New York Times Book Review


January 13, 2019

New York Times Book Review: “The Truths We Hold”

 

What’s the most surprising thing you learned while writing it?

I was raised to do things, not to talk about myself or my feelings — or frankly, even to look back. It was an effort to talk about my feelings as things were happening. It was difficult. I talk about a lot that’s really personal, and that I had not talked about in public. That was a component of it that made me feel very vulnerable. But I felt it was important to talk about for a couple of reasons. One, I’m really clear in my mind that there are a lot of experiences I’ve had, emotional experiences and responses, that are in common with a lot of people. But more important, I wanted to give context to the work I’ve done. Almost everything I’ve done professionally has been motivated by some experience I’ve been exposed to.

 

The process of writing the book required me to really explore what I was feeling at those moments. For example, the whole chapter that we named “Underwater” — I had never talked about the fact that our mother bought our first house when I was a teenager. I’ll never forget, when my mother came back and said, “This is going to be our home.” The pictures and the excitement she had, and the excitement we then had. I connected that emotion to what it meant for all those homeowners who either had that hope when they engaged in what ended up being a fraudulent mortgage scheme or when they lost their homes. Knowing what that meant, when I’m sitting across the table from executives at the biggest banks in the country and feeling a sense of responsibility, that this wasn’t simply a financial transaction. When your mother comes home with the picture of the first home you’re ever going to have, it’s not like someone waving around a piece of paper with a stock portfolio. It’s a whole other thing.

In what way is the book you wrote different from the book you set out to write?

https://i.4pcdn.org/pol/1496450667218.jpg

Hopefully the book takes the reader on a journey down memory lane about the last 12 months and how much happened. Everything is happening so rapidly right now that a lot of people tend to forget what just happened six months ago, when the thing that happened six months ago was earth-shattering. There’s a lot in the book that was happening in real time; so literally as I’m writing it, it’s happening. The book was due and then the Brett Kavanaugh hearings happened, and so how do I handle that? It was important to me to at least try to talk about that, knowing that people will be reading about it months after it happened.

“I hope you’ll walk away renewing your faith in the nobility and importance of public service, and convinced that we are a country that was founded on noble ideals. Imperfect though we may be, what makes us strong, and special, is that we’ve always aspired to reach those ideals.”–Kamala Harris.

Kamala Harris, center, at an event in California calling for the end of family separations at the border, in June 2018.
Creditvia Kamala Harris
 

Who is a creative person (not a writer) who has influenced you and your work?

Certainly my mother. She was incredibly creative, as a scientist. But when I think about performers: Bob Marley. I first started listening to him when I was a child. My father had an incredible jazz collection but also a lot of Marley. I saw him in concert at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. I was hooked.

Jamaica’s history is actually not that well known in the context of the issues we deal with in the United States. But Jamaica grappled with vicious slavery for generations, and then colonists, with a very strong sense of identity in terms of what it meant to be particularly a black Jamaican. A lot of his music was about what it means to fight for the people. He was a very spiritual person also. I’m very spiritual. I don’t talk a lot about it, but the idea that there is a higher being and that we should be motivated by love of one another — that also requires us to fight.

Persuade someone to read “The Truths We Hold” in 50 words or less.

I hope you’ll walk away renewing your faith in the nobility and importance of public service, and convinced that we are a country that was founded on noble ideals. Imperfect though we may be, what makes us strong, and special, is that we’ve always aspired to reach those ideals.

Follow John Williams on Twitter: @johnwilliamsnyt.

The Truths We Hold
An American Journey
By Kamala Harris
Illustrated. 318 pages. Penguin Press. $30.

 

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: Eager to Fight for the People.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patronage is king in new Malaysia?


January 12, 2019

Patronage is king in new Malaysia?

by Dr.Terence Gomez

 

COMMENT | When Dr. Mahathir Mohamad led the opposition to a stunning election victory, he had an effective rallying cry that reflected why Umno’s form of governance was problematic: “Cash is king.”

