So long as there is a Bersatu, there will be an Umno - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, June 25, 2018
Malaysiakini : “We belong to a plural society and in this society, the Malay-bumiputera agenda must be carried out.” - Umno acting president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi
COMMENT | Since I fancy myself as
a sort of political Cassandra as opposed to a political Pollyanna, I am
always interested in what former political prisoner Anwar Ibrahim has
to say about Malay politics. His recent comments about how Umno is not
completely destroyed and has to reinvent itself has become a political
Rorschach test for people who voted for Pakatan Harapan.
about this when prime minister (then) Najib Abdul Razak visited Anwar
when he was recovering from surgery last year – “Despite establishment
narratives that non-Malays – the Chinese specifically – seek to supplant
Malay/Muslim power in Malaysia, the reality is that this could never
happen. Why this is the case is beyond the scope of this article, but
since Malay powerbrokers hold the keys to Putrajaya, the sight of Malay
political opponents meeting always arouses speculation and yes,
insecurity amongst the non-Malay demographic, especially those invested
in regime change.”
Add to this, Najib’s telephone conversations with Anwar on the night
of May 9, the seemingly never-ending public squabbles of PKR, the
narratives of how Anwar “can’t be trusted”, the perception that PKR’s
schism is the foundation for collusion with Umno or PAS, and anything
Anwar says is an invitation to vilify the former political operative who
laid the foundation for the eventual takeover of Putrajaya.
I have always cautioned that this idea that Umno and all it stands
for is a relic of bygone Malaysia is foolish. Race and religious
politics are sown into the fabric of Harapan with materials provided by
the former Umno regime. Umno and PAS, and those that voted for them –
comprising about 52 percent of the popular votes in GE14 - are a
formidable base which is currently being ignored by the numerous changes
taking place in this country. Let us forget about the narratives of a possible collusion by
elements in Harapan and Umno for a moment. Some folks have said that the
people are the opposition. Great, but who do Malaysians vote for if
Harapan does not live up to expectations in the peninsular?
I doubt Chinese support for DAP will end anytime soon and since the
“running dog” narratives take some time take root, it’s all good on
their front. But if you are Malay, you got a “reformed Umno” and PAS to
choose from and this is where things get dicey real fast. By “reformed”,
I mean an Umno that is still entrenched in its ideology but with a new
coat of paint to regain support from the Malays who voted against Najib.
Bridgebetween Bersatu and DAP
In all these think pieces I read online, it is PKR that is described
as the bridge between Bersatu and DAP. In other words, the bridge
between the so-called rural Malays and the urban Chinese. This, of
course, is often portrayed as a class issue, but public comments from
various Harapan leaders betray the reality that this is a race issue.
Bersatu was supposed to be the Umno of Harapan - the linchpin for the
new deal that would ensure that the races would cooperate in the old
alliance way before the dark times of Umno ‘ketuanan’ hegemony. It did
not work out that way. Umno still commands the Malay base and now PAS is
slowly demonstrating that its outlier status is a political advantage
in this new Malaysia.
Public comments from certain Umno leaders – Khairy Jamaluddin for
instance – of turning Umno into a multiracial party could be
post-traumatic stress from the recent elections. However, what he does
represent even though the old guard of Umno may not like it, is a leader
who balances ‘ketuanan’ ideology with the pragmatism of compromise that
is needed to win the cash cows which are the so-called “urban centres”
that PKR is supposedly a bridge to. The Umno meet-up will determine
which forces in the party hold sway, of course.
It remains to be seen how exactly Bersatu handles the challenge of
reforming the rural polities which was needed to take Putrajaya, or so
we are told. And this also involves the greater need to reform the
system where dominant race-based Malay power structures rely on to
This is important because dismantling the architecture that enables
the propagandising of race and religion is needed for the survival of
non-Malay power structures in the long run. Bersatu didn’t win this
election for Harapan; it was a former Umno grand poobah, Dr Mahathir
Mohamad, who did. Systemic reforms without any thought or consideration
to reforming structures that enable race and religious imperatives are
Take this lowering the voting age to 18 for instance. Great idea but I
really hope Harapan strategists are discovering how deep the
radicalisation process is when it comes to religious schools and the
like. Young Muslims from these types of schools have to wait a few years
before voting but 18 is just about the right age when the propaganda
and religious delusions are still fresh in their minds and they want an
avenue to express them. Not to mention, the years of indoctrination by a
system created by the very person who has gained messianic status by
This is where Umno or PAS could benefit more than a regime which has
to compromise on its racial and religious imperatives – Bersatu – for
the sake of the multiracial power-sharing formula that BN never paid
much attention to. This, of course, is but one example of the fault
lines that exist when making policy.
In all cases, deradicalisation should be central even in the more
obvious of policy shifts. Is the Harapan regime up to this? Only time
will tell, and there is only a small window of opportunity because
personalities are old and the young blood is waiting in the wings. So how do we combat the grand narratives of Malay supremacy in
Harapan and Umno/PAS? How do we ensure that these narratives are
weakened over time? Here are some points to consider.
Another Malaysiakini columnist Nathaniel Tan
talks about regionalism. That’s is an important starting point I think.
Federal power should be decentralised. This halts grander narratives of
Malay and Islamic hegemony with local issues that could be dealt with
state power. When people have a sense that their state governments can
solve their immediate needs, there is no need to kowtow to federal power
which brings with it forms of subservience that is detrimental to the
This also should extend to local council elections. This brings
communities together on issues of needs rather than wants. If all
politics are local, then people from communities rather than political
parties determine what is important to them and this also safeguards
against political interference.
More importantly, the media should be regional as well. Mainstream
media news outlets shape the news often ignoring state level and local
community level issues. This creates the impression that federal
narratives - those that involve race and religion - are monolithic. This
really isn't the case. This is not something that the state governments
or the federal governments should be involved with but rather
independent regional media outlets, discussing local issues and ensuring
that local politics remains in the forefront without all the
propagandising of the alternative now mainstream press.
If you are really serious about people being the opposition -
whatever that means - this is a good way to do it, further weakening the
grand narratives of race and religion by concentrating on local issues
which sometimes have nothing to do with what goes on in the urban
polities of this country.
In order to weaken racial and religious hegemony, it is important to
diffuse power. The question has always been, is there a coalition
willing to do this? When people ask me who the clear winners are in this election, my
answer is always PAS. What PAS has demonstrated is that it can survive
definitely without BN and time will tell if it can survive without the
Harapan regime. Mind you, the relationship between PAS and Harapan has
not been as fraught as it has been with Umno.
Umno and PAS, and once the former get their acts together, could turn
out to be a formidable opposition, especially considering that sooner
rather than later, Harapan will have to tackle issues concerning race
and religion. We have witnessed a distinct lack of commitment among
Malay power structures to buck the Islamic and Malay trend when it comes
to voting on major issues involving race and religion. Will this change
now that Harapan has taken federal power?
It is nonsensical to make the argument that Umno needs to reform –
become multiracial – when the there is a Malay power structure like
Bersatu in Harapan chasing the same base. The great fear of Umno has
materialised - that is, the Malays are divided.
What people should be concerned with is the interactions between
diffused Malay power structures in this new political terrain, and
concomitant to this, the shape these interactions coalesce into.
Malaysiakini : COMMENT | So PKR leader Latheefa Koya is now the villain because of a
couple of her statements. The first when she publicly disagreed with
DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang and reminded everyone that the court of public
opinion is not enough to convict former premier Najib Abdul Razak and that no politician should be encouraging such a perception.
