Open Letter to Anwar Ibrahim: Restoring the Integrity of Malaysian Institutions

December 18, 2017

Open Letter to Anwar Ibrahim: Restoring the Integrity of Malaysian Institutions–Undoing the Mahathir Legacy


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Reducing the Powers of the Prime Minister

by Dr. Ronnie

Dear Anwar,

The integrity of our national institutions has been undermined because the Malaysian constitution and other legislation concentrate the power of appointment of senior officers of our national institutions in the hands of one man, the Prime Minister.

It is only to be expected that if the Prime Minister has absolute power to appoint them, these officers will be likely to serve his interest rather than act professionally in the interest of the nation.

If Pakatan Harapan really wants to restore the integrity of our national institutions and free them from political interference, then it must pledge and act, once elected, to remove the power of the Prime Minister to appoint.

Under the Constitution, the Prime Minister’s role includes advising the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on:

  • the appointment of the federal ministers (full members of cabinet);
  • the appointment of the federal deputy ministers, parliamentary secretaries (non-full members of cabinet);
  • the appointment of 44 out of 70 Senators in the Dewan Negara;
  • the summoning and adjournment of sittings of the Dewan Rakyat;
  • the appointment of judges of the superior courts (which are the High Courts, the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court);
  • the appointment of the Attorney-General and the Auditor-General;
  • the appointment of the chairmen and members of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission, Election Commission, Police Force Commission, Education Service Commission, National Finance Council and Armed Forces Council; and
  • the appointment of the Governors of Malacca, Penang, Sabah and Sarawak.


Interestingly, the constitution does not mention advice from the Prime Minister when appointing the Chief of Defence Staff (137 (3) (c)) nor members of the Electoral Commission (114 (1)). The power of the Prime Minister to appoint the Governor of Bank Negara and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is not found in the constitution and is based on legislation.

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Professor Edmund Terence Gomez’s book, “Minister of Finance Incorporated”, details the extent of the ownership and control of the Malaysian corporate sector exerted by the finance minister through seven government-linked investment companies. Add to this the prime minister’s power to approve all Barisan Nasional (BN) candidates standing for election. His control of all the public institutions in the country is complete.

In other countries like the UK, candidates for electoral office (Parliament, etc) are selected by party members living in that electoral constituency. In the US, party candidates are selected by voters registered with the party by a process called a primary election. In this way, the party grassroots control the members of Parliament who, not being dependent on the favour of party leaders, control the prime minister and cabinet members. But we cannot legislate how political parties run their affairs, and this much-needed reform has to be left to party members.

Lessons from the UK and US experience

Details of UK and US practices in appointing senior officers of national institutions are found in the appendix below. What is clear from their experience is that there is no alternative to our elected representatives appointing these senior officers.

What is also clear is that the power of the President or Prime Minister to appoint is clearly restricted. In the case of the US President, he has to get the approval of the elected Senate for his nominee. In the case of the UK, the Prime Minister has no power to appoint. The power instead lies with the Lord Chancellor (elected politician and member of cabinet) with regard to judges, the speaker with regard to the electoral commissions, and locally elected police and crime commissioners with regard to chief police officers.

In the UK model, there is another layer between politician and person appointed. The politicians with power to appoint usually set up an independent, non-political commission to select and recommend to them the candidate for appointment.

In the US, the ideological outlook of the candidate is a factor. The President will nominate, and the senators will vote for a nominee whose outlook is close to their political ideology. In the UK, selection is entirely on merit and professional expertise. Ideological outlook is rigorously excluded from consideration.

Application to Malaysia

The US system may work in the US where senators are elected independently of the President and the attachment to professionalism strong. But in Malaysia, it will not provide any check on the Prime Minister since he approves all the candidates from his coalition standing for office, and senators are nominated.

A modified UK model is best for Malaysia. Under this model the following should happen:

It will be Parliament and not the Prime Minister who shall advise the Agong on the appointment of judges, auditor-general, inspector general of police, Electoral Commission, director of MACC, and a proposed director of public prosecutions.

Parliament shall establish a Judicial Appointments Commission to select and recommend candidates to be judges, a Police Appointments Commission to select and recommend candidates to be Inspector-General of Police and Director-General of MACC, and a Commission for Appointment to High Office to select and recommend candidates to be auditor general, members of the Electoral Commission, and other national institutions.

Image result for Najib Razak

.Najib Razak inherited a strong Executive Branch and making the best use of his Office to remain in power.

It is best that politicians do not appoint senior officers of our national institutions directly because politicians will always fight to gain political advantage from any specific situation. By setting up an independent, non-political commission to appoint on their behalf, politicians make a prior commitment not to interfere, no matter which future candidate is competing for which future post.

How should Parliament establish these various commissions? Following the British model, a Speakers Committee with equal representatives from the ruling party and opposition under the chairmanship of the speaker, should select and propose candidates for commissioners for ratification by Parliament.

To ensure that these commissioners are truly non-partisan and have the confidence of both the ruling party and the opposition, a government nominee for commissioner can only be appointed if he/she is supported by at least 20% of opposition MPs present at the parliamentary vote. Similarly, an opposition nominee will require the support of 20% of government MPs.

