Anwar Ibrahim’s Presidency will give Parti KeADILan Rakyat a much needed boost


July 19, 2018

Anwar Ibrahim’s Presidency will give Parti KeADILan Rakyat a much needed booster

by Phar Kim Beng

http://www.malaysiakini.com

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No Malaysian leader has endured so much humiliation, pain and anguish in the cause of justice and freedom and no politician is better to be next Prime Minister of Malaysia  than Anwar Ibrahim. PKR will get a huge boost under his presidency. –Din Merican

https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/2148930/anwar-ibrahim-qa-malaysian-democracy-icon-prison-dissent-and

COMMENT | May 9 was not so much about the fate of Malaysian democracy per se but the extent to which Malaysians were willing to go along with PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, who was then still in prison, though that seems so distant now, to collectively undergo the spiritual politics of rejuvenation.

Since 1998, Malaysians who dislike the polarisation of the country, invariably into one versus the other, has had to keep their mouths shut. Instead of wanting both Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar to rekindle their dynamic economic partnership which saw the fastest GDP growth in the mid-1990s, at least prior to the dawn of the Asian financial crisis in 1998, Malaysians have had to go along with weaker successors of Mahathir.

The disastrous selection of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Najib Razak only goes to prove this point. Between 2004 and 2017, Malaysia has lost 13 precious years.

Indeed, Anwar’s comeback into the presidential politics of PKR has nothing to do with partisanship. Rather, this an opening to the return to a golden era, where the best of the Malaysian leaders can stand shoulder to shoulder with one another, preaching and practising progressive and inclusive politics.

If Amanah has Mohamad Sabu, Salahuddin Ayub, Khalid Samad, Hanipa Maidin, Mujahid Yusof Rawa and Mahfuz Omar, all superb parliamentarians, then it is about time Anwar step up to the podium to claim his rightful place – at the top – in PKR too.

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Two Intellectual Giants of ASEAN–President B.J.Habibie and Former Malaysian Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim–enjoy strong bonds of friendship based on personal admiration, loyalty, and mutual respect.

One might recall that Anwar was among the first of the ministers of education to speak at the conference on “Islam and Confucianism” at the Crystal Crown Hotel in Petaling Jaya in 1996. One would vividly remember him taking down the notes when other speakers were speaking.

Professor Tu Wei Ming at Harvard University was there, as was the likes of Professor Osman Bakar, a top historian in Islamic science. The latter even claimed that it was impossible for the vast majority of Chinese not to have received at least some messengers from God. Thus, one should look carefully at the message of Taoism and even Confucianism. Perhaps, just perhaps, these two creeds contain some monotheistic codes that mirror that of Islam and other Abrahamic faiths. Osman’s edited book ‘Islam and Confucianism: A Civilizational Dialogue’ published by Universiti Malaya contained some of these reflections.

Interestingly, the experience in Malaysia must have had a deep and lasting impression on Tu from Harvard too. In 1998, when I was in his seminar on ‘Confucianism and the Chinese Classics’, Tu affirmed that “having travelled the world over, he has now come to the conclusion that there are people who saw themselves as Confucian Catholics, Confucian Jews, even Confucian Muslims.” Tu, then added his own criteria, on what made them Confucian.

One, such Confucians would have to have a love for humanistic ethics, invariably, the effort to refine the heart and mind without fail. Each and every word and action would be carefully measured and performed, in order not to offend anyone; as is demanded by the Confucian rites of “li” (polite decorum).

Two, concurrent to these efforts, the believer must also try to use the heightened spiritual and ethical awareness to help the reforms of their countries/communities, ultimately the world writ large. These are not easy duties to perform. But to be a Confucian, Tu argued, one has to be at the forefront of constant action, especially if the mind and spirit have been reconciled as one.

After 10 and a half years in prison, all of which have been pardoned on the ground of miscarriage of justice, it goes without saying that Anwar is ready to serve Malaysia and the world.

Deeper questions

Lastly, all Confucians, must at all points ask themselves what make their similarities common across all religious and spiritual realms. In other words, a Confucian is one who seeks peace and truth, but is constantly pulled to the fore to ask ever deeper questions that can transcend all humanities. It is this spirit of perpetual curiosity, invariably, humility, that makes a Confucian Confucian. Not power over others. But power over oneself, what Islam may call “jihad al-akbar,” the greater conquest of the inner soul.

Since Tu was speaking in a combination of refined English and Chinese during the Harvard seminar, there was no way that he was taking this line of thought lightly. In fact, having attended the Confucian seminar in Malaysia, then in Harvard, both by Tu, I knew that his own intellectual crystallisation on Islam had been touched by his encounter with Anwar. During seminars, Tu would often ask if Anwar was well.

If Tu were to meet Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in Putrajaya, Tu would have found equally good things to say about Mahathir as well. Rare is a man of 93 returning to politics to correct what had been done before. This, too, would fall under the Confucian concept of “self-rectification.”

As things are, Tu has become the director of Yenching Institute in Beijing University. There has been no recorded encounter between Tu, Mahathir and Anwar as yet. And, if Tu and Anwar were to meet again, one can certainly be sure that they will immediately send intellectual sparks flying.

In seeking to be PKR president, Anwar has positioned himself in a good Confucian and Islamic light – he is ready to serve. Besides, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and Nurul Izzah have given Anwar much to be proud of. The focus is on getting to the policy and intellectual battlefront in Malaysia.

