Bersatu’s inexorable move to becoming a sanitized, immunized and Bersih UMNO Terbaru 3.0


January 3, 2019

Bersatu’s inexorable move to becoming a sanitized, immunized and Bersih UMNO Terbaru 3.0

Opinion  | By P. Gunasegaram

Published:  |  Modified:

  QUESTION TIME | If anything, Bersatu’s recent annual general assembly starkly shows one thing – that it is merely an extension of the old UMNO (Baru,) and will use the model of Malay supremacy,ty and put back in place corruption via patronage politics.

The only way to check that unfortunate retrograde policy is for the other Pakatan Harapan partners, especially those who have three to four times the number of MPs Bersatu has, to exert their combined muscle to rightfully regain more influence in the coalition and restore the original reform agenda pre-GE14.

At the AGM, Bersatu vice-President Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman, also a former Election Commission (EC) chairperson, termed pushbacks against delegates’ demands to be given government resources to help the party retain power as “stupid”.

Bad enough that you have the former EC chairperson advocating breaking laws but this same person was shockingly appointed in August last year to head a Putrajaya committee that will make recommendations on electoral law reform in two years time.

This same Abdul Rashid had been heavily criticised by both PKR and DAP, the dominant parties in Harapan, over his tenure from 2000 to 2008 as the EC chairperson. This continues a tendency for Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to appoint tainted,controversial and/or discredited people to important positions.

This includes Daim Zainuddin to head the Council of Eminent Persons; former Inspector-General of Police Abdul Rahim Noor (who brutally assaulted Anwar Ibrahim and gave him a black eye while in Police detention) to negotiate security arrangements with Thailand and former discredited aAtorneys-General to important positions.

Abdul Rashid’s comments at the Bersatu assembly are particularly galling and provocative and advocate extra-judicial measures to keep and extend Bersatu’s hold on power. These are clearly against the law but Abdul Rashid (photo) received a misplaced standing ovation from Bersatu delegates.

“Looking at the situation now, we cannot defend our position as the governing party because the division chiefs are being left out. It is lucky that the Prime Minister gave me a job with a big salary so that I can support my division,” said Abdul Rashid, apparently referring to his appointment to the government’s election reform committee.

“But the others, we don’t need to be arrogant by saying we shouldn’t give them jobs, that we would be taking away the jobs of others, that we should not take this or that. That opinion, to me, irresponsible. In the election, we must win by hook or by crook,” he said.

He added that although he did not like the idea of using government resources, it had to be done.

“All division chiefs should be given activities so that they can have the opportunity to defend their divisions,” he said.

Abdul Rashid also urged the government to restore the parallel village chief system practised by the previous BN government. “And our people must occupy these positions,” he said.

Village chiefs are traditionally appointed by the state government but the previous BN government appointed parallel village chiefs in states not under its control. The Harapan administration has abolished this parallel system.

“All development projects should be channeled to these (parallel) committees and the division chiefs must benefit,” he said as the crowd cheered him on.

Blown to smithereens

It is unthinkable that this man, who clearly advocates moves against current elections laws, heads Putrajaya’s committee on electoral reform. If anything, he will probably advocate changes in the law to allow these offences to take place.

Harapan leaders should forthwith put their foot down and demand that Abdul Rashid be removed as the head of the electoral reform committee as he has clearly shown, by his words at a public gathering, that he is not a fit person to come up with electoral reforms which are up to international standards.

That he had so much support from Bersatu delegates for his views is worrying, with other leaders echoing his sentiments. While Bersatu head Mahathir has said that what Abdul Rashid says is his personal opinion, he should immediately review Abdul Rashid’s position as head of the electoral reform committee.

The original UMNO  was founded in 1946 to champion Malay rights in the lead up to independence. Its founder Onn bin Jaffar left UMNO after the party refused to open membership to non-Malays. Tunku Abdul Rahman took over the helm and became Malaysia’s first Prime Minister.

That UMNO was de-registered in 1987 after the courts declared it illegal. Then prime minister Mahathir formed UMNO Baru or UMNO 2.0 and organised members of UMNO, who supported him to join this UMNO Baru, excluding others who did not. There was a breakaway group called Semangat 46 formed, headed by Mahathir’s then opponent , Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

Mahathir altered the constitution of the original UMNO considerably by making it next to impossible to remove a sitting UMNO Baru President. This resulted in a progressive erosion of government accountability and transparency, eventually leading to 1MDB and its excesses. And UMNOMNO-BN’s first loss in the general election last year.

