Snatch The Match From That Monkey Najib Before He Burns Down The Village

April 19, 2018

Snatch The Match From That Monkey Najib Before He Burns Down The Village

M. Bakri Musa
It would take more than just a monkey with a match to burn down a village, despite the dwellings being made of wood and having flammable thatched roofs. Those homes have withstood generations of indoor wood-burning stoves and nightly mosquito-repelling ambers underneath their floors. There would have to be more, as with a long spell of dry hot weather and mountains of ignitable garbage strewn around.
      Yet when the kampung does get burned down, everyone would be shocked. The immediate reaction would be to blame the idiot with the match, and the fury heaped upon that poor soul would then be merciless.
      Consumed with vengeance and with little inclination or intelligence for reflection, the necessary probing questions would never get raised. As with who gave the idiot the match or why was he not supervised. Few would notice much less ponder why the strewn garbage was allowed to accumulate and thus pose a fire as well as health and other hazards.
      The kampung that is Malaysia has not burnt down, at least not yet. Malaysians are still smug and remain blissfully unaware of the long dry spell and the tinder dried debris that has been stacking up. Nor do they realize the danger posed by the idiot running around with a match in his hand and threatening more mischief. God knows he has wrecked enough damage already.
Being in the tropics, Malaysians are used to hot weather but the current hot political climate is very recent. The 1969 “incident” excepted, political riots and turmoils are not yet the norm. Malaysia has been thankfully spared such scourges as the assassinations of leaders and politicians, the staple of Third World politics.
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The BERUKs of Malusia
If Najib and his Barisan coalition were to prevail in the upcoming general election on May 9, 2018, however slim their victory, that would be akin to giving the village idiot a match, and then encouraging him to continue playing with it amidst the flammable debris and the high-voltage political atmosphere.
     The flammable debris are our failing institutions. Malaysias are also now deeply polarized, lending to the current highly-charged political climate. The last time Malaysians were stridently divided was during the 1969 election. Then the ruling coalition’s defeat in a few states and its loss of a supra majority at the federal level triggered a horrific race riot that killed thousands and maimed many more. Parliament had to be suspended and the nation ruled by decree. The scar of that national tragedy has now thankfully been sealed with a thick scab. It is unlikely that it would be rubbed open again despite the mischievous attempts by many.
     The polarization then was interracial, between Malays and Chinese to be specific, and the outbreak of violence was localized only to Kuala Lumpur. Today the schisms and polarizations are widespread but not interracial despite crude attempts by many to make it so, rather intra-racial, among Malays. Only East Malaysia is spared. As such Malaysians, in particular Malays, do not or refuse to recognize or even acknowledge this new threat to the nation. Therein lies the danger.
     Yet the evidence is glaring. I have never seen more ugly or blatant displays of vicious and visceral hatred directed at Najib and Mahathir. The two leaders themselves have set the pace and tone. Others too like their HRHS The Sultans and ulamas have taken sides. Their revulsion, as well as that of their followers, is so open. Such gross and uncouth displays are so un-Malay. I fear that should something untoward were to happen to Najib or Mahathir, that would trigger a vicious civil war among their fanatic followers, meaning, Malays.
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     Throughout history the most savage conflicts are intra rather than interracial. Witness the ongoing carnage in the Middle East. I am referring not to the Arab-Israeli dispute but the continuing savageries among the Arabs. The Korean Peninsula is still a tinderbox, ready to explode and taking the world with it. Then there was the earlier Chinese civil war. It would be a futile exercise to venture whether the Chinese suffered more under the Japanese or during their own civil war. It would not be an exaggeration to assert that the Japanese Occupation at least interrupted the brutalities the Chinese inflicted upon each other.
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They are partial to UMNO Malays, thanks to Najib’s “cash is king” lure.
What is so volatile about the current threat facing Malaysia is the absence of any restraining element to buffer or dampen this intra-Malay schism. Our institutions–from the sultans and the Election Commission to the Armed Services and the police–have failed us. The Sultans and Agung are not the “protectors” of Islam and Malay customs as they claim, or as tradition and the constitution would have it. They are partial to UMNO Malays, thanks to Najib’s “cash is king” lure.
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     The Chief of the Armed Forces had to retract his earlier statement proclaiming his troops’ and officers’ loyalty to Najib. That General forgot his oath of office, to serve King and country. Likewise the Registrar of Societies; she did her “job” in a single blow (pardon the pornographic pun) by denying the registration of Mahathir’s new party, a powerful opposition force. Meanwhile that clown Prince and Sultan wannabe in the southern tip of the Peninsula thinks he can titah (command) his fantasized “Bangsa Johor” as to which party to vote for! His father the sultan had gone even further.I would have expected Malaysian minorities to buffer or dampen this dangerous intra-Malay rift if nothing else for their (non-Malay) own self-interest. Instead they are sucked in by their own miscalculations into this perilous undertow.
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A sliver of hope is Sabah and Sarawak. Perhaps because everyone there is a minority, Malaysians there are inclusive and tolerant. They have gone beyond; they have not let their ethnic and cultural identities define or limit them. It is sad that their exemplary collective stance is lost on their fellow Malaysians in the peninsula.
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 Sarawakians must honour Tan Adenan Satem
The fact that UMNO, a national party otherwise, does not have a beachhead in Sarawak, explains why the particularly virulent racist virus that has infected UMNO’s body and mind in the Peninsula has not spread east across the South China Sea. I hope East Malaysians will keep it that way.