Thus, it makes perfect sense to see the return of the Confucian gentleman that is Anwar Ibrahim, whose famous words, “Wor men shi ii jia ren” (We are all one family) will always ring true, and never hollow.


PHAR KIM BENG is a Harvard/Cambridge Commonwealth Fellow, a former Monbusho scholar at the University of Tokyo and visiting scholar at Waseda University.

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

Congratulations to Malaysiakini–The No.1 News Portal in Malaysia


June 28, 2018

Malaysiakini is No.1 News Portal in Malaysia: A Profile in Courage

http://www.malaysiakini.com

 

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Note: Malaysiakini was born in 1999, in the crucible of the Reformasi movement that sprung up in the wake of the arrest and imprisonment of then-deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

Steven Gan and Premesh Chandran started the online news portal to give Malaysians an unvarnished view of what was happening in the country — the kind people were unable to get from the government-controlled mass media newspapers and TV stations at the time.

The little outlet is now one of Asia’s most influential news sites. But the journey has been perilous. In its two decades of operations, Malaysiakini has been raided by police numerous times, dragged to court and most recently faced the threat of seeing its founders incarcerated for their work.

Yet, it has also won numerous awards for its journalism and has a special place in the hearts of Malaysians the world over. More than 17 million people used the site to track the Malaysian election results on May 9 and a multitude more followed along on social media. Anwar Ibrahim, on his release from prison on May 16, after obtaining a royal pardon, specifically thanked Malaysiakini for its work and its journalism.

https://www.mumbrella.asia/2018/05/after-spending-20-years-fighting-for-malaysias-democracy-whats-next-for-malaysiakini

 

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Steven Gan and Premesh Chandran of Malaysiakini

Malaysiakini is the most popular media portal in Malaysia, according to the 2018 Reuters Digital News Report presented today at the East-West Center International Media Conference in Singapore.

The annual study of news consumption in various markets showed Malaysiakini ranking first in Malaysia with 44 percent of weekly usage by local users, followed by The Star Online (32 percent) and Berita Harian Online (24 percent).

Media Prima’s TV3 topped the TV, Radio and Print category with a 49 percent weekly usage, followed by The Star (at 31 percent) and Astro Awani (at 29 percent).

International provider Yahoo! News was voted the most trusted brand with a 6.12 overall score.

Media analyst Zaharom Nain, from the University of Nottingham Malaysia, said, “Malaysiakini with 44 percent reach has maintained its reputation for providing independent news and continues to retain the trust of many Malaysians, especially those tired of propaganda.”

Zaharom added that news portals such as Malaysiakini and The Malaysian Insight, however, still faced a problem in getting consumers to pay for online news.

He noted that the circulation figures for two Media Prima newspapers – the New Straits Times and Berita Harian – continued to decline due to two reasons they being political alignment and the transition from print to digital consumption.

“They were openly aligned and strongly supportive of the former Prime Minister, Najib Abdul Razak, at a time when he was embroiled in one major financial scandal after another. This made Media Prima-owned properties become increasingly unpopular with Malaysians.”

The 2018 Reuters Digital News Report also showed that 72 percent of those polled used social media as their source of news while the total percentage of users reading online, including social media, hit 89 percent.

Mr Holland’s Opus–Starring Richard Dreyfuss –An Inspirational Movie


June 7, 2018

Mr Holland’s Opus–Starring Richard Dreyfuss

Comment:

 

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My Friend, Ambassador John Malott (pic above) is passionate about Cambodia, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia after retiring from a distinguished career as a diplomat with the State Department.

In my long distance conversation over to the Internet with my dear friend Ambassador John Malott in Alexandria, Virginia  today, we got into a discussion about what we would do with the remainder of  our years before we fade, hopefully gracefully, into the sunset. John is 71 and I am 79. I told him that I wanted to realise  my childhood dream of being a teacher. After a career in Malaysia’s Foreign Service, Bank Negara Malaysia (Central Bank) and the private sector since 1963, here I am in 2018 not as an ordinary school teacher, but as an academic and researcher at The University of Cambodia (UC).

It is without a doubt one of the best decisions I ever made, and that is to be in the company of some of the young and brightest students in Cambodia. Over the last 5 years in Phnom Penh, I am a student again,thanks to Dr. Kao Kim Hourn, UC President, because education is a two way process. I am able to share my life experiences with my students and also learn new skills, share books, exchange ideas with them, and reinvigorate myself. I am lucky, I guess.

Image result for Din Merican at The University of Cambodia

I am grateful for the opportunity to lead an enriching life of service at  UC, and learn from my students about their rich culture, music, history and moral philosophy.  Mr.  Holland’s Opus is a touching movie  about the trials and tribulations of a music teacher who was concerned  about his legacy.

I too am concerned about my legacy. My American buddy John told me that I should not worry as I have found my calling and passion; and my legacy will be that of a teacher who cares about educating and developing  the mind. So here I am a happy and simple man.

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My liberal  business education at The George Washington University was demanding, challenging and morally transformational.  Terima kasih (Thanks) GWU for  Your Care.

