Malaysia’s Long History of Election Rigging

March 10, 2018

Malaysia’s Long History of Election Rigging


Image result for Najib Razak and Mahathir Mohamad of the same mould


In many countries in Southeast Asia, having elections is a meaningless exercise; in the end, the same party always ends up ruling the state.

Malaysia is a prima facie example. The quality of elections in Malaysia has been poor, primarily because of the practices of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. Methods such as gerrymandering, misuse of institutional tools, elite cohesion pacts, and malapportionment have been used to retain power in the past – including by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, just tapped by the opposition as their candidate. With that in mind, it’s worth looking at what Malaysian leaders have done to cling on to power in the past, while at the same time degrading the sanctity of elections in the region.

Elections in Malaysia have become a one-sided affair over the years. The BN returned to power for the thirteenth time in 2013, and not solely because of the reforms they have carried out in Malaysia. Scholar Kai Ostwald, in his article “How to Win a Lost Election,” argued that methods such as gerrymandering – the manipulation of district boundaries to advantage one party — have been used by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) to win elections. To create an additional district, the approval of two-thirds of the parliament is required and UMNO has always had a majority in parliament; thus from time to time they have redrawn district boundaries in their favor to capture the maximum number of votes, or to defy votes to the opposition. The fact that, as Ostwald points out, there were only 104 districts in Malaysia at the time of independence compared to 222 in 2013 speaks volumes about gerrymandering and the resulting quality of elections.

In his article, Ostwald has further highlighted the use of malapportionment by the Barisan National coalition to gain seats in the parliament. Malapportionment is the manipulation of electoral district boundaries to the ruling party’s advantage, wherein the pro-government districts have fewer voters and pro-opposition districts have many more.

Some amount of malapportionment is justifiable to improve the relationship between the representative and its constituents, and to give fair representation to Bumiputra people. But its excessive use by the UMNO has made the people lose faith in free and fair elections and derided the quality of it. In 2013, the use of malapportionment led to the incumbent BN winning 54 percent of parliamentary seats while losing the popular vote by a margin of around 4 percent. Ostwald insists that this has violated the “one-person, one vote” principle, that is fundamental to any democratic institution. Thus it has undermined elections at all levels.

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This is made possible by a partisan election commission that has refrained from keeping checks and balances over political parties. The election commission is supposed to act as an ombudsperson, but the fact that the head of state appoints the civil servants makes it a prejudiced body. Such practices have hollowed out the essence of elections in Malaysia. Though elections may have been frequent, they have always been well prepared for in advance by the ruling party.

Ostwald looked at the 2013 elections; Jason Brownlee, in his article “Bound To Rule,” explores former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s practices for dominating both national and inter-party elections in Malaysia. Mahathir faced opposition from some factions of the UMNO in the 1980s. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Musa Hitam, two prominent members of the party, rallied against Mahathir and ran for party president and vice president. To counter this challenge, Mahathir “prevailed by distributing cabinet and party positions to undecided delegation leaders,” according to Brownlee. After he won the elections, however, he got rid of the seven people in his cabinet who were not his supporters.

Later in the decade, Musa decided to run for reelection against the UMNO and gained ample support from his hometown. If Musa had succeeded, it could have been the biggest challenge to Mahathir’s political career. To counter this, Mahathir invited Musa Hitam and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah to join his cabinet. “Through the party’s organs, Mahathir had wooed Musa and his partisans back before they could compete separately in the next parliamentary elections,” Brownlee explained. However, Mahathir still faced opposition from Razaleigh and his newly formed alliance. This time in 1990, Mahathir dissolved parliament earlier than expected and shortened the campaign time, which caused serious damage to the opposition.

When the outcome is already apparent, elections hardly hold any value. Leaders in Malaysia have exploited the resources of the party and institutions and have made the most important part of democracies, the election, a secondary process.

Image result for Electoral Fraud in Malaysia

Gerrymandering, malapportionment, and the misuse of institutional tools are all methods used by the ruling coalition to manipulate the electoral process. This has directly as well as indirectly degraded the quality of elections and has eroded the faith of scholars in the Malaysian electoral system. With Mahathir as the opposition candidate now, it will be interesting to see if this year’s elections will be fair and square or whether the Najib Razak government will degrade the electoral practice to a new low.

Shrish Srivastava is a freelance foreign affairs writer.

