From Karpal Singh to Haron Din


September 24, 2016

A Generous Tribute to the Late PAS Spiritual Leader Dr. Haron Din

COMMENT: I thank Tay Tian Yan for this tribute to Dato’ Dr. Haron Din. It appeared in Sin Chew Jit Poh. In my ranking, the Spiritual Leader joins the ranks of respected and admired PAS leaders like Burhanuddin Helmy, Zulkifli Muhammad, Ustaz Fadzil Noor and Tok Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat.

Image result for prof dr zulkifli muhammad

In contrast, we now have a political Jonah like Hadi Awang leading the party to extinction with the formation of Amanah, a splinter party of moderate Islamists.

I find Tay’s statement  helpful and constructive and I quote:

Venting your frustration on the deceased in an attempt to gain some additional political support is never the noblest thing to do. It will only trigger deeper confrontation among the people and cause further splits in our vulnerable society.

It is time our leaders in UMNO and PAS and other ultras stop playing the Islam and Malay nationalism (in extremis) card. Moderation and mutual understanding should be the way forward. That takes enlightened and self-confident leadership that Malaysia desperately needs.–Din Merican

From Karpal Singh to Haron Din

by Tay Tian Yan

haron-din-karpal

The death of PAS spiritual leader Haron Din has sparked some controversy for days now. The tweet by DAP’s Jeff Ooi and some of the negative comments that followed, have seen even the Police stepping in to probe for religious insensitivity while triggering very polarised reactions from the general public.

I’m not here to discuss whether Ooi’s tweet has been ironical, belittling or disrespectful, and he has himself explained he had no evil intention when posting the tweet.The language a person uses is actually something abstract and very subjective.

“Adios Haron Din, let there be peace” could be both a positive and negative message, depending on which side you are on and which way you look at it.

Since the Police have stepped in to probe, I guess we can only wait for the outcome. Going further, the incident is not just a matter that involves Jeff Ooi and a handful of web users. It reflects the vast disparity how different sectors of Malaysian society look at seemingly innocent and non-suggestive things, as well as one’s outlook on life.

Non-Muslims concerned about Malaysian politics might have some sparse impression of Haron Din. He is PAS’ spiritual leader, a very powerful man indeed, second probably only to the late Nik Aziz and incumbent party President Hadi Awang. Where religious influences are concerned, he is in no way inferior to the other two.

We can safely say that Haron Din was one of the most dominant figures in shaping the party’s religious and ideological roadmap. And he was extremely devout in his religious belief with his conservative and fundamentalist stand. For such a personality, Haron Din was never as ambiguous and wavering as some other politicians we know today.

Where this is concerned, Nik Aziz was actually a whole lot more versatile than him.

Image result for Nik Aziz Nik Mat and Anwar Ibrahim

Due to his unbending commitment to religion, Haron Din won the utmost respect of many Muslims in the country. That said, he simply lacked the necessary versatility that gave the non-Muslim community a general impression of him being hardline conservative or even extreme.

The collapse of Pakatan Rakyat has been largely blamed – in particular by DAP supporters – on the conservatives within PAS, resulting in the widening rift between the two parties while crushing the prospect of a change in the Federal administration.

Perhaps this is also how many non-Muslims perceive Haron Din and subsequently the very polarised reactions to his death.

The same thing also happened soon after the death of DAP’s Karpal Singh who famously said, “Islamic state over my dead body,” a quote which won him thumbs-up from supporters of a secular Malaysia, and at the same time infuriating the Muslims who saw him as being anti-Islam.

Similarly, there were tweets and FB posts that celebrated his death. But please, don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to say that since Karpal could be vilified, Haron Din should not be spared from the same disparaging treatment too.

Just the opposite. I firmly believe that any form of attack or belittling should not have happened to both Karpal Singh and Haron Din.

A humble expression of respect for the deceased constitutes a universal understanding in our civilized world. While differing political and religious views are inevitable, any form of disrespect for the deceased should never be manifested at such an untimely moment.

Venting your frustration on the deceased in an attempt to gain some additional political support is never the noblest thing to do. It will only trigger deeper confrontation among the people and cause further splits in our vulnerable society.

Even if I don’t buy Haron Din’s political ideas, for the simple reason of humanity and esteem, I will still pay my respects.

Tay Tian Yan writes for Sin Chew Daily.

