What the 1998 Reformasi taught me

October 4, 2018

What the 1998 Reformasi taught me

This is an article I never thought I’d have to write. Somehow, the strange post-election events have sparked off a stream of socio-political events that are even stranger than the idea of a 93-year-old man once dubbed Public Enemy No. 1 being back in the Prime Minister’s seat.

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The series of harsh statements by students and activists against Anwar Ibrahim, his wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and their daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar shocked me more, in some ways, than the commando raid of his house in 1998. I feel compelled as a citizen to recount not just what happened in 1998, but my feelings and positive growth as an individual, a citizen, a Muslim and an academic for the benefit of a new generation of Malaysians.

In 1998, Anwar Ibrahim was unceremoniously sacked by the Prime Minister and UMNO President. The charge was firstly about some guy named Nalla who owned a gun, but then we heard whispers of flings with women, and ultimately the big headlines in Utusan Malaysia, Berita Harian and The Star on the alleged sodomy of Azizan the driver, Munawar Anees, his political brother, and Sukma Darmawan, his adopted Indonesian brother.

As I recall, Munawar and Sukma were detained under the ISA while Azizan sang like a canary. A few weeks later, an exhausted Munawar and Sukma were brought to court to confess to the accusation of sodomy. After they were freed, they both retracted their confessions and recounted the torture the Police had inflicted to force the confessions. The Judiciary, Police and academia ignored their retractions and let an innocent man stand trial in a Malaysian kangaroo court.

Can Mahathir make the spirit of <I>reformasi</I> fade away?

Then came the incredible and dangerous drama of balaclava-clad commandos with machine guns storming the house of the former Deputy Prime Minister. Anwar was whisked away without anyone’s knowledge of where he was being held or what condition he was in.  A few days later, he emerged with a bloodied black eye amid news that he had been beaten by the “gangster” Police Chief, Rahim Noor. Anwar’s famous black eye appeared even in foreign media like CNN, Newsweek and Times.

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After that came damage control efforts with the Prime Minister accusing Anwar of inflicting the injury on himself. I will never forget the sneer on his lips as he spoke, describing how Anwar could have given himself the black eye. I will also never forget how a member of his Cabinet, a loud-mouthed woman, demonstrated with a drinking glass how Anwar could have pulled it off. We heard later that Anwar had suffered a severe spinal injury and almost lost his life, left to bleed after the “heroic” efforts of the then-Police Chief who has now been appointed as a peacemaker.

I also need to mention how the court allowed the Chief Public Prosecutor to bungle the dates and change them so many times, even allowing the prosecutor to place the sodomy incidents at an unfinished condo at an unknown date and time. The accused was supposed to have committed the act from one date to another, which amounted to several months in total. No specified day or time. Only many specified days and times. And the “honourable” court allowed that.

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Then came the trial of Anwar, with sordid details and the unforgettable parading of mattresses in and out of the courts. The court allowed this funny but shameful act while the prime minister and his Cabinet watched from the comfort of their homes – in glee, I assume.

No one said anything about how the law and justice was shamed and desecrated. No mufti said anything. No vice-chancellors said anything. No highly paid public servant said anything. The whole nation watched as one man’s honour, dignity and integrity was raped in front of RTM, TV3 and the newsprint.

Finally, Anwar was convicted – not of sodomy, but of “abuse of power” by asking the Police to extract a confession on a planned political assassination. So he was convicted and sentenced to six years in jail. He was imprisoned before the trial, during the trial and after the trial.

Outside the prison, the then-President of UMNO mercilessly bashed Anwar’s legacy, character and contributions at every UMNO convention – no different from the antics of Rahim Noor, punching a blindfolded man whose hands were tied. For this, the UMNO President was considered a Malay hero with a morality second only to the Prophet. The great Malay hero berated his rival, knowing full well that the man in prison had no means of rebuttal. Such was our prime minister then – the great leader.

What did this all mean to me?

In 1998, I was appointed as an Associate Professor at a public university in the south. I was 36. My career was just beginning to take off, with my books, media articles, public talks and television appearances on the issue of Islamic and heritage architecture.

