GE-14: The twilight of 1Malaysia, the dawn of another

March 23, 2018

GE-14: The twilight of 1Malaysia, the dawn of another

Image result for Malaysia--Putrajaya

Putrajaya–The Seat of Power

by Kean Wong

GE14 is more than just a barometer of electoral sentiment. Whoever wins, Malaysia will be a different country afterwards.

In the final 100 days before Malaysia’s 14th General Elections (GE-14) must be called, the contest between two coalitions is already well underway, and growing fraught.

The campaigning inside these opposing coalitions of Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Harapan (PH)—for factional advantage, parliamentary seats and funds—may be as tough as what is projected (sometimes literally) outside, between the coalitions, with informal spoilers like the Islamist party Pas unable to stay above the fray, and assorted BN leaders suggesting violence as a solution.

Inside this apparent maelstrom of remaking Malaysia for its uncertain 21st century is a battle over a politics of moral rectitude, which has grown from the post-1969 urge to rectify racialised inequalities with the New Economic Policy (NEP), to today’s demands for a hegemonic Islamist politics.

It’s been a battle between the BN’s six decades of degenerating “business as usual” praxis that results in the global infamy of the 1MDB saga, and the past two decades of “reformasi” where jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim conjured a non-racialised politics, seeding a new storyline or narrative of good governance that in some ways spoke to the NEP’s original ideals of transcending a racialised political economy.

So the irony of GE-14’s contest—between a Prime Minister’s coalition blamed for corrupting the secular state now seeking Islamist political redemption, and an avowedly reformist opposition front led by the nonagenarian originally responsible for tormenting such reformists—is not lost on Malaysians.

Despite the widespread cynicism over how GE-14 is to be won—from the Elections Commission (EC) sanctioning glaringly unequal treatment of electorates to the long-standing complaints of “3M” (money-media-machinery of government) used to deadly effect—there remains some hope for change. There’s hope for some meaningful institutional reform in the unfinished nation crafted in 1963 out of geopolitical dispensations that still linger today.

That wavering hope has been driving so many Malaysian demands for a new narrative or storyline of what the nation should and could be. It’s reflected in the hundreds of thousands who have rallied at Bersih events in Malaysia and abroad, to the almost daily public forums about today’s political, religious and social controversies held all across the country in usually-crowded venues.

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Despite the apparent malaise among the professional pundit class that GE14 will be just another “boring” horse race, rigged at the outset, there are deep and abiding changes underway in how Malaysia is run, how it projects itself to the world, and how the nation reconciles its divisions over religion, class, and a tendentious cosmopolitanism linking the Borneo states to the Peninsula. Over the next several weeks, New Mandala hopes to share some of these discussions as the GE14 season ramps up, with a range of contributors from academia and beyond.

The Big Picture

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University of Malaya’s Prof. Dr. Terence Edmund Gomez

While Prof Gomez was emphatic at the forum about how selling good public policy can inspire winning electoral outcomes, he also explained how the crafting of public policy between five-year election cycles can change politics for the better when it’s not remote but fully engaged with citizens:

“But here’s the crunch—we do need a new model of development…   What we should be asking our politicians and coalitions is: ‘show us your public policies’.

What is your big idea? I’m not talking about small public policies on this aspect of taxation, etcetera. I’m talking about the big picture, the new economic model. The new economic policy, a new ‘Vision 2020’. Something major which shows us where you’re going to take us”.

But then there’s the issue of trust. Will the late decision by PH to reprise Dr Mahathir Mohamad as possible Prime Minister going into GE14 be enough to sway Muslim/Malay voters, leery of the previously Anwar Ibrahim-led coalition that’s now fallen out badly with PAS?

Image result for Ibrahim Ben SuffianPollster Ibrahim “Ben”Suffian

Pollster Ibrahim Ben Suffian found in his data a clear distinction between Malay and non-Malay respondents. Malay voters said they trusted Pas and UMNO more compared to PH on central issues of Malay identity and politics, over and above “managing the economy, reducing the problem of corruption, and protecting the political interests of Malaysia”. There’s again the underlying question of what narratives of nationhood are at play, and those who’re prosecuting these storylines across the campaign trail.

“This is the main takeaway point,” Ibrahim told the forum, “because there’s a lot of rhetoric going on in politics today about how PH is going into an emerging Malay tsunami. But I think this is how people are choosing: Malay voters trust the two principal Malay parties more, non-Malay voters trust the opposition more.”

”But how it translates into (GE14) results”, he said, “is governed by two things: number one, and most important, is how is the electoral district designed? How is the distribution pattern of the electoral district? …[W] e do know there is a severe malapportionment in terms of how the electoral districts are designed. Also, we have ethnic voting patterns embedded in the composition of voters in the district.

