A collective Malay shame and tragedy


November 5, 2018

A collective Malay shame and tragedy

by Dr.M Bakri Musa  |www.malaysiakini.com

 

COMMENT | Reading the US Department Of Justice’s (DOJ) criminal indictment of November 1, 2018, relating to 1MDB, as well as its earlier (July 2016) civil forfeiture lawsuit on assets allegedly linked to it, I am struck by three singular observations.

First is the appalling avarice of the alleged culprits; second, the utter impunity with which they conducted themselves; and third, the sheer stupidity of the man without whose authority those shenanigans would not have been possible – Malaysian Official 1, as referred to in both charges. The world now knows him as Najib Abdul Razak. While he is not facing any DOJ charges as yet, in Malaysia he faces several criminal ones that could put him in jail for the rest of his life.

This 1MDB heist is by far the most complex and largest in terms of monetary value. The sheer hubris of the perpetrators to think that they could get away with it. As for Najib, he is not terribly bright, just wily enough to know that his fellow ministers and UMNO leaders could be bought cheaply with the loot from 1MDB.

As for his rise in UMNO, that too is more the consequence of Malay culture. Malays are suckers for terhutang budi, an excessive sense of gratitude. With Najib, it was for his father Abdul Razak Hussein – Malaysia’s second Prime Minister who died unexpectedly while in office in 1976.

 

Had Najib not been a Bin Razak, he would be but a middling civil servant, at best. Think of it; had his Bin Razak status been ignored, or the powerful had not been terhutang budi, Malaysia would have been spared much grief today, and a whole lot less debt.

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Najib Razak and his Master Yoda

The trail of financial liabilities of 1MDB, though massive and painful, is at least quantifiable. Not so the associated lost opportunities. Had the billions not been squandered on luxuries in London, Beverley Hills, and New York or funding soft porno movies, but on improving national schools and Felda settlements, we would be that much closer to the goals of Ketuanan Melayu and Vision 2020.

This being Malaysia, the dangerous race factor is never far from the surface. That is the most pernicious and consequential legacy of 1MDB. Already there are ugly rumours, and not just within UMNO but also other segments of the Malay community, blaming those smart, greedy Chinese once again taking advantage, if not outright cheating, of sweet, innocent Malay leaders.

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Even Najib is now distancing himself from Jho Low  This potential explosive component is the most dangerous and incendiary, and one that cannot be unquantified.

 

Even uglier and more painful to express publicly is this: Malays are downright ashamed by the outrageous behaviour of their corrupt leaders. Not stated but obvious is that all those charged in Malaysia are Malays, not ordinary ones but top leaders.

Malaysians must thank Mahathir for appointing Tommy Thomas as the attorney-general. It is amazing what you can achieve when you put a premium on honesty, integrity, and competence. Yes, there were many Malays who complained of Thomas not being a Malay or Muslim, as well as on his less-than-polished Malay.

Regardless, he put to shame his predecessor, Mohamed Apandi Ali. He, together with Najib, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim and others, is but an unmitigated disaster and gross embarrassment to Malays and Muslims, bar none.Image result for UMNO Leaders charged

UMNO new Leadership devoid of Honour and Integrity

By normal reckoning, Apandi should have been impeached. Again in a perversion of values, Najib made him a Tan Sri, and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong agreed. Like it or not, to many non-Malays as well as Malays, the likes of Najib and Apandi represent the best that our community could offer. That hurts!

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UMNO’s Bro Azeez Mamak Rahim

As for those other champions of Ketuanan Melayu, their goals would be achieved that much faster and more efficaciously if they would first get rid of these characters in their midst.

It is good to be reminded that with DOJ’s filings, a pivotal defendant in its criminal case has already pleaded guilty; with its civil (case), at least two have agreed to settle.

Much can be deduced from the local reactions, and even more so from the lack of same among some notable quarters. It is not surprising that simple kampung folks still believe Najib despite those charges as well as the boxes of gold and cash hauled from his residences. They still believe that the money was for them!

What stretches one’s credulity is that UMNO leaders too bought Najib’s snake oil, and they included many lawyers and accountants, as well as an Oxford graduate and even an Ivy League PhD! That is the greatest Malay shame and tragedy.


M BAKRI MUSA, a surgeon in California, is a frequent commentator on Malaysian affairs.

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

BERSATU They Stand: Bersatu, the new face of Ketuanan Melayu Politics?


September 29, 2018

BERSATU They  Stand:   Bersatu, the new face of Ketuanan Melayu Politics?

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by S Thayaparan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Our fight is a fundamental fight against both of the old corrupt party machines, for both are under the dominion of the plunder league of the professional politicians who are controlled and sustained by the great beneficiaries of privilege and reaction.” – Theodore Roosevelt

COMMENT | I just do not get it. There seem to be two narratives when it comes to this idea of a unity government. The first is about how Pakatan Harapan de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim and his coterie are working in a sub rosa fashion with UMNO to form a unity government, while the second is about how UMNO is going, hat in hand, to Malay power structures in Harapan to cease being a “government in waiting.”