Thanks, John, for your friendship. Thank you America and Americans for the quality education at The George Washington University. May God Bless you, my late Professor, academic advisor and intellectual mentor, Dr. Philip Donald Grub, for showing me the way.–Din Merican

Blame Thyself, UMNO-You had it coming to you


June 6, 2018

Blame Thyself, UMNO-You had it coming to you

by Zainah Anwar

Inevitable change: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announcing his resignation when Barisan lost GE14 after the people rejected the corrupt practices of some of the Barisan politicians.
Tears won’t do

It may have been a shock win for Pakatan Harapan in the recent election, but the writing has been on the wall for Barisan Nasional for more than a decade. Finally, change has come! It was simply inevitable.

I have been writing for over a decade of the politically manufactured extremism and intolerance within Malay society and how the 2006 UMNO General Assembly was the turning point when a party that had prided itself as the bedrock of centrist politics, presented an extremist face to Malaysians on live television.

The histrionics of race and religion under threat, the keris waving, and the full display of Malay-Muslim machismo alienated and scared not just the non-Muslims, but the many moderate and progressive Muslims in the country. UMNO had crossed the line. The belligerent UMNO speakers thought they reflected the mood on the ground, only to fast discover that the ground had shifted from under their feet, as the President tried vainly to do some damage control with his closing speech.

 

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By the 2008 General Elections, the resounding victory that then Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi enjoyed in 2004 based on his change agenda was overturned. The rakyat inflicted the most crushing blow to Barisan Nasional. Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor fell to the Opposition, and the ruling party lost its much vaunted two-thirds majority.

It all went wrong within just four short years. Abdullah Badawi had led Barisan to its greatest electoral victory ever, winning 199 of 219 parliamentary seats in 2004. He promised to eliminate corruption, to introduce open tendering for government contracts. He regarded the NGOs as the eyes and ears of the government, he stood up for women’s rights and a progressive Islam (Islam Hadhari) that must be re-interpreted to deal with changing times and circumstances. He promised a kinder, gentler Malaysia and more open and democratic politics.

While many of us shared in the fifth Prime Minister’s vision of a democratising, transparent and accountable government and his promise of an inclusive rule for all Malaysians, his failure to deliver on much of this grand vision and his inability to take charge of his change agenda in the face of resistance from powerful centres of power within UMNO, within the civil service, the Police, and even within his own cabinet eventually led to a massive loss of confidence. It was not supposed to be business as usual. But on the ground, it was much too much of the same thing.

From the endless manufacturing of a siege and crisis mentality among the Malays to supremacist speeches in the name of race and religion, from the Lingam tapes to judicial integrity, from rising crime to rising prices, local development without public representation, political leaders behaving badly, and allegations of corruption and cronyism that did not abate…the electorate was in no mood to wait for the promised change to come or to even acknowledge that some change had indeed taken place.

Anything but UMNO

I had written after the 2008 general elections that the massive public repudiation of Barisan was not just a repudiation of the Prime Minister’s rule, but of all the corrupt, immoral, authoritarianism of Barisan politics and governance in its 50 years of domination. The public has had enough.

That Pakatan Rakyat won votes on a platform of change from “Ketuanan Melayu” to “KetuananRakyat” and a smorgasbord of promises to make democracy and good governance work for ALL citizens was beyond UMNO comprehension.

While the new alliance was fast capturing the shifting mood of Malaysian voters to a new political centre of equitable and fairer terms of engagement among the citizens, and between the citizen and the state, and generating excitement among young voters and community groups that their voices could indeed bring change, UMNO members were more preoccupied with power grabbing in the run-up to party elections in December 2009.

They might win party elections whooping their “Ketuanan Melayu” battle cry, but they would cause the party to lose the next general elections, I predicted. The ground had shifted, but they dug deeper into their bad old bag of tricks of race, religion, money politics, and self-enrichment. I never understood what was there for MCA, Gerakan and MIC to stay on with UMNO and its intemperate and relentless stomping and condoning of ethno-religious supremacy that was driving away Chinese and Indian voters into the waiting arms of PKR, DAP and even PAS. The mood indeed was anything but UMNO.

It was clear by 2008 that Malaysian politics was taking off into an epochal transformation from race-based to issue-based, I felt. Increasingly, Malaysians were building new solidarity based on issues, not race or religion. Be it human rights, women’s rights, free and fair elections, democracy, good governance, anti-corruption, freedom of the press, detention without trial, death in custody, local government, environment, land rights, quality education, arts and culture, … it would be issues that would bring Malaysians of all ethnic backgrounds together, I wrote then.

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So Abdullah was forced into early retirement and Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak became the Sixth Prime Minister, warning UMNO to “change or perish”. He called on UMNO members to be the eyes and ears of the rakyat so that UMNO could read accurately the pulse of the nation and translate that into policy and action. He called on the people to restore the bridges that brought us together and tear the walls that separated us. He introduced 1Malaysia and he wanted repressive laws repealed and UMNO party rules to be more democratic.

Regime crisis

That was 2009. But I wrote early on that Najib might have the dubious honour of being the first UMNO President to become Leader of the Opposition, as I saw no mood for change among UMNO leaders and members. They felt they were the only rakyat that mattered. All they were preoccupied with was to use the race card to enrich themselves – to get more handouts and more contracts into their grubby hands.

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2008 Elections–Malaysian Spring

Almost 11 months after the 2008 elections, UMNO lost a by-election in Kuala Terengganu as PAS, PKR and DAP displayed unprecedented cohesion and dazzled the voters with their unity, sharing the same platform everywhere.

