Sunday, November 30, 2008

KT by-election a referendum on Najib, Anwar and Pas

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 30 - Get ready for a monster of a by-election in Kuala Terengganu.

The death of Deputy Education Minister and Barisan Nasional MP Datuk Razali Ismail has set the stage for an electoral contest which will not alter the overall position of power in Malaysia but is pregnant with meaning for all the major players of politics here.

# Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak:

By convention, the deputy prime minister heads the BN machinery during by-elections. But this will be no ordinary jaunt for Najib. The Opposition will turn the contest into a referendum for the country’s prime minister-in-waiting and there will be no place for him to hide from the insults and gloomy analyses if Pakatan Rakyat snares the parliamentary constituency seat.

Kuala Terengganu will be different from the last contest in Permatang Pauh for a sprinkling of reasons.

Reason 1: Unlike Permatang Pauh, this is a seat which has been held by BN for the last two elections, albeit tenuously. In 1999, at the peak of the fallout over the sacking of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim from government, Pas candidate Dr Syed Azman Syed Nawawi thrashed BN’s Datuk Abu Bakar Daud by a yawning margin of 14.448 votes.

Four years later, the popular Razali was fielded as a candidate there and he regained the seat for the ruling coalition by 1,933 votes. He retained the Kuala Terengganu seat by 628 votes on March 8.

In short, except for 1999-2004, this seat has been owned by the BN. In contrast, Permatang Pauh has been Anwar’s stronghold and remained in the hands of his proxy when he was in jail or ineligible to contest.

Reason 2: When BN contested the by-election in Permatang Pauh in August, there was still uncertainty over Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi’s future as prime minister. Blame for Anwar’s stunning victory was laid at his feet with pundits and Umno politicians saying that the PM’s unpopularity on the ground and lack of leadership were reasons for the limp performance of the Umno machinery.

Well, Abdullah is on his way out and a defeat for BN in Kuala Terengganu, or even a victory by a smaller margin than 628 votes, will have to be borne by Najib alone.

This by-election will not be about Abdullah’s track record (that story is done and dusted). This contest will be a bellwether of Najib’s ability to galvanise the troops on the ground and convince the voters that he is the future of the country. If BN does not deliver in Kuala Terengganu, he will not be able to seek refuge behind Abdullah’s weaknesses. Not this time.

# Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim:

Despite the brave talk at the Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s congress and festival of rhetoric about taking over control of the Federal Government, the Opposition leader knows that there have been more question marks over his ability to keep Pakatan Rakyat together in the last month than at any time after March 8.

It is not just BN politicians or the mainstream media that have raised red flags over his statements. Even the foreign press - longtime supporters of his more open and inclusive agenda - are settling down to the belief that Anwar will have to play the role of Opposition leader till the next general election.

Anwar needs a strong showing in Kuala Terengganu to inject fresh belief and enthusiasm into a coalition that has yet to agree on a common platform and is in danger of self-destructing over ideological differences.

Still, the consummate political player knows that one victory could lift the mood in Pakatan Rakyat, reduce BN’s comfort zone in Parliament by another seat, and put BN and Najib on the defensive.

More importantly, a strong showing by the Pakatan Rakyat in Kuala Terengganu will convince Malaysians that reverses suffered by BN/Umno in March were not solely due to Indians and Chinese voting with their feet, but also the result of more discerning Malay voters, even in rural Malaysia.

Kuala Terengganu is a 90 per cent Malay constituency. On a more personal level, this by-election is a battle of Anwar versus Najib. The battle between the man who believes that he is destined to become the prime minister against the man who has the top job in his clutches.

# Parti Islam SeMalaysia (Pas):

Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, Datuk Mustafa Ali and the powerful Terengganu faction of Pas have had a difficult time living down the loss of state to BN in 2004.

After just one term in office, they were booted out. And despite all the brave talk of wresting control of the state on March 8, spurred no doubt by infighting among Umno politicians in Terengganu, Hadi and his team still failed.

In the months following Election 2008, the Terengganu faction has had some difficulty exerting their influence on the party. They have had some serious reservations over Anwar’s tactics and have favoured a rapprochement with Umno. But they have had to yield to those in Pas who believe that it better to work with Anwar and the Democratic Action Party than with the “cruel and greedy’’ people of Umno.

Another defeat for Pas in Kuala Terengganu could end Datuk Mustafa Ali’s tenure as the election strategist of the party and blunt any offensive the Terengganu faction is planning to launch before next year’s party assembly.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Democracy Threatened at Bangkok International Airport

Written by Giles Ji Ungpakorn
Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Did the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) have military help?

Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok has now been closed by fascist thugs from the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy, which is demanding that the elected government resign. This is despite the fact that the government has the backing of the majority of the Thai population and even the majority of Bangkok citizens.

PAD protesters at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok.

This backing has been proven by repeated elections. The PAD wants a dictatorship to replace democracy because they deem that the majority of the Thai electorate are too ignorant to deserve the right to vote.

How did the PAD thugs manage to seize Bangkok International Airport? Airports are supposed to be high security areas. Thai airports are controlled by the Thai military. It is obvious that the Thai military, who staged an illegal coup in 2006, have quietly supported the PAD’s actions. It is obvious that the military is unwilling to provide basic security to air travelers and air crew. But they are happy to rake in huge salaries associated with their control of the Airports Authority. Foreign governments and airlines should reconsider whether the authorities in Thailand are willing to provide international standards of safety and security.

Back in early October, the PAD thugs surrounded parliament to prevent the Prime Minister from making a policy speech. When the police used tear gas to try to disperse the PAD, the police were roundly condemned by the Thai media and most middle-class intellectuals. It is no secret that the PAD are armed with guns, bombs, knives and wooden batons. They constantly break the law with impunity. Earlier Tuesday PAD thugs were filmed by Thai TV PBS, shooting at taxi drivers who were trying to defend their pro-democracy community radio station. The PAD thugs were holding up pictures of the king. Yesterday the PAD kicked and punched a senior policeman. The police are powerless to act.