What I don’t understand is why people really think that the big bad wolf is still UMNO, as if it will be the catalyst that would down the Harapan regime. The existential threat to Harapan is not UMNO, but an ideology that paralyses any progressive destiny of Malaysia… Harapan needs a strong Malay mandate if they are to throw their weight around in a multiracial, multi-religious coalition, which they have never been comfortable with.”– S. Thayaparan

Both narratives are false because the reality is that a unity government is already forming. What I don’t understand is why people really think that the big bad wolf is still UMNO, as if it will be the catalyst that would down the Harapan regime. The existential threat to Harapan is not UMNO, but an ideology that paralyses any progressive destiny of Malaysia.

Hidup Melayu –UMNO’s Soul–has support of the majority of the Malay community

UMNO does not have to form a unity government with Harapan before the next election – because by the next election, there will be no UMNO. When the old maverick and now Harapan’s Dr. Mahathir Mohamad claims that UMNO is finished, it is not because the people voted UMNO out. The party still has support of the majority of the Malay community.

War of Attrition

What is going on now is a war of attrition within Malay power structures, which means that UMNO rats are abandoning ship and heading to other ‘Malay’ lifeboats.

Malay power structures in PKR and Bersatu have openly said they would accept UMNO into the fold. While they make weak qualifications of membership, the reality is that Harapan needs a strong Malay mandate if they are to throw their weight around in a multiracial, multi-religious coalition, which they have never been comfortable with. The old maverick knows this, and so do the political operatives – Malay and non-Malay – within Harapan.

PKR lawmaker Wong Chen , in dismissing the idea of a unity government, rightly pointed out that – “That question is best addressed to Bersatu because UMNO members are leaving to join Bersatu.”

People pay attention to the power brokers of UMNO jumping ship, but the reality is that UMNO has been haemorrhaging grassroots members to Bersatu, and to a lesser extent, PKR.

While PAS may have picked up some support because of the new anti-Mahathir feeling of some UMNO members, the biggest draw by far has been Bersatu, which is seen as the new face of Malay politics.

Bersatu They Stand

While some folks have no problem demonising Anwar for his apparent racial and religious politics, the fact is that Bersatu as the so-called champion of Malay rights and Islamic superiority is the main draw for people who want to abandon UMNO.

My reading of why Anwar is blathering on about race and religion is that because he understands that the Malay vote base is more comfortable with a race-based party like Bersatu, and not a nominally multiracial outfit like PKR.

Indeed, Bersatu benefits from Anwar’s and Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s rather silly pronouncements, because eyes are diverted away from Bersatu and the old maverick’s shenanigans when it comes to policy decisions, the Harapan manifesto, and the ambivalence towards the rising tide of Islamic provocations in this country.

Not to mention, the old guard of Umno who really did not like former president Najib Abdul Razak is working the levers ensuring that Bersatu is the main beneficiary of those exiting the former ruling party.

While Anwar may say that he has no fear of Mahathir and his personal relationship is good, his actions and those of his supporters betray the deep anxiety they have of the way the political terrain is shaping in this post-Umno reality.

So the old maverick does the needful and reiterates his pledge that Anwar would be the next prime minister. But you have to wonder if Mahathir is saying this amid talks of a unity government, doesn’t it just further the narrative that Anwar is impatient, which inflames the Harapan (non-Malay) base against his former protégé, because the majority of the Malay base is already skeptical?

‘Glory Days’

People who think that the destruction of UMNO is some sort of closure to the racial and religious politics in this country are fooling themselves. Beyond the urban centres where Bersatu and PAS are eventually going to have their showdown, the politics of race and religion will be the battleground. This will seep into the urban enclaves. It always does.

Back in the day, Dr. Mahathir, the current Prime Minister had no problem with the help of his non-Malay counterparts launching offensives against PAS, but at the same time, working the Islamic angle to his advantage.

Many UMNO supporters who are thinking of jumping ship tell me that what they see forming is a return to the old days, when the Chinese and Malays were “working together” under the great Mahathir. They see this as a return to the glory days. This is swell for them, but it was then that the roots of destruction of this country were planted.

Rational Malaysians should not buy into this propaganda of a unity government pushed by the political elites. The narratives that Harapan rejects any form of unity government, or that some in Harapan are working towards this aim, should be rejected.

Remember, the ‘Ketuanan’ system that many in UMNO find appealing has been replaced with the slowly forming pillars of BN Redux – “don’t spook the Malays” and “coming as close as we can to get the government to say those laws are wrong.”