It had made no difference to UMNO thinking and strategising that 74% of the Malays in the Kuala Terengganu constituency polled a week before polling day believed that “Malay political power was weakened by corrupt and self-serving leaders”, while only 17% said it was weakened by “demands made by the non-Malays”.

UMNO had become a gravy train for personal wealth accumulation for most of its leaders and members. The party had so lost touch with the ground that it no longer cared for public opinion. Their rhetoric of Malay dominance, and race and religion under threat was delusional when more and more Malays were rejecting them in favour of a multi-ethnic opposition promising good governance and equitable citizenship rights.

That a newly cobbled coalition of strange bedfellows could present a united front and work together as a team and sell their multi-ethnic agenda to a Malay electorate showed what a pathetic empty shell Barisan as a multi-ethnic coalition had become.

2009 under the new leadership brought no respite to the rakyat. Incident after incident piled up and we felt as if the country was going to implode. Issues on whether one was a Muslim or not, whether a father who converted to Islam had the right to unilaterally convert his underage children, the sentencing of Kartika to caning for drinking a glass of beer, the arrest and prosecution of then former Perlis Mufti for teaching Islam in a private home in Selangor without a letter of authorisation…the endless sledgehammer of persecution in the name of Islam went on.

By 2010, the likes of the belligerent Ibrahim Ali and Zulkifli Noordin had emerged as the poster boys of UMNO and the future the party believed in. It was their voice and those of their ilk that the government of the day seemed to listen to. Not the voice of Malaysians, who believe in our founding fathers’ vision of a modern, democratic, secular, culturally pluralistic and inclusive political community.

Unpopular tactic:: Umno continued to play on the race and religion sentiments to maintain power, like its Umno Youth chief Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Tun Hussein, who brandished the “Keris Panca Warisan” at the begining of their assembly in PWTC in 2011.

 

Contrary voices were either cowed into silenced or demonised. More demagogues were organised to whip up Malay sentiment against any attempts to discuss concerns arising from the makeover of the Constitutional idea of “the special position of the Malays” into Malay supremacy.

The idea of Ketuanan Melayu sits uncomfortably among many Malaysians, be they Malays, Chinese, Indians, Ibans, Kadazan-Dusun, Bajaus, Orang Asal, Eurasians…. It is a racial supremacist idea, a far cry from the simple reality that Malays as the majority population of this country will naturally be the politically dominant group. And a far cry from the constitutional notion of the “special position of the Malays” which legitimised affirmative action as a temporary special measure to enable a historically disadvantaged group to catch up.

Obviously, Malaysia had entered into another “regime crisis”. The NEP-era political phase and governing mechanism exhaled its last breath on March 8, 2008.The Opposition had still not coalesced into a viable trusted alternative with a common political vision of Malaysia. The Barisan Nasional government showed no resolve to deal with the concerns and contestations over matters of race and religion, and human rights and fundamental liberties. This pessimism about the future of Malaysia continued to corrode the body politic and the public sense of well-being.

By mid-2010, I pronounced in this column that UMNO was beyond redemption. It had regressed into a dinosaur, too huge, too old, too fossilised in its ways to be able to adapt to new conditions. The sense of privilege and entitlement was too entrenched for UMNO members to ever want to change.

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 Pakatan Rakyat was born in 2008

While UMNO politicians and Perkasa pointed fingers at other races as a threat to Malay political survival, the Malays themselves saw something else. A Merdeka Centre survey revealed that 70% of Malays felt that the main threat to the Malay political position in the country was corruption among Malay leaders. Only 22% believed it was due to demands made by other races in the country. This national survey reinforced the Kuala Terengganu findings of January 2009.

The changing values and changing mood was clear. A significant 40% of the Malay respondents believed that citizens should be treated and accorded the same rights in Malaysia, regardless of race and religion. Forty-five per cent believed that government assistance programmes only benefited the rich and politically connected. The two top issues all respondents identified as being the most important in need of change were: “making the country more democratic” and “making our education system world class”. But 66% of the public felt a sense of powerlessness that they could influence government policy.

And yet UMNO continued to play its dangerous game for the future of Malaysia. And it did not care that continuing to abuse race and religion unabated spelt the death knell to its Barisan partners who could never hope to deliver the minority votes necessary for the ruling coalition to maintain power.

No political will

The then Prime Minister (Najib Razak) made attempts to bring UMNO back to the centre by calling for the voice of moderation to prevail in Malaysia, reminding UMNO members at the 2010 General Assembly that it was the Malay trait of moderation that had enabled the community to be accepted as leaders in a multicultural society.

But wasatiyyah required political courage. No one in UMNO had the political will to follow words with deeds. Its hypocrisy continued to stench. Sisters in Islam was called in twice by the Police for questioning under the Penal Code and the Sedition Act for standing up for Kartika. For the first time too, a state religious authority issued an official Friday sermon attacking Sisters in Islam and urged the congregation to take action against us. Global Movement of Moderates indeed.

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In frustration, I wrote a column in 2011 on whose voice should prevail in this country. Those who perpetually saw race and religion under threat and demanded that every person who believed, thought, behaved, dressed, acted, opined differently should be “fixed” through many state sanctioned operations – boot camps, rehabilitation camps, punished under the Internal Security Act, the Sedition Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Syariah Criminal Offences Act, or just denounced and demonised as enemies and traitors of race, religion and country?

Or those who envision a democratic and just future, where rights are recognised on the basis of citizenship rather than just race, religion, or sex.

