clear.

Unless a new breed of young far-sighted leaders come forward with the will and courage to change the system – political and economic – to become more inclusive, more just, more honest, more transparent, we are really seeing the end of a long era in Malaysian politics. Time has run out for this old form of authoritarian politics and rule by a privileged elite.

Trust Us GangIn their book Why Nations Fail, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson argue with evidence across history and geography that authoritarian “extractive” political and economic institutions designed by elites in order to and perpetuate their power at the expense of the majority of the people are bound to run out of steam.

The pride we have in our beloved country is that was NOT our history. That was not how Malaysia began. But today this is where we are heading.

Just look at the alleged Mara scandal. An agency set up to redress a historical econo­mic injustice against the Malays ends up led by people cheating the very group they are supposed to help, pocketing millions in barefaced shenanigans.

A policy vehicle pumped with hundreds of millions of taxpayers money to eradicate poverty on the basis of race gets abused by the privileged elite of that race.

This is yet another case of pagar makan padi. Those entrusted to protect you, instead betray you. And there are many more such scandals, just waiting to be surfaced.

Let’s ask some hard questions here. Why after decades of rigorous development planning, 40% of Malaysian households earn only about RM1,847 a month?Why after more than four decades of the NEP, 75.5% of those at the bottom are bumiputras?

Why in spite of the billions poured into education and boarding schools, 64.3% of the bumiputra workforce have only SPM qualifications? Why some 90% of the unemployable university graduates are bumiputras?

Why of the RM54bil worth of shares pumped to bumiputra individuals and institutions between 1984 and 2005, only RM2bil remained in bumiputra hands today?

And why oh why should the bumiputras continue to raise a begging bowl and ask for more of the same kind of handouts from the same ruling elite? The bottom 40% get crumbs. Let’s focus our attention on these priorities.

Najib, UMNO Baru and 1MDB keep lying


June 30, 2015

Najib, UMNO Baru and 1MDB keep lying till the end of time

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.malaysiakini.com

Ismail Sabri Yaakob warned that anyone who slanders Najib Abdul Razak and the government over 1MDB would be punished. This demonstrates two things: that Umno Baru promotes ministers to their level of incompetence, and that spending taxpayers’ money is easy, because it does not appear to belong to anyone in particular.

The irony is that it took former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, with his severely blemished past, to show that the only way UMNO Baru politicians assuage temptation (spending public funds) is by yielding.

Ismail, who is UMNO Baru supreme council member, reminded the rakyat to be wary of unsubstantiated sources such as Sarawak Report and The Edge, with their evil agendas. He said that those who discussed Najib’s involvement in the 1MDB scandal could be relying upon inaccurate information about the dealings between 1MDB and PetroSaudi.

Warning that stern action would be taken against Sarawak Report and The Edge for harming national interests, he said, “When the 1MDB issue erupted, many people believed in The Edge, which frequently reported biased news and was criticised for sabotaging the economy.”

Ismail, who is also the Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister, pleaded with Malaysians to have faith in the government, and said, “We should trust the government and the minister’s explanation…”. He urged the rakyat to ignore information garnered from social media or from bloggers and refer instead to the authorities for verification.

Asking the authorities to verify information is an impossibility and shows how naïve Ismail is to think he can fool the rakyat. Najib has dodged answering questions about 1MDB and helped extend the 1MDB scandal.

Integrity flies out the window, where party politics are concerned. Everyone has a price and Najib knows that UMNO Baru divisional heads are demanding, and expensive. Would Ismail like to verify the allegations about UMNO Baru heads receiving substantial contracts and fiscal rewards for showing their loyalty to Najib?

Veteran UMNO Baru politician Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said, “These days UMNO Baru divisional leaders as well as parliamentary members earn up to RM50,000 a month, some even earn hundreds of thousands”.

He said that on March 8, over 160 UMNO Baru divisional leaders, including those who support Mahathir, had attended a meeting with Najib to show their allegiance to him.

‘No lah. Everything is above board!’

The typical response from the authorities, on whether this meeting took place, or that loyalty is accompanied by a price tag is this; “No! UMNO Baru politicians are clean and law-abiding. No one is above the law. We love Najib.”

The opposition MP for Petaling Jaya Utara, Tony Pua, claimed that the purchase of property by Mara in Melbourne is a covert attempt to save 1MDB. Do similar property purchases, by government-linked companies (GLCs), both in Malaysia and abroad, constitute a form of illegal kickback for corrupt officials?

