Can UMNO-BN defectors ever reform?


November 3, 2018

Can UMNO-BN defectors ever reform?

By Dean Johns

http://www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | As Bersih, Amanah and many concerned individuals have said recently, any move on the part of Pakatan Harapan or any of its component parties to even think about accepting UMNO-BN no-hopers into their ranks, let alone seriously consider doing so, is an absolute outrage.

 

There has been no sign that these 40 thieves have turned over a new leaf; that these pathological liars have seen the light, or perceived the error of their ways.

All of them – without exception – have been either accomplices in or accessories to the massive crimes allegedly committed by their former UMNO-BN leaders, and none have shown the slightest sign of regret, remorse, repentance or intention to reform.

And until they have publicly done so, and surrendered their ill-gotten assets to the national treasury, they should remain criminal suspects, and at the very least be subjected to forensic audits of their financial affairs.

So for Pakatan Harapan to consider admitting UMNO-BN defectors without their confessing, and serving sentences or even periods of probation for their crimes and corruption, or repaying the rakyat, is like placing rotten apples into a fresh new barrel, or incorporating cancer cells into a young, healthy body.

 Image result for pakatan harapan

Or to put this another way, unless and until they sincerely reform, it should be assumed that their motive for aspiring to join Harapan is to insert themselves into a force, hell-bent on undermining and eventually destroying the new government from within.

And thus, far from entertaining their hopes of hopping sides, Harapan should tell off these “frogs and toads”, which happens to be rhyming slang for “road”, which they should be hitting.

Considering that they’ve betrayed the Malaysian people – especially the Malay-Muslim people whose interests as UMNO–BN members they falsely claimed to ‘protect’ – and have now shown their willingness to betray those who voted for them as well as UMNO-BN itself, they can hardly be seen as trustworthy converts to the Harapan cause.

And then there’s the thought that Harapan, and especially its Bersatu component, is already stuffed full enough with unregenerate UMNO-BN renegades and rejects.

Image result for pakatan harapan

Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is the most prominent example. While admittedly it seems unarguable that Harapan could not have won without him, many of us strongly suspect that he’s still the same old autocrat and even the same old mad hatter at heart.

And that it was his personal hatred for ex-premier Najib Abdul Razak in particular rather than for UMNO-BN in principle that impelled him to make a comeback as the head of Pakatan Harapan.

Little sign of regret

Certainly, despite his appearing to be a reformed character, he’s shown little sign of regret for the countless crimes, corruption and perversions of justice that characterised his 22 years as President of UMNO Baru and UMNO-BN Prime Minister.

Nor has there been any sign that any of his sons are about to be retrospectively investigated any time soon for past scandals and dubious business successes.

 Image result for muhyiddin yassin

Then there’s Najib’s onetime Deputy Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, whose highly likely involvement in or at least strong support of UMNO-BN malefactions back then, is somehow never mentioned, and whose ‘conversion’ to Harapan principles and values has gone largely, if not, totally unexamined.

 Image result for pakatan harapan

There are some, I know, who suspect that Mahathir and Muhyiddin, now that they have used Pakatan Harapan as a vehicle to wreak vengeance on Najib, will eventually reveal that, far from being agents of reform, are actually on a secret mission to re-form a revised or alternative version of UMNO-BN.

And some of the same conspiracy theorists are similarly suspicious of the intentions of Anwar Ibrahim, if and when he replaces Mahathir as Prime Minister. Despite his apparently impeccable credentials as the former leader of the Reformasi movement and such a bitter enemy of Mahathir and Najib that each of them jailed him for years, many still see him as being cursed with UMNO-BN DNA.

Image result for anwar ibrahim

But whatever the true motivations and intentions of these and other former leading members of UMNO-BN, the last thing the Pakatan Harapan coalition or the citizens of Malaysia need right now, is to risk accepting allegedly reformed deserters from this defeated and disgraced regime, lest they re-form and threaten the new government.

Exactly eight years ago, I suggested in a column entitled ‘From Putrajaya to Putrajail’, they should be hauled into court and, following a fair trial, of course, be sentenced to years in the UMNO-BN.

*DEAN JOHNS, after many years in Asia, currently lives with his Malaysian-born wife and daughter in Sydney, where he coaches and mentors writers and authors and practises as a writing therapist. Published compilations of his Malaysiakini columns include “Mad about Malaysia”, “Even Madder about Malaysia”, “Missing Malaysia”, “1Malaysia.con” and “Malaysia Mania”.

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


aysiakini.

