Hishamuddin Tun Hussein Onn: The Macho Malaysian Minister of Defense


December 18, 2017

Hishamuddin Tun Hussein Onn: The Macho Malaysian Minister of Defense

By Azmi Sharom

http://www.mysinchew.com/node/118819?tid=12

Image result for Malaysia's Defense Minister

The Big Talker who could be the successor to Najib Razak as 7th Malaysian Prime Minister is a Leader from the Behind. He is prepared to commit Malaysian Troops for Jerusalem to be slaughtered by the Israeli Defence Forces while he sits in the comfort and safety of his air-conditioned office in the Malaysian Ministry of Defence.

Sometimes guys get a bit emotional and they say really macho things like, I will die for such and such a cause. Well, most of the time you just shake your head and look away. Because after all, talk is cheap.

However, when you are a minister, you can’t just say macho things for the sake of it in the heat of the moment. Which is what our defence minister seemed to have done.

He said Malaysian armed forces were ready to go to Jerusalem! For what?

Image result for Malaysia's Defense Minister

Why put these well trained warriors in harm’s way when our national security is not threatened? It is just macho posturing by a Malaysian senior ministerWhy not let Erdogan of Turkey do it?

I know that emotions are high, particularly among Muslims, about how Trump has unilaterally declared that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Something that no other governments in the world want and something which everybody knows will just be further fuel for chaos.

Also, international law has declared that the status of Jerusalem remains on hold until there are proper negotiations and agreement. But then when has Trump or the Israeli government ever cared about international law that does not serve them?

Anyway, yes, it is a disgusting move by Trump. But to say we are ready to send soldiers to Jerusalem is an emotive response more likely to show the minister’s religious credentials and not his knowledge of the law.

If you are going to send troops to another country, it has to be clearly about your own self defence from imminent threat. Or, it can be as part of a UN sanctioned peace keeping mission. Or, it can be part of a UN Security Council sanctioned invasive force (again for specific purposes like maintaining international law).

You can’t just go somewhere with your military willie nilly. So, does the minister think one of the above is going to happen? I doubt it and I am sure he does too. So, what he is saying is just macho posturing.

I am totally aghast at what Trump has done and if the government is serious about opposing it, let us first identify the culprits. The US and Israel certainly. But what about the allies of the US in the Middle East? The Saudis have been real chummy with Trump. Do they have they any involvement in this foolishness?

If the government is really serious about opposing this despicable move, they best first find out who the true enemies are so that they can take whatever logical measures. This is more sincere and useful than mere macho posturing.

(Azmi Sharom is a law lecturer at Universiti Malaya.)

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

 

Image result for Open Letter to Anwar Ibrahim

Reducing the Powers of the Prime Minister

by Dr. Ronnie Teo@www.malaysiakini.com

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.

Image result for Terence Gomez book

 

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 ronnieooi@malaysiabebas.com so that by banding together, we have a stronger voice.

Your old friend,
Dr Ronnie Ooi

Appendix

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.

 

Najib Razak’s Muddled Mid-East Policy–Sheer Hypocrisy


December 16, 2017

Najib Razak’s Muddled Mid-East Policy–Sheer Hypocrisy

by Mat Sabu@www.malaysiakini.com

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COMMENT | On December 13, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, in his own words, dropped everything on his lap, including a meeting with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, to attend the extraordinary summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey.

The goal was to register the Muslim world’s urgency and protest against the recognition of Jerusalem as the “eternal capital of Israel.” The OIC meeting was hopeless for several reasons.

First, Najib had already affirmed to the rest of the world, that US President Donald Trump is his golfing buddy and his friend.

In his trip to Washington in September 2017, Najib even boasted that Trump personally sent him to his official car, of all places in the basement of the White House.

The above is not hearsay. It came right from the horse’s mouth: Najib. It was Najib who showcased his tight bond with Trump.

 

 

Secondly, directly or indirectly, this has strengthened Trump’s resolve to gift Jerusalem to Israel. The false step by Najib is no less damning than the mistakes of King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman (MBS) of Saudi Arabia.