If Mahathir is not careful, worrying recent trends indicate a similarly disconcerting problem about Pakatan Harapan’s government: “Patronage is king.”

When Harapan wanted to capture power, the coalition’s leaders told Malaysians to expect real change if UMNO was expelled from government. These reforms included ending ethnically-based policies, unfailingly applied since the 1970s to justify patronage favouring bumiputera, though extremely abused to enrich politicians in power.

The Prime Minister would also no longer concurrently serve as finance minister who had under his control a slew of GLCs like 1MDB and Tabung Haji, enterprises that had been persistently abused by UMNOo. Politicians would not be appointed as directors of GLCs.

These pledges contributed to Harapan’s considerable achievement of ending authoritarian rule in Malaysia. However, Harapan has been in power barely eight months and already alarming trends are appearing which suggest that this coalition is finding ways and means to renege on its pledges.

Equally troubling is a gradual and perceptible attempt to reinstitute the practice of selective patronage in the conduct of politics and in the implementation of policies, hallmarks of UMNO politics that led to its fall.

Soon after Harapan formed the government, it created the Economic Affairs Ministry, led by Mohamed Azmin Ali. Subsequently, numerous GLCs controlled by the Finance Ministry, under the jurisdiction of Lim Guan Eng, were transferred to the Economic Affairs Ministry.

Malaysia’s only sovereign wealth fund, Khazanah Nasional, was channelled from the Finance Ministry to the Prime Minister’s Department. The government did not publicly disclose why the shifting of these GLCs between ministries was necessary, but it is now clear that the Finance Ministry no longer holds enormous influence over the corporate sector.

With Khazanah under his ministry, Mahathir, though not also functioning as the Finance Minister, had secured control of Malaysia’s leading investment arm. When Mahathir argued that Khazanah had deviated from performing one of its original objectives, helping the bumiputera, this contention was disputed by numerous analysts.

Mahathir went on to appoint himself as chairperson of Khazanah, though this was, by convention, the practice. The convention also was that the finance minister should be a member of Khazanah’s board.

Instead, Azmin was given this appointment. Whether the prime minister and the economic affairs minister should have been appointed board members of Khazanah merited debate as Harapan had pledged that politicians would not be appointed as directors of government enterprises.

On Sept 1, 2018, a Congress on the Future of Bumiputeras and the Nation was convened by Azmin’s Ministry. Mahathir stressed at this convention the need to reinstitute the practice of selective patronage, targeting bumiputeras, though no longer would the government allow for the distribution of what he referred to as “easy contracts.”

Daim Zainuddin, the chair of the Committee of Eminent Persons (CEP), established to prepare a report reviewing the state of the economy, endorsed the need for such a bumiputera policy, though he acknowledged problems of the past when he said: “We want to get it right this time.” Daim also stressed that the government would strive to change the mindset of bumiputera.

The nation was not told how this policy will be altered to get it right, nor how mindsets will be changed. Meanwhile, the CEP report, though submitted to the government, was not publicly disclosed.

Instead, the bumiputera policy was stressed when the Economic Affairs Ministry released its Mid-Term Review of the 11th Malaysia Plan, while other ministers have actively affirmed that GLCs will be divested, an issue also in the 2019 budget. Given Malaysia’s long history of political patronage, worrying questions come to mind of these divestments.

For example, one important equity sale by Khazanah, an issue that barely secured any analysis in the press, was that of its interests in CIMB, the country’s second-largest bank. Khazanah reduced its equity holding in CIMB by 0.66 percent, a seemingly small divestment.

However, does this sale mark the beginning of the transfer of control of CIMB to well-connected business people, even proxies of politicians, a common practice by UMNO in the 1990s? Will Harapan, through such divestments, move to create a new breed of powerful well-connected business groups, even oligarchs, a trend seen in other countries transiting from authoritarian rule to democracy?

