Monday, March 31, 2008

Away to Singapore

From 31st March to 2nd April, I will be in Singapore to speak at a forum on the New Economic Policy organised by ISEAS.

Two other speakers, Wong Chin Huat and Din Merican, will be speaking at the event. Encik Mohd Tawfik Tun Dr Ismail is the moderator at the session.

Hence, I may not be able to update my blog.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Backlash in Gerakan


Disappointed and disgusted with the way some of its top leaders handled the candidate selection process, the nomination for CM position in Penang, the (lack of) campaign strategy and dilly dally with post-election analysis, Lee Kah Choon, one of the most promising leaders in Gerakan, has resigned from all party posts. He announced his decision at a press conference today.

He criticized the leadership for lacking a clear and concise direction on how to take the party forward. His decision came at the wake of some leaders still trying very hard to justify the party's stunning defeat by blaming UMNO.

I am not surprised at his decision. The party leadership is still honeymooning after their 'shocking defeat' - to quote a leader. Some of them actually believed that they will be able to bounce back to recapture Gerakan's past glory because the voters merely wanted to teach UMNO a lesson.

It might be the case if a son is reprimanded by his father for being naughty. Not in this case, UMNO is not merely being mischievious. It is seen as a destructive political force by the non-Malays and increasingly by the urban Malays too. A few critical press statements will not help the party to get back on its feet. Many of its leaders, even those at the branch level, are still living in a delusion.

KC Lee, a Royal Military College graduate and a Liverpool trained lawyer, is widely known for his clean and efficient image. In fact, he polled top when a local chinese newspaper ran a popularity poll in Penang amongst the three probably CM candidates. KC is known for his no nonsense attitude.
I am surprised to learn that Dr Koh Tsu Koon did not see this coming his way.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Trengganu Impasse

In Trengganu, 22 out of the 32 assemblymen supported Idris Jusoh as the next CM but the Sultan had appointed Ahmad Said as the new CM. Professor Shad Faruqi said this decision raises definite questions about constitutional propriety. A Sultan is a constitutional monarch, and is not expected to rule in person, he noted.

Under the state constitution, a CM should be selected from a candidate who enjoys the popular support of the state assembly. In this case, Idris Jusoh who is the choice of the PM and the state BN council should be appointed and sworn in as the next CM.

Prof Shad offers a few scenarios, one of them is:

Scenario #4:

The Assembly passes a vote of no confidence in Ahmad. Under Article 14(6) of the state Constitution Ahmad will have two choices.

First, he can submit his resignation. The matter will revert to the Regency Council, which will have the discretion to appoint a new Mentri Besar.

Ahmad’s second alternative is to advise dissolution of the 32-member Terengganu Assembly under Article 14(6) of the state Constitution.

The Regency Council has the discretion to accept or reject the advice, as provided for under Article 12(2)(b). The Federal Government cannot stop the election.

If the Assembly is dissolved, Ahmad will remain caretaker Mentri Besar for a maximum of 90 days pending the election and summoning of the new Assembly.

The election results cannot be predicted. But what is certain is that the nation, Terengganu, the Constitution and parliamentary democracy will pay a high price.

The second equally catastrophic action is to declare a state of emergency in Trengganu. Whatever reason used to refuse to swear in Idris is best left to the palace to ponder, the fundamental point here is that the action may be unconstitutional.

If Idris is not a good choice, then UMNO will have to take full resposibility of his appointment in the next GE.

I urge all parties to respect the rule of law and respect the democratic process in the country. Hence, it is important that proper legal intervention is done to ensure rule of law prevails in this country.

If Idris enjoys majority support from the state assembly, then I do not see a reason not to allow him to take the highest office in the state. We are a parliamentary democracy and not a monarchy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

3 Big Steps to Reform Gerakan

In my earlier post, I have criticized Gerakan for taking the wrong first step to reform the party. Reform is a word often overused and misused.

It is nonsensical for the party leadership to think by being more vocal against both Umno and the Dap-PKR-Pas coalition is enough to take Gerakan through the current storm. Being vocal is necessary but doing it at the time is more effective. Doing it after the political tsunami is useless since both MIC and MCA would probably want to do the same.

How can then Gerakan differentiate itself? Can Gerakan bite if it can't even bark at the right target? Some of its leaders are still barking up the wrong tree.

There are several reasons for the downfall of the party. Firstly, over the years the party has lost its democratic structure and ideological compass. Several division leaders told me that decision made by the party leadership centred around several personalities, often dubbed as the kitchen cabinet and their power brokers.

Pragmatic politics practiced in Gerakan after joining the BN coalition had compromised its original struggle e.g. championing workers' rights, minimum wage, non-racialism and other social causes et cetera. Its diversion from the original ideology proved costly for the party especially in Penang.

Its leadership in the state was seen as weak and ineffective largely due to contesting sectarian interests, fear of antagonising UMNO and an indecisive leadership.

Since the 1995 general election, Gerakan was too preoccupied with electoral victory which it had it easy in the 1995, 1999 and 2004 general elections. These victories did not reflect the true strength of the party especially in Penang. Gerakan was lucky to coattail on several positive trends which benefited the BN coalition at the expense of a weak opposition.

Secondly, complacency and arrogance of power also sipped into the party. Electoral candidates were not picked based on merit and ability. Power brokers played a significant role to help top party leaders to consolidate their power through selective nomination. As a result, the most productive and innovative leaders were left disappointed and disillusioned by the decision.

Unfortunately, we are not going to see the party mending its ways very soon.

Next, the party mindset which was set on electoral victory primarily had cultivated an attitude which is not willing to 'rock the boat'. This is confirmed by the statements made by several leaders after the electoral defeat recently.

In the end, Gerakan leaders will still make a beeline at UMNO's doorsteps. Talks are already there to make one of its leaders in Penang a senator and a deputy minister in the coming months.

If the party is serious at reforming, 3 gigantic steps must be taken. First, cultivate a new and untainted leadership from the ranks of younger leaders. Second, return to its original ideology and break away from a preoccupation of power but not political struggle. Third, get rid of all its power brokers and advisers who are only interested in building dynasties and factions within the party.

Anything less than a total revamp and remaking of a new Gerakan, it will be an utter waste of both time and energy to even talk about making a grand political comeback. The outcome of the recent general election should not be seen as an emotional reaction and protest against UMNO. Voters have long given up on sulking and being emotional.

Ignore their voices of change at your own peril!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Gerakan First Step at Reform: Blame UMNO!

In The Sun, Gerakan acting president Dr Koh Tsu Koon yesterday blamed the “arrogance of power” of certain Umno leaders for the party’s defeat in the general election.

Another delegate, former Gerakan Women's Chairperson Kee Phaik Cheen who spoke at the closed door session put it succintly, "Stop pointing fingers at others."

Speaking from my own experience, Gerakan leaders should shoulder the blame for being both timid and subservient to UMNO's hegemony. It is not a secret that the leaders believed they stand to gain more by being on UMNO's good book than acting otherwise like speaking up against the gross political indecency of certain UMNO leaders.

In fact, my relationship with Gerakan's main leaders went sour because of my constant criticism of UMNO. Hence, having to listen to one after another speeches of putting the blame squarely on UMNO is both hilarious and disappointing to me.

On a number of occasions, Dr Koh had warned me against speaking up and posting my views on Malaysiakini.com. He did the same to Paranjothy, a youth leader, who vented his frustrations against UMNO after the Hindraf demonstration. He even suggested to a director at another policy institute to take me in so that I can leave Sedar Institute.

I am not washing his dirty linen here but from his statement yesterday, it proved that Dr Koh still missed the most crucial point in reforming his party. He should have shown more leadership in owning up to his lack of courage and political direction as the main cause of defeat than putting the blame solely on UMNO.

Penang's BN suffered the worst defeat among the four states captured by the opposition, garnering less than 38% of popular votes. Surely, Dr Koh must be responsible for the outcome. From the chief ministership issue to poor political campaign strategy, he was the main driver.

Yet, at yesterday's dialogue, the acting president of Gerakan distributed copies of a news report on PKR President Wan Azizah who praised him as an examplary leader who conceded defeat gentlemanly. In a democratic process, this is expected of all defeated politicians.

