Malaysia: Race-based power sharing coalition is here to stay?


July 6, 2018

Malaysia: Race-based power sharing  coalition is here to stay?

By Darshan Singh@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

“Whether we like it or not, Malaysia’s political fundamentals are anchored in a race-based power sharing ideology, thus race politics will stay and BN is an established structure to effectively serve that purpose. All that BN needs is to adopt a moderate and inclusive approach moving forward.”–Darshan Singh

Image result for umno barisan nasional and pakatan harapan

A lot has happened since May 9, when Malaysians decided to alter the political landscape of the country, electing a loosely formed coalition called Pakatan Harapan (PH) into government. A devastating blow landed on the once mighty UMNO-led Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition when, for the first time in over 60 years, it lost the mandate to rule.

Never had I thought that this would be possible in my lifetime. I expected BN to lose a couple more seats but to win the election as usual.

While the majority of non-Malays were expected to vote for the PH coalition, what surprised me was the fact that a sizeable percentage of the Malay electorate decided to ditch BN as well. Traditionally, the majority of the Malay population had voted for BN, fearing a loss of political power if they did otherwise. This trend was expected to continue but unfortunately this time, it didn’t. Dr Mahathir Mohamad had successfully provided the necessary comfort in assuring that Malay rights and privileges would continue to be protected even if BN was no longer in power. After all, it was Mahathir who had indoctrinated the concept of supremacy during his previous 22 years as prime minister.

It will be interesting to see if the Malay electorate continues to vote for PH post-Mahathir in GE-15.

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UMNO Baru: More of the same racist politics under Dr. Achmed Zahid Hamidi from Pornorogo–Hidup Melayu

Personally, I think it was the inability of the former Prime Minister to offer any reasonable explanation for his alleged involvement in financial scandals which influenced the end result. It is a little far-fetched that BN did not expect to lose power, and even more amazing that the former Prime Minister was detached from ground realities.

Warning signs were all over that the people were disappointed and angry with the BN brand of politics, which was plagued by alleged corrupt practices and abuse of power and complete disregard for the principles of transparency, accountability and good governance. The only democratic value left was probably holding general elections on time.

True enough, with the seizure of hundreds of millions in cash and belongings from premises linked to the former Prime Minister, public perception on embezzlement is slowly becoming reality.

Since losing power, BN has been in disarray, desperately trying to recover from the shock election defeat. In such a situation, it does not help when one-time allies decide to jump ship and walk away with those who have newly acquired power. Effectively, there are only three parties left in the BN coalition, and at this point in time, it is not even certain if it will stay this way. There are obvious cracks visible even among its surviving members.

In reality, this election defeat should be viewed positively as an opportunity for BN to review its structure and ideology, correcting the mistakes of the past and emerging stronger. Being in the opposition can be useful to test the newly laid foundation which can be continuously improved until the next general election is called. People will surely appreciate an opposition which roars responsibly in Parliament.

Image result for  Zahid Hamidi

UMNO Baru’s Malay First President

Whether we like it or not, Malaysia’s political fundamentals are anchored in a race-based power sharing ideology, thus race politics will stay and BN is an established structure to effectively serve that purpose. All that BN needs is to adopt a moderate and inclusive approach moving forward.

The majority will continue to claim rights and privileges while the minority will scream racism. This will not change even if the odds are tilted in any other way as we are a selfish and racist society.

Darshan Singh is a FMT reader.

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

 

UMNO-Baru President Zahid Hamidi is good for Pakatan Harapan


July 2, 2018

New UMNO-Baru President Zahid Hamidi is good for Pakatan Harapan: He is a Plutocrat, not a Reformer

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Mariam Mokhtar and Mahathir

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was chosen as UMNO-Baru President. Forget about reforms. Forget change for the better of Malaysian society as a whole. Think more of the “same-old, same-old” Malay supremacy, and Islam will continue to be their best rhetoric.–Mariam Mokhtar

COMMENT | UMNO-Baru leaders crave respect. What they cannot have by proper means, they will grab through violence or by the creation of fear. Some senior leaders and key members of society are aware that the only way for these leaders their careers to advance was to be loyal to the leader.

While Malaysia was gripped by change and the need to reinvent itself as a proper multi-cultural, equal and just society, many UMNO-Baru members appear to have been in denial.

