Rafidah Aziz : Time To End ‘Race Supremacy’


October 24, 2018

Rafidah Aziz : Time To End ‘Race Supremacy’

The New Malaysia must clearly be gender, colour and heritage-neutral, where the only priority is the good of the people and their nation.

Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, The Sun Daily

https://thecoverage.my/news/rafidah-aziz-time-end-race-supremacy-resetting-button-malaysia-malaysia-malaysians/

I ALWAYS feel privileged and honoured that I am a Malaysian, having this blessed land, Malaysia, to call my own, to commit my loyalty and allegiance to, and to sacrifice for. My nationality is Malaysian, although my heritage, and ancestry, as far as I know, is of the Malay race.

As a Malay, I am actually ‘stateless’, because people of the ‘Malay stock’ are all over the place – as citizens of countries such as Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Cambodia, Philippines, and South Africa.

Their nationality, ‘kebangsaan’, would be of the country to which they belong and owe allegiance to.

Similarly, an Indian national is from India, not from Malaysia. As also a Chinese is a citizen of China, not of Malaysia.

Citizens of Malaysia are Malaysians, regardless of ancestry and heritage. That is the undeniable fact. I am proud to be a Malaysian. I am certain my fellow Malaysians must feel the same way.

The dawn of New Malaysia brings with it new hopes and aspirations, a new beginning. Our nation is so blessed.

What is needed is good social and economic governance by those in whom we, the Malaysians, have put our trust and faith, to steer our nation successfully, through challenges and headwinds, in the ever changing environment in which we operate into the next century and the distant future.

The reset button had been pressed on May 9, 2018, setting in motion the various processes and measures, which needed to be undertaken to put Malaysia back on the right track. Expectations are high. But Malaysians must be realistic. Development does not happen in a vacuum.

Still Remember Zahid Famous Quote?-“ Malaysians Who Are Unhappy With The Country’s Political System Should Leave The Country ” – Who Should Leave Now?

Malaysia is an integral part of the global economic community and civil society.

With the erosion of borders, catalysed by the pervasive influences and advancements in all aspects of information and communications technology, there are both domestic and external factors and imperatives to take into account.

Policies need to be adaptable and able to successfully meet new demands and situations.The government must govern, and not allow itself to be distracted by unrealistic, selfish and even petty demands of some quarters.

The voice of the majority must be allowed to prevail and not to allow the fractiousness of discord among the small minority to perpetuate.

Already such pettiness and inward-looking attitudes have begun to seep in, into various dictates and rules, which border upon intervention into personal freedoms.

While other countries, which seek to be highly competitive and advanced, find ways to innovate and reengineer, and to forge strong forward-looking mindsets there are moves already in Malaysia to reinterpret religion and social interactions, which will set us far back.

Image result for We are Malaysians

We mistake Arabisation for Islamic virtues, focusing upon attire and veneer – thin facades, instead of on positive mindsets and good universally accepted good values.

We must all begin thinking of ourselves as being integral parts of Malaysia, as truly Malaysians.

We must rid ourselves of prejudices arising from narrow-mindedness and subjective considerations, which give room for xenophobic tendencies.

 

We must avoid divisiveness and intolerance, and accept the diversities in our differences in religion and racial and cultural heritage, and forge national strengths and resilience from the diversities.

We must appreciate the fact that though we are different, yet in many ways we are one as Malaysians, with similar aspirations and dreams, and hopes for ourselves, and for those coming after us.

National policies must be based on needs. There are bound to be differences in issues and needs among us.

These should be addressed specifically and in effective, targeted ways and approaches, and never based merely upon race.

Regardless of racial heritage, the needs of specific target groups of Malaysians should be addressed.

In the context of education, it should be education for all. The only justification for differentiation is between rural and urban populations.

Emphasis should always be on needs and recognition must always be based on excellence and meritocracy, especially when justifying specific and special support and consideration. Young Malaysians must benchmark performance against the global best.

Surely the well-to-do and the already successful, from any racial heritage, cannot be expected to invoke any reason whatsoever to justify ‘special attention’ and ‘privileges’ to be given, or worse still, to continue to be given.

The government of 2018 cannot be expected to implement restructuring policies which were initiated by the government of 1970. The policies then were premised on the cogent and pressing needs and demands of that era.

We cannot afford to be divided as we live and operate in an increasingly challenging and competitive regional and global environment.

It is detrimental and counter-productive to Malaysia and its people if some among us continue to play the old ‘race supremacy’ tune. Supremacy must always be that of our beloved nation, Malaysia, not of any group, race or religion.

We, as Malaysians, will only be highly respected globally when, from among us, rise young Malaysian citizens who are competent and skilled, and whose performance and achievements in their chosen field of endeavour are regarded as excellent, when measured by global benchmarks and standards.