The first is the foundation of the ‘Ketuanan’ system, which is what UMNO political operatives – and really, every mainstream Malay political operative – need to sustain political power, because they do not want to discover new ways.

The second is the compromise with non-Malay power structures, which is the easy power-sharing formula that worked so well at the height of Mahathir’s reign.

In the current climate, there will be more big-name casualties when it comes to the malfeasance of the Najib regime, and there will definitely be more defections – after a suitable period of contriteness of course – of UMNO members to Bersatu and PKR.

Anwar’s Port Dickson gambit will determine if he remains a player when it comes to this high-stakes Malay political game. But make no mistake, the unity government is already forming, and while the body of UMNO will be destroyed, its soul will find a new vessel.


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.

 

A Momentous Merdeka Day in 2018


August 31, 2018

A Momentous Merdeka Day in 2018

by Steve Oh

Steve Oh’s Message to Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s 7th Prime Minister

Image result for Mahathir Mohamad and Shinzo Abe

“There is no independence in the true sense of the emancipation of a nation until the people are free to think, act and exist in a total state of freedom.

May God bless Malaysia still. May Mahathir live longer still and have the humility to walk with God and the people, act justly and have the wisdom of Solomon to govern the nation.

May the government carry out its duties with diligence, honesty, fairness and utter competence. Merdeka then is meaningful.”

COMMENT | Merdeka 2018 is momentous.

I hope for the sake of Malaysia, it will be the final time citizens celebrate their national day with the exhilaration of deliverance from an oppressive political yoke still fresh in their minds.

In 1957, the country was set free from British colonialists. There was a similar euphoria. But the fledgling nation, after deposing the affable first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, was recolonised by a new group of myopic local leaders led by Razak Hussein that included Mahathir Mohamad, Musa Hitam and other UMNO young Turks . The neocolonialists imposed upon the people a yoke heavier than the British yoke.

Fast forward to 2018, and the nation will reverberate once again with freedom and shouts of acclamation on August 31.

After May 13, 1969, she was hijacked and subjected to a lifetime of abuse. Race, closely accompanied by religion, constricted the nation. The nation still forged ahead economically but became tangled in draconian laws and discriminatory policies; was pitifully abused, serially raped and treacherously plundered. Polarisation of the people was purposely planned and executed.

It is treachery of the worst kind when a government led by Najib Razk betrays the trust of the people, divides and steals from them and tries to get away with deception, conspiracy and lies.

Preaching unity and the usual platitudes, it carried out an agenda of subversion, undermining the rule of law and brought the nation to the brink of economic and social disaster. The courts of power became the circuses of clowns, and like Nero the Roman emperor, fiddled away the nation’s future.

Many became cynical, others despondent, yet many never lost hope and worked for change. Still others prayed.

Then the “miracle” the people had worked and prayed for took place on May 9 this year. The nation was emancipated from the abusers, the rapists and the thieves. The treacherous king of kleptocrats now faces justice and the long arm of the law. Those who are culpable will be punished.

The blood spilled and lives taken of innocent victims will be vindicated. The masterminds of the much-publicised slayings of Altantuya Shaariibuu, Kevin Morais (photo) and Hussain Ahmad Najadi, among others, will face justice. The true kidnappers of Pastor Raymond Koh and others will be revealed.

Divine justice

Like many others in a religious Malaysia, I believe in God and the universal law of reaping what you sow. Nothing escapes the truth of time. In time, the truth will surface. And the guilty will be shamed. They will never evade divine justice.

God answers prayers still. For nearly 30 years, even in a faraway land, without fail when I water-hosed my potted plants, I asked God to destroy the evil that had gripped the nation. God answered. He has changed the course of history and saved Malaysia from certain ruin.

Many unsung heroes cried to God for deliverance and he heard their pleas. Often, over the years, I wrote in Malaysiakini of the “higher official who watches over the officials” and will intervene to achieve his purpose. I make no apology for my utter confidence in the God of Justice.

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A Good and Decent Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Badawi turned out to be considering the plunder of the Malaysian state under Najib Razak

Malaysia is a unique nation and deserves to succeed. Former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi hit the nail on the head when he lamented the nation’s “third-world mindset” despite its “first-class infrastructure”.

What will derail the nation is not the cessation of Chinese railway projects but the constricting ideas of the misguided. I’m glad there are “watchmen” – including women – over the country who sound the alarm against the extremists.

The danger of religion is that it can be abused to lead a nation down the slippery slope. To the credit of concerned Muslims like those in the G25 group, their voice of reason resounds through the corridors of power and the public arena.

When religion slices through the heart of a nation and splits it in two, when self-proclaimed defenders of faith become a threat to those they purport to protect, it is time for the state to act and rein in the bigots.

When my father died two years ago at 96, I did not shed a tear. Deep in my heart I know he lived a full life and, in faith, I shall see him again in the place I know. I miss him nearly every day.

