Shah Alam. 16/7/2014
Speech by Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim at the Economic Agenda Forum & Iftar on July 16, 2014 at the Mentri Besar Selangor’s Official Residence
Versi Bahasa Melayu
Keynote address by Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysian Opposition Leader and Selangor State Economic Advisor at the Royal Selangor Club, Kuala Lumpur on July 9th 2014
Versi Bahasa Malaysia
SPECIAL ADDRESS TO MALAYSIANS
26 JANUARY 2014
Let’s work towards a national consensus
1. It has been just over four months since we last celebrated Merdeka Day and Malaysia Day. Just celebrating them as a festivity doesn’t mean much if we miss the bigger picture.
2. I cannot overemphasise the importance of this bigger picture.
3. That is why I am taking this opportunity to address not just all of you present here this afternoon but to all Malaysians at home and abroad today.
4. By all Malaysians I mean exactly that – regardless of race, religion, cultural group or mother tongue; regardless of whether you are from the Peninsula or from Sabah and Sarawak; and regardless of your political affiliation.
5. It does not matter whether you are with Pakatan Rakyat or with Barisan Nasional, or that you are with neither party, nor that you are independent or even totally apolitical, I want to reach out to all with this message.
6. It is a message conceived in love for the nation and not in hate against anyone. It is a message raised on the altar of hope, not on the ruins of despair. And it is a message for all of us including myself to take home and share with our family, our neighbours and our friends so that we may move forward.
7. At the outset, I mentioned celebrating Merdeka Day and Malaysia Day and what it entails for it to be truly meaningful. First and foremost, it is a celebration of the fundamental liberties enshrined in our Federal Constitution, a document of statehood agreed to by our founding fathers attendant upon our gaining independence.
8. This constitution is not just a piece of paper. It is a sovereign document brought into existence as a result of the social compact of our leaders representing the diverse communities in this blessed country of ours.
9. It guarantees our right to life and liberty, to freedom of speech, assembly and association. It prescribes equality of all citizens before the law and guarantees freedom of religion.
10. These provisions form the sub-stratum of our Malaysian identity, an identity made up of a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural society. These principles must be respected by all communities, whether they comprise the majority or they constitute minorities. They must be honoured by the politicians in word and deed whether they are in power or whether they are in the opposition. Similarly, all civil society groups, NGOs, and all the organs of state must abide by these constitutional safeguards.
11. The Malaysian identity as a nation of peoples can only be as good as the cohesiveness of this very plural society of ours. Take this unity and sense of togetherness away and we will take away our identity as Malaysians.
12. So, indeed, after 56 years of independence one would expect that this cohesiveness is not only in existence but should be growing stronger by the day. Unfortunately though, there has been particularly in the last few months, a series of circumstances and developments that collectively are fast eroding the cohesiveness that is so crucial to our identity.
13. In fact, these developments appear to be reaching a crescendo that threatens to tear the very fabric of our unity apart. Of course, we have not reached the tipping point yet but as they say, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.
14. And we cannot be vigilant enough here. That is because what we are seeing today are all kinds of attempts by certain quarters to take this nation to the brink.
15. In fact, we have not seen this building up of tension since the events leading up to our national tragedy of May 13th 1969. The voices of hate and animosity, the voices of prejudice and suspicion, and the voices of wreck and ruin are attempting to drown out the harmony, cooperation and understanding that we have managed to build on the ruins of this tragedy.
16. I call on you, my fellow Malaysians to rise up and let your voices be heard. Let your voice of mutual respect and goodwill, your voice of understanding and trust, and your voice of unity and integration prevail over these voices of hatred, rancour, hostility and destruction.
17. We must turn the corner from the path of increasing polarization to the path of greater integration. We must stop the race-baiting, put an end to this disease of incitement to religious intolerance and hatred and join our hands in unity and togetherness.
18. Leaders from both sides of the political divide must put aside all partisan concerns and show real leadership in easing the tension and work towards ameliorating the situation.
19. Indeed, the time has come for all of us to reach a national consensus on these crucial issues that impact the sub-stratum of our identity as a nation.
20. In line with the spirit of the constitution, all parties must cease questioning the paramount position of Islam as the religion of the Federation.
21. In reaffirming the position of Islam and recognizing that Muslims make up the majority of the population, we must reject the notion that Islam is under threat. We must reject the notion that there is some sinister conspiracy to replace Islam as the religion of the Federation with some other religion.
22. We must at the same time give due recognition to the same constitutional safeguards on all the other religions in the land. We are a nation of communities comprising a plurality of faiths. In this regard, Buddhists, Taoists, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and practitioners of ethnic religions must be accorded their constitutional freedom to practise their religion in the manner of their choosing.
23. In working towards this consensus, let us remain focussed on the other things that really matter to us as a nation going forward.
24. Let us work together to tackle the issues of governance, transparency and accountability. Whether it is at the Federal or state levels, let us resolve to stamp out the cancer of corruption which still plagues us.
