Sorry, Singapore: Malaysia dumps assets to cope with US$245 billion debt


March 29, 2018

Sorry, Singapore: Malaysia dumps assets to cope with US$245 billion debt

  • Malaysia is holding a fire sale of its ‘non-strategic’ assets.
  • Critics fear the moves will privilege an elite group and worsen ties with neighbouring Singapore.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Photo: Xinhua
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Photo: Xinhua
A year into a new ruling administration, Malaysia continues to grapple with a whopping 1 trillion ringgit debt (US$245 billion) – but as it goes on a selling spree of “non-strategic assets”, questions are being asked over who is benefiting from the exercise and whether the moves could cause ties with neighbouring Singapore to take a further hit.

Government-linked investment company Khazanah, which has resolved to pare down its “non-strategic” assets, has so far got rid of its stakes in telcos, health care groups, banks and properties. Reports have indicated larger projects, such as the popular theme park Legoland, may also be up for grabs for the right offer.

 

In parliament earlier this week, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said a tower building in Hong Kong – which once housed the Malaysian Consulate-General – was being sold for 1.6 billion ringgit (US$392 million). This came just days after Khazanah was reported to be selling the 39-storey Duo Tower in Singapore, owned by M+S – a joint venture by Khazanah and its Singaporean equivalent, Temasek Holdings. Last month, Malaysia’s Axiata Group, in which Khazanah has shares, announced it would sell its stakes in Singapore’s M1 telco.

The DUO tower, in Singapore. Photo: Ole Scheeren
The DUO tower, in Singapore. Photo: Ole Scheeren

 

 

Khazanah also last year began selling shares in CIMB Bank, and dumped a 16 per cent stake in Malaysian-Singaporean private health care group IHH Healthcare. This move has raised eyebrows among analysts and opposition politicians, who have criticised the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition for vague economic policies and failing to focus on remedying wealth inequality, with others commenting the sale reflected a cooling of interest in joint Singapore projects.

 

Khazanah, which is managed by the Minister of Finance Inc and modelled after Singapore’s Temasek Holdings, last year posted its first pre-tax loss in 13 years, partly due to its takeover of the loss-riddled Malaysia Airlines.

It attributed the 6.27 billion ringgit loss in 2018 – compared with a profit of 2.89 billion ringgit in 2017 – to both the resetting of the government’s mandate as well as global and domestic developments.

IHH Healthcare's Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital in Singapore. Photo: Bloomberg
IHH Healthcare’s Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital in Singapore. Photo: Bloomberg

 

In line with the new government’s strategy, Khazanah split its assets into “commercial” and “strategic” holdings, with managing director Shahril Ridza Ridzuan telling local media the commercial fund was “really gearing up towards being a long-term real return provider for the government”, as the government needed it as an alternative source of revenue.

 

Disgraced former prime minister and sitting Member of Parliament Najib Razak has fiercely questioned Khazanah’s new strategy, saying it was illogical to reduce investments, citing its annual growth rate of 14.7 per cent from 2008 to 2017.

 

“Even if this is to pay government debt, where is the logic in selling assets which generated a profit of 14.7 per cent each year to pay debt which has interest charges of 3.8 per cent per year?” said Najib, who served as both prime minister and finance minister when Malaysian debt rose to an all-time high. Najib is currently facing scores of charges of corruption and money-laundering over his role in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) financial scandal.

Meanwhile, observers have questioned whether the asset sale strategy will truly benefit the nation, or backfire by creating oligarchies because of the administration’s concurrent focus on a Bumiputra economic agenda.

 

In Malaysia, ethnic Bumiputra – Malays and indigenous peoples – make up about 69 per cent of the population, and are constitutionally granted special privileges: affirmative action that takes the form of enhanced access to scholarships, civil service positions, land, and real estate purchases.

 

Upon coming to power last May, Pakatan Harapan pledged to chart a “new” Bumiputra-centric economic empowerment agenda that would generate growth and allow Bumiputra entrepreneurs to lead the economy – although some senior leaders such as prime minister-in-waiting and democracy icon Anwar Ibrahim have stressed that the government must focus on Malaysia and poverty eradication.

“If they are going to divest and also abide by this Bumiputra agenda, then it limits the cohort of people who can acquire assets such as government-linked companies,” said top political economist Terence Gomez of University Malaya. “Who can afford to do this – and of that group, who are the Bumiputras with the resources to invest? Is the government going to channel even more wealth to a rich elite? Divestment of assets should not be an ethnic issue.”

https://i1.wp.com/hakam.org.my/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/IDEAS_WhoOwnsCorpMsiaNow.jpg

Doing so could result in an oligarchy of rich businessmen who run key national services and corporations, Gomez said.

