It is a good show. P.M Najib found it too interesting. For three days nothing but the show appeared on front pages. The media was happy, the opposition fumed, the problems of poor shivering in the night without a shelter were replaced Aladdin asked the genie of his lamp to conjure up a new palace grander than the emperor’s, so that he could win the princess’ hand. There was no architectural, aesthetic or hedonistic feature that the genie could not provide.All the uncomfortable voices from the other side were not found as worthy of a report as the anarchists’ power play.
f Malaysians just stop being so easily offended, then politicians can’t exploit a slew of contentious issues to divide and rule the country, activists and NGO leaders asserted at a forum yesterday.
Sisters in Islam founder Zainah Anwar pointed to this as the source of hatred that justified the government’s often slippery defence of issues such as the ban on ‘Allah’ for non-Muslims, linking protests to racial riots, and more.
“We face a problem with right-wing voices,” Zainah said to a crowd of 300 in a packed hall at the Royal Lake Club in Kuala Lumpur.
“There is political value to publicly claim that you are offended, and there is reward – you get a meeting with the home minister, the government adopts your decision.”
She was speaking at a forum held in conjunction with the launch of retired Navy commander S Thayaparan’s book ‘No Country for Righteous Men and Other Essays on Culture of Offendedness’.
zainahanwar2011Such “offendedness” undermined even the prime minister’s own 1Malaysia agenda as it serves to demonise others who are different from you, Zainah (left) said, adding that the solution is then for the people to push for more decisive leaders who are not afraid to take a stand.
“Our politicians have to take leadership but they don’t – they are pandering to the gallery. They feel that they can gain by using race and religion,” she lamented.
Alternative views needed
Other speakers were associate professor at University Malaya Law Faculty Azmi Sharom, news portal The Malaysian Insider editor Jahabar Sadiq, and former Bar Council chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan.
Being fans of the Thayaparan book, which is a collection of his essays for Malaysiakini from 2011 to 2013, the speakers also agreed that more alternative views and open discourses can help Malaysians resolve the many issues confronting the country.
Pointing out those institutions which upheld a “Malaysian” society were broken after the rule of the first three Prime Ministers, Azmi (left) laid the blame on the silent majority.
“We let it happen and now we are bearing the bitter fruit. The first three Prime Ministers had some semblance of an understanding of democracy because they were all lawyers by training. Then came the fourth… and we let him run wild all in the name of economic progress,”Azmi said, to laughter from the audience.
“I don’t think this country is a basket case. Not yet. But an institutional revolution must happen, so that there will be alternative voices in the discourse.”
Meanwhile, Jahabar (left) described Malaysia as “a country of many bubbles.” “We drink from the same kool-aid, affirm each other’s opinions, and it dies there,” he said.
“We are already one country, we are Malaysians – only we don’t realise it because we just keep within our own bubbles. We have got to start thinking as Malaysians,” he pleaded.
Another speaker, former BERSIH 2.0 chairperson Ambiga noted that racism and attacks against the Chinese and Christian minorities have increased in an unprecedented way since the 13th general election last year.
Ambiga (right) pointed out that Malaysia kept double standards – one for its international standing and another for domestic politics – by using the “exceptionalism” argument, referring to the article written by Malaysiakini columnist and former civil servant K.J John, who was the moderator of the forum.
“We cannot have have racism anywhere else in the world – we are the first to fight apartheid in Africa – but here it is allowed,” she said.
She slammed the government for championing human rights elsewhere through its position in the United Nations’ Human Rights Council but easily let it slip in Malaysia.
“There are classes of people who can walk the street and do what they want and nobody can touch them,”Ambiga decried. “They try to shut people up. That’s the one thing we can never give in to.”
In answering the question posed by the moderator, “Can Malaysia be 1Bangsa Malaysia?”, Ambiga answered tersely, “Yes, I saw it at BERSIH (rallies)
The vision of Malaysians that Najib has outlined is a lot like the palace produced by the genie. It can have anything and everything. It is sui generis, meaning it does not have to grow out of a real-world process. It doesn’t entail trade-offs, it has no warts. Fairytales are closer to reality — they contain lurking sorcerers. But the main problem with Najib’s stated economic vision is not in itself, but in the unstated political vision of his chief sponsor, Rosmah.The impact of our revolution is felt.Now the anarchy has benefitted us immensely. We occupy the treasury benches. And we have grabbed the opposition space too. No opposition but us. No rulers but us. What a great strategy. The people had some difficulty in reaching offices and handling their routine jobs. Doesn’t matter. Every one has to sacrifice; it’s the people’s struggle. And in any case who works in a government office? So nothing was lost.
