A Plague on both your houses, ex-UMNO man tells Dr M and Anwar


September 22, 2018

A Plague on both your houses, ex-UMNO man tells Dr M and Anwar

A former UMNO MP has urged moderate parliamentarians from the party not to take sides between Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim, but to remain as an independent and progressive bloc.

Image result for malay students in madrasa

“Penerapan nilai-nilai Islam” or Malay Decadence?

Speaking to FMT, Tawfik Ismail said Mahathir and Anwar started Malaysia on the path to ultra-conservative Islamisation in the 1980s, with the then-Prime Minister establishing the powerful JAKIM and Anwar pushing his idea of “Penerapan nilai-nilai Islam” in the government.

Given the seemingly directionless and weakened state of their former party UMNO after the May 9 polls, he added, both Mahathir’s PPBM and Anwar’s PKR were now waiting with bated breath.

Image result for tawfik ismail

“A plague on both your houses I say,” said the former Sungai Benut MP, taking a line from William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”.

“I’m cynical of UMNO, PPBM and PKR because they’re all fragments of UMNO Baru, which was unrecognisable from the original UMNO.

“People say UMNO is dying, (but) that’s not accurate because UMNO already died in 1987 when it was declared illegal along with its noble ideals.”

Image result for anwar and mahathir

They forgot that they started the rot but I  don’t–Din Merican

Tawfik said because UMNO Baru was now “dead”, he believed many of its leaders wouldn’t hesitate to ditch the party and join either PPBM or PKR to secure their personal interests.

“At the end of the day, if this happens, will we really see a different Malaysia?At least where ultraconservative Islamisation is concerned, I have to say no because neither PPBM nor PKR seems to really want to kill what Mahathir and Anwar created.”

He said the “ex-UMNO Baru” bunch in PKR and PPBM seemed reluctant to appear “unIslamic”, whether in addressing the issue of child marriages, deinstitutionalising religion or pushing for change where religious matters were concerned.

“The religious agenda continues to be driven by the very same people who made it more important than it should have been. It’s both lawmakers and civil servants.”

He said moderates like Mustapa Mohamed and Anifah Aman, who left UMNO earlier this week, would find real change impossible if they had to join either Mahathir or Anwar.

“There’s going to be a lot of uncertainty in Malay politics at this rate but rather than take sides, like warring camps in UMNO did in 1987, why don’t the moderates in Umno form a non-aligned, progressive and moderate bloc on their own?

“If you take sides, it will just be a return to the ways of UMNO Baru. The likes of Mustapa, Anifah and Khairy Jamaluddin don’t have to side with others. If they remain moderate, they can draw moderates not just from UMNO Baru, but from those outside of UMNO Baru, including non-Malays.”

He said there were bound to be moderates in PKR and PPBM, just as there were radicals in the two Pakatan Harapan parties and UMNO Baru.

He added that forming a moderate bloc, aligned to neither PPBM nor PKR, would keep the two parties from going down the path of race and religion while helping them stay true to the spirit and ideology of the original UMNO.

Shifting Alliances in the Corridors of Power


September 21, 2018

Opinion

Shifting Alliances in the Corridors of Power

 

The Pathetic Inheritors of the Corrupt UMNO Najib Legacy

COMMENT | Former minister Nazri Abdul Aziz is now brazenly saying out in the open that UMNO’s best-case scenario for future prospects is to support and team up with Anwar Ibrahim.

More than any party here by far, UMNO is a collection of fat cats.They reached their heights of obesity and opulence by sitting in the free-ride comforts of a government they never imagined losing control of.

Quite simply, almost all UMNO leaders have absolutely none of the integrity, experience, gumption, skill, drive, motivation, diligence, intelligence, passion, know-how, fibre, endurance (you get the idea) or interest really, required for being an effective or successful politician outside of the federal government.

All the UMNO fat cats really want is a shortcut that will take them from the cold rain, in which they now shiver and starve, back into the warm government mansion they grew up in, to purr and preen in comfort amidst their never-ending gravy train.

The path Nazri seems to be advocating offers exactly that, and all they apparently have to do is to create enough friction between Bersatu and PKR, and make sure that Anwar becomes the prime minister.

As detailed in Part 1 of this article, Anwar could conceivably then dump Bersatu in favour of UMNO – especially if he starts to feel that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed may renege on his promise to hand over power.

Mahathir could of course react by calling for early elections. Perhaps it was in anticipation of such a scenario that Anwar started courting good relationships with the Malay rulers very early on, as a refusal by the palace to dissolve Parliament could complicate matters.

Mahathir taking pre-emptive measures?

Image result for master yoda mahathir mohamad

Needless to say, Mahathir is far too intelligent to let such an outflanking manoeuvre happen without a response, and calling for early elections is likely a last resort rather than the first line of defence.

I think this is the context of UMNO’s recent resignations – the post-Port Dickson timing of which could be no coincidence at all.

