Experts: ‘Social contract’ never in the Constitution

March 24,2019

Experts: ‘Social contract’ never in the Constitution

PETALING JAYA: The term “social contract” does not appear in the Federal Constitution and its misuse by some in society is worrying, say experts.

Moderation advocate Mohamed Tawfik Ismail said there was no such phrase as a “social contract” during the drafting of the Federal Constitution.

He said while the Constitution sought to address three issues, which were non-Malays’ citizenship, the national language and the special position of the Malays, it did not explicitly outline a social contract.

Muhamad Tawfik is the son of former de­­pu­­ty prime mi­­nis­ter Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, who was part of the delegation sent to London to negotiate terms of independence for Malaya.

He said the phrase was in fact coined by the late politician-cum-journalist Tan Sri Abdullah KOK Lanas Ahmad in 1986, which almost 30 years after independence.

Abdullah had in a speech in Singapore said that the “political system of Malay dominance was born out of the sacrosanct social contract which preceded national indepen­dence”.

As such, Abdullah urged that the Malaysian political system preserve the Malay position and meet Malay expectations.

Setting things straight: (from left) Mohamed Tawfik, Dr Lim and Dr Shad speaking at the forum at Universiti Malaya.

Since then, Abdullah’s definition of “social contract” has been appropriated by politicians.

“People have been talking about the social contract as though it was a real thing but Abdullah is a politician all the way.

“(Social contract) is actually a fiction.

“As far as the political parties are concerned, I can safely say that not one MP has defended the Constitution as they should and as they have sworn to do,” Mohamed Tawfik said at a forum titled “Social Contract and Its Relevancy in Contemporary Malaysia” at Universiti Malaya yesterday.

Public policy analyst Dr Lim Teck Ghee said Abdullah’s notion of a “social contract” was often repeated by Barisan Nasional and their supporters, and had now become an unquestionable truth in public consciousness.

Abdullah, he said, was more concerned about continuing the National Economic Policy, which was reaching its end in 1990.

Lim said the “social contract” phrase was never used by the Merdeka leaders and members of the Reid Commission, which was the body responsible for drafting the Constitution prior to Independence.

“The great majority of Malays accept the social contract as part of the Constitution.

“That’s a reality which unfortunately the Malay intellectuals, leaders and Rulers have to push back against.

“The political reality is that if the non­-Malays make a concerted effort to demystify the social contract alone by themselves, they would not be able to do it and they would suffer setbacks,” he said.

Lim recommended to replace racially­-based entitlements, handouts and subsidies that favour the rich or upper class with needs-based, race-blind programmes that benefit the B40, which includes Malays too.

“The Malays no longer need the handicap. They have exceeded standards and expectations,” he said.

He added that perhaps this handicap could be given to other more economically disadvantaged communities.

Constitutional law expert Emeritus Prof Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi said while the phrase “social contract” was not in the Constitution, what is more important is to fulfil its negotiated compromises.

Prof Shad urged that government policies must be aligned with Article 153 of the Constitution which has the spirit of affirmative action.

He said while the Constitution had provisions for the special position of Malays, it was “hedged in by limitations”.

“It is not across the board, it applies only in four areas: federal public service positions, federal scholarships, federal trade or business licences and tertiary education enrollment.

“The Constitution has a very important outline for affirmative action that can’t be denied.

“There are many communities still left behind, so we must review the workings of our affirmative action policy, for the orang asli, women or anyone who has been left behind so they can benefit from constitutional protection,” Prof Shad said.

He addressed some misconceptions about the Constitution, and explained that the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination does not contravene Article 153.

He also said the Constitution actually stipulated that federal posts were open to all races, barring a few exceptions.

“Recent talk that we can’t have non-Malays as Chief Justice, Attorney General and the Finance Minister, is very naughty and very dishonest.

“It has no connection with the Constitution,” Prof Shad said.

He urged Malaysians to improve their constitutional literacy. “In some respects if there was better know­ledge of the Constitution, we would have a much more peaceful and pleasant country.

“What’s happening now is politicians going around spreading their venom and people tend to believe them. This is made worse by social media,” he said.


Malaysia: Living in a Time of Jittery Politics

March 14, 2019

Malaysia: Living in a Time of Jittery Politics

By  Dr. Sharifah Munirah Alatas

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We live in an era of jittery politics. Established democracies like Britain, France and the US are facing historic political crises.

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Malaysia has hopped onto the same bandwagon. The essence of the crisis in Malaysia’s democracy today is the inability of the government to address deep divisions in society. These divisions are exacerbated by the digital revolution. Information is dispersed at lightning speed, and the mix of verifiable and fake news has already become destructive.

