Wednesday, November 16, 2016

2017 Budget: Lack of Legitimacy and Misplaced Priorities

Two Reasons for Rejecting Budget

This article seeks to respond to a few statements circulating in the social media that the opposition voted against the 2017 Budget to prevent the people, especially the poor, from enjoying the benefits bestowed to them by the Finance Minister. There are many reasons the opposition voted against the Budget. I wish to highlight only two. The Finance Minister lacks the legitimacy to be entrusted with the continued management of the people’s money and the 2017 Budget reveals his misplaced priorities. 
Lack of Legitimacy

The core of public finances is that some people spend other people’s money. In democracies, voters delegate the power over public spending and taxes to elected politicians.[1] The delegation of power to elected politicians implies that except for those of the highest integrity there are risks the politicians will extract rents from being in office and spend public money on projects other than those voters desire.

One of the tools for ensuring the people’s money is spent in accordance with the people’s desire is the budget. The budget is a contract between the voters and the Government showing how resources are raised and allocated for delivery of public services. The budget is the primary instrument for implementing fiscal policy thereby influencing the economy as a whole and how the Government plans to turn aspirations into reality.[2] The budget is the reflection of the policy and priorities of those who control and manage government machinery and apparatus at the given time. As a consequence budget transparency and accountability are very important means to truly democratize government and processes of governance.

Accountability denotes the rights, responsibilities and duties that exist between the people and the government institutions. Accountability and legitimacy are two sides of the same coin. Lack of accountability will result in lack of political legitimacy. Lack of legitimacy will result in democratic deficit and the consequent abuse of power by decisions makers and power-holders.[3]

When Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak refused to resign as Finance Minister following the 1MDB revelations, he plunged his Government into a legitimacy crisis.

The 1MDB fiasco spawned ludicrous and fallacious arguments to deny the largest embezzlement by kleptomaniacs in the history of the world occurred in Malaysia. Steps to keep a lid over disclosure proved inept, so brutal repression is used to silence those courageous enough to carry out their duties.  

Our Attorney-General is the only 1 out of 6 who holds the opinion there is no case. It appears the Attorney-General in the other jurisdictions, unlike ours are unable to discern “donation” from “corruption.” Our Attorney-General twice rebuffed Swiss requests for mutual legal assistance to investigate the 1MDB corruption allegations. The refusals add to questions on the adequacy of Malaysian authorities’ response to an affair that is the subject matter of multiple international queries.  

Three former ministers who spoke about 1MDB during the Budget debate in Parliament are now under police investigation. Parliamentary privileges and immunities to enable members of parliament to perform their duties to speak without fear or favour, not to be unduly influenced, harassed or intimidated by government or private individuals in Malaysia have been amended. The Federal Court in Mark Koding v PP [1982] 2 MLJ 120 ruled that a member of parliament’s privileges and immunities have been validly limited by the amendments to Article 63(4) of the Federal Constitution. A member of parliament’s privileges and immunities do not cover offences under the Sedition Act 1948. A member of parliament speaking about 1MDB in Parliament now runs the danger of being found guilty of uttering words having a seditious tendency.

Article 107 of the Constitution requires the Auditor-General’s reports to be submitted to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and laid before the House of Representatives. The AG’s reports are open to the public. However, The AG’s Report on 1MDB remains classified as an official secret under the Official Secrets Act. Pandan MP, Rafizi Ramli has been convicted for referring to a page in the AG’s Report. He is sentenced to 36 months imprisonment (18 months imprisonment for each of two charges to run concurrently). Rafizi will join Anwar Ibrahim in Sungai Buloh. Unless pardoned, both will be disqualified from being an elected representative for 5 years. Tian Chua has been sentenced to 3 months imprisonment as are a host of opposition members, activists, lecturers, students and others who are being investigated, charged, awaiting trial or convicted for various charges.

Individual Ministerial Responsibility   
The Finance Minister’s loss of legitimacy and credibility is due to his failure to abide by the constitutional convention known as individual ministerial responsibility. A fundamental constitutional convention under the Westminster parliamentary system is that ministers are responsible for the conduct of their ministry.

