Malaysian Opposition Parties in a Premiership Scramble


Malaysian Opposition Parties in a Premiership Scramble

by TK Chua@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for Mahathir and Kit Siang

Prime Minister (To  be Elected) Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohammad and Deputy Lim Kit Siang!–A Case of counting chickens before they are hatched

It is disheartening to note that the opposition parties are now fighting who among their respective leaders would become the Prime Minister (PM) should they win the coming general election.

Rightly or wrongly, the position of the PM has become the most important “institution” in the country today. Years of power consolidation and concentration has made this position very invincible and powerful. Hence, the endless tussle for it, even though winning the election is by no means certain yet.

Image result for  Hadi Awang as Prime MinisterThe sickly PAS leader Hadi Awang wants to make history : Becoming First Mullah Prime Minister of Malaysia.

I think it is time for the opposition coalition to look at the position of the PM differently.

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 Hanuman  (Warrior-Protector) of PM Najib Razak

Right now the PM is all powerful because all the “actors” as provided for in our constitution have not played their rightful role.Instead of fighting for the post, the opposition coalition should be looking at the powers and jurisdiction of the PM within the confines of the constitution.

In other words, they shouldn’t be just looking at the powers of the PM as they exist today. They should “reconstruct” the PM the way they want the person to be. Please let me elaborate.

First, the opposition coalition must look at  important positions as provided for in the constitution other than that of the PM. Second, they should share these important positions fairly among the coalition partners to ensure checks and balance.

If important positions are fairly distributed among coalition partners, it will automatically circumscribe the powers of the PM.

The idea is really to prevent abuse or the arbitrary exercise of power. To begin with, all MPs from each coalition partner must play their respective roles jealously and dutifully. The executive branch headed by the PM has become too powerful because the legislature has more or less abdicated its power. An assertive legislature would send different signals to the executive branch.

Similarly, we can look at other important positions to ensure check and balance. For example, if the PM is from PPBM, the finance and home affairs ministers should be from other coalition partners. The same goes for the speaker of the Dewan Rakyat.

I believe it is easier to agree on the post of PM if the coalition partners first work out other important positions in the government. The overarching principle is to ensure power sharing and fair play.

Don’t fight over the post of PM; fight for a PM who can only exercise power within the confines of the constitution.

T K Chua is an FMT reader.

Anwar Ibrahim is my Prime Minister and why


May 25, 2017

Anwar Ibrahim is my Prime Minister and why

by http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for anwar ibrahimNo Politician in Malaysia has been challenged, tested, and made to suffer like Anwar Ibrahim. Yet he has remained steadfast to his cause. It takes a lot of willpower and character. Nurul Izzah Anwar told me when I met her recently in Phnom Penh that her father refused asylum in the United Kingdom and a professorial position at the prestigious Georgetown University in the United States because he would not abandon his struggle for freedom, justice and democracy.–Din Merican
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Comment: It is life’s irony that a man who was regarded a “Malay Ultra” by the Late Lee Kuan Yew and a long serving 4th Prime Minister with blemished track record of failed institutions and Malay-centeric policies is the preferred choice to be the Prime Minister should Pakatan Harapan win the GE-14 elections.

It shows to me at least how desperate Malaysians have become to want a 92 year old ex-UMNO President to lead our country. This is good news to the incumbent Najib Razak because he can beat Dr. Mahathir  quite easily. He has enough information about his predecessor twice removed to sway voters against Pakatan Harapan.  It will then be from “Ada Harapan to Tiada Harapan” (Hope to No Hope).

I make no bones about my choice as our country’s next Prime Minister. He is no other than the village boy (he is not a member of the Malay aristocratic class) from Chrok Tok Kun in Penang called Anwar Ibrahim. He is not perfect (neither am I and you) but he is the most experienced Malaysian politician and a charismatic personality cum public intellectual with ideas about democracy, freedom, social justice and good governance. He has been through a lot as a result of being in jail on trumped up charges of sodomy. Yet Anwar is unwavering in his commitment to the people of Malaysia the way Nelson Mandela was to the people of South Africa. Mandela became President after spending 27 years in jail.  Anwar can be Malaysia’s Prime Minister.