The Closing of the Malay Mind

January 30, 2018

The Closing of the Malay Mind

by Dennis Ignatius

The closing of the Malay mind

Image result for Najib and Rani Kulup

Role Models for The Malays: Between Najib Razak and Rani Kulup: Who is more stupid?

In his 1987 book, ‘The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students’, Allan Bloom, an American political philosopher, argued that the social/political crisis of 20th-century America was really an intellectual crisis resulting from an education system that rendered students incapable of critical thinking.

Given the statements emanating from the recent ‘Rise of the Ummah Convention’, one has to wonder if something similar might be going on here as well.

Image result for Malay racists


Have decades of politico-religious indoctrination led to the closing of the Malay-Muslim mind, diminishing their self-confidence and making it difficult for them to arrive at a realistic appreciation of the world they inhabit?

Are we, in fact, witnessing an intellectual and emotional retreat into a dark world of self-created fantasies and fears straight out of some ‘wayang kulit’ show?

The dominant narrative

Listening in on the very public discourse within significant segments of the Malay community, it appears that racial and religious issues have overtaken everything else to become the dominant narrative. Their whole world seems to have been reduced to something of an existential racial and religious struggle for survival against a plethora of enemies of their own making.

Image result for Racist Hishamuddin Hussein Onn

Western-educated Malays–Khairy Jamaluddin and Hishamuddin Hussein Onn–turned racists

This shift in mindset is finding expression in a number of different ways. For one thing, we are seeing a rising tide of segregationist ideas including Muslims-only laundrettes, barbershops and photo-studios. As well, there is growing acceptance of the idea that it is haram to wish others for Christmas, Diwali or Chinese New Year, attend functions in non-Malay/non-Muslim homes or even to vote for non-Muslims.

The underlying presumption, though unspoken, is that non-Muslims and non-Malays are somehow unclean, that their very presence is defiling and challenging to the Malay-Muslim sense of identity and that good Malays/Muslims ought to have as little to do with non-Malays as possible.

The animus towards non-Malays has reached such intensity that even the pathetically few senior positions held by non-Malays in public service attracts controversy. Have we gone from aspiring for a public service reflective of our diversity to one where even the few non-Malays in high office are a few too many?

Image result for Hadi Awang with Zakir Naik

India’s Islamic Extremist Zakir Naik and PAS’s Hadi Awang

And, by insisting that Islam does not permit non-Malays to hold senior positions in a Muslim-majority polity, PAS President Hadi Awang has conveniently provided a theological justification for institutionalizing discrimination against non-Muslims.

At the same time, we have government-affiliated think tanks and educational institutions regularly obsessing about cataclysmic threats to Islam from imaginary groups. Christians, in particular, are vilified and even their prayers for a better nation are considered subversive and disrespectful. The crusades ended in 1291 but apparently some have not yet received the memo.

The underlying sense of insecurity also extends to culture. Traditional Malay culture, with its rich infusion of Asian influences, for example, is now considered something of an embarrassment and is downplayed or denied while Arab culture is considered superior and extolled. In the process, key elements of Malay culture – dress, dance, art and custom – are being jettisoned in favour of the desert culture of Bedouins.

Surely, if there is a battle worth fighting, it is the battle to preserve Malay culture and its unique contribution to civilization.

Image result for Ismail Mina


And now we have clerics like Ismail Mina Ahmad attempting to rewrite non-Malays out of the history of our nation while educators like Datuk Raof Husin insist that even the meagre scholarships that non-Malays presently receive should be withdrawn on the spurious grounds that it is unconstitutional. Do they ever listen to themselves? What kind of a nation considers it okay to be so spiteful and discriminatory against its own citizens?

It is, I suppose, the next step in the evolution of the “pendatang” construct with minorities cast as interloping, unpatriotic, scheming idolaters who deserve nothing but contempt for daring to consider themselves Malaysian with equal rights and privileges.

Not by Accident

Of course, all this is not happening by accident; it is, rather, the result of a well-orchestrated though ultimately destructive strategy by UMNO deep-state (with the tacit support of PAS) to reshape and refocus the Malay-Muslim mind. The objective is to ensure the party’s own survival by diverting attention from scandal and failure to imaginary threats that the party itself has invented.

