Entering a new year with what ifs– A 2019 Message To PH Leadership. Reject Ketuanan Politics

December 27, 2018

Entering a new year with what ifs– A Message To PH Leadership.Reject Ketuanan Politics

Leadership at its most fundamental is about moving people in the right direction – usually through changing their thinking and actions. It’s about empowering the people to move forward together towards a shared goal of improving the human condition.

In South Africa, it’s known as ubuntu – “the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world, it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievements of others,” Mandela said.

An ancient word of the Bantu peoples in South Africa, ubuntu essentially means “’I am what I am because of who we all are”. –Eric Loo

Leadership at its most fundamental is about moving people in the right direction – usually through changing their thinking and actions. It’s about empowering the people to move forward together towards a shared goal of improving the human condition.

In South Africa, it’s known as ubuntu – “the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world, it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievements of others,” Mandela said.

An ancient word of the Bantu peoples in South Africa, ubuntu essentially means “’I am what I am because of who we all are”.

Ubuntu manifests itself in our individual actions, in our family, in society, and on a larger scale in our politics. When we work together in the ubuntu spirit to oil the squeaky wheels of reforms and keep it turning, it will eventually lead to a transformation of cultures and mindsets.–Eric Loo

COMMENT | Madiba’s Way – Lessons on Life is worth a repeat reading. The book describes how former South African president Nelson Mandela, as a young boy, used to herd the village cattle with his friends in the afternoon.

“You know, when you want to get the cattle to move in a certain direction, you stand at the back with a stick,” he said.

“And then you get a few of the cleverer cattle to go to the front and move in the direction that you want them to go.

“The rest of the cattle follow the few more energetic cattle in the front, but you are really guiding them from the back. That is how a leader should do his work.”

As we start the New Year with a new government grappling with the old issues of communal politics and party factionalism, let us reflect on Mandela’s pragmatic leadership in apartheid South Africa, why the answer to complex questions is not always either-or but often the inclusive both, and the ideals that a leader is prepared to die for.

Leadership at its most fundamental is about moving people in the right direction – usually through changing their thinking and actions. It’s about empowering the people to move forward together towards a shared goal of improving the human condition.

In South Africa, it’s known as ubuntu – “the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world, it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievements of others,” Mandela said.

An ancient word of the Bantu peoples in South Africa, ubuntu essentially means “’I am what I am because of who we all are”.

Ubuntu manifests itself in our individual actions, in our family, in society, and on a larger scale in our politics. When we work together in the ubuntu spirit to oil the squeaky wheels of reforms and keep it turning, it will eventually lead to a transformation of cultures and mindsets.

Here, I’m reminded of the Group of 25, a congregation of Malay public intellectuals who came out to strongly reject Islamic extremism and “supremacist NGOs” that “have led to the deterioration of race relations, eroded citizens’ sense of safety and protection under the rule of law and undermined stability”.

But since its formation in December 2014, not much else is known about the G25 or how the progressive Malay intelligentsia could have significantly influenced the tone and contents of the national conversation. Which leads me to wonder about the what ifs as we enter the New Year.

What if the G25 had sustained its intellectual momentum and prompted the emergence of other progressive bumiputera think tanks?

Would it have fostered a gradual transformation of mindsets and rethinking of ketuanan politics among the Malays?

Would we see less factional politics in the Harapan cabinet and more concerted efforts in meeting its election promises of fundamental reforms?

What if Mahathir were to step aside over the next year or so and guide a younger leader ‘from the back’ the Mandela way? Would the leadership transfer see us move forward to a Malaysia Baru, away from the old politics of special rights and privileges? Maybe not.

What if the stranglehold of Ketuanan politics on the Malay mindset were to regress Pakatan Harapan to the vision and values, policies and propaganda, character and convictions of the old UMNO-led BN?

The situation is certainly fluid. As we enter another year of political uncertainties and factionalism, let not the cliched messages by our leaders be mere rhetoric.

Let us ensure that their pedestrian words of hope are matched by their audacious deeds over the next four years or so.

Here, I’m reminded of the “audacity of hope” that President Barack Obama invoked often in his speeches.

Writing in The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (2006, page 63), he said: “Sometimes we need both cultural transformation and government action – a change in values and a change in policy – to promote the kind of society we want … I believe in the power of culture to determine both individual success and social cohesion … we ignore cultural factors at our peril.”

May the 20-something age voters with their ideals, particularly from the Malay heartland, foster a new progressive language that can shift the bumiputera-or-non-bumiputera mentality to an inclusive mindset, akin Malaysian ubuntu that channel our energy into overcoming impossibilities and fulfilling potentials rather than continuing to harp on special privileges and rights to move ahead.

As we enter the New Year, may the polity awaken the ubuntu spirit here to replenish our hope for improved living conditions, equitable opportunities for all, and institutional reforms under Pakatan Harapan, which the rakyat gave the mandate to govern for the next four years or so, but which they can easily take back at the GE-15 if the new government morphs into another UMNO-BN outfit.

ERIC LOO is a senior fellow (journalism) at the School of the Arts, English & Media, Faculty of Law Humanities & Arts, University of Wollongong. He is also the founding editor of Asia Pacific Media Educator.

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






A Tale of Two Malays

December 5, 2018

A Tale of Two Malays

by Tajuddin Rasdi

www. freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for Asri and Mahathir

In this article I present my views on the different responses and approaches of two Malay and Muslim educated leaders to raise questions about nation building. The two personalities  are Prime Minister Dr Mahathir. Mohamad and the “respected” mufti, scholar and academic Dr. Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin.

The scenario in question is the recent Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman temple incident. I do not view the temple incident as a racial one even though the police have established that the clash was between 50 Malay “hired thugs” and the devotees of the temple.

Image result for Asri and Mahathir

From the excellent police report and Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s statement, we can gather that these Malays were hired to solve the problem of vacating the land in order for commercial development to take place. The company to which the land belongs has since denied it was involved in hiring thugs.