The principle of individual ministerial responsibility is central to the parliamentary system because it ensures the accountability of the government to Parliament and thus, ultimately to the citizens as a whole. The accountable minister in charge is expected to take the blame and ultimately resign. This means that if waste, corruption or any other misbehaviour is found to have occurred within a ministry, the minister is responsible even if he had no knowledge of the actions. The principle is essential to guarantee that an elected official is answerable for every single government action.

Thus the principle of individual ministerial responsibility requires the Finance Minister to take responsibility for the 1MDB debacle because it is under his ministry. Whether he was aware of the wrongdoings or involved personally is irrelevant. In failing to accept responsibility the Finance Minister lost the legitimacy and credibility to govern. He can no longer claim he commands the trust to manage the people’s money.

There are no merits to the contentions that evidence beyond reasonable doubt he committed an offence involving 1MDB must be produced before the Finance Minister is to resign. The office of Finance Minister and Prime Minister is not the dock in a criminal court. The holder of the office is entrusted to manage the people’s money, if there is the slightest doubt of his integrity, he must resign. If not he must be removed. This is to preserve the legitimacy, authority and dignity of the office.  
Failure to be accountable to Parliament  

The Finance Minister failed to honour a second aspect of the Westminster principle of individual ministerial responsibility. This is the principle that a minister is accountable to Parliament. Ministers are the link between Parliament and Government. Public servants carry out the activities of Government through their work in department and agencies and the Government directs them through ministers responsible for their activities which include activities by government-owned companies such as 1MDB. The minister is responsible to Parliament for decisions made and actions performed by those under his delegation. This means the minister must make announcements and answer questions in Parliament on the decisions and performance of their departments.

It is thus indisputable members of parliament are entitled to question the Finance Minister on 1MDB. There is not one word that mentions “1MDB” in the 2017 Budget speech. The only reasonable inference that can be drawn from the Finance Minister’s deafening silence is that he is unrepentant and has no remorse for the staggering losses, wrongdoing and irregularities committed by those responsible for 1MDB under his watch. The lack of accountability is blatantly obvious for all to see.

Thus the audacity to ask who is play-acting in the Budget speech: “Sebenarnya disini, siapa yang bermain sandiwara? Siapa yang tiada substance sebenarnya? Siapa yang menjadi pembelot dan perkhianat negara sebenarnya? Di mana pula timbulnya rebut ni?” deserves nothing less than a walk-out in response.
Death of Democratic Governance and Accountability

It is no longer possible for the BN MPs to turn a blind to the wrongdoing in 1MDB. Any denial of wrongdoing is totally not credible in the light of recent revelations by the international media on the US DOJ suit, actions by the Swiss and Singapore authorities to withdraw the licences and to file criminal charges against the banks and officers engaged in the money-laundering of the proceeds from 1MDB. The first conviction and sentence of imprisonment was delivered last week.
Continued survival has been bought by co-optation, propaganda, censorship, repression, prosecution and imprisonment of opposition leaders, activists, lecturers and students. The costs for maintaining power includes sackings, transfers, acts of humiliation and calls to ostracise dissenters and those troubled by their conscience in the UMNO leadership, past and present, the rank and file and Government agencies and institutions.

The 117 BN MPs in voting for the 2017 Budget and 11 PAS abstentions in the face of such legitimacy crisis hammered the final nail into democracy’s coffin in Malaysia. The government transformation programme from democracy to authoritarian regime is now completed. When the 2017 Budget was approved democratic governance, transparency, integrity and accountability in Malaysia died and were buried.

Off-Budget Debt

The lack of legitimacy continues as the Government enters into one after another mega contract, privatisation and concession. One of the biggest concern in the 2017 Budget is not what is in the Budget but what is not there. It is off-budget funding. Off-budget funding kept outside of government financial regulations, reporting and audit requirements can give rise to illegal and irregular transactions. In addition the use of such funds means the reported level of government expenditure and debt may be understated.

Off-budget funding may not be contrary to the letter of the law but it violates the spirit of the law. Omitting off-budget funding in the Budget documents offends the principle of providing the public a comprehensive, accurate and reliable account of the public finances. The Budget is a contract of trust between the Government and the citizens. It is expected that the Budget document should account comprehensively and correctly for all expenditures and revenues of the Government and that no figures should be omitted or hidden.

