National Consultation in the Philippines


March 19, 2o17

CASER: A Proposal for National Consultation in the Philippines

Image result for Richard Dorall

Comment by Richard F.Dorall

https://rfdorall.wordpress.com/2017/02/16/caser-a-proposal-for-national-consultation-in-the-philippines/

(Edition: February 15, 2017)

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OSLO, NORWAY. Peace panel representatives from the Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines are in smiles during the third day of the talks held at Scandic Holmenkollen Park, Norway. (Photo from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Facebook page).

Read more: http://www.sunstar.com.ph/davao/local-news/2016/08/25/3-issues-agreed-peace-talks-oslo-norway-493576

So the peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the Philippine Communist Party in Norway are off. And “bombs away” are being threatened. Released political detainees will be re-imprisoned on their return to the Philippines.

These are most distressing developments, but they still do not obviate the urgent necessity for Filipinos to face up to the root causes of the national unrest which were under parallel discussion during the now off peace talks between the Philippine Government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP), and which the NDFP had outlined in a document titled “Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines” (CASER), and which was intended to be a pre-requisite for the permanent cessation of hostilities between the Philippine Government and the armed communists.

CASER outlines social and economic objectives such as economic and social justice and political reforms which all Filipinos can readily accept as national goals, but the document also spells out detailed structural, institutional reforms, many of which require societal and constitutional reforms, if they are to be enacted. These CASER details once implemented shall profoundly affect all of Philippine society as it now stands, requiring revolutionary changes affecting all sectors of society, from top to bottom, embracing all groups including Indigenous Peoples and the Bangsa Moro, and launching changes that will totally change Philippine society.

The problem with CASER is not in its laudable objectives, but rather in the operational details of the changes being proposed. CASER has also been tabled for discussion in far-away Norway, and is only being evaluated and negotiated by two parties, the Government of the day, and the communists, both who are but only two of many other parties and institutions in the Philippines directly to be impacted by CASER “reforms.”

The Philippine public has been largely kept unawares of the details laid out in the CASER document (currently a draft of over 80 pages in length).  Neither the GRP nor the NDFP can honestly claim to represent all of the complexity which is Philippine Society today. The GRP of the day won the presidential election in May 2016 with a minority of the votes cast in a multi-candidate contest. The NDFP has never represented more than a small minority of Filipinos in both the urban and rural areas. Yet, both these non-representative parties have been negotiating in secret in far-away Norway, and other exotic European locations, without informing Filipinos of any of the scope and details of the proposed reforms, nor asking the Filipino people if they approve of any of these changes which will have deep and long-lasting impacts on all of Philippine society.

The now widely principle accepted both in the Philippines and internationally of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), this being a bottom-up participation and consultation best practice process, is being ignored in Norway, and CASER reform discussions have been conducted at the “top” with everybody else being left largely in the dark. FPIC, a principle ironically frequently mentioned as a pre-requisite in the “New Philippines” in the CASER document itself, requires an opening up of these secret negotiations between the GRP and NDFP to make them more truly democratic and representative of the collective wishes of all the Filipino peoples.

The Philippines may want to learn the lessons of representative national consultations from its neighbor, Malaysia, which has had three national consultations at major turning points in its history. Malaysia, a multi-ethnic country, has long-learned that complex societies cannot be structured, and then re-structured at various points in history, without involving representation of all major societal players in the decision-making, and action-implementing phases to ensure the success of proposals for profound social change.

Then Malayan independence (in 1957) from the colonial power Britain was late in coming compared to most of the rest of Southeast Asia. The main reason was the diverse Malayan ethnic communities had to compromise on a complex range of give-and-take relationships, structures, institutions, and their legal and constitutional frameworks, before agreeing to form an ethnic-based coalition government that has ruled democratically since 1957 till today. This first consultation, in the early to mid-1950s, was multi-ethnic in format, but having major social and economic implications. These negotiations between political representatives of the main ethnic groups were conducted in tMalaya, and in the United Kingdom, and in the resultant “Social Contract” that they agreed on formed the basis of the 1957 Malayan National Constitution which laid out how (Malaya’s diverse people would live by.

In 1963, Malaya formed a political federation with the British colonies of Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah, and became known as Malaysia. The “Social Contract” of the 1950s became increasingly frayed. The Non-Malay ethnic Chinese and (some) Indians benefitted more from Malayan and since 1963 Malaysian economic development than did the numerically majority indigenous Malay peoples. These led to inter-ethnic rioting in the immediate aftermath of the 1969 Malaysian General Elections (known as the May 13, 1969 Incident), resulting in National Emergency Rule being imposed.

The Malaysian Government immediately called for a National Consultative Council in 1970 to discuss the crisis, and to propose economic, political, social and constitutional reforms to solve the underlying causes of social unrest: poverty in all the ethnic groups, and structural economic imbalances between the ethnic communities. All major societal sectors, political, ethnic, economic and social, appointed representative members of the NCC, and they met in private talks to avoid inflaming public opinion by openly discussing “sensitive issues.” A revised Social Contract was agreed by the NCC, and then by the Government which lifted the state of emergency, and announced a New Economic Policy (NEP) for the next two decades (1970-1990) during which national social re-structuring to eliminate inter-ethnic disparities, and poverty reduction among all Malaysians, would be systematically dealt with as the top national priority.