Image result for Malay thugs

I have heard whispers of this kind of thuggery being undertaken to resolve the problem of vacating people from state and private land. I have also heard whispers that police often turn a blind eye to such actions. I hope these whispers are not true but the glaring events at the Seafield temple have confirmed my personal fears that there may be truth to many of them.

Whatever the real and intended purpose of the Malay “thugs”, I am convinced it was not a racial conflict but a simple “Melayu-thugs-for-hire” one. But politicians, clerics and opportunists have grabbed on to this incident to colour it as a racial conflict. When I read that 70 Malays turned up later that day, I feared the worst but thankfully, our police force was at its best.

When Asri came out with a forceful statement about taking a harsh approach in dealing with “illegal temples”, I feared it would only aggravate the situation, especially with sentiments over the ICERD still strong.

Although Mahathir has reversed the government’s earlier decision to ratify the UN treaty, many, including the “respected” cleric, seem to be egging on a demonstration that I fear could pull this country apart. We know the damage that was done by the previous Jamal Yunos-led Red Shirts rally.

Here I wish to draw attention to the approach of Mahathir on the temple issue: he showed exemplary leadership in putting Malaysian, “Malaysianness” and nation building above the idea of “Malayness”, “Islamicness” and “Tanah Melayu-ness” of those in PAS and Umno, and now – sadly – Asri.

One excellent character trait of Mahathir that I admire is that he can stand firm, no matter what the ulama, royalty and politicians throw at him. From his writings, speeches I have heard and media statements, Mahathir does not come out as a simplistic “my race above all” thinker like Zahid Hamidi and Ibrahim Ali, nor does he comes off as an “Islam above all” thinker like Hadi Awang or Asri.

He has his own personal views of Islam which I have read, his own idea about Malaysia’s history as well as his own personal formula on how Malays should change. He even admitted his failure to change the Malays, giving as proof the vast corruption by Malay elites, including in UMNO and the civil service. He dumped UMNOo… twice! Yes, UMNO dumped him once, but he did it twice. He is even said to be engineering UMNO’s elimination and a reboot of his own version of “Malay-Malaysianess” in PPBM.

Personally, I think it will never work as he is too old and may not have time to train Malays in the new “Malay-Malaysian ideology” so that they become progressive and critical-minded Muslims with a Japanese work culture.

That model of “Malay-Malaysianess” never took off even when he was the leader of UMNO.

But what I admire most about the way Mahathir handled the Seafield issue is that he was decisive and humanitarian and he did it with a Malaysian finesse. The government has ordered the status quo to be maintained and for the rule of law to take effect.

The matter has been taken to the courts again by some devotees, and a few millionaires have started a campaign to raise funds to buy the land from the owner. I suspect Mahathir may have had a hand in the idea of buying the land.

Mahathir may have lost his credibility as a Malay, a Muslim and a leader among kampung-educated Malays, bandar-educated Malays and university-educated Malays. But he has won my respect and that of the non-Malays and the very, very few thinking Malays.

He has lost the Malay political mileage that is badly needed to restabilise Malaysia as well as prop him up as the PPBM and Pakatan Harapan leader. I think it is a costly price that he has paid personally, but Mahathir is no stranger to such sacrifices.

What matters to him is a clear and unadulterated vision of where Malaysia should be heading, a vision very few Malays understand and are willing to follow, both in the opposition and in the government. Mahathir has put his political career on the line for the sake of a peaceful Malaysia.

The same can be said about the ICERD issue. Many have criticised him for “backtracking” from his tough talk at the UN but I think it takes guts and a visionary leader to go against one’s “reputable standing” and make decisions within a dynamically changing socio-political scenario. Other politicians would have taken more time to weigh the political cost and delay their decision, but Mahathir was quick, decisive and clear over both the ICERD and Seafield issues.

In contrast, let us look at how Asri responded to the temple issue. A day after the reported clash, I was shocked to read his harsh statements encouraging the authorities to come down hard on the Indians with regard to the many “kuil haram” on land not belonging to that community. Although many Muslims I know will side with him in this very popular statement, I think it is selfish and immature with respect to the idea of nation building.

Although I have admired Asri for his academic and religious views framed in an intellectual stand on many issues, his statements suggest his stand on Indians is far from friendly. The first clue to this attitude was given in his Facebook posting about Hindus attacking Muslims in India as well as the burning of widows. He made those statements in defending controversial preacher Zakir Naik, who is wanted in India. I have also heard his veiled attempts at making Hinduism look bad by associating it with the abhorrent caste system.

I will answer his criticism of the Hindu religion by giving three points. Firstly, it is most difficult to discern the principles of a religion from the cultural practices of the adherents. Until I read 20,000 hadiths, I never knew that Malays were practising “Melayu-Islam” and not the Prophet’s Islam. When Asri criticised harshly many of the attitudes and practices of the Malays using hard textual evidence, many Malays despised him but I agreed 100% with what he said concerning this matter.

I have read the hadiths and so I know. Most Malays do not read and they depend on clerics like Azhar Idrus or Zamihan Mat Zin to fill them in on what Islam is. I am 200% behind Asri in his “war” against the Malays and their ethno-centric interpretation of Islam.

Having said that, I have to ask: does Asri know enough about Hinduism to separate the cultural practices or attitudes from the philosophical teachings of that religion? I have read several books on Hinduism, including the Bhagavad Gita and the meditative techniques stemming from that faith, and I find them filled with the wisdom of the ages.

Hindus dissected the self, the ego and the mind long before Prophet Muhammad was born. Much of the concept of “self” by Muslim scholars such as al-Ghazali and Rumi echo the same teachings – not because they have been “influenced” but because of the generality and universality of the messages.

Most Muslims have a narrow window, framed in the 1,400-year scholarship of Islam, and refuse to take a walk outside of that box into the world of human civilisation and strive to understand who they are and how best to behave or act in a community of communities.

Secondly, with respect to the caste system, most societies, even the Malays, practise them. Abdullah Munshi detested the difference in punishments meted out to peasants, guards of the Rajas, the bangsawan or aristocrats and the Rajas, saying they were un-Islamic. To him all men were equal under Allah. I have many Hindu friends and I have never heard of widow burning or the imposition of the caste system; neither have I heard them threaten people of other faiths.

