Malaysia: How can a beer fest be a security threat?


September 22, 2017

MY COMMENT: Actions taken by bureaucrats (most of them with degrees from local universities and abroad) at the behest of their hypocritical UMNO political masters make us a laughing stock to the rest of the world. My colleagues at The University of Cambodia and my students look at me as if I were from another planet of saints of the Islamic variety who say one thing and do something else, worse still when no one else is watching.

Image result for Din Merican

The beer fest affair is just of one of those stupid things our politicians of the Islamic faith do to our citizens by depriving them of their rights to be themselves as long as they respect the rights of their Muslim brothers and sisters. What irreparable harm is being done when we and our friends gather socially for a glass of beer!

My friend Nades is gutsy enough to say what he thinks about this affair. By giving security concerns as the excuse for calling off the event is not only flimsy and cynical,  but also nonsensical. Furthermore, in this case, Malaysians are being treated as “kids and fools”. It is alright to treat MCA, MIC and Gerakan leaders and their supporters that way. After all, they have grown  accustomed to being scorned and insulted by their UMNO bosses in Barisan  Nasional. But doing that to us all by infringing upon our fundamental rights to  be ourselves and choose our friends is unacceptable.

I can only add my disgust at the attitude of our authorities. I am wondering how  much more we as Malaysians can tolerate this patronizing attitude of the current Administration. It has been trampling on our rights to freedom of speech, association and expression since Najib Razak took office in 2009 with a 1Malaysia slogan, Rakyat DiDahulukan, Prestasi DiUtamakan. What he has shown over these years is Rakyat diKetepikan, Prestasi diAbaikan.

To think that Najib Razak’s UMNO-BN will be returned to power come GE-14 makes me throw my hands in the air. If that happens, unless our East Malaysian brothers and sisters vote to reject his leadership, I think I can say that we deserve the government we choose, one that uses religion to differentiate and divide us.–Din Merican

How can a beer fest be a security threat?

COMMENT | There are some moments in our daily lives when we ask ourselves, “Do we deserve to be treated this way?” The answer is always, “We deserve the government we elected.” Really?

When government leaders treat citizens as children and expect us to accept everything they say – hook, line and sinker – the anger seethes and churns in our systems. While many can take it with a pinch of salt and laugh at their antics, there are times when their puerile statements make us wonder why they are sitting up there.

When they tell us the “political sensitivity” and “security threat” have similar meanings and connotations, we are compelled to stand up and ask: “Sir, are you taking us to be kids or fools or idiots?”

Now before anyone takes up the cudgel and tar our leaders with the same brush, let it be specific.

On Monday, Sinar Harian had quoted Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) Corporate Planning Department Director Khalid Zakaria as saying that an application to hold the Better Beer Festival had been rejected because of “political sensitivity”. On the same evening, Kuala Lumpur Mayor Mohd Amin Nordin Abd Aziz has declined to comment on this matter.

The organisers – Mybeer (M) Sdn Bhd – issued a statement which read: “We were further informed that the decision was made due to political sensitivity surrounding the event.”

Of course, right-minded citizens expressed their disgust over this insisting that their rights are being impeded. Joining the chorus were politicians on both sides of the divide. Well and good. Every inch of their support, although in some cases, couched in politically-correct language, was needed to stop this intrusion into one’s personal choice.

The MCA asked City Hall to be “consistent and accountable”. Its religious harmony bureau chief Ti Lian Ker, said: “They cannot arbitrarily reject the application and threaten to take action against the organiser without giving a proper account or reasons for the rejection.”

But on Wednesday, there was a complete turnaround. MCA president and Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said the authorities had told cabinet during its weekly meeting that safety was one of the reasons why the craft beer festival was cancelled.

If security had been “real” reason, why was it not conveyed to the organisers? Why did City Hall have to lie by saying “political sensitivity”? If security was an issue, surely the organisers would have made other arrangements and beefed up security.

From Joe Public’s standpoint, all this appears to be an afterthought and a shameful charade. We have no intention of causing alarm and panic, but are we to assume that any congregation of people would require them to look over their shoulders while sipping their beer?

Held to ransom

Two Saturdays ago, a group of friends were at a screening party where the match between Liverpool and Manchester City was telecast on a large screen. The venue was a pub in Sri Hartamas and there were more than 100 people. Fans of both clubs enjoyed the beers and game. Liverpool fans drowned their sorrows while City fans celebrated.

Every weekend, there are scores of such screening parties in pubs, restaurants and mamak shops. Are they targets too? Will they ban such screenings?

If the mantra previously was “moderation”, it has now become “security”. What purpose do sloganeering, walks and campaigns serve when our rights are being disregarded and dismissed summarily?

Six years ago, in one of the hallowed halls of University of Cambridge, Prime Minister Najib Razak extolled the virtues of Malaysia’s moderation quoting the Quran, the Bible and even the Torah.

Today, such notations are in shambles; the nation is being held to ransom by a handful of zealots. Yet, the government is watching with folded arms and refuses to stand up to this kind of bullying.

Even the civil service has become subservient to the frolics of the few. All and sundry have got their priorities wrong for political expediency.

At every turn, religion is creeping into our daily lives unabated. Despite espousing moderation both verbally and in writing, these so-called advocates of temperance and reasonableness retreat into their cocoons when confronted with issues.

