Malaysia’s ‘Men of Always’


June 13, 2017

Malaysia’s ‘Men of Always’

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

 

“When I say devils, you know who I mean.
These animals in the dark.
Malicious politicians with nefarious schemes.
Charlatans and crooked cops.” – William Elliot Whitmore (Old Devils)

 

COMMENT | In the gripping if romanticised Netflix drama “Nacros”, Pablo Escobar, in a moment of inspired self-serving rhetoric, claims, “the men of always aren’t interested in the children of never”.

The men of always were the established political class of Colombia, but more importantly, they represented the idea of political permanence sustained by populism, corruption and systemic dysfunction. The children of never should be self-evident.

Image result for mahathir's ketuanan politics into pakatan

The Men of Always–God help Malaysia

Wan Saiful Wan Jan, the IDEAS man, recently claimed that Pakatan Harapan needs to move on from the “old batch” and that “fresh blood” is needed. This comes at a time when most opposition supporters have made peace with the man they claimed destroyed Malaysia and laid the tracks of the Najib Kleptrocratic Express.

This writer, agreeing with Zaid Ibrhaim, wrote – “This is the game the opposition has chosen to play and if they want to win, they have to play for keeps. And that is the only way the former Prime Minister knows how to play.” I am, I suppose part of the problem.

The problem I have with Wan Saiful’s rejoinder is that there is no new batch. There is no fresh blood. Malaysia’s men of always have seen to it that their imprimatur is stamped on the new political operatives that are supposedly stepping out from their shadows.

While PAS has an ideology, granted one that any rational person would reject, the rest of the opposition is, in reality, playing the old alliance game of the politics of racial and religious compromise that has not worked.

This is the main idea of Malaysia’s men of always. That we have no choice but to embrace their ideas because it is the pragmatic thing to do. That it is the only thing to do because people will never change and we are all ghettoised in our racial cocoons.

The reality is that the Malay community has changed. This change was deliberate. The Chinese and Indian communities have changed. This change was reactionary. Change is not alien in Malaysia, just misunderstood.

Back in the old days, opposition to the Establishment meant something, those were the days when UMNO’s political operatives feared the opposition because their ideas of dissent were not diluted by establishment ideas that come with power. The opposition tsunami that brought UMNO to its knees was supposed to herald a change in the way how business was run, but not as a refinement of old ideas.

There is no “new batch” – only a political operatives cast from the same old mould but mimicking the rhetoric of progressive politics. There is no fresh blood, only blood infused with the DNA of old policies meant to divide us along racial and religious lines. This does not mean that there are no Malaysians who want real change, only that their voices are drowned out on social media and the endless new cycles of establishment malfeasances.

Image result for Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman

 

Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman (photo), in his comment piece about the possible lessons learned from the recent United Kingdom election, attempts to draw similarities with our own disparate opposition. This is problematic for a variety of reasons. I think there are some things we could learn from the recent UK election fiasco, but I do not think we should be so eager to see similarities when the our political landscape is very different.

Here are few takeaways from the recent election that may be helpful, if you wish to draw analogies.

(1) Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, although a polarising figure in the Labour establishment, won his seat at the head of the table legitimately and had an underlying ideology which, although not in the Labour mainstream, resonated with a diverse voting demographic that despised the May regime for a variety of reasons.

(2) Labour’s election manifesto was widely disseminated and struck a nerve with a diverse voting demographic because of its supposedly egalitarian values, not to mention an anti-austerity agenda that rightly pointed out that the Tories (Conservatives) were sacrificing the many in the name of the few.

(3) Although there has been no official data, young people came out and voted in large numbers because they rejected the politics of business as usual, which was the mainstream of the Labour and Conservative regimes.

(4) Theresa May ran one of the worst campaigns in recent memory and the rejection of the conservative party was seen mainly as a rejection of Theresa May, who had trust issues not only with Labour voters but with her own base as well.

Youth vote is extremely important

What I think could be of great use for those looking for regime change here in Malaysia, is point (3). The youth vote is extremely important and, as demonstrated in many countries where the ruling establishment has suffered shock defeats (or barely maintaining power), the youths have come out to vote strongly against the ruling establishment.

In my advice to the young political operative when he was setting up his Youth wing, I made two points: (1) “The younger generation of Malay voters are a promising demographic but they are currently embroiled in a culture war that consumes most of their energy and effort. Young Malay oppositional types not only have to contend with the UMNO regime but they also have to contend with the Islamic forces in this country, with no help whatsoever from mainstream Malay political parties or non-Malay political parties, which do not view them as part of a new deal but merely as a specific racial demographic needed to win the throne of Putrajaya.”