As droves of MPs start to desert UMNOo Baru, Bersatu may well become Umno 3.0 if it accepts these UMNOo MPs as members. That will irrevocably change the complexion of the coalition and alter the balance of power within Harapan.

Other coalition partners, in particular, PKR and DAP, should clearly resist this and state their irreversible opposition to such moves, simply because all UMNO and BN MPs are tainted because they knew full well of the corruption and theft within 1MDB when they decided to stand for elections.

If all of the UMNO MPs are accepted within the Bersatu fold and become Harapan members effectively and those within Bersatu who call for extrajudicial measures to remain in power are not checked, it is inevitable that Bersatu will become UMNO 3.0 and the strongest party within the Harapan coalition.

With that, the hopes of the majority of Malaysians for a fairer, more equitable country, where everybody is considered Malaysian and where corruption is a thing of the past and accountability and good governance will be practised, will be blown to smithereens.


P GUNASEGARAM says we have to guard our newfound freedom zealously instead of surrendering it back to UMNO goons and gangsters who want a return to the past. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com

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

A neo-BN New Year


December 31, 2018 Opinion  |  S Thayaparan

A neo-BN New Year

https://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/458280

Opinion  |  S Thayaparan
Published:  |

 

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language

And next year’s words await another voice.

And to make an end is to make a beginning.” (Little Gidding)

TS Eliot

COMMENT | Another new year is upon us. I know some people feel as if Pakatan Harapan is the new BN. I have pushed this narrative in nearly all my writings. I desperately sound the alarm bells that Harapan is becoming neo BN – but I do not do this out of spite.

I do this because I come from a generation that saw how BN evolved. A generation that witnessed alliance politics morph into something ugly but more importantly, saw how the public supported a corrupt system out of pragmatism or fear or just plain self-interest.

Image result for lim kit siang

I remember when Lim Kit Siang and the opposition were decimated in one election, and how those of us who were rooting for him were shocked that people did not vote for at least the DAP, which offered something else to the politics that were tearing us apart. However, this is the past. Admittedly, things have changed.

These days I see articulate young leaders toe the party line. I see young leaders more interested in maintaining party discipline, egged on by the base who assume that they speak for all Malaysians.

I see a kind of fascistic patina slowly forming around young leaders more interested in inter-party ascendance than inspiring people – young people especially – that things can change if only you worked hard enough for it. Hate to break it to you but playing the political party game works well on social media but it doesn’t inspire people – especially young people – to vote for the change they want.

It is pointless chronicling the whys and hows of the fall of Najib Abdul Razak. When the old maverick claims that Bersatu was needed in the removal of Najib, I think it is more complicated than that. I think he was needed for the removal of Najib.

Image result for political frogs in malaysia

 

UMNO Kataks have morphed into  Neo-Bersatus  

Dr. Mahathir Mohamad always knew how to play the political game better than his comrades in UMNO. If Najib had just listened to him, I doubt we would be having this conversation.Image result for Dr.mahathir the maverick

.

However, the removal of Najib is more than just the legacy of the old maverick. It demonstrated that a ruling coalition could fall. I want young people to take note of this. From what I gather, young people are infatuated with the old maverick and while I understand this, I hope the young people who were standing in the sidelines in the 14th general election now understand the future of this country – and more importantly, the power they could wield in determining this future.

Going through my files, I reread an article in the BBC earlier this year about the power young Malaysians have but do not wield. It is an interesting article, not only because it neatly condensed many of the data points that I have put forward concerning the youth vote in this country but it also reminds us that young people have the power to change things.

“If this is genuine lack of interest, it is reflected in one poll by Merdeka Center, an independent Malaysian polling organisation which last year looked at how young people in West Malaysia felt about politics. Merdeka Center found that as many as 70 percent of them do not believe that their vote will bring about tangible changes in the government and don’t think their elected representatives really care about people like them.”

Young voters are the key, even if they do not care. Look, while I think that DAP, PKR, and Amanah are making an effort, I also think that there are many young people in Bersatu who know that things need to change. I mean, look at someone like Wan Saiful Wan Jan. Smart guy, but he has to conform to the politics of Bersatu, which is an early UMNO pastiche.