Image result for Malay women in tudungsUMNO Hoods


And they have been so successful at this game that a wide cross-section of Malay-Muslim society has now bought into their narrative, making it the dominant framework through which everything else is viewed. When even university professors start unthinkingly regurgitating this fabricated and bizarre narrative, the stage is set for intellectual, cultural and religious conformity and rigidity – groupthink on a national scale replete with dysfunctional decision-making, the suppression of dissenting views and isolationist tendencies.

As many observers have rightly noted, race and religion have been weaponized and employed to keep Malay-Muslims subservient and non-Malays on the defensive. In the process, UMNO has condemned all Malaysians – Malay and non-Malay, Muslim and non-Muslim – to forever run on the treadmill of an existential struggle for survival against each other while leaving the party to do as it pleases.

Descent into Absurdity

Image result for Malay women in tudungs

And so, at a time when our nation is faced with serious and very real problems from corruption and the plunder of national resources, institutional decay and the abuse of power, we have groups worrying about who should cut their hair or wash their clothes or take their photographs.

At a time when the real enemies of our nation are destroying it, we have no shortage of pseudo-nationalists ready to do battle against minorities, deviants, gays, liberals, atheists and, of course, Jews and Christians.

At a time when we are confronted with serious social problems, youth unemployment and falling living standards, we have people arguing about who is best qualified to carry out amputations for theft or proper procedures to ascertain the gender of men or women who might fall short of some airhead’s idea of what they should look like.

At a time when even Saudi Arabia wants to return to moderate Islam, we have zealots blindly pushing the nation towards an extremism that has proven so destructive elsewhere. Such is the extent of the lunacy that has descended upon the nation.

Zenith of Power, abyss of insecurity

Ironically, this shift in mindset is happening at a time when Malay power has reached a zenith unparalleled in history, and Islam itself more firmly entrenched and accepted than at any time since it first came to the country in the 12th century, courtesy of traders from India.

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The Klepto-in-Chief, UMNO President Najib Razak

As well, one would have thought that some 60 years after independence, after more than 40 years of Bumiputraism, after securing near total dominance of the nation’s political and economic structures, the armed forces, the civil service and academia, and with the steadily declining non-Malay demographic, Malays would at least feel more confident and secure.

Instead, thanks to UMNO, a siege mentality has descended over a large segment of the Malay community making them fearful and resentful, bigoted and unsure of themselves. As well, it is obliging them to retreat behind self-defeating walls that will render them less able to compete and hold their own in a rapidly changing world. If they cannot be secure and confident within the narrow confines of a small multi-ethnic polity, how will they compete in a borderless world that respects neither race nor religion? It is, in many ways, the ultimate betrayal.

Battle for the Malay Mind

To be sure, the struggle for the Malay-Muslim mind is far from over. Alarmed by the emerging ethos, the slow extinction of Malay culture and the rising tide of intolerance, the Malay rulers, the ultimate custodians of Malay religion, culture and identity, are speaking out like never before, and in uncharacteristically strong terms.

A number of Malay groups and individuals have also risen to challenge the UMNO-inspired narrative. G25, the Patriots Association, PAGE and Islamic Renaissance Front, to name a few, have been outspoken opponents of bigotry and racism while championing an alternative vision of a Malay community at peace with itself, confident of its place in the world, open and tolerant.

They are about the only bright spot in an otherwise gloomy picture, and upon their success will rest the future not just of the Malays but of all Malaysians.

Racism has to be opposed from the top down.

January 20, 2017

Racism has to be opposed from the top down.

by Azmi Sharom
Image result for racist najib razak

DEMOCRACY takes power away from the few, or the one, and places it in the hands of the many. Which is why we hear phrases like “people power” and “returning power to the people” bandied around when speaking about democratic reform.

Image result for mahathir mohamad

A Born Again Democrat. The late Lee Kuan Yew called him an Ultra.

Theoretically, if there is a free press, fairly delineated constituencies, independent state agencies and a respect for human rights, then the government of the day will be a reflection of the will of the people.

We, the ordinary men and women, choose our leaders. We can also “fire” them by voting them out. Therefore, we have ultimate power. However, just because power ultimately lies with the people, this does not mean that leaders have to bend to the will of the people all the time.

Sure we can vote them out (theoretically), but while they are in authority, they have a degree of freedom to do what they may deem to be right, even though the people might not like it. This is known as leadership.

