Is the Malaysia project a non-starter?

August 23, 2016

Is the Malaysia project a non-starter?

by Dr. KJ John

In the Seven (7) Habits series, Stephen Covey’s central thesis is that we must grow or develop habits for growth and development in meaningful and significant ways. He argues that all human or organic systems must first grow from total dependence (and appreciate all its full meanings) to independence or human freedoms, and then, finally and fully appreciate interdependence with others of like-heart and mind. This is also the Hearts and Mind agenda of our NGO.

Full understanding and appreciation of real and true meaning of interdependence must belong to every one of the stakeholders and partners in a shared and common enterprise. It must become a shared vision for posterity; and never to be compromised.

Whether it is the UN or the EU, or even federated states like the US or Malaysia, or our simple OHMSI Sdn Bhd; interdependence properly understood and stewarded defines real and true meanings of the so-called freedom we ‘pretend to enjoy’, it then becomes real ‘merdeka’.

Covey’s 7-Habits

Habit 1: Be Proactive
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Habit 4: Think Win-Win
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
Habit 6: Synergise
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw”

– Stephen R Covey, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’

Malaysia-Land of Beauty

I will try to evaluate our Malaysia project, not simply from a historical perspective, but more importantly from a worldview perspective and see what Covey might be saying to us. Such a perspective puts a very high premium on human values for growth within the ethics and culture of lived life; in seeking to move organic systems from the full dependence towards voluntary and volitional inter-dependence.

The Malaysia project

Malaysia came into existence on September 16, 2016. But, that fact is not clearly taught in history. Not many of us today can change that false reality interpreted today. Before that date we had four independent states called Federation of Malaya, Singapore, and the North Borneo States of Sarawak and Sabah; each with their own unique story about the movement from dependence towards independence and now interdependence.

Rightly or wrongly, for reasons of their own, in August 1965 Singapore chose to leave Malaysia by mutual agreement and consent between the leaderships of Malaysia and the island state. I am not sure if and whether Sarawak and Sabah or the United Kingdom had any direct say in this matter.

Therefore, after a short marriage of two years, Singapore exercised their ‘move from total dependence from the United Kingdom towards independence from the new Malaysia’. They wanted to learn and grow the experience and freedom with true independence.

Sarawak and Sabah may have had views about such a move by Singapore, but I do not know those facts, but they too surely want to experience movement from full dependence towards true independence. And their growth experiences will be surely very different.

Sarawak and Sabah’s self-governance experience

Have the Sarawak and Sabah governments and their political leadership learned true independence and interdependence from their many years as a one-third partner of Malaysia; even as the Malaysia Agreement gave them some clear and separate jurisdictions?

Many of these legal rights and privileges were captured within the revised Federal Constitution of Malaysia and including recognition of their 18 and 20 point submissions. Was there ever consensus on those two documents by the political leadership of Malaysia?

But why therefore, after more than 50 years within Malaysia, do they now put their foot down about Petronas’ governance and staff recruitment strength and raise issues about employment permits? As a public policy person, I am simply wondering loudly.

What have they really learnt about independence, or interdependence, or is it still merely dependence, if anything at all? Or, do these jurisdictional governance regimes feel like, we the Malayans, have thoroughly abused them altogether?

Learning from Covey

In my Pet Theory R, relationships are an important and elemental R. Therefore, building and growing our knowledge about ‘nurturing and growing mature relationships’ using the Covey’s three-step process and applying them to his seven habits for Sarawak and Sabah relationships with Malayans may be instructional:

  • Malaya was proactive in nurturing a relationship with Sarawak and Sabah; Brunei however did not respond in the same way. Why? We still grew Malaysia. Did we ask Indonesia at all?
  • Our end in mind was always National Unity and regional stability; and more recently, we have added words like integration and integrity. I call that agenda: integration with integrity.
  • What is our First Things First? Is it Malaysia, ‘Melayusia’, or ketuanan bumiputra for now or centre versus periphery in governance of lived life and stewardship of resources; including all human beings especially citizens?
  • Do we think win-win every time we have bilateral issues in our relationships concerns? Or, can we really begin to think win-win-win to endure stewardship as the third win for the sake of all human beings?
  • Do we seek to understand before we seek to be understood? I did not understand Sarawakians until I met the Kelabits earlier and now, after I spent 10 days in Baram Valley. Maximus Ongkili, Beth Baikan and Bernard Dompok taught me to learn to understand Kadazans.
  • Have we really learnt to synergise? Why then is the Malaysian Public Service still more than 80 percent made up of peninsular Malays (non-Malays are less than 10 percent I believe)? This issue is reflective of the Petronas case story. Synergy would allow for creating new values; not simply depreciating existing values.
  • Finally, from my experience on the ground, and meeting so many smart and equally ambitious Orang Ulu Sarawak and Kadazans; these questions are my Covey test for all of Malayans to sharpen our saw or ‘tools of execution and evaluation’ so that we can see and learn the real meaning of Malaysian interdependence and not allow it to become a foolhardy project.