Malaysians have a crucial task in this upcoming May 9 General Election. They must snatch that dangerous match away from that idiot Najib and his band of mischievous UMNO monkeys. He and they have done enough damage to Malaysia. Stop them before they burn the whole country down.


Faking Malaysia (or is it, Malusia)

April 12, 2018

Faking Malaysia (or is it, Malusia)

by Dean Johns

Dean Johns Ad Lib

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Najib Razak and his supporters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for Dean JohnsMy Friend Dean Johns


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

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


All the news that’s fit to fake

April 11, 2018

All the news that’s fit to fake

As Malaysia rushes to its 9 May polling day, the new anti-fake news law may be wielded against the state’s critics, emboldening speech vigilantism by outsourced censors.

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The Malaysian Parliament passed the Anti-Fake News Law a week ago on 2 April 2018, just in time for the 14th general elections (GE14) on 9 May. It wasn’t the most controversial law to have gone through the Barisan Nasional (BN)-dominated legislature, as the National Security Council Act passed in 2016 gives wide powers to the government to declare a state of emergency. But surely the Anti-Fake News Law is one of the many designed with clear targets in mind—dissenters and critics, and just about anyone who dares to verbalise any thoughts or opinions that challenge the establishment.

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The law has yet to be gazetted, which is needed for it to be enforced. But its introduction is enough to raise fears among journalists, bloggers, politicians and netizens who speak out on social media. A maximum six-year jail term replaced the 10 years initially penned in, while the term “knowingly” in creating and spreading false news now reads “maliciously”. The change was presented as a compromise from the government following strong criticism, but it did little to placate concerns that the law is essentially problematic as it violates fundamental principles of freedom of expression. Besides, one cannot help but wonder if the “compromise” was a deliberate strategy to demonstrate a responsive government that should be voted back in.

The road to this haphazard but possibly shrewdly crafted law has been paved with a series of cosmetic reforms under Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak since he took office in 2009. While some laws like the Internal Security Act (ISA) were repealed, others introduced still contain draconian provisions. This latest law promises to fill in the gaps of what the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) couldn’t do in reining in free speech online. Since the 2008 general elections (GE12), the CMA has been a useful tool for the state to use in clamping down online critics.

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In most cases, those hauled up for investigations were individuals sharing their thoughts and opinions over Twitter, Facebook and even WhatsApp. Activists and artists have also been charged under the law for satire and criticisms levelled against the government. It was a reminder to ordinary citizens that they had to toe the line, and what better way of instilling fear than to arrest and threaten them with jail sentences. According to human rights organisation SUARAM, there were 146 known documented cases under the CMA in 2017 alone. It observed that it was much easier to prosecute for speech under the law. However, most who were charged under the law would plead guilty, and only a few mounted constitutional challenges.

In 2017, plans were afoot to amend the CMA as the authorities sought more powers to investigate and prosecute online offenders and increase the penalties. The changes were not tabled but it can be assumed that the initial idea behind that proposal had found its way into the Anti-Fake News Law.