We cannot continue putting up our hands and saying, “What can we do?” We have to say, “Enough is enough”, and collectively drown the voices of the few who are trying to impose their values on the rest of the citizens.


R Nadeswaran.

Home and away, Najib has a China dilemma


September 22, 2017

Home and away, Najib has a China dilemma

While the Malaysian leader relies on Beijing for economic succor, he’s still viewed skeptically by his country’s ethnic Chinese voting bloc with tight polls on the horizon

Singapore
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Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak looks on duringIndependence Day celebrations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia August 31, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Lai Seng Sin

 

Prime Minister Najib Razak addressed Malaysia’s Chinese community at a well-attended gathering last week to urge support for his Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition government ahead of new national polls.

The leader called for stronger Chinese representation in his United Malays National Organization-led (UMNO) government and doubled down on promises of delivering prosperity and quality education across all of the country’s ethnic groups.

“If the Chinese voice is stronger in BN, then you are able to shape the policies and possibilities of this government even better and even stronger,” Najib said. “Without peace in the country, the Chinese will be the first to be targeted and that is why we are a moderate government committed to peace and mutual harmony.”

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While Najib placed emphasis on Malaysia as a multiracial nation and struck an overall moderate tone, others interpreted his remark as a fear-mongering veiled threat. Opposition parliamentarian Liew Chin Tong accused the premier of trying to win votes by “singling out the ethnic Chinese,” a move he said would actually undermine support for his government.

Malaysia’s next election is due by August 2018, though there is speculation that early polls could soon be announced. Najib’s outreach to the Chinese community signals an attempt to re-engage the minority voter bloc following general elections in 2013 where the BN coalition delivered its worst-ever election performance.

At the time, Najib acknowledged how ethnic Chinese voters had supported the opposition in droves, controversially characterizing their voting behavior as a “Chinese tsunami.” Najib initially vowed to undertake national reconciliation following the electoral upset, but instead has moved to burnish his Islamic credentials in a bid to consolidate support from conservative and rural ethnic Malay voters.

Ethnic Chinese communities make up around 23% of Malaysia’s population and are seen to be largely in opposition to Najib’s continued rule. His term has been defined by the international multi-billion dollar money laundering controversies related to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state development fund he created and until recently oversaw.

Lesser noticed, however, have been perennial allegations of money politics, elite corruption, stark political polarization and a widening cultural divide between Malaysia’s ethnic and religious groups that some fear could tip towards instability if not effectively reconciled.

Image result for Najib and HadiThis strange alliance with Hadi Awang may prove costly to Najib Razak in East Malaysia where Islamisation is viewed with anxiety and suspicion.

Recent studies show nearly half the country’s ethnic Chinese population have a strong desire to leave Malaysia due to perceived discrimination, political disenfranchisement and fears of Islamization. Nearly 88% of the 56,576 Malaysians who renounced their citizenship in the decade spanning 2006 to 2016 were ethnic Chinese.

Shortly after assuming office in 2009, Najib introduced the 1Malaysia national concept, a governing philosophy which placed emphasis on ethnic harmony, national unity and efficient governance. Following the 2013 election, the Prime Minister has placed less pretense on the talking points of the scheme, opting to posture as a defender of Islam and Malay unity.

“Political parties from both sides of the divide are centered around the Malay agenda, winning votes in Malay majority constituencies. Meanwhile, government efforts like 1Malaysia and its subsequent rebranding has neither substance nor strategy,” political analyst Khoo Kay Peng recently wrote. “The concept of unity is not even at the forefront of societal discussion.”

An important aspect of Najib’s domestic agenda in recent years has been the formation of a loose alliance with the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), which has an electoral stronghold in Malaysia’s rural and conservative north and advocates a hardline sharia punishment code known as hudud.

Abdul Hadi Awang, PAS’ influential President, was given tacit government approval to table a controversial hudud bill in parliament in 2015, which sought to ease some of the constitutional restrictions imposed on sharia courts in order to implement more severe punishments, subjecting offenders to longer prison sentences and corporal punishment.

Though observers were initially dismissive of Najib’s support for hudud, his government attempted to take over Hadi’s bill last year. The prime minister reversed course in March due to strong opposition from other BN coalition partners – notably from the Malaysian Chinese Association and other ethnic minority parties – and concerns it would dampen foreign investor sentiment.

Against a backdrop of political controversies and a deepening cultural divide, Malaysia’s upcoming general election is expected to be one of the tightest in decades. The political opposition, once a fractured grouping of disparate parties, appears more cohesive under the leadership of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who defected from UMNO and embraced opposition parties to form the Pakatan Harapan coalition.

Comeback kid: Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, 92, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Putrajaya, Malaysia, March 30, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Lai Seng Sin

 

Saving the Chinese from Racist UMNO–Don’t Depend on Najib Razak and MCA


September 21, 2017

Saving the Chinese from Racist UMNO–Don’t Depend on Najib Razak and least of all, MCA

by Ambassador Emeritus Dennis Ignatius

At last year’s UMNO General Assembly, Prime Minister Najib warned members of his party that the DAP, which is regularly derided as a “Chinese party” (and taken as code for Chinese in general), posed an almost existential threat to the Malays and Islam.