(2) “There are literally hundreds of fringe Malay groups of young people who form the complex structure of alternate Malay politics, and instead of carrying on ghettoising them and appealing to them when needed, they should form the mainstream of Malay politics or, at the very least, the mainstream of Bersatu Youth politics.”

So what is the real lesson we can learn from this? That the opposition needs a leader who, although dismissed by his own mainstream, resonates with a diverse, fractured voting demographic. That an election manifesto that takes into account the needs of the many, instead of the few, is a flashpoint for change. That the ruling establishment coasting on previous victories and running a poorly managed campaign is a soft target but more importantly, young people, if inspired, can wreck havoc on traditional political wisdom.

Image result for Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj

Dr. Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj– A Model Malaysian Politician

My own fantasy is that PSM’s Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj becomes a Jeremy Corbyn-like figure in Harapan and manages to bring the existing regime to its knees. I know that this will never happen of course and that is really a shame, for this country.

The only way this can be done – is if oppositional politicans give people something other than what their bases think is important or pragmatic. The only way this could be achieved, if the opposition is so overtly different from the establishment, is when people who want change, but who do not necessarily support the opposition, think that their votes will make a difference. Especially young people.

Most importantly, you cannot serve the men of always and expect to free the children of never.

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

Infusing Ketuanan Politics into Pakatan Harapan


June 12, 2017

Infusing Ketuanan Politics into Pakatan Harapan —A Colossal Error

by William Leong Jee Keen
Image result for Mahathir's Ketuanan Politics into Pakatan
Now Mahathir embraces DAP–Credible and Winnable ?

The proposal for Tun Mahathir to take over leadership of the opposition and for Bersatu to become the dominant party in Pakatan Harapan to win Malay votes, instead of securing victory will end in disaster.

It is indeed critical for the opposition to win the Malay-majority constituencies, especially the rural Malay areas. There are 114 Malay-majority constituencies in peninsular Malaysia alone. In 2013, BN won 77, PAS 20 and PKR 17. Najib can retain power by winning these 114 parliament constituencies without drawing on his Sabah and Sarawak BN save deposit vote banks. A way must be found for the opposition coalition to win these constituencies but it has to be based on principles, respect for all interests and consensus. The proposal fails in these respects.

The proposal in essence is infusing racial politics into Pakatan Harapan. This will not sell. The proposal to win office, is to attract Malay voters by turning Pakatan Harapan into a BN and the continuation of Umno’s racial policies minus Najib. This proposal has serious flaws, three of which are set out below.

Betrayal of the Reform Agenda

Firstly, the assumption that by adopting a racial supremacy policy, Pakatan can hold on to the 52% who voted for the Reform Agenda in 2013 is false.

Image result for Mahathir and Kit Siang

If Pakatan Harapan trade Ketuanan Rakyat for Ketuanan Melayu-Minus-Najib in exchange for power, it will be a betrayal of principles, a selling-out of core beliefs. Pakatan Harapan cannot argue they are acting as statesmen or being pragmatic. The argument that such a compromise is justified by the higher objective of Pakatan Harapan forming the government cannot hold water. It is disingenuous to say gaining power is better than remaining in the opposition when the deal requires Pakatan Harapan to give up the very core reason to gain power — to institute change through implementation of the Reform Agenda.  It is not a compromise. It is not even a rotten compromise. It is a capitulation. Power without principles is simply greed. Winning office without the power to implement the reform promised is a betrayal of the 20 years of struggle and the cause so many have sacrificed so much for.

Mahathir cannot hope to hold onto Pakatan Harapan supporters with such a proposal. Even though they will not vote BN they will prefer not to vote at all. This will reduce Pakatan Harapan’s vote share.

A recent example of the significance of a reduced vote share is the US elections. Hillary Clinton just could not hold onto the support given to the Obama coalition. This proved to be her fatal undoing. Hillary obtained 88% of African-Americans compared to 93% for Obama, 65% of the Latinos to Obama’s 71%, 54% of the younger voters to Obama’s 60%. Although, Trump’s 58% of the white votes was less than Romney’s 59% in 2012. Distaste for Trump was not sufficient to overcome their apathy for Hillary. Democrats stayed at home and handed victory to Donald Trump. If the proposal is implemented, Pakatan Harapan will suffer a similar fate.

Leadership of the reform movement

Secondly, the assumption that by taking over the leadership of Pakatan Harapan, Mahathir will take over the leadership of the opposition is false.

