When love for the country was turned and twisted as foreign intervention

[As the coordinator of Bersih 3.0 Singapore, I am writing this rebuttal to silly allegation and move by some people with insidious motive. Please read on.]

 

On April 28, we had a very successful Bersih 3.0 Singapore, in solidarity with patriotic Malaysians in Kuala Lumpur and various cities all over the world. Turnout was way beyond our expectations, in the region of 300 participants, especially considering the fact that a police permit for a gathering in Singapore was rejected and we had to travel all the way to Johor Bahru to gather.

Many Malaysians were awakened. Riding on the momentum and love for Malaysia expressed by the Bersih participants, we decided to conduct a polling/counting agents (PACA) training on May 19 for Malaysians who would like to volunteer on the polling day of the upcoming 13th General Election. So it was organised by patriotic Malaysians, attended by patriotic Malaysians, in Singapore. About 20 qualified Malaysian citizens attended and the training was a great success.

Then came the lowest form of exploitation by some individuals. It first appeared on a blog called MyMassa, in an article titled “Wikileaks! Bukti Persediaan Warga Singapura Kucar-kacirkan Malaysia Semasa PRU Ke-13″ (“Wikileaks! Proof of Singapore citizens’ preparation to cause chaos in Malaysia during GE13″). Not withstanding its misleading tag of wikileaks, it twisted the existence of the training event into proof of such a silly idea that “a large group of Singaporeans are coming to Malaysia to cause chaos during the GE13″. But there was absolutely no contact or verification of any sort from the author with us regarding the event, nor was permission sought to publish our photos in the website.

FACT: the training was organised by Malaysians, for Malaysians, ONLY. True, it was conducted in Singapore because that’s where Malaysians in Singapore live!

FACT: Polling and Counting Agents are legally recognised citizens who serve the country by ensuring clean and fair polling practices.

FACT: Not a single non-Malaysian was involved in this event, in any form whatsoever.

Faithful to their well-known modus operandi, the “fitnah” from the blog post was conveniently picked up by Utusan and turned into a news article. Then followed another blog post in MyMassa, ostensibly reflecting the call from a few NGOs, to protest in front of Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur this Friday (June 22).

And there you go, a group of ignorant or hypocritical Malaysians protesting “interference” by our friendly neighbour. It is an obvious attempt to turn Singapore into a bogey for political gain by these insidious people. (Deja vu, no? Ask Dr M.) It will hurt bilateral relationships if the Malaysian government does not handle it appropriately. And it has certainly hurt the genuine concern of patriotic Malaysians in Singapore yearning for a better Malaysia.

That ‘sacred cow’ just cannot be slaughtered

It made me raged after reading what prime minister Najib did in the infamous Cowgate, he who had been silent on the scandal for so long could only come up with freezing the assets of NFC, the GLC in the centre of the scandal.

(And that anger is what keeps me up late at night to blog again after a hiatus of more about three months.)

And that ‘sacred cow’ is CORRUPTION, and UMNO-BN simply think that ‘cow’ cannot be slaughtered at all.

Don’t look far or deep in the scandal. Just look at the following simple, hard facts:

  • UMNO Wanita head and cabinet minister: Shahrizat Abdul Jalil
  • NFC’s chairman: Dr. Mohamad Salleh Ismail (her husband)
  • NFC’s executive director : Wan Shahinur Izmir (her son, age 31)
  • NFC’s CEO: Wan Shahinur Izran (her other son, age 27)
  • NFC’s director is Wan Izzana Fatimah (her daughter, age 25)

and their salaries:

  • Chairman: RM100,000/month
  • executive director: RM45,000/month
  • CEO: RM35,000/month
  • director: RM35,000/month
  • TOTAL for Shahrizat family: RM215,000/month!

Read the rest of this entry »

Govt plugs the hole of RM23b in supplementary budget

2012-07-20 By Mamalin Rosmah

KUALA LUMPUR: The government tabled in Parliament today a supplementary supply bill seeking more than RM23 billion for additional funds amid looming financial crisis hitting Malaysia. The bill, tabled by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak under his capacity as Finance Minister after question time, asked for an addition of RM23,111,111,000 to the RM232.8 billion 2012 budget. He said the extra amount was for the second half of this year.