Speaker must be fair and non-partisan

The Speaker’s Committee, and indeed parliamentary democracy as a whole, can only work if the Speaker is neutral/impartial between the ruling party and opposition.

In the UK the following rules apply:

  • candidates for speaker must be nominated by at least 12 MPs, three of whom must be from a different party;
  • voting is by secret ballot;
  • when elected, the Speaker must resign from his political party;
  • if seeking re-election, the Speaker stands in his constituency as the Speaker and the other political parties do not put up candidates against him.

To ensure that the Malaysian Speaker is fair and non-partisan, the above rules can be incorporated into Article 57 of our constitution. In fact, we can go further and stipulate that the speaker can only be elected if he or she receives at least 20% of the votes of the opposite side of the House and such votes will count double.

Malaysia’s own Judicial Appointments Commission

I was shocked to learn recently that Malaysia had its own Judicial Appointments Commission. Why has it been so quiet, especially during the controversy over the extension of the tenure of Chief Justice Md Raus Sharif, after he reached the age of 66 years and six months? Its performance should be compared with that of the UK’s Judicial Appointments Commission.

The Attorney-General

The position of the Attorney-General needs to be discussed further. His function is to act as legal advisor to the government as well as to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to start criminal proceedings in court. The government should be able to appoint whoever it likes to be its legal adviser.

On the other hand, appointment by the government may put the Attorney-General in a position of possible bias, ie the Attorney-General may be unwilling to start proceedings against the government and eager to start proceedings against the government’s critics.

Therefore, the power to prosecute should be taken away from the Attorney-General and vested in an independent director of public prosecution, who shall be appointed by the Judicial Appointments Commission.

Article 145 (3) giving the power to the Attorney-General, “exercisable at his discretion, to institute, conduct or discontinue” any criminal prosecution must be repealed. All acts of public servants including the attorney-general and his proposed replacement, the director of public prosecutions, must be open to criticism and remedy by a court of law.

Anwar, I hope you find these ideas helpful. If not, let us know your ideas. My voice is not loud enough to be heard by the people. But if you, Anwar, speak, people will listen.

To members of the public reading this, I say: The Internet is full of information of how other countries manage their institutions. Some may wish to undertake research into this information and come up with ideas applicable to Malaysia. Those who have ideas for institutional reform in Malaysia are invited to contact me at so that by banding together, we have a stronger voice.

Your old friend,
Dr Ronnie Ooi


UK and US practices in appointing senior officers of national institutions

Appointment of Judges

In the US, for the appointment of Supreme Court justices, the President nominates a candidate who is then grilled by the Senate Judiciary Committee, comprising both Democrats and Republicans, on his/her past record, qualifications and suitability for the post.

The nomination then goes to the full Senate with a positive, negative or neutral report from the committee. A simple majority vote of the Senate is required to confirm or to reject a nominee. If the nominee is rejected, the president will nominate another candidate. Similar Senate hearings are required for other important appointments like head of the Federal Reserve Bank.

The Constitution Reform Act 2006 made the appointment of judges in the UK more transparent and standardised. The justice minister is called the Lord Chancellor, who sits in the cabinet and is responsible for the efficient functioning and independence of the courts. He forms a selection panel to appoint 15 members of a Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) who appoints all the judges, except for senior roles, such as lord high justice, and heads of division.

For these positions, a special selection panel is formed consisting of two or three of the most senior judges plus two or three members of the JAC, who make their recommendation to the Lord Chancellor, who may accept or reject it.

When a vacancy for a judge occurs, the JAC advertises the post so that all those who are eligible may apply. It makes its selection based entirely on merit and not on whether the candidates’ outlook matches the political ideology of the ruling party as in the US.

Appointment of Attorney-General

In the UK, the function of the Attorney-General is to give legal advice to the cabinet and to represent the government in litigation, the major part of which is prosecuting criminal offences.

The attorney-general therefore oversees the independent Crown Prosecution Service run by the director of public prosecutions. He does not interfere with decisions of the Crown Prosecution Service in individual cases. The criteria used by the UK Crown Prosecution Service to decide whether to institute proceedings is a public document.

The Attorney-General is appointed by the Prime Minister and is normally an MP of the ruling party who is an eminent lawyer. He is not a member of the cabinet but may be called to cabinet meetings to give legal advice.

In the US, the Attorney-General is appointed by the President following a Senate hearing. He gives legal advice to the government and is a member of the cabinet but not a member of the Congress nor Senate. He is responsible for prosecuting violations of federal law.

Electoral arrangements

In the UK, arrangements for polling day, including the counting of votes, and voter registration are the responsibility of local councils. Until 2015, it was the responsibility of the head of household to register eligible voters residing in his or her household, by returning a yearly registration form to the local council. The system has now changed so that each individual voter must register individually.

The Electoral Commission is a watchdog which supports and monitors the efficiency of local councils in running elections and registering voters. It also registers political parties and regulates political donations according to the law. It periodically carries out checks on the completeness and accuracy of electoral rolls.

Any vacancy for commissioner is advertised and the selection and appointment made by the speaker’s committee comprising the speaker as chair, three ex-officio members and five others appointed by the speaker.

