Professor Murray Hunter’s thesis statement in a recent article on “effective new political force” in Malaysia may be too little, too late, the Mother of All non-issues.
New political force or otherwise, 10 democratisation issues dominate politics on both sides of the South China Sea viz. the Cabinet system complying with the consensus principle i.e. no voice against; the end of proxy governments in the Borneo Territories, Sabah and Sarawak; full Federal government compliance on the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA’63) and Borneo rights; disallow the formation of pre-election coalition; advent of “caretaker government for the two months before an election; ban on selling nomination forms; say NO to compulsory voting; legitimacy via run-offs in elections; and the return of local government elections to bring back bottom up “grassroots democracy” for better community development and taxation system.
The 10th democratisation issue sees the minority, i.e. the losing votes in seats, getting the right to be heard in Parliament via non-constituency seats.
Tribalism and Feudalism
New forms of tribalism and feudalism, under the guise of democracy, are no longer sustainable in Malaysia.
No political personality in Malaysia can attract sufficient votes as in the past and gather a disproportionate share of the political power. Najib, Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim, to cite three examples who are creatures of the media, have limited options.
Najib, who has “star drawing power” despite the 1MDB “Scandal” and related “scandals”, may be in the lead. Anwar may yet back him to keep his politics alive and his Family in the reckoning.
Najib and Anwar, if given an opportunity, would drag Mahathir and family to justice for alleged money laundering.
Mahathir’s ‘My Way’
It was Mahathir who created the system of inflated government contracts to feed the small Malay capitalist class which emerged after 13 May 1969.
What’s the system created by Mahathir?
Deviations and distortions of Article 153, New Economic Policy (NEP 1970 to 1990), and the notorious quota system.
Hijacking of “pink shares” meant for ordinary Orang Asal and Malays (classified as bumiputeras) in publicly-listed Companies.
AP (Applied Permit); concessions, permits and quotas a’la the infamous Licence Raj in socialist India after Independence in 1947.
Inflated government contracts going for twice, thrice and even up to ten times what it should cost the taxpayer.
Yet, Mahathir did not hesitate to “rubbish” Najib recently as “the first convict to be Prime Minister”. He was not ruling out Najib’s return.
Badawi Took A Wrong Turn
Umno may have been an effective political force at one time. That may have ended in 2007 when Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, in hindsight “a vague, wishy-washy leader influenced reportedly by extremists and MIC”, refused to meet with ex-estate wallah Hindraf activists — led ironically by non-estate wallahs — on the plight of the Indians in Malaysia, in particular the ex-estate wallahs. In Peninsular Malaysia, Indians decide in 67 parliamentary seats.
In 2008, Malay voters upset with the “kurang ajar” (disrespectful) Hindraf demands, refused to vote for MIC. The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) lost five states in Peninsula Malaysia to a shocked Opposition in a daze for two weeks.
In 2018, BN collapsed and imploded. Public perceptions, worked up to a feverish pitch in the media by Mahathir and the Opposition, ruled against the ruling coalition. The rest is history.
Malay Political Parties
Umno was a merger of several hundred, if not thousands, of Malay associations, societies and organisations in 1946.
Thereafter, Umno was weakened by sackings and defections, ISA detentions, warlordism, party branches degenerating into tribal and feudal family-owned affairs which kept out ordinary Malays, and breakaways in protest against the lack of democracy in the party. This was especially prevalent after 2003.
Many new Malay political parties emerged despite the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) being used to crush them. Many new Malay political parties continue to emerge and flood the Opposition.
The powers that be approved as many non-Malay political parties as possible to help strengthen Malay political power. These colonial divide and rule tactics have fizzled out.
Malays also join multiracial parties, especially if they are given seats. Malay political parties deny seats to ordinary Malays i.e. those not part of the “old boys network”.
All politics are about restructuring the distribution of power and restructuring the distribution of revenue and resources.
The taxation system can be used in the latter case, the IRB (Internal Revenue Board) can take action on tax evasion disguised as tax avoidance, Bank Negara can pursue money laundering cases in Malaysia and abroad.
In practice, it doesn’t happen.