The PAD is a royalist fascist mob which has powerful backing. Apart from the army, they are supported by the Queen, the so-called Democrat Party, the courts, the mainstream media and most university academics. What these people have in common is a total contempt for the Thai electorate who are poor. They are angry that the Thai people voted for a government that gave the poor universal health care and other benefits. They want to turn the clock back to a dictatorship which they call "the New Order".

They are hoping that the courts will now dissolve the ruling party and that an authoritarian "national government" will be set up.

It is clear that the PAD, the Military, the Democrat Party and the conservative establishment would rather see total chaos in Thailand rather than allow democracy to function. This is despite the fact that we face a serious economic crisis. Interestingly the anti-government groups are extreme neo-liberals with little grasp about how to deal with the economic crisis or how to stimulate the economy. Apart from opposing welfare, they have attacked Keynesian policies of the previous Thaksin government.

Where is the king in all this? Throughout the three year political crisis, the king has never attempted to diffuse the problem. Many Thais believe he supports the PAD, but it is more likely that the monarch has always been too weak to intervene in any crisis.

Those who support democracy and social justice in Thailand must condemn the PAD and those advocating a dictatorship. We must be with the pro-democracy Red Shirts, while refusing to support ex-PM Thaksin, who has a record of Human Rights abuses. I hope that all those friends of Thailand abroad will support all our efforts to defend Thai democracy and to defend those of us who may face arrest in the future.

Jr Giles Ji Ungpakorn is an associate professor at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Transforming Umno

By N Shashi Kala
25 Nov 08 : 9.00AM

IT has been more than two weeks since the close of nominations for Umno supreme council posts. Every post, except the presidency and the Wanita deputy chief position, is being contested.

But as the candidates prepare to do battle for the hearts, and some would say pockets, of the 2,500 delegates at the 24 to 28 March 2009 Umno general assembly, the issue of reforming the party is sadly in danger of being sidelined.

The candidates include a sprinkling of new faces, but the majority are familiar names in the Umno echelon — holdovers from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's time as Umno president.

This has left some observers wondering if Umno is actually making any attempt to reform itself in the wake of the 8 March 2008 general election.

Prime Minister and Umno president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi came under tremendous pressure to resign after the elections. After stonewalling for a period, he finally decided to exit via a transition of power agreement with his deputy, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, slated for March.

To that end, he is not defending his presidency, leaving Najib to win uncontested. But will the team that is headed for the polls help bring about much-needed rejuvenation within the party?

Reform prospects dim

Pulai Umno division head Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed tells The Nut Graph that the message sent out by the divisions on reform has been mixed.

"For the presidency, they accept the generational change as a result of the handover from Abdullah to Najib. For the deputy president's post, I think the membership didn't have a real choice between a younger candidate and an older one," says Nur Jazlan.

(The list of candidates for the Umno supreme council posts is available here.)

Nur Jazlan, who is the 42-year-old son of former Information Minister Tan Sri Mohamed Rahmat, shocked many Umno members by offering to contest the deputy's post. The two-term Member of Parliament (MP) for Pulai in Johor was branded an upstart for daring to run for such a senior post.

He withdrew after failing to receive a single nomination, and bemoans the lack of new blood in the Umno hierarchy.

"The members like my message on rejuvenation but are not willing to carry it out. They like democracy within the party and would like to have a choice of leaders. But now they are stuck with the older set of leaders on offer," muses Nur Jazlan.

Political scientist Dr Joseph Liow, who is associate professor at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, believes Umno is now going through a period of quick consolidation, with Najib coming into this from a position of strength. But he points out the prospects for reform are dim.

"After all Najib, (Tan Sri) Muhyiddin (Yassin, contesting for the deputy presidency), Datuk Mukhriz (Mahathir, contesting for Youth chief), Datuk Seri Shahrizat (Abdul Jalil, contesting for Umno Wanita chief), et al are all part of the old Umno system, and they have been a part of it for some time," he says.

Ongoing regeneration

But Nur Jazlan is more optimistic. He says that the process of reform is there, but slow.

"That's why I needed to shock the system [by announcing my intention to contest for the deputy presidency]. If I didn't do that, they (Umno) would not even start thinking about reform," he says.

The lack of impetus for the grassroots to opt for change is due to Umno's top-down power structure, says Nur Jazlan (right).

But he says he has faith in Najib's commitment to implement the big changes needed by the party after he takes over, "even if it means going against the entrenched interests within the party."

"I think Datuk Seri Najib realises that Umno must change quickly or it will be changed in the future," Nur Jazlan adds.

Umno member and Tambun MP Datuk Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah agrees with Nur Jazlan, explaining that regeneration within the party is ongoing.

"Sometimes, when people look at Umno, they only look at the supreme council; that is just one part of the whole party. We have got the Youth and Puteri wings," he says.

He notes that the formation of Puteri in 2001 is one example of the regeneration process, which can also be seen in the new faces contesting for the vice-presidency.

"For the deputy president post, the divisions have gone for people with experience and exposure. But for the vice-presidency, the divisions are looking at the future; to future leaders who can assume greater responsibility," Husni says. The deputy finance minister is one of 68 candidates vying for a supreme council seat.

But would the new guard be as receptive to reform as Abdullah was? Or will Abdullah's departure herald an end to such thoughts, and a return to business-as-usual within Umno?

Not dead

Prof Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, a political scientist with Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, thinks the reform agenda in Umno is not dead.

"The fact that Abdullah is not running for the president's post doesn't mean his plans will be thrown out. In fact, many Umno leaders support his plan, but they don't think he is firm enough to implement them," he tells The Nut Graph in an e-mail interview.

Liow, on the other hand, doesn't expect Abdullah loyalists to do well in the coming party elections. He says Abdullah's son-in-law and current Umno Youth deputy chief Khairy Jamaluddin, (left) especially, is fighting for his political life.

"Whether he is defeated [for the Youth chief post] or not would be an indication of the fate of Abdullah's legacy," says Liow.

But Husni's view is that Abdullah's legacy is assured as Najib has openly declared he will continue with his predecessor's policies.

"The future of the policies will be highly dependent on who is the leader. And the leader, Najib, has already said he will continue with the substance. On those grounds, I believe the policies that Pak Lah has put into place will continue into the future," he says.

Mahathir's return?

