Daim’s appraisal of our academics


March 23 ,2019

Daim’s appraisal of our academics

by Tajuddin  Rasdi

Daim Zainuddin recently made two important points in his speech at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia in Skudai.

Image result for daim zainuddin

Firstly, he said the Malays are being fed a narrative bordering on the idea that their race and Islam are both under threat, and that more affirmative policies will be needed in the new Pakatan Harapan government in the coming years and decades.

Secondly, and this is the main point of my article, he said Malay academics appear to be doing nothing at all but are letting this narrative play out to the opportunism of certain political parties and selfish NGOs.

I have been writing to the media for 20 years, saying absolutely the same thing, but it has earned me a negative perception from the Malay establishment especially in the public universities and even the previous higher education ministry.

Daim’s statement came as a sweet surprise to me as he was never one of my favourite politicians.

I know him as a savvy businessman who grew up within the Malay patronage system. As the economic and corporate worlds are outside of my understanding, I have shied away from trying to know anything about the man himself.

But a few days ago, I was surprised to find him articulating a historical, religious and political construct of what I consider a “Malaysia-Malay construct” as opposed to what I term a “Melayu-Malaysia” one.

A Malaysia-Malay construct is simply a Malay who understands his or her own heritage and faith within a Malaysian constitutional, multi-religious and multi-ethnic acceptance of co-existence, while a Melayu-Malaysia construct is a Malay who is just a Malay, then, now and forever, living in a land geopolitically defined as “Malaysia”. No compromise, no apologies.

The Melayu-Malaysia expects others to change for the sake of his race and faith, without the need to understand, tolerate or even acknowledge the importance of the existence of others as partners in nation-building.

The academics of this country have become purely self-serving and disinterested in nation-building.

The story of a disinterested academia began in the 1980s.

The Universities and University Colleges Act, or UUCA, was instituted to kill off or control student political activities and also that of the academics.

Under UUCA, no academic can speak or write to the media or the public without getting permission from the authorities. That basically sums it up.

A few academics were charged under the act, one of them the late Fadzil Noor who was the PAS president and an academic at a public university.

The involvement of the academia in nation-building basically died. With this law, the culture of academia turned inwards to a concentration on teaching until the idea of “world class” and being “internationally recognised” in rankings came into being in the late 1990s.

With this new mantra, academics are said to be successful if they publish in “high impact” or Scopus journals and receive million ringgit grants.

It would also sweeten the deal if an MoU were signed with European or American or Western universities deemed to be “world class” and “international”. Whether such ties would produce a culture of research and inquiry was disregarded as long as universities “dapat nama”, and a minister was there to observe the deals being signed. That’s it.

After the turn of the 21st century, public universities went full blast on rankings by journals with overseas publications. Locally published books, encyclopaedias and journals were regarded as third rate.

In the old days, books and media writings commanded a high percentage and weightage but now there is hardly a column to put them in on an evaluation or KPI form.

Once, I had to put my books, articles and 200 encyclopaedia entries in a column marked “other publications”.

I used to read Aliran, whose writers are academics from universities in the north. I found their writings to be fresh, bold and highly academic.

After 10 years, I noticed their designation was still “associate professor” and wondered when these people would be called “professor”.

I soon found out that they had migrated to the National University of Singapore. There is no future in Malaysia for “public intellectuals”.

I was lucky enough to be appointed a full professor before all the crazy journal hype began to take place in universities. I managed to squeeze by with my books, papers and other writings after attending the professor interview twice.

As my writings increasingly touched on society and the nation, my appointments at committees on the national level became fewer and fewer.

I no longer got invitations to public talks from universities, because I was told that I am “controversial” in the corridors of the chancellery.

So the only appointment letters from public universities that came to me were to be an examiner for PhD candidates and evaluator of professorships and associate professorships in architecture.

The coup de grace came after I went on optional retirement, leaving after 27 years of teaching and writing at a public university, exiting the campus alone and uncelebrated.

My application as contract professor to two public universities was rejected on grounds of me being “controversial”.

I have mentioned that the key to our future is the reeducation process of the Malay mind by Malay academics who understand that Islam is strong only if you read and understand, and not sit in front of the TV or the mosque podium listening to an ustaz giving his half-baked ideas of religion and society.

The fate of our country hinges on academics changing the narratives of what is important for Malaysians in the coming decades and centuries, to be in line with the goals of sustainable development outlined by the United Nations.