1MDB is not the only government-owned corporations which outstanding debt can have significant fiscal implications. This is because these debts are implicitly or explicitly government-guaranteed, an example is the PKFZ bonds. According to the 2015 Federal Government Financial Statements the total amount of GLCs’ debt guaranteed by the Federal Government is RM 920,336,791,310.19 which increased from RM 850,035,142,802.32 in 2014. This does not include GLCs’ debts or borrowings for which the Government issued letters of comfort. The 2015 Financial Statement records only the RM 5 billion debt of 1MDB guaranteed by the Government there is no mention of 1MDB’s liabilities which are more than RM 46 billion.

We are now in the process of having the most expensive railway in the world. The 688 km East Coast Rail Link (ERCL) project at RM55 billion is another off-budget transaction. There is indeed cause for concern.   
Misplaced Priorities

Why does the Opposition bother to debate the Budget? BN with its majority will push through and rubberstamp the 2017 Budget no matter what we say. We soldier on to discharge our constitutionally-mandated duty. Although in the minority, we like the BN MPs, are the guardians of public money. The Government cannot spend a single cent from the Consolidated Fund without Parliament’s approval. By making a stand, it is a reminder that the national coffers are not someone’s personal account. The Government is accountable for wastage, corruption and embezzlement. The Government is required to put on record its justification or the absence thereof in spending the people’s hard earned money and the nation’s scarce resources. In doing so, we put public concerns to bear on the Government’s fiscal and economic policies. It is hoped that by a detailed, focused and considered debate it would improve public understanding of both the process and thinking behind the fiscal measures, their impact on the economy and lives of the people.  

Values and Policies

People think the budget is about rows and rows of numbers on a page, the boring dispassionate and clinical allocation of funds to the various Ministries and government programmes. It is more than that. The Budget is in fact a statement of the values and priorities of the Government represented in the person of the Finance Minister. The Budget reveals the Finance Minister’s values. It tells us what he considers are his priorities. The Budget should really be a reflection not of the Finance Minister’s but the values and priorities of our nation and its people. The 2017 Budget reveals the Finance Minister is out of sync with the people. The Budget reveals the Prime Minister’s misplaced values and priorities.

Ratings more important than People’s suffering

The Finance Minister has given priority to maintain the ratings by the three international rating agencies; Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor than the people’s sufferings arising from the increased cost of living and difficult economic times.    

In the wake of the 2008 global economic slowdown the Government under Tun Abdullah Badawi launched the First Economic Stimulus Package of RM 7 Billion. Najib Tun Razak launched the Second Economic Stimulus Package of RM 60 billion when he took over as Prime Minister in March 2009.  

The economic situation today is more critical than 2008-2009 with falling commodity prices, oil prices and currency values of the Ringgit in the midst of a global economic slowdown.  According to the 2017 Economic Report 38,499 were retrenched in 2015 and 20,798 in first eight months of 2016. The highest retrenchment was in the manufacturing sector (36.9%) followed by the financial and insurance/takaful (21%) as well as wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicle and motorcycles. Jobstreet reported there were 506,000 unemployed persons in February 2016.

There are critical reasons for providing a fiscal stimulus to boost the economy but the Finance Minister has instead given priority to reducing the Budget deficit in order to maintain the credit rating. The Finance Minister in a show of his statesman-like qualities said he made the difficult decision to reduce the Budget deficit to 3% and called on the people to brave the increased cost of living.

The Finance Minister called on the people to spend moderately by choosing less expensive nasi kandar restaurants. He has lost sight we are a nation where the overwhelming majority of our work force has low wages and low income. According to the Statistics Department 2014 Household Income Survey (HIS) the median monthly salaries and wages per month for individuals is RM 1,700.00. This means half of all workers in Malaysia get this much or less. Rising food prices affect the lower income households the most. The question many Malaysians face each day is not which nasi kandar restaurant to eat in but whether they get to eat at all.

The Khazanah Research Institute reports many Malaysians cannot even afford the minimum requirements of a nutritious meal. A nutritionally adequate diet is beyond the reach of many Malaysians. For those living close to the poverty line it would costs almost their entire income, for those in Sabah and Sarawak it is more than their entire income.

Between 2011 and 2015, food price inflation was 3.6% on average, whereas overall inflation was 2.4% over the same period. The increase in the cost of food has a large effect on the cost of living on households especially those who earn less than RM 2,000.00 a month. The HIS was carried out pre- GST. Post-GST, no one except perhaps our Finance Minister, would be surprised to find more shops shuttered, shopping malls deserted, drastically reduced number of customers in the morning markets, pasar malam and pasar tani.

