Avoid the Abilene Paradox

January 17, 2018

Avoid the Abilene Paradox

by Dr. K J John

It is rather obvious to all Merdeka Malaysians that the groupthink phenomenon is the same reason why our corrupt government of the day has lost its moral audacity to what is good, true, and right.–Kj John


THERE is a false worldview permeating mainstream Malaysia. It assumes that all authority and power resides only at the top of the hierarchy and there is no distinction between delegated authority and absolute power.

All office holders’ are accountable for policy advice given while moving in the hierarchy of decision-making; formal responsibility belongs to all those within a top team of actors.

Therefore, I fully agree with Zaid Ibrahim’s argument that the 1988 judicial crisis was the responsibility of the entire “top hierarchy of leadership of the government of the day” with no single individual being assigned all or full blame now.

Primus Inter Pares

These are the Latin words which mean, first among equals. Unlike the Presidential system, we are a Parliamentary system without full executive authority to one man. We have clear but separated system of checks and balances, but which has been much abused over the many years. We must all accept full responsibility for this malaise, and thereby we get the government we choose and deserve.

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower statue in Abilene, Kansas

President Dwight David Eisenhower (from Abilene, Kansas) recognised the limits of Presidential Power and the dangers of the military-industrial complex

When an entire organisation willingly and voluntarily colludes with such a “momentum of the day,” it is almost always almost a repeat of the Cuban Missile Crisis incident when John F Kennedy (JFK) nearly used his nuclear option on Cuba. In the language of my late Professor Jerry B Harvey, our entire nation-state and all its leaders may have categorically taken a ‘Trip to Abilene!’

Groupthink phenomenon

Before Abilene Paradox became a managerial concept, let us consider the other equally, if not older, popular concept of groupthink.

Image result for The Bay of Pigs Incident and the Cuban Missile Crisis

This column ( source: https://probe.org/jfk-and- groupthink-lessons- in-decision- making/)  seeks to articulate and learn from two specific examples related to the phenomena vide: the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, i.e. an attempt to invade Cuba and overthrow Fidel Castro which became a fiasco, and the resultant 1962 Cuban missile crisis which saw the world come perilously close to nuclear war.

Image result for JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis

Yale social psychologist Irving Janis studied both the Cuban episodes carefully and concluded that often decision-makers are blinded by their own needs for self-esteem they get from being an accepted member of a socially important insiders group.

Therefore, their inherent fear of shattering the warm feelings of perceived unanimity – or, of rocking their boat — is what kept some of Kennedy’s advisors from objecting to the Bay of Pigs plan before it was too late.

After that huge blunder, JFK revamped his decision-making process to encourage dissent and critical evaluation among his team (I call this agreeing to disagree, agreeably). In the following Cuban missile crisis, virtually the same policymakers however produced superior results.

“Groupthink” was the term Janis used for the phenomenon of flawed group dynamics that can let bad ideas go unchallenged and can sometimes yield disastrous outcomes. The original version of Mahathirism can also be labelled the same, or a similar phenomenon.

Symptoms of groupthink include:

  •  Illusions of invulnerability: “No one can defeat us.”
  • Belief in the group’s inherent morality: “We can do no wrong.”
  • Rationalising away serious problems: “Danger signs? What danger signs?”
  • Stereotyping the opposition: “Those guys are too dumb or too weak to worry about.”
  • Illusions of unanimity: “Members who keep silent probably agree with the ones who speak out.”
  • Pressuring dissenters: “Look, are you a team player or not?”

The Abilene Paradox

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In the original Abilene paradox storyline, it involved a group of family members of Jerry B Harvey who collectively decide on a course of action that is counter to the preferences of many, or all of the individuals in the group. These members, unlike Kennedy’s advisors, do not have any formal role specifications but operate only as an informal group of adult equals.

This phenomenon therefore usually involves a breakdown in group communication by which, each member mistakenly believes that their own preferences are counter to the groups and, therefore, do not raise objections.