Honestly, I tried to give Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman (photo) the benefit of the doubt but if someone like Wan Saiful had brought the kind of American-inspired conservatism to Bersatu, which is what he did when he was in Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas), this would have been a good thing. Bersatu, whether we like it or not, has the best chance to lead the way but if it continues down this path, we are going down the crapper.

Jostling for power, contracts

Change does not take time. Political will stalls for time. We can move forward slowly or you could convince people that you are moving, but walking slowly on the same spot. I keep getting these clips of the old maverick saying that the education policy needs to change. I keep seeing young and old political operatives in Bersatu talking about how the Malays cannot rely on the tongkat and Bersatu needs to lead the way.

I have heard all this before. Maybe you have too. Take education for instance. Firstly, why doesn’t someone give Azly Rahman a job sorting this mess out, but more importantly, if Bersatu and Harapan have the political will to slowly remove the tongkat and change the education system, they would make some good faith gestures.

First, they would recognise the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC). Then they would do away with Malay-only institutions. They would recognise the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd) for instance, and not in various political ways, propagate the “do not spook the Malays” meme.

What we are hearing from the supposedly closed-door Bersatu AGM is the same game of federal control, of power, through proxies. This is why people are jostling for power, contracts and positions. Decentralise power, which would allow state-level affirmative action programmes for all races. I bet my last ringgit that more Malays would benefit from these programmes than non-Malays, if that is the fear of Malay and non-Malay political operatives.

This way you could name the new agenda the Best Ultra Malay Initiative – BUMI – and nobody would care if everyone was getting the help they need, regardless of race. But everyone knows what separates Bersatu and the far right of Umno and PAS – polemics not policy.

And while I am bitching about policy, this 1am closing time for nightspots in the Federal Territory is the dumbest and I would say a mendacious policy of the Harapan regime. Interfering in business – the price of KFC too high, really? Is it mendacious when you claim we have a trillion ringgit debt?

There is a whole host of small businesses attached to nightclubs, not to mention the traders who service the after-hours crowd in local fare, that would be affected by this malicious rule.

What Harapan is doing is destroying part of the culture of this country. Big City culture and what they want to do is to turn it into what some parts of this country are. Remember this day, because no matter what some people say about closing hours in the West, what we have here are sub rosa moves by the Islamist to slowly impose hegemony, Harapan style. This is just the beginning.

Who knows what the following year will bring in the permutations of Malay power. Frogs jumping, political opponents having lunch, internecine conflicts among Malay brokers in the major parties.

In this climate, do you blame people for feeling jaded and thinking that nothing changes?

I have two hopes for the new year. The first that young people discover the power they wield. And the second that the people who supported Harapan pressure the government so it does not become another BN.

Have a productive new year, Malaysia, whoever you are.


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

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

Guna’s Take on the Politics of ICERD and Harapan’s Volte-Face


November 27, 2018

Guna’s Take on the Politics of ICERD and Harapan’s Volte-Face

https://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/453556

QUESTION TIME | If we thought that UMNO-style gangster politics is dead and gone with New Malaysia, we have been very sadly mistaken as the recent issue over the ratification of the International Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) shows.

Somehow or other, the ratification of this convention has been taken to be a major attack on the special privileges of bumiputeras, including Malays, resulting in a cacophony of protests by UMNO and PAS, which were rather badly handled by the Harapan government.

It is no such thing.  There are enough safeguards and provisions in the IICERD for the special privileges of bumiputeras to continue and there are countries such as the US which ratified the treaty, saying its own constitution provides for those rights, and if there is any problem, then its constitution will stand supreme against ICERD.

Despite what Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said about having to amend the constitution, which would require a two-thirds majority in Parliament, to ratify Icerd, most expert legal opinion is that there is no such necessity. In fact, Mahathir had said in September at the UN General Assembly that Malaysia would ratify six UN conventions, which includes Icerd.

The about-turn that Harapan made over Icerd is substantive for one very important reason: it has basically submitted to the blackmail of UMNO and PAS who had threatened not just demonstrations but violence. Demonstration organisers talked openly about creating another May 13 in videos that went viral, raising needless alarm and concern.

Image result for mahathir's voltre-face

The mute Malaysian Women Libbers

That will only encourage them to come up again and again with gangster-style tactics of violence and bloodbath when every issue of importance is debated. Capitulation to them now over an important issue in Malaysian politics will only make them raise their voices higher and their threats more severe in future.

