UN man dumbfounded by Malaysia’s resistance to ICERD


December 26, 2018

UN man dumbfounded by Malaysia’s resistance to ICERD

Gün Kut says there is a misunderstanding over ratifying ICERD in Malaysia.

KUALA LUMPUR: A member of a United Nations (UN) committee tasked with monitoring the implementation of ICERD said Malaysia is now seen globally as accepting racial discrimination by not ratifying the international treaty.

This follows Putrajaya’s decision not to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) this month, which led to a mammoth rally to give “thanks”.

“When the United Nations Human Rights Council asked me to come to Kuala Lumpur to talk about ICERD, I had no idea I would be falling in the middle of a serious controversy. I thought it would be a standard meeting,” Gün Kut, a Turkish national who is part of the 18-member Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) based in Geneva, Switzerland, told a forum here.

He questioned how ICERD could become extremely politicised in Malaysia when it is an international convention for the protection of individuals against racial discrimination.

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“Racism and racial discrimination is everywhere, so no state, country or government can claim there is no discrimination.

“When you look close enough you may find cases often unheard of… yet it’s there,” Gün, speaking in his personal capacity, told a forum last week on strengthening national unity through the Federal Constitution and ratifying ICERD, organised by the Malaysian CSO-SDG Alliance at the Royal Lake Club here.

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Gün said Malaysia now found itself facing more pressure than ever because it seemed as if it did not accept non-discrimination.

“Which is not the case,” he said. “All I see is a misunderstanding”.

He said he still found it difficult to understand why Malaysia refused to sign the treaty.

“We look at who is not signing it (ICERD) and why. I have an explanation for Nauru. I have an explanation for North Korea. But what should I think about Malaysia?” he asked.

Gün lumped together Nauru, an island country in Micronesia northeast of Australia, North Korea and Malaysia as three countries which had not ratified ICERD without a good reason.

ICERD obliges parties to eliminate racial discrimination in all forms, including in public institutions as well as in government policies, the issue at the heart of the opposition from a number of Malay groups.

They say ratifying ICERD would undermine the special position of the Malays and the natives of Malaysia, including provisions to allow quotas in public institutions.

They also oppose the ICERD’s timeline on member countries to end affirmative action programmes and benefits, which they say would sound the death knell for Malaysia’s decades-old pro-Bumiputera policy.

But Gün said the treaty would never “insist” on a time frame for affirmation action policies to be stopped as that discretion lay with the respective member states.

“It is up to the government to decide how they wish to act on our recommendations. This is not a peace treaty. It is a convention which creates a mechanism for states to voluntarily follow international standards.

“It is for the government to commit itself (to ICERD) vis-a-vis its own people.”

He said governments voluntarily signed ICERD “according to the letter and spirit of the convention” while dealing with “issues in their territories” on racial discrimination, saying this could be customised.

“But if it is seen as something that gives a defined group preferential treatment forever, that’s a different matter,” Gün said.

“If positive measures go beyond redress for victims of one particular group… then… that would be discrimination.”

However, Gün said ICERD could intervene in issues that intersected with race, such as religious conflicts among ethnic groups “provided that there is discrimination on the basis of race that so happens to involve religion”.

Asked why CERD did not seek an audience in Parliament to explain to MPs about ICERD, Gün said this would make it seem like the UN was pushy.

“It would be difficult to promote ICERD to a non-signatory state and put pressure on member states. It would backfire, and seem as though the UN is imposing something (forcefully),” he said.

The debate over the ICERD followed a speech by Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at the United Nations General Assembly in September, 2018 where he said his government would ratify the remaining human rights conventions endorsed by the world body.

But the Prime Minister admitted that this would be difficult to do, and his office later announced that ICERD would not be ratified.

Malaysia has only signed three UN treaties since 1995.

 

 

And the Malaysian of the Year 2018 is TUN Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohamad


December 25, 2018

Image result for dr. mahathir mohamad

Congrats. A lot is expected of you, Mr. Prime Minister, Sir. In the Winter of your epochal years, destiny beckons once again that you act with conviction. Having made history, now you have nothing to lose. You have come a long way, undertaken countless journeys, been around the  world.  Dari Seberang Perak, Alor Setar, Kedah ka perusuk  Dunia. What an incredible Odyssey.  –Din Merican

And the Malaysian of the Year 2018 is TUN Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohamad

by A. Kathirasen

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2018/12/25/and-the-malaysian-of-the-year-2018-is/

 

To say 2018 has been a momentous year would be an understatement.