Despite perceptions that he is Mahathir's proxy, Liow believes Najib will be his own man.

Muhyiddin Yassin (right), who is contesting for the deputy presidency "I certainly do see Mahathir playing an active role. That said, Najib and Muhyiddin, and Mukhriz for that matter if he wins, will want to distance themselves from obvious alignment with the Tun.

"Overall, I'm not sure if it would be a wholesale return to Mahathirism, though we will see glimpses of it. After all, Najib matured basically under that system," Liow concludes.

Shamsul agrees, saying Umno cannot go back to its old ways, and especially not Mahathir's way, which is viewed by many within the party as divisive.

With four months left to go before the elections, the battle lines are now being drawn. The jostling for support will intensify, leading to worry that the whole exercise could leave Umno even more divided than it presently is.

But Husni doesn't fear the worst. He believes competition within the party is healthy.

"Competition will create a competitive spirit. And a competitive spirit in itself will enhance the strength of the leaders and the party."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ketuanan Melayu rebutted

By Shanon Shah
24 Nov 08 : 9.00AM

"IF you live in Malaysia, you cannot have Ketuanan Melayu. The word 'ketuanan' is alienating. Malaysia has Eurasians, Indonesians, Chinese, Indians, and so on. If anyone deserves to be called the 'tuan' of this land, it's the Orang Asli."

Most Malaysians would be forgiven for thinking that it was a non-Malay Malaysian politician speaking out against Ketuanan Melayu. But these sentiments were articulated by Nur Farina Noor Hashim, the People's Progressive Party (PPP) Puteri bureau head.

"I just had no interest to join Umno," Farina, who joined PPP in 2004, tells The Nut Graph. PPP is a component party of the Barisan Nasional (BN), of which Umno is the dominant party.

Farina is, of course, referring to the position taken by Umno leaders that suggests ketuanan Melayu is synonymous with Malay rights, and that Malay rights are under threat. Or rather, any questioning of ketuanan Melayu is tantamount to threatening the Malay race.

The consistent message from these Umno leaders of late seems to be that only Umno is capable of defending the Malays. Or that Umno is the Malay race. And their currency is ketuanan Melayu.

Farina is not the only Malay Malaysian politician to view with some amount of circumspection Umno's position as defender of the Malays and their supremacy.

"I love Malays and I love Malaysia," says Gerakan central committee member Dr Asharuddin Ahmad. "But this country cannot survive without non-Malays. We are all Malaysians. The future of Malaysia lies with multiracial parties," he tells The Nut Graph.

Interestingly, Asharuddin (photo right) is a former Umno member. He joined Umno in 1988, but left to join Gerakan 10 years later. He says he has been branded a traitor to Malay Malaysians, but asserts that joining Gerakan does not make him "any less Malay or more Malay".

"Umno's struggle is not wrong, but I prefer Gerakan's multiracial approach," Asharuddin says.

"Ketuanan" alienates

Umno leaders' defensiveness around the ketuanan Melayu rhetoric is not new. Their recent rancour in attacking dissenters within the BN, such as former Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Zaid Ibrahim and Gerakan Wanita chief Datuk Tan Lian Hoe, was therefore alarming yet unsurprising.

The question, however, is whether Malay Malaysian politicians have a future outside of Umno, especially if they want to remain within the BN.

In that sense, the case of Gerakan's Asharuddin is interesting, having crossed over from a party that champions ketuanan Melayu to a multiracial one.

But Asharuddin is not alone. Another ex-Umno member who jumped ship to join a multiracial BN component party is Datuk Nik Sapeia Nik Yusof from PPP.

Nik Sapeia was invited by party president Datuk Dr M Kayveas to join, even though he is still facing court proceedings for the charge of attacking former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 2006. Nik Sapeia is now the party's Kelantan chief.

"Before I came along, nobody believed PPP had any supporters in Kelantan," Nik Sapeia tells The Nut Graph. "Now in Kelantan, every time I organise an event I get thousands of people attending and supporting it. The Kelantanese are ready and they want change to happen in the political scenario here."

He says the Kelantanese are increasingly seeing that PPP will bring about this much-needed change.

Asharuddin and Nik Sapeia are undoubtedly minorities among the BN's multiracial component parties. However, they are slowly coming out of the woodwork, especially since the BN's unprecedented losses in the 8 March 2008 general election.

Farina (photo right) feels that Umno's outbursts and threats will only backfire in the long run.

"Malaysians are very open-minded and intelligent now," she says. "Our politicians must be on par with the rakyat's intelligence, because it's the rakyat who want change and will eventually change this country."

Multiracial politics

The voices of these non-Umno Malay Malaysians within the BN join those in the Pakatan Rakyat that have also been upping the ante against Umno's ketuanan Melayu rhetoric.

As part of its election campaign, PAS launched its "PAS for all" tagline. The Islamist party also continues to aggressively recruit non-Muslim support via Kelab Penyokong PAS.

Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) leaders, such as Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Dr Syed Husin Ali, have been promoting "ketuanan rakyat" instead of "ketuanan Melayu". And the DAP also scored a coup when it recruited Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim as the party's vice-chairperson. He was formerly vice-chairperson of Transparency International's board of directors.

The Pakatan Rakyat parties are therefore, in varying degrees, grappling with their respective multiracial futures. The previously monoreligious, monoracial PAS is trying to appeal to a wider section of Malaysians. In an interview in the November 2008 issue of Off the Edge, even party spiritual advisor Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat said, "If there is a Chinese person in Kelantan who is good, pious and clean, I will campaign for him to become Chief Minister. As long as he is qualified, as long as he is a Muslim, I don't care what ethnic background he comes from."

The Chinese-dominated DAP is trying to increase its appeal to non-Chinese Malaysians, specifically Malay Malaysians. And high-level Malay Malaysian leaders in PKR are trying to consolidate the party's tentative multiracialism.

A little-known fact is that two other opposition parties, albeit non-Pakatan Rakyat members, are multiracial and led by Malay Malaysians. They, too, are vocal in their opposition to the Ketuanan Melayu rhetoric.

Historical miscalculations

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) national chairperson Dr Nasir Hashim (photo right) says Umno's racial outbursts are rooted in historical miscalculations.