Koh said Gerakan would like to play a role of reformer in the BN but has to reform itself first.

Can it become a reformer and can it be reformed? Your guess is as good as mine.

New Politics in Post Election Malaysia?

I attended The Star - ACMS Public Forum "New Politics in Post Election Malaysia" earlier today. The panelists were Chua Soi Lek, Tony Pua, Nur Jazlan, Charles Santiago and Chia Kwang Chye. It was moderated by Wong Chun Wai.

A few challenges and issues were identified by the speakers. Chua who spoke first noted the need for MCA to change its political approach. He said that the party must reconnect with the community and proves that it truly understand and represent the interests of the community. I agree with Chua that MCA cannot run back to its contributions to chinese schools as its sole credential in legitimizing its political relevance.

In a Malaysiakini opinion piece, I have voiced out similar sentiment about the MCA's approach:

Singing in his pain
Khoo Kay Peng Aug 13, 07 12:05pm


By accusing Wee Meng Chee, a 24-year old Taiwan-based Malaysian undergraduate, of mocking the national anthem, MCA Youth Chief Liow Tiong Lai has missed the opportunity to find out why Chinese Malaysian youths are not satisfied with the government.

Instead of hurling an accusation against Wee which is hard to justify, Liow should have engaged Wee to find out why he wrote the song. His sentiment could be shared by many Chinese Malaysians who are struggling to be accepted as Malaysians of equal status with the majority.

Wee had recorded a parody set against the tune of Negaraku, with his lyrics containing stinging criticism of the government’s racist policies and the ineptness of the police force. The video, posted on YouTube.com, has been accessed by almost 400,000 visitors.

It cannot be denied that since the Asian financial crisis in 1997, the Chinese community in Malaysia has felt that they have lost their sense of direction. Three main elements are very important to the community, namely, economic and employment opportunities, political stability and social harmony.

Since the financial crisis, the domestic business climate remained mediocre although the national economy continues to grow between 5-6 per cent. The growth is attributed to the primary commodities, oil and gas and public sectors. These sectors are dominated by large and government-linked companies.

The inept performance of the economy has caused frustration and dissatisfaction among both Chinese and Malays in business. Unfortunately, instead of focusing on growing the economic pie to help uplift the economic well-being of all races, Umno has called for a redistribution of private equity ownership and for the New Economic Policy to continue indefinitely.

Moreover, the allegation that Chinese Malaysians have monopolised the country s wealth obviously has not gone down well with those who are struggling to stay afloat in a mediocre domestic market and a competitive world out there.

Since April 2004, governmental agencies and departments have been told to procure directly from Malay suppliers for purchases more than RM10,000. Within Umno, the party has established a unit to monitor any leakages of contracts from Malays to other communities. Until recently, MCA ministers appeared to be ignorant of the directive.

Without any access to government procurement which seems to favour a special segment of the society and a lacklustre economy, non-Malay small- and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) are neither expanding nor creating employment opportunities. Many are struggling to cope with rising costs of transportation, utilities and raw materials.

Recently, the eminent Professor Emeritus Mohamed Ariff voiced his concern that the domestic economy is not generating enough job vacancies to cater for the local workforce. His concern is evident judging from the unemployment statistics of fresh graduates and new entrants to the labour force, which is growing to an unhealthy 80,000 or more.

Some of the detrimental implications are the growing intra-ethnic inequality which has increased from 1999 to 2004, decline in earning premium of university graduates and the growth of cheap foreign labour (almost 3.5 million) in the country. Leadership lacking On the economic front, MCA has failed to provide a leadership to the community it claims to represent.

It is evident that the party was not consulted in the process of drafting the 9th Malaysia Plan (9MP, 2006-2010). The plan marked an unprecedented occasion where both Islam Hadhari and the Malay Agenda were listed as a comprehensive development framework and a target for the socio-economic blueprint.

The inclusion of Islam Hadhari has turned the 9MP into a divisive document. The lack of participation and engagement in the policy making process did not allow MCA to present the interests and needs of the SMEs which are predominantly controlled by Chinese Malaysians to the cabinet for consideration. As a result, there is no sense of direction for the local SMEs.

In addition to the mediocre domestic economy and intense competition outside, these SMEs are faced with prohibitive laws such as the Industrial Coordination Act and the Distributive Trade Act which are detrimental to their business growth.

While the party has launched numerous initiatives, none of these is able to comprehensive present a roadmap to the Chinese community on how they should prepare themselves to face global competition and what they should do to thrive domestically. Instead of paying lip service, the party should find a political solution to the lack of direction of the Chinese-owned businesses.

Politically, the Chinese community is quite disturbed with recent gestures and statements made by Umno leaders that are laced with violence and racism. Many view the provocations as unnecessary. If MCA wants to remain relevant to the Chinese community, it must reassess its position in the BN vis-a-vis Umno.

In a rebuttal to Umno Youth chief Hishammudin Hussein on the Islamic state declaration by deputy premier Najib Abdul Razak, Liow retorted that MCA is an equal partner in Barisan Nasional (BN) and not a slave. Rhetoric aside, it is pertinent for MCA to access real political influence in BN and ensure a role in the policy making process, so that the state machineries are not dominated by a single party.

The party launched its ‘Rakyat Malaysia’ campaign last year and tried to win detractors over by arguing that it is more realistic than ‘Bangsa Malaysia’ as it focuses on rights ascribed to citizenship. It is an irony that after almost 50 years of independence that the party is still talking about citizenship rights and the federal constitution. Is it a self admission that the party has failed to integrate the Chinese community into the larger Malaysian society?

As a result, the question about equal rights continues to linger in the thoughts of most Chinese Malaysians. I have argued elsewhere that Chinese Malaysians still think like migrants. Their sense of a lack of belonging to the nation is evident. Over the last 10 years, more than 80,000 Chinese Malaysians have taken up foreign citizenship. Hundreds of thousands more are living abroad as permanent residents or students.

Their situation is not helped by an overdose of ethno-religious politicking and a politically weak MCA. Ingrained perceptions The perceptions of marginalisation and helplessness are deeply embedded in the minds of Chinese Malaysians. Wee’s song, which expresses his sentiments, is an example.

Socially, MCA has not been able to do more than providing match-making services for its members. Chinese vernacular schools received about three percent of the total allocation for education. MCA is claiming credit for successfully relocating and rehabilitating more than 60 primary Chinese vernacular schools. However, the number of children attending Chinese vernacular primary schools has grown by almost 40 percent over the last 10 years.

Today, almost 95 percent of all Chinese Malaysians aged between 7 and 12 years are attending vernacular schools. But the number of schools has decreased since the early 1970s. A young MCA upstart and a celebrity defended MCA in a talk show and said the party has successfully increased the number of government scholarship recipients. He did not mention the yearly agony for thousands of youths who have to beg and appeal for places in local public universities to study courses of their choice despite obtaining good results in examinations.

The community does not need a MCA which acts like a welfare organisation or a complaints bureau but a party which can aptly represent its political, social and economic interests.

Only a politically potent MCA can act as the guardian of the community. My criticism of the MCA does not mean that I condone racial politics. This is merely to point out to the party leadership what it has failed to do over the last 38 years since 1969.

It cannot claim to represent the voices of the Chinese community if it is only interested in playing fringe politics. Liow’s reaction to Wee’s harmless song is a good example of a lack of political acumen. He has wrongly accused Wee of mocking the national anthem without looking deeper at the content and intent of the song.

Liow should be reminded that his honeymoon as the MCA Youth chief is over.
__________

It is understandable, after the heavy defeat suffered by the MCA in the recent GE, for Chua to say the right thing now, about a meaningful representation of the Chinese community. Chua was the one who got Wee Meng Chee's family to appear on the national TV to apologize for his parody. Why didn't Chua defend the right of Wee to speak out his frustration then? Did MCA listen?

Chua argues that racial politics through communal based political parties will remain a feature in our political landscape. Realistically, these parties will still survive to fight the next general elections but I am not so sure about the possibility of them making a comeback in a big way.

The racial political dogma has been broken. It is inconsistent to argue that a single race based party is capable of representing the views and needs of all communities. Chua's arguement shows a stark reality that change is difficult to implement.

