Stand and Speak Up for Malaysia


January 3, 2017

Stand and Speak Up for Malaysia

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.malaysiakini.com

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For some of you (in fact most of us, Mariam), 2016 was a horrible year. I agree.

In the space of one year, four of the publications I used to write for stopped publishing. The media is slowly being strangled by an overly sensitive government, and worse still, it knows how to apply the screws. To stop you from hearing the truth. To silence you. To make you behave. To make you conform to its vision of the ideal citizen.

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Reject Extremism

Police reports, followed by complaints to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), attacks by UMNO Baru thugs, are de rigueur. Guerrilla tactics like splashing red paint on office walls, or leaving dead chicken outside an office entrance, are warnings for a successful publication to back-off, or face more threats.

Editors and owners of the publications are arrested and grilled. Some are taken to court. Readers are at risk of having their Facebook posts scrutinised, and face possible arrest. But you know what?

There is great hope for all Malaysians. A decade ago, only a handful of Malaysians would dare complain. Over the years, the numbers of Malaysians who are brave enough to speak out have grown from a trickle to a raging torrent. We are emboldened. We feel empowered.

Image result for Stand and Speak Up for MalaysiaTo KSN Ali Hamsa and all Civil Servants of Malaysia–A Reminder from Tun Abdul Razak (1967)

The government may try to close down all the alternative papers, but their foolhardiness has only fueled our resolve.

Social media, at least in Malaysia, is the new alternative media. It is free and immediate. It has spread like wildfire. Naturally, there are disadvantages and the lack of verification of facts and the occasional grammatical errors  and sloppy language are outweighed by the speed of transmission.

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Reject them–Najib, Mahathir and Mullah Harussani

Today, as we start 2017, more Malaysians than ever are exercising their vocal chords. It is heartening to know that the once great silencer of dissent, former PM Mahathir Mohamad, has joined the long queue which wants its voice to be heard. Bittersweet irony!

There is much scope for optimism in Malaysia, but you must be truthful to yourself. It is time we stopped whining about Malaysia going down the slippery slope, and blaming UMNO Baru for the state of Malaysia today; time we stopped criticising the opposition for being hopeless, and time we stopped thinking that Malaysia will never recover.

When you look into the mirror, are you man enough to realise that you are part of the problem that has brought Malaysia to its present state?

You may realise that removing Najib Abdul Razak will not solve Malaysia’s problems, because UMNO Baru is also part of the problem; but do you understand that changing the party which heads the government is not sufficient? Before we can change others, we need first, to change ourselves

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Sorry, Mariam, I disagree. Removing Najib Razak is the essential first step to solving our problems. I believe that UMNO can reform itself with a change of leadership. It has little choice; if it wants to remain in power, UMNO must stop playing the race and religion card and serve all Malaysians. 

UMNO Baru is the creation of Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. We forget that he destroyed our institutions of governance. It is ironic that most Malaysians now think that the former Premier is our champion for change. That is pathetic. –Din Merican

How many of you think as a Malaysian? Many of you are so ensconced in your community, your beliefs, your prejudices and your way of life, that you do not believe that any of Malaysia’s ills have anything to do with you.

Blaming the nameless ‘others’

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Stand Up for Malaysia–National Unity

You blame the nameless ‘others’ for Malaysia’s fall from grace.The Malays for their apathy and bigotry. The Chinese for forging ahead and for being kiasu. The Indians who demand equal rights, by ironically demanding that their rights be upheld before all others.The East Malaysians who blame their plight on ‘orang semenanjung’.

We hunger for land and the riches that come from the jungle, and from clearing the jungles to make plantations, and we think nothing of trampling over the rights of the Orang Asli.

The Muslims demand that everyone else is judged by their standards, and the non-Muslims shy away from getting involved in what they perceive as Muslim matters. Many non-Muslim mothers are denied justice if their spouse becomes a Muslim.

We are deaf and blind to the suffering of the lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. We consider ourselves the educated townies, and look down our noses at the rural folk.We are too absorbed in our affairs because we do not think of ourselves as Malaysian, and it is this flaw which the politicians take advantage of to further their interests.

Malaysia suffers because we perceive everyone else is a convenient scapegoat, when actually we are at fault.The politicians love the sound of their own speeches, and they have learned the art of filtering out our voices. So, if you want real change, learn to manage your politician, and not the other way round.