Yet, three days ago, the tears welled in my eyes and I felt a tautness in my heart after watching a video I received through WhatsApp.

It was a social experiment organised by Media Prima that took place in the vicinity of Pavilion Shopping Centre in Kuala Lumpur. A giant elevated electronic screen positioned above the crowds came to life with the audible sounds of a talking man and stopped the passersby in their tracks. The presenter asked them some simple questions, one after another.

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“Who likes nasi lemak?” ‘Who has a close friend from another race?’ ‘Who knows how to sing the national anthem Negara-ku?’ They were asked to gather in a marked square if they answered in the affirmative. In the end, the square was filled with the biggest group of Malaysians of all races.

 

I saw in the video the heartfelt joy of diverse Malaysians – young men and women of different races and religions – unified in their love for their country. They were evidently overjoyed to share so many things in common despite their ethnic and religious differences. The only other time I saw a similar display of spontaneous kinship across race and religion was at the Bersih 5 rally.

Smouldering cinders

Successive governments, leaders, groups and individuals have harped about the uniqueness of Malaysia. Yet the nation still flounders and has yet to come to grips with the devil they know that threatens to derail the nation – the abuse of race and religion. Leaders have yet to act decisively and concretely against the perpetrators of the doctrines that divide, that destroys and that is against the spirit of national unity.

Malaysians know who the devil is that tears the nation apart. Their political sponsors have been sent packing from Putrajaya.

The fire has been put out. But the cinders are still smouldering, their smoke choking the nation and threatening to start bonfires here and there. The nation’s threat lingers and loiters at the corridors and closets of power.

The 1957 Merdeka freed the nation from a foreign yoke. The 2018 “Merdeka” freed the nation from the home-grown yoke.

Will a future “Merdeka” free the nation from the yoke of race and religion that constricts, divides and destroys the unity of the nation?

Believe it or not, the Pavilion event revealed the truth about Malaysia, that the diverse religions and races do co-exist in harmony despite the differences.

Rid the nation of the subversives – those who use race and religion as political weapons to gain the political ascendancy – and you end up with a Malaysia united, prosperous and peaceful.

It is time the new government be bold, be true and be honest in dealing the devil of disunity a fatal blow. Who will it be? Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Pakatan Harapan de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, or some eminent Malay leader?

The metamorphosis of Merdeka is a long journey. It is a historic event as much as an ongoing process. Getting out of jail is one thing, staying out of jail is another. Gaining independence is one thing, giving the people their independence is another.

There is no independence in the true sense of the emancipation of a nation until the people are free to think, act and exist in a total state of freedom.

May God bless Malaysia still. May Mahathir live longer still and have the humility to walk with God and the people, act justly and have the wisdom of Solomon to govern the nation.

May the government carry out its duties with diligence, honesty, fairness and utter competence. Merdeka then is meaningful.

Happy Merdeka 2018, Malaysia!


STEVE OH is the author of the novel “Tiger King of the Golden Jungle” and composer of the musical of the same title. He believes in good governance and morally upright leaders.

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

Anwar Ibrahim, stop the PKR Contest


August 18, 2018

Anwar Ibrahim, stop the PKR Contest and get down to the serious business of promised reforms

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The pre-election scuffles within PKR are threatening to tear apart the party as well as the hopes of all who see it as the way forward for the new Malaysia.

COMMENT

 

By Watson Peters

Most Malaysians would agree that while Dr Mahathir Mohamad was the catalyst that caused the change of the Barisan Nasional (BN) government, that result was not the fortuitous consequence of some fortuitous social process. It did not appear out of thin air. It was the natural and inevitable consequence of a government that could not continue to base itself on arbitrary applications of power that sought to eliminate all forms of dissent and non-conformity.

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Azmin Ali –The Man who stood with Anwar Ibrahim and PKR through the years

The sole unwavering sentinel at the PKR guardhouse from day one has been Azmin. His loyalty to the Reform Malaysia cause cannot and should not be doubted.–Watson Peters

The process of change began with the cruel, baseless and repeated incarcerations of Anwar Ibrahim and was sustained by the momentum of the Reformasi movement and PKR which has continued carrying the “Reform Malaysia” torch since 1998. People who were not particularly fond of Anwar became Anwar supporters overnight.

The Anwar family became the best-loved family in the hearts of most Malaysians. While PKR may have fewer than one million members, it has millions more supporters and sympathisers across the whole spectrum of our nation

The current PKR election has denigrated into an internecine warfare that threatens to tear apart not only the fabric of PKR, but also the hopes of millions who see PKR as the hope and way forward for the new Malaysia.

The public utterances by some PKR leaders are rather discouraging and indeed disheartening. This looks like a classic case of talking the party and the government into trouble.

Given that the new government has not properly warmed its seat yet, the issue really is whether it is necessary to have the contests at this time.