Thirdly, if Asri considers all Hindus as terrorists for atrocities committed against Muslims by some, then what of the Islamic State fanatics bombing here and bombing there, using lorries and other vehicles to knock down and kill non-Muslim civilians? Certainly Asri would point out that Islam the religion is free from such heinous acts and that those who do these things do not reflect Islam which offers a message of peace.

If that is so, why can’t Asri see the “terrorist Hindus” as a party totally different from Malaysian Hindus such as P Ramasamy and P Waytha Moorthy who are fighting peacefully in the political arena for the betterment of their own race? Clearly Asri has not acted with wisdom or out of consideration for the peace and safety of the many Malaysians in making such statements. He thought only about his own race and faith.

Thus, in conclusion, we can see two sons of Malaysia, two sons of the Melayu culture and two sons of Islam having two divergent approaches and attitudes towards the idea of building a peaceful nation.

One of them cares about all life in Malaysia while the other seems to care only about those of his race and religion. One has a long view of Malaysia’s future in the global community while the other has views limited to what is important to his own faith.

Malays have to decide who they should follow.

* The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.



On the Malays by Dr.Azly Rahman

June 29, 2018

A Rejoinder from Dr. Munirah Alatas to her Fellow Columbian Dr. Azly Rahman

P.S.  Dr. Sharifah Munirah,

To call Jamal Ikan Bakar Yunos a James Dean is to insult and debase the memory of James Byron Dean,  my teenage idol of the 1950s.

 Image result for James Dean

You cannot in good sense equate rebellion to gangsterism. Jamal is a law breaking pro-UMNO and Najib Razak political operative and a racist who is now a fugitive in Indonesia.  His Red Shirt movement should be outlawed and Jamal himself extradited to face the law for inciting violence against Malaysians , sedition, racism and violence. Otherwise, your comments on Dr. Azly’s article are fine.–Din Merican

Dr. Sharifah Munirah writes:

I refer to Dr. Azly Rahman’s commendable and no-nonsense expose ‘On the Malays’ (dinmerican.wordpress.com, June 29, 2018). Well-written, but I expect nothing less from a fellow-Columbian (Columbia University graduate). Thinkers like Dr. Azly should continue in the struggle against racial chauvinism, corruption and bigotry that has become rampant in Malaysia.

It is in this spirit that I feel compelled to highlight a few key points brought up by Dr. Azly. To me, these are crucial to the reform of the Malays. Without a movement to address these points from all quarters of Malaysian society, ‘the new Malay’…’the multi-cultural Malay’…’loving emphatically with Malaysians of other races’….will be relegated to the cobwebs of rhetoric, just a bunch of useless words and sentences to fill up blogs, newspapers, academic journals and textbooks.

1. The red-shirt movement…Azly asks why they are harassing those who want to see a better Malaysia? A cleaner society and one that is not only for the Malays or for the Muslims but a Malaysia for all Malaysians? Yes, a simple concept of good citizenship. Adding on to this, the 48 year old Jamal Yunos does not represent the majority of Malays. Many are embarrassed and appalled at his hooliganism.

Having said that, though, there is an insidious feeling of ‘us and them’ flowing through the veins of this majority with respect to other races and religions in Malaysia. I see this as a deeper crisis that needs immediate attention. Examples from daily life in urban Malaysia betray this separateness. How often does one see Malays dropping into the homes of Indians and Chinese, eating food cooked by them, on their plates, with their forks and spoons, drinking from their glasses? Malays may drop by, and may definitely accept Indians and Chinese as their friends, but the extant of this acceptance is only skin-deep.

Malays will not go the extra mile because it is against Islam….or so they erroneously interpret. For Chinese New Year and Deepavali, of course Malays visit Chinese and Indian friends, families, households….all in the name of friendship, comraderie, good citizenship, muhibbah, acceptance. Murruku is deemed unfit for Muslim consumption among many Malays I’ve encountered….comments made by my fellow-academic colleagues!! Yet they talk about inclusivity, pluralism, open-mindedness and racial harmony. No matter how subtly a Malay refuses a lunch invitation to a Chinese friend’s home (by giving various excuses of being busy with work or other kenduris), that Chinese friend knows the fundamental reason.

Malays and Muslims cannot and will not compromise on their Islamic beliefs of keeping halal. Herein lies the problem, and a detailed analysis can be the topic of another post. It is sufficient to say though that the interpretation of Islam among Malays is completely devoid of history and theological philosophy. One can argue that Chinese and Indians have long accepted this, are not offended and can ‘live with it’ for the sake of harmony. Malays too continue to be polite in refusing. But we ALL know and feel the ‘us and them’. In a true ‘better Malaysia’ why should the minority races have to ‘live with it’ or just ‘accept’ it? We should create a Bangsa Malaysia, a new Malaysia which is truly inclusive.

Jamal Yunos is truly a James Dean (rebel without a cause). But the Malays in general must revisit their concept of ‘jihad of peace’. Which brings me to my next point.

2. On the need to defend/protect the Malays. Psychologically and philosophically, for decades this has damaged and not improved the lot of the Malays. Deep inside the Malay psyche there is a feeling of inferiority. Economically they may have progressed but there will always be the ‘us versus them’ complex. It is glaringly obvious in daily life activities, in sports interaction, coffee-shop banter, classroom interaction and at university lectures.

3. My last point…sedition charges brought against Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng (using Mandarin in an official document) following a protest launched by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka outside Masjid Putra (June 29, 2018). Without going into the tiresome but dishonest accusations that the minister violated the constitution (which he did not), let’s ask ourselves, honestly….why are the majority of protests coming from the Malays? Show me a sizeable protest by a group of Chinese or Indians (and other non-Malays) on this? One may argue that the press/media do not highlight news from other quarters. Granted.

But honestly ask yourselves…in your daily lives, within the last week, have you been inundated with statements AGAINST what Lim Guan Eng did from your non-Malay brethren? In a truly ‘new Malaysia’ this would be happening, because criticism would be based on facts and the intrinsic desire to unite all Malaysians.