While building up my career, I read every piece of news and attended every ceramah on Anwar and the Reformasi at every chance I got, sometimes dragging my wife and two daughters to wet padangs filled with mud puddles. I bought every CD I could find on speeches by PAS leaders and Ezam, Saifuddin, Azmin and Mat Sabu. I still have the CD of the Deklarasi Permatang Pauh where the Reformasi was born.

The first thing I learned from the first decade of Reformasi was that a prime minister could be powerful enough to let Anwar be taken off like a terrorist without his loved ones knowing where or how he was. It was hard for me to imagine how my wife and daughters would feel if I were in Anwar’s shoes – not knowing where her husband was or whether their father was dead or alive.

I was shocked not only at the sheer amount of power but also at the attitude of our highly paid religious officials, professors, judges and civil servants. Never mind the police, they were acting like the personal army of the prime minister and Umno. Wahhhhhh, I thought, you can simply pick a fellow up in the middle of the night while brandishing an M16 at him, his wife, his children and his unarmed friends, then take him, beat him up and come out telling us that he punched himself in the eye.

Is the prime minister a person elected by the people in trust to uphold law and justice and preserve the dignity of citizens, or is he no better than a godfather or triad boss who can toy with lives at will? I cannot describe the shock to my social, psychological and religious system of life and understanding.

Before 1997, we were the darling of Asia, looking towards a multiracial and multi-faith nation under the hardworking ethos of Mahathir and the civilisational values of Anwar. Before 1997, I thought we had discovered the Malaysian Renaissance as opposed to the Melayu Reminiscence. But in 1998, we became, under the Prime Minister’s colourful leadership, a third-rate nation ruling with guns and murders. That was when I understood that what we had was not democracy, but a modern feudal version of the old Malay raja-ship criticised by Abdullah Munshi for being uncivilised and unIslamic.

If Najib Razak popularised the term “cash is king” in 2016, in 1998 it was “titles and projects are king”. I learned that the higher the status of a person in society paid by taxpayers, the quieter one becomes in accepting what would normally constitute indecency and pure unadulterated corruption of power.

The new generation of Malaysians shouting at the steps of the education ministry and the 30-something-year-old NGO activists must know that Anwar could have easily left the country in the months before the commandos stormed his house. In fact, I think the prime minister and Umno would have loved it if Anwar had followed those of his friends who fled to another country and were safe as houses. But Anwar stayed on and went on a whirlwind ceramah tour until the Prime Minister and UMNO saw the damage and unleashed their “private muscle”: the Police. The Police were supposed to be an institution enforcing what is constitutionally right, but the leadership of the force understood only “titles and projects”. Harapkan pagar, pagar makan padi.

If Anwar had left the country, we would not be where we are today, I think. Knowing the gullible Malay society, as long as there was UMNO and a Malay presence in the Cabinet, the universities, the army and the police, things would go on as before.

I am not a professor of political science, but I think Anwar’s unjust incarcerations on two occasions not only brought down a despicable racist party in UMNO Baru (formed by Mahathir after the 1987 tussle with Ku Li), but also put a serious dent in the vast institution of the Judiciary, Police and shameful public universities.

Of course, historians are always quick to point out that one man alone can never take charge of the course of history, but truth be told, history is littered with the ideas and suffering of individuals: one Muhammad, one Gandhi, one Mandela or one Martin Luther King. Today’s activists and students may cry foul upon reading my article and say it is melodramatic or worse, a propaganda piece paid for by the Anwar camp.

But I have been writing for 20 years against the mainstream of Malay and official Islam, which has nearly cost me my career. I have done so because of my sentiments following the first 10 years of Reformasi. That decade was my coming of age as a Muslim, a Malaysian and an academic.

We must know who the rightful leadership of this country should be, and the only clues we have are in our history. Who was the victim, and who was the leader who became corrupted by power? I believe people can change through great suffering. Leaders who have never tasted true suffering can work with anyone and make pacts with any party as long as their personal agendas and egos are satisfied.