The opposition is not Pakatan Harapan. Pakatan Harapan is only a vehicle for the real opposition, the masses who arose from the Reform Movement. The opposition are the reformists, activists, civil society, the 62 NGOs that formed BERSIH, the thousands who with their own money, time and energy went to the towns, villages, estates, Felda settlements and long houses to spread the word for change, the hundreds of thousands that came out to the streets, and the millions that voted against BN.

There are no elections in the Reform Movement. Anwar Ibrahim holds no official position in Parti Keadilan Rakyat. He is the de facto leader of the Reform Movement because he inspired commitment, built consensus, mobilised resources, recognised opportunities, devised strategies, framed demands and influenced outcomes. He appealed to the various races, religious groups and diverse interests by being inclusive. More importantly it is his courage of conviction for the Reform Agenda in choosing imprisonment over freedom that the masses accept his leadership.

The Reform Movement is an assertion of popular leadership by the people themselves. Democracy does not come from the government, from high, it comes from people getting together and struggling for freedom and justice. Politicians are elected and selected but mass movements do not elect officials or seek blessings or legitimacy from anyone. Mass movements transform society, they aim to persuade the courts, politicians and other actors to fall behind them, not the other way round. Mass movements accomplish this through appeals to shared sets of deep and widely held convictions among the people they aim to mobilise[1].

Bersatu cannot demand and Pakatan Harapan leaders cannot give to Mahathir the de facto leadership of the opposition movement. Even if Pakatan Harapan yields the leadership to Mahathir the masses will not necessarily accept his authority. The masses by their courage, conviction and commitment for change had withstood tear gas, water cannons, police brutality, beatings, arrests, detention without trial, selective prosecution, imprisonment, repression and ostracism. They will not accept the very policies they have been fighting for so long and so hard to abolish, even if this is proposed by the new de jure leadership of the vehicle. Without the mass support, the vehicle is but an empty shell.

The relationship between the leader and the masses is dialectical, it takes the agreement of both to work together: ”the leader cannot take the people where they do not want to go and he cannot operate outside the possibilities that were already part of the existing social structure and cultural heritage of the original movement.”[2] They will not want go back to a future, substituting Najib for Mahathir without a return to the rule of law, restoration of the institutions and the guaranteed implementation of the Reform Agenda. Weber’s analysis of charismatic authority still holds true: the charismatic leader has to be recognised by his followers in order to achieve the degree of legitimacy required, it cannot be demanded nor given.[3]

Policy-oriented coalition

Thirdly, the assumption that an opposition coalition founded on the removal of Najib from office and not a policy-oriented coalition is sufficient to win the election and sustainable to govern is false.

Coalitions formed for the purpose of securing enough votes or combining a sufficient number of parliamentary seats to govern through power-sharing arrangements without an agreement on the policies and their implementation are referred to as “office-seeking coalitions.” Office-seeking coalitions are coalitions whose main goal is access to power. Cabinet portfolios are the payoffs. Office-seeking coalitions have been accused of being “unprincipled” because their members were ideologically remote and therefore perceived as political opportunists interested in short-term gains rather than long-term policy goals.[4]

Policy-oriented coalitions are party coalitions justified by policy goals. For opposition alliances which sole aim is to defeat the incumbent to form a new government, there is no place for ideological affinity and the common-post election strategy in the case of defeat is to join the winner. Such alliances usually collapse as quickly as they are formed because they are, themselves, essentially an office-seeking strategy used by politicians to position themselves in such a way as to make themselves attractive to the governing party or coalition. The lack of ideology and the absence of a post-election strategy make office-seeking opposition coalitions difficult to sustain. In a study of five African countries, Kenya, Mauritius, Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa, it was found that it has been easy for the government of the day to buy off opposition leaders of office-seeking coalitions after their electoral defeat.[5]

The case of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) of Kenya is illustrative of the pitfalls of an office-seeking coalition. Daniel Arap Moi of the Kenyan African National Union (“KANU”) won Kenya’s 1992 and 1997 presidential election with 36.8% and 40.51% of the vote respectively. Combined the opposition garnered far more votes than the eventual winner. However, by splitting the votes, they failed to secure the presidency and gain a majority in parliament. In 2002, 14 opposition parties formed a coalition, the National Alliance Party of Kenya (NAK) with the Liberal Democratic Party (“LDP”). LDP consisted of a splinter group of disgruntled KANU leaders following Moi’s choice of Uhuru Kenyatta as presidential candidate. The coalition of NAK and LDP was called the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC). NARC put up Mwai Kibaki to contest the presidency against Uhuru Kenyatta of KANU. NARC won a landslide victory. NARC began to face problems within days after winning the election when Kibaki did not honour the agreement on cabinet posts to the coalition partners. In 2005, President Kibaki dissolved the cabinet, dismissed all the LDP ministers, allocating ministries to KANU, the party NARC had united against. In the 2007 elections Raila Odinga, formerly of the LDP ran against President Kibaki, formerly of NAK. Absence of a common ideology for political reform is one of the main reasons for the rapid disintegration of NARC.

