George H.W. Bush, Public Servant


December 4 ,2018

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/01/opinion/george-hw-bush-dies.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fopinion-editorial

 

Historians will measure the presidency of George H.W. Bush in familiar ways — by how well or poorly he managed the major domestic and international challenges of his time, his leadership qualities, the moral and social legacies he left for future generations.

Yet, at the moment of his passing, it is difficult not to take note of the profound differences between the 41st president of the United States and the current occupant of the White House, Donald Trump. Beyond a desire to be president — Mr. Bush was more competitive and ambitious than his self-effacing personality sometimes suggested — there is almost nothing in common: the one gracious and modest, the other rude and vain; the one prudent, the other brash; the one steady, the other unmoored.

Mr. Bush’s death on Friday is also a moment to recall a less quarrelsome political order, when relations with traditional allies were more cordial than combative, when government attracted people of talent and integrity for whom public service offered a purpose higher than self-enrichment, when the Republican Party, though slowly slipping into the tentacles of zealots like Newt Gingrich, still offered room for people with pragmatic policies and sensible dispositions.

Mr. Bush’s tenure was shorter than he had hoped, and ended ingloriously in a lopsided defeat at the hands of an upstart governor from Arkansas, Bill Clinton, presaged by a huge drop in Mr. Bush’s approval rating from nearly 90 percent at the time of the 1991 Gulf War to the mid-30s in the summer before the election. Fingers pointed in every direction after his defeat — a deteriorating economy, a divisive convention in Houston, a disjointed campaign. But one big reason for Mr. Bush’s precipitous fall was Mr. Bush himself, chiefly his inability to convince Americans that he understood the depth of their fears or could summon up a coherent plan for addressing them.

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What Mr. Bush had impatiently dismissed as “the vision thing” — in an interview with a Time magazine writer in 1987 who had pressed him for his governing philosophy — turned out to be precisely what the voters found missing in him five years later. Even after four years as president and a quarter-century in public life, Mr. Bush seemed to many Americans a distant and diffident figure, a caretaker without strong purpose or compelling strategy.

A Times editorial after his defeat called Mr. Bush “an incomplete president” — good at some things but clumsy at others. Fate had dealt him one of the strongest hands in foreign affairs ever awarded a new president, and for the most part he played that hand cleverly and energetically. But when it came time to rescue a depressed nation, he had little to offer, either spiritually or in terms of coherent policy. With the economy in decline in the winter of 1992, he told a New Hampshire audience, as if reading from a cue card, “Message: I care.” That very formulation, a bit precious and patronizing under the circumstances, fell well short of the kind of the emotional jolt the moment called for. His opponent, Mr. Clinton, found a much more resonant message: “I feel your pain.”

Mr. Bush’s political persona was no less baffling. He could be charming on the campaign trail, sometimes in an endearingly goofy way. On that same foray into New Hampshire he got so wound up trying to show his down-home persona by quoting a song from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band that he called the band “the Nitty Ditty Nitty Gritty Great Bird.” On another occasion, he referred to the endangered spotted owl, a source of contention among loggers in the Pacific Northwest, as “that little furry-feathery guy.”

Yet, often in the heat of combat, Mr. Bush’s good manners and amiable disposition gave way to bombast and shrill exploitation of fears of race and crime. His 1988 campaign infamously strove to tie his opponent, Michael Dukakis, to an African-American named Willie Horton who committed rape after being released on a weekend furlough program — an effort for which Mr. Bush’s attack-dog campaign manager, Lee Atwater, later apologized.

So hapless was Mr. Bush’s last year in office that it was easy to overlook his early successes. He began smartly, moving quickly to end the ideological combat of the Reagan years, broke cleanly on environmental issues with his indifferent predecessor — the upgrade of the nation’s clean air laws was a major achievement — faced up to the savings and loan scandal and offered creative approaches to the debt of developing nations, especially in Latin America.

Foreign policy was Mr. Bush’s great strength, and of his diplomatic contributions, two stand out. One was to keep America and the Soviet Union moving forward along a path to peace charted by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, a path that in time led to the reunification of Germany, the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and, more broadly, the end of nearly a half-century of Cold War. These transforming events may well have occurred no matter who occupied the White House, but the fact is they happened under Mr. Bush, who managed these changes with skill and saw them through to a successful conclusion. As he put it in his acceptance speech at the 1992 convention, “I saw a chance to help and I did.”