UMNO's Nur Jazlan (MP Kulai) gave the examples of Golkar (Indonesia) and KMT (Taiwan) to make a point that UMNO, MCA and MIC can still make a comeback. However, he forgot to mention their comeback was only possible after having succeeded in reinventing their party's culture and mindset. For example, in 2004 the Indonesian parliament amended their constitution to recognise the equal rights of the minorities. Can UMNO do away with their "Ketuanan Melayu" (Malay supremacism) mindset?

Nur Jazlan reminded the audience of the parties joint effort to gain independence from the colonial power. Is he suggesting that we should show our gratitute by voting them into power in all elections? Malaysians are grateful of living in a peaceful country. However, politicians must be equally grateful they are elected to serve the nation and not caught in their own time warp.

After this forum, I am not too sure if both UMNO and MCA know the meaning of new politics.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

It's All in the Mind

BN component parties which suffered catastrophic losses in the recent general election have vowed to pick up the pieces and reorganise their respective party. Some said they will have more time to do so since they are not elected. Others continue to sulk and blame voters for their poor choice.

In NST today, Gerakan Deputy Youth Chief Lim Si Pin said "I hope they see what type of MP they have voted in. I doubt he can serve the people well." He was the Gerakan candidate whom PKR Tian Chua defeated in the polls.

I am not sure what they meant by reorganisation. Does it mean shifting the office furniture around? Organise more activities for its members? Or changing the party's logo?

What I am pretty sure is a need for a mindset change. If politicians leading these parties are not willing to accept that the society has moved on, political dynamics are no longer the same and that the same old BN method is no longer workable, then I do not think their effort will bring back any supporters.

The first thing these leaders should do is to apologize to their members, supporters and voters for being so self-absorbed and self-centred in the recent general election. Denial will only not take them anywhere. You can change the plate but the stale food will remain stale.

Walk the talk but let the brain do the motion first. Mindset shift is needed and not rearranging the furniture. Worse, stop mocking the intelligence of voters. You may not like the consequence.

Political Katak-ing (Defections)?

UMNO, SUPP, PBS, LDP, etc. said NO! Anwar Ibrahim insisted YES! Once again, a repeat of political melodrama is at play. Malaysians are again taken off the stage and put on the back seats. Politicians by any creed and ideology desire the same - power!

You can call it smart political manoeuvring or more cynically, assuming power through the back door. Even Malaysiakini's Steven Gan suggested something is cooking. "Knowing Anwar, he's not going to wait four years," said Steven.

Political defections are not uncommon. It happened in 1969 too when Dap assemblymen in Perak defected to BN to enable the latter to form a state government. It happened in Sabah which resulted in the downfall of the PBS government in Sabah and the entry of UMNO into the state. It happened to Dap not too long ago in Negri Sembilan when one of its assemblymen, Lim Fui Ming, defected to MCA.

When these defections took place, the opposition parties were fuming mad and demanded that their representatives resign and make way for by-elections. I supported the call because elected representatives should not mock the democratic process by defecting after being elected. This practice can even breed corruption.

An ex-assemblyman who was not nominated to defend his seat in Penang told me he was once offered RM5 million by a rival coalition party to defect. Luckily, he stayed put.

Despite assurances given by PKR, Pas and Dap, I would like to see the opposition parties honouring their pledge to respect the democratic process and move to discourage political KATAK-ING.

If they complained when the defections were against their interest, I am sure they will similarly criticize any intention by BN elected representatives to defect to the opposition coalition.

Otherwise, I am not too sure if the PKR-Dap-Pas coalition will be able to honour their words that they will not be just another BN in the making.

I support clean and honest politics.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Comedy Court

Correct! Correct! Correct!, Tengku Adnan Mansor, the new UMNO secretary general, has warned the Opposition not to be “stupid enough” to try to buy over any Barisan MP. Tengku Adnan is definitely speaking from experience that any individual, regardless of profile, can be bought at the right price.

The opposition coalition (PKR-DAP-PAS) led by de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, who is not even elected, needs only 30 more MPs to form a simple majority government. An ambitious leader, Anwar naturally focuses on forming a federal government so that he can be made its new prime minister when he returns to the parliament through a by-election in late April.

Unknown to him, his aggressiveness in pursuing his ambition will cost him some support. An immediate thing Anwar should do is to focus on making his loose and ideologically diverse coalition works and delivers its promises to the people.

Tengku Adnan added, “As the newly appointed Umno secretary-general, I will send out our intelligence people to check on the ground whether there is any truth to such claims." Again no one doubted his ability to do so.

On creating trouble, he also warned Tengku Razaleigh not to “create trouble” in the party. Ku Li should remind Adnan the same and leave the judiciary alone.

Another UMNO stalwart who had just brushed off the dust on his desk and newly-appointed Selangor Barisan Nasional and Umno chief Muhammad Muhammad Taib (Mike Tyson) pledged to recapture the state in the next election - with his bag full of money and lack of proficiency in English?

We have moved on. Unfortunately, Abdullah hasn't and is still trying to resurrect old corpses to fend off the misfortune of his administration.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

ABC Radio Australia: Malaysia's PM unveils new-look cabinet

Click here to read/listen to my interview with Sen Lam.

NST: Beleaguered Gerakan switches to repair mode

Opinion: Shannon Teoh

After its decimation in the recent general election, Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia needs to live up to its name and move forward. SHANNON TEOH ponders the future of the party.

IN the aftermath of Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia's humiliation in the 12th general election, its Kuala Lumpur Youth wing held a press conference to address the "future of Gerakan".

They pointed out three key factors in their mauling -- dissatisfaction with the government, the rising cost of living, and the opposition's more effective use of electronic media.

As for the party itself, Kuala Lumpur youth chief Ma Woei Chyi's admission that they would await direction from the central leadership was somewhat alarming. Gerakan was practically whitewashed with just two parliamentary and four state seats captured, yet there seems a lack of urgency to stop the decline.

"Yes, we lost MPs, but now is not the time to have a major shakeup," argues deputy Youth chief Lim Si Pin. He concedes that "now that many have not been elected, we have the time to reorganise the party".

Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng, formerly with Socio-Economic Development and Research Institute, a Gerakan think-tank, had predicted such hesitancy to effect change despite such a blow - it was the same attitude displayed in the run-up to the elections.

"There is a thick sense of denial within the Barisan Nasional leadership and in their communication channels," he says.

According to Khoo, even though polls and surveys warned of an impending swing of voters across all races and especially in urban areas, the Barisan Nasional believed that its last-minute concessions would remedy the situation.

In Skudai, for example, Johor Gerakan chief Datuk Teo Kok Chee took on his DAP counterpart in what was billed as a "50-50" fight. It turned out to be a delusion, with Teo not even garnering half the votes of his opponent. "Gerakan has been sucked into the BN culture for too long," Khoo says.

Many would agree. "When they started off as an opposition party, people did have very high hopes and expectations for them," says Tricia Yeoh of the Centre of Public Policy Studies. "Even when they joined the ruling coalition, their manifesto and ideals were still very strong but it didn't live up to them and its values have been watered down," she says.

Gerakan representatives have in the past called for reviews of the Internal Security Act and University & University Colleges Act.

In 2005, then Gerakan president Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik asked Malay leaders to analyse the failure of Malays to achieve a 30 per cent share of the economy despite 30 years of affirmative action under the New Economic Policy.

But over the years, Yeoh says, the party appears to have lost touch with the grassroots and failed to push its multiracial agenda.

This culminated last December when the party capitulated under pressure after its Youth vice-chairman S. Paranjothy incurred the wrath of Umno Youth chief Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein when he accused some Umno leaders of picking on component parties to further their political career and claimed the Indian community had been "marginalised, oppressed and ignored".

Khoo believes that if Gerakan had backed Paranjothy "it would've enhanced the perception of the party, especially among the Indian community and the younger members of the party, that it plays the role it sets out for itself, as the conscience of BN".

Gerakan must return to that ideal, says Khoo, if they are to remain relevant.

"If they go back to business as usual in BN, as if nothing had happened, then why should people stand by them?" he asks, noting that despite the party's claim to be multiracial, all their candidates were Chinese.

