‘Malaysia’ dreams the impossible dream

March 17, 2018

‘Malaysia’ dreams the impossible dream

by Manjit Bahtia
Published on
Image result for ‘Malaysia’ dreams the impossible dream

    Prime Minister Najib Razak met Mel at Taxpayers’  Expense

COMMENT | “When you know someone is a thief, you stay away from him,” Dr Mahathir Mohamad told Beverley O’Connor, host of “The World” programme by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Thursday.

Mahathir, of course, was referring to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who is spending a long-weekend junket in Sydney at the ASEAN Heads of Government hot-air talk-shop – again at the expense of Malaysian taxpayers.

Thief isn’t the only label Mahathir used to describe Najib. He also called him a “monster”. There are far better labels for Najib and for UMNO-BN members. “Monster” is an appropriate enough metaphor. But beyond labels, Malaysia has a serious international image problem.

There was a time when Malaysia was known to the world for Mahathir’s neo-nationalist Malay brand of loud-mouthness. That’s whenever he railed against, say, Singapore, his racist rants against Jews and Malaysia’s British colonial masters – the very lot who taught him how to “divide-and-rule” his own multiracial citizens. Mahathir single-handedly made the term ‘citizen’ a profoundly dirty word.

Malaysia became even more famous after Mahathir cooked up “facts” to jail his then protégé Anwar Ibrahim and chucked him in prison. When top cop Abdul Rahim Noor black-eyed Anwar in jail, Mahathir merely shrugged in the “saya tidak peduli” manner.

Now Anwar and Mahathir have become bosom buddies in a double-act to exorcise from Malaysia’s ripped-asunder soul Najib.


The Mahathir hypocrisy hasn’t gone unnoticed, as O’Connor reminded Mahathir.  Mahathir responded sheepishly, with the tiniest regret. He said it is more important to look forward to the future to overthrow the great big thief in their midst and an Umno that has moved so far to the right of its 1946 “objectives” that both the party and its president are rotten to its core.

Mahathir said UMNO has been destroying itself from within, that Najib “has destroyed” the original UMNO and that the party exists solely to support its President and an authoritarian regime.

Note that Mahathir never mentioned any of UMNO’s coalition partners-in-crime. Nonetheless, the mission now, as everybody knows, is for the Mahathir-led Pakatan Harapan cavalry to lead the charge and rout UMNO before Najib and his band of crooks rob the country blind.

Nothing new in all this. The lineage and the so-called discourse (whatever discourse means) and the battle-cries go right back to 1969 – the year democracy in Malaysia died after a long-simmering brain snap.

My friend S Thayaparan, a Malaysiakini columnist – whom I’ve never met – has been at great pains recently to make the case that “Malaysian voters” must stand up and save the country. If there’s a certain urgency in Mahathir’s determination, there’s equal stridency in Thayaparan.

But there’s also a problem. In fact more than one problem. First, the electoral system, run by the Election Commission, is not chartered to ensure full and fair elections; it remains chartered to ensure fully foul elections.


It’s also chartered not to uphold democracy, even democracy with Malaysian characteristics, but to maintain a Malay-led kleptocratic authoritarian regime that thinks it is above the constitution, therefore above the law. The regime is the law since rule of law has ceased to exist for nearly half a century.

Second, Mahathir had for 22+ years presided over just such a regime when he led it. He – more than Abdul Razak, Hussein Onn and Mahathir’s successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi – had every time turned a blind eye to every skin-flake of known or rumoured corruption within his UMNO, his regime, his Malay-dominated bureaucracy and Police, and among the coterie of Malay, Chinese and Indian cronies or oligarchs he’d nurtured.

Those accused or nabbed, like Perwaja Steel’s Eric Chia, “somehow” managed to get off scot-free. It doesn’t take a genius to work out how.

Not when the separation of powers between the legislature, executive and judiciary, as a democracy would like to have it, disappeared virtually overnight under Mahathir. Yet here he is crying that Najib has violated everything decent and, worse, he’s getting away with it.

‘Muhibbah’ only in name 

Something else is worth remembering. What Najib is doing – centralising structural and institutional power in his hands through what I’ve called the UMNO-Leninist state – is very much the same thing Mahathir was doing when he ran the place like a dictator. Or close enough to one. The hypocrisy is stunning.

Third, the desperation among “Malaysians” opposed to the regime is perfectly understandable. The desperation for the coalition of opposition parties, Pakatan Harapan, is also perfectly understandable.

