The Malay or The Najib Malay?

March 17, 2018

The Malay or The Najib Malay?

Let the Late Malaysian Poet Laureate Usman Awang remind the present generation who they should be.


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They can longer be a people who have to depend a nanny state which is being run into the ground by a kleptocracy under Prime Minister Najib Razak. They cannot be bought by BR1M money and other handouts. They need to demonstrate that they are a proud, self-reliant, competitive and hard working people.–Din Merican

GE-14 :Time to shift Political Discourse to Policy Issues

February 25, 2018

GE-14 :Time to shift Political Discourse to Policy Issues

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan

THE date of GE14 has been on our minds for quite some time. Most analysts I know are suggesting that polling will likely take place in April or early May.

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Political parties are clearly ramping up their efforts to woo voters. Ceramah are organised every night in various places across the country. These talks are quite exciting to watch.

In the absence of good stand-up comedy shows, the hypocrisy of some of our politicians is the next best thing, especially when they claim that their side monopolises everything that is good, while those who are not on their sides are the root of all evil. Isn’t it amusing that, in their eyes, everything is either black or white, with no shades of grey at all?

I suspect that as we get closer to GE14, race and religion will once again dominate the political discourse.

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UMNO Leaders–Najib Razak and Zahid Hamidi–can be expected to play the Islam and Malay Survival card in order to retain power. Najib Razak’s shift towards policy issues is an attempt to appear liberal and moderate to non-Malay voters–Din Merican


This is necessary because politicians from ethnic-based parties need to achieve immediate-term victories, while the long-term fate of this country is not the top priority.

Ensuring society is divided and sowing distrust between groups are the only way for ethnic- and religion-based parties to remain relevant in the modern world. If society rejects division, starts to trust each other unconditionally and opts for unity, these parties will become irrelevant.

I can be more specific. I have been studying Malay politics and Malay political parties in depth since March last year. In the many interviews and focus group discussions I’ve conducted, the most common issue brought up by the Malay voters is their fear of a Chinese “takeover”.

In the eyes of many Malays, the Chinese cannot be trusted because they want to remove Malay political control from the rubric of this country. Supposedly, the Chinese can only be trusted if they are subservient.

The impact of this sentiment is many-pronged. UMNO and PAS will remain influential in constituencies with certain demographics without much contest. As a coalition, Pakatan Harapan must accept the Malay leadership provided by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Pribumi), just like Barisan Nasional accepted the leadership of UMNO.


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Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad– The Revivalist and Reformer

Non-Malay parties in both BN and Pakatan must know what they can talk about and what they must avoid. The dividing lines may be invisible, but they exist. And, for the politicians who feel that they cannot win when debating policy and governance, their best strategy is to further embed the dividing lines.

Sadly for Malaysia, the divide-and-rule strategy is still the more successful one when it comes to political competition. In fact, ethno-religious division is so rooted in the country today to the extent anyone who does not play the same game will find it very difficult to win.

My biggest fear is the damage created by this divisive strategy will be entrenched even further in our society as a consequence of what the politicians do to win in GE14.  But desperate politicians usually have no qualms about destroying relations between our multicultural groups so long as they can win in the immediate term.

Having said the above, I am glad that there is an increasing number of political leaders calling for debates that are more policy-oriented. If you listen to the formal speeches by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak over the last few weeks, you can sense the push towards policy. And many other politicians, from both sides, are following suit.

I also noticed that among the ideas gaining traction is the proposal to separate the roles of the Attorney-General from that of the Public Prosecutor.

Currently, there is a clear conflict of interest because the A-G is also the Public Prosecutor. The A-G holds absolute discretion in deciding whether to prosecute someone.

The A-G is also the chief legal adviser to the Government, which means the Government is his “client”. It is incredible that the defence lawyer also holds the power to decide if his own client should be taken to court.

I think this is among the most urgent changes that we need to make. The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) has been advocating this reform for more than three years now, and I am glad that more people have warmed up to the proposal. I hope political parties from both sides will now take it one step further and include this reform in their respective manifestos.