The first decade of Reformasi taught me never again to fully trust politicians in power, high or low ranking religious officials proclaiming the morality of Islam while collecting honourifics and projects, vice-chancellors of public universities without conscience, and the police force which has neither the morality nor the integrity to uphold the law.

In choosing a leader, I would prefer one who has gone through great suffering because of his beliefs, not one who switches camps and approaches like riding a wave, as if he were the great emancipator. My choice is governed by what I witnessed in the first decade of Reformasi.

The new generation that woke up and came in at the end of the second decade of Reformasi does not understand its origins. If the new generation does not learn to choose a leader from an appreciation of history, then I think our new-found democratic freedom does not serve an honourable path for our country. It only serves our own selfish and narrow perspectives and a false, egotistic comprehension of truth, justice and integrity.

The childish poem of a Prime Minister titled “Melayu Mudah Lupa” may be true in many senses, but this Melayu has never forgotten and hopefully never will.

Tajuddin Rasdi is a professor of Islamic architecture at UCSI University.

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

A Plague on both your houses, ex-UMNO man tells Dr M and Anwar

September 22, 2018

A Plague on both your houses, ex-UMNO man tells Dr M and Anwar

A former UMNO MP has urged moderate parliamentarians from the party not to take sides between Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim, but to remain as an independent and progressive bloc.

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“Penerapan nilai-nilai Islam” or Malay Decadence?

Speaking to FMT, Tawfik Ismail said Mahathir and Anwar started Malaysia on the path to ultra-conservative Islamisation in the 1980s, with the then-Prime Minister establishing the powerful JAKIM and Anwar pushing his idea of “Penerapan nilai-nilai Islam” in the government.

Given the seemingly directionless and weakened state of their former party UMNO after the May 9 polls, he added, both Mahathir’s PPBM and Anwar’s PKR were now waiting with bated breath.

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“A plague on both your houses I say,” said the former Sungai Benut MP, taking a line from William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”.

“I’m cynical of UMNO, PPBM and PKR because they’re all fragments of UMNO Baru, which was unrecognisable from the original UMNO.

“People say UMNO is dying, (but) that’s not accurate because UMNO already died in 1987 when it was declared illegal along with its noble ideals.”

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They forgot that they started the rot but I  don’t–Din Merican

Tawfik said because UMNO Baru was now “dead”, he believed many of its leaders wouldn’t hesitate to ditch the party and join either PPBM or PKR to secure their personal interests.

“At the end of the day, if this happens, will we really see a different Malaysia?At least where ultraconservative Islamisation is concerned, I have to say no because neither PPBM nor PKR seems to really want to kill what Mahathir and Anwar created.”

He said the “ex-UMNO Baru” bunch in PKR and PPBM seemed reluctant to appear “unIslamic”, whether in addressing the issue of child marriages, deinstitutionalising religion or pushing for change where religious matters were concerned.

“The religious agenda continues to be driven by the very same people who made it more important than it should have been. It’s both lawmakers and civil servants.”

He said moderates like Mustapa Mohamed and Anifah Aman, who left UMNO earlier this week, would find real change impossible if they had to join either Mahathir or Anwar.

“There’s going to be a lot of uncertainty in Malay politics at this rate but rather than take sides, like warring camps in UMNO did in 1987, why don’t the moderates in Umno form a non-aligned, progressive and moderate bloc on their own?

“If you take sides, it will just be a return to the ways of UMNO Baru. The likes of Mustapa, Anifah and Khairy Jamaluddin don’t have to side with others. If they remain moderate, they can draw moderates not just from UMNO Baru, but from those outside of UMNO Baru, including non-Malays.”

He said there were bound to be moderates in PKR and PPBM, just as there were radicals in the two Pakatan Harapan parties and UMNO Baru.

He added that forming a moderate bloc, aligned to neither PPBM nor PKR, would keep the two parties from going down the path of race and religion while helping them stay true to the spirit and ideology of the original UMNO.

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

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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.

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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

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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


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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.

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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


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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.

Image result for Malaysia--Cry Freedom

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