This is why unpopular but ultimately worthy policies and legislation come into place. It takes leadership to do this. A person who is scared of losing popularity, especially among his core supporters, to the point of supporting noxious views, does not have leadership qualities.

Which is why if a government believes in certain things, the leaders must speak up accordingly. Conversely, they must speak up against things they don’t believe in.

Image result for racist najib razak

You are known by the company you keep: Hadi Awang, Zakir Naik,  Rani Kulop, Jamal Ikan Bakar,

Let me give you an example. If a group spouts obnoxious racism, a true leader would speak out against it, even if the group members are among his supporters. If he does not do so, what it means is that he is condoning such views. Even if he is keeping silent so as to not alienate his support base, he is acting in a cowardly fashion and is in effect legitimising racism.

Now, I am saddened by the fact that racism in Malaysia is alive and well. When writing and teaching, I have consistently argued for us to move away from such attitudes. I honestly thought that there were more and more Malaysians who are of the same view. Sadly this is not so.

Surveys have shown that most Malays will vote based on race.This is depressing to the extreme. Yet, this is also the reality.

One of the reasons Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is the chosen Prime Minister candidate for Pakatan Harapan is so that he can woo the Malay vote. I am presuming his Malay nationalist background will make him palatable to those who still think along those lines.

This is the political reality, and it is beyond sad. Now, Pakatan has always claimed to be non-racially motivated. Yet they have to pander to a racially motivated electorate. This is realpolitik and it is upsetting yet understandable.

The question is, if Pakatan wins, will it try to move the nation away from such repulsive racist thinking? Will it be able to show some true leadership?

  • Azmi Sharom ( is a law teacher. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.


Mahathir Changes Malaysia’s Political Equation

January 10, 2018

Mahathir Changes Malaysia’s Political Equation

by Mariam Mokhtar

Image result for Mahathir Mohamad

The battle lines for Malaysia’s 14th General Election have been laid, with the 92-year-old former Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, teaming up with Malaysian opposition parties in a bid to oust the current premier, Najib Abdul Razak, and wrest power away from the United Malays National Organization, which has led the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition since independence in 1963.

According to UMNO insiders, Najib is extremely confident. He believes the Barisan, which also includes the Malaysian Chinese Association and the Malaysian Indian Congress, could – with the help of almost-brutal gerrymandering – win as 140 seats in the 222-member parliament and, if things break their way, even take back 148-vote two-thirds majority that the coalition had held for decades

Mahathir’s selection as potential premier, opposition leaders say, could dramatically change that equation and bring down a party and coalition rife with corruption and cronyism. Individuals close to Najib have been charged in the biggest kleptocracy case ever brought by the United States Justice Department, which has confiscated a vast array of Malaysian-owned assets in the United States.

At the center of Malaysia’s politics is a racial calculus in which Malays fear that the Chinese, who dominate the country’s business world, would come to dominate the political one as well.

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Prime Minister Najib Razak needs PAS and the moronic Hadi Awang to secure rural Malay voters who have been conditioned to think that Islam is under threat.

With Mahathir at the helm, analysts say, Najib – picked as a protégé decades ago by Mahathir – can’t blame the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party for being the driving force for the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition. During his years as Prime Minister, Mahathir was a Malay supremacist even though he is only half-Malay. His father came from the Indian subcontinent (Kerala).

Nor could Najib use the argument that the Chinese will take over the nation, which has been a hobgoblin to frighten the rural Malay electorate for decades. Mahathir, who dominated UMNO and Malaysian politics as head of UMNO for 23 years from 1981 to 2003, is legally a Malay Muslim.

Mahathir is the undisputed come-back kid. The party he founded, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), has managed to unite the leaders of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), the Democratic Action Party (DAP), and Aminah, a splinter that split away from the rural-based, fundamentalist Parti Islam se-Malaysia, or PAS.

The much-awaited GE-14 is expected to be a viciously contested general election. It will also be Najib’s toughest. On January 8, Pakatan Harapan announced that Mahathir would be their interim Prime Minister until Anwar Ibrahim, the charismatic opposition figure who has been imprisoned on what many consider to be spurious charges since 2015, would be freed. This was not the news that Najib wanted.