I should know about Anwar Ibrahim as I was once working for him in 2007-2009. In 2008, I traveled with him in his car day and night to campaign throughout the length and breadth of our country. We spent countless hours chatting about his vision for Malaysia and empathy for the ordinary man. He united the Opposition including PAS and created a movement that eventually led to the political demise of Abdullah Badawi, our inept and sleepy head 5th Prime Minister. He replaced by Najib Razak, Mahathir’s choice as UMNO President and Prime Minister.

Unfortunately for Anwar and us Malaysians , Najib Razak was able to create Sodomy 2 (I am not sure if Tun Dr. Mahathir and his associates had hand it in this) that landed him in Sungei Buloh for the second time.  Today, he remains our prisoner of conscience, who is strong in will and very committed to the cause of justice, freedom and dignity for Malaysians. Here is to you, Anwar Ibrahim: Salam Reformasi. Lawan Tetap Lawan. –Din Merican

Desperate Malaysians prefer Tun Dr. Mahathir as Prime Minister again

by http://www.malaysiakini.com

An overwhelming majority of Malaysiakini’s readers have endorsed Dr Mahathir Mohamad as Pakatan Harapan’s Prime minister candidate.

According to the 12,777 who voted in the new portal’s poll, 8,926 (69.9 percent) said Mahathir should be made a candidate while 3,276 (25.6 percent) disagreed. A small group answered “Not sure” or “Don’t care” in the poll, which ran for six days since May 19.

As the poll was conducted in three languages, the results showed different voting patterns among the various demographics.

Respondents who took part in the English-language version were the most supportive of naming Mahathir as a candidate for the premiership, compared to Bahasa Malaysia or Chinese-language readers.

Of those who answered the English-language poll, 76.6 percent were in favour of naming Mahathir as prime ministerial candidate while 68.6 percent of those who answered through the Bahasa Malaysia poll voted the same.

However, only 51 percent of those who answered the Chinese-language poll backed Mahathir for the top post, with 43.9 percent disagreeing.

One of the reasons for the Chinese-language poll results could be related to Mahathir’s words and deeds during his tenure as Prime Minister, for example, the Suqiu election appeals issue. In 2000, even DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang, who has since buried the hatchet with Mahathir, lambasted the former Premier over the Suqiu matter.

After accepting Suqiu’s election appeal, which included a review of the National Economic Policy, Mahathir, following the 1999 polls, had likened the movement to the communists. Another reason for the lack of support among Chinese-language readers is perhaps because they prefer jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to helm the nation.

Harapan has been under pressure of late over their nominee for Prime Minister, with BN claiming that this proves that the opposition coalition was not united.

Military Loyalty is to King and Country, not UMNO


May 25, 2017

It is elementary, military loyalty is  to King and Country, not UMNO

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for king of malaysia 2017

 

If you feel that strongly about something, you have an obligation to try and change my mind.”

– Aaron Sorkin

While some armed forces personnel – active and retired – have nothing but vitriol for my writings for Malaysiakini, I am glad to report on an anecdotal level at least, there has been far more support – most often qualified – for what I write amongst serving and retired members of our security services.

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Loyalty to King and Country

Anecdotal levels are of course cold comfort when the reality is that most people would rather not say anything unless cloaked in anonymity and people often confuse the echo chambers they live in as the “real world”, which is unfortunately far more complicated and diverse than what they read online.

I have always disliked the propagandising of the security services and while I believe that there are many people who do the hard work of keeping our country safe, they are hampered by the petty fiefdoms of their immediate superiors and hobbled by a self-serving political apparatus. The latter is more interested in maintaining political hegemony than by ensuring that these institutions are independent and serve the people of Malaysia.