Across class and geographical divisions, emotions are stirred, negative feelings are amplified and disdain simmers. The people are frustrated. A discerning electorate is healthy for democracy, but our brand of democracy has become a runaway train.

Since May 9, 2018, Malaysians have been coping with inertia, mixed signals and policy retractions (U-turns) from Putrajaya.

The failures of Pakatan Harapan (PH) seem to outweigh its successes. For these successes, however, we should actively highlight, and applaud them.

First, more space has opened up for public expression and assembly. The mood here is less of self-censorship, and more towards speaking one’s mind. This is a significant achievement for Malaysians in general, and democracy in particular.

Second, , as a Malaysian who believes in justice and inclusivity, I am happy that PH acceded to the Rome Statute. As expected, there are trouble-makers who feel otherwise. They are convinced that PH is out to undermine the “relevance” of the Malay race and royalty. It is obvious these critics feel it is their right to “be above the law”.

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Deputy Defense Minister Liew Chin Tong

Third, there is the emergence of a new “brand” of ministers, specifically those who are putting their tertiary education to productive use. A very good example is Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong (a graduate from the Australian National University).

Liew recently wrote a column in a mainstream newspaper, but it was unlike anything I regularly read from our political leaders.

His conceptualisation of the UMNO-PAS realignment and a possible breakup of Barisan Nasional (BN) had a creative intellectual twist to it.

Liew was also pragmatic in his thoughts. Very few would dismiss him as a “cloudy mind in an ivory tower”. Liew’s application of the “scorched earth policy” to current Malaysian opposition politics demonstrates critical thinking, which Malaysian society hungers for in our leadership.

It is clear that there is a glimmer of hope in a few of our new generation of leaders. Most of what we are used to are rhetorical, rambling politicians who want to be heard for the sound of their voice, and not the quality of their minds.

We need more leaders like Liew who will continue to nurture a sense of pride among the public. This is necessary for a healthy, functioning democracy.

However, Malaysia’s democracy is skewed. A conceptual contradiction exists in the structure of Malaysian politics.

On the one hand, the system champions political parties which represent the peoples’ aspirations. Our wishes are exercised through fair and frequent elections. The ordinary citizen feels empowered. We are able to elect who we think are committed and dedicated to speak on our behalf. Our requests are often presented in parliamentary sittings.

On the other hand, the parties that these elected individuals belong to have platforms that are premised on undemocratic values. Many of these values are neither inclusive nor pluralistic.

There are two important characteristics of democracy. One, elections provide an opportunity to the people to change the present government. Two, it is based on the principle that the people have a say in who governs, with the objective of serving them.

It is the second characteristic that has exposed contradictions in the post-GE 14 political development. There is a fatal misfiring of what we believe democracy should be and what it actually is, Malaysian-style.

The contradictions exist because of the scourge of identity politics. It is fuelled by an ideology of religious and racial supremacy. Nobody is to blame for this but our political and intellectual leadership.

PH’s loss in Cameron Highlands and Semenyih demonstrates how Malaysians are easily manipulated. It also reveals that our political and intellectual intelligentsia permitted it to happen.

Notwithstanding that economic conditions form the basis of all other grievances harboured by Malaysians today, the Semenyih by-election exposed a stark reality. It proved that race, religion and nepotism serve as our ultimate value system.

We are used to BN’s identity politics, and I do not wish to elaborate on it. However, the choice of the PH candidate in Semenyih was shocking, to say the least. Aiman Zainali was unsuitable. The excuse for why he lost was that he is inexperienced. It may be a “kind” way to accept defeat, but it is not the democratic way. The choice of Aiman lacked vision, and was totally dismissive of what the people wanted. This is undemocratic.

Semenyih residents are plagued with traffic congestion, narrow roads, flash floods, a lack of efficient public transport, inept government doctors and overcrowded government clinics. There are too many eating stalls indiscriminately set up everywhere, blocking traffic, not to mention the perpetual stench of rotting wasted food in the drains.

During the campaign period, Aiman spoke to reporters a few times and his statements were flashed on many occasions. He spewed the usual rhetoric, that he would “focus on local issues”, he has “local links” and that the “Semenyih residents here are my friends”. He even said that he has no problem interacting with them.

Again, skewed democracy. Aiman did not interact with Semenyih residents at all. Before his candidacy, we knew nothing of him. Semenyih residents like me are totally ignorant of this young man. This is the main reason voters were ticked off.

The more serious question is, why pretend to be a democratic country if basic democratic values are not upheld?

Aiman was not picked because of his tight bond with “the locals”. Neither was he chosen because of his knowledge of what his constituents required.

