GE-14: The twilight of 1Malaysia, the dawn of another

March 23, 2018

GE-14: The twilight of 1Malaysia, the dawn of another

Image result for Malaysia--Putrajaya

Putrajaya–The Seat of Power

by Kean Wong

GE14 is more than just a barometer of electoral sentiment. Whoever wins, Malaysia will be a different country afterwards.

In the final 100 days before Malaysia’s 14th General Elections (GE-14) must be called, the contest between two coalitions is already well underway, and growing fraught.

The campaigning inside these opposing coalitions of Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Harapan (PH)—for factional advantage, parliamentary seats and funds—may be as tough as what is projected (sometimes literally) outside, between the coalitions, with informal spoilers like the Islamist party Pas unable to stay above the fray, and assorted BN leaders suggesting violence as a solution.

Inside this apparent maelstrom of remaking Malaysia for its uncertain 21st century is a battle over a politics of moral rectitude, which has grown from the post-1969 urge to rectify racialised inequalities with the New Economic Policy (NEP), to today’s demands for a hegemonic Islamist politics.

It’s been a battle between the BN’s six decades of degenerating “business as usual” praxis that results in the global infamy of the 1MDB saga, and the past two decades of “reformasi” where jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim conjured a non-racialised politics, seeding a new storyline or narrative of good governance that in some ways spoke to the NEP’s original ideals of transcending a racialised political economy.

So the irony of GE-14’s contest—between a Prime Minister’s coalition blamed for corrupting the secular state now seeking Islamist political redemption, and an avowedly reformist opposition front led by the nonagenarian originally responsible for tormenting such reformists—is not lost on Malaysians.

Despite the widespread cynicism over how GE-14 is to be won—from the Elections Commission (EC) sanctioning glaringly unequal treatment of electorates to the long-standing complaints of “3M” (money-media-machinery of government) used to deadly effect—there remains some hope for change. There’s hope for some meaningful institutional reform in the unfinished nation crafted in 1963 out of geopolitical dispensations that still linger today.

That wavering hope has been driving so many Malaysian demands for a new narrative or storyline of what the nation should and could be. It’s reflected in the hundreds of thousands who have rallied at Bersih events in Malaysia and abroad, to the almost daily public forums about today’s political, religious and social controversies held all across the country in usually-crowded venues.

Image result for mahathir vs najib 2018

Despite the apparent malaise among the professional pundit class that GE14 will be just another “boring” horse race, rigged at the outset, there are deep and abiding changes underway in how Malaysia is run, how it projects itself to the world, and how the nation reconciles its divisions over religion, class, and a tendentious cosmopolitanism linking the Borneo states to the Peninsula. Over the next several weeks, New Mandala hopes to share some of these discussions as the GE14 season ramps up, with a range of contributors from academia and beyond.

The Big Picture

Image result for Terence Gomez

University of Malaya’s Prof. Dr. Terence Edmund Gomez

While Prof Gomez was emphatic at the forum about how selling good public policy can inspire winning electoral outcomes, he also explained how the crafting of public policy between five-year election cycles can change politics for the better when it’s not remote but fully engaged with citizens:

“But here’s the crunch—we do need a new model of development…   What we should be asking our politicians and coalitions is: ‘show us your public policies’.

What is your big idea? I’m not talking about small public policies on this aspect of taxation, etcetera. I’m talking about the big picture, the new economic model. The new economic policy, a new ‘Vision 2020’. Something major which shows us where you’re going to take us”.

But then there’s the issue of trust. Will the late decision by PH to reprise Dr Mahathir Mohamad as possible Prime Minister going into GE14 be enough to sway Muslim/Malay voters, leery of the previously Anwar Ibrahim-led coalition that’s now fallen out badly with PAS?

Image result for Ibrahim Ben SuffianPollster Ibrahim “Ben”Suffian

Pollster Ibrahim Ben Suffian found in his data a clear distinction between Malay and non-Malay respondents. Malay voters said they trusted Pas and UMNO more compared to PH on central issues of Malay identity and politics, over and above “managing the economy, reducing the problem of corruption, and protecting the political interests of Malaysia”. There’s again the underlying question of what narratives of nationhood are at play, and those who’re prosecuting these storylines across the campaign trail.