25. The problem of rising prices recognises no partisan boundaries. So, let us channel our energies to enhancing the welfare of the rakyat and formulating practical solutions to lighten their burden.
26. Instead of fighting figments of our imagination, let us help our police fight crime and make our homes, our schools, our shopping complexes safer.
27. It is morally incumbent on us, particularly those of us who have been elected by the people to represent them, to go beyond partisan lines and come to a national consensus on how to move the nation forward.
28. Duty towards the nation, even greater than duty to party, impels us to take up the challenge. We must strengthen our resolve and summon all our moral courage to see this through.
The results for the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) that were presented in early December showed that of the 10 countries that topped the performance, not one of them is a Muslim country. As a matter of fact, of the final results tabled, not one Muslim country was placed in the top 40.
Half a million pupils in 65 countries and local administrations were tested in the three core areas of mathematics, science and reading. Shanghai scored the best result with 613, followed by Singapore and Japan.
With the exception of Turkey which took the 43rd spot scoring the highest among the Muslim countries followed by UAE, of the rest of the Muslim countries that took part such as Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Qatar, Jordan, Tunisia and Indonesia, suffice to say that they were placed within the bottom 50 and 60 jostling with Columbia, Peru and Albania for the award of worst performer!
Before anyone jumps the gun by blaming this OECD study as essentially biased and Eurocentric, let us be reminded the top three performers are Asian. It is indeed noteworthy that the results for 2012, 2010, and the 2009 Assessment showed that Shanghai students scored the highest in all categories.
According to the OECD, this study considers Shanghai a pioneer of educational reform, having transformed their approach to education. Instead of focusing merely on the elite, it appears they have adopted a more inclusive system. In other words, the democratization of access to quality education is a key factor.
Below is the table for the 2012 results:
|Programme for International Student Assessment (2012)|
|1||Shanghai, China||613||1||Shanghai, China||580||1||Shanghai, China||570|
|2||Singapore||573||2||Hong Kong, China||555||2||Hong Kong, China||545|
|3||Hong Kong, China||561||3||Singapore||551||3||Singapore||542|
|5||South Korea||554||5||Finland||545||5||South Korea||536|
|16||Germany||514||16||Macau, China||521||16||Macau, China||509|
|23||New Zealand||500||23||Austria||506||23||United Kingdom||499|
|24||Czech Republic||499||24||Belgium||505||24||United States||498|
|26||United Kingdom||494||26||France||499||26||Czech Republic||493|
If we take ourselves off the intellectual pedestal, let us ask what lessons we can take home from this study, apart from other indicators in different studies.
Firstly, there is no basis for the conventional argument that because Muslim students have to attend extra classes for religious studies over and above the routine academic lessons in the schools, they have less time to study and prepare for exams and hence perform not as well as non-Muslim students. In Malaysia, for example, Chinese students who also attend extra classes for Chinese-based subjects over and above the national-type syllabus do just as well in both.
Pedagogy and quality of teaching
Finland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland were among the best of the European nations. Studies have shown that students from Finland produced very good results in various subjects when compared to students from the United States and other countries. This was attributed mainly to the fact that in Finland, the very best graduates were recruited to become teachers.
Also important is the question of content and curriculum, including pedagogy. The quality of teachers is a matter of concern. The teaching profession needs to be given greater priority by the state. A proper incentive scheme must be introduced and to restore the profession to its earlier recognition. As it stands, apart from infrastructure constraints, Muslim countries suffer from a shortage of good teachers. But the issues should be more than that just a question of material resources.
Spending on education
The conventional belief that greater spending on education would yield better performance was also shown to be not always true. Thus, the analysis of the 2003 results showed that Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Japan and South Korea, which had spent less on education than the United States actually did better. While this should not be taken as an excuse to spend less on education, allocation of such funds for Muslim countries must be beefed up with the rider that the resources are to be spent effectively.
The issue of governance remains a serious problem in Muslim countries. For example, cases of misappropriation of funds allocated for poorer students continue to be a source of embarrassment. Poor governance also breeds corruption which then leads to wastages and leakages. Where financial resources get mis-channelled or misused, schools suffer and students become victims.
Bad governance in the running of schools also impacts on the quality of teaching when for example school authorities haphazardly transfer teachers to other areas without considering the effect on both the teaching and the teachers themselves.
Yet another lesson is probably the obvious one considering that the top three performances are connected one way or the other to the Confucian model of learning. Surely, Muslim countries should be able to draw some lessons from this phenomenon. Muslim intellectuals worth their salt must get off their high horse and study the Confucian model, adapt it according to Muslim requirements, if need be, and start preaching a culture of diligence in the pursuit of knowledge. The defensive response about reminding people of Islam’s glorious history of learning and advancements in science serves no purpose if all it does is encourage us to rest on past laurels.
While it is known that Muslim countries are facing a crisis in higher education, this study is significant in showing that even in the formative mid-secondary school stage, we are seeing a crisis of alarming proportions. The fact of the matter is that Muslim countries are occupying the bottom rungs in higher education and advancement in science and technology. The PISA results are therefore a precursor to worse things to come.