The former meanwhile hampers the legitimacy of these institutions by eroding public confidence by its official statements, but more damagingly by engaging in practices that apes the accepted political culture that has resulted in our country being categorised as a kleptocracy.

Malaysian Armed Forces Veterans Association (PVATM) Deputy President Sharuddin Omar’s rejoinder to old soldiers, or in my case old sailors, “to the principle that we are always loyal to the current government” misses the point about loyalty, obligation and serving the country.

On a professional level, while I have always observed the chain of command, truth be told my duty – however, you define it – was always to the men and women under my charge. This of course is old school military thinking but one shared by many old timers who put the welfare of the men and women under their charge ahead of politics, racial or religious. Times have changed, of course.

While many would dismiss this veteran’s association as just another government appendage, I was impressed that they disavowed former soldier Mohd Ali Baharom’s (aka Ali Tinju) racist actions in the strongest possible terms. As reported in the media – “His actions are contradictory and incompatible with the principles and practices of all armed forces veterans in the country.

“In the future, we also hope that the media will only relate the actions of Ali Tinju as that of an individual and a Malaysian civilian, and not that of a Malaysian armed forces veteran,” said the association.

Quoting the Malay proverb “kerana nila setitik, rosak susu sebelanga” (one bad apple spoils the whole barrel), the association expressed hope that its reputation and that of all armed forces veterans would not be ruined by the actions of one man.

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Many retired armed forces veterans make a distinction between loyalty to the institution and the people who make up those institutions. While I get that principle, I have never been unable to separate the office from the individual. To me, if the person in the office is corrupt then why bother defending the institution? I would much rather channel my energies in advocating change rather than spend my time defending the institution.

Honestly, what really bothers me is not that the “gomen is corrupt” but rather that our security apparatus is riddled with the kind of scandals that should make every retired armed forces personnel hang their heads in shame. To list the numerous corruption scandals perpetrated by service people is disheartening and we cannot solely blame the hegemon for that.

But what does loyalty to the government mean?

Compromised institutions

Does it extend to postal vote fraud? Remember in 2011, when four retired military personnel admitted they were marking postal ballots on order from higher up? To recap – “The four – Major (Rtd) Risman Mastor, Kamarulzaman Ibrahim, Mohamed Nasir Ahmad and Mohd Kamil Omar – said they were ordered by their commanding officers to mark postal votes for the hundreds and thousands of personnel who were out in the field.

“Their expose today is the second after an ex-army man came forward earlier this month, making a similar claim that he was ordered to mark postal votes for other personnel.”

The problem with advocating loyalty to compromised institutions is that armed forces personnel who have served with distinction and honour are tarnished by those who would dishonour the codes they claim to hold in service of their political masters. Besides the existential threat that a certain religion poses, this has been one of my main themes that I have revisited – unfortunately – over the years.

I wrote about how the armed forces was sinking in UMNO’s quagmire – “(Navy chief) Abdul Aziz (Jaafar), if you remember was one of the service chiefs lined up behind (looking rather sheepish) Armed Forces chief General Zulkifeli Mohd Zin when he made an emotional appeal, which also included subtle threats and comments which were unacceptable, not to mention unprofessional, for an officer holding the highest rank in the military to make. He made this appeal when confronted with accusations by retired service personnel of vote/voter manipulation in the armed forces.”

Another example is when the current Prime Minister had a sit down with retired personnel to discuss the Lahad Datu incident.

As reported to me by concerned retired service personnel – “The whole atmosphere seemed surreal to some who attended. When the Prime Minister walked in, ‘Negaraku’ was sung and the armed forces marching song ‘Barisan Kita’ (which one general quipped ‘Has the song been annexed by Barisan National?’) also got an airing. Apparently, it got quite comical when one retired air force general was frothing at the mouth that stern disciplinary action should be taken against generals who showed support for the opposition, the PM was chuffed up of and reminded those who attended that ‘spirit of this general’ was what was needed.”