We can predict the response; “No lah. Everything is above board! Mara is not corrupt.” Ahmad Maslan, the UMNO Baru Information Chief, announced that his party’s elections would be postponed till after the 14th general election (GE14), to strengthen the party and focus on the needs of the people. UMNO Baru secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor admitted that the postponement was because of an internal political crisis.

Critics claim otherwise and say that the delay is due to Najib needing more time to resolve the 1MDB crisis. Additionally, UMNO Baru has to resolve its in-fighting, and more importantly, Dr Mahathir’s relentless attacks on Najib. The authorities’ verification? “No. The postponement has nothing to do with 1MDB or Mahathir’s criticisms.”

PAS’ Pokok Sena MP, Mahfuz Omar wants Muslims to reject Najib’s ploy, to use RM20 million from Yayasan 1MDB to pay for the redevelopment of a mosque in Kampung Baru and turn it into a “national landmark”. Mahfuz accused Najib of using Muslims to “forgive 1MDB”, and that Najib wanted to “sanitise” 1MDB’s controversies by giving money to build mosques and helping to fund the pilgrimages of religious scholars to Mecca.

We can predict the response of the authorities to Mahfuz’s assertions, “No. It is not true that 1MDB’s funding for mosques is used to appeal to the Muslims. UMNO Baru is merely helping to protect Islam and promote the Malays.”

Ismail knows, and his knowledge is confirmed by the preceding examples, that trying to verify any facts with the authorities is a pointless exercise.

He may be interested to know that the rakyat’s list of queries is much longer and includes questions on who killed Altantuya Shaariibuu, the purchase of the Scorpene submarines, the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC), the cargo manifest of MH370, the RM24 million ring, the jailing of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on trumped-up charges, human trafficking, Taib Mahmud, Batang Kali, Memali, Kampung Medan, Mahathir and May 13.

UMNO Baru treats information, in one of the following ways – denial, pay-out, violence, threats of jail, lawsuits and silence. UMNO Baru politicians have spun so many webs of deceit, that they now believe their own lies. Naturally, they think that Najib and UMNO Baru can do no wrong.

The Stove of Consciousness


June 4, 2015

NOTE: Things can get pretty dull and numb in Malaysia. Day in day out we read about politics of opposing camps within UMNO and between Pakatan Rakyat and UMNO-Barisan National over the 1MDB financial scandal. The infantile mudslinging  antics will not get us anywhere.  Najib himself is playing games to remain in power. Governing takes a backstage right now. After all, loss of power can be disastrous for him and more so for his ambitious and greed driven spouse Rosmah Mansor, the self-styled FLOM.

For Najib Razak all options are now on the table. It is rumored  that since the country is a mess and paralyzed neck down, he may–to save himself being charged for corruption, conflicts of interest and abuses of power–declare a state of emergency, suspend Parliament and rule the country NOC-style like what his father Tun Razak did after the May 13, 1969  tragedy, albeit under different circumstances.

The government has stalled and no body is in charge. Usually, like in Japan, the Chief Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the civil service takes control and the government functions. Unfortunately, in Malaysia, our Chief Secretary is busy with consoling the Prime Minister in stead of ensuring that  his civil servants do their work. Perhaps, he is preparing himself for the right time to abandon the incumbent captain and reach out to Najib’s successor. Carma.

We ourselves have become very agitated and frustrated since we have been pushing for change since 2008; yet we are no closer to the goal of removing the present lot of leaders from the seat of power.  So if I may suggest, let us just sit back , have tea tarik and relax at least for today.

What better way to find relief than to engage in some philosophical banter. Maybe, after reading about Rene Descartes and his stove, sanity can return and we will back to do battle. Let not fatigue make us abandon our mission to make our blessed country better. –Din Merican

The Stove of Consciousness

http://www.consciousentities.com/?p=1169

by Peter Hankins

Decartes

I have been reading A.C. Grayling’s biography of Descartes: he advances the novel theory that Descartes was a spy. This is actually a rather shrewd suggestion which makes quite a lot of sense given Descartes’ wandering, secretive life.

On balance I think he probably wasn’t conducting secret espionage missions – it’s unlikely we’ll ever know for sure, of course – but I think it’s certainly an idea any future biographer will have to address.

