FOCUS On POVERTY alleviation, not income creation for billionaires–Mahathir’s outdated policy prescriptions


January 16, 2019

FOCUS On POVERTY alleviation, not billionaires —Mahathir’s outdated policy prescriptions

by P. Gunasegaram

Image result for the malaysian maverick by barry wain

QUESTION TIME | When Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad sank low to say that wealth should be distributed equally among races, he indicated plainly that he has no solid plan to increase incomes and alleviate poverty for all Malays and Malaysians. His priorities are elsewhere.

Note that he talks about the distribution of wealth, not increasing incomes, which is more important because this is what will eventually result in a proper redistribution of wealth by valuing fairly everyone’s contribution  to wealth creation.

During his time as Prime Minister previously for a very long 22 years from 1981 to 2003 out of 46 years of independence at that time – nearly half the period of independence – he had plenty of opportunities, but squandered them.

He did not care for the common Malay, but was instead more focused on creating Malay billionaires overnight through the awarding of lucrative operations handled by the government or government companies previously, such as roads, power producers, telecommunications and others.

He depressed labour wages by bringing in millions of workers from Indonesia, and subsequently Bangladesh and the Philippines, to alter the religious balance in Sabah. A significant number of them became Malaysian citizens over the years, altering the overall racial and religious balance in the country.

By doing that he let his own race down, many of whom were workers and small entrepreneurs whose incomes were constrained by imported labour. Even now, Mahathir has not shown a great willingness to increase minimum wages, which will help many poor Malays and bumiputeras increase their incomes.

As Mahathir himself well knows, distribution is not an easy thing. Stakes held by others cannot be simply distributed, but they have to be sold, even if it is at depressed prices as it was under the New Economic Policy or NEP, when companies wanted to get listed.

Instant millionaires

There are not enough Malays rich enough to buy these stakes, but many of them in the Mahathir era and earlier, especially the connected elite, became rich by purchasing the 30 percent stakes for bumiputeras that had to be divested upon listing by taking bank loans.

By simply flipping the stakes on the market at a higher price after they were listed, they pocketed the difference and became instant millionaires.

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It was Mahathir’s brother-in-law – the straight, honest and capable Ismail Ali – who was the architect behind the setting up of Permodalan Nasional Bhd or PNB to hold in trust for bumiputera stakes in major companies. PNB now has funds of some RM280 billion and has been enormously successful in this respect.

But Mahathir, with advice from Daim Zainuddin who became his Finance Minister, still cultivated selected bumiputera leaders, many of them Daim’s cronies, and gave them plum deals. A slew of them who were terribly over-leveraged got into trouble during the 1997-1998 financial crisis.

The government, often through Khazanah Nasional Bhd, had to rescue some of the biggest ones, resulting in Khazanah holding key stakes in many companies such as Axiata, CIMB, PLUS and so on. Recently, the government has been talking about, not surprisingly, selling these stakes to investors, accusing Khazanah of not developing bumiputera entrepreneurship, which was not anywhere in its original aims.

It becomes more obvious what Mahathir is talking about. Redistribution of wealth now will come out of the selling of government (Khazanah) and PNB stakes to individual Malay entrepreneurs to equalise wealth distribution among the races. To make it more palatable, some willing Indian entrepreneurs, too, may be found.

The modus operandi will be to sell the stakes when prices are depressed and perhaps even to offer a bulk discount to these so-called entrepreneurs who, of course, will not only be among the elite, but who are cronies. That will ensure a steady flow of funds into Bersatu in future from donations to help make it the premier party in the Pakatan Harapan coalition.

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Mahathir knows full well that equal wealth distribution is impossible – it’s never been done anywhere before and makes wealth acquisition disproportionate to intelligent effort and hard work, a sure recipe for inefficiency, corruption and patronage. As eloquently argued by prominent political economy professor Terence Gomez, patronage is king in new Malaysia – if it was cash during Najib’s time.

Mahathir does not have the wherewithal to lead anymore, if he ever had it in the first place. Eight months after GE14, he is still bereft of a plan to increase incomes and improve livelihoods. He needs to recognise he does not have one and that he stays in power because of the strength of the other parties in the coalition.

Wrong direction

The only way to close the wealth gap is to increase future incomes across all races. Anything else is the expropriation of other people’s wealth. In the meantime, the holding of wealth in trust by state agencies is perfectly acceptable because the income comes back to the government.

This can be wisely used to improve the quality of education, get better quality investments, raise productivity and hence labour wages, and provide equal opportunities for growth and innovation among all communities. As so many people have said before me, you can equalise opportunities, but not outcomes.