The concept of jihad is not the monopoly of Muslims. All Malaysians have to, as Dr. Azly succinctly writes, ‘inculcate the love of reading, of wisdom, of humility, of perspective-taking, of appreciating and learning from the arts, social sciences and philosophy.


On the Malays by Dr.Azly Rahman

“The new Malay will not need to be defended. They need philosophical, scientific, and republicanist thinking. They need to be existentialists, rather than follow some theocratic nut trying to establish a kingdom of “ketuanan Melayu“. The new Malay is a multicultural Malay living emphatically with Malaysians of other races”.–Dr. Azly Rahman


COMMENT | I think political parties wishing to understand the Malays need to know the following, through an essay I wrote a while ago, I hope relevant now.

Image result for Kerismuddin

The Buffoon of a trouble maker in UMNO Jamal Ikan Bakar Yunos

Analysing the events that happened the years preceding the 14th general election – the humiliation of peaceful protesters, the harassment, the intimidation, the threats – leading to  the 60,000 strong yellow shirt Bersih rally that ended peacefully in Kuala Lumpur, I have this to say about those who are out to misrepresent the Malays:

Aren’t Malaysians tired of seeing the Malays being represented as buffoons, stupid, amok-prone, close-minded, Rempits, keris-kissing fools, Ali Baba forty-thieves, rejects, religious fanatics, red-shirts, whatever shirts?

It is a clever production and reproduction of the Malay ruling class, both feudal and wannabe-feudal so that the Jebat aspect of the Malay – the amok, the wannabe-sultan, the misogynistic, the sex-maniac royal-groper and rapist of ancient Malacca, the hedonistic, the grotesque epicure, the gangster, the absurd – is pushed forward and propagated to strengthen the Tuah aspect.

Image result for tak kan melayu hilang di dunia

The fool that followed the foolish orders of the Malacca sultan – the bad hombre of Malay culture – these are the twin representation of the Malays. A laughing stock – the Malays are made to become.

This is what the then ruling class wanted to use as ‘Hitlerian Youth’. This image must be forever destroyed. For way too long the image of the Malay as wise, learned, philosophical, tassauwuf/Sufistic being, the communicatively competent, the old school pre-Merdeka Johor type, the prudent, the proverb-loving, the artistic, the high-cultured, of high intellect and Jawi-literate Malay, the deeply perceptive and reflective, the viewer of materialism both as “rezeki/god’s bounty” to be careful with and to not let it be a corrupter of the soul, the raja haji-type of Malay (warrior who fought against the Dutch with bravery and with philosophy has been ignored. Where are you now, these Malays?

Aren’t we sick of the red-shirts’ antics and their representation of the Malays? A representation that has also been used successfully by the non-Malays through the power of discourse of a newer Malay fascism hegemonising national perceptions?

Then there is the display of silat to ineffectively and hilariously scare people off.

Malays don’t need this representation as well. It was useful as a way for good, morally upright warriors of the 15th century to kill their sultans, such as in the famous story of the death of the power-drunk sultan, Mahmud of Kota Tinggi, Johor. He was killed by his own Laksamana Megat Seri Rama while he was being carried by his serfs on his mobile throne, the ‘julang’, hence the story Mahmud Mangkat di Julang.

That evil-fool called a sultan killed the laksamana’s wife Dang Anum simply because she ate a piece of jackfruit (sebiji buah nangka) from the Raja’s orchard – because she was craving for it. She was pregnant. The raja ordered her stomach to be cut open to retrieve the jackfruit. That was the story of the Malay sultan worshipped by his people.

Laksamana Megat Seri Rama, skilled in silat, had to put the fool to death. Good for the sultan. That’s what a good silat man or woman ought to do – get rid of tyrants while they are on their throne.

But strangeness we are seeing in the use of the Malay art of self-defence. Lost is the meaning of silat as I understood it – ‘silatur-rahim’ or to make peaceful connections with other human beings – with Chinese, Indians, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Martians, Jupiterians, robots and androids – or even Trump-supporters. Silatur-rahim, that is what it means. Some Malays don’t even understand the simple meaning of a Malay word.

The multicultural Malay

Read…read… read…

Image result for Kassim Ahmad

The Malay Intellectual Pak Kassim Ahmad

If only each family inculcates the love of reading, of wisdom, of humility, of perspective-taking, of respecting others, of appreciating and learning from the arts, sciences, world music and of becoming a good global citizen, we will not need to do this in public – beat each other up with planks while doing the breakdance.

Read…read…read… in the name of thy Lord who created thee…that foundational verse: “Iqra bismi rab bikal lazee khalaq”.

I’d say, stay home, take off your coloured shirt, wear your singlet and your sarong/kain pelikat if you are still feeling hot and angry, help mum bake cookies and read and read, read and be more intelligent in understanding what is ailing our society.

What a waste of time some of these Malays are doing harassing people on the streets, storming buildings, running after cars, yelling incomprehensibles – all in the name of truth?

What truth then?

How much money was being given to the cause of the rebellion without a real cause? This is the puzzling aspect of the red-shirt movement – why are they harassing those who want to see a better Malaysia? A cleaner society and one that is not only for the Malays or for the Muslims but a Malaysia for all Malaysians. Is that not a simple concept of good citizenship to comprehend and to fight for?

Image result for dr. mahathir mohamad

The way those troubles were created seem troubling and ‘out of place’ in a Malaysia – a globalised Malaysia of the 21st century. It seemed like a very awkward, rude, uncouth, uncultured way of exercising free speech. It seemed like a well-paid job done without rhyme or reason or sincerity.

But the worst part was that it was claimed to be one of “defending the rights of the Malays” when the Malays, in general, did not wish to be defended as such. It is a shameful way.

What ought to be done is to stop these grotesque ways of behaving and start the work of helping the Mat and Minah Rempits, the single mothers, the youth who are about to go into the dungeons of drug addiction, and the Malays who think that Tanah Melayu is theirs alone and others are “intruders in history” and ought to be sent back to where they came from.

