Friday, June 19, 2015

Next conflicts in Malaysian politics

An article on The Malay Mail Online few days ago had an interesting title, very relevant: 
Past vs present, prince vs politician, preachers vs progressives ― what’s next for Malaysia?
Those conflicts could sum-up the main conflicts hot in the news. But, there are still many other political conflicts.

On the same theme of past vs present alone, there are other conflicts in DAP and PKR. The prince vs politicians have other dimensions to it. Preachers vs progressive could be reworded as conservative vs progressive and that opens up an array of conflicts to pick on.

To answer the question - what's next for Malaysia, could Dato Nazir Tun Razak's denied involvement to establish another political party indicative of conflict of another kind: Youngest against eldest brother?

As of last night, the main past vs present conflict had taken a whole new dimension.

The main conflict first ...

The MMO article reproduced below:
Past vs present, prince vs politician, preachers vs progressives ― what’s next for Malaysia?

By Zurairi AR

COMMENTARY, June 17 ― Two roads are diverging ahead for Malaysia and its people as the country clumps towards 2020.

The issues dominating headlines lately, from the sports attire of national gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi during her recent gold-winning stint at the Singapore SEA Games to the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal and the unending debate over PAS’ hudud bid, are manifestations of our struggle to define our future.

As we chart our course towards developed nationhood, here are the three most pressing dilemmas Malaysia must deal with.

1. The past or the present?

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak who set out to transform the country in 2009 has come under much pressure in his second term in office, currently over his brainchild 1MDB.

Under siege, the sixth PM drew deep into his Bugis ancestry for the “warrior spirit”, and declared that he will never back down amid calls for his resignation.

But that declaration appears to be haunting him now following his notable absence from the   “Nothing2Hide” forum here on June 5, where he was scheduled to dialogue with civil society on current affairs, including 1MDB’s financial irregularities.

The public forum would have pitted him face-to-face with his past: former prime minister-turned-vocal critic Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who has been persistently raising questions on the Najib administration’s handling of 1MDB and its RM42 billion debt, but which was cancelled at the last minute purportedly to maintain “public order”.

For Najib who had scored relatively high ratings before Election 2013, that forum marked the swing in public support from him to Dr Mahathir. The defining moment when Dr Mahathir, 89, was manhandled by the police during his impromptu speech after Najib failed to show.

It was ironic that the man who earned notoriety for the iron fist with which he ruled the country for 22 years has found merit in freedom of speech ― especially when succeeding prime ministers fail to seek his advice and guidance in governing the country.

With Dr Mahathir firing salvo after salvo at Najib, the prime minister has taken to address the questions on his personal blog.

And while the end of Dr Mahathir’s administration was coloured by an uprising, some in society have now made an about-turn and yearn for a return where his uncompromising attitude had pulled Malaysia through some tough times.

So, what’s next for Malaysia?

Will it stand by Pahang-born aristocrat Najib and his Barisan Nasional administration whom they had voted for in Election 2013 even as living costs rise following the introduction of the unpopular Goods and Services Tax (GST) in April?

Or will it side with the meddling Dr Mahathir and his pick of Najib’s successor from the Umno pool, which the Kedah-born has admitted to be very shallow and devoid of intellect?

Will Malaysia embrace its present, or will it now look to the past to guide its future?

The next Umno party elections to choose its new chief ― and ultimately the nation’s prime minister ― is a year away and it can be delayed until after the next general elections which must be held by 2018, unless a faction in Umno grows bold and steps up pressure against Najib.

2. The prince or the politician?

The crown prince of Johor Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim was not a popular man due to his exploits in the local sporting scene, which he had personally acknowledged, dubbing himself “the most hated man in Malaysian football”.

But that perception has been changing following his snipes against the Najib administration through slick statements released on the Facebook page of the Johor Southern Tigers football team he leads.

It has since increased the 30-year-old’s profile among young Malaysians disenchanted with the establishment.

Support for the young prince skyrocketed after Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz, in an attempt to shield Najib, earned the wrath of Johoreans who saw the Perak politician’s verbal jousts as a slur against the Malay royal institution.

After Tunku Ismail mocked Najib’s absence at the Nothing2Hide forum, Nazri warned the prince to stay out of politics, unless he is willing to come down to a level playing field where others can “whack” him.

The spat escalated as the prince claimed that everybody should have the right to speak out, even as it was announced Nazri himself will be investigated by the police for “public mischief” under the Penal Code after his remarks against Tunku Ismail.

This culminated in a public rally yesterday where some 2,000 Malays gathered outside the Johor palace ― on a working day, no less ― to support the royal family, which they said should not be criticised even by a minister.

