Vision 2020 marred by scandals, corruption and abuse of power


October 22, 2015

Vision 2020 marred by scandals, corruption and abuse of power

by Dr. Lee Hwok-Aun

Financial scandals, public protests against corruption and authoritarianism, economic anxiety and a depreciating currency are factors that would threaten the position of any elected national leader. Not in Malaysia.

Lee_Hwok_Aun_0511-480x360Faced with the above, Dato’ Seri Najib Razak has maintained his grip on the prime ministership. But with his credibility damaged, public trust shattered, and his signature 1Malaysia concept buried, his policy record increasingly hinges on fulfilling transformation.

The Global Transformation Forum, running in Kuala Lumpur October 21-23, will showcase Malaysia’s new policy making and monitoring model, and perhaps cast a warm glow on the administration.

Malaysia’s economic and government transformation programs are driven by Dato’ Idris Jala, Najib’s cabinet appointee and CEO of the performance management and delivery unit, and chief proponent of the “Big Fast Results” method for undertaking such endeavours.

The Prime Minister’s continued blessing for such programs has been returned with loyalty, such that even the crafting of political funding reform was entrusted to Idris and Paul Low, the Minister of Governance and Integrity.

Notably as well, Najib withdrew from launching a major global anti-corruption conference in August, but delivered the opening address of this forum. How far can the programs transform Malaysia and preserve the power of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition? The regime counts on two important balances tipping in its favor: short-term gains outweighing long-term goals and service delivery overshadowing government integrity.

Malaysia’s policy horizon is short, by destiny and by choice. Less than five years remain until the nation’s day of reckoning with Vision 2020, a grand mission launched in 1991 by then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Come 2020, Malaysia is supposed to already be a fully developed nation, attaining high income, capability and technology, and fostering a democratic, liberal, progressive and innovative society.

But in reality, reaching these lofty goals will take a longer time, beyond 2020. With Malaysia’s economy continuing to grow faster than the high-income entry bar, it will join the club, although when is uncertain.

Achieving that target will also yield political returns. It is a distinct and quantifiable accomplishment. Continual public spending of growth dividends on the lower-income population does provide some help in times of economic stress, while shoring up electoral support.

Short-term bias is accentuated by design; Malaysia’s transformation model favors programs that generate big fast results and filters out those that do not.The selection process is disinclined toward initiatives that require long and slow gestations, although a number of such projects will make it through.

idris-jala-pemandu-genericOn the one hand, commitment to short-term fixes is spirited, such as the implementation of Bantuan Rakyat 1 Malaysia — or better known as BR1M — a program of massive cash transfers to lower-income families. On the other hand, the government is lukewarm in its pursuit of systemic, broad-based innovation and sociopolitical maturation.

This trumping of immediate, quantifiable targets over gradual, qualitative progress is particularly stark in the education system, which is vital for sustaining socioeconomic advancement over the long term.

In schools and universities, learning outcomes and performance targets are spelled out while resources and personnel are constrained by standardization and audit requirements. Inquisitiveness, creativity and critical thinking remain barely encouraged. International recognition of this model revolves around its methods more than its contents.

PEMANDU has instituted a streamlined mechanism for consultative policy formulation, detailed planning, internal monitoring and performance assessments. The methodology has clearly spurred heated discussion and generated novel programs.

But far-reaching transformation entails major structural change, even disruptive contents and breakpoints. Leadership change often precedes transformational change, and there must be substantial cohesion between messenger and message, between the authority and the agenda.

Malaysia’s transformation is now being executed by a scandal-tainted Prime Minister heading a controlling and change-resistant establishment — the Barisan Nasional coalition that has held power for almost sixty years.

Governments the world over gain legitimacy and placate discontent by providing material goods and managing economic affairs. But in Najib’s case, the onus on government service delivery to scrub away doubts about his personal integrity is particularly high.

Transformation halts at pivotal points. From the political funding reform dialogue so far, it seems the US$700 million deposited into the Prime Minister’s personal account has already been exonerated as a “donation.”

Transformation into a more responsive government requires consultation in policy formulation and regular self-reporting of performance outcomes. But Najib’s government remains decidedly opposed to freer and fairer elections, accountability of the executive to parliament, rule of law, and freedom of information.

To be fair, these bigger issues lie beyond PEMANDU’s ambit; its programs specifically address economic and government transformation. But the exclusion of political transformation is precisely the problem from a national standpoint.

As technocratic as PEMANDU may be, the enduring impact of its programs lies in the hands of Malaysia’s untransformed political masters. – Nikkei Asian Review, October 22, 2015.

* Dr.Hwok-Aun Lee is a senior lecturer in development studies at the University of Malaya.