The choice was obvious to most of us, the good citizens of Malaysia who loved this country, and who were determined to be resilient, resourceful, and open minded to face the challenges and realities of the 21st century.

The same old script

I was totally frustrated by the endless manufacturing of many more new threats. From the innocuous fun of poco-poco to the relativism of post-modernism, from calling Muslims opposed to UMNO and PAS unification as “pengkhianat Islam” (traitors of Islam) to accusing Christians of plotting to turn Malaysia into a Christian state! All these of course adding to the existing long list of threats that included pluralism, liberalism, feminism, secularism, kongsi raya, open house, tomboys, yoga…

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UMNO’s Racist Stooge–Jamal Ikan Bakar Yunos–now on the run from the Malaysian Police

It was hard to understand why these same actors were trotting out the same old script that cost the Barisan Nasional government so dearly in 2008. It’s like as if nobody had learnt any lessons from that political tsunami. Since attacking liberal Muslims and ungrateful Chinese did not work in 2008, they amended the script to add Christians and even the passé Communists. Why would an unpopular political party create more enemies, instead of making friends?

And to be sure they added the promise of the Hudud law and its grim serving of chopped off Muslim hands and feet, stoning to death, crucifixion! What kind of future is that? “It’s ok to implement the Hudud law because it doesn’t affect non-Muslims.” So it’s ok for Muslims to be brutalised? “Non-Muslims should shut up because it doesn’t affect them.” But they are Malaysian citizens who have every right to speak up on laws that allow for brutal and inhumane punishments against their fellow citizens, the majority population to boot. “Muslims who are not experts on Islam should shut up”. Then please take religion out of the public sphere and make it private between us and God.

By 2012, a desperate UMNO, which for two decades under Mahathir’s rule had been consistently opposed to the Hudud law, embraced it as its own. One state assemblyman in Johor proudly proclaimed that the UMNO Hudud would be superior to the PAS Hudud as it would apply to all citizens, Muslims and non-Muslims! And other UMNO leaders and entities in quick succession echoed the call, lest their piety be questioned. And they stoked the debate further by trying to portray the upcoming general elections as a choice between those who wanted the Hudud and the Islamic state and those against.

I wrote then that the choice before us was not between Islam and secularism, not between Hudud law and civil law, not between tradition and modernity. Those were false dichotomies created to divide us. The choice before us was between democracy and despotism, between good governance and corruption, between equality and discrimination, between social justice and inequity.

The UMNO-Perkasa-Utusan Malaysia nexus and its orchestrated battle cry of “Malays and Islam under threat” stoked Malay anxiety – enough to win UMNO support and make a nine seat gain in the 2013 general elections. Malays, who saw UMNO as its protector, bought into the emotive appeal that their special rights would be eroded by a Pakatan coalition that stood for affirmative action based on need, rather than race, and Ketuanan Rakyat rather than Ketuanan Melayu.

But the very political strategy that won UMNO support in the rural areas and among some segments of the Malay community, cost Barisan support among the Chinese, Indians and Malays in urban and semi-urban areas. For the first time, Barisan won the national elections with less than 50% of the popular vote.

The demands for reformasi that began in 1999 with the sacking and mistreatment of Anwar Ibrahim was steaming ahead. Barisan popular votes went down by 10% then and Umno and Barisan were saved by support from the Chinese, many of whom were spooked by reformasi in Indonesia. 2004 was just a blip in the downward slide with excitement over promises of change by a new Prime Minister. Performing from bad to worse in two successive general elections was unprecedented.

There were yet more calls for change. This time the then Deputy Prime Minister warned UMNO members to “change or be dead”. But no one was listening. Some UMNO leaders continued to blame others for their failures and shortcomings. And this time they told those who disagreed with them to leave the country. In the past, the retort used to be vote us out if you don’t agree, but by 2013 that was too painfully close to the truth to even utter.

At the UMNO General Assembly that year, the debate, in content and tone, did not provide voters with any indication or hope that UMNO was capable of change to win back the support it had lost in two successive elections.

The de rigueur threats were made yet again – from “liberalism, pluralism and secularism”, to threats from people who supposedly attacked “Islam, the Sultans, the national language, the NEP” all rolled in one breath, and threats from oh, those forever ungrateful Chinese. And then, of course, the same old demands for more handouts and economic assistance for the Malays. And nary a curious squeak as to why a Malay dominated government that has implemented affirmative action policies for over 40 years, with billions spent on bumiputra empowerment and economic advancement plus dozens of accompanying policy instruments, have still failed to address the needs of those left behind and build the resilient commercial and industrial community as envisaged.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the party Deputy President, gave a dire warning in his closing speech – that just a 2% swing in votes will cost Barisan to lose power.

Forty-four of the 133 Parliamentary seats Barisan held were regarded as “grey” seats where the party had won by a mere majority of between 0.1 and 5.9%. Without new initiatives to appeal to the electorate, Barisan would be in a “precarious position”, he warned.

I met a few UMNO leaders who were at that general assembly who said they cringed listening to the speeches and the non-debates. They felt they were in a sinking ship.

Then why didn’t you and people like you in UMNO speak out, I asked. One said, “Are you kidding me. I speak out, I turn my back, no one is behind me.”

Another said, “I speak out, they will send the income tax guys knocking on my door at 3am.”