Delineation of electoral constituencies are made by the separate Boundaries Commission. The chair is nominally the speaker but by convention he or she takes no part in the work of the commission, which is effectively led by the deputy chair.

The deputy chair must be a serving judge of the High Court, and is selected and appointed by the lord chancellor. The deputy chair is supported by two other commissioners, whose appointments are made following an open public appointments selection process. The commission submits its recommendations to Parliament, which may accept or reject them.

Appointment of Chief Constable

The UK is divided into several Police Authority areas, each headed by a Chief Constable. Prior to 2012, members of the Police Authority, who were responsible for appointing the chief constable, were representatives of local councils and magistrates.

From 2012 onwards, the residents of each Police Authority area elect a police and crime commissioner, who may be from a political party or is independent. The commissioner holds the chief constable to account for the policing of the area and is also responsible for the appointment, suspension and dismissal of the chief constable.

Above the Commissioner is the Police and Crime Panel, which is responsible for scrutinising the commissioner’s decisions and ensuring this information is available to the public. This panel has the power to veto a commissioner’s proposed candidate for Chief Constable by a two-thirds majority.

*Dr. Ronnie Ooi is a former politician and medical practitioner based in Penang.

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


Malaysia: Najib Razak set to strengthen grip on power

December 16, 2017

Malaysia: Najib Razak set to strengthen grip on power

by James Chin, University of Tasmania

Image result for Najib Razak remains strong in UMNONajib’s political status and reputation as Malaysia’s Teflon prime minister is assured with the help of DPM Dr. Zahid Hamidi and PAS’Hadi Awang

2017 could not have been a better year politically for Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. On the surface, Najib appeared to be in political trouble with the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MBD) scandal hanging over his head and with his arch-rival former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad leading the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) opposition coalition. But in reality, Najib could not be politically safer. With a general election due early next year, he is in a solid position to be re-elected.

 Najib would certainly be pleased with the personal deal he struck with Abdul Hadi Awang, the leader of Parti Islam Malaysia (PAS). Under Hadi, PAS has refused to join the PH, citing the omnipresent influence of the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party (DAP). Hadi claims that the DAP’s secret agenda is to stop the creation of an Islamic state and to promote Christianity. While this may be a real fear in the Malay community, the more tangible reason is Hadi’s personal disgust with Mahathir for successfully oppressing PAS’s political agenda when he was in power.

Najib, on the other hand, is playing along nicely with Hadi. Najib has promised Hadi that the United Malays Nationals Organisation (UMNO) (head of the ruling political coalition) will support RUU 355 — an amendment to increase judicial penalties under Sharia Law. Most legal experts believe that once RUU 355 is passed by parliament, it will be the first step in altering Malaysia’s largely secular federal constitution. The unwritten deal between Hadi and Najib is that once Najib wins the general election, UMNO will adopt RUU 355 as a government bill.

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If the deal holds, PAS will field as many candidates as it can against UMNO in the 110–20 largely rural Malay-majority seats. While on the outset this looks terrible for Najib, it must be understood in the context of Mahathir’s PH also going after these Malay seats. It is impossible to win a general election in Malaysia without winning a large proportion of Malay seats.

Malaysia operates under a first-past-the-post electoral system, so with the opposition vote split between PAS and PH, UMNO will win the bulk of the Malay seats and will therefore win the general election. Najib is so confident of this strategy that he has told his inner circles that UMNO is aiming to take 140–160 seats in the 222-seat parliament.

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The Tiff with HRH Sultan of Selangor puts the Political Opposition at a serious disadvantage while Prime Minister Najib Razak surges ahead with strong UMNO and PAS support

By contrast, without the powers of patronage and the government machinery, opposition leader Mahathir is finding it increasingly difficult to influence the electorate. Mahathir’s problem is his strongman legacy. Many in the middle-class and the opposition want him to apologise for human rights abuses during his 22 years in power, including the jailing of opposition leaders under the infamous Internal Security Act. Mahathir has steadfastly refused to do so and merely said he ‘regrets’ some of his actions.

There is a sense among urban voters that Mahathir cannot be trusted and is only using the opposition to capture power. Some fear that once in power, he will revert back to his authoritarian ways. Hence, there is a real danger that educated, urban voters will protest Mahathir’s recalcitrance by simply staying at home during the general election rather than voting for the opposition, which indirectly helps Najib.

The 1MDB scandal also does not appear to have gained political traction. Despite the best efforts of the opposition to paint Najib as a kleptocrat and an international pariah, Najib managed to meet US President Donald Trump in the White House. Najib even had the nerve to tell Trump that Malaysia was going to ‘make America great again’ by investing more than US$20 billion in the United States.

Immediately after Washington, Najib flew to London to meet British Prime Minister Theresa May. The photo ops with Trump and May effectively numbed the opposition’s propaganda campaigns in Malay rural areas.

Najib also blunted the opposition’s claim that Saudi Arabia was unhappy with Najib for implicating the Saudis in 1MDB by hosting King Salman in Malaysia. Najib even took King Salman’s first selfie and the Saudis promised investments in Malaysia worth US$7 billion.