When they can be proud to carry the Malaysian flag and be recognised by the world as successful Malaysians.

The New Malaysia must clearly be gender, colour and heritage-neutral, where the only priority is the good of the people and their nation.

We must constantly distance ourselves from the influence of the narrow-minded who continue to operate in archaic soot-covered and smoke-emitting chimneys.

We must forge ties that build and strengthen national resilience. Avoid divisiveness and fractiousness as these are recipes for erosion of unity among us. Embrace the politics of unity and national development.

Endeavour to prevent and eradicate the politics of hypocrisy, which clearly can never be premised upon the common good in this unique and diverse spectrum we call Malaysia. Malaysia is for all Malaysians. Sejahtera Malaysiaku!

Thayaparan on Pakatan’s GE-14 Manifesto: It’s void ab initio


October 13, 2018

Thayaparan on Pakatan’s GE-14 Manifesto: It’s void ab initio

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for rais hussin

It ain’t got a Thing if It ain’t got a Swing–Duke Edward Kennedy Ellington

“Every page should explode, either because of its staggering absurdity, the enthusiasm of its principles, or its typography.”

― Tristan Tzara, ‘Manifesti del dadaismo’

COMMENT | Is the Pakatan Harapan manifesto worthless? Yes, it is. Most manifestos or campaign promises are suspect but now we know that the Harapan manifesto was void ab initio (void from the beginning).

Image result for s thayaparan caricature

Politicians who make campaign promises make an attempt to fulfil them and would make excuses if they could not. What they never do is say: “We made a bunch of stuff up to get your votes which we knew we could never fulfil.” This is exactly what the old maverick has said.

Claiming that you made promises while actually believing that you could not win is really dumb. I mean, the people who voted for you had faith in the movement and obviously thought you could take Putrajaya.

It’s funny, isn’t it? That we now have the prime minister saying that those promises were made when Harapan operatives did not really believe that they could take Putrajaya. I wonder what Prime Minister-in-Waiting Anwar Ibrahim’s promises to the folks at Port Dickson are worth.

 

Mahathir is not some neophyte political operative. He is a seasoned political operative who managed to get people to vote for his coalition even with the systemic corruption, systemic discrimination and race-based ideology for decades. Granted he was operating in unfamiliar terrain with the then opposition but even in this marriage of political convenience, surely he must have believed in some parts of the manifesto, right?

Surely there must have been Harapan political operatives who did believe in the manifesto and did not just say things because they believed they could not win. Was that really the strategy? Make a bunch of stuff up and then if victory was miraculously achieved, claim that they could not fulfil those promises? Moving forward, how can people ever trust anything Harapan officials say when it comes to policy?

Image result for rais hussin

Bersatu’s Rais Hussin claimed that a lot of thought went into the manifesto but apparently the Prime Minister does not think it means all that much. All these people that Rais (photo above) talks about, who put in the hard work of drafting the manifesto, did they not have access to the facts when they promised they could abolish tolls, for instance?

 

We always get this horse manure that the manifesto promises cannot be kept because new information has been “discovered” but really, the Harapan political elite had been claiming that we were reaching failed-nation status, hence whatever “new information” that has been discovered could not be possibly worse than the apocalypse they believed would happen if they did not win.

Remember that they claimed that the government was bankrupt at one point. Surely all this must have gone into the number-crunching done by Rais’ so-called experts when they were formulating the well-thought-out manifesto, no?

Flip-flopping on Sedition Act

If you buy this “new information” excuse, you do understand what this really means, right? That Harapan operatives were talking without having full access to the facts. They were making promises while ignorant of the facts and either they knew it or did not care. Claiming the discovery of new facts that make certain promises unworkable is the height of political mendacity.

And please, while this “new information” may fly with die-hard supporters, do you know what is the most important feature of a corrupt regime like Najib’s administration? Information leaks. You really believe that Harapan operatives were not getting information from whistle  blowers and sympathisers from the BN regime? You really believe that BN plutocrats were not leaking information to the political operatives from Harapan to hedge their bets?

Sure, some information especially dealing with massive corruption deals were “classified” but business dealings of the UMNO hegemony were not exactly sacrosanct especially when Mahathir, an arch-establishment figure, took over Harapan.

 

I argue here that this idea of not fulfilling election promises was because the base was quiet on this issue. Harapan is waffling on its promises because its base does not demand that these promises be kept. Often, this base and various political pundits make excuses for why Harapan needs time to fulfil certain promises instead.

This may be true in specific issues – like education reform, for instance – but when it comes to repealing certain laws, abandoning certain propaganda organs, or just fulfilling certain promises such as recognising the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC), this excuse of needing more time is indeed a weak one.