The dinosaur was truly paralysed and rotten to the core. Malaysia has changed, more and more Malays were changing, but UMNO remained trapped in a dance hall, partying to its own music, oblivious that extinction was near.

In July 2015, I wrote a column, feeling choked and suffocated that this country and its rakyat were being crushed and pummelled by wrecking balls. The wrecking balls of race and religion, of insatiable greed, of desperation to stay in power, of never-ending sense of entitlements, of unpunished crimes and abuses, of ideology over rational thinking, justice, and fair play. These concerns were nothing new. What was new was the breathtaking scale, the endlessness of it all, and the shamelessness with which the perpetrators displayed their unscrupulous, destructive and criminal behaviour, in words and deeds.

The 1MDB scandal had broken. We began to live in an Orwellian world where bad was good and good was bad, where those who revealed abuses and scandals were detained, questioned, prevented from travelling, charged in court, sacked from their positions, while those accused proclaimed their innocence and carried on unimpeached, and buttressed to remain in power.

By this time, I felt UMNO was committing hara-kiri. It added yet more mind-boggling threats – “national security” and “parliamentary democracy” it seemed were now under threat as more and more damning evidence of kleptomaniac behaviour at the very top was revealed. To continue to talk about it posed a threat to the stability of the ruling party and therefore a threat to democracy and national security! What a mind leap we were supposed to exercise to believe in this Orwellian construction of truth.

I never understood why UMNO leaders or all the Barisan MPs still could not see that their rule was over. If the Prime Minister continued to lead the party, they would lose GE-14. Didn’t they consider working together to put pressure on him to step down in order to save the party and the country? Didn’t they consider working together with the Opposition MPs to mount a no-confidence motion in Parliament? It was staggering that a Prime Minister could ever accept RM2.6 billion dollars into his personal account – and still remain in office. It was as simple as that.

 

Image result for mahathir bin mohamad

“The promise of change and the reality that it could happen was electrifying as a 92-year-old indefatigable former Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, stomped the country to convince enough of those who were scared of change that they would be in good hands with him at the helm.–Zainah Anwar

But too many on the UMNO bandwagon remained dazzled by the millions that had been dispensed to them and the many more millions that they could still make in power. So right up to May 9, they believed they would still obtain a handsome victory at the polls. The unthinkable, they thought, could not happen with the money spent, the gerrymandering and malapportionment, the mid-week polling day, the mainstream media on their side, the threat of arrests under the fake news law, the threat of an emergency under the new national security act.

But we Malaysians have had enough. The promise of change and the reality that it could happen was electrifying as a 92-year-old indefatigable former Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, stomped the country to convince enough of those who were scared of change that they would be in good hands with him at the helm.

My friends and I knew this was the best chance to overthrow a party that had been in power since independence day. For the first time ever, we collected money to donate to candidates of our choice. Many of us in the women’s movement volunteered for Maria Chin, raised funds, managed her Bilik Gerakan, helped with her communications, outreach, worked as PACAs, pounded the streets at markets and neighbourhoods, and trudged up and down low-cost flats, to reach out to the voters in Petaling Jaya. We headed to as many ceramahs as possible in the Klang Valley. The idealistic fresh faces standing on stage promising a new democratic, inclusive, and clean government gave us hope.

While so many friends were still too scared to predict the outcome for certain, I just felt it in my old bones that Pakatan Harapan would sweep into power.

UMNO has no one else to blame but itself that Malays no longer see it as the protector of the race and religion. In swinging to the far right and representing the interest of only one segment of the Malay community, it lost the faith of many others that it was able to steer a moderate path to maintain Malaysia’s political stability and prosperity in collaborative partnership with others.

Today, the sun is shining again and I am so, so proud to be Malaysian. We bucked the global trend of elections bringing into power conservative and right wing parties. My friends abroad were thrilled that we Malaysians did it! – Through peaceful elections and a relatively smooth democratic transition to a new ruling coalition that stands for reform. If in the recent past they had asked me in despair what went wrong with Malaysia as it became known for the biggest kleptocracy scandal ever, this time with envy, they asked, “How did you do it?”

The Malaysian electorate has for decades wanted to see change in the way this country is governed, how law is applied, how politics is conducted and how business is run. The long standing public demand for greater transparency and accountability, independence of the judiciary, a free and responsible press, free and fair elections, a more just and open political system, an end to police abuse and misuse of power, and an end to the intricate web of business and politics that bred cronyism and corruption, that for decades remained unmet, now seem possible.

For Pakatan Harapan, winning was the easy job. The hard work now begins. And I have no doubt that the rakyat will throw them out if they fail to deliver on their promises. For this election victory is as much ours as it is theirs. It was us who led the demand for change for decades, and we never gave up. We delivered the victory to Pakatan. We all feel very precious about what we have achieved and we will remain vigilant. And we will not be cowed into silence.

Today, we live in hope and optimism that all good things are possible in this new Malaysia. Salam Malaysia Baru, my beloved.

https://www.thestar.com.my

NY Times BOOK REVIEW: Reporter by Seymour M. Hersh


June 1, 2018

NY Times BOOK REVIEW: Reporter by Seymour M. Hersh

The qualities that make Seymour Hersh a first-rate reporter — his hustle, his wonkiness, his nighthawk drive to unearth a radioactive fact and then top that fact — make him a second-rate memoirist. Like a greyhound or a kamikaze pilot or an insurance man peddling a policy (he sometimes reminds the reader of each), he’s not built for reflection.