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Malaysia: Malay Political Dominance remains despite UMNO’s rout


October 26, 2018

Malay Political Dominance remains despite UMNO’s rout

Regime change at GE14 did not change the dominance of Malay politics.

 

http://www.newmandala.org/malay-dominance-remains-despite-umnos-rout/

Image result for Malay Political Dominance to stay

Malay Political Dominance is here to stay. UMNO ?

Analysts of Malaysia’s 14th General Election (GE-14) agree that the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) suffered a humiliating defeat. But there is less unanimity that this also applied to the dominant party in BN, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).

BN’s loss is clear to all. On election night BN won only 79 seats, down from 133 in 2013. Soon afterwards, several coalition members and UMNO representatives declared independence. BN was left with the pre-BN Alliance three of UMNO, MCA and MIC, and by September had only 51 members in the 222-seat parliament (two contributed by MIC and one MCA). BN’s share of the popular vote before desertions declined from 47.4% to 33.7%.

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Nonetheless many UMNO leaders, and political analysts, argue that this was not a rejection of UMNO. The party’s Information Head, Annuar Musa, declared UMNO had obtained 60% of the Malay-Muslim vote. Former Prime Minister Najib Razak said there was no Malay tsunami against UMNO in GE14, only a divided Malay electorate. Current UMNO head and former Deputy Prime Minister, Zahid Hamidi, claimed that UMNO still had strong Malay support of 46%, and “it is higher than the previous elections.”

Similar views have been expressed by academic commentators. One analyst claims that UMNO enjoyed the support of 46.29% of the Malay electorate, compared to 28.14% for PAS (Parti Islam), and 25.47% the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH, Alliance of Hope) coalition comprising PKR (People’s Justice Party), Democratic Action Party (DAP), Parti Bersatu (PPBM, or United Indigenous Party), and Amanah (National Trust Party), together with its Sabah ally Warisan (Heritage). A widely quoted survey by the respected Merdeka Centre put Malay support for the PH and Warisan at only 25-30%, while PAS received 30-33% and UMNO 35-40%.

While there are difficulties getting a precise measurement before detailed examination of individual constituencies, it is clear that UMNO’s influence in the Malay community is not as high as these figures suggest.

UMNO was able to gain some support in rural areas – voting data in the Perak constituency of Sungai Siput showed that UMNO won 52% of the rural Malay vote, a result likely replicated in some similar constituencies. But UMNO seats declined from 88 to 54 (48 after resignations in June, July and September), its worst result ever. Its total vote in an expanded electorate declined from 3,416,310 of 11,257,147 votes (30.4% of popular vote) in 2013 to 2,552,391 of 12,299,514 in GE14 (20.8%). In earlier elections, UMNO lost only 6-7 of 54 rural constituencies with FELDA development schemes, while in 2018 it lost 19. There is even evidence that Malay bureaucrats, the police and the army abandoned UMNO in significant numbers. And these opposition gains came after a pre-election redelineation designed to benefit UMNO and BN. It also continued to benefit from a strong weighting in favour of smaller predominantly Malay electorates – in 2013 BN required 39,381 votes per MP to Pakatan’s 63,191 votes, while in 2018 the ratio was 46,836 to 77,943.

Nor should the vote for PAS be considered anything but a rejection of UMNO, notwithstanding an understanding between UMNO and PAS leaders to divide the Malay vote to their mutual benefit. With widespread speculation that UMNO was about to win the state of Kelantan, PAS voters united against the traditional enemy, UMNO, as they had many times in the past. PAS support remained concentrated in its traditional heartland, and the small increase in its popular vote from 14.7 to 16.9% was not exceptional given that it contested more than double the number of seats it had in 2013, 157 seats as against 73 for Malaysia as a whole, and on the peninsula, 143 compared to 65.

How then was Malay support divided in this election? It must first be noted that virtually all comments on this refer only to the peninsula, as the Malay electorate is a minority in Sabah and Sarawak and does not necessarily represent the same interests as those on the peninsula. By my calculations, Malay support for UMNO on the peninsula was about 5% higher than support for PAS and PH. This is indicated in the table below:

The Peninsula Electorate

Total votes: 10,347,357

Total Malay: 6,346,739 (61.34)

UMNO vote: 2,323,665 (36.6%)

PAS vote: 2,012,381 (31.7%)

Other (PH): 2,010,693 (31.7%)

Source: calculated from EC statistics and racial breakdown detailed in Malaysiakini’s https://undi.info/

True, the UMNO vote cannot simply be equated with Malay support for UMNO. Some of the UMNO votes would have been contributed by non-Malays, while Malay UMNO supporters in other constituencies would have expressed their support for UMNO by voting for other BN candidates. Not many non-Malays would have supported UMNO candidates – most estimates are that over 93% of non-Malays voted against the BN. But nor are many Malays likely to have supported non-UMNO BN candidates, as the massive defeats suffered by these candidates indicates. It should, however be noted that UMNO contested in nearly twice as many seats as other BN (106-59). I therefore assume that non-Malays supporting UMNO and Malays supporting non-UMNO BN candidates would approximately cancel each other out, and that the percentage vote for UMNO would remain around 36.6%.