“This is the main takeaway point,” Ibrahim told the forum, “because there’s a lot of rhetoric going on in politics today about how PH is going into an emerging Malay tsunami. But I think this is how people are choosing: Malay voters trust the two principal Malay parties more, non-Malay voters trust the opposition more.”

”But how it translates into (GE14) results”, he said, “is governed by two things: number one, and most important, is how is the electoral district designed? How is the distribution pattern of the electoral district? …[W] e do know there is a severe malapportionment in terms of how the electoral districts are designed. Also, we have ethnic voting patterns embedded in the composition of voters in the district.

”But the second aspect is that voters have different levels of trusts in political parties. If the opposition is not able to gain sufficient levels of Malay support, then they won’t go through and this election may result in a very favourable result for the Barisan National [BN].”

From frustration to nostalgia

Fadiah Nadwa Fikri

There’s a “deep frustration” among this new generation of urbanised youth, said Fadiah Nadwa Fikri. It churns up a mix of responses to the political process that ranged from indifference to a nihilism suggested in social media campaigns over #undirosak (or “spoil your vote”). Young voters—that is, under 35 years old—came of age in the Mahathir era of boom, bust and reformasi. Politicised by the outrage over Anwar Ibrahim’s sacking and jailing, this is also a generation confronting the drudgery of urban working class ambitions, diminished by the past 20 years of a listless economy and squeezed in the transition to a services economy.

”It’s a given that we need change, but the problem is, we only have illusions of change,” said Fadiah. ”I think as a voter, a lot of us and particularly the youth, feel like they’re being forced to choose between the lesser evil. Lesser evil-ism is still the premise that is being propagated—that if you don’t do this, if you don’t choose Pakatan then you are responsible for BN, UMNO being in power again. I think something is wrong with our dominant political narrative.”

”When we talk about politics, I think it’s automatic that we only have electoral politics as our choice or as a platform for change. The discussion is very detached from the notion of change and its broad concept. This whole concept on #UndiRosak, there’s a lot of talk about the youth feeling disillusioned, frustrated because their voices are not heard. I would like to know why are they feeling the way they feel?”

”This thing of lesser evil-ism I think is very, very problematic—it somehow kills our imagination. As our country progresses, there are new ideas, there are new changes, things are changing very fast. And if we don’t reflect the changing times, I think we’re going to be stuck in that very moment that we don’t have the answer to.”

Fadiah conceded this disillusionment with the electoral process will play a role in dampening turnout come election day, to the benefit of the incumbents. But engaging with GE14 need not preclude the strengthening of a form politics her group works on developing every day, an urban phenomena reviving a process informed by the pre-war nationalist movement known as KMM (Kesatuan Melayu Muda).

”Electoral politics is not going away. But how do we strengthen people power so we can demand and we can influence how they behave, the kind of country that we want, and the kind of change that we aspire to achieve?

”It’s important because people keep saying if BN or UMNO wins the next election, we are doomed. I think that is a very, very dangerous position to take because it somehow incapacitates our ability to continue in the struggle. No one in their right mind would say that the struggle is a one-time event. It’s constant.”

Dr. Amrita Malhi

”This time, I’d argue that again there’s an even greater level of nostalgia, and an even more explicit ramping up of the nostalgia level in producing a new narrative of where the nation is going to go,” Dr Malhi said. ”And this time, it’s moved forward…they’ve moved the glory days to the 1990s. And it’s exactly the time before the economic crisis. And I’ve heard this put to me very explicitly by opposition strategy people: to talk about 1993–1996 in particular, the glory days of the Mahathir–Anwar team, before the struggles from 1997 and the financial crisis in 1998 began, and before this polity began fracturing and going in every single direction from 2008. Now this, I hear being referred to in PKR circles for example as a superb time, Malaysia at its peak.

”As the campaign heats up, I think the line is going be: let’s go back to this period in terms of the good times, the ’easy inter-ethnic interactions’. Notice the ’easy inter-ethnic interactions’ is moving forward by a decade each time. Doesn’t matter: sometime in the past it was easy. That’s the main point. But, with the proviso as well there has to be institutional reform to ensure that the original dream team can finish only their good work and now their bad work.”