Najib’s one weak point is the economy — in particular the strength of the Malaysian ringgit (RM), which has lost more than 20 per cent of its value since he came to power. But the business community is slowing getting used to the weakened ringgit: the exchange rate is not expected to go back to RM3 to US$1 any time soon, and most people will tolerate the ringgit at its current level of roughly RM4 to US$1.

Najib has cleverly used the 2018 budget to channel aid to more than seven million Malaysians in the bottom 40 per cent of the population using cash transfers and individual tax cuts. The 1.5 million-strong civil service will get additional days off, unrecorded leave for umrah pilgrimage and easier promotions.

By the end of the year, Najib will be politically stronger. His deal with PAS has effectively blindsided Mahathir and PH, and the 1MBD corruption allegations are by and large considered ‘old news’ by the all-important rural Malay electorate.

Going forward, the only danger facing Najib is Hadi’s health. Hadi has suffered several heart attacks and there is a possibility that a fatal heart attack could occur anytime. If he dies, PAS will split and Najib may not be able to hold the new PAS leaders to the deal made with Hadi.

As long as Hadi lives until the next general election, Najib’s political status and reputation as Malaysia’s Teflon prime minister is assured.

James Chin is Director of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania.

This article is part of an EAF special feature series on 2017 in review and the year ahead.

Two Kerbau Men of Malaysian Deliverance

December 4, 2017

Two Kerbau Men of Malaysian Deliverance

by Terrence

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No Harapan–A Coalition of Convenience has seldom worked before

COMMENT| Over the now fast-fading year, two narratives have marked the politics of the opposition in Malaysia.

One is on the ostensible destroyer of constitutional government metamorphosing into improbable rescuer of the country from kleptocracy.

The other narrative is the man whose eyes have so long been firmly fixed on the main chance that the more it eludes him, the shakier his judgment of the paths by which to get there.

Critics who think Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s credentials as a democratic reformer are bogus, slight an important strand in the Machiavellian approach to his political craft: the salutary sense of responsibility for what he has wrought prompts the Herculean effort to set right what has gone wrong, for which he has been hugely culpable.

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Says Netto: “Friends of Anwar Ibrahim, aware of the ambition that seethes within him, cannot seem to help him turn an obsession into irony; in politics, it is the alternative to stalemate, ignominy, and sterility.”

On the other side of the opposition’s narrative equation is this: Friends of Anwar Ibrahim, aware of the ambition that seethes within him, cannot seem to help him turn an obsession into irony. That enterprise is always useful. In life, it is the great antidote to insomnia; in politics, it is the alternative to stalemate, ignominy, and sterility.

All this is prologue for the point that last weekend’s pow-wow held by the opposition Pakatan Harapan to establish focal points for proceeding – such as who will be Prime Minister and who will be deputy should the coalition win an imminent general election (GE14) – was stymied for lack of consensus.

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Pakatan Harapan has formally proposed Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as its candidate for Prime Minister and Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as his Deputy if the coalition triumphs in the next general election.–The

The reason: the Harapan presidential council’s choice of Mahathir as PM and Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as Deputy should the coalition win GE14 was not assented to by the weekend’s conclave because the gaoled Anwar has to approve it first. So insisted the PKR complement at the weekend’s durbar.

PKR’s obduracy has had this ironic effect: their de facto leader who was the principal adhesive in the improbable opposition coalitions that had seminally denied the ruling BN its two-thirds parliamentary majority in 2008 (GE12) and bested BN in the popular vote in 2013 (GE13) has now mutated to become the main impediment to the coalition’s progress.

This ironic development rendered the one-and-a-half day conclave sterile rather than what it should have been – decisive moment in the shaping of the Malaysian deliverance from the precipice to which 60 years of UMNO-BN rule has conduced.

When seen against the backdrop of the Registrar of Societies’ foot-dragging on recognising Harapan as a political entity and approving its logo, the outcome damages the standing of Sungai Buloh’s most famous resident.

Prior to this, Anwar Ibrahim was the most consequential leader of the post-May 13, 1969 era of Malaysian history – on account of his ability to reshape the assumptions of the people has long aspired to lead.

Now, after last weekend’s meeting, he appears to be churlish holder-up of the consensus that should have seen Harapan progress from the Mahathir-initiated Citizens’ Declaration rejecting kleptocracy of March 2016, to the moment last weekend of a decisive coalescence of the forces ranged in support of urgent political reform.

In one of those ironies in which history abounds, this moment is the antithesis of that watershed one just over a decade ago when in a brilliant act of political divination, Anwar leveraged on an unexpectedly impactful event – the Hindraf organised March in Kuala Lumpur of bedraggled Indian Malaysians on Nov 25, 2007 – to steer the electorate to a seminal denial of BN’s traditional supermajority in parliament.

How has this reversal come about? A politician of Anwar’s sensitivity has to be wading in a political river’s currents rather than marooned on its banks to have a feel of a shifting public’s pulse.

Incarcerated, he is abnormally dependent on what his cohorts tell him of what is happening beyond the walls of the prison.

Because PKR is a congeries of disparate political forces, different rapporteurs tell him different things.

If he had been out in the open air, his sensitive political antennae would pick up the important signals and act accordingly.

In prison, processing what he hears from others and filtering it through the distorting prism of his vaulting ambition, Anwar has become a weathercock, drifting on winds of circumstance.