Previously consigned to a symbol of Malay sovereignty, the monarchy is increasingly dipping its hands into politics, as evident in the recent Selangor mentri besar crisis and the Johorean criticism against Putrajaya.

So, what’s next for Malaysia?

Will it take the side of its politicians, who despite their perceived arrogance and public display of wealth, were democratically elected by the people and therefore can be “punished” through the ballot box?

Or will it continue to be beholden to the Malay rulers of old, some who now claim to be the “voice” and the “servant” of the people by speaking up against Putrajaya?

Even when said royal house just commissioned a “monster” truck with custom paint job and royal crest, and claiming in the past that its RM27,000 monthly allowance is not enough?

Faced with two opposing groups of elites, will Malaysian swear fealty to one over the other?

But as desperate Malaysians look for heroes to champion their grouses, it may not be too farfetched to say it will be a grassroots movement of independent-minded individuals that will fill the role, instead of elected representatives or the monarchy.

3. The preachers or the progressives?

The so-called ulama, or clergy class, completed its domination of federal opposition Islamist party PAS in its party elections this month, sweeping the so-called progressives clean from the top table of leaders that make up its central working committee.

Its influential ulama wing also proposed a motion to cut ties with Pakatan Rakyat (PR) ally DAP, one that was approved without a debate by its top leadership which had included president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and spiritual leader Datuk Dr Haron Din.

The unilateral decisions made in PAS’ muktamar, or annual congress, seemed to be the last straw, with the DAP announcing the eight-year-old opposition pact now “dead”.

While the pro-ulama in PAS insisted that PR is still tenable with PKR, several of its progressive leaders and DAP have already moved on to the idea of a next political coalition ― one that might include a new party to replace PAS.

Although framed as a faction war, the real battle in PAS is a tug-of-war between ideas that affect the whole of Malaysia: whether the nation should purely be an Islamic state, or merely a secular nation governed by Islamic ideals.

The ulama faction represented the Islamists who wish to see the controversial Islamic penal code of hudud be implemented, with the Quran and Islamic teachings greatly influencing public policies that will include moral policing and proselytisation.

The progressives, on the other hands, are best described as Muslim democrats who prioritise loftier goals of the Islamic teachings such as social justice and good governance, putting it above the implementation of hudud and moral policing.

With the next general elections being a race to grab the votes of the rural Malay communities, Malay-majority parties such as PAS and even Umno will look to a religious auction where one will try to “out-Islam” the others.

So, what’s next for Malaysia?

Will it choose the progressives, who despite offering Islamic values only as a way to serve the public, insist on the role of Islam is the religion of the federation nonetheless?

Or will it vote for the preachers, who uses Islam’s position as the religion of the federation as justification the increasing influence of the religion in the public sphere of our multicultural society?

With Islam unlikely to take a back seat in politics, which brand of the religion will Malaysians pick?

Just like how a group of Muslims have banded together for an injunction to stop PAS from tabling private members’ bills to pave way for its hudud, more and more from the Malay community itself is working as a check and balance against creeping Islamism.

Malaysia has slightly more than four years left until it reaches its 2020 milestone, and one more general election where it will decide its next step.

How will Malaysia choose? Which side will prevail? For observers, these are interesting times.
Youngest vs eldest brother?

The discussion can begin by adding on to the above sequence or the reverse. Lets make it more exciting by starting with Nazir. Don't start reading before re-reading these two past postings - here and here.

A once deported Wall Street Journal reporter residing in Hong Kong and writing for Asia Sentinel, John Bethelsen leaked information that Nazir was going to establish a new political party with Dato Saifuddin Abdullah or Pudin as often called by pro-UMNO bloggers.

Nazir denied and claimed it is only an NGO. However, he acknowledged his discussions with Pudin. Pudin has no statement yet. When asked by MMO [read here], he said "later".

Pudin's political career is as good as done. If he runs again in the next GE, UMNO Temerloh members will still not give him the votes. DAP will not give him Bukit Bintang. The only return to politics is to lead his own party. Will a Liberal Party of Malaysia that consist of intellectuals, professionals and pseudo-intellectual and -professionals) stand a chance? 

As for Nazir, he had political aspirations and it is beginning to surface. He made a political statement to bastardise the NEP in 2010. His vocal criticism against 1MDB is politically inclined than corporate specifics. Only politicians has active FB, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

In a TMI interview with few Tun Razak sons [read here], Nazir's political view is quite significant.  