Forks in the road

As the rest of March unfolds, with the Malaysian Parliament expected to pass controversial new electoral redelineation maps that allegedly skews against the opposition—and the prime minister poised to dissolve Parliament and call the elections soon afterwards—we hope to tackle some of the key themes arising from the GE14 season.

These themes include Islamist politics and the secular legacy of the Constitution, the federal–state divide over governance and political allegiances, Sabah and Sarawak autonomy and relooking at the 1963 agreement that made Malaysia possible, the electoral remapping and the national reality, how China works with a Malaysia diminished by global scandal, and how the economy needs desperate transformation if it’s to meet the needs of its citizens, never mind the ideals of Najib’s Transformasi Nasional 2050 or Mahathir’s Vision 2020. In the febrile GE14 season, these are among the implications facing a nation on the brink of fundamental change.



GE14: Last chance for change

March 22, 2018

GE14: Last chance for change

by Dennis Ignatius

GE14: Last chance for change

We are now at the cusp of GE14, one of the most momentous political events that any of us will quite possibly experience in our lifetime. Rarely in the history of a nation has so much depended upon a single decision: who we vote for will quite literally decide the destiny of our nation.

Image result for malaysia's ge-14

To be sure, many are piqued and frustrated that it has come down to a choice between Najib and Mahathir. But this election is much more than a choice between personalities; it is a choice between two very different futures for our nation.

Politically moribund

UMNO-BN has now been in power for some 60 years. Like all political parties that have overstayed their welcome, they have become politically moribund. They have lost their way, their integrity, their credibility. They have neither the vision to inspire nor the moral authority to lead.

In almost every area of governance and leadership they have failed our nation.They have been extraordinarily incompetent and reckless fiscally, forcing our nation into levels of debt that were unheard of before. Billions of ringgit in public funds have also been looted with utter impunity or squandered through mismanagement and waste. GST is the price we are paying for their profligacy.

The 1MDB scandal, in particular, has been especially damaging to our nation’s international credibility, not to mention the loss to the nation’s coffers. More than 50 years of diplomacy promoting and positioning our nation has gone down the drain as a result.

It should be clear by now that they do not have the political will to eradicate corruption. When the system jails those who expose corruption and protects the scoundrels who rob us, you know the battle against corruption is over, and we’ve lost.

Under their watch, many of our once proud national institutions have been compromised or reduced to mere appendages of the ruling party.

Despite having amassed more power than any other administration since independence, they still feel vulnerable, still feel the need for yet more power, yet more limits on our freedom. Executive power is now so pervasive that we teeter on the edge of autocracy.

Can we trust a political party that has consistently abused their power with yet more power? Under their watch, our democracy has been hollowed out; gerrymandering and malapportionment have made voting itself increasingly meaningless. In fact, this might well be the last meaningful elections to be held in Malaysia if UMNO-BN is returned to power.

In the meantime, life continues to be a struggle for many. Twelve percent of our young people below 24 are unemployed; thousands of graduates cannot find jobs; the majority of young workers cannot earn enough to live decently. And while Kuala Lumpur has more millionaires than Abu Dhabi, 90% of rural, mostly Malay households, have zero savings.

Image result for malaysia's ge-14

And this after 60 years of development, after decades of the NEP and other programmes.

Charting a different course

We must now ask ourselves whether or not we can afford another five years of UMNO-BN rule, another five years of the same failed policies that have impoverished our nation, undermined our unity and weakened our democracy. Can we afford another five years of corruption, scandal and international shame?

If we are willing to look beyond the personalities, if we are willing to overcome our fears and UMNO-BN’s scaremongering, if we are willing to settle for the pragmatic over the ideal, we might just discover that we actually have a unique opportunity to break with the past.

For the very first time, we have a multiracial coalition [Pakatan Harapan] led by experienced political leaders who are genuinely able to unite our nation behind a vision for reform and renewal. They may not be on the same page on all issues but they are united on the things that matter most – respect for the constitution, rule of law, national unity and good governance.

As for Mahathir, there is every indication that he will honour his commitment to ‘reformasi;’ it is his last hurrah and he wants to get it right. In any case, Anwar, Mat Sabu and Lim Kit Siang will be there to ensure that no one hijacks the reform agenda.