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Malay First Prime Minister Najib Razak needs Malay support to remain in power

He warned them that if the DAP ever came to power, everything that the Malays had fought for, everything that they had worked so hard to achieve, all their hopes and dreams, would be wiped out. He also went on to suggest that Bumiputra institutions like MARA, FELDA, RISDA and FELCRA would become “extinct and disappear.”

Should UMNO fall, he intoned, it would be a “nightmare” that would jeopardise the very existence of Malay-Muslims in the country.

Taken together with the slew of anti-Chinese comments that came out of that assembly, the message was clear enough: only UMNO could defend Malay interests from the so-called Chinese threat.

Having unabashedly fanned the flames of anti-Chinese sentiment to consolidate his grip over the party and to secure Malay support for UMNO, he turned his attention on Friday to cajoling Malaysian Chinese into giving him their support, suggesting that their very survival might now depend upon it.

Targeting the Chinese

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MCA President is  Honorary Member of UMNO

Standing before an MCA gathering absurdly themed ‘The Malaysian Chinese Patriotic Rally” (as if the patriotism of Malaysian Chinese was ever in doubt), he warned that Malaysian Chinese would be “the first to be targeted if there is no peace in this country.”

While he subsequently went on to make references to the IS threat as well, his message was widely perceived as a warning to Malaysian Chinese that if UMNO loses power in the next elections, they would be the first to be targeted.

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For a country still traumatised by the 1969 race riots, the warning to Malaysian Chinese was undoubtedly clear.

MCA’s damage control

In the wake of the furore that the Prime Minister’s remarks quite naturally generated, MCA leaders went into damage control mode claiming that his remarks were taken out of context and that he was referring more to the IS threat rather than anything else.

In the first place, Najib’s remarks as well as his intentions were clear enough to most people who saw the video which quickly went viral. In these days of instant replay, claims by politicians to have been misquoted or misrepresented are harder to sustain.

In the second place, there has never been any indication that Malaysian Chinese are the primary target of ISIS. According to the Police, ISIS has targeted our security forces and senior officials, endeavoured to disrupt the SEA games and the Merdeka celebrations, and planned attacks on some churches; no mention of Malaysian Chinese specifically. If anything, it is Muslims themselves that have suffered more from IS attacks than others.

In any case, if there were doubts as to the real meaning of his remarks, a simple clarification by the Prime Minister would have quickly settled the matter. That he has preferred to let things simmer suggests otherwise.

The indispensable party

In the absence of further clarification from the Prime Minister, we are left with the strange conclusion that Najib is now demanding Chinese support on the grounds that only UMNO can protect them from the very racism which UMNO itself champions and thrives upon.

Taken to its logical conclusion, it means that UMNO will now be defending the Malays from the Chinese and the Chinese from the Malays while simultaneously instilling fear in both.

What a cunning strategy to ensure that it remains the indispensible political party! The British would, no doubt, be envious of his divide and rule skills. 

A Prime Minister for all the people

If Najib and UMNO truly want to win the support and admiration of all of Malaysia’s diverse ethnic groups, he should first and foremost put an end the racist politics that has become synonymous with his own party.

As well, instead of making threats, he should ensure that the security and rights of all citizens are protected and safeguarded at all times, whether they vote for him or not. It is, after all, his constitutional obligation, his sacred duty, his solemn oath to the nation. Appeal for support by all means, but to threaten an ethnic community the way he did is simply beyond the pale.

For the MCA, the rally, which was called to help revive support for the party ahead of the elections, has turned into an unmitigated disaster, laying bare the disdain that UMNO leaders have for minority parties and generating a new wave of disgust and anger among its erstwhile supporters.

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The Hero of Petaling Street–China will protect its Diaspora. Malaysian Prime Minister will have his cojones squeezed if he allows UMNO Red Shirt Gangsters to harm the Chinese.

In the light of these developments, one can only wonder whether the hero of Petaling Street, the urban legend who single-handedly stared down the Red Shirts a few years ago and prevented a bloodbath in the centre of Kuala Lumpur, is quietly mulling his options.

After Mat Tyson’s return to UMNO, Mahathir could be next?


September 20, 2017

After Mat Tyson’s return to UMNO, Mahathir could be next?

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Malaysian politics has witnessed numerous twists and turns over the past years with mentors and protégés turning on each other, adversaries becoming allies and allies becoming adversaries.

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Anything is possible with this enigmatic politician. After all, UMNO Baru which Prime Minister Najib Razak inherited was created by Dr. Mahathir in 1987. If it were to happen,( and I won’t dismiss it outright), that would be a slap in the face people like activists like Ambiga  Sreenevasan and her associates. People like Anwar Ibrahim, Mat Sabu, Lim Kit Siang and others would also be badly let down.–Din Merican

No political pundit’s crystal ball in the past foresaw Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Lim Kit Siang forming an alliance or Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim burying the hatchet.

On September 17, Muhammad Muhammad Taib ( aka Mat Tyson) was the latest to make a political twist, his third since quitting UMNO.

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From a PAS grasshopper elevated to an UMNO katak

After UMNO, the former Selangor Menteri Besar went to PAS and then later to PKR. Yesterday, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak announced that Muhammad, after seeing the light, had returned to UMNO.

An article published in PAS organ Harakah Daily stated it is possible that other former UMNO leaders, who are now in Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), would return to UMNO as well.

In fact, the article said it would not be impossible for Bersatu chairperson Dr Mahathir Mohamad himself to return to UMNO.