The 1970s and 1980s were two decades of rapid Malaysia economic and social transformation. However, by the mid-1980s it became clear to the mainly indigenous Malay community that despite economic “re-structuring” in their favor, they still lagged behind the targets originally set by the NEP in 1970. On the other hand, the Non-Malays (Malaysian Chinese, Indians and Others) felt that the NEP was over-favoring the ethnic Malays, and that they were being disadvantaged. They wanted the NEP to be abolished at the end of its 20-year period. Furthermore, absolute poverty among all ethnic groups, although reduced, was far from eliminated. This resulted in heightened public tension, mass demonstrations from both ethnic sides if the national divide, and a growing anxiety that ethnic rioting could once again occur.

To meet the growing national disquiet, the then Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dr Mahathir Mohamed, called for a National Consultative Council to discuss, and make proposals to Government on how Malaysia should proceed beyond the end of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1990. Some 150 Malaysians representing all political parties, both in the ruling political alliance and the opposition, all major economic and social (NGO) sectors, as well as those representing Malaysia’s diverse ethnic communities both large and small were appointed to this NCC. The writer of this paper was one of these 150 Malaysians appointed to this third national consultative council, and he participated in all the deliberations of the council from 1989 through 1990.

As in the case of the second national consultation in the immediate aftermath of the deadly May 13, 1960 ethnic riots, all deliberations of this new consultative council were held outside the scrutiny of the public and mass media, to minimize against any agitation in an already tense national situation. Members of the council were encouraged to give to and get feedback from their respective constituencies, but were barred from making public statements and leaking anything to the mass media, all to maintain the fragile peace and order situation.

This third national consultative council (officially known as the Malaysian National Economic Consultative Council) discussed not just economic issues arising from the impending end of the 20-years of the New Economic Policy (1970-1990), but all related social, cultural and even political issues. The council submitted its detailed multi-sectoral report and accompanying multi-volume appendices to the Malaysian Government in 1990, after more than one and a half years of intense deliberations. The Government of Dr Mahathir used the output of this third national consultative deliberation to formulate a Vision 2020 strategy to transform Malaysian society and economy to achieve the status of an “advanced society” by the year 2020, that is, in thirty years hence (1990-2020).

The 1990-2000s can be safely said to have become a “Golden Age” in Malaysian development, both social and economic, as Malaysians, for the most part, embraced the heady objectives of Vision 2020. Economic advancement was undeniable. The middle class grew appreciably in the Malaysian Chinese, Malay and Indian communities. The industrial and commercial sectors had now eclipsed agriculture and raw materials as the mainstay of the Malaysian society.

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Another NCC  for  Malaysia  under Najib Razak?

However, in the current decade (2010s) there is again a growing realization that while there have emerged rich Malays, and Indians to join with their rich Chinese counterparts, and, yes, there is a growing mainly urban yet multi-ethnic middle class, there stubbornly remain persistent pockets of urban and, especially rural, poverty. The Bornean states of Sarawak and Sabah have openly become increasingly vocal against Peninsular Malaysian “colonization,” especially of their natural resources. And there is now an awareness of the widening gap between the rich (who keep getting richer, and regrettably profligately so, irrespective of their ethnic origins) and the poor (of all ethnicities) many of whom cannot break out of a cycle of poverty they find themselves trapped in.

Again, Malaysians are now once more facing the challenge of the need for structural reforms, these requiring economic, social and political transformations if they are to succeed in changing Malaysian society for the better. And, inevitably, there are now calls, being led by the influential banker-brother of the current Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, to hold yet another national consultative council, the fourth since the 1950s, to deliberate on, and make recommendations on how Malaysia ought to be moving forward.

What lessons for the Philippines do Malaysia’s over 60 years experience of holding national consultative consultations offer?

First, when faced with the need for major national structural changes in society, consulting with all major players (political, economic, social, cultural and even religious) is preferred over secret negotiations among just two (or a few) parties. The principle of FPIC (Free, Prior and Informed Consent) must guided such transformational discussions, involving all those to be impacted, and getting them to consensually agree, before tabling the proposals to the Executive (the Government of the day) to convert into actionable multi-sectoral strategies.

Second, multi-player consultations are best kept representative, but outside the public-eye because the (free) media, and ordinary persons (especially in this age of Twitter and other social media) can very easily stir up emotions, and scuttle any possibility of consensus building which, by its very nature, is a listening, and give-and-take process. Consultative council members, to be sure, must consult with their constituencies and to receive guidance and feedback from them, but all due care should be taken to preserve the consultative process which should be protected against all possible destructive events stirred against it from the outside.

