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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

ACID TEST FOR NAJIB – WILL HE HAVE THE GUTS TO ARREST MUSLIM HARDLINERS FOR THREATENING RACIAL VIOLENCE: DON’T DARE HUNT DOWN INDIRA’S HUSBAND & DAUGHTER OR THERE WILL BE UNREST, MUSLIM GROUP WARNS COPS

PERAK 30-01-2018.( JB 20180130 Indira ) Pictures of Prasana Diksa who was abducted by her convert father Muhammad Riduan Abdullah. MALAY MAIL/Farhan Najib
KUALA LUMPUR — The Malaysian Association of Muslim Scholars (PUM) has urged the police today to stop pursuing the fugitive ex-husband of M. Indira Gandhi and her youngest daughter that he abducted nine years ago.
In a statement posted on its Facebook page, the group warned that religious sectarian violence may erupt in this country if the police continue to hunt Muhammad Riduan Abdullah and Prasana Diksa.
 “We ask for the kind consideration of the police to not hunt the father and the children until a solution can be found.
“We are concerned that if it is carried out, there is a possibility of conflict between religious adherents in this country that may spark violence in society,” its president Datuk Abdul Halim Abd Kadir said.
After the landmark ruling, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun has pledged that the police will continue hunting down Muhammad Riduan.
He said the police are confident that the convert is still in the country, but they lack any leads to find him.
PUM also urged that the children unilaterally converted into Islam by Muhammad Riduan must not be allowed to revert back to Hinduism.
Indira’s two elder children, Tevi Darsiny, 20, and Karan Dinish, 19, told Malay Mail they can now proudly declare their Hindu identity after their conversion that was done without their mother’s consent was nullified by the Federal Court.
On April 2, 2009, K. Pathmanathan, or Muhammad Riduan Abdullah as he is now known, had covertly converted his three children to Islam without their knowledge and without Indira’s consent, before going to the Shariah court just a few days later to obtain custody rights for them. The Shariah court only has jurisdiction over Muslims.
Indira had in May 2016 told Malay Mail however that both her elder children have been practising Hindus since birth, with their identity cards still carrying the names they were born with and stating their religious status as Hindu.
PUM had also requested the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to allow the group to advise in matters involving conversion to Islam.
It also demanded Putrajaya to act fast, claiming the issue would embolden provocateurs in the country.
MALAY MAIL

Sabah rejects Manila’s claim over it

musa-aman-philiphine

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government rejects in no uncertain terms any claim by the Philippines on the state, Chief Minister Musa Aman said.
“I have made our stand on this matter before. Let me once again clearly state that we do not recognise or acknowledge any claim by the Philippines or any other country on Sabah,” he said.
He said on Wednesday Sabah was part of Malaysia and that it had chosen to be and would continue to be a part of that sovereign nation.
”The people in Sabah choose to be in the state because it is in Malaysia. We have been enjoying peace, stability and economic prosperity within Malaysia,” he said in a statement.
Musa said this when responding to a statement by former Philippines Senate president Aquilino Pimentel Jr that he would propose the inclusion of Sabah in Philippine territory as part of the country’s shift to a federal system of government.
Pimentel is a member of a consultative committee that President Rodrigo Duterte appointed to review the 1987 constitution.
He said there should be a way that was acceptable under international laws to assert the Philippines’ claim to Sabah.
Under Pimentel’s proposal for a new federal government, Sabah would be the country’s 13th state after Northern Luzon, Central Luzon, Southern Luzon, Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, Western Visayas, Minparom, Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao, and Bangsamoro.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman had said that statements by Philippine leaders wanting to claim Sabah as part of their country’s territory would only harm ties with Malaysia.
He described Malaysia’s bilateral ties with the Philippines as “excellent”. He said such statements reflected ignorance of history and international law by those making them.
Meanwhile, Parti Warisan Sabah deputy president Darell Leiking said the nation’s leaders must find a solution to end the repeated claim on Sabah once and for all.
“They must come out with a concrete solution via diplomatic channels or through the United Nations to send a clear message to Manila that it should stop this act of provocation and drop its unsubstantiated claim over our Sabah,” said the opposition lawmaker.
“How can you expect Sabahans to believe the assurances that the Federal government is protecting Sabah’s rights and interests through BN when the Sabah claim has been repeated time and time again by Manila?” he asked.
He also asked whether Manila’s repeated claim over Sabah had anything to do with the presence of illegal Filipino nationals in Sabah.
“As a Sabahan, I deem it a serious issue when Manila bravely makes a claim on Sabah as the 13th State. I assume this may be the root cause for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants boldly entering Sabah without any fear because they continue to wrongly believe that Sabah is theirs,” Leiking added.
Leiking, who is Penampang MP, said the government should reprimand Manila, just as Prime Minister Najib Razak did when America recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
He feared the claim may eventually turn away foreign investors from Sabah because the state would be deemed unsafe, especially when the illegal immigrant problem in Sabah had not been resolved. -FMT