”But the second aspect is that voters have different levels of trusts in political parties. If the opposition is not able to gain sufficient levels of Malay support, then they won’t go through and this election may result in a very favourable result for the Barisan National [BN].”

From frustration to nostalgia

Fadiah Nadwa Fikri

There’s a “deep frustration” among this new generation of urbanised youth, said Fadiah Nadwa Fikri. It churns up a mix of responses to the political process that ranged from indifference to a nihilism suggested in social media campaigns over #undirosak (or “spoil your vote”). Young voters—that is, under 35 years old—came of age in the Mahathir era of boom, bust and reformasi. Politicised by the outrage over Anwar Ibrahim’s sacking and jailing, this is also a generation confronting the drudgery of urban working class ambitions, diminished by the past 20 years of a listless economy and squeezed in the transition to a services economy.

”It’s a given that we need change, but the problem is, we only have illusions of change,” said Fadiah. ”I think as a voter, a lot of us and particularly the youth, feel like they’re being forced to choose between the lesser evil. Lesser evil-ism is still the premise that is being propagated—that if you don’t do this, if you don’t choose Pakatan then you are responsible for BN, UMNO being in power again. I think something is wrong with our dominant political narrative.”

”When we talk about politics, I think it’s automatic that we only have electoral politics as our choice or as a platform for change. The discussion is very detached from the notion of change and its broad concept. This whole concept on #UndiRosak, there’s a lot of talk about the youth feeling disillusioned, frustrated because their voices are not heard. I would like to know why are they feeling the way they feel?”

”This thing of lesser evil-ism I think is very, very problematic—it somehow kills our imagination. As our country progresses, there are new ideas, there are new changes, things are changing very fast. And if we don’t reflect the changing times, I think we’re going to be stuck in that very moment that we don’t have the answer to.”

Fadiah conceded this disillusionment with the electoral process will play a role in dampening turnout come election day, to the benefit of the incumbents. But engaging with GE14 need not preclude the strengthening of a form politics her group works on developing every day, an urban phenomena reviving a process informed by the pre-war nationalist movement known as KMM (Kesatuan Melayu Muda).

”Electoral politics is not going away. But how do we strengthen people power so we can demand and we can influence how they behave, the kind of country that we want, and the kind of change that we aspire to achieve?

”It’s important because people keep saying if BN or UMNO wins the next election, we are doomed. I think that is a very, very dangerous position to take because it somehow incapacitates our ability to continue in the struggle. No one in their right mind would say that the struggle is a one-time event. It’s constant.”

Dr. Amrita Malhi

”This time, I’d argue that again there’s an even greater level of nostalgia, and an even more explicit ramping up of the nostalgia level in producing a new narrative of where the nation is going to go,” Dr Malhi said. ”And this time, it’s moved forward…they’ve moved the glory days to the 1990s. And it’s exactly the time before the economic crisis. And I’ve heard this put to me very explicitly by opposition strategy people: to talk about 1993–1996 in particular, the glory days of the Mahathir–Anwar team, before the struggles from 1997 and the financial crisis in 1998 began, and before this polity began fracturing and going in every single direction from 2008. Now this, I hear being referred to in PKR circles for example as a superb time, Malaysia at its peak.

”As the campaign heats up, I think the line is going be: let’s go back to this period in terms of the good times, the ’easy inter-ethnic interactions’. Notice the ’easy inter-ethnic interactions’ is moving forward by a decade each time. Doesn’t matter: sometime in the past it was easy. That’s the main point. But, with the proviso as well there has to be institutional reform to ensure that the original dream team can finish only their good work and now their bad work.”

Forks in the road

As the rest of March unfolds, with the Malaysian Parliament expected to pass controversial new electoral redelineation maps that allegedly skews against the opposition—and the prime minister poised to dissolve Parliament and call the elections soon afterwards—we hope to tackle some of the key themes arising from the GE14 season.

These themes include Islamist politics and the secular legacy of the Constitution, the federal–state divide over governance and political allegiances, Sabah and Sarawak autonomy and relooking at the 1963 agreement that made Malaysia possible, the electoral remapping and the national reality, how China works with a Malaysia diminished by global scandal, and how the economy needs desperate transformation if it’s to meet the needs of its citizens, never mind the ideals of Najib’s Transformasi Nasional 2050 or Mahathir’s Vision 2020. In the febrile GE14 season, these are among the implications facing a nation on the brink of fundamental change.



Cambridge Analytica official admits ‘doing work in Malaysia’

March 21, 2018

Cambridge Analytica official admits ‘doing work in Malaysia’

A TOP official from Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics firm banned by Facebook, has boasted in a British Channel 4 expose that his company has done electioneering work in Malaysia.