For most observers, the obvious reason behind this rushed law is to keep the scandalous 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) wealth fund and other financial misappropriations out of the electorate’s focus. This is a punitive law that fails to provide any clarity on the meaning or parameters of “fake news”, but criminalises a wide array of speech online and offline. It is thus obvious that “fake news”, as defined by the Najib government, is a catch-all phrase to allow politicians to delegitimise any forms of criticism; businesses to slam dunk their complainants using state resources; and turn members of society against each other on potentially frivolous allegations of spreading allegedly false content.

The latter is the most worrying as the state has outsourced censorship to a range of private individuals and groups to act on its behalf, to defend, among others, narrow interpretations of Islam and Malay rights. The state is then presented as having a hands-off approach even though it gives tacit approval for many of these acts of political and social vigilantism. Which is why, even if Najib’s UMNO-led coalition wins a two-thirds majority in Parliament at GE14, Malaysians can expect the law to be applied actively after the elections.

That the law does not specify the context in which “fake news” can occur—for example, during elections, as proposed in France—means that its application will be wide, arbitrary, and disproportionate to the alleged offences. Citing the other jurisdictions in Europe as justification is irrelevant as Malaysia’s law was passed amidst an already restricted environment for free speech and the media. Besides, it’s not falsehoods that the government is worried about, or that it could harm ordinary citizens; it is the expose of abuse of power that it fears. Malaysian leaders are much like the authoritarian leaders across Asia who have found US President Donald J. Trump’s language of “fake news”—an accusation he directs to the media he doesn’t like—useful to justify their controls at home.

Independent media outlets and journalists in Malaysia, as well as social media users, can expect to be on the target list. They are already cornered at almost every turn with the CMA, the Sedition Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act, and the Defamation Act, just to name a few. Scenarios in which the media could be affected by the law include publishing developing stories (corruption, crisis, emergencies, political events) that rely on sources or witness accounts, and reportage based on information and data collected by think-tanks, academics or non-governmental organisations.

The mainstream, pro-government media, on the other hand, may be exempt from this as they continue to function as mouthpieces of the ruling party and have a stake in legal obstacles for smaller and less-resourced competitors. Since the 2008 elections, online platforms and social media in particular, have overtaken the mainstream licensed media as the primary sources of information. Many of the legacy media companies have acknowledged challenges posed by digital technologies on their business models, and have experienced serious financial losses and falling circulation over the years.

Of course, the media landscape is not defined in binaries, the good vs the bad, independent and otherwise. But to a large extent, the mainstream media has propped the government and has done little to remedy the loss of credibility it has suffered in the process. Even the BN set up its own news platform, The Rakyat, for the elections and its leaders have increased their presence on social media significantly since the 2008 defeat online, in order to reach out to younger Malaysians. It might just be that the BN has lost confidence in the mainstream media, which it controls, to deliver the votes it needs.

Even if the Anti-Fake News Law has yet to be operationalised, it is certain that “fake news” will be a feature of the elections. Leaders from all sides of the political divide are sure to frame their narratives in this language. Citizens and voters will have to navigate through the vast and complex web of information sources to find what is useful for them. And now that “fake news” has become a clear and present danger to society, BN’s online machinery and its cybertroopers will tap into that goldmine of public “confusion” to discredit its opponents.

Instead of legislating against so-called fake news, it would have been far better to promote public discussions about politics and governance, and encourage digital media literacy at various levels. With GE14, it is important that voters take the time to be more discerning of the information they receive. As most people are expected to share news and updates on social media including chat applications, it will be challenging to verify the sources of authenticity of the information. This can be a tall order as most people are likely to trust messages from friends or family members, especially if these affirm one’s pre-existing political positions.

This GE14 will not only be a social media “war”, it will also witness how far Malaysia’s politics will be able to cope with new forms of propaganda and misinformation.

Malaysia: Royalty has right to Freedom of Speech

April 11, 2018

Malaysia: Royalty has right to Freedom of Speech

By Karamjit

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HRH Crown Prince of Johor has character, integrity and moral courage to speak his mind. He is not a politician but he is a citizen of Malaysia with the right to freedom of speech.–Din Merican

The Crown Prince of Johor has voiced his concern regarding Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s vision of becoming the Prime Minister again. Unfortunately, the keyboard warriors supporting the opposition did not shy away from criticising his thoughts. Numerous opinions are popping up, with the message that the Royalty should stay away from politics.

In 2015, when Prime Minister Najib Razak did not attend the Nothing to Hide forum, the same Crown Prince voiced his dissatisfaction. That time, he was hailed as a super hero because his opinion did not favour Najib. It was perfectly fine then that the Royalty got involved in politics.