You must treat him or her as you would a lazy servant. You pay the politicians’ wages, so you have the right to demand performance. Politicians are out of touch with the rakyat and most important, they are not mind readers. You have a voice, learn how to use it in 2017.

NB: Happy New Year.

 

On Holier than Thou Putrajaya Idiot Paul Low


December 27, 2016

On Holier than Thou Putrajaya Idiot Paul Low

COMMENT by S. Thayaparan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

‘Using religion as a political weapon always results in self-inflicted wounds.’

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.”

– Seneca

Really dumb ideas have no problem escaping from the Prime Minister’s Department but Paul Low’s suggestion that the Christian community must be politically relevant and “be able to influence policy in a way that reflects the righteousness of God almighty”, is probably the dumbest idea I have ever heard. It is right up there with how Hindraf used religion – Hinduism – as a means to highlight the disenfranchisement of the Indian community and of course, how Islam has been weaponised in Malaysia.

What exactly does “righteousness of the almighty” mean? Furthermore, how do religious groups influence policy if not by getting into bed with craven politicians by means of campaign donations and the rest of the sordid transaction between church and state? You want to know why Hinduism is regressive in this country. The answer is simple, because the MIC got into the business of religion.

So let me get this right. Paul Low – who works for a Muslim regime – thinks that the Christian community should not engage in politics but still find a way of influencing policy. This is probably the most disingenuous double speak emanating from a Putrajaya minion I have ever heard.

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Add to this Kuala Lumpur Archbishop Julian Leow’s disingenuous contention that “politics and political parties must be distinguished”. Really? In one of my numerous pieces about the so-called ‘Allah’ controversy, I referred to the reality that oppositional politics and religion were intimately entwined. I wrote:

“Meanwhile the DAP who has more or less locked down the Chinese vote, continues to coddle the Christian evangelical movement within its rank, which finds expression in the putrid sloganeering of youth movements like ‘Rise up it’s time to take Subang for Jesus’ endorsed by certain religiously-inclined DAP leaders.”

What this does is give pro-UMNO propagandist the opportunity to further the narratives that Islam is under threat and that opposition parties are attempting to destabilise the country by religious means. Using religion as a political power tool always results in self-inflicted wounds.

Nowhere is this more evident in the unholy alliance between the supposedly secular DAP and vehemently religious PAS. Meanwhile, PKR was standing in the sidelines waiting for the whole thing to blow up so they could reconcile with PAS.

This is not to say that I think religious people should not make their voices heard in a milieu where there is no separation between mosque and state. When writing about the reality of religion in politics, I made two points:

1) “When the political, social and economic reality is predicated on religious superiority and oppression, religious people need to find ways to express themselves in democratic spaces and at the same time realise that the only security they have against further aggression is by supporting secular values.

2) “What I have been contemptuous of is the agenda of Christian politicians using religion as political capital and claiming to be secular while funding Islamic organisations to pander to the Malay/Muslim vote.”

Moreover, point two, the intersection between Christians and Muslims in the opposition have done the most harm because the discourse was framed by craven politicians who were not interested in promoting secular values in both religions, but with creating and maintaining political power.

It is all about credibility. “Credibility is achieved by politicians who leave their religious affiliations at the door and this is especially important for non-Muslim politicians when it comes to dealing with the UMNO state.”

I have made this argument before: “I have argued that the non-Malay power structures are contributing to the indoctrination process by supporting UMNO-enabled institutions thereby setting back any kind of progressive movement in the Malay community. Furthermore, I have been critical of opposition parties that have been reluctant to redefine and propagate ideas that are the exact opposite of the UMNO narrative of what it means to be Malay and Muslim.”

In addition, let me be very clear. I think there should be an exchange of ideas between religious groups but this should not be at the expanse of secular ideas. The problem with the DAP/PAS dalliance is that it was not based on the idea of promoting a progressive secular agenda but attempting to subvert the Malay/Muslim vote which ultimately destabilised the Muslim party, worsening the religious discourse in this country.

Neat little boxes

If Paul Low was really interested in religious freedom, he would be advocating secular values that inhibit religious interference of any kind from political parties and the UMNO state. Those secular values would include limiting the state or any governmental organisation from funding, assisting or favouring any one religion. Of course, Paul Low will not advocate any of this.