Not every UMNO person buys Nazri’s plan. Indeed, while most of the party members do favour the fat-cat shortcut back to power, there appears to be considerable differences of opinion as to which shortcut in particular is best.

The three main schools of thought seem to be: through PKR, through PAS, or through Bersatu.

Nazri is probably correct in pointing out that going through PAS makes pretty much no numerical or ideological sense whatsoever.

Image result for Musthapha Mohamad and Anifah Aman

Perhaps the likes of Mustapa Mohamed and Anifah Aman(pic, above) are leaning towards the Bersatu route.

This is an interesting response. If there is a sufficiently large migration from UMNO to Bersatu, this could basically make Bersatu the new UMNO in terms of their position in the coalition – a big, Malay party that everyone agrees will nominate the PM.

Splitting UMNO could also neutralise any effort by Anwar to use UMNO as a threat against Bersatu.

If large numbers of UMNO MPs join Bersatu, then the UMNO support may no longer be the same bargaining chip it currently is.

Then again, for all an outsider like me knows, Mustapa and Anifah could be the ones looking to join PKR.

Either way, those who have left clearly do not have faith in UMNO as a bloc, and appear to be seeking their futures elsewhere.

Two out of three

In summary, in this bizarre love triangle between Bersatu, PKR, and UMNO, almost any two-out-of-three combination essentially produces a workable win.

There are a number of other factors, and/or radical possibilities.

DAP will obviously play a big role, while PAS, PBB, Amanah, and Warisan will play slightly smaller ones. Then there is the Azmin Ali factor.

Only while writing this article did the scenario occur to me: Especially if Azmin loses the PKR Deputy President’s race, what’s to stop him from defecting over to Bersatu?

This solves a number of different problems for both Bersatu and Azmin.

If the PKR elections go on in its current trajectory, the bad blood between team Azmin and team Anwar may be irreconcilable, and Azmin’s position within PKR may no longer be tenable.

Azmin moving to Bersatu would give the party a more viable succession plan with regards to subsequent PMs (a Goh Chok Tong to Mukhriz Mahathir’s Lee Hsien Loong perhaps?), and the numbers that could follow Azmin would also, again, help with Bersatu’s low-in-parliamentary-seats problem.

An exodus from PKR to Bersatu would be even bigger if Bersatu goes multiracial – further reducing the role or need for a party like PKR.

These battle lines are perhaps already visible in the copious amount of columns, blog posts, and viral Whatsapp messages that are either very strongly pro- or anti-Anwar, suggesting a consolidated and coordinated effort.

The race factor

Needless to say, all of this is speculation – and a somewhat sensationalist one at that.

For all I know, we could see a smooth transition to Anwar becoming the next PM, a stable rota system put in place to determine future prime ministers, and Harapan continuing just the way it is, happy as a clam.

Or, it could all be unrecognisable inside a year. It’s hard to say.

All these seismic shifts are potentially possible in large part because ideology has almost never played a big role in modern Malaysian politics.

The only vital and somewhat ideological question is how much of a factor race should be in Malaysian politics. This may come into play, say if Umno MPs need to decide which new party they want to support.

Perhaps some see maintaining Malay supremacy as the priority, a goal which can only be achieved by supporting Bersatu or PAS, while others may prefer the PKR route.

Other than that, Malaysian politics can likely be said to be dominated more by personality politics than anything else. It often comes down to which feudal lord one likes better.

Transforming incentive structures

Of course, just because this is the way it is, doesn’t mean that this is the way it always needs to be. Changing the incentive structures and the architecture of our political system could largely eliminate the need for many of the conflicts above.

One radical way to drastically cut back on inter-party conflict (such as Bersatu and PKR fighting over long-term stewardship of the PM’s post), is simply for all Harapan parties to merge.

Many would cite mind-boggling logistical difficulties (true, no doubt), and extreme resistance to the idea by conservatives.

If we think about it though, what function does having multiple parties in the coalition actually serve?

The old BN model was simple, for the peninsular at least. We have one party for one race. If you are Malay and have a problem, go see UMNO; Chinese, look for MCA; Indian, MIC.

It was devilishly simple in its concept, but simply devilish in the divided Malaysia it eventually created.

What about the realities of today? Do we want to follow the old formula? Malays see Bersatu, Chinese see DAP, and Indians can see the new Malaysia Advancement Party?

A merged party will still have leaders and elected representatives from every community that voters will likely find approachable.

True, little Napoleons will perhaps find themselves with less power, but wouldn’t that be a good thing?

It’s a bold idea that is unlikely to see the light of day, but regardless, I do hope we keep looking to radical solutions to blaze paths forward and leave behind the endless internal politicking that takes up far too much time and energy of Malaysian politicians.

After all, all the intrigue and speculation is somewhat entertaining, but don’t we have a new Malaysia to govern?

YESTERDAY: Future PMs: Many possibilities within Bersatu, PKR and Umno triangle


NATHANIEL TAN is eager to serve.