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Malaysia’s culture of tolerance is under threat


September 23, 2016

Religious freedom in Malaysia

Taking the rap

Malaysia’s culture of tolerance is under threat

Indonesian Islam: Neither White Knight nor Damsel in Distress


September 22, 2016

Asia Pacific Bulletin

Number 354 | September 22, 2016

ANALYSIS

Indonesian Islam: Neither White Knight nor Damsel in Distress

by Benjamin Nathan

In the fifteen years since 9/11, the attitude of the American media and foreign policy community towards Indonesian Islam has followed two parallel paths. The first is that Muslims in Indonesia have the potential to influence the thoughts and actions of Islamic extremists in the Middle East. The reasoning behind this viewpoint is easy to see: Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population, an overwhelming majorityof whom reject acts of religious violence. American policymakers from both parties naturally see this state of affairs as a useful diplomatic tool for combating extremism in the Middle East.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Paul Wolfowitz echoed this theme in 2009, writing in a Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled “Indonesia Is a Model Muslim Democracy” that “if [Indonesia] continues to make progress on religious tolerance, it can point the way for other majority Muslim countries.” In November 2015, The New York Times described a recent anti-ISIS media campaign led by the Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) as a “welcome antidote to jihadism” and as a solution to the problem that “Western leaders often lack credibility with those most susceptible to jihad’s allure.”

The second path of American thinking about Indonesian Islam is that Islamic extremists in the Middle East have the potential to influence the thoughts and actions of Muslims in Indonesia. This is an idea of Indonesia as a teetering domino, a fortress of religious moderation under internal siege from a worldwide pox of Islamic fundamentalism. In this view, the fact that 90% of Indonesians are Muslims makes the country vulnerable to radicalization, moderate as Indonesia’s mainstream form of Islam may be. In its 2016 budget, the State Department listed Indonesia as a “focus country” for its Antiterrorism Assistance and Countering Violent Extremism programs. The United States provides financial and technical support for Detachment 88, Indonesia’s most prominent antiterror group, and also funds organizations deemed capable of “grass-roots counter-messaging” against extremism.

These twin perspectives assume the potential for widespread, persuasive communication between Indonesian Muslims and their coreligionists around the world. This assumption is largely off base. Chief among its flaws is that cultural and religious disparities between Indonesia and the Middle East, while impossible to measure precisely, are stark.Indonesians speak not Arabic but Malay, an Austronesian language whose resemblance to Arabic consists only of a scattershot of shared vocabulary. Indonesian Muslims generally make a point of distinguishing themselves from inhabitants of the Arab world. The Indonesian term kearab-araban, roughly equivalent to “over-Arabness,” is not a term of respect.

Even if they could easily communicate with other Muslims around the world, Indonesians would have few opportunities to do so. Indonesians are simply not well-placed around the globe to influence the ideological tide of worldwide Islam. Indonesia’s diaspora, aside from those who live in neighboring Malaysia, is small relative to population size. Of the Indonesians who travel to the Middle East, most are female domestic workers. The Saudi government caps the number of Indonesians allowed to attend the annual Hajj pilgrimage at 168,800 per year –just .08% of the country’s Muslim population.

And even if it were conceivable that Indonesian anti-extremist rhetoric could dissuade Muslims around the world from joining groups like ISIS and Boko Haram, it would still be misleading to claim that organized Islam in Indonesia is an outstanding example of peace and tolerance that transcends historically-bound political conditions. The New York Timesarticle that called attention to Nahdlatul Ulama’s anti-ISIS efforts made no mention of the fact that the group played a central role in the murder of hundreds of thousands of suspected communists from 1965 to 1966. Its popular reputation as a moderate organization that “stresses nonviolence, inclusiveness and acceptance of other religions” is the result of an astonishingly narrow focus on the present day.

The reason why Nahdlatul Ulama and similar organizations no longer coordinate mass violence is that their institutional legitimacy is now secure-they face no challenge to their influence that compares to the threat they once faced from organized communism. Their professed tolerance is a result of political stability, not a cause. The historical record on this point is clear: when immersed in the power struggle of the 1960s, NU proved just as susceptible to the temptations of political violence as the extremist groups its leaders denounce today. It is therefore hard to imagine how Indonesia’s present-day brand of tolerance could take hold in such politically unstable regions as Syria and Nigeria.

