Malaysia’s Mahathir sidelines Coalition Partners


February 21,2019

Malaysia’s Mahathir sidelines  Coalition Partners

Image result for dr.mahathir mohamad

There is growing uneasiness in Malaysia that the ethnic chauvinism of the United Malays National Organization under Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad during his first 22 years in power is rising to overpower the platform of multiracialism and ending political corruption that defeated the country’s founding coalition last May 9.

Thus fears are growing that letting Mahathir lead the Pakatan Harapan coalition means the founding parties – Anwar’s PKR, the DAP and Amanah – are likely to soon find the entire camel in the tent with them despite their Reformasi platform.

Mahathir has come to dominate the coalition with ideas that drove the Barisan Nasional, the ruling national coalition, and UMNO, its main component, during his reign from 1981 to 2003. He has pushed through yet another national car plan even though his previous one, the ill-fated Proton, lost billions of dollars. He is squabbling with Singapore and backing the concept of Ketuanan Melayu over the objections of coalition partners, the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s own Parti Keadilan Rakyat, who favor a multi-ethnic government.

He has accepted eight former members of parliament who have crossed from the corruption-ridden and imploding UMNO into his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, with more possibly to come from the  East Malaysia state of Sabah.

“There’s a lot of resentment over the acceptance of these eight UMNO bozos and they are possibly going to accept several more in coming weeks,” said an annoyed Kuala Lumpur-based political analyst. “The coalition partners have expressed unhappiness, the same way the minor parties expressed unhappiness during the Barisan days – muted and sheepishly. None have the balls to vigorously stand up on principle against Mahathir.”

Mahathir, by far the country’s most popular political figure at age 93, is having none of it. He said earlier this week that he wouldn’t hesitate to abandon his coalition partners “if they are not loyal to the country.”

When the country’s 14th general election was held last year, Mahathir’s Parti Bersatu emerged with just 13 seats, compared with 47 for Anwar’s PKR and 42 for the DAP, with a handful of lesser parties making up the rest. With the defections from UMNO, Mahathir’s party has nearly doubled its seats in parliament to 22.

Image result for a. kadir jasin

Last October, Kadir Jasin, a former newspaper editor and longtime Mahathir ally, said as many as 40 former UMNO members might cross over to Parti Bersatu. That set alarm bells ringing, with the other coalition members, particularly Lim Kit Siang of the Democratic Action Party, raising a furor and putting a temporary stop to it. If indeed Parti Bersatu were to take in 40 additional members, that would make it by far the strongest party in the coalition.

Despite some concerns over nonagenarian forgetfulness, the Prime Minister appears to be as headstrong in his new incarnation – despite swearing fealty to democratic principles during the campaign to oust former Prime Minister Najib Razak – as he was during his reign as premier from 1981 to 2003.

Bloodletting in the new ruling coalition appears to have claimed several scalps including Nurul Izzah, Anwar’s daughter, who quit as vice president of PKR in December along with giving up her chairmanship of Keadilan Penang, reportedly in disgust over the political situation. Rafizi Ramli, the party secretary general, also appears to have been sidelined, with former Selangor Chief Minister Azmin Ali – a favorite who was appointed economics minister by Mahathir — now playing a leading role in Anwar’s own party.

Whether Anwar can emerge from the two-year sabbatical he promised is also unclear. He is not trusted by many including some in PKR, and thus the squabble for party primacy between Azmin and Rafizi.

Mahathir has never made a secret of his insistence of ethnic Malay primacy that characterized UMNO during his first 22 years in power. Since the election, he has repeatedly defended the concept of Malay rights, saying at a party assembly in December that “Malays feel that they must be protected and they feel this could only be done by their own race through politics. That is why a party comprising Malays and led by them needs to be formed.”

But the last time Mahathir tried that, he ended up with school systems and universities that simply passed Malays through without educating them, with a civil service that was choked with unneeded employees, with companies that carried dead weight on their payrolls.

It was Mahathir who sought to create a cadre of 100 super-rich bumis who in turn would help rural Malays into prosperity, much the way he envisioned driving the country into industrialization through massive projects. But once the privileged got rich, there was little incentive to share it with the kampungs, the Malay rural villages. Many of the state-backed companies eventually collapsed and for decades had to be supported by government institutions.