The second was when she called a child donating money to Tabung Harapan a gimmick. Well, folks, she is right on both counts. Tabung Harapan - a fund
which so far has no oversight except that it is controlled by a
political coalition - is a politically-charged fund no matter its
A child who donates to the fund has been contextualised as someone
who has reduced the national debt as opposed to the former prime
minister, which says a lot about the narrative developed by Pakatan
Harapan. In other words, his act has become politicised and because
everyone hates Najib, it is easy to make such statements. People either applaud or can’t be bothered to face the online opprobrium expected for dissenting against these types of tactics.
This kid is lucky. Partisan politics in Malaysia is not like it is in
some Western democracies. If this were to happen in the US for
instance, this kid’s life would have been torn apart with his detractors
combing through his life hoping to spin his action as part of a larger
partisan political narrative.
There would be articles which view his act as partisan posturing and
he and his family would be vilified. This is why it is never a good
thing for politicians to use kids in their narratives. Latheefa is right when she said the whole thing is exploitative but,
of course, you wouldn’t get that from the expected online abuse she
Besides the usual allegations of having Umno DNA, a political
operative from DAP sent me a sampling (which disgusted her) of abuse
including comments that questioned if Lathheefa was menopausal, a bitter
hag or part of an elaborate PKR plot to destabilise Harapan. All this
from people who are supposed to be defending the noble actions of a kid.
Hannah Yeoh said at first she refused
to accept the piggy bank but then relented. Her first instinct was the
correct one. She should have just told this young man that the money
would better serve the community he interacts with, his school,
charitable organisations around his neighbourhood and that sort of thing
instead of using this occasion to spread the Kool-Aid.
And make no mistake. This was a political statement. And that’s fine
but you should not dress it up as anything other than a political
statement. And that’s the problem right there. This is not about the
kid. However, people who are critical of this stunt, would be made to
look as if they are attacking the child.
His father had to come up and say that his son was a patriot when
nobody was questioning the motives of his child - only the motives of
those who chose to accept his money and remind everyone about that. Does
anyone really need to be reminded that Najib is a kleptocrat? If you really believe that children should be able to express
themselves, then what you should be doing is removing legislation that
hinders such behaviour, exorcise racial and religious norms that hinder
such expression and encourage young people with diverse opinions instead
of relying on mob rule to silence dissent.
If a young person were to have written something that was against
Harapan - even if it did not support the past regime - could you imagine
the reception the child would have got? Actually, you do not. Anyone
who offers up a dissenting view is routinely trounced by the Harapan
Need for scepticism
However, Hannah is right when she said that there are Malaysians kids
doing this sort of thing. Over the years of observing activism,
especially by young people, I have noticed how children, especially from
underprivileged backgrounds, are more politically aware these days. They spending time, effort and money on activities that ironically do
not get the attention of politicians except when it is politically
expedient for the latter to do so. What these kids do is not a sideshow.
It is part of their lives.
Honestly, I was amazed at how many qualifiers were in Latheefa’s
statement. For instance, she made it clear that when she said that
Harapan should get on with governing - she did not mean they were not.
All she ventured was that this was a sideshow that the Harapan regime
could do without. And it is.
Her rejoinder that this was a country of laws was also met with the
same kind of online abuse. I get that Latheefa can be mercurial, but
receiving text messages that she is some sort of sub-rosa agent out to
destabilise Harapan? Or that she was attempting to divert from PKR’s own
issues by sullying the good name of the DAP. Really? Another text read:
"What has she ever done for this country, unlike this kid?”
So let me get this straight. Because PKR is perceived as the weak
link in Harapan and its internal squabbles well-documented, PKR
political operatives should just keep quiet and not say anything -
especially if it goes against Harapan - because this demonstrates how
they just want to destabilise the new government?
I have had a few public disagreements with what Latheefa has said but
to claim that she is just some political operative who hasn’t done
anything for the country is downright moronic. Her work with stateless people and gender issues, not to mention
public interest cases - that nobody seemed to be interested in - is
evidence that she is just not some political operative looking for
Reminding Malaysians that there is a difference between public
opinion and the rule of law is something we need from our political
operatives. Reminding Malaysians that the former prime minister deserves
due process like every other citizen in this country is important. And
she was right again when she questioned how a politician could make such
a statement encouraging otherwise.
Why did we vote for Harapan? I do not know about anyone else but I
voted for them to bring change in the way how we do things in this
country. I did not vote for Harapan so a lynch mob could go after the
former prime minister. I did not write
glowingly about attorney-general Tommy Thomas so he could play the old
BN game and fix the political enemies of the Harapan state.
If a case is brought against Najib, I want it to be an airtight case
which finally exposes the depths of the 1MDB scandal after years of
allegations. I want Malaysians to understand exactly how corrupt the
former Umno state was and how we could ensure that the Harapan regime
does not have the same room to make such mistakes.
These kinds of Harapan narratives and strategies prove one thing. There is a great need for scepticism in this new Malaysia.
Letter of support and the Bazaar-gate - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Malaysiakini : “The worst disease in the world today is corruption. And there is a cure: transparency.” – Bono, U2
COMMENT | A number of readers
have written in asking me what I thought about the whole ‘bazaar-gate’
and this controversy over letters of support. Something sticks in my
craw when it comes to this issue. Besides demonstrating the “petty”
corruption that is endemic to the system, it also illustrates the kind
of corruption that slowly builds into something more over the long term.
When DAP’s Tan Kok Wai says something extremely dumb like this
- “So are you (DBKL Licensing and Petty Traders Developmental
Department director Anwar Mohd Zain) actually saying that the MP is more
powerful than the mayor? – when attempting to defend the actions of
Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun in issuing a letter of support, two points
need to be made:
1. If the letter of support or any letter of support from an MP is not influential in any way, then why write such letters?
2. Considering the culture of bureaucratic corruption and connivance
with the state, these letters, especially during the Umno regime,
obviously meant something. The fact that elements in the Kuala Lumpur
City Hall (DBKL) consider such letters as influential should tell us
something about the way how politicians and bureaucrats engage with one
another. Maybe if Pakatan Harapan had sent a memo that such letters should not
be entertained, then perhaps, Tan could use this line of attack. Tan in
defending his party member and laying the blame solely on DBKL is
mendacious and the kind of political legerdemain that Harapan should not
In fact, what the DAP should be doing is conducting an independent
investigation on Fong and make the results known to the rakyat. This, of
course, should be in tandem with whatever investigations that the MACC
does and whatever the state security apparatus is doing. As to the question of letters of support, this is problematic.
Politicians engaging in some form of corruption often do so with these
so-called letters of support. However, the reality is that politicians
who genuinely want to help their constituents also use letters of
support when it comes to dealing with the bureaucracy.
Are letters of support done in good faith a bad thing? This depends
if you believe that there should be a strict separation between the
bureaucracy and political operatives. Real life is messy and there are
as many examples of politicians engaging with the bureaucracy through
letters of support which have helped the lives of people. But more often
than not, letters of support, specifically in the former regime, were
used to facilitate corruption.
When it comes to Fong (photo), my main issue is, why didn’t
he do his due diligence? Look, when it comes to these traders, the
culture of DBKL and the way how small business people are routinely
preyed upon by the system, there is ample evidence that something
stinks. Claiming that traders would not be charged is not an acceptable
answer when issuing these letters of support. If the traders should be
legitimately charged, then it should not be the job of the politicians
to allow them to circumvent this regulation.
Fong is described as a “long-term” MP so surely, he would understand
the kind of corrupt practices that goes on in the bureaucracy which
Harapan claims it wants to reform. Now I’m not saying that there was
anything mala fide in what Fong did, but it just seems so
bizarre that someone of Fong’s experience does not think it queer that
something could go wrong when it comes to political operatives, traders
and the way DBKL works.