Failure to take immediate remedial action may lead to a deeper crisis. In this regard, we call on the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to take the lead in addressing this problem.
27th December, 2013
Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) (AFP) – A notorious Malaysian wildlife trafficker dubbed the “Lizard King” for his smuggling of endangered reptiles is back in business, according to an Al Jazeera report that prompted outraged wildlife activists on Friday to demand action.
Anson Wong was arrested in August 2010 at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport while attempting to smuggle 95 endangered boa constrictors to Indonesia.
He was sentenced to five years in jail, but a Malaysian appeals court freed him in 2012, sparking an outcry.
Malaysian authorities had said in the wake of Wong’s arrest that his licences for legitimate wildlife trading were revoked.
But, in an investigative report, Al Jazeera said Wong and his wife Cheah Bing Shee were believed to be trading albino pythons and other wildlife from their base in the northern Malaysian state of Penang.
Trade in the pythons requires a permit, said the report by the Qatar-based network, which saw journalist Steve Chao go undercover to talk with wildlife dealers and associates of Wong’s.
The report, called “Return of the Lizard King” and aired late Thursday, said documents also revealed shell companies used by Wong to hide his activities.
Illegal trade in wildlife is thought to be worth at least $19 billion a year worldwide, according to conservation groups.
Outraged conservationists demanded action from the government and expressed shock over the lax attitude by the authorities for failing to monitor Wong.
“The ‘Return of the Lizard King’ raises so many doubts and questions about Malaysia’s commitment to that fight. It is time we had some solid answers from government,” Shenaaz Khan, an official with wildlife-trade monitoring network Traffic, said in a statement.
Traffic views the revelations about Wong’s post-prison activities with deep concern, and seeks a credible explanation on his apparent ability to continue trading wildlife despite government promises to the contrary, she said.
In Penang, Al Jazeera’s Chao confronted Wong on camera, but he declined to comment.
Several of Wong’s former associates also claimed that corrupt customs officials in Malaysia, Indonesia and Madagascar were helping to facilitate Wong’s activities, the report said.
In a press release, Al Jazeera said Chao and his team worked with anti-trafficking groups to track Wong’s Malaysian-based operation.
Kadir Hashim, enforcement director of Malaysia’s wildlife department, confirmed Wong’s permits remained revoked.
“The department is investigating both” Wong and Cheah, he said in an e-mail response to an AFP inquiry, without elaborating further.
Wong is described by wildlife groups as one of the world’s most active smugglers of wild animals.
He was sentenced to 71 months in jail in the United States in 2001 after pleading guilty to trafficking in endangered reptiles.
Despite efforts by Southeast Asian authorities to crack down on animal smuggling, the practice persists and poses a threat to a number of threatened species, conservationists say.
Sekali lagi menjelang 31 Ogos, kita akan meraikan Hari Merdeka, hari yang cukup gemilang dan bermakna untuk seluruh rakyat Malaysia. Kini adalah masanya untuk kita menghimbau kembali pencapaian dan kegagalan kita dan memandang ke depan untuk hari-hari dan bulan-bulan yang mendatang. Kini adalah masanya untuk bermuhasabah dan bertanya apakah sebenarnya erti Merdeka dan apa yang boleh kita pelajari dari masa silam dan harapan di masa depan.
‘Merdeka’ memiliki makna yang lebih dalam berbanding perkataan ‘Kebebasan’. Ia bukan sekadar persoalan dibebaskan dari cengkaman penjajahan atau penindasan asing jika ianya kemudian digantikan dengan penindas di tanah air sendiri yang barangkali lebih rakus dan tamak. Merdeka bermaksud bebas dari sebarang bentuk kezaliman dan penindasan dalam apa jua bentuk dan negara dipacu ke arah baru menuju keadilan, kebebasan, demokrasi dan kemuliaan insan.
Di atas cabaran ini, ramai yang bersetuju bahawa kita masih jauh untuk mencapainya. Setelah lebih dari setengah abad, kita masih lagi bertanya samada prinsip-prinsip asas di dalam Perlembagaan Persekutuan masih dijunjung dan samada kebebasan dan hak-hak yang termaktub di dalamnya masih utuh dan dihormati. Justeru, apa kebaikan Merdeka seandainya asas perlembagaan dicabuli dengan sewenang-wenangnya?
Tatkala kita seharusnya meraikan perpaduan sebagai sebuah negara pelbagai kaum dan pelbagai agama yang telah menjangkau 56 tahun usia kemerdekaan, kita sebaliknya kini melihat polarisasi masyarakat yang dahsyat dan perpecahan dalam hal-hal berkaitan agama. Tanggungjawab dan peranan pemimpin politik sewajarnya menjernihkan keadaan ini namun apa yang berlaku adalah sebaliknya. Terdapat segelintir daripada mereka yang mengeruhkan lagi keadaan dengan mengeksploitasi hal-hal agama dan isu-isu sensitif untuk kepentingan mereka sendiri. Kini wujud perkembangan yang membimbangkan bila mana terdapat parti-parti politik yang mengupah kumpulan-kumpulan ‘hak istimewa’ dan media untuk meneruskan agenda mereka memecahbelah dan menyemai perbezaan di kalangan rakyat.