To make UMNO-Baru acceptable, a few drastic changes will have to be implemented. The deadwood must be thrown out. The concerns of the young and the grassroots must be addressed. Their intolerant racial and religious rhetoric have to be switched off.

Their leaders must dare to be different and stop blaming others for their faults and misdemeanors.

To show the rest of the country that they mean business, the leaders would need to charge those who were let off lightly, or those who evaded prosecution for crimes committed in the past, because certain members of the judiciary were their “members”.

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There exists in the party, a give-and-take community. The leader promised dedak or positions of power; his minions offered their allegiance in exchange for these offerings.

Last Saturday, we saw the fruits of this labour, when former Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was chosen as UMNO-Baru President. Forget about reforms. Forget change for the better of Malaysian society as a whole. Think more of the “same-old, same-old” Malay supremacy, and Islam will continue to be their best rhetoric.

Good at manufacturing respect

UMNO-Baru leaders are good at manufacturing respect. Every five years, They make the poor queue-up to receive aid in the form of money, or food parcels. It is pitiful to watch sane, able and decent men and women rush forward to receive aid, especially after a ceramah. It is dehumanising.

The leaders probably felt a rush of adrenaline as the taxpayers’ money was used to demonstrate their largesse. They wanted to buy the people’s respect.

Perhaps, the recipients of the aid had little choice. What chance would they have of enjoying these simple perks, at other times? Little did they know that, over the years, they were so accustomed to receiving “freebies” that successive governments have found it difficult to wean them off this dedak (bribery) and handout culture.

Sadly, the UMNO-Baru party presidential election is a reflection of this dedak phenomenon.

Long before the members of UMNO-Baru voted for their President, most Malaysians wished them well. Concerned Malaysians hoped that in the interests of true democracy, a strong leader would guide UMNO-Baru and form a worthy Opposition party.

The party and Malaysian society have long been tarred with accusations of money politics and corruption. UMNO-Baru members swore blind loyalty to the leader, allegedly took money he offered in exchange for their silence, closed one eye to corruption, and despite allegations in overseas reports of rampant theft of the taxpayers’ money, were full of praise for their leaders.

 

UMNO-Baru–The Status Quo  Dedak Team

They may have been shocked by the excessive lifestyles of the leaders (and the leaders’ families). They may have been secretly envious of the trappings of power that the leaders enjoyed, but few senior politicians said anything.

Greed had enslaved both them and their leaders. Fear of losing their position and being left out in the cold, when favours were being dispensed, preyed on their minds.

In the run-up to the UMNO-Baru presidential election, we wished common sense would prevail and they would reject tarnished candidates, but this was an impossible task.

From the start, the three most experienced and viable candidates were the same recycled politicians. Two other candidates had attempted to bid for the presidency but they were not household names.

He is no Reformer–He is a Plutocrat cum Dedak in Chief

When the results were finally made known, later in the day, it was clear to all, that they had sealed the fate of the party. Their choice of Zahid does not bode well for the party or the nation. Perhaps, miracles can happen.

The man whom many despise for attacking Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad for his great-grandfather’s foreign roots was allegedly born in Indonesia, to Indonesian parents (in Ponorogo).

At least Mahathir’s grandparents and parents were Malayan, but not Zahid, whose parents were definitely Indonesian, until they allegedly decided to settle in Malaysia, in the early 1960s.

When the former, disgraced PM, Najib Abdul Razak knew he had to face the 93-year-old Mahathir in GE14, his cabinet, especially Zahid, were prepared to sling as much mud in Mahathir’s way as they could find.

As then Home Minister as well, Zahid would dismiss claims by the people that violent crime was rising. He claimed that Malaysians were confused by the “perception” of rising crime.

When your Home Minister says you are wrong, who do you approach to help you, when it is your word, your trauma and your loss, against the authorities?

You may think that the business of UMNO-Baru and the election of Zahid as president is not our business. On the contrary, it is!

Malaysia will be held to ransom unless UMNO-Baru members stage an internal revolt or vote of no confidence. New blood is needed to rejuvenate the party – or form a new one.


MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and President of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO). Blog, Twitter.