Most, if not all voters who abstained on March 2 were convinced he was chosen because he was “the son-in-law”. Nepotism is certainly not a democratic value. This form of identity politics dismisses meritocracy from the equation.

Instead racism, bigotry, cronyism and gender-insensitivity are upheld. Exclusive political alliances on both sides of Malaysia’s political divide will lead to backwardness. The seeds of this have already been sown.

What I have written here is neither a doomsday analysis nor peachy optimism. We have to give the PH government more time.

But, I hope we are not giving them more time to hang themselves. In all societies, education is the screw that will either make or break a civilisation. More Malaysians have to keep harping on this like a broken record.

Where are the voices of academics in our universities? There are so many of us, yet we race to dabble in ranking exercises, useless research and robotic teaching methods.

Minister Maszlee Malik’s task is gargantuan, but he must start making drastic policy reforms. These reforms should be couched in a new ideological narrative.

First and foremost, we need to re-learn what democracy really is. We are no longer in a transitional period from colonialism to independence. The democratic discourse then was alive and fiery.

It seems we have forgotten the true democracy that is embodied in the Rukun Negara. Instead, we focus on “ketuanan Melayu”, Bumiputera rights and protection of Islam as our democratic values.

From kindergarten right up till tertiary education, our youth must be indoctrinated with the values enshrined in the Rukun Negara.

Only then will they understand the true nature of multi-culturalism and living in peace amidst diversity. They will not succumb to rhetoric.

This reformed ideological narrative should condemn racial, religious and sectarian discourse. Reforms should be implemented, that are bold enough to upset racial supremacists.

The government should not be afraid to “rock the boat” if they believe it is the morally sincere and socially-beneficial thing to do. Make a decisive policy change with respect to vernacular schools, for instance.

The bold ban on smoking is one such policy move that society will learn to appreciate in time. Make a decisive policy decision on the UEC. Stop wasting time and resources on discussions in new committees. A wealth of information already exists in books, researched articles and social media.

Malaysians will value less a “Hari Akademia”, and more promotion criteria for university lecturers, based on intellectual merit. Show the public that the government has guts to take a definite stand.

Ultimately, Malaysians need to see that PH is ashamed of the poor quality of our educators. After all, scholars are significant movers of societal change.

Political leaders can learn a lot from these intellectuals. Our education ministry should revamp its policy, with the goal of producing future intellectuals.

In 20 years, we could strive to produce 5. In the last 60 years, can we currently boast of 5?

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


Why Bersatu/Harapan lost Semenyih

March 6, 2019

Why Bersatu/Harapan lost Semenyih

Opinion  |  P Gunasegaram


QUESTION TIME | To examine the reasons for Bersatu/Harapan’s loss in Semenyih, let’s first look at by how much Bersatu lost the Semenyih state seat in the by-election – this is a clear loss because Bersatu held this seat previously. Then it would be easier to look at the reasons that could have contributed to the loss.

There is one vital change from GE14 last May 9 – PAS competed against UMNO as well then, but this time only UMNO stood against Bersatu. PAS instructed its supporters to vote for Umno. The table below compares like with like – by combining Umno and PAS votes in GE14.

As Harapan should have realised by now, UMNO and PAS together are a formidable pair which will, between them, easily obtain more than 50 percent of the Malay votes most of the time. For 2018 (GE14), when we include PAS together with UMNO, the margin of victory for Bersatu/Harapan was rather slim.

The majority in 2018 was 1,988 votes (4.3 percent of total votes cast) in favour of Bersatu. It would have only required a swing of around 2 percent of votes to UMNOo for there to be a change in the results.

That’s exactly what happened. UMNO won with a majority of 1,914 (4.1 percent) in the recent by-election. A vote wing of just 2 percent to UMNO was enough to win the election (50.4 percent of total votes this time, minus 46.4 percent previously divided by two, because what UMNO gains someone else loses).


That’s really tiny in the overall scheme of things, just two people out of a hundred switching to UMNO-PAS made a huge difference in this case. This reinforces what happened in Cameron Highlands recently, which shows that UMNO-PAS is a formidable new force to contend with for Harapan, one that has the potential to overthrow Harapan in GE15, unless Harapan takes corrective measures now.

Another factor that stands out starkly is the sharp drop in turnout from 88% at GE14 to just 73 percent this time, a difference of 15 percentage points. This throws out the calculations quite a lot. How these absentee voters would have voted will make a lot of difference during the general elections when they will turn out to vote.

Also, considering that non-Malays may be somewhat indifferent to the latest by-election given Bersatu’s increasingly unfriendly stance towards them and its habit of accepting UMNO defectors, many non-Malay voters may have stayed away from voting, not bothering to return to cast their votes in favour of Bersatu. Thus, Harapan this time did not have the same benefit as the tremendous support shown for the coalition in the last GE by Chinese and Indian votes.