South Korea has shown the sustainability of coalitions bonded by the common goal to implement democratic reforms. In 1987, the formation of a pro-democracy coalition and an unprecedented level of mass mobilisation pressured the authoritarian regime to accommodate democratic reform. However, neither of the two civilian candidates, Kim Dae Jung nor Kim Young Sam was willing to yield in their quests to become president causing civil society to be divided in supporting them, clearing the way for the regime candidate Roh Tae Woo to win the election with only 36% of the vote. In the 1997 elections, for the first time in South Korean history, an opposition candidate, Kim Dae Jung was elected president. Civil society and its mobilisation were crucial in the democratic transition and consolidation. It was the resurrection and remobilization of various civil society groups and their grand-democracy coalition with the opposition party that ultimately induced the authoritarian ruling coalition to agree on a set of democratic reforms.[6]

By focusing efforts on making South Korea’s democracy deeper and more substantive they provided the foundation for the empowerment of civil society that has allowed South Korea’s Constitutional Court to rule unanimously on March 10 2017 to remove President Park Geun-Hye from office backing the National Assembly’s impeachment of the president. This was a historic incident for the reaffirmation of South Korean democracy and confirmation of the rule of law.[7] The first candle was lit at a protest in Seoul’s downtown plaza on October 29, 2016, about 20,000 people joined to protest Park’s inadequate apology. The next Saturday, the protest had grown tenfold; a week later, on November 12, the protest drew a turnout of one million. The series of peaceful Saturday protests pushed a segment of the ruling-party members of parliament to break ranks to vote for impeachment of the president.

Civil society and the mass movement in Malaysia will not buy into an office-seeking coalition. Bersatu and the component parties in Pakatan Harapan have to weave the policies for winning the Malay votes into the Reform Agenda while maintaining and extending support from all races, religious groups and diverse interests in Malaysia. Umno’s racial politics have spawned corruption, cronyism, patronage and rent-seeking activities. Malaysians want policies that will liberate the Malay mind, induce empowerment and self-reliance, not continuation of policies that chained the Malays economically and socially to Umno, enslaving them politically. The proposal is only providing a change of political master not social-economic and political freedom.

Coalition building and consensus

Elections in Malaysia are not democratic, not free and not fair. Opposition leaders and government critics suffer harassment, arrest, detention, imprisonment and abuse of state resources skewed the playing field heavily in favour of the incumbents. Coercive and unfair means are used to disadvantage the opposition. Civil liberty violations, patronage, gerrymandering, malapportionment, media bias, manipulation, co-optation and repression are relied upon to guarantee incumbent re-election. The application of a divide and rule policy has caused deep cleavages in the society according to ethnicity, religion, rural and urban divide.

Many opposition movements have been challenging authoritarian governments but only a few have succeeded. The opposition forces in South Africa voted out an apartheid regime, people power in the Philippines ousted a dictator, popular unrest in Indonesia forced President Suharto to resign, a broad coalition in Chile won a plebiscite that led to the removal of Augusto Pinochet and Solidarity defeated the Polish communist. Bersatu and Pakatan Harapan can learn, draw strength and inspiration on how these opposition ended repressive regimes[8]:

·       They were able to achieve their goals through broad support, coherence and legitimacy;

·       They were able to bridge deep disagreements about aims, strategies and leadership among the opposition and convince diverse opposition groups to work out their major differences;

·       They were able to encourage convergence, forge consensus and built coalitions among the opposition;

·       They were able to connect the opposition to social movements, workers, students, women, human rights and religious groups;

·       They were able to connect with the wider public to provide a sense that the movements were democratic, truly inclusive and not vehicles for particular individuals or groups;

·       They focused sharply on what united the people rather than on what divided them;

·       But they also made the difficult decisions to exclude groups that refused to renounce violence or insisted on uncompromising demands for regional, ethnic or sectarian autonomy;

Bersatu and Pakatan Harapan leaders can apply these lessons by adopting the 4 C’s of coalition building — communications, consultations, consensus and compromise to forge the broad coalition amongst the parties, civil society, the different ethnic and religious groups and the Malaysian public on an inclusive basis. There are no simple solutions, the Gordian knot of cleavages in Malaysian society cannot be solved by one stroke of the sword. It requires patience, tolerance, mutual respect and goodwill. The proposal has to be sent back to the drawing board.