A while back I took exception to this whole idea of categorising Muslim and Christians into neat little boxes and argued that secular values are not anathema to any religious community or at least those in the community who could go beyond their religious indoctrination:

“What exactly is a ‘true’ Muslim or ‘true’ Christian for that matter? Someone who believes that religion should not be politicised? Someone who believes that you should not mock another’s religion? Someone who believes that religion should not intrude in the private lives of members in any given society? Someone who believes that there should be a separation of church/mosque and state? These are not ‘true’ religious values but rather true secular values or secular humanist values, if you like.”

Instead, Paul Low prefers to throw fuel on the religious fire by encouraging Christians to be more vocal, using the kind of religious polemics – “almighty” and “religious conviction” – that is mana to pro-UMNO propagandists but yet covering his behind by telling them not to engage with politics.

When the Sabah Council of Churches “pray for divine intervention in the challenging state of affairs of our nation for our sake and the sake of our next generation” you know the plot has truly been lost.  Really, divine intervention?

Moreover, that is really the problem with religion and politics in a Muslim-dominated country.  Unlike Western secular democracies where Muslims have a right to voice their dissent, non-Muslims only have the option of praying for divine intervention.

It is extremely frustrating because all these issues of corruption, incompetent governance, racism and the host of other calamities facing this country are not religious issues. Ultimately anyone who uses religion as a means of political expression loses in a country where the religious game is fixed.

Najib Razak plays with Hudud and PAS for Political Survival


December 24, 2016

Najib Razak plays with Hudud and PAS for Political Survival

by Jayum Anak Jawan

Conflict has raged within and among Malaysia’s political parties this year over controversial legislation regarding Islamic law, but Jayum Anak Jawan argues it is all part of the Prime Minister’s political strategy to win the next election.

What do “fixed deposit” and “insurance” have in common? A highly-skilled investor who maximises profit and minimises possible losses. This might appropriately describe Malaysian Prime Minister Najib’s latest political move as the next general election draws nearer and which must be held by the middle of 2018.

Najib is the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) President and Chairman of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. His party is embroiled in a “possible” alliance with the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) to push through amendments to a piece of legislation called Act 355 that seek to review fines and punishment as well as the enforcement power of the Islamic courts. Originally, the bill was to be introduced to parliament as a private member’s bill by PAS President Hadi but was subsequently submitted by the government, which will reportedly take over tabling it at a future sitting.

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This is not a smart move–playing the Islamic Fire with Zakir Zaik and Hadi Awang–Din Merican

Since the initial announcement of its introduction, the bill has sparked much debate, polarising Malaysians and political parties from all sides. What first appeared as a PAS initiative, has since been embraced by UMNO, putting many of the BN coalition parties that had previously made a strong stand against Act 355 in an awkward position.

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Under Adenan Satim, Sarawak will remain a  progressive multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-racial state. Pushing hudud  is a bad strategy for Mr. Najib–Din Merican

There are stark divisions among the BN coalition’s 13 component parties with some staunchly opposed to the bill, such as Chief Minister Adenan who reportedly ordered all Sarawak BN party members of parliament to vote against it, while others are yet to reveal their positions. The opposition parties, meanwhile, are not wholly united one way or the other on Act 355.

While Malaysia’s political parties are caught up in the controversy over the bill, the clear advantage goes to the master political strategist, Najib. He is letting all the various parties fight it out, confident of drawing them over to his side at the end of the political brawl.

And why not watch and wait? Najib is championing Islam, which is more than what UMNO has done in its lifetime and more than what PAS could possibly do alone. As far as Najib is concerned, he is already a winner in the political chess game he devised. He has created a situation in which support for him is all but guaranteed. If you are not supporting him, then your Malay-ness or Muslim-ness are brought into question. You support him; you are a good Muslim. You don’t support him; you are a bad Muslim because he is doing a good thing for Islam. Such is the conundrum facing his Malay friends in BN and his Malay foes in the opposition.

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Malay extremism combined with radical Islam ala Zakir Zaik is a double edged sword; only a political novice and desperado will fail to understand this. It is a dangerous game because it will drive Malaysia into very severe recession.–Din Merican

Najib has also created a dilemma for his coalition partners. When he adopted the Act 355 amendments as a government bill, Najib redefined the rules of engagement altogether. By making it a government bill, and with UMNO being the backbone of the BN ruling coalition, all members of the ruling party are obliged to support it. If any party is opposed to the bill, then that party’s position in the BN coalition becomes untenable. So, the position becomes simple: support the bill or leave the coalition.