 

 

“When countries like Indonesia democratised by turfing out draconian governments, they also began divestment exercises. But this created oligarchs, which is not a road Malaysia should go down,” he said. “Is this the reform Pakatan Harapan promised? If so, it is just creating new problems that can emerge from this divestment exercise. Wealth inequality is a problem and taking assets from the government and passing them on to only rich people who have the resources will only make the rich richer.”

The divestment strategy can be made even more problematic if the government does not clarify what it means by “non-strategic”, as it could extend to institutions such as banking or utilities which should remain under state control, Gomez said.

 

‘I love Malaysia Airlines, but we can’t afford it’, Mahathir says. Moves such as the selling of Axiata’s stake in Singapore’s M1 and the rumours of Duo Tower being sold down have also raised questions about Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad ’s often hawkish relationship with neighbouring Singapore, and whether he considers these assets unessential.

“I won’t discount the possibility that Mahathir views such joint ventures with Singapore as being ‘non-strategic’,” said Eugene Tan, a law and public policy expert with Singapore Management University. “There could be the assessment that such investments benefit the Singapore economy more than Malaysia’s public coffers. This, arguably, stems from his perception that many of the deals his predecessor entered into – especially with Singapore – were and are not necessarily in Malaysia’s best interests.

Putting it bluntly, Mahathir could be flagging that he is not confident in the Singapore economy Eugene Tan, Singapore Management University

“But it could be about something simpler: the imperative of the Malaysian government to monetise its assets in order to reduce its budget deficit – and the assets in Singapore are probably best to monetise given the returns,” he said.

 

“Mahathir could also be signalling that the prognosis for the Singapore economy may not be good in the short-term, and so it is best to strike while the iron is hot and fully capture the value of these assets,” Tan said. “Putting it bluntly, Mahathir could be flagging that he is not confident in the Singapore economy.” Singapore-Malaysia tensions put Lion City’s lawyers to the test.

 

Political analyst Mustafa Izzuddin of Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute shared a similar view, saying that besides being an economic decision, the sale of stakes in Singapore projects could also be viewed as a “political decision” that reflects Mahathir is not as “genuinely interested as his predecessor Najib was of embarking on joint ventures with Singapore”.

“If the joint ventures are not in Malaysia, as is the case with the Duo office, the Pakatan government under Mahathir are more likely to monetise it, especially if it does not bring direct domestic economic benefits to Malaysia,” said Mustafa.

 

Najib and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had entered into joint projects in Singapore and in the Iskandar region of Malaysia’s southernmost state of Johor as part of efforts to entwine the two nations with a “prosper thy neighbour” philosophy and place bilateral ties on a surer footing.

 

But the two countries have recently experienced a cooling off in ties following differences of opinion oversea and air borders, as well as disputes over water prices, though their leaders will meet on April 8-9 in Kuala Lumpur for a retreat.
In an attempt to better manage its debt of over 1 trillion ringgit, Malaysia has also cancelled or delayed several infrastructure megaprojects, including the High Speed Rail between Singapore and Malaysia, and several China-backed gas pipeline projects.

Mahathir has urged the people to be patient, saying that if Malaysians “cooperate in an atmosphere of peace and calm, then we can restore the financial position and develop our country”. 

The trials and triumphs of GE14, as seen by Kee Thuan Chye


March 26, 2019

The trials and triumphs of GE14, as seen by Kee Thuan Chye

 

I first noticed the name Kee Thuan Chye in the pages of the National Echo in the 1980s. He wrote about stuff that we categorise under “arts”.

I would skim the first few paragraphs to see if it would be worth reading. Often, his pieces would be spread over two pages. And although I was working in Penang at that time, I don’t remember meeting him then.

I really took notice of him, I must admit, not because of his writing but because of the names he had given his two children. I heard from a friend that they were named Soraya Sunitra Kee Xiang Yin and Jebat Arjuna Kee Jia Liang.

I immediately told myself: “I like this guy.”

Image result for The trials and triumphs of GE14, as seen by Kee Thuan Chye

Let’s be honest, how many people put their money where their mouth is? We know of so many Malaysians who call themselves nationalists, we know of Malaysians who shout “Bangsa Malaysia”, we know of Malaysians who come up with slogans such as “Satu Malaysia”.

But do you know of anyone named, for instance, Raju Kee Najib bin Razif? Have you heard of anyone named Meena Mei Maznah bte Mahadzir? Do you know of anyone named Hadi Wee Subramaniam?

This guy wanted his children to identify themselves as Malaysians and, like the dramatist that he is, he did it – with flourish. Kee, I am certain, wanted to show he was a Malaysian not just by citizenship but also by his action.

And you can feel that Malaysianness in his latest book “The Peoples Victory: How Malaysians Saved Their Country.” The book is about one of the most momentous events in the life of the country – how voters rose up to kick out the long-ruling Barisan Nasional government against all odds on May 9, 2018.

I just finished reading the book recently, and it is chock-full of facts, opinions and emotions. Some of his sentences are very daring, too.