These days many young people are speaking up. I am not talking about mainstream oppositional politics. I am talking about young people who rightly feel that current establishment politics is nothing but the same manure but with a different shovel.

What veterans should be doing, and this applies to anyone who has worked in the civil or security services, is to encourage these young people in their efforts to change the paradigm. We had it our way and we should encourage and support those people who truly believe in what this country could be.

Ultimately when we pledged to serve the King and country, our oath goes far beyond loyalty to the government. We are really serving the people of this country and our loyalty is with them. It does not matter if you support the establishment or the opposition, your loyalty should be with the people and not with political elites, especially when they dishonour the institutions you pledged to serve and protect.

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

An Opposition Grand Coalition can defeat the BN?


May 24, 2017

Here’s why an opposition grand coalition can defeat the BN

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Although the gerrymandering will continue, the significant difference is that Dr Mahathir’s new party will be competing for Malay votes in the small towns and villages.

By Koon Yew Yin@www.freemalaysia-today.com

According to news reports on the celebration of UMNO’s 71st Anniversary, Prime Minister Najib Razak had teased his supporters by asking if he should dissolve Parliament as early as the following day.

Some observers see it as a sign that he is very confident of a victory and that he may call for an election soon.However, there are two sayings which he needs to be reminded of.

One is the old saying “Pride comes before a fall” The other is a quote attributed to Harold Washington, the first African-American elected as Mayor of Chicago: “Let’s not be overconfident, we still have to count the votes.”

Barisan Nasional sponsored analysts, who dominate the official media, have been saying that the BN has more than the required number of votes to win the next election by a comfortable margin. In fact, some are so confident that they are assuring BN of a more than two-thirds majority. Because these analysts are tied to the BN money machine, this message of a big BN victory will be drummed into our heads over the next few months.

But is this big BN victory a sure thing? Going by my knowledge of politics in Perak, I wish to differ.

Tide turning against BN

In Perak, most voters have not forgotten that power was “stolen” from the then Pakatan Rakyat by the BN. In the next election, many voters will want to correct the injustice and vote for the opposition.

Included in this group will be most of the civil servants as well as Felda settlers who have been regarded as UMNO’s and BN’s vote banks.To some extent these voters have also been PAS’ vote banks.

But will the Malay civil servants and Felda settlers continue to allow themselves to be swayed by racial and religious politics and vote with their hearts rather than with their heads in the next election?

Or will they realise that both UMNO and PAS have let them down badly and are not worth the support that the two parties have been provided with during the past 50 years and more?

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In addition to Sabah and Sarawak, this guy is Najib’s Secret Weapon (?). Perak is not reliable predictor of GE-14 outcome. Furthermore, the Opposition is in disarray. PKR wants Anwar as the next Prime Minister. Mahathir is ambivalent on this matter since he may have someone else. Will there be two Deputy Prime Ministers to accommodate DAP? Those in Amanah also want a piece of the action. Allocation of seats will be a challenge for the opposition. I witnessed what Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim had to undergo in 2008.

Finally, Najib has all the advantages of incumbency and the resources to wage an aggressive campaign. So brave is the man who  dares to predict the outcome of GE-14. –Din Merican

Today, everyone, except for the elite, are suffering from a socio-economic crisis arising from the mismanagement of the economy and pervasive corruption. Food is more expensive, transport prices have soared, education costs have escalated.

According to Cuepacs president Azih Muda, civil servants have ended up heavily in debt to manage rising living costs, to the point that more than 60,000 of them risk bankruptcy.

“This is a direct effect of the hike in cost of living. Civil servants end up taking up a lot of loans and this is unsustainable and they are unable to manage their finances,” Azih told the foreign news agency Reuters.

This report was, understandably, not carried in the mainstream Malay media. Neither have the numerous reports on the financial mess inflicted on Felda settlers through the launch of Felda Global Ventures Berhad.