I mean surely if these traders could not get licences from DBKL, the
solution would be to discover why they could not get licenses - is there
an unbalance of power between long-term traders and short-term traders
and how this issue could be resolved. Honestly isn’t this what the
common rakyat voted Harapan in for - to reform the system so there would
not be a pecking order for people who just want to trade or make some
extra money in these trying economic times, for example?
Surely there are better ways to raise funds for these fees without
circumventing the law. Also, this whole idea of traffic congestion. If
trading along these path causes traffic congestion, then the needs of
the majority of road users unfortunately trump the economic interest of
these traders. Again, a politician should not be in the business of
facilitating traffic jams or circumventing regulations merely to help
What would happen if any investigation discovered corruption in this
issue? What would be the DAP’s and Bersatu’s stand be? Even if Fong
acted in good faith, what would be the consequences if it was discovered
that there was a conspiracy to screw the traders in a manner which is
entirely consistent with the way how the former regime did things?
Furthermore, what is DBKL doing approving lots for political
operatives as claimed by Bukit Bintang Bersatu Youth chief Mohd
Noorhisyam Abdul Karim (photo). He “also said
that even though DBKL had approved 80 lots for him, the actual space
given was only enough for 53 lots.” Can DBKL approve lots for anyone or
is it just political operatives, which would again make the claim by Tan
about the lack of influence of letters of support nonsensical
considering the operating procedures of DBKL.
But all of this gets even more complicated. In all these reports,
traders make many allegations in the press but as yet no trader has been
named as being fleeced by political operatives. In press reports, no
trader – as yet – has actually lodged a report against any political
operatives. This is understandable, of course, and one of the reasons
why they should be a strict line separating political operatives from
the bureaucracy even though it may sometimes come at the costs of
hurting those who actually need the assistance of politicians when it
involves the bureaucracy.
Bone fide letters of support issued by the former BN regime and the
current Harapan regime have helped individuals. Make no mistake about
that. But helping individuals, or maybe even groups of people, does not
reform the system. Instead it reinforces a certain mentality that in
order for the bureaucracy to work, what is needed is the right political
connections. This is never a good thing.
I may sound simplistic but really isn’t the goal of reforming the
civil service mean that politicians should not be needed in the
interaction between the rakyat and the bureaucracy? Should not
politicians come into play to expose the inadequacy of the civil service
and the need for reforms?
Are not letters of support (even in good faith) merely a symptom of a dysfunctional bureaucracy?
Malaysiakini : COMMENT | What was the new Perak
Mentri Besar, Ahmad Faizal Azumu, thinking, when he agreed to hold this
year's Hari Raya Aidil Fitri open house at Ipoh's Movie Animation Park
Studios (MAPS) theme park?
Celebrating a religious festivity in a theme park cheapens the
religion and trivialises the significance of the occasion.
insulting and disrespectful. One cannot imagine the leader of a country hosting Christmas, Easter,
Deepavali or Wesak celebrations at Disneyland, Harry Potter Studios,
Universal Studios, Legoland or at the Lost World of Tambun.
Hari Raya is a solemn and important religious holiday, which marks
the end of Ramadan, a month of empathy for the poor. It is signified by
acts of charity, discipline, self-control, special prayers, patience,
abstinence and forging a stronger bond with God. In the balik kampung exodus, individuals return
home to share this special day with parents and family members. People
seek forgiveness, and in typical Malaysian fashion, the doors of the
family home are thrown open to receive friends and relatives - the "open
house". Many people also pay their respects at the graves of deceased
This year's "open house" at MAPS
is a serious error of judgment by Ahmad Faizal. People do not spend
hours in a gridlocked highway, only to queue-up and be bribed with free
food and free entrance to the theme park. It makes a mockery of Hari
Raya. A few weeks earlier, Ahmad Faizal's lame approach to the Manjoi mob
had invited criticism. Troublemakers from Muslim NGOS risked straining
community relations when they terrorised shop assistants, in a grocery
store in Manjoi, by demanding the removal of alcohol from the shelves.
As a career politician, Ahmad Faizal's prism of life is shaped by the
confines of his formative years, as a political aide, working in a
government department. He lacks experience of the "real world".
The last straw for Perakians was his appointment of Fadzi Zainol (photo),
from Umno-Baru, as his special adviser. Ahmad Faizal dismissed his
critics and said, "... Zainol's previous experience as the state
executive councillor could be utilised to strengthen the administration
of the Perak government..." Really?
Zainol leap-frogged from Umno-Baru to Bersatu. Can a leopard change
its spots? Can a political frog be expected to change its stripes? Ahmad Faizal will invite enemies from his own camp if he lacks faith
and trust in his own coalition members. He lays himself open to
criticism, as the rakyat have accused him of installing an Umno-Baru
state administration, by stealth.
The state governments, under the previous Pakatan Rakyat, which won
Selangor, Penang and Perak in the 2008 general election, did not invite
former Umno-Baru/BN members to form part of their state administration.
Has Ahmad Faizal forgotten Umno-Baru's meddling, which led to the 2009
The MAPS theme park is mired in controversy.
Built during the former Perak MB, Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir's
administration, it cost RM520 million and is only half finished. It is
expensive to run, and is dogged by intellectual property claims and low
Don't the rakyat's concerns matter?
If Zainol contributed to the decision of the previous administration
to build MAPS, then his appointment, as the new MB's special advisor, is
ill-advised. Claiming that Zainol's appointment had received the consent of the
Perak Sultan does not wash with the public. Don't the rakyat's concerns
matter? Having the open house at MAPS is not "killing two birds with one stone", as some people have suggested. The new MB is foolish to be seen to promote this failed Umno-Baru project, which is saddled with problems.
Many mega million ringgit projects in Malaysia have failed because
the arrogant Umno-Baru politicians, and their cronies, think they are
above the law. They spend hundreds of millions of ringgit of taxpayer's money on
grand projects. Via a combination of dodgy deals, they probably siphon
half of the rakyat's money into their own pockets. They care very little
about details like intellectual property rights, public safety,
worker's rights, attendance, publicity or regular maintenance.
These projects usually end-up being white elephants. The Perak State Development Corporation (PKNP) owns 51 percent of
MAPS. So, who owns the other 49 percent? Which crony or politician's
family member owns a significant number of shares in this theme park? Perakians demand to know the reasons for the state's involvement in this theme park.
Like most Umno-Baru politicians, former MB, Dr Zambry, likes to have
his pudgy fingers in every pie. Greed forces this type of politician to
be a jack of all trades, and make a mess of everything they touch, so
they fail to administer the state properly. Instead of cosying-up to members of the previous Umno-Baru
administration, Ahmad Faizal should start by directing MACC to
investigate MB Inc (Mentri Besar Incorporated).
By continuing to live in fantasy land, he risks his administration being known as a Mickey Mouse government.
Malaysiakini : “Most countries have only few honest politicians and this is just like having a body with only few good organs functioning!” – Mehmet Murat İldan
COMMENT | Wee Ka Siong’s allegation
that moves are being made “to unseat the sole Chinese opposition MP
from MCA and to prevent him from raising issues pertinent to the Chinese
and the multi-racial Malaysian community” is worth considering in this
so-called post-racial milieu that Pakatan Harapan is pushing. The voting patterns of the Chinese
community and the vilification of
the MCA online points to the near impossible task for the party to
effectively mount a counter-narrative as the ‘Chinese opposition' in
Parliament. As for the allegation that this is an attempt to unseat Wee, I think
there is some truth in that. However, this is not some dastardly plan,
but rather politics as usual. In the new paradigm, every effort has to
be made to destroy the ‘Chinese’ oppositional representation in
Parliament, because what would be left is only the ‘Malay opposition’.