What was terribly surprising was the silence and muted response by Harapan leaders over an issue which had been twisted and turned by the opposition UMNO and PAS into a highly explosive racial and religious one.

Social redress

There was no attempt to explain that ratifying the ICERD was in no way against bumiputera rights but was aimed at endorsing universal principles against any form of racial discrimination. ICERD specifically excludes special privileges for any community as a means of social redress for as long as that is necessary.

There are some who say that the Federal Constitution sets no limit on special privileges, but even that is not an issue as Icerd can be ratified subject to the primacy of a country’s own constitution as the US did when it ratified Icerd in 1994.

These concerns are addressed and allayed comprehensively in this article by respected constitutional scholar Shad Saleem Faruqi who deals with all the major legal and constitutional issues over ratifying ICERD.

 

Here are the concluding remarks of his article: “ Even if ratified by the executive, Icerd cannot displace Article 3 (Islam) (of the constitution), Article 153 (special position of the Malays and natives) and Article 181 (prerogatives of Malay Rulers). This is due to the legal fact that our concept of ‘law’ is defined narrowly in ArticIe 160(2) and does not include international law.

“The constitutional position on the ICERD is, therefore, this: Even if the ICERD is ratified by the executive, it is not law unless incorporated into a parliamentary Act. Even if so legislated, it is subject to the supreme constitution’s Articles 3, 153 and 181. Unless these Articles are amended by a special two-thirds majority and the consent of the Conference of Rulers and the Governors of Sabah and Sarawak, the existing constitutional provisions remain in operation.

“The ICERD is not a law but only a pole star for action. Its ideals cannot invalidate national laws. The agitation against it is contrived for political purposes and perceptive Malaysians must not allow themselves to be exploited by politicians.”

Unfortunately, that is exactly what Harapan has done by capitulating to UMNO-PAS and others threats of violence over Icerd at a demonstration to be organised on Dec 8. Now that demonstration is going to be a celebration of their “success” – how pitiable.

Here is the Prime Minister’s Office’s statement on the matter: “The Pakatan Harapan government will not ratify CERD. “The government will continue to defend the Federal Constitution, in which lies the social contract agreed to by representatives of all races during the forming of the nation.”

Narrow agenda

Image result for mahathir's voltre-face

A Janus-faced Malay Politician

“It was Mahathir, after all, who said point blank to the Malays that they should stop supporting UMNO because its leader was involved in the largest kleptocracy the world has known via 1MDB where RM42 billion was lost. Surely through proper information and education, most Malays can be made to realise that ratifying ICERD does not affect their rights or the rights of other bumiputeras.

But instead, the silence of Harapan leaders and their lack of defense of the reason why ICERD was to be ratified as part of the intentions voiced in their manifesto led to this issue systematically being used to whip up sentiment, spiralling up to the defence of Malay rights which it is not”.–Gunasegaram

That pathetic statement follows upon Mahathir’s volte-face over signing ICERD, saying the untruth that a constitutional amendment is needed to ratify the convention, and taking the easy way out instead of explaining to the Malays, who appear to be the only bumiputra group opposed to the ratification, what the real situation is.

It was Mahathir, after all, who said point blank to the Malays that they should stop supporting UMNO because its leader was involved in the largest kleptocracy the world has known via 1MDB where RM42 billion was lost. Surely through proper information and education, most Malays can be made to realise that ratifying ICERD does not affect their rights or the rights of other bumiputeras.

But instead, the silence of Harapan leaders and their lack of defense of the reason why ICERD was to be ratified as part of the intentions voiced in their manifesto led to this issue systematically being used to whip up sentiment, spiralling up to the defence of Malay rights which it is not.

And handing a victory on a platter to the gangster politics of UMNO, PAS and others who play up racial, religious and royalty sentiments and threaten violence, not in furtherance of Malay rights, but their own selfish, narrow agenda of capturing Malay votes and support.

It is more than a sorry state of affairs for it might lead to pressure on the entire Harapan reform agenda if a simple ratification of the ICERD can be turned into such a serious non-issue.


P GUNASEGARAM wonders how many more manifesto promises Harapan will break. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com

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

Malaysia: The Economy is in bad shape. Thank you, UMNO


September 18, 2018

Malaysia: The Economy is in bad shape. Thank you, UMNO

by Phar Kim Beng@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Najib Razak is Malaysia's best economist

Former Prime Minister Najib Razak should be awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economics for his management of the Malaysian Economy. He pioneered the 1MDB method of robbing the Malaysian Treasury.