It is not difficult to make this change. The A-G should be a politician who is a member of the Cabinet.

He will continue to be chief legal adviser to the Government. The Prime Minister should appoint a trusted MP to this post. But the Public Prosecutor should be a different person, appointed from the legal or judicial system, or perhaps even a suitable senior civil servant.

The main point is, the Public Prosecutor should not be a political appointment, whereas the Attorney-General can be. That way, the Public Prosecutor has no master other than the rule of law.

Wan Saiful Wan Jan is chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs ( The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

Wan Saiful Wan Jan

Wan Saiful Wan Jan is chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs.

Tribute to Kedah’s Greatest Son and Malaysia’s Statesman–Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra

February 4, 2017

Tribute to Kedah’s Greatest Son and Statesman–Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, Father of Independence of Malaysia

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by Wan Saiful Wan Jan

NEXT week, on February 8, will be the 115th birthday of Malaysia’s First Prime Minister and Father of Independence, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj.

Tunku was the seventh son of Kedah’s Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah. Tunku’s mother is Che Menjalara, the daughter of Luang Naraborirak from Thailand.

He was educated in Alor Setar, Bangkok and Penang, before graduating from Cambridge University at St Catharine’s College in 1925. He then completed his legal training in 1949.

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Tunku’s Alma Mater, St Catharine’s College, Cambridge

He successfully led the series of negotiations that resulted in our independence from Britain. For that, he will forever be known as our Bapa Kemerdekaan (Father of Independence).

On August 31, 1957, Tunku read out the Proclamation of Independence. The proclamation was the basis and the principles behind the founding of our nation.

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In the proclamation, Tunku said our nation shall “be for ever a sovereign democratic and independent State founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of its people and the maintenance of a just peace among all nations”. Liberty and justice – these are the principles that must guide our actions and policies.

In 1963, Tunku brought four entities – Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya – into one, to form Malaysia. Rightfully, that made him our Bapa Malaysia too.

On the day that Malaysia was formed, rather than reading out a different statement, he opted for the same proclamation, turning what was once called the Proclamation of Independence into the Proclamation of Malaysia.

Of course, as Prime Minister, he made his fair share of mistakes. There were actions of his that many of us today would consider as far short of the ideal. But on balance, many Malaysians today are longing for the environment fostered by Tunku’s administration.

He turned the principles of liberty and justice into actual policies, all aimed at ensuring the welfare and happiness of the people. He was determined to ensure every single citizen of the country enjoys liberty and justice equally, regardless of race and religion.

One thing for sure, his vision of how to unite the country was the correct one. He did not put one group above the other because he knew very well that a happy country can only exist if its citizens were equals.

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Sadly, this vision of equal treatment disappeared soon after Tunku’s departure from office. Until today, we are still affected by the consequences from divisive ethnic-based social engineering.

When Tunku Zain Al-’Abidin Tuanku Muhriz, Wan Mohd Firdaus Wan Mohd Fuaad, and I decided to start the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas), we made a conscious decision to dedicate our work to injecting Tunku’s ideals into all facets of public policy.

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We launched Ideas on February 8, 2010, at an event that was also designed to celebrate Tunku’s birthday. Therefore, next week will also be Ideas’ eighth anniversary.

The last eight years has been challenging but fulfilling. The nature of an independent think tank is not widely understood in Malaysia, where labels of either being pro-government or pro-opposition are thrown around too easily.

When we say that we believe in principles rather than partisanship, many people become confused because we do not fall within their traditional labels.

The culture of “only bad news can become news” does not help either. Our criticisms get picked up by the media more frequently than our praises.

I have now become used to politicians and policymakers from both sides saying that we only criticise them and that we never give them credit. This wrong perception can only be expected because when we give credit when it is due, it is hardly covered.

As far as challenges go, last year was by far the most challenging one. We were very close to shutting down in August because of a major cashflow crisis after two large funders suddenly pulled out.

I had to go cap in hand to various people begging for money to keep us alive. Thanks to two donors, one from Britain and another from Johor Baru, we got through the crisis.