These are the Malays that need to be helped and their dignity restored. That would be a nobler job for the red-shirt gang or any gang wearing whatever shirt yelling for Malay rights. That is the “jihad” of peace the Malays, in general, would agree to be associated with.

Not the run-amok, latah, and drunken Jebat and foolish Tuah Malays we no longer wish to see. Let us help destroy this image of the Malays. We are not fools. We have never been.

The new Malay will not need to be defended. They need philosophical, scientific, and republicanist thinking. They need to be existentialists, rather than follow some theocratic nut trying to establish a kingdom of “ketuanan Melayu“. The new Malay is a multicultural Malay living emphatically with Malaysians of other races.

That’s what a Malay ought to become. Until it was destroyed by a dominant Malay party.

Dr. AZLY RAHMAN is an educator, academic, international columnist, and author of seven books. He grew up in Johor Baru, and holds a Columbia University doctorate in international education development and Master’s degrees in five areas: education, international affairs, peace studies communication, and creative writing.

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


Tengku Adnan:Overstaying his welcome

April 19, 2018

Tengku Adnan:Overstaying his welcome

Image result for Tengku Adnan

An Empty UMNO Vessel Makes the Most Noise

Tengku Adnan, the (caretaker) Minister for Federal Territories and UMNO Secretary-General followed a well-worn pattern of fearmongering when he warned recently of the threat posed by Christian evangelists.

Speaking to civil servants in Putrajaya last week, he cautioned them to be wary of the DAP (and by extension Pakatan Harapan) because, according to him, many DAP leaders are Christian “evangelists.”

Continuing, he stated that from Catholicism they become Protestants and from Protestants they become evangelists and born-again Christians, Methodists, etc.  “If they are Catholics, I can still believe them,” he said, “but when they are evangelists, they are considered new Christians. It is a problem.”

He went on to hint that the country’s sovereignty, the special rights of the Malays, the Malay language and many other things would be “destroyed if we are not careful.”

Appalling ignorance 

Image result for Tengku Adnan

UMNO Kelptocrats with the their Boss

In the first place, his remarks reveal an appalling ignorance about the Christian faith. He does not appear to even understand some of the Christian terms that he uses and yet  he is ready to condemn Christians. And he insults all Christians by trying to divide the Christian community into good Christians and bad Christians on the basis of their denominational affiliation.

If that is what he believes, he should explain what he thinks of the evangelical Christians who until the dissolution of parliament sat with him in cabinet and are part of BN. Are they, too, considered a threat to national security or are they good Christians by virtue of their support for UMNO?

An admission of failure?

The penchant of UMNO leaders to divert attention from pressing national issues by constantly playing up one imaginary threat or another – the Chinese, the Christians, the Jews, etc. – is tiresome and speaks more about their political bankruptcy than anything else.

It is, as well, simply mindboggling that a senior UMNO minister would be even obtuse enough to suggest that a small minority faith community [there are less Christians than UMNO members, for goodness sake] could depose the monarchy, overthrow the government, impose their faith on Muslims and abolish Malay rights. And this in a country that is staunchly Islamic, where Malay-Muslims vastly outnumber other ethnic and religious groups and have a near total monopoly of political, economic and military power.

If Tengku Adnan genuinely believes that our national institutions are still so weak and vulnerable after more than 60 years of UMNO rule, it would be a stunning admission that UMNO has completely failed the Malays, and indeed all Malaysians, and should be promptly removed from office come May 9th.

Faith and politics 

Of course, everyone understands that UMNO and the DAP are sworn political enemies and disagree on almost every issue. In a democracy, however, politicians discuss and debate their differences in a sensible and civilized way in order to give the voting public a better understanding of their respective positions.

What they don’t do is belittle their opponents’ religious beliefs or indulge in blatant racism and bigotry.

As a politician, Tengku Adnan should have the courage, if not the decency, to meet his political opponents head-on in a debate and challenge them on issues of importance rather than hide behind the walls of bigotry and hate and make snide remarks about their faith.

And in case he hasn’t noticed, non-Muslim politicians have, in general, been careful not to inject their faith into politics. You don’t hear non-Muslim politicians quoting their respective religious text, framing issues in a religious context or demonizing other faiths when discussing political issues.

It is not because they are less fervent in their faith but because they understand that in a multi-faith setting it is best to leave religion out of politics. After all, they are not in politics to promote their faith or to burnish their religious credentials but to promote policies, programmes and ideas that would help build a united, stable and prosperous nation for all Malaysians irrespective of race or religion.

Issues that matter 

Tengku Adnan should also know that the Christian agenda, if there is indeed one, is the same agenda that all Malaysians share  – a peaceful, united and prosperous nation. In fact, it was what UMNO itself used to care about before it allowed itself to be seduced by power and privilege. 

Rather than focusing on imaginary threats and sowing division and discord, therefore, Tengku Adnan might better serve voters by focusing on the issues that matter to  all Malaysians  – respect for the Constitution, good governance, corruption, national unity, the rising national debt, and the high cost of living. 

All the other issues – the position of Islam, the monarchical system, the special rights of Malay-Muslims as enshrined in the Constitution – are, in reality, non-issues because they are accepted and respected by all Malaysians including Christians. Only politically bankrupt leaders keep harping on these things because they have nothing better to talk about.

A great disservice

Tengku Adnan does Christians a great disservice by cynically stoking anti-Christian hostility to advance his political objectives. It recklessly endangers the safety and security of Christians at a time when radical militants are already targeting non-Muslims places of worship, as the police warned recently. It also feeds the kind of sentiment that very likely led to the abduction and forced disappearance of three Christian leaders last year. He ought to be ashamed of himself.

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Faking Malaysia (or is it, Malusia)

April 12, 2018

Faking Malaysia (or is it, Malusia)

by Dean Johns


Dean Johns Ad Lib

I shouldn’t by rights be writing this. Because after 11 years of contributing a weekly column to the first and still foremost of Malaysia’s pitifully few non-fake newspapers, Malaysiakini, I’ve had to take a break for the sake of my faking sanity.