 

 

Not so much ‘New M’sia Government, but one consumed by a shiok sendiri syndrome


Not so much ‘New M’sia Government, but one consumed by a shiok sendiri syndrome and groping in the dark

September 27, 2018 by R. Nadeswaran@www.malaysiakini.com COMMENT

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William Lyons, a senior lecturer at the Glasgow University argues that fear of the dark is usually not a fear of darkness itself, but a fear of possible or imagined dangers concealed by darkness. When fear of the dark reaches a degree that is severe enough, it is considered pathological.

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Pakatan Harapan Defense Minister who became a Fighter Pilot overnight– A Case of Shiok Sendiri

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Imitating an UMNO Fighter Pilot

This is not a class on fear and darkness, but provides a fairly accurate description of how some Pakatan Harapan leaders – including ministers – are performing. After almost five months in government, they are still groping in the dark and this becomes inexcusable.

To put it more succinctly and concisely, they are not stumbling in darkness but tipping over each other in broad daylight. Offering none, or sometimes nonsensical, solutions to the problems facing the citizens, some of their utterances and actions have bordered on incongruity.

This is no report card on the government. We elected our Members of Parliament (MPs) for five years but transversely, the events since May 9 have been emitting a sense of hopelessness among the common folk. Not that the public expects the sky and moon, but would just like to see changes that would offer a better quality of life.

Let’s not beat around the bush – any government or a set of lawmakers will do better than BN– with closed eyes even if one does not try.  BN’s track record over the past six decades was so abysmal, appalling and dreadful, that even minor changes would look astronomical.

The (new) government was elected on the premise (among others) that it would root out corruption, cut out cronyism, promote meritocracy, address weaknesses in the  administration and revamp the government machinery so that the people will be the eventual beneficiaries of such changes. The people were promised improvements and reforms and doing away with nonsensical pieces of legislation.

Little of this has been seen. Take the much-talked about child marriages as an example. Why is there so much  pussyfooting over an issue that can be solved, just by taking away the jurisdiction given to religious courts.

Excuses after excuse have been given including one that there would be legal and social implications if the minimum age of marriage is increased to 18 years.

What legal and social implications, one may ask? For the previous regime, the escape-all clause when everything else failed, was to throw in the religious or the race card. It is ludicrous that a child is allowed to be married based on culture, religion and customs, which are actually excuses to    not accepting international standards in human rights. Ditto for the current set of lawmakers.

Parliament not football pitch

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How and why should an elected MP resign? What is the co-relation between “Langkah Port Dickson” and parliamentary reforms?

The last time we heard of the  phrase, the then speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia got a new toilet and an expensive set of furniture for his office!

Parliamentarians are lawmakers. Parliament is not a football pitch were substitution is allowed anytime without any rhyme or reason – according to the whims and fancies of the coach or manager.

When BN put up posters before nomination day in the last election, they were accused of breaking election laws. Drive around Port Dickson today and you’ll notice giant banners and buntings. What reform, when the law breaker is seeking office?

And why should the Education Minister play a dual role as the president of a university? However one look at it, he is conflicted, but he is finding all kinds of excuses to justify his acceptance.

Elsewhere, intra-party affairs and disputes seem to be distracting some of the leaders. Instead of seeking to implement changes and ideas, too much time is being spent on politicking.

The former premier has adopted a “make-a statement-a-day” routine and our ministers are keeping him relevant by responding and making him important. He ought to be told the literal meaning of the legal doctrine of “those seeking equity must come with clean hands”.

‘No more political appointees in government-linked companies’ was the battle pre-May 9. The head honchos who made up the pancaragam which composed and sang BN’s campaign song found themselves out of their jobs. So, did scores of others, but who were their replacements?

On the administration side, there is little visible change. It still takes ages for some government departments to respond to letters; the “pegawai pergi mesyuarat” (the officer’s in a meeting) slogan is frequently used to avoid contact with citizens and other old practices. Self-appointed regulators of public morals are still imposing their values, including dress codes on visitors. They seem more interested in the length of the skirts than the issues they have to address.

Why haven’t they been reined in? Yet again, the answer would be: “It is a sensitive issue.” Many are reluctant and refuse to adopt Transport Minister Anthony Loke’s diktats – those who find female flight attendants’ uniforms too sexy should turn their heads away and not look at them.

The only visible change is the move to do away with the sign-off, which means nothing. From “saya yang menurut perintah” (I’m just following orders), it has become “saya yang menjalankan amanah” (I’m just following the mandate). Everything else including mindsets remain status quo. How does it help improvise delivery?