As we come to the closing days of the year, we know that we have lived in, and experienced, one of the seminal, defining years in Malaysian history.

It was the year of many firsts, especially in politics: A former Prime Minister became Prime Minister for the second time; at 93, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad also became the oldest Prime Minister in the world; another former Prime Minister faced criminal charges; and a woman became Deputy Prime Minister.

Also, the unstoppable Barisan Nasional (BN) was thrown out by an electorate seeking changes; UMNO, MCA and MIC which had formed the government since the first general election in 1955, found themselves on the opposition bench; the DAP, which had been in the opposition since its founding in 1965, suddenly found itself in government; several top civil servants – including the Attorney-General, Chief Secretary to the Government,  the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Chief, the Chief Justice and the Treasury Secretary-General, were eased out or resigned; and while the Pakatan Harapan (PH) won control of the Dewan Rakyat, the BN retained control of the Dewan Negara.

 

Who among the main players in this dramatic change has had the biggest impact on the nation’s direction in 2018? Is it Dr. Mahathir, former Prime Minister Najib Razak, or PKR supremo and former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim?

Is it Lim Guan Eng who became the first Chinese Finance Minister after Tun H.S.Lee, and Tun Tan Siew Sin  in 44 years? Is it his father Lim Kit Siang – a man who has gone through hellish situations, survived the turbulence of politics, and when his party,  as a PH partner, finally formed the government, decided not to be a minister?  Or is it P Waytha Moorthy, a rebel who led Hindraf to fight the Indian cause and who briefly fled the country to avoid possible arrest but is now a minister shouldering responsibility for the improvement of the Indian community?

What about Attorney-General Tommy Thomas who has unflinchingly gone after suspected wrongdoers and is working to improve the legal system? What about Bersih 2.0 which has played a pivotal role in waking Malaysians to their rights, galvanising them into action and taking on the might of the previous government to ensure free and fair elections?

Is it the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission that is relentlessly pursuing the corrupt after May 9? Or is it the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal that rocked the nation and led to probes in several countries, bringing in its wake unwanted and ugly attention to Malaysia?

Let’s take a look at Najib. Like his father Razak Hussein, Najib served as Prime Minister and UMNO President. In 2009 he became Prime Minister and was going strong until the winds of change swept him out of office and into the court of law. He is the first former Prime Minister to be charged for criminal offences – in this case graft and money-laundering linked to 1MDB, which he set up.

In 1973, the father persuaded several opposition parties to join the Alliance and form the BN; in 2018, the son watched as the BN splintered and returned to the Alliance position with the three original partners – UMNO, MCA and MIC – largely due to his failures.

There is no gain saying the fact that 1MDB was a major reason for the fall of the BN. Although the 1MDB saga had been around since DAP leader Tony Pua raised it in 2010, it did not gain attention until 2014. However, Najib’s government managed to keep it under control by several clever moves, including replacing Attorney-General Gani Patail with Mohamed Apandi Ali. The mainstream media buried news of 1MDB and only some news portals and The Edge Weekly carried criticism of the Finance Ministry-owned investment fund. But when Dr. Mahathir entered the fray to openly oppose Najib and formed PPBM, 1MDB became a potent weapon.

What about Anwar, the Prime Minister-in-waiting, for Malaysian of the Year?  The charismatic politician is back in action, holding the attention of his audience with his oratorical skills which he massages to suit the audience. He was jailed, a second time, on a charge of sodomy by the Najib administration but received a full pardon from the King after PH won the election. Even while in prison twice and even when he did not have power or money to offer his followers, his charisma, and a band of loyalists, kept his party, PKR, going. Today, PKR is the party with the largest number of parliamentarians. What a victory. It speaks well of his political canniness.