But, there is also this issue to ponder: Can the Prime Minister introduce important legislation without first consulting his coalition partners? The cornerstone of the BN coalition has been consultation. In addition, can a private member’s bill simply be adopted by the government without first having a discussion about it in cabinet? These are questions that are easy to answer but not as easy to explain. Clearly, there is evidence to conclude that the cabinet was not aware of the decision to support the legislation prior to it being made, nor had it been party to its formulation.

Lastly, some have argued about the constitutionality of this bill. Is Islamic law an item enumerated in the State List? If so, for the bill to be moved at the federal legislative level, it must have the support of a state government, not just an individual lawmaker. And for that to happen, it must first have been moved in a state assembly to indicate the state’s support for the bill.

Prime Minister Najib–No Novice in Politics(?)

The Prime Minister is no novice in politics. So, why is he doing this? The answer has to be simple and clear. He is crafting his “insurance policy” against increasing uncertainty on the returns of his “fixed deposit”, namely the states of Sarawak and Sabah, which have on many occasions saved BN and UMNO, especially after the 2008 and 2013 general elections. The number of parliamentary seats won in both states on these two occasions gave BN the majority required to form the federal government. But the sense of ethnic and state nationalism that have recently reignited vigorously in both states could have caused the Prime Minister real concern over whether BN and UMNO can continue to rely on the “fixed deposit” to return to power in the forthcoming general election. Hence, courting PAS, which won about 20 parliamentary seats in 2013, is a politically strategic move. Najib’s support for Act 355 will endear him and UMNO to PAS and at the same time boost the latter’s popularity among its supporters in the Islamic heartland states such as Kelantan and Terengganu.

Furthermore, this strategy could sway Malay-Muslim voters in many of the PKR opposition party strongholds as well. In all likelihood, and based on the fact that not much change will come from Malay and Chinese voters and their voting patterns in 2018, having PAS retain the same number of the seats it won in 2013 and perhaps draws a few more elsewhere, would be enough to give UMNO the insurance it needs against the possibly volatile non-Malay, non-Muslim votes and seats in Sabah and Sarawak.

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BN and UMNO, if they win the next parliamentary general election, will not be expected to win handsomely as they have done previously. Neither should they be expected to make any major seat gains compared to what they won in 2013. But the PAS insurance policy, from supporting Act 355, should be enough to ensure that BN and UMNO can at least, in the event of the political atmosphere become more unfavourable and tense, scrape through with a razor-thin margin to form the next federal government.

Jayum Anak Jawan is the current Tun Abdul Razak Chair and Visiting Professor of Political Science at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, USA. He is concurrently a senior professor of politics and government at Universiti Putra Malaysia. The opinion and analysis expressed do not represent the institutions he is affiliated with.

http://www.newmandala.org/alliance-secure-electoral-victory/

UMNO’s past, present and future


December 1, 2016

UMNO’s past, present and future

UMNO have adopted a number of radical measures that has destroyed the spirit of consultation with component parties that BN had preserved for 6 decades.

COMMENT
 By Lim Sue Goan

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With the spirit of democracy and rule of law retrogressing, the country’s international reputation suffering a major setback and under the gloom of a sluggish economy, UMNO’s General Assembly this week is set to be immersed in a much worse atmosphere than a year ago when the RM2.6 billion political donation scandal first came to light.

IN 2015, UMNO had yet to sack Muhyiddin Yassin while former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had not to set up his own party. UMNO today is in a much more difficult situation.

The party has been established for seven decades now, and in the past, even in the face of any major crisis, the party would never abandon the urban and middle voters or antagonize civil society. Moreover, the party’s past leaders never condoned violence and thuggery.

UMNO was strongly against PAS, and the delegates would hit out hard at the Islamist party. But today, these two parties are working together and the focus of this year’s debates is expected to be “grand unity for the Malays and Muslims”.

This year’s assembly is expected to target its firepower at Mahathir because of his betrayal of UMNO.

That  said, the “political legacy” left behind by Mahathir is still very much enjoyed by UMNO  today. The party’s dilemma today could be attributed to a host of historical and political cultural factors, and everyone from top down is culpable.