‘Dr M should know better’

Another worrying issue occurred recently. Rural and Regional Development Minister Rina Harun of Mahathir’s party, Bersatu, approved the appointment of politicians from her party to the boards of directors of GLCs under her control.

This is extremely worrying because, under UMNO, the Rural and Regional Development Ministry was persistently embroiled in allegations of corruption, with MARA being the prime example.

The practice of patronage through GLCs to draw electoral support was rampant under this ministry as it has a huge presence in states with a bumiputera-majority population.

So important is this ministry, in terms of mobilising electoral support, that it was always placed under the control of a senior UMNO leader. During Najib Abdul Razak’s administration, then UMNO Vice- President, Mohd Shafie Apdal, served as its minister before he was unceremoniously removed from office. Shafie was replaced by Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Najib’s close ally.

What Rina, once an UMNO member, has done by appointing politicians to GLCs under her authority is so reminiscent of patronage practices that had undermined the activities of these enterprises.

Azmin subsequently endorsed what Rina had done on the grounds that “there are some politicians who have professional background, such as accountants, engineers or architects, who can contribute to GLCs”.

Mahathir should know better than to allow this. After all, he had stressed that GLCs function to fulfil a “noble vision”, including the alleviation of poverty, equitable wealth distribution and spatial development, promotion of rural industries and the fostering of entrepreneurial companies in new sectors of the economy. Mahathir had also persistently referred to Malaysia’s complex ensemble of GLCs as a “monster.”

During Najib’s administration, this vast GLC network, created primarily to fulfil the bumiputera agenda, became tools easily exploited by UMNO, so visibly manifested in serious corruption associated with Felda and Tabung Haji.

However, Harapan has refused to establish an independent committee to review this extremely complex GLC network that operates at the federal and state levels. Is this reluctance because Harapan plans to similarly employ GLCs for the practice of patronage, as recent trends suggest?

What is clear, even becoming the norm, is Harapan’s consistent message to the nation: selectively targeted patronage will continue. The primary advocate of this message is Bersatu, an UMNO off-shoot.

 

At Bersatu’s first convention after securing power, held two weeks ago, its president, Muhyiddin Yassin, was quoted as saying: “As a party for the ‘pribumi’ or indigenous group, Bersatu should not be apologetic to champion the bumiputera agenda”.

Muhyiddin went on to say: “No one in our society will be left behind. Hence, this agenda is not a racial agenda, but a national agenda.” These statements are strikingly similar to what Umno had stressed when in power.

These trends suggest that for Harapan, and Bersatu in particular, consolidating power, by marshalling bumiputera support, is its primary concern, not instituting appropriate economic and social reforms.

If the government hopes to change mindsets, Harapan must focus on just universal-based policies that assist all Malaysians. In the process, disenfranchised bumiputera will also be supported. Patronage need not be king.


TERENCE GOMEZ is a professor of political economy at the Faculty of Economics and Administration, Universiti Malaya.

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

Public policy and the role of the public intellectual


Public policy and the role of the public intellectual

Opinion  

COMMENT | How can the government encourage more people to adopt public transport so as to solve the problem of traffic jams?

Should local elections – if these are re-introduced – consider the issue of racial composition and representation?

Would the proposal to transform our current healthcare system into a social insurance model enable more people to have accessible and affordable healthcare?

Out of the various models of sustainable development, which would be the most suitable for particular places in Malaysia to adopt, in order to preserve our natural environment and also promote our cultural heritage?

Finally, would changing our country’s electoral system from first-past-the-post to proportional representation give our citizens a more democratic voice?

The questions above involve public policy discussions to a certain extent. Some may be ideologically oriented, while others may be more technical.

The influence and consequences of public policy may vary, from issues with huge implications that might potentially decide your individual rights as a citizen or foreign resident, to basic needs such as a right to shelter and food; or its impact might appear to be so insignificant that you feel it has nothing to do with you.

Some policies could have long-term impacts on groups of people several generations down the line, such as the New Economic Policy (NEP) in the 1970s.