"You can't say there were no Indians of calibre when PKR and DAP ran Indian candidates who won."

Yeoh believes Gerakan is unlikely to leave BN, but if it doesn't carve out a niche for itself, it may well die a natural death.

"At this time when BN is at a loss about what to do next, Gerakan can play the role of reformer and be the catalyst for change for these parties, which was its goal in the first place."

At 38, Lim and his peers are in a prime position to be that catalyst of change. He insists, however, that the party has always been multiracial and that with the electorate voting across racial lines, they are now in a better position to provide this multiracial leadership.

He notes that 66 per cent of Gerakan's senators were Indians. However, now that the opposition has taken Penang from them as well as the other states where Gerakan draws its core support, this scenario has evaporated.

But can Gerakan afford to lose any more of its supporters? If the old guard fronted by party president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon is called upon to "lead the party forward", as Lim puts it, that could spell trouble for the party.

Says Khoo: "There has to be a new leadership cultivated, perhaps from the ranks of the young leaders who were defeated not because of their own doing."

As the votes were counted in Skudai on March 8, Teo surveyed the thumping he and at least five other state Gerakan chiefs were receiving. He may not have realised how telling his remark was: "This is not just me as a candidate. This is all of Gerakan."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Astro Awani 501

Catch me live tonight at 8.30pm sharing my thoughts on the new cabinet. The programme is in Malay. I hope my BM is not that rusty yet.

Sack Your Advisers!

Soon after the general election, Gerakan National Adviser Dr Lim Keng Yaik told Abdullah Badawi to sack his advisers. Similarly, a number of political observers would like to tell Gerakan the same, "Sack your advisers!". Dr Lim is the national adviser for the party.

In his statement today, Dr Lim said he could not understand why DAP supports a menteri besar from Pas for Perak when Pas' objectives for a theocratic Islamic state remains unchanged.

In my earlier post, I had reacted similarly to Husam Musa's statement over the establishment of an Islamic government at the federal level. He had clarified that he was misquoted. I trust Pas accepts the reality that it is not possible to install an Islamic government within its current power sharing pact with both Dap and PKR. Hence, this should no longer be an issue.

On Perak, no doubt Lim Kit Siang's knee jerk reaction did more damage to his party than he originally thought. It is obvious that non-Muslims do not see Pas as their biggest enemy in the general election but UMNO. It is presumptuous for the Dap stalwart to think that the voters might alienate his party if a PAS assemblyman is appointed as the next CM. His reaction is now being manipulated by Dr Lim Keng Yaik.

On this note, I believe the Regent of Perak Dr Nazrin did the right thing by appointing Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, a UK trained engineer, as the new CM. He is the best qualified among the three candidates originally proposed. Unlike Gerakan, PAS is not short of talents and qualified candidates. I agree with Dr Farish Noor's suggestion that we should deconstruct our political culture and mindset. Any Malaysian can become a head of a state if he is the most qualified to do so.

Until now, Pas has been proven to be a lesser evil compared to UMNO and why is Gerakan still forming an unholy alliance with UMNO? Did Dr Lim give his party the wrong advice?

Dr Lim should do Gerakan a favour by focusing on mending his party's internal rifts and heal its wounds. His predecessor, Dr Lim Chong Eu, is still respected and highly regarded today because he knew how and when to let go.

Over the last 22 years of Dr Lim Keng Yaik's leadership of Gerakan, I was told by the party founder (Dr Lim Chong Eu) that his thoughts and views were rarely sought. I can now understand why and what happened to Gerakan today. Dr Lim Keng Yaik should know when to let go since he still commands respect from his party members.

The Oil Curse

Since the cabinet has been formed, the government must get down to work on a post-oil dependent future for the country. In the last budget 08', government's revenue is largely dependent on oil & gas (46.8% of total revenue projected). Oil and gas contributed not more than 26% to the government's coffer less than a decade ago.

Serious initiatives must be undertaken to develop other critical sectors such as service, manufacturing, education, advanced manufacturing, food production and tourism. Politicians from both sides of the divide should sit down to review the causes of brain drain.

Malaysia must not only stop the outflow of skilled workers to other countries, it must also take immediate steps to attract foreign and local talents to return to work in these critical sectors. On top of that, our standards of education has to be greatly enhanced. Both Hishamuddin and Mohd Khaled Nordin (Minister of Higher Education) must now work hand-in-hand to liberalise and improve the education system.

These steps must be taken immediately to reverse the slide in our competitiveness as a knowledge economy. Moreover, our continuous dependency on oil and gas as the main revenue generator can be fatal. Policy makers must snap out from their complacency.

For a start, Abdullah has made the right move by dropping several controversial ministers and appointed a few reputable individuals such as Zaid Ibrahim. However, the inclusion of Muhammad Muhd Taib comes as a surprise for me. I guess the PM is trying to juggle between public perception and his own survival within UMNO.

New Malaysian Cabinet

Prime Minister: Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
Deputy Prime Minister: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak

Ministers in the Prime Minister's Department:
Tan Sri Bernard Dompok
Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz
Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi
Datuk Mohd Zaid Ibrahim
Datuk Amirsham Abdul Aziz

Deputy Ministers in the Prime Minister's Department:
Datuk Johari Baharom
Datuk Dr Mashitah Ibrahim
Datuk K. Devamany
Datuk Hassan Malik

FinanceMinister: Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
Second Finance Minister: Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop
Deputies: Datuk Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah, Datuk Kong Cho Ha

DefenceMinister: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak
Deputy: Datuk Wira Abu Seman Yusop

Internal Security and Home Affairs Minister: Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar
Deputies - Datuk Chor Chee Heong, Senator Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh

Housing and Local Government Minister: -Datuk Ong Ka Chuan
Deputies - Datuk Robert Lau , Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin

Works Minister Minister: Datuk Mohd Zin Mohamad
Deputy- Datuk Yong Khoon Seng

Energy, Water and Communications Minister: Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor
Deputy- Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum

Agriculture and Agro-based IndustryMinister - Datuk Mustapa Mohamed
Deputy: Datin Paduka Rohani Abdul Karim

International Trade and Industry Minister: Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin
Deputies- Loh Wei Keong, Datuk Jacob Dungau Sagan

Foreign Affairs Minister: Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim
Deputy- Tunku Azlan Abu Bakar

Education Minister -Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein
Deputies -Datuk Wee Ka Siong, Datuk Razali Ismail

Higher Education Minister - Datuk Khaled Nordin
Deputies - Khoo Kok Choong, Datuk Idris Harun

Transport: Datuk Ong Tee Keat
Deputy - Anifah Aman

Human Resources: Datuk S. Subramaniam
Deputy- Datuk Noraini Ahmad

Women, Family and Community Development Minister: Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen
Deputy- Noriah Kasnon

National Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister- Datuk Shafie Apdal
Deputy-Datuk Teng Boon Soon

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister- Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili
Deputy- Fadilah Yusof

Entrepreneurial and Cooperative Development Minister: Datuk Noh Omar
Deputy- Datuk Saiffuddin Abdullah

Natural Resources and Environment Minister - Datuk Douglas Unggah Embas
Deputy - Datuk Abu Ghapur Salleh

Rural and Regional Development Minister - Tan Sri Muhammad Muhd Taib
Deputy- Tan Sri Joseph Kurup

Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister - Datuk Shahrir Samad
Deputy - Jelaing Mersat

Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister - Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui
Deputy- Senator A. Kohilan

Youth and Sports Minister - Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaacob
Deputy - Wee Jack Seng

HealthMinister - Datuk Liow Tiong Lai
Deputy- Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad

Information Minister - Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek
Deputy- Datuk Tan Lian Hoe

Tourism Minister - Datuk Azalina Othman
Deputy - Datuk Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Abu Taib

FT Minister - Datuk Zulhasnan Rafique
Deputy- M. Saravanan

Surprise faces: Zaid Ibrahim and Muhammad Muhd Taib
Dropped: Rafidah Aziz, Azmi Khalid and Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis

Gerakan: Reduced to 2 deputies

MCA: Still 4 ministers

MIC: Remained 1 minister

Sabah/Sarawak: 4 ministers (acknowledging their support for BN)

PPP: Koyak!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Pas Islamic Ambition

Reported in The Star, Pas vice-president Husam Musa, a moderate voice within the party, said his party is now confident that it can soon set up an Islamic form of government at the federal level, which it claims is gaining more acceptance, especially with non-Muslims, following the good showing of the Opposition coalition in last weekend’s elections.