You may have come across some cretins who claim that they believed that Harapan is right to have said anything to win. In other words, voters are so dumb that they will believe anything political operatives tell them because they despise the UMNO regime.

But this is dangerous. How can we trust anything political operatives say if they cry wolf all the time or believe that they can say anything, break any promise and the base will not hold them to it? It gets even more perilous when the base is not bound by any ideological beliefs but rather a hatred for a regime for different reasons.

Now, maybe this may not mean anything to the urban, “educated” electorate, who are always telling the rural heartlands that they need to educate themselves about how the former UMNO policies were destroying the country, but how exactly does this play when these so-called ignorant people realise that Harapan does not intend to honour its promises because these were made while thinking the coalition would not win?

Image result for gobind singh deo

Mr. Gobin Singh Deo–Communications and Multimedia Minister

The removal of certain pernicious laws and organisations could be done with the necessary legislative and bureaucratic processes. But even with these, there has been flip-flopping by the Harapan administration.

Having a moratorium on the sedition law as put forward by Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo until the necessary legislative processes were carried out was a simple and honest move by Harapan. But before that, we had numerous political operatives including the Prime Minister flip-flopping on this issue.

Anyway, all this does not mean a thing. We do not have a credible opposition and the base will no doubt have more red meat thrown at it when the next financial scandal comes into view.

It all boils down to how Harapan handles the economy. If it succeeds in a way that the average rakyat does not feel “burdened”, then the burden of this manifesto would not mean anything.


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

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

 

Hard-nosed Leadership


October 4, 2018

Hard-nosed Leadership

 

Image result for Dr Mahathir on Channel 4 TV

by Dr. Sharifah Munirah Alatas

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Channel 4 News, the main news programme on British television, interviewed Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Oct 1. The opening credits already set the tone for the entire five minute, 47 second interview. With Mahathir crowned as the “comeback kid unlikely to be prime minister the second time around”, one could already sense the hard-talk that was going to be aired.

Let me assure readers that I am all for a free and critical media, unafraid to talk turkey, and impartial with the goal of disseminating the bare facts and allowing creative opinions based on those facts.

What concerns me here is not the sides that foreign nations choose to support in domestic politics. We are all aware that the self-interest of nations colour their perception of other countries in the game we call realpolitik.

Of more importance are the issues that were carefully chosen for discussion, how Mahathir answered them, his body language and the issues’ relevance for Malaysians. Let’s go through these one by one. About the topics of the interview, I recall “being in a hurry”, corruption, sodomy and terrorism as the main subjects.

The opening credits cheered Mahathir on for being the oldest Prime Minister in the world with a following remark made on whether he was even older than Queen Elizabeth. Shortly after that, though, the hard-talk began. It filled me with glee because these are the mental calisthenics that invigorate me!

First topic: “You seem to be a man in a hurry, but you don’t have much time to change Malaysia.”

As a Malaysian, I feel Mahathir HAS to hurry. Too much rot has accumulated, accelerated over the last nine years. Even though we have a new government, traces of that rot are still apparent. Most citizens who voted for change earlier this year would agree that cronyism (the daughter-in-law of corruption), nepotism and the “tidak apa” attitude in government are our main problems.

Yes, the issue of corruption, too, was discussed in the interview. The interviewer did not bat an eyelid when he said: “There was corruption too when you took over as prime minister in 1981.” To this, Mahathir responded that this time around, “the government machinery was corrupted”.

What does this mean? Does it mean that this time around, under the Barisan Nasional (BN) government, only the Prime Minister resorted to the blatant amassing of wealth by stealing from the rakyat? Or does it mean that every level of corrupt negotiations, beginning with government and stretching to businesses, the middle class, academia, and the service industry, led to an adverse effect on the entire society, on the common folk?

In the words of the late Syed Hussein Alatas, internationally respected scholar and critic of corruption in developing societies, “In a corrupt society, corruption enters into our lives… (and) becomes such a force that it conditions the socialisation process of younger generations towards a negative direction.”

Post-GE14, we still have to watch out for the “socialisation process” because corruption serves the interest of the ruling class and is the means of maintaining domination.

Rightfully, Mahathir said Malaysia is presently facing “a catastrophe of corruption”. My message here is that the public and the media have to realise that although the era of BN cronyism, corruption and nepotism may be over, after more than two decades of such culture and mindset, it will be difficult to eradicate.

The Pakatan Harapan era has not passed the litmus test yet. We need to soldier on.

The interview continued to (predictably) touch on sodomy and terrorism. This was couched in the question: “Will you really hand over power to Anwar Ibrahim?” The interviewer went on to quote Mahathir as saying, in the past, that he would not accept a sodomist as a head of country. He also recalled that Mahathir had threatened to deport gay diplomats.