Could not the many good leaders in PKR work together for the common good rather than for well-disguised personal objectives?Could not the contending forces lay down their armoury and allow the Pakatan Harapan government settle down in its business of running our country and leading us to a better future?

It is a tragedy to see how the contest for the post of Deputy President between Rafizi Ramli and Mohamed Azmin Ali is turning out. To compound matters, the contest has filtered down to the other echelons of leadership.

Admittedly, both Rafizi and Azmin are great leaders to have within the ranks. They may have different modus operandi but that need not be at cross-purposes.

It is particularly painful to hear accusations of disloyalty aimed at Azmin. Malaysians remember how, in the aftermath of Anwar’s incarceration and while Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, or Kak Wan, as the figure head of the Reformasi movement and PKR had to deal not only with an absent husband but also a young family, it was “Anwar’s boys” (as they were popularly known) who were on the ground – marshalling supporters, organising branches and giving flesh to the bare bones of PKR.

Sadly though, over the years most of “Anwar’s boys” have either “run for the hills” or “crossed over to the other side”.

The sole unwavering sentinel at the PKR guardhouse from day one has been Azmin. His loyalty to the Reform Malaysia cause cannot and should not be doubted.

As Selangor menteri besar, he had shown remarkable leadership, maturity and fortitude in the face of numerous challenges, especially in the early days. The scurrilous attacks on Azmin’s loyalty and integrity must be viewed with the contempt they deserve while his elegant non-confrontational reaction must be applauded.

That said, Rafizi is also an irreplaceable component of the PKR engine. His sacrifices for the Malaysian people have not been forgotten. His frequent exposes at great personal risk are still fresh in our hearts and minds.

Given this scenario, it lies upon the shoulders of Anwar as President of PKR and the Bapak Reformasi to intervene immediately and impose peace upon the party.

Democratic rights aside, Anwar can and must convince the contestants to allow the new government to settle down and dig us out of the quagmire we are in. Anwar is the only one who can impose an acceptable modus vivendi and he should not abdicate this responsibility.

It may be good for all the contestants to remind themselves that there is always the next party election, in a couple of years’ time, to re-ignite this contest.

Stop the implosion of PKR and the explosion of the hopes of millions of Malaysians.

Watson Peters has been a practising lawyer for more than 30 years.

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

The Struggle for Political Islam in ‘new Malaysia’


July 6, 2018

The Struggle for Political Islam in ‘new Malaysia’

Despite PAS’ electoral wins, the new government belies the cliches of monolithic Islamist politics.

There was a limit to playing identity politics during the 14th General Elections (GE14), but it’s now too simplistic to say there’s a “new politics” where race and religion no longer matter in Malaysia. Malaysia is not totally free from elements of Bumiputraism and Islamism, yet there are diversifications and transformations of discourses and practices in political Islam. And these changes will continue to shape and be shaped by political contestations in this “new Malaysia”.

Opposition party PAS and victorious Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition party Amanah are unlikely to cooperate in the name of Islam. Although both claim to be Islamic parties, their approaches are rather different. PAS is a more Malay-oriented Islamic party with its strongholds in Kelantan and Terengganu, while Amanah is a more cosmopolitan and reformist-inclined Islamic party with a support base in the urbanised Klang Valley. Such Pas–Amanah competition might be also framed as a contestation between orthodox versus moderate Islamism, Islamism versus post-Islamism, or political Islam 1.0 versus 2.0; of course, the realities are more much more complex than these differentiations. Hence, it is a mistake to claim that Malay Muslims in the Klang Valley are less “Islamic” than those in the east coast states, just because they did not vote for PAS.

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At GE-14, PAS won 18 parliamentary seats while Amanah secured 11 seats. However, the “Islamic voice” in the winning PH coalition also exists in its other component parties PKR (Parti Keadilan Rakyat) and even PPBM (Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia), as there are leaders with ABIM (Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia) and IKRAM (Pertubuhan IKRAM Malaysia) background in both parties. In short, PAS is no longer the only dominant force representing political Islam in Malaysia, as it’s facing strong challenges from other political parties and also NGOs with Islamic credentials.

Many Malaysians, including Malay Muslims, voted against Najib Razak and issues such as the GST and corruption in GE-14. Yet where these Malay protest votes go are configured by political orientations among Malay Muslims, depending on regions. In the southern states such as Johor, Malay nationalism is strong and PAS is not an important force. Hence the anti-Najib voters’ swinging to PH.

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Also Read here: https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/bitstream/handle/1887/46227/THESIS%20pdf.pdf?sequence=1

But in the east coast states, PAS is strong on its own. After successfully denouncing Amanah and consolidating its hardcore supporters, the party ran extensive campaigns against the GST and corruption to attract anti-Najib voters. It may be inaccurate to claim that many Malay Muslims in Kelantan and Terengganu were voting for RUU355, a parliamentary bill proposed by PAS president Hadi Awang to enhance existing Syariah laws.