That is the reason why he is sympathetic to a faction of PKR (factional strife in PKR is largely the result of his mishandling of rivalries within the party) which wants the 21 seats won by PAS in GE13 to be uncontested by Harapan, an issue that was raised over the weekend.

This is something that, if insisted upon, will result in PKR losing votes and may even eventuate in a DAP decision to go it alone in GE14.

The non-Muslim aversion to PAS is running at an all-time high and can turn against PKR if the party insists on cohabitation with what the “nons” see as bogus Islamists.

Attenuated from political realities, physically enfeebled by imprisonment, Anwar is out of sorts.

Meanwhile, battling age and infirmity, Mahathir is rising in the estimation of the leadership cohort of Harapan.

All of last week he was rumoured to be ill and in bed. But when the weekend’s deliberations began he rose to the occasion – to listen carefully, summarise succinctly what was said, render with clarity his take, and point the direction in which things should go.

It was as much a physical feat of endurance as it was a political tour de force.

Excepting an unenamoured few, all who watched and have been observing since the time of the Citizens’ Declaration of March last year know that when push comes to shove, the denizen of Permatang Pauh cannot match the nonagenarian from Titi Gajah, Kedah Darul Aman.

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Still a Force to be reckoned with in Malaysian Politics while Anwar Ibrahim Languishes in Sungai Buloh Prison

It appears that, as the great bard said, age cannot wither Mahathir nor the daunting challenges Harapan faces stale his resilience.

The narrative of national rescue, pace the weekend’s cogitations at the Perdana Leadership Centre in Putrajaya, has recessed for Sungai Buloh to take things in. Anwar risks more by stalling than by inaction caused by fear of being swept up by forces he can no longer control.

Pakatan Harapan– The One Platform Party in Disarray

November 29, 2017

To  Anwar Ibrahim from an old Friend–Open Letter

There is reliance on only one policy plank. Label Najib a kleptocrat and attack him non-stop on 1MDB…In strategic terms, it is an instance of what Dr Wong Chin Huat terms “strategic ambiguity” – avoid the thorny issues and focus on safe issues like corruption and living costs. Mahathir’s strategy goes even further – “Topple Najib first, leave everything for later”.

It is easy to see why PH is adopting this strategy. Dr Wong calls it “communal incoordination”. In more simple language, it means if you try to please the Chinese, you lose Malay votes; if you try to please the Malays, you lose Chinese votes. So just concentrate on the issues both sides can agree on i.e. corruption.–Dr. Ronnie Ooi

by Dr. Ronnie Ooi

Dear Anwar,

You may remember me from the time we worked together in Majlis Belia Malaysia (MBM) when I was chair of MBM Penang and worked with your late brother Rani and others.

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Anwar Ibrahim cannot do much since Najib Razak has placed him in Sungei Buloh Prison

I left for the UK in 1990 mainly because of disillusionment with the political situation. I returned in 2008 as Prime Minister Najib Razak was in his liberal phase and things looked quite hopeful.

I feel somewhat guilty that, as a friend, I had not come forward earlier to offer to help, but I wanted a quiet life. I now put pen to paper with some reluctance but unfortunately, I think the warning lights are flashing for Pakatan Harapan (PH).

I feel I cannot in good conscience keep quiet any longer. I point to these warning signs not to discourage people from continuing or joining the fight, but as an indication that PH has weaknesses which must be reviewed.

I am making this letter public as I do not know how else I can be certain of getting my views to you. Besides these proposals will be of interest to the rakyat.

The resignation of three founding members of Bersatu (PPBM) on the grounds that the leadership is unable to accept criticism, is worrying. One bad apple is to be expected, but three all at once?

Image result for Najib and Rosmah visit Anwar Ibrahim in hospital

UMNO style shadow play (wang kulit)–Advantage Najib Razak

The Merdeka Centre Youth Opinion Survey shows that high dissatisfaction with the government is not translating into support for the opposition. Most telling of all is Zaid Ibrahim, Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s greatest cheerleader, now advises Malays to emigrate if they have the chance.

The weaknesses of Pakatan Harapan

There is reliance on one man, Dr Mahathir, in the belief that his name plus the 1MDB and other financial scandals will be sufficient to trigger a Malay tsunami. I truly admire him for coming out of a comfortable and privileged retirement to lead the opposition. But I do worry whether his age prevents him from understanding the demands and aspirations of today’s voters, especially the youth.

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That’s Fine, Tun Dr. Mahathir when you were the Prime Minister. Today, Najib Razak is in charge of Malaysia and he can shut you up.

There is reliance on only one policy plank. Label Najib a kleptocrat and attack him non-stop on 1MDB.

In strategic terms, it is an instance of what Dr Wong Chin Huat terms “strategic ambiguity” – avoid the thorny issues and focus on safe issues like corruption and living costs. Mahathir’s strategy goes even further – “Topple Najib first, leave everything for later”.

It is easy to see why PH is adopting this strategy. Dr Wong calls it “communal incoordination”. In more simple language, it means if you try to please the Chinese, you lose Malay votes; if you try to please the Malays, you lose Chinese votes. So just concentrate on the issues both sides can agree on i.e. corruption.