This time, I am sure the revolt of the Malay masses will take place. And when this revolt led by the civil servants and Felda settlers happens at the polling booth, a new page in our nation’s history will be reached.

Battle for change led by Dr Mahathir

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Fittingly, the battle for change will be led by Dr Mahathir. Several weeks ago, I attended a Parti Pribumi Bersatu meeting at Padang Rengas, Kuala Kangsar, where I took the opportunity to renew my friendship with him and gave him a copy of my book,” Road Map for Achieving Vision 2020” which was partly inspired by Dr Mahathir’s vision for our nation’s future.

It is not only the Malay masses who will push for change. Today we have a new opposition coalition which will operate as a single entity against the BN.

Featuring PPBM, DAP, PKR and Parti Amanah Negara as its component members, the opposition coalition will also include East Malaysian parties. This is an unprecedented grand coalition of Malaysian anti-BN voters which, in my opinion, can bring about the biggest upset in our political history once it gets its act together.

In the last GE, the opposition secured more than 51% of the total votes, but in terms of state and parliamentary seats, the opposition had less than BN because of the gerrymandering.

Although the gerrymandering will continue during the next election, the significant difference is that Dr. Mahathir’s new party under Muhyiddin Yasin will be competing for Malay votes in the small towns and villages.

I believe, too, that PAS is deeply divided under President Hadi Awang, who is presently sick and unable to exert much influence. Once it becomes clear that the new grand opposition coalition will win, I expect many PAS leaders and voters to join the opposition and quit the friendship with the BN.

 

Scapegoating Hannah when UMNO Malays can’t deal with Reality


May 23, 2017

Scapegoating Hannah when UMNO Malays can’t deal with Reality

by Dennis Ignatius

Becoming Hannah

How long must our nation suffer the narrow-mindedness and bigotry of insecure people who still find it hard to accept that Malaysia is a secular, multiracial nation? When will they start taking responsibility for their own choices including the books they choose to read?–Dennis Ignatius

My answer to Dennis Ignatius’Q1: For as long as UMNO remains in power with leaders like Najib Razak and his cohorts. These leaders are corrupt in body and spirit and they will retard the Malay mind and manipulate Islam for their own benefit by making the Malays insecure and bigoted.–Din Merican

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Once again, Christians are in the spotlight following allegations that they are trying to confuse Muslims, undermine their faith and subvert the nation. For good measure, tiresome old canards about a global plot by Christian and Zionist groups to destabilise Malaysia are being recycled.

Never mind that our own leaders are doing a pretty good job of destabilizing the country all on their own.

The confusion of the confused

The latest furore is over Hannah Yeoh’s book, ‘Becoming Hannah,’ in which the Selangor State Assembly Speaker chronicles how her faith inspired her to seek political office to help secure, by God’s grace and much prayer, a better future for all Malaysians.

It is an amazing narrative that speaks not just of Hannah’s courage and character but about a beautiful side to our nation where a young Malaysian Chinese-Christian could become speaker of Malaysia’s most populous state.

While many would celebrate such success stories, it was apparently too much for one university lecturer who, according to his own words, as reported by the press, found himself admiring the greatness of the God of Hannah and being impressed by her faith in the person of Jesus Christ. That in itself is an intriguing statement but in this environment, the less said the better, I suppose.

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The Not Stupid but idiotic Universiti Utara Malaysia Academic who made a police report in Changloon, Kedah. UMNO will reward idiots like him.He knows how to get ahead in Malaysia

Apparently shocked to discover that a Christian autobiography would “contain parables and excerpts from the Bible,” he lodged a police report alleging that it was an attempt to “coax, influence and instigate” non-Christians [including himself] to convert or deepen their interest in Christian teachings. He was also apparently disturbed to find references to Jesus as the Son of God in the book.

What was he expecting anyway when he picked up a book written by a Christian? It’s hard to make sense of such convoluted and confused reasoning. That it should come from a university lecturer speaks volumes about the calibre of those now occupying positions of influence in our universities today.

