‘Malaysia’ dreams the impossible dream

March 17, 2018

‘Malaysia’ dreams the impossible dream

by Manjit Bahtia
Published on
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    Prime Minister Najib Razak met Mel at Taxpayers’  Expense

COMMENT | “When you know someone is a thief, you stay away from him,” Dr Mahathir Mohamad told Beverley O’Connor, host of “The World” programme by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Thursday.

Mahathir, of course, was referring to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who is spending a long-weekend junket in Sydney at the ASEAN Heads of Government hot-air talk-shop – again at the expense of Malaysian taxpayers.

Thief isn’t the only label Mahathir used to describe Najib. He also called him a “monster”. There are far better labels for Najib and for UMNO-BN members. “Monster” is an appropriate enough metaphor. But beyond labels, Malaysia has a serious international image problem.

There was a time when Malaysia was known to the world for Mahathir’s neo-nationalist Malay brand of loud-mouthness. That’s whenever he railed against, say, Singapore, his racist rants against Jews and Malaysia’s British colonial masters – the very lot who taught him how to “divide-and-rule” his own multiracial citizens. Mahathir single-handedly made the term ‘citizen’ a profoundly dirty word.

Malaysia became even more famous after Mahathir cooked up “facts” to jail his then protégé Anwar Ibrahim and chucked him in prison. When top cop Abdul Rahim Noor black-eyed Anwar in jail, Mahathir merely shrugged in the “saya tidak peduli” manner.

Now Anwar and Mahathir have become bosom buddies in a double-act to exorcise from Malaysia’s ripped-asunder soul Najib.


The Mahathir hypocrisy hasn’t gone unnoticed, as O’Connor reminded Mahathir.  Mahathir responded sheepishly, with the tiniest regret. He said it is more important to look forward to the future to overthrow the great big thief in their midst and an Umno that has moved so far to the right of its 1946 “objectives” that both the party and its president are rotten to its core.

Mahathir said UMNO has been destroying itself from within, that Najib “has destroyed” the original UMNO and that the party exists solely to support its President and an authoritarian regime.

Note that Mahathir never mentioned any of UMNO’s coalition partners-in-crime. Nonetheless, the mission now, as everybody knows, is for the Mahathir-led Pakatan Harapan cavalry to lead the charge and rout UMNO before Najib and his band of crooks rob the country blind.

Nothing new in all this. The lineage and the so-called discourse (whatever discourse means) and the battle-cries go right back to 1969 – the year democracy in Malaysia died after a long-simmering brain snap.

My friend S Thayaparan, a Malaysiakini columnist – whom I’ve never met – has been at great pains recently to make the case that “Malaysian voters” must stand up and save the country. If there’s a certain urgency in Mahathir’s determination, there’s equal stridency in Thayaparan.

But there’s also a problem. In fact more than one problem. First, the electoral system, run by the Election Commission, is not chartered to ensure full and fair elections; it remains chartered to ensure fully foul elections.


It’s also chartered not to uphold democracy, even democracy with Malaysian characteristics, but to maintain a Malay-led kleptocratic authoritarian regime that thinks it is above the constitution, therefore above the law. The regime is the law since rule of law has ceased to exist for nearly half a century.

Second, Mahathir had for 22+ years presided over just such a regime when he led it. He – more than Abdul Razak, Hussein Onn and Mahathir’s successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi – had every time turned a blind eye to every skin-flake of known or rumoured corruption within his UMNO, his regime, his Malay-dominated bureaucracy and Police, and among the coterie of Malay, Chinese and Indian cronies or oligarchs he’d nurtured.

Those accused or nabbed, like Perwaja Steel’s Eric Chia, “somehow” managed to get off scot-free. It doesn’t take a genius to work out how.

Not when the separation of powers between the legislature, executive and judiciary, as a democracy would like to have it, disappeared virtually overnight under Mahathir. Yet here he is crying that Najib has violated everything decent and, worse, he’s getting away with it.