I was interested, though, to see what Grayling made of the stove.  Descartes himself tells us that when held up in Germany by the advance of winter, he spent the day alone in a stove, and that was where his radical rebuilding of his own beliefs began.  This famous incident has the sort of place in the history of philosophy that the apple falling on Newton’s head has in the history of science: and it has been doubted and queried in a similar way. But Descartes seems pretty clear about it: “je demeurais tout le jour enfermé seul dans un poêle, où j’avais tout le loisir m’entretenir de mes pensées”.[I sat all day shut up alone in a stove, where I had ample opportunity to nurture my thoughts.]

Some say it must in fact have been a bread-oven or a similarly large affair: Descartes was not a large man and he was particularly averse to cold and disturbance, but it would surely have to have been a commodious stove for him to have been comfortable in there all day. Some say that Bavarian houses of the period had large stoves, and certainly in the baroque palaces of the region one can see vast ornate ones that look as if they might have had room for a diminutive French philosopher. Some commonsensical people say that “un poêle” must simply have meant a stove-heated room; and this is in fact the view which Grayling adopts firmly and without discussion.

Personally I’m inclined to take Descartes’ words at face value; but really the question of whether he really sat in a real stove misses the point. Why does Descartes, a rather secretive man, even mention the matter at all? It must be because, true or not, it has metaphorical significance; it gives us additional keys to Descartes’ meaning which we ought not to discard out of literal-mindedness. (Grayling, in fairness, is writing history, not philosophy.)

For one thing Descartes’ isolation in the stove functions as a sort of thought-experiment. He wants to be able to doubt everything, but it’s hard to dismiss the world as a set of illusions when it’s battering away at your senses: so suppose we were in a place that was warm, dark, and silent?  Second, it recalls Plato’s cave metaphor. Plato had his unfortunate exemplar chained in a cave where his only knowledge of the world outside came from flickering shadows on the wall; he wanted to suggest that what we take to be the real world is a similarly poor reflection of a majestic eternal reality. Descartes wants to work up a similar metaphor to a quite different conclusion, ultimately vindicating our senses and the physical world; perhaps this points up his rebellion against ancient authority. Third, in a way congenial to modern thinking and probably not unacceptable to Descartes, the isolation in the stove resembles and evokes the isolation of the brain in the skull.

The stove metaphor has other possible implications, but for us the most interesting thing is perhaps how it embodies and possibly helped to consolidate one of the most persistent metaphors about consciousness, one that has figured strongly in discussion for centuries, remains dominant, yet is really quite unwarranted. This is that consciousness is internal. We routinely talk about “the external world” when discussing mental experience. The external world is what the senses are supposed to tell us about, but sometimes fail to; it is distinct from an internal world where we receive the messages and where things like emotions and intentions have their existence. The impression of consciousness being inside looking out is strongly reinforced by the way the ears and the brain seem to feed straight into the brain: but we know that impression of being located in the head would be the same if human anatomy actually put the brain in the stomach, so long as the eyes and ears remained where they are. In fact our discussions would make just as much sense if we described consciousness as external and the physical world as internal (or consciousness as ‘above’ and the physical world as ‘below’ or vice versa).

If we take consciousness to be a neural process there is of course, a sense in which it is certainly in the brain; but only in the sense that my money is in the bank’s computer (though I can’t get it out with a hammer) or Pride and Prejudice is in the pages of that book over there (and not, after all, in my head). Strictly or properly, stories and totals don’t have the property of physical location, and nor, really, does consciousness

Does it matter if the metaphor is convenient? Well, it may well be that the traditional inside view encourages us to fall into certain errors. It has often been argued (and still is) for example that because we’re sometimes wrong about what we’re seeing or hearing, we must in fact only ever see an intermediate representation, never the  real world itself. I think this is a mistake, but it’s one that the internal/external view helps to make plausible.  It may well be, in my opinion, that habitually thinking of consciousness as having a simple physical location makes it more difficult for us to understand it properly.

So perhaps we ought to make a concerted effort to stop, but to be honest I think the metaphor is just too deeply rooted. At the end of the day you can take the thinker out of the stove, but you can’t take the stove out of the thinker.

Here are two responses on Peter Hankin’s Views of the Stove:

Scott Bakker says:

Coming out of the Continental tradition I was literally trained to regard the metaphorics of inside/outside as a conceptually bankrupt way to consider subjectivity. Moving onto Wittgenstein only reinforced this outlook. But I’m nowhere near so convinced anymore. Just for instance, how should we make sense of ‘shut ins’?