Some say UMNO has become so powerful that BN– MCA, MIC, Gerakan and others– itself is being marginalized, and racism appears to be the natural political pathway for the coalition party should take.

This is because racist politics in the very end can only rely on  an insecure base for survival , betraying the principles of democracy and alienating tself from civil society, and in so doing putting the country into a real mess.

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As the backbone of the BN administration, UMNO.  The party must take the initiative to deal steadfastly with the brewing political, economic and democratic crisis, not perpetuate it. Unfortunately, the party is now slanting, and UMNO members need to save it first before it can take on the challenges ahead and lead the nation.

Undeniably, as the 1MDB and MO1 issues get increasingly heated up, the BN mechanism has already been rendered irrelevant.

Take the RUU355 to expand the jurisdiction of shariah courts for example. UMNO leaders never consulted its component parties before giving PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang  the green light table his private bill in May.

To hold on to power, UMNO has decided to adopt a number of radical measures that have destroyed the spirit of consultation and cooperation that BN had preserved for so many decades, thereby dwelling a severe blow to the country’s moderate image.

Members of BN’s component parties are unhappy with what’s taking place under their noses, and this does not augur well for a united BN to face the upcoming general election.

UMNO’s fortress is the vast rural Malay hinterland while other BN component parties must still face urban and young voters. The detention of BERSIH 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah under the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) has dealt a fatal blow on the electoral prospects of other BN component parties. Economic hardship in the coming year, on the other hand, could undermine the party’s hold on the rural Malays and the other marginalized folks in Sabah and Sarawak.

Without changing its style of governance and restricting its members’ out-of-control actions, UMNO is poised to put itself in a very precarious position.

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UMNO’s cooperation with PAS is also a highly risky game because this will only radicalize the Malay Muslims. In the long run, UMNO itself will be playing the PAS tune.

Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has said that out of 687 tertiary students interviewed, some 133 or 19.5% subscribe to the philosophy of Islamic State.

As a matter of fact, UMNO must adhere to the Islam Hadhari concept of former PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in order to stem the advances of  Islamic radicalism.

On the economic front, owing to the resistance from the party’s right wing, it is getting increasingly difficult for PM Najib to push ahead its NEM and economic transformation agendas. The economy will only slide further in the absence of new policies, reforms and liberalisation. The dramatic fall of the ringgit now should set off the alarm bells, too.

We cannot wrap ourselves inside the cocoon of antiquated thinking if we as a nation want to move forward. An example is the refusal by the Federation of Peninsula Malay Students (GPMS) to recognise the UEC certificate. Our competitiveness can only be lifted if all our talented people are accepted into the mainstay of this country irrespective of race and religion.

 

Indonesia: Questioning our pride as a democratic, tolerant and peaceful nation


November 6, 2016

Indonesia: Questioning our pride as a democratic, tolerant and peaceful nation

by M. Taufiqurrahman and Kornelius Purba

http://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2016/11/05/commentary-questioning-our-pride-as-a-democratic-tolerant-and-peaceful-nation.html

COMMENTARY: Questioning our pride as a democratic, tolerant and peaceful nation

Marching on: Muslims march along Jl. MH Thamrin during a rally in Jakarta on Friday. Around 100,000 Muslims took to the streets on Friday demanding the prosecution of Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama for alleged blasphemy. They called on the police to immediately detain Ahok. (JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)

We have long prided ourselves as the world’s third largest democracy after India and the US, and the country with the world’s largest Muslim population. The international community and global media outlets often describe Indonesia’s version of Islam as peaceful, tolerant and moderate.

We boast that violent, intolerant and radical Muslim groups are very small in number and influence. We believe that the country’s two major Muslim organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, are the legitimate standard-bearers of Islam in Indonesia.

We like to think that we are a pluralist society, a nation built on a foundation that disregards skin color, ethnicity and faith. We submit to the belief that we, as Indonesians, cling to the idea of “unity in diversity”.

On Friday, we woke up to the disturbing reality that we haven’t progressed very far from nativism and tribalism.

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“If they are too rich, too corrupt and too lazy – we just fire them,” the Governor of Jakarta says. His views on management are simple: sack bad employees, ...