‘Chinese opposition’ here means a Chinese race-based party, which is
anathema to the Kool-Aid that we are living in a post-racial Malaysia,
and where Umno is the last bastion of a racist ideology. The new reality demands that a party like MCA is vilified for being a
race-based party, but Bersatu gets a free pass because they were needed
to win the Malay votes. Of course, the only person who was needed was
the current Bersatu grand poohbah. It would have been interesting if Dr
Mahathir Mohamad had joined PKR, to see how he and his coterie would
have reshaped the party.
Even with the thorn of Bersatu being a Malay-based party in a
supposedly post-racial coalition, the illusion can be maintained because
people want to believe. Mahathir, for all the demonisation of him by
multiracial parties when they were the opposition, is now hailed as the
messiah – so long as Harapan does not have to deal with issues that
touch upon race and religion. Financial scandals are the best gifts Umno
gave this new coalition.
Getting the party started
The fun will not start until Umno settles its power struggles. As long as Umno is embroiled in internecine conflicts as to which
faction controls Umno, and Harapan has all these wonderful financial
scandals to unearth, there really is no real Malay opposition in this
country. Remember that PAS is also included in the Malay opposition, and
the reality is that these two parties cannot strategise until Umno
decides who leads it.
Of the PAS-Umno dynamic, I cautioned
- “With Umno out in the cold, who defines Islam now? PAS, for so long
on the receiving end of a federal-funded Islamic bureaucracy and
propaganda campaign, for the moment defines the Islamic narrative in
this country. “Now that Umno is the opposition and a babe in the woods when it
comes to opposition politics, they are subservient to PAS who have
demonstrated that they are willing to go at it alone, if need be.” Furthermore, the new Umno grand poohbah has to be someone who leads
with the support of the majority of the party. He cannot be someone who
is holding on to dear life, while the factions wage war around him.
Umno political operatives who I have talked to tell me that they
realise how damaging this infighting is. The new political landscape
demands that they have disciplined political operatives working in
coordination, and not simply shooting from the hip. Besides public comments from Umno potentates like Johari Abdul Ghani,
there is a feeling, especially among younger members, that this is the
perfect opportunity to reform the party. These younger members view
Bersatu’s narrative that Umno has betrayed the Malays as a legitimate
criticism, and that reforming the Malay agenda for the new reality of
old style alliance politics is the way to go.
Underestimating the ‘Malay opposition’
It would be a mistake to underestimate the Malay opposition when it finally gets its act together. Always remember that Mahathir is a personality that partisans
gravitate to for whatever reason, and if he is not in play, the Harapan
regime will be in a whole lot of trouble, when it comes to combating the
strategies and narratives of this new Malay opposition. Always remember that it was because Mahathir could not dislodge Najib
Abdul Razak from Umno that this whole Harapan deal came about. If
Mahathir had managed to remove Najib than things would be very
Thinking Malays in Umno – and it would be stupid to think that the
party is bereft of these kinds of political operatives – rue the day
that they did not oust Najib and present a new face to their base.
Clinging on to Najib was a mistake they will never forget. The royalty incident is a good case in point. The reality is that the
royalty had overplayed their hand by getting into the business of
messing with politics. While A Kadir Jasin may have been collateral damage
when it comes to the issue of royalty, the rakyat, which include a
sizeable number of Malays, are beginning to question this sacred cow.
The rising cost of living brings forth such questioning.
And questioning sacred cows is important if we are to dismantle the ketuanan
ideology, which unfortunately many Harapan political operatives still
cling to. While it is too early to tell if one component of the sacred
‘three Rs’ of Malay politics has been removed from play, Malaysians who
want a secular democratic framework to work with should be optimistic
that messy though it is, some things are slowly changing.
Race and religion
This does not mean that we are out of the woods. Race and religion still play an important, vicious role in politics. Be it the mendacious nature of the racial political of Harapan in
denying that there are serious racial divisions in this country, most of
which are constitutionally protected, or the ‘don’t spook the Malays’ narrativewhich Anwar Ibrahim was brave enough to utter, we are not honestly dealing with racial and religious issues in this country.
Kicking this can down the road while folks are enamoured by shiny
financial scandals is short-sighted, and in my view, dangerous. This makes the Harapan regime vulnerable. Public statements by presidential hopeful Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah that Umno remain a Malay-based party are rational. After all, the people who voted for Umno obviously believe that race matters. This goading by Harapan political operatives that Umno needs to
change is rather dumb, considering Bersatu stares them in the face every
The Malay opposition will define itself by offering a virulent
counter-narrative when it comes to issues of race and religion. They
will attempt to force the Harapan regime to demonstrate how committed
they are in their secular principles, and of course their egalitarian
principles – if they are committed to these at all.
Add to this the perception that the ketuanan types will
project that the ‘Chinese-based’ element of Harapan is pulling the
strings will no doubt come into play, and it will be interesting to see
how equal power sharing translates in this new milieu.
How does Harapan deal with the Malay opposition? While I have been
dismissive of Bersatu youth chief Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, his
response to ‘bazaar-gate’ is something that points the way to how his party could redefine the Malay agenda.
By projecting itself as the party for small business owners,
working-class Malays and the reformer of the Malay civil service –
better pay, better working image, ‘regaining maruah’ – this
would ensure that the Malay political narrative is defined by Bersatu
along utilitarian lines by the Malay political operatives in Harapan,
and not the Malay opposition led by Umno and PAS.
Ghettoising foreign workers should not be a Harapan agenda - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Saturday, June 16, 2018
Malaysiakini : “They act like they have a licence to rape. What kind of action
will be taken? This will become worse,” he said without providing any
proof to back up his allegation.” - Pertubuhan Rapat Malaysia president A Rajaretinam
COMMENT | Persatuan Rapat Malaysia made this statement
two years ago when the then Malaysian government was intending to bring
in 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers to solve whatever problem we had
with cheap labour that year. This was shelved for whatever reason, and
Malaysians went on with their blissful lives free from the insidious
crimes perpetrated by foreign workers.
Go to certain sections of Kuala Lumpur (a city built by "pendatangs"
then and now) and you would be a foreigner in this country. This, of
course, is not "their" fault. The anti-pendatang narratives of the
former regime and the dodgy post-racial narratives of Pakatan Harapan
mean that nobody is interested in tackling our dependence on foreign
labour in anything but xenophobic narratives and strategies.
Acclaimed Malaysian author Tash Aw, writing an opinion piece for the New York Times
two years ago, rightly pointed out that crimes involving foreign
workers – citing government statistics of 2013 – only accounted for one
percent of the national average. This does not take into account the
crimes committed by people who traffic in cheap labour or the apathy of
the general public of the criminal conditions foreign workers are
exposed to while helping build this country or provide us with whatever
entitlements we think we deserve.
Of course, the crime statistics could have changed in five years and
if they had, it would have been good if DAP leader Jagdeep Singh Deo (photo) could have alerted us to the social ills that good, pure Malaysians faced when propping up Penang’s idea of housing these foreign workers in what are essentially ghettos.
Jagdeep claimed that this would ensure there would be no more social
problems for the public. “It is a win-win situation. For the public,
there will be no more social problems while for the industry there will
be adequate rooms for the workers,” he said. Can we hold him to his word
that there would no more social problems if these workers were
segregated from the general public?
The way how crime statistics are manipulated in this country is that
not only are the statistics on crimes committed by foreign workers
suspect but also the statistics for crimes committed by the state
against foreign workers.