Kesannya, setelah 56 tahun mencapai Merdeka, berlaku lebih banyak provokasi perkauman, hasutan yang menjurus kepada kebencian terhadap agama dan secara umumnya semakin banyak ucapan dan penulisan berbaur hasutan yang disiarkan oleh media cetak. Apa yang malang adalah ia bukan sekadar kelemahan kepimpinan dalam menjernihkan keadaan, tetapi tampak seolah-olah kerajaan sedang menggalakkan fenomena ini supaya menjadi lebih parah.
Sebagai contoh, ketika pelbagai tuntutan dan bantahan dinyatakan dari kalangan rakyat prihatin dan pertubuhan-pertubuhan bukan kerajaan, kerajaan sebaliknya membenarkan juga penayangan di seluruh negara sebuah filem yang hanya akan menyajikan mesej berbaur perkauman walaupun nilai keseniannya masih boleh dipersoalkan. Di sebalik kebanggaan tentang negara, terdapat sensitiviti yang lebih besar yakni perkauman dan perasaan khalayak. Suara-suara melampau berbaur kebencian dan yang bersifat tidak toleran sedang menenggelamkan suara-suara kesederhanaan dan keterbukaan.
Peningkatan mendadak kes tembakan dan jenayah berat, rompakan dan jenayah ragut adalah hal yang membimbangkan. Manakala kita mendukung usaha pihak polis dalam memerangi dan mencegah jenayah, adalah penting juga untuk mereka melakukannya dengan menuruti proses yang sewajarnya. Semua pihak perlu bekerjasama mencari jalan penyelesaian namun demikian penggunaan undang-undang yang lebih berat bukanlah jawapannya. Perkara tersebut perlu diteliti dengan lebih menyeluruh.
Menyentuh isu tatakelola, ketelusan dan kebertanggungjawaban, rasuah kekal menjadi barah yang merisaukan kita. Merujuk kepada perkara ini, Suruhanjaya Pencegahan Rasuah Malaysia (SPRM) mesti melaksanakan tugas mereka tanpa rasa takut dan memihak namun kita mendesak Peguam Negara supaya tidak menghalang pendakwaan yang melibatkan amalan rasuah di kalangan pimpinan atasan.
Negara kita tidak kebal daripada ribut ekononi yang melanda di sekeliling kita. Kita lebih perlu berhati-hati daripada berada di dalam keadaan tidak bersiap sedia. Kita boleh menerapkan tata kelola, hemah dan kebertanggungjawaban dalam pengurusan kewangan awam dan ekonomi kita. Kerajaan bersalah terhadap kecurangan ekonomi – menyatakan fakta yang separa benar dan memberikan statistik tidak sempurna untuk mengaburi perbelanjaan melampau yang tidak mampu lagi ditanggung oleh negara.
Penilaian Agensi Penarafan Kewangan Antarabangsa (FITCH) yang mendedahkan kemerosotan prospek ekonomi negara sewajarnya mempercepatkan kerajaan untuk bertindak lebih terbuka dalam mendepani cabaran sebenar ekonomi. Sebaliknya, kerajaan memperlekeh penilaian tersebut dan menyifatkannya sebagai kerja “penganalisa muda yang tidak mendengar pandangan kerajaan”. FITCH bukanlah satu-satunya firma penganalisa yang menyatakan kebimbangan terhadap prospek pertumbuhan ekonomi dan kesannya kepada kejutan luaran.
Terdahulu, Institut Penyelidikan Ekonomi Malaysia (MIER) telah menolak unjuran pertumbuhan 2013 daripada 5.6% sebelumnya kepada 4.8%. Bank Negara pula baru-baru ini telah mengurangkan ramalan pertumbuhan 2013 daripada 5-6% sebelumnya kepada 4.5-5%. Ini selari dengan ramalan terkini Bank Dunia untuk tahun 2013 iaitu daripada 5.6% sebelumnya kepada 5.1%. Selain daripada ancaman berganda defisit fiskal yang tinggi secara berterusan dan peningkatan hutang kerajaan secara langsung dan tidak langsung, lebihan akaun semasa kita berada pada tahap paling rendah sejak 1997. Oleh kerana kita terlalu bergantung pada nilai dan komoditi eksport yang rendah di pasaran global, kejatuhan berterusan dalam ekonomi global mewujudkan ketidaktentuan terhadap pertumbuhan kita.
Pengurangan defisit fiskal memerlukan komitmen sepenuhnya dalam membasmi rasuah daripada perolehan dan projek-projek kerajaan. Penjimatan 10% dalam perolehan dan projek-projek dengan mudah dapat diterjemahkan kepada perolehan RM20 bilion setahun (berdasarkan perolehan dan perbelanjaan tahunan projek RM200 bilion di bawah kawalan kerajaan Persekutuan).