How long must our nation suffer the narrow-mindedness and bigotry of insecure people who still find it hard to accept that Malaysia is a secular, multiracial nation? When will they start taking responsibility for their own choices including the books they choose to read?

Standing with Hannah

Thankfully, there are still political and civic leaders around who are committed enough to the vision of a united, multiracial and multi-religious nation to ensure that Hannah did not have to stand alone against this latest outbreak of bigotry and wanton prejudice.

Muslim leaders and activists like former Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim, lawyer Art Harun, PKR’s Nik Nazmi, Amanah’s Salahuddin Ayub, DAP’s Syerleena Abdul Rashid and Bebas’ Azrul Khalib defended her integrity and praised her for the respect she has always shown to other faith and ethnic groups. Many also expressed open admiration for the way her faith inspires her to serve with integrity and commitment and called her an outstanding politician and role model.

Their courageous and timely intervention helped to quickly put things in perspective and prevent the whole issue from getting out of hand. Though the voices of tolerance and moderation are all too few these days, they help push back the darkness of prejudice and bigotry that now hover over our nation.

The silence of the BN crowd, however, was noticeable. Some of them were quick to criticise Hannah when she respectfully covered her head at a mosque gathering but couldn’t find the courage to speak out when an important national principle was at stake.

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The Pakhanggog  Leaders from Gerakan, MCA, and MIC

At times like this, all those who value freedom and cherish our constitutional rights and privileges must take a stand irrespective of party, ethnic or religious affiliation. When we stay silent we cede the public square, that space that rightly belongs to all Malaysians, to bigotry and prejudice.

As Edmund Burke famously noted, the surest way for evil to prevail is for the rest of us –good people–to do nothing.

Faith in the public square

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The Pak Hunggok Leaders of Gerakan, MCA and MIC Leaders

The furore over Hannah’s book is also a timely reminder that faith that inspires integrity in public service, that leads men and women to serve their fellow citizens with honour, respect and dignity, is more needed than ever before.

God help that nation that has a deficit of such men and women of faith in public office.

By her actions, Hannah has come to exemplify the Christian perspective that faith in Jesus Christ compels them to work with their fellow citizens to build a nation defined by love, compassion, justice and righteousness. It lays upon them, as well, a burden to reach out to the poor, the hurting, the marginalized people all around us and, when asked, to give the reason for the hope they carry in their hearts.

Let somebody tell me that all that is wrong, that it is against the national interest, that it undermines national security, that it has no place in our society.

Becoming Hannah

I admire Hannah. I admire her integrity, her courage, her transparency, her service to the people who elected her, and her fealty to the constitution of our nation. And I am thankful that such a person has felt called to give herself to public service. In an age of corrupt, cynical and conniving politicians, Hannah is a breath of fresh air. She inspires me and gives me hope.How I wish more of our politicians would become like Hannah.

New Economic Policy–Malaysia’s Deformative Action Progamme


May 20, 2017

Malaysia’s Deformative Action–Doing the Malays a Disfavour

Income-based benefits would work much better.

Najib Razak –A Spoilt Aristocrat and the Embodiment of Malaysia’s New Economic Policy introduced by his Father, Tun Abdul Razak and exploited by Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohammad to  retard and subjugate the Malays. Incentives Matter. Reward Performance and Discipline.–Din Merican

WHAT government would not like to reduce racial disparities and promote ethnic harmony? The tricky part is knowing how. One country that claims to have found a way is Malaysia. Since 1971 it has given preferential treatment in everything from education to investing to bumiputeras—people of indigenous descent, who are two-thirds of the population but poorer than their ethnic-Chinese and -Indian compatriots.

On the face of things, this system of affirmative action has been a success (see article). The gap in income between Malays (the biggest bumiputera group) and Chinese- and Indian-Malaysians has narrowed dramatically. Just as important, there has been no repeat of the bloody race riots of 1969, when Malay mobs burned Chinese shops in Kuala Lumpur, prompting the adoption of the policy. And the economy—typically an instant victim of heavy-handed government attempts at redistribution—has grown healthily.