Mahathir gave a classic but practical and genuine response: “Between sodomy and stealing a few billion from the country, I think the stealing of a few billion dollars is more serious.”

So, Malaysians, can we please prioritise in our clean-up agenda? Sodomy is not the issue that has set Malaysia back economically and socially. It is corruption. This is our message to foreign finger-pointers as well.

Moving on in the interview, Mahathir was taken to task for saying that the root cause of terrorism was Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. Then, the question of semitism bared its ugly face.

The interviewer showed no mercy in regurgitating Mahathir’s words of years ago, that Jews have hooked noses and run the world by proxy. He also labelled Mahathir as anti-semitic (which should be understood as a politically engendered concept based on the defeat of Nazi Germany).

Mahathir’s reply, I must admit, was shaky, evidenced as well by his shifting body language. But he did manage the clincher: That they (Israel) have “managed to influence big countries into doing what they benefit from”.

The politics of the Middle East and big powers is not my concern here. My concern is that his reply should resonate with Malaysians – just because one is in a position of power, one should not abuse it and manipulate the lower ranks into accepting agendas of self-interest.

Corruption and the manipulation of racist and bigoted ideology is what I grasped from Mahathir’s Channel 4 interview. Did you?

The interview ended with the interviewer saying “the old Mahathir is still here, spouting offensive and racist views”.

Well, that’s his opinion, based on the context. More seriously, I feel this interview has indirectly sent a crisp message to Malaysians and the government, that our current administration is under scrutiny by its own people and that Mahathir himself has given us the tools to monitor every step – or so I hope.

Sharifah Munirah Alatas is an FMT columnist.

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

Mahathir and the new National Car Project


August 9, 2018

Mahathir and the new National Car Project–Doomed to Failure Again

by John Berthelsen@www.asiasentinel.com

In 1984, a young researcher at a prestigious Malaysian thinktank wrote an exhaustive review of then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s plan to partner with Mitsubishi Motors of Japan to produce a so-called national car. The sum and substance of the researcher’s report was: Don’t do it. It would be an economic disaster that would also limit consumer choice.

The report was leaked to a reporter for the Asian Wall Street Journal, then the New York-based WSJ’s Asian edition, which ran the story. The think tank’s chief quickly shot it down, saying it was only a draft, and never mind.  Fast forward a couple of decades, and learn just how prophetic the researcher’s warning was.

Mahathir went ahead and midwifed his proposal, of course, which became Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional (Proton). In the ensuing three-plus decades of its existence, the car, part of Mahathir’s move to move the country away from its resource-based economy to heavy industrialization, can only be described as a disaster.

Eventually in June 2017 – allegedly, partly to find funds to bail out the flailing 1Malaysia Development Bhd., which was enveloped in scandal – Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government would sell 49.9 percent of Proton to China’s Zejiang Geely Holding Group and effectively cede control over it to the automaker Geely.

But for everybody breathing a sigh of relief at having managed to get rid of the albatross hanging around Malaysia’s neck, the idea of a national car is back, along with Mahathir, who led the take-no-prisoners campaign to get rid of the corruption-plagued Najib in the country’s May 9 general election.

The 93-year-old Mahathir appears to want to bring back the country to where it was when he left office in 2003 after the first 23 year stint as premier, also reviving a proposal to build Malaysia’s half of a bridge over the Singapore causeway that nobody wants. It has won the name “crooked bridge” because it would have to be built to connect to Singapore’s half of the causeway since the island republic has no plans to replace its half of the bridge.

Ominously, Mahathir, has been appointed chairman of the board of Khazanah Nasional Bhd., the government’s premier investment vehicle, or more likely has appointed himself. Appointed along with him are allies Mohamed Azmin Ali, Mohd Hassan Marican, Sukhdave Singh and Goh Ching Yin. It was Kazanah that would ultimately take control over Proton, raising fears that Mahathir’s second incarnation as premier will result in amassing the same kind of power that he amassed in the 1980s and 1990s.

Against the advice of virtually everybody, Mahathir has gone to Japan, possibly to seek a joint venture partner to build another car despite the failure of Proton, which in characteristic Mahathir fashion was blamed on everybody else.

Entrepreneur Development Minister Mohd Redzuan Yusof announced last week that the government expects to launch what has been called “national car project 3.0” by 2020 in a move described as strategy to revitalize the national automotive industry.

But if past is inevitably prologue, Malaysia would do wise to heed the critics. Rafizi Ramli, the Vice President of Parti Keadilan Rakyat, urged that the project be reconsidered, saying no such plan had ever been discussed in the governing Pakatan Harapan coalition. No attempt has been made to assess the cost, no decision has been taken which agency would assume responsibility, no move has been made to abolish swingeing excise taxes on cars.