The stove, like the skull, is simply a convenient way to understand the flow of information. Hiding in a stove allowed Descartes to conceal information regarding his existence. Hiding in the skull, it seems fair to reason, allows consciousness to do the same more generally. You could say this is why we find neuroscience so flummoxing: it’s like hearing Descartes voice, then finding the stove empty when we throw the door open. An externalist approach to consciousness is simply one of the ways we can explain the ’empty stove problem.’ Descartes was never there in the first place! He’s actually a larger system that includes the kitchen, the village, what have you. My preferred approach is just to say that Descartes simply isn’t what we thought he was, that what we see locked up in our own stoves doesn’t exist.

Imagine if Descartes, like Plato’s prisoners, was *born* in his stove, then just ask the question of information flow. The most he could see (access) of himself in the stove would be cramped shadows, indeterminate shapes which would *have* to be his informatic baseline for ‘self,’ whereas through the cracks of the door he could see bright swathes of the external world. Now if he were placed opposite another stove and watched it open, would he recognize the high-fidelity, unbounded figure revealed as a version of himself?

Probably not, *especially* given his genius for rationalization. He can’t trust what he sees through the cracks, but these cramped shapes he knows with certainty – How could he not when they are all the information he has ever had?

I bake, therefore I am.

Nowadays I’m inclined to think the problem isn’t so much the metaphorics of inside/outside generally so much as the way they are posed. We just need to look at the inside/outside in the proper way.

Vijay Vikram says:

I do so agree with you about the internal vs external. It is a habit we inherited from Descartes. It is the mind/body problem.

Alternately, one may posit that internal and external are both aspects of a something we may call experience, awareness, dasein or manifestation or narrative or being or some such. Or to take it further, anything that shows up is, in effect, the world, the universe. And it shows up in what? Therein lies the paradox, for anything we may posit as a fundamental ground for manifestation– anything prior to manifestation– cannot be described since any description belongs to manifestation itself and so cannot be prior to manifestation. And the notion “prior to manifestation” is manifestation too. So, is there such a thing as “prior to manifestation” that could be a fundament for the world?

This issue is, however, a red herring. For the fundamental characteristic of the universe and of any particularity at all–is that it is. In other words, any and all of universe exhibits its fundamental character to us moment after moment, inescapably in the simple fact that it is–whether thought or thing or sense or feeling or objectivity or subjectivity and so on.

To put it more simply—-the fundamental character of the universe is ever and everywhere and always–patent.

This Side of Paradise

http://www.godwardweb.org

The only thing you need to know to understand the deepest metaphysical secrets is this: that for every outside there is an inside and for every inside there is an outside, and although they are different, they go together.– Alan Watts

Your inside is out and your outside is in.
 Your outside is in and your inside is out– The Beatles

Where do philosophers get their ideas? In the case of René Descartes, who is regarded as the founder of modern philosophy, he literally cooked them up. Once, in a bid to escape the cold, he had crawled into a large stove* and spent the day there. He was then 23 years old, en route to Ulm while serving in the Bavarian army. Alone with his thoughts, he began laying the intellectual groundwork for his famous cogito: “I think, therefore I am.”

This was not intended as a stand-alone statement but as the culmination of a chain of reasoning that began when he wondered what he could know for certain. He rejected everything he could know through his senses, since his senses could deceive him. Even his own body might be a mirage. But his thoughts were another matter. He could doubt just about everything, but he could not doubt his own doubts. And so the stuff he thought about when he was alone with his thoughts became the foundation for his existence.

Descartes concluded that mind and matter were two different “substances,” each occupying its own realm. The mind was immaterial, a “thinking thing” with no extension in space, whereas matter had extension but could not think. The two could causally interact, but it remained unclear how a mental event could affect a physical one, or vice-versa. As a byproduct of Cartesian dualism, Descartes had introduced a problem that has occupied philosophers ever since: the so-called mind-body problem.

The mind-body problem is not the only issue that arises when you give the mind a life of its own. Descartes had wondered whether his senses were playing tricks on him, conjuring up an external world that was actually a dream or the work of a demon. Addressing the same question, the 18th-century German philosopher Emmanuel Kant concluded that we can never truly know what lies outside ourselves, since our perceptions of the world are mediated by our senses. Even time and space, in Kant’s view, are not attributes of the eternal world but part of the perceptual framework through which we apprehend it. The notion that reality is to some degree in the mind rather than outside it is common currency not only among many modern philosophers but also among quantum physicists. As the physicist Erwin Schrödinger expressed it, “Mind has erected the objective outside world of the natural philosopher out of its own stuff.”