The same factors that limit the usefulness of Indonesian Islam as a counterweight to extremist groups in the Middle East apply with equal strength to attempts by extremist groups in the Middle East to make inroads in Indonesia. The wide political and cultural reach of groups like NU and Muhammadiyah have provided resistance against the ideological incursions of Salafi proselytizers and the recruitment efforts of the Islamic State. Even as mainstream Indonesian Islam grows more conservative in areas like LGBT rights and inter-religious tolerance, its institutions constrain foreign radicalization.

ISIS, for its part, seems both unable and unwilling to carry out major terrorist attacks in Indonesia. In a January 2016 report for USAID, political scientist Greg Fealy estimated that only 250 to 300 Indonesian citizens-roughly one for every million-have traveled to join ISIS. Neighboring Australia’s per capita rate is five times as high. While the attacks that killed four people in Jakarta on January 14 were widely interpreted as a sign that ISIS had expanded its focus to Indonesia, evidence suggests that central ISIS leadership in Iraq and Syria did not have a planning role. The attack was an amateurish and homegrown operation with no proven connection to ISIS beyond hazy funding links and an impossible-to-disprove link of ‘inspiration.”

Indonesia today faces issues that dwarf the threat of terrorism in their scope and significance, such as the economy and institutional political weaknesses. According to the Global Terrorism Index, Indonesia would not match Nigeria’s 2014 casualty count from terrorism if an equivalent to January’s Jakarta attack occurred five times a day for an entire year. The US foreign policy community should not let the strategic priority of preventing the spread of terrorism distort their view of Indonesia’s own pressing needs. A strong Indonesia, after all, fits well within the policy interests of the United States. The world’s fourth-most populous country is an important economic and strategic partner, not least because of China’s increasing ambitions to establish its influence in Southeast Asia.

There is a risk, moreover, that funding local counter-terrorism efforts will incur more than just an opportunity cost. The Indonesian military, sidelined since Suharto’s downfall in 1998, views access to counter-terrorism funding as a potential wedge for reestablishing its influence in national politics. A remilitarization of Indonesian society would surely damage the country’s young democratic institutions. It could also thwart key American policy goals like the protection of religious freedom and human rights. The military has recently been involved in programs like bela negara (“defend the nation”), a training program for lay citizens that aims to target such social ills as latent communism and homosexuality. If American policymakers insist on enlisting Indonesia in the fight against terrorism, they must take care to avoid treatments that cause more harm than the targeted disease.

About the Author

Benjamin Nathan is a former researcher at the East-West Center in Washington. He graduated from Williams College in 2015 and is an alumnus of the Critical Language Scholarship program in Malang, Indonesia. He can be contacted at bnathan19@gmail.com.
 
The East-West Center promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.

 

Established by the US Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.

The Asia Pacific Bulletin (APB) series is produced by the East-West Center in Washington.

APB Series Editor: Dr. Satu Limaye, Director, East-West Center in Washington
APB Series Coordinator: Alex Forster, Project Assistant, East-West Center in Washington

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Time for Sabah and Sarawak to say No–Joseph Kurup shows the Way


September 22, 2016

Time for Sabah and Sarawak to say No–Joseph Kurup shows the Way

by Zakiah Koya

Tan Sri Joseph Kurup (pic above) is not just anybody, he is a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and he has always been a between of yes-man and a silent man when he disagrees.

He has never said ‘No’ to the government policies, and he has always been diplomatic with his words when he disagrees, but there was never a ‘No’. He did say out once about removing race from all official forms, but that was said and never mentioned again.

However, he seems to be turning the table over now, when he has decided that enough is enough and that when his faith as a Christian is challenged by the very government he represents, he has to stand up and say ‘No!’. He has also decided that as he represents Sabahans who are of all religions living in harmony without any form of religious law dominating, he has to speak up for all of them.

And now, he is not only saying ‘No’, he is also threatening and this means business, for he is threatening that Sabah and Sarawak may just be tempted to go their separate ways from that of Peninsula Malaysia.

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It has all to do with the amendment to the Syariah Courts Act proposed by PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and supported by mainly UMNO MPs, including the Prime Minister Dato Seri Najib Razak himself.

The Star reported that Kurup as the Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) had stated that Sabah and Sarawak may be tempted to go their separate ways if the amendment to the Syariah Courts Act are passed in Parliament. The law, he said, would have a divisive effect on the unity and understanding that was cultivated since the formation of Malaysia in 1963.

“If it (the Bill) is forced into Parliament and passed, I’m afraid it will trigger more feelings among the people of Sabah and Sarawak to go their separate ways. They (Federal Go­­vern­­ment) shouldn’t have the slightest thought of introducing this law,” he said yesterday.