The shakedown money, the illegal granting of citizenship – which is
treasonous if you ask me – the unreported rapes, abuse both physical and
mental and a host of other crimes that are inflicted upon foreign
workers which are in themselves a cottage industry carried out by low to
mid-level government bureaucrats and those from the state security
apparatus. This needs to be independently investigated.
Just last year, Mary Chin writing a piece
for Aliran, described the Chinese experience as foreign labourers in
this country: "We have a Chinese expression ‘zhuzai’. Our ancestors
descended as migrant workers to Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand
and the Philippines. Meals were served from a common pool of food.
Crowds were made to scramble for food directly without plates or
cutlery, like animals. That’s the origin of the expression "zhuzai". "Workers were also housed (confined), transported, contracted and
traded like animals. Many did not survive the rough seas. Among those
who did, many died of infectious disease."
In the article, she rightly points out that in this issue of foreign
labour, what it comes down to is ensuring that laws for their housing be
regulated and that employers be the ones organising decent housing for
their labour and that they should be the ones held accountable.
Treated as sub-human
Furthermore, playing the politics of xenophobia to ensure that
government policies would be supported by the general public is never a
good idea especially for a new regime which purports to want to change
the system and the mentality of Malaysians when it comes to competent
Anecdotally speaking, someone who runs several successful restaurants
– nothing fancy, mind you – tells me that housing her foreign help in a
safe clean environment is probably what makes her staff efficient and
happy to come to work.
As usual, when it comes to money, it is the exploited who are made
scapegoats while the business folk get to rely on governmental
programmes which merely enables them to carry on with business as usual
instead of admitting that they, like us, are part of the problem. Instead of these housing ghettos where the lives of foreign workers
are regulated like indentured labourers, why not hold accountable the
businesses that bring these people in, sometimes illegally? Why not
investigate how the state security apparatus and other governmental
agencies are involved in this trade and the businesses that employ them?
Why not do a thorough investigation into the immigration services and
their operating procedures and discover who the brokers are for incoming
foreign labour and how connected they are to the political elite?
I am sure ghettoising foreign workers and claiming that social
problems would suddenly evaporate is easier than actually tackling the
social problems that this country faces. The crimes that this country
faces are intimately linked with various government departments. And the
social problems are made worse when race and religion are introduced
into the mix.
Mary Chin refers to this systemic segregation as a deeper division in
this country. We have to look no further than certain race-based groups
which demonise foreign communities but at the same time collude to
bring them in because they know that cheap foreign labour makes this an
ideal country to produce cheap goods or carry out development for the
"real" citizens to profit from.
The state should not be in the business of enabling a system of
foreign worker dependence. What the state should be doing instead of
engaging in systemic segregation is to hold employers accountable for
the welfare of the people they employ.
And this is especially so in the case of foreign domestic labour
which is used and conveniently discarded when it becomes profitable to
do so. Honestly, I would be more amenable to such ideas of segregation
if it was funded purely by business interests but the state had
oversight in terms of human rights expectations.
Even if this was the case, the reality is that if existing rules and
regulations were to be enforced, they would be no need for this solution
because employers would have to treat their workers with a basic level
of human decency and this would organically curtail the inflow of cheap
domestic labour because they would not be as cheap as they are now to
the extent they are treated as sub-human.
Ghettoising foreign workers especially if carried out at the federal
level would be a waste of resources. The solution to the foreign worker
issue in this country is to enforce legislation already in the books,
monitor how the state security apparatus enforces those rules and create
a culture where those so-called 3D jobs are something Malaysians would
want to do.
This instead of outsourcing it and then complaining that foreigners cause problems. But who cares right? The next big financial scandal is right around the corner.
Sacking the IGP is only part of the solution - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Malaysiakini : “The reality is that we do not wash our own laundry - it just gets dirtier.” – Frank Serpico, the man who exposed police corruption in New York
COMMENT | I have no idea if the Singapore Straits Timesarticle
is credible and if the top cop and the rest of the petty fiefdoms in
the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) are about to get their night of the
long knives. I sincerely hope so. I really pity those cops who actually attempt to do some good on the
job. Not only have they got to deal with a hostile public but they have
to watch their backs when it comes to their comrades.
Some folks think that replacing or sacking the inspector-general of
police (IGP) would go some way in resolving the issues that plague the
PDRM but this action - part-punitive and part-reform - is merely the
first step on the long arduous road to reforming the PDRM. The reality is that the person who replaces the IGP must want to
reform the police force and chances are that this cosmetic change of
replacing an unpopular IGP will not do anything to ensure that we have a
police force and not, as some would argue, a uniformed division of
Someone once asked me what the atmosphere is like in the PDRM. This
as a professional who served in the state security apparatus and having
close links – at one time – with the PDRM. I said, imagine ‘Serpico’ but
without the Frank Serpico. When I talk about corruption in the PDRM, I
am not talking about the “duit kopi” stuff that average Malaysians are
exposed to. No, I am talking about the multi-million, perhaps billion-ringgit
criminal enterprises which range from drugs to human trafficking. That
is the foundation of police corruption in this country and which acts as
a filtering system for recruits into the upper echelons of the criminal
I will bet you my last ringgit that if there is ever a full-scale
credible investigation into police corruption in this country, many
politicians would be caught in the ensuing chaos that would make the
1MDB scandal look like a mischievous kid’s game. When we talk about police corruption, we are talking about a system
with links to international cartels and criminal enterprises which run
the gamut from illicit substances to money laundering. Who knows what
kind of legitimate businesses would be implicated in the complex
money-laundering schemes that are part and parcel of police corruption
in this country?
is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the complicity of the
state security apparatus and human trafficking in this country. What about meth labs, drug houses, drug safe houses, illegal gambling
dens, protection rackets, prostitution and the other illicit activities
that happen in a country where the top cop in Terengganu can say that
Malays are not involved in gangsterism? Ah, race. That too. Kua Kia Soong in his book,
‘Racism and Racial Discrimination in Malaysia’, pointed out that
post-1969, the system rejected a multi-racial police force and civil
service in favour of policies that ensured that the racial composition
of both favoured the dominant majority community.
This, of course, played well with the narrative that non-Malays were
not interested in joining the state security apparatus and the civil
service. This, of course, was to mean that the non-Malays were not
patriotic and this horse manure was then used to justify policies that
favoured one community over the others. If the top cop has to go, then Pakatan Harapan is on the right track.
But the removal is treating the symptom and not the disease.
No real political will
Remember when I said that I do not have a problem admitting when I am wrong. Well, this is one of those occasions. When the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) man,
Wan Saiful Wan Jan, joined Bersatu, I threw a little hissy fit, arguing
that he was better of stirring the pot outside of political cabals.
However, since he is now in the maelstrom, so to speak, this would be
the perfect opportunity for Harapan to use the talents of young people
like Wan Saiful to carry out reforms, especially when it concerns the
state security apparatus. After all, it was Wan Saiful and Nicholas Chan who argued for decentralising the powers of the IGP, which I concurred with and Chan summarised it well:
“This paper aims to posit a scenario of reform whereby the
accountability of the IGP is enhanced through having more structurally
independent police chiefs in the country. “The basis of this proposal stands on the premise that the IGP’s
wide-ranging powers and interlocking relationship with the federal
executive need to be dispersed, moderated and restructured in a way that
is more reflective of Malaysia’s federated system and rising demands
for local democracy from its populace.”