Tunnel project: Guan Eng asks again, where is the corruption

The Penang chief minister says if Wee Ka Siong’s dispute is over misrepresentation of facts about the tunnel project, claims of corruption are ‘fake news’ created by the BN media.
lim-guan-eng-wee-ka-siongGEORGE TOWN: Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has once again asked what exactly about the RM6.3 billion undersea tunnel and three main roads project involves corruption.
He also charged the “BN media” of coming out with “fake news” regarding the project.
This follows the assertion by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Wee Ka Siong that Lim misrepresented the paid-up capital of a special purpose vehicle set up for the project.
Wee had claimed that despite their persistent questioning, Lim had not answered “straight to the point” as to why – from March 2013, when the successful tenderer was announced for the project, until the 13th general election was held in May 2013 – he had not clearly stated that the role of the China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) was only as a building contractor.
Wee had, in a video on Facebook, claimed that Lim and the state government had misrepresented the paid-up capital of the special purpose vehicle (SPV) on the tunnel project.
Lim said in a statement: “Wee will definitely dispute that the Penang state government misrepresented the project but if Wee’s contention is the lack of clear emphasis that CRCC is the main contractor and not the shareholder, where then is the corruption involving Penang state government leaders?”
He said if this was Wee’s main contention, “then the Barisan Nasional (BN) media is involved in fake news by quoting MACC sources that there is corruption in this project or kickbacks of up to millions of ringgit to state government leaders, despite the fact that the project was granted in a transparent manner by open competitive tender”.
Lim added: “Clearly the Penang state government is a victim of systematic political lynching by both the BN and MACC to smear our image in the run-up to the 14th general election.”
Lim asked Wee if he could explain why “he lied” that the project agreement signed by the state government had not been properly stamped or that the commitment by CRCC as main contractor to complete the project was not legally binding because it was not stamped.
He was referring to Wee’s contention that the legality of the agreement signed with CRCC was suspect as it was devoid of any stamp duties.
Wee had also said it was not an agreement, but merely an “acknowledgement of commitment”, which meant that the signatories were legally not obliged to fulfil their commitments.
“There is a reason why Wee deliberately refuses to apologise for his blatant lie that the agreement was not stamped or that CRCC’s commitment to complete the project was not legally binding because it was not stamped.
“Wee is desperate to exclude CRCC because CRCC is part of the main agreement that was signed by the state government on October 29, 2013, together with Zenith Consortium. Even CRCC has issued a statement that was cited by Wee in The Star on January 20, confirming that CRCC is the main contractor for this project,” Lim said.
In other words, Lim said, it was a form of “tri-partite agreement” comprising the state government, Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd as shareholders, and CRCC as the main contractor.
Lim explained that in order to lock in CRCC as the main contractor, CRCC gave an additional commitment in the agreement to successfully complete the project – a form of double insurance.
“Locking in CRCC is important to ensure the project’s success not only in terms of financial viability but also the technical and professional expertise required for such a major project.”
Wee and Lim have been engaged in a back-and-forth over the undersea tunnel and three main roads projects, mostly centred on the issues of shareholding and the paid-up capital.
The RM6.3 billion infrastructure project came under renewed scrutiny by the BN following a fresh probe by the MACC.
The 7.2km undersea tunnel will connect George Town’s Pangkor Road and Bagan Ajam in Butterworth. It is scheduled to begin in 2023.
The “three main roads” (formerly three paired roads) stretch from Air Itam to the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway (5.7km), Tanjung Bungah to Teluk Bahang (10.53km), and Jalan Pangkor-Gurney Drive junction to Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway (4.1km).
It was reported last Thursday that MACC arrested the chairman of an engineering consultancy firm, with the title “Datuk Seri”, to assist in the investigation into alleged corruption in the construction of the Penang undersea tunnel project.
Two days before that, MACC had also arrested a female engineering consultant in a Kuala Lumpur-based company to assist in the investigations and she has been remanded for five days.
On Jan 19, two individuals with the title “Datuk”, who were remanded for six days to facilitate investigations into the same case, were released on bail. -FMT