His bachelor's degree is in politics and economics and master in philosophy [his bio-data here]. His corporate experience is useful to understand competition in the market place with Tan Sri Kadir Sheikh Fadzir launching his multi-racial party, Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia and rumours has it that Dato Ibrahim Ali is toying with the idea to turn Perkasa into a political party. Would that be enough to run a political party?

Mat Sabu was elated with the entry of Nazir [read MMO and TMI here and here, respectively]. Dato Reezal Merican held back his cynicism by saying it will be a splash [read MMO here]. Dato Abdul Rahman Dahlan is more direct [read MMO here].

This revelation gives strength to rumours he wanted Najib to appoint him as Minister of Finance. In fact, the same source that tipped this blogger said Nazir lied and his plan to form a political party is true. The info leaked before he could prepare himself. It only opens up the possibility of the youngest vs eldest brother conflict.

Generational and constitutional conflicts

Preachers vs progressive conflict or a more general description of conservative vs progressive will open to the inter-generational conflict of Gen-Y imposing themselves against the established ways and structure.

In all political parties, that is waiting to burst soon. The recent reaction by Pemuda UMNO to accusation of sabotaging UMNO's campaign in Rompin is indicative. The trend towards multiracial party is along Gen-Y thinking and DAP is exploiting it to the full to exert themselves as THE dominant force.   

The recent prince vs politician should not be seen merely as the conflict between Dato Nazri vs Tengku Mahkota Johor on royal decorum.

Earlier Sultan Johor had openly questioned the education system [The Star reported here]. It is not likely a criticism against Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. It could be royalties pushing for new role in administration or more presence in the new era of openness.

The new debate that TMJ-Nazri conflict started was when one of the prince said of Johor seeking cessation from Malaysia [read MChronicle here]. An expert said it is not possible [read Astro Awani here].

Contrary to his role as the man person responsible to curb the excesses of royalties, Tun Dr Mahathir gave his support to TMJ.

That led to more questions and eventually responses from other prince and princess of the former Agong and the late Sultan Iskandar. They disputed claim that the sacking of Tun Salleh Abas was due to complain on noises out of the Istana. The conversation in Tengku Majid's FB [read the posting and comments here] is interesting new information.

Seeing a mainstream paper headlined it yesterday, will it be the coming of another so-called "constitutional crisis" conflict?

Past vs present conflict

On the subject of past vs present conflict, one conflict in DAP that fit this genre of conflict would be the potential conflict between Lim Guan Eng and Lim Kit Siang vs Penang DAP. This one is aside from the CEC problem.

Before the 2008 GE, sensing Penang is ripe for the taking, Guan Eng snatched victory from the hands of Penang DAP to announce himself as Penang CM. Local Penangites wanted Chow Koon Yeow to lead DAP Penang and be Chief Minister.

The resentment against Guan Eng is there. It is still percolating and waiting to boil over. Indications can be felt. After two terms and many high priced condos all over the Island, it could erupt into an open war for the spoils of victory.

One past vs present conflict that has not subsided is Azmin vs Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim. This has the potential to legally close-up PKR. And, aspiring Azmin is also embroiled in conflict with Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah. She is in his path for further advancement. It can be described as a conflict of past versus future.

Malay spring?

In the latest turn of event, Tun M gave an interview to NY Times [read here and a report here]. That brought a response by Foreign Minister, Dato Anifah Aman [read in the commentary here]. This is pushing the envelope of freedom to a new level.

If covert-linked portals became acceptable by Tun M's acknowledgement, this would push freedom of speech to a new level. In the past, Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim's past actions to ridicule the government and destroy investors' confidence in the country was not seen as acceptable.

With TV3's reckless attack on Tun M, he is now using foreign media "to unblock" and soon it will be acceptable to be frank in our opinion, privately, locally or abroad.

Richie Haven's Freedom ...

Or, Tracy Chapman's debut song ...

After following RPK's 33-series "The UMNO, PKR, and PAS internal strife" (Part 1 here), could it the beginning of a  Malay Spring?


Anonymous said...

Malays won’t fare better or worse if BN falls, says veteran newsman -

UMNO man waving the keris again but this time not for UMNO. But, for whom?

Anonymous said...

Nazir and Saifuddin would know the word realpolitik. The term was coined by Ludwig von Rochau, a German writer and politician in the 19th century. It

Realpolitik is politics purely for the pursuit of power and other practical and material factors and considerations, rather than on ideological notions or moral and ethical premises. It is an approach based on the philosophy of realism and pragmatism. Machiavellian falls into this categories.

Could a group of intellectuals and professionals survive Malaysia's realpolitik?

Anonymous said...

Siasat jika Tuanku Idris menghasut

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