KJ JOHN, PhD, was in public service for 32 years having served as a researcher, trainer, and policy adviser to the International Trade and Industry Ministry and the National IT Council (NITC) of the government of Malaysia. The views expressed here are his personal views and not those of any institution he is involved with. Write to him at with any feedback or views.

Aren’t we truly Anak-Anak Malaysia? No, not according to UMNO

August 16, 2016

Aren’t we truly Anak-Anak Malaysia? No, not according to UMNO

by Lyana Khairuddin

Malay zenophobia

BY NOW, I think almost everyone is familiar with the decision by Festival Filem Malaysia (FFM) to separate the categories for Best Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay into Bahasa Malaysia and non-Bahasa Malaysia categories. The reason given by the organisers for this move was the need to uphold Bahasa Malaysia in films, thus a film needs to have 70% of its script in the national language for it to be considered an excellent Malaysian movie.

The debacle, protests, and resignations that followed this decision then necessitated our Communications and Multimedia Minister to intervene. As of time of writing, the FFM will have an inclusive Best Picture category, but there will also be a Best Film in the National Language category (where I assume someone would have the task of finely combing through the scripts to ensure it fulfills the 70% requirement).

Confused, yet?

The online discourse that followed the FFM’s decision has made for a bigger discussion on Malaysian identity. Ironically, this discourse occurs in the Merdeka month with the recurring theme of “Sehati Sejiwa” (One Heart, One Soul).

I have lived almost 33 years as a Malaysian. Yet, the only times I have confidently stated “I am a Malaysian” without needing any further elaboration, is when I am overseas.

I do not think that I am an anomaly. The moment we pass through the autogates that scan our red passports to legally allow us back home, Malaysians seem to prefer being boxed by ethnicity and more recently, by religiosity.

We cannot have Unity with Idiots in UMNO

This year, we will celebrate our 59th year of independence and 53rd year of the formation of Malaysia. Yet, we seem to be more divided than ever.

Ironically, OlaBola, one of the two movies affected by FFM’s initial decision, is a movie that celebrates patriotic unity through sports.The other is Jagat, a tragically beautiful movie about the reality of Malaysians who slip through the cracks of our policies as the country moves towards high-income nation status.

I happily paid money to watch both movies in the cinemas and was emotionally affected by both — my personal measure of good movies.

I even watched OlaBola twice, the sucker that I am for the audacity of hope in the Malaysia of my dreams. Jagat made me lament the fate of Apoi, whether Malaysia has done enough to tackle the inequality gap. It also made me lament my privilege as a bumiputra in this country. If these two movies do not represent Malaysia, I don’t know what does.

They are Malaysians, not Malays

As we celebrate our amazing women divers, Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong, who brought us our first silver medal in the Rio Olympics, I see most of us cheering for Team Malaysia without the need to segregate our athletes into Malay and non-Malay categories. Shouldn’t this spirit be extended to all the other fields, be it films, fashion, art, science, social science, and most importantly, in our everyday lives?

Isn’t it past time we truly be proud of and claim ourselves as Malaysians? While we’re at it, we must not confuse unity with hegemony. Malaysia was built on the very foundation of inclusivity, and the diversity in our multi-ethnic and multi-religious society must be seen as our strength.

“Malaysia was built on the very foundation of inclusivity, and the diversity in our multi-ethnic and multi-religious society must be seen as our strength”, says Lyana Khairuddin. Najib Razak, on the other hand, does not agree. He is a racist when it suits him to remain in power.–Din Merican

Such a clichéd call for tolerance, harmony, and unity, however, should not only be restricted at a cosmetic level. Nor should it merely be a dramatised script that we present globally and yet does not represent the reality locally. As we approach our 60th year of independence, Malaysia must begin the hard conversations on what defines our sociopolitical identity.