Major fake ID syndicate in Sabah crippled

NRD Director-General Mohammad Razin Abdullah says forged documents sold for between RM300 and RM50,000, depending on nationality of buyers.
Razin-Abdullah
NRD director-general Mohammad Razin Abdullah (middle) holds up two birth certificates at the press conference this morning.
KOTA KINABALU: The national registration department believes it has crippled a major fake identity syndicate in Sabah with the arrest of a 52-year-old woman believed to be the syndicate’s agent early this morning.
The department’s director-general, Mohammad Razin Abdullah, said at a press conference in Sandakan today that the woman, who had in her possession several documents including birth certificates and fake identification documents, was arrested following a month-long surveillance.
“She was detained during a joint operation with the police and immigration department held at the Sedco Industrial estate, Mile 2 ½ today. We also arrested two foreigners in the same operation for various offences,” he said.
Razin said they confiscated an account book belonging to the woman and found several large transactions, including ones amounting to RM60,000.
However, the department has yet to determine the full amount with the bank as the investigation is still underway.
Razin revealed the department also conducted a similar operation in Tawau five days ago and arrested one man and 10 women for various offences, including possessing fake IDs, giving false information when presenting the IDs and using IDs that were not theirs.
He said the sole male suspect in Tawau was also being held to assist investigations into a fake ID ring in the country involving nationals from Pakistan.
Razin said the agents charged Indonesians and Filipinos between RM300 and RM6,000 for the forged documents while Pakistanis had to fork out between RM30,000 and RM50,000 for the same documents.
“Usually, the buyers from the Philippines and Indonesia will gather in one location and they will be issued with forged documents so they can travel to the peninsula to work there.
“As for the Pakistanis, they would usually come from the peninsula and would like to stay in Sabah. So, they would usually buy birth certificates of children who had died but whose family, usually poor, did not declare their death,” he said, adding that such cases were found in Semporna, Kunak and Lahad Datu.
These birth certificates, he said, would be sold to the agents by the deceased’s parents or families, usually for around RM2,000 and the agents would then sell them to the Pakistan nationals.
He said in the case of the woman who was arrested this morning, she would hang out in a restaurant downtown waiting for potential clients and would target newcomers from the Philippines.
Asked how these documents could pass the scrutiny of the department, Razin said all the details in the documents had already been certified because these were issued by the department in the past, such as the birth certificates for the deceased children.
“The department views the cases of parents selling birth certificates to syndicates seriously. They can be jailed if found guilty. In fact, we have taken the necessary action against four of them in Tawau,” he said.
He admitted, however, that such syndicates would continue their operations because of the high demand.
“Maybe working on these arrests, we will be able to get to others whose networks are bigger,” he said. -FMT

PAS May Lose Five Reps To Amanah, Claims Source

(The Star) – Even as Selangor PAS prepares for the general election, there is talk that it could lose five state assemblymen to Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah).
A source linked closely to the party said they would defect from PAS as soon as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announces the dissolution of Parliament.
“They are just waiting for that moment to quit PAS and move over to Amanah,” said the source.
He said these assemblymen strongly believed they would lose their seats in the general election if they remain with PAS.
They are from mixed constituencies and won the last two polls because of the support they received from PKR and DAP.
“The assemblymen are serious about defending their seats and they also feel they can only serve their constituents well if they are part of Pakatan Harapan,” said the source.
He said those defecting included some currently holding positions in the Selangor state administration.
However, Selangor PAS commissioner Sallehen Mukhyi (pic) brushed aside the speculation.
“No such thing,” he said.
“Stories such as this are being created because the general election is around the corner.”
On the contrary, he said all was well within Selangor PAS and the general election machinery in the state was already in motion.
Sallehen added that Selangor PAS would be contesting 42 state seats, which has more that 40% Malay voters, and stood a good chance of winning them.
Selangor currently has 56 state seats.
It is not known yet whether voter demographics will change if the controversial redelination exercise is concluded before the general election.
Sallehen said the remaining 14 seats in the state would be offered to Parti Cinta Malaysia and Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia (Ikatan), which are part of Gagasan Sejahtera with PAS.
Selangor PAS currently holds 13 out of the 15 seats it won in the 2013 general election.
It lost two seats when Morib assemblyman Hasnul Baharuddin and Hulu Kelang assemblyman Saari Sungib left the party to become pioneer members of Amanah in 2015.