"We made a mistake, even after Merdeka, when we were emerging as a nation. We should have talked about helping the poor among all races and not just zero in on one race," he tells The Nut Graph.

Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) president Hassan Karim concurs. He tells The Nut Graph: "The NEP (New Economic Policy), being capitalist and race-based, only benefited a minority of Malays. What about analysing it from a class perspective? Not all Chinese are rich either, you know. There cannot be ketuanan Melayu or ketuanan bukan Melayu. There must be justice for all."

According to PSM's Nasir, the implementation of the NEP which focused on one race soon gave currency to the ketuanan Melayu rhetoric. But he says ketuanan Melayu is just a red herring. "Name me one Malay who is a pure Malay. There is virtually none — all Malays are mixed-blood to some degree."

Rather, Umno's outbursts can be seen as the increasingly desperate acts of a party frustrated by its loss of power, he argues. "Umno is frustrated by its losses during the general election, and continues to use race and religion to divert the anger of poor Malays," adds Nasir.

"Because as so-called leaders of the Malays, Umno has failed. It has not even been able to help poor Malays and Malay entrepreneurs," he asserts. Therefore, the ketuanan Melayu rhetoric conveniently redirects the frustration and anger of disenfranchised Malay Malaysians towards other races. Herein lies the danger of Umno's rhetoric, says Nasir.

"In times of economic difficulty, the ketuanan Melayu rhetoric will likely give rise to fascist tendencies. When people are feeling the pinch and they are frustrated, you just need to cucuk them and then they'll meletup. Umno knows this only too well," he says.

Again, PRM's Hassan (left) concurs. "Ketuanan Melayu will destroy our country. I'm a Malay too, you know, but I believe that what Umno is fighting for is feudalistic. We cannot move forward if we follow Umno."

The Malay Malaysian leaders interviewed all say that interest in their respective parties, both in the BN and opposition, has risen since 8 March, especially among Malays.

It is definitely heartening that there is a diverse and growing number of Malay Malaysian political leaders speaking out against supremacist rhetoric and for an inclusive society. But it is even more encouraging that they are gaining support.

Perhaps this, then, is the most encouraging indicator yet that racial politics is losing currency in Malaysia.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Understanding the Thinking, Mentality and Philosophy of the Chinese

Saturday, 22 November 2008 11:52

I have to say here that I do not read people's comments since they are too scared to reveal what their level of intelligence and standing in society is. If they do not have an identity, they do not have any views worthy of anyone considering. Worse, one cannot use these comments in one’s research on the subject.

Yes, I am brave enough to sign my name on this article.

by Mansor Puteh


This is an attempt at studying the thinking, mentality and philosophy of the Chinese in the world especially those who live outside of the Chinese world.

When will someone conduct a more serious research on this following the wake of the earlier doctoral thesis a Chinese scholar had done which was later published in a book called, History of Chinese Immigration to Nanyang which tells the sorry tales of how the Chinese had to flee from South China to go to Southeast Asia with barely anything on them except for the clothes they were wearing?

The then President of Taiwan, Lee Teng-Hui, called the Chinese in Singapore uncultured as they are descended from the people of South China. This was when he had a spat with the Minister Mentor of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew. Yet, Kuan Yew didn’t bother to challenge the other Lee, almost as though Kuan Yew knew he didn’t have anything to contradict.

But I am going to be charitable and not describe the Chinese in Singapore as what the President of Taiwan had said.


It is unlike Michael Chick, who has an English name, who has written another article with a weirder title - ‘MALAYSIAN CHINESE ARE STUPID! which was published in Malaysia-Today. Yet, he was not condemned.

Shockingly, there were many Chinese commentators who agreed with him. The reason being the writer is English. If he was Malay, he would have been condemned.

Many Chinese and other non-Malays have tried unsuccessfully to define what and who the Malays are but all of them fail because their thinking was clouded by their own prejudices and biases.

So Michael is lucky because he is English and his views are considered by the commentators to be superior.

Yes, I do mix more with the non-Malays. I went to a Catholic missionary school where I was the only Malay student in class in most of the eleven years I was there in primary and secondary school.

And yes, I have many close relatives who were former Chinese and Indian Hindus.

In fact, most of the ancestors of the Malays, including the members of the royal families were also Hindus, including Parameswara (photo left) who became a Muslim in 1414 of the Common Era (CE).

Michael Jackson wore an abaya, a traditional Arab women's veil, in Bahrain Photo: REUTERS

And as I am writing this, I had just seen in the papers of how Michael Jackson who was said to have converted to Islam and now calling himself Mikaeel. He followed in the footsteps of his elder brother, Germaine who became a Muslim in 1989.

Is Michael’s conversion to Islam one strange reaction to Barack Hussein Obama’s becoming president of the United States? It cannot be just a coincidence.


There are Chinese everywhere – in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore and almost all the countries in the world and in different numbers ranging from a few hundred to a few million.

The way the Chinese behave and try to exert themselves differ according to which country they are in and how many of them.

The only difference is in what numbers and percentages and the way the Chinese behave is according to these factors.

If they become larger than the local native population such as in Singapore, they will demand and get the ultimate power to control the whole island and in the process cause the extinction of the Sultanate of Singapura.

Yes, Stamford Raffles called it Singapura, while his successor who could not speak much Malay, mispronounced it as Singapore.


In Indonesia, where the number is smaller and comprising only three percent of the total population of the country, they accept everything including being ‘forced’ to study in Indonesian schools and not make any unnecessary demands on the government, lest they will get it in strange ways.

They even had no choice but to use Indonesian names and speak in the local language.

Only lately, however, are they allowed to have their own television programs in Mandarin and you can now hear the Indonesian Chinese speaking in Chinese – Mandarin, Cantonese and Hokkien mostly, publicly without being chastised. Only a small percentage of them convert to Islam, and speak the language of the majority there.

In the Philippines, the number of the Chinese is even smaller. And because of that they have no choice but to assimilate with the local population comprising of the Filipinos, even calling themselves Filipinos and speaking in Tagalog and English. They do not speak Chinese or clamor to have their own schools.