Cambridge Analytica official admits ‘doing work in Malaysia’

Mark Turnbull (right), managing director of CA Political Global, was caught on tape saying that Cambridge Analytica has helped electioneering work in Mexico and Malaysia. – YouTube pic, March 20, 2018.

Mark Turnbull, managing director of CA Political Global, told a reporter this during a series of undercover videos filmed over the last year.

The Channel 4 News team caught executives at Cambridge Analytica appear to say they could extort politicians, send women to entrap them, and help proliferate propaganda to help their clients.

The sting operation was conducted as part of an ongoing investigation into Cambridge Analytica, a data consulting firm that worked with President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

“If you’re collecting data on people and you’re profiling them that gives you more insight that you can use to know how to segment the population to give them messaging about issues that they care about and language, and imagery that they’re likely to engage with, and we use that in America, we use that in Africa, that’s what we do as a company.

“We’ve done it in Mexico, we’ve done it in Malaysia and now we’re going to Brazil,” Turnbull said, proceeding to mention Australia and China.

The two executives were meeting with a Channel 4 reporter posed as a fixer for a wealthy Sri Lankan family, wanting to know how the company could help get future candidates elected in the country.

Cambridge Analytica and its affiliate, SCL, have denied Channel 4’s accusations that “Cambridge Analytica or any of its affiliates use entrapment, bribes, or so-called ‘honey traps’ for any purpose whatsoever”.

Facebook last week banned the data analytics firm after it failed to delete user data sent to it by a popular psychology test app maker.

Also suspended were the accounts of its parent organisation, Strategic Communication Laboratories, as well as those of University of Cambridge psychologist Aleksandr Kogan and Christopher Wylie, who runs Eunoia Technologies.

In 2015, Kogan was accused of violating Facebook’s platform policies by passing data from an app that was using Facebook login to SCL/Cambridge Analytica.

Kogan’s app, thisisyourdigitallife, offered a personality prediction test, describing itself on Facebook as “a research app used by psychologists” and some 270,000 people downloaded the app, allowing Kogan to access information, such as the city listed on their profile or content they liked.

According to its website, Cambridge Analytica has offices in four major cities in the world and one mysteriously in the Kota Damansara suburb outside Kuala Lumpur.

The Malaysian Insight visited the address on Sunday and found that it led to a gated and guarded community.

The mystery has deepened as the property owner, who has been living there for four years, said the office does not exist in the address listed on the website.

The Malaysian Insight has contacted SCL’s Southeast Asia head Azrin Zizal and is awaiting a response. Cambridge Analytica is an offshoot of SCL Group, a big data company.

Apart from Malaysia, the data company has offices in New York, Washington, London and Sao Paulo.

AFP reported that Cambridge Analytica, the US unit of British behavioural marketing firm SCL, rose to prominence after the pro-Brexit group Leave.EU hired it for data gathering and audience-targeting.

Locally, Cambridge Analytica supported Barisan Nasional in Kedah with a targeted campaign highlighting its school improvements since 2008.

BN won Kedah back from Pakatan Rakyat in the 13th general election with wins in 21 out of 36 state seats and 10 out of the 15 parliamentary seats in the state. – March 20, 2018.

Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) in a Default Mode

March 20, 2018

Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) in a Default Mode

by T K  Chua@www,

Image result for Najib Razak with MCA Leaders

I just feel a little funny – Prime Minister Najib Razak wants MCA to win more seats to justify its number of posts in the cabinet. Former MCA President Chua Soi Lek, on the other hand, prefers MCA to stay out of cabinet since the party performed poorly during the last general election.

To me, MCA has worked itself into a position where it cannot win. The party has been and will continue to be a scapegoat, a victim of circumstances, a stooge, a subservient appeaser, and even a beggar.

Successive waves of MCA leadership have remained hapless, unable and unwilling to speak up honestly and forcefully to defend the party’s position. As a consequence, the rights of Chinese Malaysians whom the party purportedly represents have also been compromised or eroded.

At the same time, how dare some UMNO leaders blame MCA for being hapless and unable to perform? How dare UMNO continue to blame MCA for depending on Malay votes to survive?

Are UMNO and MCA leaders so blind to the fact that it was precisely the policies and governance of UMNO that caused the gradual demise of MCA?

MCA is expected to face a dominant UMNO, no doubt about that. But both UMNO and MCA must ensure that dominance is tempered with fair play, moderation and a genuine sense of power sharing.

Did MCA speak up forcefully and cogently on issues fundamental to Chinese Malaysians? Did UMNO listen and give due consideration to the grouses raised? Did UMNO give in on an issue based on what the party was willing to give or based on what was demanded by MCA?

To me, MCA is always pleading and begging but I don’t see UMNO conceding anything other than trivial matters or on a piecemeal basis. How then can UMNO expect MCA to perform and enjoy continued support from those the party claims to represent?  If MCA can’t speak of policies and governance, how is the party supposed to operate?

