Mar 27, 2009

Malaysia's New Mahathirism

Report from today's Wall Street Journal Asia.
As Najib Razak takes power, the ruling party must not return to its old ways.

In 2001, as Mahathir Mohamed's long tenure as prime minister was in its final years, we wrote that Malaysia was "in danger of stepping back from the world of democracy and the Internet into a darker age of racial conflict and government repression." Eight years later, with the economy deteriorating and politics in turmoil, that threat looms again.

Dr. Mahathir's protege, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, is set to be elected today as leader of the United Malays National Organization, the leading party in the coalition that has governed the country since independence in 1957. Next week he is expected to take over as prime minister, replacing the moderate and mostly ineffective Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. During his six years in office, Mr. Abdullah made scant progress in efforts to end political corruption, liberalize the economy and reform the judiciary. The unpopular premier led UMNO to a dismal performance in elections a year ago.

Mr. Najib's ascension to power has been marked by a government crackdown on UMNO's political opponents and on free speech. On Monday, police fired tear gas on a rally in Kedah as opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was speaking to the crowd. Also this week, reporters from popular online media, including Malaysiakini and Malaysian Insider, were denied credentials by the party to cover the UMNO party congress taking place in Kuala Lumpur.

Most worryingly, the government this week shut down two opposition party newspapers. The ban is for three months -- long enough to get past the April 7 by-elections for three parliamentary seats that the opposition is keen to snag. It's also long enough to get past the expected verdict next month in a sensational murder trial to which the opposition links Mr. Najib; Mr. Najib vehemently denies any involvement and says he did not know the victim. As reported in a Journal news story this week, Mr. Anwar said he believes the papers were shuttered in part to keep them from repeating allegations of corruption in weapons purchases when Mr. Najib was defense minister. Mr. Najib has denied allegations of corruption.

The government's new restrictions on the press come on the heels of UMNO's moves against the opposition party in Perak, where it recently persuaded three state parliamentarians to switch alliances, thereby shifting the state government's balance of power in UMNO's favor. The sultan of Perak validated the move, the opposition contested it and a court case is under way. But a lawyer who said the sultan's decision was unconstitutional and suggested he might sue the sultan was charged with sedition last week. Six Internet users who made critical comments on the sultan's Web site were also charged with insulting the sultan under the country's new cyber law.

In Dr. Mahathir's era, the UMNO-led government could get away with such tactics. Under his watch, the country saw opposition media silenced and political dissidents jailed. But in today's Malaysia, where voters are beginning to realize the power of the ballot box, it's a risky political gambit. Mr. Anwar led his opposition coalition to victory in five of 13 states last year and since then has also won two parliamentary by-elections. So far Mr. Anwar has been unable to win enough defections from UMNO to dissolve the government and call new elections. If he succeeds -- and if he can get past his July trial for sodomy -- he could eventually win the premiership. Mr. Anwar denies the charges and says they are politically motivated, a charge the Malaysian government denies.

In the meantime, UMNO's moves against the opposition and the press suggest that rather than listening to voters, the ruling party may be growing less tolerant of dissent. Add in the ethnic tensions in Malaysia's multiracial society -- and UNMO's favored system of preferences for native Malays -- and it's a potentially combustible mix.

Malaysia can't afford political upheaval now. The country's economy is being hit hard by the global recession. GDP growth is forecast to contract this quarter after growth of just 0.1% in the fourth quarter of 2008, and unemployment is rising. Foreign investors perceive political risk in a country that still locks up its citizens under colonial-era laws like the Internal Security Act. Voters may decide to take it out on Mr. Najib, who was finance minister under Mr. Abdullah, if they don't see improvement in the economy.

Mr. Najib seems to understand that Malaysians want something new. In a speech Tuesday at the party conference, he promised to end corruption and the politics of patronage and pursue reform; he called for "renewal and regeneration" for UMNO. "Economic progress and better education have directly resulted in the birth of a class of voters who are better informed, very demanding and highly critical," he said. "If we do not heed this message, their seething anger will become hatred and in the end this may cause them to abandon us altogether."