While Kant and others were raising doubts about the independent existence of the outside world, the Scottish philosopher David Hume was calling into question the “me” inside – the one entity that Descartes believed was beyond doubt. Looking within himself, Hume found no evidence of a single, simple and continuous self, only a bundle of perceptions in perpetual flux. He wrote, “I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe any thing but the perception.” At no time was he able to catch a glimpse of the self that was supposedly having all these perceptions. In the theater of the mind, it would appear, the show is always on, but for all we know it may be playing to an empty house.

Kant and Hume between them had not only demolished Descartes’ neat certainties about the world, but they had effectively demolished the world itself, whether inside or out, depending on whom you asked. Not only was the self unknowable and perhaps illusory but so also was the world beyond the self. How could this be? Perhaps the problem stems from the notion that there is an “inside” and an “outside” to one’s experience. Like Descartes, alone with his thoughts inside a stove on a cold day in November, we imagine the thinking part of ourselves exists somewhere “in here” and everything else is “out there” in the world. We may arbitrarily assume “in here” is inside our bodies, but the part we can see is just as much “out there” as the chair we are sitting in or the tree outside our window. And the things that are “out there” may, in fact, be entirely contained within our consciousness, which is “in here.” So where do we draw the boundary between the two?

Make no mistake: it is we who draw the boundary. We cannot carve out a space for ourselves “inside” without simultaneously creating an “outside.” This bifurcation of consciousness occurs naturally at around age two with the development of an autonomous self. And although this process may occur naturally, it does not come without cost. The price we pay for acquiring a bit of personal space is that we now find ourselves on the outside of everything else. The psychic toll is dramatized in the biblical creation story, when Adam develops a will of his own and is expelled from Eden. So what would happen if we could once again experience life whole? We would find ourselves back in paradise, no longer on the outside looking in

*There is some dispute as to whether it was a stove or a room heated by a stove; however, the word Descartes used in relating the incident was poêle, or stove, in the original French: “Je demeurais tout le jour enfermé seul dans un poêle, où j’avais tout le loisir m’entretenir de mes pensées.” (“I sat all day shut up alone in a stove, where I had ample opportunity to nurture my thoughts.”) Regardless, it makes for a good story. 
Rene Descartes, Discourse on Method, 
Emmanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 
David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature,  
Genesis 3.

Imagining A Different Future


May 31, 2015

Imagining A Different Future

by Dr. M Bakri Musa
Morgan-Hill, California

Much is at stake for Malays. Only those lulled by Hang Tuah’s blustery Takkan Melayu hilang di dunia (Malays will never be lost from this world) would pretend otherwise. History is replete with examples of once great civilizations now reduced to footnotes. At best they are but objects of tourists’ curiosities, as with the Mayans.

melayu2UMNO Malays

It is unlikely for Malay civilization to disappear; there are nearly a quarter billion of us in the greater Nusantara world of Southeast Asia. There is, however, a fate far worse, and that is for Malaysia to be developed but with Malays shunted aside, reduced to performing exotic songs and dances for tourists.

There are about 17 million Malays in Malaysia, comparable to the population of the Netherlands. Their colonial record excluded, the Dutch should be our inspiration of what a population of 17 million could achieve.

Consider Rotterdam, Europe’s busiest port. One expects that title to go to a port in Britain, Germany, or Russia. Then consider the following famous brands: Shell (petroleum), Phillips (electronics), Unilever (consumer goods), Heineken (beer), and ING (financial services). Those are all Dutch companies.

Hosts of eminent organizations like the International Criminal Court and International Court of Justice are headquartered in the Netherlands. More remarkable is this. That country is behind only America and France in agricultural exports, despite a quarter of its land being below sea level!

Compare that to Malays and Malaysia. Malays are in political control; non-Malays cannot challenge that; it is a demographic reality. We have a land mass ten times that of the Netherlands, and none of it underwater, except when it rains and our rivers get clogged with pollution. Then it seems the entire country is underwater, paralyzed and gasping for air.

Imagine if we could achieve even a tenth of what the Dutch have done! That should be our goal and inspiration, not endless reciting of Hang Tuah’s immortal words or the incessant hollering of Ketuanan Melayu.