[1] Bruce Dixon, “It’s Time to Build a Mass Movement”.

[2] Raby, Democracy and Revolution: Latin America and Socialism Today 253.

[3] Max Weber, Max Weber on Charisma and Institution Building-Selected Papers (1968), 49-50.

[4] Wolfgang C. Muller, Kaare Strom, “Policy, Office or Votes? How Political Parties in Western Europe Make Hard Decisions”.

[5] Denis Kadima, “The Politics of Party Coalitions in Africa” EISA and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

[6] Sunhyuk Kim “Civil society and democratization in South Korea”.

[7] Sook Jong Lee, “A Democratic Breakthrough in South Korea?” Carnegie Endowment For International Peace”.

[8] Abraham F. Lownthal and Sergio Bilar “From authoritarian rule toward democratic governance: Learning from political leaders” International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance 2015.

Malaysian Authorities: Getting Tough on Independent News Portal Malaysiakini


May 26, 2017

Malaysian Authorities: Getting Tough on Independent News Portal Malaysiakini

by John Berthelsen@www.asiasentinel.com

The Malaysian government, having gone after social media platforms and a long list of other social critics, is now turning its attention to Malaysiakini, the most influential of the country’s independent news portals, and increasing its detention of social activists.

Amnesty International and Article 19, two international rights organizations, have condemned the government’s decision to press charges against Premesh Chandran, the Chief Executive Officer, and Steven Gan, the Editor of Malaysiakini. The charge relates to a press conference in July of 2016 in which a critic was filmed taking on Attorney- General Mohamad Apandi Ali for clearing Prime Minister Najib Razak of corruption charges.

The detentions and charges take place in a darkening political mood in the country among the political opposition, journalists and others critical of the regime headed by Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has managed to continue his rule for months despite deep concerns over his integrity.

Image result for Premesh Chandran and Steven Gan

As “Public Official 1” Najib faces investigation by the US Justice Department’s kleptocracy unit for having purchased, through surrogates, hundreds of millions of dollars of US property with money stolen from the state-backed 1Malaysia Development Bhd investment fund. The fund is believed to have lost as much as US$11 billion through theft and mismanagement. At least US$1 billion and as much as US$2 billion appears to have ended up in the Prime Minister’s bank accounts.

The gloom has been added to by the fact that shortly after the US election President Donald Trump called Najib in the middle of the night to wish him well and to invite him to Washington.  Since that time, Trump has abruptly fired Preet Bharara, the crusading United States Attorney in New York and dismissed all of the other regional US attorneys appointed by his predecessor, Barack Obama. While the US attorney position is a political one and the real investigations are carried out by Justice Department professionals, Washington is in such disarray because of missteps by the Trump administration that many have concerns that probes such as that being carried out against Najib and his associates and relatives will be lost in the woodwork.

Image result for Confident Najib RazakDespite scandals and corruption in his administration, Najib Razak will be difficult to dislodge because strong support from UMNO, Sabah and Sarawak
 

Domestically, Najib appears impossible to dislodge. He continues to have the full backing of the United Malays National Organization, the country’s biggest ethnic political party, and is expected to call an early election later this year to solidify his position for another five years. The opposition remains fragmented and squabbling, with its leader, Anwar Ibrahim, in jail on what are considered to be trumped-up charges of sexual perversion.

Against that backdrop, Amnesty international charged that, starting May 15,  authorities notified activists from the Bersih campaign reform organization that they were being investigated for failure to provide Police with a 10-day notice to hold a candlelight vigil for human rights defender Maria Chin Abdullah. Three more activists were summoned by police for making statements “conducive to public mischief” on May 24 and continue to be held.

“Amnesty International is alarmed that the authorities are increasingly responding to activities that aim to express dissent and protest against injustice with baseless police investigations,” the rights organization said in a prepared statement. “These recent actions by the police highlight an escalating pattern of misusing the criminal justice system to target and harass political activists and human rights defenders that Amnesty International has documented over the last few years. These actions have further restricted public debate in Malaysia and reduced the space in which civil society operates.”

Malaysiakini remains the biggest and most credible opposition voice, with 5 million unique visitors per month in a political milieu in which the next election campaign is likely to be fought out to a large extent in social media.  The 18-year-old news portal has been repeatedly raided and harassed by authorities.