It’s all here in his new memoir, “Reporter,” if by “all” we mean the filing-cabinet details behind his greatest scoops, the settling dust of old deadline clashes. Hersh won a Pulitzer Prize in 1970, at 33, for his freelance expose on the massacre by American troops at My Lai village during the Vietnam War.

He was soon hired by The New York Times and, during the 1970s and early ’80s, did supersnoop work on stories including Watergate, the secret bombing of Cambodia, and C.I.A. spying on domestic antiwar protesters.

Writing for The New Yorker later in his career, he was largely responsible for alerting the world to the torture of prisoners by Americans at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.

For Hersh’s subjects, becoming an object of his interest is like having the Red Baron on your tail. He made Henry Kissinger paranoid. (“Sy Hersh is out to get me.”) The C.I.A. director William Colby was caught on tape saying, “He knows more about this place than I do.”

Hersh was so single-minded that, in the early 1970s, he met John Lennon and Yoko Ono at a party and had no idea who they were. “How was I to know?” he writes in his new book. “Neither had anything to do with Watergate.”

If Hersh rarely seems quite human, neither does “Reporter.” He piles on the policy and deadline details while leaving people and their beating hearts mostly behind.

His wife and children, for example, appear in this book mostly as afterthoughts. We do get a sense of his wife’s suffering when she’s introduced to a senior editor at The Times who says: “Oh my, Mrs. Hersh. You have my heartfelt condolences.”

Omitting family matters is not a mortal sin. This book is titled “Reporter,” not “Husband,” “Father,” “Lover” or “Coach.” Christopher Hitchens, in his memoir “Hitch-22,” left his romantic and family life to the side as well.

But his book was stacked high with memories of friendships and avenues of human joy and pain. Hitchens could size up a person, often hilariously, in a paragraph or two. Here’s where “Reporter” falls short.

Hersh knew nearly everyone who mattered in American journalism. He took long walks with his iconoclastic mentor, I. F. Stone. He played tennis regularly with Ben Bradlee, as well as with Bob Woodward and the district attorney Robert M. Morgenthau.

He saw movies with Daniel Ellsberg; drank martinis with his neighbor, the columnist Mary McGrory; played poker with others; and calls Gloria Emerson and Anthony Lewis, for example, dear friends.

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Seymour M. HershCreditDon J. Usner

Yet he barely evokes any of these people. There’s no crosshatching and little context. It’s as if they were all John and Yoko. He sees other humans but they do not compute.

Hersh grew up on the South Side of Chicago, the son of immigrants who had arrived at Ellis Island. His father owned a dry cleaners in a poor and mostly black neighborhood. Working there as a young man, Hersh writes, helped give him the gift of gab.

He did poorly at school and attended a two-year junior college before a professor saw his promise as a writer and got him into the University of Chicago. He went briefly to law school before falling in love with the Ben Hecht-like romance of Chicago journalism.

 

He loved the wire service copy of the old pros, “just fact after fact, with no analysis, presented in clean, spare prose under rat-a-tat pressure.” He worked at small papers before being assigned to The Associated Press’s Washington bureau in 1965. He’d achieved liftoff.

Hersh felt keenly the injustice of the Vietnam War, and loathed dissembling of every variety. He was briefly Senator Eugene J. McCarthy’s press secretary during McCarthy’s quixotic bid for the presidency.

McCarthy, to Hersh’s dismay, skipped an important fund-raiser at the last minute to see a film version of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” with another staffer. The two had heard the movie contained a vulgar exclamation that was not often heard in films at the time.

To be fair, Hersh does get his share of stories told. Battles with his journalistic ally and nemesis Abe Rosenthal, a legendary editor of The Times, are delightfully recounted.

Hersh chafed under what he saw as The Times’s overly cautious journalistic mind-set. Rosenthal, on the other hand, liked to tousle Hersh’s hair and ask, “How’s my little commie?”

For legal reasons, editors at The Times so tamped down one of his stories — a 1976 series about the mobbed-up fixer Sidney Korshak — that Hersh threw his typewriter through an office window.

The best story told here may be about Lyndon B. Johnson defecating on a dirt road in front of The Times reporter Tom Wicker to indicate what he thought of his work.

In recent years, Hersh has often published his work, including an account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, in less mainstream outlets. Some of this reporting has been challenged, and he has been criticized for his tendency to make incendiary claims in public speeches that go beyond what the facts he has produced will support. Hersh’s comment: “I will happily permit history to be the judge of my recent work.”

So many of journalism’s old war dogs have left or are leaving us, and there’s a sense that we won’t get many more memoirs like this one. If this book’s pilot light isn’t fully lit, it still puts a big career across.

Hersh was never a hack or a safe man while he leapt tall deadlines in single bounds. Send him into any forest and he would come back with two handfuls of arrowheads, a buried deposit box and a cigar.

He’s at work on a book about Dick Cheney, who has hated him for decades. Judge a man by his enemies. I’ll place my advance.

He’s at work on a book about Dick Cheney, who has hated him for decades. Judge a man by his enemies. I’ll place my advance order right now.

Follow Dwight Garner on Twitter: @DwightGarner.