The attitude and brashness of most civil servants has not changed. They seem stuck in the old culture, and continue to act as Little Napoleons ruling their own fiefdom.

Public opinion matters little to Harapan lawmakers, who now believe they can walk on water. The mainstream media which pilloried, denounced and humiliated them when they were on the wrong side of the divide, has suddenly changed tack. These days, the editors (and censors) are now lining up to “pay homage” to very same leaders they had once pounced on, like vultures devouring a carcass.

Instead of using its new-found freedom and being objective, it wants to continue its insalubrious role as the supporter of the ruling elite. There has hardly been a whimper on the weaknesses which are so visible. Every citizen including journalists has a right to demand explanations on expenditure and policies because this government promised transparency and accountability.

Asking questions and requesting for justification does not make anyone a lesser Malaysian.

R NADESWARAN has no party affiliation and believes that the it is not an offence to hold government accountable. A good government must priorities good governance. Comments: citizen.nades22@gmail.com

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

Malaysian Civil Service Reform requires Political Will


August 20, 2018

Malaysian Civil Service Reform requires Political Will

Change must come from the political leadership. There must be an insistence on greater diversity at the intake level. There must be an insistence on promotion and posting based on fairness, meritocracy and competency… Soon, you will find top civil servants praising Dr Mahathir Mohamad sky high, just like they did with other Prime Ministers.–T K Chua

by T K Chua@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

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I refer to the letter, “Is there hope for the civil service?” by Dr Amar-Singh HSS.

As a former government servant, I too can relate to what he was saying although I have tried to avoid writing about it directly.

The environment in the civil service is more than stifling. It is also where favouritism, parochialism and bigotry are allowed to thrive. Discrimination in terms of recruitment, promotion and posting is routine and done with impunity. Tokenism has evolved into a fine art. If you are assertive and smart, be prepared to be sidelined and marginalised.

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A Bloated, Mediocre, Unproductive Malay dominated civil service

The civil service values mediocrity – this is absurd but true. The top echelon of the civil service is not populated by the smartest, but they know how to play politics to the hilt. To survive and keep the goodies to themselves, all they need to do is to quickly align themselves with the new regime. Soon, you will find top civil servants praising Dr Mahathir Mohamad sky high, just like they did with other Prime Ministers.

As a body, the civil service has its own inertia. It is not known for efficiency and progressiveness. On the contrary, the service is often associated with wastage, lack of initiative and poor service orientation.

The civil service is essentially an input-driven organisation, i.e. it will not move an inch without additional manpower and resources. Redeployment, revamp and reorganisation are hardly part of its consideration. That is why the civil service is ever expanding, often not in tandem with the size of the economy.

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Reports like the above which was written by two top civil servants of the Mahathir 1.0 Era, Tun Ahmad Sarji and Tan Sri Mahmud bin Taib are useless when there is no political will to undertake serious reforms.

Left on its own, I don’t think the civil service will ever change. It will remain insular, discriminatory and even racist.

Change must come from the political leadership. There must be an insistence on greater diversity at the intake level. There must be an insistence on promotion and posting based on fairness, meritocracy and competency.

We must temper the rights and privileges of communities with the need for competition, efficiency and performance. Otherwise, we shouldn’t be talking so much about greater dynamism and competitiveness for this country.

TK Chua is an FMT reader.

Arrivals and departures in ‘New Malaysia’


July 9, 2018

Arrivals and departures in ‘New Malaysia’

by Dr. Bridget Welsh@www.malaysiakini.com

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Change, however, is not just a matter of priorities and press statements but will require a crucial remoulding within the system itself. There are persistent practices inside the government – paying for meetings with ministers, using position for personal wealth and prioritising loyalty over merit – that need to be changed as well.–Dr. Bridget Welsh

COMMENT | Today marks two months since the May elections, coming after a dramatic week of appointments, an arrest, and a nauseating court gag order.

These headlines mark the arrival of important changes taking place in Malaysia, in governance and in the adoption of new political positions. Key is whether actors in their new roles are genuinely willing to engage in departures from the past.

In looking at two important developments this week – the new cabinet and the first major response of UMNO as a political opposition – Malaysia’s past offers important insights to the development ahead.

Newbie cabinet

Malaysia’s new cabinet makes history not only for the fact that it is comprised of new faces from a new coalition, but it is made up of a record number of professionals and non-scandal tainted individuals.