Social media has been abuzz with views about Mahathir’s nomination, including a report that Najib’s adviser, Habibur Rahman, had approached both DAP leader Lim Guan Eng and Anwar’s daughter Nurul separately to offer them “attractive incentives” to try and broker a deal. His request was simple. He did not want DAP or PKR to withdraw from the election, or to support BN in GE-14. He merely wanted them to reject the nomination of Mahathir as the interim candidate for the opposition coalition. The request was reportedly rejected outright.

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The Malay Dilemma–Mahathir’s Malay Supremacy (Ketuanan Melayu)

Anti-Mahathir critics have issued stark warnings amid signs that they are ganging-up on the former premier, an authoritarian figure who ruled the country with an iron fist, at one point triggering a roundup called Operation Lalang (1987) that swept up journalists, civil libertarians and the opposition figures with whom he is now making common cause without habeas corpus and jailing them for months under the country’s colonial-era Internal Security Act.

It is unknown if Mahathir has belatedly discovered, now that he is on the other side, the value of a free press and an independent parliament and judiciary and the other institutions that he neutered as the country’s leader.

One Perak based-political observer called Mahathir “damaged goods. His gambles and ego projects, such as attempting to corner the tin market, huge forex losses, (the Proton national car project) and the Petronas Twin Tower, have cost the nation too much.

“He caused irreparable damage to our judiciary; entrenched institutional racism in the country and started the slide in our educational standards. He cannot be trusted to run the country again – even for a day.”

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Dr Kua  Kia Soong and Dr Anne Munro-Kua–Civil Society’s Intellectual Couple.

Kua Kia Soong, the Director of Suaram, a Human Rights NGO, who was jailed Operation Lalang, has continued to demand that Mahathir enumerate the sins he has committed and apologize for each of them.

Kua has been slammed for his intransigence and his refusal to see the bigger picture, which is to get rid of Najib and win GE-14. One person said, “Can he not see that Mahathir can win over more Malay voters? Does he think that the opposition will allow themselves to be under Mahathir’s yoke, if they win GE-14?”

Another political observer from Singapore said, “Dr M can shift 5 percent of Malay votes, which no other leader could. That can be critical.”

Last December, when it was first mooted that Mahathir would become the interim PM, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Abdul Rahman Dahlan, described it as a “sad day” for the opposition, and said, “…they have been in the political arena for so long, but they couldn’t find a younger candidate or fresh blood to become the leader of Malaysia. It’s sad and actually surprising, and I do not think it will go down well with the people.”

Khairy Jamaluddin, the Sports and Youth Minister, has waded into the debate about Mahathir’s nomination and said that the country will be plunged into chaos and political instability.

When Mahathir wrote his controversial book “The Malay Dilemma,” he was not afraid to list the Malays’ shortcomings, but he gave them a new sense of identity. The Ketuanan (Malays first) myth.

One political analyst said, “Although Ketuanan Melayu was detrimental to the young democracy, it provided the desired momentum to drive the Malays from their feudal mentality. With Mahathir’s affirmative action policies, the Malay middle class grew, but so did their ego and greed. They cast aside their moral values. For many, there was no going back.”

The upcoming general election will undisputedly be one of many firsts and ironies.

Image result for The greedy and Corrupt Rosmah MansorPower hungry, corrupt, greedy,  and ambitious Rosmah Mansor is believed to be the driving force behind the hen-pecked Prime Minister Najib Razak.

In GE-14, the PM and his former mentor will face one another from opposite sides of the political divide. Mahathir didn’t figure the “self-styled First Lady of Malaysia” (FLOM) into the mentoring equation. The equally power hungry, corrupt, greedy,  and ambitious Rosmah Mansor is believed to be the driving force behind Najib, who redrew the political script.

The other irony is that Mahathir was rescued from the political wilderness by Razak Hussein, Najib’s father, when he was banned from UMNO in 1969 for insubordination towards Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s first Prime Minister. Today, Mahathir seeks to destroy the political future of his savior’s son.

The problems such as cronyism and Malay nationalism that plague Malaysia today had their roots during Mahathir’s tenure. The controls that the nation’s founding fathers formulated, such as the independence of the judiciary, were dismantled by Mahathir.

Mahathir clipped the wings of the country’s nine sultans, whom he felt were abusing their power, especially when it was alleged that he had to rescue at least one sultan from gambling debts and placate an angry public when another sultan was accused of inflicting grievous bodily harm on a subject.

If he were to win GE-14, would he continue to follow this path? Some members of the rakyat would like to think that he would.Today, despite criticizing Mahathir for his past policies, Najib has honed them.