Image result for Najib Razak with MCA Leaders

Former MCA President Dr Chua Soi Lek knows that MCA is already a spent force in Barisan Nasional

So here is my opinion on Chua Soi Lek’s recent statement: it does not matter if MCA is in the cabinet or out of it.

The fundamental issue is whether MCA is willing and brave enough to speak up. Also, it is fundamental whether UMNO is willing to listen and compromise, based not on what the party is comfortable with giving, but on a genuine sense of fairness and inclusiveness.

Very often, we hear UMNO complaining of its sacrifices to carry the burden of MCA’s lack of support. Well, I have another idea: it is MCA which has been carrying the burden for UMNO for far too long, so much so that the party is losing its relevance.

There will be positions and perks to be enjoyed by MCA. But it can’t go on forever if the party has been ineffective. Sooner or later, people at large will realise that it does not matter whether MCA is in the cabinet or out of it.

TK Chua is an FMT reader.

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



‘Malaysia’ dreams the impossible dream

March 17, 2018

‘Malaysia’ dreams the impossible dream

by Manjit Bahtia
Published on
Image result for ‘Malaysia’ dreams the impossible dream

    Prime Minister Najib Razak met Mel at Taxpayers’  Expense

COMMENT | “When you know someone is a thief, you stay away from him,” Dr Mahathir Mohamad told Beverley O’Connor, host of “The World” programme by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Thursday.

Mahathir, of course, was referring to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who is spending a long-weekend junket in Sydney at the ASEAN Heads of Government hot-air talk-shop – again at the expense of Malaysian taxpayers.

Thief isn’t the only label Mahathir used to describe Najib. He also called him a “monster”. There are far better labels for Najib and for UMNO-BN members. “Monster” is an appropriate enough metaphor. But beyond labels, Malaysia has a serious international image problem.

There was a time when Malaysia was known to the world for Mahathir’s neo-nationalist Malay brand of loud-mouthness. That’s whenever he railed against, say, Singapore, his racist rants against Jews and Malaysia’s British colonial masters – the very lot who taught him how to “divide-and-rule” his own multiracial citizens. Mahathir single-handedly made the term ‘citizen’ a profoundly dirty word.

Malaysia became even more famous after Mahathir cooked up “facts” to jail his then protégé Anwar Ibrahim and chucked him in prison. When top cop Abdul Rahim Noor black-eyed Anwar in jail, Mahathir merely shrugged in the “saya tidak peduli” manner.

Now Anwar and Mahathir have become bosom buddies in a double-act to exorcise from Malaysia’s ripped-asunder soul Najib.


The Mahathir hypocrisy hasn’t gone unnoticed, as O’Connor reminded Mahathir.  Mahathir responded sheepishly, with the tiniest regret. He said it is more important to look forward to the future to overthrow the great big thief in their midst and an Umno that has moved so far to the right of its 1946 “objectives” that both the party and its president are rotten to its core.

Mahathir said UMNO has been destroying itself from within, that Najib “has destroyed” the original UMNO and that the party exists solely to support its President and an authoritarian regime.

Note that Mahathir never mentioned any of UMNO’s coalition partners-in-crime. Nonetheless, the mission now, as everybody knows, is for the Mahathir-led Pakatan Harapan cavalry to lead the charge and rout UMNO before Najib and his band of crooks rob the country blind.

Nothing new in all this. The lineage and the so-called discourse (whatever discourse means) and the battle-cries go right back to 1969 – the year democracy in Malaysia died after a long-simmering brain snap.

My friend S Thayaparan, a Malaysiakini columnist – whom I’ve never met – has been at great pains recently to make the case that “Malaysian voters” must stand up and save the country. If there’s a certain urgency in Mahathir’s determination, there’s equal stridency in Thayaparan.

But there’s also a problem. In fact more than one problem. First, the electoral system, run by the Election Commission, is not chartered to ensure full and fair elections; it remains chartered to ensure fully foul elections.


It’s also chartered not to uphold democracy, even democracy with Malaysian characteristics, but to maintain a Malay-led kleptocratic authoritarian regime that thinks it is above the constitution, therefore above the law. The regime is the law since rule of law has ceased to exist for nearly half a century.

Second, Mahathir had for 22+ years presided over just such a regime when he led it. He – more than Abdul Razak, Hussein Onn and Mahathir’s successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi – had every time turned a blind eye to every skin-flake of known or rumoured corruption within his UMNO, his regime, his Malay-dominated bureaucracy and Police, and among the coterie of Malay, Chinese and Indian cronies or oligarchs he’d nurtured.