Third, members of the consultative body must be chosen not only because they represent their particular sector, but because they are first and foremost Filipino nationalists who will put the big-picture nation first above narrow self and sectoral interests. Anybody who does not put the nation first is a possible “saboteur” of any consensus-building process, and should be replaced by his or her sector with someone who understands what consensus-building is.

Fourth, building a national consensus, especially in a complex society of 100 million Filipinos, is not going to be achieved over-night, or in weeks, nor possibly months. It will take stamina, and true grit to stay the long haul. Being a member of a national consultative council is truly national service, an honor not to be taken on lightly. Failure to achieve a truly national consensus is a personal failure, something to be mourned, not celebrated (for “standing up to principles”). The nation and all its people must come first, and take center stage, beyond self and sector.

Fifth, the national consultative council, cannot be too large (and risk not deciding on anything) nor too small (and risk not being representative enough). In the Malaysian National Consultative Council of the late 1980s of which this writer was a member, there were 150 persons chosen representing about 25 million Malaysians. The Philippines has 100 million people, and proportionately that could mean 600 Filipino consultative members! It may take 600 consultative members many years to collectively agree on anything as complex as transforming the Philippines into a more just society! More important than sheer numbers is that the various sectors of Philippine society ought to be proportionately represented in the national consultation. Women should expect representation near 50 per cent. Minority communities should expect up to 15 per cent membership to correctly represent their demographic numbers in the national population. Rural farm workers, the urban poor, youth etc. all need fair, not just token, representation. The council cannot be dominated by politicians and captains of industry. Yes, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) should be represented, but not as the 50 per cent partner of a two-only negotiation in Norway, but in a number which is fair to their true position or influence in the Philippine scheme of things. And always remember, national consensus is not a vote with 50 plus one winning. It is 100 per cent, or as near unanimous as possible agreement, by all who will agree that while they did not all get what they individually wanted, but they got that package of reforms which they could all live with, and support, that which they had consensually agreed on.

In the absence of any competing document which analyses the complexity of Philippine society in terms of its political, economic and social structures, CASER could, and perhaps should!, provide a starting point for discussion and deliberation in a Philippine National Consultative Council. CASER’s generally stated objectives of economic and social justice for all, a new and more nationalist development strategy, the inclusion of those marginalised ethnic communities, including Indigenous Peoples and the Bangsa Moro, and the large number, yet voiceless, rural and urban poor, are surely objectives all Filipinos of good-will, irrespective of class or ethnicity, can accept.

CASER becomes problematic when it goes beyond its statement of lofty objectives, and spells out the operational details to achieve these objectives, many of these which other Filipinos may well reject as detrimental in the extreme to their respective positions and interests, and crossing red lines drawn in the sand. A national consultative council is precisely the forum to deliberate on strategies, and detailed action plans, and to modify or replace those placed on the table alongside others such that in the ensuing dialectic, eventually there will emerge a range of proposals that all can agree on.

This writer suggests that the Philippines look at the six decades of Malaysian experience in successive national re-structuring efforts to achieve greater economic, social, and political justice using the mechanism of the National Consultative Council. When the consultation process comes to a national consensus, this consensus and its recommendations can then be brought forward to the Legislatures, and to the Courts if need be, and ultimately to the Executive to concretize and put into place the action plans to effect the long strategies (extending beyond the constitutionally-mandated single six-year presidential term) which will transform Philippine society from that which it is today, to a better tomorrow that all Filipinos envisage, and so set in motion the long-haul to build on the ground, in the years and decades ahead, this Philippines of Tomorrow.

Richard F. Dorall,
University of Malaya (1972-2007),
Member of the Malaysian National Consultative Council (1989-1990)

Qutbist Zakir Naik — Threat to National Security(?)


February 25, 2017

 Qutbist Zakir Naik — Threat to National Security (?)

by S Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Theresa May on Zakir Naik

Qutbist Zakir Naik endorsed by Najib, Hadi and Harussani et.al in UMNO and PAS

“Is there any need for Muslim scholars or intellectuals, when according to Harussani, spiritual rewards are possible without understanding or hard work but with blind recitation in a foreign tongue?”

– S Thayaparan, ‘Zakir Naik and his poverty of ideas

In yesterday’s article, I argued that it is immoral for Malaysians not to speak up when faced with an existential threat. I also rejected the idea that merely keeping silent when it comes to the excesses of a state-sponsored religion is evidence of racial and religious harmony.

Here in Malaysia, there is enough empirical evidence of the bias of the state when it comes to dealing with religious provocations. Freedom of speech is limited but what is not in short supply are the efforts of the security apparatus to police our public spaces in an attempt to curb any provocations against Islam.

Image result for Indian Prime Minister on Zakir Naik

This is where someone like Indian Islamic preacher Zakir Naik thrives. He is free to make claims against any religion he chooses, safe in the knowledge that his speech is protected whilst his detractors are not. Admirers of Zakir (and unfortunately, they are legions) seem to have no knowledge of his attacks against other religions or peoples even when evidence is adduced to demonstrate such.