Image result for Barry Wain and Mahathir

 

The saga of the Proton Saga – the name given the first national car – is contained in “Malaysian Maverick,” the highly regarded biography of Mahathir written by the late Wall Street Journal editor and columnist Barry Wain, who pointed out that for most of its existence, Proton lost RM35,000 (US$8,587 at current exchange rates) on every car sold.

Proton’s dubious success, Wain wrote, “came at a heavy cost to Malaysian consumers: taxes ranging from 140 percent to 300 percent on imported vehicles, and up to 40 percent on cars locally assembled from imported kits.”

Proton cost Malaysia’s taxpayers billions in direct subsidies and untold billions more in opportunity costs as those who didn’t want a rebadged Mitsubishi Lancer were forced to pay enormous excise taxes on foreign-made cars. Thousands went ahead and bought Toyotas, Hondas and Nissans anyway, paying the extra freight. They also bought even more-expensive Mercedes-Benzes and Jaguars anyway despite the extra cost.

Image result for Barry Wain and Mahathir

Already dated by the time Malaysia started importing the Lancer kits, the car was lackluster at best. Given Malaysia’s population at that point of fewer than 30 million, it was impossible to gear up to beat the economies of scale enjoyed by Toyota, Honda, Nissan and other manufacturers, who turned out millions of cars every year in their home bases and satellite plants.  Attempts to sell Protons overseas failed. Cars sold in China and England, for instance, had no heaters because they weren’t necessary in Malaysia. In order to sell the car in the UK, 400 technical modifications had to be made.  In the end, exports accounted for only about 10 percent of sales.

Worse, as Wain wrote, the country’s thriving assembly industry, which employed thousands, was decimated by the favoritism shown to Proton. By contrast, Thailand welcomed the entry of foreign firms to assemble cars there, ultimately becoming the export hub of Southeast Asia and ending up what was called the “Detroit of the East.”

Image result for Original Proton Saga 1986 Model

Read this: http://autobuzz.my/2016/09/27/feature-seven-things-may-not-know-proton-saga-video/

As Proton attempted to increase local content, with Malaysian engineers and designers producing more and more of the components of the cars, they fell even further behind, unable to compete with the technical expertise of the Japanese, Koreans and other carmakers.

In the end, there was little to show for Proton other than the Malaysian Islamic hood ornament, a symbol of pride. Mitsubishi “bailed out of Proton in 2004, ending a two-decade partnership that proved extremely profitable for the Japanese group” at the same time Malaysia was left “with dozens of uncompetitive local auto parts makers and vendors.”

Now Mahathir wants to do it again. He may get his way.  But the national car encapsulates a more worrisome concern for the country, and that is that the ideas that failed – besides Proton but including a long string of grandiose projects — cost the exchequer as much as RM100 billion in mismanagement and corruption, according to Wain’s book. Mahathir during the campaign that ousted the massively corrupt Najib Razak claimed he was now willing to share power and ideas. The car is a disturbing throwback, and raises the possibility that there are more such projects in the wings. For those who read Wain’s 2009 book, revised and updated in 2012, it might pay to go back and reread it.

Pakatan Harapan’s vulnerabilities in the states


June 27, 2018

Pakatan Harapan’s vulnerabilities in the states

Dr. Bridget Welsh @www.malaysiakini.com
In this era of ‘new Malaysia’, the need for capable and reform-oriented leadership at the state level will be essential to bring about the changes needed to improve governance…the federal government has the power of the purse to encourage greater reforms at the state level and can set important governance examples. Working collaboratively with state governments to move out of status quo politics toward reform from above and below is essential to reducing vulnerabilities of Harapan states.–Dr. Bridget Welsh

COMMENT | In the weeks following GE14, the focus has centred on developments at the national level, as Malaysians wait for a full cabinet and watch the new Pakatan Harapan government set in place its initial policies.

At the state level, there are equally important and transformative developments taking place, largely off the national radar. There are some worrying signs that greater attention needs to be placed on building the reform credentials of the Harapan government from below.

Varied tenuous patterns of state control

Harapan now holds power in eight states – Johor, Kedah, Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Penang, Perak, Selangor and Sabah (despite the outstanding legal contest for the chief minister position). The remaining states are held by PAS (Kelantan and Terengganu) and BN (Pahang and Perlis) with Sarawak now Pakatan-friendly under a new configuration of the Sarawak Parties Alliance (Gabungan Parti Sarawak).

Among Harapan states, there are broadly three political conditions. The first is a large majority coming with incumbency, as in the case of Penang and Selangor, and with a decisive victory as occurred in Johor. In these states, the main challenge is to accommodate different coalition partners (and in the case of PKR, factions) with positions and adequate representation. The new chief ministers in Penang and Selangor are also facing the need to come out of the shadow of their predecessors.