Najib has until August 2018 to call the elections, but he is aware that timing is everything. The indications are that he will call GE-14 after the Chinese New Year, which falls on 16 February. He will not wait till after June, because that is when Anwar Ibrahim is due to be released. With his release, a newly energized rakyat would demand that Anwar be pardoned and be made the PM. Najib cannot afford to have this happen.

Najib cannot hold GE-14 now, because the Selangor state’s redistricting exercise will not be complete until March. Selangor is the jewel in the economic crown. If he could wrest Selangor from the opposition, it would be a political coup.

Najib had hoped to put Pakatan Harapan on the spot, and to capitalize on the fact that the opposition coalition is currently leaderless. But the announcement of Mahathir’s opposition leadership put paid to that. Mahathir as interim PM does not auger well for Najib.

In the past, Najib and his political machinery focused their attacks on Anwar, then shifted the focus onto the DAP. Observers will have noticed the drip-drip effect of perceived “manufactured” threats against Islam, such as a baseless claim by a pro-UMNO lecturer that Selangor State Assembly speaker Hannah Yeoh, in her book, “Becoming Hannah” was advocating converting Malays to Christianity.

In recent months, the party apparatchiks have increased their attacks against Mahathir, tell-tale signs that they see him as a serious threat. That will explain the increasing criticisms of Mahathir, his past policies and his closest aides.

The internal revenue department has scrutinized both his business friends’ and sons’ income tax returns. Even family members have not been spared. Mukhriz, Mahathir’s son, was horrified to discover that his daughter’s jet-set lifestyle was exposed.

Mahathir as the interim PM is disastrous for Najib. This will stymie UMNO’s attempt to denounce a PH PM such as Lim Kit Siang or Lim Guan Eng, because he is Chinese. Najib cannot then say that the DAP or the Chinese are dictating the charge of the Opposition.

With Mahathir at the helm, the Malays, both urban and rural, are more confident to support the Opposition. Indoctrination is strongest amongst the Malays, unlike the non-Malay community. Malays are still fearful and wary of being dominated by the Chinese. Issues like 1MDB have little traction amongst them, but the rising cost of living, and the scandals surrounding FELDA, have hurt them most.

GE-14 means different things, to different people. The rakyat sees GE-14 as a means to remove an oppressive government and put Malaysia on the right track.

Najib and UMNO see GE-14 as a struggle for political survival and physical freedom. And while a few may see the election as a clash between a mentor and his pupil, or a clash between two warlords Mahathir himself sees it as a means to restore his tarnished reputation after the decline in the moral values of the Malays, that his policies have created.

Mariam Mokhtar is a regular correspondent for Asia Sentinel

Malaysian Politics in 2018: Getting the Harapan House in order

January 7, 2018

Malaysian Politics 2018– Getting the Harapan House in order

by Nathaniel Tan

The year 2017 closed out with debates about Pakatan Harapan’s candidate for Prime Minister.

This discussion touches at the very heart of the state of the opposition today, and what its prospects for GE14 are. The question is, of course, not a small one. Over the years, a great deal of power has come to be invested in the office of the Prime Minister. Ironically, a lot of this was achieved during the tenure of Dr Mahathir Mohamed, in the decades that he governed as Prime Minister.

Since as things stand, the Prime Minister has the power to make most of the important decisions in the country – almost all by himself – it seems reasonable to expect a clear answer with regards to who a coalition would like to put forward as Prime Minister, should they win the elections.

In this, we must sadly admit a great advantage lies with BN.From day one, there has been absolutely no doubt whatsoever that BN’s candidate for Prime Minister is the incumbent, Najib Abdul Razak (photo).

Especially since the removal of his former deputy Muhyiddin Yassin, every echelon of the UMNO and BN hierarchy has been of one voice on this matter.

Love him, or hate him, there is no question in anyone’s mind that Najib Razak will become Prime Minister should BN win the elections.

While they got off to a decent enough start, the Perak government was soon wrested in 2009, and the Kajang Move (thanks to Rafizi Ramli) threw the Selangor government into disarray – breaking the back of Pakatan Rakyat, and causing a split whose reverberations continue to be felt today.

Former Menteri Besar of Selangor Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim

These conflicts speak to the very heart of governance and stability. A certain amount of growing pains can be tolerated, but when this degenerates into full-on squabbling over the highest position of power – as evidenced in the Selangor crisis – then any illusion of stability is shattered.