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Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi is playing politics with Qutbist Zakir Naik

A couple of years ago, I had a very public falling out with Hindraf chairperson P Waythamoorthy, and while we may disagree on a range of issues, I admire his tenacity in tackling this issue of Zakir Naik. It is a matter of public record that I have argued numerous times, the Islamist – using the Sam Harris definition – agenda is the existential threat facing Malaysia today.

Waytha has been in the forefront of making the case that Zakir is a threat to national security but so far this has been a muted affair with other NGOs not jumping in the fray for various reasons. The indefatigable Lim Teck Ghee is attempting to remedy this sad state of affairs by reaching out to other interested parties, while Waytha has been busy agitating the UMNO state to the dangers of Zakir Naik.

When Zakir was banned from England in 2010, UK Prime Minister Theresa May, then Home Secretary, said (on BBC) – “Numerous comments made by Dr Naik are evidence to me of his unacceptable behaviour.”

While certain countries have argued that his behaviour is unacceptable, Malaysia on the other hand, when denying rumours that he was granted citizenships, said (Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed) – “He is more Indian and South Asia-centric but some of his ideas can be used here. That’s why he was awarded the Tokoh Maal Hijrah award.” What exactly those “ideas” are was not mentioned.

In reference to letters written by Waytha’s solicitors to Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Waytha said – “I am rather puzzled and am not able to comprehend as to why you and your government seem to be harbouring this fugitive who is evading arrest and investigations under the terrorism laws and money laundering of Republic of India. On the contrary, you and the deputy prime minister seem to be innocently and naively hosting the said Zakir Naik for breakfast and dinners.”

In that same letter to the Prime Minister, Waytha argued that Zakir is as much of a threat to Malaysia as he is to the United Kingdom. The following are what Waytha wants the Prime Minister to answer:

1) Whether you would place the security of Malaysia and the peaceful co-existence of our multiracial and multi-religious society top priority.

2) Whether you would honour your pledge at international conferences to cooperate with international community to combat terrorism.

3) Whether it is indeed true Zakir has been given permanent resident status;

4) Whether the government would be willing to revoke his visitor visa/entry permit or any other permission granted to him to remain in Malaysia.

5) Despite all the representations made, would the government still be willing to harbour this fugitive hate preacher?

6) I also urge you to keep your promise to the Malaysian society that you would promote the concept of ‘wasatiyyah’ (moderation).

In his letter, Waytha produced two statements (of many) that the Court of Appeal in the UK used to uphold the ban.

Statement 1: “As far as a terrorist is concerned, I tell the Muslims that every Muslim should be a terrorist… What is the meaning of the word ‘terrorist’? ‘Terrorist’ by definition means a person who terrorises. When a robber sees a policeman he’s terrified. So for a robber, a policeman is a terrorist. So in this context, every Muslim should be a terrorist to the robber… Every Muslim should be a terrorist too.”

To really appreciate the acrobatics of Zakir’s argument defending such a statement, you have to read the detailed Guardian article, which is interestingly enough for a left-leaning publication to support the ban.

“As (Court of Appeal judge) Gross LJ observes, Dr Naik’s explanation that he used the word ‘terrorist’ to support terrorising ‘anti-social elements’ is difficult enough to follow on its own terms, even with time to analyse the written word; this ‘convoluted explanation’ would simply be lost on a ‘live’ audience.

“In any event, the notion that for a robber, a policeman is a ‘terrorist’, belongs in the realms of linguistic fantasy. – Gross LJ.”

The other statement was, “The pig is the most shameless animal on the face of the earth. It is the only animal that invites its friends to have sex with its mate. In America, most people consume pork. Many times after dance parties, they have swapping of wives; many say, ‘you sleep with my wife and I will sleep with your wife.’ If you eat pigs, then you behave like pigs. [Occasion unspecified, referred to in Western Mail, August 2006]”

I do not know if this demonstrates that Zakir is a threat to national security but it does make me want to have a bacon sandwich, preferably during ladies’ night at a club in downtown Kuala Lumpur.

Zakir a special case

Image result for Zakir Naik and Najib

So, is Zakir a national security threat? I have never advocated that anyone should be banned. I have never advocated that anyone should stop talking or writing because what they say or write offends me. However, Zakir is a special case.

In a time when the Islamist agenda in this country is taking new forms and the agenda is promulgated by new alliances, a preacher like Zakir who specialises in deepening already established cultural and religious rifts, is a threat to national security.

While I do not make the claim that he is a terrorist, he has not demonstrated in any of his speeches that he would disavow any terrorist act that even the government of Malaysia would. While the Malay/Muslim elite think that some of his ideas are suitable for Malaysia, the reality is that he is the – again as Sam Harris would argue – the motherlode of bad ideas.

Image result for Zakir Naik and Perlis Mufti

A Royal Endorsement by The Raja of Perlis

In this country because the Prime Minster has chosen to stir up the Rohingya issue, we have sympathisers ready to assert their prerogatives. We have a revived Muslim agenda because an opposition party and an establishment party wish to preserve their power.