For the PAS vote it seems safe to assume that non-Malay support would have been negligible, so its share of the peninsula vote would have been around 31.7%.

That leaves another 31.7% of the Malay vote unaccounted for, and this could only have been directed to PH.

Noteworthy also is the fact that PH also had more Malays elected on the Peninsula than UMNO – 51 (PKR 26, PPBM 13, PAN 11, DAP 1) compared to 46. UMNO was soon reduced to 41 after 5 resignations.

Even these figures may flatter UMNO. On election night, the EC declared the voter turnout to be 76%, but revised this by more than 6% to 82.32% two days later. No explanation for this extraordinary difference was given, but the EC’s past record suggests that figures may have been adjusted to strengthen the UMNO-BN vote.

Image result for PAS

The GE-14 result reflects PAS’ enduring influence, yet the PH parties together with IKRAM and ABIM offer a viable ‘Islamic alternative’ for pious Muslim voters. Can PAS expand its support base in urban areas, and might Amanah make further inroads into the east coast PAS heartland?

One analyst has expressed concern that the Malaysian government is now dominated by non-Muslims, since for the first time non-Muslims outnumbered Muslims in the ruling coalition (PH and Warisan). The government has 66 non-Muslim MPs. It has only 58 Muslims – 27 from PKR, 13 Bersatu, 11 Amanah, 6 Warisan, and one DAP – comprising 46.8% of the total.

 

This is indeed the case. Although somewhat similar to the 1999 election, when for the first time UMNO won fewer seats than its coalition partners (72 of 148, or 48.6%), 11 Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu representatives in Sarawak lifted the BN Muslim component to 83, or 56.1%.

But the small non-Muslim majority of government MPs has not meant that this group dominates the government. The Cabinet is overwhelmingly Malay-Muslims, as 18 of its 26 members are Malays (69%), including the key posts of Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

Image result for pakatan harapan government

And the Parliament remains a predominantly Malay-Muslim institution. The PH and UMNO Malays elected for the peninsula on 9 May totaled 97. To this must be added a further 10 Malays elected for BN in Sarawak, and 15 in Sabah (8 UMNO, 6 Warisan and one from PRK). In total 122 members (55%) of the House of Representatives are Malays.

BERSATU They Stand: Bersatu, the new face of Ketuanan Melayu Politics?


September 29, 2018

BERSATU They  Stand:   Bersatu, the new face of Ketuanan Melayu Politics?

Image result for BERSATU

by S Thayaparan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Our fight is a fundamental fight against both of the old corrupt party machines, for both are under the dominion of the plunder league of the professional politicians who are controlled and sustained by the great beneficiaries of privilege and reaction.” – Theodore Roosevelt

COMMENT | I just do not get it. There seem to be two narratives when it comes to this idea of a unity government. The first is about how Pakatan Harapan de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim and his coterie are working in a sub rosa fashion with UMNO to form a unity government, while the second is about how UMNO is going, hat in hand, to Malay power structures in Harapan to cease being a “government in waiting.”

What I don’t understand is why people really think that the big bad wolf is still UMNO, as if it will be the catalyst that would down the Harapan regime. The existential threat to Harapan is not UMNO, but an ideology that paralyses any progressive destiny of Malaysia… Harapan needs a strong Malay mandate if they are to throw their weight around in a multiracial, multi-religious coalition, which they have never been comfortable with.”– S. Thayaparan

Both narratives are false because the reality is that a unity government is already forming. What I don’t understand is why people really think that the big bad wolf is still UMNO, as if it will be the catalyst that would down the Harapan regime. The existential threat to Harapan is not UMNO, but an ideology that paralyses any progressive destiny of Malaysia.

Hidup Melayu –UMNO’s Soul–has support of the majority of the Malay community

UMNO does not have to form a unity government with Harapan before the next election – because by the next election, there will be no UMNO. When the old maverick and now Harapan’s Dr. Mahathir Mohamad claims that UMNO is finished, it is not because the people voted UMNO out. The party still has support of the majority of the Malay community.