So far, 61 years of UMNO-BN have not managed to equalise opportunities for all as the government education system is in shambles, among others. And eight months of Harapan is heading in the wrong direction under Mahathir.

Despite Bersatu being a party expressly formed to fight for Malay rights, Mahathir’s party had the lowest support from Malays of parties looking after Malay rights, including Umno, PAS, PKR and Amanah.

He is still stuck in a mode to widen his rather narrow and vulnerable power base (his Bersatu won only 13 seats of 52 contested, the worst win rate of any party in the coalition) unethically by attracting tarnished MPs from Umno into the Bersatu fold, in the process willing to break agreements with other coalition partners and doing/advocating things which are against the principles of a properly functioning democracy.

He has also said he will not honour some manifesto promises, saying that these were made when Harapan did not expect to win the elections – a rather lame excuse. He has not even made solid moves to undo repressive laws introduced by his predecessor Najib Abdul Razak.

Mahathir, obviously, has no intention plan to improve the livelihood of the common Malay and all Malaysians;  he is stuck in old-school forced distribution which is injurious to the economy, maybe even fatal in the long term.

 Malaysians don’t want the creation of Malay (or any other ) billionaires from government wealth.


Old wine in a new bottle is still sour. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com

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

 

 

Book Review: The Sustainable State: The Future of Government, Economy and Society


 

January 12, 2018

 

 

By: Cyril Pereira

Can planet Earth survive Asia’s economic drive?

 

The Sustainable State is Hong Kong-based environmentalist and author Chandran Nair’s second book, following Consumptionomics, published in 2011. Both call for urgent recognition of the looming ecological disaster for humanity. The book launch in Hong Kong’s trendy Lan Kwai Fong district on Nov. 13 was billed as a conversation between Nair, and Zoher Abdool Karim, the recently retired TIME Asia editor. Nair’s manifesto dominated. A bemused Zoher was the smiling prop. The audience could have gained more from meaningful interlocution.

Chandran Nair has been the town crier on environmental disaster for 20 years. He faults industrialization, capitalism, free enterprise and liberal economics, for destroying the ecosystems of rivers, forests, air and water on so vast a scale, that life itself is the price paid by the poorest across the developing world. Malnutrition, starvation, and lack of access to potable water, plagues many societies at subsistence level.

Resource curse

The developed world prospered from early industrialization to capture vast resources via conquest and colonization of Asia, Africa and Latin America, he writes. The poorest societies hold the richest deposits of minerals, fossil fuels and land for plantations of rubber, palm oil, tea and coffee. Pesticides and insecticides from Monsanto and others destroy their soils and ruin their water systems. They have also been too frequently run by kleptocrats.

What he calls the “externalities” of capitalist trade – environmental degradation, pollution, social dislocation, disease and malnutrition, impact the poorest disproportionately. Therein lies the supreme irony. Nair wants these externalities of economic activity priced and charged directly to corporations. He also wants individual accountability for wasteful consumption computed for carbon footprints and taxed to discourage waste.

Responsible development and consumer habits need to be enforced, if we are to survive our collective un-wisdom. How the corporations and individuals would agree to these principles, and the respective methods to calculate the amounts to pay, are undefined. Nair does not expect the culprits to volunteer. By the legal trick of defining corporations as ‘persons,’ companies can argue rights protecting individual citizens, under national Constitutions.

Migration to cities in Europe progressed over an extended period, without too much social disruption. Rural migration to cities in the developing economies is too rapid, within a compressed time-frame. Slum populations struggle without sanitation, proper housing, access to fresh water, electricity, or schooling for children, in too many cities across the developing world. This hollowing-out of rural populations is wasteful.

Rethink development

A whole new raft of public policies needs to evolve for ecological balance. Development plans to retain rural manpower and incentivize agricultural food security, are absent. Urban dwellers have to pay higher prices for natural produce, instead of buying packaged food in supermarkets. Efficient public transport systems have to be built to prevent city traffic gridlock. Electric vehicles have to replace fossil fuel engines.

Nair’s nightmare is the adoption by developing countries of the Western model for economic growth. India and China will constitute 30 percent of the global 10 billion by 2050. Add Africa, Latin America, and the rest of developing Asia to that, and the consequences of feckless industrialization, along with wasteful urban consumption, are too obvious. Nair advocates a radical overhaul of the development mindset.

Prescriptions from the developed world peddled by the World Bank and the IMF, in Nair’s mind, exceed Planet Earth’s healing capacity. Natural resource depletion and poisoning of the earth, water and air, must be stopped now. Hurricanes and typhoons destroying habitats and flooding societies, are increasing in frequency and ferocity. The consequences are all too real for climate change deniers.