The region is a hotbed of terrorist activity and the term “moderate” has lost all meaning. What we have in Malaysia is a tenuous form of moderation nurtured by an already divisive majority who just want to live in peace.

While Muslim potentates in this country court a firebrand like Zakir, they unknowingly allow a certain type of Islamic fervour to spread among the disenfranchised. I say unknowingly because there is a disconnect between the political elite and the security apparatus who genuinely want to keep the country safe.

These “foot soldiers” of the security apparatus, and not the top brass who enjoy positions of influence and patronage, are losing the war for the hearts and minds of a diverse Muslim polity made of diverse nationalities, thanks to the machinations of the establishment.

This is not fear mongering. This is the reality we face and the great joke is that to people like Zakir Naik, this is how it should be.

Yesterday: The ignorant M’sians who support Hadi’s bill

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

 

Racist Politics in Malaysia–Blame the Whole Shebang


February 19, 2017

Racist Politics in Malaysia–Blame the Whole Shebang

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

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

– Isaac Asimov, ‘Pebble in the Sky’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The  First Malay Nationalist (or is it Racist?)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) Revisit history.

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

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

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

All are participants in race game

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

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

Image result for UMNO's Grand Poobah Najib Razak

UMNO’s Money Stealing Grand Poobah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Let Malaysia remain a secular and inclusive state for All


February 16, 2017

Let Malaysia remain a secular and inclusive state for All

by Dr Kua Kia Soong@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT:  There is an attempt by some ‘eminent persons’ to install the Rukunegara as the preamble to the Malaysian constitution. If there is indeed a need for such a preamble, it ought to reaffirm the principles of secularism and inclusiveness in the constitution.

Image result for Najib and Hadi Awang with Zakir

God Bless Malaysia with these guys

In my humble opinion, any attempt to have a preamble to our constitution needs first to be discussed by all the communities in the country including the Orang Asli, debated and passed through Parliament; secondly, it has to be inclusive.

This ‘national philosophy’ of Rukunegara was proclaimed on Merdeka Day, 1970 as a response to the racial riots of May 13, 1969 when the country was still under a state of Emergency. Like the National Culture Policy, it was drafted by selected ‘eminent persons’ rather than involving representation from all Malaysian communities and it did not go through a democratic process of debate, nor was it passed by the Federal Parliament.

While most of its aspirations are noble and acceptable, namely, “achieving a more perfect unity…; preserving a democratic way of life; creating a just society…; guaranteeing a liberal approach towards her rich and varied cultural traditions; and building a progressive society…”; nevertheless, its principle of ‘Belief in God’ is not inclusive of all Malaysian faiths.

Any preamble should include all peoples and stress social justice and democracy

The preamble to the US constitution, for example is short and concise, stressing that their nation is defined and formed by its people and what it stands for:

“We the People… in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution…”

Although peopled largely by Christians, the preamble to the US constitution makes no reference to a God or monarch. Apart from serving as an executive summary, it merely sets the stage for how the new government defined by the constitution will establish justice and secure the blessings of Liberty. Thus, their preamble is absolutely secular and the first three words are perhaps the most important: “We the People…”

Image result for Najib and Hadi Awang with Zakir

Malaysian Muslims idolize this Guy

Perhaps India is a better comparison since it was a former colony like ours. The preamble to the constitution of India actually makes its secularism explicit:

“We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic and to secure to all its citizens: Justice, social, economic and political; Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; Equality of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation…”

Thus the main purposes of having a preamble of the Indian constitution are again, first, to refer to the source that is responsible for the authority of the constitution (We, the People…), and to spell out the objectives of the Indian constitution, namely, Equality, Justice, Fraternity and Liberty. Like the US constitution, there is no insistence on ‘Belief in God’.

The importance of being secular

So what is the significance of including ‘Belief in (the monotheistic) God’ in the hypothetical preamble to our constitution?

Since the prevalence of Islamic populism in the Eighties, there have been attempts by politicians including one or two Prime ministers (one of them is none other than Tun Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohamad) to claim that Malaysia is an Islamic state. Nonetheless, this attempt has been rightfully frustrated by among others, Bapa Malaysia and the Judiciary in the country.

For example, on his 80th birthday on February 8, 1983, Tunku’s main message to the Barisan Nasional leaders was not to turn Malaysia into an Islamic state, stressing that Malaysia was set up as a secular state with Islam as the official religion and this is enshrined in the Constitution. This was echoed a few days later by the Third Malaysian Prime Minister, Tun Hussein Onn on his 61st Birthday on February 12, 1983.

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Commander-in-Chief, Ketuanan Melayu (Malay Hegemony) and Partner of PAS’ Hadi Awang on Hudud
The Alliance Memorandum submitted to the Reid Constitution Commission on Sept 27, 1956 clearly stated that “the religion of Malaya shall be Islam… and shall not imply that the state is not a secular state.” Thus, both the Reid Commission in 1957 and the Cobbold Commission in 1962 characterised Malaysia as a “secular state”.