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

Malay anxiety, exclusion, and national unity


September 21,2018

Malay anxiety, exclusion, and national unity

A fragmented Malay society is making ‘Malay unity’ more urgent for those defeated by GE-14.

Image result for Rais Yatim

 

New regimes, old policies and a bumiputera reboot


September 20, 2018

New regimes, old policies and a bumiputera reboot

by Dr. Hwok-Aun Lee

http://www.newmandala.org/new-regimes-old-policies-bumiputera-reboot/

Image result for Hwok Aun-Lee

Dr. Hwok-Aun Lee is Senior Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Singapore, with the Malaysian Studies and Regional Economic Studies programmes, Hwok- Aun has researched and published widely on affirmative action in Malaysia and South Africa. He was previously head of Development Studies, Faculty of Economics at University of Malaya.

Malaysia’s incipient Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, inheriting the country’s financial debacles and its extensive and complex ethnic policies, negotiates a three-cornered tussle.

Image result for pakatan harapan government

As a first order of business, it must clear a fiscal morass and deliver on election promises of integrity, transparency, and prudence. The government also strives to accommodate the interests of constituencies it won by a landslide, which brings various non-Malay concerns to the fore.

At the same time, PH seeks to allay anxieties of substantial segments of the Malay electorate that remain wary of the new dispensation, and perceived loss of privileges and sureties. This is a difficult balancing act, demanding delicate transitions and bold new mindsets.

Thus far, we see firm action on fiscal discipline, and familiar electoral overtures and concessions. But old mindsets endure. Their prevalence, exhibited in the open tender and ethnic reservation policies in public procurement, and in ethnic allocations in higher education, will hinder PH’s capacity to make headway in promoting Bumiputera capability and competitiveness, which are prerequisites for systematically rolling back ethnic preference.

New government, old policies?

Ten years apart, Lim Guan Eng (the Democratic Action Party chief) gave starkly similar policy assurances to Malay contractors – from vastly different positions. The first episode occurred in April 2008 when Lim was catapulted to high office following the 12th General Elections (GE12). As Penang Chief Minister, he assured Malay contractors that his administration’s open tender policy would not sideline them. While announcing the policy a few weeks prior, he justified it as a means to arrest the New Economic Policy’s (NEP) cronyism, corruption, and inefficiency. His words stoked anxiety and ire among some Malay groups. UMNO, hegemon of the Barisan Nasional (BN) federal government, capitalised on these sentiments to foment fiery public protests against Lim. Over 10 years, open tenders were implemented in Penang for larger contracts, while the smallest category was reserved for Malay contractors, in line with BN-prescribed federal policy.

The second episode passed in June 2018. Freshly appointed Malaysian Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng affirmed an open tender policy for federal public procurement – backed by the PH’s groundbreaking occupation of Putrajaya. And yet, swift on the heels of this pronouncement, he again declared that the government would not sideline Malay contractors. He even appended a befuddling note that “open tender” means open to all Malay contractors (with more competitive selection). Malay contractors hadn’t protested in the streets, although they had met with the Council of Eminent Persons just two weeks after GE14. Perhaps they were given enough assurances to preempt public dissent, but Lim also strenuously avoided upsetting the status quo.

Hence, we see no indication that public procurement procedures may be enhanced and invigorated. Open tenders for medium and large contracts – where non-Bumiputera companies more actively participate – satisfy some electoral constituencies; continual reservation of small contracts for Bumiputera firms satisfies others.

This is unfortunate, because Malaysia cannot fulfill the ultimate goal of rolling back ethnic preferential policies – professed by both the PH and BN coalitions for the past decade – unless the country clarifies, enhances, and broadens the ways it develops Malay capability and competitiveness.

Public procurement has distributed enormous largesse over many decades, but has fallen far short of its goal of grooming Malay enterprise. To be sure, the policy has in the past been vitiated by UMNO patronage and ‘Ali-Baba’ arrangements where a politically connected UMNO fixer secures the deal and subcontracts the work – typically to a Chinese company. These fronting practices have been tackled in recent years, and the new administration shows added resolve to cleanse and depoliticise the system. But it remains unclear about how it will leverage government contracting for broader developmental objectives.

The current state of the sector, with a handful of dynamic large-scale Malay contractors and overwhelming concentration of protected, static small-scale contractors, may well be perpetuated. Three-quarters of Bumiputera contractors are classified as G1, the smallest of seven tiers needing paid-up capital of only RM5,000-10,000 (A$1690-3380), and almost all remain there. In 2011, less than 0.2% of them graduated to G2 or G3. G1 contractors must be 100% Bumiputera owned and qualify for contracts worth RM200,000 (A$67,581) or less, which are allocated via balloting, not tendering. Given these conditions, who would want to move up? The flip side of “not sidelining Bumiputera contractors” is not doing much at all to facilitate expansion, innovation, and competitiveness.