Do not doubt govt's sincerity in improving tahfiz centre safety - Minister



Operators of tahfiz centres should not doubt the federal government’s sincerity in improving the safety features at their premises as it is to ensure safety of their students, Rural and Regional Development Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said today.
He said until now, about 100 tahfiz centres had been dropped from the list of recipients for the aid and one of the reasons was because of the refusal by the operators concerned to allow their premises to be inspected due to differences in political belief.
“For those that have yet to give permission to carry out the inspection, please do not hesitate to do so or worry because there is no political issue in this matter.
“What is important is we want to ensure safety of the children studying at the centres,” he told reporters after a walkabout at the Maahad Tahfiz Al-Hikmah Lilbanat near Kangar today.
He said the centres which were dropped from the list also included those with an already good wiring system and a few which were no longer in operation.
Ismail Sabri said so far, the wiring system at 442 of the 721 tahfiz centres which were not registered in the country and categorised as in a critical stage, had been improved, with the remaining to be completed by March.
"The focus is on unregistered tahfiz centres because their building structures have no safety features,” he added.
He said work to improve the wiring system at the 612 registered tahfiz centres would be carried out after that and the process would be completed by May.
 Bernama

Kit Siang: Will new MACC advisors urge probe on Dzulkifli? 1MDB?



DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang has called upon the MACC’s four new honorary advisors to prove their worth by demanding a probe into commission chief Dzulkifli Ahmad and national investment fund 1MDB.
It was reported yesterday that the appointees are Mahsa Universiti chancellor Zaki Mohamed Azmi, Indah Water Konsortium Sdn Bhd chairperson Abu Zahar Ujang, Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli) director Ramon Navaratnam and Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation senior vice-chairperson Lee Lam Thye.
Lim proposed subjecting four of them to three tests to prove they would serve “credible and effective” roles in combating graft, and not be used to “camouflage the weaponisation of MACC to harass and persecute opposition leaders”.
“Firstly, whether they are allowed to discuss and decide on whether Dzulkifli should resign from the top MACC post.
“As his credibility and effectiveness had been gravely undermined by a scandal which had caused him to suddenly disappear from the public scene,” he said, referring to how the chief commissioner was previously accused of having an extramarital affair with a married woman.
The police are presently investigating the case. It is considered an offence under Malaysian law to entice a married woman.
Will advisors demand 1MDB probe?
Secondly, the Gelang Patah MP asked if the advisors would prod the MACC to investigate 1MDB.
“Will the four honorary MACC advisers be empowered to advise the MACC to launch a full-scale investigation into the international multi-billion dollar 1MDB money-laundering scandal?
“The MACC has been very busy recently, especially on corruption investigations and allegations against opposition leaders, but the MACC had been singularly and thunderously silent on the 1MDB scandal,” he added.
The MACC’s ongoing investigation into the RM6.3 billion Penang undersea tunnel project has so far seen 41 individuals and 20 agencies questioned. Opposition leaders have criticised the probe as being a “GE14 ploy” against the DAP-led Penang government.
In October, MACC arrested Parti Warisan Sabah president Shafie Apdal in connection with the alleged misappropriation of at least RM1.5 billion in development funds for Sabah.
Lastly, Lim called upon the advisors to call for an international campaign to mend Malaysia’s reputation as a “global kleptocracy”.
“Can the four honorary MACC advisors advise the MACC to launch an international campaign to clear and cleanse Malaysia of the infamy, ignominy and iniquity of being regarded worldwide as a ‘global kleptocracy’ as the result of the international multi-billion dollar 1MDB money-laundering scandal?” he asked.- Mkini

Petrol prices up 2 sen, diesel up 3 sen



Petrol prices will go up by 2 sen from midnight while the price of diesel will go up by 3 sen.
The new price of RON97 is RM2.58 per litre while RON95 will cost RM2.31 per litre.
Diesel, meanwhile, will cost RM2.34 per litre.
Putrajaya had stopped fuel subsidies since March last year due to budget constraints and implemented a managed float system that is updated weekly.
Fuel prices are determined by global oil prices based on the Mean of Platts Singapore and the ringgit's strength against the US dollar.- Mkini

Samy Vellu: Mahathir a good leader, a good man but.. (VIDEO)




Samy Vellu: Mahathir a good leader, a good man but..

