Malay anxiety, exclusion, and national unity

September 21,2018

Malay anxiety, exclusion, and national unity

A fragmented Malay society is making ‘Malay unity’ more urgent for those defeated by GE-14.

Image result for Rais Yatim


New regimes, old policies and a bumiputera reboot

September 20, 2018

New regimes, old policies and a bumiputera reboot

by Dr. Hwok-Aun Lee

Image result for Hwok Aun-Lee

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.

Image result for pakatan harapan government

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.



“Lim’s remarks spark protest”, The Star, 15 March 2008 (

“Guan Eng prepared to face any action against him on NEP statement”, The Sun, 1 April 2008 (

‘It was Umno, not Harapan, who oppressed Malays’ Malaysiakini, 18 July 2018

“Open tender system will not sideline Bumiputera contractors: Guan Eng”, The Sun, 4 June 2018 (

“Govt guarantees help for bumiputera contractors”, Bernama, 24 May 2018 (

“Prepare to compete, Daim tells Malay contractors”, The Malaysian Insight, 24 May 2018 (

“Bumiputera contractors told to prove their worth”, New Straits Times, 8 July 2018 (

“Open tender system for government projects – Baru”, Bernama, 7 July 2018 (

“Bumiputera Empowerment Agenda helped contractors be more competitive: PKMM”, New Straits Times, 26 September 2017 (

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 (

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 (

A New Malaysia? #3: reform roadblocks with Bridget Welsh & Shamsul AB

August 19, 2018

A New Malaysia? #3: reform roadblocks with Bridget Welsh & Shamsul AB


In this podcast, New Mandala’s editor Liam Gammon talks to Associate Professor Bridget Welsh about how the institutions Pakatan Harapan inherits from BN complicate reform efforts, and ANU’s Dr Ross Tapsell talks to Prof Shamsul AB about the social and ideological constants that GE14 didn’t change.

This podcast was produced with the support of the Malaysia Institute and the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

2018 Cambodian Elections

July 31, 2018

2018 Cambodian Elections

Image result for Hun Sen wins 2018 Cambodian Elections


Breaking News – Cambodian PM Hun Sen Wins 2018 Election to become World’s Longest Leader. CPP wins resoundingly. Op Op Sato. The Cambodian People have spoken. Time to move and surge forward in peace, stability and development. –Din Merican

Khmer Times reports:

The voter turnout at Cambodia’s sixth national election was 82.17% percent of the total of 8,380,217, registered voters or 6,885,729 according to figures announced by the National Election Committee when polls nationwide closed at 3pm.

According to election observers there have been no reports of voter intimidation or violence.

“It has been a peaceful environment and people have expressed their will freely. No violence has been reported,” said a local observer, who did not want to be named. It shows the Cambodian people have chosen continuity and certainty,” he added.

Another observer from Turkey, who asked not to be identified said that he was pleasantly surprised by the high level of competence shown by the NEC officials and the relaxed mood of the voters.

Yet another from Indonesia echoed his Turkish counterpart’s comments and added that the observers had issued an official statement which very much declared what they saw.

“We did not see any need to deviate from the facts as we saw them as even random non organized checks showed the same orderly fashion. Only setback was the lack of observers from some smaller parties in some stations.”

Observations on the 2018 Cambodian Election

By Katrin Travouillon (with Chanroeun Pa) – 27 Jul, 2018

Cambodia will vote on Sunday July 29. Today, the 20 competing parties can make their final appeals to the voters. It is the endpoint of a campaign that many have dramatically dismissed as a death knell for Cambodian democracy. Both publicly—through articles and social media posts—and in private conversations, people often draw on their observations and memories of Cambodia’s past elections to weigh in on the state of politics and to consider what options remain.

First, some background. National elections are held every five years. In 2013, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), headed by Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, came close to defeating Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). The results shocked the ruling party, which has effectively been in charge of the country’s affairs for almost four decades.

After the commune elections in 2017 demonstrated that popular discontent with Cambodia’s longstanding leadership had not ceased, the government began a series of drastic measures. Sokha was accused of plotting a “colour revolution” with the help of the US and jailed on treason charges, for which he could face 14 years imprisonment. Rainsy left the country under threat of defamation charges. In November 2017, the Supreme Court dissolved the opposition party and barred its members from political activities for five years before redistributing their seats. The bulk of them went back to the ruling party, a handful were scattered among other “opposition” parties.

So on Sunday, 19 parties will contest the CPP’s powerful grip. But without a major opposition party, this year’s election looks markedly different than previous ones.

The 2013 elections provide the most common backdrop to structure people’s observations of this year’s campaigns: compared to the bustling excitement and the loud and cheerful confidence displayed by CNRP voters all over the country, the opposition parties’ campaigns this year are mostly remarkable for what they are not. Even the capital Phnom Penh, otherwise the hub of campaign activities, is mostly silent and few things indicate that challengers to the CPP remain.