Most keep silent with wrong assumptions. Harvey sometimes calls it “the inability to manage the implicit and silent agreement!”

One common phrase describing the Abilene Paradox is their desire to not “rock the boat”. This however differs from groupthink in that the Abilene paradox is characterised by an inability to manage agreement.

Whereas in the Groupthink phenomenon, while the players assume their formal role as advisors, they choose not to assume the full weight of role-actions, as they each took no personal responsibility for their individual non-action or failure to speak up and out. That was fully abdicated to the President of the US, and his executive authority.

Harvey (1988) identified six symptoms associated with the Abilene Paradox:

  • The individuals in a group privately assess the problem they are facing.
  • The individuals in a group come up with the steps that would be required to address the problem, however the team members do this individually, to themselves.
  • The team members fail to accurately communicate their individual desires and beliefs to one another within the group. In fact, they do the opposite and thus mislead each other.
  • With invalid and inaccurate information, the team members make group decisions that lead counterproductive outcomes.
  • As a result of counterproductive outcomes, the team members experience frustration, anger, irritation and dissatisfaction. Consequently, blame occurs and the team become ineffective (Yoon Ho 2001, 173).
  • Finally, if the team fails to resolve the issue, the cycle repeats itself with much greater intensity. In an organisational environment, this could damage the business intensely.

Direction for Malaysia

Image result for Najib Razak and his cronies

Najib Razak–the Corrupt Abuser of Power with his cronies

Our Prime Minister (Najib Razak) is always only a first among equals but often falsely assumes he is the real boss, and found uncanny ways, to bribe or shut up differing views of others. What I am most shocked about however are the colluding “smaller parties of non-Malay groups” who willingly take this trip to Abilene. I say, shame on all of them.–Kj John

I argued that, we the Rakyat Malaysia who hold the real currency to define true our real democratic values must correct the misdirection of this nation-state. But, we must make that dissatisfaction loud and clear. We must vote out this corrupt and incompetent regime.

Management theory and organisational literature support what and how we can do it. Much like in the Abilene Trip we will otherwise become the Harvey relatives who take the Trip to Abilene.

It is rather obvious to all Merdeka Malaysians that the groupthink phenomenon is the same reason why our corrupt government of the day has lost its moral audacity to what is good, true, and right.

Unlike JFK’s authority and power, our Prime Minister is always only a first among equals but often falsely assumes he is the real boss, and found uncanny ways, to bribe or shut up differing views of others. What I am most shocked about however are the colluding “smaller parties of non-Malay groups” who willingly take this trip to Abilene. I say, shame on all of them.

But, as per Harvey’s Abilene Paradox argues, all registered voters must now speak about the wrong direction of our nation-state. Then surely we can avoid the Trip to Abilene and then, after that fact-blaming of others, but never ourselves, for the destruction of our nation-state. – January 15, 2017.

* KJ John worked in public service for 32 years, retired, and started an NGO for which he is Chairman of the Board. He writes to inform and educate, arguing for integration with integrity in Malaysia. He believes such a transformation has to start with the mind before it sinks into the heart!


BOOK REVIEW: Mahathir’s Ketuanan Melayu– Malaysia’s Road to Secular Decline

January 17, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Mahathir’s Ketuanan Melayu– Malaysia’s Road to Secular Decline

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

“The most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”

― Steve Biko

AB Sulaiman “argues that the sacred cows of the Malay community have, in effect, destroyed individualism and created a community that is constantly questioning its relevancy in a changing world, as opposed to adapting to a changing world “.–S. Thayaparan

BOOK REVIEW | AB Sulaiman’s book, ‘Ketuanan Melayu: A Story of the Thinking Norm of the Malay Political Elite’, cogently defines the agendas of the establishment hegemon and also the pervasive group-think that defines mainstream Malay politics.