The second group of states are those that have slim majorities. These include Malacca and Negri Sembilan with a three and four-seat majority respectively. They face an UMNO opposition, which at this moment is fragmented and inward-oriented.

All of the majority Harapan states are vulnerable to issues within Harapan itself. Beyond jockeying for positions, differences over race and religion have the capacity to divide the coalition and are especially impactful in states where UMNO and PAS are likely to play on these factors.

Unlike the situation at the national level, where Sarawak’s Pakatan-friendly orientation has shored up Harapan’s more inclusive position on race and religion, this is not the case in many of the Harapan states and thus makes these states more vulnerable to the mobilisation of political division along racial and religious lines.

The third group are states where Harapan holds the majority of seats but this majority can be overturned by a coalition among opposition parties or a reconfiguration of different partners. Here, Harapan governments are balancing a combination of internal and external pressures, including continued inducements for defections. The potential for political instability in these states is real.

Image result for shafie apdal

 

This is the case in Sabah, where Warisan is the largest party allied with Harapan to form government. Warisan (led by Shafie Apdal, photo) holds 23 seats, with Harapan parties holding eight seats, with a majority of two seats. Perceived unfair actions taken against Warisan partners in areas such as appointments by the federal government can potentially inadvertently contribute to instability in Sabah.

Perak and Kedah also fall into this category of possibly overturned majority states. In these two states, PAS holds greater political power. In Perak, Harapan holds onto 29 seats, with the BN at 27 and PAS at three, while in Kedah Harapan holds 18, with PAS at 15 and UMNO at 3. In the last month, there has been considerable wrangling over the speaker and deputy speaker positions in Kedah, with the possibility of elections should there be an impasse.

The balance of power in Perak remains fragile and given the history of induced political turnover in the state, it is arguably the most vulnerable to a change in government.

Chief minister choice

It is also important to appreciate that legal decisions involving the case of the chief ministership in Sabah and election petitions across the country have the potential to shift the numbers in these majorities. The sources of instability at the state level extend beyond managing numbers. Crucial is the choice of chief minister and the state leadership.

The royalty has played a pivotal role in deciding who should run the different states, from Selangor and Perak to Johor. This has placed constraints on the Harapan government(s). The royalty’s role has been prominent under the BN government as illustrated by the Terengganu crisis of 2014 and more recently in Perlis but is being more openly being discussed in the era of ‘new’ Malaysia.

At issue are not just concerns for representation, race and religion and economic interests, but the democratic fabric of Malaysia. Increasingly there is greater disgruntlement with royal interventionist positions.

This is especially the case in states where a sultan’s veto power has been seen to reduce the stability of a Harapan government or led to choices that are seen to bring into power a perceived less experienced candidate. The open criticism of the choice of new Selangor Menteri Besar, Amirudin Shari, is illustrative of some of the disgruntlement, although in this case these complaints are also reflective of the different factions within PKR.

Capability, qualifications and the reform orientation of the new state leaders are at the core of concerns surrounding the leadership of Perak and Johor.

Image result for Menteri Besar of Perak  Ahmad Faizal Azumu

 

The Perak Menteri Besar, Ahmad Faizal Azumu from Bersatu (pic above), whose fiasco in the handling of the Hari Raya open house in a theme park earlier this month was criticised, has yet to properly answer questions about the veracity of his academic qualifications. He is seen to be closer to Umno than to Harapan, coming from a traditional UMNO warlord family. While still early days, his leadership to date has failed to broach any of the scandals of the previous Zambry Abdul Kadir government and is evoking serious criticism from the ground.

The choice of Osman Sapian, the now Bersatu former UMNO three-term state assemblyman from Kempas, to be the Menteri Besar of Johor also signals the persistence of status quo politics at the state level. Osman’s choice has been seen as possibly limiting reform and not actualising the leadership potential for Johor at the state level.

The expectations in Johor are especially high, given its economic and political importance and the decisiveness of Harapan’s victory. The choice of Osman has emboldened UMNO who feel they can win the state back under Osman’s leadership and not evoked confidence among many Harapan supporters.

Reform from below and above

Decisions at the state level to date have showcased some of the ideological differences within Harapan itself, most notably the connection to Umno and its style of patronage politics. In other states such as Malacca, the early patronage to Harapan members, some of whom are not qualified for the positions in state-linked companies they were given, also raised eyebrows.

States play a crucial role in governance, and if reforms in Malaysia are to gain traction they need to happen at the state level as well. The same clean-up and oversight of government-linked companies touted by Harapan leaders at the national level should be paralleled at the state level, especially given the link between state governments and national scandals as occurred with Terengganu and 1MDB.