Yet for someone who has spent years combing through archives that document the work of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) it is the country’s first elections that still shape observations, at times producing an almost eerie sense of déjà vu:

what exactly is the role and agenda of the small parties? Will the government track voters’ choices in the ballot boxes? What will the total numbers of votes cast reveal about the future of Cambodia’s democracy?

These questions, now on the forefront of many voters’ minds, were just as intensely debated 25 years ago. At the end of its mission to implement the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements, UNTAC organised the country’s first democratic elections in 1993. The highly anticipated event was globally celebrated (some might say overly glorified) as the “birth of democracy” in Cambodia.

In 1993 as well as in 2018 a total of 20 parties registered to compete in the elections. However, then, as now, the concept of a “political competition of ideas” was mostly elusive in an environment marked by fear and insecurity.

In 1993 it was the memories of the war that loomed large. During their televised campaign speeches Cambodian politicians alluded repeatedly to “mountains of bones, rivers of blood and an ocean of suffering” and appealed to their fellow politicians to prioritise national reconciliation. The theme was also evident in the parties’ names—Khmer Neutral Party or Liberal Reconciliation Party—and party symbols that used images like shaking hands or the peace dove.

Amidst the ongoing political violence in the country, the candidates chose their campaign locations and words carefully. “We live with the tiger and therefore must act in such a way as to avoid being eaten”, explained a candidate to an UNTAC official. Another observer noted in his report: “… the Bulletin of the Democratic Party is printed in a no-fuss black and white typescript. The Bulletin’s lackluster presentation style is carried over in content. This is no doubt a deliberate tactic to avoid direct criticism and the possibility of harassment.”

In 2018 similar tendencies can be observed. Many of the CPP’s competitors embrace the least objectionable of all causes in their campaigns and vaguely profess to “protect forests” or “end poverty” once in power. In his office, one party leader handed me a small program, the size of half a postcard, and gestured towards the breast pocket of his shirt: Easy to put it in here, he said. Easy to hide. And of course, small programs are also cheaper: most of the parties are notoriously under-financed and have only limited funding to spend on the campaigns. They focus their attention on going door to door in the provinces, talking to prospective voters and distributing their leaflets.

In the space of the city of Phnom Penh this translates into an overwhelming presence for the CPP. Huge, well-lit billboards have been erected at major intersections of the city. They line many of the large boulevards, streets and bridges. The party’s programs, slogans, and symbols have been glued to building walls at regular intervals. The portraits of the party’s leaders, Hun Sen and National Assembly President Heng Samrin, shoulder by shoulder, are omnipresent. There are tents, where party supporters alternately play campaign speeches and music. Expensive cars adorned with the CPP symbol can be spotted all over town. Shops sell CPP hats, shirts, phone cases and other merchandise. Rallies involve thousands of identically dressed supporters in cars, open trucks, and motorbikes and are flawlessly choreographed events: police are positioned on every corner, their ears pressed to their walky-talkies, waiting for their signal to stop the traffic and wave the motorcades through.

Amidst all of this, the campaigns of the other parties are difficult to find. None have a single billboard; their signs are small, mostly at the outskirts of the city, by the side of dusty roads. Some have taken to parking tuk-tuks decorated with flags and equipped with loudspeakers that blast recorded campaign speeches by their leaders towards the passers-by. Their processions have dramatically fewer supporters and the authorities are less likely to support their way through the city’s dense traffic, often leading to the campaign processions being cut into smaller and smaller groups of supporters.

In 1993, cognisant of the CPP’s relative wealth and reach even at that time, UNTAC tried to level the playing field by creating a radio station and then distributing radios in the provinces. One might assume that with the advent of social media and the intense popularity of Facebook in Cambodia the smaller parties could make up for much of the financial, material, and organisational limitations of their campaigns by reaching out to their supporters online. Yet, the government’s announcement to monitor social media ahead of the elections has spooked many and it is almost as quiet and monotonous on the web as it is in the streets of Phnom Penh.

Despite these restrictions and regardless of the media used, rumours travel fast in every era. To express their concerns and ask for advice in the run-up to the 1993 elections listeners from around the country wrote to the UNTAC radio station, which sometimes received several hundred letters a day. During a special program, selected letters would be read and answered on air. People had heard of magic pens or spy drones, and contacted UNTAC for advice.

Similar stories circulate today. Smartphones and their integrated cameras make it unnecessary to imagine more elaborate methods of surveillance inside the ballot box, but the dominant themes of those rumours remain the same: people worry about the government’s ability to compromise the secrecy of the vote.

Which brings us to one last point: the current preoccupation with the total number of votes cast. During a televised statement in 1993, In Tam, the leader of the Democratic Party, urged his fellow people to go and vote to guarantee that Cambodia would no longer be isolated:

“Please participate in the elections; so that there are 90 percent or even more, so that they can see that we want to be a country that obeys the law and lives under the rule of law… Today they regard us as people living under the rule of the jungle, today there is nobody who recognises us; so if we do not all go to the elections, if we can’t be bothered to vote, then we will continue being a country that is excluded from the global community, so mobilise everything there is.”