Those accused or nabbed, like Perwaja Steel’s Eric Chia, “somehow” managed to get off scot-free. It doesn’t take a genius to work out how.

Not when the separation of powers between the legislature, executive and judiciary, as a democracy would like to have it, disappeared virtually overnight under Mahathir. Yet here he is crying that Najib has violated everything decent and, worse, he’s getting away with it.

‘Muhibbah’ only in name 

Something else is worth remembering. What Najib is doing – centralising structural and institutional power in his hands through what I’ve called the UMNO-Leninist state – is very much the same thing Mahathir was doing when he ran the place like a dictator. Or close enough to one. The hypocrisy is stunning.

Third, the desperation among “Malaysians” opposed to the regime is perfectly understandable. The desperation for the coalition of opposition parties, Pakatan Harapan, is also perfectly understandable.

To go as far as enlisting Mahathir is one thing; to make him the leader of the pack and, more, Prime Minister if Harapan should win, is unthinkable.


The man who created the 21st century monster of Malaysia, among the many other monsters who clutter the regime from across the ruling coalition, was Mahathir. He gave each one of them long enough rope to enrich themselves, heeding Deng Xiaoping’s dictum. Najib too embraced the licence. Najib’s “living the good life,” Mahathir put it on television. So are Mahathir’s cronies and nepotists.

Mahathir can’t have it both ways. He needs to own up to the past wrongs when the rot started to really set in. Mahathir now says Malaysia needs to reset good governance by ridding the country of Najib et al. Fine.

But (a) what good governance did Mahathir bring to Malaysia when he was Prime Minister? And (b) he must not become Prime Minister a second time, not even as a seat-warmer for Anwar.

The King of Malaysia has a duty to the country. All the Sultans do. The King knows Najib has been ripping off Malaysia; he cannot continue to sit on his hands and wait for ridiculously pointless protocols before pardoning Anwar – if he dares to pardon Anwar at all. But he must if he does not want his country monster-ised further.

Anwar at the helm gives Harapan the legitimacy it needs to fight the elections. This is not to suggest Anwar (photo) is unproblematic. Even with Anwar at the tiller isn’t a sufficient condition to rule.

Thayaparan says “all Malaysians” must vote, that they must do their bit. I would agree if I knew just who “all Malaysians” were – another point Thayaparan missed in my letter. Show me one “all Malaysian”.

Here’s what I see. Here’s what I’ve always seen. And on my last visit to Malaysia very recently I saw this much more clearly.

There’s no “all Malaysian”. There are no “all Malaysians”. There are Malays, Chinese, Indians and so on – discrete ethno-tribal, sociological, economic and political units separated by competition between race, religion and ideology.

The old story. I don’t need to tell you this. The ruling coalition is also dominated by similar units separated by race and religion. So, too, Pakatan Harapan.As we do in primary math addition, this will be carried over into the future.

Therein lies Malaysia’s core problem. The country might be able to solve some of the economic divisions that rift the people, but it can’t and it won’t solve every one of them or every other accompanying problem until competition between race, religion and ideology is resolved.

“Muhibbah” exists but only in name. Always has since 1969. Najib, UMNO and their BN clan know this and they’ll play this up to the hilt, no matter what the fallout.

There are many other problems that will inevitably be brought into general election No 14 from GE13. Many are beholden to UMNO-BN. Some are also evident, again, in the opposition.

Like it or not, Harapan is divisive because it is itself divided. In fact – and I agree with Thayaparan – Harapan looks woefully inadequate. It hasn’t learnt from its mistakes from GE-13. Those mistakes were fundamental, starting with its rather lame manifesto.

Harapan may have done better than expected in that election but it can’t hope for the same lucky streak in GE-14 to break the proverbial UMNO-BN camel’s back once and for all.

It would be wonderful if it does but UMNO has some things on its side, and a certain important – no, critical – momentum that Harapan would wish it has too. It won’t if it keeps carrying on like it has. But Mahathir isn’t the answer.

MANJIT BHATIA, an Australian, is a US-based academic, researcher and analyst specialising in Asian and international economics, political economy and international relations. He lives in Hanover, New Hampshire.

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


Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak is about to steal an election

March 9, 2018

Stop, Thief!

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak is about to steal an election

Image result for Najib Razak The Thief

Despite being embroiled in various scandals, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is about to “steal” the upcoming 14th general election by rigging the system, The Economist reported.

In an article titled “Stop, thief! Malaysia’s PM is about to steal an election”, the weekly British magazine said Najib feared that most voters would not vote BN to power again if given a choice.

As such, the report alleged that Najib is “taking their choice away” by means of gerrymandering and malapportionment, among other tactics. It cited the 1MDB scandal, in which US authorities say billions of ringgit have been misused, as the main point of argument.