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

 

GE-14–Malaysia Goes to Game Changing Polls: Dr. Mahathir Mohamad Vs Incumbent Prime Minister


April 9, 2013

GE-14–Malaysia Goes to Game Changing Polls: Dr. Mahathir Mohamad Vs Incumbent Prime Minister

https://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/malaysia-14th-general-election/

Image result for Mahathir Vs Najib 2018

 

Asia Sentinel has prepared a three-part package on Malaysia’s forthcoming election. For an in-depth profile of Najib Razak, see Najib Razak: A Kleptocrat Skilled at the Game. For an in-depth profile of Mahathir Mohamad, see Mahathir: Malaysia’s Prophet of Doom or Second Messiah?

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak took to television onApril 6 to announce he would dissolve parliament as of tomorrow, clearing the way for the country’s 14th general election. Although he has 60 days to call the election, the common wisdom is that it will be held as soon as possible, perhaps even within 10 days, in an effort to keep the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition on the back foot.

Although there is no reliable polling and the mainstream media, predicting a government victory, are wholly owned by pro-government parties and considered unreliable, political observers in Kuala Lumpur say the Barisan Nasional is running scared despite boasts that the ruling coalition would gain back its two-thirds majority in Parliament, which it lost in 2008.

If anything, the race is shaping up as a monumental skirmish between the embattled Najib and the 92-year-old former Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, who has been cris-crossing the country for months, campaigning to drive him and the United Malays National Organization, which leads the national coalition, from power.

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As an indication of Barisan uneasiness, the Registrar of Societies announced it has suspended Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, which Mahathir heads, and it is uncertain if the party can mount a legal or administrative challenge to participate within the 30 days for appeal. The party isn’t allowed to use its logo or participate in any party activity. With Mahathir at its helm, it was expected to play a crucial role in garnering rural Malay votes. It will instead campaign as part of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat, headed by jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Image result for Malaysia's Registrar of Societies

Malaysia’s Ideal Civil Servant– Saya yang menurut perentah (I am yours obediently)

“The Registrar was already indicating they would suspend or deregister the party because they hadn’t submitted their annual accounts,” said a Malaysian political analyst with close ties to the ruling coalition, “but Mahathir maintains that under the law they weren’t required to because they haven’t been in existence for a year. Basically, the Registrar was acting on the bidding of Najib. We knew they would be suspended or deregistered.”

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Najib Razak’s Publicity Seeking Civil Servant, Tan Sri Irwan Serigar (right)

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Chief Secretary to the Najib Razak’s Government Tan Sri Dr. Ali Hamsa

 

Given the loyalty of the courts and the administration to the ruling coalition, it seems unlikely that the party will be able to participate. Najib, said the analyst, “is running shit-scared because he knows if he loses, he goes to jail and his entire family will be wearing orange jumpsuits,” a reference to Malaysia’s prison garb.

The fact is that there is widespread disenchantment with the Barisan after years of spectacular scandals. The civil service is bloated by make-work jobs for thousands of ethnic Malays, Members of Parliament have been bribed by Najib to keep him at the Head of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), favored oligarchs are regularly awarded rent-seeking contracts at inflated costs, the courts are clearly in thrall to the government and protesting UMNO and government officials have been driven from power.

Economic issues break for the Opposition, with 72 percent of voters nationwide saying the rising cost of living, economic hardship, jobs and other related matters, remained their topmost concern in the most recent poll by Merdeka Centre. Some 29 percent of respondents said they didn’t possess a minimum of RM500 in savings for an emergency and 40 percent said they regularly delay paying utility and other bills.

 Although all news of it has been suspended domestically and outside news sources including Sarawak Report and Asia Sentinel have been blocked in Malaysia by the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, Najib and UMNO are caught in the coils of what is arguably Asia’s current biggest scandal, with US$4.5 billion having gone missing from 1Malaysia Development Bhd., a state-backed firm whose purpose was to invest government funds for income purposes.  US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose Justice Department officials have sequestered hundreds of millions of dollars of assets traced to Najib, his immediate family or close associates.

However, with only 10 days or so of campaigning, the odds are against the Opposition. Earlier this week the government rammed a bill through the Parliament in record time outlawing what it called “fake news” with penalties up to six years in prison and a fine of RM500,000 (US$129,000). The bill, whose definitions are imprecise at best, is aimed at Malaysia’s energetic social media scene, just about the last source of independent comment in the country. Facebook reaches 80.8 percent of the population, YouTube another 6.12 percent. A sizeable and energetic corps of bloggers – including Mahathir – regularly savages the government. The country’s most reliable independent news site, Malaysiakini, is said to be deeply worried by the legislation.

