Not so much ‘New M’sia Government, but one consumed by a shiok sendiri syndrome


Not so much ‘New M’sia Government, but one consumed by a shiok sendiri syndrome and groping in the dark

September 27, 2018 by R. Nadeswaran@www.malaysiakini.com COMMENT

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William Lyons, a senior lecturer at the Glasgow University argues that fear of the dark is usually not a fear of darkness itself, but a fear of possible or imagined dangers concealed by darkness. When fear of the dark reaches a degree that is severe enough, it is considered pathological.

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Pakatan Harapan Defense Minister who became a Fighter Pilot overnight– A Case of Shiok Sendiri

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Imitating an UMNO Fighter Pilot

This is not a class on fear and darkness, but provides a fairly accurate description of how some Pakatan Harapan leaders – including ministers – are performing. After almost five months in government, they are still groping in the dark and this becomes inexcusable.

To put it more succinctly and concisely, they are not stumbling in darkness but tipping over each other in broad daylight. Offering none, or sometimes nonsensical, solutions to the problems facing the citizens, some of their utterances and actions have bordered on incongruity.

This is no report card on the government. We elected our Members of Parliament (MPs) for five years but transversely, the events since May 9 have been emitting a sense of hopelessness among the common folk. Not that the public expects the sky and moon, but would just like to see changes that would offer a better quality of life.

Let’s not beat around the bush – any government or a set of lawmakers will do better than BN– with closed eyes even if one does not try.  BN’s track record over the past six decades was so abysmal, appalling and dreadful, that even minor changes would look astronomical.

The (new) government was elected on the premise (among others) that it would root out corruption, cut out cronyism, promote meritocracy, address weaknesses in the  administration and revamp the government machinery so that the people will be the eventual beneficiaries of such changes. The people were promised improvements and reforms and doing away with nonsensical pieces of legislation.

Little of this has been seen. Take the much-talked about child marriages as an example. Why is there so much  pussyfooting over an issue that can be solved, just by taking away the jurisdiction given to religious courts.

Excuses after excuse have been given including one that there would be legal and social implications if the minimum age of marriage is increased to 18 years.

What legal and social implications, one may ask? For the previous regime, the escape-all clause when everything else failed, was to throw in the religious or the race card. It is ludicrous that a child is allowed to be married based on culture, religion and customs, which are actually excuses to    not accepting international standards in human rights. Ditto for the current set of lawmakers.

Parliament not football pitch

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How and why should an elected MP resign? What is the co-relation between “Langkah Port Dickson” and parliamentary reforms?

The last time we heard of the  phrase, the then speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia got a new toilet and an expensive set of furniture for his office!

Parliamentarians are lawmakers. Parliament is not a football pitch were substitution is allowed anytime without any rhyme or reason – according to the whims and fancies of the coach or manager.

When BN put up posters before nomination day in the last election, they were accused of breaking election laws. Drive around Port Dickson today and you’ll notice giant banners and buntings. What reform, when the law breaker is seeking office?

And why should the Education Minister play a dual role as the president of a university? However one look at it, he is conflicted, but he is finding all kinds of excuses to justify his acceptance.

Elsewhere, intra-party affairs and disputes seem to be distracting some of the leaders. Instead of seeking to implement changes and ideas, too much time is being spent on politicking.

The former premier has adopted a “make-a statement-a-day” routine and our ministers are keeping him relevant by responding and making him important. He ought to be told the literal meaning of the legal doctrine of “those seeking equity must come with clean hands”.

‘No more political appointees in government-linked companies’ was the battle pre-May 9. The head honchos who made up the pancaragam which composed and sang BN’s campaign song found themselves out of their jobs. So, did scores of others, but who were their replacements?

On the administration side, there is little visible change. It still takes ages for some government departments to respond to letters; the “pegawai pergi mesyuarat” (the officer’s in a meeting) slogan is frequently used to avoid contact with citizens and other old practices. Self-appointed regulators of public morals are still imposing their values, including dress codes on visitors. They seem more interested in the length of the skirts than the issues they have to address.

Why haven’t they been reined in? Yet again, the answer would be: “It is a sensitive issue.” Many are reluctant and refuse to adopt Transport Minister Anthony Loke’s diktats – those who find female flight attendants’ uniforms too sexy should turn their heads away and not look at them.

The only visible change is the move to do away with the sign-off, which means nothing. From “saya yang menurut perintah” (I’m just following orders), it has become “saya yang menjalankan amanah” (I’m just following the mandate). Everything else including mindsets remain status quo. How does it help improvise delivery?

The attitude and brashness of most civil servants has not changed. They seem stuck in the old culture, and continue to act as Little Napoleons ruling their own fiefdom.

Public opinion matters little to Harapan lawmakers, who now believe they can walk on water. The mainstream media which pilloried, denounced and humiliated them when they were on the wrong side of the divide, has suddenly changed tack. These days, the editors (and censors) are now lining up to “pay homage” to very same leaders they had once pounced on, like vultures devouring a carcass.