A similar scenario has played out in the higher education sphere. Matriculation colleges offer a faster track to enter university, and since their rapid expansion from the late 1990s, have been the predominant pre-university option for Bumiputera students. Matriculation programmes were originally fully reserved for Bumiputeras, but since 2003 they have applied a 10% non-Bumiputera quota.

The quota balance, and occasional special allocations, epitomise Malaysia’s political bargain, where size of the ethnic slice preoccupies policy considerations, much more than the efficacy and equitability of the intervention. Pre-GE14, BN promised 700 places in matriculation colleges to Indian students. Post-GE14, PH announced an extra allocation of 1,000 spaces to Chinese students from B40 households (the bottom 40%, based on household income). The addition of socioeconomic criteria marks a progressive step, but simultaneously raises questions over its selective application to one ethnic group. Facilitating more entry of disadvantaged students into higher education should be high on the agenda of a government declaring priority in expanding need-based policies.

Understandably, the programme must remain accessible to Bumiputera students. PH is studiously aware that it has not won over the majority of the Malay electorate; analysis of GE14 results show the community’s vote roughly split 35-40% for BN, 25-30% for PH , 30-33% for PAS. PAS has also heightened the volume and fervour of its Malay “privileges” advocacy, alongside its Islamist raison d’etre. Education Minister Maszlee Malik reiterated that the additional 1,000 matriculation spaces for B40 Chinese would not reduce the spaces for Bumiputeras. So matriculation colleges will remain predominantly reserved for Bumiputeras, perhaps with continual allotments to particular groups.

However, allocating more quotas for other groups lowers the academic bar for more beneficiaries. It continues to set back Bumiputera capability development, due to the deficiencies of the matriculation programme. Studies have shown that matriculation graduates fare poorer than STPM (Malaysia’s A-levels equivalent) graduates upon entry to university. Education disparities are deeply rooted. Advantage and disadvantage overlap with various factors, including ethnicity and geography, and can start from the pre-school stage, setting students on diverging academic trajectories. While matriculation colleges cannot be expected to close the achievement gaps they can arguably play a more meaningful and effective role in narrowing them. To Malaysia’s ultimate detriment, the content and rigour of the matriculation programme are never brought to the table.

Interestingly, Maszlee has mooted the notion of a single pre-university system, which entails merging the STPM, matriculation, and a host of other university entry channels. It’s a worthwhile consideration, but it does not seem possible until the average ethnic achievement gaps are narrowed, which in turn looks improbable unless the matriculation colleges are revamped.

Basic reset

Racial quotas and reservations remain because their removal risks alienating the beneficiaries. Surveys consistently show a substantial majority of Malays favour the continuation of preferential policies.

Despite bi-partisan rhetoric since 2010, of shifting away from race-based affirmative action to need-based affirmative action, the vast bulk of Bumiputera preferential programmes have remained untouched, from matriculation and contracting quotas mentioned above, to microfinance, technical training, business loans, scholarships and asset ownership schemes. The vast programmes deliver benefits, and embed expectations of continued special treatment.

Mindful of these realities and sentiments, both PH and BN governments underscored their support for the Bumiputera agenda before and after GE14. PH typically highlights the worst abuses of the system, involving UMNO patronage and utilisation of state-disbursed opportunity for private gratification. Cleansing UMNO-linked rapacity from the system addresses one problem – undoubtedly, a big problem – but omits the much wider interventions that reach out to ordinary Bumiputeras. This mindset neglects to pay critical attention to the manifold, massive programmes that serve Bumiputera masses. The sedentary and muddled state of Bumiputera policy warrants a basic reset.

The Future of Bumiputeras and the Nation Congress of September 1,  2018, organised by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, necessarily affirmed the Bumiputera agenda while sharply critiquing abuses and shortfalls of the UMNO-administered system, and exhorting Malay business to change mindset. However, the event offered few specific propositions, and omitted distinctions between higher education, enterprise development, employment, and wealth ownership policies.

How should the PH government proceed? First, by anchoring Bumiputera policies on the fundamental objective of broadly developing capability and competitiveness, and the prime missions of equipping and empowering the community to graduate out of receiving special assistance, toward rolling back the existing system of ethnic preference. Second, by recognising that Bumiputera policies operate differently in the specific sectors where they are embedded – higher education, high-level occupations, enterprise development, wealth and property ownership – which demands sector-specific reforms.

Third, by systematically integrating ways to reinforce needs-based and merit-based selection into the policy regime. Two main applications arise: the policy regime should expand the scope for needs-based selection, where appropriate, to target the disadvantaged and to impose sunset clauses and limits on those who have benefited. In some but not all policy sectors, need-based schemes can feasibly replace race-based schemes. The regime should also expand the scope for merit-based selection to select Bumiputera beneficiaries with capability and potential to showcase success and achieve competitiveness – as pathway to rolling back preferences.

The government contracting and matriculation college cases are illustrative, but of course the principles can be applied more broadly.