He said there was growing support among the Chinese and Indians in various parts of the country towards the party’s political struggle. He was speaking to largely Pas supporters at the Stadium Sultan Muhammad Ke IV in Kota Bahru. I hope it was a political statement rather than a real intention.

First, Husam should not read too much into the non-muslim votes obtained by Pas as support for the establishment of an Islamic state. The support was largely a rejection of UMNO dominance and unhealthy political culture of BN. Voters also responded overwhelmingly to a call for a stronger opposition in both parliament and state assemblies.

Second, the installation of Pas chief ministers in both Kedah and Perak is part of the DAP-PKR-PAS power sharing consensus. With merely 23 parliamentary seats out of the total 222, there is no way for its Islamic ambition to be realised.

Third, like other parties it should not count its eggs before they hatch. What the party should do is to start working to bring positive socio-economic changes and political stability to the people in Kedah and Perak.

The brain and mouth cannot work at the same time. Husam should let his mind and not his gab to start the motion.

Noted:
Husam's said he was misquoted by The Star.

The Star's Report

"Executive director of Sedar Institute Khoo Kay Peng said the relationship between the Federal Government and state governments would have to operate on a new dimension and that the former could not ignore the power held in five states."

I would like to clarify that I was not representing Sedar Institute at the CPPS forum. The programme booklet still listed my old designation.

Click here to read the full article.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Beyond Racial Politics?

Read my comments on the BBC website during the campaign period in Penang.

Media Reform

At the CPPS organised post-election forum, a number of panel speakers agreed that the media overkill during the campaign period was actually counter productive to the BN. I highlighted in my short speech on the role and impact of mass media during the campaign period which put off many English educated middle-class especially in Penang.

Some newspapers and their editorials acted as mouthpiece of the BN coalition, spurned out propaganda, poor and unbalanced prognosis and analysis, unfair reports and even manufactured threats against those whom might be thinking to vote against the powerful coalition.

Some of us can understand that editors of these newspapers are on the payroll of organisations controlled by component parties but we were shocked that their reporters and journalists are so out of touch with their own readers. The demographic of the readers has changed. Most readers, especially those between 20 to 40 years old, can no longer be treated as passive receivers of information.

With the advent of the internet, traditional media must work doubly hard to earn their credibility and trust. By going on a propaganda overkill only confirmed to the voters that there could be hidden rot behind the veil. Hence, many of them turned to the web. The reaction towards the mainstream media has actually helped to strengthen the role of the Internet as a superior channel of communication and news dissemination. Internet is here to stay.

Moving forward, there is a need of a radical reform in the newsroom. First, there is a need of mindset shift among its editors and journalists. They must now play a more proactive role in offering balanced reporting. Access to information is no longer the monopoly of traditional media. It pays to move towards the centre where news from opposite sides can be carried so that readers can make an informed choice.

Second, the role of the media as a sounding board must be revived. It must resurrect its role as an effective watchdog for the community. By playing a more mature and independent role by offering fair and balanced reporting can only give a good perception to its shareholders.

Finally, our current batch of journalists and editors must remain consistent and credible. Credibility lost in the run-up to the poll will take a long time to be rebuild. However, it is not too late to relearn the language of professional journalism.

It is time too for media reform in Malaysia.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Federal-State Relationship

In his interview with Bernama, PM Abdullah Badawi assured Malaysians that all projects planned and approved by the federal government will be implemented. His stand is the right one. His assurance will enable the federal and state governments (especially the five states controlled by the PAS, PKR and DAP alliance) to achieve another first for Malaysia - a cordial and positive working relationship to help propel Malaysia to the next level.

What we need is a little adjustment that there are now strong opposition presence in the 12th parliament session and also at the state level. If politicians from both sides of the house are committed to the well-being of the nation then I do not see a problem for them to respect the verdict of the voters by working together. Election is over and mandate has been given. It is time for us to set aside our differences and work as one nation.

Hence, I would like to advice Mukhriz Mahathir to take his grievance of the PM to the UMNO general assembly and allow the PM to do his work now by forming his new cabinet. Any call or effort to topple the PM will not be beneficial to the democratic process of the nation. In a recent forum, I told the audience that Abdullah was partly unfortunate to have inherited a flawed nation as a result of Dr Mahathir's 22 years rule.

Mukhriz must accept the fact that the accumulated disgust and disapproval of the UMNO leadership was largely a spillover from his dad's administration e.g. the VK Lingam saga, Naval Dockyard petrol vessels, submarines, Port Klang Free Zone and many more. Yes, Abdullah did not do much to deliver the reforms he promised but instead became very arrogant in the last 2 years of his last term but he should not be solely blamed for the heavy defeat of the BN. Dr M, other component parties' leaders, many racist, arrogant and insensitive UMNO leaders are part of the blame too.

Likewise, the PKR-PAS-DAP coalition in Perak should not be too preoccupied over the tussle for power. There is not supposed to be any birthday party or celebration. So, why fight over the cake? The people's mandate given to them cannot be treated as a pawn. It was given to them with a high trust that they will exercise great responsibility and accountability in their governance.

This is certainly a bad start for Malaysians who are ready to welcome a new dawn in Malaysian politics and the arrival of a two party system.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Arrogant! Arrogant! Arrogant!

State Umno secretary Azhar Ibrahim told NST that Penang Umno will recommend to the Federal Government to stop all proposed mega projects in the state, include those planned under the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER), the second Penang Bridge, the light monorail transit system, the Penang Outer Ring Road, the Penang Sentral and the RapidPenang bus service.

"Since the people have clearly rejected development and made their choice for a change, we will recommend to the federal government to cancel all such projects. Don’t blame us for this," he said after a state liaison committee meeting yesterday.

This is precisely the kind of attitude and political arrogance which caused the people to reject Umno in the recently concluded general election. I expected Umno leaders to sober up and respect the verdict with magnanimity. Instead, a small fly like Azhar Ibrahim has issued yet another threat.

In a dialogue with a number of European ambassadors at the French Embassy, I responded to a question on whether Abdullah Badawi should step aside as a prime minister and told the HEs that Malaysian people will ensure Abdullah is rightfully returned as the prime minister since his coalition won the election with a decisive simple majority. Politically, Malaysians have shown a level of maturity never seen before and we are ready to join the ranks of developed countries.

Any undemocratic means to seize power from Abdullah Badawi (including a loose coalition led by Anwar Ibrahim) cannot be encouraged. Politicians must respect the nation's democratic process which gave them the mandate to rule for the next 5 years.

Similarly, Penang Umno does not have the legitimacy and moral ground to tell the federal government to act hostile towards the 5 opposition controlled states. For the sake of the country, federal and state governments must find a solution to establish a cordial working relationship to ensure the nation's future is not jeopardize.

Any move by Penang Umno to disrupt peaceful transition of power in the state is unconstitutional and dangerous. The people, your new bosses, are watching.

I applaud Dr Koh Tsu Koon's stand on this matter.

Announcement

With immediate effect from today, my views and opinions published in the newspapers, internet, blogs, forums, radio interviews and talk shows do not represent Sedar Institute's stand.

Over the last 2 years, I have started to publish my views and comments in my own capacity as an independent policy and political analyst. Hence, I would appreciate that my friends in the media, readers, political parties and civil society organisations respect my wish and decision.

Please watch this space for further announcements. Thank you.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Post Election Analysis


Organized by: CPPS

POST-ELECTIONS ANALYSIS OPEN DIALOGUE
Date: Saturday, 15 March 2008
Time: 10:00 am to 1:00 pm (lunch not provided)
Venue: Level 4 Multipurpose Hall (MPH), Sunway University College

The 12th General Elections 2008 campaigning period has seen anunprecedented movement of civil society organization participation,ranging from voter education to endorsement of political party candidates.