However, he did not elaborate where the additional funds would come from. Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has been under pressure to tackle the country’s government debt to GDP ratio, which stands at 53.8% when he launched its 2012 budget last October. As an aftermath of Greece’s default in January 2012 and the subsequent global recession, Malaysian economy shrank 2% in first quarter 2012. This is on the back of an economic forecast of 5.5% growth for 2012 in its 2012 budget. Analysts has since projected the economy in the territory of -2% and -5% for 2012. Read the rest of this entry »

YB Kota Belud, electoral roll is not your child’s buku salinan

YB Abdul Rahman Dahlan of Kota Belud wrote in length on his blog in defence of the Election Commission (EC), “Sorry, you don’t convince me Ambiga”. YB Khairy Jamaluddin of Rembau, who currently is conspicuously absent from the country on some flotilla mission, quickly tweeted “Fantastic article. Intellectually demolishes Bersih”.

It would be fine if YB Rembau actually tweeted “funtastic”, because YB Kota Belud seemed having fun writing the article by taking the electoral roll lightly. If these two YBs are the remaining intellectual YBs left in the ruling class UMNO, producing such intellectually deficient article, no wonder the sorry state of Malaysia in all fronts. (And adding in the endemic, Malaysia is an aspiring Zimbabwe in the making.)

YB Kota Belud effectively saw the electoral roll like his child’s buku salinan, where one practises new words, repeats them (in the case of the electoral roll, literally) and crosses out mistakes. The electoral roll is the very foundation of our democracy. It requires almost impeccable accuracy and quality, in order to build confidence and faith in the electoral system. Almost, because honest mistakes and errors in rare occasions are bound to happen for a register of a few million records. Read the rest of this entry »

On Father’s Day, a word to Najib Tun Razak

On this very Father’s Day, I woke up early in the morning to write this post. I am blessed to be a father of 4.5 (no 5 coming end of the year). I could not sleep well when I learned that our prime minister Najib Tun Razak has been blasting the following SMS to mobile phone subscribers:

Marilah kita menyambut Hari Bapa bersama ayahanda tersayang. Ikhlas
dari Najib Razak & Keluarga. [email protected]

I wasn’t one of the ‘lucky’ ones, but was forwarded with one by a great ‘informant’. Ironically, he belongs to the hundreds of thousands of Malaysians who are now living out of Malaysia; specifically he is growing a Singapore start-up company in China. He’s a victim of decades-old UMNO-BN rule of Malaysia. He surely finds the rhetorical ’1malaysia’ in that email address insulting.

I am most insulted by the word ‘ikhlas’. Mr prime minister, if you are sincere to run Malaysia, please spend your time and energy on matters of substance. You are already infected by the disease called ’1Malaysia’ yourself, which is only full of rhetorical junks and probably has fooled you into thinking that such junks can turn into substance too. (And, talking about ‘ikhlas’, how and where  did you find all those mobile numbers and financial resources to blast the SMS?)

Specifically, ask yourself this question: As a father, what kind of Malaysia have I left behind for my 27 million children? Yes, as a prime minister, you have the responsibility to the 27 million poor souls. Not just the five you have with Rosmash, where you were recently alleged to be abusing public funds to marry away one of them to Kazakhstan.

Specifically, I find Malaysia increasingly a lousy place for my children. First and foremost, the rule of law is virtually thrashed now, with you leading the way during Perak’s coup d’état. And then the worsening situation in education, crime and healthcare finds no sign of abetting while the ministers concerned are busy engaged in playing pom-pon for ’1Malaysia’.

You may not have the capacity to imagine and create a beautiful Malaysia. (Please, try to interpret ‘beautiful’ here broadly, not narrowly.) But help is at hand – read the great speech by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

By the way, I will walk with the Bersih rally come Jul 9, as a father. To me, all those concerns of a father for his children in Malaysia are the main reason to participate. And I urge all concerned fathers to walk too. We simply belong to a political party called ‘a band of fathers’.

Finally, be true to yourself. Will/Do you keep your children in Malaysia of today? Ask this question to your fellow cabinet ministers.