Small wonder that some see Malaysia as a model. South African politicians cited it when adopting their plan for “Black Economic Empowerment” in the early 2000s. More recently Indonesian activists have been talking about instituting something similar there. Malaysia, meanwhile, keeps renewing the policy, which was originally supposed to end in 1991. Just last month Najib Razak, the prime minister (pictured), launched the latest iteration: the catchily named Bumiputera Economic Transformation Roadmap (BETR) 2.0, which, among other things, will steer a greater share of government contracts to bumiputera businesses.

Money for old rope

Yet the results of Malaysia’s affirmative-action schemes are not quite what they seem. Malays in neighbouring Singapore, which abjures racial preferences, have seen their incomes grow just as fast as those of Malays in Malaysia. That is largely because the Singaporean economy has grown faster than Malaysia’s, which may in turn be a product of its more efficient and less meddling bureaucracy. Singapore, too, has been free from race riots since 1969.

If the benefits of cosseting bumiputeras are not as clear as they first appear, the costs, alas, are all too obvious. As schools, universities and the bureaucracy have become less meritocratic, Chinese and Indians have abandoned them, studying in private institutions and working in the private sector instead. Many have left the country altogether, in a brain drain that saps economic growth.

Steering so many benefits to Malays—developers are even obliged to give them discounts on new houses—has created a culture of entitlement and dependency. Malays have stopped thinking of affirmative action as a temporary device to diminish inequality. As descendants of Malaysia’s first settlers, they now consider it a right.

The result is that a system intended to quell ethnic tensions has entrenched them. Many poorer Malays vote reflexively for UMNO, the Malay party that introduced affirmative action in the 1970s and has dominated government since then, for fear that another party might take away their privileges. With these votes in the bag, UMNO’s leaders can get away with jaw-dropping abuses, such as the continuing scandal at 1MDB, a development agency that mislaid several billion dollars, much of which ended up in officials’ pockets, according to American investigators. Minorities, in turn, overwhelmingly support parties that advocate less discrimination against them.

READ THIS:

http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21722208-government-reserves-even-mobile-phone-stalls-people-indigenous-descent-race-based

THERE is something odd about MARA Digital, a cluster of stalls selling laptops, mobiles and other gizmos on the second floor of a shopping centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s multicultural capital. No ethnic-Chinese or -Indian entrepreneurs are allowed to do business here. Spots in the market are reserved for Malays, the country’s majority race. The year-old venue was set up with subsidies from the government, which insists that its experiment in segregated shop-holding has been a big success. It has already launched an offshoot in Shah Alam, a nearby city, and talks of opening at least five more branches this year.

This project is just one recent outcome of racially discriminatory policies which have shaped Malaysian society for more than 50 years. Schemes favouring Malays were once deemed essential to improve the lot of Malaysia’s least wealthy racial group; these days they are widely thought to help mostly the well-off within that group, while failing the poor and aggravating ethnic tensions. Yet affirmative action persists because it is a reliable vote-winner for the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the Malay party that has dominated government since independence. Malays are more than half of the population, so their views carry weight.

Last month UMNO launched a fresh batch of race-based giveaways. Harried by claims that it allowed billions to be looted from 1MDB, a state investment firm, and preparing for an election that may be called this year, the party looks disinclined to consider reform.

Affirmative action in Malaysia began shortly after the departure in the 1950s of British colonial administrators, who had opened the cities to immigrant merchants and labourers from India and China but largely preferred to keep Malays toiling in the fields. The practice accelerated after 1969, when a race riot in the capital killed scores. (Most of the victims were Chinese.) The New Economic Policy (NEP) of 1971 had two goals: to reduce absolute poverty across all races, and to boost in particular the prospects of Malays, whose average income at the time was roughly half that of their Chinese compatriots.