Instead of using its new-found freedom and being objective, it wants to continue its insalubrious role as the supporter of the ruling elite. There has hardly been a whimper on the weaknesses which are so visible. Every citizen including journalists has a right to demand explanations on expenditure and policies because this government promised transparency and accountability.

Asking questions and requesting for justification does not make anyone a lesser Malaysian.

R NADESWARAN has no party affiliation and believes that the it is not an offence to hold government accountable. A good government must priorities good governance. Comments: citizen.nades22@gmail.com

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

New regimes, old policies and a bumiputera reboot


September 20, 2018

New regimes, old policies and a bumiputera reboot

by Dr. Hwok-Aun Lee

http://www.newmandala.org/new-regimes-old-policies-bumiputera-reboot/

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Dr. Hwok-Aun Lee is Senior Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Singapore, with the Malaysian Studies and Regional Economic Studies programmes, Hwok- Aun has researched and published widely on affirmative action in Malaysia and South Africa. He was previously head of Development Studies, Faculty of Economics at University of Malaya.

Malaysia’s incipient Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, inheriting the country’s financial debacles and its extensive and complex ethnic policies, negotiates a three-cornered tussle.

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As a first order of business, it must clear a fiscal morass and deliver on election promises of integrity, transparency, and prudence. The government also strives to accommodate the interests of constituencies it won by a landslide, which brings various non-Malay concerns to the fore.

At the same time, PH seeks to allay anxieties of substantial segments of the Malay electorate that remain wary of the new dispensation, and perceived loss of privileges and sureties. This is a difficult balancing act, demanding delicate transitions and bold new mindsets.

Thus far, we see firm action on fiscal discipline, and familiar electoral overtures and concessions. But old mindsets endure. Their prevalence, exhibited in the open tender and ethnic reservation policies in public procurement, and in ethnic allocations in higher education, will hinder PH’s capacity to make headway in promoting Bumiputera capability and competitiveness, which are prerequisites for systematically rolling back ethnic preference.

New government, old policies?

Ten years apart, Lim Guan Eng (the Democratic Action Party chief) gave starkly similar policy assurances to Malay contractors – from vastly different positions. The first episode occurred in April 2008 when Lim was catapulted to high office following the 12th General Elections (GE12). As Penang Chief Minister, he assured Malay contractors that his administration’s open tender policy would not sideline them. While announcing the policy a few weeks prior, he justified it as a means to arrest the New Economic Policy’s (NEP) cronyism, corruption, and inefficiency. His words stoked anxiety and ire among some Malay groups. UMNO, hegemon of the Barisan Nasional (BN) federal government, capitalised on these sentiments to foment fiery public protests against Lim. Over 10 years, open tenders were implemented in Penang for larger contracts, while the smallest category was reserved for Malay contractors, in line with BN-prescribed federal policy.

The second episode passed in June 2018. Freshly appointed Malaysian Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng affirmed an open tender policy for federal public procurement – backed by the PH’s groundbreaking occupation of Putrajaya. And yet, swift on the heels of this pronouncement, he again declared that the government would not sideline Malay contractors. He even appended a befuddling note that “open tender” means open to all Malay contractors (with more competitive selection). Malay contractors hadn’t protested in the streets, although they had met with the Council of Eminent Persons just two weeks after GE14. Perhaps they were given enough assurances to preempt public dissent, but Lim also strenuously avoided upsetting the status quo.

Hence, we see no indication that public procurement procedures may be enhanced and invigorated. Open tenders for medium and large contracts – where non-Bumiputera companies more actively participate – satisfy some electoral constituencies; continual reservation of small contracts for Bumiputera firms satisfies others.

This is unfortunate, because Malaysia cannot fulfill the ultimate goal of rolling back ethnic preferential policies – professed by both the PH and BN coalitions for the past decade – unless the country clarifies, enhances, and broadens the ways it develops Malay capability and competitiveness.

Public procurement has distributed enormous largesse over many decades, but has fallen far short of its goal of grooming Malay enterprise. To be sure, the policy has in the past been vitiated by UMNO patronage and ‘Ali-Baba’ arrangements where a politically connected UMNO fixer secures the deal and subcontracts the work – typically to a Chinese company. These fronting practices have been tackled in recent years, and the new administration shows added resolve to cleanse and depoliticise the system. But it remains unclear about how it will leverage government contracting for broader developmental objectives.