One of the barriers to reform seems to be the fear of introducing changes that may reduce access enjoyed by erstwhile beneficiaries. On this note, there may well be a window of opportunity to reconfigure public procurement, with contractors also expressing discontent at being marginalised by UMNO-linked “cronies”. Additionally, there is a broad acceptance of the need for the system to foster competitiveness.

In this light, some possible reforms – for small to medium scale projects – include:

  • Incentives for partnerships and consortia to bid for larger contracts (e.g. set aside some G4 contracts for G2 and G3 to jointly pursue)
  • Points for moving up a tier (e.g. award points for a G1 contractor who moves up to G2, applicable for the first 2-3 years after that move)
  • Sunset clauses that limit the number of contracts or time periods one can receive preferential treatment (e.g. 3 contracts, or 6 years)
  • Measures to address the funding constraints that Bumiputera contractors repeatedly identify as their main hurdle to growth.

None of these measures will disrupt contract availability in the near term, but in combination, apply pressures and incentives to upscale and graduate out of preferential treatment. The emphasis must be on learning and acquiring capability. An additional point on “needs-based” policies should be emphasised. In public procurement, and enterprise development programmes in general, the proper application of the principle runs counter to the popular notion of helping the poor. When it comes to delivering on government contracts or building competitive firms, one cannot give priority to the poor, which may adversely allocate opportunities to less capable firms, or perversely incentivise firms to remain low-earning and static. Rather than qualify poorer firms to receive special treatment, the “need” principle can apply conversely – that is, to disqualify firms that have received special treatment after reaching certain limits or sunset clauses.

In the matriculation system, and for promoting Bumiputera participation in higher education more generally, whether through pre-university programmes, university admissions, or scholarships and financial aid, there is broader scope to reach out to the disadvantaged. It is justifiable for youths from disadvantaged backgrounds to be granted preference based on those circumstances – which are not of their choosing. This intervention, occurring at the pre-adult stage of life, also potentially facilitates inter-generational upward mobility, providing further basis for preferential treatment based on “need” or “class”.

Opponents of racism in Malaysia need to understand that proponents of racial politics do believe in race—and only by understanding the appeal of racial thinking can racism be defeated.

Along these lines, Malaysia can explore ways to phase in more preferential entry for disadvantaged students into matriculation colleges, and concomitantly roll back the 90% Bumiputera quota. However, the ultimate goal of building Bumiputera capacity and competitiveness still applies. Hence, academic rigour and quality of training, as well as talent, are vital. Matriculation programmes, in particular, should look into revamping the syllabus, and Bumiputera academic achievement broadly must be overseen such that the system produces graduates who are capable and confident.

Will current levels of caution and placation on Bumiputera policies persist into the future, or will the PH government seize the opportunity to reform the pro-Bumiputera policy regime? Will it remain fearful of being accused of sidelining Malays, or will it venture forth to make Malays more capable and competitive?

Early in the post-election season, we do expect PH to pluck the low-hanging fruit of cleaning up their predecessor’s mess. But the government should not tarry too long before devising long-term strategies beyond electoral overtures and concessions. Time will tell whether PH embraces or squanders the opportunities presented by Malaysia’s monumental GE-14.

References:

 

“Lim’s remarks spark protest”, The Star, 15 March 2008 (https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2008/03/15/lims-remarks-spark-protest/)

“Guan Eng prepared to face any action against him on NEP statement”, The Sun, 1 April 2008 (http://www.thesundaily.my/node/167260)

‘It was Umno, not Harapan, who oppressed Malays’ Malaysiakini, 18 July 2018 https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/434840

“Open tender system will not sideline Bumiputera contractors: Guan Eng”, The Sun, 4 June 2018 (http://www.thesundaily.my/news/2018/06/04/open-tender-system-will-not-sideline-bumiputera-contractors-guan-eng)

“Govt guarantees help for bumiputera contractors”, Bernama, 24 May 2018 (http://www.bernama.com/en/news.php?id=1466579)

“Prepare to compete, Daim tells Malay contractors”, The Malaysian Insight, 24 May 2018 (https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/50013)

“Bumiputera contractors told to prove their worth”, New Straits Times, 8 July 2018 (https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2018/07/388774/bumiputera-contractors-told-prove-their-worth)

“Open tender system for government projects – Baru”, Bernama, 7 July 2018 (http://www.bernama.com/en/general/news.php?id=1478212)

“Bumiputera Empowerment Agenda helped contractors be more competitive: PKMM”, New Straits Times, 26 September 2017 (https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2017/09/284220/bumiputera-empowerment-agenda-helped-contractors-be-more-competitive-pkmm)

Lee, Hwok-Aun (2017) “Malaysia’s Bumiputera preferential regime and transformation agenda: Modified programmes, unchanged system” Trends in Southeast Asia 2017 No. 22. Singapore: ISEAS (https://www.iseas.edu.sg/images/pdf/TRS22_17.pdf)

Lee, Hwok-Aun (2017) “Surveys reveal fault lines – and common ground – in Malaysia’s ethnic relations and policies” ISEAS Perspective 2017 No. 63. Singapore: ISEAS (https://www.iseas.edu.sg/images/pdf/ISEAS_Perspective_2017_63.pdf)

Malaysia: In Defense of the PD Route to Power


September 19, 2018

Malaysia: In Defense of the PD Route to Power

by S. Thayaparan@Malaysiakini.com

Image result for anwar ibrahim

“Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous”–― William Shakespeare,

“If I want a crown I must go and hunt it for myself.”