Anwar has been careful to say that Mahathir has changed his stripes. But Parti Bersatu bills itself as an “older and better version of UMNO” with no need to accept non-Malays. That appears to be a recipe for disaster.  It was UMNO in the fading days of the Barisan’s reign that kept the now-disgraced Najib Razak in power through massive bribes to party members.

Pakatan Harapan has made some progress towards multiracial government, with a highly respected ethnic Indian – Tommy Thomas – as attorney general, and Lim Guan Eng, the effective Chinese chief minister of Penang, as finance minister. It appears to be making steps towards cleaning up the judiciary, and it has arrested Najib and his grasping wife as well as others. But the coalition hasn’t helped its reformasi reputation with the discovery by opponents that at least five officials appear to have faked their university degrees.

But there is little doubt that there is an elemental inconsistency between Mahathir’s view of governance and that of the other component parties, and that Mahathir, through the sheer force of his will, is winning.

Nine months ago, country was euphoric and jubilant,” a disillusioned source said. “Today people refer to the new PH Government as ‘the bloody government.’  No more of this ‘New Malaysia’ stuff. You bring that up, people whack the shit out of you. Because there is no New Malaysia. There is only one Malaysia – the Malaysia that we have all allowed to exist, the old Malaysia, where corruption, cronyism, abuse of power is all justifiable in the name of national unity.”

What Nurul Izzah’s resignation says about the New Malaysia


December 18, 2018

What Nurul Izzah’s resignation says about the New Malaysia

by  TK Chua

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2018/12/18/what-nurul-izzahs-resignation-says-about-the-new-malaysia/

She is a political prima donna with a chip on her shoulders

A novice like me has finally come to terms with Malaysian politics: it is a system based on elitism, and has nothing much to do with altruism or egalitarianism.

 

Image result for pakatan harapan government

“Malaysian politics is a system based on elitism, and has nothing much to do with altruism or egalitarianism”–TK Chua.

It is about politicians trying their best to get into power and then dissect among themselves how to share the spoils. The welfare of the people and the interest of the nation are at most secondary, if not incidental.

They talk and behave very differently before attaining power. They also talk and behave very differently after losing power. But when in power, the intoxication of it overrides everything.

I don’t know the real reason Nurul Izzah Anwar resigned from her party positions. I don’t know for sure why she decided to opt out of federal government duties. But whatever the reason, I think it is a wake-up call.

It is a reminder that Pakatan Harapan, not just PKR politicians, have lost their ideals and zeal for reform. She must be peeved by the same old politics of baloney now seeping into the centrum of PH. Everyone is staying quiet like the three wise monkeys – see, hear and speak no evil of the baloney that happens in our midst every day. I suggest we stop condemning UMNO-Barisan Nasional (BN) politicians for doing the same in the past.

I apologise if I wrongly diagnose Nurul Izzah’s reasons for resigning. After all, I am just an ordinary citizen trying to make sense of the events unfolding each day.

Do you know what the favourite term of PH ministers and politicians is now? It is “next quarter”, “next year”, “next five years” and “in 10, 20 years”. From foreign workers, toll renegotiation, PTPTN loans, education reforms, Teoh Beng Hock, Lynas, Taman Rimba, internet tariffs, Altantuya and Indira Gandhi’s case to Pastor Raymond Koh – everything is under perpetual study and consideration.

In terms of the “New Malaysia”, I think we have yet to take even one genuine step forward. Instead, we are regressing and are beset with pipe dreams to be realised perhaps in “10 to 20 years”, not unlike the TN50 hawked by UMNO-BN before this.

Instead of focusing on national issues, PH is now preoccupied with horse trading. Its leaders want to form committees to vet opposition politicians, MPs and assemblymen who wish to join the coalition. But do they really have the means and intention of knowing who committed the crimes, abuse of power and corruption? Have PH component parties become MACC or the police? To me, all this is just a farce.