A failure to address reforms at the state level opens up Harapan for criticism and has the potential to undercut any reform at the national level. Keep in mind the greatest vulnerability the Harapan governments face is a loss of confidence among the electorate. It is at the state level, in vital areas of land development and social service management, that many witness first-hand abuses of power and corruption concerns.

 

Political transitions are not easy, especially given the resistance to these transitions and how vulnerable many of the state governments actually are to political turnovers and status quo politics. In 2008, it took some time for the Selangor and Penang governments to find their footing and this will likely be the case for the new Harapan state governments as well, and arguably pressures for reform were also curtailed.

In this era of ‘new Malaysia’, the need for capable and reform-oriented leadership at the state level will be essential to bring about the changes needed to improve governance.

Image result for lim guan eng at finance ministry

 

Unlike in the past, however, the federal government has the power of the purse to encourage greater reforms at the state level and can set important governance examples. Working collaboratively with state governments to move out of status quo politics toward reform from above and below is essential to reducing vulnerabilities of Harapan states.

A failure to do so puts these governments at risk and deepens the challenges for the federal government itself.


BRIDGET WELSH is an Associate Professor of Political Science at John Cabot University in Rome. She also continues to be a Senior Associate Research Fellow at National Taiwan University’s Center for East Asia Democratic Studies and The Habibie Center, as well as a University Fellow of Charles Darwin University. Her latest book (with co-author Greg Lopez) is entitled ‘Regime Resilience in Malaysia and Singapore’. She can be reached at bridgetwelsh1@gmail.com.

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

 

GLC’s: Pagar makan Padi


June 26, 2018

GLC’s: Pagar makan Padi

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Image result for tawfik tun dr ismail

 

 “ Yes, they enjoyed their position admittedly through patronage, but it would have been a competitive climb for them nevertheless. Is the mood for revenge against the previous regime making us senseless to the long-term damage to Malay progress in commerce?”–Former UMNO MP Tawfik Ismail

 

As the heads and top officials in Government-linked corporations (GLCs) continue to be lopped off and voices are raised on how to reform these enterprises, the wisdom of the new Pakatan government in taking off the kid gloves in dealing with GLCs has been questioned.

The plain truth, however, is that the shortcomings and failings of these enterprises have been known for a long time – long before Dr Mahathir described them as becoming “monsters”.

Image result for Dr Lim Teck Ghee

Crowding out private enterprise, given privileged access to contracts, benefiting from favourable government regulations and capitalizing in less discernible but nonetheless effective ways familiar or accessible only to insiders, the negative impact of these ubiquitous and often monopolistic  bodies has been accentuated by their lead role in the poor governance and corrupt practices that have blighted the nation’s economy and society.

 Self Censured Analysts

 Most analyses of GLCs in the past and continuing today – even if critical -have either ignored or tended to avoid forthright and frank discussion of the main reason for the establishment and dominance of GLCs – the mission focus on the Malay agenda.

The key questions to be asked are:

what is this Malay agenda; whose interests does it serve; and should a race-based agenda be the driver or leitmotif of GLCs which rightfully belongs to all stakeholders in the country.

These questions need to be put out and answered in the public sphere regardless of whether the GLCs can be reformed and reconfigured in accord with truly national aspirations.

Perkasa Inaugural Congress, 2010 and GLCs      

I had posed and tried to answer this question in response to Ibrahim Ali of Perkasa who, in the inaugural Malay rights group congress held on 27 March 2010, had said that “We are not only looking at their (GLC) performance but also the role they play in helping Malay entrepreneurs.”

I had replied then that:

“The Malay and Malaysian public should look forward to hearing the outcome of Perkasa monitoring the GLCs and learning the truth about how these bodies are standing in the way of, or seriously implementing, their mission of fulfilling the Malay agenda.” See http://www.cpiasia.net/v3/index.php/141-cpi-writings/lim-teck-ghees-contribution/1888-perkasa-glcs-and-the-new-economic-model

At that time, in 2010 eight years before the present debate, I noted too the considerable success of GLCs in furthering the Malay agenda from the following indicators:

  • GLCs are major shareholders of corporate equity. They comprise 36 per cent and 54 per cent of the market capitalization of Bursa Malaysia and the benchmark Kuala Lumpur Composite Index.
  • Seven out of the top 10 listed companies are under majority ownership of the government.
  • Senior GLC positions are largely determined along ethnic lines. GLC directors, management and staff are largely Bumiputeras.
  • Non-Malay owners of listed and unlisted companies often have no choice but to work with influential Bumiputera and GLCs to help protect their interests through obtaining sub-contracts or becoming suppliers of goods and services.
  • Non-Malays may own 40 per cent of corporate equity Based on the government’s flawed calculations but GLCs are the major players and have control over the economy.