To go as far as enlisting Mahathir is one thing; to make him the leader of the pack and, more, Prime Minister if Harapan should win, is unthinkable.


The man who created the 21st century monster of Malaysia, among the many other monsters who clutter the regime from across the ruling coalition, was Mahathir. He gave each one of them long enough rope to enrich themselves, heeding Deng Xiaoping’s dictum. Najib too embraced the licence. Najib’s “living the good life,” Mahathir put it on television. So are Mahathir’s cronies and nepotists.

Mahathir can’t have it both ways. He needs to own up to the past wrongs when the rot started to really set in. Mahathir now says Malaysia needs to reset good governance by ridding the country of Najib et al. Fine.

But (a) what good governance did Mahathir bring to Malaysia when he was Prime Minister? And (b) he must not become Prime Minister a second time, not even as a seat-warmer for Anwar.

The King of Malaysia has a duty to the country. All the Sultans do. The King knows Najib has been ripping off Malaysia; he cannot continue to sit on his hands and wait for ridiculously pointless protocols before pardoning Anwar – if he dares to pardon Anwar at all. But he must if he does not want his country monster-ised further.

Anwar at the helm gives Harapan the legitimacy it needs to fight the elections. This is not to suggest Anwar (photo) is unproblematic. Even with Anwar at the tiller isn’t a sufficient condition to rule.

Thayaparan says “all Malaysians” must vote, that they must do their bit. I would agree if I knew just who “all Malaysians” were – another point Thayaparan missed in my letter. Show me one “all Malaysian”.

Here’s what I see. Here’s what I’ve always seen. And on my last visit to Malaysia very recently I saw this much more clearly.

There’s no “all Malaysian”. There are no “all Malaysians”. There are Malays, Chinese, Indians and so on – discrete ethno-tribal, sociological, economic and political units separated by competition between race, religion and ideology.

The old story. I don’t need to tell you this. The ruling coalition is also dominated by similar units separated by race and religion. So, too, Pakatan Harapan.As we do in primary math addition, this will be carried over into the future.

Therein lies Malaysia’s core problem. The country might be able to solve some of the economic divisions that rift the people, but it can’t and it won’t solve every one of them or every other accompanying problem until competition between race, religion and ideology is resolved.

“Muhibbah” exists but only in name. Always has since 1969. Najib, UMNO and their BN clan know this and they’ll play this up to the hilt, no matter what the fallout.

There are many other problems that will inevitably be brought into general election No 14 from GE13. Many are beholden to UMNO-BN. Some are also evident, again, in the opposition.

Like it or not, Harapan is divisive because it is itself divided. In fact – and I agree with Thayaparan – Harapan looks woefully inadequate. It hasn’t learnt from its mistakes from GE-13. Those mistakes were fundamental, starting with its rather lame manifesto.

Harapan may have done better than expected in that election but it can’t hope for the same lucky streak in GE-14 to break the proverbial UMNO-BN camel’s back once and for all.

It would be wonderful if it does but UMNO has some things on its side, and a certain important – no, critical – momentum that Harapan would wish it has too. It won’t if it keeps carrying on like it has. But Mahathir isn’t the answer.

MANJIT BHATIA, an Australian, is a US-based academic, researcher and analyst specialising in Asian and international economics, political economy and international relations. He lives in Hanover, New Hampshire.

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


The Dearly Departed Sanusi Junid – Witty and loyal Lieutenant

March 10, 2018

The Dearly Departed Sanusi Junid – Witty and loyal Lieutenant

by Terence Netto


Image result for Sanusi Junid

COMMENT | Sanusi Junid, who died yesterday after being seen as seemingly healthy at the last public occasion he attended which was on the night before, was a knowledgeable man, notes Muhyiddin Yassin in an encomium to the former Kedah Menteri Besar.

That may be the most accurate thing said about Sanusi among the plethora of compliments friends and acquaintances piled on the former minister and UMNO Secretary-General and Mahathir loyalist.

Speaking well of the just-deceased is obligatory. But saying something that resonates with what is generally known of the person that manages to be both accurate and complimentary is harder to bring off.

Sanusi was a loyal lieutenant, one who was content with being just that – a hewer of wood and drawer of water – but able to bring a certain wit to that mundane role, which is uncommon among people of his disposition.