– Rudyard Kipling, ‘The Man Who Would Be King’

“Granted, the way that Port Dickson MP Danyal Balagopal Abdullah gave up his seat and the murmurs of approval by Anwar made this whole Port Dickson gambit sleazy, but that is politics.”

–S.Thayaparan

COMMENT | With DAP Secretary-General and Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng’s endorsement of the Port Dickson gambit of Anwar and his merry men after the blessings of the current Prime Minister, the PKR leader finally gets his chance to make his move closer to the ultimate prize of sitting on the throne of Putrajaya.

While I have made many public statements against some of the things Anwar has said and done, I never understood the vitriol spewed against him and his claim to the stewardship of this country. If anyone has earned the right to the highest office of this country, it is Anwar.

Let me be very clear, I have been relentless in my criticisms of his words and deeds. However, I still remain one of the few people who think that Anwar should have his time in the hot seat.

I should be the last person writing an article like this, but the events of the past few weeks have muddied the waters when it comes to politics in this country, and I think Anwar and his crew, especially a political operative like PKR Vice-President Rafizi Ramli, have been given a bad rep.

Of course, I have never had a problem venting against them, but my main issue with this Port Dickson gambit is why didn’t Pakatan Harapan come out earlier as an alliance and support this move, instead of having this drama which served nobody, certainly not the people who voted them in?

The fact that all this had to play out the way it did should tell rational people about the kind of moves made against Anwar, and the narrative that Anwar is a power-hungry political operative who does not really care about this country, unlike certain political operatives whose sins were washed away just before May 9 and have been given a free pass.

The political machinations of the elite who decided to use this opportunity to play their power games and manoeuvre various people into possible positions of power is typical ‘Malay politics’, but scapegoating Anwar and his faction is mendacious when everyone is attempting to get theirs.

Is Anwar power hungry? Impatient? Which political operative is not? Some folks are now dismissing the fact that Anwar was a political prisoner. The reason why he has to resort to such tactics is because his rights were flushed down the toilet by the UMNO regime and by some of the people who are now attempting to save Malaysia in the first place.

Say what you like about Anwar’s so-called lust for power, but there have always been political operatives who have stood in his way using legitimate – but most often illegitimate – means to hamper his democratic right to assume the highest office in the land.

When it comes to Islam, can anyone really trust that the Malay political elite would not cave in to the extremists? While Anwar says things that I disagree, as yet he is not in a position to do anything like the other Malay powerbrokers in Harapan. And look at some of the statement emanating from them.

Would this change if he is in a position to actually do something about Islamic extremism in this country? He certainly has said things which coddle the Islamic elites in this country but so have the majority Malay powerbrokers in Harapan. This, of course, is my main concern when it comes to Anwar. Truth be told, it is a concern of mine for most Malay political operatives.

The old maverick has a reputation for coddling but also confronting Islamic extremism in this country. Can we say the same of Anwar? This is what concerns me about Anwar assuming the highest office in the land but since as I said, the other Malay powerbrokers – with a few exceptions of course – are not exactly the egalitarian types, what difference would it make?

Multiracial party

Fellow columnist James Chai may have laid it on a bit thick, but I understand the sentiment. Anwar did not inherit a ready-made opposition, he had to cobble one together to wage war against the UMNO hegemon, which at one time included the current Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is an extremely influential operative in Harapan and who has his slavish devotees.

Image result for Anwar, wan azizah and nurul izzah

 

While the various alliances were flawed, what Anwar managed to do was demonstrate that people working together even if in a compromised fashion, could wreak havoc on the UMNO hegemon. This should not only count for something, it means that the “hope” people have sprung from the moves the post-UMNO moves he made.

Anwar did not start a Malay-only party because as the current Prime Minister says, this is the reality of this country. He started a multiracial party, cobbled together an alliance with the DAP and PAS, and in perhaps the best moment of his political career denied BN its coveted two-thirds majority.

However, why replay the greatest hits of a man some say has no role to play in this new Malaysia? Because part of it is wonky thinking on the part of some of Anwar critics. For instance, when Anwar has this ‘que sera, sera’ (whatever will be, will be) attitude when it comes to a future working possibility with UMNO, it is all part of mainstream Malay politics.