The current state of the sector, with a handful of dynamic large-scale Malay contractors and overwhelming concentration of protected, static small-scale contractors, may well be perpetuated. Three-quarters of Bumiputera contractors are classified as G1, the smallest of seven tiers needing paid-up capital of only RM5,000-10,000 (A$1690-3380), and almost all remain there. In 2011, less than 0.2% of them graduated to G2 or G3. G1 contractors must be 100% Bumiputera owned and qualify for contracts worth RM200,000 (A$67,581) or less, which are allocated via balloting, not tendering. Given these conditions, who would want to move up? The flip side of “not sidelining Bumiputera contractors” is not doing much at all to facilitate expansion, innovation, and competitiveness.

A similar scenario has played out in the higher education sphere. Matriculation colleges offer a faster track to enter university, and since their rapid expansion from the late 1990s, have been the predominant pre-university option for Bumiputera students. Matriculation programmes were originally fully reserved for Bumiputeras, but since 2003 they have applied a 10% non-Bumiputera quota.

The quota balance, and occasional special allocations, epitomise Malaysia’s political bargain, where size of the ethnic slice preoccupies policy considerations, much more than the efficacy and equitability of the intervention. Pre-GE14, BN promised 700 places in matriculation colleges to Indian students. Post-GE14, PH announced an extra allocation of 1,000 spaces to Chinese students from B40 households (the bottom 40%, based on household income). The addition of socioeconomic criteria marks a progressive step, but simultaneously raises questions over its selective application to one ethnic group. Facilitating more entry of disadvantaged students into higher education should be high on the agenda of a government declaring priority in expanding need-based policies.

Understandably, the programme must remain accessible to Bumiputera students. PH is studiously aware that it has not won over the majority of the Malay electorate; analysis of GE14 results show the community’s vote roughly split 35-40% for BN, 25-30% for PH , 30-33% for PAS. PAS has also heightened the volume and fervour of its Malay “privileges” advocacy, alongside its Islamist raison d’etre. Education Minister Maszlee Malik reiterated that the additional 1,000 matriculation spaces for B40 Chinese would not reduce the spaces for Bumiputeras. So matriculation colleges will remain predominantly reserved for Bumiputeras, perhaps with continual allotments to particular groups.

However, allocating more quotas for other groups lowers the academic bar for more beneficiaries. It continues to set back Bumiputera capability development, due to the deficiencies of the matriculation programme. Studies have shown that matriculation graduates fare poorer than STPM (Malaysia’s A-levels equivalent) graduates upon entry to university. Education disparities are deeply rooted. Advantage and disadvantage overlap with various factors, including ethnicity and geography, and can start from the pre-school stage, setting students on diverging academic trajectories. While matriculation colleges cannot be expected to close the achievement gaps they can arguably play a more meaningful and effective role in narrowing them. To Malaysia’s ultimate detriment, the content and rigour of the matriculation programme are never brought to the table.

Interestingly, Maszlee has mooted the notion of a single pre-university system, which entails merging the STPM, matriculation, and a host of other university entry channels. It’s a worthwhile consideration, but it does not seem possible until the average ethnic achievement gaps are narrowed, which in turn looks improbable unless the matriculation colleges are revamped.

Basic reset

Racial quotas and reservations remain because their removal risks alienating the beneficiaries. Surveys consistently show a substantial majority of Malays favour the continuation of preferential policies.

Despite bi-partisan rhetoric since 2010, of shifting away from race-based affirmative action to need-based affirmative action, the vast bulk of Bumiputera preferential programmes have remained untouched, from matriculation and contracting quotas mentioned above, to microfinance, technical training, business loans, scholarships and asset ownership schemes. The vast programmes deliver benefits, and embed expectations of continued special treatment.

Mindful of these realities and sentiments, both PH and BN governments underscored their support for the Bumiputera agenda before and after GE14. PH typically highlights the worst abuses of the system, involving UMNO patronage and utilisation of state-disbursed opportunity for private gratification. Cleansing UMNO-linked rapacity from the system addresses one problem – undoubtedly, a big problem – but omits the much wider interventions that reach out to ordinary Bumiputeras. This mindset neglects to pay critical attention to the manifold, massive programmes that serve Bumiputera masses. The sedentary and muddled state of Bumiputera policy warrants a basic reset.

The Future of Bumiputeras and the Nation Congress of September 1,  2018, organised by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, necessarily affirmed the Bumiputera agenda while sharply critiquing abuses and shortfalls of the UMNO-administered system, and exhorting Malay business to change mindset. However, the event offered few specific propositions, and omitted distinctions between higher education, enterprise development, employment, and wealth ownership policies.

How should the PH government proceed? First, by anchoring Bumiputera policies on the fundamental objective of broadly developing capability and competitiveness, and the prime missions of equipping and empowering the community to graduate out of receiving special assistance, toward rolling back the existing system of ethnic preference. Second, by recognising that Bumiputera policies operate differently in the specific sectors where they are embedded – higher education, high-level occupations, enterprise development, wealth and property ownership – which demands sector-specific reforms.