Reporter
A Memoir
By Seymour M. Hersh
Illustrated. 355 pages. Alfred A. Knopf. $27.95.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page C5 of the New York edition with the headline: Beating Deadlines and Prying Open History. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper |

Michelle Wolf Blasted Open the Fictions of Journalism in the Age of Trump


May 1, 2018

Michelle Wolf Blasted Open the Fictions of Journalism in the Age of Trump

On Saturday, the comedian Michelle Wolf, performing at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, delivered the most consequential monologue so far of the Donald Trump era. Some of the attendees claimed to have walked out of the dinner in protest during the performance; others, like the President’s Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, have been lauded for remaining stoically in place in the face of scathing humor. The tension of it all might have been too much. The Times’ White House correspondent Peter Baker lamented on Twitter, “I don’t think we advanced the cause of journalism tonight.” Commentators wondered—not for the first time—whether the White House Correspondents’ Association should discontinue the tradition of having comedians perform at the function.

Wolf’s monologue—sharp, unflinching, and pointedly unfunny in places—called bullshit on the role laughter has been performing in Trump’s America. Over the last year and a half, much of the culture has sought relief in humor in much the same way as citizens of extremely repressive countries. Back in the early nineties, in her book “How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed,” the Croatian writer Slavenka Drakulić described laughter as the ultimate personal triumph over the daily humiliations of life under Communist rule. In today’s Russia, people make jokes about the fear Vladimir Putin inspires (he opens the fridge and the jellied meat begins to quake, but he reassures it by saying he is getting the yogurt) or the suicidal nature of Russian foreign policy (we’ll retaliate against American sanctions by bombing the Russian city of Voronezh), the same way that they used to joke about Leonid Brezhnev’s inability to talk or stay awake during official functions. Jokes serve a transparent purpose: they reclaim the power to define—and inhabit—reality. They also reclaim the goodness of laughter, for regimes weaponize laughter to mock their opponents, creating what the cultural theorist Svetlana Boym called “totalitarian laughter.” Its opposite is anti-totalitarian laughter.

I recognize laughter in the age of Trump as though it were a cousin of anti-totalitarian laughter. It is the reaction to seeing act-based reality, as when “Saturday Night Live” essentially reënacts White House press conferences, or when late-night comedians offer up what amounts to straightforward reportage and analysis. The hunger for a reflection of reality is so desperate that, I have discovered repeatedly over the last year and a half, one can reliably get laughs simply by quoting Trump during a public talk.

Last month, Hillary Clinton got laughs and applause during her Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture, which concluded PEN America’s annual World Voices Festival, by merely referring to Trump’s lie about the size of the crowd at his Inauguration (around the twenty-three-minute mark here). There was nothing funny about any of it: not about the President’s lies, nor about the grief that this had not been Clinton’s Inauguration, nor about the fact that, speaking a year and a half after her electoral loss, addressing the friendliest of all possible audiences, Clinton was as stilted, scripted, and unapproachable as ever. She was still campaigning, still losing, and there was no reason to laugh.

Political satire in less troubled times exaggerates existing facts, pointing out the absurdities inherent in all ideologies, or playing up smaller disagreements and failures for bigger laughs. But Trump is hard to exaggerate—it is enough, it seems, merely to mirror him. But why does faithful portrayal of fact-based reality elicit laughter in a country that has a free press and a healthy public sphere in which, it seems, reality is robustly represented? What do late-night comedians reclaim from the Times?

Wolf’s performance at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner suggests an answer. She called the President a racist, a truth as self-evident as it has proved difficult for mainstream journalists to state. Her humor was obscene: she joked about the President’s affair with a porn star; about his “pulling out,” as promised (of the Paris agreement); and about the G.O.P.’s former deputy finance chair Elliott Broidy’s $1.6 million payoff to a former mistress. She also made mincemeat of White House staff, House and Senate Republican leaders, the Democrats, and journalists on the right and left, in their presence or in that of their colleagues.

The White House Correspondents’ Association dinner is a peculiar institution. It brings together White House correspondents, other members of the news media, and the people they cover: government employees and elected officials. (In years past, though not so much in the Trump era, it also attracted a gaggle of Hollywood celebrities.) What makes these dinners possible are fictions about civility and performance. There is a fiction that holds that journalists and their subjects can eat and socialize together and yet maintain the distance necessary to continue performing their professional roles. There is a fiction that they can laugh at one another and themselves and not take offense, that the divisions among guests are ultimately bridgeable, that all of them inhabit the same reality, and that both the humor and the objects of the humor are innocuous.

The same fiction continues to dominate our public sphere. In this story, Trump performs the role of President, albeit poorly, and those in the media maintain a strained civility in their coverage of him. In this story, the statement that the President is a racist is still controversial. In this story, the media can discuss his affair with a porn star, and even the question of whether he used a condom, without undermining respect for the office. This is an essential pretense, because respect for the office of the President is indeed a value that should transcend the current Presidency. But it is this pretense, and these fictions, that cast a pall of unreality over most media coverage and make late-night comedy shows the better news outlets. And then there is the pretense that the late-night comedians exist in a parallel universe, separate even from the television channels that broadcast them.

Wolf’s routine burst the bubbles of civility and performance, and of the separation of media and comedy. It plunged the attendees into the reality that is, in the Trump era, the stuff of comedy. Through her obscene humor, Wolf exposed the obscenity of the fictions—and the fundamental unfunniness of it all. Her last line, the most shocking of her entire monologue, bears repeating: Flint still doesn’t have clean water.