This is no simple threat, for although PBRS is seen as a minority party in Sabah, its influence is strong as it comes from a bigger party Parti Bersatu Sabah. And Kurup would not have mentioned Sabah and Sarawak, had he not consulted his Sarawak counterparts in the cabinet. Perhaps he is the only one daring enough to say it and not afraid to lose his position.

The Syariah Courts Act amendment will ultimately permit the state legislatures to empower the Syariah Court to impose any form of hudud (islamic crime law) punishment other than the death penalty (for example, 100 lashes of whipping for an unmarried person guilty of adultery; or the amputation of hands for theft).

This is very much in line with the Kelantan state government wanting to implement hudud in the state, a main reason the opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat broke up, after Hadi insisted and then cuddled up to UMNO to propose the Syariah Courts Act amendment Bill in parliament in the last session.

UMNO had openly come out in support, despite much opposition from MCA, and some grunts from the other non Muslim BN counterparts, but Kurup is the first one to say it out openly and talk about cessation, a much feared issue by BN.

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A Partnership of Political Convenience

Many Muslims too have openly spoken up against the Bill, for fear it is all a mere misuse of religion by overzealous PAS, in the name of exerting their political power.

Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Razak, who has been waning in popularity depend very much on Sabah and Sarawak support and in recent years, he has increased East Malaysian cabinet members as well as poured in millions into Sabah and Sarawak development.

If Kurup does turn the table over on Najib, it would be a major dent in Najib’s support and then it may just start the domino effect in Sabah and Sarawak.

Image result for adenan satem

It is a fact that Sabahans and Sarawakians greatly cherish and value their religious freedom and will not stand for any imposing by any one religion alone, never mind it is the official religion. Even Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem had said that many times and hinted it openly.

Kurup may have issued this threat politely, but it is something which must not be taken lightly by the government of the day, for Kurup speaks for many – Muslims and non-Muslims – and not for himself alone when it comes to the Syariah Courts Act Amendment Bill.

Malaysia: UMNO chipping away at the opposition


September 22, 2016

Malaysia: UMNO chipping away at the opposition 

by Peter Douglas

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

Image result for Najib vs Lim Guan Eng

On  June 29 this year, Lim Guan Eng, the Chief Minister of Penang state and Secretary General of the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP), was arrested and charged with two counts of corruption and abuse of public office. The case at hand was Lim’s 2015 purchase of a house from businesswoman Phang Li Koon for below the estimated market value of the property. Members from the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party first made public allegations about impropriety in the deal in March and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) quickly opened an investigation.

The minute details of the transaction and Lim and Phang’s links have played out extensively across government-aligned newspapers, websites, and television stations, as well as in alternative media. But the strength of the publicly available evidence remains murky at best. The government’s case will rest on the ability of the prosecutor to prove allegations that the house’s low price was tied to a separate sale of state government land in Penang to a company called KLIDC. For their part,the DAP, Lim, and Phang have denied the allegations, stating there was no connection between the house purchase and the land sale and no business relationship between Lim and Phang.

The government’s handling of the case suggests it will be played out for maximum effect. It was quickly announced that the lead prosecutor for Lim’s case will be the Attorney General (AG) of Malaysia, Apandi Ali. Critics have raised questions about Apandi’s independence from government pressure, pointing to his close links with the ruling government. Apandi was picked by Prime Minister Najib Razak to replace the former AG Abdul Gani Patali, who was investigating the 1MDB corruption scandal. Upon taking office, Apandi closed the investigation on 1MDB and cleared Najib of all wrongdoing. Apandi even ran as an UMNO candidate in the 1990 elections.

Image result for Najib vs Lim Guan Eng

With Judiciary, Executive Branch and Legislature and Media under his total control, Prime Minister Najib Razak is able to act with impunity

There are several implications for the DAP and Malaysia’s other opposition parties in the near future.

First, the Lim case provides an opportunity to portray Penang’s DAP-led government in a negative light. The opposition has sought to use state-level power, particularly in Penang and Selangor states, to showcase an image of clean and efficient administration. Opposition politicians have complained that the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition has put their activities under particular scrutiny. It is unlikely that Lim’s case (or other recent cases spotlighted in the media) will do much to dislodge the DAP’s power in Penang state in the coming election. But these cases serve to tarnish the opposition’s image.