Pengurangan hutang kerajaan dan pemotongan defisit fiskal hanya boleh dimulakan menerusi perolehan hasil kerajaan yang lebih tinggi yang diraih melalui pertumbuhan yang lebih tinggi. Malangnya pertumbuhan Malaysia akan terencat di skala 4-5% untuk seketika melainkan reformasi struktur secara menyeluruh terhadap ekonomi dilaksanakan sebaiknya dengan segera.
Di ambang ulangtahun kemerdekaan yang ke-56 ini, reformasi ekonomi bukan lagi berkisar kepada pertandingan dasar dan retorik politik. Ianya berkait dengan kepentingan negara yang seharusnya menembusi politik kepartian dan ideologi kerana kita tidak mampu untuk mundur ke belakang sedangkan negara-negara jiran kita maju ke depan.
Persoalan kepimpinan adalah amat penting dalam memacu negara ke hadapan dengan memperkukuhkan asas ekonomi dan menjadikan kita lebih berdaya saing. Malah lebih penting lagi, pemimpin-pemimpin kita mesti dilihat serius menjaga kesejahteraan negara dan memacu hala tuju yang betul. Untuk memastikan perkembangan tidak sihat tidak berlaku di bawah kepimpinannya, seseorang pemimpin itu mesti menunjukkan ketegasan dan iltizam moral yang tinggi.
Meski pun kami membantah sekeras-kerasnya tentang kesahihan keputusan pilihanraya yang lepas, kami bersedia untuk mengetepikan perbezaan kami demi negara kesejahteraan dan masa depan. Dalam hal ini, kami percaya bahawa adalah penting bagi Perdana Menteri untuk segera mengadakan rundingan meja bulat antara kerajaan BN dan Pakatan Rakyat bagi membincangkan isu-isu yang dibangkitkan dan merumuskan satu penyelesaian yang menyeluruh.
Meraikan Merdeka semestinya dengan mengiktiraf kebaikan yang telah dilakukan dan tidak mengulangi kesilapan masa lalu. Iltizam untuk melakukan apa yang baik untuk negara perlu menjadi agenda utama kita semua.
Semangat Merdeka bukan sahaja toleransi atau kompromi. Ianya adalah mengenai pemahaman yang lebih besar, menerima perbezaan kita dan meningkatkan persamaan kita serta menggerakkan negara ke hadapan untuk menghadapi cabaran yang mendatang.
Once again as 31st August beckons, we will celebrate Merdeka Day, an auspicious and memorable occasion for all Malaysians. It is time to take stock of our achievements and shortcomings and look forward to the days and months ahead. It is a time for soul-searching where we look into ourselves and ask what Merdeka really means and what we can learn from the past and hope the future holds.
‘Merdeka’ means much more than what the word ‘Independence’ may convey. It is not just a matter of being liberated from the yoke of colonial rule or foreign oppression if it is only to be replaced by the rule of home grown oppressors who may be even more ruthless and self-serving. Merdeka is about being freed from tyranny and oppression in all its guises and setting the nation on a new path to justice, freedom, democracy and human dignity.
Set against this test, many would agree we are still far from there. After more than half a century, we are still left asking whether the fundamental principles in our Federal Constitution are still in place and whether the liberties and rights enshrined therein remain intact and are still honoured. Indeed, what good is Merdeka if these fundamental constitutional safeguards are violated with impunity?
At a time when we should be celebrating our cohesiveness as a multiracial multi-religious nation that has attained 56 years of independence, we are instead witnessing greater polarisation of the communities and increasing divisiveness on religious matters. Rather than alleviating the situation, certain politicians are making it worse by exploiting religious and sensitive issues for their own interests. There is a disconcerting trend of political parties hiring supposed ‘special interest’ groups and the media to further their agenda of causing division and dissention among the people.
Consequently, after 56 years of Merdeka, there is more race baiting, incitement to religious intolerance and hatred and generally an increase in seditious speeches and articles published by the print media. The tragedy in this is that not only is there a lack of leadership in ameliorating the situation but it appears that the government is encouraging this phenomenon to worsen.
For example, in spite of appeals and protests from concerned citizens and NGOs, the government has sanctioned the nation-wide screening of a movie that will only serve to incite communal animosity even as its artistic value remains questionable. Instead of greater sense of nation-consciousness, there is greater sense of race and communal consciousness. The voices of extremism, of hate and of intolerance are drowning the voices of moderation and inclusiveness.
The sharp increase in shooting cases and other violent crimes, robberies and snatch thefts is a matter of grave concern. While we must support the police in the efforts to curb and prevent crime, it is also incumbent on them to follow due process. All parties must collectively work out a solution to the problem but merely getting more punitive laws is not the answer. The matter must be looked at comprehensively.
On the issues of governance, transparency and accountability corruption remains a matter which still plagues us. In this regard, the MACC must perform its tasks without fear or favour but we would urge the Attorney General not to obstruct the prosecution of those involved in corruption in high office.