Image result for AB Sulaiman’s book, ‘Ketuanan Melayu: A Story of the Thinking Norm of the Malay Political Elite’

AB Sulaiman makes the distinction between “race” and “culture” and examines the “Malay” construct through the racial and religious politics of the day, paying attention to history and lamenting that dissenting voices in the community have always been marginalised.

What is interesting about this book is that AB Sulaiman passionately (as opposed to clinically) disables narratives around what it means to be “Malay”, viewing the Malay culture through an ethno-linguistic lens, among various other social and political philosophies and theories. Do not let this dampen your enthusiasm for the book because AB Sulaiman writes in an easy-going friendly manner, even when offering up political and philosophical “sensitive” issues, to which he devotes a whole chapter.

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The most important takeaway from this book is that AB Sulaiman does not make the same mistake that some writers make when discussing Ketuanan Melayu. The writer understands that this is not a tool to unify the Malay polity. Ketuanan Melayu is a tool to divide the Malay polity. The writer makes it clear that the latter purpose is the defining characteristic of this social-political, but most importantly, religious-political construct.

What does this mean in AB Sulaiman’s weltanschauung? This concept is a political tool used to not only marginalise dissenting voices in the Malay community but to monopolise narratives to ensure that the political hegemony of dominant Malay power structures becomes the mainstream narrative of what it means to be “Malay”. This, according to the writer, is why dissenting Malay voices are vilified as “traitors” to the Malay “race” and unIslamic.

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With their mindsets, is it any wonder we can never be another South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan or China? Race-based logic is down the road to perdition.

Now, some would argue that the beginning chapters of the book that define certain concepts of different modes of thinking, linguistic theories and concepts such as nation and statehood are superfluous, but I presume that the author needs those chapters to set the scene, so to speak, to explore the complex dynamics, historical, philosophical and otherwise, of Malay society.

Image result for Hishammuddin Hussein's Malay nationalism


AB Sulaiman correctly points to the political elite who use this hegemonic tool – Ketuanan Melayu – as a means to not only divide the Malay community but also constrain the rights, responsibilities and aspirations of the non-Malay/Muslim communities. The writer argues that the sacred cows of the Malay community have, in effect, destroyed individualism and created a community that is constantly questioning its relevancy in a changing world, as opposed to adapting to a changing world.

What I like about this book is the fact that the author points to the diversity in Islam as beneficial to religious societies. He makes it clear that the monolithic idea of Islam, as propagated by the state, creates friction between those Malays who want to explore their religion and those who believe that their dogma entitles them to some sort of religious, and in the Malaysian context, racial superiority.

This is important because it reflects why the opposition in this country, for instance, is bound by certain narratives of what it means to be “Malay” instead of encouraging diverse narratives that would mean that the concept of what it means to be “Malay” is not defined by the state.

‘Paradise Lost’

Image result for Hishammuddin Hussein's Malay nationalism

The Malay Wira makes it clear to us that the corruption of the Malay political elites lies buried beneath an agenda of Islamic dogma and racial supremacy.

There is a whole chapter in the beginning on the constitutional definition of “Malay”. This chapter is interesting not only because it slays sacred cows but because the author makes no bones of his scepticism of this definition, using scientific and historical counter-arguments to make his case, which is the antithesis of what the political elites do or encourage.

My favourite chapter in the book is ‘Paradise Lost’, a comparison between Malaysia and South Korea in which the author states his intentions clearly – “In this chapter, I want to cite one more result of Ketuanan Melayu leadership showing the link between thinking and patterns of behaviour.

“This time I take two countries, Malaysia and South Korea and compare their relative social, economic and political record of performance from the early 1960s to date. My purpose is simple, how does the Malaysian political entity run on the basis of religion, race and nationalism, compared over time with the South Korean based on democracy and secularism.”

The author makes it clear, though, that he believes that the establishment has deliberately strayed from not only the spirit of the constitution but also engineered a manufactured Islamic revival which is detrimental to the country, but more importantly, detrimental to the progress of the Malay community. He makes it clear that the corruption of the political elites is buried beneath an agenda of Islamic dogma and racial supremacy.