We must revisit discriminatory laws and even articles in our Federal Constitution that give special privileges simply on the basis of race and critically analyse current data on whether race-based policies need to be revamped, improved or discontinued altogether.

We must take the brave steps towards change for the better. After all, “Indeed, God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” [Quran 13:11]

These hard conversations cannot occur without freedom of speech and collective discourse. We must follow up on the recommendations by the (now silent?) National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) and take on our responsibilities as Malaysian citizens to shape the Malaysia we want.

The lack of political will must be confronted with voters’ aspirations towards a Malaysia that is inclusive and progressive. If the rakyat do not segregate by race, what power do our aspiring and even experienced politicians have to divide us?

Now is no longer the time to romanticise the past. Now is the time to build the Malaysia that is the great nation as aspired to by our founding fathers and mothers.

We must ask ourselves whether we aspire to the same dreams, or have we become too contented with privileges and our own personal, selfish hegemony.

We must start by calling out injustice, reducing corruption, and being accountable for our actions and words. We must prove to dissenters that instead of being confused, we are empowered when we no longer box ourselves into Malays and non-Malays, but as Malaysians. We can start, by claiming that we all are indeed Anak-Anak Malaysia.

‘Deep’ Malay cultural psychology

August 11, 2016

‘Deep’ Malay cultural psychology

by Clive Kessler

About the Author

Clive Kessler is Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. He is well known for being unimpressed by postmodernist theory and analytical practice while being adamant that people, especially the champions and exponents of that now almost mandatory approach, should understand its origins and basis in twentieth century French social, cultural, intellectual and political history. The vast majority, he insists, alas do not. He is himself not such an enthusiast, but in the course of his scholarly career, he has made it his business, often in the hard way over years of serious investigation and study, to find out.

In modern Malaysia,  attitudes born in the traditional village, as well as Islam, are being used to defend against threats to the Malay world’s important symbolic boundaries.

I ended some recent remarks on the current political situation in Malaysia with an allusion to what I call ‘deep’ Malay cultural psychology.  I noted that:

They, so many of them, would rather have to themselves, unshared and exclusively ‘on their own terms’, 100 per cent of a small and dubious inheritance — to squabble over interminably among themselves — than to have and enjoy a substantial stake in a thriving enterprise that they must share, sensibly, in both material gratitude and human generosity, with others.  More on this ‘Malay cultural psychology’ another time…

Well, that time came sooner than I expected, so I have written on the subject. This is not a final statement but should be considered a first draft. Note well and bear that in mind as you read it.

First, let’s be  clear about what I am not talking about here. I am not talking about the now standard clichés, even these days generally  ‘received ideas’, promoted and popularised by Tun Dr Mahathir in his The Malay Dilemma (subsequently recycled, little changed or modified, in some parts of his memoir, Doctor in the House).

Nor am I speaking of the important ideas and debates that Tun Dr Mahathir should have been aware of (but probably was not) when he wrote The Malay Dilemma. These included the controversy that briefly raged in the late 1960s, especially between the economist Brian Parkinson and the anthropologist William Wilder Jr, about the non-economic aspects and sources of what was then called ‘Malay economic backwardness’.

I am not talking about the key ideas upon which that debate rested, found especially in the work of the anthropologist Michael G Swift exploring the formative sociocultural groundings and cultural-psychological dimensions of Malay economic attitudes and behaviour.

Nor am I speaking here about the bearing upon these same questions at the time and since of Syed Hussein Alatas’s critique of ‘the Myth of the Lazy Native’ in the wider Malay world of Southeast Asia.

Neither am I alluding to some more general ideas upon which that debate and those arguments in part rested: ideas, again, to which people now habitually have recourse in discussing many issues of this kind, while remaining totally innocent and ignorant of any idea of their origins. These are namely the clichés  — so much a part of the fateful policy debates of 1969-1970 leading up to the declaration of the New Economic Plan — of a ‘limited pie’ , of ‘dividing up the cake’ and of ‘increasing the size of the economic cake’ to be shared.