Most importantly, former Lord President of the Malaysian Judiciary, Mohamed Salleh Abas in Che Omar bin Che Soh vs Public Prosecutor (1988), stated that the term “Islam” in Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution meant “only such acts as relate to rituals and ceremonies… the law in this country is… secular law.”

The Late Lord President Mohamed Suffian Hashim similarly wrote that Islam was made the official religion primarily for ceremonial purposes, to enable prayers to be offered in the Islamic way on official public occasions, such as the installation or birthday of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Independence Day and similar occasions.

Against the background of confounding populist politicians, one would think that it is even more crucial – if there is a need for a preamble to our constitution – for such a preamble to reaffirm the secular and inclusive character of our constitution.

In a secular state, the state is officially neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor atheism. It treats all its citizens equally regardless of religion. Secularism is not merely desirable but essential for the healthy existence of a pluralist society such as ours. It implies a separation that exists between the state and religion.

This does not detract from the fact that the right to religion is a fundamental right and the denial of this freedom is a violation of the basic principles of democracy.

Monotheism is not the only religion in this world

Secularism is also important in regulating the relation between the state and various religious groups on the principle of equality. When the Rukunegara espouses only ‘Belief in (Monotheistic) God’, it forgets that there are Malaysians of other faiths based on polytheism or animism and ancestor worship.

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To conclude, the concept of secularism is derived from the principle of democracy and secularism becomes meaningful only when it refers to democratic equality and includes diverse peoples of all faiths, beliefs and practices.

DR KUA KIA SOONG is Suaram adviser.

Malaysia: China, Malaysian Chinese and GE-14


February 15, 2017

Malaysia: China, Malaysian Chinese and GE-14

by Dato Dennis Ignatius@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

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Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak (pictured with de facto PM Rosmah Mansor) recently offered three reasons why Barisan Nasional (BN) can expect a significant increase in support from the Chinese community at the next general elections – “the opposition’s shortcomings despite being given the opportunity; Malaysia’s good relations with China; and, the good moral politics practiced by the BN.” (Bernama, 5th February 2017)

It is an astonishing assertion to say the least. In the first place, by any reckoning, the Opposition in both Selangor and Penang has, in fact, performed far better than previous UMNO-BN governments. In a few short years, corruption and waste are significantly down; there is greater accountability and transparency and people are better off than before. And this despite the unrelenting hostility and lack of cooperation from the federal government.

The Opposition may have their shortcomings but there’s little doubt that if they ever came to power at the federal level, Malaysia would be the better for it.

As for the claim that BN practices “good moral politics,” it is so risible that it isn’t even worth a second thought.

The China card

The reference to China, on the other hand, is significant if only for the mindset it reveals. It suggests that the Minister  who is notorious when he was a Sabah state minister  considers Malaysian Chinese more parochial than patriotic, that the Chinese community will overlook the bigotry and racial prejudice perpetrated against them as well as the injustice, corruption and scandal that have blighted our nation simply because they prize good relations with China.

Acting on this belief, UMNO-BN ministers have assiduously sought to co-opt China into their elections strategy in the expectation that China’s ringing endorsement of the current Malaysian leadership will play out well with Malaysian Chinese.

At the ground level, a senior UMNO minister even went so far as to accompany the Chinese Ambassador around as the ambassador distributed Chinese government assistance to Malaysian Chinese schools, something that was always frowned upon in the past.

The MCA too appears to be counting on China’s endorsement to restore its fortunes as the party of choice for Malaysian Chinese. By setting up a PRC affairs committee and an OBOR (One Belt One Road) centre, the MCA is clearly hoping to convince Malaysian Chinese that its close relationship with China will bring huge dividends to the Malaysian Chinese community through lucrative deals, projects and other businesses.

But is relations with China a key election issue for Malaysian Chinese? Even a cursory survey of Malaysian Chinese attitudes suggests otherwise. In fact, their key concerns – security, education, tolerance and good governance – are not even on Salleh’s radar.

Security and safety

There is no doubt that Malaysian Chinese have been quite traumatized by the rising level of anti-Chinese sentiment in the country as well as the threat of racial violence.

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The Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia in Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur (2015)

For many, the 2015 Petaling Street affair – when senior UMNO leaders shamefully stood by and did nothing even as the Red Shirts threatened a bloodbath – was a turning point; it indicated that Malaysian Chinese could no longer count on UMNO-BN for their safety and survival.

Frustrated at the lack of government action and fearful for their safety, many Malaysian Chinese, and others as well, applauded when the Chinese Ambassador finally intervened to stop things from getting out of hand.

Those who believe that China might provide some protection for Malaysian Chinese might, therefore, welcome closer relations with China; not because of any loyalty per se to their ancestral homeland but simply in the hope that it would bring a measure of stability.

Some also harbour the hope that closer relations with China might somehow forestall the growing drift towards Islamic extremism in Malaysia, another area of great concern to Malaysian Chinese as well as to other Malaysians. They reason that the more indispensable China is to Malaysia’s economic well-being and to UMNO-BN’s survival, the less UMNO would want to scare them away with any dramatic Islamisation initiatives.