Politics of hope vs politics of hate

I do not want to hurt your feelings Anwar, but it is best to be blunt. What PH is offering the voters of GE14 is the politics of hate (hate Najib), and the politics of personality (Mahathir can solve everything).

There is no message of hope, nothing of policy. It looks back to the past (what Najib and Mahathir have done), not how to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

Elections are won on the politics of hope, although I admit the politics of hate can be a useful aid.

Trump won the American presidency elections because his message of hope to his right-wing supporters was very clear and powerful i.e. “Build the wall, keep Muslims out, make America great again” and his message of hate was also useful – “Crooked Hilary”.

Hilary lost because, although she had a message of hate (“Trump temperamentally unfit to be President”), her message of hope was muddled and unclear.

Chong Eu won Penang on the politics of hope i.e. “Economic development, Free Trade Zones, Penang bridge”. He had no message of hate.

In the urban areas and amongst the educated elite, hatred of what Najib is doing is very strong and for many of them, probably even a majority, the politics of hate is sufficient. They willingly accept Mahathir’s position of “Topple Najib first, leave everything for later”.

But the rural Malays have received benefits from the government, and although they may be disturbed by allegations of systemic corruption, they will not have the hatred of Najib that the urban voters have.

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The registration of Pakatan Harapan is held up by the Registrar of Societies–Checkmate?

To say to the rural Malays “Topple Najib first, leave everything for later” is like saying, “Your house is in bad condition. We will tear it down for you. When you are homeless by the road side, only then we will think how we can build a new house for you.” No sane normal person will allow his house to be torn down until he is certain he will get a better replacement.

Four steps to bring about the politics of hope:

1. Mahathir’s position of “Topple Najib first, leave everything for later” has to be discarded

This position prevents PH from telling the people how life under PH will be better and it prevents PH from hearing what the people want to say.

The Merdeka Centre Youth Opinion Survey found that 40% of respondents were not registered as voters, 70% were not interested in politics and 71% felt politicians do not listen to them.

If PH says to these youths “Mahathir knows best”, they will turn their backs on PH. If PH is willing to listen to them, to discuss how best to meet their hopes and aspirations, PH will win their support and votes and by doing so, win GE14.

2. Saving Malaysia requires a two-election process

Those who think that toppling Najib will solve all problems mistake the PM to be the cause of the country’s problems, whereas he is only the symptom. The real cause is the growing distrust and antagonism between the Malay and non-Malay communities, which sustains and protects leaders like Najib.

Removing Najib will not prevent a Najib clone from emerging a few years later if this inter-communal antagonism is not tackled.

There is a deep fault line in PH. Bersatu (PPBM) is constructed to be like UMNO to attract discontented UMNO members. But, as a result, their core political ideology of discriminating in favour of Bumiputeras conflicts with PKR’s and DAP’s core ideology of economic policies based on need and not race.

This means that whilst Bersatu and PKR/DAP/Amanah are completely united that Najib must be toppled to save Malaysia, there is no agreement over what Dr Wong terms inter-communal bargains on issues like economic redistribution and social inclusion, religion and lifestyle, language and education.

The way to resolve this contradiction in objectives is simple: use GE14 to defeat the BN government to bring about institutional change and use GE15 to resolve the breakdown in the inter-communal bargains concerning economics, education, etc.

GE14 is about whether voters want an honest government, GE15 is for voters to decide how best to resolve inter-communal antagonism.

In GE14, Bersatu (PPBM) and PKR/DAP/Amanah work together to fight Najib’s BN. In GE15 Bersatu (PPBM), possibly in combination with a BN without Najib, may be contesting against PKR/DAP.

If we try to solve everything in one election, a voter who would like to vote for an honest candidate may instead vote for a dishonest candidate of his own race if he fears domination by another race.

If we do not separate out an election for an honest government from an election over communal anxieties and inter-communal bargains, we may have a dishonest government for a very long time.

I am excited to see Dr Wong Chin Huat recently come up with roughly the same idea, which he terms a two-step transition pact.

3. PH must show its commitment to institutional reform

PH must set up a readily available central reference of all its proposals for institutional reform.

Some of the questions PH must answer are:

  • What oppressive laws are they going to repeal or amend? We must remember that when Najib proposed repealing the Sedition Act, Mahathir was in the forefront of UMNO criticism of the move. Mukhriz is on record expressing “his disappointment at the abolition of the ISA”.
  • How should the Universities and University Colleges Act be amended to enable the brightest of our youth to play their proper role in our society?
  • How does PH intend to prevent a recurrence of the 1MDB scandal?
  • The Prime Minister has too much power. How does PH intend to reduce the power of the PM?

Proposals for institutional reform require only mental effort, unlike physical projects which require time-consuming study and planning. It is too late now for PH to promise the rakyat it will build 100,000 low-cost homes but there is still plenty of time before the election for PH to say whether it will or will not repeal the Sedition Act. Besides, there are many social activists who can help PH draft and finalise details of proposals for institutional reform.

To prove the truth of what I am saying, Anwar, in the second part of my letter to you, I will set out my ideas on how the powers of the Prime minister should be reduced.