And because of that they are able to get some of their own kind appointed as President of the country starting with Corazon Aquino (photo left). She does not call herself Chinese and only rarely does so and on any of her visits to China, she would visit her ancestral village in south China.

The same with Thaksin and Samak who are prime ministers of Thailand. Both of them are Chinese, but they do not have Chinese names or are able to speak Chinese. They also have Thai names and do not wish to be referred to as Chinese.

The reason being the number of the Chinese in Thailand is very small. And despite controlling the economy and politics, they cannot exert their Chinese-ness that much, lest they would lose support of the average Thais who are comfortable accepting them for who and what they are.


In America, the number of Chinese is also small; they restrict themselves to Chinatowns and find their own entertainment watching movies from Hong Kong and listening to music from this country. They do not have any ambition of forming their own political parties because they know they can never go anywhere.

If there are Chinese who have been appointed to office, they have to run on the Democratic or Republican Party tickets.

In short, the Chinese in America have to assimilate, just as the Chinese in Canada and England. They are too small and insignificant to make any impact.

Yet, they can and are allowed to build their own schools and temples, but they do not want to waste their time doing so; they are more interested to save whatever money they have on their companies and themselves.


The Chinese in Malaysia, however, are in a special position: their number is larger. At one time they were forty percent of the population with many of them who are actually poor and in abject poverty.

No wonder they refused to return to China where they could not show their newly-found wealth to their relatives. So they chose to remain in Malaya as punishment for their failure to get their proverbial pot of gold here.

Their off-springs were the ones who had to slog so they could become successful and become more fused with the land, unlike their parents who had failed to do so and who still thought they were Chinese nationals owing no allegiance to the country they were now at.

However, over time, this percentage has been reduced to only 25 percent. It is a small percentage, compared to the percentage of the native Malay population which stands at around 60 percent and growing rapidly so that by 2050, it will be 80 percent.

Yet, the Chinese in Malaysia think they can exert themselves and demand all sorts of things without admitting it and pretending that no one would figure it all out.

The Malays have been kind in accommodating their every needs so much so that the economy of the Malays has been in shambles.

With no land, money or property when the Chinese first came here, they started work as menial laborers and renting houses and land which they developed and eventually started owning them. Most of the ‘night-soil carriers’ were Chinese with some Indians and almost no Malay.

And now we can see how many Malay lands where ancient villages and old paddy fields had stood have been redeveloped by the Chinese as their economy expanded. And the Malays have also been too supportive of their economic growth by allowing themselves to be used as the customers of their business, which continued to expand and grow purely on the strength and support of the Malays, without which the economy of the Chinese could not grow at all.

The Malays and their ‘leaders’ continue to be oblivious to this and continue to accommodate every need of the Chinese.

And not enough with this, they are now craving to have political power, too. Many have even challengedKetuanan Melayu.

Is it wrong for the Malays to have their own slogans? Is it wrong for the Malays to carry their ‘keris’ in whatever ways they like? Who are the others to ask the Malays not to carry them?

Now it is the ‘keris’; tomorrow it is the songkok’; then what? Bahasa Melayu wants to be described as Bahasa Malaysia, yet they are not interested to master it.

Only those who want to be in politics have no choice but to know this language lest they cannot take part in any political debate. Just like the lawyers who have to use Malay in the court or they cannot fight any case and have to do office work only.

But when will they start to demand the use of English in the courts? This can happen.

So, you, see it is the numbers that make up the equation.

One cannot deny that if the number of the Chinese in Malaysia rises further so that they are more than the Malays, then surely their behavior and demands will become more ridiculous.


No Chinese or Indian wants to talk about how Pulau Pinang can also have a Malay as their chief minister. All of them want to ask when a Chinese (not an Indian) can be Prime Minister of Malaysia. That possibility is as good as asking when a Malay can be the vice-chancellor of UTAR and the New Era College.


The first indication of how the new DAP government of Pulau Pinang will act when the Chinese in Malaysia become more assertive is in how fast they wanted to change road names.

What if they have full control of Malaysia: Wouldn't they also want to change the Constitution, too?


Singapore had a way of balancing the ethnic composition of the races
. They knew the Malays have a natural way of expanding themselves, numerically speaking. There used to be only 14 percent of the population of the country when the country left Malaysia – or were ‘sacked’ from Malaysia.

Now the population of the Malays has been ‘fixed’ so that it does not increase. The Singapore government will ensure that this remains so. And they would ‘import’ Chinese from foreign countries particularly the wealthy ones from Indonesia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and China, to ensure that the percentage of the Chinese population remains at 70 percent.

Early Malay leaders were not smart; they did not have evil ideas and insisted on keeping Singapore in the Federation because they did not wish to play the Devil by expanding the population of the Malays so that it exceeds that of the Chinese including those in Singapore by encouraging the immigration of Indonesians to the land.

If they had done this, then surely the population of Malays in Malaysia can be a lot more now and that multi-ethnic strife that we experience today would not happen.

Many Chinese and Indians in Malaysia blame the government for ‘allowing’ Malays from other countries particularly Indonesia to become its citizens or permanent residents which they say is a strategy to increase the population of the Malays.

But they ignore the fact that the Singapore government had been doing it more feverishly so as to ensure that the population of the Malays remain ‘fixed’ at 14 percent.

Yet, the Malays in Singapore do not complain about this. The reason being they are too small and insignificant to say anything.

It’s all about numbers. Go figure this out.


So now you know why the early Chinese who had come to Melaka in the Fourteen Century became known as Baba and Nyonya, who speak only Malay and were able to assimilate with the local Malays.

The reason being they were too few of them – 500 according to the history books and ancient text. And they had come with Princess Hang Li Po who married Sultan Mansur Shah.

With only 500 of them, they had no choice but to speak in Malay so that they could be understood and not rejected. They could not exert themselves.

However, with the tide of immigration of the Chinese in the Nineteenth Century, more Chinese were able to come to Malaya so much so that they were able to exert themselves.

It was fortunate that the Malay rulers had intelligence and were able to think or guess what the English colonist masters wanted to do – which is to displace the Malays in their own sultanates, just like what they had done in Singapore which had become a ‘Chinese country’ as it still is.