7.14 million out of 10.2 eligible Malaysian million voters voted last Saturday with the loose opposition gaining state-control over five statesand BN, the ruling coalition losing its two-thirds majority in parliament.

Rising prices, increasing crime rates, the rise in interethnic and inter-religious spates, and unaddressed corruption, all led to the widely held perception that the Government was simply not doing its job satisfactorily.

This elections period also saw the rise of the internetand telecommunications in mobilizing fundraising for campaigning,dissemination of information, and shaping of opinions Indeed, there hasbeen a major shift in Malaysia's electoral trend, showing that ethnic-based affirmative action is irrelevant in today's competitive andglobalized society?a sure sign of a maturing democratic society.

Join our panel discussion this Saturday as we analyze and discuss theunexpected yet exciting outcome of the 12th General Elections and inparticular what the implications are for the future of Malaysia'spolitical fabric, culture and framework.

FEATURING:

Chairperson Tan Sri Dato Dr. Ramon V. Navaratham, Centre for Public Policy Studies.
Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria, Executive Director of Yayasan Strategik Sosial
Dr Farish Noor, Senior Fellow, Rajaratnam School of International Studies, NTU Singapore.
Khoo Kay Peng, Independent Political Analyst
Malik Imtiaz, Human Rights Lawyer and Activist
Tricia Yeoh, Director of the Centre for Public Policy Studies.

Please contact Shu Yi at shuyi@cpps.org.my / 012-2113391 to RSVP.

Updates:

Click here to read a news report on the forum.

Cracks Appear on New Coalition


A similar problem is plaguing political parties from both sides of the fence - reluctance of veteran leaders to make way for younger set of leaders even after they have handed over their position. Interference from veteran leaders who are out of touch of current political reality is making it difficult for their respective party move ahead.

In MIC, Samy Vellu who was defeated for the first time since 1974 is still calling the shot at his party. By making way, the feisty leader would have enabled the party to move away from personality politics to more team work which is necessary in today's scenario.

The same thing is being experienced in Gerakan. Lim Keng Yaik, its national advisor and ex-president, is still very much in charge. As a result, Dr Koh Tsu Koon was not able to exercise his leadership mandate without being tied to the apron string of Lim. Lim's opinion and decision is still being sought from election candidate selection, Dr Koh's resignation after a heavy defeat by the party to the party's plan for revival. Similarly, Lim's strong presence and continual hand holding is going to put the whole Gerakan leadership on an autopilot. How long more can he afford to interfere with the management of the party?

Today, Dap's own strongman Lim Kit Siang dropped a bombshell on the appointment of Menteri Besar in Perak. He said:

"DAP is prepared to accept DAP chairman and Assemblyman for Sitiawan Ngeh Koo Ham or PKR Behrang Assemblyman Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi as Perak Mentri Besar.

As the appointment of PAS Assemblyman for Pasir Panjang Mohamad Nizar Jamaludin as Perak Mentri Besar representing the third and smallest political party in the proposed coalition has not received the mandate of the CEC, DAP Perak Assemblymen will stay away from the swearing-in ceremony for Perak Mentri Besar scheduled tomorrow."

His statement came a day after the three parties, Dap, PKR and PAS, have submitted a name each for the Sultan of Perak to choose as Perak's next chief minister. Representatives of the three parties vowed to accept the decision of the Sultan and to fully support the chosen one.

Lim's press statement showed the stark reality that Dap and PAS, both from the different end of the political spectrum, may face difficulty along the road of their new collaboration. Lim is worried that by endorsing a PAS candidate as the chief minister this endorsement can be capitalised by both Gerakan and MCA by blaming the Dap for putting PAS in power. Understanding the Chinese community sentiment towards PAS, Lim is trying to avert the loss of support for Dap Perak in the coming election which is expected to be called earlier than 2013 (or even 2011).

Lim's statements - one on his party's intention to boycott the swearing in ceremony and the other on whispering his advice to Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng - showed that Lim Kit Siang is still the one running the show in Dap.

Pundits, analysts and Malaysians who are ready to fill their champagne glasses to celebrate the creation of a two-party system should leave their champagne bottle where it is for the moment - neatly stored and dry.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Chinese Asia Times

馬來西亞選舉夜變天真的毫無預警、全無迹象?

3月8日夜晚至3月9日淩晨的全國大選開票夜,馬來西亞街道,特別是吉隆坡街道交通流量少,通宵經營的餐廳與嘛嘛擋,卻是一台又一台三族民衆圍在大銀幕前觀賞英超聯賽或英國足總杯直播節目。縱然民衆爲這場"政治海嘯"感到恐慌,全國氣氛卻是一片謹慎的平靜。無論如何,當國陣聯盟(National Front, BN)敗選成定局,選舉在驚歎聲中落幕後,即使在政權易手的州屬,民衆也在隔天恢複日常作息,畢竟國陣聯盟還勉強保住簡單多數議席繼續執政。或許,近年遭遇油價、水電一漲再漲、治安敗壞的民衆,已用選票把心聲傳達出去,接下來就是等待中央政府與新組的州政府,盡快按照民意幫助他們找回安居樂業的日子。朝野政黨與觀察家無不曉得此屆大選在百貨通膨、治安敗壞與民怨此起彼落的背景下進行,也預測國陣聯盟獲勝議席會銳減,在野黨議席會激增。然而,幾乎擊毀40年強勢國陣聯盟的變天成績,仍叫不少朝野領袖與政治分析家直呼意外。國陣聯盟一夜失去五個州政權,連帶被否決國會三分之二多數議席,是一黨(聯盟)獨大的國陣史上最大敗績。如此翻天覆地的結果,當然不是在毫無線索與預警情況下發生。政治分析家邱继平對《亞洲時報在線》說:"國陣領袖對城鄉地區人民的情緒並非毫不知情,不過他們選擇否定。"邱繼平指出,在國陣強權控制下的主流媒體,一般情況都不會說真話,把民間的真實情況描繪出來。維護媒體獨立撰稿人聯盟主席黃進發接受訪問時,也毫不質疑馬來西亞媒體刻意粉飾太平,國陣也的確與民情脫節。去年12月,前財政部長敦達因(Daim Zainuddin)曾呼籲國陣須在選舉前優先關注解決檳城、雪蘭莪及吉打3州的問題。他綜合國內外局勢演變,以及人民告訴他和他本身獲得的一些訊息,指出上述三個州屬岌岌可危。不過,他的談話並未獲國陣領袖高度關注。上述3個州屬,再加上槟城與吉蘭丹在上周六拱手讓給了在野黨聯盟。不少政治觀察家指出,上周六的選舉成績是人民期望看到的,只是政府控制的主流媒體一一否認。他們指出,特別在馬來西亞首相阿都拉巴達維2004贏得委托後,即與民情脫節。阿都拉政權對公衆走上街頭要求公平選舉、改革警隊與肅貪的訴求,一概充耳不聞、視而不見;反之,沈醉在本身的宣傳與錯誤情報之中。在競選期第二階段,在野黨策劃的系列大小政治講座,即使在多雨的三月天皆獲得各族民衆捧場,人數從三百、五百,直升五千,在槟城韓江學院的最後36小時大型演講,更吸引了超過6萬人出席,所籌募的競選基金達12萬馬幣。演說現場在深夜結束後,聽衆與支持者耐心等待候選人拍照簽名,這樣唯有歌手演唱會才出現的場面,在"民主黃金周"出現了。不論是出席人數還是公衆捐獻數額之高,都是前所未有的。不過,各大主流媒體並沒有正面诠釋這些"民主黃金周"的政治競選活動,反而發出聲聲否定:"出席人數並不代表什麽,選民只是發泄情緒而已,投票日當天未必投給你(在野黨)"。媒體頻頻拿1990年與1995年大選競選期間,在野黨講座人潮洶湧,取得的成績卻不成正比,來解釋空前熱烈的政治演說。針對一夜變天的成績,黃進發指出,單一議席相對多數當選制(first-past-the-post)本質上就屬于"大起大落"的選舉制度,一個政黨或聯盟可以獲得滿堂紅,也可能輸得慘烈;因此一夜變天的成績並不令人意外。國陣選前十分關注華裔與印裔選民的投票取向,極力以數以千計的緊急撥款與"新年大紅包"爭取支持。在大選前夕,國陣探悉某些地區選情告急後,一貫地通過各大語言主流媒體恐嚇選民"拒絕馬華與國大黨等于讓華裔印裔消失于內閣",警告選民投選在野黨的惡果。馬華(Malaysian Chinese Association, MCA)與國大黨(Malaysian Indian Congress, MIC)乃分別以代表華裔與印裔社群利益自居的國陣聯盟成員黨。于相對成熟的選民,黃進發指出,國陣"唯有透過國陣,馬來西亞人的利益才得到保障、各族才不會被邊緣化"的宣傳老招術已失效;"因爲印裔沒有得到好處,華裔即使在朝有代表也不見得有助于解決他們面對的問題。"國陣特別是巫統(United Malays National Organization,UMNO)忽視了馬來選民的心理變化,過去一直是巫統忠實支持者的馬來選民,甚至于黨員,在投票日放棄了國陣,選擇了在野黨,讓他們成爲壓倒駱駝的最後一根稻草。在認識到以扶助馬來人爲宗旨的新經濟政策,並沒有讓草根馬來選民受惠後,巫統已不再是馬來民族利益的守護神。在一些馬來裔、印裔與華裔選民混合選區,在野黨的華裔或印裔候選人在獲得馬來裔選民支持後勝出,就是最佳證明。值得一提的是,沈溺在主流媒體與智囊團歌功頌德中的國陣聯盟,並沒有真正認識到民衆獲得資訊與溝通的管道,不再僅限于主流的印刷與電子媒體。新媒體在選戰中的重要性,可從在野黨此屆大選特設電子作戰單位,負責通過新科技突破執政黨對傳統媒體的壟斷,把訊息傳達給各個角落的選民,獲得證明。電子網路頓成爲在野黨打翻身戰的媒體,所有可以利用的網路新科技,包括部落格、YouTube、電郵,以及手機短訊,都被在野黨發揮得淋漓盡 致。除了散布訊息,網絡還有意想不到的功能:成爲向海內外支持者籌募競選基金的管道。著名部落客、民主行動黨獲選人,也是該黨電子作戰主任的黃泉安(Jeff Ooi),就通過本身的部落格(Screenshots)籌募競選基金,並且取得振奮人心的結果。他在競選開跑頭兩天,已籌獲逾6萬馬幣,其中八成來自國內選民,另外兩成是散居海外的馬來西亞公民。根據馬來西亞多媒體與通訊委員會的數據,截至2007年,共有1350萬人接近互聯網,占了全國人口的百分之47.8。對關系國家利益議題的掌握與了解,選民已不必依賴主流媒體;網絡與網上新聞媒體短訊已成爲他們獲取"另一面故事"與"漏網新聞"的重要來源。新科技的出現對政府及執政黨形成的沖擊雖然未被量化,肯定的是,它們讓謊言無法永遠不被揭破、讓許多不可能成爲可能。