‘Muhibbah’ only in name 

Something else is worth remembering. What Najib is doing – centralising structural and institutional power in his hands through what I’ve called the UMNO-Leninist state – is very much the same thing Mahathir was doing when he ran the place like a dictator. Or close enough to one. The hypocrisy is stunning.

Third, the desperation among “Malaysians” opposed to the regime is perfectly understandable. The desperation for the coalition of opposition parties, Pakatan Harapan, is also perfectly understandable.

To go as far as enlisting Mahathir is one thing; to make him the leader of the pack and, more, Prime Minister if Harapan should win, is unthinkable.


The man who created the 21st century monster of Malaysia, among the many other monsters who clutter the regime from across the ruling coalition, was Mahathir. He gave each one of them long enough rope to enrich themselves, heeding Deng Xiaoping’s dictum. Najib too embraced the licence. Najib’s “living the good life,” Mahathir put it on television. So are Mahathir’s cronies and nepotists.

Mahathir can’t have it both ways. He needs to own up to the past wrongs when the rot started to really set in. Mahathir now says Malaysia needs to reset good governance by ridding the country of Najib et al. Fine.

But (a) what good governance did Mahathir bring to Malaysia when he was Prime Minister? And (b) he must not become Prime Minister a second time, not even as a seat-warmer for Anwar.

The King of Malaysia has a duty to the country. All the Sultans do. The King knows Najib has been ripping off Malaysia; he cannot continue to sit on his hands and wait for ridiculously pointless protocols before pardoning Anwar – if he dares to pardon Anwar at all. But he must if he does not want his country monster-ised further.

Anwar at the helm gives Harapan the legitimacy it needs to fight the elections. This is not to suggest Anwar (photo) is unproblematic. Even with Anwar at the tiller isn’t a sufficient condition to rule.

Thayaparan says “all Malaysians” must vote, that they must do their bit. I would agree if I knew just who “all Malaysians” were – another point Thayaparan missed in my letter. Show me one “all Malaysian”.

Here’s what I see. Here’s what I’ve always seen. And on my last visit to Malaysia very recently I saw this much more clearly.

There’s no “all Malaysian”. There are no “all Malaysians”. There are Malays, Chinese, Indians and so on – discrete ethno-tribal, sociological, economic and political units separated by competition between race, religion and ideology.

The old story. I don’t need to tell you this. The ruling coalition is also dominated by similar units separated by race and religion. So, too, Pakatan Harapan.As we do in primary math addition, this will be carried over into the future.

Therein lies Malaysia’s core problem. The country might be able to solve some of the economic divisions that rift the people, but it can’t and it won’t solve every one of them or every other accompanying problem until competition between race, religion and ideology is resolved.

“Muhibbah” exists but only in name. Always has since 1969. Najib, UMNO and their BN clan know this and they’ll play this up to the hilt, no matter what the fallout.

There are many other problems that will inevitably be brought into general election No 14 from GE13. Many are beholden to UMNO-BN. Some are also evident, again, in the opposition.

Like it or not, Harapan is divisive because it is itself divided. In fact – and I agree with Thayaparan – Harapan looks woefully inadequate. It hasn’t learnt from its mistakes from GE-13. Those mistakes were fundamental, starting with its rather lame manifesto.

Harapan may have done better than expected in that election but it can’t hope for the same lucky streak in GE-14 to break the proverbial UMNO-BN camel’s back once and for all.

It would be wonderful if it does but UMNO has some things on its side, and a certain important – no, critical – momentum that Harapan would wish it has too. It won’t if it keeps carrying on like it has. But Mahathir isn’t the answer.

MANJIT BHATIA, an Australian, is a US-based academic, researcher and analyst specialising in Asian and international economics, political economy and international relations. He lives in Hanover, New Hampshire.

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


Extolling China, demonising Chinese

March 15, 2018

Extolling China, demonising Chinese

by  Ambassador (rtd) Dennis Ignatius

Extolling China, demonising Chinese

Image result for The Malaysian Chinese

Last week, the Interdisciplinary Research and International Strategy Institute launched its latest publication, Pen’China’an Malaysia: Tergadaikah Tanah Kedaulatan Bangsa? [The Sinicisation of Malaysia: Is Malay sovereignty being mortgaged?, according to one translation].