Related image

Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea

The weight of floating plastic in the oceans will soon exceed that of the global fish stock. This poison has entered our food chain, killing us slowly while choking sea life. Human overpopulation, food cultivation and de-forestation, wipes out wildlife at the rate of 30,000 species per year, according to Harvard biologist E. O Wilson. Now our collective irresponsibility will kill the oceans too.

Prioritize social equity

If replicating the Western growth model is madness, what are the alternatives? Nair moves into contentious territory on this. He calls for strong government and a revised development agenda. Rather than Hollywood-movie lifestyles, he suggests inclusive policies for all citizens to ensure clean water, electricity, sanitation, universal education and gainful employment as minimal benchmarks. Modest prosperity benefits all.

Social equity, well-being and protection of nature cannot be achieved without political legitimacy and effective rulership. Governance has been hijacked by Big Biz and sponsor politicians. Lobby groups target lawmakers. PR companies spin fakery for corporations and politicians. The mass media is co-opted through advertising and ownership. All at the expense of gullible citizens, led to believe they have some say every five years.

Strong state works

Nair contrasts the dysfunctions of India with the success of China. He skates on thin ice where individual rights and freedoms can be ignored, for the collective good. He says only a “strong” state has the mass mobilization capacity to marshal people, resources and investment, for sustainable development. To Nair, Hong Kong is a weak state unable to address basic public housing. He jests that a boss imposed by Beijing can fix that.

The European Union is a strong authority able to mandate socially responsible policy across its constituent members. Britain and the US are weak states floundering for effective governance, polarized by divisive populist politics. Nair is less interested in ideologies of the Left or Right, than in the State as effective authority for the common good. He wants the institutions of good governance strengthened at every level.

Oddly, Nair dismisses world governance as the solution. The United Nations, overly compromised by funding dependency and too timid to upset powerful voting blocs, is not his answer. Where then will the needed global course-correction come from? The issues Nair raises are urgent. Are we doomed to self-destruct by default anyway? If he has an answer, Nair has not articulated it in his books, or his public campaigns. Perhaps there might be a third book for that.

Putting into context the myth of lazy natives


January 2, 2019

Putting into context the myth of lazy natives

ttps://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2018/12/31/putting-into-context-the-myth

Ethnic, religious and political groups in power have systematically used ideology as tools to subjugate the masses. Historically, colonial empires were skilled at this.

The Spanish, Portuguese, French and British colonial officers and scholars wrote about the backwardness, indolence and tardiness of the “natives”. It was their mantra, so to speak.

Currently, the US as a 21st century colonial power (some may dispute this) engages in such practices. For example, the ideology of terrorism and terrorists has been manipulated manifold.

The US does not spread notions of a lazy native though. Times have changed. They have zeroed in on the religiously-aggressive and the economically-manipulative “other”. This is to suit the American global economic agenda, beginning with the late Bush Sr.

It is obvious from the events in the Middle East, namely the demonisation of Iran, and the lack of a concrete solution to the Yemeni crisis. We need not even mention here the continued support for Israel’s state brutality towards the Palestinians.

Then we have the “hegemonic” behaviour of China, the “hidden agenda” of the Belt and Road Initiative, and the “Chinese threat”. Rising India has so far been spared, but I envisage a change in tune as we creep into the year 2019 and beyond.

Back home in Malaysia, the Pakatan Harapan government has gotten embroiled in an ideological debate. Notions of ideological oppression of the masses have resurfaced.

We are in a post-colonial era, but the colonial narrative lingers on. Is it necessary? Is it misplaced? Is it false?

It all began when a few Malay leaders decided that it was time for the Malays to buck up, to cease being “lazy”, to “catch up” with other communities and to be more “entrepreneurial” and hardworking like the Japanese. Mind you, these are Malay leaders appealing to the Malay masses. No question of racism or bigotry here.

Nevertheless, there have been visceral attacks and debates about the hidden agenda of the current leadership. Some chronology is needed here (because Malaysians easily forget).

In 1970, Dr Mahathir Mohamad published The Malay Dilemma. In June, 2002, we might recall Mahathir’s tearful resignation in the midst of the Umno general assembly. He announced he was resigning from all his party and government positions. He attributed his resignation to the failure of the Malays to change their mindset. He accused the Malays of basking in a culture of extravagance and taking the easy way out.

In January, 2018, speaking at his Vision 2020 Forum as chairman of PPBM, he said the Malays are “not so committed, not so hardworking and sometimes, not so trustworthy”.