How could anyone take exception to what Anwar says when Bersatu is openly accepting former UMNO powerbrokers and regular UMNO members to shore up its base. Anwar’s qualified acceptance of UMNO leader Nazri Abdul Aziz’s support should not surprise anyone, especially those who understand that Nazri always had convivial relationships with many political operatives in the then opposition.

Anwar’s daughter, Nurul Izzah, says she takes charges of nepotism positively, but really, why should she? The opposition is riddled with nepotism most often at the highest level in the form of powerbrokers and political dynasties placing their pawns for future political power.

This is not solely an Anwar problem but the way how some folks talk, it is as if they are blind to what is going on around them.

Admittedly, I played a part in this whole PKR is the weakest link in Harapan narrative, but I also have said, I would take the open fighting in PKR over the nefarious backrooms deals or fascist diktats of some of the other parties in Harapan.

While I am not taking sides when it comes to the whole Rafizi versus Azmin Ali fight, it is far better for voters to understand the power plays at work and pay attention to what these camps say and do when it comes to reform principles for this country. Remember folks, when politicians do not wash their dirty linen in public, we end up supporting their soiled agendas.

Image result for Danyal Balagopal Abdullah

The Navy Man who abandoned ship after pledging to serve the people of Port Dickson. Some people think Danyal Balagopal Abdullah made a noble sacrifice by giving up his seat for Anwar Ibrahim.

Granted, the way that Port Dickson MP Danyal Balagopal Abdullah gave up his seat and the murmurs of approval by Anwar made this whole Port Dickson gambit sleazy, but that is politics.

There are many elected representatives who do not care about the people who voted for them and probably are using their seats as stepping stones to profit from the bureaucracy when it comes time to reward their ‘sacrifice”.

If the power elite really approved of this succession plan then they would have made it clear – that at least one political operative was a seat warmer for Anwar to re-enter politics or failing which, come up with a unified statement that they approved of the Port Dickson gambit before various political operatives waged a media war.

Seeing as how the opposition did not believe that they could win May 9, the former may not have been possible, but after winning, they should have made it clear that Anwar was in play for the top job instead of feeding the narrative, relying on the base and the schisms within PKR, to wage a very public war on the Anwar clan.

Will Anwar be the kind of prime minister that his supporters claim he would be? Who knows? Like I said, I am not worried about his reform agenda because apparently, even the old maverick wants reform.

Now the powerbrokers of Harapan are getting on board the Anwar Express but the fact is that all this was unnecessary. Heroes and villains have been created when the reality is all this is because some people cannot stand the idea of Anwar becoming Prime Minister.

Are their concerns legitimate? It would be if reforming the system was a top priority, but this is about personality politics and those “not loyal” to Anwar merely means their loyalties lay elsewhere.

When people say they do not trust Anwar, all I can think, is that you trust other politicians? What I am worried about is Anwar’s infatuation that religion is the lodestar for the Malay community, but this should not detract from the fact that he is no pretender to the throne.


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

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

Mahathir the Disappointed Leader–Father


September 12, 2018

Mahathir the Disappointed Leader–Father

Opinion

by Nathaniel Tan

 

COMMENT | Over the (very many) years, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed has kept a fairly consistent tone regarding what I suppose he might term the Malay Dilemma – a tone that we saw again during the recently held Future of Bumiputeras and the Nation Congress (KBN 2018), at the Bersatu anniversary,  and a recent interview.

I suppose I might term this tone that of the Disappointed Leader–Father.

I have this image in my head of Mahathir, himself a successful bumiputera, looking down and shaking his head while sighing, maybe face in hand, constantly disappointed at what he sees to be an endemic failure of his fellow bumiputeras to live up to his hopes and expectations.

We get the sense that Mahathir has a very clear idea of the kind of attitude and character you need to succeed as an individual and as a community, and that a big part of his persona seems to be having to deal with his view that the bumiputera do not live up to these standards.

Mahathir’s favourite counterpoint appears to be the Japanese, a fact reiterated by his recent visit to Japan and specifically named once again in the interview, where once he again he has held them up as the paragons of self-sacrificing patriots whose self-worth is tied to how diligently they can contribute to the betterment of their nation.

He then likes to ask: “Why can’t the Malays be more like the Japanese?”, in the same tone perhaps a dad would ask his kid, “Why can’t you be more like your older brother?”

Unhelpful comparisons

Mahathir’s other big go to, of course, is to compare Malays with other ethnic groups, notably the Chinese. A common theme of his seems to be something along the lines of the Chinese are successful because they are hardworking, and the Malays are not, because they are lazy.

“Mahathir’s sincerity is not doubted, and he has a great many strengths. Effective motivation, however, may not be one of them. His recent comments show that while he has changed in many positive ways, he still seems to rely on a certain amount of BN era fearmongering, his trademark sarcasm, and a degree of condescension.”

Most recently, at KBN 2018, Mahathir has taken this a step further:

Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad today questioned whether the bumiputera will be able to compete with a new wave of skilled and business-savvy entrepreneurs from China making their way to Malaysia.