4. Announce a limited-time fixed programme election manifesto

Because institutional reforms require only changes in laws and legal procedures, they can be implemented in a short time, say a year, especially if a lot of work has been done before the election.

PH should therefore announce that, if they win GE14, they will govern for only one year, to implement a limited, specific and publicly-agreed programme of eradicating corruption in government, carrying out institutional reform, repealing oppressive laws, and undertaking any such other programmes as PH component parties can agree on, such as abolishing the GST.

Following this, an early GE15 will then be called, at which the parties will be able to fight each other over their different political ideologies.

Advantages of a limited-time fixed programme election manifesto:

  1. Policy differences in economic re-distribution, education, etc cannot be postponed for the normal government term of five years. But they can be postponed for a period of one year.
  2. Many people have doubts about a PH government. They are more likely to give PH a chance if they can throw out a bad PH government after one year.
  3. With a fixed programme, Malays who fear that PH will be dominated by the DAP, can see exactly what they will get under a PH government.

Go where no one else has gone before

Confronted with difficult questions, Malaysians, both politicians and the general public, have a habit of sweeping them under the carpet and pretending to themselves that there are no problems.

They insist on remaining within their comfort zones, rejecting the mental discomfort of thinking new thoughts. They bury their heads in the sand, dreaming of a PH victory in GE14.

They get very angry when disturbed from their dreams, demanding why their side’s weaknesses are being advertised to the enemy.

But exposing weaknesses before the election campaign starts allows time for them to be corrected. Burying heads in the sand prevents solutions to problems being found. If solutions are missed, we suffer defeat when it could so easily have been a victory.

My voice is not loud enough to be heard by the people. But if you, Anwar, speak, people will listen. If you think my ideas are good, let us work together to implement them. If you think them bad, do not hesitate to say so, in order that better solutions can be found.

To members of the public reading this, I say: we best serve the party we support not by keeping quiet but by giving them feedback and ideas. Those who have feedback and ideas to give are invited to contact me at so that by banding together, we have a stronger voice.

To solve Malaysia’s problems, we need to go where no one else has gone before. Remember: he who dares, wins.

Your old friend,
Dr Ronnie Ooi

Dr Ronnie Ooi is a former politician and medical practitioner based in Penang.

Dr Mahathir and Kit Siang deflected Tough Questions at Youth Forum in Petaling Jaya

November 23, 2017

Dr Mahathir and Kit Siang deflected Tough Questions at Youth Forum in Petaling Jaya

byMuzliza Mustafa

Many youth unhappy over Dr Mahathir and Kit Siang’s replies at forum

THOSE who attended a youth forum in Petaling Jaya last night were unhappy with how Dr Mahathir Mohamad and former nemesis Lim Kit Siang answered their questions.

They said the Pakatan Harapan chairman and DAP parliamentary leader evaded some questions, while their answers to some were wishy-washy.

“I think Lim (Kit Siang) answered my question, although he was being diplomatic about it. He did say that if a crime happened, it should be investigated,” said Tharmelinggem Pillai, 24, when met at the What Say Youth forum in the Petaling Jaya Community Library last night.

Tharmelinggem had asked Kit Siang if Pakatan Harapan would set up a royal commission of inquiry to investigate Dr Mahathir’s actions when he was Prime Minister for 22 years.

Image result for Mahathir and Kit Siang at PJ Youth Forum

He, however, was not satisfied with Dr Mahathir’s answer on the use of the Internal Security Act during the Ops Lalang crackdown.

“His reply that Police had advised him to use the act… I don’t think he was being very clear on that,” he said. Tharmelinggem said he had yet to decide on which party to vote for in the next general election. He will be voting for the first time.

He said Dr Mahathir now in the opposition had forced him to rethink his choice. “That is why I am here tonight, to speak to Dr Mahathir because I do not like him.”

Jason Wong, 31, said he thought Dr Mahathir did not explain how Pakatan Harapan could change the current system to limit the power of the Prime Minister.

“He only said there should be minor changes to the system, but how are we going to stop someone from using cash to get what he wants?” said Wong.

Wong said he was frustrated that Dr Mahathir did not explain what he had done to the system that had given ultimate power to the Prime Minister.

Wong, however, said he still supported PH and believed it could change to Malaysia. He said Dr Mahathir should reject the Malay supremacy ideology that UMNO and Barisan Nasional was used to manipulate low-income Malays.

He said the answers that Dr Mahathir and Lim gave tonight had been repeated to PH supporters lately. “I am happy with the tough questions thrown tonight, but not the replies.”

He and Dr Mahathir left the venue at 10pm after answering more than a dozen questions from the crowd. – November 22, 2017.


Najib Razak-Anwar Ibrahim Meet– A Rorschach Test of Malay Politics

November 22, 2017

Thayaparan on The Najib Razak-Anwar Ibrahim Meet–A Rorschach Test of Malay Politics

“Maybe the Najib-Anwar hospital visit was just an innocent meeting, but the most important thing the land of endless possibilities has taught me is that all deals are possible, but sticking to them is another story.”–S. Thayaparan

And that’s that.”

– Ace Rothstein (Casino)

COMMENT | The visit by the current Umno grand poohbah Najib Razak and the grand poohbah-in-waiting Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to the bedside of political prisoner Anwar Ibrahim who is recovering from surgery has become a kind of Rorschach test of how people interpret Malay political and social culture.