Why can’t PH component parties grow by recruiting ordinary citizens? Why can’t they allow those who have slogged for years to play a greater role in the party?

To me, it is obvious that they want to get more horses in their stable by enticing opposition MPs and representatives to join them. They want to lay claim to the seats occupied by these individuals when the next general election comes along.

We shouldn’t ignore the obvious. It is hypocritical and deceitful of us if we do.

TK Chua is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not nec

There’s something about Nurul Izzah Anwar and Latheefa Koya


December 19, 2018

There’s something about Nurul Izzah Anwar and Latheefa Koya

 

“…  a flawed electoral process begets a compromised leadership, which begets a suspect decision-making process. It really does not matter if Latheefa belongs to a faction or doesn’t make her allegiances – if any – public knowledge. What is important is whether what she is claiming is factual. And by the looks of it, it is.”–S. Thayaparan

“People are expecting a lot from us, so I always take my position that if you can’t be that voice of conscience, then what good are you? I try my best to remind myself and everyone else of the key concerns.”

– Nurul Izzah Anwar

“PKR needs to realise that it is now part of the federal government, charged with no less a task than instituting reforms and properly governing the nation. Hence, it must uphold the highest and best democratic practices.”

– Latheefa Koya

COMMENT | The resignation of Nurul Izzah Anwar from her posts in PKR and the government is an interesting development in this New Malaysia. While Nurul Izzah has made clear the reasons for this course of action, the rumour mills are in overdrive blaming the schisms within PKR for her decision.

Numerous people from both camps have been calling and texting me, hoping I would contribute to the narrative; I just tune all that nonsense out. As far as I am concerned, Nurul Izzah did the strategic thing in resigning.

The current political climate is toxic. Not only are we witness to the reshaping of political parties for hegemonic agendas, we are also witness to a level of hypocrisy and sycophancy not seen before in Malaysian politics. Stepping out of the fray hopefully brings clarity.

Nurul Izzah is no ordinary politician. I do not mean this in some sort of messianic way that her supporters are wont to believe.

She is the daughter of a former establishment figure turned dissident turned political prisoner. Her parents – although some now claim otherwise – are the architects of the removal of UMNO from power.

For better or worse, the story of her family is her story. There is no running away from that, as there is no running away from the fact that her parents are influential figures in PKR.

This is not to say that Nurul Izzah did not do the hard work that got her to where she is today. Familial dynasties in politics is a brutal game unless you are Muhkriz from clan Mahathir, where your old man is thought to be the messiah who would save Malaysia.

Nurul Izzah occupies that heady terrain of young Malay leadership that will one day – very soon – determine the direction of this country. While people are free to speculate on the “real” reasons she has chosen this course of action, it is all smoke and mirrors anyway.

Stepping out of the fray

There is a deeper game played and strategically, Nurul Izzah made the right move by stepping out of the fray. By severing the strings from the levers of power within her party, hopefully she will now be free to criticise her party and the government when needed.

And, of course, we will all be waiting to see how Malay power structures and personalities settle after the dust clears in the ongoing unerklärter Krieg (undeclared war) between Bersatu, PKR and Umno.

Remember, the factionalism within PKR is not solely confined to personalities within the party. The reality is that there are many interested cabals who have agendas of their own in seeing that the party remains chaotic. Image result for anwar ibrahim

It benefits other political parties when PKR President Anwar Ibrahim is always on the defensive. Not to mention Anwar having his own coterie of allies outside the party.

Does Anwar carry self-inflicted wounds? Yes. However, we should not underestimate the machinations of others in the turmoil within PKR.

With her resignation, Nurul Izzah can hopefully step away from all of this and concentrate for the time being on speaking up for the idealists in this country – because the pragmatists are bending over backwards for neo-BN policies and, of course, for the disenfranchised in this country.

And when I say ‘disenfranchised’, I mean those people who did not vote for Pakatan Harapan but who are shackled by the system. I mean the rural heartland who are agitated that they are out of the political process when they assumed they were the political process. I am talking about marginalised communities who do not have a voice in the system.

And who knows what permutations will come from young Malay political operatives? Anything is better than the diseased dreams of old powerbrokers clinging to power and hoodwinking people into believing theirs is the only way.