War of Attrition

What is going on now is a war of attrition within Malay power structures, which means that UMNO rats are abandoning ship and heading to other ‘Malay’ lifeboats.

Malay power structures in PKR and Bersatu have openly said they would accept UMNO into the fold. While they make weak qualifications of membership, the reality is that Harapan needs a strong Malay mandate if they are to throw their weight around in a multiracial, multi-religious coalition, which they have never been comfortable with. The old maverick knows this, and so do the political operatives – Malay and non-Malay – within Harapan.

PKR lawmaker Wong Chen , in dismissing the idea of a unity government, rightly pointed out that – “That question is best addressed to Bersatu because UMNO members are leaving to join Bersatu.”

People pay attention to the power brokers of UMNO jumping ship, but the reality is that UMNO has been haemorrhaging grassroots members to Bersatu, and to a lesser extent, PKR.

While PAS may have picked up some support because of the new anti-Mahathir feeling of some UMNO members, the biggest draw by far has been Bersatu, which is seen as the new face of Malay politics.

Bersatu They Stand

While some folks have no problem demonising Anwar for his apparent racial and religious politics, the fact is that Bersatu as the so-called champion of Malay rights and Islamic superiority is the main draw for people who want to abandon UMNO.

My reading of why Anwar is blathering on about race and religion is that because he understands that the Malay vote base is more comfortable with a race-based party like Bersatu, and not a nominally multiracial outfit like PKR.

Indeed, Bersatu benefits from Anwar’s and Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s rather silly pronouncements, because eyes are diverted away from Bersatu and the old maverick’s shenanigans when it comes to policy decisions, the Harapan manifesto, and the ambivalence towards the rising tide of Islamic provocations in this country.

Not to mention, the old guard of Umno who really did not like former president Najib Abdul Razak is working the levers ensuring that Bersatu is the main beneficiary of those exiting the former ruling party.

While Anwar may say that he has no fear of Mahathir and his personal relationship is good, his actions and those of his supporters betray the deep anxiety they have of the way the political terrain is shaping in this post-Umno reality.

So the old maverick does the needful and reiterates his pledge that Anwar would be the next prime minister. But you have to wonder if Mahathir is saying this amid talks of a unity government, doesn’t it just further the narrative that Anwar is impatient, which inflames the Harapan (non-Malay) base against his former protégé, because the majority of the Malay base is already skeptical?

‘Glory Days’

People who think that the destruction of UMNO is some sort of closure to the racial and religious politics in this country are fooling themselves. Beyond the urban centres where Bersatu and PAS are eventually going to have their showdown, the politics of race and religion will be the battleground. This will seep into the urban enclaves. It always does.

Back in the day, Dr. Mahathir, the current Prime Minister had no problem with the help of his non-Malay counterparts launching offensives against PAS, but at the same time, working the Islamic angle to his advantage.

Many UMNO supporters who are thinking of jumping ship tell me that what they see forming is a return to the old days, when the Chinese and Malays were “working together” under the great Mahathir. They see this as a return to the glory days. This is swell for them, but it was then that the roots of destruction of this country were planted.

Rational Malaysians should not buy into this propaganda of a unity government pushed by the political elites. The narratives that Harapan rejects any form of unity government, or that some in Harapan are working towards this aim, should be rejected.

Remember, the ‘Ketuanan’ system that many in UMNO find appealing has been replaced with the slowly forming pillars of BN Redux – “don’t spook the Malays” and “coming as close as we can to get the government to say those laws are wrong.”

The first is the foundation of the ‘Ketuanan’ system, which is what UMNO political operatives – and really, every mainstream Malay political operative – need to sustain political power, because they do not want to discover new ways.

The second is the compromise with non-Malay power structures, which is the easy power-sharing formula that worked so well at the height of Mahathir’s reign.

In the current climate, there will be more big-name casualties when it comes to the malfeasance of the Najib regime, and there will definitely be more defections – after a suitable period of contriteness of course – of UMNO members to Bersatu and PKR.

Anwar’s Port Dickson gambit will determine if he remains a player when it comes to this high-stakes Malay political game. But make no mistake, the unity government is already forming, and while the body of UMNO will be destroyed, its soul will find a new vessel.


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.

 

Shifting Alliances in the Corridors of Power


September 21, 2018

Opinion

Shifting Alliances in the Corridors of Power

 

The Pathetic Inheritors of the Corrupt UMNO Najib Legacy

COMMENT | Former minister Nazri Abdul Aziz is now brazenly saying out in the open that UMNO’s best-case scenario for future prospects is to support and team up with Anwar Ibrahim.