The current charges against Gan and Chandran stem from a July 26, 2016 press conference in which a former UMNO official, Khairuddin Abu Hassan, called for Apandi Ali’s resignation for clearing Najib of corruption allegations linked to 1MDB after Najib had suddenly fired Apandi Ali’s predecessor, Abdul Ghani Patel, who was rumored about to charge the premier with corruption.

Malaysiakini carried film of Khairuddin’s charges on its streaming video unit KiniTV Sdn Bhd. Gan was charged under  the Communications and Multimedia Act last Novemer. Chandran was charged on May 15 of this year.

Authorities asked Malaysiakini to remove the footage last year but the news portal refused to do so.

“The Attorney General is just kind of like wanting to take up action against us,” Chandran said in a telephone conversation from London, where he is on sabbatical. “But it gives us a good opportunity to fight the charges on constitutional grounds.”

The charges follow recent claims by Najib ”that freedom of expression and press freedom are ‘thriving’ in Malaysia,” said David Diaz-Jogeix, Director of Programs at ARTICLE 19, a London-based human rights organization with a chapter in Malaysia. “These charges underscore why the vague and sweeping Communications and Multimedia Act needs urgent reform. The increasing use of this law to target independent media and any online criticism of the government is seriously concerning, and also a clear violation of international human rights law on freedom of expression.”

Since 2015, the Malaysian government “has arrested, investigated and charged media personnel, whistleblowers, opposition politicians, artists, students, civil society and social media users for voicing their concerns over the 1MDB scandal,” Article 19 said in a prepared statement, pointing out that the government has also made wide use of the Sedition Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Penal Code and the Security Offenses and Special Measures Act in the attempt to suppress dissent.

It called on the government to immediately drop the charges against Chandran, Gan and KiniTV and to enact comprehensive reforms to the communications act and other laws used to restrict criticism of the government.

That is highly unlikely. With elections looming sometime over the next year, most observers in Malaysia expect the government to crack down harder as the polls approach.

The President Who cried wolf


May 24, 2017

The President Who cried wolf

‘Trump is now more than just a real estate developer, a franchise marketer, or a celebrity TV star. He is President, and he is dealing with matters of war and peace, law and justice. Words matter, and in a wholly different way than he has ever understood. They build national credibility, deter enemies, reassure allies and execute the law. In high office, in public life, words are not so different from actions. They are everything”.–Fareed Zakaria

Image result for Fareed Zakaria

For most of his life, Donald Trump has found words to be his friends. He has used them to build his business, dramatize his achievements and embellish his accomplishments. As important, he has used them to explain away his missteps and to paper over his problems. He built a 58-story building in glass and steel, but through his wordplay, it became 68 stories tall. He owns an 11,000-square-foot apartment in Manhattan, but in his telling, it’s 33,000 square feet. Trump has used words extravagantly and cleverly to serve his ambition. He has called his method “truthful hyperbole,” and oftentimes it is not even truthful. But it has worked — so far.

Image result for fbi james comey

James B. Comey

The White House understands the gravity of the allegation that President Trump asked then-FBI Director James B. Comey to end the Michael Flynn investigation. That’s why the administration has vigorously denied the charge. And perhaps it’s not true.

But the challenge for the administration is that in the court of public opinion, this is likely to turn into a case of “he said, he said” — unless there are, in fact, tapes. On the one side, you have Comey, a distinguished civil servant with a history of speaking truth to power. While his critics feel that he has made several bad judgments over the past year, most people believe he is honest and sincere. On the other side, you have Trump.

The Post’s reporters Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee describe Trump as “the most fact-challenged politician” they have “ever encountered.” They pointed out that, after having received a whopping 59 “Four Pinocchio” ratings during the campaign, Trump in his first 100 days made 492 “false or misleading claims,” at an average of 4.9 a day. These fact checkers clarified that “those numbers obscure the fact that the pace and volume of the president’s misstatements means that we cannot possibly keep up.” By their count, there were only 10 days in the first 100 days in which Trump did not make a false or misleading claim.

And his fibs are not over small matters. Before being elected, Trump claimed that Barack Obama was not born in the United States; that he had met Vladimir Putin, who “could not have been nicer”; that he opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq “from the beginning”; that he watched Arabs in Jersey City, N.J., cheer when the World Trade Center was attacked; that America’s unemployment rate (just last year) might be as high as 42 percent; and that its murder rate was the highest in 45 years. Since his election, he has claimed that his electoral vote margin was larger than anyone’s since Ronald Reagan, that China stopped manipulating its currency in response to his criticism and that Obama had his Trump Tower phones tapped. Every one of these claims is categorically false, and yet Trump has never retracted one of them.