The Finance Minister highlighted the plight of the young nasi lemak seller summoned for not having a hawker’s licence. He encouraged the young university graduate selling nasi lemak to continue doing so as part of entrepreneurship. The Finance Minister failed to realise the young university graduate is compelled to sell nasi lemak because the Government failed to solve the graduate unemployment problem. In 2013 graduates constituted 30.6% of the unemployed, 35.2% in 2014 and 33.8% in 2015. The Ministry of Higher Education reported one out of four in the 254,561 graduates is unemployed 6 months after graduation. Despite not having solved the problems of mismatch of skills, soft skills, lack of numeracy, language, critical and innovative thinking the Finance Minister cut the allocations to 20 out of the 25 local universities.

The Finance Minister said BR1M is not animal feed, the Government always prioritise the rakyat’s needs. The amount of BR1M will be increased with an allocation of RM 6.8 billion to be given to 7 million recipients. The fact such a substantial portion of our population is dependent on BR1M is not something the Government should be proud of.

The Finance Minister called on BR1M recipients to become UBER drivers to supplement their income. He did not realise the many Malaysians have already become part-time UBER drivers, otherwise 20,000 taxi drivers need not surrender their taxis to look for alternative livelihood. Many Malaysians have taken a second and some third job to make ends meet. By saying Malaysians are now enjoying a better quality of life it reveals how far removed he is from the ground and reality. 
Austerity Programmes

Amongst the criteria considered by the rating agencies is whether the government has a balanced budget. As a consequence governments proceed to implement programmes to balance the budget by implementing austerity programmes in depressed economic times. Austerity programmes in a depressed economy is described by economist, Joseph Stiglitz as a medicine that sought to cure the disease by killing the patient.

The rating agencies do not consider whether the sovereign debt is in a foreign currency or in the country’s own currency. There is minimal chance of default by a government of a debt in its own currency. This is because governments are the only entities able to print their own money.

Paul Krugman has pointed out the argument that governments running significant budget deficits should implement austerity programmes during difficult economic times otherwise they would end up as another Greece is a myth that has been debunked. It is standard macroeconomics for the Government to provide fiscal stimulus in a depressed economy. As John Maynard Keynes wrote in 1936: “The boom not the slump, is the right time for austerity at the Treasury”.

Paul Krugman produced a chart that showed countries such as UK, US and Japan that have substantial government debt much higher than Greece that borrowed in their own currencies performed better than Greece. They did not fall like Greece. Paul Krugman also showed that the countries that implemented austerity programmes enjoyed low economic growth while those that did not experienced better growth. The more severe the austerity programmes the slower the growth.

There are concerns that providing fiscal stimulus will raise government debt. The 55% GDP debt ceiling can be raised. Raising debt limits does not directly alter the amount of debt. It allows the Government to pay for spending programmes that has been approved. The US Congress has raised the US debt ceiling 90 times this has not affected its credit rating by the rating agencies.

Budget surpluses or at least balanced budget have been touted as fiscally responsible, whereas deficits are painted as unsustainable. In reality there is nothing inherently responsible in balancing the budget. On the contrary such a move at a time of high joblessness and underemployment, efforts to reduce rather than increase the deficit are the height of irresponsibility.


It is certain the 2017 Budget will be approved. What is not certain is whether Malaysians can overcome the repression, intimidation, gerrymandering, malapportionment and electoral fraud that sustain a Government lacking legitimacy and credibility. See you at Bersih 5.

William Leong Jee Keen
MP Selayang
16 November 2016  

[1] Jurgen Von Hagen Budgetting Institutions for better Fiscal Performance; Budgeting and Budgetary Institutions World Bank
[2] The Principles of Budgetary Governance OECD
[3] John Samuel Economic Governance and Budget Accountability

Monday, May 16, 2016










巫统为了维持种族政治,必须将大部分的资源分配到最大族群的身上,最终导致社会和经济福利也随着族群利益做出分配,并非根据社会阶级或经济情况做出分配。结果是被忽视与边缘化的一群,恰恰就是本应受到重视及照顾的贫穷的群体。要打破巫统分而治之导致的族群矛盾, 希望联盟当务之急必须草拟一份能够保证各种族获得公平对待的政策同时,确保该政策可以对抗巫统国阵的族群政策、直接向种族政治宣战。