He said the Japanese took pride in their work and had a strong sense of shame. But the Malays have hardly any sense of shame. He said, “even if they (the Malays) do bad work, it is okay (for them)”.

In September 2018, at the PPBM second anniversary celebration, Mahathir reiterated how the Malays are lazy and untrustworthy. However, he did say something different. He said the Malays “don’t pay attention before deciding to do something. We lack mastery of the knowledge and information needed to make good decisions”.

At the September 2018 Kongres Masa Depan Bumiputera dan Negara, Mahathir again spoke about the failure of his past 22 years to change the attitude of the Malays, towards work and success. He did get a loud applause, though, for saying that the government is not here to victimise the Malays.

In November 2018, Mahathir warned “Malaysians” (not Malays) that they would soon be overtaken by its poorer neighbours because Malaysians “expect handouts rather than work hard”. Mahathir gave the example of dependence on BR1M.

Most recently, in December 29, Mahathir said that the Malays have to change their value system in order to succeed. He said affirmative policies are not enough to make a successful Malay; Malays must change their mindset, their character.

There have been several backlashes over the years against Mahathir’s decades-long critique of the Malay attitude and the Malay mindset. Understandably so.

However, what is unacceptable is that the so-called intelligentsia or “learned” strata of Malaysian society has failed to calm the mood and pacify the discontented. Instead, they continue to take on the role as “government-bashers” and superficial politickers, apologetics and defenders.

Some, sadly, are just incapable of applying subtle analytical tools of which great scholars are credited for. There is a multitude of published material on ethnocentrism, bigotry, colonialism, imperialism and oppression.

Yet, our scholars have failed to contextualise the undercurrents. I must admit though there have been noble efforts to bridge the gap between rhetoric and reality, but till now, it has been a dismal failure.

A case in point is a recent forum held by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of the Malay World and Civilisation (Atma), entitled “Mitos Melayu Malas: Penilaian Semula Pemikiran Syed Hussein Alatas & Realiti Hari Ini”.

Four renowned scholars on the subject were invited as panelists. Together they made up an impressive pool of social anthropologists, historians, sociologists and philosophers of science. It was also moderated well, as was seen and heard from the introductory message.

An interesting introductory snippet (by the moderator) to the forum concerned the findings of a survey. The survey was conducted on social media. Questions were asked, such as whether the Malays are lazy or not, and whether the respondents had read Alatas’ book, The Myth of the Lazy Native: A Study of the Image of the Malays, Filipinos and Javanese from the 16th to the 20th Century and Its Function in the Ideology of Colonial Capitalism.

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A majority of respondents said they totally disagree that Malays are lazy. A majority of respondents said they read Alatas’ book. A majority of the respondents said they did not know why the book was written.

I found that the latter response was critical in that it had major implications for the purpose of the forum. It also had serious implications for the trajectory of our nation’s progress.

It was obvious that the important message of Alatas’ classic was not captured. And indeed, one of the panelists had trouble finding the book to begin with, not to mention that he admitted that he did not read it in its entirety. Equally surprising is that he is a representative of the Majlis Perundingan Melayu (MPM). One would think such an NGO would be abreast of a spectrum of publications directly relating to the struggle and cause of the Malays.

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Syed Hussein Alatas’ magnum was revered by the Columbia University’s towering intellectual Edward Said. Almost all who know of Alatas’ writings say he was “ahead of his time”. The Atma forum also recognised this.

The works of both Alatas and Edward Said have been widely misunderstood and misapplied, though.

In my write-up here, I wish to focus on the misapplication of Alatas’ work. It concerns the approach to understanding the Malays. To me, Mahathir understands them well. So did Syed Hussein Alatas.

Contrary to what many may think, his Myth of the Lazy Native is timeless, and very relevant today, despite our post-colonial polity. Currently, the many superficial analyses of his work has resulted in nauseating statements that “the Malays are really not lazy”.

Alatas’ analysis of the colonial suppression of the “natives” for their socio-economic agenda is relevant in today’s Malaysia. Also, Said’s orientalist discourse runs parallel to Alatas’ “lazy native”.

On the one hand, the orientalists (colonialists) accused their subjects of being lazy, stereotyped the country folk as indolent, refusing to work and their lack of contribution to the overall growth of the empire. This was justification for the imperial powers to subjugate the locals and take over “for the betterment of development”.

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On the other hand, Alatas’ definition of bebalisma (in his other book Intellectuals in Developing Societies) is akin to Mahathir’s untiring call for the Malays to work harder and be more competitive. The objective, though, is not one of subjugation. It is far from the colonial agenda. Both Mahathir and Alatas had their Malay objectives and welfare in mind.