The DAP deserves to be considered for the title, too, because from a rank outsider, from a party whose leaders and members never really thought it would be able to form the government, it is today in a position to influence national policy. Despite all the years of suffering under a BN regime that was out to paint it as chauvinistic and anti-Malay, despite all the years of harassment by government agencies, it not only survived, it triumphed in 2018. Its perseverance, one-pointedness and organisational ability has seen it rise above the odds.

And what can I say about Tun Dr. Mahathir that hasn’t already been said? He is the comeback politician par excellence. At an age when most people would prefer to stay at home and spend time with great-grandchildren, he is again directing the course of the nation.

He could have retired as Prime Minister and enjoyed the pensions and perks that come with it. But he didn’t. He felt the country was heading in a perilous wrong direction and that he was needed to fix it. When he formed PPBM and joined the PH alliance of PKR, DAP and Amanah, the voting public felt the nation needed him.

By leading the PH to victory he has changed the course of the nation. His motley coalition of parties unseated the Barisan Nasional behemoth which had been in power since Independence in 1957, first as the Alliance and later as the BN.

He has shown that even bitter enemies can work together for a common goal. Three years ago, who would have believed that Dr. Mahathir would work hand in hand with Anwar, the former Deputy Prime Minister whom his administration jailed? Who would have believed that he could work with the DAP, which he had excoriated all his political life until 2017, especially its leader Lim Kit Siang, whom his administration also jailed at one time?

In the aftermath of the May 9 general election victory, he successfully maneuvered the splintering of the BN coalition. Not only did he remove the threat of the BN’s fixed vote deposits of Sarawak and Sabah but also turned them around into supporting his administration. And he brought to heel the once mighty UMNO, the party he helmed for more than 20 years.

There is generally greater confidence among people of a better future, although lately this has been waning. There is greater democratic space and a concerted effort to root out corruption.

While some older Malaysian’s are still skeptical about him, given the slide in democratic practices during his first stint as prime minister, many younger people see him as the only leader capable of bringing about a New Malaysia which practices greater democracy.

I find the pace at which he is going simply amazing. The oldest Prime Minister in the world has become an example not just for Malaysians to emulate but the world to follow. His sheer willpower and determination is unbelievable, and puts to shame many people decades younger.

As I look back, I can see that all the above are worthy of being named Malaysian of the Year, with Dr Mahathir topping the list by a long chalk.

However, there is someone else who has to be considered too. I am talking about you. Yes, you, the Malaysian voter.

Malaysian voters struggled against impediments stacked by the machinations of the BN. Many NGOs and individuals called out the Election Commission for favouring the BN, especially in its electoral boundary redelineation exercise and imposition of certain rules to frustrate the opposition, which it denied. The services of several top civil servants and agencies were used by the BN to deny an opposition victory. Also employed was the usual scare tactic of racial riots if the BN were to lose.

Voters wanted change: a more democratic society where they could express themselves without fear of being detained or harassed; a more Malaysian government that would address the needs of all citizens; a clear  separation of powers between the Executive, Parliament and the Judiciary; and a nation where racial and religious issues would not be used by the elite to stay in power. They also wanted better living standards and better control on the cost of living.

A substantial number of voters decided that enough was enough. Aghast at the direction the nation was taking, they decided to put a brake on it; they decided to be agents of change. Picking up courage, they threw caution to the wind as they trooped to the polling booths and marked the most important X in their lives. And in the process altered the fate of the nation – and theirs too.

For the courage shown in overcoming complacency and fear, for becoming agents of change and giving notice to politicians that they are asserting their right for a say in the nation’s direction, and for showing that change is possible if people act in unison, the Malaysian Voter is the Malaysian of the Year for 2018.