This combination of talent and fresh eyes offers great promise, and over the past week since the new ministers and deputy ministers took up their appointments, there has been a variety of positive messages sent from open tender to much-needed reviews of contracts.

The appointees are taking their tasks seriously, and while there are steep learning curves ahead, the resolve shown reinforces the sense of confidence of voters last May.

Change, however, is not just a matter of priorities and press statements but will require a crucial remoulding within the system itself. There are persistent practices inside the government – paying for meetings with ministers, using position for personal wealth and prioritising loyalty over merit – that need to be changed as well.

Ministers can set examples in pushing for reform in everyday governance, as the bureaucracy should not be seen as a bastion for patronage and a centre of corruption.

One of the most important and welcome shifts of the early years of the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was the refocus of the civil service on serving the public. This same administration also offers another lesson, as it was during this period that corruption became more entrenched within the civil service itself. This was primarily a product of an inadequate oversight of bureaucrats and poor management.

Civil servants need strong reminders that they are there to serve the public, not themselves or their political bosses. Good governance practices need to be incentivised from the onset.

The ongoing necessary removal of senior leadership within the bureaucracy and restructuring/consolidation of departments is positive, but it is stronger if accompanied by more fundamental and decisive shifts in norms and practices.

Rethinking representation

One important reframing of governance is to stop seeing the ministers as representing one ethnic community, party or state.

Malaysia is one of the few countries in the world where the dominant counting is based on race. The cabinet selection process has been largely one of political accommodation, rather than focused on the leadership needed to resolve the problems that ordinary Malaysians face.

 

Political parties have been seen to narrowly focused on their numbers within the cabinet, with the usual petty grouses. This sends the message that the position is about themselves, their respective power, rather than serving the public. It is not a surprise that there has been public outrage with the position complainers.

The challenge ahead is to move beyond numbers, to move from nominal to substantive representation, a situation where a minister is seen to be representing people not for who she/he is, but for what he/she does; for an Indian Malaysian minister to be seen as equally representing all communities be they in Sabah, Johor or Kelantan, for an Islamic education minister to be seen as advocating and improving the education of all Malaysians irrespective of faith, and for racial and sectarian politics to be given the back seat to promoting the nation.

The Merdeka era of the early 1960s offers important lessons here. It was a time when talent was prioritised in appointees, both within and outside of government. The sincere goal of building Malaysia overshadowed narrow interests. There was a willingness to bring in appointees from the outside based on skills. Malaysia’s bureaucracy urgently needs to strengthen its implementation capacity.

In this time of transformation, there is an opportunity to harness the goodwill and strong underlying national commitment to public service by bringing in more technocratic expertise.

Repeat offender

That sense of public service was, however, not on show with the events around this week’s arrest of the former prime minister. The drama shows clearly that the de facto new leader of the opposition is none other than Najib himself. He overshadows Umno’s new President, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, as Najib’s leadership continues to haunt the party.

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Stop lamenting and worry not, when the time comes, you will have plenty to do.

Once again, Najib has rallied the party faithful to his defence. The thuggish elements in the party have returned as the dominant public face of UMNO, adopting a narrative of racial confrontation. Najib’s battle for himself reveals what has long been clear – that his own personal future is more important than that of his party or the future of the country.

There are important lessons from his years in office that also merit recalling. Najib’s administration excelled in using the system to his advantage, particularly using the rule by law to stay in power. His approach was one focused on division and polarising Malaysia, rather than bringing the country together. All tactics, no matter how ruthless, were fair game.

A common practice was to obfuscate, to warp realities using slick storytellers. Najib’s administration set new lows in standards of dirty politics, seen to be fueled by cash payments. These trends have the potential to continue to dominate Malaysia’s political opposition narratives ahead, in what will be a long-drawn-out drama and in an opposition politics that is not focused on making Malaysia stronger.

Najib mistakenly believed that Malaysians could be fooled. May 9 showed him how wrong he was. He should have opted for a graceful departure. Instead, we have seen the arrival of a new battle for Najib’s survival, one in which the Malaysian public will face a repeat of the hubris and guile of his recent past.


BRIDGET WELSH is an Associate Professor of Political Science at John Cabot University in Rome. She also continues to be a Senior Associate Research Fellow at National Taiwan University’s Center for East Asia Democratic Studies and The Habibie Center, as well as a University Fellow of Charles Darwin University. Her latest book (with co-author Greg Lopez) is entitled ‘Regime Resilience in Malaysia and Singapore’. She can be reached at bridgetwelsh1@gmail.com.