Sanusi was a loyal lieutenant, mainly to Dr Mahathir Mohamad, just as Salleh Said Keruak presently is to Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The difference between both, in the role that subalterns revel in, is in the ability to offer servility with style. Well, if you going to apple polish, might as well do it with aplomb.

Sanusi’s loyal lieutenancy to Mahathir, the leader who he served the longest in a long career in the penultimate echelons of UMNO, was service of a certain witty class.

Related image

Consider what he said about Anwar Ibrahim when the just-sacked Deputy Prime Minister drew big crowds at the National Mosque and at Kota Semarang in Kedah in the immediate aftermath of his expulsion from government and UMNO:

“He is a snake charmer summoning spirits from the deep. But will they come?”

Epigrams are uncommon among equerries whose job is to put the best face on their point man’s policies and acts, especially when these invite public controversy and consternation.

On Najib’s refusal to admit to wrongdoing in the 1MDB imbroglio, the biggest financial scandal to afflict a nation anywhere in the world, Sanusi cited his experience when as Deputy Home Minister he had to sign off on a score of hangings of criminals in Pudu jail.

Sanusi said he had the opportunity to observe the condemned in their last days before being hanged. He observed that not even Botak Chin, the notorious criminal of the mid-70s, would admit to being guilty and deserving of his deserts, which Sanusi took as testimony to unregenerate human nature.

His ability to illustrate his arguments with analogy and metaphor that would make one sit up and notice must have been the nub of Sanusi’s appeal to his bosses.

Wacky ideas

Sure, he had some wacky suggestions such as growing padi on roof tops, and not-so-gauche ones like his urging people to eat ostrich and rabbit meat, as alternative sources of protein.

But these bizarre suggestions were not the hallmark of his career. A certain knowing feel for the weaknesses of human nature distinguished his long lieutenancy to Mahathir.

When incumbent Osman Aroff attempted to head off an announcement from Mahathir in 1996 on Sanusi as his replacement as Menteri Besar of Kedah by organising a prayer session at the MB’s residence, followed by dinner and the attendees’ signing on a pledge of loyalty to Aroff, Sanusi cracked:

“Even I would have signed off on the pledge if prayers and dinner were on the cards,” was his self-deprecating putdown of the drama.

Likewise his comments on the resignation of Nasharuddin Alang Saidin, an Anwar flunkey, from the post of Executive Secretary of UMNO in 1987 after less than three months on the job (Sanusi was the Mahathir-appointed Secretary-General): “His resignation is just like any other.”

Sanusi, whose loathing for Anwar was heartily reciprocated, was extraordinary in being able to juggle his fidelity to Mahathir with aversion for someone (Anwar) whose support for Mahathir in the 1982-98 period was critical to the incumbent PM’s longevity in office.

But this fealty didn’t extend to tolerating Nasharuddin’s tenancy in the Umno secretariat where the secretary-general would normally want to hold sway.

“He (Nasharuddin) won’t last three months,” Sanusi let-on to a journalist friend of his, shortly after Anwar persuaded Mahathir to allow Nasharuddin’s emplacement in the secretariat in the immediate aftermath of Mahathir’s narrow defeat of Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah in the party polls in April 1987. Anwar’s support for Mahathir in that tussle had been crucial to the outcome.

Image result for Sanusi Junid and Anwar Ibrahim
 A lieutenancy this cagey and wittily shrewd is rare in Malaysian politics.

TERENCE NETTO has been a journalist for more than four decades. A sobering discovery has been that those who protest the loudest tend to replicate the faults they revile in others.

Malaysia’s Long History of Election Rigging

March 10, 2018

Malaysia’s Long History of Election Rigging


Image result for Najib Razak and Mahathir Mohamad of the same mould


In many countries in Southeast Asia, having elections is a meaningless exercise; in the end, the same party always ends up ruling the state.

Malaysia is a prima facie example. The quality of elections in Malaysia has been poor, primarily because of the practices of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. Methods such as gerrymandering, misuse of institutional tools, elite cohesion pacts, and malapportionment have been used to retain power in the past – including by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, just tapped by the opposition as their candidate. With that in mind, it’s worth looking at what Malaysian leaders have done to cling on to power in the past, while at the same time degrading the sanctity of elections in the region.