These expressions and ideas had their origins in a once famous but now largely forgotten essay by the anthropologist George M Foster on “Peasant Society and the Image of the Limited Good”.  These are ideas about whether it is better to argue about the proportional sharing, or division, of a given fixed quantum (‘zero sum’ thinking in Game Theory talk) or to work instead to increase the size of the overall yield that is to be shared among a number of parties.

These ideas are often, in one way or another, drawn into the discussion about Malay and Malayan and Malaysian society: into arguments about ethnic relations, separation, competition and Malay anxieties and fears of being out-competed by (non-Malay) others.

But important as these ideas are, in general, and in the modern Malaysian policy and political context, I am not talking here simply about those things, but something much deeper.

So, what then am I talking about? I am calling attention here to matters that anybody who has ever spent a night, or several, or a week or several, in a Malay village — and especially anybody who has spent a few evenings, and long nights until dawn, with some Malay village bomoh (or shaman) as they have gone about their special business — will know about. And if you haven’t, you probably won’t. But need to.

This has to do with a fundamental Malay cultural sense of ‘beleaguerement’, and of the ensuing need of Malays to huddle close together — sometimes behind physical barricades such as bamboo perimeter fences and often behind less tangible protective barriers — in mutual support.

These ideas, upheld as experientially powerful cultural imperatives, long predate, and have much deeper sociocultural origins than, what we may call modern plural society social dynamics and stresses — though they may well feed into modern historical and now also contemporary Malay ideas about, attitudes toward, and anxieties concerning economic competition and fears of social displacement and marginalisation.

I am talking here about matters that were once of interest and concern to that largely forgotten, and now widely scorned field of knowledge — old-fashioned (pre-postmodernist) social and cultural anthropology.

If you have ever been in a ‘conventional’, quasi-traditional Malay village at nightfall, as the evening suddenly closes in and the swooping dark suddenly envelopes people at day’s end, as senja (dusk) arrives with all its mambang (hauntings) and other strange, disquieting mystical forces, you will know what I am talking about.

A perceptible apprehensive hush descends, and with it a fear of disturbing who knows what. Understandably, the villagers think (or that is how things were), they hope and trust in the idea, that there is safety in numbers. So they try to huddle together defensively, united in protective agreement against those fears, spoken and unspoken. It gives them strength, or a feeling of strength, it makes them feel secure.

When Malay villagers in former times felt themselves threatened — by human enemies, by wild animals, by plague and illness, by the supernatural terrors of the surrounding jungle, by the dark and all the unseen dangers that it might conceal — they would huddle together for strength. They would find assurance in and seek protection from the spirit-challenging jampi (spell) of a bomoh and would recite do’a, Islamic pleas and prayers. Together, they would chant especially potent verses and sura from the Quran for protection from encroaching evil.

In a similar way, overall, to that older village social universe, the Malay political world in Peninsular Malaysia these days huddles together for reassurance, in kampung-like strength and solidarity, behind a barrier and fortification that is afforded largely by Islam — an Islam under royal patronage and protection and of constitutionally guaranteed standing. It is the old strategy of kampung defence, now writ large.

Through recourse to Islam, threats to the integrity of the Malay world’s important symbolic boundaries can be contained. Islam is used to insulate the boundaries of Malay society against non-Malay intrusion, penetration and subversion — to separate Malay society symbolically and morally from, and elevate it beyond the reach of, its threatening, even contaminating, wider social environment.

We are all familiar with the concept and historical creation of Malay Reservation Land. More recently the same process of space-management has been extended to other areas, to virtual space. Specifically, to linguistic space.

In the contentious ‘name of Allah’ dispute — and notably in then Court of Appeals Justice Apandi Ali’s astounding landmark decision in the matter — as well as in the case of words such as agama, ibadah, iman and the 30 or more others that are now on Malaysia’s quasi-papal index of religious terms (istilah) that are for exclusive Muslim use only, and not to be applied to the discussion of any and all non-Muslim religious life, we see this process not just advancing but assiduously and officially promoted.

We now have, and people are asked to recognise and accept, an entire new privileged zone that has been set aside, that of “Bahasa dan Istilah Rizab Melayu”, of a quarantined Malay Reservation in language and terminology. A Malay semantic protectorate. One with Islamically patrolled and fortified boundaries.

This barrier of protective prohibitions is the modern equivalent of the recourse of Malay villagers to chanting do’a in the dark to ward off wild beasts, malign spirits, strangers or encroaching outside plagues such as cholera.