In the author’s words – “Such policies are contrary to the basic principles and tenets of the constitution. For one, the founding fathers like Tunku Abdul Rahman have put on record that Malaysia should be a secular country run on the model of the Westminster form of constitutional monarchy; present policies adopted are running away from these ideals.

“Secondly, such policies are also running away from the ideals of democracy and human rights. So why is Ketunan Melayu running away from historically sound premises of democracy and human rights in leading the nation?”  Why indeed? The answer, of course, is in AB Sulaiman’s book.

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

Malaysia: GE-14 Elections could go either way

January 16, 2018

GE-14 Elections could go either way: Kalimullah Hassan, Advisor to former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

by Kalimullah Hassan


This is adapted from a speech by a veteran journalist-turned businessman to a regional forum put on by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore on January 9, 2018. 

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Dato’ Kalimullah Hassan

Malaysia’s next general election must be called by June by a government that over the past five years has been wracked with financial scandals, an inability to curb rising living costs and income inequality and has seemingly lost a clear vision for the future.

After more than a decade of steadily losing its rural lifeline, common sense would dictate that Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government faces an uphill task in retaining a comfortable majority. In fact, as an observer of Malaysian politics and having seen the last eight general elections either as a journalist or an insider, this is one election I will not be comfortable in predicting. There are too many new parts to the equation and any prediction would be, at best, an educated guess.

Long, futile wait for political change

However, although Malaysia’s urban and civil society have long rooted for political change, their views have not prevailed over a vast rural electorate – mostly ethnic Malay and Muslim — that traditionally has supported the ruling Barisan Nasional and its leading political party, the United Malays National Organization.

Image result for Kalimullah Hassan

Still, since the dramatic 2008 general election when the BN lost its two-thirds majority, and 2013 when it actually lost the popular vote but still maintained its grip on power viua gerrymandering and the first-past-the-post system, its share of rural votes has been declining.

The Barisan’s popularity peaked in 1995 with 65 percent of the popular votes, although in 2004 it won 90 percent of the parliamentary seats on 63.9 percent of the popular vote. Since that time, its sway via both the popular vote and parliamentary majorities have been declining. Its worst result was in 2013 when it won 59 percent of the parliamentary seats with only 46 per cent of the popular votes.

Since 1955 and the first general elections in what was then the Federation of Malaya, and since 1963, after the formation of Malaysia, save for a blip in 1969, the rural areas have traditionally been the vote bank for the Barisan Nasional and its predecessor, the Alliance.

Fixed Deposit in the east

And since 1963, the relatively under-developed states of Sabah and Sarawak, which today account for 57 parliamentary seats or about 26 percent of the seats in Parliament – have almost overwhelmingly voted for the BN; so much so that they are referred to as the BN’s fixed deposit.

Similarly, the rural heartland in the Peninsula – where FELDA rural land development schemes account for almost another quarter of the parliamentary seats – have also traditionally supported the BN. But today, save for Sarawak, it appears that it will be down to the wire in the FELDA-seats and in Sabah.

Image result for Naijb Razak praying to God in MeccaWith the outcome of GE-14 uncertain, Najib Razak is praying for God’s Help in Mecca


There is no question that the traditional BN vote bank is hurting. Job opportunities are scarcer, the cost of living has risen, subsidies on many essential items such as petrol have been removed, college education no longer guarantees a good job, the ringgit has weakened against other currencies so much so that even once cheap havens like Thailand and India are now expensive.

Does that mean that the traditional vote bank is going to go against a government beset with corruption scandals and a bungling political leadership? That’s what many of the intellectuals and political pundits want to believe.

Could Go Either Way

But after seeing the Brexit vote and the election of US President Donald Trump, and in the absence of reliable polling, I am not so sure. My gut feel tells me that it could go either way. The trends over the last decade tell me that it could go either way. Anecdotal evidence in my travels through the country tell me it could go either way.