Elections in Malaysia have become a one-sided affair over the years. The BN returned to power for the thirteenth time in 2013, and not solely because of the reforms they have carried out in Malaysia. Scholar Kai Ostwald, in his article “How to Win a Lost Election,” argued that methods such as gerrymandering – the manipulation of district boundaries to advantage one party — have been used by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) to win elections. To create an additional district, the approval of two-thirds of the parliament is required and UMNO has always had a majority in parliament; thus from time to time they have redrawn district boundaries in their favor to capture the maximum number of votes, or to defy votes to the opposition. The fact that, as Ostwald points out, there were only 104 districts in Malaysia at the time of independence compared to 222 in 2013 speaks volumes about gerrymandering and the resulting quality of elections.

In his article, Ostwald has further highlighted the use of malapportionment by the Barisan National coalition to gain seats in the parliament. Malapportionment is the manipulation of electoral district boundaries to the ruling party’s advantage, wherein the pro-government districts have fewer voters and pro-opposition districts have many more.

Some amount of malapportionment is justifiable to improve the relationship between the representative and its constituents, and to give fair representation to Bumiputra people. But its excessive use by the UMNO has made the people lose faith in free and fair elections and derided the quality of it. In 2013, the use of malapportionment led to the incumbent BN winning 54 percent of parliamentary seats while losing the popular vote by a margin of around 4 percent. Ostwald insists that this has violated the “one-person, one vote” principle, that is fundamental to any democratic institution. Thus it has undermined elections at all levels.

Image result for Electoral Fraud in Malaysia

This is made possible by a partisan election commission that has refrained from keeping checks and balances over political parties. The election commission is supposed to act as an ombudsperson, but the fact that the head of state appoints the civil servants makes it a prejudiced body. Such practices have hollowed out the essence of elections in Malaysia. Though elections may have been frequent, they have always been well prepared for in advance by the ruling party.

Ostwald looked at the 2013 elections; Jason Brownlee, in his article “Bound To Rule,” explores former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s practices for dominating both national and inter-party elections in Malaysia. Mahathir faced opposition from some factions of the UMNO in the 1980s. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Musa Hitam, two prominent members of the party, rallied against Mahathir and ran for party president and vice president. To counter this challenge, Mahathir “prevailed by distributing cabinet and party positions to undecided delegation leaders,” according to Brownlee. After he won the elections, however, he got rid of the seven people in his cabinet who were not his supporters.

Later in the decade, Musa decided to run for reelection against the UMNO and gained ample support from his hometown. If Musa had succeeded, it could have been the biggest challenge to Mahathir’s political career. To counter this, Mahathir invited Musa Hitam and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah to join his cabinet. “Through the party’s organs, Mahathir had wooed Musa and his partisans back before they could compete separately in the next parliamentary elections,” Brownlee explained. However, Mahathir still faced opposition from Razaleigh and his newly formed alliance. This time in 1990, Mahathir dissolved parliament earlier than expected and shortened the campaign time, which caused serious damage to the opposition.

When the outcome is already apparent, elections hardly hold any value. Leaders in Malaysia have exploited the resources of the party and institutions and have made the most important part of democracies, the election, a secondary process.

Image result for Electoral Fraud in Malaysia

Gerrymandering, malapportionment, and the misuse of institutional tools are all methods used by the ruling coalition to manipulate the electoral process. This has directly as well as indirectly degraded the quality of elections and has eroded the faith of scholars in the Malaysian electoral system. With Mahathir as the opposition candidate now, it will be interesting to see if this year’s elections will be fair and square or whether the Najib Razak government will degrade the electoral practice to a new low.

Shrish Srivastava is a freelance foreign affairs writer.

Dr Mahathir’s Barisan Nasional Baru

March 10, 2018

Dr Mahathir’s Barisan Nasional Baru

PPBM’s policy of being Malay-only to woo the Malay voters only seems to reaffirm BN’s claims that the opposition is built along racial lines.

Image result for dr. mahathir bin mohamad

There were moments in recent times when PKR and DAP shelved their differences and painted a picture of deception that all is well with PAS. They formed a loose bond with PAS despite being warned by well-wishers that it would be a disastrous move. Despite having differences in opinion, they held together only because of one reason – a common enemy.

The disagreements never disappeared; rather, they became prominent and resulted in turmoil within the opposition. This led to many of us thanking our lucky stars that the opposition did not take over Putrajaya in the last election.

Unfortunately, Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) is embarking on the same journey of a “relationship of convenience”. It has accepted Hindraf and the Minority Rights Action Party (Mira) as strategic partners for the upcoming election.