COMMENT | The Malaysian economy is in bad shape. Very bad.

Revisiting the 2014 magnum opus of the Prime Minister’s new Economic Advisor Dr. Muhammed Abdul Khalid, The Colour of Inequality: Ethnicity, Class, Income and Wealth in Malaysia, we see that Malaysia’s income gap has not changed much from 1957 levels, when the country first gained independence.

Between 1990 and 2018, Malaysians on the whole gained little, except the very rich. Muhammed describes a small breakthrough in 2012, but there is no telling if this was due to fiscal spending to ward off the effects of the 2007-2008 global financial crisis.

Muhammed’s reliance on the Statistics Department’s Household Income Survey, while illuminating, is not entirely convincing, especially when paired with numbers or assertions culled from Pemandu, the now-defunct government-funded performance delivery unit.

Image result for The poor in kuala lumpur

 

In other words, the actual picture of the Malaysian economy could be worse than what Muhammed actually describes.

Income from the manufacturing sector, for example, has been on the decline, which may be due to the over-reliance on cheap foreign labour – with an estimated 5.5 million migrant workers in the country – which further depresses the cycle of Malaysian wages.

Indeed, Muhammed correctly notes that “90 percent of each ethnic group does not have any liquid savings, and would not be able to survive more than few months in case they lose their source of income or employment”.

Ticking time bomb

This is not a very pleasant picture, even if it is colour blind. Why? The danger lies in the ticking time bomb that cuts across all races and groups. When the income chasm widens, people tend to blame one another for their problems, which in turn accentuates social, political, religious and racial tensions.

While democracy can ameliorate the tensions, it cannot overcome them completely. What democracy cannot structurally and systematically solve, groups of all religious and ideological fancies might rise to plug the policy gaps. When they do so, inter- and intra-ideological or religious pressures will only become more acute.

When political parties refuse to have elections, or postpone them indefinitely, they become blindsided by what the people want, which in turn hastens their own demise, as witnessed with Umno and BN.

Knowingly or unknowingly, as the book was completed well before the May 9 polls in which a kleptocracy was defeated, the above was one of the key takeaways of Muhammed’s simple but sophisticated book.

A bad economy will skew a political party’s fate, even if it well-larded with cash, corruption and connections. Reading the book now, after the 14th general election, it almost seems like a eulogy to UMNO-BN.

Barely a trickle

But The Colour of Inequality is also a sad indictment of how politicians and corporate leaders have steered the mighty Malaysian ship aground.

Image result for the colour of inequality ethnicity class income and wealth in malaysia

As Muhammed (photo, below) notes, most companies simply refuse to pay their workers well. When they don’t, and with less than nine percent of workers unionised, the bargaining power of the workers is overwhelmingly diminished, leaving them to the mercy of their corporate masters.

 

If the book is anything go by, the whole of Malaysia is sputtering to a halt – despite a GDP that “grew from RM5.1 billion in 1957 to RM1 trillion in 2012”. With the national debt now standing at RM1.09 trillion, Malaysia is caught in the vice-like middle-income trap.

The infamous trickle-down economics, for the lack of a better term, is not just non-existent here; wealth seems to be flowing upwards. Given when it was written, The Colour of Inequality references the Occupy Wall Street, where the 99 percent were trying, seemingly in vain, to challenge the grip of the exalted one percent.

In any case, widespread disempowerment is a phenomenon that should not be happening if the state and the market, as is the case in Malaysia, have vouched to work in tandem to help the poor – as reflected in the National Economic Policy and its derivatives.

But although Malaysia as a whole was becoming richer, the income differentials of Malaysians is growing wider. The lethal brew of myriad income determinants and gangly systems of income distribution have conspired to render the middle and working classes disempowered.

As Muhammed puts it: “(As of 2012), the top 20 percent held more than 52.1 percent of all wealth, while the bottom 40 percent held less than eight percent. The distribution of liquid assets was very extreme – the top 20 percent had 95 percent of all financial wealth, while the bottom 80 percent had only five percent.”This shouldn’t be happening

This process of emasculation should not be happening. Especially not after 61 years of independence.