Malaysian society should see Mahathir’s comments and Alatas’ scholarship for what they really are: an appeal to blast the Malays out of their insecure, interstellar realm, to spur them into a world where they can compete on equal footing, as entrepreneurs, scholars, decision-makers in government and grounded educators without the “malas”( Lazy) baggage.

Alatas may have dedicated an entire book (or two if one includes the book Intellectuals in Developing Societies) to how the Malays evolved as backward, but he also gave us the foundation on which to transform how the Malays should feel and think about themselves.

We should look at the Myth of the Lazy Native as an evergreen work that resonates today. The fact that Alatas analysed colonial Malaysia and the Malays as a reality and “myth” respectively, is empirical in nature.

Ideologically, though, the myth is really not a myth anymore. Before I am accused of misconstruing Alatas’ work or of falsely declaring that the Malays are indolent, let me explain.

First, I implore scholars and all thinking Malaysians to realise the relevance of Alatas’ works as well as the relevance of Mahathir’s criticisms. Alatas gave us the analytical tools to observe the backwardness in society.

Second, as scholars, we should be able to discern the underlying message, which is that exploitation is a function of the manipulative elite. This elite was the colonial power, as embodied in Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (founder of Singapore), the British Raj of the Indian subcontinent and the British East India Company of Southeast Asia. Alatas’ 1977 book was meant to open the minds of societies’ critiques; to be critical of accepted ideologies; to be brave and confident in expressing alternative views; to pay attention before deciding to do something; to master knowledge that is needed to make good decisions. Mahathir, although considered the “elite” is also calling for this transformation.

Third, the manipulation still exists in today’s Malaysia. We are not a colony, but definitely we are manipulated. The manipulation exists in the minds of a segment of the population who feel they need to be “helped”. This is not a cry for help by the minority.

As I recall, all of this was succinctly articulated by Mahathir over a span of many years. All these notions should have been captured by the Atma forum. Instead, I feel it was apologetic and defensive. This is not curative medication for an ailing nation.

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

A Momentous Merdeka Day in 2018


August 31, 2018

A Momentous Merdeka Day in 2018

by Steve Oh

Steve Oh’s Message to Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s 7th Prime Minister

Image result for Mahathir Mohamad and Shinzo Abe

“There is no independence in the true sense of the emancipation of a nation until the people are free to think, act and exist in a total state of freedom.

May God bless Malaysia still. May Mahathir live longer still and have the humility to walk with God and the people, act justly and have the wisdom of Solomon to govern the nation.

May the government carry out its duties with diligence, honesty, fairness and utter competence. Merdeka then is meaningful.”

COMMENT | Merdeka 2018 is momentous.

I hope for the sake of Malaysia, it will be the final time citizens celebrate their national day with the exhilaration of deliverance from an oppressive political yoke still fresh in their minds.

In 1957, the country was set free from British colonialists. There was a similar euphoria. But the fledgling nation, after deposing the affable first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, was recolonised by a new group of myopic local leaders led by Razak Hussein that included Mahathir Mohamad, Musa Hitam and other UMNO young Turks . The neocolonialists imposed upon the people a yoke heavier than the British yoke.

Fast forward to 2018, and the nation will reverberate once again with freedom and shouts of acclamation on August 31.

After May 13, 1969, she was hijacked and subjected to a lifetime of abuse. Race, closely accompanied by religion, constricted the nation. The nation still forged ahead economically but became tangled in draconian laws and discriminatory policies; was pitifully abused, serially raped and treacherously plundered. Polarisation of the people was purposely planned and executed.

It is treachery of the worst kind when a government led by Najib Razk betrays the trust of the people, divides and steals from them and tries to get away with deception, conspiracy and lies.

Preaching unity and the usual platitudes, it carried out an agenda of subversion, undermining the rule of law and brought the nation to the brink of economic and social disaster. The courts of power became the circuses of clowns, and like Nero the Roman emperor, fiddled away the nation’s future.

Many became cynical, others despondent, yet many never lost hope and worked for change. Still others prayed.

Then the “miracle” the people had worked and prayed for took place on May 9 this year. The nation was emancipated from the abusers, the rapists and the thieves. The treacherous king of kleptocrats now faces justice and the long arm of the law. Those who are culpable will be punished.

The blood spilled and lives taken of innocent victims will be vindicated. The masterminds of the much-publicised slayings of Altantuya Shaariibuu, Kevin Morais (photo) and Hussain Ahmad Najadi, among others, will face justice. The true kidnappers of Pastor Raymond Koh and others will be revealed.