It is no secret that Harapan’s strategy in the last elections in mixed constituencies was to rely on solid support from Chinese and Indian voters, generally estimated to be 90 percent and 80 percent of the races respectively, and then depend on about 30-35 percent Malay support to deliver a majority.



If we take Semenyih, for instance, it is 68 percent Malay, 17 percent Chinese and 14 percent Indian. Some 90 percent of Chinese support delivers 15.3 percent, while 80 percent of Indian support delivers 11.2 percent, to give 26.5 percent of votes. That means just over 23.5 percent from the Malay vote will be enough to deliver the seat. The figure of 25.3 percent is 34.5 percent of the 68 percent Malays. Thus, with about 35 percent Malay support, it is possible for Harapan to win, even though 65 percent of the Malay support goes to UMNO-PAS.

This was the underlying factor for Harapan’s success in the last elections. It is a reflection of advocating policies which help all Malaysians and not just the Malays. If Bersatu chooses to be more pro-Malay than UMNO-PAS, then it faces the real danger of alienating non-Malays, and hence Harapan’s election chances in future.

In the Malay heartland states of Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan and Terengganu, Bersatu did really badly in GE14. Those who abandoned UMNO turned to PAS, PKR and Amanah instead, but seemed to consider Bersatu an UMNO offshoot.

In the west coast, and in Johor Bersatu won some seats due to solid non-Malay support. Even so, they only won 13 seats out of 52 contested in Peninsular Malaysia for a win rate of just 25 percent vs 50 percent for Amanah, over 80 percent for PKR and over 90 percent for DAP in peninsular Malaysia.

The problem is Bersatu’s current stance has deviated considerably from the pre-election promise of justice and equity for all, help for all impoverished groups, and continuing Malay/bumiputera privileges to gain social equity. Instead, they are now engaging in rah-rah politics much like UMNO-PAS and taking an extreme position over both race and religion in accordance with the old Ketuanan Melayu or Malay dominance concept.

That does not cut it with the Harapan promise and therefore poses a major problem to the Harapan coalition, which may be split asunder if some form of sensible compromise is not forthcoming. It is difficult, if not impossible, for one party to be so far out of alignment with Harapan’s original aims.

As it stands, GE-15 promises to be a very close fight if UMNO and PAS remain aligned. The only way Harapan can increase its odds for a more clear-cut victory is to show that it can perform before the elections arrive, especially in terms of tangible benefits such as legal and electoral reforms, new ideas to revitalise the economy, raising incomes, improving education, reducing corruption and facilitating competitiveness.

Under the current circumstances, that’s a tall order. We will have to live with uncertainty for now. Out of entropy, we may eventually get a steady state and stability. But who knows?


P GUNASEGARAM likes this quote from Joshua Edward Smith in Entropy -“Keeping things stable takes energy”. E-mail:

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

Two Electoral Defeats in a Row–Wake Up Call for the ” New”Malaysia Government

March 4, 2019

Two Electoral Defeats in a Row–Wake Up Call for the ” New”Malaysia Government

by Sharifah Munirah Alatas

Pakatan Harapan (PH)  lost two by-elections in  just one month.

Last month, Barisan Nasional (BN) won its first post-GE14 by-election in Cameron Highlands. On Saturday, in Semenyih, it claimed its second victory.

In Cameron Highlands, the majority was 3,239 votes, and in Semenyih it was 1,914. Voter turnout in the Balakong, Seri Setia and Sungai Kandis by-elections were below the 50% mark. Cameron Highlands and Semenyih commanded higher percentages, 68.7% and 73.24% respectively.

They reveal that Malaysians are seasoned democratically. We are capable of voting one party out, in search of a better alternative. This comes only nine months after a previous “better alternative”.

The burning question now is, how will all the elected individuals in government chart their trajectory towards the fundamental task of “making our lives better”?

Since PH’s loss in Cameron Highlands, harebrained policies and schemes have been dished out to us. We may see more of these disappointments, post-Semenyih.

The latest flying car dream is a glaring disappointment. Entrepreneur Development Minister Redzuan Yusof claimed a week ago that it is a prototype targeted at transport service companies, and is not for sale to the general public.

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Why embark on this project now when there are millions of other housing, health, “rice, fish and vegetable” issues facing the public? These are the unsolved problems that are turning the public away from PH.

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I have not heard or read of any member of the public who is jumping for joy with the flying car prototype. The minister tried to calm nerves by saying that local technology would be used to attract foreign investment. The voters of Semenyih have proven that there are egalitarian, more democratic ways of attracting foreign investment.