We won’t go very far listening to Friday sermons condemning progressive thinkers or LGBT that may have caused Allah to turn the hot weather on us.

Forget about STEM education if academics do not speak about it.

We are facing a Malay-Muslim society that has grown up with the Islamic resurgence of the 1980s with most Malays conscious about the afterlife and religious values for their children and society.

The International Islamic University Malaysia as well as Istac and Ikim were supposed to guide the Malays into a new era of modern and democratic understanding of Islam vis-a-vis nation-building and coexistence.

But where were these academics when two muftis encouraged the use of “kafir” on non-Muslim citizens, or when calls for “jihad” against the enemies of Islam came from the national mosque?

Daim’s speech must give pause to all the vice-chancellors of public universities to rethink their KPI for academics.

We need more public intellectuals to reform and rewrite the narratives of the nation, to bring social and religious harmony and sustainable wealth to the country.

We don’t need “high impact” journals to measure our success.

Just ask the man on the street whether he should vaccinate his children or whether the world is flat or defending minority groups would start a tsunami somewhere.

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

 

The ticking time bomb of Hatred


March 17,2019

The ticking time bomb of Hatred

Image result for terror in new zealand

In just twenty-four hours, the world is aghast, again.

Human brutality instigated by religious and ethnic hatred has resurfaced. A cynic would say this has been going on for centuries, so what else is new?

The difference is, that in the last 30 years, the internet has played a key role. The ease and speed in the dissemination of racist and bigoted ideology have allowed hateful ideology to spread anonymously.

Both the Christchurch mosque massacres are a human catastrophe, but it is not unexpected. It reveals that we humans continue in our ignorance, sinister manipulation and arrogance.

The despicable actions of modern terrorists are responses to the rhetoric and hate speeches of our leaders. They too use the internet to spread their hate speech, both covertly and openly.

Lately, Malaysia’s leadership has been slipping into the same cauldron. The race and religious rhetoric continues to divide Malaysian society.

We may read umpteen times, that “deep down in every Malaysian, we are really a peaceful, harmonious people”. This may be true.

However, in the months after May 9, 2018, perceptions have changed again. Malaysians are bombarded by racial and religious rhetoric from the leadership.

“Rhetoric and insincerity have no place in post-GE14 Malaysia. The main takeaway from the Christchurch terrorist act is that the ticking time bomb was wired by political rhetoric and self-serving leaders in the first place. The result is a growing global polarisation between nations, religions and ethnicities.”–Sharifah Munirah Alatas

Mantras like “upholding the special rights of the Malays”, “threats to Islam”, “DAP is in control”, etc. are platforms onto which both PH and the opposition have latched. The real issues of governance and reforms, have once again been sidelined.

Using the ethereal notion of “threat” as a smokescreen, Malaysian politics has been reduced to a dangerous and manipulative divide-and-rule game.

The Christchurch gunman acted on these very cliches. It is a global phenomenon. Malaysians should decide once and for all, if we want to continue down this path. Our leaders have to wake up and smell the teh tarik.

Both Muslims and non-Muslims in Malaysia are bracing themselves for a verbal retaliation to the Christchurch massacre.

Already, a few “educated” academics claim that Malaysian politicians and muftis will start the narrative that “Muslims must ready themselves for the glorious jihad”; that mosque sermons will be slanted for “the ongoing war with the kafirs”.

Recently, a piece of this nature was circulated on social media. The article appealed for Muslims to be introspective and to ask if the shooting is the result of the Muslims’ own arrogance and extremist tendencies.

The question was contextualised within the argument that Muslims globally are rather silent on the IS and other Muslim terrorist killings.

The logic is that, we (Muslims) have no moral right in our indignation of white supremacist terrorism because our “own backyard is strewn with garbage”. This is not only objectionable but grossly ineffective.

In 2010, leading Pakistani clerics published fatwas, endorsed by Al-Azhar University, that condemn terrorism, indiscriminate violence and the unlawfulness of imposing Islam on others.

In 2008, about 6,000 Indian Muslim clerics approved a fatwa against terrorism at a conference in Hyderabad. This fatwa was termed “The Hyderabad Declaration”.

In 2010 the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada issued a fatwa against terrorism, signed by 20 North American imams. That same year, a major international conference convened in Mardin, Turkey. It issued a declaration to dismiss a 14th century fatwa by Ibn Taymiyyah which was used to justify terrorism.