Partisan fury

Meanwhile, Latheefa Koya has again become the focus of the ire of partisans who claimed that her statement about the appointments of PKR state chiefs is disturbing – in particular, Anwar’s heavy-handedness and the strong whiff of nepotism in Nurul Izzah’s appointment as Penang chief.

On Anwar’s legitimate claim to throne, I wrote this previously –“Anwar’s daughter, Nurul Izzah, says she takes charges of nepotism positively, but really, why should she? The opposition is riddled with nepotism most often at the highest level in the form of powerbrokers and political dynasties placing their pawns for future political power.”

 

On Monday, Latheefa said: “After a scandal-ridden and disgraceful party election process, these appointments (of state chiefs) only further erode public regard for,  and confidence, in PKR.”

This is echoed in statements made by Nurul Izzah in November – who acknowledged the strained relationships in PKR when the press caught her looking “distraught” after the party polls. “Of course anyone would be distraught. People should be focusing on strengthening our party, I don’t like to see us having gone through such a difficult and arduous (voting) process, which is flawed.”

Of course, a flawed electoral process begets a compromised leadership, which begets a suspect decision-making process. It really does not matter if Latheefa belongs to a faction or doesn’t make her allegiances – if any – public knowledge. What is important is whether what she is claiming is factual. And by the looks of it, it is.

Already, anonymous cretins are making personal attacks, referring to her complexion and attempting to make this about an evil dark-skinned crone and a fair princess. This is the level that some anonymous Harapan cretins stoop to in the alternative press and on social media. These are the proponents of New Malaysia.

Greater transparency

Sometimes, transparency benefits certain parties or factions, but it most often benefits the people who want a different form of government and a different form of political party.

Only the most toxic partisan would use this opportunity to champion personalities, when the reality is that political operatives and their parties should always be scrutinised – because any quest to consolidate power necessarily includes manipulating democratic processes at the expense of the rakyat.

Someone asked me what I think of Nurul Izzah and Latheefa. I told her, I do not know them. I distrust most politicians, and these days, the stakes are much higher because UMNO  is imploding, and Malay power structures, for the first time ever, have to fight for their very existence. Anything can happen.

What I do think is that even with all this unfolding drama, Nurul Izzah and Latheefa are part of a solution, not part of the problem.


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.

Cry no more, my beloved country, Malaysia


September 26, 2018

Cry no more, my beloved country, Malaysia

Opinion

by Bob Teoh@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | Saddened by the state of our country, I wrote a piece titled “Cry, my beloved country” six years ago.

But the unexplainable happened on 9 May. The old regime was swept out of power through an unprecedented electoral revolt. Hope has finally arrived on our shores.

However, the frantic rush by party warlords to install the next Prime Minister after the current one steps down mid-term is worrying. Still my hope is anchored on nothing less than a New Malaysia. Cry no more, my beloved country.

Two former Star colleagues of mine, both retired, one in Penang and the other in New York were trying to catch up with the distance that separates them just the other day in Petaling Jaya. Very soon they came to the same conclusion. They don’t trust Anwar Ibrahim, the Prime minister-in-waiting.

“And it is too much of a coincidence that every time Anwar’s name crops up in conversation, others say they don’t trust him too,” one of them said.

Indeed so, I agree with both of them but for different reasons, as I wrote earlier in my piece, “The Prime minister-in-waiting must not jump the queue”.

Losing the plot

I was a life member of PKR since 2008, but not anymore.  Anwar seems to have lost his Reformasi plot. He sticks to old regime politics not much different from what UMNO used to do. In the New Malaysia, we need statespeople, not apparatchiks.

His party, PKR, which is now the biggest component in the new ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition in terms of parliamentary seats, is hopelessly split with Vice-President Rafizi Ramli running against current Deputy President Azmin Ali to be deputy to Anwar, the President-designate.

This is not only Azmin’s second term in this party position, but he is also the new Economic Affairs Minister and former  Menteri Besar of Selangor. He was one of the better performing chief ministers the state ever had.