A Kathirasen is executive editor at FMT

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

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Malaysia-Singapore – 50 Years of Contentions ’65-’15


November 18, 2018

Podcast > The Bigger Picture > Live & Learn > Malaysia-Singapore – 50 Years of Contentions 1965-2015

 

Tan Sri Ab. Kadir Mohamad, Former Secretary-General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

23-Feb-15 16:40

Seek

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Volume

 

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Tan Sri Ab. Kadir Mohamad joined the Malaysian Foreign Service in 1968. He served in various capacities on diplomatic missions overseas for close to three decades before reaching the pinnacle of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1996, becoming its 10th Secretary General (1996-2001). Tan Sri Kadir was also the foreign affairs advisor to Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (2003-2009), and advised current prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s National Security Council Secretariat (2010-2013), before finally retiring in December 2013. He recently released a book titled “Malaysia-Singapore: Fifty Years of Contentions, 1965-2015,” which is his take on major events of these two countries’ bilateral relations since the island republic and our nation parted ways.

ttps://www.bfm.my/malaysia-singapore-fifty-years-of-contentions-1965-2015-tan-sri-abdul-kadir-mohamad.html#

 

 

 

The Californization of America


June 4, 2018

SOQUEL, Calif. — Across the country, Democrats are winning primaries by promoting policies like universal health insurance and guaranteed income — ideas once laughed off as things that work only on the “Left Coast.”

At the same time, national politicians from both sides are finally putting front and center issues that California has been grappling with for years: immigration, clean energy, police reform, suburban sprawl. And the state is home to a crop of politicians to watch, from Kevin McCarthy on the right to Gavin Newsom and Kamala Harris on the left, part of a wave that is likely to dominate American politics for the next generation.

California, which holds its primaries on Tuesday, has long set the national agenda on the economy, culture and technology. So maybe it was just a matter of time before it got back to driving the political agenda, as it did when Ronald Reagan launched his political career in the 1960s. But other things are happening as well. The state is a hub for immigrants, a testing site for solutions to environmental crises and a front line in America’s competition with China. On all sorts of big issues that matter now and will in the future, California is already in the game.

In a way, California even gave us Donald Trump. So much of his “training” to be president came while he was an entertainment celebrity, on a show that, for a stretch of its existence, was produced in Los Angeles. And of course the means of his ascent — the smartphone, social media — came out of Silicon Valley. That’s a lot to have on a state’s conscience.

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Governor Jerry Brown of California

California is a deep-blue state — only 26 percent of its residents approve of Mr. Trump, and Democrats dominate the Legislature, statewide offices and most large city governments. But the state’s leaders are also aware that setting the political agenda for the country means making a stark break with naked partisanship. Getting that right will determine whether California, in its newly dominant role, perpetuates the political divide or moves America past it.

For decades, California, even as it grew in size and wealth, was seen as an outlier, unintimidating, superficial and flaky. We were no threat. We were surfer dudes and California girls who got high and turned on, tuned in and dropped out. We spawned Apple and Google, but we also spawned hippies and Hollywood. For a time, our governor was nicknamed Moonbeam.

As recently as the 2000s, with California at the center of the subprime-mortgage crisis, it was fair to wonder whether we had a future; a popular parlor game was to imagine how the state might be divided up into more manageable statelets.That was the old California.

The new California, back from years of financial trouble, has the fifth-largest economy in the world, ahead of Britain and France. Since 2010, California has accounted for an incredible one-fifth of America’s economic growth. Silicon Valley is the default center of the world, home to three of the 10 largest companies in the world by market capitalization.

California’s raw economic power is old news. What’s different, just in the past few years, is the combination of its money, population and politics. In the Trump era, the state is reinventing itself as the moral and cultural center of a new America.

Jerry Brown — Governor Moonbeam — is back, and during his second stint in office has been a pragmatic, results-focused technocrat who will leave behind a multibillion-dollar budget surplus when his term ends in January. But he has also been a smart and dogged opponent of the Trump agenda, from his high-profile visits to climate-change negotiations in Europe to substantive talks in Beijing with President Xi Jinping.

California is hardly monolithic. The region around Bakersfield provides the power base for Mr. McCarthy, the House majority leader and an indefatigable defender of President Trump, who calls him “my Kevin.” Other sizable pockets of Trump supporters live along the inland spine of the state, especially in the north near the Oregon border.

Still, there’s no doubt California runs blue — so blue, people say, that its anti-Trump stance is inevitable. But that’s not right; in fact, California defies Mr. Trump — and is turning even more Democratic — not for partisan reasons but because his rhetoric and actions are at odds with contemporary American values on issue after issue, as people here see it, and because he seems intent on ignoring the nation’s present and future in favor of pushing back the clock.