In 2005, Malaysia’s own Sheikh Muhammad Afifi Al-Akiti published a fatwa condemning the targeting of innocents by terrorists. This was in response to the London bombings.

In 2004, the “Amman Message” was declared. It affirmed the validity of all eight schools of thought, including Sunni, Shia, Ibadi, Ash’arism and Sufism. The Amman Message also declared the impermissibility of takfir (declaring another Muslim to be an apostate).

In 2003, the Saudi Arabian Council of Senior Scholars issued a fatwa concerning suicide bombings and terrorism. It reiterated that those who commit these acts are contravening Islamic law.

There is an irresponsible attitude by some, as if to suggest that the actions of the Christchurch terrorist can be justified.

Public intellectuals and academics should be responsible in their tasks. They should be above sensationalism for cheap publicity. Politicians must not get involved in rhetorical racial and religious discourse, aimed at voter manipulation.

All of us should wake up from our slumber and realise that we are all to blame for the current dire straits we find ourselves in. Stop the finger-pointing. Admit to mistakes, and work together in overcoming society’s challenges.

Ego has no place. Race and religion should never be used as a political tool. Mass political behaviour, being what it is, finds comfort in collective grievances. Use these grievances to unite, not to divide.

Politicians and religious leaders should stop their puppet performances. Academics and public intellectuals should get over their egos and write the truth.

Image result for the Christchurch terrorist act

Rhetoric and insincerity have no place in post-GE14 Malaysia. The main takeaway from the Christchurch terrorist act is that the ticking time bomb was wired by political rhetoric and self-serving leaders in the first place. The result is a growing global polarisation between nations, religions and ethnicities.

Let us start to work together, amidst our diversity. This is not a rhetorical appeal.

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

Dr.Mahathir – The Last of Asia’s Strongmen?


March 15, 2019

Dr.Mahathir – The Last of Asia’s Strongmen?

The Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network

Image result for dr.mahathir mohamad

Tun Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohamad

 

MANILA : In one of his most famous lines, Shakespeare wrote, “some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em”.

Many of today’s most powerful persons belong to one of these three categories. Some were born with exceptional capabilities and magnetic charisma, carrying in their bosom a burning vision for their communities.

They have an unmatched talent for inspiring countless souls, steering whole nations toward the terminus of history.

One could think of Cyrus the Great of Persia and Alexander the Great of Macedonia, who built the biggest and most cosmopolitan empires of their times, as belonging to this category of men.

Others achieve greatness through sheer hard work, untrammelled ambition and unimaginable sacrifice and self-mastery.

One could think of Nelson Mandela and Gandhi as belonging to this category.

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For free marketers, Dame Margaret Thatcher also fits this description.

Then there are those who are catapulted to the vortex of history through sheer circumstances. Throughout their lives, they were never known as exceptional characters or particularly ambitious persons.

And yet, when the moment came, they did their best to rise to the occasion.

One could think of Catherine the Great of Russia and Cory Aquino of the Philippines as belonging to this category: two brave women who filled up the political vacuum left by their prematurely demised husbands.

Catherine oversaw the transformation of Czarist Russia into a haven for the European intelligentsia, while Cory oversaw a messy transition out of the black hole of a literally bankrupt dictatorship.

Image result for Tom Plate Mahathir

When I met Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (pic) last week, I wondered to which category he belongs. Not that he is a perfect leader; nor have I turned a blind eye to his more authoritarian past.

In fact, I was a Mahathir-skeptic in the past, partly because I was critical of, inter alia, his “Asian values” argument: I reject the suggestion that civil liberties and human rights are only for Caucasian people.

I believe in the universality of human dignity and, similar to former Philippine President Fidel Ramos, the perfect compatibility between democracy and development.

But “greatness” should be understood in terms of Greek tragedy: We are not speaking of perfect beings, or the “best president in the solar system”, but instead restless mortals who dedicate their lives to pursuing a cause bigger than themselves, no matter the sacrifices it entails.

In my view, Dr. Mahathir is great in all three categories.

He was born with unfathomable energy for political engagement from early youth.

Hailing from a humble background, he worked his way up to the pinnacle of power by sheer hard work and ruthless ambition.

But the Dr. Mahathir that I admire is the one who had greatness “thrust upon” him. At the astonishing age of 92, he decided to rejoin the maelstrom of politics.