Third, by systematically integrating ways to reinforce needs-based and merit-based selection into the policy regime. Two main applications arise: the policy regime should expand the scope for needs-based selection, where appropriate, to target the disadvantaged and to impose sunset clauses and limits on those who have benefited. In some but not all policy sectors, need-based schemes can feasibly replace race-based schemes. The regime should also expand the scope for merit-based selection to select Bumiputera beneficiaries with capability and potential to showcase success and achieve competitiveness – as pathway to rolling back preferences.

The government contracting and matriculation college cases are illustrative, but of course the principles can be applied more broadly.

One of the barriers to reform seems to be the fear of introducing changes that may reduce access enjoyed by erstwhile beneficiaries. On this note, there may well be a window of opportunity to reconfigure public procurement, with contractors also expressing discontent at being marginalised by UMNO-linked “cronies”. Additionally, there is a broad acceptance of the need for the system to foster competitiveness.

In this light, some possible reforms – for small to medium scale projects – include:

  • Incentives for partnerships and consortia to bid for larger contracts (e.g. set aside some G4 contracts for G2 and G3 to jointly pursue)
  • Points for moving up a tier (e.g. award points for a G1 contractor who moves up to G2, applicable for the first 2-3 years after that move)
  • Sunset clauses that limit the number of contracts or time periods one can receive preferential treatment (e.g. 3 contracts, or 6 years)
  • Measures to address the funding constraints that Bumiputera contractors repeatedly identify as their main hurdle to growth.

None of these measures will disrupt contract availability in the near term, but in combination, apply pressures and incentives to upscale and graduate out of preferential treatment. The emphasis must be on learning and acquiring capability. An additional point on “needs-based” policies should be emphasised. In public procurement, and enterprise development programmes in general, the proper application of the principle runs counter to the popular notion of helping the poor. When it comes to delivering on government contracts or building competitive firms, one cannot give priority to the poor, which may adversely allocate opportunities to less capable firms, or perversely incentivise firms to remain low-earning and static. Rather than qualify poorer firms to receive special treatment, the “need” principle can apply conversely – that is, to disqualify firms that have received special treatment after reaching certain limits or sunset clauses.

In the matriculation system, and for promoting Bumiputera participation in higher education more generally, whether through pre-university programmes, university admissions, or scholarships and financial aid, there is broader scope to reach out to the disadvantaged. It is justifiable for youths from disadvantaged backgrounds to be granted preference based on those circumstances – which are not of their choosing. This intervention, occurring at the pre-adult stage of life, also potentially facilitates inter-generational upward mobility, providing further basis for preferential treatment based on “need” or “class”.

Opponents of racism in Malaysia need to understand that proponents of racial politics do believe in race—and only by understanding the appeal of racial thinking can racism be defeated.

Along these lines, Malaysia can explore ways to phase in more preferential entry for disadvantaged students into matriculation colleges, and concomitantly roll back the 90% Bumiputera quota. However, the ultimate goal of building Bumiputera capacity and competitiveness still applies. Hence, academic rigour and quality of training, as well as talent, are vital. Matriculation programmes, in particular, should look into revamping the syllabus, and Bumiputera academic achievement broadly must be overseen such that the system produces graduates who are capable and confident.

Will current levels of caution and placation on Bumiputera policies persist into the future, or will the PH government seize the opportunity to reform the pro-Bumiputera policy regime? Will it remain fearful of being accused of sidelining Malays, or will it venture forth to make Malays more capable and competitive?

Early in the post-election season, we do expect PH to pluck the low-hanging fruit of cleaning up their predecessor’s mess. But the government should not tarry too long before devising long-term strategies beyond electoral overtures and concessions. Time will tell whether PH embraces or squanders the opportunities presented by Malaysia’s monumental GE-14.

References:

 

“Lim’s remarks spark protest”, The Star, 15 March 2008 (https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2008/03/15/lims-remarks-spark-protest/)

“Guan Eng prepared to face any action against him on NEP statement”, The Sun, 1 April 2008 (http://www.thesundaily.my/node/167260)

‘It was Umno, not Harapan, who oppressed Malays’ Malaysiakini, 18 July 2018 https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/434840

“Open tender system will not sideline Bumiputera contractors: Guan Eng”, The Sun, 4 June 2018 (http://www.thesundaily.my/news/2018/06/04/open-tender-system-will-not-sideline-bumiputera-contractors-guan-eng)

“Govt guarantees help for bumiputera contractors”, Bernama, 24 May 2018 (http://www.bernama.com/en/news.php?id=1466579)

“Prepare to compete, Daim tells Malay contractors”, The Malaysian Insight, 24 May 2018 (https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/50013)

“Bumiputera contractors told to prove their worth”, New Straits Times, 8 July 2018 (https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2018/07/388774/bumiputera-contractors-told-prove-their-worth)

“Open tender system for government projects – Baru”, Bernama, 7 July 2018 (http://www.bernama.com/en/general/news.php?id=1478212)