Yet, as all of us know, when you are about to mark the ballot, many other considerations come into play, considerations that do defy logic.

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The Mahathir-led  Opposition Alliance– a hodgepodge of differing dreams and ideologies–is dishing out promises of reform and hope


I take myself as an example. I am a businessman, well-travelled and I think, though some of my friends may dispute that, well-read. In 2013, I resolved that I could not, in all conscience, vote for the Barisan Nasional and I went to vote to fulfil that resolve. Yet, as I looked at the ballot paper, I realized that all my life, I had voted for the Barisan and I was not sure whether if the opposition alliance then won, they could rule any better.

I have been proven right to a certain extent because while the ruling party has continued to disappoint, the opposition alliance – a hodgepodge of differing dreams and ideologies, which a journalist friend of mine once described as the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, has broken up with its strongest ally, the theocratic Parti Islam, which is now seemingly supportive of the Barisan Nasional.

But I was already in the booth and I had to vote: I split my vote – for Parliament, I voted the BN candidate whom I believed was sure to lose and for state, I voted the opposition candidate, who I was convinced would definitely win. I appeased my conscience and as so happened, the BN candidate did lose by a huge margin and the opposition candidate did win by a huge margin.

Pro-UMNO Ummah: Get Your Facts Right

January 16, 2018

Pro-UMNO Ummah: Get Your Facts Right


by  Anith Adilah

Macva president Major Tan Pau Son during Malaysian Armed Forces Chinese Veterans Association press conference at  The Boulevard Mid Valley City January 15, 2018. — Picture by Firdaus LatifMacva President Major Tan Pau Son during Malaysian Armed Forces Chinese Veterans Association press conference at The Boulevard Mid Valley City January 15, 2018.

Ethnic Chinese army veterans have railed against Malay-Muslim coalition Ummah today over the latter’s erroneous claim that only Malays had resisted British colonists, Japanese occupiers and Communist insurgents.

At a press conference today, Malaysian Armed Forces Chinese Veterans Association (Macva) President Major (Rtd) Tan Pau Son said cleric Ismail Mina Ahmad’s remarks were not only historically and factually wrong, but had belittled the contributions of the non-Malay veterans including the Ibans, Indians, Sikhs.

“We participated in defending our country and some of us still have scars to show that we were there — risking our lives,” Tan told a press conference at Mavca headquarters at Midvalley Boulevard here.

Tan said Mavca, with a membership close to 1,000 veterans since inception on August 31, 2016, and thousands who have passed on before them is a true testimony of a large group of Chinese veterans who had served loyally in military campaigns.

“Needless to say there were also Chinese veterans who sadly lost their lives and limbs in the defence of the nation. All Malaysians should rebutt all these inaccurate and irresponsible assertions made by Ismail,” he said.

iMalaysian Armed Forces Chinese Veterans Association pose for group photo after press conference at The Boulevard Mid Valley City January 15, 2018. — Picture by Firdaus LatifMalaysian Armed Forces Chinese Veterans Association pose for group photo after press conference at The Boulevard Mid Valley City January 15, 2018. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

Tan also pointed out that there were six Chinese members of the armed forces who were bestowed with the Panglima Gagah Berani medals for their extreme bravery: Colonel Maurice Lam Shye Choon, Major (Rtd) Lee Ah Pow, Second Lieutenant (Rtd) David Fu Chee Ming, Sergeant (Rtd) Choo Woh Soon, Sergeant Cheng Eng Chin, and Ranger Mat Isa Hassan.

Meanwhile, three others, Lieutenant Colonel Chong Kheng Ley, Lieutenant Colonel Leong Fook Cheong, and Captain Tien Sen An, were awarded Pingat Tentera Udara for their valour.

“We have Chinese veterans who receive gallantry awards and this alone is a testament that the Malays were not the only ones who protected the nation,” he said.