The DAP also faces a delicate balancing act: fighting against what it sees as politically motivated charges, while still being seen to take seriously its own campaign messages of anti-corruption and transparency. Lim and his supporters have pointed out the irony that the MACC has vigorously pursued the house purchase case while the 1MDB corruption scandal has been largely untouched by domestic investigators.

Yet this defence does not exonerate Lim from contesting the charges and the government’s case in court. The DAP also faced criticism for its call for snap elections in the wake of the charges. Snap elections in Penang, Lim argued, would consolidate the opposition’s position and obtain a ’fresh mandate’ for the state’s coalition government. But DAP’s opposition allies in the Pakatan Harapan coalition strongly objected, since opposition unity to guarantee straight fights against Barisan Nasional is currently lacking. The idea was eventually abandoned.

Perhaps the biggest implication is that Lim, facing conviction and possible prison time, may be unable to contest in the next general elections, coming as soon as the first quarter of next year. For his part, Lim says he ‘cannot be saved politically’. Jailing opposition politicians to neutralise threats has been a predictable choice in the government’s ‘menu of manipulation’. Lim himself spent a year in jail after being sentenced under the Sedition Act; his father Lim Kit Siang was previously detained for 17 months. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was handed a five-year jail sentence in time to circumvent his party’s attempt to put him in office, and remains imprisoned today. Rafizi Ramli, Secretary General of Anwar’s party, PKR, was recently charged under the Official Secrets Act; like Lim, he may be unable to contest in the next general election.

Malaysia’s UMNO-dominated government is facing one of the most challenging elections of its long political hegemony. But its handling of Lim Guan Eng’s case suggests it still has a formidable set of tools to obstruct and defuse threats from its main opposition.

Peter Douglas is the pseudonym of a Kuala Lumpur-based researcher studying opposition politics in Malaysia.

How would you react if our PM fainted in public?


August 31, 2016

Image result for Kee Thuan Chye

Kee, Sad Merdeka Day for me because our country is in the deep dumps after 50 Plus Years under UMNO Rule. You know my answer to your Question. We must incessantly apply pressure on Malaysian Official 1. We can no longer allow him and his UMNO  cohorts to act with impunity.

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I have never been under a more dishonest, corrupt, greedy, hedonistic, and lying Prime Minister in my life. I am now 77 years old. When we got independence in 1957, thanks to YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, I was 18 year’s old. It is pains me to see what our country has become.

Today, living and teaching in Cambodia, I am embarrassed to call myself  Malaysian. Why? Because Malaysia is not what I had in mind when I was growing up in Kedah and Penang in 1950s. You know what? Because of my critical views, I have not been invited to our national day reception by our Embassy in Phnom Penh. This is because the Malaysian Ambassador  is a Najib crony. Isn’t he the Ambassador of Malaysia to Cambodia, not Najib’s personal envoy. And I am a Malaysian citizen.–Din Merican

How would you react if our PM fainted in public?

by Kee Thuan Chye

http://www.malaysiakini.com

I’m going to be cheeky and wonder what the reaction would be among the Malaysian public if Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak should take ill in the middle of a public function.

As you know, this happened to Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, last week (on August 21) when he spoke at the island nation’s 51st National Day rally. He stopped in mid-speech and looked blank-faced for 10 seconds; the symptom seemed to indicate a stroke attack. He was assisted offstage for medical attention.

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PM Lee Hsien Loong: Respected, admired and loved as a Role Model Leader for  his Integrity and Brilliance 

But after he was examined, he was pronounced to be all right. An official report said what he had suffered was merely the result of prolonged standing, heat and dehydration.

Lee returned to the hall more than an hour later to continue his speech, and appeared in good humour. He got loud cheers and a warm standing ovation and, as reported in the media, thousands of well-wishers expressed relief on social media.

The first thing he said – “I gave everybody a scare” – straight away lightened the atmosphere and brought relief to the audience who had waited patiently for more than an hour for his return. They applauded when he said, “I’m going to have a full check-up after this.”

No doubt many in the audience were ruling party supporters, loyal civil servants, fans of the PM, but you got the feeling that there was great concern for Lee when the incident occurred. Outside of the hall, Singapore social media was abuzz with messages expressing shock, wondering if Lee’s condition was serious, worrying that it might be and extending prayers for his well-being.

I got ample evidence of that from Singaporean friends I communicated with. An ex-Malaysian who took on Singaporean citizenship just two years ago said, “My wife cried when she was informed about this. We all love our PM.”