In addition, the government in March handed down a delineation exercise redistributing parliamentary districts that would seemingly make it nearly impossible for the opposition to win a majority, crowding as many as 150,000 opposition voters into some districts, while government-backed seats have as few as 4,000. Mahathir has exhorted Malays to go to the polls, saying participation of at least 85 percent will be necessary to overcome the gerrymandering.

The sedition, government secrets, printing and presses and security laws have been used to cow the opposition and keep them at bay. Anwar remains in prison on charges that are universally condemned by human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.  The country has fallen to 144th in global rankings by Reporters Without Borders in terms of press freedom.

In addition, Najib has skillfully played religious and ethnic issues in a country where racial tensions are never very far from the surface, splitting the rural-based fundamental Parti Islam se-Malaysia with an offer of legislation to allow shariah law in the party’s Kelantan base. That caused a major segment of the party to quit and form a new party that so far has gained little traction.

The common wisdom in Malaysia is that even with all of the drawbacks, antipathy towards the government and other negative forces, the Barisan probably will win a majority of parliamentary seats although not a majority of voters.

“It’s going to be very close,” the political analyst said. “The opposition say delineation affects them a little bit and that they may lose by a small majority as of last week. But at the same time, if public sentiment is totally against UMNO, who knows, they could come in by a whisker.”

That raises the question what Najib is likely to do. On May 13, 1969, when the Chinese-dominated opposition won the popular vote although the then-ruling alliance took a reduced number of seats in parliament, racial unrest led to a declaration of a state of national emergency amid Malay-Chinese racial violence that took an official 196 lives, although western diplomatic sources put the figure at more than 600, most of them Chinese.

Although racial tensions persist to today, that doesn’t imply that the situation could explode again, especially if Mahathir, long a champion of Malay superiority, is leading the Opposition.

 

Who is afraid of Dr Mahathir Mohamad–Najib Razak, of course. Why? Read Mariam’s plea


January 22, 2018

Who is afraid of Dr Mahathir Mohamad–Najib Razak, of course. Why? Read Mariam’s plea

by Mariam Mokhtar

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Najib Bullshit

He is turning to God for help, since most Malaysians turn against him

COMMENT | As Dr Mahathir Mohamad looks back on his successes and his achievements for the nation, his recollections are tinged with sadness.

The former Prime Minister is not blind. He sees a nation which is torn apart. The Malays are focused on life after death. The politicians whom he once mentored are greedy and put self above service to the nation.

Mahathir realizes that he has one last chance to make things right, for Malaysia. He needs to repair his tarnished reputation and he knows he cannot do it alone. The opposition parties cannot do it by themselves, nor can we act on our own; but together, we have a chance.

Mahathir’s resurgence/re-emergence into our lives and politics is one of many ironies. If most of the people he locked away under the ISA are prepared to work with him for a better Malaysia, why not you?

Many Malays live a hand-to-mouth existence, wondering how they will pay for their next meal.The rural Malays identify with Mahathir. They will listen to him, and the language he uses to weave his magic over them is simple and straightforward. 1MDB has very little traction with the Malays, but the GST has hit them hard.

Mahathir knows that they have no knowledge of money trails, offshore banks or money laundering. These are all alien concepts to them. Where the Opposition has been unable to enter the Malay rural heartlands, Mahathir can.

In Mahathir’s time, you rarely heard people in the entertainment world talking about the cost of living. Today, singers and actresses have been vocal about the many hardships of Malaysians.

When the current crop of ministers and senior politicians criticise these celebrities, they make matters worse and drive home the message that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is out of touch with the ordinary Malaysians.

When Mahathir and Anwar introduced changes to the local Malaysian Islamic scene, it was to counter the rising popularity of PAS at the time. PAS felt energized by the Islamic revolution that had taken over Iran. Three-and-a-half decades later, Iran is seeing pockets of resistance against the rising conservatism, which has taken hold in Iran, while Malaysia appears to be trapped in a time warp.

Malaysians swell with pride when they see the Petronas Twin Towers, but Mahathir is aware that the soul of the country is as cold as the steel and concrete in its foundations, and lacks moral fiber.