Trump’s approach has never been to apologize because it wouldn’t make sense to him. In his view, he wasn’t fibbing. As his sometime rival and now friend Steve Wynn, a casino tycoon, put it, Trump’s statements on virtually everything “have no relation to truth or fact.” That’s not really how Trump thinks of words. For him, words are performance art. It’s what sounds right in the moment and gets him through the crisis. So when describing his economic policy to the Economist, he explained that he had just invented the term “prime the pump” a few days earlier. Never mind that the phrase was coined a century ago, has been used countless times since and was in fact used by Trump repeatedly in the past year. At that moment, it seemed the right thing to say.

But Trump is now more than just a real estate developer, a franchise marketer, or a celebrity TV star. He is President, and he is dealing with matters of war and peace, law and justice. Words matter, and in a wholly different way than he has ever understood. They build national credibility, deter enemies, reassure allies and execute the law. In high office, in public life, words are not so different from actions. They are everything.

It would be the ultimate irony if Trump now faces a crisis in which his lifelong strength turns into a fatal weakness. His rich and checkered history of salesmanship, his exaggerations, fudges and falsehoods, leave him in a situation now where, even if he is right on this one, people will have a hard time believing that this one time Donald Trump is finally telling the truth.

 

An Opposition Grand Coalition can defeat the BN?


May 24, 2017

Here’s why an opposition grand coalition can defeat the BN

Image result for Mahathir as the next PM

Although the gerrymandering will continue, the significant difference is that Dr Mahathir’s new party will be competing for Malay votes in the small towns and villages.

By Koon Yew Yin@www.freemalaysia-today.com

According to news reports on the celebration of UMNO’s 71st Anniversary, Prime Minister Najib Razak had teased his supporters by asking if he should dissolve Parliament as early as the following day.

Some observers see it as a sign that he is very confident of a victory and that he may call for an election soon.However, there are two sayings which he needs to be reminded of.

One is the old saying “Pride comes before a fall” The other is a quote attributed to Harold Washington, the first African-American elected as Mayor of Chicago: “Let’s not be overconfident, we still have to count the votes.”

Barisan Nasional sponsored analysts, who dominate the official media, have been saying that the BN has more than the required number of votes to win the next election by a comfortable margin. In fact, some are so confident that they are assuring BN of a more than two-thirds majority. Because these analysts are tied to the BN money machine, this message of a big BN victory will be drummed into our heads over the next few months.

But is this big BN victory a sure thing? Going by my knowledge of politics in Perak, I wish to differ.

Tide turning against BN

In Perak, most voters have not forgotten that power was “stolen” from the then Pakatan Rakyat by the BN. In the next election, many voters will want to correct the injustice and vote for the opposition.

Included in this group will be most of the civil servants as well as Felda settlers who have been regarded as UMNO’s and BN’s vote banks.To some extent these voters have also been PAS’ vote banks.

But will the Malay civil servants and Felda settlers continue to allow themselves to be swayed by racial and religious politics and vote with their hearts rather than with their heads in the next election?

Or will they realise that both UMNO and PAS have let them down badly and are not worth the support that the two parties have been provided with during the past 50 years and more?

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In addition to Sabah and Sarawak, this guy is Najib’s Secret Weapon (?). Perak is not reliable predictor of GE-14 outcome. Furthermore, the Opposition is in disarray. PKR wants Anwar as the next Prime Minister. Mahathir is ambivalent on this matter since he may have someone else. Will there be two Deputy Prime Ministers to accommodate DAP? Those in Amanah also want a piece of the action. Allocation of seats will be a challenge for the opposition. I witnessed what Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim had to undergo in 2008.

Finally, Najib has all the advantages of incumbency and the resources to wage an aggressive campaign. So brave is the man who  dares to predict the outcome of GE-14. –Din Merican

Today, everyone, except for the elite, are suffering from a socio-economic crisis arising from the mismanagement of the economy and pervasive corruption. Food is more expensive, transport prices have soared, education costs have escalated.

According to Cuepacs president Azih Muda, civil servants have ended up heavily in debt to manage rising living costs, to the point that more than 60,000 of them risk bankruptcy.

“This is a direct effect of the hike in cost of living. Civil servants end up taking up a lot of loans and this is unsustainable and they are unable to manage their finances,” Azih told the foreign news agency Reuters.

This report was, understandably, not carried in the mainstream Malay media. Neither have the numerous reports on the financial mess inflicted on Felda settlers through the launch of Felda Global Ventures Berhad.

This time, I am sure the revolt of the Malay masses will take place. And when this revolt led by the civil servants and Felda settlers happens at the polling booth, a new page in our nation’s history will be reached.