As D.r Mahathir told me during our conversation, he decided to shun “retirement” in order to “do something”: to save Malaysia from the downward spiral of unrestrained corruption and increasing subservience to a foreign power, namely China.

What I admire even more about him is his personal discipline, making sure that he never skips any major event despite the vicissitudes of advanced age. Not to mention his reputation as a loving husband and father.

Above all, however, Dr Mahathir is the epitome of a great leader, one who bravely stands up to both a hegemonic Western power and an overbearing Eastern rival.

During his visit to Beijing last year, Dr Mahathir bluntly warned of a “new colonialism”, underscoring the need for vigilance vis-à-vis welcoming large-scale but low-quality investments from China.

At the same time, he has also warned against the belligerence and warmongering of US President Donald Trump, who, according to Dr Mahathir, “resort(s) to unconventional reactions to problems”.

Now, that’s a truly “independent” foreign policy.

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Fidel Ramos

Of all Filipino leaders, I think only one came close to being our own version of Dr Mahathir: Fidel Ramos.

Sadly, he only had a few years to fix the mess of the lost decade of the ’80s, just to see a populist successor throw all the most precious gains of his hardworking administration out of the window.

We never lost the chance to under-appreciate truly good leaders. –

The Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network

Weed out ‘clowns, comic characters’—A Kadir Jasin


March 11, 2019

Weed out ‘clowns, comic characters’—A Kadir Jasin

https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/467383

Image result for Remove political clowns

As Pakatan Harapan’s first anniversary in power approaches, it is time for the coalition to weed out “clowns and comic characters” within its fold, said veteran newsperson A Kadir Jasin.

In a blog post today, Kadir said this is to restore the people’s declining trust in the coalition, as perceived from its losses in the past two by-elections in Cameron Highlands and Semenyih respectively.

“As the one-year milestone approaches, Harapan will be subjected to greater scrutiny by the people, the press and investors.

“To pass this public relations and confidence test, Harapan must improve its storytelling. It may even have to consider re-arranging or firing some cast members.

“The plot and narrative must be understood and believed by the people and the cast must be respected. There is no role for clowns and comic characters,” said Kadir, who is also the media adviser to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

According to Kadir, cabinet ministers, menteris besar and chief ministers must engage in self-examination and self-criticism where necessary.

The press and the people must not be blamed if the government is perceived to be “inept, arrogant, and aloof,” he added.

“Moving ahead, Harapan must work hard and smart to fulfil the aspirations of the people and to prove to them that it is not a one-term government, and it is here to stay.”

May 9 will mark Harapan’s first year in power after it won last year’s general election.

Kadir opined the coalition had made “pretty good progress” for itself and the country, since then.

The government would not be wrong in backtracking in promises made in the manifesto, if they are unrealistic and the actions taken thereafter cause hardship to the people and put the country at the risk of default, he stressed.

Delay in Najib’s cases

The veteran journalist further claimed that the people are getting impatient with the delay in the cases involving former premier Najib Abdul Razak, who is facing multiple charges of corruption, abuse and power and money laundering.

“The longer Najib (above) is allowed the freedom to make a mockery of the law, the greater is the risk of the people seeing justice as favouring the rich and the powerful. Or worse still, that he is not guilty,” said Kadir.

He called Najib’s new ‘Bossku’ persona as “nothing more than the last meal of a death row convict.”

“Najib knows his time is running out and he has to make the best use of it.

“In fact, with each passing day that he is allowed to make a mockery of the people, the worse it becomes for UMNO and the BN,” Kadir said.

MP Nik Nazmi brings back memories of the Anwar-led 2008 Pakatan Rakyat


February 16,2018

Nik Nazmi brings back memories of the Anwar-led 2008  Pakatan Rakyat

By Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad  the MP for Setiawangsa.

https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/464186?fbclid=IwAR25cGcttcKWep_VuYlXm9uT0Vhj3nuWoO3kgVCarZFwiZ2X8e8PkOTaVB0

Image result for Anwar-led 2008 Pakatan Rakyat

MP SPEAKS | This week, seven former UMNO MPs joined Bersatu. Bersatu has also declared its entry into Sabah, contrary to its pledge before the 2018 election.

I have consistently said that I am against this—and many of my colleagues in Pakatan Harapan feel the same way.

Let us focus on the challenges facing us in the present and how to move forward into the future. One thing that we need to do is to be willing to listen to all arguments—including the ones we don’t necessarily agree with.