“Bumiputera Empowerment Agenda helped contractors be more competitive: PKMM”, New Straits Times, 26 September 2017 (https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2017/09/284220/bumiputera-empowerment-agenda-helped-contractors-be-more-competitive-pkmm)

Lee, Hwok-Aun (2017) “Malaysia’s Bumiputera preferential regime and transformation agenda: Modified programmes, unchanged system” Trends in Southeast Asia 2017 No. 22. Singapore: ISEAS (https://www.iseas.edu.sg/images/pdf/TRS22_17.pdf)

Lee, Hwok-Aun (2017) “Surveys reveal fault lines – and common ground – in Malaysia’s ethnic relations and policies” ISEAS Perspective 2017 No. 63. Singapore: ISEAS (https://www.iseas.edu.sg/images/pdf/ISEAS_Perspective_2017_63.pdf)

For Anwar Ibrahim : It’s Political Power First, Malaysia Baru Second


September 10, 2018

For Anwar Ibrahim : It’s Political Power First, Malaysia Baru  Second

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.malaysiakini.com

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COMMENT | At a time when integrity amongst politicians and civil servants is at an all-time low, why is PKR President-elect, Anwar Ibrahim unashamedly abusing his power?

Anwar recently announced that a parliamentary seat would be vacated to trigger a by-election in which he hoped to contest and be made an MP.

If Anwar is as credible as he portrays himself, he should reject this fast-track method of becoming an MP. Vacating a parliamentary seat reminds us of another of UMNO-Baru’s backdoor trick. Failed politicians who lost elections were sworn in as senators, then elevated to important positions in government.

Anwar admitted that two, possibly three seats, would be made available. He claimed that he did not know which constituencies were involved and told us to wait for the announcement.

First: He should reject the proposal and censure the people who cooked up this suggestion.

Second: If he is a man of integrity, he should put the electorate first. They voted for change. They voted for the man or woman in their constituency. They placed their trust in this person. They did not elect him, only for their votes to be manipulated.

Third: Agreeing to this by-election proposal only projects Anwar as a greedy, power-hungry, self-serving and impatient man. The electorate would feel that they have been cheated of their votes, if Anwar were to become an MP, via this backdoor route.

Fourth: The rakyat is tired of elections and by-elections. The low voter turnout at the last two by-elections reflects this. The process of canvassing, and getting ready for voting, is time-consuming and expensive. The parties need to focus on ridding the nation of corruption and its other ills. Why distract politicians from their duties? Why waste money unnecessarily?

Fifth: What if Anwar loses?

The opposition, pre-GE-14, could not shift the Malay electorate without Dr Mahathir Mohamad (photo) being part of Pakatan Harapan.

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We are aware of Mahathir’s past and we want him to fix the nation, as he was responsible for many things which affect us today. He knows what should be done and how to crush UMNO-Baru.

Anwar should allow Mahathir to deal with the mess created by UMNO-Baru and not have to deal with the potential mess which Anwar might create.

In the new reformed Malaysia (Malaysia Baru) the best Anwar can do is to assist the government from the sidelines. He should not undermine the reform, by going around paying homage to various people as he did, immediately after his release from Sungai Buloh. Nor should he make remarks, as he did in Ipoh, that GLCs should not be criticised.

Prison may have stopped Anwar from knowing what goes on in the outside world, but the GLCs are part of our problem. The CEOs of GLCs, their mismanagement, and their inflated salaries and perks, have been detrimental to the efficient running of our GLCs.

Soon after his release, Anwar’s behaviour was reminiscent of another infamous spouse, the former First Lady of Malaysia (FLOM), Rosmah Mansor, who upstaged her husband, the former disgraced PM, Najib Abdul Razak.

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“Why can’t some Malaysian spouses of key politicians, be less visible? One couldn’t accuse Margaret Thatcher’s husband of projecting himself.”–Mariam Mokhtar

 

Why can’t some Malaysian spouses of key politicians, be less visible? One couldn’t accuse Margaret Thatcher’s husband of projecting himself.

The rakyat is also not amused by Anwar’s name dropping (just listen to his speeches). Many moderate Muslims wonder if he will resume the Islamisation of the nation if he becomes PM.

In the early 1980s, Mahathir enlisted Anwar’s help to project a more Muslim image for UMNO, to counter the rise in the popularity of PAS, which was energised by the Iranian revolution and the global rise of Islam.

Anwar introduced the tudung to our educational institutions and today, the emphasis on rituals in Islam, has overshadowed many of the good aspects of Islam.

A few days ago, Anwar warned PKR leaders and members not to abuse their power. Wouldn’t he be abusing his power, if a seat were to be vacated especially for him?

If we worked hard to achieve a particular position in a company, why should we give way to someone else, just because he feels he deserves the post? The sense of entitlement and lust for self-aggrandisement are two of the negative traits that are destroying the work ethic and social structure of the Malays.