PAP is a shining example of BN failure

If countries are like shares trading on the stock exchange, something interesting happened to two shares called “Malaysia” and “Singapore”. In 2008, Malaysia’s share price shot through the sky after a fantastic showing in its political tsunami. Its price started to slide downward gradually over the last three years, while Singapore’s continued to remain hugely depressed. Until May 2011, that is. Out of the blue, it is Singapore’s turn to shoot through the sky, even surpassing what Malaysia has achieved in 2008. The imaginative share price here is measured by democratic development of the ‘stock’ concerned.

Of course what I am characterising here is the aftermaths of 2008 political tsunami in Malaysia and 2011 general election in Singapore. Earlier, I have asked the question if the Singaporeans are capable of a political tsunami, given that both countries have many similar circumstances surrounding the two dominant political organisations in BN and PAP. What happened and what continues to unfold down south, where I have been living in the past 17 years, is certainly interesting and, more importantly, a great deal of lesson for Malaysians to learn in comparison.

The results of May 7 general election were of no shock and yet of great significance to Singapore. The incumbent PAP was returned to power with a shining majority of 81 in the 87-seat parliament. But its vote share dropped to the record low of 60.14%, a swing of 6.46%. It lost for the first time in a GRC, an electoral system that was known to favour the PAP. It had two of its cabinet ministers on the receiving end of the GRC loss. For the many years in memory, there are six elected opposition members in Singapore’s parliament. Qualitatively and more profoundly, the election saw the disappearing fear factor among Singaporeans in front of the fearful PAP and the emergence of opposition candidates with credibility and track records. Read the rest of this entry »

BN for Malaysia, PAP for Singapore

Singaporeans go to the poll this Saturday (May 7, 2011). I have been observing Singapore’s 2011 general election campaign. Some people call me ‘kay poh’ (busy body), some warn me not to ‘ka-ka cau-cau’ (intervene), because I am *foreigner* in Singapore. I will not address this issue here.

But let me try to compare the campaign to the one in Malaysia in 2008. I am seeing similarities and also stark differences.

Barisan Nasional, the ruling coalition of 13 (yes, thirteen, no typo here) parties of Malaysia, is called BN. People’s Action Party, the single ruling party of Singapore, is called PAP.

BN has been ruling Malaysia non-stop for more than 54 years since Independence in 1957 (if we consider Alliance as BN and Malaya as Malaysia). PAP has been ruling Singapore non-stop for more than 52 years since 1959.

Under BN, corruption is the norm and culture. Under PAP, corruption is an endangered species.

The BN prime minister earns about RM23,000 per month. The PAP prime minister earns about RM272,000 per month (S$115,920 in 2008), plus many months of ‘GDP bonus’.

The BN government, intentionally or unintentionally, runs policies that piss off many Malaysians, who then choose to emigrate or work overseas. Malaysia starts to have the feeling of an empty shell from the brain drain. The PAP government, so focusing on GDP growth year after year, has brought in foreigners in their thousands to keep the costs low. Singapore starts to be overcrowded, putting pressure on housing, transport, etc.

In 2009, BN started to experiment with ’1Malaysia’. Racially oriented policies are superficially phased out. Some of the forms used by the BN government have ‘race’ field erased. Until today, PAP continues to rule Singapore along the lines of race and religion, singing the tune of ‘Singapore cannot take religious, racial harmony for granted‘. All government forms continue to have the ‘race’ field.

In General Election 2008, the BN government continued its gerrymandering tactics through Election Commission. The smallest parliamentary seat, Putrajaya, had 6,608 voters, whereas the largest parliamentary seat, Kapar, had 112,224 voters (17 times of Putrajaya). More non-Malay majority seats were turned into Malay majority seats by redistributing Malay voters. However, the advantage of gerrymandering became complicated due to swing of Malay votes to opposition.

In General Election 2011, the PAP government continues its advantageous position with the Group Representative Constituency system, where multiple seats (between 3 and 6) are grouped together and contested as one. Opposition, being short of resources and candidates, finds it harder to contest in GRCs. Furthermore, in General Election 2006, GRCs that saw significant support for the opposition previously were dissolved and its voters redistributed to other constituencies. In GE2006, only half of the 14 GRCs were contested by the opposition. In GE2011, all GRCs except one see contest. (The one exception is Tanjong Pagar GRC, where Lee Kuan Yew is one of its MPs. The walkover was due to the now (in)famous “35 seconds” technicality – the submission of nomination forms of the opposing team was 35 seconds too late.) However, PAP has never lost a single GRC so far. We shall see this Saturday evening.