“As it is known, Mahathir has served well in creating a mess in the opposition and at the same time has been able to give UMNO credit to hold (on to power) in GE14.

“It is clear this is an old script. In the end, the people are cheated with UMNO’s tricks and at the same time, issues like 1MDB, fuel price hikes, increase in cost of living and others will be confined to history when Mahathir returns to UMNO,” it stated.

Mahathir, 92, has denied that he would return to the party which he had helmed for more than two decades, claiming that UMNO is no longer the UMNO he believed in.

Meanwhile, the Harakah Daily article described Najib’s announcement yesterday regarding Muhammad’s return as an anti-climax to the hype which had been building up since morning.

Speculations were aplenty when news broke that the Prime Minister would make a special announcement and all UMNO leaders were ordered to be present, forcing Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to cut his trip to Perlis short.

There were those who speculated that Najib would announce the dissolution of Parliament to pave the way for the next general election, or that some top gun from the opposition had switched camps.

However, the Prime Minister drew flak and ridicule when he announced Muhammad’s return, with detractors claiming that the latter did not warrant such fanfare.

Following this, new theories surfaced that Najib was supposed to announce something bigger but this did not materialise. Some have linked it to a possible coup of the opposition-helmed Selangor government.

The Harakah Daily article, on the other hand, claimed that the announcement was part of Najib’s attempt to divert public attention.

At the same time, it claimed, the move is to give the impression that former UMNO leaders have repented and come to understand that only UMNO can defend the Malays and Malaysia.

 

The article claimed that the move was aimed at diverting attention from the concerns arising from Najib’s disclosure that EPF and Khazanah Nasional would invest in the US.

“It is common knowledge that the people, especially workers contributing to EPF, are livid. They are worried if the investment would end up a liability like 1MDB.

“This is what Najib wanted to silence and did a ‘market test’ by announcing Muhammad’s return to UMNO,” it stated.

Malaysia: Cabals, Feudalism, and Apartheid


September 4, 2017

Note: Thanks to LaMoy, my buddy in the US, I am able to post my friend Dr. Murray Hunter’s 2015 article. Apparently, it was one of a number of articles Murray wrote on the Malaysian political economy while he was at Universiti Utara Malaysia, Sintok, Kedah. He must have been a pain to the university authorities. Murray now is teaching at one of the top universities in Bangkok, Thailand.

Related imageDr. Murray Hunter

 

Murray and I are in contact with each other on e-mail and Facebook. We are both academicians at institutions that respect academic freedom. It is my intention to invite him to come with Phnom Penh at a mutually convenient time to deliver a few lectures on governance at Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations, The University of Cambodia. –Din Merican

Malaysia: Cabals, Feudalism, and Apartheid

by Dr. Murray Hunter

http://moderndiplomacy.eu/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1032:cabals-feudalism-and-apartheid-will-these-institutions-damn-malaysia-s-future-prosperity&Itemid=136

Image result for tajuddin abdul rahman timbalan menteriUMNO’s racist Cabinet Minister, Tajuddin Abdul Rahman

 

“I am a businessman, not a politician” Tajuddin Abdul Rahman Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry at the opening of Herbal Asia, Matrade Exhibition Centre, 1st October 2015.

Unlike most of the rest of the world that is heading along the track of multiculturalism, Malaysia seems to be locked in a limbo of racial introspection it cannot get out of.

 

This introspection is, however, more than mere racism, it is the overt part of an elaborate structure that has maintained a small elite in power for over 45 years, since the notorious May 13th riots back in 1969.

The direct discussion of this subject has basically been criminalized since the 1970s and deemed too sensitive to debate, which means there has been little public discourse on the matter of who really exercises power, how, and for whom within the country.

This has helped to enshrine a structure of political-cabalism, based upon a neo-Malay-feudalism, which has used a form of ‘Malaysian apartheid’ to support this elite in position and privilege over the rest of Malaysians they rule (as opposed to govern).

Ever since the British Colonial era, Malaysia has been divided and described through racial paradigms. The major races that represented the Malay Peninsula got together to negotiate and steer Malaya to independence in 1957, and into the Federation of Malaysia in 1963. Perhaps the most important artefact from this era is the race is still recorded on Malaysian Identity Cards today, which is hurting the sensitivities of a number of Malaysians.

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 4th Prime Minister–The Comeback 92-year Old Kid

However with a rekindled Malay nationalistic sentiment remerging in the 1960s, an opportunity after the 13th May 1969 racial riots arose for a group of Malay politicans to seize the reigns of power. Mahathir Mohamad, supported by a group of ‘ultras’ including Syed Nasir Ismail, Musa Hitam, and Tunku Razaleigh, moved to dispose of the then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, representing the moderate Malay aristocracy.

(Tun) Abdul Razak Hussein (father of the current Prime Minister) was installed as Prime Minister in what some describe as a ‘coup’ to succeed Tunku Abdul Rahman in 1970.

As Tunku Abdul Rahman had already invoked a state of emergency in 1969 after the 13th May riots, and ruled by decree through the National operations Council, (Tun) Abdul Razak as Prime Minister through was able to use this short window was to pass through the New Economic policy (NEP) without any hindrance, as parliamentary approval wasn’t necessary. The NEP was based upon many ideas within Mahathir Mohamad’s book The Malay Dilemma, extremely controversial at the time.