Needless to say, spending about RM1 million on flying technology is a “cheap” way of skirting the problem of our public transport system.

On March 1, Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said his ministry was open to the idea of building a new hospital in Semenyih.

One day after the by-election, Mahathir blamed the UMNO-PAS alliance and the nation’s debt for PH’s loss in Semenyih.

We hope this means that PH will scrap the plan to build the hospital in Semenyih. Building hospitals do not come cheap. Semenyih residents are not interested in a hospital. Instead, re-allocate funds towards widening the roads, easing traffic congestion and upgrading the public transportation system.

These are what the residents want, but nobody is listening to them. I should know, because I am one such resident.

The Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) has still not been recognised. It is a black mark in PH’s report card.

The public is convinced that PH is still committed to the “Malay agenda” when Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government “needs to consider the feelings of the Malays”.

Even Arshad Ayub, Universiti Teknologi Mara’s (UiTM) founding father, believes that Malaysia has reached a point where UiTM is ready to accept non-Malay students, albeit at the post-graduate level.

The public is fed up with the lack of meritocracy exercised by our institutions of higher education. It is not alien to me. Our culture of meritocracy is stunted, and it is driving PH supporters away.

The abolition of the goods and services tax (GST) has increased the price of goods. Tolls have not been reduced, nationally. The recent move to replace the toll system at four highways with congestion charges does not impress the public.

The Finance Ministry’s “zero-based budgeting approach” is goal-specific, rather than based on the BN-era budget calculation. The share for development has decreased to 17.4% of total expenditure. Instead, the share of the operating budget increased by 10.4%, reflecting sizeable emoluments attributed to the bloated civil service.

Despite Mahathir’s bemoaning the huge size of our civil service (almost 1.6 million), there are no policies in sight to trim it.

Rural Malaysia has accepted their lot at the bottom of the social hierarchy. They are less interested in former PM Najib Razak’s conviction in the 1MDB scandal. This explains why BN is still very influential in grassroots Malaysia.

The reason, of course, is BN’s (in collusion with PAS’) ability to contextualise development within an ethno-religious framework. PH seems to be following suit, as indicated by the abrupt U-turn on ICERD late last year.

But BN has more magnetic power, backed by decades of “familiarity” among the rural masses. PH will not have the staying power if they do not pay attention to economic and education reforms that would otherwise benefit the grassroots.

Reform-minded, urban Malays will be the first to re-orientate their loyalties after feeling cheated and disillusioned. Will the non-Malays then resort to forming a third coalition out of desperation?

The Malays, Islam and the “war for Malay support” have resurfaced as the stalwart of post-GE14 politics. As we race towards GE15, another scenario awaits us. A growing prejudice based on religio-ethics has started to boil.

The door to ijtihad seems to be closing rapidly. TV1 airs daily religious programmes dedicated to textual interpretations of the Quran. Contents are restricted to deconstructing Arabic words and sentences. These programmes are not focused on the cognitive processes needed to adapt the Quranic message to our pluralistic, socio-cultural milieu.

Mahathir has often lamented how our national schools have become religious schools. Since PH came to power, though, I have not noticed any changes to our national television stations.

Besides our schools and universities, the television functions as an education tool as well. It is time our ministries affect policy reforms that reach the grassroots level. It is not good enough to “look into the issue” or delay by forming one intra-ministerial committee after another.

BN continues to capture the rural Malay psyche by latching onto a skewed interpretation of Islam through the print media and television. A sizeable group of progressive Muslims in Malaysia are aware of these tricks but seem to accept the lesser of two evils.

In the midst of PH’s mounting setbacks, (in fulfilling their election promises), reform-minded Malays are finding comfort in BN and PAS.

The by-election in Semenyih, home to 46.3% Malays and 33.7% Chinese, is proof of this.

Muhammad Aiman Zainali’s candidacy proved a disaster because he was simply the wrong choice. He did not constructively address an iota of the issues facing Semenyih residents.

Neither did he try to win over the community by recommending solutions to the problems residents face. He did not even play the race and religion card, the way BN did.

Twenty million Malaysians realise that it was ridiculous for Aiman to contest. Merely being of “likeable personality” or the son-in-law of the deceased is not a game-changer. Lest we forget, nepotism was one of the main reasons BN fell from power.

We can expect the next few years leading up to GE15 to be checkered by communal politics. Prejudice and growing extremism are on the horizon. PH needs to work in unison, to implement reform-oriented policies amidst the racial and religious divide we are experiencing.

Most importantly, PH has to make inroads to the grassroots. It takes courage, effort and political will.

Our leaders have to be humble, work hard and listen to the people. Our democratic system implores them to do so. If they do not, greed, arrogance and megalomania will be their first class ticket out of Putrajaya.