The Ugly Face of the Malay psyche on display


March 25, 2015

The Ugly Face of the Malay psyche on display

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.malaysiakini.com

It takes a brave Malay woman to say what the whole nation is thinking, and it is amazing how many Malay men cannot wait to show the world the ugly face of the Malay psyche.

The threats of physical violence and rape on BFM host Aisyah Tajudin, for her satirical take on the Kelantan hudud law, have proven that despite receiving the ‘best education in the world’, many Malays remain shallow, servile and seriously stupid. Only insecure, egotistical Malay men would feel threatened, not just by the truth, but by a woman, and worse still, a Malay woman.

The rakyat’s problem is that Malaysia’s religious men aspire to become politicians, and its politicians pretend to be religious men.

The latest hudud debacle has very little to do with religion. It is about power. Power over the Malays in Malaysia. Power to overcome any non-Malay resistance. And power to crush any opposition, especially from progressive Malays, who represent the biggest threat.

Aisyah (above) wanted to liberate Malay minds, not conquer their bodies. Her video was for people to reflect and to ponder. She did not force her message on others, if they did not wish to accept them.

Aisyah discussed important issues, so we may understand some of our country’s problems. If she didn’t care for her country, she would have chosen to remain quiet, like 97 percent of the population.

The Malays are creative and in the olden days, songs, sajak (poems) or bangsawan (opera/plays) would relay any messages, from rulers to their subjects. Aisyah is merely continuing a rich Malay tradition. The Malays who reacted badly to her satire, are an uncultured lot.

Aisyah appealed to the Muslims’ faith and their compassion. The Malays who threatened her, revealed everything that Islam does not represent.The BFM host used ingenuity to drive home a message about hudud, in Kelantan. The bigots revealed their stupidity and inability to use their intellect, to counter her point of view. Their threats, to rape and kill, will force more moderate, but silent Muslims, to speak out. These bigots have also stained the moderate face of Malay Muslims.

BFM should not have apologised for making and airing the satirical video. The company probably had no choice. The government issues permits, and can shut down companies. In the past, companies had their computers seized, their editors harassed, their Muslim writers accused of being lesbian, gay, apostate or atheist, and issued with death threats, violence or legal action.

In the Charlie Hebdo massacre of January 7, terrorists used Islam as their excuse to mow down several people, including a Muslim Policeman. Disagreeing with the cartoonists, does not give the men a licence to kill. The terrorists’ actions further tarnished the image of Islam and gave the impression that Muslims lacked the ability to enter into intelligent discussion.

Silencing freedom of expression

The day after the Paris carnage, Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar said that Malaysia needed the Sedition Law to prevent such attacks on Malaysian soil. The terrorists used bullets, in Paris, to silence freedom of expression, but Khalid uses the Sedition Law, to curb freedom of speech.

The IGP claimed that his role of policing Twitter, was to act like the referee of social media, and stop troublemakers. So, why are tweets from extremist and racist UMNO Baru politicians not censured? Khalid should leave Aisyah alone, and arrest the men who threatened her.

NIK RAINA INTERVIEW Using a slew of laws like sedition and blasphemy to condemn Aisyah, just shows his desperation. The IGP is mimicking the Federal Territories Islamic Affairs Department’s (JAWI) relentless pursuit of the Borders manager, Nik Raina Abdul Aziz (above).

Malays brought up on UMNO Baru’s diet of race, religion and royalty, have had their brains sucked dry. They have long forgotten how to think, to rationalise and to analyse.

By all means, blame UMNO Baru, but do not forget their new partners in crime, PAS. Both parties are desperate to take control of the Malay mind, but more importantly, their votes. It is all about power. Sadly, the late Nik Aziz Nik Mat’s experience of both him and PAS being betrayed by UMNO/Umno Baru, have already been forgotten by the PAS ulama.

PAS President Hadi Awang is desperate to force hudud through Parliament. This is about power. When it comes to absolute power, religion becomes a pawn, and a means to an end.

Hadi has fallen into UMNO Baru’s trap, and we are now being distracted by hudud, instead of tackling major issues like 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), corruption, the goods and services tax (GST) and the flood victims.

Malays can still be pious without having to become wannabe Arabs. Malays are in danger of losing their history and their culture, which go back several centuries, long before Parameswara was born.

If Malays do not reclaim their true identity, the only reference to Malay culture will appear at cultural shows, for the benefit of tourists, and at Tourism Malaysia performances worldwide. The religious indoctrination by power-hungry Malay men, has reduced Malays to a poor imitation of Arabs, and turned multi-cultural Malaysia to a ghetto-nation.

Hudud does not belong in multicultural Malaysia. Aisyah’s video made us think, and that is what the bigots fear most.