The national car project, Proton, mobilized the rural folk and gave them a form of independence, but Najib has sold it to the People’s Republic of China. Under Mahathir, the national airline, MAS, connected Malaysia to six continents, but today, London is its only European destination.

UMNO-Baru has always told its Malay support base that it is the only party which can protect the Malays and defend Islam, lest the DAP-led opposition, which will undermine the position of the Malays.

What can Najib say or do with Mahathir at the helm of the opposition? Mahathir is neither Chinese, nor a DAP stooge. In fact, it is Najib who appears to have “sold” Malaysia to the mainland Chinese.

In recent days, UMNO-Baru said that it was Abdul Razak Hussein, Najib’s father, who rescued Mahathir from the political wilderness, after he was banished from the party by Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra. They failed to mention that Razak helped create FELDA, but that his son has destroyed FELDA.

Mahathir was involved in the constitutional crisis of 1987; he had his spat with the judiciary and subsequently created the new party, UMNO-Baru. He knows the party’s weaknesses and strengths. He is prepared to destroy UMNO-Baru because he can see that it has become a monster. He is the person who is best qualified to do the job.

Mahathir attracts record crowds in villages

Image result for Mahathir at Bersih
Image result for Mahathir at BersihCry Freedom for Malaysia

 

When Mahathir visits the villages, he attracts record crowds. He does not need much publicity, whereas when Najib goes on these village walkabouts, he has been known to have a bunting of his father, Razak, and leaflets, reminding people of his father’s greatness. How insecure is that?

We hear allegations that, in the past, Mahathir admonished, and threatened to sack, heads of departments who refused to kowtow to him. Today, Najib and his ministers openly threaten to sack teachers or civil servants who vote for, or support the opposition. Things must be desperate in today’s UMNO-Baru.

We are all a product of Mahathir’s policies. What is done, is done. We cannot cry over spilled milk, but we can at least ensure that we take precautions, to prevent a recurrence.

Today, we are on the cusp of a new beginning, but we have the moaners, complaining about Mahathir and the past, rather than focusing on the future.

What is there to lose, if we work together with Mahathir to rebuild Malaysia? He is not going to live forever. The opposition politicians are not so stupid that they will allow him to build a new Mahathir empire.

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Their future depends on Malaysians to do the right thing, says Mariam Mokhtar

Lessons have been learned, but you need to have a modicum of trust. Would you prefer to live in the past and continue moaning, or spoil your votes, or boycott GE-14? Or are you ready to take this leap forward and change? It is not about you, or me, or Mahathir. It is about rebuilding Malaysia!


MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO). Blog, Twitter.

Read more at https://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/409495#g1Tl4CXPrAb5XL2k.99

 

The Undoing of Pakatan


January 15, 2018

The Undoing of Pakatan

Simon Sinek

SIMON Sinek’s earlier book tells us to always start by asking why. The “why” of something is what drives people into throwing their passion into their work and their actions. He uses this to describe how Apple manages to entice customers.

Similarly, if you read Naomi Klein’s book on corporations, she tells us that products such as Apple’s devices are not just marketing an electronic device, it is about selling a brand.

With these two concepts, enter Pakatan Harapan. So why should one vote for Pakatan Harapan? Well, because they wish to reduce corruption, end kleptocracy, save the nation, ensure equality somewhat for everyone, and even look towards correcting whatever else is wrong in this country – like how the Premier League isn’t shown on television.

Personally, I didn’t even know that was a wrong thing since I don’t watch football. Either I’ve been blind to that fact, or the enticement of free football is pure escapism, but let’s get back to the topic at hand.

 Pakatan’s brand has always been to right the multiple injustices in the country, or to use Star Wars pop-culture, to bring balance to The Force. Unfortunately, their narrative has been complicated by asking Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to become their candidate for Prime Minister.

And this is why in the last week, Pakatan Harapan supporters and politicians have gone out of their way barraging the press with letters voicing their support for Mahathir and how there is no better candidate to win the Malay votes.

Let us be frank – Pakatan needs Mahathir “only” to win the Malay votes. And for that, they have sacrificed their “why” – reducing corruption, end kleptocracy, ensure equality and correcting the wrongs in this country – for the chance to win over enough Malays to get into the seat of power.