Divine justice

Like many others in a religious Malaysia, I believe in God and the universal law of reaping what you sow. Nothing escapes the truth of time. In time, the truth will surface. And the guilty will be shamed. They will never evade divine justice.

God answers prayers still. For nearly 30 years, even in a faraway land, without fail when I water-hosed my potted plants, I asked God to destroy the evil that had gripped the nation. God answered. He has changed the course of history and saved Malaysia from certain ruin.

Many unsung heroes cried to God for deliverance and he heard their pleas. Often, over the years, I wrote in Malaysiakini of the “higher official who watches over the officials” and will intervene to achieve his purpose. I make no apology for my utter confidence in the God of Justice.

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A Good and Decent Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Badawi turned out to be considering the plunder of the Malaysian state under Najib Razak

Malaysia is a unique nation and deserves to succeed. Former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi hit the nail on the head when he lamented the nation’s “third-world mindset” despite its “first-class infrastructure”.

What will derail the nation is not the cessation of Chinese railway projects but the constricting ideas of the misguided. I’m glad there are “watchmen” – including women – over the country who sound the alarm against the extremists.

The danger of religion is that it can be abused to lead a nation down the slippery slope. To the credit of concerned Muslims like those in the G25 group, their voice of reason resounds through the corridors of power and the public arena.

When religion slices through the heart of a nation and splits it in two, when self-proclaimed defenders of faith become a threat to those they purport to protect, it is time for the state to act and rein in the bigots.

When my father died two years ago at 96, I did not shed a tear. Deep in my heart I know he lived a full life and, in faith, I shall see him again in the place I know. I miss him nearly every day.

Yet, three days ago, the tears welled in my eyes and I felt a tautness in my heart after watching a video I received through WhatsApp.

It was a social experiment organised by Media Prima that took place in the vicinity of Pavilion Shopping Centre in Kuala Lumpur. A giant elevated electronic screen positioned above the crowds came to life with the audible sounds of a talking man and stopped the passersby in their tracks. The presenter asked them some simple questions, one after another.

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“Who likes nasi lemak?” ‘Who has a close friend from another race?’ ‘Who knows how to sing the national anthem Negara-ku?’ They were asked to gather in a marked square if they answered in the affirmative. In the end, the square was filled with the biggest group of Malaysians of all races.

 

I saw in the video the heartfelt joy of diverse Malaysians – young men and women of different races and religions – unified in their love for their country. They were evidently overjoyed to share so many things in common despite their ethnic and religious differences. The only other time I saw a similar display of spontaneous kinship across race and religion was at the Bersih 5 rally.

Smouldering cinders

Successive governments, leaders, groups and individuals have harped about the uniqueness of Malaysia. Yet the nation still flounders and has yet to come to grips with the devil they know that threatens to derail the nation – the abuse of race and religion. Leaders have yet to act decisively and concretely against the perpetrators of the doctrines that divide, that destroys and that is against the spirit of national unity.

Malaysians know who the devil is that tears the nation apart. Their political sponsors have been sent packing from Putrajaya.

The fire has been put out. But the cinders are still smouldering, their smoke choking the nation and threatening to start bonfires here and there. The nation’s threat lingers and loiters at the corridors and closets of power.

The 1957 Merdeka freed the nation from a foreign yoke. The 2018 “Merdeka” freed the nation from the home-grown yoke.

Will a future “Merdeka” free the nation from the yoke of race and religion that constricts, divides and destroys the unity of the nation?

Believe it or not, the Pavilion event revealed the truth about Malaysia, that the diverse religions and races do co-exist in harmony despite the differences.

Rid the nation of the subversives – those who use race and religion as political weapons to gain the political ascendancy – and you end up with a Malaysia united, prosperous and peaceful.

It is time the new government be bold, be true and be honest in dealing the devil of disunity a fatal blow. Who will it be? Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Pakatan Harapan de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, or some eminent Malay leader?

The metamorphosis of Merdeka is a long journey. It is a historic event as much as an ongoing process. Getting out of jail is one thing, staying out of jail is another. Gaining independence is one thing, giving the people their independence is another.

There is no independence in the true sense of the emancipation of a nation until the people are free to think, act and exist in a total state of freedom.

May God bless Malaysia still. May Mahathir live longer still and have the humility to walk with God and the people, act justly and have the wisdom of Solomon to govern the nation.

May the government carry out its duties with diligence, honesty, fairness and utter competence. Merdeka then is meaningful.

Happy Merdeka 2018, Malaysia!