And indeed, 90% did turn out, providing observers with the key element of their success story—despite the fact that both before and after the ballot it was business as usual and power-play and bargaining, not the will of the people, determined the end result.

Image result for mou sochua

Today, Sam Rainsy and his supporters urge the Cambodian people to stay at home to demonstrate that democracy can survive. Those who must go, they say, should spoil their ballots. They have dismissed all other parties as puppets or traitors and will claim every vote not cast for any party.

It is likely because of the tendency of the former CNRP members to bring up the Paris Peace Agreements, in their appeals from abroad, that people continue to regularly bring up UNTAC themselves: “they [UNTAC] installed the two prime ministers and then just left”, a shop owner said yesterday. A few days earlier she had also noted that “nobody will come to help because they already spent so much money then”.

Many commentators have loudly declared these elections “a farce”, “already over”, and “history” weeks before the polls have opened. And while it is true that Hun Sen is not going to disappear from the world stage by means of this vote, such statements are dismissive of those who are still grappling with the question of what the right decision under these difficult circumstances is.

To those people, who had neither the luxury to learn about the country’s history in libraries or archives, nor the convenience to observe and comment from the sidelines, it is the memory of another election that looms large: that of 1998 and the clashes leading up to it that turned Phnom Penh once again into a war zone.

Ahead of Sunday’s vote, Hun Sen’s government has conducted riot training and provided new equipment to officers around the country. Two days before the vote people are wondering: is the current suspense the proverbial silence before storm, or is it the silence before the silence? And what is worse? “We have stocked up on dry noodles, just in case”, a market vendor said.

Looking back, it becomes painfully obvious that not only are Cambodia’s elections flawed, they are also a flawed vehicle to trace political change in Cambodia. To those still committed to peaceful change, the simplistic tales of “birth” and “death” of democracy are meaningless. Cambodians will, as one party official said, just continue to use and engage whatever space remains. “It is important for us as Khmer, the leaders and the citizens, we must try ourselves, trust in ourselves and hope. We cannot give up. If we give up, if we think it is impossible, if we only think of losing, who is going to help us?”

A New Malaysia? #2: Media with Boo Su-Lyn & Zurairi AR


A New Malaysia? #2: Media with Boo Su-Lyn & Zurairi AR



In this podcast, Dr Ross Tapsell, Director of the ANU Malaysia Institute, speaks with Boo Su-Lyn and Zurairi Abdul Rahman about what has and hasn’t changed about the way the media reports politics and policy after Malaysia’s 14th general election.

This podcast was produced with the support of the Malaysia Institute and the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

About the guests

Boo Su-Lyn (Twitter: @boosulyn) is an assistant news editor and columnist at The Malay Mail. She is a co-founder of BEBAS, a movement that promotes equality, secularism and an end to racial and religious discrimination.

Zurairi Abdul Rahman (Twitter: @zurairi) is an assistant news editor and columnist at The Malay Mail. He previously wrote and researched at The Malaysian Insider. He was a co-founder of Unscientific Malaysia (2008–2011), a local online community which promotes science and scepticism.


A New Malaysia? #1: Meredith Weiss & Ambiga Sreenevasan

July 20, 2018

A New Malaysia? #1: Meredith Weiss & Ambiga Sreenevasan


In this podcast, New Mandala’s editor Liam Gammon talks to Prof Meredith Weiss about whether Malaysia is witnessing “democratisation through elections”, and Dr Ross Tapsell, Director of the ANU Malaysia Institute, speaks with Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan about how civil society can hold the new government to its promises of reform.

This podcast was produced with the support of the Malaysia Institute and the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

About the guests

Meredith L. Weiss is Professor of Political Science at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, University at Albany, State University of New York. Her research addresses political mobilisation and contention, the politics of development, forms of collective identity, and electoral politics, primarily in Southeast Asia. She is the author of Student Activism in Malaysia: Crucible, Mirror, Sideshow (Cornell SEAP/NUS Press, 2011) and Protest and Possibilities: Civil Society and Coalitions for Political Change in Malaysia (Stanford, 2006).

Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan is a practising lawyer and President of the National Human Rights Society (HAKAM). She is a former Co-Chairperson of the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH). From 2007–2009 she was President of the Malaysian Bar and continues to be an active member of the Malaysian Bar. She has received the U.S. Secretary of State Award for International Women of Courage, and the Chevalier de Legion d’Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour) by the French Government. After the victory of the Pakatan Harapan coalition in Malaysia’s May 2018 general election, she was appointed to the Committee on Institutional Reforms, an expert body established to develop recommendations for the new government on matters of institutional and legal reform.