However, if you are interested in an unbiased, intellectual, political analysis of the 14th general election and events leading up to it, or an academic analysis of the BN’s loss and Pakatan Harapan’s win, this book may not be for you.

It is a simple story told in a simple, conversational style by an excited playwright who just realises that he and a host of like-minded people have just accomplished the impossible.

And you won’t just find the likes of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang, Mohamad Sabu, Lim Guan Eng, Najib Razak, Zahid Hamidi, Hadi Awang and the Election Commission in the story.

You will also find many ordinary Malaysians – some known to us, such as Zunar, and others who may not have made it into the book if not for their tweets or for galvanising people to come and vote. It includes such people as Sim Yen Peng who gave his Sabah and Sarawakian workers three days paid leave and air tickets to go back to vote, student Arveent Kathirtchelvan who started a petition addressed to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for May 9 to be declared a holiday, Nizam Bakeri who started #CarpoolGE14 and Izzah Azura who started a Facebook crowdfunding platform to help those who needed money to travel home to vote.

This is also not a book by a man looking from the mountain with a wide, unattached perspective. No. Kee is not only telling the story, he is also in it – expressing his frustration and jubilation, recounting his earlier writings, and narrating his participation in Bersih rallies.

Kee is also unabashedly on the side of those wanting to replace the BN government. He is against the BN not because it is the BN but because its policies and actions over the years have divided Malaysians and eroded freedoms. And being a Malaysian – remember the names he gave his children? – Kee is angry and wants to set things right.

In fact, he told FMT, on April 4, 2018, just before the general election, that if the BN were to win with a huge majority, the rights of citizens would be further repressed.

“If BN gets its two thirds, that’s the end of Malaysia. It will bulldoze through anything it wants and the only reforms we’re going to see are reforms that will make the system work to BN’s benefit.”

In this, Kee was merely echoing the feelings of educated, urban Malaysians for whom freedoms are important.

Kee is also not a political writer, and, as far as I am aware, he has not worked in the news section of any newspaper, only the arts-related sections.

However, he still retains enough of his journalistic sense to provide balance when commenting on the words or actions of BN and PH leaders and when unfurling events in the book which he divides into three parts or acts, as he prefers to call them.

The curtain rises with Act 1 titled “Despair”.

“On May 5, 2013, hopes ran high that by the end of the day Malaysia would have a change of government.” He goes on to describe how the BN managed to win the 13th general election even though it lost the popular vote, and the rallies and events that followed.

It ends with the words: “If there was one word to describe the mood of the people at this point, it would have to be: Despair.”

Act 2, titled “Hope” opens with: “Despair turned to hope for the people on July 2, 2015.” Why July 2? Go read the book to find out. It’s worth reading and it only costs RM49.90. But here’s a hint: The first chapter of this Act is titled: “The Big Steal”.

Act 2 ends with: “They didn’t succeed in 2013. Would they succeed this time?”

Even though I knew Malaysians had succeeded in removing a repressive government, I read Act 3 titled “Euphoria” to find out. It starts with the words, “May 9 for a lot of people is a do-or-die day”, and goes on to talk about election night and a little of what transpired after that.

The curtain closes with these words: “So this was not just Mahathir’s victory, or Anwar’s or Kit Siang’s, or Mat Sabu’s or Guan Eng’s. This was a victory of the people. A victory of the Malaysian people.”

It reflects my sentiments too. In fact, two days after the general election, I had written that the real winners were the voters and that Malaysians had found their guts.

And guts is something Kee has plenty of. I have seen him speak up at the New Straits Times office, when we both worked at the Kuala Lumpur headquarters. If you read his books, especially this book, you will know that he is not afraid to speak his mind, and that he feels strongly about playing his role as a responsible Malaysian for the good of the nation.

And yes, I had named the Malaysian voter the Person of the Year for 2018 for finding his/her guts and ushering in a new era.

A Kathirasen is an executive editor at FMT.

The views expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

 

Not easy to work with Dr M, says ‘heartbroken’ Nurul Izzah


March 25 , 2029

Not easy to work with Dr M, says ‘heartbroken’ Nurul Izzah

https://wordpress.com/post/dinmerican.wordpress.com/146500

 

 

t has been a difficult year for Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar, as she revealed to Singapore’s Straits Times how she nursed a “broken heart” brought on by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s return to power.

“Oh, it’s been so turbulent and tumultuous.

“I’ve learned so much, but I think my heart’s been broken as well, somewhat,” said Nurul Izzah, who recounted Mahathir’s first stint in power when her father, Anwar Ibrahim, had served as the deputy prime minister.

Quizzed on the cause of her broken heart, Nurul Izzah told the Singapore daily it was not easy having to once again work with the man who brought down her father nearly two decades ago and sent him to prison.