Mr. Najib, the son of Malaysia's second prime minister, entered Parliament at the age of 22. Now 55, he has been groomed for this moment for all of his political life. If the soon-to-be PM truly wants to change his country for the better, he'll make good on his word, squelch his inner Mahathir, and lead Malaysia down the path of more transparent government and basic freedoms.

Mar 23, 2009

Can Malaysia Learn from Indonesia

Bravo to Indonesia! Way to Go Indonesia!

After decades of Tyranny Rule, Indonesia has emerge from the last Asian Financial Crisis which saw the collapse of the Suharto Regime with rampant corruption at all levels across all strata of government have today through radical reform to its laws and constitution is now voted as the most Democratic Country in South East Asia.

Indonesia is today the 20th biggest economy in the world whereas Malaysia is the 40th and retrograding to more and more of a draconian rule without regards to basic human rights with growing corruptions and oppressions that is eroding the morals and its wealth and propagating racialism through its racial based politics that can only see destruction and chaos as a final result and there again to be reborn hopefully with the least sufferings to the people that is already happening and visually visible.

People in Jarkata are estactic with the new found democracy and with the enactmaent of the Freedom of Expression Act and the Freedom of Information Act giving positive confidence and with the establishment of a fully independent Anti Corruption Agency that will see corruption being fought with gusto. And to take things further the Anti Corruption Agency are now instituted into the education system that is being brought into schools, educating them at a young age the evils that corruption can bring to the nation.
Indonesia has undertaken major reforms and have revamped the executive, judicial and legislative branches, in 2004 indonesia has the first Presidential election where its people directly elected its President which is allowed to serve a maximum of a 2 five year term. (Malaysia's Prime Minister is nominated by its predecessor and at most endorsed by a single political party of about 2000 only so called delegates from umno which controls the coalition of Barisan National)
Indonesia ia all set to see progress with the political infrastructure in place, it will become the preferred destination for investors or foreign investment to soon be a flowing. Here is why the newly appointed USA secretary of state Hilary Clinton second visit after Japan is Indonesia. With all the necessary incredients for an economic culinary experience, its will emerge as a leader in the region with all the support and encouragement from the world and or the developed nations. Good Work Indonesia! (our neighbour)

Corruptions erode the morals and wealth of the nations and even cuts off the GDP eroding the wealth that should otherwise enrich the masses as expressed by the late Syed Hussein Alatas in his book of the mid 90s titled "Corruption and the Destiny of Asia". I would like to forward a quote from his book herein:

To Abu Dzar al- Ghifari (d. AD 653) who valiantly fought against corruption and died lonely in exile in the desert of Rabadha. The fountain of his spirit continues to gush forth the call for justice, waiting for it to become a powerful river in a world scorched by injustice and oppression. Those who die for a cause awaken to life the dead among the living.

The people of Malaysia should now reunite as one people in one nation to stand up against this tyranny of oppression and corruption that is dragging down this beautiful nation into the gutter. There is now gross disregard for the basic rights of expressions which in simple words means that if you even as much as utter a word against the power you might be brought down with their armoury of unjust laws that is being dug up out of their dusty dungeon of outdated laws which have not been bothered to be reviewed in accordance to common sense like in so many incident of late like sedition, sodomy and etc that is being used against common people and dissidents and critics. And to make matters worst there are signs of manupulations of all the powers there is and unethical scheming and entrapments leading to further immoral corruption of the spirits and souls.

Another quote from the book of Syed Hussein Alatas:

Man is freer than he is commonly thought to be. He is greatly dependent upon his environment, but not to the degree of being subjugated to it. The greater part of our destiny lies in our own hands - provided we understand this and do not let it go. Comprehending this, people however permit the environment to coerce and drag them on against their will. They renounce their self sufficiency and, never relying themselves, but on the environment alone, strengthen the ties linking them with it more and more. They expect that all good and the evil of life will come from it, and depend least of all upon themselves. With such childish obedience, the fateful power of the external becomes irrestible. To engage in struggle with it seems insanity.

-Professor Syed Hussein Alatas -

For further readings on the achievment of Indonesia GO HERE.