And this is why I often joke that whenever Mahathir talks about all these topics, even at the anti-kleptocracy rally – does anyone bother carrying a mirror to give the messenger some hint of the very audacity of the whole situation?

Image result for Mariam Mokhtar and Mahathir

 

Subsequently, you will notice that Pakatan supporters – the ones who chided Mahathir as “Mahafiraun” or even “Mahazalim”, have now had to come out to undo this narrative of an evil old dictator rivalling Mugabe which they have been selling for a decade.

And it isn’t working. Instead, Malaysians who were hardcore Pakatan Rakyat supporters now look at the pro-opposition activists in confusion.

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Hishamuddin Rais wants to get rid of UMNO, not Mahathir: UMNO-Baru was created by Mahathir after 1987  Party Crisis

One example of this is Hishamuddin Rais, who for so long condemned Mahathir as the major cause of the problems in Malaysia. And yet, at a forum last week, he was open enough to admit all that can be put aside because he wants to get rid of UMNO, not Mahathir.

And yet, here is the self professed non-government individual, in his own words in 2006, published in Central Market’s The Rice Cooker Shop. The title? Mahathir dan Labu-Labinya. In it Hisham admits that he would rather “trust Ibrahim Ali than Mahathir”, and how he revels in the fact that Mahathir had been abandoned by his own supporters.

Similarly, you have Mariam Mokhtar writing in asking who if not Mahathir. Her readers are just as confused, because this is contrary to everything she has stood for as highlighted in her Malaysiakini column in 2013 entitled “Apa lagi Mahathir mahu?”.

Image result for Mariam Mokhtar and Mahathir

In her own words: “Until we get a change in government, only one man can stop Mahathir’s deleterious effects on the nation – Najib Abdul Razak – but he either won’t or can’t bring himself to perform this saintly task. Such is the hold that Mahathir has over Najib.”

And yet, now she is backing Mahathir to the hilt because she wants that change in government, even if it is with the man who “cares for nothing but the continuation of his legacy, through his son, Mukhriz”.

This is Pakatan Harapan’s problem and why they will lose voters more than they gain. Primarily, it is because the Malays don’t vote for persona, they vote for brands – we have seen this with Semangat 46 even with the support of Tun Hussein Onn and Tunku Abdul Rahman, we have seen this with Onn Jaafar and his Parti Negara. Pakatan’s bet is that this will be proven untrue.

Second, their problem is that they have tainted their own brand, their own “why” by admitting the very person they accused of causing various problems. They used Mahathir as their scapegoat and now it seems they are using him as their idol.

French philosopher Jacques Ellul wrote that once propaganda has crystallized, confusion will ensue when you try and change the narrative. This sums up the problem Pakatan is facing. After 10 years of selling the same message, they now have to market something that has turned 180 degrees in less than two months.

And that confusion, that hypocrisy by their supporters, that double standard worthy of the very people they are trying to oust, will lose them the election.

Hafidz Baharom is a public relations practitioner.

 

Mahathir Changes Malaysia’s Political Equation


January 10, 2018

Mahathir Changes Malaysia’s Political Equation

by Mariam Mokhtar

https://www.asiasentinel.com

Image result for Mahathir Mohamad

The battle lines for Malaysia’s 14th General Election have been laid, with the 92-year-old former Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, teaming up with Malaysian opposition parties in a bid to oust the current premier, Najib Abdul Razak, and wrest power away from the United Malays National Organization, which has led the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition since independence in 1963.

According to UMNO insiders, Najib is extremely confident. He believes the Barisan, which also includes the Malaysian Chinese Association and the Malaysian Indian Congress, could – with the help of almost-brutal gerrymandering – win as 140 seats in the 222-member parliament and, if things break their way, even take back 148-vote two-thirds majority that the coalition had held for decades

Mahathir’s selection as potential premier, opposition leaders say, could dramatically change that equation and bring down a party and coalition rife with corruption and cronyism. Individuals close to Najib have been charged in the biggest kleptocracy case ever brought by the United States Justice Department, which has confiscated a vast array of Malaysian-owned assets in the United States.

At the center of Malaysia’s politics is a racial calculus in which Malays fear that the Chinese, who dominate the country’s business world, would come to dominate the political one as well.