It turned out to be yet another Malay supremacist gathering masquerading as an academic event.

Bogeymen and brothers

Interestingly, the book itself opens with a chapter on the influence of the Jewish diaspora, a hint perhaps that there is a parallel between the Jewish diaspora and the Chinese diaspora. Linking two of the Malay world’s favourite bogeymen – Jews and Chinese – strengthens, I suppose, the siege mentality necessary for bigotry to thrive.

Going by press reports, the panelists who were assembled to discuss the book used the opportunity to censure Malaysian Chinese, with speaker after speaker questioning their loyalty and commitment.

PERKASA’s Deputy President, for example, warned that the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia posed a threat to the Malays. Noting that “we have seven million Chinese here, four million in Singapore, six to seven million in Thailand,” he went on to argue, rather absurdly, that “the thinking of the Chinese is stereotyped…the Chinese in China and those here all think the same.”

The implications were clear enough: the Chinese diaspora are potential fifth columnists for a resurgent China.

Other speakers seemed to readily agree. “All the Chinese in the world are brothers…so they will fall along with Beijing,” a lecturer from the Islamic Science University was quoted as saying.

ISMA’s Deputy President also questioned the allegiance of Malaysian Chinese while suggesting that their contributions during the Emergency were exaggerated.

Bigotry and Ignorance 

The fabricated and racist narrative that Malaysian Chinese cannot be trusted, that they are ungrateful, that they remain an existential threat to the nation, that their contributions to national development are overblown, is now so ingrained among certain segments of our society that it has become an article of faith.

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It does not help, of course, that UMNO itself regularly reinforces this narrative as it did recently with its outrageous attacks against Robert Kuok.

I suppose there is some truth to the dictum of Joseph Goebbels (Hitler’s propaganda minister) that, “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it and you will even come to believe it yourself.”

As might be expected, the panelists offered no real evidence to back up their arguments, including the contention that “all Chinese think the same;” they, however, offered plenty of evidence that all bigots are cut from the same cloth.

In the end, one is left with the unmistakable conclusion that all this palaver is simply about Malay supremacy; the Chinese are mere convenient scapegoats.

China and Chinese

To be sure, there are legitimate concerns about the growing influence of China in the wake of burgeoning bilateral political, economic and military ties.

Clearly, there is a pressing need for a rational debate about our relations with China to ensure that it serves our national interests above all else and that it is driven by national priorities rather than political expediency or the interests of a few well-connected Malay cronies.

Image result for Lee Kuan Yew on the Malays

Now we know why: UMNO is a Malay supremacist political party

Like it or not, China is a neighbour, a global power and a major trading partner. Good relations are not an option but a necessity. Building a national consensus on the issue is, therefore, essential if we are to develop stable and mutually-beneficial relations with China.

And integral to this effort is the need for a clear distinction between China and Malaysian Chinese. China is a foreign country, we may agree or disagree with its policies; Malaysian Chinese are fellow “sons and daughters of Malaysia” (to quote from  Prime Minister Najib’s Lunar New Year message) and should never be treated with suspicion or contempt simply by virtue of their ethnicity.

Hounds and hares


In any case, it is ironic that a Malay supremacist political party (UMNO) spearheads the push for closer strategic ties with China and the loyalty of Malaysian Chinese are questioned. Well-connected cronies get the contracts and local Chinese get the blame.

UMNO and its fellow travelers are clearly running with the hares and hunting with the hounds, extolling the benefits of good relations with China (and profiting from it) while exploiting the insecurity it generates among unthinking followers.

Our nation might be better served if all those who are zealous for its honour look a little closer to home – at the theft of public funds, the abuse of power, the betrayal of trust, the violation of our constitution – instead of focusing on superficial and self-serving definitions of loyalty that divide and diminish our nation and unjustifiably alienate so much of our citizenry.