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On Saturday, Ismail who is the chairman of the Ummah umbrella group for Muslim organisations, also asserted that only the Malays had battled the Communists, which he claimed made the community a target of the predominantly-Chinese Insurgency that lasted for forty years.

One particular war veteran who narrowly escaped death while fighting a battle in Southern Thailand in 1978, said he was hurt and angered by Ismail’s remarks in the convention outlining the demands of the Muslim lobby.


Warrant Officer Patrick Lee Kai Tong said Ismail’s statement was not only ignorant but hurtful to armed forces who had witnessed countless deaths and suffered various injuries in the name of the country.

Lee, now 71, walks around with a hole in his left arm after being shot by the communists who had zeroed in on the Nuri helicopter he was in while landing to provide ammunition supply to his own troop.

“Does he even know what it is like to be in a warzone? He can say what he want but do not hurt people’s feelings,” Lee said.

“Maybe this scar from an M-16 is not enough for me to prove that I was there fighting for the country but know that every memory, every death — even the smell of it stays with me.”

Tan also chided Ismail for conveniently forgetting that there were many Malay members among the Communist insurgents.

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“In Ismail’s speech, he failed to mention that the 10th Regiment Malayan Communist Party was predominantly a Malay regiment unit operating in the jungles of Northern Malaysia and Southern Thailand. The leader was Abdullah CD and his followers Suriani Abdullah, Shamsiah Fakeh, Abu Samah Mohamad Kassim and Rashid Maidin,” Tan said.

Pakatan Harapan: Stop fondling and just roll the dice and get on with the task of winning GE-14

January 14, 2018

Pakatan Harapan: Stop fondling and just roll the dice and get on with the task of winning GE-14

by S,Thayaparan @www.malaysiakini.com

Politics is a matter of choices, and a man doesn’t set up the choices himself. And there is always a price to make a choice. You know that. You’ve made a choice, and you know how much it cost you. There is always a price.” – Robert Penn Warren (All the King’s Men)

Image result for tun dr mahathir mohamad ppbm

Dr. Mahathir Mohamad –Pakatan Harapan’s War Horse against UMNO-BN’s Grand Poobah, Najib Razak

COMMENT | What is this horse manure about “mixed views” on whether Mahathir Mohamad should be named “interim” Prime Minister? When will the amateur hour end for Pakatan Harapan? When Harapan embraced the former Prime Minister in their epic quest to oust the current Umno grand poobah, what did they think it meant? What did anyone think it meant?

As quoted in the press, some believe the term “interim” does not inspire “stability” which is why there should not be any doubt as to who will wear the crown if Putrajaya is taken. Forget about interim, just name the old man as Prime Minister and get down to the dirty business of winning the federal government.

This, after all, is what Harapan signed up for. This, after all, is the inevitable outcome of aligning with mainstream Malay power brokers. This is what happens when you claim that the country is in dire need of saving, and people must not be selfish and that there are no credible alternative plans to save the nation.

Mind you, I think there have always been people in the opposition or who support the opposition who have offered up credible alternative ideas but as usual, they were shouted down and dismissed as “idealists” or worse by people who have placed pragmatism over anything else.

Commit to chosen game

The opposition is not offering any visionary ideas; merely apocalyptic ones. Maybe this has something to do with the religious overtones of the opposition but at this point it really does not matter. Choices have been made. Compromises struck and the most important thing the opposition should do is commit to the game they have chosen to play.

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UMNO Grand Poobah in Mecca

This is what I wrote last year: “As I argued the former prime minister plays for keeps and if removing, the current UMNO Grand Poobah is the main goal than the former Prime Minister who has resuscitated the floundering opposition has to be given free rein in the possible destruction of UMNO. That is the only tactical play.”

You know what would really suck? If the opposition could actually win this election by aligning with the former Prime Minister, yet because they are acting like a bunch of precious snowflakes, with each group attempting to gain some concessions, they lose the plot and game.