Moving forward, our quest to translate Tunku’s vision into policy proposals will continue. In an increasingly divided Malaysia, we will stay true to his unifying vision.

There are far too many people who, in private, complain like mad but refuse to speak up publicly even though they know they can change the country’s course towards the better. I promised my team at Ideas that we will never become like that. Hopefully history will show that I keep my word.

Meanwhile, let us spend the few days ahead remembering Tunku for the great Malaysian that he was and for his vision of liberty and justice. May his ideals of liberty and justice live forever. Alfatihah.

  • Wan Saiful Wan Jan is chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs ( The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

Chandra Muzaffar: Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim sidelined Rukunegara

January 30, 2018

Chandra Muzaffar: Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim sidelined Rukunegara

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Dr. Mahathir  Mohamad and his Deputy Anwar Ibrahim before Sodomy 1 (1998)


(Berita Daily) – Former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad sidelined Rukunegara due to his rivalry with former Home Minister Ghazali Shafie, revealed 1Malaysia Foundation chairman Chandra Muzaffar today (Jan 28).

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“Mahathir deliberately ignored Rukunegara. There is not a single speech of his that emphasised on the importance of Rukunegara,” said Chandra at G25’s session on moderation and administration of Islam in Malaysia.

“The subcommittee on Rukunegara was led by Ghazali Shafie and we all know the rivalry of Mahathir with Ghazali. It was real. Dr Mahathir’s political secretary was arrested by the order of then Home Minister Ghazali Shafie,” he said.

Image result for pakatan harapanTogether again in Pakatan Harapan–A Political Arrangement of Convenience


“It is a tragedy because Rukunegara is a national philosophy.” Chandra also noted that Mahathir had a certain ideological understanding and perception of Islam. “He brought the young Islamist, Anwar Ibrahim. That’s why there is an International Islamic University. He did not want the Rukunegara in the way.

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Chandra added Mahathir also introduced Vision 2020 as a way to permanently keep the Rukunegara on the sidelines. “On February 1991, Mahathir came out with Vision 2020, effectively sidelining Rukunegara. Five out of nine challenges in Vision 2020 are related to Rukunegara.He wanted something that made his mark,” he said.

As for Anwar’s reluctance on Rukunegara, Chandra said: “He had a certain view of Islam related to Jamaat Islam similar to Muslim Brotherhood. He saw Rukunegara as a barrier to an Islamic order.”

Aside from the two politicians, changing environment also did not make it attractive for Muslims to push for Rukunegara even though the principles did not go against the principles of Islam, Chandra said.

“In the 1970s and 1980s there was rapid urbanisation and Malays in urban areas were conscious of their identity. The Islamic ethos began and Rukunegara did not fit in.”

As for non-Muslims, there were other factors that made Rukunegara not attractive, said Chandra.

“For non-Muslims, they didn’t see it as critical even though the principles are universal and inclusive. There is nothing concrete that can be identified like when you look in the constitution,” he said in reference to articles 152 and 153. For their politicians, their issues and concerns are of their respective ethnic communities,” said Chandra.


Be Courteous to one another, Malaysians

January 28, 2018

Be Courteous to one another, Malaysians

by Dr Mohd Sani Badr

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 They are the future of a pluralistic and secular Malaysia

THE Rukunegara, the national philosophy, affirms courtesy and morality (kesopanan dan kesusilaan) as the most important character traits in maintaining good relationships in our plural society.

On the other hand, arrogance and causing offence to the sensibilities of others are thoroughly condemned, regardless whether committed by the rich, the powerful, or linguistic and cultural chauvinists.

Observing discussions on social media and reports in traditional media, especially in relation to partisan politics and hawkish pressure groups, this writer wonders whether Malaysians care more about being respectful of diversity than being arrogant. Or is it now the other way around?

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That is why Malaysians must not vote UMNO Racists and bigots


Respect, politeness and arrogance are character traits inculcated mainly by parents, families, teachers and educational institutions. Have we taught our children and students sufficiently about being respectful to humanity without arrogance?