The November 4 rally has exposed some of the ugliest parts of our politics, where skin color, ethnicity and faith become weapons to attack political rivals. With the presence of incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja “Ahok” Purnama, a Christian and a Chinese-Indonesian, it is easy to see and hear the racist undertones in the political campaigns of his rivals. While the demonstration proceeded peacefully, at least until the evening, it was shocking to see some protesters shouting horrifying phrases such as “kill Ahok”, or displaying posters reading: “Wanted: Ahok, dead or alive”.

Where were the leaders of NU and Muhammadiyah on Friday?Where were the leaders of the major political parties supporting Ahok’s reelection bid?

The mass protest was led by people widely known for their dislike, if not hatred, of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. Indeed, the hard-line Islam Defenders Front (FPI) led the rally, and lead the anti-Ahok movement.

FPI leader, Rizieq Shihab, an Indonesian of Arab descent, seems to have a personal grudge against Ahok, because the Jakarta governor is the only state official in the country who has the guts to demand that the central government dissolve the FPI.

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In the lead-up to Friday’s rally, scores of Ahok’s political rivals put Jakarta’s gubernatorial election in the context of a “holy war”, or crusade against an infidel, with people such as former Muhammadiyah chairman Amien Rais (above) urging Muslims not to vote for Ahok because he is a dajjal (a kind of anti-Christ).

Earlier this week, while flanked by a number of policemen, a protester, dressed in full Islamic garb, made a long speech and offered to give Rp 1 billion (US$76,900) to anyone who could kill Ahok if the incumbent governor visited certain areas in West Jakarta. Shortly after the speech, Ahok was forced to flee from a neighborhood in Rawa Belong in a public minivan after a group of protesters started to taunt him and demand that he leave the area where he was campaigning.

On Friday, protesters hung a massive banner reading “Hang Ahok Right Now” from a pedestrian bridge near Gambir Station. And the saddest part of this whole episode is that more than 100,000 people bowed to this violent rhetoric and showed up for the November 4 rally.

The Jakarta election should be about the programs that the candidates are proposing to solve the myriad of problems plaguing the capital, from severe traffic congestion and pollution to garbage collection problems, reclamation controversies and housing for the poor. But since the campaign period began in mid-October, we have heard nothing but calls for Ahok to drop out from the race on allegations that he insulted the Quran. And nothing fires up the political base of Ahok’s rivals more than allegations that he insulted Islam.

The rivals of Ahok, who will certainly reap huge political gains if Ahok drops out of the race as a result of Friday’s rally, certainly share some of the blame for fanning primordial sentiments to get what they want.

All of us, however, should take responsibility for allowing such sectarian sentiments to grow and fester in our democracy.

We have been complacent for too long, happy to think that the movements against Ahok, and those groups responsible for acts of intolerance and violence in this country, are only fringe groups who matter little in politics.

On Friday, we were proved wrong. These groups now hold the keys to the Jakarta gubernatorial election and, probably, the success or failure of our experiment in democracy.

The sharp-tongued Ahok often provokes anger for his direct manner. However, it is hard to deny, even for his most hostile foes, that under his leadership, Jakarta has progressed and improved.

But the allegations that Ahok’s programs are beneficial to the middle and upper-income class of people, many of whom are Chinese-Indonesians and non-Muslims, and harmful to lower-income citizens, are also not totally baseless.

It is a brute reality that there are Muslims who do not want to have a non-Muslim leader. Many Muslims complain that they are a majority in this country, but a minority in terms of economic access.

It is also understandable that many non-Muslims fight as die-hard supporters for the reelection of Ahok because for a long time they have felt, rightly or wrongly, that they are second-class citizens in this country.

Some of them even believe that Jesus sent Ahok to save Jakarta, and later, if elected president, Indonesia. No one can touch Ahok because God will not allow anyone to harm him, their thinking goes.

The leaders of mainstream religious or political organizations are out of touch with the social and political reality. They belittle the role of small organizations such as the FPI.

Is this because they are too afraid to confront the intimidation and intolerance of the FPI and their ilk, or because Indonesia’s mainstream leaders actually agree with these small groups?

 

Malaysia in the dumps


October 22, 2016

Malaysia in the dumps on account of Najib’s racist politics and bad economics

by Greg Lopez

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

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Malaysia has been governed by the same ruling coalition (Barisan Nasional) since independence in 1957. This coalition provided capable leadership to address the four cross-cutting issues that enabled high and sustainable growth. But the Najib Razak administration appears not only to be faltering in managing these challenges but is actively undermining these achievements to remain in power.–Greg Lopez

Malaysia’s leadership troubles could provide a valuable lesson for other middle-income countries on the importance of effective leadership to sustain long term growth. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has denied allegations of corruption made by The Wall Street Journal. But can a leader and his administration that has been rejected by the electorate drive long term growth?