It has been argued that these defectors are needed to shore-up Malay support for Harapan.

It has also been argued that the move is necessary to counter the emerging UMNO-PAS alliance, which is allegedly increasingly popular on social media as well as to strengthen our coalition’s standing in rural areas — such as the East Coast and Northern Peninsula.

It is true that Harapan did not win the popular vote in the last election—garnering only 48.31% of it. Indeed, much of the 50.79% of the vote that Barisan Nasional and PAS won was from Malays in the East coast and Northern Peninsula Malaysia as well as from Muslim Bumiputeras in Sarawak.

And it does appear that Malay sentiment towards Harapan is not exactly glowing. Although much of this is driven by the shrill and manufactured voices of UMNO and PAS surrogates, there is genuine concern among many Malays that the community is under threat: both politically and socio-economically.

Defections will not guarantee Malay support

But is taking in defectors from UMNO the best way to assuage these concerns?

Why can’t the various components of Harapan evolve so that we can, finally, access, engage and win the support of all Malaysians, including the rural Malays?

Why do some of our leaders seem intent on taking short-cuts, rather than the path of hard (but ultimately rewarding) work? Have we totally abandoned the idea of bipartisanship?

Why do some Harapan leaders assume that the Malay community will necessarily be impressed by taking in these defectors? Is the rural Malay community that monolithic? Is quantity really that more important in governance and politics rather than quality?

But if taking in defectors is not the way, how should Harapan resolve its “Malay dilemma”?

Image result for Anwar-led 2008 General election anwar poster

Negara ini bukan  Tun Dr.Mahathir punya. Ini adalah Malaysia–Negara kita semua. 2008 GE Tagline–UBAH SEBELUM PARAH

One way is to double-down on conservative Malay politics, including turning back on reform because it will allegedly weaken the community. This is the path that PAS has taken. That was their choice to make and theirs alone, but it also means they are no longer the party of Dr Burhanuddin al Helmy, Fadzil Noor and Nik Aziz Nik Mat.

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Dr.Syed Hussin Ali-The Intelletual behind PKR

The alternative is to stick to the progressive, inclusive promises we made via the Buku Harapan.

Our GE-14 campaign manifesto was a document that all Harapan parties agreed to. But it was also a platform that addressed the aspirations and problems of all segments of Malaysian society, including the Malays.

The Buku Harapan can be executed. We couldn’t deliver all of the 100 day promises—but it doesn’t mean that it cannot be realised. The same applies to the other pledges.

Some things may need to be sequenced, but they must be done if the country is to survive and thrive. We should not simply cast the Buku Harapan aside due to political exigencies.

Harapan won because it gave Malaysians hope

It is cynical and disingenuous to say that Harapan won only because of the 1MDB scandal and the anger towards Najib Razak. That’s simply not true.

Our critics—but also our own leaders, legislators and supporters—should give us more credit than that.

Malaysians voted for us not only out of anger over BN’s scandals and mismanagement, but because they believed that Harapan had a better vision for the future of the country. They voted for us because Harapan gave them hope. What I am saying is this: Harapan should learn to take “yes” for an answer.

Malaysians gave us an adequate majority on May 9

There is no need to worry about our parliamentary majority (which is adequate to govern). Unless some quarters have some political calculations to undermine the Harapan consensus.

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As I have said many times before, a two-thirds majority is sometimes more trouble than it is worth.

It is only moral and just that constitutional amendments—when they become necessary—be done via a bipartisan consensus, by talking and working with the Opposition and civil society.

Harapan should roll up our sleeves and get down to the business of governing the country. And “governing”, means reforming our economy and making it work for all Malaysians.

Malays will benefit from progressive politics

Part of this involves winning over the Malays to the idea that progressive politics and governance is in their interest. And it is.

Who makes up the majority of the urban poor? The Malays.

Who makes up the majority of low-wage earners? The Malays.

Who makes up the majority of the petty traders struggling to earn a living? The Malays.

Whose families are the majority of those struggling to service high household debts? The Malays.

Who are the majority of smallholders struggling from low commodity prices and delays in government payments? The Malays.

Delivering an economy that solves the plight of these segments of society, even in a non-racial manner, will do more to win over Malay voters than trying to outflank UMNO and PAS on the right – or luring opposition crossovers.

The voters in these constituencies did not vote for Harapan. They knowingly chose the vision that BN and PAS had for Malaysia. Their MPs moving over to Harapan will not likely make them feel any differently.