The IGP cosying up with whoever is the grand poobah in charge is, of
course, part of the problem. A major part and what I found interesting
about the Straits Times piece (if credible) is that all those
special units which are supposed to handle specific crimes are, in
reality, fronts for corrupt police officials to organise their schemes
in a systemic manner which separates them for the rest of the police
Look at it this way. Say you are a group of corrupt cops linked with
various drug syndicates. You know that your activities get in the way of
regular policing. The top brass - not all of whom are corrupt -
understand this too. So it’s more convenient if there is a specialised
unit to handle the business of policing drugs than involving the rest of
the police force. So cops get to look away and do not have to answer for and to with
these specialised units. Consider this. In a functional democracy, in
the West, there are already problems with these units so what more a
country like Malaysia which has always been run by kleptocrats.
Going back to my piece on the slavers and killers of Wang Kelian,
consider what the immigration officers told their interrogators when
asked who was involved in the criminal activity: "It would be easier if
you asked us for the names of officers not on the take." It is the same situation if we actually discovered the level of
corruption in the police force with these so-called specialised units.
Keep in mind the state security apparatus is extremely protective of
their operating procedures and tradecraft, some of which are no doubt
immoral or illegal but part of maintaining the security of the realm. We
are not talking about these things now. Not yet. We are talking about
the corruption which has become a beast of its own.
Till this day, I get calls from former comrades who tell me that
there are elements in the state security apparatus, both retired and
still serving, who take exception to what I write. Why am I stirring up
trouble, they ask. The country has made a turn for the better. Why write
What keeps me going is that there are still serving personnel in our
security apparatus who encourage me to draw attention to the decrepit
state of the state security apparatus. Former police personnel who point
me in the right direction, because after years of serving in a corrupt
system and keeping their heads down – for fear of their lives in some
cases – they see the Harapan regime as the final chance to get the state
security apparatus back on track.
So far, I see no real political will to confront this issue. What I
see are political operatives breathing a sigh of relief now that they
are the ones in charge of the state security apparatus after decades of
being on the receiving end of state-sanctioned brutality.
No end to state-sanctioned killings in prisons - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, June 11, 2018
Malaysiakini : "We are unanimous, we are not with you." - Justice Md Raus Shariff
COMMENT | The quote
that begins this piece is courtesy of the Federal Court which rejected
the appeal of P Uthayakumar who sought to compel the federal government
under the Najib regime to establish a royal commission of inquiry into
prison reforms. In an interview with Uthayakumar last year, I opined
that such a move was a 'Hail Mary' but this did not deter him. If you ever wonder why criminals never reform in this country, all you have to do is read my interviewwith
Uthayakumar and understand that the system is predicated on turning
flawed people into damaged ones - “I look around and see so many people
who go back to crime because this atmosphere encourages them to embrace
the life they left behind outside prison instead of channelling their
energies to something useful.”
Kudos to PKR’s Women vice-chief Sivamalar Genapathy and (as usual)
Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) executive director Eric Paulsen for
highlighting the Mariappan Manivannan case,
which is merely a continuation of state-sanctioned murder in prison,
detention camps and sometimes even “drug rehabilitation centres” in
Malaysia. The Mariappan case is harrowing in its banality. Just last year, G
Ganeshwaran died while in custody and as usual his symptoms were as
familiar as Mariappan's as with most deaths in custody.
In Ganeshwaran’s case, his slow death
happened after he was interrogated by the state security apparatus, and
as told by Klang MP Charles Santiago, the victim's mother related to
him that, "During a brief chat, Ganeshwaran told her he was kicked in
the throat... and refrained from eating for two days as he could not
swallow food. She told me Ganeshwaran had blood in his mouth and lost
consciousness while talking to her."
We often talk of how the political elites get away with murder. How
many people care what happens to inmates in prisons? How many people pay
attention to the way the state operates against people who are deemed
by society as criminals or suspected as criminals? Make no mistake. As usual, in this country, race, religion and other
economic and social dynamics play into this whole sordid mess. Sometimes
in my darker moods, I wish those fat cat politicians who allegedly
steal billions of ringgit from our coffers are exposed to the same
treatment as the countless nobodies who are killed, tortured and abused
in our jails.
You want to witness real corruption? Look no further than our prison
system, where with the right connections and money, you could lead a
life which is half way decent or more. You want to understand real abuse
of power? Look at our prison system, where sadistic men and women
exercise power over those they think that society has abandoned. You want to see a petri dish of diseases and how a person can slowly
waste away and all the while uncaring officers do not bother looking
away but sometimes take gleeful pride in this misery, look at our prison
system. Is it any wonder that there is very little reforming, but
rather the hardening of the human soul that eventually makes any
inhumane act permissible, so long as you get away with it? This is what
prisoners learn in prison.
These 'murderers' understand that their crimes will never get the
attention like those crimes the political elite get. They understand
that they can commit the most debased of acts, torture people who
sometimes are not even acknowledged by the state, take out their
frustrations on inmates with impunity, and then they can go home and
pretend to have a normal life. They know this because, unless some nosy civil society groups make
some noise, nobody cares what happens behind the wall of our prisons.
Nobody cares about the drugs, money and the profiteers of human
debasement that is our prison system.
RCI on prison reforms
I interviewed one drug dealer who made more money in prison than he
did when he was on the outside. I know of one prisoner guard who was
obviously suffering from some sort of mental disorder, who delighted in
the punishment he meted out to prisoners all under the guise of
And what kills me is that this is the kind of reforms that could be
easily done. Of course, digging into the situation in our prison system
will reveal how corrupt the system is in a way the 1MDB issue could
never do. We are talking about the intersection between political power,
criminal enterprise and a public who really do not care that criminals
are mass produced in our penal system.
Remember the former Court of Appeal judge, Mohd Noor Abdullah, who
said that conditions in prison should be made worse, “making it infested
with rats, cockroaches and mosquitoes as a form of deterrence.” I bet
that when you think of rapists and child molesters, you would not
disagree with this judge, right?
Nobody really thinks that what the corrupt wardens and their officers
are doing is what contributes to crime in Malaysia. Nobody ever
considers that when we treat prisoners, who are already paying for their
crimes in an inhumane way, we are merely creating more monsters who
roam our green and pleasant land.
Every time a state security personnel gets away with murder, it tells
every other corrupt personnel that what they are doing is acceptable.
Indeed, one cop told me that compared to some others, he is an angel.
What does this tell you about the society we are living in? Some people
do not waste much time and energy on prisoners because they believe
these people deserve what they get.
What does this kind of thinking tell the state security personnel who
are there to reform prisoners, but instead commit crimes? What does it
say about politicians who go on about reforming the system but who turn a
blind eye to this subject because they feel it brings them no political
News flash - most times, the issue that bring no political capital
are the ones which are the most damaging to society. When the state
security personnel think they can get away with murder because those
killed are rejected by society, they will continue destroying the
apparatus from within.
Murder and corruption is endemic in our prison system. Criminal
enterprises and allegiances are made in our prison system, all under the
watchful gaze of corrupt men and women. You may not care about the
people who are killed or tortured, but you better care that our prison
system is creating people who are a danger to society. You better care
that because nobody holds murderers and sadists accountable for their
actions, sooner or later their actions will be visited on the general
The Pakatan Harapan government should convene a royal commission on
prison reforms and soon, because if they do not they are complicit for
further deaths in custody, not to mention a system of corruption that is
far more damaging than the one they are obsessed with now.
I never thought I would say this, but former information minister
Zainuddin Maidin questioning Umno information chief Annuar Musa if the
latter was still living in the Hang Tuah era, was pretty interesting
blowback for Annuar’s urging of the state security apparatus to
investigate Bersatu supreme council member A Kadir Jasin for his article
allegedly “questioning” the royal institution.