Kedah Menteri Besar Mukhriz Mahathir says the government has not done enough to reduce costs in addressing the country’s economic situation Najib to be removed if he does not change and three, he remains, nothing changes and the BN faces the risk of being thrown out at the next GE,” he added.
Veteran Umno members have voiced their concern over Najib’s subsidy cuts to rein in public expenditure and ensure Malaysia gets positive ratings from global ratings agencies.
Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir warned over the weekend that the policies would affect BN’s chances in the next election, due in 2018. Former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin also said Putrajaya must make changes or risk more losses in the next polls.”One is for the PM to change and do the right thing to ease the hardship of the people,” Kadir wrote in his popular blog, The Scribe, early today. for Najib to be removed if he does not change and three, he remains, nothing changes and the BN faces the risk of being thrown out at the next GE,” he added.Veteran Umno members have voiced their concern over Najib’s subsidy cuts to rein in public expenditure and ensure Malaysia gets positive ratings from global ratings agencies.
Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir warned over the weekend that the policies would affect BN’s chances in the next election, due in 2018. Former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin also said Putrajaya must make changes or risk more losses in the next polls.
BN lost a further seven federal seats in General Election 2013, gaining only 133 seats against the 89 won by Pakatan Rakyat. The opposition pact broke BN’s customary two-thirds parliamentary super majority in the 2008 election by winning 82 seats then.
Moreover, BN had lost the majority vote for the first time in the nation’s 56-year history.
Datuk A Kadir Jasin (pic) warned today that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak should either ease the people’s hardship, or step down if Barisan Nasional (BN) is to win the next general election.
The former New Straits Times group editor related today that he was asked about Najib’s leadership and his future, a question that Umno members and his political foes are asking as people grumble about price hikes and subsidy cuts.
“One is for the PM to change and do the right thing to ease the hardship of the people,Some compared it with an Arab Spring; some said might be Malaysia becomes another Syria. The corrupt khaki was lampooned and opposed. Media was too pleased to see me announce ‘I am an anarchist’. Rebellion, anarchy, revolution, change the society, let a new system be established, youth power, nation’s power….these were the good, catchy slogans. Everyone liked it. It makes people feel empowered. A feelgood atmosphere is created.Kadir said that through his meetings with employees of government-linked firms and BN leaders, it was “unanimous that the apparent inaction of the prime minister and his rather inelegant silence are a cause for concern”.
More so now with the Allah debate heated up across the country.
“If he believes that his inaction and silence (except to appeal for calm and wait for court decision) will make the issue go away, he is dead wrong,” said Kadir.
Calling Najib’s infamous tactic of “playing safe”, Kadir said that the manoeuvre no longer works and that Najib “should abandon it and start taking position in order to serve the people”.
Kadir also said that Najib seems to be out of touch with the people with the “insensitive” move to bundle all of Putrajaya’s subsidy rationalisation efforts in such a short period of time instead of doing away with subsidies gradually, allowing consumers the time to adjust.
It did not help that the government did a bad job at explaining to people that subsidies are not sustainable in the long run, he added.
“We did this in the past and the people understood. But lumping them together at the end and the beginning of the year, when the rakyat needed money for their children’s schooling, is insensitive,” he said.
But the economy is not in an altogether bad shape, said Kadir. Economists had told the veteran newsman that the Malaysian economy was in “autopilot” mode and at the current growth rate, it “does not require a lot of government interference”.
What remains to be a concern to Kadir, however, is the high unemployment rate among Bumiputera graduates which stands at 51,000 now – an increase of 30% since Najib took office in 2009.
“The Bumiputera portion of the economy is too small to support the Bumiputeras who make up over 60% of the population and who are also the poorest,” Kadir said.
“The government-linked companies and investment companies are not big enough to support the Bumiputera population,” he said.
But to raise the Bumiputra’s economy requires finesse as Kadir notes that Najib’s plan to “empower the Bumiputera economy might not work unless done inclusively within the larger national economy”.
Based on Najib’s performance, Kadir questioned the leader and his cabinet’s commitment to the people, especially in crises.
“As for me, I am totally disgusted that almost half of cabinet members were abroad during the year-end, when thousands were flooded out of their homes.
“I was told that those ministers who stayed back had to become caretakers of multiple portfolios. One had to be answerable to more than 10 ministries at a time. No wonder the Prime Minister’s Office was so secretive about the PM’s whereabouts,” he said.
“Can they please not do this again? Or do they just not care?”