Instead, solving the bread-and-butter-issues of the voters will go a long way in addressing their racial and religious insecurities.

Harapan should trust our defend our Constitution

We must also learn to trust our Constitution and our system of governance, even as we repair both from decades of abuse.

Setting up the latest incarnation of the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) is the Prime Minister’s prerogative and so is its composition — although there were some interesting omissions.

The members who were selected are distinguished and respected in their several fields — one wishes them every success.

But the NEAC’s emergence has — fairly or unfairly — led to speculation over the performance of the Cabinet. There are perceptions — again, fairly or unfairly —that attempts are being made to circumvent the normal process of Cabinet-based governance in the management of Malaysia’s economy.

It is easy to dismiss these criticisms as grouses, but they have a real impact on how voters view this current Pakatan Harapan government.

If we lead, the people will follow

I hope this is something that the leaders of our government and alliance will take into account moving forward, especially when dealing with defectors and in how the administration’s agenda is to be executed.

The ends do not justify the means. Like it or not, processes sometimes matter as much as outcomes.

Malaysia needs solutions that work for the many, not the few. We need policies for these day and age. Too often we seem to be indicating of going back to the economic prescriptions of Old Malaysia.

Sticking to the spirit of Buku Harapan is the way forward.

This will go a long way towards winning over Malay fence sitters and not side-line our non-Malay and politically liberal supporters.

While UMNO and PAS embark on a journey rightwards, we should not dance to their tune.

But we must allow them the space to be a functioning Opposition that keeps us in check.

That is what leadership is. Pakatan doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Let’s be sure of who we are, what we want to do and where we want to go. If we are sincere, the people — including the Malays — will follow.


Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad is the MP for Setiawangsa.

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

Mahathir’s shifting stand shows he can’t be trusted


February 14, 2019

Mahathir’s shifting stand shows he can’t be trusted

Opinion  |  by P Gunasegaram

Published:  |  Modified:

 

We are mobile, we are not fixed” 

– Dr Mahathir Mohamad when asked about party hopping

COMMENT | It’s rare that a newly elected leader (only for an interim period), elected by the rakyat because of promises made by the coalition he heads, breaks key promises in a short space of time, and says with a straight face that re-assessment has to be made in the face of changing developments.

This man, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who came to power as a result of a mass uprising against the kleptocratic UMNO-BN government and who promised that he would not take defecting UMNO-BN MPs, just two days ago handed out membership cards to seven such people with not so much as an apology for his action. Two others had defected earlier, making nine in all.

They were Jeli MP Mustapa Mohamed (a former minister) who crossed over in October, Bagan Serai MP Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali who joined a month later, Masjid Tanah MP Mas Ermieyati Samsudin who crossed over in December, Larut MP Hamzah Zainuddin (who is also a former minister), Mersing MP Abdul Latif Ahmad, Tasek Gelugor MP Shabudin Yahaya, Sabak Bernam MP Mohd Fasiah Mohd Fakeh, Hulu Terengganu MP Rosol Wahid and Tanah Merah MP Ikhmal Hisham Abdul Aziz.

He justified this acceptance of the UMNO MPs into the fold with his trademark twisted logic. Examples, as reported in theSun:

“I am now sitting on the same side as leaders I once attacked and mocked, but politicians are sometimes forced to jump ship according to circumstances.“If you are tied to only one leader or party and stay with them even if they rob the people, then you are not a politician, but one who only cares for yourself.

“I was previously in UMNO, and I left to join DAP, PKR and Amanah. But if they are no longer loyal to the country, I will also move to other parties. We are mobile, we are not fixed,” he added.

In his replies (you can watch the full press conference here), he ignored the fact that he is prime minister by virtue of other parties supporting him, for his own Bersatu had only 13 seats compared to PKR’s 47 and DAP’s 42 at the end of the last polls. What he is doing now, by accepting Umno MPs into the fold now, is a tacit support of those who, by omission, clearly supported the previous kleptocratic government.

Not just that, it has been reported that all UMNO divisions received money from former premier Najib Abdul Razak’s personal account which, it was quite clear at the time and well before the elections of May 9 last year, received money which came from 1MDB.