Mahathir’s admission that they are currently perceived as a Chinese and Malay party, thus the need to align with Hindraf and Mira, reminds us that he has not changed in his political approach. Prior to Mahathir’s venture into PH, DAP and PKR stood their ground as multiracial parties. Now, it is back to square one.

Image result for Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM)UMNO Dissidents


Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) only boasts Malay members and is an exact replica of UMNO. DAP is perceived as the opposite of MCA while Hindraf and Mira will fight for MIC’s vote bank. In the past, Mahathir formed UMNO Baru. Is he trying to do a Barisan Nasional Baru now? We can speculate.

PPBM’s policy of being Malay-only to woo the Malay voters, and Lim Guan Eng’s mocking of MCA leaders standing in constituencies where non-Chinese are the majority seem to reaffirm BN’s claim that the opposition is even more racial.

Everyone knows that Najib Razak has been wooing Indians for years. Other then forming an independent Indian unit within the government and giving out millions in initiatives, he also allocates special funds for other ethnic sub groups like Telugus, Malayalees and Sikhs. He went as far as being the first Prime Minister to hold visits at Thaipusam every year.

Mahathir feels that he needs to replicate this, so he goes about forming an alliance with fringe players to represent Indians within PH, unsure if they have any grassroots Indian support or if even 10% of the Indian community knows of their existence.

These deceptive bonds with every organisation for the sake of toppling BN will spell disaster whether they win the election or not. One could argue that such action is a necessity in the attempt to topple BN. This also means an admission that tossing integrity and principles out the window to win is acceptable. If this is just another basket of rotten fruits, maybe it is best that we stick to the devil we know rather than the one we don’t.

What has happened to DAP and PKR’s principles of multi-ethnic members and policies? Mahathir was the propagator of racial division in Malaysia with his policy and politics for 22 years, which has been the bane of our existence. Now, PH and its supporters have given him the power to split the nation even more. The majority of the rakyat envision a change, which is far from what PH has to offer now.

Karamjit Gill is an FMT reader.

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

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak is about to steal an election

March 9, 2018

Stop, Thief!

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak is about to steal an election


Image result for Najib Razak The Thief

Despite being embroiled in various scandals, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is about to “steal” the upcoming 14th general election by rigging the system, The Economist reported.

In an article titled “Stop, thief! Malaysia’s PM is about to steal an election”, the weekly British magazine said Najib feared that most voters would not vote BN to power again if given a choice.

As such, the report alleged that Najib is “taking their choice away” by means of gerrymandering and malapportionment, among other tactics. It cited the 1MDB scandal, in which US authorities say billions of ringgit have been misused, as the main point of argument.

“In most countries, a government that allowed US$4.5 billion to go missing from a state development agency would struggle to win re-election. If some US$681 million had appeared in the Prime Minister’s personal account around the same time, which he breezily explained away as a gift from an unnamed admirer, the task would be all the harder. An apparent cover-up, involving the dismissal of officials investigating, or merely complaining about the scandal, might be the last straw for voters. But in Malaysian elections, alas, voters do not count for much,” said the hard-hitting write-up.

Najib has denied any wrongdoing with regard to 1MDB, and has been cleared by the attorney-general of any misconduct.

The Economist further cited BN holding on to power despite losing the popular vote to the opposition in the 2013 general election, thanks to the “shamelessly biased drawing” of constituencies, which allowed BN the “ill-deserved victory” of securing the majority of seats in Parliament.

Read more: BN still at slight advantage with EC’s new proposal, says don

“Faced with the risk of losing power, the government is rigging the system even more brazenly. Parliament will soon vote on new constituency boundaries. The proposed map almost guarantees Najib another term, despite his appalling record,” the article said.

Rigging the election

The report then went on to explain the process of gerrymandering and malapportionment, which would favour the ruling coalition. It noted that “the practice (malapportionment) is so unfair that it is illegal in most countries, including Malaysia, where the constitution says that electoral districts must be ‘approximately equal’ in size”.


The report added that the federal opposition also had the odds stacked against it in the form of the “supine” media, as well as the police and judiciary, which seemed “more interested in allegations of minor offences by opposition figures than they are in the blatant bilking of the taxpayer over 1MDB”. It also pointed to the alleged “open violation of the constitution” by the Election Commission (EC).