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In May 2008, the United Nations Commission on Growth and Development issued a report that attempted to distil the strategies and policies that produced sustained high growth in developing countries. It is clear from the report that politics and leadership are key to successful development. In particular, there are four cross-cutting issues that good leadership delivered: promoting national unity; building high quality institutions; choosing innovative and localised policies; and creating political consensus for long-run policy implementation.

Malaysia is among 13 nations (Botswana, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malta, Oman, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand) that the report identified as having sustained growth rates of above 7 per cent for 25 years or more. These 13 countries had five strikingly similar characteristics: they fully exploited global economic opportunities; they maintained macroeconomic stability; they mustered high rates of savings and investment; they let markets allocate resources; and they had committed, credible, capable governments.

Malaysia has been governed by the same ruling coalition since independence in 1957. This coalition provided capable leadership to address the four cross-cutting issues that enabled high and sustainable growth. But the Najib Razak administration appears not only to be faltering in managing these challenges but is actively undermining these achievements to remain in power.

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The Wharton educated Playboy

At the 13th Malaysian general elections, the Barisan Nasional coalition only managed to secure 47.4 per cent of the popular vote while the opposition coalition secured 50.9 per cent. This is the first time that the ruling coalition has lost the support of the majority of Malaysians. Najib took a presidential approach to the election and committed to spending an estimated US$17.6 billion of targeted development pledges and 1 Malaysia Programs. So it was a shock when the majority of Malaysians opted for a ragtag coalition that included an Islamist party and a socialist party led by a discredited leader.

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Malaysia’s Rosie Mansor, not Rosie O’donnell

Malaysia’s Najib’s popularity had been on a downward trend, from a high of 72 per cent in May 2010 to below 50 per cent in January 2015. But the series of damaging allegations has not only damaged his reputation irrevocably, it has also cemented a negative perception of the government. The majority of Malaysians no longer look favourably upon their government and its institutions. The most recent survey — polled in October 2015 after Najib admitted receiving a US$700 million ‘donation’ into his private bank account — found that 4 out 5 Malaysians were unhappy with the current government.

More damaging perhaps is the fact that only 31 per cent of Malays — the bedrock of support for the United Malays’ National Organisation (UMNO), the dominant party in the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition — were happy with the government’s current performance. The fall among Malays is drastic. It stood at 52 per cent in January 2015 and had never gone below 50 per cent since the independent pollster Merdeka Centre began tracking this data in February 2012. More Malaysians are also of the opinion that the country is heading in the wrong direction. Significantly, this change in sentiment began in the beginning of 2014, several months after the 13th general elections.

In response, Najib has taken several measures to protect his leadership position. These measures have further undermined Malaysia’s national unity, institutions and policy process.

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Najib and Hadi–Malaysia’s Political Laurel and Hardy

Despite the rhetoric of being the leader of all Malaysians, Najib has actively pursued a ‘Malay and Islamic’ supremacy strategy. And he has cosied up with UMNO’s mortal enemy, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party. The rise of fundamentalist Islam — as in the rest of the world — is a threat in Malaysia. But Najib has sought to bolster his credentials by appealing to conservative Muslims. This has empowered and emboldened the conservative Islamic elements within Malaysia.

Policy making and implementation have been insulated from public scrutiny since the government of long-serving former prime minister Mahathir Mohamed. But under Najib it has even been insulated from scrutiny by the cabinet, let alone the parliament. All major decisions are made by the prime minister and implemented through a hybrid organisation within the Prime Minister’s Department.

Despite Najib’s active pursuit of policies that are detrimental to Malaysian foundations, his economic track record appears to be sound. Malaysia could become a high income country by 2020. Yet Malaysians remain unimpressed by Najib Razak.

Institutions are not built in a day and the impact of Najib’s measures on Malaysia’s longer term growth prospects remain to be seen. For now, other countries caught in the middle-income trap should closely observe the developments in Malaysia.

Greg Lopez is a lecturer with Murdoch University Executive Education Centre, Western Australia. His research interests are in the interaction between states, societies and markets in the ASEAN region.