But with another typically fake Malaysian federal election looming, I just can’t help adding a few more to the 500,000 or so words of calumnious columny I’ve already composed about this nation’s decomposing ‘democracy’.

Or, more accurately, about the ministers, members and supporters of Barisan Nasional (BN), the rotten-to-the-core regime that has been ruling and ruining Malaysia ever since the nation was granted independence by Britain 61 years ago, and changed its name from Malaya to Malaysia.

A moniker that quickly became fake, as the ‘si’ syllable in its new name represented the fact that it supposedly included Singapore.

But, for fear of having to deal with all those pesky extra Chinese led by the then young firebrand Lee Kuan Yew, UMNO, the dominant Malay member of the coalition of race-based parties comprising the the Alliance, as BN was known in those days, soon threw Singapore out and thus made the ‘si’ in Malaysia misleading.

Thus equipped with a fake name, and a constitution falsely deeming Malays to be definitively Muslim as well as providing special privileges for them on the grounds that they were the first inhabitants of the country, a clearly fake claim in light of the existence there of the ‘orang asli’ (original people) long before Malays migrated there from present-day Indonesia and the Philippines, the ruling coalition proceeded to create a fake facsimile of Westminster-style democracy.

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Najib Razak and his supporters

Complete with an agung (king) periodically chosen from not just one family of hereditary ‘royal’ parasites as in Britain, but nine of them, headed by the very sultans who had been bribed with cash, Rolls-Royces and other perks by the former colonial powers to keep their subjects abject.

And a coalition, as mentioned above, consisting of parties representing the various races, principally the Malays, Chinese and Indians, leaving little if any room for a proper opposition, plus so privileging the Malays as to inevitably promote racial resentments and tensions.

Or, indeed, outright hostilities, as on May 13, 1969 when there was an outbreak of bloody anti-Chinese rioting allegedly instigated by Tun Abdul Razak, father of current Prime Minister Najib Razak, in what proved to be a successful bid to seize the top job from the nation’s inaugural Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman.

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Dr. Mahathir Mohamad–Malaysia’s Former Strong Man turned Democrat-Reformer

Ever since then, and especially during the 22-year+ premiership, or, if you prefer, doctatorship of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s always highly dubious ‘democracy’, or more accurately, as I proposed in a long-ago column, ‘dermocracy’, given that it’s based on race or in other words skin colour, has been totally destroyed by the increasingly incompetent and corrupt UMNO dominated Barisan Nasional regime (aided and abetted by a fawning civil service and an utterly corrupt Police force) and the millions of fakewitted Malaysians (mainly Malays) who have been systematically bullied, bribed, bullshitted and bamboozled into keeping on voting for it.

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Bullied by threats of a repeat of the May 13, 1969 riots, as in Najib Razak’s oft-expressed determination to hold onto power even at the cost of ‘broken bodies and lost lives’; or of arrest under the Internal Security Act, since replaced by the equally severe Sedition Act; or of dismissal of dissenting civil servants or withdrawal of government scholarships from students suspected of disloyalty to the regime.

To back-up all this bullying, Malaysian voters are bribed with often utterly empty promises of government expenditure on infrastructure and other improvements in their electorates, plus salary-raises, bonuses, extra handouts under the so-called BR1M scheme, and additionally bribed every election day with free meals, bags of rice and sundry other ‘gifts’ including hard cash.

Besides all this bullying and bribery, Malaysians are ceaselessly bombarded with barrages of BN-regime bullshit. Faked-over in every possible way, from being faced with Najib Razak’s fantastic invention of some apparently parallel nation he called ‘1Malaysia’, and under which banner he proceeded to create a whole raft of fake initiatives ranging from falsely ‘economical’ food outlets to the massive global financial fraud and money-laundering scam 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), to being fed a steady diet of fake ‘news’ by Malaysia’s regime-controlled and thus ruthlessly truthless press, radio, television and outdoor media.

And if all that wasn’t sufficiently bamboozling, BN has progressively, by which of course I mean regressively perverted the Police from a force for public law and order into a farce for the protection of regime flaws and ordure; turned the formerly independent and impartial judiciary into a regime-skewed and indeed screwed travesty of justice; made such a mockery of the so-called Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) that it turns a totally blind eye to regime and crony corruption, and gets away with such faking outrages as the death of witness Teoh Beng Hock in its custody; has so comprehensively corrupted the ‘religious’ authorities (JAWi and JAKIM) as to constitute a disgrace to the very Islam it so faux-piously claims to ‘protect’; and so successfully suborned the Election Commission as to blatantly manipulate electoral boundaries, numbers and even racial mixes in its favour.

All of the above is concealed as far as possible from the Malaysian people, of course, by the BN-controled so-called ‘mainstream media’, newspapers, television, radio and increasing numbers of online sites all keeping silent about BN crimes and corruptions, and loudly proclaiming the regime’s fake propaganda.

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@Kini–Let us build something great together- The gallant men and women of Malaysiakini led by Steven Gan and Premesh Chandran.

And now, in an attempt to shut-down the small space for true, independent news and views opened-up by Malaysiakini two decades ago and since expanded by other online portals like Malaysia Today and Sarawak Report, the faking powers that be have passed a so-called ‘The Anti Fake News Act’. Which is in fact an act of bastardry designed to ban the spread of truths that BN deems to be fake, as in contrary to its corrupt and outright criminal interests, by way of penalties of up to six years imprisonment, or fines of up to RM500,000 (about US$120,000), or both.

So, as everything I’ve written in this piece is as far as I know the gospel truth about the BN regime, and thus very likely to be viewed by its self-styled censors as ‘fake news’ under the Act, I won’t be sending it to Malaysiakini for possible publication as a column.

Image result for Dean JohnsMy Friend Dean Johns


The very last thing I want to do is to risk costing Steven Gan, Premesh Chandran or any other members of the Malaysiakini family, of which I’ve so long been proud to be an honorary and I hope honest and honourable member, a slew of cash or a spell in the slammer, let alone both.