STEVE OH is the author of the novel “Tiger King of the Golden Jungle” and composer of the musical of the same title. He believes in good governance and morally upright leaders.

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

The Long and Winding Uncertain Journey for Pakatan Harapan (Hope Coalition)


August 20, 2018

The Long and Winding Uncertain Journey for Pakatan Harapan (Hope Coalition)

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Image result for The New Pakatan Government

The new government’s 100 days is now up. What was put out as 10 key reforms by Pakatan in a manifesto aimed at enticing voters is dominating the headlines. However these are still very early days to assess the progress made with the promises of

● easing the burden of the public

● reforming the nation’s administrative institutions and politics

● reshaping the nation’s economy in a fair and just manner

● reinstating the rights and status in Sabah and Sarawak

● building an inclusive and moderate Malaysia in the international arena.

By way of contrast it is useful to recall that Barisan Nasional with its theme of “With BN for a Greater Malaysia” had a 220 page manifesto with 364 pledges covering almost every single community and group – Felda settlers, women, youth, orang asli, the people of Sabah and Sarawak, the bottom 40% households, Chinese community and other non-Muslims. Possibly the only group that was not covered was that of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) currently in the public limelight and under fire.

The Challenge That Pakatan Faces

In evaluating the performance of the present government, it needs to be remembered too that Pakatan’s victory was against the odds. Most analysts – as well as Pakatan’s leaders – saw little hope of ending the continuation of Barisan rule in GE-14.

Since the first election in 1955, the Alliance and its BN successor have gradually tightened their power through a combination of constitutional and extra-constitutional measures, the deployment of an enormous patronage machine and the cooptation of the nation’s civil service in suppressing whatever opposition exists in the country. The ruling coalition has also effectively exploited racial and religious faultlines to maintain its hold on the Malay majority voting population.

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They are back as a tag team. Will they do it again with the politics of Race and Religion in the name of Ketuanan Melayu?

Lest we under-estimate the magnitude of the reform challenge, let it not be forgotten that most of the present crop of Pakatan’s current leadership have been among the active supporters of the indoctrination movement in its diverse manifestations. They have been responsible for the Malay psyche, which needs transformation if the new Malaysia is not to remain a mirage.–Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Not only was there little hope of an election upset but there was also a big question mark as to whether there could be a peaceful transition of government and power. Now that we have had both extraordinary outcomes – to paraphrase what Dr. Mahathir, the Prime Minister, recently described in Japan as the nation’s unique and lucky peaceful transition of power – we need to be realistic about the challenge that Pakatan faces.

This is because the missteps, wrong doings, abuses and transgressions engaged in by the BN government – some going back to the time of Dr. Mahathir’s first stint as Prime Minister – are so rampant and the ensuing damage to the country’s socio-economy and governance structures and race and religious relations so egregious that it will require more than a few years – perhaps a decade – of sweeping and far-reaching policy changes and reform to undo them.

High level corruption and economic excesses and crimes are currently a major preoccupation of the new government. However, it is perhaps among the easiest of the improprieties and legacy of the BN regime that the Pakatan government has to deal with and correct.

More resistant to remedying are the policies, programmes and mindsets which the country’s state apparatus and most institutions of government (educational, media, professional and socio-cultural organisations, religious bodies, etc.) have propagated to a largely captive audience.

As explained in a recent article by Fathol Zaman Bukhari, editor of Ipoh Echo

“The Malay psyche is not something difficult to fathom. It is the result of years of indoctrination (brainwashing) by a political party that is long on hopes but short on ideas. Fear mongering is UMNO’s forte because the party believes that Malays are under threat. That their religion and their sultans are being assailed and belittled by imaginary goblins and make-believe enemies …. Anyone other than a Malay and a Muslim is considered unworthy to assume any sensitive appointments, which are only reserved for Malays. But on hindsight it is the Malays who have let the nation and their own kind down. Najib Razak, Rosmah Mansor, Apandi Ali, Rahman Dahlan, Tajuddin Rahman, Khalid Abu Bakar, Jamal (Jamban) and all the obscenely-paid heads of government-linked companies are Malays. But this is of no consequence to a race that makes up over 60 percent of the nation’s population. They continue to feel threatened.”

It is this less easily definable, less financially quantifiable, but more ubiquitous, and ultimately more destructive and ruinous feature of nation-building directed and manipulated by the previous leadership for the last 60 years, that needs to be contended with and purged of its toxic ethno-religious content if the new Malaysia is to have any chance of succeeding.