Dennis Ignatius | Kuala Lumpur | 14th March 2018

IMF Article IV Consultations with Malaysia

March 11, 2018

IMF Article IV Consultations with Malaysia

The Economic News is not bad for Malaysia.  But the politics is something we as Malaysians must worry about. The regime in power is playing with race and religion to keep Malay votes and retain power. As a result, Malaysia is today a divided nation. Corruption is also at an all time high. Understandably the IMF scrupulously avoids commenting on  the state of politics –Din Merican

A New Landmark  under construction in Kuala Lumpur

The IMF Executive Board has recently concluded the Annual Article IV consultations with Malaysia. The Fund has issued a number of documents relating to the consultations. These highly nuanced documents are in a sense a report card on the performance of the Malaysian economy. They also highlight areas in which policy reforms are recommended. In the current round, there were a few issues on which there was no convergence of views.


International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept

Publication Date: March 7, 2018

Electronic Access:

Free Full Text. Use the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this PDF file

The full report and related documents can be downloaded from the above site.  Additional documents are listed below:


MF Executive Board Concludes 2018 Article IV Consultation with Malaysia

March 7, 2018

On February 9, 2018, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV consultation[1] with Malaysia.

 The Malaysian economy has shown resilience in recent years despite external shocks and has continued to perform well. Progress was made toward achieving high income status and improving inclusion. Median household income has risen further and the already-low national poverty ratio declined. Real GDP growth has surprised on the upside in 2017, and is estimated at 5.8 percent for the year, driven by domestic demand and robust exports. While headline consumer price inflation went up to 3.8 percent in 2017 due to higher oil prices, core inflation and credit growth are contained. On the external side, the current account surplus is estimated to increase to 2.8 percent of GDP, helped by strong exports.

Growth is projected to start to decelerate from its 2017 peak, remaining above potential at 5.3 percent in 2018, and converging to its potential rate of close to 5 percent in the medium term. In 2018, headline inflation is expected to moderate to 3.2 percent, as the response of core inflation to a positive output gap is partly offset by lower contribution from oil prices. The current account surplus is expected to soften to 2.4 percent of GDP in 2018, as export growth normalizes.

Risks to the growth outlook are balanced. On the external side, downside risks include a global retreat from cross-border integration, structurally weak growth in advanced economies, and a significant China slowdown, while a speedy approval and implementation of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and possibly lingering strong global demand for electronics are upside risks. Domestically, the confidence effects related to the cyclical upturn could be stronger than anticipated, while exposures in the real estate sector pose a downside risk.

Executive Board Assessment[2]

Executive Directors commended the authorities for the strong and resilient performance of the Malaysian economy, underpinned by accommodative monetary policy and gradual fiscal consolidation. While growth will likely remain above potential in 2018, inflationary pressures appear contained, and risks to the outlook are balanced. Going forward, Directors emphasized the importance of supporting economic growth while maintaining stability, as well as raising productivity through structural reform.

Directors agreed with the planned pace of fiscal consolidation in 2018, noting that it will help build buffers while maintaining financial market confidence. Going forward, they supported a gradual consolidation path consistent with the authorities’ fiscal anchor, which would help build additional fiscal space. Directors advised that fiscal consolidation should prioritize higher revenue, to facilitate the adoption of fiscal measures to support external rebalancing. They encouraged further progress on the fiscal structural agenda, including efforts to strengthen fiscal transparency and risk management.

Directors supported the January increase in the monetary policy rate, and agreed that the current policy stance is appropriately biased toward less accommodation while remaining supportive of demand. Noting that Bank Negara Malaysia’s monetary policy framework has served the country well, Directors recommended that monetary policy and exchange rate flexibility remain the first line of defense against shocks.

Directors welcomed improvements in the depth and liquidity of onshore financial markets during 2017 following the Financial Markets Committee (FMC) measures that liberalized and increased the flexibility of onshore hedging instruments, as well as a general rebound of capital inflows to emerging markets. They supported the consultative and inclusive approach adopted by the FMC in developing these measures, and encouraged the authorities to build on these successes to address any further gaps in financial market development. Some Directors urged the authorities to phase out—in a manner that preserves financial stability—the measures assessed by staff as capital flow management measures. A few other Directors, however, were of the view that there should be a greater openness to other approaches to promoting the authorities’ development objectives. Directors urged the authorities to continue a constructive dialogue with staff on these issues.