More than any party here by far, UMNO is a collection of fat cats.They reached their heights of obesity and opulence by sitting in the free-ride comforts of a government they never imagined losing control of.

Quite simply, almost all UMNO leaders have absolutely none of the integrity, experience, gumption, skill, drive, motivation, diligence, intelligence, passion, know-how, fibre, endurance (you get the idea) or interest really, required for being an effective or successful politician outside of the federal government.

All the UMNO fat cats really want is a shortcut that will take them from the cold rain, in which they now shiver and starve, back into the warm government mansion they grew up in, to purr and preen in comfort amidst their never-ending gravy train.

The path Nazri seems to be advocating offers exactly that, and all they apparently have to do is to create enough friction between Bersatu and PKR, and make sure that Anwar becomes the prime minister.

As detailed in Part 1 of this article, Anwar could conceivably then dump Bersatu in favour of UMNO – especially if he starts to feel that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed may renege on his promise to hand over power.

Mahathir could of course react by calling for early elections. Perhaps it was in anticipation of such a scenario that Anwar started courting good relationships with the Malay rulers very early on, as a refusal by the palace to dissolve Parliament could complicate matters.

Mahathir taking pre-emptive measures?

Image result for master yoda mahathir mohamad

Needless to say, Mahathir is far too intelligent to let such an outflanking manoeuvre happen without a response, and calling for early elections is likely a last resort rather than the first line of defence.

I think this is the context of UMNO’s recent resignations – the post-Port Dickson timing of which could be no coincidence at all.

Not every UMNO person buys Nazri’s plan. Indeed, while most of the party members do favour the fat-cat shortcut back to power, there appears to be considerable differences of opinion as to which shortcut in particular is best.

The three main schools of thought seem to be: through PKR, through PAS, or through Bersatu.

Nazri is probably correct in pointing out that going through PAS makes pretty much no numerical or ideological sense whatsoever.

Image result for Musthapha Mohamad and Anifah Aman

Perhaps the likes of Mustapa Mohamed and Anifah Aman(pic, above) are leaning towards the Bersatu route.

This is an interesting response. If there is a sufficiently large migration from UMNO to Bersatu, this could basically make Bersatu the new UMNO in terms of their position in the coalition – a big, Malay party that everyone agrees will nominate the PM.

Splitting UMNO could also neutralise any effort by Anwar to use UMNO as a threat against Bersatu.

If large numbers of UMNO MPs join Bersatu, then the UMNO support may no longer be the same bargaining chip it currently is.

Then again, for all an outsider like me knows, Mustapa and Anifah could be the ones looking to join PKR.

Either way, those who have left clearly do not have faith in UMNO as a bloc, and appear to be seeking their futures elsewhere.

Two out of three

In summary, in this bizarre love triangle between Bersatu, PKR, and UMNO, almost any two-out-of-three combination essentially produces a workable win.

There are a number of other factors, and/or radical possibilities.

DAP will obviously play a big role, while PAS, PBB, Amanah, and Warisan will play slightly smaller ones. Then there is the Azmin Ali factor.

Only while writing this article did the scenario occur to me: Especially if Azmin loses the PKR Deputy President’s race, what’s to stop him from defecting over to Bersatu?

This solves a number of different problems for both Bersatu and Azmin.

If the PKR elections go on in its current trajectory, the bad blood between team Azmin and team Anwar may be irreconcilable, and Azmin’s position within PKR may no longer be tenable.

Azmin moving to Bersatu would give the party a more viable succession plan with regards to subsequent PMs (a Goh Chok Tong to Mukhriz Mahathir’s Lee Hsien Loong perhaps?), and the numbers that could follow Azmin would also, again, help with Bersatu’s low-in-parliamentary-seats problem.

An exodus from PKR to Bersatu would be even bigger if Bersatu goes multiracial – further reducing the role or need for a party like PKR.

These battle lines are perhaps already visible in the copious amount of columns, blog posts, and viral Whatsapp messages that are either very strongly pro- or anti-Anwar, suggesting a consolidated and coordinated effort.

The race factor

Needless to say, all of this is speculation – and a somewhat sensationalist one at that.

For all I know, we could see a smooth transition to Anwar becoming the next PM, a stable rota system put in place to determine future prime ministers, and Harapan continuing just the way it is, happy as a clam.

Or, it could all be unrecognisable inside a year. It’s hard to say.

All these seismic shifts are potentially possible in large part because ideology has almost never played a big role in modern Malaysian politics.