Both the father and son praised Trump as a world-class leader when Trump made a trip to Saudi Arabia. Emboldened by his relationship with King Salman and MBS, Trump went one step ahead of the duo.

He immediately flew to Israel, and promised a radical change in the US policy on the Middle East. Such a radical change was, of course, the gift of Jerusalem to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo), whose popularity was not only sagging in Israel, but is also widely considered a dishonest and ineffective Israeli leader.

 

Second, Najib flew to Istanbul to join a chorus of leaders to admonish and reprimand Trump. But was that really the case?

The US Ambassador to Malaysia was not summoned to the Prime Minister’s Office nor Wisma Putra for a thorough dressing down. Even when the UMNO Assembly was ongoing, little attention was granted to the injustice of Trump.

Third, in a press release by Wisma Putra, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs merely affirmed that Trump should “reconsider his decision.” Wisma Putra did not express its vehemence against Trump.

Fourth, instead, it was the opposition front that raised a huge outcry on Trump’s utter betrayal to the Palestinians.

To the credit of Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar, she saw the betrayal as sufficiently serious to call for the possible boycott of US goods and services in Malaysia.

 

Fifth, Pakatan Harapan chairperson Dr Mahathir Mohamad (photo),  together with Amanah and Bersatu, challenged the whole treasonous act of giving Jerusalem to Israel when there are 86 countries, be they Muslim or non-Muslim, that do not agree with Trump. Even Pope Francis of the Vatican Council was against Trump wholesale.

Thus, what is the point of flying to Istanbul to block the proverbial horses that have been let out of the stable? Trump has betrayed the Muslim world not once, but from the very beginning of his presidency. He has passed the Middle East policy to Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, who is a known Zionist.

Sixth, it shocking that UMNO and PAS still support Trump by not voicing out more openly, and by coming up with a series of measures to put a stop to this madness.

Fortunately, the 14th general election is just months away. Christians and Muslims, indeed all groups and races that are anti-Israel, can set things right: by voting out Najib, PAS and, indeed, UMNO, for coddling the Zionist conspiracy.

Malaysian foreign policy has never seen such a disaster until now. It is time to correct it with a new government that is not beholden to US Zionist policy.


MOHAMAD SABU is president of Amanah. The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

The Glory of Democracy


December 16, 2017

 

Image result for the fall of the berlin wall

In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell and Communism fell with it. Liberal democracy seemed triumphant. Democracies sprouted in Central Europe. Apartheid fell in South Africa. The Oslo process seemed to herald peace in the Middle East.

Then it all went bad. Tribalism and authoritarianism are now on the march while the number of democracies declines. Far worse has been the degradation of democracies, especially in our own country. The Congress barely functions. We have a president who ignores facts and violates basic decency. On college campuses, according to a Brookings/UCLA survey, 50 percent of students believe that “offensive” speech should be shouted down and 20 percent believe it should be violently crushed.

In short, we used to have a certain framework of decency within which we held our debates, and somehow we’ve lost our framework. We took our liberal democratic values for granted for so long, we’ve forgotten how to defend them. We have become democrats by habit and no longer defend our system with a fervent faith.

So over the next few months I’m going to use this column, from time to time, to go back to first principles, to go over the canon of liberal democracy — the thinkers who explained our system and why it is great.

Image result for Thomas Mann on Democracy

I’m going to start with Thomas Mann’s “The Coming Victory of Democracy.” Mann, possibly the greatest novelist of his era, fled the Nazis and came to America. In 1938, he gave a series of lectures against fascism, Communism and the America Firsters

Democracy begins with one great truth, he argued: the infinite dignity of individual men and women. Man is made in God’s image. Unlike other animals, humans are morally responsible. Yes, humans do beastly things — Mann had just escaped the Nazis — but humans are the only creatures who can understand and seek justice, freedom and truth. This trinity “is a complex of an indivisible kind, freighted with spirituality and elementary dynamic force.”

“Man is nature’s fall from grace, only it is not a fall, but just as positively an elevation as conscience is higher than innocence,” he writes. Original sin “is the deep feeling of man as a spiritual being for his natural infirmities and limitations, above which he raises himself through spirit.”