We are not insulated from the economic storms brewing around us. We should rather err on the side of caution than to be caught off guard. We can institute good governance, prudence and accountability in the management of our public finances and economy. The government is guilty of economic dishonesty – telling half-truths and giving incomplete statistics to camouflage the excessive spending that the country can no longer afford.
Fitch’s downgrading of the country’s economic prospect should have prompted the government to come clean on the real economic challenges. Instead it has dismissed it as the work of “young analysts who don’t listen to government’s opinion”. Fitch is not the only reputable firm of analysts which had expressed concerns over the growth prospect of our economy and its vulnerability to external shocks.
Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) had earlier cut 2013’s growth projection to 4.8% from 5.6% previously. Bank Negara recently cut its 2013 growth forecast to 4.5-5% from 5-6% previously. This is in line with World Bank’s latest forecast for 2013 at 5.1% from 5.6% previously. Apart from the double menace of persistently high fiscal deficit and mounting direct and indirect government debts, our current account surplus is at the lowest level since 1997. Because we rely heavily on low value and commodity exports to the global markets, a continuing drag in the global economy casts uncertainties over our growth.
Cutting fiscal deficit requires a total commitment to eradicate corruption from government procurements and projects. A 10% saving in procurement and projects easily translates to RM20 billion a year (based on a procurement and project annual expenditure of RM200 billion within the control of the federal government).
The reduction of government debt and cutting of fiscal deficit can only begin earnestly with higher government revenue that comes with higher growth. Unfortunately Malaysia’s growth will be stuck around the 4-5% region for a while unless all structural reforms to the economy are rolled out honestly and immediately.
On the eve of our 56th Merdeka, economic reforms are no longer a matter of policy contestation or political rhetoric. It is a national imperative that should transcend partisan and ideological boundaries because we cannot afford to slide back while our neighbours progress unabatedly.
The question of leadership is of paramount importance in steering the nation forward by strengthening our economic fundamentals and making us more competitive. Even more importantly, our leaders must be seen to be in control of the well-being of the nation and the direction it is going. To check the unhealthy trends developing under his watch, he must display firm resolve and moral courage.
Notwithstanding our strong protests about the validity of the outcome of the last elections, we are prepared to put aside our differences for the sake of the nation’s well-being and future. In this regard, we believe that it is imperative for the Prime Minister to convene without the slightest delay a round-table meeting between the BN government and Pakatan Rakyat in order to deliberate on the issues raised and formulate a comprehensive solution.
Celebrating Merdeka must be about recognising the good that has been done and not repeating the mistakes of the past. The resolve to do what is good for the nation must be our main concern. The Merdeka spirit is not just about tolerance or compromise. It is about greater understanding, embracing our differences and enhancing our similarities as well as propelling the nation forward to face the challenges ahead.
Malaysia’s much anticipated 13th general election saw a rise in citizen participation. This poses a new challenge for the country’s political elite: how to respond to this change.
WHILE MALAYSIA’S 13th general election saw an intense contest between the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) and the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) what is of equal significance has been the participation of ordinary citizens in the process. In the run-up to the elections, many have taken the initiative to be involved – in many different ways through different channels.
The numbers who turned out to vote on 5 May 2013 perhaps reflect this shift in political activism. According to the Election Commission, 85 per cent cast their votes for parliamentary seats while 86 per cent for the state legislative assembly seats. This was the highest number of votes cast in any general election in the country’s history. Many researchers have referred to this as the “people’s election”.
A rapidly changing political landscape
While the country is seeing the beginnings of a new political environment the question remains: how should its political elite respond to such trends?
Recent global events from the Arab Spring to the Occupy Wall Street movement have given the world unexpected glimpses of the power of citizen participation; where demonstrating masses with the means of the Internet as a tool are able to play a significant part in the overthrow of long-standing regimes or in spreading the cause of a movement to many parts of the world.
While many have pointed to the increase in Internet connectivity as one of the main causes of these examples of citizen activism, opinion remains divided. Some analysts caution against reading too much into the effects of the Internet and social media in particular, citing the phenomenon of “clicktivism” as akin to being mere “armchair activists or politicians”. They argue that social media provides the means for an easy response which does not translate to actual and substantial participation. However, others are more inclined towards the notion that the improvements in information and communication technologies have empowered the average citizen.
They note that the increase in Internet connectivity has reduced the cost of access to information and networking opportunities, paving the way to new heights in citizen participation. Whichever the case, it appeared that few governments caught up in the Arab Spring saw the signs of these changes and even fewer knew how to manage it effectively.
For Malaysia, an increasingly active citizenry has appeared in the country’s political landscape. While the political parties battle it out in the traditional manner of campaign rallies, banners and speeches in mainstream media, the cyberspace was abuzz with Malaysians opining, promoting or assisting others in the run-up to the elections. What is noteworthy is the diverse ways in which citizens have chosen to play their parts in these elections.