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

 

Malaysia : The Elites playing the Cari Makan Game


July 1, 2018

Malaysia : The Elites playing the Cari Makan Game

by Dr. James Chin, University of Tasmania

http://www.newmandala.org

 

“Over the next year, expect more UMNO businessmen and opposition politicians to move into the PH camp, all claiming to be closet supporters of PH. The “cari makan” political culture may be the hardest thing to reform in Malaysia—I would say it’s impossible, even under a reformist PH government. It is, at the end of the day, human nature”.–Dr. James Chin

 

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Missing in Action–The Super Carma (Cari Makan ) Irwan Serigar Abdullah

Over the past several weeks, much of Malaysia’s elite has been playing the game of “pusing” (Malay for turnaround), or as one businessmen told me, learning to “gostan” (Malay contraction of “go astern”). In popular usage, it means to reverse back. This is how it works: many in the Malaysian elite are now claiming to be closet supporters of Dr Mahathir and the Pakatan Harapan (PH, or alliance of hope) coalition. Some claimed to have secretly “sponsored” the campaigns of PH candidates.

In an infamous blog entry, Making Beeline to Curry Favour with Dr M, one of Mahathir’s closest political allies Abdul Kadir Jasin wrote:

“Last evening I was invited for a berbuka puasa with the Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, at the Perdana Leadership Foundation (PLF) in Putrajaya…I saw many familiar faces—men and women—who during good and bad times had stuck with THE man…But I also saw many who had been absent from his berbuka puasa and other functions for quite a few years. I felt no sense of remorse when I greeted them with disdain…When Dr Mahathir was in power they celebrated him as if he was a ‘Tua Pek Kong’ (Chinese diety) and man of miracle. He was lavishly praised and even more lavishly feasted…But when he left office but yet continuing to care for the country, many of these people abandoned him for fear that supporting or just being seen with him would jeopardise their billion-dollar contracts, projects concessions, or subject them to the scrutiny of the Inland Revenue Board…The mere mention of Dr Mahathir caused them to cringe…Their hypocrisy and lack shame put me off. But still I accepted their handshake for the sake civility and common courtesy…”

While crony capitalism is found throughout Southeast Asia (yes, even in Singapore), in Malaysia the cronies never had to “pusing” or “gostan” at such a rapid pace. The assumption was that UMNO and Barisan Nasional (BN) would remain in power for the foreseeable future. Thus the 9 May outcome was akin to suffering the first heart attack.

Unlike the West, political hypocrisy and the practice of switching political support for personal gain in Malaysia is often regarded as simply “cari makan” or earning a living. There is no political shame in “pusing” if the ultimate aim is to “cari makan”. In other words, you do whatever is necessary to get the government contract, or better, to get into government. Former prime minister Najib Razak was fond of saying that his political philosophy is “Cash is king”. During Najib’s era, “dedak” was the common term used to describe the use of bribes to buy political support.

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The culture of “cari makan” had such an omnipresence in Malaysian politics that almost all the tycoons you see today in Malaysia are linked either to Mahathir or Najib. It was an open secret which tycoon was linked to each leader, such that the stock market in Malaysia had “political counters”, where certain companies were owned by these tycoons. It is not uncommon for the shares of these companies to move according to the latest rumour regarding the tycoon’s relationship status with the incumbent PM.

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He is still around and adapting to the new politics–Dr. Ali Hamsa

Those who came up in the 1980s and 1990s were handpicked by Mahathir and former Finance Minister and now chair of the Council of Eminent Persons Daim Zainuddin. In the past decade, another group of tycoons came up under the patronage of Najib. It was taken for granted that you could not become a business tycoon overnight in Malaysia without connections to the incumbent PM.

“Pusing” and “cari makan” politics is most acute in the Malaysian state of Sabah. Not only is it done openly at every elections, it is celebrated with a local word “katak” (or political frog), which essentially describes what happens as entire political parties and just-elected individuals move to the winning side on elections night. For political parties, it’s mostly about getting into government. For individuals, it can mean a sudden cash windfall. Sometimes, you can even “katak” twice or more for such gains.

The most recent example of this was on the night of GE14, when it became clear that Parti Warisan were in a position to form a new state government—United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (UPKO), a BN-component party, announced it was defecting to Warisan to give it a clear majority to form the next state government. Two days later, four Sabah UMNO state assemblymen defected as well, giving Parti Warisan a clear majority in the state assembly.