Some policies also could bring about permanent and irreversible changes, such as certain forest land management policies which permit oil palm plantations to convert and replace primary forests.

Knowledge is power

In Malaysia, policy making decisions seem to habitually stem from a top-down process. Sometimes, it could be rooted in a certain political actor’s will or out-of-the-blue ‘creative’ thoughts, such as the third national car and property ‘crowdfunding’ policy.

To many people, the ability to influence public policy debates seems to be confined to the political elite.

Some may believe that the realm of public policy is out of their reach, leading them to forfeit any opportunity to participate in meaningful public policy discussions.

This self-defeating mentality probably has to do with the impression that policy making is technically too complex, or that they are unable to fully grasp the nuances of policy debates.

Furthermore, others may have lost faith and hope in the country’s political system. The euphoria that has been generated from witnessing the change of federal government for the first time in history has long gone.

Instead, they are more inclined to believe that policy discussion would change nothing, because it is politics akin to Game of Thrones – whereby politicians would act in a similar way to serve their self-interest by keeping the status quo when it comes to politically advantageous policies.

Former United Nations Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Laureate the Late Kofi Annan once said: “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”

The statement should also apply to our political and civil education. This is because if the people can understand the issues and policies better, then they could be more aware of their own rights, and will not be easily swayed or cheated.

In that way, public opinion could be recognized and turned into a formidable force to oppose and resist unreasonable or unjust policies. It would also help to promote a rational, progressive, democratically mature society.

Policy discussions may take place in a kopitiam, grassroots style, or be held in a posh and premium hotel ballroom and rigorously debated by fellow academics. Despite all that, the outcome still has to go back to the discussant, and whether he or she has conducted any study.

Serious public policy work must show professionalism and integrity in taking account all possible facets of evidence (within a reasonable limitation), that would determine whether the analyses and deductions can convince the public.

If a public policy does not go through a deep and thorough research process, or does not rely on facts and evidence for future projections, it would lack robust theoretical support and a foundation in widely accepted international best practices. The probability of such a policy failing to reach its intended goals is high.

In the end, who should answer for the consequences, cost, and responsibility for such policy failures? Instead of delegating the task of scrutinising government policies to opposition parties, could the public themselves effectively monitor the government’s performance, and directly hold them accountable?

A learning process

Image result for Penang Institute

The Penang Institute

Public policy research is a learning process. As a member of the Penang state government’s think-tank and a public policy research analyst, it is my duty not just to amass knowledge but also to spread the seeds of thought, hoping that a new perspective could influence or change society or at least create public discussion.

In order to gain the public’s trust and confidence, what is most important is to be persistent in maintaining the standards of one’s objectivity and professionalism when expressing and defending one’s research outcome in a fair and transparent manner.

If public policy research is publicly funded, it should imply that public interest is very much involved, and thus the research outcomes should be shared with the public. In other words, I believe that I should be seen as an employee of taxpayers, and therefore held accountable to the public.

So, here I am in my position of some influence, and therefore I have to honour my obligation as a public intellectual. For that reason, I have to walk out of my ‘armchair and air-conditioned room’ comfort zone and walk into the daily lived experiences of the man on the street. Only then would my proposed policy be worth anyone’s salt.

If policy making were to be compared to a battle of ideas, policy advocates pacing around this ‘battlefield’ must recognise the current situation and be well-versed in the ‘topography’ of issues that one feels strongly about.

He or she could then be in control of the defensive-offensive strategy in winning the battle of influencing and implementing the said policy. There could be room for the omission of menial details, but policymakers or advocates must ensure that the crux of a policy should be steered in the right direction.

Penang is my base, and my work as a public intellectual originates from there. However, my work should not be constrained within the aforementioned locality.

In what is being identified as a strongly federated nation such as Malaysia, the most contentious policy ideas are arguably centred around Parliament in Kuala Lumpur and the corridors of power in Putrajaya.