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

Mahathir’s shifting stand shows he can’t be trusted

February 14, 2019

Mahathir’s shifting stand shows he can’t be trusted

Opinion  |  by P Gunasegaram

Published:  |  Modified:


We are mobile, we are not fixed” 

– Dr Mahathir Mohamad when asked about party hopping

COMMENT | It’s rare that a newly elected leader (only for an interim period), elected by the rakyat because of promises made by the coalition he heads, breaks key promises in a short space of time, and says with a straight face that re-assessment has to be made in the face of changing developments.

This man, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who came to power as a result of a mass uprising against the kleptocratic UMNO-BN government and who promised that he would not take defecting UMNO-BN MPs, just two days ago handed out membership cards to seven such people with not so much as an apology for his action. Two others had defected earlier, making nine in all.

They were Jeli MP Mustapa Mohamed (a former minister) who crossed over in October, Bagan Serai MP Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali who joined a month later, Masjid Tanah MP Mas Ermieyati Samsudin who crossed over in December, Larut MP Hamzah Zainuddin (who is also a former minister), Mersing MP Abdul Latif Ahmad, Tasek Gelugor MP Shabudin Yahaya, Sabak Bernam MP Mohd Fasiah Mohd Fakeh, Hulu Terengganu MP Rosol Wahid and Tanah Merah MP Ikhmal Hisham Abdul Aziz.

He justified this acceptance of the UMNO MPs into the fold with his trademark twisted logic. Examples, as reported in theSun:

“I am now sitting on the same side as leaders I once attacked and mocked, but politicians are sometimes forced to jump ship according to circumstances.“If you are tied to only one leader or party and stay with them even if they rob the people, then you are not a politician, but one who only cares for yourself.

“I was previously in UMNO, and I left to join DAP, PKR and Amanah. But if they are no longer loyal to the country, I will also move to other parties. We are mobile, we are not fixed,” he added.

In his replies (you can watch the full press conference here), he ignored the fact that he is prime minister by virtue of other parties supporting him, for his own Bersatu had only 13 seats compared to PKR’s 47 and DAP’s 42 at the end of the last polls. What he is doing now, by accepting Umno MPs into the fold now, is a tacit support of those who, by omission, clearly supported the previous kleptocratic government.

Not just that, it has been reported that all UMNO divisions received money from former premier Najib Abdul Razak’s personal account which, it was quite clear at the time and well before the elections of May 9 last year, received money which came from 1MDB.

In fact, the Wall Street Journal reported in July 2015 that some US$700 million had come into Najib’s accounts from 1MDB funds. This was confirmed later by the US Department of Justice which gave in detail the money trail. These people did not oppose Najib at all, but supported his kleptocratic acts by not voicing their concern and accepting to stand in the elections. They are, therefore, irrevocably tainted.

Bolstering his own position

Mahathir does not care if they are corrupt or immoral. The only reason that Mahathir is accepting these tainted people into Bersatu is to bolster his own position within the coalition from the paltry 13 MPs he had at the end of the election to 22 now, making it bigger than PAS with 18 MPs.

That is purely as a result of nine defections. The defections are legal partly because Mahathir, during his previous rule, refused to make it illegal to jump parties. However, they remain ethically and morally extremely repugnant and go against the grain of reform promised by Harapan.

Mahathir acquiescing to defections despite earlier opposition, opens the door very wide for Bersatu to accept virtually all of the other UMNO MPs – some 40 odd, if you exclude those who are clearly unacceptable like Najib. In addition to some 16 others in Sarawak and perhaps four independents in Sabah, there are some 60 more. This could swell Bersatu’s combined support to some 82 MPs.

The implications of this are enormous. If DAP and Amanah throw in their lot with Mahathir, a total of 53 seats, Mahathir’s numbers increase to 135, enough to command a handsome majority in the 222-member house, even if PKR were to leave the coalition. Another 13, not forgetting possible defections from PKR’s 50 odd members, will give him a two-thirds majority.

If PKR, DAP and Amanah stuck it out and stayed together, then they will have some 103 seats. Include Warisan’s eight, and it takes the tally to 111, which comes to exactly 50 percent of the seats in Parliament. This puts PAS in a very strong position with their 18 seats, as kingmaker.

Things, of course, may not pan this way. Any number of things can happen in the interim. But it is very clear that the situation has become very fluid and uncertain because Mahathir has changed the rules of the game to suit himself and Bersatu, something he has done throughout his 22 years at the top between 1981 and 2003.

All this means that the political situation in this country has turned rather unstable because of Mahathir and because he has been constantly shifting his position and openly in defiance of coalition politics. He wants to be in total control all the time. Hopefully, he won’t have it his way this time around.