Electoral reform campaigns helmed by the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih) took on a global character with similar rallies and gatherings being carried out in a number of countries by many interested Malaysians. In the run-up to the elections, various online social initiatives sprung up to provide assistance such as transport arrangements for Malaysians who were planning to return and vote. For example, the Bersih Singapore group coordinated a carpool matching service for Malaysians returning from Singapore to vote. Another example is the “Jom Balik Undi” (Let’s go back to vote’) campaign started on Facebook, an initiative to encourage overseas Malaysians to return and vote.
Courting the active stakeholders
Apart from this, there are citizens who chose to participate in a more direct manner: many have spent their time training and volunteering as polling agents or as citizen election observers under initiatives run by a number of civil society groups such as the Merdeka Centre and Ideas.
The increasingly active political landscape has not escaped the attention of the country’s political establishment. Many of the country’s political parties and politicians have Facebook and twitter accounts, from the Prime Minister himself to prominent members of the opposition parties. While ordinary citizens can connect with politicians and receive updated news, whether this sufficiently engages today’s politically active citizens is unclear. Why does this matter?
Social media analysts have predicted a worldwide trend emerging, leading to a time when almost everyone on earth will be connected through advancement in technology. This will bring about profound effects on many established concepts such as citizenship and governance, significantly reallocating the concentration of power from states and institutions to the people. In such a case, established institutions and hierarchies would have to learn to adapt or risk becoming obsolete.
Malaysia on the cusp of change
Malaysia’s political landscape appears to be on the cusp of change: as the country’s citizens become more technologically empowered to take action there is a need to rethink the ways in which to engage such communities. The means to do so look set to be the beginning of a journey in redefining the relationship between the country’s political elite and its citizens.
At this juncture, two observations can be made. Firstly, the trend shows a level of participation that transcends just following tweets or updates. The underlying motivation appears to be one of active engagement, of a deeper and more committed involvement in issues that matter. Hence, new ways of engaging these citizens need to be considered.
Secondly but more importantly, channelling the commitment and energies of such groups should be seen to be beneficial to the nation as a whole. What is not helpful is to wrongly interpret such involvement as being in any way partisan or anti-establishment. This would just act to alienate genuine interest that would bring the country to higher levels of democratic maturity – in line with what may already be happening globally.
Yeap Su Yin is an Associate Research Fellow at the Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS), a constituent unit of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.
Tens of thousands protest against government, with speeches from leading opposition figures over alleged fraud.
|Tens of thousands of people held a rally near Malaysia’s capital against alleged electoral fraud, further raising the political temperature after divisive recent polls.
The latest in a series of protest rallies over the May 5 elections – which the opposition says were won fraudulently by the 56-year-old ruling coalition – saw a large crowd gather in an open field outside Kuala Lumpur Saturday night.
Malaysia’s Home Minister Zahid Hamidi had earlier called the rally a “provocation”, coming after four people were arrested including two opposition politicians, actions that sparked allegations of a post-election crackdown on dissent.
There were no reports of any police action against the latest rally, which was to include speeches by top opposition figures including leader Anwar Ibrahim.
Opposition speakers vowed to expose electoral fraud and keep up the pressure on the Barisan Nasional (National Front) government.
“We are never disappointed because we have won decisively, the moral victory. Tough times never last, only tough people do. We will prove to [the government] how tough we are,” Anwar’s daughter, parliament member Nurul Izzah, told the crowd.
Two senior opposition politicians and two activists were detained last week under the Sedition Act for criticising the conduct of the elections. They were later released.
Prime Minister Najib Razak, who before the elections sought to portray himself as a reformer, had pledged last year to repeal the decades-old Sedition Act.
The home ministry last week also said it had seized some 2,500 copies of opposition-party newspapers for allegedly failing to meet printing regulations.
The three-party opposition plans to file court challenges to the result in 27 parliamentary seats. If all are successful, the opposition says it would give them victory.
It is highly unlikely the opposition would prevail, as critics widely accuse the courts and Election Commission of being in thrall to the ruling coalition.
Global rights group Amnesty International urged the Malaysian government Friday to end what it called a “post-election crackdown”, saying it was using the Sedition Act “against peaceful protestors”.
Barisan gained only 46.6 per cent of the popular vote but won a firm majority, which critics blame on Barisan tinkering with districts to give its strongholds more weight.
The opposition claims that, among other problems, voter rolls were full of irregularities. The government denies the election was unfair.
A former Indonesian vice president with a history of brokering peace agreements has accused Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim of reneging on a secret deal to respect the outcome of Malaysia’s elections on May 5.
Jusuf Kalla revealed the pre-election accord in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, amid a public protest campaign by Mr. Anwar over what the opposition leader said was widespread vote fraud by the ruling National Front coalition. The election returned Prime Minister Najib Razak and the long-ruling National Front to power in the tightest national election in Malaysian history.
Mr. Kalla said the two candidates—whom he said he considered friends of his going back decades—had made a written agreement in April to refrain from personal attacks during the campaign and to accept the outcome, in a deal first proposed by Mr. Anwar.
Mr. Anwar acknowledged he had made the pact with Mr. Najib, with Mr. Kalla as mediator, but said the National Front had rendered it void by the way it ran its campaign.