How bad would it be if the opposition hamstrings the movement led by the former Prime Minister because the opposition is too busy squabbling over the prospect of a man they termed dictator getting back into power on their backs? These are the stakes you created and this is not the time for attempting some sort of compromise in case things go south.


Are people still holding out hope that political prisoner Anwar Ibrahim (photo) could be Prime Minister of this country? Who knows what could happen but the possibility of Anwar becoming Prime Minister should not be one of the goals when naming the position of the big cheese, especially not when the former Prime Minister is in play.

And why even use the term “interim”? Who does that term benefit? What is it supposed to signify? That the former Prime Minister, who the opposition at one time termed a tyrant, does not have a permanent hold on the position?

That there is a possibility that a more politically correct or acceptable candidate could fill the position? That the opposition is still committed to the reform agenda, hence “interim” could serve as a seat warmer until someone more credible steps up or is discovered or merely plays the political game mendaciously and inherits the crown?

Re-imagining alliance politics

Look, what is really happening is a re-imagining of alliance politics. The opposition keeps telling people that unlike BN, the non-Malays will have a say and not kowtow to the dominant Malay power structure if they choose Harapan. In other words, this is the new BN. If the former prime minister could re-imagine UMNO, then why not reimagine BN? That is the draw and what people think is a stable choice for this country.

At this moment in time, the average rakyat is on edge. They realise that they could vote for stability and continuity or go with someone they are unfamiliar with. The former Prime Minister is someone they are at least familiar with.

While the establishment may paint him as someone who is corrupt, there is a large demographic who are willing to bet – vote – that he and he alone can get this country back on track; that his party and his men, will take care of their interests and things will return to the imagined glory days where Malaysians were proud of God knows what.

UMNO political operatives are laughing their behinds off because all this waffling makes Harapan look like a bunch of amateurs. It makes it look as if personal agendas trump winning at any cost, which is what UMNO understands. It is also what the former prime minister understands, which is why in numerous articles, I have argued that the opposition should make it very clear that Mahathir Mohamad is their war chief and that ultimately the crown will rest on his head.

Has the opposition actually thought out how it would be if they win this general election? Have they got plans in place? I know for establishment power brokers like the former Prime Minister and his coterie, they actually do have a plan; who knows, this may even include some kind of reform of the system.

The reality is that the opposition has made the choices that it made. Collectively they brought us to this point. Stop fondling and just roll the dice.

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


How Will Malaysia’s Najib Razak Fare in 2018?

January 12, 2018

How Will Malaysia’s Najib Razak Fare in 2018?

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been doing the Christmas/New Year rounds, touting his government’s successes while predictably ignoring his crackdown on dissent, the jailing of the country’s more popular opposition leader, religious bigotry fed by Islamic hardliners, and the problematic aspects of his own record.

It’s a festive message typical of Najib’s New Year addresses. But it is also a recipe which bodes badly for a leader who, though widely expected to capitalize on a heavily gerrymandered electoral system and probably win a national poll due within the first half of 2018, is nonetheless badly damaged by scandal and continues to undermine his country’s future prospects.

Rarely has a political leader of any political stripe clung to power in the face of such a breathtaking array of charges and investigations into colossal corruption and even murder. Despite this, Najib has ignored calls for his resignation, which in a real democracy would have been a mere formality.

That’s why his gestures of goodwill — to many an empty vessel of self-promotion – over the festive season are struggling to find any traction, particularly the lectures from his New Year’s address.

Lines like “I believe that the fathers of our independence would be proud to see what their countrymen and women have achieved” were as glib as they were predictable.

“Our economy beat all expectations” was hardly convincing, especially when he added, “because of the efficient, business-friendly environment this Government has been creating.”

This was mixed with some spin-doctoring like, “Malaysia’s leadership was also recognized at the United Nations”; gross annual assumptions like, “for it was a year in which we redoubled our efforts to ensure good governance in all sectors”; and a warning that his government “is cracking down on the crony capitalism culture.” Few Malaysians would find these remarks credible given Najib’s own record.