Image result for Najib Razak

Prime Minister Najib Razak needs PAS and the moronic Hadi Awang to secure rural Malay voters who have been conditioned to think that Islam is under threat.

With Mahathir at the helm, analysts say, Najib – picked as a protégé decades ago by Mahathir – can’t blame the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party for being the driving force for the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition. During his years as Prime Minister, Mahathir was a Malay supremacist even though he is only half-Malay. His father came from the Indian subcontinent (Kerala).

Nor could Najib use the argument that the Chinese will take over the nation, which has been a hobgoblin to frighten the rural Malay electorate for decades. Mahathir, who dominated UMNO and Malaysian politics as head of UMNO for 23 years from 1981 to 2003, is legally a Malay Muslim.

Mahathir is the undisputed come-back kid. The party he founded, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), has managed to unite the leaders of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), the Democratic Action Party (DAP), and Aminah, a splinter that split away from the rural-based, fundamentalist Parti Islam se-Malaysia, or PAS.

The much-awaited GE-14 is expected to be a viciously contested general election. It will also be Najib’s toughest. On January 8, Pakatan Harapan announced that Mahathir would be their interim Prime Minister until Anwar Ibrahim, the charismatic opposition figure who has been imprisoned on what many consider to be spurious charges since 2015, would be freed. This was not the news that Najib wanted.

Social media has been abuzz with views about Mahathir’s nomination, including a report that Najib’s adviser, Habibur Rahman, had approached both DAP leader Lim Guan Eng and Anwar’s daughter Nurul separately to offer them “attractive incentives” to try and broker a deal. His request was simple. He did not want DAP or PKR to withdraw from the election, or to support BN in GE-14. He merely wanted them to reject the nomination of Mahathir as the interim candidate for the opposition coalition. The request was reportedly rejected outright.

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The Malay Dilemma–Mahathir’s Malay Supremacy (Ketuanan Melayu)

Anti-Mahathir critics have issued stark warnings amid signs that they are ganging-up on the former premier, an authoritarian figure who ruled the country with an iron fist, at one point triggering a roundup called Operation Lalang (1987) that swept up journalists, civil libertarians and the opposition figures with whom he is now making common cause without habeas corpus and jailing them for months under the country’s colonial-era Internal Security Act.

It is unknown if Mahathir has belatedly discovered, now that he is on the other side, the value of a free press and an independent parliament and judiciary and the other institutions that he neutered as the country’s leader.

One Perak based-political observer called Mahathir “damaged goods. His gambles and ego projects, such as attempting to corner the tin market, huge forex losses, (the Proton national car project) and the Petronas Twin Tower, have cost the nation too much.

“He caused irreparable damage to our judiciary; entrenched institutional racism in the country and started the slide in our educational standards. He cannot be trusted to run the country again – even for a day.”

Image result for dr. kua kia soong

Dr Kua  Kia Soong and Dr Anne Munro-Kua–Civil Society’s Intellectual Couple.

Kua Kia Soong, the Director of Suaram, a Human Rights NGO, who was jailed Operation Lalang, has continued to demand that Mahathir enumerate the sins he has committed and apologize for each of them.

Kua has been slammed for his intransigence and his refusal to see the bigger picture, which is to get rid of Najib and win GE-14. One person said, “Can he not see that Mahathir can win over more Malay voters? Does he think that the opposition will allow themselves to be under Mahathir’s yoke, if they win GE-14?”

Another political observer from Singapore said, “Dr M can shift 5 percent of Malay votes, which no other leader could. That can be critical.”

Last December, when it was first mooted that Mahathir would become the interim PM, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Abdul Rahman Dahlan, described it as a “sad day” for the opposition, and said, “…they have been in the political arena for so long, but they couldn’t find a younger candidate or fresh blood to become the leader of Malaysia. It’s sad and actually surprising, and I do not think it will go down well with the people.”

Khairy Jamaluddin, the Sports and Youth Minister, has waded into the debate about Mahathir’s nomination and said that the country will be plunged into chaos and political instability.

When Mahathir wrote his controversial book “The Malay Dilemma,” he was not afraid to list the Malays’ shortcomings, but he gave them a new sense of identity. The Ketuanan (Malays first) myth.