UMNO Baru’s tactic of using race, religion, the royals and the rural people, was a trick which they used to maximum effect to divide the people. Anwar’s party is divided, between the Azmin Ali and Rafizi Ramli camps.

Anwar was once a staunch UMNO-Baru man. Is he using this tactic of divide and rule, to strengthen his grip on power?

To regain the rakyat’s trust, Anwar could unite his party and force these two camps to see eye-to-eye. The nation is angry with the distractions they create. Moreover, they undermine Harapan.

The people have tasted change and found it easy to vote for an alternative government. The rakyat, which is fed-up with an impatient Anwar, may vote Harapan out of office in GE15.


MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO). Blog, Twitter.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

The Long and Winding Uncertain Journey for Pakatan Harapan (Hope Coalition)


August 20, 2018

The Long and Winding Uncertain Journey for Pakatan Harapan (Hope Coalition)

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

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The new government’s 100 days is now up. What was put out as 10 key reforms by Pakatan in a manifesto aimed at enticing voters is dominating the headlines. However these are still very early days to assess the progress made with the promises of

● easing the burden of the public

● reforming the nation’s administrative institutions and politics

● reshaping the nation’s economy in a fair and just manner

● reinstating the rights and status in Sabah and Sarawak

● building an inclusive and moderate Malaysia in the international arena.

By way of contrast it is useful to recall that Barisan Nasional with its theme of “With BN for a Greater Malaysia” had a 220 page manifesto with 364 pledges covering almost every single community and group – Felda settlers, women, youth, orang asli, the people of Sabah and Sarawak, the bottom 40% households, Chinese community and other non-Muslims. Possibly the only group that was not covered was that of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) currently in the public limelight and under fire.

The Challenge That Pakatan Faces

In evaluating the performance of the present government, it needs to be remembered too that Pakatan’s victory was against the odds. Most analysts – as well as Pakatan’s leaders – saw little hope of ending the continuation of Barisan rule in GE-14.

Since the first election in 1955, the Alliance and its BN successor have gradually tightened their power through a combination of constitutional and extra-constitutional measures, the deployment of an enormous patronage machine and the cooptation of the nation’s civil service in suppressing whatever opposition exists in the country. The ruling coalition has also effectively exploited racial and religious faultlines to maintain its hold on the Malay majority voting population.

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They are back as a tag team. Will they do it again with the politics of Race and Religion in the name of Ketuanan Melayu?

Lest we under-estimate the magnitude of the reform challenge, let it not be forgotten that most of the present crop of Pakatan’s current leadership have been among the active supporters of the indoctrination movement in its diverse manifestations. They have been responsible for the Malay psyche, which needs transformation if the new Malaysia is not to remain a mirage.–Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Not only was there little hope of an election upset but there was also a big question mark as to whether there could be a peaceful transition of government and power. Now that we have had both extraordinary outcomes – to paraphrase what Dr. Mahathir, the Prime Minister, recently described in Japan as the nation’s unique and lucky peaceful transition of power – we need to be realistic about the challenge that Pakatan faces.

This is because the missteps, wrong doings, abuses and transgressions engaged in by the BN government – some going back to the time of Dr. Mahathir’s first stint as Prime Minister – are so rampant and the ensuing damage to the country’s socio-economy and governance structures and race and religious relations so egregious that it will require more than a few years – perhaps a decade – of sweeping and far-reaching policy changes and reform to undo them.

High level corruption and economic excesses and crimes are currently a major preoccupation of the new government. However, it is perhaps among the easiest of the improprieties and legacy of the BN regime that the Pakatan government has to deal with and correct.

More resistant to remedying are the policies, programmes and mindsets which the country’s state apparatus and most institutions of government (educational, media, professional and socio-cultural organisations, religious bodies, etc.) have propagated to a largely captive audience.

As explained in a recent article by Fathol Zaman Bukhari, editor of Ipoh Echo

“The Malay psyche is not something difficult to fathom. It is the result of years of indoctrination (brainwashing) by a political party that is long on hopes but short on ideas. Fear mongering is UMNO’s forte because the party believes that Malays are under threat. That their religion and their sultans are being assailed and belittled by imaginary goblins and make-believe enemies …. Anyone other than a Malay and a Muslim is considered unworthy to assume any sensitive appointments, which are only reserved for Malays. But on hindsight it is the Malays who have let the nation and their own kind down. Najib Razak, Rosmah Mansor, Apandi Ali, Rahman Dahlan, Tajuddin Rahman, Khalid Abu Bakar, Jamal (Jamban) and all the obscenely-paid heads of government-linked companies are Malays. But this is of no consequence to a race that makes up over 60 percent of the nation’s population. They continue to feel threatened.”

It is this less easily definable, less financially quantifiable, but more ubiquitous, and ultimately more destructive and ruinous feature of nation-building directed and manipulated by the previous leadership for the last 60 years, that needs to be contended with and purged of its toxic ethno-religious content if the new Malaysia is to have any chance of succeeding.