“In most countries, a government that allowed US$4.5 billion to go missing from a state development agency would struggle to win re-election. If some US$681 million had appeared in the Prime Minister’s personal account around the same time, which he breezily explained away as a gift from an unnamed admirer, the task would be all the harder. An apparent cover-up, involving the dismissal of officials investigating, or merely complaining about the scandal, might be the last straw for voters. But in Malaysian elections, alas, voters do not count for much,” said the hard-hitting write-up.

Najib has denied any wrongdoing with regard to 1MDB, and has been cleared by the attorney-general of any misconduct.

The Economist further cited BN holding on to power despite losing the popular vote to the opposition in the 2013 general election, thanks to the “shamelessly biased drawing” of constituencies, which allowed BN the “ill-deserved victory” of securing the majority of seats in Parliament.

Read more: BN still at slight advantage with EC’s new proposal, says don

“Faced with the risk of losing power, the government is rigging the system even more brazenly. Parliament will soon vote on new constituency boundaries. The proposed map almost guarantees Najib another term, despite his appalling record,” the article said.

Rigging the election

The report then went on to explain the process of gerrymandering and malapportionment, which would favour the ruling coalition. It noted that “the practice (malapportionment) is so unfair that it is illegal in most countries, including Malaysia, where the constitution says that electoral districts must be ‘approximately equal’ in size”.


The report added that the federal opposition also had the odds stacked against it in the form of the “supine” media, as well as the police and judiciary, which seemed “more interested in allegations of minor offences by opposition figures than they are in the blatant bilking of the taxpayer over 1MDB”. It also pointed to the alleged “open violation of the constitution” by the Election Commission (EC).

The Economist also said that the latest federal budget was seemingly aimed at “buying the loyalty” of civil servants, by pledging to dish out a special bonus just after the likely date of the election.

Ultimately, the report concluded that a rigged electoral system trumped other biases, as it “robbed” Malaysians’ votes of meaning.

Tilting the playing field

Image result for Wong Chin Huat

If Najib Razak is poised to win GE-14, Malaysians make sure he is denied 2/3rd majority in Parliament. We need a very strong opposition to prevent him from creating an Islamic State under Hudud Law. The man will do anything to stay in power including making a deal with the PAS devil.

In another brief piece titled “Tilting the playing field”, The Economist also spoke to Penang Institute’s political analyst Wong Chin Huat (photo), who likened gerrymandering to “politicians choosing voters”, as opposed to an election, where voters choose politicians.


“Malapportionment – the creation of seats of wildly unequal size – worries critics most. This involves packing urban and minority voters, who tend to support the opposition, into highly populated constituencies, while the largely rural and Malay backers of the BN occupy depopulated provincial seats,” the report said.

It noted that an opposition MP thus needed more votes to win an election than one from the ruling party. As an example, it highlighted BN winning 60 percent of seats in the 2013 general election, despite receiving a minority of votes, and attributed its win to this tactic.

Read more: Know the power of your vote

The article also noted gerrymandering added to the problem. In the case of Malaysia, the report said, “This involves redrawing constituency boundaries to pack opposition voters into a few seats, while ruling-party supporters form a narrow majority in a larger number.”

The Economist said that the EC had initially produced maps for state assemblies that appeared to sort voters into ethnic ghettoes. “The revised versions, although less racially divisive, remain partisan,” it noted.

“Concentrating opposition supporters in the one seat should more than double the incumbent’s winning majority, but makes it harder for the BN’s critics to compete next door,” said the article.

It quoted former Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah lamenting the EC turning a deaf ear to grievances voiced by the opposition against such exercise, and the equally “little hope” of winning such cases in the courts.

Postal votes, and including voters with non-existent addresses in the electoral roll, were also cited as means of rigging the election.

Despite Najib “showering voters with handouts”, including 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) and civil servant bonuses, The Economist said that “the government’s zeal to diminish voters’ say in the election suggests it does not have total faith in its ability to win them over”.

From The Economist

Image result for The Economist Logo

Malaysia’s PM is about to steal an election

American officials say he already stole millions from taxpayers

IN MOST countries a government that allowed $4.5bn to go missing from a state development agency would struggle to win re-election. If some $681m had appeared in the prime minister’s personal account around the same time, which he breezily explained away as a gift from an unnamed admirer, the task would be all the harder. An apparent cover-up, involving the dismissal of officials investigating or merely complaining about the scandal, might be the last straw for voters. But in Malaysian elections, alas, voters do not count for much.

Under any reasonable electoral system, the coalition running Malaysia would not be in office in the first place. The Barisan Nasional, as it is known, barely squeaked back into power at the most recent election, in 2013. It lost the popular vote, earning only 47% to the opposition’s 51%. But thanks to the shamelessly biased drawing of the constituencies, that was enough to secure it 60% of the 222 seats in parliament.