Speaking during a dialogue session on bumiputera economy, Mahathir said the new wave of immigrants will be unlike early Chinese settlers in Malaysia – who were then mostly involved in small businesses, and whose children have now gained control of major developments in the cities.

“These are the Chinese already in Malaysia whose attitudes we can accept. But if we bring in three million more people from China, what will happen to us?” he asked.

“They are hardworking and skilled in business. The ones who are coming, they are not labourers, but those who are already successful. Will we be able to compete with them?” he said in response to a question on China nationals buying property in Malaysia.”

In the West nowadays, this kind of framing would likely be denounced as having considerable elements of racism. Sadly, the truth is that this rhetoric retains the culture of fearmongering perpetrated by UMNO over so many decades – a variation on the theme that the bumiputera are under constant threat by other ethnic groups.

Mahathir’s approach is marginally better in that his conclusion is not “Therefore you need UMNO to protect you” but “Therefore you need to work much harder.” Of course, this is not to say that Mahathir’s tone has not changed at all. He now says that it is foolhardy to blame other races for the shortcomings of the Malays. On the whole, though, we should ask: is this a truly helpful approach?

Has Mahathir’s approach worked?

Mahathir’s sincerity is not doubted, and he has a great many strengths. Effective motivation, however, may not be one of them. His recent comments show that while he has changed in many positive ways, he still seems to rely on a certain amount of BN era fearmongering, his trademark sarcasm, and a degree of condescension.

If you have ever been on either end of questions like “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” being repeated over and over, I think you know the ultimately negative end result – a lot of resentment, and almost never any actual change towards becoming like the said brother.

After all the years of Mahathir’s Look East Policy, do we actually see any significant movement of Malays or Malaysians adopting Japanese values? (Anime does not count.)

I am also most curious as to where this idea of letting in three million new Chinese nationals came from. Is this a thing? Or was it plucked from thin air, to be used as the convenient bogeyman?

It’s true that global competitiveness should always be a cause for concern, but bringing up the sceptre of some sort of invasion by foreigners who bear a striking resemblance to Chinese Malaysians in a Malay-only conference could easily be seen as striking the wrong note.

The dichotomy of the ‘successful’ Chinese nationals of today compared to the ‘inferior’ Chinese labourers from whom today’s Chinese Malaysians descended could also rub people the wrong way.

Inspire hope, don’t fearmonger

Some say that the biggest two motivators are hope and fear. One might have hoped that a coalition named Pakatan Harapan might be intrinsically inclined towards one instead of the other.

At the end of the day, Malaysians are Malaysians, and the Japanese are Japanese. Each has their strengths and weaknesses, and each can learn something from one another.

If, however, you keep expecting one to become the other – something they simply are not – only disaster awaits. Your children may be siblings, but they are each unique individuals.

Instead of constantly berating or belittling Malays with fearmongering, unflattering comparisons or sarcastic jibes at every turn, think about how you can motivate them positively.

It is good that we start addressing practices like Ali Baba schemes out in the open, but why not focus more on success stories? Highlight successful bumiputera entrepreneurs and how and why they succeeded. Use them as inspiration.

Sometimes all that is needed is the reminder that having only ‘becoming rich’ as the goal is a recipe for failure.

We need only look at the lives of successful Malaysians – from any ethnic group at all – to see that the right goal is to develop the attitude, character and habits that breed success, and that once that goal is achieved, riches come fairly easily.

Abandoning the racial lens

As a Malaysiakini commentator correctly said, it is in the interests of all Malaysians for Malays to be successful. That said, perhaps a big part of the problem is looking at it as a Malay or bumiputera problem.

 

Perhaps what we need to solve racial inequality, somewhat counterintuitively, is to stop seeing everything through a racial lens, and stop obsessing about comparing one ethnic group with another.

If, for example, you have never met a lazy Chinese, you simply haven’t met enough Chinese.

It’s not accurate to go so far as to say that culture plays zero role in the welfare of a community. Sometimes, historical factors such as living in harsh climates where saving for the winter is essential to survival, breeds a slightly different work ethic than living in temperate climates, where food is easily available all year round.

That said, any type of biological determinism is inherently unhelpful, and not relevant to the question of how we can best move forward.

Play to each individual’s and community’s strengths

People react much better to being inspired and encouraged than they do to being belittled or scared–especially when it comes to becoming self-motivated achievers. Every sibling has unique strengths and talents to contribute.

The role of the parent is to play to those strengths, encourage those talents, and help each child maximise their potential – on a road that they themselves determine.

Ultimately, helping each Malaysian achieve their unique potential is the single best way to help the Malaysian family as a whole.

The way to do this is to reverse this habit of public dressing downs and bemoaning, and adopt instead an approach that does not ignore reality, but acts on that reality in a manner that is less negative, and more one of positive encouragement.


NATHANIEL TAN is eager to serve.

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