It won’t be the end of the struggle to reform our nation but it could well be the beginning that we have long dreamed of.

A second chance

Image result for malaysia's ge-14

It is going to be an uphill battle to unseat UMNO-BN but we are now closer than ever before. The future of our nation is in our hands. We must seize the moment and do everything in our power – campaign, donate, support and vote – to ensure victory.

Few nations get a second chance; this is our tryst with destiny and we must not squander it.

Politics and Malaysia’s Youth

March 22, 2018

Politics  and Malaysia’s Youth

by Voon Zhen Yi, Centre for Public Policy Studies
Image result for Malaysia's GE-14

Observing the Parliament of Malaysia or indeed any of Malaysia’s 13 state legislative assemblies, one notices that the corridors of power are packed with the elderly. There are no elected politicians between the ages of 15 to 24 in the country, and more than 70 per cent of parliamentarians are above the age of 50. This is not a coincidence — Malaysian youths face various forms of resistance culturally and institutionally when it comes to political participation.

 As a young person ascends the political ladder via party branches, they often find themselves sidelined in favour of older party members who have waited a long time to contest an election. The Asian mentality of filial piety creates a form of oligarchy, which has meant that youths are often making way for older but not necessarily more capable candidates.


One of the few means by which younger politicians are able to break into the political scene is if they have family members already in politics. One of the youngest members of Parliament in Malaysian history is current Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was elected at the age of 23 in 1976. This was primarily due to the fact that he ran for a seat which was held by Abdul Razak (his father and Malaysia’s second Prime Minister, who had passed away that year). Najib won unopposed out of respect for the late Prime Minister.

Image result for Malaysia's Youth and Politics

Senior politicians elevating family members is not exclusive to the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition. Lim Guan Eng, the son of Lim Kit Siang and the de facto head of the Democratic Action Party, was elected to the Parliament in 1986 when he was 24. De facto leader of Parti KeADILan Rakyat (the Justice Party), Anwar Ibrahim’s daughter Nurul Izzah, was elected to a parliamentary seat when she was 28 during the 2008 elections. This may not necessarily be political nepotism: it could merely reflect older family members teaching their young the ropes, or it could reflect that these younger politicians have gained the vision and aspiration to pursue a career in politics of their own accord. Nonetheless, having a family member in a senior political position undoubtedly clears the way.

There are also legislative barriers discouraging youths from getting involved in politics. Malaysia’s Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) prevents students from being involved in politics. In 2010, four students from a public Malaysian university faced disciplinary action for their alleged involvement in a by-election. Court actions found that the particular provision in the UUCA was unconstitutional and the Act has since been amended. Tertiary students can now, in theory, become members of a political party. But the Act continues to disallow active political participation. The situation is made worse by the fact that political parties are not allowed to set up branches in universities.

Image result for Malaysia's Youth and Politics

Falling political interest, particularly among young upper middle-class opposition voters, has further escalated with Mahathir’s return and alliance with the opposition. Many youths from these parties are unable to reconcile working with an arch foe whom many blame for Malaysia’s current woes. Dissatisfaction is being voiced through the #UndiRosak (spoilt votes) movement, which is urging voters to spoil their ballot deliberately in a show of protest towards both the Barisan Nasional and the opposition parties.

Youth in Malaysia feel that their votes will make little difference to an election outcome or that no party is different from the other. Many opposition supporters are unable to be optimistic as three-cornered fights will likely take place between the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition, the ruling Barisan coalition and the Pan-Islamic Party. The result will likely see many marginal Pakatan seats recaptured by Barisan. In the previous two elections, the opposition was able to gain ground as they agreed to reconcile their differences and instead compete with one another in a unified struggle against the Barisan Nasional. This advantage is set to diminish substantially in the upcoming election.

Recent polls find that 70 per cent of Malaysia’s youth have no interest in politics. As of August 2017, there were still as many as 3.7 million people between the ages of 21 and 30 who had not yet registered to vote — a number that is large enough to alter the election outcome.

Such phenomena are observed throughout the region as youths show general reluctance to be politically involved. This trend is particularly worrying when one considers the prospects for Malaysia’s political future — the youth of today, who will inevitably become the leaders of tomorrow, will be unprepared and lack experience.