We have witnessed the historic moment in the 14th general election when the peaceful democratic transition of federal power took place in Putrajaya. The new ruling coalition was named after ‘hope’ and consists of parties which fought for a long period persistently on the ideals of Reformasi and an overarching multiracial philosophy of ‘Malaysian Malaysia’.

The remaining question is, what are the policies and strategies in place to build a progressive and hopeful new multiracial Malaysia?

I would argue that policies that truly solve the needs of the public are the real backbone of reforms that are badly required in a country which had been mismanaged for decades.

For the coming weekends, my colleagues from the Penang Institute will talk about issues and policies, and share their stories in this space, hopefully to continue inspiring new narratives in the new political era of Malaysia.


Dr. LIM CHEE HAN is a senior analyst in the political studies section at Penang Institute. He holds a PhD in infection biology from Hannover Medical School, Germany. He believes that a nation would advance significantly if policy making were taken seriously.

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

Note: The Techo Sen Sen School of Government and International Relations,@The University Of Cambodia, Phnom Penh offers postgraduate programmes in Public Policy. http://www.tss.uc.edu.kh

 

PKR’s infighting will be the downfall of Harapan


January 2,2019

PKR’s infighting will be the downfall of Harapan

Opinion  |by  S Thayaparan

Published:  |  Modified:

 

“I see a bad moon a-rising

I see trouble on the way

I see earthquakes and lightnin’

I see bad times today.”

– Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Bad Moon Rising”

COMMENT | The mistake some people make is to choose sides when it comes to the camps in PKR. This is problematic because when proxies from either camp highlight issues affecting the rakyat, the issue gets lost in a quagmire of partisan posturing.

The fight within PKR is not some great ideological divide, as some participants would have you believe. It is rather about craven political moves to secure hegemony. There is nothing radical that the winner of either camp would inject into mainstream Malay politics. This is really a game of knaves.

Someone once asked me who do I prefer, PKR Deputy President Mohamed Azmin Ali or Vice-President Rafizi Ramli. I said, in a perfect world, they would be working together. Both have demonstrated a remarkable ability to remain relevant and contribute to Malay politics in a way that is – unfortunately – essential in running this country. Azmin plays it close to his chest, while Rafizi puts it out there.

People forget that these two leaders managed to hold it together even though they were at odds with each other. While I may have disagreed with Azmin holding onto PAS as Selangor Menteri Besar far longer than he should have, the moves Rafizi made to further his agenda in PKR were just as self-defeating.

Internal squabbling

While internal party conflict is not new, what is new is the context of this fight. PKR is a Malay-led political party struggling to define itself, even more so now with Bersatu in the mix. As a political party for all Malaysians, its Malay leadership is tearing the party apart, with the aid of non-Malay loyalists.

That’s the realpolitik of it. Which is also kind of juvenile. Think back to before the elections, when PKR was in a kerfuffle because of seat allocations – “Admittedly, Azmin claiming that he had no knowledge of the candidates’ list before the big reveal by Harapan bigshots was dodgy and furthered the narrative that it was amateur hour at PKR HQ, not to mention it had a whiff of mala fide. Also the tears flowing at the press conference of Rawang assemblyperson Gan Pei Nei (photo) were self-defeating as was Batu incumbent parliamentarian Tian Chua’s rejoinder to whoever to be careful.”

I just want to see who emerges when the dust settles. Demonising Azmin and going all creamy on Anwar and his camp may make good copy, but the reality is, this squabbling in PKR is damaging the idea – that dream, really – that a multiracial political party can survive in Malaysia. Scratch that – the idea a multiracial political party led by Malays can survive in Malaysia.

A non-Malay political operative from PKR who has chosen – so far – to remain, above the fray (or since, as he says, nobody has really noticed that he was elected) shakes his head whenever he talks about the camps in PKR. “We were given the keys to the kingdom and we are squabbling in the courtyard,” he said.