“I mean having to work with a former dictator who wreaked so much damage, not just on our lives, but the system.

“It was not easy,” she admitted, although Anwar himself had openly made peace with Mahathir through a historic handshake three years ago, and is once again positioned as Harapan’s prime minister-in-waiting.

According to the Straits Times, Nurul Izzah still speaks with emotion about Anwar’s innocence and how imprisonment had taken him away from the family – including her mother, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail – and her five younger siblings.

Insya Allah,” she said, when reminded that Anwar would eventually assume the country’s top post.

Why Najib keeps delaying his trials


March 21, 2019

Why Najib keeps delaying his trials

www. malaysiakini.com
Opinion  |  James Chai

Published:  |  Modified:

 

COMMENT | It’s obvious what Najib (above) is trying to accomplish: do whatever it takes to avoid prison.

Delaying tactics is one of the ways to do that. No matter what we say about them, Shafee Abdullah and his legal team are experienced lawyers who have the law and procedure in the palms of their hands. They know enough of the flaws within the legal system and its weakness in dispensing justice.

Thus far, the four appeals relating to the withdrawal of the prosecution’s certificate of transfer; gag order to prohibit media from discussing the merits of the case; recovery of documents; and the appointment of Sulaiman Abdullah as lead prosecutor all could amount to delaying tactics.

Although these appeals are permitted by the law, they sit uncomfortably in the grey area of whether they are truly important and necessary to protect the accused’s right or they are simply delaying tactics.

My opinion is these are delaying tactics because delaying the trial is profitable for Najib.

In fact, delaying is the only viable option.

Delay trial, delay prison

Firstly, the straightforward conclusion is that delaying trial would delay the eventual conviction. Delaying a day is allowing another day for Najib to negotiate his political survival with the public.

To this end, Najib has been successful in orchestrating a comedic troll machine online that is targeted at making fun of the government. His social media team is creating content that would incite disapproval of the existing government. However fleeting and half-hearted this support is, at least it provides Najib with a lifeline to his political career.

Delay makes prosecution weaker

Secondly, delaying makes sense in a criminal trial because it almost inevitably makes the defence’s case stronger and the prosecution’s case weaker.

In all criminal trials, the courts will try to expedite the trial because the consequences of a criminal trial (fine and/or prison) are much greater than in a civil (non-criminal) case. If a criminal trial could run as soon as possible, then the evidence is more likely to be intact and the witnesses’ memories are likely to still be fresh.

However, there is a bind. It is also precisely because the consequences of a criminal trial to an accused are significantly more drastic than a civil trial, that the court would be more open to the accused’s request for time and appeal applications. This is especially so in a high-profile case that carries significant punishment like Najib’s, where the court would want to avoid accusations of bias against the accused.

That is why the defence would attempt to make every excuse to either extract more information from the prosecution to build their own case, or to drag out the legal process. None of these methods is illegal or impermissible, but they are irksome and maddening to people.

Escaping prison

Thirdly, the most positive outcome for Najib is that delaying may mean escaping prison altogether—his best-case scenario.

We are approaching the end of March 2019 and the trial is not even close to starting. It is not surprising if Shafee (above) and his legal team successfully delay the trial for a few more weeks, even months, so that the earliest start date ends up around May 2019.

That will be one year since the PH coalition came into power.

What this means is that if Najib could drag it out long enough that the trial only starts then, he has a very good chance of not having a court decision until the end of the PH term as government. This is especially when each criminal trial contains voluminous charges and documents that require in-depth exploration of the evidence and submissions that will inevitably use up a lot of time.

It is likely that Najib’s tradition of using a full 5-year term before calling a general election would not be continued by the PH government. This means the next general election is likely to be around 2022.

If Najib could drag it out long enough for each trial, and the subsequent appeal processes in the Court of Appeal and Federal Court, there may be a chance there is no decision before the 2022 general election.

And if the PH coalition had not performed well and gets punished in the 2022 general election with Najib’s Barisan Nasional coalition returning to power, Najib may escape prison.

Although theoretically, the judiciary is independent of the executive, the constitutional subordination of the judiciary since 1988, and the repeated history of controlling and fixing judicial decisions make a “Najib escape” not unlikely.

Even if Najib does end up in prison before the next general election, he may go in as a martyr if the delaying tactic works. The delay would have bought the opposition enough time to build themselves as a credible alternative, and for the PH government to under-perform enough that Najib’s social media hype might translate into real support. That makes a prison term less painful for Najib.

Of course, this is just my hypothesis. But a hypothesis may come true.


JAMES CHAI works at a law firm. E-mail him at jameschai.mpuk@gmail.com.

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

 

 

 

Daim denounces ‘Malays under threat’ as


March 20,2019

Daim denounces ‘Malays under threat’ as nonsensical political rhetoric

https://www.malaysiakini.com

Malaysiakini  |  Published:  |  Modified:

 Malaysia has had a strong and rich history of inter-racial harmony and multi-culturalism since its very inception. But we must admit that it is still very complex with jobs and economic sectors identified with race, income inequality between the races and different educational systems existing.