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ardous Task Ahead to Govern Penang


When Dr Lim Chong Eu formed Gerakan with a few political activists in 1968, he saw an opportune time to unite opposing forces to take on the mighthy Alliance in the 1969 general election. His party succeeded in Penang and wrested the state government from MCA by a two-third majority.

In 2008, Dap secretary-general Lim Guan Eng achieved the same feat in Penang. His party won 19 out of 19 seats it contested in the state assembly and swept all 7 parliamentary seats. This time, Gerakan was at the receiving end. It lost its seats in Penang to both Dap and PKR (13 state and 4 parliamentary seats).

But Dr Lim had a head start before he was made the chief minister of Penang in 1969. He had served in the state legislative council under the colonial government several years before independence. His good performance as a legislative councillor was the defining factor which won him solid grassroots support and respect from locals.

His experience and understanding of multifarious issues faced by the community helped Dr Lim to plan for his leadership direction in Penang. To succeed, he knew that his administration had to create enough jobs for the people. Unemployment was almost 15 percent. The only way was to transform Penang's economy from agriculture based into an industrial powerhouse.

Unlike Dr Lim, the fourth chief minister Lim Guan Eng does not have similar depth of understanding of issues affecting the state. His politician father, Lim Kit Siang, has been residing in Penang since 1986 but since his 1999 electoral defeat the elder Lim spends most of his time in Petaling Jaya and Ipoh. Lim only frequented Penang slightly more than a year ago to plan for his eventual political move to Penang. His move, as a strategy to revive the flagging fortune of Dap in Penang, turned out to be a fruitful one.

However, unlike Dr Lim, Lim will have to do a lot of preparatory work to get to know the state, community associations, chambers of commerce, multinationals, state civil servants and others. This process of consultation and dialogues may take him more than a year to fully understand the issues besetting the state. Lim, a non native, may face an ardours task trying win over the factional chinese community associations and other ethnic oriented associations.

He must be made aware that a number of local personalities were involved in the just concluded general election, not as candidates but kingmakers and lobbyists for certain politicians. These personalities will try to get close to him to forge a new alliance. Without adequate local knowledge, he may be sucked into their factional tussle.

The next challenge he faces is to put a team of executive councillors who are knowledgeable, innovative, credible and able to lead. His team of 19 assemblymen consists of qualified individuals and largely first timers. As an opposition party, their ability to oppose is indisputable but to govern there is a need for a mindset change. Even Lim has to readjust to his new role as a chief minister who is expected to deliver economic growth and prosperity to a 'dynamic' Penang he promised his electorates. Like Dr Lim, Lim is voted in at a time when Penang economy is losing its lustre and competitiveness. He is expected to wave his magic wand similar to what Dr Lim did for Penang by bringing in high-technology investment into Penang.

On the economy, it is not clear who among the 19 state assemblymen can be entrusted to play a leading role. Dr P. Ramasamy, an academician, may look like the best candidate but he is a political scientist and not an economist. A person managing the economic portfolio should also understand the dynamics and fundamentals of global economy and knowledge economy.

The same goes for all other portfolios e.g. education, human capital, tourism and culture, public transport and infrastructure, housing and local government et cetera. It is time for his young and energetic team to show that they can run the state as well as they can 'bash up' UMNO.

What is certain, Lim must wake up to the reality of leading and managing one of the most demanding states in Malaysia. If Kelantanese voters are unpredictable, Penangites are known to be very brutal. They kicked out MCA in 1969 and 1990 for its inability to stand up for the Chinese community. Their love affair with Gerakan was similarly truncated in 2008. By now, Dap should know that the Penang voters are very decisive when they made up their mind.

Can Lim Guan Eng measure up to Dr Lim Chong Eu? Pundits and critics are awaiting their judgement slightly more than 2 years from now when they measure the mid-term performance of Dap led government. Just like how Lim Kit Siang put it, two years is a fair period to measure an administration effectiveness and success.

Dap has played an effective opposition role, can it perform similarly as a government?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sad and Defining Moments in Penang Politics

If you want to follow up on what happened yesterday at both the Gerakan HQ and DAP's media centre at the Red Rock Hotel, visit Oon Yeoh's website. Oon, Zan and myself were there to witness the moments.

The People's Power

Newspapers called last night's political outcome as a political tsunami. For the first time ever, BN lost 5 state governments and its 2/3 in parliament. The dent in the BN armour was accepted with great dignity and pride. I would like to congratulate all parties for a display of new maturity in Malaysian politics.

What it means is people's mandate and voices must be respected and heard loud and clear by all political parties hoping to govern Malaysia in the future. In the end, Malaysians showed great care and respect for their democratic process to exert the change they wanted.

All state governments and the federal government cannot resort to intimidation, racism and blackmail to get what they wanted, and they got it for far too many times. The people have risen to reclaim their voice and their rightful role as the bosses.

In Penang, Perak, Kedah and Selangor, the wealthier states of Malaysia, the maturing society which consists of all communities have voted against a coalition of racial political parties. UMNO, which won only 74 parliament seats, must learn to be more accommodative. Perhaps, it is right time for BN to reinvent itself. Ironically, Gerakan's "Keep Reinventing" campaign slogan will come in handy now for the coalition to reinvent itself and reexamine its own strengths and weaknesses amidst a less convincing victory and unexpected loses.