In GE2008, BN generally had difficulty to attract audience to its ceramahs. It used free meals and lucky draws as its tool. In GE2011, PAP also had difficulty to fill its rally venues. It did not offer any free meals or lucky draws. But right before GE2011, it announced one-off budget measure called Grow and Share Package, where Singaporeans would receive between $600 and $800 each. PAP also ties its public housing upgrading programme to the outcome of the election, meaning neighbourhood voted PAP would get onto the programme.

In GE2008, BN faced a mostly united opposition, consisting of PKR, DAP and PAS. All three parties united to fight BN one-to-one without forming any formal alliance, but subsequently formed Pakatan Rakyat after making significant gains in GE2008.

In GE2011, PAP also faced a united opposition, consisting of WP (Workers’ Party), SDP (Singapore Democratic Party), NSP (National Solidarity Party), RP (Reform Party) and SPP (Singapore People’s Party). All five parties united to fight PAP one-to-one without forming any formal alliance. We shall see how the opposition cooperation will evolve post May 7.

In GE2008, most observers and activists saw a hopeless campaign against BN, which had been in power for 51 years, most part of it with two-third majority in the parliament. The opposition, while united, fought with limited resources, chaotic machinery, and many candidates without experience, credibility and/or qualification. The result turned out to be a shocker, with BN losing its power in five states and the two-third majority in the parliament. It was called the political tsunami of 2008.

In GE2011, PAP appeared to have lost its unity and discipline. For the first time in the history of Singapore, PAP prime minister Lee Hsien Loong made a public apology for general policy blunders after sensing deep discontent on the ground more than half way through the campaign. The opposition has managed to recruit some candidates of immense credibility and quality, including a top-notch corporate lawyer, government scholars, a doctor, and PhD holders. Will the opposition break into the GRCs? We shall see this Saturday evening.

Are Singaporeans capable of a political tsunami?

Singaporeans go to the poll come Saturday (May 7). My answer to the question above is an emphatic ‘YES’. But here is the catch: when? I believe in the capacity of human society to correct itself. We had it in Malaysia in 2008. Just this year, we witnessed the most surprising ones in Arab Spring. No matter how hopeless the situation, people will always rise; only a matter of time, that is.

To Singaporeans, the term ‘political tsunami’ needs further elaboration. When Malaysians did it on Mar 8, 2008, Malaysia did not have a new government. Nor was there racial riots or economic collapse as some scaremongering people would like us to believe. But after the BN lost its coveted two-third majority and power in five states for the first time in so many years, the political and governance situation in Malaysia has changed beyond recognition. Competition in politics and policies becomes real, only to the benefit of the people. Not only has the federal government under Najib innovated itself on new economic initiatives, it has also gone out to reach all segments of the society. Every vote now really counts. The opposition is also given the chance, albeit in limited way, to prove itself in governing through the five opposition states. Competition of ideas in a healthy democracy has seeded in Malaysia. The growing-up process is surprisingly less painful than previously thought.

Singapore has been governed by a single party, People’s Action Party (PAP), under the heavy hands of Lee Kuan Yew for over 51 years. While he has stepped down from the prime minister position in 1990, Singapore today is still very much an LKY’s Singapore. Through two successive prime ministers, the only change is his job title, from senior minister to minister mentor today, with his son Lee Hsien Loong helming the post of prime minister. Politics remains backward, in stark contrast to other areas of the city state. Its parliament is a record 82-2, two opposition members versus 82 of PAP.

Singapore economy has been charging ahead, even surpassing its neighbour Malaysia, which is a much larger country and resource rich, in GDP size. However, its economy is one that relies heavily on foreign labour. Some people even call it exploitation of cheap foreign labour. Such formula of economic success means a more volatile society and widening of income gap between the poor and the rich. Rising costs of living, especially in the heavily government-controlled public housing, causes much dissatisfaction on the ground.

I have been living in Singapore for more than 16 years. Last week during the lunch in a public sector forum attended by many senior Singapore civil servants, I was surprised to hear the comment of a senior officer of the CPF Board. He did not mince his words: “If Singaporeans fail to vote in opposition this round, they are doing a disservice to themselves and Singapore.” His point was, Singapore other than its GDP is in bad shape and the opposition has put up a united front this time around with the most credible candidates.