Image result for Malaysia's Youth and PoliticsDeformasi  Nasional 2050?


To aviod such an outcome, parties must show sincerity towards youth involvement in politics and deliberately create opportunities for their voice to be heard. This will be to the benefit of the various parties as youths are able to better relate to the needs of other youths, who currently comprise the largest segment of the adult population — an opportunity for vote capture that parties should recognise. Malaysia needs to realise that age and competence are separate matters.

Voon Zhen Yi is the Manager of Programme and Research at the Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS), Malaysia.

Anwar Ibrahim: The Rainmaker of Ideas

March 21, 2018

Anwar Ibrahim: The Rainmaker of Ideas–In celebration of his imminent release from Prison

By Pan Jin Ming

Image result for Din Merican on Anwar IbrahimAnwar Ibrahim–The Charismatic Ketua Umum, Parti KeADILan Rakyat


“God does not play dice,” Albert Einstein is known to have once said. He was referring to the symmetry and completeness of the universe. Even if the universe, as some physicists believe, continues to expand, its expansion is derived from clear mathematical formula.

But the vastness of the universe—-if one insists multiverse—-makes one prone to a state of forgetfulness. Invariably, “insan,” a Quranic description of humankind, that who is inclined to forget, is a key concept in Islamic hermeneutics. The latter may seem like a big word. But it means human interpretation of the revealed scripture.

One of the first Malaysian scholars to unpack the meaning of “insan,” was Professor Syed Naquib Al Attas, the original founder of the Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC) whose existence under International Islamic University (IIU) was discontinued; though there are discordant voices to restore it.

Professor Naquib Al Attas explained in “Faces of Islam,” one of the first Islamic programs in TV3 back in the mid 1980s, that it was precisely due to the forgetful nature of humankind, that God has to manifest Himself in the form of readable and recitable words that is the Quran.

Anwar Ibrahim, then in his mid 30s, appeared as one of the speakers of “Faces of Islam” too. Being a former student of Syed Naquib Alattas, Anwar Ibrahim naturally carried the flair of his grandmaster. But, through out the hour long interview by Dr Ziauddin Sardar, the host of the “Faces of Islam,” Anwar Ibrahim spoke time and again on the meaning of ‘Tawhid,’ or, the Unity of God.

In other words, while all of us may be different by the intentional designs of God, He nonetheless has a teleological view of how all of us should co-exist. In the mind of God, the best of the humankind were those who spoke “truths to power.”

Between 1980s and 2018, whether Anwar Ibrahim is in or out of incarceration due to trumped up charges, he has always been consistent in telling the truths.

He warned, for example, that 1MDB would explode into a financial disaster. Sadly, events have proved him right. Anwar Ibrahim, in his Malay book, “Menangani Perubahan,” literally to handle change in a deliberate manner, further attests to the importance of civil society existing side by side with the state.

Again, the proliferation of Bersih, Tindak, C4, and Women’s Aid Organization (WAO), even Sisters in Islam, have proven themselves vital and necessary to the creation of a just society, one governed by the Rule of Law.

In his heydays of UMNO, when Anwar Ibrahim was the Deputy President of the party, he was intent on giving due emphasis on Islam Madani, or, civil Islam. Such an Islamic concept would have served as a mirror to reflect on the flaws and failings of the state.

Image result for Din Merican on Anwar IbrahimThe Loneliness of a Long Distance Political Runner


In this sense, Anwar Ibrahim has always tried to don the role of a rain maker, albeit of the intellectual kind. When ideas and concepts were lacking in the dreary landscape of Malaysia, he was one of the first to introduce the works of Ismail Al Faruqi, Parvez Manzor, Usman Awang, A. Samad Said, indeed, Malik Ben Nabi and Sheikh Qaradawi.

Elsewhere, Anwar Ibrahim also encouraged more Malaysians to read the works of Allan Bloom, author of “The Closing of the American Mind,” or, Gai Eaton, or, even Professor Toshiko Izutsu and Professor Tu Wei Ming.