Another Singaporean friend said, “Putting country first b4 his wellbeing, hope he’s really ok… very scary.” Another lamented, “Pushing himself too hard. Sigh…”

Would this note of sympathy and admiration pour out for Najib if he suddenly took ill at a public function? It probably would from Malaysians who are unable to figure out what 1MDB implies and who MO1 is. They might be genuinely concerned, even shed a tear. But by and large, the feedback I got from posing the question among Malaysians is encapsulated in this comment, “I might be inclined to throw a party.”

Hahaha! Not very civil, is it? But hey, given the mess the country is in today because of MO1 and 1MDB, if that’s how you feel, that’s how you feel. After all, Najib himself is aware of his ‘popularity’. He admitted to an interviewee recently that he felt hurt reading comments on Facebook. “When it hurts too much, I don’t want to read them any more,” he said. And he actually laughed about it.

There is clearly a marked difference in the degree of respect for leaders among Malaysians and Singaporeans. You may say that Singaporeans have been conditioned into showing respect and admiration for their leaders through state-instituted propaganda, but I would say that Malaysians have also been similarly conditioned. In fact, in our case, there is the double whammy of feudalism which connotes that the leader is always right – and that is so ingrained in our psyche, it is harder to shake off.

I believe Singaporeans respect and admire their leaders for a real and better reason – their leaders manage their country well and there are not many signs of blatant corruption. So, even while someone like the late former PM Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) is perceived to have ruled with an iron fist and shown disregard for human rights – by, for example, killing the careers of those who stood in his way – when he died last year, more than a million people paid their last respects as his body lay in state.

Confirmed kleptocracy

I was in Singapore then and I saw the crazily long queues heading towards Parliament House to say goodbye to LKY. Some people reportedly queued for as long as eight hours!

I texted a Singaporean friend my thoughts about this phenomenon: “And what did they get to see in the end? Nothing. Not even LKY’s face. It was momentary – get there, bow and move on. And queuing up hours just for that? What’s the point?”

Her immediate reply: “I am quite offended by you.”Later, she said, “Come on! It is evident that he is well-loved, well-respected. He did his best, and more. Give credit where credit is due.”

I think that summarises the general Singaporean sentiment about LKY. My Singaporean brother-in-law wept when he bowed to the coffin of the man who helmed the island’s development from Third World backwater with no natural resources to prosperous First World state. By comparison, Malaysia, which has abundant natural resources, is struggling to become a high-income nation in 2020, and even so, despite Najib’s assurances, many of us doubt we will make it by then.

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Najib and Rani Kulup: You are known by the company you keep

I have a sneaking suspicion that our own former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is hoping for that same level of reverence that LKY got when he himself passes on. That explains why he is so desperately trying to win Malaysian hearts and minds in the last year or so by saying things that the public wants to hear but which contradict his own practices while he was PM. He has evenuncharacteristically apologised for curbing way back in 1994 the king’s powers in ratifying laws passed by Parliament.

I don’t know about you but I don’t buy into Mahathir’s recent ploys and stratagems – except for his attempts to make Najib accountable for the 1MDB shenanigans and the RM2.6 billion scandal. Mahathir may be concerned about his legacy but I think it is already done for. He has been singularly responsible for much of the damage he wreaked on the country’s institutions, and more. He certainly cannot say, like LKY did, “At the end of the day, what have I got? A successful Singapore. What have I given up? My life.”

While Singapore has built up a world-class education system, Malaysia is lowering passing marks for Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) subjects. Malaysia’s policies and practices have been tainted by considerations other than national development. These have spawned a crony culture that leaks public money and resources into undeserving hands. They have also created a rent-seeking culture that strains the system and dampens competitiveness. And now, with 1MDB exposed, we are also a confirmed kleptocracy.

Last Sunday, we saw a rally staged by students calling on the people to ‘Tangkap MO1’. In no uncertain terms, the protesters referred to MO1 by name as Najib Razak, the Malaysian official who was revealed by the United States Department of Justice as the alleged recipient of billions of ringgit siphoned illegally from 1MDB. That’s how much ‘respect’ we have for our PM.

So, I guess I’m not being cheeky after all. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not wishing that Najib will take ill in public – not at all – but if it does happen, I wouldn’t be surprised if the partying mood ran high.


KEE THUAN CHYE is the author of the bestsellers ‘Unbelievably Stupid!’ and ‘Unbelievably Stupid Too!’

https://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/354037#ixzz4IrcaBqBI