The Economist also said that the latest federal budget was seemingly aimed at “buying the loyalty” of civil servants, by pledging to dish out a special bonus just after the likely date of the election.

Ultimately, the report concluded that a rigged electoral system trumped other biases, as it “robbed” Malaysians’ votes of meaning.

Tilting the playing field

Image result for Wong Chin Huat

If Najib Razak is poised to win GE-14, Malaysians make sure he is denied 2/3rd majority in Parliament. We need a very strong opposition to prevent him from creating an Islamic State under Hudud Law. The man will do anything to stay in power including making a deal with the PAS devil.

In another brief piece titled “Tilting the playing field”, The Economist also spoke to Penang Institute’s political analyst Wong Chin Huat (photo), who likened gerrymandering to “politicians choosing voters”, as opposed to an election, where voters choose politicians.


“Malapportionment – the creation of seats of wildly unequal size – worries critics most. This involves packing urban and minority voters, who tend to support the opposition, into highly populated constituencies, while the largely rural and Malay backers of the BN occupy depopulated provincial seats,” the report said.

It noted that an opposition MP thus needed more votes to win an election than one from the ruling party. As an example, it highlighted BN winning 60 percent of seats in the 2013 general election, despite receiving a minority of votes, and attributed its win to this tactic.

Read more: Know the power of your vote

The article also noted gerrymandering added to the problem. In the case of Malaysia, the report said, “This involves redrawing constituency boundaries to pack opposition voters into a few seats, while ruling-party supporters form a narrow majority in a larger number.”

The Economist said that the EC had initially produced maps for state assemblies that appeared to sort voters into ethnic ghettoes. “The revised versions, although less racially divisive, remain partisan,” it noted.

“Concentrating opposition supporters in the one seat should more than double the incumbent’s winning majority, but makes it harder for the BN’s critics to compete next door,” said the article.

It quoted former Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah lamenting the EC turning a deaf ear to grievances voiced by the opposition against such exercise, and the equally “little hope” of winning such cases in the courts.

Postal votes, and including voters with non-existent addresses in the electoral roll, were also cited as means of rigging the election.

Despite Najib “showering voters with handouts”, including 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) and civil servant bonuses, The Economist said that “the government’s zeal to diminish voters’ say in the election suggests it does not have total faith in its ability to win them over”.

From The Economist

Image result for The Economist Logo

Malaysia’s PM is about to steal an election

American officials say he already stole millions from taxpayers

IN MOST countries a government that allowed $4.5bn to go missing from a state development agency would struggle to win re-election. If some $681m had appeared in the prime minister’s personal account around the same time, which he breezily explained away as a gift from an unnamed admirer, the task would be all the harder. An apparent cover-up, involving the dismissal of officials investigating or merely complaining about the scandal, might be the last straw for voters. But in Malaysian elections, alas, voters do not count for much.

Under any reasonable electoral system, the coalition running Malaysia would not be in office in the first place. The Barisan Nasional, as it is known, barely squeaked back into power at the most recent election, in 2013. It lost the popular vote, earning only 47% to the opposition’s 51%. But thanks to the shamelessly biased drawing of the constituencies, that was enough to secure it 60% of the 222 seats in parliament.

This ill-deserved victory, however, occurred before news broke of the looting of 1MDB, a development agency whose board of advisers was chaired by the prime minister, Najib Razak. America’s Justice Department has accused him and his stepson, among others, of siphoning money out of 1MDB through an elaborate series of fraudulent transactions. Much of the money went on luxuries, it says, including paintings by Picasso and Monet, a private jet, diamond necklaces, a penthouse in Manhattan and a gambling spree in Las Vegas. In February Indonesia seized a $250m yacht that the Americans say was bought with Malaysian taxpayers’ money. Authorities in Switzerland and Singapore have also been investigating.

Mr Najib denies any wrongdoing—and of course he has loyal supporters. But his administration has not tried very hard to clear things up. Only one person has been charged in connection with the missing billions: an opposition politician who leaked details of the official investigation after the government had refused to make it public.

All this is unlikely to have improved Mr Najib’s standing with voters. Yet an election must be held by August. Faced with the risk of losing power, the government is rigging the system even more brazenly. Parliament will soon vote on new constituency boundaries. The proposed map almost guarantees Mr Najib another term, despite his appalling record.