In neighbouring Sarawak, two just-elected MPs joined the PH coalition once it was clear PH had formed the federal government. The sole MP from the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) tried but failed to defect to PH.

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Across the sea, Malaya is fast catching up on “katak” politics. Within a few days of PH’s victory, five BN state assemblymen defected to PH, giving the Johor and Perak PH state governments their majorities. More would actually like to defect but they cannot do so now because of the raw feelings generated in the recent campaign. It’s likely when things calm down, more elected BN representatives will move to PH.

While many would see these moves as opportunistic, many of those defecting justify it on the grounds that under the present political system, they can only resolve their constituency issues if they are part of the ruling coalition.

When BN was in power, individual BN MPs were given between RM1 to RM5 million ($337,000 to $1.69 million) to spend on their constituencies. Opposition MPs got zero funding. These funds are spent on any events or projects approved by the MP without the need for another layer of official approval. BN MPs would normally use this slush fund for small projects or events to increase their personal support among their constituents. Opposition MPs see the funds as nothing more than blatant vote buying.

The new PH government has continued the practice but with a slight modification. PH MPs will get RM500,000 ($169,000) while Opposition MPs will get RM100,000, or a fifth of what a government MP gets.

Over the next year, expect more UMNO businessmen and opposition politicians to move into the PH camp, all claiming to be closet supporters of PH. The “cari makan” political culture may be the hardest thing to reform in Malaysia—I would say it’s impossible, even under a reformist PH government. It is, at the end of the day, human nature.

Congratulations to Malaysiakini–The No.1 News Portal in Malaysia


June 28, 2018

Malaysiakini is No.1 News Portal in Malaysia: A Profile in Courage

http://www.malaysiakini.com

 

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Note: Malaysiakini was born in 1999, in the crucible of the Reformasi movement that sprung up in the wake of the arrest and imprisonment of then-deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

Steven Gan and Premesh Chandran started the online news portal to give Malaysians an unvarnished view of what was happening in the country — the kind people were unable to get from the government-controlled mass media newspapers and TV stations at the time.

The little outlet is now one of Asia’s most influential news sites. But the journey has been perilous. In its two decades of operations, Malaysiakini has been raided by police numerous times, dragged to court and most recently faced the threat of seeing its founders incarcerated for their work.

Yet, it has also won numerous awards for its journalism and has a special place in the hearts of Malaysians the world over. More than 17 million people used the site to track the Malaysian election results on May 9 and a multitude more followed along on social media. Anwar Ibrahim, on his release from prison on May 16, after obtaining a royal pardon, specifically thanked Malaysiakini for its work and its journalism.

https://www.mumbrella.asia/2018/05/after-spending-20-years-fighting-for-malaysias-democracy-whats-next-for-malaysiakini

 

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Steven Gan and Premesh Chandran of Malaysiakini

Malaysiakini is the most popular media portal in Malaysia, according to the 2018 Reuters Digital News Report presented today at the East-West Center International Media Conference in Singapore.

The annual study of news consumption in various markets showed Malaysiakini ranking first in Malaysia with 44 percent of weekly usage by local users, followed by The Star Online (32 percent) and Berita Harian Online (24 percent).

Media Prima’s TV3 topped the TV, Radio and Print category with a 49 percent weekly usage, followed by The Star (at 31 percent) and Astro Awani (at 29 percent).

International provider Yahoo! News was voted the most trusted brand with a 6.12 overall score.

Media analyst Zaharom Nain, from the University of Nottingham Malaysia, said, “Malaysiakini with 44 percent reach has maintained its reputation for providing independent news and continues to retain the trust of many Malaysians, especially those tired of propaganda.”

Zaharom added that news portals such as Malaysiakini and The Malaysian Insight, however, still faced a problem in getting consumers to pay for online news.

He noted that the circulation figures for two Media Prima newspapers – the New Straits Times and Berita Harian – continued to decline due to two reasons they being political alignment and the transition from print to digital consumption.

“They were openly aligned and strongly supportive of the former Prime Minister, Najib Abdul Razak, at a time when he was embroiled in one major financial scandal after another. This made Media Prima-owned properties become increasingly unpopular with Malaysians.”

The 2018 Reuters Digital News Report also showed that 72 percent of those polled used social media as their source of news while the total percentage of users reading online, including social media, hit 89 percent.