Malay Agenda Accomplishments Since NEP

I had also noted that much of the new wealth in the country is in Malay hands. These sources of wealth include the plantation sector which is dominated by Felda and PNB companies;  the smallholding agricultural sector where the Malays are the major group amongst the 112,635 Felda settlers; the hi-tech aerospace industry; the defense industry; the petroleum and gas industry where apart from Petronas and MMC, the Malays have substantial holdings in key MNCs such as Shell, Exxon, BP; the finance and banking sector where eight out of 10 banks are Bumiputera- owned and controlled; the automotive sector where Malay interests are dominant in Proton, Perodua, DRB Hicom, UMW and Naza, and where the system of APs ensures a steady stream of income for select Bumiputeras; the energy and utilities sector where TNB and Malakoff are key players; the more recently contentious MARA’s digital malls and so on.

Perhaps most successful of all in accomplishing the Malay agenda was that the NEP objective of building a strong Malay professional and technical elite class had been reached well before the time of Perkasa’s inaugural congress.

From a very small base of professional and technical workers in 1970 (Bumiputera comprised 4.9 per cent of registered professionals at that time) the Malay component of the country’s professional and technical workers in 2010 was the biggest amongst the various racial groups. According to the Malaysian government’s Third Outline Perspective Plan (2001-2010), the Bumiputera community comprised 63.5 per cent of the ‘Professional and Technical’ category of employment in 2000.

This growth of a strong Malay professional class within a short period of 30 years – with some finding employment and high positions in GLCs as noted by Tawfik Ismail-  is possibly the fastest recorded by any marginalized community anywhere in the world.

That this information is not widely known is not due to modesty. It is part of political spin aimed at playing up to Malay insecurity, under-reporting Malay achievement and emphasizing the non-Malay, that is, Chinese dominance of the economy.

This new privileged class (and its leadership institutions such as the GLCs) could also be the main reason accounting for the phenomenon of “pagar makan padi”.

Tackling Malay poverty

I had also argued that in the economic sphere there is still work to be done to uplift the lot of the poor Malays (see article on the country’s underclass –https://dinmerican.wordpress.com/2018/06/11/new-malaysias-underclass-what-to-do/). I noted that the task is less formidable than what official statistics may make it out to be.  This is because Malay poverty – as distinct from Bumiputera poverty – is over-estimated by the statistical practice whereby the Malay figures are lumped with the figures of recent migrants from Indonesia who have obtained Bumiputera status as well as the other Bumiputera from East Malaysia.

The great majority of the former group — Javanese, Sumatrans, etc — who have assimilated into the country’s population especially after the 1970s came with little in assets or income. Inclusion of these poor “pendatang”, despite their upward mobility after migration here in the official statistics, has impacted in distorting the racial distribution of household income.

Without them (and Bumiputra communities in Sabah and Sarawak), the ‘native’ or ‘indigenous’ or ‘local’ Malay achievement, as distinct from Bumiputera achievement, will be higher in all the social and economic indicators – especially the key one of land ownership – used by the Department of Statistics to measure inter-ethnic differences.

 The Malay Agenda and the country’s future

In the weeks and months to come, the ruling PH government will unveil more of its economic policies and programmes to replace the BN’s ineffective, unproductive or discredited ones.

Image result for Mahathir's Malay Economic Agenda?

 

Looking beyond 1981– 2020: Will the Malay Dilemma be resolved under Mahathir 2.O Administration? NO until we empower and challenge the Malays and stop spoon feeding them like UMNO did to remain in power for 60 years.

We need to stop manjaing (pampering) them and  should make them self-reliant and resourceful. I understand what Dr. Lim Teck Ghee and Tawfik Tun Dr. Ismail are trying  to hint at. Let us challenge Malaysia’s Status Quo.–Din Merican

It is extremely unlikely given the BN’s prioritization of the Malay agenda that the Malay position in various sectors of the economy has stagnated or fallen back since 2010 and that it deserves attention and propping up through a larger allocation of the nation’s financial resources to support. This issue needs strong and independent empirical evidence to verify.

It could also be that GLCs should continue to play a key role in enabling achievement of whatever is authoritatively established as an uncompleted or lagging Malay agenda as well as the priorities in the larger national agenda. This also needs similar rigorous analysis to establish.

Image result for Dr. LimTeck Ghee

But the hard questions – driven not by “revenge politics” but by sensibility and prudence – still need to be asked of the Malay agenda in this new era of accountability, transparency and good governance:

What is this new Malay agenda today; which part of the old Malay agenda has yet to be achieved or realized; which targets have not been attained; and how will reconfigured or reformed GLCs help the Malays and the nation arrive at final accomplishment of the Malay agenda?