 There is an Islamic tradition on being respectful, where Mu‘adh ibn Jabal said, “The Messenger of God commanded me saying, ‘O, Mu‘adh, I command you to fear God, to speak truthfully, to fulfil the promise, to deliver what you are entrusted with, to shun perfidious actions, to care for the neighbour, to have compassion towards the orphan, to be soft-spoken, to be generous in extending greeting, to do your best no matter what you do, to curtail your fallacious hope, to cleave to the faith, to study the Quran, to love the hereafter, to be anxious in regard to the Day of Reckoning, and to act with humility.” (narrated by al-Bayhaqi).

This writer cautiously believes that many Malaysians, regardless of religious affiliation – or rather, because they are inspired by their faith – are indeed respectful of each other.

The Malaysian founding fathers called this muhibbah, which means mutual love or affectionate friendship among humankind. It is more than mere tolerance.

Merciful human relationship is a great idea from scriptural Revelation, recorded in the Quran. Its basis is the understanding that humanity originates from the common origin called nafs wahidah – a fact emphasised throughout the Quran.

There is essential unity of all people as God’s creatures. All of us belong to one human family without any inherent biological superiority of one over another. The Prophet Muhammad was quoted as saying, “Man is but a God-fearing believer or a hapless sinner. All people are the children of Adam, and Adam was created out of dust.”

In the worldview of Islam, while among Muslims there is “religious brotherhood”, between Muslims and followers of other faiths, there is “biological brotherhood” of the human race. According to this teaching, all of us are biologically brothers and sisters as we are from one living entity (nafs wahidah), whose proper name is Adam.

It is one of the wonders of God’s creation that from one person (Adam), we have grown to be so many; each individual has so many faculties and capacities, and yet we are all one. In other words, this common origin should appeal to the solidarity of humankind, as all of us are brothers and sisters.

Arising from this kinship, we humans have mutual obligations, rights and duties. In another universal verse, God says, “O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain has spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty towards God in whom you claim your rights of one another.” (4:1).

Because all humankind is one, our mutual rights and dignity must therefore be treated with the full respect they deserve. This is valid even if each of us has his own religious community. It is in this context that the Prophet Muhammad states, “All creatures are equal dependents upon God (‘iyalullah), and those dearest to God are the ones who treat His dependents most kindly.”

Or in another translation: “The whole of mankind is the family of God and he amongst His family is dearest to Him, who does good to others.” (narrated by al-Bayhaqi).

Indeed, the Prophet highlights the fact that all humanity is equally under the care of God, He who feeds, nourishes and sustains them. Moreover, those dearest to God are the ones who are of benefit to others.

Thus, Islam strongly condemns all racial prejudices. Our “natural” outward differentiations – whether in terms of gender, race, language and skin colour – are deemed by Islam to be merely superficial labels.

It is a person’s inner goodness, that is, his “nurtural” ethical quality – measured according to universal religious values – that should be the basis for our esteem for him.

We should never ridicule, insult or unnecessarily be suspicious of another just because he is of a different gender, race, language or hue. Racial quarrels must, by all means, be avoided through proper understanding of one’s own religion in relation to the religions of others.

Dr Mohd Sani Badron is principal fellow/director of Ikim’s Centre for Economics and Social Studies. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.


Racism isn’t Patriotism

January 24, 2018

Racism isn’t Patriotism

Opinion by Kamal

Kamal Amzan

Works on clinical governance by day, and patient safety at night. Writes and does everything else when he can’t sleep. On Twitter @drkamalamzan and

I wonder at what age most Malaysians are taught about tolerance. About race and religion.


Image result for najib, zahid hamidi and hishamuddin husseinThese UMNO leaders are Racists, not patriots


For me, it was at school and I was a slow learner at that — not fully grasping the concept of race and religion at home.  For instance, when my non-Malay friends left class during agama lessons, I wondered about what would happen to them.

Movies like The Omen came to mind. Imagine my disappointment when they didn’t emit smoke when walking near the Uztaz. Or to see them wearing crosses or amulets. They were definitely not like the kid I saw in The Omen.