Another political operative saidthat Azmin is spooked, which is why he is making overt statements in the press or through his proxies. “Look, whatever you say about the PKR elections, his camp did better, right? So why shouldn’t the spoils go to them, this sounds crass but where is the fairness?” the political operative said. “…And, Azmin’s team has more influence, so this is politics, right?”

Is the press a contributing factor in this fight, a grassroots PKR activist asked me. I answered that political operatives use the press to wage their wars, and the latter is always in need of juicy copy because nobody seems interested in the real stuff.

A ‘slaughter’?

I like the preacher Wan Ji Wan Hussin and have written favourably about him before, but him saying that Anwar is going to be slaughtered soon by Azmin is the kind of rhetoric that escalates the conflict.

Even if was true, the fact is by saying it, you are demonstrating that you are on the losing end. A confident opponent does not announce his or her vanquishing before it happens. I do not know about anyone else, but I do not want a weak coterie leading a political party because, in the long term, this would be more damaging to Harapan. And this is what the other camp is doing. Painting themselves as weak.

Similarly, Azmin bitching about the new PKR appointments demonstrates that he is spooked by the possible challenge to his ascension. And yes Azmin’s camp has the numbers and this is the time for magnanimity, not moving in for the kill.

If Azmin played it right, he would have used this opportunity to close ranks, instead of openly challenging the choices of his party’s president, thus presenting himself as a shrewd leader instead of an usurper. If he doesn’t like Anwar’s choices, then by all means take a shot against the king, but he should remember not to miss.

Here and now

And really, what is wrong with Azmin crowing about his achievements over Anwar? Look, even Rafizi (photo) has achievements which are more contemporary to his president’s. Rafizi, and Azmin, are both relevant in a way that seems to elude Anwar.

Politics is essentially a ‘what have you done for me lately’ game, and Anwar – for various reasons – has been out of play. These days, Anwar, unfortunately, says things that spook the non-Malays, while someone like Azmin has been elevated to higher ground, thus commanding a better position.

Maybe this is the deeper implication of this fight. Is Anwar relevant in this political climate? While the Harapan grand poohbah has his loyal and public admirers, Anwar does not, unfortunately. Nor does he have a legacy which he can shake off, unlike the old maverick. In other words, Anwar’s ‘sins’ are never forgiven, while Mahathir’s seem to be.

And who are the other interested parties in the schisms of PKR? Who benefits most from this squabble? There are people in this government and outside of it who never really liked or trusted Anwar. They view his ascension to the highest office of the land as something calamitous.

So what do they do? They stoke the fires. They start memes that make Anwar look bad, but most of all, they align themselves with personalities so people are always asking, what the hell is going on?

And this is really why the fight within PKR is going to be the deciding factor in the longevity of the Harapan regime.

If, for whatever reason, PKR splits apart, the Harapan regime is in trouble. Trouble in the sense that there will be even more truculence in Malay power structures. When this happens, history has shown that it will affect our democratic institutions.

Honestly, at this point, I do not think that Anwar can maintain any sort of equilibrium between the camps. There seem to be no cooler heads in PKR, because the camps are determined to wipe each other out. Anything Anwar says or does comes off as self-serving, while Azmin has to contend with being the villain out to destroy the Reformasi movement.

Meanwhile, the vultures circle above.

 


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.

UMNO, PAS can’t stand in the way of progressive Malay politics


December 29, 2019

UMNO, PAS can’t stand in the way of progressive Malay politics

https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/458191

by  Dr. Rais Hussin

 

COMMENT | A train will eventually carry less and less cargo when the single track on which it operates begins to sag. But this is not a problem with a double-track system.

UMNO and PAS have erred by using such a single-track system( Money Politics). The mechanisms which they have used or intend to use to take Malays, Muslims and Malaysians forward will falter – either before they can reinvent themselves as parties that put the people’s welfare first, or before they perish from hauling too much for too long while struggling for their survival.