If the sultans were not smart enough, the population of the Malays in their own states or sultanates would not form the majority and their position in their own states would become weak. So sooner or later, they, too, would have to go.

The special position of the sultans today is not due to the presence of the non-Malays then but solely rests on the support and strength of the Malays. Therefore, they, too, should be eternally grateful for the Malays for keeping them where they are now, for without them, the sultanates would have been displaced long ago, even without the British doing anything nasty.

So it was good that the sultans were able to exert themselves and got the support of the Malays and outdid the British who were outsmarted until they were forced to sign documents that in effect forced them to leave the country in shame before it became worse than it was for them, and before the whole of the Malay Peninsula became another Singapore – a Chinese state.


I pity the Chinese in India, Bangaldesh and Pakistan and all the other poorer countries; their numbers are so tiny that they have no choice but to keep quiet. No Chinese would want to migrate there because they know they could not benefit from doing so.

They only want to migrate to countries that are already prosperous so they can take advantage of it, like Australia, England, Canada, New Zealand, so they can be more English and less Chinese.

There is no Chinese representation in the Lok Sabha or the parliament in New Delhi and chances of any of them of ever being appointed chief minister of any of the states in the country is as good as Osama bin Laden being offered American citizenship or permanent resident status.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

BN’s power play

by Ng Boon Hooi
20 Nov 08 : 9.00AM

Bullying giants

IN George Orwell's novel Animal Farm, there's a line about how all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. The same could be said about the component parties in the Barisan Nasional (BN).

The BN is made up of 13 disparate parties — five based in the peninsula, and the rest in Sabah and Sarawak — with Umno, the MCA and MIC forming the backbone of the coalition. This formalised power-sharing agreement helps ensure that the various voices are heard and the interests of the different ethnic minorities are represented.

But Umno is the dominant force in the BN, taking the lion's share of leadership positions in the government by virtue of it representing the Malay-majority populace.

This has resulted in some component parties complaining of being sidelined in the decision-making process. The BN formula of mutual cooperation, it seems, doesn't always work.

During the 55th MCA general assembly on 18 Oct, outgoing president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting raised eyebrows when he said the BN has to reform to resolve the perception that Umno dominates over the other component parties in the ruling coalition.

Despite an almost immediate denial by BN chairperson and Umno president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the "Umno bully" theme seems to have struck a nerve among the component party members.

The MCA and Gerakan leaders have blamed some Umno leaders' actions and perceived arrogance over the past few years for the results of the 8 March general election, which saw the non-Malay vote bank defecting to the opposition.

The imbalance of power within the BN is recognised, if not articulated, by other component parties as well. And if so, can anything be done to address this issue?

Rebalancing the BN

Newly-elected MCA Youth chief Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong (right) believes that there is room for discussion within the BN. He tells The Nut Graph that the MCA Youth has always spoken up regarding whatever issues they disagree with, such as the use of the Internal Security Act (ISA), and bumiputera equity.

However, unlike many of the delegates at the MCA assembly in October who were very critical of Umno's dominant role in the BN, Wee prefers to focus on how best to re-balance the relationship between the component parties by overhauling the coalition.

"BN should not operate during election campaigns only. BN should have a system [in place] from central to state and local levels. The coalition members should hold regular meetings so that they can enhance understanding, and avoid making decisions and statements that conflict with one another," says Wee.

Wee, who is the deputy education minister, also has high hopes that regular BN supreme council meetings can be held to rectify whatever imbalances of power that exist within the coalition.

"It would change the perception that Umno has a dominant role. Umno should let people see that BN represents a multi-ethnic and multilateral approach [to decision-making], and not be seen as a homogenous party," he adds.

United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko) president Tan Sri Bernard Dompok also believes that regular meetings can help to give more voice to the component parties.

He says that there's no need to hide that Umno speaks louder in the BN as the party has the most seats in parliament (79 out of a total of 222 seats).

"We have to fight every step of the way in every issue that we bring up at the BN meetings. We try to get BN to improve [in getting consensus for decisions]. [It's] not easy, we are not denying it," explains Dompok in an interview.

No need for change

But the idea that the BN needs to reform or that there needs to be change in the political balance does not meet with Umno Youth exco Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir's approval.

Mukhriz, for instance, is firm in his belief that there is no real need for changes in the BN format, as called for by the outgoing MCA Youth chief Datuk Liow Tiong Lai during the wing's annual general assembly on 18 Oct.

As for bringing about a better balance of power between the parties, Mukhriz says it all depends on how the component parties present their views and whether it is brought up at the right forum — for instance the BN supreme council meeting.

But Mukhriz also tells The Nut Graph that it is also not fair for the other component parties to divert the responsibility for their problems, including the poor showing during the 8 March elections, to Umno.

"[The allegation that Umno is arrogant] is not the only issue, so how could it be possible to dump everything on Umno?" asks Mukhriz, who is vying to become Umno Youth chief at the party polls in March 2009.

Equal footing?

Though the BN supreme council now meets more regularly, it is not yet apparent how successful it can be in ensuring that all the component parties have an equal footing in fashioning government policy.

Who dares to challenge Umno's dominance within the BN?

The MCA and Gerakan have been the most vocal in lamenting the lack of consultation in decisions made by the government, especially over the ISA detentions that took place on 12 Sept 2008.

Yet, despite both parties passing resolutions at their respective general assemblies, neither party was willing to risk government displeasure by signing an opposition-initiated petition against the ISA in Parliament.

The choice of whether or not to make a stand against a government policy or statement by a senior Umno leader actually lies with the individual leader, says Dompok.

As an example, he points to the memorandum submitted by nine non-Muslim cabinet ministers in January 2006 calling for a review of laws to resolve religious disputes that affect the non-Muslims. After Umno leaders objected, eight of the ministers subsequently withdrew their endorsement of the memo. Only Dompok (left), who is Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, had the guts to refuse.

A year later, Dompok once again broke ranks with his cabinet colleagues by speaking out against Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak's remark about Malaysia being an Islamic state. The fact that he still remains in the cabinet is proof that some amount of criticism at least is tolerated within the BN.