In 1958, there were only 3,000 Malay taxpayers out of the overall of 33,000 taxpayers. A decade later, of the 1,488 students in Universiti Malaya – the only university in the country at the time – who graduated with a BSc, only 69 were Malays. Only four of the 408 who graduated with an engineering degree were Malays.

“During the same period,” Muhammed adds, “only 12 Malays graduated from the medical faculty, representing less than 10 percent of the total medical faculty graduates.”

But while the number of Malay graduates, technocrats and universities between 1970-2018 have risen dramatically, the chasm between rich and poor continues to stay the same, if not widened.

Statistics from the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) show that 92 percent of the people are earning less than RM 6,000 a month; four out of 10 Malaysians have no pensions at all; close to 40 percent earn less than RM3,000 per month; 25 percent of Malaysians have no properties to their names; and the money that pilgrims save for the hajj is spent entirely on the hajj, leaving their children with nothing to draw on.

Muhammed adds that it is “estimated that there were only 150,000 inter (-racial) marriages in Malaysia, a small figure in a population of 28 million”. Wealth, or, the lack of it, tends to have the same clustering effects in one group and one race.

An epilogue

One thing that Muhammed does not address at length is the extent to which the state can compel GLCs and GLICs to remunerate their workers well, or at least put a cap on the salary differentials between those at the top and the workers at the bottom.

Additionally, in the aftermath of the financial crisis and Occupy Wall Street, the honeycomb, gig, platform and sharing economy has emerged. If more people put their minds together, more bottom-up solutions – as manifested by Uber, Grab, Air BnB and other forms of electronic commerce – can and will emerge.

But are Malaysians ready for this, beyond the template of the digital free trade zone offered by Alibaba? Or will the proverbial cheese of Malaysians once again be consumed wholesale by a flood of new migrants from China, India and the rest of the world?

Come what may, Malaysians have to work together and understand the structural and systemic reforms that are needed beyond the mere creation of a few digital unicorns.

They need to empower themselves through education, especially online education, even if this involves disciplining themselves to start taking self-enrichment courses – including learning management systems such as edX or Class Central.

If anyone is in need of more inspiration, Muhammed’s book is the best place to start.

The Colour of Inequality, if not redressed, will lead to the panic of inequality, in which only the paranoid will survive. Especially because it is only another 20 years or so before Malaysia starts greying, a process that took European societies a century to experience.


PHAR KIM BENG was a multiple award-winning Head Teaching Fellow on China and Cultural Revolution in Harvard University.

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

Fact-checked journalism must endure


August 12, 2018

Fact-checked journalism must endure

Image result for christiane amanpour quote on journalism

“There are some situations one simply cannot be neutral about, because when you are neutral you are an accomplice. Objectivity doesn’t mean treating all sides equally. It means giving each side a hearing.”–CNN’s Christiane Amanpour

 

COMMENT | If the media are to be socially constructive, they must rely on the journalist’s intelligent understanding and reporting of issues. This can only come about if journalists are themselves intelligently informed.

That’s the basic premise of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) seminar on media training in Kuala Lumpur in June 1973.

Journalism has changed radically since then – from the makeup and digital literacy of the readers to the multitasking required of journalists to write for a newspaper and produce an online package for the same story on the same day.

Journalists are no longer the main purveyor of news. Readers are now able to circulate their version of the same story on social media sites, which add another level of complexity to today’s journalism – the tussle between “journalistic truth” and “fluid truth”, “real news” and “fake news”. Do we even care about the truth these days?

The line separating “truth” and “falsehoods” is constantly shifting, depending on who you ask. And, the difference between real and fake news is unclear – so vague that “fake news” has become a catch-all term to mean anything that we don’t like, particularly information that strikes at our core values.

US President Donald Trump (photo) has appropriated the term to demonise the media that are hypercritical of his presidency. Trump has wilfully engaged in deceptive political tweets to mislead and disinform, as do many conspiracy theorists.

POTUS 45 is the Slayer of American Journalism–Putting Josef Goebbels to shame

Rookie and poorly trained journalists are not immune to the fake news phenomenon either. J–ournalists do misinform when they report inaccuracies because they did not do their research or quote a source out of context.

But when sources knowingly circulate false information and dress it up to look like real news to mislead and manipulate, that’s disinforming.

That’s pandering to the inherent biases we hold of particular issues and people. Herein lies the “fake news” menace – to deceive for political ends.