In fact, the Wall Street Journal reported in July 2015 that some US$700 million had come into Najib’s accounts from 1MDB funds. This was confirmed later by the US Department of Justice which gave in detail the money trail. These people did not oppose Najib at all, but supported his kleptocratic acts by not voicing their concern and accepting to stand in the elections. They are, therefore, irrevocably tainted.

Bolstering his own position

Mahathir does not care if they are corrupt or immoral. The only reason that Mahathir is accepting these tainted people into Bersatu is to bolster his own position within the coalition from the paltry 13 MPs he had at the end of the election to 22 now, making it bigger than PAS with 18 MPs.

That is purely as a result of nine defections. The defections are legal partly because Mahathir, during his previous rule, refused to make it illegal to jump parties. However, they remain ethically and morally extremely repugnant and go against the grain of reform promised by Harapan.

Mahathir acquiescing to defections despite earlier opposition, opens the door very wide for Bersatu to accept virtually all of the other UMNO MPs – some 40 odd, if you exclude those who are clearly unacceptable like Najib. In addition to some 16 others in Sarawak and perhaps four independents in Sabah, there are some 60 more. This could swell Bersatu’s combined support to some 82 MPs.

The implications of this are enormous. If DAP and Amanah throw in their lot with Mahathir, a total of 53 seats, Mahathir’s numbers increase to 135, enough to command a handsome majority in the 222-member house, even if PKR were to leave the coalition. Another 13, not forgetting possible defections from PKR’s 50 odd members, will give him a two-thirds majority.

If PKR, DAP and Amanah stuck it out and stayed together, then they will have some 103 seats. Include Warisan’s eight, and it takes the tally to 111, which comes to exactly 50 percent of the seats in Parliament. This puts PAS in a very strong position with their 18 seats, as kingmaker.

Things, of course, may not pan this way. Any number of things can happen in the interim. But it is very clear that the situation has become very fluid and uncertain because Mahathir has changed the rules of the game to suit himself and Bersatu, something he has done throughout his 22 years at the top between 1981 and 2003.

All this means that the political situation in this country has turned rather unstable because of Mahathir and because he has been constantly shifting his position and openly in defiance of coalition politics. He wants to be in total control all the time. Hopefully, he won’t have it his way this time around.

There were many who had misgivings about Mahathir joining the Harapan coalition, including this writer, given his past record as a dictator and an autocrat who used his party’s two-thirds majority in Parliament to introduce authoritarian laws and to control government institutions which should have remained independent.

A dangerous weapon

This is what I wrote in an article titled “Can Mahathir be trusted?” in April 2017, when there were moves to get Mahathir into the Harapan coalition: “If any one takes the trouble to remember what this man did and stood for, he would be mad to think that Mahathir is the solution – he was, and is, the problem. Without him and his 22 years of misrule, Malaysia would not have descended to what it is today.

“Mahathir was accountable to no one. Not the people, not the party, not the judges. He could do almost anything he pleased and get away with it using the apparatus and machinery of control he had put in place.

“He made opaque many decisions of government, putting anything marked secret by the government as secret under the law by removing the power of judges to judge even if the secret posed no danger to the country, but only embarrassed the government and exposed its corrupt ways.

“That was the legacy he left behind – and a leader who followed him used it to do nasty things, some worse than that by Mahathir. Now we expect Mahathir – the source of all this – to save us Malaysians from Najib!

“Is that why Mahathir is sticking his neck out? For the good of the country? But remember he had his chance – 22 years of it. He bungled – all he did was to stay in power and do the greatest damage to the country ever by any one, prime minister or not.

“His goal now is not to get into power, but to ensure that whoever comes into power does not destroy him. As far as Mahathir is concerned, it is always about him – not Malaysia, not Malaysians, not even the Malays.”

Now there are those who argue that he needs to get UMNO members to obtain a two-thirds majority to change the constitution in order to reform. How stupid! Much of the reform that is needed can be done by just amending and scrapping laws which only needs a simple majority in Parliament.

To give Mahathir a two-thirds majority is to put into his hands a mega-weapon which he will not hesitate to use against anyone who opposes him. It is a dangerous weapon to put in the hands of a man who can not be trusted and who alters his promises to suit his ulterior motives.

Mahathir is not the person to reform this country, simply because he was ultimately responsible for most of its ills. His actions show he does not believe in reform or fair play. Mahathir blithely talks of loyalty to the nation for his shifting stand. Let’s not let him betray the rakyat who are what makes the nation.


P GUNASEGARAM says a leopard likes its spots too much to change them. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com.

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