A temporary eternity

Although the NEP’s authors believed affirmative action would be needed for only 20 years, the practice has continued ever since, as such “temporary” policies typically have in other countries. Malaysia’s bumiputeras, which means “sons of the soil” and which refers both to Malays and to a number of indigenous groups deemed deserving of a leg-up, have accumulated a panoply of privileges. Some of these are enshrined in legislation; others are left unwritten. These include quotas for places at public universities; preferment for government jobs; discounts on property purchases and access to a reserved slice of public share offerings.

Since the NEP’s inception Malaysia’s economy has grown enormously. Its people are now the third-richest in South-East Asia, behind only Singapore and oil-soaked Brunei. Affirmative action has helped to narrow the difference between the incomes of Malays and other races. But pro-bumiputera schemes are almost never means-tested, so their benefits have accrued disproportionately to already wealthy urbanites, allowing poverty among the neediest Malays to persist.

Meanwhile the lure of the public sector—which was expanded to create more posts for bumiputeras, and in which Malays are now vastly over-represented—has sapped entrepreneurial vigour among Malays, as has a welter of grants and soft loans for bumiputera firms. Race-based entry criteria have lowered standards at Malaysia’s public universities; so has the flight of non-bumiputera academics who sense that promotions are no longer linked to merit. These days Chinese and Indians largely end up studying in private institutions or abroad, in effect segregating tertiary education. Many of those who leave the country do not return.

None of this is lost on the ruling party. For some years UMNO was split between hardline supporters of affirmative action (like the demonstrators pictured above) and moderates dismayed by the distortions it has brought. In an unusually candid paper published in 2010, the new government of Najib Razak, the prime minister, admitted that affirmative action had created an “entitlement culture and rentier behaviour”. It mooted swapping race-based policies for action intended to lift the incomes of Malaysia’s poorest 40%, regardless of ethnicity. Yet within months that suggestion was quietly abandoned.

Since then the party’s thinkers have grown more risk-averse. UMNO almost fell from power at a general election in 2013, when minority voters abandoned its coalition partners. Since early 2015 it has been trying to distract attention from the theft of billions of dollars from 1MDB (American investigators allege that $681m of the state firm’s money was paid to the prime minister, a charge Mr Najib denies). Neither of these near-death experiences appears to have prompted much soul-searching. Instead the party is trying to preserve support among Malay voters by reinforcing pro-Malay policies and by building bridges with PAS, an Islamist opposition party that is growing more extreme.

Optimists argue that the government has not completely abandoned reform. An efficiency drive has called attention to the public sector’s bloated state, even if the material gains from the effort are unclear. And whereas UMNO’s leaders once boasted of their desire to create Malay millionaires, recent schemes are more likely to aid small and medium-sized firms. But this is all rather modest—particularly when ugly racial rhetoric is on the rise.

Malaysia’s failing system of race-based preferences will probably not attract the criticism it deserves in the run-up to the next general election, which Mr Najib may call later this year and which he is likely to win. Opposition parties are keen to show poor rural Malays that UMNO’s policies have shortchanged them, but tend not to openly bash the notion of race-based affirmative action. Egged on by bigots, some Malays have come to see their economic privileges as a right earned by their ancestors when they first settled the territory, not as a temporary leg-up. Meritocracy and the distribution of benefits based on need remain distant prospects.

This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the headline “Malays on the march”–The Economist
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The ambition to improve the lot of Malaysia’s neediest citizens is a worthy one. But defining them by race is a mistake. It allows a disproportionate amount of the benefits of affirmative action to accrue to well-off Malays, who can afford to buy the shares set aside for them at IPOs, for example, or to bid for the government contracts Mr Najib is reserving for them. It would be much more efficient, and less poisonous to race relations, to provide benefits based on income. Most recipients would still be Malays. And defusing the issue should pave the way for more nuanced and constructive politics. Perhaps that is why UMNO has resisted the idea for so long.

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “Deformative action”