These modern practices, this array of duly gazetted bureaucratically sustained prohibitions, also provide a protective barrier, an insulating buffer device, enabling beleaguered Malays (or those who feel that way, and who have the power to impose their ways, likes and fears authoritatively on others, on all Malays) to huddle together, secure among their own kind, for reassurance and distancing protection.

As my friend. Dr. M Bakri Musa said, you can take the Kampong out of the Malay, but you can never  remove the Kampong in  the Malay

This is what, at the deep cultural and psychological level, lies behind, informs and drives the continuing Malay determination to live huddling together for comfort and strength — rather than being eager, ready, or just prepared to engage with others and seek sensibly to share the world with them. They would rather have a smaller, narrower world, but one that is their own, entirely their own, that they may inhabit and hold exclusively on their own cultural terms.

The outside world, the world that surrounds the Malay world, closes in upon it, and asks Malays to engage with it on its broader and more inclusive terms is, somehow, the analogue and functional equivalent of, and is psychologically isomorphic with, the non-human, asocial, non-Malay world of mambang and ghosts, of spirits and wild animals, of strangers and the unknown, that closed in upon the ‘little Malay world’ of the village every night.

Clive Kessler is Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. He is the author of many works in this area, most notably Islam and Politics in a Malay State: Kelantan 1838-1969

What has God to do with Politics: It is a Make by Man Activity

August 10, 2016

What  has God to do with Politics: It is a Make by Man Activity

by Dr Lim Teck Ghee

“I pray each day for the Almighty’s salvation for my country, Malaysia”–Rafidah Aziz

Besides, he [Tan Sri Muhyiddin] is starting this party to take revenge against UMNO… Allah won’t support this.”– UMNO Permanent  Chairman  aka Carma Type1,Tan Sri Badruddin Amiruldin.

Reacting to the latest piece of draconian legislation, the National Security Council Act which provides wide-sweeping and arbitrary powers to the prime minister, the country’s Iron Lady, former federal minister, Rafidah Aziz, has come out with a poignant and pointed critique of the state of the nation as it is conditioned by the present Prime Minister. According to her latest Facebook post:

“It shows how bad things have become…when we can no longer govern ourselves…but need all kinds of ‘laws’ to be enacted…and fences to corral us…like cattle.”

“We now have given new and distorted meanings to the concept of things such as loyalty, support, and governance.We see the young feeling disappointed. And those of my era seeing what had been painstakingly built…being chiselled away and demolished.”

According to her (and we wonder if she was not part of the problems created during the Mahathir era), what has been built by her generation of leaders has now been eroded and destroyed with the nation now entering into the global list of the bad and ugly. This whitewashing of her ‘Mahathirian’ past and demonizing of the Najib regime is clearly self-serving but many Malaysians appear willing to give it a pass, such is the depth of the present antipathy to the current leadership.

Rafidah’s impassioned plea echoes very much what the opposition, and now, Dr Mahathir, have been saying. But she has also been careful to point out – for reasons everyone is fully aware of – that she is not involved in any plot or conspiracy to discredit or topple the Prime Minister.

Hey, Politicos: What’s God got to do with it?

Rafidah must know too that she is not alone. Rival invocations for the Almighty’s intervention and wrath against those opposing the Prime Minister and his leadership, and Allah’s blessings for those in power are taking place regularly in the mosques as well as UMNO assemblies, and these are amplified by the Malay mass media.

When it comes to praying for change, she is outnumbered by those leading the prayers for the preservation of the status quo and decimation of the opposition.

It is futile for her and those of similar ilk to think that their prayers which place the country’s fate in God’s hands are in any way superior or can be more readily answered compared with those voiced by Badruddin Amiruldin, Jamil Khir, china pek Paul Low, Zakir Naik and the other assorted ‘religious’ devouts perched aloft the Barisan bandwagon.

Unfortunately too, history is replete with examples of dictators, tyrants and autocrats who have remained long in power, despite unending calls for divine intervention by the populace.

God (if He has any influence on political outcomes), it appears, favours the prayers of the strong and powerful rather than the meek and oppressed. Or perhaps God has a peculiar sense of humour and prefers to stand on the side line when it comes to the bad and evil found in the world of his creation. But it is best to leave God out of politics.