Directors agreed that financial sector risks appear contained, with sound bank profitability and liquidity, and low nonperforming loans. Nonetheless, they noted that vulnerabilities in household mortgages and the property development sector require vigilance, and recommended taking any necessary steps to mitigate risks. They encouraged the development of a rental real estate market. Directors welcomed the authorities’ commitment to take further actions to address deficiencies in Malaysia’s AML/CFT framework.

Directors commended the authorities’ emphasis on raising productivity and investment and encouraged further labor market reforms. Priority should be given to measures that encourage female labor force participation, improve the quality of education, reduce skills mismatches, and bolster public infrastructure and the regulatory framework to further encourage private investment.

How is the economy doing?

Image result for Malaysia: Selected Economic and Financial Indicators

Malaysia’s economy is showing resilience and is performing strongly. Growth is running above potential, driven by strong global demand for electronics and improved terms of trade for commodities, such as oil and gas. On the domestic front, Malaysia’s strong employment is boosting private consumption, and investment is also helping to drive growth.


Malaysia: PH or BN, what is the difference?

March 8, 2018

PH or BN, what is the difference?–Malay-centric New Economic Policy will continue

By Kua Kia Soong


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I believe young Malaysians like Wan Saiful Wan Jan should have a go at the political game, which is like a merry-go-round at a fun fair, and that the ageing politicians who have been hogging the horses for nearly half a century should get off and let other youngsters have a go.

Having said that, I expected young intellectuals like Wan Saiful would at least have some intellectual honesty to avoid the discredited road of race-based parties which have been the bane of Malaysian society since independence. He has joined the “Pribumi” party which is not only closed to “non-Pribumis” like myself, but is led by Malaysia’s most well-known autocrat and father of crony capitalism.

Now why does an erstwhile “liberal” like Wan Saiful want to exclude a fellow Malaysian and human being from his party? After all, isn’t liberalism a political philosophy founded on ideas of liberty and equality? So, what has happened to his liberal thinking?

Image result for Malaysia's New economic policyHe is not Malay, but a Bumiputera who is being sidelined


Furthermore, he now states that the Malay agenda remains relevant and any change will come slowly. That is great for the Malay crony capitalists who have been milking the country all these years since May 13, 1969. It is also a very effective populist ideology to get “Pribumi” votes in elections.

Looks like PH still wants Malay agenda

This is all bad news for those who have been dreaming the Malaysian dream of equality, justice and democracy.

Image result for Mahathir the Malay UltraThe Malay–eccentric Liberal Democrat leads Pakatan Harapan (Hope Coalition)


I have been monitoring Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) statements and I have observed a loud silence on the extension of the New Economic Policy.

Now with PH having embraced the leader of PPBM as the prospective Prime Minister, I can bet anybody that there will be no mention of an end to the NEP in PH’s 14th general election (GE14) manifesto when it is announced.

This is indeed bad news for those who had hopes of a more liberal economic policy and for all who have criticised the government for its racially discriminatory economic and educational policies.

Wan Saiful, who is supposed to be their policy maker, has already said as much: “But now, having entered party politics, I am more or less resigned to the fact that the (Malaysian Agenda) you are talking about is not going to happen in my lifetime as this is in the constitutional provision.”

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Wan Saiful said while PH must maintain its idealism, it also needs to prioritise the reforms that it can push through.

First, as a policy maker, Wan Saiful should be reminded that the so-called “Malay Agenda” was twisted from its 1957 form to a different “Bumiputera” form in 1971 with amendment 8A to Article 153 which allowed the quota system and all the other excesses of racial discrimination.

Apart from anything else, the term “Bumiputera” is not even in our independence constitution. Does Wan Saiful not remember that the 1971 NEP had an expiry date of 1990? Can the Malay elite keep changing the rules as they go along?

So how does the ‘Malay Agenda’ operate?