In politics, there aren’t many opportunities to create a first impression. Had the Selangor crisis been about clear-cut corruption, or some other type of scandal backed up by irrefutable evidence, the story could have been different.

As it is, bad excuses were made to cover up what one couldn’t help but assume was a simple power grab and a mud-fight over resources. Extrapolating from this to federal power can conjure up scary images of chaos and destructive instability.

Where UMNO -BN is strong

Even as we seek to topple UMNO and BN, it would be foolhardy not to acknowledge their strengths. Failure to do so will condemn any attempt to defeat them.

It must be noted that while not every UMNO Deputy President has become president – a fact Muhyiddin, Anwar Ibrahim and others are all too familiar with – there has not been a single individual who has become UMNO President, and thus Prime Minister, without being the Party Deputy president first.

UMNO, for all its racism, bigotry, and corruption, can point to this as a history of relative stability – not forgetting, of course, the many deputies that didn’t make it, and the harm created when they rebelled.

The opposition should perhaps look to establish a similar history of internal stability, instead of grasping clumsily at every general election.

The best front the opposition was able to put up was probably in 2013, when the opposition had what seemed to be a viable coalition representing a wide and representative cross-section of Malaysian society, with a clear and (publicly) undisputed candidate for PM.

We didn’t win, but we did do better than ever before. Instead of staying the course though, short-sightedness brought everything crashing down prematurely.

Falling between chairs

As a result, Harapan finds itself in quite an awkward position, falling perhaps, between multiple chairs. They do not have a clear, obvious choice for candidate for PM. If they did, we wouldn’t be having the controversy we have now.

Going into GE14, they’ll have to make the best of what they have, and the Mahathir-Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail combination is as good as any I suppose (although it is unclear why they would thereafter want to move Wan Azizah out of Permatang Pauh).

Observers have been right to point out that an “interim PM” arrangement is both far from ideal and fraught with potential risk. That said, the best Harapan can do, all things considered, is simply to decide on a plan, and stick to it.

In this case and at this stage, better an early commitment to an imperfect plan, than ongoing waffling over trying to find a perfect plan – one which, if not obvious by now, likely doesn’t exist. Said waffling is itself probably doing more damage to Harapan’s prospects than anything BN can do at this point.

Getting fit for future

At the end of the day, and at the beginning of a new year, we find ourselves with the cards we’ve been dealt, and we’ll have to play them the best we can for GE14, regardless.

As we look beyond the next election though, and onwards to the next generation – as aspiring statespersons should – we should perhaps be more conscious of whether we are putting the cart before the horse.

My uncles used to say that you don’t play squash to get fit, you get fit to play squash.

Perhaps the key to defeating BN some day is not to keep flinging things randomly until we find something that sticks, but to establish an alternative institution on strong principles, and to focus on strengthening that institution and its principles before obsessing about winning elections.

NATHANIEL TAN would like to wish everybody love, positivity, courage, and all the very best for 2018.

Debate Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi

December 25, 2017

Debate Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi

by S.Thayaparan

COMMENT | “Iksim propounds the view that Islam does not come under the jurisdiction of any political power. According to it, religious enforcement authorities come under the patronage of the Sultans, not state governments. This is a remarkable vision of an autonomous, almost all-powerful, religious elite that is like a state within a state.” – Shad Saleem Faruqi

I have often referenced Pprofessor Shad Saleem Faruqi’s articles in my articles, sometimes agreeing; sometimes disagreeing with what he writes.

If someone were to tell me that Shad’s intention in anything he ever wrote was to insult or breach the peace, I would burst out in hysterical laughter. This academic (unlike this writer) has never written a polemic, as far as I can tell. In addition, I have probably read everything this man has written.

If you have not read the article, that has got Iksim all in a rage, I suggest that you read it and determine if anything in that article warrants the state security apparatus “probing” this academic under section 504 of the Penal code.