Image result for Silat


Indeed, in Malaysiakini columnist P Gunasegaram’s piece, he makes it very clear that for people who “understand” Malay culture, this meeting is nothing more than a meeting between two former allies turned political opponents at a time when one is convalescing.

It does not take someone with an in-depth understanding of Malay culture to realise that these meetings between Malay potentates present good optics – in press speak – to their political bases.  Anwar, who has been imprisoned and vilified by the UMNO hegemon, appears composed and magnanimous while Prime Minister Najib and Deputy Prime Minister Zahid present themselves as benign and mindful of Malay civility and compassion, even to rebels who would choose to usurp their power.

Despite establishment narratives that non-Malays – the Chinese specifically – seek to supplant Malay/Muslim power in Malaysia, the reality is that this could never happen. Why this is the case is beyond the scope of this article, but since Malay powerbrokers hold the keys to Putrajaya, the sight of Malay political opponents meeting always arouses speculation and yes, insecurity amongst the non-Malay demographic, especially those invested in regime change.

Image result for Anwar-Najib Meet

Beyond that, the meeting has fuelled speculation that a possible deal could be brokered between the disparate Malay power structures that have caused so much trouble for the current Umno regime. Not only has Najib have to deal with the charismatic Anwar, guard his flanks against the religious machinations of PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang, but he also has to deal with the master of realpolitik Dr Mahathir Mohamad who is probably playing the last and great political game of his life. The stakes are high.

Here is a conspiracy for you. Perhaps the “delay” in the Registrar of Societies (ROS) registration of Pakatan Harapan as a coalition is to pave the way for a smooth transition of power between disparate Malay power groups and stifle the rebellion of the Najib refuseniks. Without a registered and formalised opposition, it would be easier to use legalese to justify unexpected mergers and yes, acquisitions.

Image result for Zahid Hamidi meets Anwar Ibrahim

Remember, this is not the first “deal” between Anwar and the Najib regime. There was also that deal brokered by Indonesia’s Jusuf Kalla in 2013 that both camps reneged on for various reasons. Why such a deal was needed – to respect the outcome of the general elections – is beyond me, but apparently, it was. I wrote about it, of course, when it first surfaced, once again questioning the type of “friends” Anwar has a history of investing in.

“About the only credible aspect of Jusuf’s opinion was his perception that both Anwar and Najib were confident of winning the recently concluded general election. I will note however that I am surprised in the former’s belief simply because the grassroots from the various oppositional factions were unsure of just how great the vocal showing of support would translate into votes.”

“‘How can you talk reconciliation when you demonise your opponent in this manner?’ asked Anwar to the Wall Street Journal when he acknowledged the deal but claimed it was void because of the virulent bigoted campaign waged by the UMNO state against its political opponents.

“The reality is that both sides have been demonising their political opponents. It is precisely these kinds of political stratagems, which many argue is against ‘Malay’ culture but offer no evidence to support this contention, who also argue that Malay solidarity trumps, ideology or anything else that could cause a split in the Malay polity.”

Endless possibilities

The most interesting part is the one “both sides said that the other had rejected a clause in the pact that the winner was to offer the loser a role in a ‘reconciliation government’.” This, of course, is interesting for a whole host of reasons but this was made at a time when former Prime Minister Mahathir was not part of the opposition alliance.

The inclusion of Mahathir in the opposition alliance has changed everything. Forget about the fact that a certain section of the electorate is disillusioned with this new alliance and are contemplating sitting out this election but more importantly, Malay power structures are hedging their bets when it comes to the final showdown between Najib and the man the opposition once called a dictator.

All these issues of electoral malfeasance are business as usual for UMNO and anyone who has ever been associated with UMNO, but what the regime really fears is the internal sabotage and the loyalty Mahathir commands in the bureaucracies at the state and federal level.

We have to remember that the opposition is what it is today because even in the opposition, Malay/Muslim power structures war amongst themselves. Contemporary Malay opposition narratives are defined by the PAS ejection from the opposition, PKR and PAS doing a tango when PAS has already made it clear what it thinks of the opposition, the unthinkable inclusion of a “Malay” rights party (Bersatu) into a supposedly egalitarian alliance, and finally the various turf wars between Malay opposition politicians.

Considering the history of the participants, the backdrop of pragmatic politics and the state-sanctioned narratives of what it means to be “Malay”, it would be naive not to consider that deals could not be made between disparate Malay power structures.

We are not talking about genuine political movements but personality cults fuelled by racial and religious politics. If Anwar could reach a compromise with the former prime minister who was instrumental in his transformation from politician to political prisoner, why not some kind of deal with a potentate who if rumours are to believed wants a clean exit?

And if Najib can find common ground with Hadi Awang of PAS, even though this goes against traditional UMNO narratives about PAS, then why not find common ground as a means to reshape once and for all Malay power structures in this country much like the way how Mahathir did during his tenure?

Maybe the Najib-Anwar hospital visit was just an innocent meeting, but the most important thing the land of endless possibilities has taught me is that all deals are possible, but sticking to them is another story.

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