Battle for change led by Dr Mahathir

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Fittingly, the battle for change will be led by Dr Mahathir. Several weeks ago, I attended a Parti Pribumi Bersatu meeting at Padang Rengas, Kuala Kangsar, where I took the opportunity to renew my friendship with him and gave him a copy of my book,” Road Map for Achieving Vision 2020” which was partly inspired by Dr Mahathir’s vision for our nation’s future.

It is not only the Malay masses who will push for change. Today we have a new opposition coalition which will operate as a single entity against the BN.

Featuring PPBM, DAP, PKR and Parti Amanah Negara as its component members, the opposition coalition will also include East Malaysian parties. This is an unprecedented grand coalition of Malaysian anti-BN voters which, in my opinion, can bring about the biggest upset in our political history once it gets its act together.

In the last GE, the opposition secured more than 51% of the total votes, but in terms of state and parliamentary seats, the opposition had less than BN because of the gerrymandering.

Although the gerrymandering will continue during the next election, the significant difference is that Dr. Mahathir’s new party under Muhyiddin Yasin will be competing for Malay votes in the small towns and villages.

I believe, too, that PAS is deeply divided under President Hadi Awang, who is presently sick and unable to exert much influence. Once it becomes clear that the new grand opposition coalition will win, I expect many PAS leaders and voters to join the opposition and quit the friendship with the BN.

 

The Malay Dilemma Revisited (Updated and Revised Version)–A Strongly Recommended Read


May 23, 2017

The Malay Dilemma Revisited (Updated and Revised Version)–A Strongly Recommended Read

Few countries today have culturally or ethnically homogenous populations, the consequence of colonization, globalization, and mass migrations. Thus, the Malaysian dilemma of socioeconomic and other inequities paralleling racial and cultural divisions has global relevance as it also burdens many nations.

Malaysia’s basic instrument in ameliorating these horizontal (between groups) inequities has been its New Economic Policy (NEP). Its core mechanism being preferential socio-economic and other initiatives favoring indigenous Malays and other non-immigrant minorities, as well as massive state interventions in the marketplace. In place since 1970 in the aftermath of the deadly 1969 race riots, NEP has been continuously “strengthened,” meaning, ever increasing resources expended and preferences being imposed with greater assertiveness.

Malaysia succeeded to some degree in reducing her earlier inequities and in the process created a sizeable Malay middle class. There was however, a steep price. Apart from the marketplace distortions and consequent drag on the economy, those earlier horizontal inequities are now replaced by the more destabilizing vertical variety. NEP also bred a rentier- economy mindset among Malays and other recipient communities. Those preferences now impair rather than enhance the recipents’ (in particular Malay) competitiveness, the universal law of unintended consequences being operative.

Initiated by Prime Minister Razak in 1970, his successor, Mahathir, raised NEP to a much more aggressive level, only to have that initiative today corrupted and degraded by, ironically, Tun Razak’s son, current Prime Minister Najib. By July 2016, the US Department of Justice alleges that “Malaysian Official 1” (aka Najib) illicitly siphoned over US$3.5 Billion from a government-linked corporation, 1MDB. Corruption on such a gargantuan scale was the predictable and inevitable consequence of Malaysia’s New Economic Policy and state interventions in the marketplace.

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The book chronicles Mahathir’s and Najib’s perversion of a once noble endeavor. Najib now adds another volatile mix. Desperate to hang on to power, he adds religious fanaticism to his already corrosive corruption and destructive incomptence. He now cavorts with extremist Islamists, threatening and undermining the nation’s still fragile race dynamics. Malaysia is today still burdened and blighted by Najib’s inept, corrupt, and chauvinistic leadership, with no end in sight. This would inevitably undermone the current fragile but still peaceful racial equilibrium in the country.

Instead of arbitrarily-picked numbers and targets, Malaysia should focus on strengthening Malay competitiveness through enhancing our human and social capitals. Modernizing the education system to emphasize the sciences, mathematics, English fluency, and technical training would address the first. Curtailing royal institutions and other vestiges of feudalism, as well as the regressive form of religion as propagated by the state, would develop the second. It is difficult to wean Malays off the special privilege narcotic when the sultans are frolicking at the top of the heap.

Beyond chronicling the failures of both the Najib and Mahathir Administrations, the author offers these alternative strategies for enhancing Malay competitiveness. Apart from improving the quality of our human and social capital through modern education and responsive institutions, the author advocates removing or at least toning down the stifling influence of official religion.–Dr. M. Bakri Musa