California doesn’t just oppose Mr. Trump; it offers a better alternative to the America he promises. While Mr. Trump makes hollow promises to states ravaged by the decline of the coal industry, California has been a leader in creating new jobs through renewable energy.

While Mr. Trump plays the racism card, California pulls in immigrants from all over the world. For California, immigration is not an issue to be exploited to inflame hate and assuage the economic insecurities of those who feel displaced by the 21st-century economy, it’s what keeps the state economy churning.

For us, immigration is not a “Latino” issue. The state’s white population arrived so recently that all of us retain a sense of our immigrant status. My great-great-grandfather Gerhard Kettmann left Germany in 1849 and made his way to California during the Gold Rush. That’s why everyone is able to unite, even in our diversity.

And the draw of California is more powerful than ever. People come not only from countries around the globe to work in Silicon Valley — more than seven in 10 of those employed in tech jobs in San Jose were born outside the United States, according to census data analyzed by The Seattle Times — they come from all over the country.

It seems as if every other idealistic young person who worked in the Obama White House or on the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign later moved to California. All these new arrivals create major problems, from housing shortages to insane Los Angeles-style traffic in Silicon Valley. They also create a critical mass of innovation.

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Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom

 

Many Californians see the next decade as a pivot point, when decisions about the environment and the economy will shape America’s future for generations to come. “It’s ‘Mad Max’ or ‘Star Trek,’” said Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor and leading candidate to succeed Governor Brown. It’s no mystery which movie he thinks Mr. Trump is directing.

Nationally, Mr. Newsom is known mostly as a cultural pioneer, having allowed same-sex marriage as the mayor of San Francisco in 2004 — among the first big-city mayors to do so. But he sees himself in more pragmatic terms, more like a latter-day Robert Kennedy, a believer in the idea that government can do more for the people if it’s smarter about trying new ideas and updating old assumptions.

Mr. Newsom doesn’t mind making bold claims, and he and his main Democratic challenger, the former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, are both vowing to build 500,000 homes in California every year for seven years. He also wants to provide single-payer health care to everyone in the state and commit the state to 100 percent renewable energy for its electricity needs. Sure, these are campaign promises — but in California, they suddenly seem like practical, feasible ideas.

California for years was divided between its main population centers. Northern California, birthplace of Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement in 1964 and the Summer of Love in San Francisco later that decade, was often at odds with large sections of Southern California, particularly Orange County, a bastion of suburban Republicans.

That divide is eroding. Orange County even went for Hillary Clinton in 2016. California remains diverse culturally, but politically, it is increasingly unified. That can be a potent engine for social and economic progress; it can also be an excuse for insularity and political grandstanding.

The key, many of the state’s politicians say, is to promote the former without falling into the trap of the latter — no easy task at a time when many Californians see their state as the base of the anti-Trump resistance.

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Vivek Viswanathan running for state treasurer of California

Take Vivek Viswanathan. Raised on Long Island by parents who immigrated from India, he did policy work for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and Governor Brown and is now running for state treasurer.

It would be easy for him to run far to the left, mixing anti-Trump rhetoric with unrealistic policy promises. Instead, he wants America to see a different California — a state that mixes pragmatism and progressivism.

“I’m one of those people that think the threats that we face from Washington are very real, and not just to the resources we need, but the values that make us who we are,” he said. “California is really a model for what the country can be if we make the right choices.”

The first test of a unified California’s newfound political heft could come this fall. Democrats need to pick up 24 seats in the House of Representatives to win control of it, and they have their eye on seven California districts carried by Mrs. Clinton in 2016 that have Republican incumbents, including four that are wholly or in part in Orange County.

Further north, in the Central Valley, a deputy district attorney for Fresno County named Andrew Janz is running a surprisingly competitive race against Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Mr. Nunes has used his position to defend the president, while providing little congressional oversight — something that doesn’t sit well with even moderate California Republicans.

“The momentum is definitely on our side,” Mr. Janz told me. “My opponent is more concerned about blaming Democrats than getting the job done. The people here honestly want Nunes to focus less on creating these fake controversies and more on doing the work that’s required to move us along into the 21st century here in the Central Valley.”