One political analyst said, “Although Ketuanan Melayu was detrimental to the young democracy, it provided the desired momentum to drive the Malays from their feudal mentality. With Mahathir’s affirmative action policies, the Malay middle class grew, but so did their ego and greed. They cast aside their moral values. For many, there was no going back.”

The upcoming general election will undisputedly be one of many firsts and ironies.

Image result for The greedy and Corrupt Rosmah MansorPower hungry, corrupt, greedy,  and ambitious Rosmah Mansor is believed to be the driving force behind the hen-pecked Prime Minister Najib Razak.

In GE-14, the PM and his former mentor will face one another from opposite sides of the political divide. Mahathir didn’t figure the “self-styled First Lady of Malaysia” (FLOM) into the mentoring equation. The equally power hungry, corrupt, greedy,  and ambitious Rosmah Mansor is believed to be the driving force behind Najib, who redrew the political script.

The other irony is that Mahathir was rescued from the political wilderness by Razak Hussein, Najib’s father, when he was banned from UMNO in 1969 for insubordination towards Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s first Prime Minister. Today, Mahathir seeks to destroy the political future of his savior’s son.

The problems such as cronyism and Malay nationalism that plague Malaysia today had their roots during Mahathir’s tenure. The controls that the nation’s founding fathers formulated, such as the independence of the judiciary, were dismantled by Mahathir.

Mahathir clipped the wings of the country’s nine sultans, whom he felt were abusing their power, especially when it was alleged that he had to rescue at least one sultan from gambling debts and placate an angry public when another sultan was accused of inflicting grievous bodily harm on a subject.

If he were to win GE-14, would he continue to follow this path? Some members of the rakyat would like to think that he would.Today, despite criticizing Mahathir for his past policies, Najib has honed them.

Najib has until August 2018 to call the elections, but he is aware that timing is everything. The indications are that he will call GE-14 after the Chinese New Year, which falls on 16 February. He will not wait till after June, because that is when Anwar Ibrahim is due to be released. With his release, a newly energized rakyat would demand that Anwar be pardoned and be made the PM. Najib cannot afford to have this happen.

Najib cannot hold GE-14 now, because the Selangor state’s redistricting exercise will not be complete until March. Selangor is the jewel in the economic crown. If he could wrest Selangor from the opposition, it would be a political coup.

Najib had hoped to put Pakatan Harapan on the spot, and to capitalize on the fact that the opposition coalition is currently leaderless. But the announcement of Mahathir’s opposition leadership put paid to that. Mahathir as interim PM does not auger well for Najib.

In the past, Najib and his political machinery focused their attacks on Anwar, then shifted the focus onto the DAP. Observers will have noticed the drip-drip effect of perceived “manufactured” threats against Islam, such as a baseless claim by a pro-UMNO lecturer that Selangor State Assembly speaker Hannah Yeoh, in her book, “Becoming Hannah” was advocating converting Malays to Christianity.

In recent months, the party apparatchiks have increased their attacks against Mahathir, tell-tale signs that they see him as a serious threat. That will explain the increasing criticisms of Mahathir, his past policies and his closest aides.

The internal revenue department has scrutinized both his business friends’ and sons’ income tax returns. Even family members have not been spared. Mukhriz, Mahathir’s son, was horrified to discover that his daughter’s jet-set lifestyle was exposed.

Mahathir as the interim PM is disastrous for Najib. This will stymie UMNO’s attempt to denounce a PH PM such as Lim Kit Siang or Lim Guan Eng, because he is Chinese. Najib cannot then say that the DAP or the Chinese are dictating the charge of the Opposition.

With Mahathir at the helm, the Malays, both urban and rural, are more confident to support the Opposition. Indoctrination is strongest amongst the Malays, unlike the non-Malay community. Malays are still fearful and wary of being dominated by the Chinese. Issues like 1MDB have little traction amongst them, but the rising cost of living, and the scandals surrounding FELDA, have hurt them most.

GE-14 means different things, to different people. The rakyat sees GE-14 as a means to remove an oppressive government and put Malaysia on the right track.

Najib and UMNO see GE-14 as a struggle for political survival and physical freedom. And while a few may see the election as a clash between a mentor and his pupil, or a clash between two warlords Mahathir himself sees it as a means to restore his tarnished reputation after the decline in the moral values of the Malays, that his policies have created.

Mariam Mokhtar is a regular correspondent for Asia Sentinel