The only vital and somewhat ideological question is how much of a factor race should be in Malaysian politics. This may come into play, say if Umno MPs need to decide which new party they want to support.

Perhaps some see maintaining Malay supremacy as the priority, a goal which can only be achieved by supporting Bersatu or PAS, while others may prefer the PKR route.

Other than that, Malaysian politics can likely be said to be dominated more by personality politics than anything else. It often comes down to which feudal lord one likes better.

Transforming incentive structures

Of course, just because this is the way it is, doesn’t mean that this is the way it always needs to be. Changing the incentive structures and the architecture of our political system could largely eliminate the need for many of the conflicts above.

One radical way to drastically cut back on inter-party conflict (such as Bersatu and PKR fighting over long-term stewardship of the PM’s post), is simply for all Harapan parties to merge.

Many would cite mind-boggling logistical difficulties (true, no doubt), and extreme resistance to the idea by conservatives.

If we think about it though, what function does having multiple parties in the coalition actually serve?

The old BN model was simple, for the peninsular at least. We have one party for one race. If you are Malay and have a problem, go see UMNO; Chinese, look for MCA; Indian, MIC.

It was devilishly simple in its concept, but simply devilish in the divided Malaysia it eventually created.

What about the realities of today? Do we want to follow the old formula? Malays see Bersatu, Chinese see DAP, and Indians can see the new Malaysia Advancement Party?

A merged party will still have leaders and elected representatives from every community that voters will likely find approachable.

True, little Napoleons will perhaps find themselves with less power, but wouldn’t that be a good thing?

It’s a bold idea that is unlikely to see the light of day, but regardless, I do hope we keep looking to radical solutions to blaze paths forward and leave behind the endless internal politicking that takes up far too much time and energy of Malaysian politicians.

After all, all the intrigue and speculation is somewhat entertaining, but don’t we have a new Malaysia to govern?

YESTERDAY: Future PMs: Many possibilities within Bersatu, PKR and Umno triangle


NATHANIEL TAN is eager to serve.

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

Anwar as Port Dickson MP


September 20, 2018

 Anwar  as Port Dickson MP

Opinion  |

COMMENT | If Anwar Ibrahim does make the cut, invariably, as the Member of Parliament of Port Dickson, perhaps something akin to a healthy rivalry with Langkawi island MP Dr Mahathir Mohammad will be immediately triggered.

Key government events should be held in Langkawi, either to brainstorm on the revival of Malaysia, or, the various ministries. Such events are bound to catch on in Port Dickson, too, which is just a short distance away from Putrajaya.

Image result for Langkawi

Indeed, high-end hotels, over the last 15 years, have also sprung up on Langkawi island (pic above), including the globally renowned Four Seasons. From time to time, it is not rare to see Indian families touring in huge numbers in Langkawi, too, often booking all their suites and rooms at one go.

Although Langkawi has also catered to the tourists of Scandinavia and Germany, who can often be seen basking in the sun, no discernible (foreign) presence has been seen at Port Dickson’s beaches as yet.

Image result for Port Dickson

Port Dickson Chalets

This is where Port Dickson has to stand out. Making its seas and shorelines pristine would make Port Dickson an ideal destination for families and international group tours beyond what has generally been provided to Malaysians.

If Anwar Ibrahim does somehow attract more Chinese to the beach town, the facilities in Port Dickson would have to be significantly scaled up – without which, the residents of Port Dickson would be looking at immense traffic bottlenecks and congestion.

Such negative externalities of tourism cannot be ruled completely. Polluted air, crowded bazaars, shortage of proper food and medical facilities, too, can all be a turn off to well-heeled Malaysian tourists.

In fact, without an iconic landmark, Port Dickson would be at a disadvantage, compared to Langkawi island. Langkawi, for example, hosts one of the longest cable cars in Southeast Asia that allows thousands of tourists to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the whole island.

Port Dickson, being flatter, is only known for its small-town feel and delicious local food. Perhaps a high tower should be built that would permit Port Dickson visitors to peer into the Straits of Malacca, and the thousands of ships that pass through it. It would seem that such a service should be introduced, in order to allow Malaysians to take a peek into what goes on in one of the busiest straits in the world.

The depths of the quays in Port Dickson should be constantly dredged and deepened, to allow bigger ships and vessels to berth, ideally ships that can ferry passengers across to Sumatera, Indonesia, which is just across the shores of Malaysia.

Image result for mahathir vs anwar ibrahim

To be sure, friendly ecological themes have to be worked into the grand schemes for all arrangements. Otherwise, a tourism scheme that is merely heavy on sheer human traffic alone is bound to create many side effects, beyond overcrowding, noise pollution, and inadequate waste disposal.