Again and again, this is the message coming from the state’s rising politicians — anger with the president and his allies not out of an ideological commitment, but because the president seems more interested in personal gain than national progress.

The more visionary among California’s leaders, including Mr. Newsom, recognize that their state has the highest poverty rate in the country, by some measures, and that addressing the problem — through affordable housing, job programs and early education — has to be a priority. To the extent these are national problems, too, other states may soon be looking to Sacramento, not Washington, for leadership.

It’s also a given that one or more Californians could figure prominently in the 2020 presidential race, including Ms. Harris, a first-term senator who has gained a reputation for her withering examinations of the president’s cabinet nominees. Mr. Newsom, particularly if he wins the governor’s race this year by a convincing margin, could also make the jump to the national stage, following Ronald Reagan and Jerry Brown.

Image result for Tom Steyer.

Billionaire Tom Steyer is the “Impeachment Guy” who has spent millions of dollars on television ads in which he speaks to the camera directly and makes a case for the urgent need to impeach President Trump.

To see how different the stereotype of California is from the reality, consider another of the state’s rising political figures, the billionaire Tom Steyer.

To most people in Washington or New York, Mr. Steyer is the “Impeachment Guy” who has spent millions of dollars on television ads in which he speaks to the camera directly and makes a case for the urgent need to impeach President Trump. Impeachment is a widely popular idea among Democrats, but political realists say it’s unlikely to happen absent a Democratic surge in the midterm elections — in other words, that’s California for you.

But at home, Mr. Steyer is anything but a dreamer. His organization NextGen America focuses on developing solutions to climate change and economic inequality, issues that resonate here, especially among the young. The goal is to show the way not through talk, not through TV ads, but through action.

“I think California has this great advantage, which is we have a functioning democracy,” Mr. Steyer said in a recent interview. “With all our problems — and we have a lot of them, the biggest one being economic inequality — we have a spirit in business and in politics that says, sure, there are big problems, but we can address them. That spirit is a great advantage and it’s not true in Washington, D.C., right now.”

Steyer’s bet — and that of millions of others in my state — is that soon, California will pick up the slack.

Steve Kettmann, a columnist for The Santa Cruz Sentinel, is a co-director of the Wellstone Center in the Redwoods.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.

 

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page SR1 of the New York edition with the headline: The Californization Of American Politics. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper

Appointment of Maszlee Malik as Education Minister raises concern among Malaysians


May 20, 2018

Appointment of Maszlee Malik as  Education Minister raises concern among Malaysians

by FMT Reporters

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

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Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa questions double standards by those who defend Zakir Naik’s freedom of speech but oppose the right of Muslims to practise their preferred school of thought.

PETALING JAYA: Prominent Muslim activist Dr. Ahmad Farouk Musa said he was not surprised by the storm of protests that greeted the appointment of Maszlee Malik as the Education Minister, but said a bigger worry was whether the Perlis fatwa committee member has the courage to press ahead with the concept of Bangsa Malaysia and resist pressures from extremists on Malaysia’s schooling system.

“The main issue here is whether he has the same courage as Dr Mahathir in facing the two extreme camps in this country, the Chinese educationist extremist and the conservative Malay educationist groups,” Farouk, who heads the outspoken Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF), told FMT.

A debate has been raging over Maszlee’s suitability for the post since he was named by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Friday. Critics point to Maszlee’s defence of controversial preacher Dr Zakir Naik, who is wanted in India over allegations of extremism and money laundering.

They are also concerned with Maszlee’s leaning towards Salafist Islam, and his close association with Perlis Mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, who was recently summoned to a panel hearing on missing activist Amri Che Mat, who Asri had slammed for practising Shia Islam, which local Muslim bureaucrats label as “deviant”.

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Dr. Maszlee Malik–Minister of Education

Maszlee’s supporters have alluded to his academic background and social activities, with others saying his defence of Naik was based on his belief in free speech.

Farouk said the criticism was expected, and questioned Maszlee’s openness as claimed by his supporters.

“If one were to argue that his defense of Zakir Naik was based on freedom of expression, then this freedom also requires him to grant the same to the Shias,” said Farouk, adding that it was only natural to link Maszlee’s opposition to the second largest Muslim denomination to his “Salafist” leaning.