In the Klang Valley, potential PAS voters are much more diverse and sophisticated than those in the east coast. Aside from the PAS hardcore, there are also supporters of Anwar Ibrahim, ABIM, Ikram, and other Islamic movements. At GE14, the PAS hardcore stayed loyal yet others, especially those from ABIM and IKRAM, ran effective campaigns for PH, lending the coalition much-needed Islamic credentials. They have successfully persuaded many former PAS voters in the Klang Valley to vote for PH.

Many observers have focused on PAS’ winning Kelantan and Terengganu states on its own, attributing its victories to religious factors and describing PAS voters as a “moral constituency”. However, such analyses often wrongly suggest Muslims who have voted for PH are less “Islamic” and less concerned about “moral issues”. Many have also taken urban Muslim supporters of PH for granted.

Take the case of Sungai Ramal (formerly Bangi), a Malay-majority urban state seat in Selangor. By exploring how PAS and PH (represented by Amanah) competed to win over pious urban Muslim voters, by offering different approaches to political Islam, its results tell us more about the transformation of political Islam in urban Malaysia.

Like Shah Alam, Bangi or to be more accurate Bandar Baru Bangi (Bangi New Town) was an urban development project under the New Economic Policy (NEP) to increase the urban Malay population. The state assembly seat of Bangi, renamed Sungai Ramal in 2018, had previously been won by PAS in 1999, 2008, and 2013. Yet it was captured by PH in 2018. The main offices of ISMA (Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia) and HTM (Hizbut Tahrir Malaysia) are located in Bangi, while many ABIM and IKRAM activists also reside in this township.

Bangi is generally seen as a “middle-class Malay Muslim” township. It’s also known as “bandar ilmu” (“knowledge town”, where UKM and KUIS are located) and “bandar fesyen” (“fashion town”, where many Muslimah boutiques and halal eateries are situated). During the GE14 campaign, some Amanah leaders also called Bangi “bandar Rahmatan lil-Alamin”—an inclusive Islamic township which is “a blessing for all”.

After the controversial redelineation exercises nationwide by the Election Commission (EC), the state constituency of Bangi not only got a new name (Sungai Ramal) but also an increase in Malay voters, from about 66% to 80%. Such demographics might have indicated a higher chance for PAS to retain the seat or perhaps enabled UMNO to wrest the seat back. However, as I have observed during the election campaign, Bangi was a battleground between PAS (represented by Nushi Mahfodz, a celebrity ustaz) and Amanah (represented by Mazwan Johar, a lawyer and ex-PAS activist), given that UMNO was not popular among many urban, educated middle-class Malay Muslims.

In order to engage with its middle class and youth members, as well as to win over support from a broader set of pious Muslims, the PAS leadership in Selangor knows its religious credentials alone are not enough. Party strategists have introduced the idea of “technocratic government” (kerajaan teknorat), running events such as “town hall” meetings featuring the party’s youth leaders from professional backgrounds. But religious issues are still central to the PAS campaign. It fielded Nushi Mahfodz, a lecturer at KUIS (Kolej Universiti Islam Selangor) and a celebrity ustaz, as an attempt to win over pious voters. PAS also had certain controls over mosques, religious schools and kindergartens across Bangi.

But there were some uncertainties and dissatisfaction among PAS supporters during GE-14, and they posed challenging questions to party leaders over the campaign. According to PAS ceramah attendees I met, there were different levels of support toward the Islamist party. Some were hardcore PAS members, some were dissatisfied members considering voting for PH, while others who were unhappy with the party leadership still stayed loyal to the party. One of them used the analogy of a classroom: “the teacher might be wrong, but the textbook is always correct. We can criticise the teacher, but we can’t throw away our textbook”.

Pakatan Harapan was well aware it was not enough to campaign solely against the GST and corruption if it wanted to win over pious Muslim voters in Bangi. So it wasn’t a surprise that Amanah arranged a dialogue in Bangi during the GE14 campaign featuring Ustaz Nik Omar, the eldest son of the late Nik Aziz, the revered former PAS spiritual leader. In that dialogue, Nik Omar suggested that his father was not only fighting for the party (PAS), but also more importantly for Islam and for dakwah. For him, dakwah was an “Islamic outreach” towards the broader Muslim community and non-Muslims as well. Compared to “inward-looking” PAS, Nik Omar found PH a better platform for dakwah. In some ways, he carried the legacy of his father, emphasising the need to engage with broader societies while upholding an Islamic agenda.