The Bumiputera/immigrant differentiation to justify racial discrimination against non-Bumiputeras continues to be peddled by the ruling Malay elite right up to the present day.

By some conceptual trick, these favoured people are defined as strictly “Malays” no matter where they come from (even Kerala or the Middle East) and therefore qualify as “Bumiputeras” who are entitled to special “rights”. PPBM may have another conceptual trick up its sleeve; we don’t know yet.

It is astounding that the bugbear that was thrown into the independence struggle to put the anti-colonial forces on the defensive – viz who are the “pribumi” (indigenous people) and who are the “pendatang” (immigrants)? – continues to be thrown at Malaysians in order to divide our nation to the present day.

The keepers of the pribumi estate overlooked an elementary point of logic – namely, how could a “non-pribumi” become a “pribumi” simply by assimilating when the latter is strictly a historical category?

Isn’t it amazing that with all the current hype about the “1Malaysia” slogan, this reference to non-Malay Malaysians as immigrants continues unabated?

These Malay elites are obsessed with race which is not surprising when there is so much at stake for them in terms of economic gain. Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s “Malay Dilemma” is rooted in that paradigm.

This obsession with race has little currency in the anthropology or sociology disciplines, not to speak of human rights in the international community.

Roland Braddel, former President of the Council of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society and once legal adviser to Umno has pointed out: “There is, strictly speaking, no such thing as the Malay race; there are Malay people, the Malay culture and the Malay language, etc.”

A liberal intellectual should know that.

Needs-based, not race-based policies

It still amazes me that intellectuals in the government cannot conceive of ways to help the poor and marginalised without raising the issue of race.

With all those years of training in the UK, is Wan Saiful really incapable of proposing policies that are not race-based? Admit that the so-called “Malay Agenda” is really a populist agenda to secure votes in the elections and not because there is no other choice.

Sixty years of racially-based policies have divided us while enriching the well-connected crony capitalists linked to the political elite.

It is time to replace race-based policies with needs-based measures that target the lower-income and marginalised sectors.

The NEP was scheduled to end in 1990 but has become a populist, never-ending policy to win over the Bumiputeras while benefiting mainly the political elite.

It is common sense that poor rural Malaysians should be assisted based on their needs according to the particular economic sectors in which they live and work.

Today, with the lack of ethnic diversity in the civil and armed forces, it is high time that recruitment and promotion in these services are based on merit.

As a policy maker, Wan Saiful will no doubt be familiar with international reports that point to a compelling need for Malaysia to shift from a race-based to a needs-based policy in order to address imbalances in society and improve the democratic process to ensure good governance and rule of law.

With the “Malay Agenda”, Malaysia’s economic progress continues to be plagued by a lack of innovation and skills, a low level of investments in technology, declining standards in education, relatively high labour costs and sluggish growth in productivity.

The cost and consequences of the racially discriminatory policy in Malaysia have been immense especially since the NEP in 1971. It has caused a crippling polarisation of Malaysian society and a costly brain drain.

According to the World Bank: “The diaspora likely reached about one million people in 2010, compared to about 750,000 in 2000… the brain drain is estimated at a third of the total diaspora. This translates into a number of 335,000 in 2010, which is up from 217,000 in 2000.”

While the Chinese middle class in Malaysia has largely adapted to this public-sector discrimination by finding ways to make a living in the private sector, this has not been so easy for working-class Indians, Chinese and other marginalised communities including the Orang Asli.

More potentially dangerous and insidious is the effect this widespread racial discrimination has had on ethnic relations in this country. Unity can only be promoted through an affirmative action policy based on need, sector or class, never on race.

Kua Kia Soong is the adviser for Suaram.

Message to Minister Nazri Aziz: Don’t Talk Crude

February 27, 2018

Message to Minister Nazri Aziz: Don’t Talk Crude

Pondan? Ayam? What has become of this country?

GE-14 :Time to shift Political Discourse to Policy Issues

February 25, 2018

GE-14 :Time to shift Political Discourse to Policy Issues

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan


THE date of GE14 has been on our minds for quite some time. Most analysts I know are suggesting that polling will likely take place in April or early May.