Image result for Bank Negara Governor Abdul Aziz Taha

Governors of Bank Negara, Aziz Taha, Jaffar Hussein and Zeti Aziz. Professor Ungku Aziz, Zeti’s father, is a renowned economist. Zeti’s grandfather, Syed Mohammed Alsagoff, used to own Pulau Kukup, and had a concession to print his own money. Today, we use money signed by his granddaughter.

Since the last general election, the political narrative in Malaysia has centred around issues concerning race and religion, particularly the position of the Malays and Islam.

Speaking at UTM Skudai in Johor last night, former finance minister Daim Zainuddin addressed this issue and described the claim that Malays are under threat as nothing more than nonsensical political rhetoric.

“Despite being more educated and having a large educated segment, we are still unable to convince ourselves that Malays have nothing to fear in this country.

“Are Malays thinking strategically, critically and logically? It looks increasingly obvious every day that the Malays are thinking with their emotions instead of with their intellect. We must ask ourselves – what is happening to us?” he said.

According to Daim, who headed the Council of Eminent Persons, the Malays have allowed their emotions to run wild and influence their perception of others.

“When Mastika (Malay-language magazine) stopped writing ghost stories, circulation ended and now there is no more Mastika. Now instead of reading about ghosts in Mastika, we are seeing ghosts around every corner.

“Instead of depending on logic and facts, we prefer to buy into the racist rhetoric of politicians with dubious reputations,” he added.

Daim then asked his audience, comprising mainly of academicians, what role they were playing in injecting logic and facts into the Malaysia narrative.

“Do you intend to go along with the emotional flow or do you see it as your academic duty to question the irrational narratives that are being shoved down the Malays’ throats?

“Do you as ‘the educated’ speak honestly and bravely about what is happening or do you simply pretend that this growing racism is justified?

“All of you here are highly educated, but how many of you have bought into the nonsensical political rhetoric that the Malays are being threatened by the non-Malays in this country? That Islam is under threat simply because of one or two people being insensitive enough to post something on the Prophet (Muhammad)?” he added.

Daim said the current narrative, which centres around race and religion, gives the impression the Malays are on the verge of being driven out of their own country.

“There is so much anger and indignation when non-Malays were appointed to high posts in the government as if this is something new.

“Why is there not the same anger when we are confronted with facts of corruption and kleptocracy of the highest order among our Malay leaders? We don’t feel offended when it was prime news all over the world. Instead, we respond with “Malu apa? (Ashamed of what?)”. Kalau “tak malu,” apa jadi kepada iman kita (If we are not ashamed, what has happened to our faith)?

“The Malays can continue down this emotional and irrational path at our own peril or we can stop, think, reflect and call for change.

“Nobody is forcing us to be emotional and irrational. We have chosen to be that way ourselves because we have allowed ourselves to be bought over by politicians whose only goal is to gain or regain power, no matter what the cost – and the cost is almost always ours to bear,” he added.

 

Below is Daim’s speech in full:

To understand our current political climate, it is important to look back at our history. Kusut di hujung, balik ke pangkal (Messy at the end, return to the root of the problem).

The history of the Malays starts from long before the formation of Tanah Melayu. We are descendants of great empires, from Langkasuka, to Srivijaya, to Majapahit, to Melaka. Melaka, of course, is our most popular tale, that of a world-famous port whose global success led to its eventual colonisation.

And when Melaka fell to the Portuguese, those descendants of Sultan Melaka who survived founded a new empire here in Johor. They took control of the southern Malay Peninsula, spreading across Riau, Anambas, Natuna, Tambelan, Borneo, and Sumatra. Their success was attributed to the wisdom of their rulers, and their openness to international trade.

In more recent history, the formation of the Malayan Union and the subsequent opposition led by UMNO were significant events that triggered real change in the political organisation of the Malays. Onn Jaafar, himself from Bukit Gambir and an MB of Johor, founded UMNO in 1946, signalling the height of Malay political supremacy. We were united and we were strong.

But our unity did not last. We didn’t know how to deal with success; the Malays started to split. When we are successful, we are drunk with success. When we fail, we look for scapegoats and go amok.

Our battle with the Malayan Union was, in a way, the first true independence that we achieved – when the British backed down. We became masters of our own land.

But the political landscape changed, and many non-Malays began to consider Malaya home and demanded a say in their new homeland.

In 1951, Onn made the first attempt to unify the races in a single party when he tried to open the membership of UMNO to non-Malays. However, Umno members at the time rejected it, and he left the party.

Nevertheless, the 1952 elections marked the first real political collaboration between Malays and non-Malays when UMNO and MCA joined forces for political victory. They were later joined by MIC to form the Alliance, signalling political unity amongst all Malayans, achieving a sweeping victory in the 1955 elections.