Furthermore Maidin’s caution of not threatening the rakyat with
“reckless feudalism” is also a reminder that perhaps, we are living in a
new dawn of Malaysians politics, something which I am skeptical of.
This idea that political hegemons “threaten” the rakyat with
“feudalism”, reckless or otherwise, has always been the preferred weapon
of the “bangsa and agama” (race and religion) crowd.
Here is an example of this narrative whereby the rakyat have been threatened with “feudalism”. When Anwar Ibrahim goes on his royal tour, apparently to convince the
royalty that all is kosher with “Malay rights” and “Islam”, this is
part of the narrative that Malay rights and Islam are under attack. When Anwar Ibrahim and any Malay politician for that matter have to
reassure the Malay community that the appointment of Tommy Thomas will
not adversely affect Malay rights and Islam, this feeds into the
narrative that those ideas/institutions are under attack. The
counter-narrative is, have they ever been under attack?
Questioned the journalistic integrity of the New Straits Times;
Questioned if the royalty was really insecure as some have claimed;
Wondered why Anwar Ibrahim had to go on his royal tour; and
Reminded the ordinary rakyat of how much is allegedly spent on the
Agong and the difference of expectation between a pauper and a king.
To wit – “But unlike the pauper who evokes God’s name to earn
sympathy of the passers-by, the Agong evokes God’s name in his oath of
office.” That’s powerful stuff coming from Kadir, and the reality is that this is what the average rakyat is wondering. When kids carry out a car wash to contribute to the Hope Fund or whatever it’s called, people think it demonstrates how Malaysian we are.
When the salaries of politicians are cut and the trimmings used to
contribute to the Hope Fund, people think it demonstrates how
politicians are playing their part in saving this country. However, when the expenses of the royalty are brought into question,
people wonder, why is it so much when we are told that we are on an
austerity drive. We have a finance minister who apparently has sleepless nights because of his fear of the financial time bombs that he would discover in the red files.
The rakyat also notices how the royalty, during the lead-up to the
elections and post-elections, by word or deed have made extremely
political overtures. Of course, when you bring up the expenses of the royalty, you better
cite sources which are credible, which is where Kadir’s piece suffers. However, what should be done is that the Finance Ministry should
immediately issue a response and tell the rakyat exactly how much is
spent on the royal institutions.
After all, this is supposed to be a ministry which values truth above
all else. Truth, we are told, is needed for this country to move
forward. So when Kadir makes a statement about royal expenses, his claim does
not have to be challenged by the royalty but should either be verified
and challenged by the Finance Ministry. End of controversy.
However, Kadir’s piece is more than just about royal expenses.
Kadir’s conclusion is this - "In conclusion, our CONSTITUTIONAL
monarch (emphasis in original) has nothing to fear if they understand
their special position and stick to their duties as spelt out by the
constitution – and the rakyat wonder, does the royal institution
understand their special position and stick to their duties as spelt out
in the constitution?"
When Umno was in charge, there was never an issue when Umno set policy. Even when former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak introduced the
National Security Council Act – by the way Harapan folks, is this act
going to be ditched? – the “issues” with the objections of the royalty
were simply brushed aside. Nobody in Umno seemed to care that the royal institutions were
sidelined because the sitting Umno prime minister wanted more power than
the Agong. Even Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said as much on the
Did anyone from Umno or PAS object when the constitutional provisions
that guaranteed certain rights to the royalty were supplanted by this
most odious of “acts” from Umno? Were the rakyat threatened by reckless
feudalism from the Umno state? Did the royalty make noise that the powers they were guaranteed under
the constitution - the very same powers, that Kadir argues, makes them
immune from insecurity - were under attack from the Najib regime? Did the Malays need to be reassured that the Malay institution was not under attack?
This idea that the royal institution has not changed through
constitutional means is a myth, much like the mythical/mystical era –
depending on the source – of the Hang Tuah era. The current Harapan grand poohbah in his time went against the
“reckless feudalism” and instituted changes that were embraced by some
of the very same Umno potentates who are now scrambling for power in the
political party - Umno - which has staked the “bangsa and agama” ground
as its sole province.
Look even in the Sinar Metro article, all Kadir did was
raise three points – in my opinion – which are vital to the economic and
social stability of this country. Reproduced here in the original
"Mereka dibayar gaji oleh rakyat jelata dan segala keperluan rasmi
mereka ditanggung oleh kerajaan. Dalam keadaan di mana hidup rakyat
susah dan kewangan negara sempit, kerajaan tidak boleh sekali-kali
membazirkan wang untuk sesiapa pun. Biarlah saya kata macam ini:
Istana-istana yang ada itu sudah mewah.
Dalam usaha kerajaan baharu mempertahankan hak rakyat jelata dan
melindungi institusi negara daripada sebarang bentuk pencabulan maka
adalah penting diambil tahu pembabitan raja atau istana dalam
kegiatan-kegiatan tidak rasmi seperti perniagaan dan social.
Kalau perlu kita kaji semula perlembagaan dan kontrak sosial bagi
mengambil kira suasana dan realiti yang ada pada hari ini bagi
mengharmonikan perjanjian antara raja dan rakyat jelata.”
My interpretation of Kadir's words is as follows (you may of course
disagree): In times of austerity, because the rakyat are in a crunch,
the government of the day should scrutinise its expenses and the royal
institutions should also play their part. That the royal institutions
should not be involved in unofficial business and social enterprises,
because it weakens the integrity of these institutions and encourages
practices which are detrimental to a functional state. And as Malaysians
we should understand that reforms of institutions – all institutions –
are needed to save this country.
If anything, what Kadir is advocating is “responsible feudalism”,
which I suppose is what a constitutional monarchy is all about.
Yes, Tommy Thomas is the AG this country needs - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Tuesday, June 05, 2018
Malaysiakini : “The fascist elements of the state, whose main aim in life seems
to be to protect and serve the interests of the ruling party, must be
reminded that Malaysia does not belong to the prime minister.” – Tommy Thomas, ‘Has Malaysia become a police state?’
COMMENT | Besides being a co-conspirator to the Najib regime, what Mohamed Apandi Ali is really infamous for in my book, (as detailed in The Wall Street Journal)
is recommending that caning form part of the punishment for those who
violate the Official Secrets Act – “At present, those who violate the
law will serve one to seven years in prison. Apandi has proposed that
sentence be extended to life, and that caning be administered as well.”
I will not even bother going into the details of the sacked AG
malfeasance because it really just stains this article, which is about
an appointment that I am cautiously optimistic. When Tommy Thomas was announced as the Pakatan Harapan choice for the
post of AG, the predictable backlash from the ‘bangsa’ and ‘agama’
crowd reverberated through social media. On the other side, there was
the predictable rhetoric that a person’s race or religion does not
Both sides do a disservice to this country. When Lim Guan Eng, the
current finance minister, blathered on about being a Malaysian as if
race did not matter, it was Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail
who said, "To have a Chinese finance minister is actually a very good
way forward - this is integration of all the races." Dismantling the “ketuanan Melayu” ideology as the deputy prime
minister conceded is a difficult hurdle to overcome and it does Malaysia
no good to engage in sophistry when it comes to race relations in this
The same thing happened when Tommy Thomas was announced as the only
candidate for the AG’s post. It is an extremely big deal that a
non-Malay was chosen for the post, which is not to say - like in the
case of Guan Eng - that this is merely “tokenism”, as denied by Wan
Azizah when a non-Malay was chosen to be the finance minister. Tommy
Thomas no doubt meets the necessary requirements but more importantly,
although many would choose to ignore for various reasons, this is
another reminder that things are slowing change.