He singled out Malaysia’s media, much of which is controlled or owned by the government or members of the ruling coalition. “How can you talk reconciliation when you demonize your opponent in this manner?” Mr. Anwar said to The Wall Street Journal. He also said it was Mr. Kalla, not him, who first proposed the pact.
Mr. Najib stressed reconciliation in his first public remarks after the election, though both sides said that the other had rejected a clause in the pact that the winner was to offer the loser a role in a “reconciliation government.”
Mr. Najib’s camp confirmed that the agreement was made and dismissed Mr. Anwar’s view that it had been undermined by the campaign—during which both sides accused the other of low blows and distortions. Mr. Anwar had strong support among Malaysian Web-based media during the campaign.
Mr. Kalla said he felt that both sides met their commitment to refrain from personal attacks during the campaign, and he hasn’t criticized Mr. Najib over the conduct of the election.
Mr. Anwar said he plans to step up a legal campaign to overturn the results in 29 electoral districts, raising political tensions in Malaysia, which has grown increasingly divided in the aftermath of the election.
Mr. Anwar, a former deputy prime minister who has been the country’s most prominent opposition leader for the past 15 years, has led a national campaign of mass rallies since the election. The scene has grown increasingly confrontational. Three prominent opposition activists were detained and later released in the past week.
In the weeks before the election, Mr. Anwar alleged that the National Front and Malaysia’s Election Commission were manipulating electoral rolls and mobilizing illegal voters. On May 5, Mr. Anwar said his alliance had won and accused the National Front of stealing the election.
The National Front and the Election Commission rejected the allegations of electoral fraud. The Commission said there were extremely few irregularities, and that a record 85% of voters cast ballots.
Mr. Anwar said he is pessimistic that courts would overturn results in key districts.
The final vote count showed that Mr. Anwar’s Pakatan Rakyat alliance won a majority of the popular vote, but Mr. Najib’s coalition won heavily in many rural constituencies, where he has strong popular support, to emerge with a 21-seat parliamentary majority.
Mr. Kalla said that the outcome of the balloting, held on a Sunday, was clear. “We had a commitment,” he said. “On Monday, I asked Anwar to accept it and look at reality. But they said, ‘No, no, no, no.’ ”
Mr. Kalla said Mr. Anwar approached him about an agreement two months ago, and they met at his Jakarta home. Mr. Anwar asked him to reach out to his opponent and secure his commitment for a peaceful election outcome, Mr. Kalla said.
At the time, Mr. Anwar was leading in voter surveys in Peninsular Malaysia, where most of the country’s 29 million people live. A victory by his alliance—a collection of Islamists, a mostly ethnic Chinese party and the largely urban secular party he leads—would have been an earthquake to an establishment controlled since 1957 by the coalition that Mr. Najib now leads.
Mr. Kalla had brokered peace agreements in various conflicts across the troubled Indonesian archipelago during his time as vice president from 2004 to 2009, and had roles in peace negotiations in Thailand and Sri Lanka.
He said that he shuttled back and forth between Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur, meeting the opposition leader and Mr. Najib.
“Mr. Anwar sought Jusuf Kalla’s assistance to secure a mutual agreement between BN [Barisan Nasional, the National Front] and [Pakatan Rakyat] stating that both sides agreed to accept the results of the general election, even in the event of a slim majority by either side,” an adviser to Mr. Najib said. “The prime minister reiterated privately to Jusuf Kalla and in public before the election that BN would respect the will of the people and accept the election results, even if the opposition wins.”
Mr. Anwar said Mr. Kalla reached out to him to offer his assistance in ensuring an orderly outcome to the elections. “There were many friends around the region who were concerned about the transition of power and whether it would be peaceful,” he said.
Both candidates had pasts rich with fodder for personal attacks during the campaign. Mr. Anwar spent nearly six years in prison on sodomy and corruption convictions after failing to unseat his one-time mentor, Mahathir Mohamad, in 1998. The sodomy charge was overturned, and he was later acquitted on a second sodomy trial. Mr. Anwar consistently denied the charges.
Mr. Najib, meanwhile, has been subject to rumors widely disseminated in the media—which he has denied—that he had an affair with a Mongolian model and translator who was later murdered. Two police officers were convicted in the murder. Mr. Najib hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing.
Mr. Kalla said he fears that the longer the dispute between the two political leaders goes on, the divisions in Malaysia—among factions in the majority Malay Muslim group and between Malays and the ethnic Chinese minority—will harden and perhaps lead to violence. Malaysia was racked by race riots in 1969 and Mr. Kalla’s neighboring country, Indonesia, has suffered repeated outbreaks of sectarian violence.
President Obama called Prime Minister Najib on the evening of May 13 to congratulate him on his victory in parliamentary elections and to reaffirm the strong bonds of friendship between the United States and Malaysia. The President noted that Malaysians had turned out in record numbers to vote and welcomed the Prime Minister’s efforts to address concerns about election irregularities. The two leaders discussed the importance of continuing to deepen our bilateral cooperation, including on expanding cooperation on trade, regional security, and multilateral cooperation.