Lest we under-estimate the magnitude of the reform challenge, let it not be forgotten that most of the present crop of Pakatan’s current leadership have been among the active supporters of the indoctrination movement in its diverse manifestations. They have been responsible for the Malay psyche, which needs transformation if the new Malaysia is not to remain a mirage.

 

The Diplomatic Big Bang


June 16, 2018

The Diplomatic Big Bang

by Ahmed Charai

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/12515/diplomatic-big-bang

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Clinton, Albright, Kissinger, Kerry, Baker and Powell–Past Secretaries of State

Diplomacy is changing before our eyes.

“The unspoken objective is to constrain the U.S., and to transfer authority from national governments to international bodies. The specifics of each case differ, but the common theme is diminished American sovereignty, submitting the United States to authorities that ignore, outvote or frustrate its priorities…. By reasserting their sovereignty, the British are in the process of escaping, among other things, the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights.” — Ambassador John R. Bolton, Wall Street Journal, March 7, 2017.

The Singapore summit is indeed historic. First, it is so because just a few weeks ago we were closer to a nuclear war than to even the semblance of a peace process. The way we got here is surprising, because it did not obey the usual rules.Image result for The Singapore Summit at Sentosa

A few days ago, during the G7 summit held in Canada, US President Donald Trump upheld his decisions on tariffs and his positions on the trade deficit. These stances followed his decision to pull out of the Paris climate change agreement and the Iranian “nuclear deal”. It is clear that the new US administration challenged the alliances inherited from the Cold War. President Trump, a businessman, not a politician — one of the reasons he was elected — is asking America’s trading partners just to have “free, fair and reciprocal” agreements. It is probably not all that unusual to feel affronted when asked for money or to regard the person asking for it as mercenary or adversarial. It does not always mean that this feeling is justified.

Pictured: Donald Trump and other heads of state deliberate at the G7 summit on June 9, 2018 in Charlevoix, Canada. (Photo by Jesco Denzel /Bundesregierung via Getty Images)

In short, President Trump’s arguments, which sound like a leitmotif, go back to the economic aspect of things. NATO? Why should it be normal that, in order to defend Europe, the American taxpayer pays the heaviest part. Free trade? Why should America suffer a trade deficit with so many countries? Climate change? The results of the Paris Climate Change conference, COP 21, were apparently not only costly but questionable, and to critics, looked like a list of unenforceable promises that would not have come due until 2030 — if ever.

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A new paradigm is shaping up on the international scene: This is the first time that the US domestic policy is to prevail over its so-called “strategic” role — sometimes possibly to the detriment of allies.

Ambassador John R. Bolton, before he was appointed National Security Advisor, rejected any external constraints or supranational authority — starting with the WTO’s trade dispute body, the Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU):

“The unspoken objective is to constrain the U.S., and to transfer authority from national governments to international bodies. The specifics of each case differ, but the common theme is diminished American sovereignty, submitting the United States to authorities that ignore, outvote or frustrate its priorities…. While many European Union governments seem predisposed to relinquish sovereignty, there is scant hint of similar enthusiasm in America…. By reasserting their sovereignty, the British are in the process of escaping, among other things, the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights.”

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America’s Walras John Bolton–The Trade Wracking Ball

Unfortunately, Europe is the first to suffer from this new reality. But is the European Union able to stage a showdown? Probably not. The populist wave flooding the EU countries is primarily the result of the social impacts of the fiscal policy imposed by Germany. While the US has an unemployment rate effectively past full employment, the rather sluggish growth in Europe produces a near-zero effect on this indicator. With 27 members, and because of the rule of “one country one vote,” as well as a possibly outdated view of how to incentivize growth and finance pensions, Europe has been slowing down even the possibility any development on issues such as immigration or common defense. Europe is shattered, all the more that there does not seem to be any solution on the horizon.

The group called the European Union does not weigh much against the forced march of Donald Trump. The US President only believes in bilateral agreements when it comes to international relations. The use of the principle of ex-territoriality, or diplomatic immunity, has taken the agreement with Iran out of the equation. The big French and German companies have already withdrawn from it.

Diplomacy is changing before our eyes. “The Western camp,” it seems, is becoming nothing more than a specter that does not rest on any on-the-ground reality.

Inevitably, each power will have to adapt, according to its own interests. As Europeans continue to cast their votes, these adjustments may, in turn, feed current divisions even more.

Ahmed Charai is a Moroccan publisher. He is on the board of directors for the Atlantic Council, an international counselor of the Center for a Strategic and International Studies, and a member of the Advisory Board of The Center for the National Interest in Washington and Advisory Board of Gatestone Institute in New York.

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