The Crown Prince was also hero-worshiped when he was involved in a spat with Nazri Aziz. In fact, pleas were made to the Royalty by opposition supporters to get involved in politics to remove Najib. However, when his views differ from those of the opposition cheerleaders, their voice changes as well.

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We saw the same thing when Mahathir uttered a disparaging word, “Keling” about the Indians. Perkasa’s Zulkifli Nordin was ridiculed prior to the last general election when he used the same word, and Najib was collaterally called a racist. However, suddenly the same word has become common and acceptable just because it comes from the opposition.

DAP’s P Ramasamy repeats himself endlessly, chiding MIC for the lack of opportunity for Indians. He puts the blame on MIC because of deeds by Samy Vellu. Although Samy has long retired from the political arena, he is still being used as an excuse for voters to abandon MIC.

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Young Indians deserve our attention, encouragement and support. There should be a “Marshall” Plan for their economic and social advancement. They have the  right to be educated and empowered –Din Merican

On the other hand, Ramasamy is campaigning for the man who destroyed Malaysia, especially the Indian community, to come back as Prime Minister. If MIC is to be abandoned because of their long-gone ex-leader, then Pakatan Harapan (PH) should be exiled with Mahathir at the helm.

Nurul Izzah Anwar’s response on tax exemption for rent collectors is perplexing. She says this would lead to a rush to purchase homes for rental, which would lead to an escalation in house prices. First of all, purchasing property is not like buying clothes at a sale where it could lead to a rush that affects pricing. Secondly, if the tax exemption is something that would increase the purchase of properties, wouldn’t that be a good thing?

On one hand, the opposition says the government is doing nothing to ensure that people have a roof over their heads. But when the government does something, they say people will rush to purchase homes, etc.

Mahathir has admitted on numerous occasions that he was unaware of many of the wrongdoings during his tenure as Prime Minister. Today, he says the government has no money and questions the mechanism by which the government will fund initiatives in its manifesto.

Mahathir has been out of Putrajaya for some time. How does he know what is happening in the government? Isn’t it ironic that when he was in office with access to all information, he did not know anything, but when he is out with no access, he knows everything?

The double standards overflowing from the opposition are astounding. Fortunately, the majority of voters are not cyber warriors. They have an intellectual cortex that can comprehend the true colours of PH. This will definitely be reflected on polling day.

Karamjit Gill is an FMT reader.


Myanmar’s Politicians are gloomy

August  9, 2013

Out of their league

After two years of civilian rule, Myanmar’s politicians are gloomy

The National League for Democracy is struggling to make its mark

Print edition | Asia

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Dr. Tin Tin Win (pic above) never imagined she would become a politician. In Taungoo, a midsized city in the Burmese plains, she is mostly known as a family doctor. But three years ago she was asked to run for parliament by the National League for Democracy (NLD), the political party led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the activist whose long campaign for democracy was instrumental in ending military rule in Myanmar. She enthusiastically answered the call, and won.

Today her mood has dampened. She sits through long, boring parliamentary sessions in Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s purpose-built capital. Sometimes she wonders what the point of it all is. She once sponsored a motion to introduce sex education in schools (she has seen too many desperate pregnant teenagers at her clinic). But her own party took it off the agenda without much explanation. Only halfway through her term, she has already decided that she will not run again in 2020.

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Portrait of  the late Hanthawaddy TU Win Tin,NLD Party Elder, (12 March 1930 – 21 April 2014) by Kenneth Wong

After he was released from prison in 2008, Hanthawaddy U Win Tin, Burma’s veteran journalist and political prisoner, received a visit from a policeman. The officer wanted something that, by protocol, the freed man should have left behind on the day he walked out of In Sein Jail — his blue prison shirt.  In his view, as long as the country was under the dictates of the 2008 Constitution, drafted and approved by the former military regime, true freedom still remained a farfetched dream. To show his solidarity with the political prisoners still behind bars, he continued to don his trademark blue shirt in all public appearances. 