Then came the negotiations for Merdeka, where all Malaysians worked hand-in-hand to shrug off the yoke of colonialism. We learned that we were stronger together – when all Malaysians were united, we could overcome challenges.

All this happened against a backdrop of consistent armed warfare against terrorists during the Emergency, when all races fought shoulder to shoulder to gain victory. We are the only country in the world to defeat terrorists.

Then came the formation of Malaysia and Konfrontasi and throughout Malays were working with non-Malays to achieve national goals.

So, Malaysia has had a strong and rich history of inter-racial harmony and multi-culturalism since its very inception. But we must admit that it is still very complex with jobs and economic sectors identified with race, income inequality between the races and different educational systems existing.

It cannot be denied that Malaysia will prosper when Malays prosper. You cannot have 50 percent of your population in low income, there will be economic instability affecting everyone, regardless of race or economic status.

For Malaysia to succeed, the Malays must succeed. But this can only be achieved within the national context, working together with non-Malays for the benefit of Malaysia.

Why is it that Malays were able to work so closely with non-Malays for so many years leading up to Merdeka and beyond? Even in the face of outside aggression, there were hardly questions of who deserved Malaysia more – the Malays or non-Malays. Indeed, it was only when politicians decided to use race and religion as tools to gain power that we fell by the wayside.

This talk is entitled ‘Naratif Malaysia: Melayu dalam Persoalan National’. My question to you is: should we not just be talking about a National Narrative? Need we break down a national narrative along racial and religious lines?

But if your intention is to find answers to inequality, and to answer why the Malays are behind economically, then I really hope that this seminar will provide the answer.

When we talk about the Malays, we must talk about Islam. The Malays and Islam are indeed deeply entwined. They cannot be discussed separately. But what this has led to is the ignoring of our cultural and regional heritage, which has been abandoned in favour of foreign cultures (Arabisation especially) which feed into the insecurity of the Malays. It seems that everyone who does not speak like us and everything that we do not agree with, is a threat to Malays and Islam.

We must ask ourselves – is this true? Why is this so? Since when have the Malays and Muslims become so insecure about our place in this country?

When the Malays were far less economically advanced and far less educated, we defeated the British by rejecting the Malayan Union. We were brave.

We knew to organise collectively and strategically. We used our brains to defeat a colonial power. We managed to gain independence without bloodshed. We had no problems working with non-Malays and even learning from other races.

As the Malays progressed, it seems so did our sense of insecurity. Why is this so? Could it be that when there were no crutches, we had dignity, and the Malays felt more secure of our place within the country?

We are not lacking in Malay heroes. Johor alone has a rich history of formidable warriors, renowned artists, poets, athletes, scientists, doctors, academicians, and businessmen.

There was Muhamad Salleh bin Perang, who was the Bentara Luar. He was the first to draw up an accurate map of Johor, without the modern technology that present-day surveyors have available. He was the Head of Land Management and State Survey, and he used his map to plan the development of Johor. He was a Malay, but he was fluent in Chinese and was knowledgeable about Chinese culture, which allowed him to work closely with them in developing the economy.

In the realm of politics alone, the list of honours is never ending. Tun Hussein Onn, our “Bapa Perpaduan”UMNO was from Johor. And so was his own “Bapa”, the founder of UMNO, Onn Jaafar. His father before him, Jaafar Muhammad, was the first and longest serving MB of Johor. Deputy Prime Ministers Tun Dr Ismail and Musa Hitam were sons of Johor. Tun Ismail’s family was illustrious on its own, including his father-in-law Seth Said, Deputy MB of Johor, who was part of the delegation for Merdeka, and signed the Merdeka agreement against the Sultan’s orders. Without him, we would not have had Merdeka.

Johor produced the President of the Senate, Rahman Yasin. He was Tun Dr Ismail’s father. Tun Dr Ismail’s brother-in-law Ghazali Seth, was Chief of Defence, and he married Sri Norziah – sister of Hussein Onn, daughter of Onn Jaafar. Tun Dr Ismail went to school in Sekolah Melayu Bukit Zaharah in JB with two other famous figures – his brother, Sulaiman Abdul Rahman, and Ahmad Perang, who became the first Malay chairman of KTM.

Mohamed Noah Omar, the first Speaker of Dewan Rakyat, was also from Johor. His family too was very special – his two daughters married the men who would go on to be our prime ministers. Rahah, the wife of Tun Razak, and Suhaila, the wife of Hussein Onn. Tun Razak studied at Raffles College, with another son of Johor, Taib Andak, after whom Felda Taib Andak in Kulai is named. His brother Rahman Andak, was one of the early campaigners for Johor’s independence, and was State Secretary of Johor in 1984.

Governors of Bank Negara, Aziz Taha, Jaffar Hussein and Zeti Aziz. Professor Ungku Aziz, Zeti’s father, is a renowned economist. Zeti’s grandfather, Syed Mohammed Alsagoff, used to own Pulau Kukup, and had a concession to print his own money. Today, we use money signed by his granddaughter.

Why should we feel insecure with a legacy as illustrious as this?

Again, could it be that after being given all sorts of crutches, the effect has been to make the Malays weak and insecure, and most noticeably, lacking in resilience? What has led to this lack of confidence? It seems that when the Malays were facing real challenges, such as fighting for independence, our resilience was so much stronger.

As ease and comfort and quality of life improved, confidence and resilience abated. These observations call for sincere self-reflection – instead of picking fights with perceived enemies, we should look inwards and try to better ourselves instead of blaming all of our ills on others. We seem to be scared of our own shadows.

Today, there is one Malay graduate for every 20 Malays. Despite being more educated and having a large educated segment, we are still unable to convince ourselves that Malays have nothing to fear in this country. Are Malays thinking strategically, critically and logically? It looks increasingly obvious every day that the Malays are thinking with their emotions instead of with their intellect. We must ask ourselves – what is happening to us?

We have allowed our emotions to run wild and influence the way we see others. We watch ghost movies at the box offices. When Mastika stopped writing ghost stories, circulation ended and now there is no more Mastika. Now instead of reading about ghosts in Mastika, we are seeing ghosts around every corner.

Instead of depending on logic and facts, we prefer to buy into the racist rhetoric of politicians with dubious reputations.

Since I am talking to academicians, I would like to pose this question to you: what role should you be playing in injecting some logic and fact into the Malaysia narrative? Do you intend to go along with the emotional flow or do you see it as your academic duty to question the irrational narratives that are being shoved down the Malays’ throats?

Do you as “the educated” speak honestly and bravely about what is happening or do you simply pretend that this growing racism is justified?

All of you here are highly educated, but how many of you have bought into the nonsensical political rhetoric that the Malays are being threatened by the non- Malays in this country? That Islam is under threat simply because of one or two people being insensitive enough to post something on the Prophet?

The religion cannot be insulted. Only people can be. If our faith is strong, we do not get insulted. In fact, we laugh at such ignorance. And our behaviour should reflect the best of our religion so that we and our religion earn the respect of others.

Our country is multi-cultural and multi-religious. We have managed to live here in peace. We are sensitive to our neighbours and respect one another. This is our way.

It is wrong to insult anybody, more so the Prophet. To make fun of religion is stupid. But we have laws, and we should respect due process. Many have forgotten our Rukun Negara. The most important document is the Constitution.

No Malaysian should make insensitive comments towards other religions and races. But what has happened with the proclamation of Jihad against non- Muslims recently?

If Muslims want to perform Jihad, it should be Jihad to better ourselves not only spiritually, but economically, academically and to contribute to the continued growth of our own country.

We talk about the Malay narrative as if we are on the verge of being driven out of our own country. There is so much anger and indignation when non- Malays were appointed to high posts in the government, as if this is something new.

Why is there not the same anger when we are confronted with facts of corruption and kleptocracy of the highest order among our Malay leaders? We don’t feel offended when it was prime news all over the world. Instead, we respond with “Malu apa?”. Kalau “tak malu”, apa jadi kepada iman kita (If we are not ashamed, what has happened to our faith)?

The Malays can continue down this emotional and irrational path at our own peril or we can stop, think, reflect and call for change. Nobody is forcing us to be emotional and irrational. We have chosen to be that way ourselves because we have allowed ourselves to be bought over by politicians whose only goal is to gain or regain power, no matter what the cost – and the cost is almost always ours to bear.

So, the choice is up to us – nak duduk macam katak di bawah tempurung (want to be like a frog beneath a coconut-shell)? Do we change and become a force to be reckoned within the context of the national agenda, Malaysia Baru, or do we go down the path we are currently treading and proclaim a narrative that is narrow, focused only on ourselves? Or will we pursue a truly National or Malaysia Narrative, in which we participate and play a very active role?

The National Agenda is not a Malay agenda or a non-Malay agenda. It is a Malaysian Agenda that takes into consideration all Malaysians. That fights poverty and inequality without discrimination, respecting the Constitution.

I am glad to note that this seminar is directed at the four sectors of politics, economy, budaya and agama. Let us get all of these right. To get all of these right, our education system must change. Don’t treat education as a political football. The education system must be right.

Our future, Malaysia’s future, will depend on giving our children the right type of education that will allow them to be confident to face the best in the world. Get education right, then politics and economy will be right. Brains minus emotions will determine our future and the future of Malaysia.

Expose our children to the world, then they will want to excel, and they will protect the best of our budaya.

There is nothing wrong with Islam. It is not under threat. It is the fastest growing religion in the world.