Democracy, Mann continues, is the only system built on respect for the infinite dignity of each individual man and woman, on each person’s moral striving for freedom, justice and truth. It would be a great error to think of and teach democracy as a procedural or political system, or as the principle of majority rule.

It is a “spiritual and moral possession.” It is not just rules; it is a way of life. It encourages everybody to make the best of their capacities — holds that we have a moral responsibility to do so. It encourages the artist to seek beauty, the neighbor to seek community, the psychologist to seek perception, the scientist to seek truth.

Monarchies produce great paintings, but democracy teaches citizens to put their art into action, to take their creative impulses and build a world around them. “Democracy is thought; but it is thought related to life and action.” Democratic citizens are not just dreaming; they are thinkers who sit on the town council. He quotes the philosopher Bergson’s dictum: “Act as men of thought, think as men of action.”

In his day, as in ours, democracy had enemies and the prospects could look grim. Mann argued that the enemies of democracy aren’t just fascists with guns. They are anybody who willfully degrades the public square — the propagandists and demagogues. “They despise the masses … while they make themselves the mouthpiece of vulgar opinion.” They offer bread and circuses, tweets and insults, but have nothing but a “rabbit horizon” — all they see is the grubby striving for money and power and attention.

Image result for Thomas Mann’s “The Coming Victory of Democracy.

The authoritarians and the demagogues subjugate action through bullying and they subjugate thought by arousing mob psychology. “This is the contempt of pure reason, the denial and violation of truth in favor of power and the interests of the state, the appeal to the lower instincts, to so-called ‘feeling,’ the release of stupidity and evil from the discipline of reason and intelligence.”

They possess the “kind of contempt which strives with all its might to degrade and corrupt humanity in order to force the people to do its will.”

Mann has confidence in democracy’s ultimate victory because he has confidence in democracy’s ability to renew itself, to “put aside the habit of taking itself for granted.”

Renewal means reform. He calls for economic and political reform that, quoting a French deputy, “will create a true hierarchy of values, put money in the service of production, production in the service of humanity, and humanity itself in the service of an ideal which gives meaning to life.”

Mann’s great contribution is to remind us that democracy is not just about politics; it’s about the individual’s daily struggle to be better and nobler and to resist the cheap and the superficial. Democrats like Mann hold up a lofty image of human flourishing. They inspire a great yearning to live up to it.

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

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

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.

Image result for Najib Razak remains strong in UMNO

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.

Image result for dr. mahathir mohamad and Sultan of Selangor

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.

Malaysia’s Chickenhawk Defense Minister’s Empty Talk On Jerusalem Issue


December 15, 2017

Malaysia’s Chickenhawk Defense Minister’s Empty Talk On Jerusalem Issue

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Malaysia soldiers in Saudi Arabia/Yemen

“A soldier is someone’s son or father or brother,” he said. “The public has a right to know where we are sending our soldiers and why.”–– Mohd Arshad Raji, retired Brigadier-General

COMMENT | Chickenhawk politicians are usually extremely gung-ho about military action, especially when nobody holds them accountable for their words. Kudos to Rais Hussin and P Ramasamy for calling out Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein on his extremely cavalier reminder that the Malaysian security apparatus is ready for action when it comes to the Jerusalem issue.

Image result for Malaysia soldiers in Saudi Arabia/Yemen

Malaysia’s Chickenhawk  Defense Minister –Hishamuddin Hussein Onn

I wonder what would have happened that if instead of international mockery, someone took up Malaysia’s preparedness to send troops to Jerusalem? What would have been the response then? Would we have backtracked and attempted to explain that in Malaysia, establishment politicians can say anything they want but they cannot be held accountable for what they say?>

On the other hand, maybe what the current UMNO grand poohbah said in his big meet-up in Istanbul with other concerned Muslim potentates that US investments trumps any real action to go with that outrage, is a more acceptable solution? And let us not forget the ever-reliable strategy of dragging the United Nations to voice out whatever grievances that Muslim potentates claim on behalf of Palestinians.