Image result for ge-14 najib vs mahathir

Political parties are clearly ramping up their efforts to woo voters. Ceramah are organised every night in various places across the country. These talks are quite exciting to watch.

In the absence of good stand-up comedy shows, the hypocrisy of some of our politicians is the next best thing, especially when they claim that their side monopolises everything that is good, while those who are not on their sides are the root of all evil. Isn’t it amusing that, in their eyes, everything is either black or white, with no shades of grey at all?

I suspect that as we get closer to GE14, race and religion will once again dominate the political discourse.

Image result for Malaysia --Battle for the Malays
UMNO Leaders–Najib Razak and Zahid Hamidi–can be expected to play the Islam and Malay Survival card in order to retain power. Najib Razak’s shift towards policy issues is an attempt to appear liberal and moderate to non-Malay voters–Din Merican


This is necessary because politicians from ethnic-based parties need to achieve immediate-term victories, while the long-term fate of this country is not the top priority.

Ensuring society is divided and sowing distrust between groups are the only way for ethnic- and religion-based parties to remain relevant in the modern world. If society rejects division, starts to trust each other unconditionally and opts for unity, these parties will become irrelevant.

I can be more specific. I have been studying Malay politics and Malay political parties in depth since March last year. In the many interviews and focus group discussions I’ve conducted, the most common issue brought up by the Malay voters is their fear of a Chinese “takeover”.

In the eyes of many Malays, the Chinese cannot be trusted because they want to remove Malay political control from the rubric of this country. Supposedly, the Chinese can only be trusted if they are subservient.

The impact of this sentiment is many-pronged. UMNO and PAS will remain influential in constituencies with certain demographics without much contest. As a coalition, Pakatan Harapan must accept the Malay leadership provided by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Pribumi), just like Barisan Nasional accepted the leadership of UMNO.


Image result for Malaysia --Battle for the Malays

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad– The Revivalist and Reformer

Non-Malay parties in both BN and Pakatan must know what they can talk about and what they must avoid. The dividing lines may be invisible, but they exist. And, for the politicians who feel that they cannot win when debating policy and governance, their best strategy is to further embed the dividing lines.

Sadly for Malaysia, the divide-and-rule strategy is still the more successful one when it comes to political competition. In fact, ethno-religious division is so rooted in the country today to the extent anyone who does not play the same game will find it very difficult to win.

My biggest fear is the damage created by this divisive strategy will be entrenched even further in our society as a consequence of what the politicians do to win in GE14.  But desperate politicians usually have no qualms about destroying relations between our multicultural groups so long as they can win in the immediate term.

Having said the above, I am glad that there is an increasing number of political leaders calling for debates that are more policy-oriented. If you listen to the formal speeches by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak over the last few weeks, you can sense the push towards policy. And many other politicians, from both sides, are following suit.

I also noticed that among the ideas gaining traction is the proposal to separate the roles of the Attorney-General from that of the Public Prosecutor.

Currently, there is a clear conflict of interest because the A-G is also the Public Prosecutor. The A-G holds absolute discretion in deciding whether to prosecute someone.

The A-G is also the chief legal adviser to the Government, which means the Government is his “client”. It is incredible that the defence lawyer also holds the power to decide if his own client should be taken to court.

I think this is among the most urgent changes that we need to make. The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) has been advocating this reform for more than three years now, and I am glad that more people have warmed up to the proposal. I hope political parties from both sides will now take it one step further and include this reform in their respective manifestos.

It is not difficult to make this change. The A-G should be a politician who is a member of the Cabinet.

He will continue to be chief legal adviser to the Government. The Prime Minister should appoint a trusted MP to this post. But the Public Prosecutor should be a different person, appointed from the legal or judicial system, or perhaps even a suitable senior civil servant.

The main point is, the Public Prosecutor should not be a political appointment, whereas the Attorney-General can be. That way, the Public Prosecutor has no master other than the rule of law.

Wan Saiful Wan Jan is chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (www.ideas.org.my). The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

Wan Saiful Wan Jan

Wan Saiful Wan Jan is chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs.