10 Rs why we are not Independent; not Malaysia but Malusia


August 25, 2017

10 Rs why we are not Independent; not Malaysia but Malusia

by P Gunasegaram@www.malaysiakini.com

QUESTION TIME | At the stroke of midnight heralding August 31, 1957, the Malayan flag was raised in front of Selangor Padang, Kuala Lumpur before a crowd of thousands and the Union Jack lowered ushering in an era of an independent Malaya which would become Malaysia on September 16, 1963.

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The Pinnacle –August 31. 1957 and from then on it was a secular decline into Malusia under Prime Minister Najib Razak–August 31, 2017 and sinking fast due to corruption, incompetence, racism and religious extremism and ketuananism

In the morning, at an elaborate ceremony at Stadium Merdeka, Malaysia’s first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman cried out “Merdeka!” seven times, echoed by a capacity crowd at the stadium, before the new national anthem “Negaraku” was played for the first time publicly. You can watch a short video here and a longer one here.  If you have not seen them before, I recommend that you do.

In his speech that morning, the Tunku, as the Kedah Prince with a common touch was known to most Malayans, said the nation is based on a constitution and the foundations of freedom (kebebasan), democracy, independence, justice and harmony.

Hopeful faces from all communities and all walks of life packed into the stadium that day, but 60 years later have their hopes, dreams and aspirations been realised? Sixty years later, are we really independent? Sadly, no.

Here are 10 reasons why independence still eludes us.

1. We don’t have freedom in key areas. Freedom is the right to do what you want to do so long as you do not affect the rights of others. But in Malaysia, you can’t even express what you truly feel as many things are considered to be seditious.

Informed debates are out, different lifestyles are looked down upon, you can’t even start a newspaper without the approval of the Home Minister, you have religion interfering in administration and state matters and the Constitution being blatantly disregarded in the name of expediency and a higher law.

2. We don’t have democracy. Democracy is not just only about proportional representation but the right to air your valid opinions and to have the means to spread them to others without restriction. We don’t even have proportional representation because rural seats are given a lot more weightage, sometimes as much as 10 times urban ones. Constitutional safeguards for this have either been ignored or changed over the years. The ruling party holds sway over the mass media by extensive controls as well as ownership webs.

3. We have oppressive laws. The Sedition Act, Sosma, Poca, OSA and various provisions in other legislation provide extensive power to the police and the home minister designed to keep things under wrap and to stifle legitimate dissent. Some of these are even more draconian than the laws which were in place during the time of the British occupation, which is astonishing considering that we have been “independent” for over 60 years. (and we don’t have bola too!)

4. Our government is not transparent. Because the government does so much wrong, it shields so much of what it does, coming up with the infamous Official Secrets Act which dishes out a mandatory jail term for disclosing “secrets”. These so-called “secrets” are most often not even in the national interest to be kept secret but instead reflect serious corruption within government. Unjustly, those who unearth and reveal such secrets face heavy punishment under the law.

5. Our government is not accountable. Our government stopped being accountable long ago. Bad things get done but nobody is brought to account. Billions are lost but no one is charged in court. The same problems crop up over and over again and the same excuses are trotted out over and over again. We don’t ever learn from the past – and the reason is obvious. Corruption prevents correction. This and the previous point reflect the emasculation of our key institutions of check and balance, as our next five points indicate.

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Tun Dr. Mahathir is back to rebuild institutions which he conveniently destroyed

 

6. Our Judiciary is not independent. Mahathir Mohamad infamously put paid to what was once regarded as an independent arm of the government which will rule on the basis of existing laws and the Constitution, resulting in a number of decisions not being made in accordance with legal principles and precedents. This continues to haunt us today with judges now being increasingly influenced by religious beliefs rather than the law and by who is in power.

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Hey, Chief, after September, 2017, we don’t care too

7. Our Police are not independent. Selective implementation of the law with the opposition and dissidents feeling the brunt of Police action while government and ruling party elements often get by with a rap on the knuckles or no action at all when others face jail sentences for similar offences. The all-encompassing Sedition Act, OSA, Sosma and Poca have all been selectively used by the police.

8. Our MACC is not independent. While the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission suddenly seems to be active, its image is shattered by the omission of action against the largest theft in the country and probably the world as a result of which a huge sum of money came into the accounts of the prime minister. Also, MACC’s actions are quite clearly one-sided towards the opposition, ignoring many cases of corruption involving ruling party officials.

Image result for Paul LowMr Integrity Paul Low –We owe him a lot for allowing corruption to be rampant. We need more big talkers like him 

 

9. Our EC is not independent. The Elections Commission has not shown itself to be independent, allowing gerrymandering to realign boundaries of constituencies and allowing by a large amount proportional misrepresentation to continue by giving undue weightage to rural constituencies.

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This A-G only serves UMNO and the Prime Minister

10. Our AG is not independent. The Attorney-General has famously decreed that the Prime Minister has no case to answer despite considerable evidence to the contrary, and especially extensive documented investigation by the US Department of Justice.

The latest appointment of the Auditor-General has been called into question because her spouse is a prominent UMNO member who declared that he will die for the Prime Minister. There are more reasons of course but these 10 are among the main ones.

Although this has culminated with Najib Abdul Razak at the top, it did not start with him. It started much earlier, pushed forward through a racial, racist party which thought that it knew what was best for the country and which twisted and turned this way and that to use religion and race to stay in power. It was not about Malaysians anymore – not even Malays.

It was corrupted by power and money, and along the way, as checks and balances were removed one by one giving the state enormous legislative, judicial, policing and administrative powers to ultimately protect the economic interests of its upper classes especially those in UMNO. Now, kleptocracy rules supreme.

This party must change or go so that freedom, democracy, independence, justice and harmony – the five foundations the Tunku mentioned – are restored, and restored in full. And it requires the efforts of all of us Malaysians, no matter how small or big, whichever community we come from, to ensure that happens. Our survival and the survival of our country depends on that.

 

 

The Malaysia Story via its Constitution


August 25, 2017

The Malaysia Story via its Constitution

by Zairil Khir Johari

http://www.newmandela.org

Much can be told about a country’s character through its laws. Correspondingly, the transformation of a country’s legal regime over time can be said to be a reflection of the socio-political evolution of its society.

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Take the Constitution of the United States of America. To date, there have been 27 amendments since its promulgation in 1789. The first ten amendments are collectively known as the Bill of Rights, and spell out the aspirations and desires of a fledgling nation in the form of a solemn promise of fundamental rights in relation to religion, speech, press, assembly, the right to bear arms and protections in the criminal justice system.

Following the end of the Civil War in 1865, amendments were made to abolish slavery and further define the rights of its citizens. As the twentieth century got underway, the Constitution was further amended to reflect the changing times—voting rights for women, tax concerns, and that peculiar period in modern American history known as Prohibition.

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In 1963, the assassination of President John F Kennedy paved the way for the 25th amendment, which establishes clear procedures for filling the post in the case of an abrupt vacancy. In 1971, following nationwide student activism in protest of the Vietnam War, the Constitution was amended for the 26th time to lower the voting age from 21 to 18.

The Malaysian story

In similar vein, the evolution of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia since Merdeka in 1957 also provides a picture of how our nation has progressed—or regressed, depending on perspective—throughout the 60 years of its existence.

Unlike the US, the Malaysian Parliament is not shy when it comes to tinkering with the supreme law of the land. To date, there have been 57 constitutional amendment acts, which corresponds to an average of almost one a year. However, it would be disingenuous to compare the two charters like for like, as the US Constitution, which comprises only seven articles, is meant to provide a “frame of government” that sets out the broad scope and functions of the main branches of the federal government, viz. the legislative (Congress), the judiciary and the executive (the office of the president).

On the other hand, the Malaysian document is 12 times longer, comprising 15 parts, 230 articles, and 13 schedules—all of which detail very specific provisions on numerous issues including revenue from toddy shops to capitation grants from the federal government to the states. For practical purposes, many of these provisions naturally require updating every once in a while.

That said, a number of scholars have noted that the actual number of amendments that have been made to the Federal Constitution is closer to 700, if each individual change is counted. Be that as it may, it is the substance more than the quantity of the amendments that really matters, and on this score constitutional expert Shad Saleem Faruqi has opined that fundamental alterations to critical areas have resulted in the dilution of the spirit of the original Merdeka Constitution. In addition, legal scholar HP Lee even describes the changes as amounting to “a truncation of safeguards which had been considered by the Reid Commission as vital for the growth of a viable democratic nation”.

1960: Ending the Emergency without losing emergency powers

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Tunku Abdul Rahman

The first major amendment to the Constitution took place in 1960, three years after Merdeka. In tabling the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 1960, the government moved to amend 33 articles and insert two new ones, besides amending the second schedule. While it is not unusual for a fledgling country to amend its constitution after a few years of finding its feet, some of the changes that were undertaken had serious and far-reaching consequences.

It is perhaps important to first understand the context of the times. Malaya, as the country was called then, had gained independence in 1957 in the midst of a communist insurgency that began in 1948. By 1960, the war had begun to wind down as the communist objective of seeking independence by force from the British had, by virtue of Merdeka, been rendered moot.

However, instead of capitalising on the end of the war to usher in a new era of peace and greater freedom, it was a case of the government wanting to end the Emergency without losing emergency powers. This can be clearly seen from amendments made to Part XI of the Constitution, encompassing Articles 149 to 151, which deals with legislation against subversion and action prejudicial to public order.

Article 149 provides for the creation of Acts of Parliament that would, in the face of subversive threats to the Federation, cause the suspension of fundamental liberties enshrined in Articles 5, 9, 10 and 13 with regards to freedom of speech, association, movement and property, and freedom from unlawful detention. These “threats” were originally confined to conditions of organised violence, but were in the same amendment expanded to include attempts to incite communal hostility and acts “prejudicial to the security of the Federation”. This is of course an understandable provision given the tumultuous security situation of the time. However, the same article also provided a sunset clause that stipulated that all such legislation would cease to have effect after one year. In other words, laws allowing preventive detention were meant to be temporary features.

Unfortunately, this critical safeguard was repealed in the amendment, thus paving the way for the creation of the notorious Internal Security Act 1960, which remained in force until its repeal 52 years later, only to be succeeded by similarly powerful incarnations such as the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 and the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015.

Meanwhile, Article 150, which governs the declaration of states of emergency, used to contain in its original version a clause that would necessitate, in the event of an emergency proclamation, its tabling in both Houses of Parliament at the soonest convenience. Once convened, Parliament must approve the resolution for the emergency, failing which it would automatically expire after two months from its date of issue. In the case that Parliament is not sitting at the time, then the Yang di-Pertuan Agong could issue emergency ordinances that would expire 15 days after the reconvening of Parliament.

However, the provisions were amended to remove the need for parliamentary approval. Instead, any emergency proclamation or ordinance would now continue to be in force until such time that Parliament annuls it. The corollary had been reversed—where parliamentary approval was previously required to maintain a state of emergency, it was now only required to end one. These amendments were to set the scene for many long term emergencies and the ultimately the suspension of Parliament in 1969.

While most of the other constitutional amendments made in 1960 were mainly administrative in nature, there were still a few more that carried questionable overtones. Take, for example, the amendments to Articles 122, 125 and 138, which resulted in the repeal of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC), hitherto responsible for making all recommendations with regards to judicial appointments.

Following that, the power to initiate disciplinary proceedings against judges was transferred from the defunct JLSC to the Agong on the advice of the prime minister, thus severely curtailing the independence of the judiciary. Repercussions from this move did not become apparent until 28 years later when the provisions facilitated the sacking of the lord president (now known as chief justice) Salleh Abbas and two other judges of the Supreme Court, precipitating a judicial crisis from which the nation has never fully recovered.

In addition to the judiciary, an amendment to Article 145 also had the effect of changing the position of the attorney-general from a tenured one, much like a Supreme Court judge, to one that is held at the pleasure of the Agong. The intentions here were probably less sinister as it made the position a political appointment, which meant that the attorney-general could be a member of the government and therefore directly answerable to Parliament, as was the case from the 1960s to the early 1980s when the post was typically filled by members of parliament. However, it also meant that they could be unceremoniously sacked at any time, as Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail was to discover in 2016 after running afoul of the prime minister.

1962: Consolidation of power

The second major amendment to the Constitution took place just two years after the first. In 1962 a bill was moved to amend 29 articles, adding three more articles while repealing three others. Changes were also made to a number of schedules, including the introduction of the 13th schedule which governs electoral rules.

By and large, the 1962 amendments saw the tightening up of laws and other minor administrative matters involving executive authority, legislative powers, and financial matters including the assignment of revenue from minerals to states. Nonetheless, major changes were also made, particularly to Parts III and VIII concerning rules of citizenship and the electoral system respectively, both tied to the long term survivability of the ruling Alliance government.

Citizenship had been one of the most contentious political issues leading to independence, and continued to dominate public discourse in the years following. The Reid Commission, drafters of the Constitution, had liberalised citizenship requirements so that many ethnically non-Malay residents could become citizens and, accordingly, gain electoral franchise.

The consequences of the more liberal citizenship policy would not be seen until 1959 when the first general election of independent Malaya was held. The Alliance government saw its control over 99 per cent of seats in the Federal Legislative Council reduced to only 71 per cent in the newly constituted Parliament of Malaya. Besides losing control over Kelantan and Terengganu, two states in the Malay heartland, much of the Alliance’s losses were also due to low levels of support from the newly qualified non-Malay voters in urban areas.

Thus, faced with diminished influence, the Alliance moved to appease Malay voters through a massive rural development program while they sought to contain the non-Malays by two means: firstly, citizenship was made more difficult to acquire and easier to lose, and greater discretionary power in citizenship matters was placed in the hands of the executive. Secondly—and more effectively—fundamental changes were made to the electoral system in order to mitigate the potential threat of non-Malay electoral strength.

However, tinkering with election rules was not an easy task, thanks to the Reid Commission’s foresight in embedding provisions to ensure that the Election Commission (EC) was not only independent but also accorded total authority over the delineation of constituencies without the need for parliamentary oversight. This meant that political parties, even if they were in power at federal or state level, would have little influence over the review and delimitation of constituencies.

In 1960 an electoral redelimitation exercise was conducted by the EC in strict conformity with the letter of the Constitution. As constituencies became more fairly apportioned and voter disparity was reduced to a maximum deviation of 15% of the average constituency size within a state, it became apparent that urban non-Malay voters would gain an increased share of electoral influence at the expense of the Alliance’s traditional rural Malay vote base, which would lose its rural weightage advantage.

Alarmed by the outcome of the redelimitation exercise, the Alliance government passed a raft of changes to the Constitution in 1962 that effectively annulled the revised constituencies, added new rules for constituency delineation, increased the 15% deviation limit to 33%, and even more significantly, stripped the EC of its independence and role as final arbiter of constituency changes. As a result, the EC is now mandated only to conduct redelimitation reviews before presenting its recommendations to the prime minister, who in turn will then table them ‘with or without modifications’ to Parliament for approval by simple majority.

In the grand scheme of things, the constitutional amendments made in 1962, particularly with regards to election rules that provided Parliament with even greater control over the creation and boundaries of constituencies, can be seen to have been the greatest contributor to the longevity of the ruling regime’s hold on power, unbroken to this day.

1963–1969: A nation in transition

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Tun Abdul Razak

Just a year after the 1962 amendments, the Constitution underwent another major overhaul. The Malaysia Act 1963 was introduced to accommodate structural changes to the country with the addition of Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore into the expanded and renamed Federation of Malaysia.

As can be expected, minor changes had to be made to more than a hundred articles in order to include the new states. For the most part, the amendments were procedural in nature with a few exceptions such as the reinstatement of a watered down version of the JLSC. In 1964 and 1965 the Constitution was amended twice for minor administrative matters involving the legislative, executive and judiciary, as well as further tidying up of laws following the expansion of the Federation.

Unfortunately, the new union was not to last. In protest of what Indonesian president Sukarno labelled the “neo-imperialist” creation of Malaysia, Indonesia declared a “confrontation” against the Federation, proceeding to wage violent conflict for the next three years. Besides military skirmishes in Borneo, a spate of bombings were also carried out in Singapore, the most famous of which was the bombing of Macdonald House on 10 March 1965, which killed three people and injured 33 others. (The confrontation with Indonesia also provided the pretext for the Alliance federal government to suspend local government elections in 1965. The third vote has since been abolished.)

Adding to the pressure were racial tensions stirred up by various parties including Indonesian saboteurs, nationalist Malays as well as pro-communist leftist elements. During Singapore’s two year period in Malaysia, numerous racial riots occurred, including the notorious 21 July 1964 riot that broke out during a procession to celebrate the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, resulting in the deaths of 22 people. Further smaller scale riots took place later in the year, contributing to an immensely tense environment. These events had also taken place against the backdrop of a racially charged 1964 general election, which served to strain the relationship between the Alliance and the People’s Action Party, which ruled Singapore.

With disagreements coming to a head over social, political and even economic and financial issues, the relationship became untenable. On 9 August 1965, Malaysian Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra moved to enact the Constitution and Malaysia (Singapore Amendment) Act 1965 in order to separate Singapore from the Federation. With the removal of Singapore, the Constitution had to be amended again. This was conducted in 1966, affecting 45 articles and four schedules.

1966 saw further constitutional issues as it was Sarawak’s turn to face a crisis. In June 1966, following dissatisfaction over a native land reform law advocated by Sarawak Chief Minister Stephen Kalong Ningkan, 21 out of 42 members of the state legislature petitioned the governor of Sarawak to remove Ningkan. With the backing of the prime minister, the governor demanded Ningkan’s resignation, but the latter refused as he insisted due process had not been followed as there had not been a motion of no confidence in the legislature.

Ningkan was sacked anyway, leading him to file a suit at the High Court, which ruled in September that the governor did not have the power to dismiss a chief minister. Ningkan was then reinstated but before he could dissolve the legislature to seek a fresh mandate, the federal government moved the Emergency (Federal Constitution and Constitution of Sarawak) Bill 1966 in order to declare a state of emergency in Sarawak, thus suspending elections in the state. Further to that, the state constitution of Sarawak was also amended by Parliament to authorise the governor to convene the state legislature without going through the chief minister, leading to Ningkan’s ultimate dismissal.

The high-handed removal of the Sarawak chief minister in 1966 marked the first time that a power grab was facilitated by the federal government, though it would not be the last. In 1977 a coup by members of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) against the Kelantan chief minister was foiled when an emergency was declared by the federal government, thus keeping the incumbent chief minister in place until elections were held the following year. In the event, Barisan Nasional (the renamed Alliance coalition) managed to gain power for the first time in the state.

More recently in 2009, the Perak chief minister from PAS, leading the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition government, was removed by the Sultan of the state following defections of PR assemblymen who declared support for BN. Following an audience between the prime minister and the Sultan, the latter refused the chief minister’s request for a dissolution of the state legislature, and instead appointed a new chief minister from BN. Although a successful challenge was made at the High Court, the verdict was later overturned by the Court of Appeal and Federal Court, which held the takeover was legal.

1969-1973: Aftermath of a tragedy

Topping off what is probably the most eventful decade in Malaysian history is the infamous 13 May 1969 racial riots. Tensions had mounted in the years leading up to the 1969 general election, resulting in outbreaks of sectarian violence. In November 1967 a hartal organised by Maoist sympathisers in Penang turned bloody, although it was contained from spreading beyond the state. In June 1968 protests against death sentences meted out to 11 Chinese members of the Malayan Communist Party took a racial slant until their sentences were commuted.

Eventually, the official general election campaign period, from nomination day on 5 April to polling day on 10 May, saw sentiments coming to a boil as racial and religious politics were played up to the hilt. A fortnight before polling day, a Malay political worker was killed in Penang. But while this incident managed to be quelled, another incident in Selangor occurred 10 days later, in which a young Chinese man was shot, reportedly in self-defence, by police officers.

Sensing political opportunity, leaders of the Labour Party, which had by then fallen under the control of far left elements and had also boycotted the general election, somehow ended up hijacking the organisation of the funeral procession. Held just a day before polling, the procession turned out to be one of the largest ever seen in KL, and was by most accounts less a funeral than a mass political demonstration complete with banners carrying revolutionary Maoist slogans and the depiction of the deceased as a political martyr.

A day later, Malaysia went to the polls. By 11 May, it became obvious that the Alliance would retain power with a drastically reduced majority. Not only did the coalition fail to attain 50% of the popular vote share, they also lost their two-thirds majority in Parliament for the first time. On top of that, they also lost their majorities in the Penang, Kelantan, Perak and Selangor state assemblies, the latter two ending up in a hung situation with no party having an absolute majority.

Elated by the unprecedented results, opposition parties in the capital celebrated their success by holding large processions. Naturally, sentiments were highly racialised and provocative. In response, the Malay daily Utusan Melayu’s editorial suggested that Malay political power was under threat, prompting members of UMNO Youth to respond by organising a victory parade in the capital.

What followed on 13 May will forever be etched in history as Malaysia’s day of disgrace, described by the Tunku as a “social and political eruption of the first magnitude,” a dark moment when Malaysia was betrayed by Malaysians. Blood flowed through the streets of KL as hundreds were killed in sectarian rioting.

A state of emergency was soon declared and on 16 May, Parliament was suspended—a sequence of events that would not have been possible were it not for the constitutional amendments of 1960. In the absence of parliamentary rule, a National Operations Council (NOC) was established to play the role of a caretaker government under the directorship of Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Razak Hussein. State and district operations councils were formed to govern the country at the different levels.

The level of premeditation and actual motivations behind the decisions and events precipitating the riots will forever be the subject of conspiracy theories. But what cannot be denied is the fact that the 13 May incident marked the end of the first epoch of Malaysian history, and the beginning of a new era under Razak, who ruled as head of the NOC and eventually as prime minister upon the retirement of the Tunku and reconvening of Parliament on 22 September 1970.

From the ashes of the bloody riots, a new social compact was forged in the form of the New Economic Policy (NEP) which laid the ground for an assertion of Malay nationalism in various sectors including education and the economy through social reengineering and affirmative action programs. The national political landscape was also transformed with the creation of the BN grand coalition in 1973, which absorbed opposition parties including PAS, Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia (Gerakan) and the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) in West Malaysia. This had the effect of restoring the two-thirds majority in Parliament and consolidating control over every state government in the country.

Armed with total control, Razak moved to enshrine the new social compromises through the controversial Constitution (Amendment) Act 1971. Dubbed the “sensitive matters amendment”, seven articles were changed including those governing freedom of speech, assembly and association, parliamentary privileges, the national language, and the expansion of the scope of Article 153 that deals with the protection of the “special position” of the Malays.

As a result of the amendments, fundamental liberties were proscribed so that “sensitive matters”—defined to include issues such as citizenship, language, the special position of the Malays and the natives of Borneo, and the rulers’ sovereignty—could not be discussed openly, even in Parliament. The Sedition Act, previously inapplicable within the confines of the august House and state legislatures, now applies throughout.

These amendments were further augmented by other proscriptive legislation, such as the University and University College Act 1971, which forbade university students from participating in political activities, and the Official Secrets Act 1972, which cast a wide net for deeming what is confidential and hence unlawful to disseminate.

Further to that, Article 159 was altered so that the consent of the Conference of Rulers, previously required only for amendments to provisions affecting the special position of the Malays and the rulers themselves, was now also required for those affecting the national language, parliamentary privilege and certain fundamental liberties. Meanwhile, Article 153 was modified to allow the creation of quotas for Malays and natives in institutions of higher education, in addition to existing quotas for public service, education and commercial permits and licenses.

In 1973 another major constitutional amendment bill was moved that carried major electoral impact. Constitutional limits to rural weightage which had been loosened in 1962 when the maximum deviation was increased from 15% to 33%, were abolished altogether. In the absence of the safeguards that were put in place by the Reid Commission, seats could now be created that are up to four or five times the size of other seats within the same state, as is the case today.

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Malaysia’s Man of Honour and Integrity

 

In addition, the power of the EC to apportion constituencies was abrogated and instead specified in the constitution, hence amendable only by a two-thirds majority vote in Parliament. With deviation limits removed, the government of the day had practically awarded themselves carte blanche powers to delineate and apportion constituencies in any manner that was convenient to them.

Finally, the amendments also saw the carving out of KL as a federal territory, thereby removing it from the state of Selangor. As the majority Chinese population of KL was seen to have played a key part in the defeat of the Alliance in Selangor in 1969, excising the city also meant ridding the state of most of its opposition-leaning voters. Not only did it secure Selangor for BN, it also essentially robbed the voters of KL of their right to representation at the local level, as the federal territory has no elected legislature.

1973–1994: The Mahathir Era

Between 1973 and 1985, the Constitution was amended 11 more times, including numerous modifications to the capitation grants to the states, the creation of the federal territory of Labuan, further tightening up of election laws which gave the government even more discretionary powers, and the introduction of the ringgit as the national currency.

Of particular note were amendments made in 1983 and 1984 with regards to the legislative role of the rulers. In 1981, Mahathir Mohamad took over the job that he would go on to hold for the next 22 years. Never shy to challenge the orthodoxy, having been responsible for an infamous open letter to then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra in 1969 that blamed the latter for the 13 May riots, Mahathir began the first of numerous confrontations with the Malay royalty in 1983.

Prior to this, the rulers enjoyed legal immunity, a provision that had been abused on more than one occasion. By the early 1980s, the behaviour of the rulers was increasingly questioned in public discourse, particularly with regards to their perceived extravagance, financial misdeeds, wastage of public funds, involvement in business, and active interference in political matters. Naturally disinclined towards feudalism and fuelled by the prospect of an incoming activist Agong, Mahathir decided to pre-empt the situation by introducing the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 1983.

Among the 43 articles amended were provisions that essentially made royal assent to a bill passed by Parliament a rubber stamp procedure that could not be denied by the Agong. This applied to state laws as well. In addition, Mahathir also proposed to transfer the power to declare a state of emergency from the Agong to the hands of the prime minister. Although the amendments were passed by both Houses of Parliament, an impasse occurred when the sitting Agong, having consulted his fellow rulers, objected to the Bill.

A standoff ensued as Mahathir went in all guns blazing, rallying his party machinery in demonstrations up and down the country while the press played along to his tune, explaining the necessity for the amendments. Not to be outdone, the rulers also held counter-rallies with the support of veteran UMNO leaders.

Finally, a compromise was achieved. The right to declare emergencies remained with the Agong and the rulers retained their right to withhold assent to state laws. For federal laws passed by Parliament, the Agong could now reject a bill by sending it back to the legislature. If the said bill was passed again, then it would automatically become law after 30 days, with or without royal assent. The only exception to this was in the case of money bills, which could not be rejected in the first instance.

The next major constitutional amendment would occur in 1988 amid portentous circumstances. A year earlier, Mahathir barely survived a leadership challenge from within his party, the result of which left UMNO divided down the line. The losing faction undertook legal proceedings and in February 1988, the courts ruled UMNO to be an unlawful society due to irregularities with some of its branches. In the wake of the deregistration of UMNO and other court decisions that the government found unfavourable, Mahathir moved to curtail the judiciary.

Article 121 was a specific target of the constitutional amendments of 1988. Previously ascribing plenary authority over the judicial power of the Federation to the courts, the article was amended to bind the courts to “such jurisdiction and powers as might be conferred by or under federal law” (Article 121), thus subordinating the judiciary to the legislative. Other amendments included the removal of the general power of the High Court to conduct judicial reviews, the empowerment of the attorney-general to determine the courts for cases to be heard, and, significantly, the insertion of Article 121(1A), which not only drew a line of separation between the civil and syariah courts, also elevated the status of the syariah courts to be on par with the civil courts, thus creating a parallel legal system that has seen many complications arise, especially in cross-jurisdictional cases involving Muslims and non-Muslims.

In response to the government’s hastily introduced changes, the lord president of the Supreme Court,  Tun Salleh Abas, convened a meeting of judges which unanimously approved a letter to be sent to the Agong to convey their disappointment at the actions of the prime minister to undermine the judiciary.

However, thanks to amendments made in 1960, Mahathir was able to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the lord president, resulting in his eventual removal along with two other Supreme Court judges. This dark episode remains a blight in the history of the Malaysian judiciary, and it was not until 2008 that the government made reparations to the sacked judges. In 2017 the Federal Court (previously Supreme Court) ruled that the 1988 amendments that subordinated the judiciary to Parliament were unconstitutional, although it fell short of striking down the Act in question.

Mahathir’s second bout with royalty took place in 1993. Despite the previous standoff, a number of rulers continued to behave with impunity, regularly interfering in state politics, flouting tax laws and even indulging in criminal activity. Following a motion of censure by Parliament against the Sultan of Johor who had physically abused a hockey coach, the Constitution was amended to strip the rulers of their immunity from prosecution, although they would be subjected to a special court of their peers rather than the normal civil courts.

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The Doctor who deformed the House

In 1994 Mahathir made further amendments to the Constitution to tie up loose ends, including abolishing the power of the Agong to delay a bill by returning it to Parliament. This time, the same provision was extended for state legislatures as well, hence all but eliminating the role of the Malay royalty as a checks and balances mechanism.

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Abdullah Badawi and Najib Razak–Religion and Race Champions

At the same time, the downgrading of the judiciary was completed through symbolic changes such as the renaming of the lord president as chief justice and the Supreme Court as the Federal Court, as well as the introduction of a code of ethics for judges.

The Constitution would be amended 16 more times, with the last being in 2009. Most of the changes during this period were minor and administrative, with the exception of the creation of a third federal territory in 2001, viz. the new federal administrative capital of Putrajaya.

Whither do we go?

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Where are heading given the state of our politics today?

Unlike the US, whose 27 constitutional amendments, from the Bill of Rights to the abolition of slavery to universal adult suffrage, paint a narrative of a nation’s journey towards building a more inclusive, progressive and emancipated society, the story of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia reveals a nation that is heading the other way—towards more exclusivism, regression and repression.

Critical amendments made over 60 years have altered the fundamental nature and spirit of the original Reid Constitution of 1957 by concentrating power in the hands of the executive, dismantling various constitutional safeguards with regards to fundamental liberties and the use of emergency powers, overhauling the electoral system in order to ensure the longevity of the incumbent government, and suppressing rival centres of power, including institutions such as the Malay royalty and the judiciary.

As a result, the Constitution today no longer embodies the spirit and intentions of the founders of the country. This is perhaps an appropriate reflection of the Malaysian polity today. Although the same party that ruled at independence continues to rule, there are few who would agree that the current leadership even remotely adheres to the same ideals and principles as its pioneers.

At the very least, arbitrary changes to the Constitution are now improbable, given that the ruling regime has since 2008 lost its customary two-thirds control over Parliament, and by virtue of that, also its ability to amend the Constitution unilaterally. Yet plugging the leak is not fixing the problem.

Ultimately, fixing Malaysia requires fixing its laws. If our country is to find its place in the sun as an inclusive and progressive nation of the twenty-first century, then the political will to rewrite our laws to make for a more inclusive, open and fair society has to be found.

Zairil Khir Johari is the Member of Parliament for the federal constituency of Bukit Bendera, Penang. He is the Democratic Action Party’s Parliamentary Spokesperson for Education, Science and Technology, and a Fellow of the Penang Institute, the public policy think tank of the state government of Penang.

He is also a columnist with the Penang Monthly and the author of Finding Malaysia: Making Sense of an Eccentric Nation.

This article originally appeared in the August 2017 edition of Penang Monthly, and is republished with permission.

Malaysia: Indian Votes Matter in GE-14, says a local think tank


August 18, 2017

Malaysia: Indian Votes Matter in GE-14, says a local think tank

 by  Ooi Heng, Elijah Khor and Yasmin
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It is easy for Najib Razak to win Indian Votes –Grant Blue ICs and Bumiputra status to the marginalised Indians together with those desperate mamaks who populate Pulau Pinang, and some duit raya courtesy 1MDB. UMNO’s racism will be forgotten and Hindraf’s struggle for Justice will be pushed aside. Money wins GE-14, not ideals . That’s pork barrel politics, isn’t it? -Din Merican

Talking about the general election results in the past, we would usually treat BN as a whole. As UMNO is facing a significant political split, it is necessary to take UMNO’s parliamentary election results out of BN for further assessment.

Whenever UMNO faced a political split, that had more meaningful impact, their Malay votes would drop, and their parliamentary seats would be subsequently reduced as well.

Before the 1990 General Elections, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah parted ways with Dr Mahathir Mohamad and splintered off from UMNO to form a new party, Semangat 46. As a result, the parliamentary seats won by UMNO dropped by 12 seats, from 83 seats in 1986 to 71 seats in 1990.

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UMNO-BN Manifesto for GE-14–Gua Tolong Lu, Lu Tolong Gua–Najib Razak

Before the 1999 general elections, Anwar Ibrahim was brutally prosecuted, leading to the Reformasi political movement, thus party leaders and followers, as well as civil society activists, joined hands to form a new party, Parti Keadilan Nasional. As for the electoral result, the parliamentary seats won by UMNO dropped by 17 seats, from 89 seats in 1995 to 72 seats in 1999.

Later, on 3 August 2003, Parti Keadilan Nasional officially merged with Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) as Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

During both of the political splits mentioned above, Mahathir was the President of UMNO and also the Prime Minister. This time, Mahathir split with Najib Abdul Razak, who is the current UMNO President and also the current Prime Minister, to form a new party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu).

In this coming election, how many parliamentary seats UMNO will lose is crucial to determine the election result.

There are two scenarios.

The first scenario 

This time UMNO’s seat will lose 15 to 20 seats, out of 88 seats in the GE13.  Therefore, in this election UMNO will be left with 68 to 73 seats.

This scenario assumes that every “meaningful split” being faced by UMNO would result in a more severe split than before, and translates into a kind of electoral result. This would mean that UMNO’s performance in 1999 as compared with 1995 was worse than their 1990 result as compared with 1986.

Based on this, their result in GE-14 as compared with the GE-13, will be relatively worse than the GE-10 (1999) as compared with the GE-9 (1995), or comes close to that.

The second scenario

This time UMNO will not only perform worse than before, but also demonstrate the worst fall in history, reducing their number of parliamentary seats by 25 to 30 seats. If this is the case, in GE-14, UMNO will be left with 58 to 63 seats.

This scenario is considering the fact that out of the former UMNO leaders who have led the opposition coalition in the past to challenge UMNO, the highest-ranking one was a former Deputy Prime Minister.

This round, Mahathir is a former Prime Minister who was in office for 22 years, and the two elections before this – GE-12 (2008) and GE-13 (2013) – have successfully changed the political landscape, and also shaken up the one-party dominant system which used to be invincible.

Based on this scenario, other than UMNO showing a definite loss of parliamentary seats, the overall result of BN in GE-14 will not be a repeat of the situation in GE-10 (1999) where “the Malay voters opposed but the non-Malay voters did not oppose”, or a result where “BN saved UMNO”.

In the 1990 and the 1999 elections, even though UMNO was split, the one-party dominant system remained intact.

Today, however, after experiencing the change in political landscape through the 2008 and 2013 elections, the one-party dominant system has loosened. Based on this, this time there shall not be an outcome where “BN saved UMNO”.

The votes of marginalised groups

Let us take a look at the ethnic Chinese votes. BN’s Chinese votes in 2008 dropped by about 30 percent, and this did not stop falling in 2013 where it dropped further by 22 percent. Basically, the BN Chinese votes had dropped to its lowest. In GE-14, we assume an increase in Chinese votes for BN.

If BN gains Chinese votes by 5 percent to 10 percent, it will not be sufficient to result in “BN saving UMNO”. While Pakatan Harapan is fighting aggressively for Malay votes, they also need to manage their loss of Chinese votes, and also the percentage of votes regained by BN.

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Awesome Najib Razak with a huge War Chest

What Pakatan Harapan cannot underestimate the most is the ethnic Indian voters. After BN lost Indian votes in 2008 by about 49 percent, the coalition regained 10 percent in 2013.

According to the electoral map in 2013, there were altogether 60 parliamentary seats in which Indians comprised 10 percent of voters. In 52 seats, Indians comprised 10 percent to 20 percent of voters, while in the remaining 8 seats, Indians made up 21 to 30 percent of the voting population.

Even though upon the 2013 election results Pakatan Rakyat had only 10 Indian MPs, these 60 constituencies with more than 10 percent Indian voters would also affect the chance of winning for the non-Indians in these constituencies.

Out of the 60 seats, other than the 10 seats with Indian MPs, Pakatan Rakyat had also 28 seats with non-Indian MPs, who were also affected by the Indian voters. In order to prevent the situation of “BN saving UMNO” from happening in the GE14, Pakatan Harapan should work more on addressing the Indian community’s needs and their issues of concern, and propose an effective policy for it.

The Indian community has a high proportion of lower middle class and lower-class families, and they are also experiencing the pressure of expensive goods and a high cost of living in this goods and services tax (GST) era. Other than this, many of them are having a hard time getting a low salary and having insufficient unemployment protection.

If we only focus on the 30 seats with more than 50 percent of Chinese voters, and being in delusion of controlling the back low of the Chinese votes, thinking that these would be sufficient to make use of the splinter in UMNO to obtain a good result, we are afraid that BN will be able to obtain a greater proportion of Indian votes in the GE-14.

Just as BN was greatly hit by Hindraf in the 2008 election, in this coming election, Pakatan Harapan will probably be quietly hit by the Indian community. Can the political elites feel the movements within the marginalized groups?

Ooi Heng is Executive Director of the think tank Political Studies for Change (KPRU). Elijah Khor and Yasmin are research officers at KPRU.

Fracas at Nothing to Hide2.0 Forum


August 13, 2017

Fracas at Nothing to Hide2.0 Forum

COMMENT: What a shame! Najib Razak is unable to debate Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. At 92, the former Prime Minister is still a formidable debater. And it is also clear to me that Najib is scared of his own of his own shadow. If so, he cannot be helped. He is wasting money engaging these thugs to disrupt the public forum (ceramah).

Najib Razak cannot run away from the facts which are already known to us Malaysians and the international community, that is, he is a very corrupt politician, a liar and an incompetent Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Today’s fracas is nothing but an act of political desperation. It will not dissuade Malaysians from attending future ceramahs by the political opposition. On the contrary, we can expect larger crowds at future gatherings.

What is the Royal Malaysian Police doing? Perhaps, they are waiting for orders from their Inspector-General of Police.

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The Police are busy checking round the clock all postings on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. The IGP is equally occupied sucking up to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister-Home Affairs Minister.

We know that Khalid Abu Bakar is a weak IGP who got the job because he will be an obedient UMNO servant.  So do not expect the IGP to act. Knowing how the Police in particular the Special Branch operate, it is more likely that their agent provocateurs could be among the UMNO thugs. And the whole thing could have been pre-arranged to scare the 92-year old rather than harm him.

Mariam is right when she suggested that at GE-14 we should overwhelmingly vote against Najib and his UMNO-BN. We can longer allow a corrupt and cowardly politician and his associates to remain in office even for another 24 hours. They should summarily be shown the exit door.–Din Merican

UMNO Biadap Culture on Display: Attacking  Tun Dr.Mahathir Mohamad

by Mariam Mokhtar

http://www.malaysiakini.com

When a 92-ye-old man is attacked, there is only one conclusion: Najib is very afraid.

 

An attempt to undermine former PM, Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s ceramah, called “Nothing to Hide 2.0” broke up in chaos and pandemonium, when some Malay thugs, set off flares, threw bottles at the audience, and hurled slippers at the nonagenarian.

Mahathir had been invited to the “Nothing to Hide 2.0” forum which had been organised by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) .

It was supposed to be a debate between Mahathir and the incumbent PM, Najib Abdul Razak; but we know that Najib has an aversion to debates and usually skips the country, when things are getting too hot to handle. He runs away (only this time, he has no place where to run to).

Said one political observer, “This is the modus operandi of UMNO-Baru. They send their thugs to a peaceful event. They do this to create fear, to get the public to stay away and to send a message to the person or people who are staging the event, that they do not care about people’s rights, or safety, or democracy.

“The thugs, masquerading as the people who are going to a ceramah, will do anything to disrupt a normal event.”

His friend said, “They threatened Zunar, the cartoonist, and wrecked his exhibition and sent UMNO-Baru thugs to wreak havoc.

“It was UMNO-Baru thugs who planned an assault on the Penang State Assembly a few years ago, because they were displeased with a state assemblyman’s comments.

“UMNO-Baru thugs, attacked peaceful supporters and sent threatening messages to the Bersih 2.0 committee members, like Maria Chin and Ambiga Sreenevasan. Many other Opposition politicians are also targeted by this vile UMNO-Baru thugs. Their leaders run away, but they send their hooligans in.

Najib is very afraid

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Today, who else do you think fears a 92-year-old man most?None other then Najib Abdul Razak and UMNO-Baru.

The more thugs attack a 92-year-old man, the more the moderate and usually reserved Malays will wonder why such tactics are employed. They will start to ask questions. Why? What harm can an old man do?

If the Malays were fence-sitters before, they will not be fence-sitters any longer.

This is NOT just about two adversaries having to fight a public political fight. The thugs sow more violence, but they will only make Malays question where their values have gone.

Desperadoes will do anything to stay out of jail. They are prepared to sacrifice the harmony of the nation. Pity we have such a weak IGP.

Let us show these UMNO-Baru thugs (and their backers including Najib Razak and UMNO-BN the exit at GE-14.

ASEAN@50


August 3, 2017

ASEAN@50

by Kishore Mahbubani*

*Professor Kishore Mahubani is Dean, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/asean-50th-anniversary-by-kishore-mahbubani-2017-08

We live in troubled times, with pessimism clouding even the most prosperous parts of the planet. Many are convinced that the international order is falling apart. Some fear that a clash of civilizations is imminent, if it has not already begun.

Yet, amid the gloom, Southeast Asia offers an unexpected glimmer of hope. The region has made extraordinary progress in recent decades, achieving a level of peace and prosperity that was previously unimaginable. And it owes much of this success to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which marks its 50th anniversary this month.

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Dean Kishore Mahbubani and Singapore’s Ambassador at Large Bilahari Kausikan

Southeast Asia is one of the world’s most diverse regions. Its 640 million people include 240 million Muslims, 120 million Christians, 150 million Buddhists, and millions of Hindus, Taoists, Confucianists, and Communists. Its most populous country, Indonesia, is home to 261 million people, while Brunei has just 450,000. Singapore’s per capita income of $52,960 per annum is 22.5 times that of Laos ($2,353).

This diversity puts Southeast Asia at a distinct disadvantage in terms of fostering regional cooperation. When ASEAN was founded in 1967, most experts expected it to die within a few years.

At the time, Southeast Asia was a poor and deeply troubled region, which the British historian C.A. Fisher had described as the Balkans of Asia. The Vietnam War was underway, and the Sino-Vietnamese War was yet to be fought. Many viewed the five non-Communist states that founded ASEAN – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand – as dominoes, set to be tipped over by a neighbor’s fall to communism or descent into civil strife.

But ASEAN defied expectations, becoming the world’s second most successful regional organization, after the European Union. Some 1,000 ASEAN meetings are held each year to deepen cooperation in areas such as education, health, and diplomacy. ASEAN has signed free-trade agreements (FTAs) with China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand, and established an ASEAN economic community. Today, ASEAN comprises the world’s seventh-largest economy, on track to become the fourth largest by 2050.

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As I explain in my book The ASEAN Miracle, several factors have underpinned the bloc’s success. At first, anti-communism provided a powerful incentive to collaborate. Strong leaders, like Indonesia’s Suharto, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed, and Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew, held the group together.

It helped that as ASEAN was getting off the ground in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the strategic interests of America, China, and the bloc’s members converged. But even when the Cold War ended, the region did not erupt into conflict, as the real Balkans did. ASEAN countries maintained the cooperative habits that had become established in Southeast Asia in the 1970s and 1980s.

In fact, ASEAN’s erstwhile communist enemies – Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam – decided to join the bloc. So, too, did Myanmar, ending decades of isolation. ASEAN’s policy of engaging Myanmar attracted criticism from the West, but it helped lay the groundwork for a peaceful transition from military rule. (Compare this to the West’s policy of isolation toward, say, Syria, which certainly won’t lead to a similar outcome.)

To be sure, ASEAN is far from perfect. Over the short term, it seems to move like a crab – two steps forward, one step back, and one step sideways.

Yet ASEAN’s long-term progress is undeniable. Its combined GDP has grown from $95 billion in 1970 to $2.5 trillion in 2014. And it is the only reliable platform for geopolitical engagement in the Asia-Pacific region, unique in its ability to convene meetings attended by all of the world’s great powers, from the United States and the European Union to China and Russia.

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ASEAN continues to face serious challenges. Territorial disputes in the South China Sea have created deep divisions, and the intensifying geopolitical rivalry between the US and China poses a further threat to cohesion. And domestic politics in several member states, including Malaysia and Thailand, is becoming increasingly chaotic.

But ASEAN’s history suggests that the bloc can weather these storms. Its impressive resilience is rooted in the culture of musyawarah and muafakat (consultation and consensus) championed by Indonesia. Imagine how other regional organizations, such as the Gulf Cooperation Council or the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation, could benefit from adherence to such norms.

The EU once amounted to the gold standard for regional cooperation. But it continues to struggle with a seemingly never-ending series of crises and weak economic growth. Add to that the impending departure of the United Kingdom, and it seems only prudent to seek other models of cooperation. ASEAN, however imperfect, provides an attractive one.

The EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. But ASEAN’s approach may turn out to be the way of the future, enabling other fractious regions to develop sturdy bonds of cooperation, too.

Malaysia’s Economic Report Card: Positive


July 26, 2017

Malaysia’s Economic Report Card:  “Malaysia is on the right course”, says Prime Minister Najib Razak

In delivering his keynote address at InvestMalaysia 2017 in Kuala Lumpur today (July 25), Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak highlighted the economic transformation under his leadership.

He also launched a scathing broadside at the opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan, whose chairperson is his former mentor turned nemesis Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Among others, Najib claimed that there has been a concerted campaign to send misinformation overseas to damage Malaysia’s economy for selfish political objectives.

“So if you receive these smears, or you read it in publications that do not check the facts properly, please beware,” he told his audience, comprising local and foreign investors.–www.malaysiakini.com

Full Text of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Keynote Address (Salutations Removed)

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Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, addressing some 2,000 local and international investors attending the Invest Malaysia 2017 Forum–July 25, 2017

As the Prime Minister of Malaysia, I want to lay out the foundations needed for our nation to be counted among the very top countries in the world. We want that competitive edge, and to be a knowledge-based society – but we must always work towards those goals in ways that are sustainable, inclusive and equitable. No Malaysian must ever be left behind. All must participate and benefit from this amazing journey that we are on.–Prime Minister Najib Razak

Seven years ago, in 2010, I introduced our New Economic Model – right here, at Invest Malaysia. This model was designed to transform Malaysia into a high- income nation, and our country into a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable society, with no one left behind, opportunity made available for all, and the right fundamentals put in place to secure a stable and successful future.

We had a plan of reform – economic transformation and taking the tough but responsible choices. And it is clear today, that, aided by the hard work of millions of Malaysians, the plan has worked and is continuing to work.

Let the facts speak for themselves:

Between 2009 and 2016, Gross National Income has increased by nearly 50 percent, and GNI per capita using the Atlas method increased to US$9,850. Based on the World Bank’s latest high-income threshold of US$12,235, we have narrowed the gap towards the high-income target from 33 percent to 19 percent.

2.26 million jobs have been created, which represents 69 percent of the 3.3 million target we want to reach by 2020. Clearly, we are making the right progress towards those goals.

Inflation and unemployment have been kept low. We have attracted unprecedented levels of Foreign Direct Investment, which shows the confidence the world has in Malaysia.

But no wonder. For our growth has been the envy of the advanced economies, even during years of turmoil in the global economy. This year, the World Bank has upped their estimate. We are expected to record a rise in GDP of 4.9 percent, considerably higher than their earlier prediction of 4.3 percent.

Others have also increased their predictions – Morgan Stanley now says 5 percent, while Nomura’s forecast is for the Malaysian economy to grow by 5.3 percent this year. Only yesterday, the IMF has reviewed their forecast from 4.5 percent to 4.8 percent. And growth is expected to be higher next year. So we are on the right trajectory.

Other sets of figures support confidence in Malaysia. In the first quarter of 2017 our trade, for instance, recorded an increase of 24.3 percent – up to RM430.5 billion – compared with the same period last year.

In March, exports breached the RM80 billion mark for the first time. At RM82.63 billion, it was the highest monthly figure for Malaysian exports ever recorded.

The capital market increased by nine percent to a level of RM3.1 trillion in the first six months of this year, and now ranks fifth in Asia relative to GDP. It continues to attract wide interest from both domestic and foreign investors. In fact, in the equity market, there were net inflows of RM11 billion in the first half of 2017, compared with RM3 billion of net outflows during the whole of 2016.

The Malaysian bond market grew to RM1.2 trillion in 2016, while our Islamic capital market has recorded a hugely impressive average annual growth of 10 percent over the last six years, reaching RM1.8 trillion in June 2017.

Malaysia is also home to the largest number of listed companies in ASEAN. At US$29 billion, Bursa Malaysia also recorded the highest amount of funds raised in the last five years in any country in our 10-nation association.

And our currency, the ringgit, has been described by Bloomberg recently as, and I quote, “easily the strongest major Asian currency this quarter, climbing twice as much as the next best, the Chinese yuan”.

All of this can point to only one conclusion – our economy continues to prosper, and we are stronger than ever as a result of the reforms and the programmes the government has put in place.

The markets, the business community and companies like strength and stability. They want the certainty provided by a government that understands that the prosperity of its people is best served by being business-friendly, and that sovereignty is not compromised one inch by the record Foreign Direct Investment this government has secured.

No. It will help build the new Malaysia of the 21st century, and bring many benefits, from knowledge and skills transfers to a rise in the standard of living for the people.

The business community wants the certainty of knowing that the government is committed to the necessary reforms, and is committed to fostering a culture of entrepreneurship and to transparency, accountability, and good regulation.

On that note, I can announce that the government has, in principle, agreed to the establishment of an Integrity and Governance Unit at all GLCs, and state and ministry-owned business entities, under the supervision of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, precisely to strengthen the confidence all can, should, and do have in Malaysia.

The international business community knows that it has that certainty – with this government. Indeed, they are voting with their feet. HSBC is investing over RM1 billion to build its future regional headquarters in the Tun Razak Exchange, recognising Malaysia’s increasing status as an international financial and business centre.

Broadcom Limited, one of the world’s largest semiconductor companies with a market capitalisation of nearly half-a-trillion dollars, is going to transfer its Global Distribution Hub from Singapore to Malaysia in 2017, from where it will manage the group’s global inventory of RM64 billion a year.

Huawei, a leading global ICT solutions provider which serves more than one- third of the world’s population, has made Malaysia its global operation headquarters, data hosting centre and global training centre, with a total project cost of RM2.2 billion and employing more than 2,370 people.

Saudi Aramco is investing US$7 billion – that’s its biggest downstream investment outside the kingdom – for a 50 percent stake in Petronas’ Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development in Johor. That is the single largest investment in Malaysia, and shows the confidence Saudi Arabia has in our people, our technology, and our ability to be a strong partner with their most important business.

Others who are already here are expanding their operations. Finisar Corporation, a global technology leader in optical communications, will invest a further RM610 million in its operation in Perak – bringing its total investment in Malaysia to RM1 billion.

Coca-Cola has already invested RM1 billion in Malaysia since 2010. It announced in March an additional RM500 million investment to expand the size and production capacity of its plant at Bandar Enstek.

I could go on and on. The point is that the confidence and certainty global businesses have in Malaysia brings jobs, lifts wages and helps our workforce upskill.

It is this government that offers that certainty to businesses both in Malaysia and overseas. The opposition offers none at all. They are in chaos. Two leading members of one party can’t agree if the old opposition alliance still exists in the state of Selangor. “Yes, it does”, says one. “Oh no it doesn’t!” says the other. It’s like a Punch and Judy show!

And the latest leadership structure the opposition announced is farcical, sounding a bit like a return-to-work programme for old-age political pensioners!

It is also cynical and deceptive, with three leaders but no clarity on who has executive power among them, and DAP kept deliberately invisible despite controlling the opposition behind the scenes with the vast majority of their parliamentary seats.

As for their Prime Minister candidate, the opposition is so desperate that they are now trying to make the people believe it will be a nonagenarian – who isn’t even a member of parliament, and whose party has just one seat!

But the truth is that in a democracy numbers don’t lie, and DAP remains by far the most dominant party in the opposition. The DAP leader of the last half century is now hiding behind the man who jailed him, trying to deceive Malays into thinking that former leader is their interim candidate for Prime Minister.

Neither can the word of the opposition be relied on. Just recently, a leading member in one party said that, if Malaysia had such good relations with Saudi Arabia, why had the hajj quota not been increased? But it has! Twice this year, from 22,230 to 27,900 and then up to 30,200.

That’s another example of the benefits this government’s policies bring to the people of Malaysia – in this case, our foreign policy of forging friendship abroad, rather than holding grudges for decades, as that certain former leader still does.

But you won’t hear about the very real benefits from our engagement with Saudi Arabia, China, India or anywhere else from the opposition. In fact, they’ll tell barefaced lies about it, just as they have been feeding lies about the economy and stoking fears of economic disaster in Malaysia.

There has in fact been a concerted campaign to send such misinformation overseas to damage Malaysia’s economy for their own selfish political objectives. So if you receive these smears, or you read it in publications that do not check the facts properly, please beware.

It is not fair to the Malaysian people, and it’s not fair to the business community, both at home and abroad.

They, and you, deserve the truth. So let me tell you what a cross-section of respected international bodies has to say about this government’s record.

The OECD’s most recent economic assessment of Malaysia stated, and I quote: “Malaysia is one of the most successful Southeast Asian economies… thanks to sound macroeconomic fundamentals and its success in transforming its economy into a well-diversified and inclusive one.”

We are ranked second in ASEAN in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2017 – and 23rd overall, among 190 economies globally.

We were ranked second among the Southeast Asian nations in the World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Index 2016, up one place from last year’s third spot.

We are ranked third among 190 economies, worldwide, for Protecting Minority Investors, by the World Bank Doing Business Report 2017.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017 ranks Malaysia fourth among 138 economies for Strength of Investor Protection.

We rank eleventh out of 125 countries in the Venture Capital and Private Equity Attractiveness Index, by the IESE Business School in Spain.

The ratings agency Fitch recently reaffirmed our A- rating and stable outlook.

And a recent survey by BAV Consulting and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania declared Malaysia to be the “best country to invest In”. It said, and I quote, “Malaysia is the clear frontrunner in this ranking, scoring at least 30 points more than any other country on a 100 point scale.”

There is clear international unanimity that Malaysia is on the right course, and the figures and accolades I have reported to you today are the direct results of this government’s steering of the economy through uncertain and choppy global waters.

IMF reported that the resilience of our economy was due, and I quote, to “sound macroeconomic policy responses in the face of significant headwinds and risks”. And these sound policies are the reason why they said that: “Malaysia is among the fastest growing economies among peers.”

And lastly, the World Bank has shown that it agrees as well. In its latest report, issued just last month, it said that the government’s “macroeconomic management has been constantly proactive and effective in navigating near-term challenges in the economic environment”.

It concluded, and I quote: “The Malaysian economy is progressing from a position of strength.”

Does that really sound like the Malaysian economy is failing, and that we are in danger of going bankrupt, as the opposition would have you believe?

I think the World Bank, the OECD and the IMF know what they are talking about – and I’m sure, ladies and gentlemen, that you do too.

We have only arrived at that position of strength because we put in place a far-reaching economic plan; and because we have been unafraid to take the tough decisions to build up the resilience of the Malaysian economy.

We have diversified government sources of income, including reducing reliance on oil and gas revenues from 41 percent in 2009 to 14 percent today. Given the huge drop in the price of oil, just imagine how we would be suffering if we had not done that.

We also needed to widen the tax base, and so, in common with around 160 other countries, we introduced a goods and services tax, or GST. It was not popular, but it was the right thing to do – as every reputable economist has confirmed.

GST has helped us in our determination to steadily reduce the deficit – we are on course to reduce it to three percent this year, from 6.7 percent in 2009 – and GST has been crucial to retaining our good assessments by the international ratings agencies.

Yet the opposition says they would abolish it. Tell me, from where exactly would they produce the RM41 billion collected in GST revenue last year? Out of a hat?

If GST was abolished, it would not just be a matter of a revenue shortfall. The deficit would rise from 3.1 percent to 5 percent. Our ability to fund the construction of schools, hospitals and other essentials would be affected.

Government debt would rise above our self-imposed level of 55 percent of GDP. Our sovereign credit ratings would then be downgraded. Lending costs for all, such as loans for personal use, for business and for housing, would increase. The people would suffer, and they would suffer directly.

One of Malaysia’s prominent independent analysts, the Director of Economics at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia, had it right when he said the idea of getting rid of GST was, and I quote, “preposterous” and “economically nonsensical”. “I don’t think anyone in their right mind would want to do that,” he said.

It is another example of what the opposition do when faced with tough decisions: they seek the easy or the populist way out, regardless of whether it makes sense or is even possible. They are not being straight with the Malaysian people.

This government, however, will always be straight with the people and we will always do right by the people. We will always put their interests first, from economic welfare to security. Even if it is not the most popular thing to do, we will not hesitate – because it is the responsible thing to do for the country.

This is also one of the reasons I am not very popular with that certain nonagenarian. Under his leadership many corners were cut, and the Malaysian people had to pay a very high price so that a few of his friends benefited, even when symbols of national pride had horrendous and catastrophic decisions inflicted on them.

But I say to you now that under this government, we are cracking down on crony capitalism. No more sweetheart deals. No more national follies kept going to stroke the ego of one man. No more treating national companies as though they were personal property.

Because it is the people who suffer, and we will not tolerate a few succeeding – and not on their own merits – while the many are denied opportunities, all for the interests of a selfish few.

Now some of you may be thinking that I have not mentioned national companies where there have been issues. At 1MDB it is now clear that there were lapses in governance.

However, rather than bury our heads in the sand, we ordered investigations into the company at a scale unprecedented in our nation’s history. Rather than funnel good money after bad to cover up any issues 1MDB may have faced – the model embraced by a former leader – I instructed the rationalisation of the company.

And it is progressing well. Indeed, many of the assets formerly owned by 1MDB are thriving. One only needs to drive past Tun Razak Exchange to see the new construction for confirmation.

But let’s not forget that while there were issues at 1MDB, certain politicians blew them out of proportion, and tried to sabotage the company, in an attempt to topple the government in-between election cycles.

At the time we knew the real issue was not 1MDB, and that if 1MDB hadn’t been around they would have chosen another line of attack to try to illegitimately change the government. So we stood steadfast, and resolute, in the face of this orchestrated campaign. Because we will not be deterred from our duty, as the democratically elected government, to serve the nation.

Our priorities were made crystal clear when we introduced the concepts of the “capital economy” – which refers to the macro perspective – and the “people economy”, which is focused entirely on the people, the most precious asset of our great country.

We face challenges ahead, of course. We need to improve productivity. We need to raise the levels of education and skills. We need to put innovation and creativity at the heart of the economy of the future.

This why we have partnered with the Chinese technology leader Alibaba to create the Digital Free Trade Zone, the world’s first special trade zone that will promote the growth of e-commerce, and provide a state-of-the-art platform for both SMEs and larger enterprises to conduct their digital businesses and services.

This initiative is part of the digital roadmap which aims to double e-commerce growth from 10.8 per cent to 20.8 per cent by 2020.

But we can only achieve such targets with the people, and by empowering the people. To ensure the dignity of all, we have virtually eliminated poverty, to less than one percent. We are delighted that the income of the bottom 40 percent households has been increasing at a compound annual growth rate of 12 percent since 2009, when I took office.

But we know that cost of living issues hit those with low incomes the hardest; which is why we distributed RM5.36 billion in 1Malaysia People’s Aid, or BR1M, to 7.28 million households in 2016. This is why we ensured that essential foods and necessities are zero-rated for GST.

At the same time, we have many agencies promoting affordable housing programmes, and why we built and restored nearly 95,000 houses for the rural poor last year. Other affordable housing projects include PPA1M, for civil servants; PR1MA, for the urban middle income group; and the People’s Housing Programme for the lower income group, or Bottom 40, with monthly rents as low as RM124.

Infrastructure, too, is absolutely vital. It is crucial for our cities, and life-changing for rural communities. From 2010 to 2016 we delivered 6,042 kilometres of new rural roads, provided 350,000 houses with access to clean water, and connected 154,000 houses to electrical services.

At the end of last year, the first phase of the Mass Rapid Transit project was completed, and recently, the second phase of the Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT Line has been launched. We now have 51 kilometres of operational line with 31 stations.

This will take 160,000 cars off road, making Kuala Lumpur more liveable. It created 130,000 new jobs, of which 70,000 are direct employment. And best of all, it was completed ahead of schedule and RM2 billion below budget. We are now planning for MRT 2 and 3.

The Pan Borneo Highway in Sarawak and Sabah will be a game changer for our people there, encouraging greater mobility, boosting industry and tourism and creating thousands of new jobs.

In a few years time, we will have the first high-speed rail link connecting Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, which will cut travel time between the two cities to 90 minutes, as compared to more than four hours by car.

And the East Coast Rail Link will bring huge benefits, jobs and a new connectedness to the people of Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan in particular.

In other areas, we are seeing the benefits of our programmes for all the people. The national pre-school enrolment rate rose to 85.6 percent in 2016, for instance, as opposed to 67 percent in 2009; and we have achieved almost universal enrollment for the five years and upwards age group.

Women have seen great strides as well. The female labour force participation rate has increased from 46 percent in 2009 to 54.3 percent last year. That’s over 700,000 more women in the workforce.

And I am delighted to be able to announce that Malaysia has reached its target of women making up 30 percent of top management – that’s 1,446 women, out of a total of 4,960 in top management excluding CEOs, as of December 2016.

We want to go further, though, and have set 2020 as the date by which we want all public listed companies (PLCs) to have at least 30 percent women at board level. Because we know that when women succeed, we all succeed.

Unfortunately, we still have 17 “top 100” PLCs that have no women at all on their board. This just is not good enough, and I call on these companies to immediately address this lack of diversity. I would like to announce that, from 2018, the Government will name and shame PLCs with no women on their boards.

As many of you will know, SMEs make up 97 percent of businesses in Malaysia, and one of the hallmarks of my administration has been its support and encouragement for this backbone of our economy.

So I am pleased to be able to officially launch today the Leading Entrepreneur Accelerator Platform Market, or LEAP Market, by Bursa Malaysia. This is a new qualified market which will offer an alternative way for small and medium companies to raise funds and grow their business to the next level.

It is in line with our SME Masterplan which aims to raise the share of GDP contributed by SMEs, their numbers of employees, and their volume of exports.

And it is another of the many initiatives that my government has put in place in pursuit of our transformation, and that prove our trustworthiness as a business-friendly government of a vibrant economy.

We want you to see Malaysia as a gateway to ASEAN and the region, and with the eventual conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP, we want you to see Malaysia as a base from which to access almost 50 percent of the world’s population, and over 30 percent of global GDP.

This year, we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of independence. From relatively humble beginnings, we have grown and evolved into a modern economy and society with a record to be proud of. But we are looking to the future as well – which is why we have produced the 2050 National Transformation, or TN50, initiative.

Through TN50, we want to listen to our rakyat. We want them to be heard. And through our dialogue sessions, we are listening to the aspirations of our youth for what they want the Malaysia of 2050 to be.

As the Prime Minister of Malaysia, I want to lay out the foundations needed for our nation to be counted among the very top countries in the world. We want that competitive edge, and to be a knowledge-based society – but we must always work towards those goals in ways that are sustainable, inclusive and equitable. No Malaysian must ever be left behind. All must participate and benefit from this amazing journey that we are on.

We invite you be to part of that journey, and I hope today we are able to shed light on the tremendous opportunities that Malaysia has to offer. We urge to you to look at our potential; to look at the great achievements the government’s transformation programme has delivered, and continues to deliver; and invest in Malaysia.