Both Wee and Dompok note that the coalition is slowly responding to criticism about being overly dominated by Umno, and that some changes, such as regular surpreme council meetings, are under way. But Umno must do more to accommodate its smaller partners.

"US now has the first black president, but our country is still talking about ketuanan Melayu. In Sabah we don't have 'tuan'. The last 'tuan' left in 1963," Dompok says.

Gaining leverage

There has been some change within the BN power structure after the coalition lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament. With the opposition Pakatan Rakyat needing only 30 MPs to cross over to topple the government, the smaller component parties, especially in Sabah and Sarawak, have been able to speak out more forcefully.

This has especially been the case for Upko, which has four representatives in Parliament.

For example, Upko took a strong stand against the proposed Petronas gas pipeline project from Kimanis, Sabah to Bintulu, Sarawak, which the party said would not benefit Sabah. Angered by the prime minister's decision to go ahead with the project, Dompok hinted at a possible review of the party's position in the BN.

Amazingly, the threat worked. The cabinet agreed for Sabah to have its own petrochemical industry using the bulk of the state's oil and gas resources, while excess oil and gas can be piped to Bintulu.

The incident showed that it is possible to gain leverage over Umno within the BN, at least in the present political climate.

"I don't think that it is [a] question of using the leverage, but [finding a way of] working within the family of BN," Dompok says.

But whether the other component parties, such as the MCA and Gerakan, can find a way to get their views accepted without doing something similar remains to be tested.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

AG’s dismal record merits dismissal

NOV 15 — Wanted: Attorney-General with ability to marshal strong prosecution team and achieve some degree of success in high-profile cases.

Caveat: present holder of the position need not apply.

The inability of the Attorney-General’s Chambers in even making a prima facie case against Abdul Razak Baginda in the murder trial of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu is just the latest in a long line of setbacks that Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail has presided over since becoming the country’s top legal officer.

Here is a sampling of his list of shame.

* The Fu Xian Juang murder trial in September 2005, where the three accused were acquitted without defence being called. High Court judge Datuk Abdul Musa said there were clear unresolved doubts and unanswered questions in the prosecution’s case. After a trial lasting 36 days and with 39 prosecution witnesses having given evidence, High Court judge Datuk Kadir Musa found that the prosecution had not brought forward any evidence which could implicate the accused in the murder and that there had been no “prima facie” case made out to warrant the defence being called to answer the charge. The prosecution had apparently omitted to call material witnesses, including the investigating officer for the case.

* Datuk Norjan Khan Bahadar murder trial in August 2004 where the accused was acquitted when High Court judge Datuk Ian Chin noted that there was little evidence to prove that the accused knew the victim.

* Noritta Samsuddin murder trial in July 2004 where the Court of Appeal judge Datuk Mokhtar Sidin noted that to establish a prima facie case, the prosecution had to prove that death had occurred, that the accused was responsible for Noritta’s death and that the act was done with the intention of causing her death. The Court of Appeal said the only fact proven was that Noritta was dead.

* The corruption case involving Tan Sri Eric Chia, the former managing director of Perwaja Steel. He was acquitted after 43 days of trial without his defence being called. The High Court judge heavily criticised the conduct of the prosecution, especially their failure to call several key witnesses who had obvious knowledge of the material elements of the case. With reference to particular key witnesses from Japan, the judge questioned whether it was the Japanese witnesses who were “reluctant” to come or “the prosecution was the one reluctant to bring them here”.

* The Altantuya Shaariibuu murder trial will also go on record as one of the longest trials in Malaysian history. After more than 150 days, Abdul Razak was cleared of abetting the murder. Two police officers have been called to enter their defence. The presiding judge said that the prosecution had not been able to make a prima facie case against Abdul Razak and had not rebutted points which he made in his affidavit.

In any other field or enterprise, such a dismal record would have merited a dismissal. Think about it.

If the Malaysian badminton team won only friendly matches but failed miserably at the Thomas Cup, All-England, Asian Games and Olympics, there would be calls for Misbun Sidek and Rexy Mainaky to step down. Or at least, both of these coaches would have offered to resign, especially if their charges failed to clear the first round of the contest.

Losing a case without the defence being called is akin to being shown the exit in the first round. It means that the courts do not believe that the prosecution has met even the minimum standard in the case.

Veteran lawyer Raja Aziz Addruse noted recently that as it is the taxpayers’ funds that ultimately pay for all criminal prosecutions, they have a vested interest in knowing how such cases, which appear to be ill-prepared, can be brought to trial.

“It is imperative that the Attorney General’s wide powers be subject to close scrutiny and not be permitted to be exercised arbitrarily. If the government is truly serious in wanting to improve and restore public confidence in the administration of justice in this country, it must be prepared to review the presently unfettered powers of the Attorney-General… There is currently no formal mechanism requiring the Attorney-General to account for his conduct in relation to prosecutions of criminal proceedings. In spite of the wide powers he wields, he has no duty to report to the prime minister, cabinet or Parliament. There has been no call for him to account for the failure of a number of high-profile prosecutions, which commenced with much fanfare but ended up being a waste of funds.”

Raja Aziz and others believe that there should be a move to limit the powers of the AG in Malaysia, noting that he is both chief legal adviser to the government as well as public prosecutor.

This dual role opens him up to a conflict of interest situation.

The Malaysian Insider has learnt that moves to limit the powers of the AG have met with some resistance in the Cabinet and from the AG himself.

And it is unlikely that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi — with a full plate of reforms to push through before March — will be inclined to use whatever goodwill and power he has left to re-examine legislation covering the AG’s powers in Malaysia.

But he still has the power to hire and fire. Few Malaysians will blame him for appointing a new AG to restore some confidence back in the system.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Politics of China's Rural Poor

asia sentinel
Written by David Fullbrook
Wednesday, 12 November 2008

China's leadership stakes its future on reforming incomes in the countryside

The massive Rmb4 trillion stimulus package announced Sunday by China’s State Central Committee, which provides vast amounts of infrastructure spending and support for the rural poor, makes it clear that President Hu Jintao has at least partly staked his influence and legacy to the fortunes of China’s downtrodden farmers as well as hoping to use it to limit the influence of members of China’s potent Shanghai Gang.