But from down here in Sydney I can relatively safely blog as much true or in other words fake fake news as I like, in the faint hope that it might by roundabout means reach enough of the vast majority of unfake Malaysians to help strengthen them in their resolve to finally force their fake and on-the-take BN government to for once and for all fake off.


Najib Razak: A Deft Power Politician

April 11, 2018

Najib Razak: A Deft Power Politician

by John Berthelsen, Asia Sentinel’s Editor


The odds-on favorite to govern Malaysia for the next five years has governed the country for the past nine – Najib Razak, the son of former Prime Minister Abdul Razak.

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The Deft Power Politician–Najib Razak, UMNO President

Despite what may be the most concerted effort by the opposition in the country’s recent history to unseat him, most political analysts in Kuala Lumpur believe the ruling Barisan Nasional, or national coalition headed by Najib’s United Malays National Organization, or UMNO, will return to power, although by a slim margin.  The opposition, now headed by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, has charged that gerrymandering and government restrictions on politicking will make their chances to win the election almost insurmountable. Nonetheless it is running an energetic campaign against extremely difficult odds.

Zimbabwean tactics


But what the country would be getting in Najib, if the Barisan wins, is a man who since the start of his political career in 1976 has been devoted to corruption, deceit, philandering and venality on a Zimbabwean scale, beginning almost from the time he entered public office, playing havoc with his country’s treasury.

Najib, to be sure, is also a deft politician who has maneuvered to split the opposition by romancing the rural-based fundamentalist Parti Islam se-Malaysia, which has spent decades in the opposition, into believing he will allow the party to implement Shariah law in the only state it controls.  He has played on the fears of ethnic Malays, who make up 61 percent of the population, that ethnic Chinese will assume political as well as economic power in the country.

Sometimes he is more direct than deft. Opposition politicians have been threatened with prosecution for sedition and other crimes. Zunar, the news portal Malaysiakini’s irrepressible cartoonist, faces 43 years in prison on sedition charges, mainly for making fun of Najib and his wife.  Rafizi Ramli, the 41-year-old vice president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat, faces 30 months in prison for violating the Banking and Financial Institutions Act for exposing details relating to what became known as Cowgate, one of the country’s most embarrassing scandals in which a top United Malays National Organization official and her family – and a Najib ally —  were accused in 2012 of misusing RM250 million (US$63.5 million at current exchange rates) from the National Feedlot Corporation, an ill-starred project that never fulfilled its purpose to supply religiously-approved, or halal beef for Malaysia’s Muslims.

Well-dressed wife

In the meantime, over the past 20-odd years, a long series of stories has appeared in both the local and international press about Najib’s depredations and those of his portly wife, who has been photographed awash in enormously expensive jewelry including a US$27.3 million pink diamond necklace that the US Justice Department would like to get its hands on.  Her affinity for Birkin handbags costing up to US$300,000 is legendary.

Najib has managed to beat back all opposition within his own party, the United Malays National Organization, corrupting it unmercifully, reportedly by bribing the party chieftains who vote for the UMNO presidency. He has sacked his party opponents including former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his allies.  There is hardly a government contract that has been awarded over the past decade and more that didn’t go to politically connected businessmen, assuring him the loyalty of the Malay establishment.

Two Gigantic Scandals

He is the author of the two biggest scandals in Malaysian history. The first is the US$1.2 billion purchase of Scorpene submarines from the French munitions maker DCNS, which netted a kickback of €114 million (US$141.3 million at current exchange rates) that was funneled to the United Malays National Organization. Although the purchase was finalized in 2002, it is still going on, with Abdul Razak Baginda, a former Razak close friend and ally, under indictment in France today for bribery. Two officials of a DCNS subsidiary have been indicted specifically on charges of bribing Najib Razak.

The case was given additional notoriety over the 2006 execution of a jetsetting Mongolian translator and party girl named Altantuya Shaariibuu, believed to have been the lover of both Razak Baginda and Najib. After a protracted trial, two of Najib’s bodyguards were found guilty of killing the 28-year-old woman. One of the two, in a recorded confession, said they were to be paid RM50,000 for her execution. However, that statement never came up in the trial and enormous effort went into concealing the names and activities of anyone who might have offered the money.  Razak Baginda was turned loose by a judge without having to stand trial and fled the country, although he has since returned.

The second, of course, is 1Malaysia Development Bhd., which opposition spokesman Tony Pua called “the mother of the mother of the mother of all scandals,” and which was looted for at least US$4.5 billion in what the Swiss Attorney General called a “Ponzi scheme.” It has been called by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions the biggest kleptocracy case ever brought by the US Justice Department.

Attempt to Bribe Trump Justice Department

The case popped to the surface again in March with a report by the Wall Street Journal that Elliott Broidy, a top Republican fundraiser close to US President Donald Trump apparently asked as much as US$75 million from Najib’s confederate, businessman Low Taek Jho, to get the US to stop investigating the 1MDB scandal. So far the US Justice Department has confiscated at least US$1.2 billion in stolen property, but hasn’t got its hands on US$681 million that appeared temporarily in Najib’s own bank account before it was hurriedly transferred out to somewhere unknown.

Messages now in the hands of the US Special Prosecutor looking into Russian influence on the 2016 election “include draft agreements” between Broidy’s wife’s California law firm and Jho Low’s representatives “that explore a US$75 million fee if the Justice Department quickly drops its investigation.” Although Najib visited Trump  at the White House, the odds that the investigation will be dropped are minuscule to nonexistent.

The US Justice Department’s confiscations of stolen property are astonishing, including, on Feb. 28, Jho Low’s 300-foot superyacht the Equanimity, worth US$250 million. The Justice Department has sequestered millions of dollars in profit from several movies produced by Red Granite Productions, co-owned by Riza Aziz, the son of Najib’s second wife Rosmah Mansor, as well as  Jho Low’s Bombardier Global 5000 jet in Singapore, jewelry worth millions of dollars gifted to celebrities Australian Miranda Kerr and Taiwanese Elvia Hsiao, and several properties in New York, artwork, film rights and a US$107 million interest in EMI Music Publishing and a Picasso to Leonardo DiCaprio, plus an Oscar once owned by Marlon Brando that was gifted to the actor by the Red Granite owners.