Similarly, if Bersatu sticks to the mentality of old, it too will fail. By privileging cash, connections, contracts and concessions, UMNO has become nothing but a cabal – a party defined and driven by the politics of what political scientists call kaumiyah or tribes.

These tribes may align themselves to current, former or prospective presidents of UMNO, but they will all sink as Umno is now officially a party associated with thieving and thuggery.

Even when the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd) was not ratified, UMNO still insisted on a street rally. By urging its remaining war horses to take to the streets of Kuala Lumpur, the party has become a throbbing and bleeding sore.

And as the above was done, another elite group of UMNO putera and puteri, also working for their own benefit, are hard at work trying to upstage their elders in the party – making UMNOo Youth into a spear against the shield of the old aristocracy.

With such internal warfare, UMNOo can no longer vouch for bangsa, agama dan negara (race, religion and country). It is now hollowed out, with its only legacy the attempted misuse of every GLC and GLIC under its watch, from Permodalan Nasional Bhd to Lembaga Tabung Haji to Ministry of Finance Inc.

PAS, having formed a quasi-pact with UMNO that seeks to salvage what remains of the former’s vote bank, has either directly and indirectly tried to sanitise the soiled legacy of the former ruling party.

Instead of speaking out against the excesses of 1MDB, and the many ‘mini 1MDBs’, PAS has chosen to remain solemnly quiet on all fronts. Such connivance is done in order to benefit PAS, both as the future kingmakers and spoilers of parliamentary democracy of Malaysia.

Bersatu cannot claim to be a white knight. As a new party, it is bound to have many chinks in its armour. Nor can it claim to be invincible and undefeatable. If May 9 demonstrated anything, it is the power of the people to get rid of the old and tiresome kleptocrats.

But as a Malay party – whose associate members can be non-Malays – Bersatu understands the importance of creating a ‘New Malay’ mindset to steer Malays, Muslims and Malaysia forward. This is where Bersatu has a double-track system in every single endeavour.

In the public sector, Bersatu is not obsessed with dominating every branch and twig of the government. No Malay cronies have sprung up in Bersatu. Indeed, Bersatu believes a strong and stable government that is also smart. As and when needed, a government led by Bersatu, with the blessing of Pakatan Harapan, will be pro-private sector.

In the private sector, Bersatu does not want to dominate the entire business landscape. Bersatu wants Malay entrepreneurs of all stripes to flourish together with people of other races in Malaysia.

The fact that Bersatu can work with the Finance Minister from DAP is a case in point. Whatever pro-Malay agenda Bersatu may have, it has the option to stick by its allies that are also pro-Malaysia.

Insofar as Islam is concerned, Bersatu has also worked closely with Amanah, a party that believes in rahmatan lil alamin (Islam as a blessing for all). Neither Bersatu nor Amanah believes in any ideas that are racially chauvinistic: both parties believe in working closely with people of all faiths, not just ‘other’ faiths.

Thus, when the unrest in Seafield erupted, Home Minister and Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin was quick to condemn the incident, indeed to contain it as a non-racial issue stemming from a land dispute that was politicised by Umno and PAS as an affront to Malayness.

The only thing Malay in the riots was the heroism of the late Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim and his colleagues to rush in to douse the fire of the burning cars where none dared to tread.

If Bersatu in the post-May 9 landscape has any specific inspiration, it is the courage and bravery of Muhammad Adib. Unsurprisingly, Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali even dedicated a violin recital to him. Why? Precisely because of his selflessness to live up to the creed of New Malaysia.

Prime Minister and Bersatu chairperson Dr Mahathir Mohamad hasn’t said much, for he too believes that mere words would have tarnished Adib’s deeds, and how he led by example just weeks prior to the second annual general assembly of Bersatu.

Berani kerana benar’ (in truth we find courage) the old Malay proverb goes. And ‘Bersatu kerana benar‘, as the New Malaysia and all Malays must be.


RAIS HUSSIN is a supreme council member of Bersatu. He also heads its policy and strategy bureau.

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