SUPER-LUXURY CARS OF TOP PAS LEADERS EXPOSED: ‘IT’S NOT A BRIBE. SOMEONE BOUGHT IT, I ACCEPTED – THAT’S NOT CORRUPTION BUT A GIFT’ – IS HADI SERIOUS?

WAHAI KAUM BODOH, KAMU KENA BEZA ANTARA RASUAH, HADIAH DAN BERKAT







– http://syedsoutsidethebox.blogspot.my/

IF THE STEWARDESS DOESN’T WEAR THE ‘TUDUNG’, WE WILL ARREST HER: ACHEH ORDERS AIRASIA, FIREFLY FEMALE CREW TO VEIL UP

BANDA ACEH – An Indonesian province said yesterday it is ordering Muslim female flight attendants landing in the region to don a hijab upon arrival — or face punishment by religious police.
Muslim women in Aceh, on the island of Sumatra, are required to wear the Islamic headscarf under religious law, while non-Muslim females can opt to wear modest clothing instead.
But some Muslim flight attendants who do not regularly wear the hijab were skipping the local practice during short layovers, forcing Aceh to issue the new regulations, said Mawardy Ali, head of Aceh Besar district which includes provincial capital Banda Aceh.
“I hope the airlines respect the uniqueness of Aceh where Sharia (Islamic law) is implemented,” he told AFP, adding that he would aim to meet with some half dozen affected airlines this week.
“We are disseminating this regulation to the airlines through the end of this week. Later, we’ll talk about punishment if we find there have been violations,” Ali added.
“If a (Muslim) crew member fails to comply, we will reprimand her. If she does it repeatedly, I will order Sharia police to nab her.”
He did not say what sort of punishment would apply to those who refused to comply, though hijab violations usually result in a stern reprimand.
Ali said any sanction would not include public flogging — a common punishment in Aceh for a host of crimes including selling alcohol and having gay sex.
It was unclear how many flight attendants could be affected.
Many women in Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation, do not wear the hair-covering scarf and Islamic law only applies in Aceh — the region won special autonomy in 2001 as part of a deal to end a long-running separatist insurgency.
Concern has been growing among rights activists about rising religious conservatism in Aceh, where police at the weekend forcibly cut the hair of a group of transgender women and made them wear male clothing to make them more “manly”.
Indonesia’s national carrier Garuda and its low-cost arm Citilink service Banda Aceh, which hosts the province’s main airport.
Garuda said it would comply with the new regulations and may add a special uniform worn by its female staff on Middle-East bound flights — which includes the hijab — to Aceh flights.
“Garuda respects the local culture in Aceh,” said company spokesman Ikhsan Rosan.
Citilink spokesman Benny Butarbutar, meanwhile, said the carrier has already been using an Islamic-compliant uniform for its attendants servicing Banda Aceh since 2015.
Other airlines affected include Indonesian budget carrier Lion Air and its full-service subsidiary Batik Air, which operate regular flights between Aceh and other parts of the Southeast Asian archipelago.
AirAsia and Firefly, both Malaysia-based, are the main foreign carriers that operate flights to Banda Aceh.
— AFP

YOU TOOK THE LARGESSE, NOW FACE THE MUSIC YOURSELF NAJIB! RM8.6BIL BAILOUT – WHY USE PENSION MONEY, WHY CAN’T NAJIB PUT THE ENTIRE PROJECT UP FOR AUCTION