Furthermore, whether there is a conflict of interest when it comes to
the appointment of Tommy Thomas with his links to the political elite
of Harapan is a question only time will answer. Mind you when I say
time, I mean a very short time. It would become immediately apparent if
Tommy Thomas is biased towards certain personalities, so what we have to
do is wait. This being Malaysia, we would not have to wait long.
The rather vexatious qualifier that the new AG will protect the
special privileges of the Malays and defend Islam is problematic because
as the Harapan grand poobah, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, rightly points out “many who claim that they supposedly protect Islam, but we find that their actions are contrary to Islam.”
So do the ‘bangsa’ and ‘agama’ crowd have a point? Does the AG really
have to defend ‘bangsa’ and ‘agama’? I put it to you that this idea of
defending anything is part and parcel of the ‘ketuanan’ ideology that
needs to be dismantled and that it is merely propaganda that people
could be weaned off if there is a political will to do so.
I put it to you that there is nothing in the role of the
attorney-general where anyone needs to defend the special rights of
anyone but rather uphold the constitution in a manner which nobody's
rights get trampled on by the state.
Let the man speak for himself
Whenever there is an issue with ‘bangsa’ and ‘agama’, the grubby fingerprints of the state are always around it. If the state does not condone religious extremism, the religion in
question would not need to be defended. If the state does not condone
and make provocative racist or bigoted overtures, the rights of a
specific race would not need to be defended. If the state does not
manipulate the religion for political gain, then there would not be any
need for religious arguments to intrude into the civil discourse.
While there have been many public testimonials on Tommy Thomas, I prefer to let the man speak for himself. In ‘The constitution is supreme, not religion’ (Malaysiakini,
2013), he clearly articulates his position when he writes – “Neither
the government nor any other authority can dictate to any person his
right to choose a religion, relinquish a religious belief (with
limitations for Muslims), change religion and not to be religious
(whether as atheist, agnostic or otherwise). This right is absolute,
entrenched and inalienable.”
Expanding on this, racial and religious issues should not be viewed
ahistorically and if the state does not make an issue out of them, then
we would not have these “crises” where servants of the state have to
intrude into public policy and wade into racial or religious
discourse/discord. See also his public comments
on ‘hudud’ law – “Accordingly, any attempt to introduce hudud, even if
limited to Muslims, by any state legislative assembly would be
unconstitutional because in ‘pith and substance’ punishment is a matter
of criminal law and procedure, coming solely within Parliament's
Another example of state/federal mendacity from Thomas’ articles is his condemnationof
both the BN federal government and Pakatan Rakyat Selangor state
government of the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) raid of
the Bible Society of Malaysia – “Finally, the Selangor state government
should not have permitted Jais, as its agency and subordinate to it, to
carry out the raid. Hence, both the BN federal government and the
Pakatan Rakyat state government are responsible for this state of
Here is why I am cautiously optimistic. If Tommy Thomas is the same
AG as the writer who wrote passionately but professionally of the state
of this country, then we have an AG that this country desperately needs.
If Tommy Thomas is the AG who believes in the separations of powers and
who understands – as his writings demonstrate – that for far too long
this country has been run by charlatans and bigots with no respect for
the constitution and this has to change, then we have an AG that this
country desperately needs.
As I said, we won’t have to wait long to see if my (our) optimism is misplaced.
Malaysiakini : COMMENT | The photo of the former
prime minister, Najib Abdul Razak, donning army fatigues and
accessorising the look with tan-coloured Timberland ankle boots, made a
mockery of the uniform of the Armed Forces.
Just over a year ago, Lt-Col (Rtd) Mohd Idris Hassan and his peers complained
that politicians were promoting themselves to the rank of General,
Colonel or Captain, and also "commissioning" singers, actors, sportsmen
and social activists. Mohd Idris said that none of them had fired a shot in defence of the
nation, or even completed a day's military training. Some received
Parachute Wings, without making a single jump. He was appalled when a
few of these politicians had the audacity to wear the much coveted
maroon beret of the airborne units.
Today, his appeal was repeated by the leader of the veterans group,
the National Patriots Association (Patriot), Brig-Gen (Rtd) Mohamed
Arshad Raji. He condemned the actions of former ministers and
politicians for treating the military uniform as a fashion statement and
wants the practice stopped.
Arshad called on the new Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu, who is widely known as Mat Sabu, to refuse to wear a military uniform or military insignia, and said, "We had to slog all our lives to attain these ranks.“This has to stop. There are only two bodies that can wear uniforms –
the military and the police. Even the defence minister should be
discouraged from wearing a uniform."
Arshad: Revoke the honorary ranks
Arshad said politicians were a “disgrace” because they failed to wear
their uniforms properly but worse; none of them had undergone the
rigorous tests and courses, which are spread over many years.
He rubbished the honorary ranks which were given to menteris besar,
politicians and celebrities, and he prompted the new defence minister to
revoke past honorary ranks that had been awarded to civilians.
One person whose late father saw active duty during The Emergency
said, "I salute Arshad for his suggestion and I hope Mat Sabu listens. He said: "We grimace when watching politicians, whom we now know to
be corrupt, and spineless, wear the uniform of the Armed Forces. It is
an insult to the brave men, some of whom died while serving this
"The uniform means everything to a soldier. It is like his second
skin. When my father wore his uniform, he was a transformed person,
proud to serve the King and country. People respected him for his
service to the nation. Strangers would come up to him and say thank you
and shake his hand."
His uncle, who served during the Indonesian Confrontation, said:
"These awards are dished-out like confetti to undeserving people, just
because they are celebrities or politicians. Our frontline troops bore
the worst of the troubles in the Indonesian Confrontation and The
Emergency. Some of these civilians have no clue about sacrifice."
The Parachute Wings, are only worn by paratroopers. Arshad wants
politicians to stop wearing them when inspecting guards of honour. He said, “People have died to save their country in (parachute) jumps. Have they ever made a single jump? “Have you seen the British and French defence ministers wearing army uniforms?”
Arshad, who was promoted to Brigadier-General rank prior to his
retirement, said that most of the civilian volunteers were awarded the
rank of Colonel, but never that of Brigadier-General. However, he
claimed, this rank had also been given to politicians and celebrities
who never had to work hard, or even pass basic military training, to
One can only imagine the secret fury of many serving and retired
military personnel and policemen when Malaysia's top badminton player,
Lee Chong Wei, was made an honorary Commander in the Royal Malaysian
Navy Volunteer Reserve Unit in 2016. He had previously been made a
Lieutenant-Commander (Honorary), in 2012. Social media was abuzz with remarks like "Can he even swim, or
command a ship?" and "You can't lob a depth charger like a shuttlecock".
The same ridicule was heaped on Khairy Jamaluddin, the former Youth
and Sports minister, when he was made a honorary Brigadier-General. A retired army commander remarked scathingly, "By right, he has to
surrender the rank upon relinquishing his post as commander of the
regiment; but he was a minister and an Umno-Baru bigwig, so they allowed
him to keep his rank.
"He did a month's military training, at the territorial army camp in
Ampang, KL. That's about all. There were no additional career courses,
like those which we were required to take." Although honorary commissions are covered under Section 8 of the
Armed Forces Act, 1972, the fact that some retired officers have openly
voiced their disapproval, should not be dismissed.
They want the authorities to restrict the use of uniforms, insignia
and ranks by non-military personnel and limit their use to those who
meet strict criteria. Some are alarmed when wedding grooms stick two pips on their
uniforms, to pretend they are of a higher rank and use non-military men,
clothed in uniform, to act as sword-bearers. They do not want the
uniforms and insignia to be treated like fancy dress.
Mat Sabu should scrutinise the previous administration's abuse of the honorary awards system.