Image result for The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom

Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind was a best seller when it was released in 1987 (Hardcover)

The generation of thinkers who had worked with Anwar Ibrahim gained amply from such a long and sophisticated reading list. The likes of Dr Mohammad Al Manuty, at one stage the president of Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia or ABIM, had served him in good stead. Manuty, came away, well read and perpetually curious; while others like Kamaruddin Jaffar, another confidante of Anwar Ibrahim, too, did not abandon his scholastic leanings.

In fact, the current campus of the International Islamic University has Anwar Ibrahim to thank. It was during Anwar Ibrahim’s tenure as the Minister of Finance in the mid 1990s that the actual size of the International Islamic University was allowed to grow manifold in the Gombak campus.

In the eyes of many, Anwar Ibrahim may be the perennial political fighter. After all, his creed, “Lawan Tetap Lawan,” or, The Fight Must Go On, has always been his talismanic call in any general election.

But the truth is, Anwar Ibrahim is not so much what the contemporary parlance would call a ‘realist,’ as he is either a ‘magical realist,’ in the mould of Gabriella Marquez, a Noble playwright, or, a ‘constructivist.’

As a ‘magical realist,’ all things can happen. Like “The Count of Monte Cristo,” who was wrongly imprisoned, French author Victor Hugo wrote of a character who escaped his dreadful imprisonment to wreak revenge on those who sent him to the gallows.

Anwar Ibrahim, as Tun Dr Mahathir may attest, does not want his wife or his daughter, to hold a permanent grudge against Tun Dr Mahathir. The goal in life was to forgive, with a vision to move on, and up.

Anwar Ibrahim is not an enigmatic figure by virtue of his exotic reading habits. Rather, the strength of Anwar Ibrahim comes from his ability to challenge his readers to a serious read and new potential. The moment a person begins to keep up with his readings, and writings, that’s when s/he can grow exponentially.

Image result for The Asian Renaissance by Anwar Ibrahim

When the political tsunami in Malaysia comes right on time by the 14th general election, Anwar Ibrahim’s true power may rest in his ability to inspire the nation to devour their books once again, even if they may be in the form of surfing through Kindle or Good Reads.

In this sense, the upcoming tsunami of Malaysia, as preferred by Anwar Ibrahim, would be intellectual first, although having lost so much time, due to unfair imprisonment, Anwar Ibrahim may concurrently instigate people to read and do.

The role of a rainmaker is to fill up the lakes and dams. Only when the right policy knowledge is all dammed up, would Malaysia be ready for serious restructuring of the political economy of Malaysia.

The latter has now become a truculent version of its old self, devouring nothing else but the disposal income of the average citizens.

For a tsunami to wipe the slate of Malaysia clean, the place to begin is to read deeply and widely. Once this is done, academic knowledge imbued with democracy and respectful spirit of listening, would form the crucible of an actual policy or intellectual discourse.

When Malaysians of all colors and creeds can remind each other of the flaws faced by the country, than piecemeal solutions can be found.

Just like the ice cap mountains whose melted water can turn into a torrent, Anwar Ibrahim has the effect of triggering a tsunami in rural and urban areas that are thirsting for books, papers, magazines, and alternative media—-none of which are sheer pulp.

A true tsunami begins with throwing away the yoke of oppression and the post colonial mentality of fearing nothing but the state. Malaysia can go far, especially if more Malaysians are ready to be counted.

Also read my views on Anwar Ibrahim ( Published on  |  Modified on


Cambridge Analytica official admits ‘doing work in Malaysia’

March 21, 2018

Cambridge Analytica official admits ‘doing work in Malaysia’

A TOP official from Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics firm banned by Facebook, has boasted in a British Channel 4 expose that his company has done electioneering work in Malaysia.

Cambridge Analytica official admits ‘doing work in Malaysia’

Mark Turnbull (right), managing director of CA Political Global, was caught on tape saying that Cambridge Analytica has helped electioneering work in Mexico and Malaysia. – YouTube pic, March 20, 2018.

Mark Turnbull, managing director of CA Political Global, told a reporter this during a series of undercover videos filmed over the last year.

The Channel 4 News team caught executives at Cambridge Analytica appear to say they could extort politicians, send women to entrap them, and help proliferate propaganda to help their clients.