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The Anti-Chinese Malays

Whether China can or will provide such a security blanket is, however, an open question. Observers have argued, for example, that the Chinese Ambassador’s intervention in the Petaling Street affair was aimed more at avoiding the kind of internal instability that could jeopardize China’s economic and political gains in the country rather than out of any particular concern for Malaysian Chinese.

Education

It is no secret that Malaysian Chinese also place a very high premium on education and the opportunities that a good education provides. It is, after all, education that transformed a ragtag bunch of largely indentured labourers into an economic powerhouse that Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi recently described as “the group that will carry the nation forward.”

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The Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi with UMNO Racists, Noh Omar and Jamal Ikan Bakar Yunos

In this context, the Chinese school system occupies a special place in the Malaysian Chinese psyche. It is more than just education; it is about inculcating traditional values, culture and language. Its very existence is a psychological beacon of hope and comfort, an assurance that their language, culture and identity will endure.

When the Chinese school system is condemned as unconstitutional, detrimental to national integration and threatened with closure, when the Unified Examination Certificate is refused recognition, when funds are withheld, it is, rightly or wrongly, perceived as a thinly veiled attack on the Malaysian Chinese community itself.

After all, how is it justified to demand the closure of Chinese schools on the grounds of national unity when Chinese schools today are more integrated than national schools, when foreign English-medium private schools proliferate, when monoracial educational and religious institutions continue to flourish with government support?

To be sure, we have a serious national unity issue in this country that needs urgent attention. However, the way to build unity must surely be through consultation, cooperation and accommodation rather than further marginalising besieged minorities or demonising them for political expediency.

Tolerance

As well, Malaysian Chinese are deeply concerned, even grieved, over the way they have been racially harassed and taunted by many from within UMNO and PAS itself.

It hurts that even after more than a century of living in Malaysia and contributing to its development as much as anyone else, they are still considered interlopers, intruders and “pendatangs.” It hurts when they are taunted as unpatriotic, as disloyal, as ungrateful. It hurts when decades of blood, sweat and tears in the service of their nation are dismissed as irrelevant or deliberately downplayed. Or that their votes are not solicited with promises of wise policies but demanded with threats of punishment and retribution.

And it hurts when those who come from countries like Indonesia are permitted to be proud of their heritage while Malaysian Chinese must always be watchful lest they be accused of chauvinism and disloyalty.

Sure, no community is without their faults but the constant racist polemics is discouraging, discomforting and disquieting.

Good governance

Finally, there is the issue of good governance.Like other Malaysians, Malaysian Chinese are sick and tired of the corruption and abuse of power that has become commonplace in our nation today.

It was this concern that compelled thousands of them to join their fellow citizens in participating in the BERSIH rallies, despite the threats and intimidation, to press for political change, for respect for the constitution and for good and clean governance.

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Malaysian Chinese, in fact, feel insulted that politicians think they can be won over simply on the promise of good relations with China. They are, first and foremost, Malaysians and it is national issues like good governance, justice and respect for diversity that matter far more to them than relations with China.

Malaysian Chinese want what other Malaysians want

If UMNO-BN wants to win the support of Malaysian Chinese, it does not need to look to China; it simply needs to treat them with respect and dignity as fellow citizens of this nation we all call home.

In the final analysis, Malaysian Chinese want what everybody else in Malaysia so desperately wants – good governance, security, respect for our constitution and for the rights of all citizens irrespective of race or religion, and the opportunity to pursue their dreams and live in peace with their fellow citizens. And the answer to that is not found in Beijing but in Putrajaya.

 

 

 

The NEP:”A Magical Touch” or Systemic State-Sponsored Discrimination?


February 9, 2017

COMMENT: The objectives of the Tun Abdul Razak’s  New Economic Policy (1970)  were (1) to eradicate poverty regardless of race and (2) to create a Malay Commercial and Industrial Community to eliminate the identification of race with economic function. It was intended to deal the root causes of  the May 13 1969 riots that shook Malaysia and promote national unity.

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It was Tun Dr. Ismail Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak’s Deputy, who likened it to a golf handicap system to enable the Malays to compete against the more economically successful Malaysian other. It was  to  “serve as a temporary affirmative action policy with a 20 year lifespan but which now appears to have been extended ad infinitum.”(Lim Teck Ghee).

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad used it to create a UMNO crony capitalism and make the Malays beholden to the UMNO state for handouts. In the name of “democratization of education” our fourth Prime Minister also lowered university entrance requirements to enable Malays to attend our public universities, the consequences of which are quite well-known to all of us.