I would like to advise you not to follow politicians blindly. As I said earlier, for Malaysia to succeed, the Malays must succeed. I keep repeating, Iqra’ (Aik Krok) – read to acquire knowledge and to think critically. Choose the right path that will lead to success.

Time is very important and we are excellent at wasting time. We will lose to time. Let us tell ourselves from now on we shall not repeat past mistakes. We will give the best education to our children so that they can compete and succeed. Let us leave all failure of confidence behind, and start our future now.

Leave this hall confident and ok with ourselves. Tell our children that we will compete and we will succeed.

Building a place called trust– Time to Talk Less and Do More


March 20, 2019

https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2019/03/471024/building-place-called-trust

 

 

THERE is a little known place in the Scottish Hebridean islands in the United Kingdom called the Isle of Skye. It is said to have rugged and mountainous landscapes graced with deep lochs. No highrises, no discarded waste. The scarcely scattered white-washed cottages in this place show one how nature has ruled over human creation.

Image result for Datuk Dr. Anis Yusal Yusoff

But beyond the physical attributes, there is something more to this isle than its landscape. It embodies the epitome of TRUST. One magazine wrote that on the corners where paths cross, there are ‘product boxes’ where people leave their homemade jams and free-range eggs. Passers-by come, take what they need and leave their payment. Doors in homes are left unlocked. One can leave cars there with the windows open, and the only thing that will enter is the rain.

This is called integrity. This is called good governance. This is what I envision for our country. This is what I pray that one day every nook and cranny of Malaysia will become and that we do not take what does not belong to us, and we guard and protect with all we have, what is given to us to honour.

The example of Isle of Skye is the basis upon which we approached the National Anti-Corruption Plan. It isn’t just a plan, as cynics and critics would say, plucked from the air. The goal of the Plan is to create a corruption-free society governed by the principles of integrity, accountability and transparency.

The focus of the Plan is clear — and that is to ensure every agency and ministry in the public sector institutionalizes good governance in every part of their work. Why focus on the public sector, one may ask? The answer is simple. If public governance is not strengthened first, we cannot move to ask others to put their houses in order.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad launched the Plan on Jan 29. It essentially identifies six key corruption-prone risk areas; political governance, public sector administration, public procurement, legal and judicial, law enforcement, and corporate governance.

Again, the process of ascertaining these was done through public surveys, interviews and research. We engaged many components of society — public and private sectors, civil society and the media. The Plan is an amalgamation of information we received from this work and on completion, we had independent anti-corruption specialists review our work.

I think it is important that we also understand why we had listed out the nature and points of corruption. A content analysis of about 20,000 reports received by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission from 2013 to 2018 found that more than 80 per cent were concerned with four causes; administrative failures (36.43 per cent), conflict of interest (33.12 per cent), weak internal control and non-compliance (18.97 per cent), and lack of transparency (6.45 per cent).

When we look at the areas prone to corruption from the same data we had, we found that the procurement sector recorded the highest number of complaints (42.8 per cent).

That’s why a special section in the Plan focuses on public procurement.

Beyond the Plan, our greatest challenge remains, as the government and people of Malaysia, our understanding of the roles of our government, private sector and public. I constantly argue that we have a somewhat warped view of this and frankly we are not alone here in Malaysia. To some, it is almost like watching the movie Matrix.

A lot of things in movies like Matrix are used as metaphors for our fixed views of ‘reality’. Rarely do we observe the world for what it is. It is much simpler to build a perceived order, load our preconceptions and baggage onto them to the point it simply becomes conducive and comfortable for us.

When we become fixated on a certain world view, and when that world view is simply wrong we open ourselves to the ramifications that come with living a lie, and that is exactly what we are going through today — the bite of reality of having condoned a culture of corruption for decades.

I often use the examples of nations such as Somalia, Zimbabwe and Myanmar which all have comparatively high CPI (Corruption Perception Index), coming in at 180, 160 and 132, respectively, to further demonstrate my point. Such positions within the CPI have ultimately left these countries in shambles economically, socially as well as politically.

Meanwhile, Malaysia ranks 61 within the index.  Admittedly, we are a far cry from achieving the corrupt-free status enjoyed by nations, such as Denmark, New Zealand and Finland, which rank 1, 2 and 3, respectively, on the index.

Attitudes and mindsets cannot be measured by Key Performance Indicators. They are intangibles.

The real engine to any delivery is mindset. Mindsets are defined by the culture we ultimately inculcate in this system. It is defined by the Isle of Skyes that we each develop in the little areas we are in charge of in our daily lives at work.

This culture has to be instilled, has to be imbued and built in every part of our society.

That is how we build a place called TRUST.

Datuk Dr. Anis Yusal Yusoff is the deputy director-general of the National Centre for Governance, Integrity & Anti-Corruption, Prime Minister’s Department

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