Either way, it is first time in the history of Malaysia that a reigning Prime Minister is an MP of a touristy constituency, indeed a tax-free zone to boot, which is Langkawi island. Should Anwar win the Port Dickson seat, the eighth prime minister of Malaysia would have to transform Port Dickson into a major township.

Port Klang was previously known as Port Swettenham, in recognition of the tenure of Resident Frank Swettenham in the 19th century. Over the years, Port Klang has morphed into a seafood attraction and high-density port.

No one knows if Port Dickson can become the hub of “bunkering,” a business that caters to refueling the ships and vessels that traverse through the Straits of Malacca.

If it does, this is an economic sector that is worth no less than US$1 billion a year. At least that is the current size of the bunkering business in Singapore, an idea that was ironically coined by Dr Mahathir previously.

It would help if Anwar Ibrahim could come up with such an industry-relevant solution, beyond merely looking to boost tourist numbers in Port Dickson.


PHAR KIM BENG was a multiple award-winning Head Teaching Fellow on China and Cultural Revolution in Harvard University.

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

The last stand of Mahathir Mohamad


August 28, 2018

The last stand of Mahathir Mohamad

 

Image result for Will Mahathir change his politics?

Is it far-fetched to think that the wisdom which comes with age came to Mahathir as an epiphany, writes Khoo Boo Teik.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim had their historic meeting on 5 September 2016.

Since then, much has been written on their reconciliation, Pakatan Harapan’s formation, and Mahathir’s nomination as Prime Minister if the opposition wins the coming general election.

About Mahathir’s political return, we now know many things except the puzzle that is the man himself, around whom an amazing turn of events revolves.

We can tackle the puzzle by raising two questions: what is the underlying motif of his intervention? What are his deep personal motivations for fighting Najib Abdul Razak and the Umno-BN regime?

Looking back, it seems surreal that all the opposition’s roads lead to Mahathir.

“Mahathir’s aura,” Mazlan Aliman of Anak Felda claimed, reassured Felda settlers that a Pakatan government would restore Felda and resolve the settlers’ financial burdens. Indeed, one Pakatan slogan for Felda areas is “Selamatkan Felda, Selamatkan Malaysia” (Save Felda, Save Malaysia).

Amanah leaders, such as Mohamad Sabu and Salahuddin Ayub, are confident that Pakatan Harapan’s nomination of Mahathir as ‘prime minister-in-waiting’ shattered UMNO’s propaganda that an UMNO defeat would mean “Chinese DAP domination”.

Mahathir has brought many advantages to the Harapan side. But his unsuspected value lies in his persona of a saviour. Historical circumstances and his exertions conferred that upon him.

The challenge

He was involved in the anti-Malayan Union movement that Malays regarded as the definitive event in saving Tanah Melayu and the special position of the Malays from colonial perfidy and immigrant domination.

Mahathir has brought many advantages to the Harapan side. But his unsuspected value lies in his persona of a saviour. Historical circumstances and his exertions conferred that upon him.

The challenge

He was involved in the anti-Malayan Union movement that Malays regarded as the definitive event in saving Tanah Melayu and the special position of the Malays from colonial perfidy and immigrant domination.

As a young doctor, he built up a good reputation for treating the sick, an esteemed way of saving lives. As was “Dr UMNO”, he was an ideologue for the mission of saving the ‘Malay race’ from poverty and economic backwardness.

Abdul Razak Hussein co-opted Mahathir for his project to recover UMNO’s pre-eminence that was battered in the May 1969 elections. In 1988, Mahathir ‘saved’ the deregistered UMNO by forming UMNO Baru.

He risked his own political survival to rescue the national economy in two crises (with the help of Daim Zainuddin). In 1986 he “held the New Economic Policy in abeyance”, one reason for Team B’s challenge to his leadership of UMNO. In 1998 he imposed capital controls against economic orthodoxy and international condemnation.

In Menghadapi Cabaran (The Challenge), a book he wrote when he was the Deputy Prime Minister, he endlessly lectured the Malays on their ‘unworthy values’, their tendency towards religious obscurantism, and their indifference to new forms of colonial subjection. It was tiresome to them but Mahathir meant to save the Malays from themselves!

One begins to see how a man with this background offers himself as a rallying point to rescue the economy from bankruptcy, the people from suffering and the nation from continued shame.

When Mahathir began talking to PKR leaders, Tian Chua said simply to me, “Ultimately Mahathir’s a nationalist.” The opposition leaders made a tacit bow before his saviour’s persona when they allied with him to fight Najib and UMNO-BN.