Azmin (photo) has his critics, who have accused him of putting his own people in the state government when he was Menteri Besar, as well as in the current federal cabinet. He is also accused of insisting on keeping PAS in his cabinet against party wishes.

Rafizi’s reason for running against Azmin is to make sure Anwar becomes the Prime Minister. The incumbent Vice-President accuses Azmin of coveting the premiership for himself and that the latter is in league with former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin and colluding with Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Azmin is also accused of disloyalty to Anwar simply because he has not offered to give up his Gombak parliamentary seat for Anwar to be elected into the lower house in order to assume the premiership.

By this token, there now seems to be two prime ministers-in-waiting, not just one. Either way, the pretender to the throne is in a hurry to seize the moment now. But Azmin has been quick to punch back by saying Rafizi was still a “toddler” when the Reformasi movement started in 1998. Azmin said he had stood by Anwar and has stayed loyal to his struggle from the day the latter was sacked from the government.

Reformasi veterans like Tian Chua are aligned to Azmin. Among those  in Rafizi’s camp is Anwar’s daughter and Permatang Puah MP Nurul Izzah who was the “Puteri Reformasi” (Reformasi princess) and still in school when Anwar went to jail back then.

Nurul has come a long way since. She commanded the most votes in the Vice-presidency contest in Penang over the weekend, garnering 4,039 votes, far outnumbering her opponents.

Meanwhile, Anwar himself has confirmed things are not going well. He said unnamed leaders in PKR are allegedly offering projects for support in the party’s internal election. Is UMNO-style money politics making in-roads into PKR?

Anwar also acknowledged weaknesses in the party’s ongoing election processes, after voting was variously suspended in several states owing to alleged irregularities as well as violent disagreements.

A betrayal

This is plain betrayal to those who elected Danyal four months ago. By accepting this, Anwar is similarly tainted. This scandalises the whole notion of a democratic election, where the sanctity of democracy is now sacrificed on the altar of political ambition.

An ethical question mark hangs over Anwar’s Port Dickson Move. The incumbent MP there is PKR’s Danyal Balagopal Abdullah (centre in photo). He vacated his seat on Sept 12 to make way for a by-election for Anwar to contest to enable him to become prime minister.

In the 14th general election, Danyal won the Port Dickson seat in athree-corner fight, garnering 36,225 votes, with a large majority of 17,710 votes. He has now handed over the seat on a platter to Anwar.

The Prime Minister-in-waiting should have been more circumspect. There are other options for him.

Anwar’s electoral base has always been Permatang Pauh. When he was in prison, his wife, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, now Deputy Prime Minister, stood in for him in this parliamentary seat until the last general election where she switched to Pandan, the parliamentary seat previously held by Rafizi Ramli, and won. He did not contest due to a court conviction for exposing a page of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) audit report. He was later bound over.

In a parallel move, Anwar’s daughter, Nurul, moved from her Lembah Pantai constituency to contest in Permatang Pauh and won.

We are not told of the reason behind this family musical chairs. No one would complain if either of them vacated her seat to make way for Anwar to return to Parliament via a by-election. This would have been better than the Port Dickson Move, which was very much outsourced to Rafizi.

It was Rafizi (photo) who had conjured the Kajang Move that morphed into a full-blown political crisis in Selangor in 2014.

The idea was to topple Khalid Ibrahim as PKR’s Menteri Besar of Selangor, and install Anwar Ibrahim as his replacement. The attempt resulted in a nine-month political crisis within the state of Selangor and the Pakatan Rakyat coalition, that also involved the Palace of Selangor. The irony is that the crisis concluded with the appointment of PKR’s Deputy President, Azmin, as the next Menteri Besar of Selangor.

The Kajang Move backfired. It can backfire again. As pundits would have it, Anwar would have succeeded in his Kajang Move. What if nobody turns out on polling day on Oct 13? Already the BN opposition has said it would not contest, and PAS may also not field a candidate. Anwar may suffer the embarrassment of facing an unknown independent. It may be a hollow victory after all. This does not augur well for a Prime Minister-in-waiting.