Lest we under-estimate the magnitude of the reform challenge, let it not be forgotten that most of the present crop of Pakatan’s current leadership have been among the active supporters of the indoctrination movement in its diverse manifestations. They have been responsible for the Malay psyche, which needs transformation if the new Malaysia is not to remain a mirage.

 

Wake Up Malaysian Civil Servants: Duty Beckons


August 16, 2018

Wake Up Malaysian Civil Servants: Duty Beckons

by Dr Amar-Singh HSS

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for Dr Mahathir and the Malaysian Civil Service

These Civil Servants pledge to feather their own nest

We need to get rid of the culture of censuring those in the civil service who speak up when they see wrong being done.

I found the courage to write this after the recent strong words from Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to the civil service. He encouraged those in the civil service not to blindly follow instructions, and to speak up if there are wrongdoings, saying he will support those who have been “tortured”.

There has been a long-standing culture of victimisation in the civil service. Many of us join the civil service to serve the public. Some of us have better financial prospects elsewhere but choose the civil service because it offers us an unparalleled opportunity to serve the people of our nation.

Image result for Dr Mahathir and the Malaysian Civil Service

Top Goons of the Malaysian Civil Service with the Prime Minister of Malaysia

Unfortunately, as Mahathir points out, the civil service is now populated with those who are self-serving, to put it mildly. Over the years, I have seen people take advantage of their position to enrich themselves or abuse their power, so much so that the prevalent culture becomes “keep your head down and follow instructions”, even if things are wrong.

Those of us who attempt to speak up when we see wrong, or make the necessary corrections in the system, are often censured, at times with measures detrimental to our career. We are constantly reminded that we belong to “the government service”.

Allow me to share an example from my own life. I recently retired after being in the civil service for more than 35 years. In April last year, I received a show-cause letter saying I had brought shame or detriment (memalukan dan memburukkan) to my ministry and the civil service. I was also informed verbally that action was being considered at the highest echelons of the organisation to sack me without pension.

You may ask what I did to bring such wrath upon myself. What prompted this response was a tweet I had made, stating that we are “civil servants, not government servants”. I went on to say that it is “the taxes of the people that pay our wages”.

You may say that what I tweeted was factual and “mild”, but remember that this was in April 2017, before the election, when fear was prevalent and many were being censured. My tweet was forwarded by “cybertroopers” to the highest level of the organisation, and I was issued a show-cause letter.

It was a traumatic learning experience for me. I found that despite many years of work and bringing change/pride to health services (I received a number of international awards), no one was prepared to openly stand up for me. I tried meeting the senior civil service management, but was unsuccessful.

In the end, the previous health minister Dr S Subramaniam was kind enough to act on my behalf when I approached him. Even then, I still received a warning letter saying I had been found to have brought shame/detriment to the organisation, and was warned about future action.

Why do I bring this up? If the civil service is to have any hope, we need to get rid of the petty victimisation of staff and offer safe opportunities for them to speak up when they see wrong being done. The Regulations for Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) [Peraturan-Peraturan Pegawai Awam (Kelakuan dan Tatatertib) 1993] have an overreaching “Peraturan 19 (1)” about civil servants speaking up. It was put in place to protect government policy, but is also used to silence those who speak up. It can be and is used arbitrarily, as was the case with me.

I hope the institutional reforms committee can look at this section and consider with the government an amendment to focus on government policy, not on personal statements. If there is no safe platform to express the wrongs that are conducted in the civil service, a mechanism outside the system, then many will not dare to support the necessary change for reform in our civil service. Even now as I speak up about the way I was treated (and it is frightening when you go through it), I have some fear that action can be taken against me after retirement.

If you wonder why sometimes there is low morale in the civil service, remember how I was treated for making a simple, true statement. Remember the lack of support within the system for staff who speak up.

It is time to bring back a civil service that we can be proud of. This requires a radical change in how we appoint leaders in the service and how much we encourage constructive dissent (voiced disagreement and discussion on policies and decisions). There is a lot of dead wood and many self-serving individuals that need to be removed, but there are still many who want to serve our beloved nation.

I hope the civil service can be found committed to ensuring the best services for our public and nation and not that of individuals.

Dr Amar-Singh HSS is a senior consultant paediatrician.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

Ultra-liberals and the futility of discourse


August 14, 2018

Ultra-liberals and the futility of discourse

by S Thayaparan

Young, smart, ambitious, impatient and brash Rafizi Ramli

The political nature of man made it highly unlikely that a society designed to meet regularly would remain peaceable. “The way to make friends quarrel is to pit them in disputation under the public eye,” Jefferson said.

― Jon Meacham, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

COMMENT | Truth be told, I like Rafizi Ramli. Sure, we have had a very public spat but the reality is that for whatever reasons, he often kicks the Pakatan Harapan regime in the nut sack and more often than not, gets pilloried for it on social media.