The sting operation was conducted as part of an ongoing investigation into Cambridge Analytica, a data consulting firm that worked with President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

“If you’re collecting data on people and you’re profiling them that gives you more insight that you can use to know how to segment the population to give them messaging about issues that they care about and language, and imagery that they’re likely to engage with, and we use that in America, we use that in Africa, that’s what we do as a company.

“We’ve done it in Mexico, we’ve done it in Malaysia and now we’re going to Brazil,” Turnbull said, proceeding to mention Australia and China.

The two executives were meeting with a Channel 4 reporter posed as a fixer for a wealthy Sri Lankan family, wanting to know how the company could help get future candidates elected in the country.

Cambridge Analytica and its affiliate, SCL, have denied Channel 4’s accusations that “Cambridge Analytica or any of its affiliates use entrapment, bribes, or so-called ‘honey traps’ for any purpose whatsoever”.

Facebook last week banned the data analytics firm after it failed to delete user data sent to it by a popular psychology test app maker.

Also suspended were the accounts of its parent organisation, Strategic Communication Laboratories, as well as those of University of Cambridge psychologist Aleksandr Kogan and Christopher Wylie, who runs Eunoia Technologies.

In 2015, Kogan was accused of violating Facebook’s platform policies by passing data from an app that was using Facebook login to SCL/Cambridge Analytica.

Kogan’s app, thisisyourdigitallife, offered a personality prediction test, describing itself on Facebook as “a research app used by psychologists” and some 270,000 people downloaded the app, allowing Kogan to access information, such as the city listed on their profile or content they liked.

According to its website, Cambridge Analytica has offices in four major cities in the world and one mysteriously in the Kota Damansara suburb outside Kuala Lumpur.

The Malaysian Insight visited the address on Sunday and found that it led to a gated and guarded community.

The mystery has deepened as the property owner, who has been living there for four years, said the office does not exist in the address listed on the website.

The Malaysian Insight has contacted SCL’s Southeast Asia head Azrin Zizal and is awaiting a response. Cambridge Analytica is an offshoot of SCL Group, a big data company.

Apart from Malaysia, the data company has offices in New York, Washington, London and Sao Paulo.

AFP reported that Cambridge Analytica, the US unit of British behavioural marketing firm SCL, rose to prominence after the pro-Brexit group Leave.EU hired it for data gathering and audience-targeting.

Locally, Cambridge Analytica supported Barisan Nasional in Kedah with a targeted campaign highlighting its school improvements since 2008.

BN won Kedah back from Pakatan Rakyat in the 13th general election with wins in 21 out of 36 state seats and 10 out of the 15 parliamentary seats in the state. – March 20, 2018.

GE14: the polls, the money, the stakes

March 20, 2018

GE14: the polls, the money, the stakes

An expert panel canvasses the big issues in Malaysia’s 2018 elections.


As Malaysians head to the 14th General Elections (GE14), the stakes have seldom been higher. The nature of the nation is now fiercely contested. While many Malaysians see the GE14 election season as another fraught debate over the core economic issues of the cost of living, inflation, and health and education infrastructure, there are also renewed fissures over the roles of religion and culture in determining Malaysia in the 21st century. And all of these issues arising at a time of great uncertainty in the region, as China rises and the United States retreats.

In this discussion, recorded in Kuala Lumpur on 8 February 2018, Merdeka Center’s Ibrahim ‘Ben’ Suffian, Universiti Malaya Professor Edmund Terence Gomez, Malaysia Muda convener and lawyer Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, and ANU historian Dr Amrita Malhi join New Mandala Contributing Editor Kean Wong to unravel some of these themes with the latest available data and analyses. This event was held with the support of the ANU Malaysia Institute and was kindly hosted by Gerakbudaya.

You can also listen to an interview with New Mandala’s Kean Wong (@keanmwong) and ANU’s Amrita Malhi (@AmritaMalhi) on Malaysia’s BFM radio that touched on some of the issues canvassed during this panel discussion.

Follow @GE14NewMandala on Twitter for more updates on New Mandala’s coverage of Malaysia’s election season.


Ibrahim ‘Ben’ Suffian | Merdeka Center

Prof Edmund Terence Gomez | Universiti Malaya

Fadiah Nadwa Fikri | Malaysia Muda

Dr Amrita Malhi | Australian National University