Partly because rural poverty is so overwhelming, China’s authorities are seeking to engineer the biggest migration in history, from the countryside to the cities. Some 312 million of China’s rural dwellers are estimated to have no access to safe drinking water, for instance. As many as 120 million people -- twice the entire population of the United Kingdom -- are expected to urbanize over the next five years, leaving what is far too often a miserable life in the country. In addition to the stimulus package announced last week, the October plenary session of the Communist Party resulted in a communiqué describing several “musts,” including making food security for the country’s 1.3 billion people a top priority, strengthening agriculture as the foundation of the national economy and protecting rural property rights, a revolution in a nation that still calls itself communist.

Rural incomes dramatically lag urban ones, with 2007 average per-capita disposal income only Rmb4,140 (US$605) compared with Rmb13,786 in the cities --three times as much. Villagers and rural town residents lay blame for their poverty, real and relative, at the door of the party, which Hu Jintao heads. Party leaders fear that if matters don’t improve, the party’s crumbling legitimacy could turn to dust. Accordingly, the directive promises to double farm incomes by 2020.

The agriculture reform package is nonetheless a breathtaking gamble. Some 730 million people remain on the land, the subjects of what is about to become a vast social experiment. While the details still remain hazy nearly a month after the conclusion of the October Plenum, the ability to sell off land use rights allows for the creation of bigger farming plots and the conversion of land into industrial farming. One of the problems across Asia is that tiny plots farmed by individuals are not efficient. By moving more rural dwellers off the land, it is argued, bigger farms will allow for more efficient farming.

To many critics, however, the industrialization of agriculture has its own manifold dangers. Western-style agribusiness, they argue, produces high yields, but requires vast amounts of energy and chemical fertilizers to maintain what eventually become almost monocultures, causing increasing land degradation. Instead, they argue, the rotation of crops is a much wiser stewardship of land. More than 200 million peasants have already left the land for the cities. Whether they will be any better off as urban dwellers, they argue, is debatable. The masses moving to the cities are currently barred from receiving standard welfare benefits and, with poor educations, find it difficult to move up the economic ladder.

The "musts" in the agriculture package put some meat on the bones that Hu laid out when he was reappointed to a second and almost certainly final term as leader in October 2007. In broad terms, according to the state-controlled China Daily, farmers will now be able to trade, rent or mortgage their land use rights for profit in some sort of land transaction market. One of the biggest causes of tension in China has been the arbitrary seizure of land by authorities for conversion to urbanization. Thousands have rioted against authorities, with pitched battles that have raged for days.

Certainly, Hu knows the problems of China’s interior, which is where he worked for most of his career, becoming a central player in the Communist Youth League, the base for a faction which has by a whisker outsmarted the savvy Shanghai clique in recent years.

In simple terms the Youth League faction has its roots in the countryside, whereas the Shanghai clique previously headed Jiang Zemin, the former president, draws its strength from thriving cities, mostly along the coast.

When Hu succeeded Jiang as leader in 2002, hopes rose for political reform in some quarters despite his iron-fisted term as governor of Tibet. For a few years the press appeared to have greater slack before feeling a tug on the leash in 2005 as Hu began preparations for the 17th party congress in 2007. That tug has now largely become a chokehold.

The Youth League faction, represented by Hu, was expected to have strengthened and consolidated its influence clearing the way to dominate the new politburo by replacing all the members left in place by Jiang.

However, it was not to be. Jiang has proved a wily player in the shadows. The Shanghai clique has retained considerable influence. The politburo and other senior positions came out fairly balanced between institutional and factional interests. It is important to note that on ideological matters, all factions agree that they must use draconian means to keep
the CCP in power if necessary. They see the writing on the wall, and that they must hang together so as not to hang separately.

This tussle, although not an outright clash between the Youth League and the Shanghai clique, is perhaps most apparent in the rise of Xi Jinping, who although not a member of the Shanghai clique is now a contender for Hu’s job in 2012 thanks to support from Jiang. He is “running” against Hu’s protégé Li Keqiang.

One casualty of the Youth League’ struggle to assert itself over the Shanghai clique, as well as other interests, has been political reform.

Joseph Fewsmith of the Hoover Institution in California however detects strong currents in favor of more open politics to reflect the monumental changes in society over the last few decades and to confront deepening discontent with the party’s inability to tackle corruption.

Ad hoc experiments in greater public participation in appointing local communist party officials, as well as murmurings for change in Guangdong province, adjacent to Hong Kong, and publications from the Central Party School in Beijing all hint of changes to come.

One thing seems all but certain: the party will not be relinquishing its monopoly on power. In any case substantive reform, at least in the context of China today, will probably have to wait until new leadership, including the politburo and the state council, is appointed at the 18th party congress in Beijing in 2012.

This will be the second “formal” transfer of power between administrations following the precedent set when Jiang stepped down at the end of his second term in 2002. If it goes off without a hitch, which seems likely as the party, despite its “healthy” internal divisions and debates, seems far from cracking up, it would mark another step in the institutionalization of autocratic politics. This is a legacy of Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China’ opening up to the world in 1978, who was determined to avoid a repeat of Mao Zedong’s leadership, which had degenerated into terror.
Between now and 2012 Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao, another stalwart of the Youth League, have to deliver a strong performance by government to maintain the Youth League’s standing and ensure patronage flows in order to win the support of smaller factions, “independents” and “floating voters” in the party.

Their performance will be judged on the results of their policies, which is where farmers come in, because the plans revealed in October for boosting the rural economy are almost certainly going to stand as a major, perhaps the major, initiative of Hu and Wen’s administration.
Although rural reforms are penciled in to run until 2020 they must have a noticeable impact by 2012 to shore up support for the Youth League faction. If the countryside becomes noticeably more prosperous over the next few years, in part helping to mitigate the downturn from falling exports due to economic strife around the world, then the Youth League should be well represented in the new leadership taking the helm in 2012.

Political reform may then have a hope of making it onto the agenda. About time too. The middle class is growing, people are more worldly, society now expects choice in every sphere. Politics cannot remain stuck in the past forever without consequences.