At the time, the NEP was seen, even internationally as a necessary affirmative action policy. The NEP stipulated the use of quotas in granting educational places at school and universities, the use of quotas in the public service, favouritism to Malays in the granting of business licenses, the development of Malay reserve land restricting non-Bumiputera purchases, subsidies on the purchase of real estate, quotas on public equity holdings, general subsidies for Bumiputera businesses, and exclusive Bumiputera mutual funds (ASN, ASB), which gave better rates of return than commercial banks.

When the Malaysian Parliament was reconvened in 1971, both the Sedition and Internal Security Acts were strengthened to limit any discussion about matters concerning Malay special rights, the Malay rulers, and citizenship, under the premise of preserving ‘intercommunal harmony’. These restrictions also applied to members of parliament, thus weakening the principal of ‘parliamentary immunity’, i.e., the NEP was above parliamentary sovereignty, which attracted much international condemnation at the time.

It is during this time that a concerted covert effort was made to create a ‘secret leadership’ to maintain and support what was called the ‘Malay Agenda’. According to an interview with an anonymous high ranking official within the Razak Government at the time, most executive positions, civil service placements, and high ranking police and army personnel were filled with people sympathetic to the ‘Malay Agenda’.

The author’s source also stated that it was during the Razak era that selected bureaucrats and other people stated creating and acquiring corporate assets with the objective of channeling funds back to UMNO to fight future elections, to ensure victory.

The ‘Malay Agenda’ meant running government and agencies within government with the objective of looking after ‘Malay’ interests ahead of others. The ‘Malay Agenda’ was rarely spoken about in the open but had a wide appeal among all levels of Malay society, including some members of royal families, at the time.

This was the start of crony capitalism in Malaysia, the making of a kleptocracy. This loose ruling political-cabal was developed in the Malay-feudalistic tradition, in the sense that it required giving total loyalty to the leader of UMNO, the Prime Minister, without question.

A very small proportion of this group became very rich through the implementation of this special agenda. These original beneficiaries are now considered socially as the ‘old money’ in Malay society today.

Malaysia rejected multiculturalism for its own form of ethno-religious form of ‘Malaysian apartheid’, supported by the Malay-feudalistic social structure that was enhanced rather than dismantled over the two decades after independence from Britain. The mythology that the Chinese, who already control the economy, also aim to take political control of Malaysia was dissipated as propaganda to install a fear into the Malay population. Propaganda became one of the prime tools used by the government with the formation of the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) to indoctrinate civil servants and students on the “Malay agenda”.

Section 153 of the Malaysian constitution became the proclaimed legal basis of ‘Malaysian apartheid’ measures. The Reid Commission had only intended to be a temporary measure, to be reviewed by the parliament within 15 years. Section 153 states that “….it is the responsibility of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong to safeguard the special position of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak”, thus turning Malay into political construct, as there is no single Malay tribal grouping. The authorities over the years attempted to Malayanize the indigenous peoples of the Malay Peninsula, the Orang Asli, through encouraging their conversion to Islam and adoption of Malays customs.

When Dr. Mahathir came to the Prime Ministership in 1981 due to then Prime Minister Hussein Onn stepping down because of poor health, he pursued an ambitious agenda which included extending the business interests of UMNO. Much of these business interests were controlled by proxies and nominees such as Tajudin Ramli and Halim Saad. Further, Dr Mahathir with his Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim embarked on a program to produce Malay millionaires who would bring up other Malays into the business sphere.

Ironically under Dr. Mahathir, a period of liberalization came with Wawasan(VISION) 2020, where the country grew very optimistic under the premise of ‘Malaysia Boleh’. There appeared to be a great working relationship between the different racial based parties within the Barisan Nasional, and Malaysian appeared to genuinely have pride in their nation.

These short ‘golden years’ for Malaysia were soon eclipsed by the Asian economic crisis of 1997 and the sacking by Dr. Mahathir of his then deputy Anwar Ibrahim in 1998. A bitter election was fought between the BN Government and newly formed Barisan Alternative in 1999, leading to the BN Government winning with a greatly reduced majority.

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5th Prime Minister/Mr. Clean Abdullah Badawi caught in the UN Iraq Oil For Food Scandal

Many misread the Abdullah Badawi period as further liberalization, although he publically fought corruption. However, Badawi still cracked down hard on dissent such as not allowing open discussion on Malaysia’s ‘social contract’, and allowed the police to act heavy handed at the Bersih rally in 2007. A new group of entities entered into the corporate scene which led to a number of scandals, by the notorious ‘boys on the 4th floor’, who included Khairy Jamaluddin. Dr. Mahathir became Badawi’s chief critic. Badawi’s poor election performance in 2008, and criticism of his apparent enjoyment of the trappings of power led to his replacement with Najib Tun Razak in 2009.

Najib Tun Razak came to power promising a transformation of government and a completely new paradigm in race relations with the well promoted 1Malaysia slogan. However, after being the vanguard of moderation internationally, his actions domestically showed none of the moderation he had promised. Najib was totally silent when organizations like Pekasa made outlandish statements about race.

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6th Prime Minister Najib Razak caught in 1MDB Financial Scandal

His greatest modus operandi is silence when government organs and NGOs undertake extreme actions in defending Malays and Islam. Najib’s persona as a moderate leader completely disappeared after the poor election performance in 2013, where he personally blamed the Chinese in his ‘Chinese Tsunami’ statement on election night.