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Another Financial Scandal–FELDA–under Najib Razak’s watch

Then, he took aim at his critics while hinting at a leadership challenge, commenting that “neither is it acceptable for a former leader to attempt to overthrow a democratically elected government in the hope that his ambitions for his son may be realized.”

It was a veiled reference to Malaysia’s longest serving leader Mahathir Mohamad, who has led calls from within Najib’s opponents for the premier to step down. In the process, the former prime minister has won over many of his own political detractors. Meanwhile Mahathir’s son, Mukhriz, has said he harbors no designs on the leadership.

But Najib did not end it there.“In a democracy all that should matter is the wishes of the people as expressed at the ballot box, not the selfish dynastic desires of one man,” he said.

That was an odd line given Najib’s own record, but even more galling for those familiar with Malaysian history, given that Najib’s father also served as Prime Minister.

Stranger still was Najib’s reference to the “wishes of the Malaysian people.” If he truly values popular sentiment, then Najib might consider releasing Anwar Ibrahim from prison and installing him as prime minister, given he won almost 51 percent of the popular vote at elections almost five years ago but lost through gerrymandering.

The trials and tribulations of Najib’s scandalized time at the helm of Malaysian politics have been scrutinized by journalists, the police, and authorities across the world.

As long as Najib and his unpopular first lady Rosmah Mansor remain ensconced, the murder of Mongolian model and translator Shaariibuugiin Altantuyaa as well as their personal records of dealings will remain in the international debate, alongside a French court case into Malaysia’s acquisition of two submarines amid charges of graft.

Beyond this, Najib’s appeasement of Islamic hardliners has badly tarnished Malaysia’s reputation as a secular state and compromised a cornerstone of any democracy: the separation of powers between church and state, and arguably the courts as well.

A blanket ban on non-Muslims using the word “Allah” made about as much sense as a police investigation into a teenage boy who “liked” Israel on a Facebook page. It should be noted that such anti-Israel sentiment didn’t stop Najib from reportedly employing an Israeli public relations firm to spruce up his image.

Image result for Najib Razak and Jerusalam

 Foreign Policy–Playing with Saudi Arabia (on Yemen), United States and Israel (Jerusalem) and Palestine–driven by domestic politics.

Najib’s Middle East policy, according to political commentator Din Merican, is muddled and smacks of “sheer hypocrisy.” He opposes U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel but maintains close ties with the Israeli government while boasting of his friendship with U.S. President Donald Trump, who is threatening to cut financial aid to the Palestinians.

Najib’s handling of two downed airliners fell short of the mark, as was the case with his handling of the crisis with North Korea, after assassins chose to kill Kim Jong-un’s estranged half-brother Kim Jong-nam inside a Malaysian airport.

But on the economic front, the latest scandal has been breathtaking.Authorities in Singapore and in the United States, Switzerland, and Hong Kong are still investigating the disappearance of more than $1 billion from the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund amid allegations it was stolen by people close to Najib.

They believe that money went into his personal bank account, although Najib and officials from 1MDB have denied any wrong doing.

Despite the denials, a string of arrests has followed and sentences meted out by the courts over the past year, which, despite Najib’s feigning of indifference, must have unnerved him.

An election must be called by mid-year. But though Anwar may be released by then, the upholding of his 2014 conviction for sodomy, sharply criticized by civil society groups as being politically motivated, means he won’t be allowed to contest the poll.

The important issue between now and then is whether or not Najib’s own party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), will attempt to limit the political fallout by ousting him before the poll (rather than sometime after) or take their chances on a scandalized leader whose tenure has proven remarkable for the sheer scale of the allegations brought against him.

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Selling 1MBD assets to China

Najib’s Christmas cheer and message of hope and stability for the New Year was calculated and timed for a holiday noted for goodwill and cultural celebrations. Whether he is still around to trot out similar disingenuous lines 12 months from now remains to be seen.

Luke Hunt can be followed on Twitter @lukeanthonyhunt