In other words, the Defence Minister’s words were just more empty talk to burnish Malaysia’s increasingly joked about Islamic preoccupations on the world stage. No doubt whatever we learned from whatever we were doing in Saudi Arabia would have come in handy if we decided to ship our lads to Israel. Speaking of what we learned in Saudi Arabia, I am still unclear as to why we were there in the first place.

Image result for Malaysia soldiers in Saudi Arabia/Yemen
22 members of Malaysian Armed Forces receiving their certificates and medals from Saudi Government for services rendered during  Ops Yeman since May, 2015.

In 2015, Arab News, under the chest thumping headline, ‘Malaysian troops join Arab coalition’, claimed that – “Malaysia has become the 12th country to join the coalition after Senegal which is sending 2,100 troops to fight the Houthis and the forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Ministry of Defence explained that the coalition’s operations centre is preparing for incorporating the Malaysian and Senegalese forces into the ranks and determining the nature of tasks assigned to them.”

Now, of course, under questioning by Amanah, among others, we are told by the Defense Minister that all we were doing there, besides “learning” that is, was evacuating Malaysians who were in Yemen. Why we need to “join a coalition” and send troops to evacuate Malaysian citizens when there are so many other less controversial and effective means of evacuation is beyond me.

Amanah, of course, loses points because one of their predictable concerns was that the presence of Malaysians troops there is awkward “because Western powers such as France and Britain were also present. These countries, the opposition party said, had anti-Islam policies” – which is dumb because thousands of Yemeni Muslims are butchered by another Muslim country.

A learning expedition

Of course, ever since the House of Saud got entangled in the 1MDB fiasco, Malaysia seems to have become extremely chummy with the Kingdom. Indeed, not only was the visit by the Saudi monarch memorable for reasons, which is beyond the scope of this piece but which I have documented elsewhere, we even managed to foil an assassination attempt allegedly planned by Yemeni operatives.

Image result for Najib and Saudi KIng

 

As reported in The Independent, Malaysia foils ‘Yemeni attack’ on Saudi Arabia’s King Salman’ – “Malaysian police said they foiled an attack on Arab royals by suspected Yemeni militants.

“Seven militants, including four Yemenis, two Malaysians and one Indonesian, were arrested in separate raids ahead of Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz’s visit to Kuala Lumpur…

“‘They were planning to attack Arab royalties during their visit to Kuala Lumpur. We got them in the nick of time,’ National Police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters.”

To our former IGP, getting terrorists in the nick of time is not something you want to be proud about and certainly not something you publicise. Now of course, if people who are at war with the House of Saud realised that we were in the kingdom not as allies but merely “learning” and evacuating citizens, they would be more inclined not to view citizens of where they were planning their attacks as collateral damage. And please note, a Malaysian citizen was also part of the kill team.

With this Jerusalem move, Al-Qaeda has called upon all Muslim nations to destroy Israel and this only makes it more complicated when we have citizens in this country who support these Islamic extremists for various reasons.

The United Nations has reported on the human rights violations that have been carried out by Saudi forces (and their allies) – which they deny – but of course, Malaysia only response that it was in fact only there on a learning expedition. Now how do you think this sounds to a demographic of disenfranchised Muslim Malaysian youths who seem to be ripe for radicalisation?

Already the plight of the Yemeni people has gained traction among a certain crowd of tech-savvy youths all over the Muslim world who blame the House of Saud for perpetrating crimes on innocent Muslims.

Way back in 2014, Harezt ran an interesting piece on why the Islamic State was not too interested in attacking Israel – “The Islamic State’s target bank contains a long list of Arab leaders – including the Saudi and Jordanian kings, the Prime Minister of Iraq, the president of Egypt and even the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood – before it gets to the Jews and Israel.”

So, while Jerusalem may not exactly be the issue that ignites Islamic radicalisation in this country, the alleged atrocities committed by the House of Saud and their allies, which includes Western powers and their Muslim proxies, may be ripe soft targets for radicalised Muslim youths who benefit from organisations like Islamic State who have declared Southeast Asia as their new theatre of war and destruction.

Now, I am not saying that Malaysia has troops fighting in Yemen – I have no evidence of this – I am just saying that for radicalised Muslim youths in the region latching on to the plight of the Yemenis, it will not make a difference.