There were many who had misgivings about Mahathir joining the Harapan coalition, including this writer, given his past record as a dictator and an autocrat who used his party’s two-thirds majority in Parliament to introduce authoritarian laws and to control government institutions which should have remained independent.

A dangerous weapon

This is what I wrote in an article titled “Can Mahathir be trusted?” in April 2017, when there were moves to get Mahathir into the Harapan coalition: “If any one takes the trouble to remember what this man did and stood for, he would be mad to think that Mahathir is the solution – he was, and is, the problem. Without him and his 22 years of misrule, Malaysia would not have descended to what it is today.

“Mahathir was accountable to no one. Not the people, not the party, not the judges. He could do almost anything he pleased and get away with it using the apparatus and machinery of control he had put in place.

“He made opaque many decisions of government, putting anything marked secret by the government as secret under the law by removing the power of judges to judge even if the secret posed no danger to the country, but only embarrassed the government and exposed its corrupt ways.

“That was the legacy he left behind – and a leader who followed him used it to do nasty things, some worse than that by Mahathir. Now we expect Mahathir – the source of all this – to save us Malaysians from Najib!

“Is that why Mahathir is sticking his neck out? For the good of the country? But remember he had his chance – 22 years of it. He bungled – all he did was to stay in power and do the greatest damage to the country ever by any one, prime minister or not.

“His goal now is not to get into power, but to ensure that whoever comes into power does not destroy him. As far as Mahathir is concerned, it is always about him – not Malaysia, not Malaysians, not even the Malays.”

Now there are those who argue that he needs to get UMNO members to obtain a two-thirds majority to change the constitution in order to reform. How stupid! Much of the reform that is needed can be done by just amending and scrapping laws which only needs a simple majority in Parliament.

To give Mahathir a two-thirds majority is to put into his hands a mega-weapon which he will not hesitate to use against anyone who opposes him. It is a dangerous weapon to put in the hands of a man who can not be trusted and who alters his promises to suit his ulterior motives.

Mahathir is not the person to reform this country, simply because he was ultimately responsible for most of its ills. His actions show he does not believe in reform or fair play. Mahathir blithely talks of loyalty to the nation for his shifting stand. Let’s not let him betray the rakyat who are what makes the nation.

P GUNASEGARAM says a leopard likes its spots too much to change them. E-mail:

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



Our leaders need a change in mindset – but so do we

February 14,2019

Our leaders need a change in mindset – but so do we

by Dr,Sharifah Munirah Alatas


Last May, most Malaysians were ecstatic, full of hope that the Barisan Nasional (BN) “regime” had finally disintegrated. Out with the old, in with the new… or so we thought.

Nine months and five days later, the hopes of the Malaysian public are dashed. We went through the gestation period, and a “baby” was delivered in the form of Pakatan Harapan (PH). However, large segments of our society have lost hope. The new narrative rejects this newborn infant. It is as if we suddenly realised that we do not like the shape of its head, or the position of its ears. It is either too small or too thin and cries incessantly; or it is too quiet or maybe even mentally challenged.

But despite knowing that a newborn has no ability to show its true character yet, many of us have concluded that we made a massive mistake in conceiving it. Did we commit a blunder in voting for PH? Were we too impetuous? Did we act irrationally? Are we too myopic? But the “coffin” has been sealed, till 2023 at least.

The reverse side of the coin exposes a similar, although less obvious, climate of uneasiness and regret. Those voted into power may be asking similar questions of themselves, but it is manifested differently in their public life. The backlash Dr.Maszlee Malik received after accepting the presidency of IIUM is a case in point. The media had a field day when they reported that it was against PH’s promise not to prop up politicians as heads of public universities.

Maszlee later agreed to give up the post pending his replacement by a suitable candidate. We hope that this positive step taken by Maszlee was because he realised that he was too impetuous, irrational or myopic, or that he simply made a boo-boo. But we, the public, should stop harping on his mistake and commend him for succumbing to the criticism of civil society.

The recent embarrassment about “lacklustre” degrees obtained by certain Cabinet members is another case in point. The issue, to my mind, is not the fact that an academic degree should be judged as mediocre, good, better or best. The issue, rather, is that the person concerned should not feel so insecure as to withhold the truth about which university granted him the degree. Even worse, he should not try to fool the media and public into thinking that “one Cambridge fits all”, as if we are referring to undergarments.