Former Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman for example, facing 46 charges on various allegations, admitted in court that he collected RM380m in political donations.
It’s not known why Bank Negara did not pursue Musa for alleged money laundering. I stand corrected.
In Musa’s case, the MACC brought criminal charges with the consent of the Attorney General.
The MACC Act is only about simple “giver and taker” situations. Bribery and corruption stand defined in law as “deriving personal benefits”. The MACC does not do due diligence on inflated government contracts.
In the rule of law, the basis of the Constitution, there’s greater emphasis on the spirit of the law, read with the letter of the law.
The letter of the law by itself, as read by the MACC on government contracts, isn’t law at all.
The 46 charges against Musa, as the public knows, were dropped apparently based on an Affidavit by Attorney General Gani Patail.
Ironically, in a study in contrast with Musa, Najib was fined RM210m by the court based on the main RM42m charge in the SRC International case. RM210m is the minimum five times the RM42m “personal benefit” amount. The maximum is ten times.
RM210m is a fatal flaw in law based on self-explanatory errors in facts and errors in law.
“Whistleblower” Clare Rewcastle, the Sarawak Report Editor, claims that Rosmah the wife of Najib bought anti-aging creams with the money. If so, there’s no proof that the wife of the former premier spent RM42m on anti-aging creams.
The Agong will decide on miscarriage of justice. No court will go against Agong. The matter is nonjusticiable.
I rest my case.
Re political power, run-offs should be held between the top two candidates in seats where no candidate obtained at least 51 per cent of the votes counted, assuming that at least 50 per cent of the voters turned out in seats and nationwide. This is the norm not only in democracies worldwide but also even in communist parties.
If run-offs were held in the recent Sarawak election on Sat 18 Dec 2021 for example, GPS (Gabungan Parti Sarawak) would have been dethroned.
The Federal government fears that Orang Asal Chief Ministers in Sabah and Sarawak would preside over the exit of the Borneo Territories from Malaysia.
Mahathir even cautioned Jeffrey Kitingan, after releasing him from ISA detention in early 1994, against “telling the people what they do not know” i.e. MA’63 and Borneo rights.
In law, when a government can’t be changed through elections, the people have lost their sovereignty to a handful of “control freaks”, for want of a better term, in power uninterrupted.
Sleeping Between Elections
Democracy isn’t about voting once in four or five years and then going home and sleeping until the next general election.
Democracy must be a bottom up movement beginning with the restoration of local government elections which remain suspended since 1965.
Again, democracy only works if the people form movements on every issue.
In law, on paper, it can be argued that a government can do whatever it wants unless restrained by the court or the people taking to the streets.
Again, on 06 Jan last year, more than a million people descended on Capitol Hill in Washington to “stop the count” and demand electoral integrity, the basis of the US Constitution.
In law, a line must be drawn somewhere, lest Pandora’s Box opens.
No court will allow the floodgates to open.
The US Supreme Court declined to intervene in US 2020, on the grounds that “every vote must be counted”. It left the conduct of the presidential election to the states i.e. the legislature and counting officials.
It appears that under the guise of the pandemic — special circumstances — there was allegedly no electoral integrity in the US 2020 presidential election.
The Republican states, the majority, have introduced legislation to ensure electoral integrity in US 2024 and the mid-term elections as well.
If America does not regain electoral integrity, civil war is inevitable. It won’t be a walk in the park like 06 Jan.
Republicans moan that the BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement has seized a disproportionate share of the political power in US 2020.
In Malaysia, the Malays did not hesitate to take to the streets in the wake of GE14 on Thurs 10 May 2018, but allegedly “for all the wrong reasons”.
In law, there can be no discrimination.
Discrimination is a violation of human rights.
Human rights, the basis of international law, derives from international customary practices. – New Malaysia Herald
About the writer: Longtime Borneo watcher Joe Fernandez keeps a keen eye on Malaysia as a legal scholar (jurist). He was formerly Chief Editor of Sabah Times. Heâs not to be mistaken for a namesake previously with Daily Express. References to his blog articles can be found here.
The points expressed in this article are that of the writerâs, and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the New Malaysia Herald.