But Nik Omar himself suffered a heavy defeat in Kelantan, where PAS hardcore supporters in the east coast were ideologically committed and highly loyal to the party. Yet Nik Omar played an important role in helping PH win over fence-sitter Muslim voters, especially in the Klang Valley. If Dr Mahathir Mohammad with his “Malay nationalist” outlook convinced some previously UMNO voters to switch their support to PH, Nik Omar with his “Islamic credentials” persuaded some previously PAS voters to swing their support to Harapan.

By hailing Nik Aziz as an exemplary Muslim leader in its elections campaign, Amanah emphasised social inclusiveness, working with people from all walks of life including non-Muslims. Yet, at the same time, it maintained certain conservative religious and moral viewpoints. For example, some of its leaders committed PH to not allowing cinemas and alcohol sellers in Bangi. In addition to Nik Omar, many ABIM leaders living in Bangi including its first president Razali Nawawi and fourth president Muhammad Nur Manuty also gave their support to PH candidates. A local PKR leader who ran one of the campaign offices was also from an ABIM background. The main campaign team for the Amanah candidate included youth activists from IKRAM.

As the results showed, a combined effort by Amanah, PKR, IKRAM and ABIM activists defeated the incumbent PAS candidate in this urban Malay Muslim-majority seat. The PH coalition won with 24,591 votes, with PAS securing 13,961 votes while UMNO only got 9,372 votes. As compared to the 2013 elections, there was a huge decrease in both PAS voters (dropping to 13,961 from 29,200 previously) and UMNO voters (to 9,372 from 17,362 previously). In other words, about half of previously PAS and UMNO voters swung their support over to Pakatan Harapan.

Various reasons contributing to this change of voting patterns include the possibility that a significant number of former PAS voters are also supporters of PKR, ABIM, IKRAM, and other Islamic organisations. They are pious voters who consider Islam as an important factor in their voting but they’re not loyal PAS supporters. At GE14, many of them indicated their acceptance of PH as an “Islamic alternative”. Despite that, PAS was still able to keep its 30% support base of Muslim voters in Bangi, suggesting that the Islamist party still has influence among urban Muslims in the Klang Valley. It might be premature to conclude that PAS is only a regional party with influence in the east coast and northern states.

The GE-14 result reflects the enduring influence of PAS and it remains one of the key players of political Islam in Malaysia. Yet at the same time, Amanah and PKR, and to a lesser extent, PPBM, together with IKRAM and ABIM, have offered a viable “Islamic alternative” for pious Muslim voters. Over the next few years, can PAS rejuvenate or expand its support base in the Klang Valley? Can Amanah make further inroads into the east coast states?

The competition for pious Muslim voters will continue to shape and be shaped by Malaysian politics. Anwar Ibrahim recently visited his comrade Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, while Nik Omar and some Amanah leaders have also made references to Erdogan. Some liberal Muslims have questioned the suitability of Maszlee Malik as the Minister of Education because of his perceived “Islamist” background, and he replied such critics by pointing out “being religious is not a crime”.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has stated his intention to revamp the federal government’s Islamic affairs bureaucracy JAKIM, leaving the room open for further competition among different Islamic groups in Malaysia. Such competition will also be configured by the engagement of Muslims from various backgrounds—from traditionalists to modernists, from secular-minded to Islamist-minded, from progressive to conservative. And there are the interactions with non-Muslim Malaysians to consider as well.

DUN Sungai Ramal(formerly Bangi) 2018Total voters: 54,961

Malays 80%   Chinese 9%

Indians 10%   Others 1%

2013Total voters: 53,268

Malays 66%   Chinese 19%

Indians 13%   Others 1%

BN-UMNO 9,372 17,362
PAS 13,961 29,200
PH-Amanah 24,591

Election results in the Sungai Ramal state seat (formerly Bangi) in 2018 and 2013 [data from https://undi.info]

The Myth of Supremacy Politics and the Fourth Estate


July 4, 2018

The Myth of Supremacy Politics and the Fourth Estate

by Bob Teoh

https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/432602

COMMENT | Ousted former Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is trying desperately to save his skin in the shadow of his impending trial over allegations of massive corruption by espousing the myth of Malay supremacy.

Image result for najib razak arrested

Therein lies the challenge to the fourth estate: to check the return of such extremism in the public square.

Such blatant use of the race and religion card is not new to UMNO; it was the bedrock of the finally defeated BN coalition. But it was in the decade of Najib’s regime that this fascist tendency of suppressing his critics and opposition by any means, and the use of the Malay supremacy ruse, became an art form for political survival.

At one time, Najib seemed invincible and unstoppable. Indeed, he had become a god of his own making, until the rakyat overwhelmingly removed the altar from under him in the May 9 general election. Even Umno members deserted him en masse, leading to the party’s unprecedented defeat.

Malays, by and large, do not fall for Najib’s racist supremacy bait. Otherwise, how do we account for UMNO’s massive loss of Malay votes? The doctrine of supremacy is both a fallacy and a myth.

Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor have nowhere to run to, now that they are prohibited from leaving the country. Like a drowning man would clutch to a straw, he now tries to incite the paranoid Malay elements to rally around him by telling them they have become terbangsat (bastardised) on their own turf, now that UMNO has lost power.

And he takes pride in his misplaced prophesy, by saying in words to the effect of “I told you so three years ago.”

Why ‘terbangsat’?

Terbangsat is a nuanced Malay word that is difficult to translate. It could mean ‘despised’ or ‘contemptible’. But Najib uses the prefix ter-. This elevates the word to a superlative of the highest form. This could mean ‘truly despised’ or ‘terribly damned’. Malaysiakini used the term ‘bastardised’, but regardless of the translation, what is certain is that it stinks – literally. The word derives from bangsat, a kutu busuk or bedbug.

When I was small, it was not unusual to find bangsat on our mattresses. We couldn’t swat the bangsat – not only would the blood leave an ugly stain, but a smell on the fingers that would not go away, even after washing.

 

There is no doubt, therefore, that Najib’s use of the word was meant to be incendiary. He posted the comment on his Facebook on the same night of UMNO’s triennial election, on June 30.

Image result for UMNO in Tatters

The End of UMNO?

“UMNO members need to put the party’s interests as a priority in order to rebuild the party strength. We also have to learn from past mistakes, strengthen unity and care between UMNO members. We should stop arguing and avoid making imputations that can affect UMNO unity if we want to restore the power of the party and lift the struggle for religion, race and country.

“Malays cannot rely on the government of Pakatan Harapan to defend and fight for their destiny. This is because the power of their Malay party comes from the support of non-Malays. So far, the Harapan government has allowed a violation of the Malay language, and the Islamic and bumiputera agenda will not be prioritised in their administration. I had said Malays will be terbangsat in their own country if UMNO lost power.

“We have lost power and must be strong in the face of this challenge laid before us by Allah. God willing, with stronger unity and love for the party, UMNO can restore people’s confidence, especially the Malays,” his post read.

Self-fulfilling prophecy

If Malays were indeed in danger of being terbangsat three years ago, why then did Najib not do anything to save their fall from grace?

Did he promote the use and stature of the Malay language? Why did he allow contractors from China building the heavily debt-laden East Coast Rail Line to use only Chinese in their signage and speeches? Did they use Malay subcontractors? Who was it really that hastened the terbangsat downslide of the Malays?

It seems like anytime anyone cries wolf, the pack goes on the hunt for something Chinese to vilify. Even the Oxford-educated Khairy Jamaluddin had no qualms in using the race card in his bid for the top post in the party.

His Ketuanan Melayu politics failed him

Five days before the polls, Khairy (photo) chided Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng for issuing a trilingual press statement that included one in Chinese, accusing him of undermining the status of Bahasa Malaysia.

“My concern is this act will continue to fan the flames of anger among the majority who are feeling increasingly threatened in recent weeks,” he said on Facebook. It is pathetic coming from Khairy, the best of the worst UMNO has to offer.

For six decades UMNO ruled the country without any real opposition, and yet Malays in their eyes are terbangsat. Or are in danger of falling down the slippery slope – in Khairy’s logic – because of one press statement.

Right on cue, up popped former Johor Menteri Besar Mohamed Khaled Nordin to describe Lim’s action as insolent and an insult to the status of Bahasa Malaysia.

Race card up the sleeve

The manner in which UMNO leaders, particularly Najib, use the race card to incite Malays would presuppose that they cannot think for themselves.

For instance, just a month before the recent general election, Najib raised another ruse. He had told the audience at a dinner for the armed forces and police that a “Malaysian Malaysia” – referring to the Chinese-dominant DAP – might spell the end of the Royal Malay Regiment if the wrong leadership takes control of the country.

Fortunately, the armed forces veterans group Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan (Patriot) retorted that it would be “virtually impossible” for any party to disband the regiment due to constitutional safeguards, as well as the unit’s long history.

Image result for Patriot President Mohd Arshad Raji

Patriot President Mohd Arshad Raji (pic above) said Najib’s remarks were also clearly targeted at opposition parties and would not augur well for overall national unity.

The monarchy, special position of the Malays, Bahasa Malaysia and Islam, and other Malay institutions, are so heavily protected by the Federal Constitution and state constitutions that one would not dare to imagine anyone in his right senses would even try to undermine it.

Rest assured, the Malays are secure. But the new democracy we voted for on May 9 is still a work in progress. Illiberal, conservative forces still lurk in our midst to undermine our newfound freedom.

Given this situation, the press, as the fourth estate, must learn to discard its fear of pointing out racism and xenophobia. This is because the role of the press is to safeguard public interest and democratic values by pursuing an informed discussion – fearlessly and honestly.


BOB TEOH is a media analyst.

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