“There cannot be a double standard in preaching for freedom of expression.”

Salafist Islam refers to a movement within Sunni Islam, with roots going back to Wahhabism, the supposedly puritan form of Islam that is officially adopted in Saudi Arabia.

Opposition to PPSMI

Farouk, a medical lecturer at Monash University Malaysia, who was once active with the Muslim Professionals Forum that Maszlee is also part of, said the calls for Mahathir to hold the education portfolio was based on the public’s confidence that he could initiate radical reforms in the sector.

This, he said, included the call by the Chinese education group Dong Zong to recognise the Unified Examination Certificate, and the pressure from Malay groups seeking to abolish the study of Science and Mathematics in English.

“Only he (Mahathir) has the strength and determination in facing this highly debatable issue,” said Farouk, who has supported past government initiatives under Mahathir to emphasise the use of English in schools.

“How do we compete at the International arena when we forego the most important language of science and technology in the 21st century?” he asked.

A policy championed by Mahathir, the Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English, or PPSMI, was aborted in 2011 by then education minister Muhyiddin Yassin, following protests from Malay groups.

The move was welcomed by Ikram, an umbrella organisation of Muslim groups, of which Maszlee is a committee member.

“We oppose any attempts to revive PPSMI because we are convinced that the decision by the education ministry is based on its internal findings,” the group had then said in a statement.

Maszlee, 44, who joined PPBM last March, won the Simpang Renggam parliamentary seat in Johor in the May 9 polls.

The former lecturer who taught subjects related to Islamic Jurisprudence at the International Islamic University was named as education minister after Mahathir changed his mind about holding the post himself.

Mahathir said he would abide by a Pakatan Harapan promise that the Prime Minister would not hold any other portfolio.

But within 24 hours of the announcement, over 60,000 signed an online petition urging Mahathir to return to the post, saying he “will bring much needed reforms to the education system in this country”.

Malaysia : Everything You Need to Know About Malaysia’s Upcoming Election


April 7, 2018

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-12/your-guide-to-malaysia-s-coming-general-election-quicktake-q-a

Everything You Need to Know About Malaysia’s Upcoming Election

By Anisah Shukry

‎December‎ ‎12‎, ‎2017‎ ‎4‎:‎00‎ ‎PM‎ ‎EST Updated on ‎April‎ ‎6‎, ‎2018‎ ‎12‎:‎45‎ ‎AM‎ ‎EDT

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Prime Minister Najib Razak with his supporters in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Malaysia is preparing for a general election, and the outlook is promising for Prime Minister Najib Razak — despite an uncomfortable past few years. Rising living costs that have squeezed Malaysians have been blamed in part on a goods and services tax introduced in 2015. And the scandal over the finances of the state-owned investment fund 1MDB, which was created under Najib, included allegations that hundreds of millions of dollars flowed through and around the fund and into personal accounts, including those of Najib and his family. (He denies wrongdoing.) Still, Najib is arguably in his strongest position since his narrow victory in the 2013 ballot, with economic growth at a three-year high and a divided opposition turning to the 92-year-old former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, for leadership.

  1. When will the election take place?

There’s still no exact date, but it must be held within 60 days of April 7 — the day parliament is dissolved. Najib, 64, announced the dissolution of the legislature April 6.

  1. How long has Najib been in charge?

Najib leads the party called United Malays National Organization, or UMNO, which has held power since independence in 1957 and is the most important member of the coalition that has ruled the country for 44 years. He became Prime Minister in 2009 and led the coalition — known as Barisan Nasional — to victory in 2013. However, Barisan Nasional secured its lowest number of parliamentary seats and experienced its first-ever loss of the popular vote, stoking optimism among opposition parties for the next election.

  1. What happened to that optimism?
Image result for Sadly missed Anwar Ibrahim

Without the charismatic Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition has lost its lustre, giving UMNO-BN led by Prime Minister Najib Razak the edge in GE-14.