Post GE13, has seen a definitive return to repression by the BN Government in power. Its closely aligned newspaper organ Utusan Malaysia has been continually allowed to publish headlines and statements, such as ‘Apa lagi Cina mahu’, which were inflammatory in the post-election environment.

GE13 also weakened the MCA, Gerakan, and MIC to the point where they no longer have any effective say in government, a far cry from their days of great influence within the cabinet during the 1970s and 80s. All political parties became totally subservient groups within an UMNO dominated BN. This is ironically a result of opposition electoral success in 2013.

Extreme groups have been allowed to make anti-Chinese rhetoric and racial insults with impunity under the Najib Government, thus keeping Chinese groups quiet through producing an atmosphere of fear and tension. This is a purposeful tactic to suppress any opposition.

In terms of popular vote, the UMNO-BN Government is now in reality a minority one, capturing less than 50% of total votes cast. However through the first past the post voting system, the BN is almost ensured to continue winning elections in the future. This is especially the case with the poor electoral strategy that the Pakatan Rakyat employed last election, focusing on the urban areas, rather than the rural areas. To compete with the BN, the opposition must make major changes to its electoral strategy, but will come up against a ‘hardened Umno’ organization at grassroots level. In addition, the opposition today is in so much disarray, the effective leader of the opposition to the government appears to be Dr. Mahathir.

Rather than reaching out to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of all Malaysians, UMNO has seen the decline of electoral support for BN component parties as an opportunity to consolidate power within its own right. GE13 has allowed UMNO and the political-cabal that controls it to manoeuvre even more on the ‘Malay Agenda’.

Since 2013, economic and social policy has been allowed to degenerate into blatant racial discrimination, and now has become something even more sinister.

The Malaysian civil service is being cleaned out. For example in Sabah, civil servants from ethnic groups like Dusun/Kadazan are slowly being weeded out and replaced. A bureaucratic ethnic cleansing is going on within the civil service. Other indigenous ethnic groups are no longer acceptable. Likewise, the universities are being cleansed of dissidents. There is a purge going on in Malaysia that has even taken the Deputy Prime Minister and attorney general out. This is supplemented with a clampdown on ‘whistleblowers, and anybody within existing agencies that have potential to turn against the political-cabal. Any potential resistance, including reporters and the media, to the political-cabal that currently controls the country is being eliminated. Malaysia is now facing a repressive phase in government that one has not seen since Dr. Mahathir’s “Operation Lalang” in the late 1980s.Only this time it is much wider.

The effects of this imposed policy of ‘Malaysian apartheid’ upon the country today are profound, and can be summarized as follows:

1.A feudal social structure has been developed with four sections of populace;

i) The Malay elite who rules the country and their associates,

ii) A Malay middle class which is predominantly urban,

iii) A Malay rural class, and

iv)  The rest of the Malaysian population.

Politically, this rural Malay class has kept the Malay elite in power, while the educated middle class is turning away from UMNO.

2. A brain drain is happening from Malaysia at present, which does not only include Chinese and Indian, but Malays as well. The political-cabal of elite leaders aren’t really concerned with this brain drain, as this seen as a good opportunity to weaken potential future opposition. This loss of creative and innovative people is leaving a rent seeking mentality within the country, at a time, creativity and innovation is really needed to develop the Malaysian economy. The leadership have intentionally nurtured the development of an unquestioning population, which is reflected in the Malaysian education system, as the best means to maintain a docile electorate that will not look at political issues like corruption very seriously.

3.There has been a general failure to eradicate poverty throughout rural Malaysia, as limited resources have been used to prop up the feudal warlords of UMNO through ‘white elephant’ rural development projects throughout the country. Many UMNO warlords have made it big through receiving contracts while their areas remain inadequate with basic infrastructure, and rural assistance such as farm extension services and even proper roads and irrigation. There are still large numbers of Malays who cannot afford to attend university, through the lack of any general assistance schemes available in most other countries. Poverty is still a major problem within Malaysia, where the government has been claiming undue successes.

4. The Malaysian economy is skewed with inefficiencies and market restrictions that hinder its transformation into a mature developed sustainable economic system. Companies are allowed to have monopolies, the restricted issuance of import permits has created inefficient markets, and general lack of transparency is making the Malaysian market unattractive to investors. A 2012 Asian Development Bank (ADB) report cites the two main reasons for Malaysia’s net capital outflow as the distortions introduced into the economy by the NEP, and the widespread presence and overbearing influence of Government Linked Companies (GLCs). The restriction of tenders to Bumi companies has created an inefficient Ali Baba business model, which raises the cost of both government and business. GLCs and other government owned companies openly compete with entrepreneurs in the market with an unfair advantage, thus stifling innovation, and the willingness of private individuals to take business risks. Malaysia still needs economic growth to absorb new entrants to the workforce in the coming decade.

5. Meritocracy doesn’t exist within the Malaysian civil service, universities, or other agencies. People are forced to adopt a feudal stance of seeking favour from superiors to get promotions and survive within these organizations. Under such an environment there is no chance for creativity, critical thinking, or even honesty. ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ is now turning hegemonic is a dangerous way that can spill off Malaysian shores. This stands Malaysian in a poor position to be internationally competitive in the future.