How to rig an election

One trick is gerrymandering, drawing constituency boundaries so that lots of opposition voters are packed into a few seats, while ruling-party supporters form a narrow majority in a larger number. Lots of this goes on in Malaysia, as elsewhere: the new boundaries put two opposition bastions in the state of Perak into the same seat. Gerrymandering is made even easier by another electoral abuse called malapportionment. This involves creating districts of uneven populations, so that those which support the opposition are much bigger than those that back the government. That means, in effect, that it takes many more votes to elect an opposition MP than it does a government one. The practice is so unfair that it is illegal in most countries, including Malaysia, where the constitution says that electoral districts must be “approximately equal” in size.

Nonetheless, the constituencies in the maps proposed by the government-appointed election commission range in size from 18,000 voters to 146,000 (see article). The Barisan Nasional controls all the 15 smallest districts; 14 of the 15 biggest ones are in the hands of the opposition. The average Barisan seat has 30,000 fewer voters than the average opposition one. And this is the election commission’s second go at the maps—the first lot were even more lopsided.

Unfortunately, the electoral boundaries are not the only way in which the system is stacked against the opposition. The media are supine. The police and the courts seem more interested in allegations of minor offences by opposition figures than they are in the blatant bilking of the taxpayer over 1MDB and the open violation of the constitution at the election commission. The latest budget seems intended to buy the loyalty of civil servants, by promising a special bonus to be disbursed just after the likely date of the election.

But these biases, as bad as they are, are not the same as fiddling constituencies. As long as the electoral system is fair, Malaysians will be able to judge the government and vote accordingly. But a rigged system will rob their votes of meaning. That is the point, of course. Mr Najib may be venal, but he is not stupid. He fears that most voters would not return him to office if given a choice, so he is taking their choice away.

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “Stop, thief!”

Former MB of Kedah Sanusi Junid is dead

March 9, 2018

Former MB of Kedah Sanusi Junid is dead

by Amin Iskandar


Image result for Sanusi Junid and Mahathir Mohamad


FORMER Kedah Menteri Besar Sanusi Junid died today, his son Akramshah confirmed. He was 74.

“My father died this morning just before subuh prayers,” Akramshah told The Malaysian Insight.

According to Bernama, Akramshah said Sanusi had gone for a medical checkup yesterday.

“Yesterday, my father went for a medical checkup and everything was fine, in fact he even attended the Pakatan Harapan manifesto launching last night without showing signs of a health problem.

“This morning, (he) had performed ablution and was waiting to go for prayers when he suddenly fell unconscious,” he was reported as saying.

Sanusi’s body has been brought to Saidina Umar Al-Khattab Mosque for prayers and will be laid to rest at Bukit Kiara Muslim Cemetery after Friday prayers.

Sanusi was UMNO Minister of Rural and Regional Development between 1981 and 1986 and also served as Deputy Home Minister from 1980 to 1981.

He left UMNO and joined the party started by former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad – Bersatu. Last June, Sanusi was elected Chairman of Bersatu’s Disciplinary Board.

Image result for Sanusi Junid and Mahathir Mohamad

 “We want to die in the ring,” Sanusi said.

In an August interview with The Malaysian Insight, Sanusi said the political reconciliation between Dr Mahathir and de facto PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim had rattled Barisan Nasional leaders.

But he also said there was no longer any point for him to stay on in UMNO as it was no longer the party he joined in 1963. He left UMNO the first time in 2008 over dissatisfaction with then Party President and Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

More recently, he told The Malaysian Insight that UMNO was now a party “with the same name (but) does not have the spirit and goals of the UMNO that I used to be a part of”.

Sanusi’s long political career in public service began at the age of 31, when he was elected the Jerai MP. Later, he also won the Jerlun parliamentary seat in the 1982 General Election.

He served a stint as Federal Minister of Agriculture before becoming Kedah Menteri Besar from 1996 to 1999. Most of his years in public service were under Dr Mahathir’s administration and the two men, who are both Kedah-born, are close.

Sanusi last contested in the 2000 general election, winning the Kuah state seat.

Image result for Sanusi Junid and Mahathir Mohamad

In 2015, when Dr Mahathir had not yet left UMNO to start Bersatu, Sanusi in an interview said he and the former Prime Minister were living on “borrowed time” as they sought to raise pressure within UMNO for Prime Minister Najib Razak’s resignation over alleged scandals in state investor 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

“We want to die in the ring,” Sanusi said. – March 9, 2018.