Change is in your own hands, Rafidah

When positive or negative change takes place in history, it is not due to the hidden hand of God working in mysterious ways but rather because of the actions of mortals, individually and collectively.

Besides praying, this is what Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, former UMNO Wanita leader, may want to do to ensure a better future for our younger generation:

1. A personal message of appeal to UMNO wanita leaders and members reminding of the importance of woman power in societal reform and urging them to take the lead where Malay men have failed. This message should be juxtaposed with the recent revelation by Zaid Ibrahim that the real reason why Najib remains Prime Minister, despite what has happened, is his success at creating a long line of eunuchs to serve him. According to Zaid, “They will do anything and everything for him: they fear him, and feel they are nothing without his grace and blessing. Their collective defence of their “Emperor” gives them a sense of belonging—and they are well-rewarded for their zeal.” See

Women do not have the femininity to lose and perhaps they may prove a more formidable agent of real change than men.

2. Organizing a joint appeal with past BN leaders calling on the Prime Minister to do the honourable thing and resign. There is always safety in numbers and the fact that she is held in high esteem by her Barisan Nasional colleagues makes her eminently qualified to lead the charge against Prime Minister Najib from within.

The above quote is by Malaysia’s Political God with blind spots and blemishes

There is still time – despite our rapid slide into the ranks of failed states – to undo the mess in the country. Lost money may have gone down the drain but it is replaceable. Lost national sense of integrity, decency and self respect are much harder to replace; and God will not help regain these which are lost. It is up to our leaders to own up to their mistakes and act with some sense of urgency to rectify them. At the same time, we Malaysians can no longer be content being free riders. No what has God got to with the plight of our nation since it is man made thing by Malaysians, politicians and civil society.

Malaysia could descend into chaos–Another Turkey

August 8, 2016

Malaysia could descend into chaos–Another Turkey

by Zainah Anwar

WHERE is the light and hope for change in the Muslim world today? The Arab Spring of five years ago has turned into an endless winter of despair.

The optimism of a long-awaited democratic transformation in the Middle East brings us today authoritarian rule in Egypt, civil war in Libya, Syria, and Yemen, and the barbarism of Islamic State (IS) on the global stage. Only Tunisia remains a source for hope with a peaceful democratic change of government, and an active civil society determined to push the reform process forward.

But what is even sadder is that the two Muslim countries that many Arabs saw as models of the kind of democratic developmental state they aspired to in 2011 are also today in turmoil.

Turkey and Malaysia are no longer a source of hope to the Muslim world as their leaders become mired in political and financial turbulence and their governing institutions undermined.

In 2011, President Recep Erdogan of Turkey went to Egypt and promoted the compatibility of  Islam with democracy and pluralism. He presented his party and government as the model that Arabs should be looking to emulate. The world welcomed the success story he was touting.

Similarly, Malaysia’s success story in economic development and a political framework to govern an ethnically divided society was another model touted to the Arabs to follow.

But how fast hopes are dashed. Even before the failed military coup, Turkey was already isolated in the Middle East as Erdogan was accused of taking the side of the Muslim Brotherhood, and aligning himself with conservative forces, and undermining his own rhetoric on democracy, pluralism, and rule of law.

And now, Turkey is in chaos as all major institutions of government, judiciary, military, police, schools, universities and media outlets have been purged of much of their leadership and staff or forced to shut down.  A party and its leader that had aspired to turn Turkey into a global player and leader of the Muslim world as the country approaches 2023, the 100th  anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Republic, is today decidedly authoritarian, and wrecked with instability and uncertainty.

Erdogan’s grandiose Vision 2023 seems illusory in the light of a colossal purge of tens of thousands of leaders and personnel that will have long term effects on its people and its governing institutions. How do you rebuild and bring together a country ripped apart at all levels towards your vision of a Grand Turkey by 2023?

In Malaysia, the politics of race and religion is the only antidote this government knows to counter the avalanche of evidence of malfeasance in office. This government has all but abandoned any pretence at pursuing a reform agenda to address long festering disgruntlement among the urban middle class and its eroding popular support.

As he took office in 2009, the sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia ominously warned his party to change or perish. He called on the people to restore the bridges that brought us together and tear the walls that separate us. He introduced 1Malaysia and he wanted repressive laws repealed.