The internal politics of PKR, I have very little interest in. No matter who runs the good ship, PKR politicians in Harapan will not stray too far from mainstream Malay politics even though they, like the DAP, claim to be a multi-racial party.

Malay establishment politicians have to pay attention to certain agendas and non-Malay establishment politicians have to enable such dictates. It does not have to be this way but it is easier to retain power this way.

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Dato Seri Azmin Ali, as Economics Minister, is a key Cabinet Minister and ally of Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

Recently, Rafizi labelled those hounding Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail on the whole child marriage fiasco as ultra liberals who “focus on the one issue”. Not nice, Rafizi.

Dismissing these critics, while saying these ultra liberals are not responsible for the poor (while the DPM was) is a strange way of deflecting from the criticisms of the cautious response of the DPM on this issue.

Firstly, child marriage, as in marriages between children and adults, is normalising sex with children.

Furthermore, it is normally the “poor” children who are exploited in this manner. Also, this idea that ultra liberals are single-issue advocates is rather bizarre, because it’s like saying that rights groups who advocate on a specific subject do not care about anything else – the poor – because they advocate for specific issues.

Last year when UMNO was in power, my Malay-speaking activist friends were always worried that the state labelled them as deviant and that meant they were liberal. As one young activist said (in Malay no less), how could he be liberal when he can’t even speak English that well.

Even now I do not want to go into the whole definition on the debate about what a liberal is even more so an ultra-liberal, which I suppose is akin to an ultra Malay or Islamist or howsoever else Malaysians define such things.

Image result for Dr Wan Azizah wears a tudung

Where is  Deputy President Azmin Ali?

It gets really messy when Rafizi claims that some activists are biased against Wan Azizah because she wears a tudung, more “Malay” looking in her outlook and appearance and behaves like a moderate. Really?

Some would argue that Wan Azizah is an idealised version of a Malay woman. A fair skinned, tudung wearing, religious and socially compliant political operative. I mean we are talking about a community which is a melting pot of various people foreign and domestic, right?

Why even say horse manure like that? And what does having a Malay outlook mean and does having this Malay outlook, trump whatever agreed upon principles that the opposition says it has? How does one define the middle ground this way?

But wait. Rafizi already staked out the middle moderate ground.  “And the moderate centre behaves like Wan Azizah. The moderate centre does not behave like very vocal social activists who want outright political condemnation,” he said.

Wait, so all those years when tudung wearing Malays were outright in their condemnation of UMNO policies and rhetoric, they were not the “moderate centre”? All those social activists many of whom were tudung clad did not represent the centre of Malay politics, which is what the opposition (Harapan) was saying was the true face of this country?

What about those who do not wear tudung? Are they somehow less “moderate” in their views? Does the content of the criticisms change depending on whether one wears a tudung or believes in a specific religion?

Muddying up waters

But what is the moderate centre in PKR? By labeling activists who are vocal in their criticisms about a political operative who is also the women and family development minister, as ultra-liberal, then what is the moderate liberal’s position? Less vocal?

It is like PAS saying that anyone who disagrees with their interpretation of Islam is liberal but an ultra liberal is someone who actually voices out such disagreements. Where does someone like Zaid Ibrahim fall when it comes to the liberal and ultra-liberal label?

Which brings us to the futility of the discourse and the big tent approach of PKR. Let us be honest here.

In most cases, the discourse is between the Malay component – liberal or orthodox – and the non-Malay component of PKR.

Rafizi’s example of Malay groups who are not happy with the UEC recognition and bringing those who are and those who do not together sounds like a swell idea.

But really, when it comes to Malay rights, can there ever be a dialogue? Why do Malay rights groups oppose the UEC? The basis of their dissent is based on racial and religious supremacy, right?

So it’s how you have to allay their fears, right? But this is the problem right here. Non-Malays as citizens of this country should not have to allay the fears of their countrymen. How exactly does the UEC, for example, threaten the culture of the Malay community?

How exactly is talking about this with people who base their objection to specific issue along racial or religious lines going to get us to that place, where we are all treated equally before the law?

How erectly does the discourse work with people like this? I mean really, saying non-Muslims can use the word, Allah – as long as it was not misused – is something to be proud of? If I ask an orthodox Malay who believes in Malay supremacy how do the non-Malays misuse the word Allah, he or she would say that by uttering the word, they would be misusing it.

For whatever reason, Rafizi is the only political operative who pisses in the Harapan kool-aid occasionally. I will take occasionally over the prostrating of most political operatives at the altar of the great old one.

But for Allah’s sake, be mindful of how you respond to criticism. If your critics are wrong just say they are wrong and but don’t engage in identity politics.

The discourse is hard enough already without folks who should know better than muddying up the waters even more.


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

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.