We are being hoodwinked by the government’s glossy publications and our leaders’ rosy accounts. Take the “Malaysian Quality of Life 2004 Report” produced by the Prime Minister’s Department. At 113 pages, it is full of glossy pictures of well-trimmed suburban neighborhoods, neat kampong houses, and of course the iconic Petronas Towers. There is also a picture of earnest executives engaged in videoconferencing, highlighting the latest technology gizmo.

The cover features the responsible minister, Mustapa Mohamed, beaming against the backdrop of a lush, luxurious golf course. That image reveals more of the truth, perhaps unintended; the golf course is exactly where you are likely to find these ministers.

Malay_1Performing exotic songs and dances for tourists.

Visit the minister’s kampong in Jeli, Kelantan, and the reality would be far different. I have no data specific on Jeli but a recent study of Pulau Redong and Pulau Perhentian, islands off Trengganu, would shock anyone. A fifth of the villagers have no formal education; half only primary level. This in 2011! Their average income is less than what Indonesian maids earn. As a needless reminder, those villagers are Malays.

More shocking and reflective of the malaise, two-thirds of the respondents expect “little” or “no change.” They have given up hope. So much for UMNO’s grandiose promises on “protecting and enhancing” the position of Malays!

When those high-flying UMNO operatives visit the east coast they lodge at the exclusive Chinese-owned Berjaya Resort, with taxpayers footing the bill. There they could partake in video conferencing. For the islanders, however, fewer than four percent have Internet access. There is a thriving tourism industry but those jobs are out of reach to the residents for lack of skills and education.

Those islanders’ world is a universe away from that of their fellow Bumiputras like former Women Affairs Minister Sharizat Jalil with her ultra-luxury condos courtesy of hefty Bumiputra discounts and generous “soft” government loans.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (L) and his wife Rosmah Mansor (R) arrive at the airport in Tokyo on May 24, 2015. Najib is on a three day visit to Japan.   AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO

The grumpy and prematurely aging Prime Minister Najib and his First Lady Rosmah Mansor

Tun Razak’s New Economic Policy, Mahathir’s Vision 2020, and now Najib’s 1-Malaysia all have the same aspiration of turning Malaysia into a developed nation. For Malaysia to be developed however, we must first develop its biggest demographic group – Malays. So long as Malays remain backward, so will Malaysia. Tun Razak’s NEP recognized this central reality. Vision 2020 and 1-Malaysia are eerily silent on it.

Despite this glaring omission, Vision 2020 caught on, Mahathir’s domineering personality snuffing out potential criticisms, at least while he was in power. Najib is not so blessed personality-wise; hence his difficulty selling his 1-Malaysia even to his party members!

Solving Malaysia’s problems would necessitate us to first address those of the Malays. The accepted assumption is that by solving Malaysia’s problems, those of the Malays would automatically be resolved, the rising tide lifting all boats. Less appreciated is that a rising tide lifts only those boats that are free to float. Those trapped under low bridges or with short anchor rode would be swamped. For a rising tide to be a benefit and not a threat we must first ensure that all boats are free to float; otherwise they would be doomed.

Liberating the Malay mind is equivalent to freeing our prahus (boats), of giving them adequate anchor lines or moving them away from under bridges and other encumbrances. Today there are just too many Malay boats that are being hampered. We must first free them; otherwise the rising tide would do them no favor. It would only swamp them.

This essay is adapted from the author’s book, Liberating The Malay Mind, ZI Publications Sdn Bhd, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, 2013

What’s Happening to Malaysia?


May 15, 2015

Phnom Penh by The Mekong

What’s Happening to Malaysia?

by Syed Hamid Albar*

http://syedhamidalbar44.blogspot.com/

Syed Hamid AlbarThe political scene of Malaysia and its final outcome is being followed closely by domestic and foreign political  observers and pundits. Never in the country’s history has there been such intense polemics and uncertainty on the sustainability of the government. The norm is after the government has been formed, it will move on with its responsibility of governing.

At the same time within the Barisan Nasional (BN) they expressed surprise at how the party could reduce its majority and  clamour for a postmortem of the GE13 to know the reasons. To outsiders it was obvious that the component parties on the whole particularly in Peninsular Malaysia did not have the acceptance of the Chinese and urban voters. Nothing unusual about that. It is not only UMNO that has to change but the component parties need to carry out some soul searching reforms of themselves.