The spread of disinformation has caused the ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Information (AMRI) to jointly declare on May 10 a framework to stem the flow of “fake news”.

The Poynter Institute has also initiated an International Fact-Checking Network to counter the “fake news” phenomenon .(https://ifcncodeofprinciples.poynter.org/ )

April 2 was even named as a global fact-checking day. Computer programs are being designed to help readers sieve falsehoods from the “truth”.

Restoring public trust

Image result for Award Winning CNN Arwa Damon in Iraq

Ultimately, fact-checked and research-based journalism must endure, especially in the Malaysian media context. Pakatan Harapan’s ousting of decades of BN rule has given our journalists a shot at doing their job better.

The nascent freedom to speak truth to power, the freedom to critically report and boldly investigate should ideally lead to a positive change in Malaysian journalism. Greater freedom, however, does not necessarily lead to quality journalism.

 

Higher standards can only be achieved if the editorial leadership and newsroom environment are firmly committed to fair, accurate, contextual and investigative reporting. Journalists must be led by the facts. Only then can the mainstream media reclaim what they have lost – their public trust and credibility – during decades of acting as BN’s lapdogs.

Image result for Malaysiakini under attack

Malaysiakini–Malaysia’s Foremost Web-Paper–refuses to be intimidated by Najib Razak’s UMNO-BN Government

Decades of BN’s hold on the media and political affiliations of the top brass in the mainstream media have for too long stifled the advancement of Malaysian journalism. For too long, the mainstream media have aligned its op-eds and narratives with the BN agendas. They have pandered to the interests of those in power rather than address the concerns of the people.

Returning media to people

Which reminds me of what the former rural affairs editor of Indian newspaper The Hindu, P Sainath said about returning the media to the people.

I met Sainath at his home many years ago in Mumbai during one of my research trips. In a 2016 lecture he gave in New Delhi, he said: “We have a media (in India) that is driven by revenue, not by reality; by commerce, not by community; by profit, not by people; by narrow corporate greed, not by news judgement. Media, journalism, art and literature did not come out of corporate investments, they came out of communities and societies, we need to return them to the people.”

To return Malaysian journalism to the people, the first step is to appoint an internal readers’ advocate, or a “public editor” as The New York Times once named it. The advocate will act as an internal media watchdog of fair, ethical and accurate reporting.

 

He or she will receive and examine complaints of unfair reporting from readers and assess such complaints. The news organisation will then publish the assessment in either the letters or op-ed page.

The advocate will write a monthly summary to be published by the respective paper, and at the end of the financial year in the annual report to inform their shareholders. That’s a form of media audit.

The second step is to integrate stringent fact-checking into the daily news reporting and production. True, reporters are expected to check their stories, and have them checked again by their news editors.

With the fast turnover of news, however, this task should be delegated to fact-checkers. Their main job is to check the veracity of statements, claims and opinions of various sources multiple times. Self-regulation in the newsroom is certainly preferred to government legislation – and it works better in raising standards.

Malaysian journalists should also undergo continual professional training to enhance their skills in critical observations and analyses of issues to serve the public interest.

Training should focus on developing proactive reporting or solutions-oriented journalism, probing interviews, fact-checking, data analyses, and in depth research. An in-house training curricula can be designed alongside local and regional media training organisations.

If the mainstream media initiate these internal reform measures, we may see some improvements in the quality of news coverage and analyses. The media will in good time earn back the public trust, and consequently maximise its profitability.


ERIC LOO is Senior Fellow (Journalism) at the School of the Arts, English & Media, Faculty of Law Humanities & Arts, University of Wollongong, Australia. He is also the founding editor of Asia Pacific Media Educator.

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

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad Interview: The New Malaysia


July 6, 2018

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad Interview: The New Malaysia

The early signs of the New Malaysia, like 1Malaysia, are hopeful and exciting. But I hope Pakatan leaders do not let power  go to their heads. I am personally prepared to give them time since cultural change takes time. 60 years of UMNO–Culture of Corruption and Mediocrity will be difficult to change. That’s why Tun  Dr. Mahathir’s Cabinet comprises young ministers in the majority.

The civil service must be revamped and top civil servants who were associated with the previous corrupt regime should be replaced and the public service should be competent, transparent and accountable. A Culture of Competency and Meritocracy must,therefore,  be the order of the day. The quota system, for example, should replaced so the civil service must not be dominated by one race. –Din Merican