The start of a long and winding career

But Najib’s first depredations began when he was appointed chief minister of the state of Pahang, the once heavily-forested state directly to the east of Kuala Lumpur where, according to sources in Malaysia, he began making land and timber deals that benefited him directly.  He is said to have been close to a now-defunct company whose representative was Rosmah Mansor, a sociology graduate of Louisiana State University in 1968.

The two divorced their respective mates and married in 1987, after he joined then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s cabinet as minister of culture, youth and sports. While married to Rosmah, he did take time out to be caught in a hotel room in the town of Port Dickson, according to the website Malaysia Today, with an actress-model. As Malaysia Today reported, a photographer caught pictures of Najib clad only in a towel with the woman and turned the pictures over to Mahathir. They have never surfaced.

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It was in 1991, when Mahathir made him Minister of Defense, that Najib’s career as a kleptocrat really got underway. Despite the fact that the country’s borders have been largely secure for 40 years, Malaysia’s Defense Ministry embarked on a whirlwind round of purchases that allegedly provided a river of money for the ruling United Malays National Organization and helped to solidify his position as an eventual prime minister contender.

Three Corrupt Contracts

Three separate contracts stand out. All three, approved under Najib, have been widely cited by the opposition. Opposition and defense figures told Asia Sentinel in 2007 that the three, one for Russian Sukhoi jet fighters, a second for the French submarines and a third for navy patrol boats, appear to have produced millions for UMNO cronies, Najib’s friends and others – and Najib himself.  The “commission” for defense purchases across Southeast Asia was estimated to range from 10 to 20 percent by Foreign Policy in Focus, a think tank supported by the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC.

In 2007, opposition DAP leader Lim Kit Siang pointed out that the 18 Sukhois had cost US$50 million each for the same plane models that Vietnam purchased for US$25 million each, while the Indian Air Force had paid US$40 million.

“That is US$10 million more (per plane) compared to India, so times 18, you get US$180 million or about RM600 million entering someone’s pocket. But if you compare with price paid by the Vietnamese government, it would be a cool RM1.8 billion (US$460.8 million at current exchange rates). I wonder whose pocket is that?” Lim asked. The question has never been answered.

The second case was detailed by Malaysia’s Auditor General in a report that alleged that a contract to build naval vessels given to PSC-Naval Dockyard, a subsidiary of Penang Shipbuilding & Construction Sdn Bhd, which is owned by another UMNO crony, Amin Shah Omar Shah, was hopelessly botched. It involved PSC-Naval Dockyard, which was contracted to deliver six patrol boats for the Malaysian Navy in 2004 and complete the delivery in 2007. They were supposed to be the first of 27 offshore vessels ultimately to cost RM24 billion plus the right to maintain and repair all of the country’s naval craft.

But only two of the barely operational patrol boats had been delivered by mid-2006. There were 298 recorded complaints about the two boats, which were also found to have 100 and 383 uncompleted items aboard them respectively. The original RM5.35 billion contract ballooned to RM6.75 billion by January 2007. The auditor also reported that the ministry had paid out RM4.26 billion to PSC up to December 2006 although only Rm2.87 billion of work had been done, an over payment of Rm1.39 billion, or 48 percent.

In addition, Malaysia’s cabinet waived late penalties of Rm214 million. According to the Auditor General, 14 “progress payments” amounting to Rm943 million despite the fact that the auditor general could find no payment vouchers or relevant documents dealing with the payments.

Financial Mismanagement, Incompetence

The auditor general attributed the failure to serious financial mismanagement and technical incompetence stemming from the fact that PSC had never built anything but trawlers or police boats before being given the contract. Once called “Malaysia’s Onassis” by former finance minister Daim Zainuddin, Amin Shah was in trouble almost from the start, according to a report in Singapore’s Business Times in 2005. The financial crisis of 1997-1998 meant he was desperate to find funds to shore up ancillary businesses, Business times reported. After a flock of lawsuits, the government ultimately cut off funding in 2004 amid losses and a net liabilities position. Boustead Holdings effectively took control from Amin Shah, reducing him to non-executive chairman.

In 2008, opposition leaders complained in Parliament that Najib’s defense ministry had vastly overspent for 12 Eurocopter Super Cougar EC727 helicopters to replace their 40-year-old helicopter fleet. Brazil paid only RM84 million for the same helicopters bought by Malaysia for RM141 million. Opposition leaders alleged that the aircraft weren’t shortlisted before they were purchased and that the price had zoomed, nor did the air force test-fly the craft.  A demand for the parliament’s Public Accounts Committee investigate the purchases resulted in a full exoneration of the deal, as every other single scandal has ended.

Those are only a few of a never-ending list of scandals. (It should be noted, however, that Najib is hardly alone. Malaysia has been visited by so many scandals that Wikipedia maintains an exhaustive list. They can be found here, ranging into the billions of dollars.)

Najib’s various subsidy cuts, while sound economic policy, have contributed to soaring living costs, while fluctuating oil prices and a threat to palm oil prices as the European Union has voted to ban the oil, as well as other issues,  have led to a steady depreciation of the ringgit from RM2.993 to US$1 in 2013 to RM3.90 today. According to the Merdeka Centre opinion research firm, “Economic issues, comprising worries over rising cost of living, economic hardship, jobs and other related matters, remained the top most concern voiced by 72 percent of voters across the country.”

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Najib’s English public-school manners and accent and his reputation as a moderate Muslim leader have stood him in good stead internationally despite the scandals. But although US President Donald Trump welcomed to the White House last year – as Malaysia described billions of dollars in commitment to purchase US airplanes and other items, the President visibly turned away from Najib and Rosmah at the APEC meeting in Manila last November.  It remains to be seen if Malaysia’s voters do the same.

John Berthelsen is Asia Sentinel’s Editor