But the top news story on the BBC World service on August 1 ominously implied that Malaysia was heading the way of Turkey. From the promise of reform in 2009, we have instead adopted the National Security Council Act which gives the Prime Minister unprecedented powers to declare security zones where troops may be deployed, citizens may be evacuated, search and arrest can be made without a warrant, curfew can be imposed, force can be justified and inquest into deaths can be dispensed with. And no judicial action can be instituted against any act of the National Security Council.

A leader who knew if the party did not change it would perish in 2009 found little courage nor will to bring real change. For the first time in its history, it lost popular support winning less than 50% of the votes in the 2013 general elections and it performed from bad to worse in two successive elections.

The signals are clear. The last poll conducted by the Merdeka Centre in October 2015 saw support for the government among Malays down to an unprecedented 31%, plummeting from 52% in January that year. The government’s overall approval rating also nose dived to 23%, the lowest ever since polling began in 2012. In 2013, the Barisan Nasional went into the general elections with a 43% approval rating and saw its worst electoral performance ever.

If at all, things have gotten from bad to worse since then as investigations into 1MDB and individuals and companies linked to it in the United States, Singapore,

Switzerland, Hong Kong, and reportedly six other countries promise to reveal more evidence documenting all manner of violations and transgressions. Now, if only the Barisan can look at the transformation that has taken place in Taiwan and South Korea.

It is possible for strong and dominant ruling parties in the face of defeat to transform themselves, embrace democratic values, remain a major force in a new democratic era, and even win again in freer and fairer elections.

But by now, we know this government and its leadership is devoid of will and courage to do what is right, even for its own long-term survival.

So is the only alternative then a headlong plunge into emergency rule? Are the Red Shirts priming for chaos should Bersih 5.0 take place, thus providing the perfect opportunity to declare an “emergency” in all but name and elevate the National Security Council into power?

As desperate citizens and civil society gather together to prevent what they see as the inevitable, is there any institution that they can depend on to do what is right for this country before we lose forever the path – no matter how flawed – so painstakingly negotiated and treaded by our past leaders?


Malaysia: A Cracking Pot under Najib Razak

August 7, 2016

Malaysia: A Cracking Pot under Najib Razak

By Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah.

MP SPEAKS:  Everything in Malaysia today seem to be so, so race based. Even the Malaysian Film Award Festival is affected although it is a creative industry which should have a certain level of “freedom of expression”.

Being an architect where freedom to express is also vital, I can appreciate the frustrations shown by Afdlin Shauki and Md Nor Kassim in protesting.


How far are we taking all this race-based criteria under the guise of controlling language usage?

Let us be consistent in this. How many “Malay” TV dramas have we watched with more than a sprinkling of “Darling, I rasa you neglect I” and “Good morning, I nak adakan meeting management pagi ni“?

These are reflections of reality in today’s society in day-to-day life especially in Kuala Lumpur. Why are these permissible for so long on TV which enters most households where government control is so strong and productions are by government-friendly parties?

If they are so serious about control why not prescribe language “content” of each drama and movie. Is 100 percent or 90 percent or 75 percent the acceptable formula?

Let’s get real on this. Even the late P. Ramlee Malay classic films used English in his humour. Remember his “Good morning ladies and gentlemen, tukang besi tukang simen“? We Malaysians loved it.

Malaysia used to pride itself of being a successful melting pot of all races and languages. What type of “pot” are we becoming today? A cracking pot? Or may be already a broken one.

What are we going to do about “official and semi-official government programmes with more than a sprinkling of Arabic like- “ana, ente, wasatiah,” just to mention a few. Strictly speaking they are not Bahasa Malaysia.

The question is where or how do we draw the line? Are we going to have dress code next for “religious programmes” where all must wear baju Melayu and not jubah robes or western coats ?

Let’s be very clear where are we heading to today. Satu Malaysia or where are we now? What is certain is that we are no longer being inclusive but getting increasingly more exclusive.

This is not in the true spirit of the Islamic teaching of “Rahmatan Lil Alamin“. Oops! Pardon me for using Arabic, which means rahmat untuk sekian alam or rahmat for all – the whole universe.

We have enough problems today and we don’t need to polarise Malaysia further. Interestingly, both who withdrew from the festival awards are prominent Malay and Muslim personalities.

I am sure there are more of the silent majority out there. We are really tired of race being used to divide, segregate and bully. So are most right-thinking Malaysians.