And I remember the time when I had to write about myself in the profile book.  I am all right writing about my hobbies. About my favourite food, ambition, etc. Genuinely happy, can’t wait to start writing, until I came to the one after “Name.”

A four letter word that was foreign, unfamiliar and alien, that was absolutely, utterly, and thoroughly perplexing to me then. It read simply “Race.”

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They are Patriots

As if it wasn’t difficult enough to spell and write at the age of seven without having to decipher what things mean. “Race. Maybe it meant to say contest? Competition? Could it mean sports, maybe?”

So I did what a confused kid would do. I peeked. I looked left, right. But the experience was anything but enlightening. Instead of seeing football and the likes as answers, the boy on my left wrote “Malay” and the girl on my right wrote “Indian.”

I think that was when I had my first frown and headache. And since I only knew “Indian” as an adjective to describe food, I said to the girl, “Sumi, I think you need to write what sports you like. You know, like in a race?” She had big eyes. And I got the longest, scariest, most unnerving “Are you stupid?” stare.

People laugh when I share that story with them but the truth is school was the place where I learned about race. Religion. How I am different from Sumitra and Noel.

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We are  proud Malaysians and we reject racism and bigotry and uphold Rukun Negara

But given the dynamics we have in the country today, where headmasters and principals pledge loyalty to political parties, and the reports of students being separated in schools that are already almost homogenous on the basis of religion and race, I am assured that my experience 30 years ago has racially and religiously transmogrified and further entrenched into a system that is even more efficient at painting differences, distinctions and dissimilarities among Malaysians. If this isn’t systemic segregation, I don’t know what is.

Context is for kings

Needless to say, I wasn’t the teacher’s favourite in class. I can’t remember how many times my parents were called to school.  They would try sitting me down and explain to me the idiosyncrasies of this people called Malaysians.

And it didn’t go easy. The more they tried to explain, the more questions I had for them, “Wait, Ma, how come you get to choose your religion but I can’t?”, or “What do you mean my uztazah doesn’t know what chee cheong fun is?”, to, “Wait, if I’m half Malay and half Chinese, why can’t I choose which I want as a race?” I pitied my parents for having such a difficult kid. And I’m sure I was pitied by many of my teachers, who must have prayed hard for my soul.

But as I grew up, and better understood politics, religion and race, I began to pity those who live in Malaysia but have yet to live, experience and sample all that she has to offer. And those who are incessantly worried about losing the country to their fellow countrymen.

It would have been really hilarious, if not for the fact the country is flooded with the influx of princes, princesses and international “students” from Africa, security guards from Nepal, the religious bigots from India, Zimbabwe, or the hundreds of thousands from China, Bangladesh and Indonesia in our estates and construction sites.

But then again, not many can see the big picture. Context, after all, is meant for kings.

No monopoly on patriotism

Our schools should be a sanctum that promotes respect, tolerance, and celebration of differences, not one that antagonises, suspects and oppresses.  One that is inclusive, not divisive. Progressive, not regressive. And if we can get our education system right, Malaysians will not be so suspicious of one another. We will also not associate race with patriotism — and understand that we need not be soldiers to serve the country.

Doctors treat infections. Vaccinate babies. Manage diabetes and hypertension to prevent stroke and heart problems. Open up clogged vessels in the heart, cut away inflamed appendix, relieve obstructed intestines and restore vision. Hearing.

We fix fractures, perforated stomachs, those who are suffocating from asthma, bronchitis. Help you manage pain when it becomes intolerable. Unbearable.

Doctors educate the society so they eat better. Live a life that is healthier, fitter and more fulfilling. I have colleagues who received bad news about family members passing while operating, and resuscitating, but kept going.

Then we have other professions. Engineers, vets, technicians who work hard to make this country better. Teachers, the professionals responsible in moulding future generations and cultivate a society that is culturally, morally, and ethically enlightened and refined. A generation of Malaysians who will contribute beyond the nation, to better our civilisation and benefit mankind.

Yes, it’s true. Many of us may not have the privilege to serve in the army fighting communists and insurgencies.  But don’t mistake that as not fighting for Malaysians.Because we bleed red, white, blue and yellow for the country.