For Gerakan, MIC and MCA, their political future is hazy and messy. Most of their top and second line leaders were rejected by the electorates. What went wrong? Perhaps, like what ex-Penang state exco and assemblyman Teng Chang Yeow said the party cannot continue to support all policies without proper debate.

In a private conversation, an uneasy one, I asked one of Gerakan top leaders who put him in power - the people or UMNO?

The young turks and extremist leaders of UMNO are no longer relevant. Some of them won their seats but risked losing their seats in the future if they do not change their political direction and outlook. In the run up to the election, both Khairy Jamaluddin and Hishamuddin Hussien drew the loudest jeers and boos from largely non-Malay voters. They are young and dynamic leaders from UMNO but the two youngmen must learn to be more humble, less provocative and more Malaysian in outlook. It is not fashionable to be racist anymore. This is the clearest indication given by the most affluent and educated segment of the society - from Penang, Perak, Selangor and Kedah. Even folks in Kelantan stayed away from UMNO brand of politics under Abdullah Badawi.

In one of my earliest articles about Abdullah's administration, I asked will his administration which started with a bang ended with a whimper? Your guess is as good as mine.

This is a new dawn of Malaysian politics.

Click here to read my comments on the reasons behind the fall of BN state government in Penang.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Future Penang CM?

I was on my campaign trail to Batu Lanchang two nights ago. At the polical rally was Dr Teng Hock Nan and other past and present BN leaders from both MCA and Gerakan. Candidates for Batu Lanchang and Dato Keramat, Ng Fook On and Ong Thean Lye, walked in when Dr Teng was giving his rousing speech in hokkien.

He was heard telling the audience 'to make Ng Fook On work since he is willing and hardworking'. Batu Lanchang was an opposition stronghold until the 2004 general election when Ng upstaged Danny Law by a mere 139 votes. Can the feat be repeated?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Click here to watch the video.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Mantra Repeated

I am not surprised to read editorials, articles and news reports warning people about potential catastrophe should they vote for the opposition on saturday (8th March). This is an old, worn out and irresponsible tactic used by the unscrupulous politicians and their cheer leaders.

Regardless of the outcome, Malaysians must be encouraged to vote on their conscience and not out of fear and intimidation. If government can be changed peacefully in Thailand, Australia, Pakistan, India, Taiwan and elsewhere, why must there be bloodshed and violence in Malaysia?

Members of the police force and army are also normal citizens with family members and their own responsibility to ensure safety and peace for their loved ones. Malaysians of all races and creed must respect the wishes of the people and whatever choice they make in a democractic process. Otherwise, we are making a mockery of our own political process.

I would like to assure you that there will not be violence, there will not be Taliban ruling the country, there will not be bloodshed. It will be a day when Malaysians can exercise their rights to ensure they voted in a reliable, transparent and responsible government.

Malaysians must dump racial politics, dirty politics and irresponsible politicians and their cheerleaders. It is time for a new and confident Malaysia to emerge where interests of all communities and individuals are protected.

VOTE for a better Malaysia! Politicians who wanted support from the people must work for it.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

My Interview with RSI

Click here to read/listen to my interview on a perceived rift between Gerakan and MCA in Penang.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Dr Chandra: Anwar's a Disaster

If Anwar Ibrahim becomes Prime Minister, it will be an “unmitigated disaster” for Malaysia, a former Parti Keadilan Nasional (before they joined forces with Parti Rakyat Malaysia to become PKR) deputy-president, Dr Chandra Muzaffar, said at a forum yesterday.

His reasons:

  • The former deputy prime minister was a good speaker, he was not the sort of leader the country needed as he was now singing a different tune from when he was in the Government.
  • When Anwar was Education Minister, he had compelled schools to switch from using (the term) Bahasa Malaysia to Bahasa Melayu.
  • He is portraying a totally different image and it is sad that quite a lot of non-Malays believe in this man. He is saying today that he wants to abolish the NEP (New Economic Policy) and that is music to their ears.

I am not here to defend Anwar, whom I have criticised on a number of occasions, but I would like to challenge Dr Chandra's intellectual integrity when he made his feeling known in the forum. My questions to Dr Chandra:

  • Why did you join Keadilan in 1999 fully aware of Anwar's reputation in the government previously?
  • Did you compromise your intellectual integrity by joining Keadilan then and fought for Anwar's freedom?
  • Are you saying that consistency is better than change? So if an UMNO extremist who champions Ketuanan Melayu continues with his position right up to being a prime minister, he is a better leader than Anwar?
  • Anwar wanted to abolist the NEP. Non-Malays are no fools and they will support Abdullah Badawi today if he can commit the same. It does not matter who but action speaks louder than words. Is UMNO prepared to do the same? Calling for an abolishment of the NEP?

As a respected intelletual, Dr Chandra should maintain objectivity in his observation. Otherwise, non-partisan readers will find him just another stooge of political parties.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Election Outlook and Analysis on Penang

Last Saturday I was invited to speak at the Star Education Fair on Election Outlook and Analysis on Penang.

The other speaker was Dr Neil Khor, a historian graduated from Cambridge University. We spoke to about 80 people at the education fair. In the 90 mins session, I touched on the issues affecting the people e.g. economy, public safety, religious and communal tension and corruption. I gave the audience a run through of the constituencies ethnic composition and voting trends in the past.

Also, I highlighted a number of parliament and state assembly seats which are facing keen contest in the 12th general election. Finally, before the Q&A, I compared the manifesto of various political parties. Most of the parties did not touch on ending race politics, rights of disabled, role of media and the status of Malaysia's constitution (whether Malaysia is a constitutional secular state or an Islamic country).

Over the last few days, I was interviewed by a number of reporters from both local and foreign media organisations. Some reporters have chosen to use my comments selective and others opted to exclude what I believe are fair comments.

For this reason, I have refused any interview with a particular local newspaper for its selective reporting.

Please click here to watch the video.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Han Chiang School Political Rally Rocks Penang!

Last night, I attended a political rally organised by Dap in Han Chiang High School, Jelutong. The atmosphere was like going to a concert. My apolitical brother, Frederick, was shocked when we reached the road leading to the school. It was jam-packed with cars and motorcycles. Inside the hall, we were greeted by thousands of people.

When PKR de-facto leader Anwar Ibrahim and Dap Secretary General Lim Guan Eng arrived, the crowd grew to more than 8,000 people, both inside and outside the hall. Speakers who got the warmest welcome were Anwar, Lim and popular blogger Jeff Ooi.

The organiser collected more than RM38,000 when the tally was announced.

Click here to watch a short video.

Batu Kawan: Can Academicians Fight?

I went around Batu Kawan on friday to visit the operation centre of Dr Koh Tsu Koon, who is Gerakan Acting President and outgoing chief minister of Penang. His opponent is Prof. Dr P. Ramasamy of Dap.

This constituency has a large number of Indian voters, at approximately 23%. Based on current sentiments, a large number of Indian voters are expected to vote against any BN candidates. However, it remains to be seen if Indian voters in this constituency will do the same and vote enblock for Dr P.Ramasamy.

If a swing of Indian votes is imminent and Malay votes remained solid, the decisive factor will be the Chinese votes. Dr Koh has an edge over Dr P. Ramasamy and is widely expected to win by handsome majority.

I did not manage to speak to both Dr Koh and Dr P.Ramasamy but will try to do so in the next few days.

Smiling Tiger versus Dimpled Scholar

In the contest for the Bukit Bendera parliamentary seat, Dap is fielding a young political strategist, Liew Chin Tong, against Gerakan Secretary General Chia Kwang Chye also known as the 'smiling tiger'.

I managed to speak to Chia at his party HQ and got him to record a short message here. Chia is betting on his service record since 1995 to convince voters to give him another chance to serve them for a fourth term. He was a giant killer in 1999 when he defeated Dap supremo Lim Kit Siang by a razor thin majority of 104.

In this election, it is Liew who will try to prove that he may yet become a giant killer. Liew is trying to impress upon voters to give him a chance to represent them at the parliament, promised to be a vocal representative.

Watch out for Liew's short interview.