March 30th marked two years since the army ceded power to the NLD. But it left in place a constitution that exempts it from civilian control, puts it in charge of internal security and grants it a quarter of seats in parliament, massively curtailing the new government’s authority. The constitution also deliberately bars Ms Suu Kyi from the presidency, as the parent of foreigners (her children are British citizens). Ms Suu Kyi has at least got around that: she is, in her own words, “above the president”. In late March the placeman she had installed in the presidency announced on Facebook that he was resigning to “take a rest”. Parliament promptly elected a new one, Win Myint, an NLD loyalist like his predecessor. Little will change as a result. Ms Suu Kyi remains firmly in charge.

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Some things have improved markedly since the NLD took office. Myanmar has jumped up Transparency International’s corruption index, a survey based on public perceptions. Citizens are also much freer to speak their minds than they used to be. But NLD politicians are novices who struggle to put ideas into practice. Some were first elected in 1990, but were never allowed to take their seats in parliament. Instead, the army put many of them in jail. While Ms Suu Kyi runs the country, a clique of these ageing former political prisoners runs the party. They are not running much. The NLD is more a fan club than a party articulating policies and training future leaders. As a party whip puts it, “NLD minus Aung San Suu Kyi equals nearly zero.”

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The Man in Blue with Aung San Suu Kyi

The new generation of MPs, elected in 2015, come from all walks of life: they are dentists, vets, journalists, teachers and entrepreneurs. They tend to be younger than their predecessors, and even though they admire Ms Suu Kyi, they are not as deferential as the old guard. They are energetic but disillusioned. “We want to catch elephants, but we can’t even catch ants,” sighs a freshly minted lawmaker. Like his colleague, Tin Tin Win, he will not run again. Anyone could do his job, he says.

The NLD is also cutting itself off from people with ideas. Foreign advisers are regarded with growing suspicion because of their complaints about Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority. Parliament is cooking up legislation to curb the activities of the UN and international NGOs. The NLD is even more hostile towards home-grown activists. The government has passed a law making it easier for police to ban protests. Mael Raynaud, a long-term observer of Burmese politics, notes that the NLD’s imprisoned leaders did not witness the blossoming of civil society in the 2000s thanks to a loosening up by the army and in response to a devastating cyclone. Years of repression also fostered paranoia, which has left the NLD prizing loyalty over competence.

The previous government, led by reformist generals, was hungry for legitimacy and hoped to redeem itself by instigating rapid change. The NLD has a mammoth popular mandate but doesn’t have a clear idea of what to do with it. Things were easier before, says Sandar Min, a long-term NLD member. “When we were fighting the military we had a clearly defined enemy. Now it’s not clear.”

This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the headline “Out of their league”


GE-14–Malaysia Goes to Game Changing Polls: Dr. Mahathir Mohamad Vs Incumbent Prime Minister

April 9, 2013

GE-14–Malaysia Goes to Game Changing Polls: Dr. Mahathir Mohamad Vs Incumbent Prime Minister

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Asia Sentinel has prepared a three-part package on Malaysia’s forthcoming election. For an in-depth profile of Najib Razak, see Najib Razak: A Kleptocrat Skilled at the Game. For an in-depth profile of Mahathir Mohamad, see Mahathir: Malaysia’s Prophet of Doom or Second Messiah?

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak took to television onApril 6 to announce he would dissolve parliament as of tomorrow, clearing the way for the country’s 14th general election. Although he has 60 days to call the election, the common wisdom is that it will be held as soon as possible, perhaps even within 10 days, in an effort to keep the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition on the back foot.

Although there is no reliable polling and the mainstream media, predicting a government victory, are wholly owned by pro-government parties and considered unreliable, political observers in Kuala Lumpur say the Barisan Nasional is running scared despite boasts that the ruling coalition would gain back its two-thirds majority in Parliament, which it lost in 2008.

If anything, the race is shaping up as a monumental skirmish between the embattled Najib and the 92-year-old former Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, who has been cris-crossing the country for months, campaigning to drive him and the United Malays National Organization, which leads the national coalition, from power.

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As an indication of Barisan uneasiness, the Registrar of Societies announced it has suspended Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, which Mahathir heads, and it is uncertain if the party can mount a legal or administrative challenge to participate within the 30 days for appeal. The party isn’t allowed to use its logo or participate in any party activity. With Mahathir at its helm, it was expected to play a crucial role in garnering rural Malay votes. It will instead campaign as part of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat, headed by jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

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Malaysia’s Ideal Civil Servant– Saya yang menurut perentah (I am yours obediently)

“The Registrar was already indicating they would suspend or deregister the party because they hadn’t submitted their annual accounts,” said a Malaysian political analyst with close ties to the ruling coalition, “but Mahathir maintains that under the law they weren’t required to because they haven’t been in existence for a year. Basically, the Registrar was acting on the bidding of Najib. We knew they would be suspended or deregistered.”