6. The divide and conquer political strategy of the Government, use of bullying through third party NGOs, and straight threats and arrogance has had a major effect upon the people of Malaysia. Many have lost hope and respect for the leadership of their country. Many are now resentful. There is potential for outbreaks of violence due to the uncontrollability of some extreme ‘ultra’ groups allowed to roam free in society today. The country thinks in terms of race, even to the point where a near diplomatic incident nearly occurred with China a few weeks ago, the second most powerful country in the world. This is not healthy and will not stand Malaysia well within the international community. The dissent generated by this ‘divide and conquer’ political strategy is fodder that allows the political-cabal to use state apparatus to strengthen their hold on power, as the current spate of arrests indicates.

7. What the policies of the Government and resulting social structure of society has created is a small elite class of rulers who act upon the axiom that ‘we are the law’. Comments by the Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein (a cousin of the current prime minister), indicate the ruling elite’s distain even for the constitutional monarchy of Malaysia. The elite is now in an unquestionable position of power unable to be dislodged by the rule of law. They are unashamed by scandal and control all the elements of power through their network of loyalists through the civil service, police, armed forces, and judiciary.

8. Finally, it could be argued that Malay self-confidence has been destroyed and replaced with a national inferiority complex, that the elite can use and play to at their whim. There is a condescending attitude by the elite that ’Malays are backward’ and need special protection by the UMNO -BN Government. Thus a whole section of the population is continually told they need help. The concept of ‘Ketuanan Melayu’, according to UKM Professor Noraini Othman has connotations of enslavement, with a Malay master and servant relationship implied. Tun Dr. Ismail Abdul Rahman went further and said that the ‘special position of the Malays’ in the constitution is a slur on the ability of the Malays.

The political-cabal that was set up in the 1970s by Prime Minister Tun Razak, has been transferred across from leader to leader since that time. Each Prime Minister inherited a complete network of loyalists to the ‘Agenda Melayu’ (Malay Agenda).

This has been their strength. However cracks appeared in this political-cabal when Mahathir tried to make an agreement with both his successors, which according to him have not been kept. In addition, the scandals of the present prime minister are beginning to test those loyal to the “Agenda Melayu’, to the point where some may begin to feel guilty about their loyalty to the current leadership of the political-cabal and ‘spill the beans’. Hence the sackings, demotions, transfers and arrests of late.

This, however, will not mean self-destruction to Malaysia’s political-cabal. It’s a fight over control and not reform. Winner will take all. Perhaps Dr. Mahathir was naïve in thinking that he could still exercise control and influence over this political-cabal, once he stepped down from the leadership of UMNO and the nation. This is one of the biggest mistakes of his political career.

The very nature of UMNO itself, once a party of school teachers, junior civil servants, farmers, and fishermen, which transformed into a party of contractors, small entrepreneurs, and professional rent seekers, will serve Najib well as he tries to consolidate his position. The party is run along feudal lines where booty is distributed around the country through lucrative contracts to those who head the party at state and district levels to maintain their loyalty and support. The influence of this on public policy and development planning is rarely discussed, even though it leads to massive misallocations of funds into projects that have little, if any community or economic benefit. This prevents any policy approach to planning and implementation, drastically lowering the quality of government.

Najib can reward his warlords, maintain their loyalty, and even put more of his loyalists in place for the coming election, win it, and even end up having more power than he has now. This scenario is Dr. Mahathir’s worst nightmare, and why he is working so hard to remove Najib before the next election.

To date very few international bodies have heavily criticized this “Malaysian Apartheid”. The Malaysian Government will continue to get away with repressing its populace with divide and conquer tactics. There is no front against Malaysia, like there was against South Africa. No one interested in putting sanctions upon Malaysia.

However, Swiss Islamic intellectual Dr. Tariq Ramadan foresees a credibility gap for Malaysia in international affairs where he says “As Malaysian Muslims complaining about discrimination by the West, should first acknowledge the injustices against minorities in their own country”. Until Malaysia sorts out its own racism, any stand upon Israel and Palestine seeps into hypocrisy.

This Malaysian Apartheid will continue into the foreseeable future and anybody who tries to oppose it will meet the Roth of bullying tactics to subdue them, as is being played out now with the latest round of arrests. The Malay position will remain a taboo subject for years to come, hence Malaysian sensitivities when any non-Malaysian comments on Malaysian internal affairs.

This also means that the question as to whether the NEP-NDP has been protecting or marginalizing the Malays will not be discussed. This is an important question for the future of Malaysia and the challenges that lie ahead. As former Prime Minister Ahmad Badawi once said “Malays who can’t learn how to walk without crutches will end up in a wheelchair”. Dr. Mahathir took this further and said “Unfortunately, the protection and privileges accorded by the New Economic Policy (NEP) may weaken the Malays further by lulling the next generation into complacency, thinking that the

NEP’s affirmative action will always be there for them to fall back upon….. The NEP can make the users so dependent that their inherent capability regresses.”

This dooms the country into the ‘middle income trap’, where the capabilities, creativity and innovation needed to lift the Malaysian economy into high valued activities, does not exist. Economic and social prosperity is risked so that Kleptocratic rule can continue unabated in Malaysia. Malay self-respect has also been sacrificed in this quest to hold power.