After May 9, we now have a two-party electoral system, the first in six decades. In the recent general election, the opposition did not expect to win and the ruling coalition did not expect to lose.

In the words of former UMNO leader and minister Rafidah Aziz, God heard our collective prayer. The people won. The eyes of the Almighty is on our nation. Man may propose this move or that move, but it is God who may dispose. I am at ease. Cry no more, my beloved country.


BOB TEOH is a faith-based writer.

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

Anwar family’s credibility gap is troubling


September 19, 2018

Anwar family’s credibility gap is troubling

by Terence Netto
A perception of nepotism would still be justified even if the reformasi movement, triggered by Anwar’s travails 20 years ago, had not had as its rallying cry the demand to end the corruption, cronyism and nepotism then plaguing the nation from UMNO-BN’s misrule.

 

COMMENT | The danger of choosing relatives of an iconic leader to deputise for him when he faces legal trammels imposed by the powers that be is that the surrogates are soon apt to think they are where they are by merit rather than presumption.

This is the situation of Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the PKR leader who has just added petulance to a lengthening list of her demerits, both as party leader and as Deputy Prime Minister.

“Is there a problem? I thought we were voted by the rakyat (people),” was Wan Azizah’s disingenuous reply when questioned by reporters on the possibility of the public perceiving the presence in Parliament of her, daughter Nurul Izzah and – should he win in Port Dickson – husband Anwar Ibrahim as rank nepotism.

A perception of nepotism would still be justified even if the reformasi movement, triggered by Anwar’s travails 20 years ago, had not had as its rallying cry the demand to end the corruption, cronyism and nepotism then plaguing the nation from UMNO-BN’s misrule.

Because the movement had made it its clarion call to combat these three scourges of the polity, it is incumbent upon the Pied Piper of the movement (Anwar) and the one who deputised as leader while Anwar was in prison to see to it that such faults as the reformasi movement decried then are not replicated now, when the reform-seekers have become the government.

That’s not all the perceptual burden that has to be avoided.As recently as last year, in an interview with Al Jazeera, Wan Azizah had described her part as that of a “seat warmer”. Clearly, she meant that her withdrawal from the political arena would follow upon the release of Anwar from jail and his return to the legislative fray.

A royal pardon for Anwar in May removed one hindrance to his return; his election unopposed to the PKR top post last month has taken care of the other. But Azizah is not budging from her occupation of the Pandan parliamentary seat she won in GE-14.

Image result for nurul izzah anwar 2018

Neither is Nurul Izzah (photo, above) from Anwar’s traditional stronghold of Permatang Pauh, to which she fled from Lembah Pantai, her seat for two parliamentary terms from 2008.

Things have to be paved and peril-free for the First Family, small matter if that aids the public perception that the family is being granted exceptions to the norm.

The decision of the newly-elected PKR MP for Port Dickson, Danyal Balagopal Abdullah, to quit his seat to allow Anwar to contest en route to becoming the eighth prime minister of Malaysia is being lauded as noble sacrifice. Perhaps we now know why Anwar recently publicly noted that there maybe more Indian Malaysians in PKR than in MIC: The ethnic group are easy sacrificial meat.

He may think that the ability to gyrate to the rhythms and mime the songs of Tamil movies should suffice as a demonstration of solidarity with the concerns of this demographic.Suffice that members of the First Family have become PKR royalty, exempt from the ordinary criteria of selection and scrutiny.

The fact that the party has become dysfunctional as a democratic entity, its factional strife so obvious that it makes liars of those attempting to deny the reality, is not allowed to redound to the discredit of the First Family.

Mendacity is the default option of those for whom the acquisition of power overrides other chastening considerations.In years past Anwar used to be fond on the hustings of quoting Mahatma Gandhi’s “What is morally right cannot be politically wrong, and what is politically correct must not be morally wrong,” to project his concern that the devices of politics be congruent with the imperatives of morality.

In recent months, the gulf between the two – his morality and his politics – has opened up wide enough for many to think that what has happened to Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan is occurring to Anwar.


TERENCE NETTO has been a journalist for more than four decades. A sobering discovery has been that those who protest the loudest tend to replicate the faults they revile in others.

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