Image result for datuk noor farida ariffin

Instead of engaging intellectually with Shad, Iksim resorted to the Islamists playbook and issued a public statement claiming that Faruqi and the G25 (Noor Farida Ariffin specifically) were attempting to cause racial disharmony and subverting the Islamic agenda as enshrined in the Federal Constitution. You can read the full statement here but the relevant passage is this:

“Tohmahan-tohmahan liar berkenaan termasuk oleh Prof Emeritus Shad Saleem Faruqi dan Datuk Noor Faridah Ariffin dari puak G25 dilihat sebagai satu cubaan untuk mencetuskan perasaan permusuhan antara kaum dan agama di negara ini. Kedua-dua mereka jelas menentang pemikiranpemikiran ke arah mendaulatkan Islam sebagai agama Negara sekalipun ia jelas termaktub dalam Perkara 3(1) dan sumpah Yang di-Pertuan Agong di bawah perkara 37(1) Perlembagaan Persekutuan.” 

In the quote that begins this piece, the good professor, questions Iksim’s perspective that Islam does not come under the purview of any political power likening such a perspective to a “state within a state.”

If you read the press statement and consider Iksim’s rationale for going after Shad and the G25, you would come to the realisation that their “unique” interpretation of the Malaysian constitution and of Islam in general, is exactly the “state within a state” idea that Shad alludes to in the quote I referenced.

Have you noticed that Islamists always claim that the people they target are attempting to cause tension amongst the various ethnic groups here in Malaysia? Is there any evidence of this? Are non-Muslims threatened or provoked by what people targeted by groups like Iksim say and do? I would argue that the only people threatened or provoked are the Islamist and the reason why they are threatened is that their views or beliefs are challenged.

Furthermore, Iksim has not rebutted the points raised in Shad’s article. They have not claimed that what he wrote was false or fallacious. They have not denied the agenda he attributes to them. What they have done, is use the state to sanction the professor and intimidate any others who subscribe to his views.

Indeed by their own admission (as quoted by Shad referencing their March 28 booklet), – “secularism, liberalism and cultural diversity are elements that will undermine the Islamic agenda and destroy the country’s sovereignty”.

In other words, according to Iksim, everything that non-Muslims value and probably a majority of Muslims are detrimental to the Islamic agenda in this country. Therefore, when Umno potentates talk of cultural diversity and protecting the faiths of non-Muslims, this is detrimental to the Islamic agenda of this country.

When UMNO potentates talk about the rich cultural diversity and the need to respect different cultures as envisioned by the founders of this country and which is great for tourism, this is detrimental to the Islamic agenda of the country.

When “liberalism” redefined as “moderation” – Islamic or otherwise – is bandied about as the foundation for economic, social and religious success by the establishment, this undermines the Islamic agenda in this country.

And you know what, they are correct. If you believe in the kind of Islam they believe in and the kind of Islam that the House of Saud, is slowly and painfully attempting to reject, all these concepts are detrimental to turning this country into an Islamic state.

An Islamic state where the primacy of syariah law and the submission of Muslims and non-Muslims to a theocratic hegemon is the natural order of things which is the desired state – and state of being – of Islamists like Iksim.

‘Islamists not interested in debate’

A couple of months ago, the crypto-fascists got their knickers in a twist when I wrote that, liberalism is only a threat to the kind of Islam tyrants preach – “Those people who fear ‘liberalism’ however they define it, in reality, fear the loss of power when empowered societies choose alternatives. So yes, liberalism is a threat to the kind of Islam they preach. Mind you they may actually win in a ‘fair’ democratic contest because that is one of the perils of democracy. Beyond institutional safeguards, democracy is a risky endeavour, but I would take it to anything these Islamists have to offer.”

While Shad Faruqi has invited them to debate and challenge his views, the reality is that Islamists are not interested in debate or discussion. Their only interest is submission. This is why they have no need for freedom of speech and expression.

There is enough empirical evidence to demonstrate that such concepts are anathema to the kind of Islam they wish to promulgate.

In many of my articles where I discuss the numerous provocations of the state-sanctioned Islam in the private and public lives of non-Muslims in Malaysia, I have always made it clear that the people feeling the brunt of a state-sanctioned religion is the majority, Malay Muslim population.

I have also made it clear, that Malay Muslim public intellectuals, academics and writers, are at the mercy of the state conspiring with various Islamists groups – sub rosa and overt – who sanction behaviour that they and they alone determine to be a threat to the state sanctioned religion.

Ultimately, Siti Kassim (will someone elect her already) has the right of it, when in her Facebook page, she wrote: “We must stand with Professor Shad Faruqi. We should never allow these extremists group taking over our country. Never. Never. Never.”

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