Image result for marzuki

Again, the issue is about integrity, confidence, dignity and honesty. In this case, Deputy Foreign Minister Marzuki Yahya ( pic above) should ask himself if he, too, was impetuous, irrational, myopic or intentionally dishonest. At least, we the public hope he will engage in some form of self-reflection. We the public should also look beyond the petty issue of Ivy League versus online degree. We should monitor our leaders so that they keep their inflated egos in check, especially when it serves no purpose for the reforms that our country desperately needs. Criticise the ego, not the stupidity.

Image result for dr maszlee malik

In early January, a student activist said that despite Maszlee’s announcement on November 9 last year that he would relinquish the post of presidency “pending the choice of a suitable candidate”, the process is taking too long. The student questioned Maszlee’s sincerity, asking if he really intended to step down. The delay, the student said, was a deliberate attempt to break a promise.

The common claim in other complaints about “broken promises” is that PH is delaying policy reforms, and that there is an agenda to maintain a BN-like status quo. People feel that the agenda is a ploy to ingratiate the coalition with BN supporters, including PAS.

Maybe so, but we should also be cognisant of the fact that many of our leaders in PH are incompetent or inexperienced. It is our duty to “educate” them and provide constructive criticism. After all, we do that with our children. In Maszlee’s case, we should monitor the situation maturely, because he may be right in saying that “it takes time to find a suitable person”. We should also realise that it is “slim pickings” in Malaysia right now.

Our post-GE14 history has shown that talk about “changing our mindset” has fallen on deaf ears. It is business as usual at our schools and universities, for instance. I am not aware of a single innovative training programme for teachers, or new workshops for lecturers that address “mindset-changing” paradigms for Malaysia Baru. So far, I have not come across any public lectures, talks or seminars in the country that has addressed this problem in depth. After nine months, I wonder if any of us actually understand what “reform” really means.

Image result for Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun and his deputy, Noor Rashid Ibrahim in Turkey

On Feb 12, a news portal ran a story on Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun and his deputy, Noor Rashid Ibrahim. They made a trip to Istanbul together with about 17 other senior police officers and their wives.

Before this was disclosed by a local newspaper, our officials in Putrajaya were silent. After the event appeared on social media, Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin confirmed that he had approved the trip. But the reason given does not justify the business-class travel, the luxurious accommodation or delectable dining experiences for these “vacationers”.

What is baffling is that Muhyiddin did not seem to know exactly what the extravagant trip was about. He was reported as saying: “This is something I felt the police needed.” Sounds very unprofessional, doesn’t it? He was also quoted as saying: “Maybe they want to learn from what is being done by another country.” “Maybe”? Why is our Home Minister unsure about the real reason for the trip and the huge expense? Once again, the public feels cheated and manipulated.

We urgently need some insight into the psychology of political and social change. It is very difficult to change people’s fundamental political beliefs. This applies to those in government as well as the general public. Many interacting factors are involved, including cultural conditioning, motivation, personality and temperament. Most people are resistant to altering the way they process empirical data. But this does not mean we cannot keep trying.

There is a phenomenon at work in the current political landscape called the “persistence of political misperceptions”. When challenged with facts that debunk various points of view, the more partisan subjects (public and government) become even more sure of their original beliefs.

Mentioning debunked myths such as “the Malays are lazy” while correcting it with the truth – that they are not lazy – is enough to reinforce the original lie that they are.

The mind demonstrates an unwillingness to change, so it is simpler not to challenge existing understandings. It is easier to take comfort in a little ignorance and to remain in the original belief. The downside is that the less Malaysians allow themselves to know about a phenomenon or policy, the more extreme their opinions tend to be. This is basic hat-trick political psychology.

Our current leadership seems to be acting out just such a hat-trick, whether they know it or not. If they truly desire to revamp the education policy, for instance, the ministry should have engaged the media incessantly, informing us of tangible reform programmes for teacher education. Policies about shoes and schoolbags could have been introduced at a later date as the issues are fairly low in the pecking order of reforms.

But we, the public, are just as guilty of warped political psychology. A majority of us gave PH the mandate to lead the nation towards social, political and economic recovery. But quite a number of screw-ups have happened since May 9 and the public is rightfully livid.

As I look around, though, I also see an uncompromising, over-critical and impatient public, stuck in the old mode of “politicians will be politicians”, “this is realpolitik” and “all politicians are corrupt – what to do?”

Let’s criticise constructively, not merely to achieve that two-minute thrill of Facebook or Twitter fame. After all, revolutions throughout history did not reform society in just nine months. Regime change entails years, and even then there are no perfect regimes.

There are several civil society groups which have been giving constructive criticism, who scrutinise events and who toil over media reports about misbehaving leaders. But these are few and far between.

What we need in the New Malaysia is a more educated public with a vision that reaches beyond their pay cheque. This may be a tall order, but if we want our leaders to change their mindsets, we must change ours as well.

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