This ill-deserved victory, however, occurred before news broke of the looting of 1MDB, a development agency whose board of advisers was chaired by the prime minister, Najib Razak. America’s Justice Department has accused him and his stepson, among others, of siphoning money out of 1MDB through an elaborate series of fraudulent transactions. Much of the money went on luxuries, it says, including paintings by Picasso and Monet, a private jet, diamond necklaces, a penthouse in Manhattan and a gambling spree in Las Vegas. In February Indonesia seized a $250m yacht that the Americans say was bought with Malaysian taxpayers’ money. Authorities in Switzerland and Singapore have also been investigating.

Mr Najib denies any wrongdoing—and of course he has loyal supporters. But his administration has not tried very hard to clear things up. Only one person has been charged in connection with the missing billions: an opposition politician who leaked details of the official investigation after the government had refused to make it public.

All this is unlikely to have improved Mr Najib’s standing with voters. Yet an election must be held by August. Faced with the risk of losing power, the government is rigging the system even more brazenly. Parliament will soon vote on new constituency boundaries. The proposed map almost guarantees Mr Najib another term, despite his appalling record.

How to rig an election

One trick is gerrymandering, drawing constituency boundaries so that lots of opposition voters are packed into a few seats, while ruling-party supporters form a narrow majority in a larger number. Lots of this goes on in Malaysia, as elsewhere: the new boundaries put two opposition bastions in the state of Perak into the same seat. Gerrymandering is made even easier by another electoral abuse called malapportionment. This involves creating districts of uneven populations, so that those which support the opposition are much bigger than those that back the government. That means, in effect, that it takes many more votes to elect an opposition MP than it does a government one. The practice is so unfair that it is illegal in most countries, including Malaysia, where the constitution says that electoral districts must be “approximately equal” in size.

Nonetheless, the constituencies in the maps proposed by the government-appointed election commission range in size from 18,000 voters to 146,000 (see article). The Barisan Nasional controls all the 15 smallest districts; 14 of the 15 biggest ones are in the hands of the opposition. The average Barisan seat has 30,000 fewer voters than the average opposition one. And this is the election commission’s second go at the maps—the first lot were even more lopsided.

Unfortunately, the electoral boundaries are not the only way in which the system is stacked against the opposition. The media are supine. The police and the courts seem more interested in allegations of minor offences by opposition figures than they are in the blatant bilking of the taxpayer over 1MDB and the open violation of the constitution at the election commission. The latest budget seems intended to buy the loyalty of civil servants, by promising a special bonus to be disbursed just after the likely date of the election.

But these biases, as bad as they are, are not the same as fiddling constituencies. As long as the electoral system is fair, Malaysians will be able to judge the government and vote accordingly. But a rigged system will rob their votes of meaning. That is the point, of course. Mr Najib may be venal, but he is not stupid. He fears that most voters would not return him to office if given a choice, so he is taking their choice away.

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “Stop, thief!”

Malaysia: PH or BN, what is the difference?

March 8, 2018

PH or BN, what is the difference?–Malay-centric New Economic Policy will continue

By Kua Kia Soong

Image result for Malaysia's New economic policy

I believe young Malaysians like Wan Saiful Wan Jan should have a go at the political game, which is like a merry-go-round at a fun fair, and that the ageing politicians who have been hogging the horses for nearly half a century should get off and let other youngsters have a go.

Having said that, I expected young intellectuals like Wan Saiful would at least have some intellectual honesty to avoid the discredited road of race-based parties which have been the bane of Malaysian society since independence. He has joined the “Pribumi” party which is not only closed to “non-Pribumis” like myself, but is led by Malaysia’s most well-known autocrat and father of crony capitalism.

Now why does an erstwhile “liberal” like Wan Saiful want to exclude a fellow Malaysian and human being from his party? After all, isn’t liberalism a political philosophy founded on ideas of liberty and equality? So, what has happened to his liberal thinking?

Image result for Malaysia's New economic policyHe is not Malay, but a Bumiputera who is being sidelined


Furthermore, he now states that the Malay agenda remains relevant and any change will come slowly. That is great for the Malay crony capitalists who have been milking the country all these years since May 13, 1969. It is also a very effective populist ideology to get “Pribumi” votes in elections.

Looks like PH still wants Malay agenda

This is all bad news for those who have been dreaming the Malaysian dream of equality, justice and democracy.

Image result for Mahathir the Malay UltraThe Malay–eccentric Liberal Democrat leads Pakatan Harapan (Hope Coalition)


I have been monitoring Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) statements and I have observed a loud silence on the extension of the New Economic Policy.

Now with PH having embraced the leader of PPBM as the prospective Prime Minister, I can bet anybody that there will be no mention of an end to the NEP in PH’s 14th general election (GE14) manifesto when it is announced.