The ruling regime’s spokespeople mocked at Mahathir. They pronounced him too old and infirm. They chided him for not relaxing with his grandchildren. Such insensitivity only raised the sincerity and value of Mahathir’s sacrifice in the public eye.

Wisdom and epiphany

Mahathir is no more immune to hubris than other ‘patriarchs’ who cannot distinguish between their lives and those of their nations.

Mahathir did not act from political motives alone. He was probably driven by deep personal motivations between the 2013 general election and the exposé of the 1MDB scandal in 2015.

He was contemptuous of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and scarcely believed that Najib would lead UMNO-BN to a worse performance in 2013. For the next two years, Mahathir was preoccupied with UMNO’s weaknesses.

Dreading the thought of Anwar’s eventual triumph, he went to the ridiculous extent of patronising so-called ‘Malay-first’ bodies like Ibrahim Ali’s Perkasa. On hindsight, Mahathir pulled himself back when the 1MDB story broke across the world.

With his intelligence in different senses of the word, Mahathir grasped the reality of the Najib Razak-1MDB entanglement. He foresaw the destruction of all that he had worked for his entire life.

Image result for Khoo Boo Teik The Paradoxes of Mahathirism

Dr. Khoo Boo Teik’s Book The Paradoxes of Mahathirism is worth a re-read. Malaysians have put a lot of faith in Dr. Mahathir Mohamad by voting him to power in May 9, 2018 General Election. You are right to get rid on Najib Razak.

His 22-year premiership was imperfect but it brought successes that he valued: Malay progress, economic transformation, political stability, and, dearest to him, national dignity. We were admired abroad as an ‘Asian tiger’ before, he nostalgically told his audiences.

He found Najib’s record appalling: setbacks for Malay society and business, economic stagnation, social divisiveness and globally exposed national shame. If we are asked today where we come from, we lie that “We’re from Brunei,” he sorely joked with his audiences,

Mahathir claimed that Najib rejected advice on 1MDB and other issues. “I spoke to Najib because many people asked me to do something”, said Mahathir, “but Najib bragged that he could buy support because ‘cash is king’.”

Mahathir claimed Abdul Razak for his “idol” because of the latter’s contribution to rural development. But Razak’s son, Najib, only looked after himself, his wife, their children and their cronies. He showed not a drip of national interest, a prime minister’s ultimate sin in the eye of the ultimate nationalist.

Filicidal wrath

Is it far-fetched to think that the wisdom which comes with age came to Mahathir as an epiphany? In a flash, he saw the double injustice of his treatment of two protégés who looked to him as their political father.

Image result for mahathir and perkasa

On one of them, Anwar, he had visited filicidal wrath. He had elevated the other, Najib, to power. The one stood for reformasi, the other was kleptocracy itself.

The rest is not hard to grasp. It was not too late for Mahathir to atone for both dreadful errors but, past 90, he had to hurry.

He publicly humbled himself to who in power made it a point not to admit a mistake. Mahathir flayed himself for misjudging Najib: “He was not even a bit like his father.”

And so, Mahathir reconciled with Anwar, apologised to him and his family for their suffering, and declared himself indebted to Anwar for accepting his leadership of Harapan.

In the ways he knew best, which he knew better than anyone else, Mahathir set out to re-enact his previous ‘destroy-and-promote’ drama. This time he would reverse the characters: he would depose Najib and he would resurrect Anwar.

From Mahathir’s lenses (without belittling Harapan negotiations), that must be the meaning of the Mahathir-Wan Azizah-Anwar sequence for the post of Prime Minister.

Even Mahathir cannot unilaterally determine how his new drama will end. The general election will decide that. But as always when he set his mind on a project, he put his (somewhat ailing) heart and (probably pained) soul into leading Harapan’s charge against Najib and UMNO-BN.

Yet all this might have lifted a big load off his conscience, for he is unusually light-hearted at many ceramah.

A Harapan victory will be his finest hour. He can clear up many problems and allow Wan Azizah and Anwar to succeed him. He will retire after that, forever remembered for the truly noble legacy of delivering the nation from kleptocracy at his last stand. It is a strange scenario to contemplate.

Mahathir is no more immune to hubris than other ‘patriarchs’ who cannot distinguish between their lives and those of their nations.

But if he succeeds, we will understand why that sharp and irreverent blogger, SakmongkolAK47, was awed into calling Mahathir “The man who can walk on water”.

This article first appeared in Malaysiakini.