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Najib Razak’s Publicity Seeking Civil Servant, Tan Sri Irwan Serigar (right)

Image result for Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa
Chief Secretary to the Najib Razak’s Government Tan Sri Dr. Ali Hamsa


Given the loyalty of the courts and the administration to the ruling coalition, it seems unlikely that the party will be able to participate. Najib, said the analyst, “is running shit-scared because he knows if he loses, he goes to jail and his entire family will be wearing orange jumpsuits,” a reference to Malaysia’s prison garb.

The fact is that there is widespread disenchantment with the Barisan after years of spectacular scandals. The civil service is bloated by make-work jobs for thousands of ethnic Malays, Members of Parliament have been bribed by Najib to keep him at the Head of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), favored oligarchs are regularly awarded rent-seeking contracts at inflated costs, the courts are clearly in thrall to the government and protesting UMNO and government officials have been driven from power.

Economic issues break for the Opposition, with 72 percent of voters nationwide saying the rising cost of living, economic hardship, jobs and other related matters, remained their topmost concern in the most recent poll by Merdeka Centre. Some 29 percent of respondents said they didn’t possess a minimum of RM500 in savings for an emergency and 40 percent said they regularly delay paying utility and other bills.

 Although all news of it has been suspended domestically and outside news sources including Sarawak Report and Asia Sentinel have been blocked in Malaysia by the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, Najib and UMNO are caught in the coils of what is arguably Asia’s current biggest scandal, with US$4.5 billion having gone missing from 1Malaysia Development Bhd., a state-backed firm whose purpose was to invest government funds for income purposes.  US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose Justice Department officials have sequestered hundreds of millions of dollars of assets traced to Najib, his immediate family or close associates.

However, with only 10 days or so of campaigning, the odds are against the Opposition. Earlier this week the government rammed a bill through the Parliament in record time outlawing what it called “fake news” with penalties up to six years in prison and a fine of RM500,000 (US$129,000). The bill, whose definitions are imprecise at best, is aimed at Malaysia’s energetic social media scene, just about the last source of independent comment in the country. Facebook reaches 80.8 percent of the population, YouTube another 6.12 percent. A sizeable and energetic corps of bloggers – including Mahathir – regularly savages the government. The country’s most reliable independent news site, Malaysiakini, is said to be deeply worried by the legislation.

In addition, the government in March handed down a delineation exercise redistributing parliamentary districts that would seemingly make it nearly impossible for the opposition to win a majority, crowding as many as 150,000 opposition voters into some districts, while government-backed seats have as few as 4,000. Mahathir has exhorted Malays to go to the polls, saying participation of at least 85 percent will be necessary to overcome the gerrymandering.

The sedition, government secrets, printing and presses and security laws have been used to cow the opposition and keep them at bay. Anwar remains in prison on charges that are universally condemned by human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.  The country has fallen to 144th in global rankings by Reporters Without Borders in terms of press freedom.

In addition, Najib has skillfully played religious and ethnic issues in a country where racial tensions are never very far from the surface, splitting the rural-based fundamental Parti Islam se-Malaysia with an offer of legislation to allow shariah law in the party’s Kelantan base. That caused a major segment of the party to quit and form a new party that so far has gained little traction.

The common wisdom in Malaysia is that even with all of the drawbacks, antipathy towards the government and other negative forces, the Barisan probably will win a majority of parliamentary seats although not a majority of voters.

“It’s going to be very close,” the political analyst said. “The opposition say delineation affects them a little bit and that they may lose by a small majority as of last week. But at the same time, if public sentiment is totally against UMNO, who knows, they could come in by a whisker.”

That raises the question what Najib is likely to do. On May 13, 1969, when the Chinese-dominated opposition won the popular vote although the then-ruling alliance took a reduced number of seats in parliament, racial unrest led to a declaration of a state of national emergency amid Malay-Chinese racial violence that took an official 196 lives, although western diplomatic sources put the figure at more than 600, most of them Chinese.

Although racial tensions persist to today, that doesn’t imply that the situation could explode again, especially if Mahathir, long a champion of Malay superiority, is leading the Opposition.