If the Malays are to compete in a globalized world, they must learn to be self-reliant and resilient in the face of adversity. Like my friend Teck Ghee, I feel that empowerment of the Malays, not dependence on UMNO handouts, is the way forward  in the pursuit of national unity.–Din Merican

The  NEP –“A Magical Touch” or  Systemic State-Sponsored Discrimination against The Malaysian Other?

by Lim Teck Ghee

Surely our well informed Royalty must also be aware of the collateral damage that pro-Malay bumiputra policies have had on governance, economy, social cohesion and race and religious relations. Surely Sultan Nazrin, with degrees from Oxford and Harvard, must be aware of the vast literature available, in English and the national language, of the downside of maintaining the NEP past its original shelf-life of 1990.–Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Recently the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Dr.Nazrin Shah, officiating at a religious discourse described the NEP (New Economic Policy) as a “magical touch”. The word “magic” is associated with the the power of influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces. It is a word whose synonyms include “sorcery, witchcraft, wizardry, necromancy, enchantment,the supernatural, occultism, the occult, black magic,the black arts, shamanism” and the like.

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Malaysia’s Oxford and Harvard Educated Sultan

The “magical touch” of the NEP which gave more opportunities for the Malays to participate in mainstream development and encouraged the growth of youths especially from the rural areas to have a strong foundation of race and religion. of course, did not come from the waving of any supernatural or magical wand, although some of the superstitious in the audience may believe it.

It was a human and politically-crafted public policy in the aftermath of the racial violence in May 1969 and it was intended to serve as a temporary affirmative action policy with a 20 year lifespan but which now appears to have been extended ad infinitum.

The assertion that the the NEP benefited Malay individuals and families and also injected a new confidence and pride into the Malays is also well-known and is incontestable. No one can deny that the younger generation Malays, especially women, “filled Malay secondary classes in bigger numbers, held high positions in their careers, especially in the public sector, enjoyed influence and underwent a cultural transformation, including in the workplace and home” as a direct outcome of the NEP.

But there were other ripple effects from the application of the “magic” touch which the Sultan did not bring to the attention of his audience. These effects – principally relating to the non-Malay community but also now impacting on the Malays – are also important and necessary to bring to the attention of those who continue to advocate it as the panacea for the ills and shortcomings of the Malay community.

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Such a critical, empirically-grounded ]and non-romantic analysis is especially necessary to emphasise in religious and Malay-centric fora that are held ostensibly to instill “Islamic values” of justice, moderation, equality, and the other ethics deemed as central to the practice of the religion; or during events intended to uplift Malay pride and self-esteem.

Who Lost Out With The NEP

That magic wand waved to secure the employment of Malays in the public sector and their accelerated promotion and advancement in it, as well as in other sectors, has required the suppression and holding back of other citizens in their employment, career and even life prospects, however deserving or qualified they may have been, simply on account of their minority ethnic identity. Enough has been written about this for so long that even the most out-of-touch or uneducated in the country is fully aware of it.

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UMNO-BN Election Gimmick?

The loss has not only been to the many hundreds of thousands of non-Malays who have had to make personal sacrifice or have been denied fair treatment as a result of a policy pushed down their throats to ensure ‘national unity’ and so that Malay politicians (and Royalty) can have what these dominant groups consider to be a fair share of the nation’s wealth.

The loss is also that of the nation as a whole.

Surely our well informed Royalty must also be aware of the collateral damage that pro-Malay bumiputra policies have had on governance, economy, social cohesion and race and religious relations. Surely Dr, Sultan Nazrin, with degrees from Oxford and Harvard, must be aware of the vast literature available, in English and the national language, of the downside of maintaining the NEP past its original shelf-life of 1990.

Sultan Dr.Nazrin who is also the Financial Ambassador of the Malaysian International Islamic Financial Centre (MIFC) also said that Malaysia is always described as a modern Islamic nation which is developed, progressive, peaceful and moderate. According to him, “Islamic leadership in Malaysia is highly respected. The wisdom of the Malay leaders in implementing programmes for the development of the people and the country has been acknowledged throughout the world.”

OECD’s Damning Analysis

As Financial Ambassador, he would do well to read the recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Review of Innovation Policy report which categorially states that the NEP is among the causes of Putrajaya’s limited success in upgrading the economy through science, technology and innovation policies since the mid-1980s. The recently released Malaysia report noted that “[s]ocial equity rules associated with the New Economic Policy, affecting a wide range of domains including education and businesses, did not allow sufficient mobility of resources which, in the end, hindered innovation activities”.

The report also noted that the domination of government-linked companies (GLCs) and major family-owned conglomerates – all factors the Sultan should be very familiar with – have tended to block competition, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Finally the reported noted that “[e]ven the best initiatives have suffered from a lack of sustainable efforts, political interference or, in some cases, clientelism and corruption”.

The NEP and its successor policies need an open, rigorous and transparent stocktaking to ensure that the Malay community and other Malaysians do not continue to be led astray or become victims of an anachronistic, increasingly elite-favouring, corrupt and indefensible policy.

The magic has been long gone and will never return. Perhaps the Sultan’s next speech may see him provide some ideas on the replacement policy to the NEP.  Empowerment of the Malays, not dependence of UMNO handouts is the way forward  in the pursuit of national unity.