The system of discrimination has only benefited in preserving a feudal hierarchy within Malaysian society where the new lords are political dynasties which are now fighting each other openly using 1MDB as the platform. This is not about corruption, but which family dynasty and surrounding group rules, rather than any promise of social reform.

Pakatan Harapan –Avoid Strategic Ambiguity in Election Manifesto


September 1, 2017

Pakatan Harapan –Avoid Strategic Ambiguity in Election Manifesto

by Dr. Wong Chin Huat

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

Image result for Ultra Mahathir Mohamad

 Tun Mahathir as Pakatan Harapan Chairman–The Election Changer?

Malaysia’s opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) is busy preparing its manifesto for the 14th General Election (GE14) to be held by August 2018 at the latest. PH cannot afford to repeat past mistakes and publish a strategically ambiguous election manifesto as a simple public relations exercise — it needs to produce a transition pact that clearly spells out what its victory would change and what it would not.

Image result for hishammuddin Umno Racist

UMNO Ketuanan Melayu–BN1.0

Malaysia is a one-party state which has been ruled by the Malay-nationalist United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and its coalition partners since independence from Britain in 1957. Malaysia is also a polarised society where the majority Malay-Muslims and the minority Chinese, Indian and Bornean non-Muslims have largely opposing views on Islamisation and pro Malay-Muslim preferential policies.

This fundamental contradiction has helped UMNO’s party-state to survive previous challenges since the opposition has never been able to win favour with both blocs. In 1990, the opposition won the Chinese vote, but lost the Malays due to their fear of losing political and religious dominance. In 1999, the opposition won the Malay vote, but many Chinese feared an ethnic riot if UMNO performed badly. In 2013, the opposition coalition won 51 per cent of the total vote, but its Malay-Muslim support was only around 40 per cent. Thanks to partisan gerrymandering, the UNMO-led Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition held on to power by a margin of 44 seats.

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Voices of Moderation in Civil Society

Looking toward the coming election PH is aiming to win more Malay votes. The inclusion of Mahathir Mohamad (formerly of UMNO and prime minister between 1981 and 2003) as PH’s new chairman is a game changer. He fills the void left by the Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party (PAS) which now collaborates with UMNO to pursue its agenda to expand Syariah law.

Many now hope for a tsunami of Malay voters to sweep UMNO away. But there is a catch to such optimism: communal incoordination risks foiling the opposition coalition once again.

Given UMNO’s further shift to ultra-nationalism after 2013, Chinese votes appear unlikely to swing back to BN. But with Mahathir evading talk of concrete reforms, many Chinese who fear PH turning into a BN 2.0 may stay home on election day offsetting any potential Malay swing to PH.

Previous opposition coalitions have tried this sort of strategic ambiguity before. Instead of taking clear positions on Islamisation and the pro-Malay New Economic Policy, they seized upon salient issues such as corruption and good governance. But ambiguity is neither strategic nor possible this time around. UMNO will continue — with the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party’s help — to warn Malays that both Islam and Muslims are under threat. If PH responds by leaning towards the Malays, more Chinese votes risk being lost.

Beyond populist and catch-all promises like repealing the Good and Sales Tax, a better strategy for PH would be to enter into a transition pact with citizenry on how it would manage regime change should it win. Such a pact should separate the pro-Malay/Muslim policies which UMNO holds its ethnic constituency at ransom with from the party-state, dismantle those features of the political system which prevent genuine electoral competition and enable corruption, and find better alternatives in inter-communal policies.

In terms of making politics competitive, both the authoritarian and majoritarian features of the party-state need to be eliminated.

To dismantle authoritarianism, three institutional reforms are indispensable. First, civil and political liberties must be reinforced to emphasise the freedoms of expression, assembly and association. PH must also commit to media freedom and to no detention without trial.

Second, there must be judicial and prosecutorial reforms regarding the appointment, promotion and retirement of judges as well as the establishment of an independent prosecution separate from the attorney general.

Third, political impartiality of the state apparatus — bureaucracy, police and the military — must be enforced. State agencies and officials must be checked by independent anti-corruption and ombudsman institutions with real regulatory teeth. Such reforms may produce a majoritarian democracy, but leaves the risk of democratic winner-takes-all politics which will likely further tear at Malaysia’s bipolar social wounds. Hence, two more institutional reforms are needed to dismantle majoritarianism.

First, electoral, parliamentary and cabinet reforms must be enacted — this includes a more proportional electoral system and a term limit on prime ministership. Powers need to be devolved to the states, the senate should be directly elected and local elections restored. These reforms will end a concentration of power at the top of the leadership, the root cause of the 1MDB scandal.

At the same time, PH should also promise to avoid sweeping change without national consensus on divisive issues like the pro-Malay ethnic preferential policy, Islamisation as well as language and education. These issues should be deliberated by broad-based consultative bodies to produce new policy alternatives, which may be modified to become party manifestos in the 15th General Election (GE15).

Instead of repeating ‘strategic ambiguity’, PH should make clear that GE14 will only be a ‘transition election’ from the party-state while the ‘founding election’ for a new Malaysia will be GE15, when playing field is level.

With the right balance of change and continuity guided principally by a two-stage roadmap, there is hope that PH may just garner enough Malay and non-Malay voters to end UMNO’s corrupt party-state.

Wong Chin Huat is the Head of Political Studies at Penang Institute.