THE article by Supriya Surendran (Corporate, The Edge, January 29) on “Sizing up EPF and PNB’s purchase of Battersea assets” is hereby referred. His piece essentially draws from the analysis of Kenanga Investment Bank’s head of equities research, Sara Lim Fern Chieh, and of other analysts.
Curiously, Supriya ended his report by asking a binary question of sorts. Was the £1.6 billion (RM8.8 billion) by Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB) and Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) a bailout, or simply to ensure that the project progressed and generated returns on their investment?
Simply put, a bailout is an act of giving financial assistance to a failing business to save it from collapse. Going by that definition, Supriya’s question is at best erroneous, if not superfluous. A truly binary question would be to ask whether a bailout was in order or if the entire project should be put up for auction, so as to cut losses and save the good money of our pension funds from having to keep paying for a bad investment!
Arguably, Supriya said that the “property transaction was dubbed the most expensive to date in the United Kingdom”. Lest anyone be in doubt, the original Sime Derby/SP Setia consortium’s purchase price was £400 million in 2012, after it had sat for decades as a crumbling white elephant project on the South Bank, despite arguably being an iconic London landmark of sorts.
The fact that it was bought from the Central Electricity Generating board in 1987 for £1.5 million meant that our pension funds now paid a thousand times more.  Britain’s then Prime Minister David Cameron and particularly former Trade Minister Lord Marland must be commended for their success in charming Najib Razak back in 2012 to enter this transaction.
Again, would it be more pertinent for Supriya to allude that the “bailout” was ostensibly a face-saving move for Najib on the brink of the upcoming election?
Be that as it may, whatever and however Lim had rationalised the reasons for the cost overrun, it should have been anticipated well before the investment was concluded.
Granted that the project involved multi-phase redevelopment and a plethora of other specialised requirements for an iconic heritage building, it surely was no small feat, and in Lim’s words, had become “an exorbitant affair”.
That the UK doesn’t practise progressive billings must equally be noted much earlier and a cash call from shareholders is to be presumed. Hence, justifying the better able pension fund continuing to commit more of their money, since both hold a substantial stake in SP Setia and SD Property anyway, may be the best exit for both SP Setia and SD Property, but may not be in the best interest of pensioners.
The fact that the projected profit return, or the pr
.oject’s margin, has dropped from 20% to 8% speaks volumes. There may not be many upsides to this investment anymore, because of the cost overrun, while the property market has arguably reached its top already.
The case of Apple’s 16-year tenancy of a yield of 4% to 5% is illustrative. Lim has honestly admitted that anything below that will not be fair to the pension funds’ shareholders and contributors.
While analysts are politely tight-lipped on this bailout, we contend that it is evidently not in the best interests of the nation and the pensioners-contributors that their savings are again given another raw deal, if not outright ripped. To save face for the much embattled finance minister, who is facing his most crucial “do-or-die” general election, the people’s funds are again put to national service, on the heel of the 1MDB’s bailout et al.
It is really time for a game-changer or a regime change. We cannot afford to have the ruling clique rule with impunity any longer, both politically and financially.
WRITER: DZULKEFLY AHMAD
– https://www.themalaysianinsight.com

MAHATHIR 2.0 & THE NEW MALAY DILEMMA: REPACKAGED WITH NEW WRAPPING PAPER, DR M STILL THE MAESTRO OF ‘MALAY CARD’ POLITICS – AND THAT’S WHY NAJIB WILL LOSE