This is indeed bad news for those who had hopes of a more liberal economic policy and for all who have criticised the government for its racially discriminatory economic and educational policies.

Wan Saiful, who is supposed to be their policy maker, has already said as much: “But now, having entered party politics, I am more or less resigned to the fact that the (Malaysian Agenda) you are talking about is not going to happen in my lifetime as this is in the constitutional provision.”

Image result for Wan Saiful

Wan Saiful said while PH must maintain its idealism, it also needs to prioritise the reforms that it can push through.

First, as a policy maker, Wan Saiful should be reminded that the so-called “Malay Agenda” was twisted from its 1957 form to a different “Bumiputera” form in 1971 with amendment 8A to Article 153 which allowed the quota system and all the other excesses of racial discrimination.

Apart from anything else, the term “Bumiputera” is not even in our independence constitution. Does Wan Saiful not remember that the 1971 NEP had an expiry date of 1990? Can the Malay elite keep changing the rules as they go along?

So how does the ‘Malay Agenda’ operate?

The Bumiputera/immigrant differentiation to justify racial discrimination against non-Bumiputeras continues to be peddled by the ruling Malay elite right up to the present day.

By some conceptual trick, these favoured people are defined as strictly “Malays” no matter where they come from (even Kerala or the Middle East) and therefore qualify as “Bumiputeras” who are entitled to special “rights”. PPBM may have another conceptual trick up its sleeve; we don’t know yet.

It is astounding that the bugbear that was thrown into the independence struggle to put the anti-colonial forces on the defensive – viz who are the “pribumi” (indigenous people) and who are the “pendatang” (immigrants)? – continues to be thrown at Malaysians in order to divide our nation to the present day.

The keepers of the pribumi estate overlooked an elementary point of logic – namely, how could a “non-pribumi” become a “pribumi” simply by assimilating when the latter is strictly a historical category?

Isn’t it amazing that with all the current hype about the “1Malaysia” slogan, this reference to non-Malay Malaysians as immigrants continues unabated?

These Malay elites are obsessed with race which is not surprising when there is so much at stake for them in terms of economic gain. Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s “Malay Dilemma” is rooted in that paradigm.

This obsession with race has little currency in the anthropology or sociology disciplines, not to speak of human rights in the international community.

Roland Braddel, former President of the Council of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society and once legal adviser to Umno has pointed out: “There is, strictly speaking, no such thing as the Malay race; there are Malay people, the Malay culture and the Malay language, etc.”

A liberal intellectual should know that.

Needs-based, not race-based policies

It still amazes me that intellectuals in the government cannot conceive of ways to help the poor and marginalised without raising the issue of race.

With all those years of training in the UK, is Wan Saiful really incapable of proposing policies that are not race-based? Admit that the so-called “Malay Agenda” is really a populist agenda to secure votes in the elections and not because there is no other choice.

Sixty years of racially-based policies have divided us while enriching the well-connected crony capitalists linked to the political elite.

It is time to replace race-based policies with needs-based measures that target the lower-income and marginalised sectors.

The NEP was scheduled to end in 1990 but has become a populist, never-ending policy to win over the Bumiputeras while benefiting mainly the political elite.

It is common sense that poor rural Malaysians should be assisted based on their needs according to the particular economic sectors in which they live and work.

Today, with the lack of ethnic diversity in the civil and armed forces, it is high time that recruitment and promotion in these services are based on merit.

As a policy maker, Wan Saiful will no doubt be familiar with international reports that point to a compelling need for Malaysia to shift from a race-based to a needs-based policy in order to address imbalances in society and improve the democratic process to ensure good governance and rule of law.

With the “Malay Agenda”, Malaysia’s economic progress continues to be plagued by a lack of innovation and skills, a low level of investments in technology, declining standards in education, relatively high labour costs and sluggish growth in productivity.

The cost and consequences of the racially discriminatory policy in Malaysia have been immense especially since the NEP in 1971. It has caused a crippling polarisation of Malaysian society and a costly brain drain.

According to the World Bank: “The diaspora likely reached about one million people in 2010, compared to about 750,000 in 2000… the brain drain is estimated at a third of the total diaspora. This translates into a number of 335,000 in 2010, which is up from 217,000 in 2000.”

While the Chinese middle class in Malaysia has largely adapted to this public-sector discrimination by finding ways to make a living in the private sector, this has not been so easy for working-class Indians, Chinese and other marginalised communities including the Orang Asli.

More potentially dangerous and insidious is the effect this widespread racial discrimination has had on ethnic relations in this country. Unity can only be promoted through an affirmative action policy based on need, sector or class, never on race.

Kua Kia Soong is the adviser for Suaram.