It’s fizzled since Anwar Ibrahim, Najib’s fiercest critic and principal challenger, was jailed for sodomy in 2014. Anwar, 70, has denied the charges, saying they are politically motivated. He continues to wield influence on his People’s Justice Party from behind bars, but his imprisonment hastened the implosion of the opposition coalition which he had almost single-handedly held together. His supporters are pushing for Anwar to be prime minister once he’s freed, should the opposition win. He is scheduled to be released June 8, though he’s unable to contest elections because of a five-year ban from politics.

  1. Who leads the opposition in Anwar’s absence?

Mahathir, Malaysia’s longest-serving Premier and the one-time mentor of Najib, has been on a campaign to topple the prime minister. Once so dominant in Malaysian politics that he was referred to as “Dr. M,” Mahathir has struggled to gain traction for his new party — Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, or the Malaysian United Indigenous Party — which is trying to win over UMNO’s base of ethnic Malays. Anwar was a sworn enemy of Mahathir, who first put him in prison almost two decades ago, but the two have allied in a bid to oust Najib. The opposition coalition — known as Pakatan Harapan, or Pact of Hope — has put forward Mahathir to serve as Prime Minister until Anwar is eligible, which is by no means a formality: Anwar would first need to receive a royal pardon and to win a parliamentary seat.

  1. What other obstacles does the opposition face?
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A desolate Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

On April 5, Mahathir’s party received a 30-day ban from campaigning from a Ministry of Home Affairs department for failing to meet a deadline to submit documents. Mahathir plans to appeal the ban. Malaysia also just passed a law to fight fake news with prison sentences, a move that human rights organizations and opposition parties say may be used to stifle free speech ahead of the election. Najib says fake news damaged the ruling party’s campaign in the 2013 poll.

  1. Has the 1MDB scandal hurt Najib’s chances?

Probably not. A Malaysian inquiry cleared Najib of wrongdoing. And, while multiple probes continue, he hasn’t been identified as a target in any of them. Just six percent of young Malaysian adults said 1MDB was a top concern for them, according to a survey by the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research last year. Five percent said Najib’s integrity was a concern.

  1. Why has UMNO’s popularity held up for so long?

 

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A Confident UMNO President and Prime Minister Najib Razak

The party deployed populist policies years before Europe and the U.S. caught on, including spending billions annually on cash handouts and other aid for lower-income Malaysians. Race also plays a part: UMNO was set up to champion the needs of the ethnic Malays that make up about 69 percent of the population. (Chinese are 23 percent and Indians 7 percent). And a Merdeka Center for Opinion Research survey last year showed that Malay rights still top the list of important issues for Malay voters. Najib in December repeated his 2016 warning that Malays would be “beggars” in their own lands and that Islamic institutions would fall should the opposition take over. That said, ethnic and political discord trail far behind economic concerns as priorities for voters, according to the Merdeka Center.

  1. What are the main economic concerns?

Rising costs. Inflation reached an eight-year high in 2017 and voters are worried that the ringgit is not stretching as far as it used to. There also remains widespread unhappiness over the new consumption tax implemented, which the opposition has promised to repeal. The government is focusing on tackling the issues of affordable housing and youth unemployment. And in his most recent budget, Najib ordered up tax cuts for 2018. The opposition has pushed for greater freedom of speech and checks on abuses of power following a government crackdown on dissent that has seen media executives, activists and even a cartoonist detained under sedition laws.

Gathering Steam

Malaysian GDP growth gets timely boost for Najib

* Bloomberg economist consensus forecasts

Source for data through 2017: Ministry of Finance, Malaysia

  1. Are voters getting behind Najib?

The dissatisfaction that stoked unfavorable opinion polls in 2015 and street protests over 1MDB in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, seems to have dimmed. And Najib heads into the general election with a trump card up his sleeve: rising wages. Meantime, the opposition has struggled to make a serious dent in Barisan Nasional’s rural support bases to which Najib has pledged billions of dollars for infrastructure. Strongholds include the oil-rich Sabah and Sarawak states that delivered about a third of parliamentary seats in 2013 and without whose support Najib might have lost power. Ominously for his critics, the opposition coalition is at risk of losing its hold on Selangor, the most populous state, because it won’t cooperate with the country’s largest Islamic party. The government’s proposal to redraw electoral boundaries in Selangor could also damage the opposition’s chances in the state.

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