The end of Mahathir Mohamad’s reign as prime minister in 2003 was quite simply a watershed moment for Malaysia. As the fourth prime minister’s 22 years in office came to a close, the country was also poised to move into a post-Mahathir era.
Fast-forward 15 years since his departure from office and Malaysians find themselves having to decide on whether they’re willing not only to embrace a change in government at the federal level for the first time in the country’s history, but also, in the process of doing so, welcome a now 93-year-old Mahathir back into office.
It would be a gross understatement indeed to say that Malaysian affairs have featured some gripping, and at times entertaining, political theater since Mahathir left office. It is equally noteworthy that the elevation of his immediate successor, Abdullah Badawi, followed by the latter’s unceremonious departure and subsequent replacement by Najib Razak, was not without Mahathir’s influence in one manner or another.
Mahathir’s persistent criticism of Najib over the past couple of years after revelations of serious misappropriation of funds and corruption connected to the now infamous 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad) scandal has ultimately not only brought Mahathir back into the political fray as a contender for office again, but in a strange irony, landed him at the pinnacle of a coalition with the very political opposition he battled against during his time leading the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and the government.
But so intense and grave had become the schism between him (as well as a small faction of his loyalists from within UMNO) and Najib centering on the latter’s misdeeds, that the country finds itself poised for an election campaign that now pits Najib against his former mentor.
For his part, Mahathir has had to join forces with a coalition consisting of his close allies’ newly formed Bersatu party, the long-standing stalwart opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), the last being the party of the still-jailed Anwar Ibrahim. Of course these latter two parties (and a fair number of its core leadership) were systematically (and some may say mercilessly) suppressed by Mahathir during his time in office.
The changing winds of Malaysian politics and the irony of history have now compelled Mahathir – the consummate political insider and champion of establishment Malay identity politics – to link up with both his historical and more recent political foes to challenge UMNO’s dominance.
Apart from needing to persist and endure the onslaught of UMNO and the state political machinery at its disposal, Mahathir and his newfound Pakatan Harapan opposition coalition are fully aware that their fortunes in the upcoming general elections depend very much on how the Malay electorate breaks. More critically, it will be especially the way the rural Malay electorate goes that will seal the fate of the current government and Mahathir’s opposition coalition.
To be sure, while a second opposition force made up of the Islamist PAS (Malaysian Islamic Party) may well complicate the political calculations in some local races, as there will likely be three-way contests in many constituencies, the present Malay political dilemma fundamentally renders the larger ethnic Malay body politic as rather deeply fractured yet profoundly consequential to determining the make-up of the next government.
The last general elections of 2013 not only bruised UMNO and its governing coalition Barisan Nasional by denying it the popular vote, it also signaled a dramatic shift in the non-Malay electorate. Indeed, it was in large part due to the urban non-Malay ethnic electorate crossing over to the opposition in significant numbers that helped the DAP and the Pakatan Rakyat opposition parties to secure the popular vote.
But given the nature of gerrymandering, where the majority of parliamentary seats remain in rural (and demographically sparse) Malay constituencies, UMNO and Barisan Nasional still managed to capture sufficient seats despite losing the popular vote.
To be sure, Mahathir and the Pakatan Harapan coalition cannot take the broad-based (and largely non-rural) Malay and non-Malay support for granted. However, given the prevailing public discontent, continued intransigence, and the low popularity rating of Najib and his government, Mahathir, the DAP and PKR seem well situated to retain a significant share of backing from the urban-based electorate.
Hence the big unknown this time around remains whether the return of Mahathir (and despite some of the lingering negativity associated with his legacy) will in fact be sufficient not only to not undermine the urban support that the opposition garnered in 2013, but somehow enable them to make a breakthrough with rural Malay voters.
For their partthe willingness of the PKR and DAP to feature Mahathir at the top of the ticket as their prime-ministerial candidate quite simply reflects the game plan of challenging UMNO’s supremacy in the Malay rural heartland. Of course, for PKR and DAP to accept Mahathir into their bid to break UMNO’s grip on power also required some serious soul-searching considering the long-standing adversarial relationship they have had with him.
But if politics tend periodically to make for strange bedfellows, it must also be noted that whatever Mahathir’s motivations may be, the PKR and DAP recognize all too well that political change also requires pragmatism.
Capitalizing on Mahathir’s appeal in the Malay heartland is based on at least two premises: first, that there is sufficient discontent with Najib’s leadership across parts of the traditional rural UMNO base, for example in states like Johor, Kedah and Perak, and second, that a known and trusted champion of Malay rights (like Mahathir) could be a reassuring enough option to pull enough rural Malay voters to cross over and tip the balance in the opposition’s favor.
In a highly racialized political and social system, the fact that the majority of rural Malay voters nationally have never before gambled with supporting any other coalition than the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional is significant. UMNO’s ability to have kept this segment of the electorate secure in its grasp has been imperative – and will remain so – to its political fortunes.
Mahathir’s initial rise to political prominence in the latter part of the 1970s was very directly linked to his articulation of an ideology of Malay chauvinism bundled into a rationalization for special Malay rights both as a security blanket against marginalization vis-a-vis non-Malays and justification for affirming Malay indigeneity. It is precisely this ideology that has become all-pervasive in ensuring UMNO’s grip on much of the rural Malay electorate.
It now appears that the very architect of that ideology of Malay chauvinism will need to convince his brethren why they need to abandon the party that embraced and mastered his politics. Indeed, Mahathir will need to assure them that it is UMNO under Najib that has failed them, and that he has returned only because UMNO has strayed from securing and advancing their welfare.
Mahathir’s political dance will certainly be one not before performed: that he remains steadfastly committed to the future of Malays and Malaysia, and that this impending future must now be once again rescued and secured – much as he did decades ago – under the stewardship of a more dependable and responsible leadership.
ASIA TIMES