Coming out of this dismal performance there were some intelligent and some funny speculations and responses on what should be the next cause of action the leadership should take. After all the BN had presented a very attractive manifesto promising all kinds of things if it got back to power. Additionally BN spent a lot of money in the election campaign to regain the support of the voters particularly the Chinese but failed. During the election campaign Najib’s advisors have also interestingly asked him to adopt the election strategy of a Presidential election akin to that of Obama. In their view Najib is more popular and acceptable than UMNO or BN. In short they considered his aura and personality would carry the party to victory. Of course this did not happen.

Unfortunately while this works in the UMNO areas but it did not alter the Chinese and urban voters who already decided they wanted change. Immediately after the election results, Najib publicly said that the Chinese voters had betrayed BN. This announcement did not go down well with the Chinese voters. This is now in the pages of history. The  Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) with such dismal performance decided to stay out of the government but came back later on the persuasion of Najib.

Thus although the overall total seats obtained by BN was less than the votes or seats obtained in the 12th GE Najib decided to stay on as leader of the government and party. Some political observers and pundits thought Najib should make way for his Deputy to take over the helm of leadership in the party and government as was the case with his predecessor. Najib was said to be involved in cleverly maneuvering his predecessor’s exit. However Najib ensured this forced exit did not happen to him. He thus quickly garnered the support of the BN Members of Parliament including those from Sabah and Sarawak. For this support he rewarded the leaders of both States well by appointing many of them into his Cabinet.

It must be remembered prior to this he also made sure that all the MPs elected are his men and loyalists. In this way his leadership of the government was well secured.The rationale for him to pass the baton of leadership to his Number Two did not arise. Furthermore having the support from the Sarawak and Sabah MP’s Najib’s position at the helm of the government could not be challenged. Therefore any possible dissent or request for him to step down was totally silenced. Again this was another clever political maneuvering by Najib. Unfortunate for Najib many of his political advisors, who stood for election did not win their seats.

Two years down the road of the General Election the clamour for him to go came back to the centre stage from within and outside the party. This time the voice is louder and stronger and made worse by many unwise and unpopular policies and public statements issued or made by his Cabinet colleagues. Additionally, there were all kinds of stories and scandals were exposed particularly by the social media affecting the image and credibility of the government.

Najib and RosmahThis pressure comes also from Tun Dr.Mahathir and those close to him. The social media was at the forefront of the strong criticisms and open campaign asking him to go. This time it was not merely on the scandals but also on his economic policies and personal lifestyle. The Tun for the first time highlighted the conspicuous and ostentatious lifestyle of the Prime Minister’s wife, his relationship with Jho Low and the high debt position of 1MDB. This was worsened by the implementation of the GST and the inconsistencies of his  explanation to the public which created enormous public displeasure.

This time around it could be seen he is just hanging by the tooth and nail. His own team made contradictory statements that are inconsistent with the principle of collective responsibility as members of the Cabinet. There is a lot of political shadow boxing within the party and government.

On the other side, Tun Dr. Mahathir and his supporters have stepped up their campaign to remove him. Without being apologetic he openly goes around to demand for Najib  to resign. The groundswell for Mahathir’s call is getting stronger and louder. Whether Najib would be able to withstand this onslaught is for everyone to wait and see. It had rattled him but he made a defiant statement that he would not step down at the call of Mahathir since the people has given him the mandate to lead the country. Definitely what is happening has caused what Tun Musa Hitam  to say that the country was imploding which made the political environment and the government business directionless.

Najib Vs MahathirThere seem to be counter move against Tun Dr. Mahathir and his former Ministers like Daim and Zainudin Maidin. This made the spat between Tun Dr. Mahathir and Najib to become more serious and vicious. The public  likes all these to end one way or another to move on with their daily life. Tun Mahathir on record never likes to loose a war or a battle. The country is going to continue hearing his criticisms of Najib and demanding him to step down in favor of Muhyiddin.

This puts Muhyiddin on the spot whether to remain loyal to Najib or take the cue from Mahathir to force his boss to quit. This state of neither here nor there cannot go on for long. Yesterday (May 11)’s Supreme Council meeting seems to bring back calmness to the government and party. The dust has settled on the ground. It is important that new controversies do not keep on surfacing. Najib and Muhyiddin including party and government leaders must not at least in public be perceived to have differences which could cause the public to loose confidence and trust on the leadership of the  party and government;

*Syed Hamid Albar was a former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Home Affairs. Malaysia.