To me, that’s a shocking comment. The truth is, fear is still prevalent among Singaporeans despite the thickening dissatisfaction. Fear in two ways: fear of the government for those who want to vote the opposition, and fear of an uncertain future for Singapore should the PAP’s wings are clipped or even a change of government. For someone in his position sharing his political view to his new acquaintances is very telling. I started to feel the fermentation of a political tsunami in Singapore, although admittedly a rather wishful one at this stage.

Weeks before Mar 8, 2008, I was driving up and down North-South Expressway to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore, involving myself in my desperate effort to help the opposition. I would even stop by the rest stations to distribute campaign leaflets I had printed myself. Like many other fellow volunteers, we were driven by self conviction of what’s right to do, without holding out hope of a positive outcome. In fact, I had fear when I did my rounds at those rest stations, scared of being confronted by the police or UMNO hooligans. Many other volunteers went the extra mile under even more fearful situation. But on hindsight, we now realise that it was such collective conviction overcoming fear that has helped to bring about the political tsunami.

Singaporeans can learn from the experience of Malaysia’s political tsunami. Change can be positive, especially if the society is determined to have it. And change should not be equated to pessimism, although the establishment wants us to believe it so. On the contrary, the long rule of PAP has created a Singapore that has deprived its society of healthy debate of ideas, openness and independent thinking. One doesn’t have to search hard to understand why it has been struggling in the global knowledge-based economy, which competes not on efficiency but on innovation and creativity.

On the other hand, every day Singapore goes on a system without check and balances under the absolute rule of PAP is simply growing its risk of a fatal national mistake in the hand of a few ruling elites. The smaller the collective decision making body, the higher the risk of a fatal mistake. In other words, Singapore has been living on luck for far too long. The recent massive losses from its state investment arm Temasek is already an early warning. It is ironic but logical to argue that only a political tsunami will ensure Singapore a certainty in its future, one that’s less risky but competitive in ideas.

Sarawak: BN victory and further confirmation of corrupt Najib administration

Now that the dust has settled, I must say the jubilation at the BN camp is well justified. After all, under the current global ‘Jasmine revolution fever’ with a corrupt chief minister in power for more than 30 years, retaining its two-third majority in the state assembly is no mean feat. Congratulations to Najib for leading such a successful election campaign.

But the process in Sarawak also confirms the very corrupt nature of Najib administration. Some people may already have reached that conclusion much earlier. What’s for sure is that Najib will go now the history as a leader that presides over the most corrupt government in Malaysian history.

When he first came to power in 2009, not elected by the rakyat but by the revolt within UMNO’s Majlis Tertinggi, the BN government was already seen as incapable to change at all. A 50-year old core based on patronage and mere focus on holding on to power is indeed the very hard core of BN. Najib was smart to realise that reality. But rather than gathering his energy and political will to overcome it, he turned to spin doctors and PR consultants. He decided to improve the perception as a cover, rather than tackling the very core of the BN. Read the rest of this entry »

Malaysian Maverick: introduction by author and review by Dr. Maznah Mohamad

[Sorry that this has come so late. The video has been stored away in my computer somewhere for more than a year!]

The book, “Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times” by Barry Wain, has bared it all on corruption of more than 22 years under Mahathir rule. It detailed how the New Economic Policy was abused by Mahathir and his UMNO cronies, causing billions of ringgits of public funds unaccounted for or squandered away. Of the economic progress amidst the mega structures that we can see sprouting up in Malaysia during Mahathir years, there are many more deep holes that would take generations for the nation to heal. The book was at one stage being held up by the authority for scare of the damage it would cause to the ruling UMNO-BN regime. Eventually it managed to reach the bookshelves of Malaysia, by which time it was already a best-seller in Malaysia and Singapore.

The following video was recorded during the book launch on Dec 4, 2009. There was a short introduction by the author about the book. It was followed by an insightful review by Dr. Maznah Mohamad, a senior research fellow at Institute of South East Asian Studies, NUS. She articulated how Mahathir had skilfully skirted the law and checks and balances for his own vision for Malaysia. Along the way, he crushed his opponents and practised corruption, to the long-term detriment of Malaysia.

Watch the 10-part video below, especially parts 1 and 2.