年政治海啸,在野联盟打破了国阵在国会的三分二垄断,并在2013年大选成功获得了51%的大多数选票,许多民众误以为民联结盟的模式 (公正党及伊斯兰党取代巫统,行动党替代马华)足以取代国阵模式,成为来届的执政党。然而,这种想法不仅会持续的让国家笼罩在种族政治的阴影下,同时也将大马的政治局势过度简化,而该想法也已经被事实证明是错误的。


国阵联盟/国阵政府依靠协商民主的模式在多元社会里管理各族间的分歧,各政党派出特定的精英,为各自代表的族群争取利益。然而,这种协商模式必须建立在一个前提之下 – 任何政党(少数民族)的代表有权否决政府的任何不公平决定。然而,事实证明国阵在协商民主模式之下,不仅无法治理好这个国家,反而导致巫统的一党独大,使其他成员党失去协商的空间和否决的权利,最终无法影响巫统的种族政治与政策。在过去的60年里,协商民主模式不仅不适合用于马来西亚的多元社会,同时也在其他的东南亚国家面对失败。










创建游戏规则的巫统肯定最了解这个定律,因此从马来西亚独立至今,它不断的强调及提醒马来人必须要团结,才能确保自己的族群、宗教及语言受到保障。为了确保以种族政治为主流的游戏规则及架构不受破坏,无论是尝试成立多元政党的巫统首任主席翁惹化(Datuk Onn Jaafar),还是成功让行动党与回教党放下成见,成立民联的安华,亦或是其他的巫裔学生领袖、政治人物、学者,都会受到国阵的逼害、抹黑,甚至是监禁。任何尝试透过以多元政治对抗巫统的马来领袖都被迫付出更高的代价,他们也必须拥有比其他族群更大的勇气才能持续坚持多元的路线。安华放弃成立马来政党,选择成立多元的人民公正党,与巫统设立的传统政治架构碰撞,并付出了失去自由与健康的惨痛代价。


第十三届大选的成绩就足以验证我的说法。505大选,当行动党获得历史性胜利(夺下38个国会议席)的同时,巫统也获得优越的成绩,赢得88个国会议席。行动党在城市华裔选区几乎完胜,巫统则成功夺下83.5% 马来人为主的乡区议席,相关议席的73.76% 正是来自乡区的巫裔选民。

当中的原因正如我刚才提及的,尽管在第十三届大选中,许多马来选民意识到国阵身陷财务丑闻、政绩败坏、国民面对极大的通膨压力,却因为担心自己的权力与利益受到剥削,而把选票投给了巫统。这正是巫统长期以来透过行动党的壮大,让马来选民相信在野阵线由行动党主导,而把选票投给与行动党共处同一个联盟的公正党及伊斯兰党,最终将导致马来人利益受到损坏,而在缺乏保障及安全感的情况下,许多乡区选民选择继续的投靠巫统,这也是巫统长期灌输“投民联一票 投行动党一票”的成果。




Sunday, May 15, 2016

Seeds of Pakatan’s Defeat

Opposition Coalition Failure
We will never know why Sarawakians on 7 May 2016 returned Barisan Nasional as State government. This is because the opposition failed to offer a viable alternative government for voters to choose. Wisdom, humility, patience, willingness to compromise, cooperation and teamwork, essential requirements for a coalition government were clearly lacking from the opposition leadership and their rank and file.

Same Pillow Different Dreams
This episode reveals although DAP, PKR and Amanah professes to be a multiracial party, each party’s concept and strategy is different. As the Malay proverb says “tidur sebantal tetapi mimpi lain-lain.” If Pakatan Harapan is to become a viable alternative government the parties must reach consensus on the approach to end racial politics. Failure is not an option. If they cannot do this, it is better each go its separate way for the 14th General Election.

The opposition parties have tried and failed to form a coalition many times before. Pakatan Harapan is destined to join the list of failures unless the parties are able to agree upon, implement and assure voters it has a model, strategy and road map for ending racial politics. The opposition must put into place a convincing mechanism for our plural society with its diverse ethnic communities, cultures, religions and languages to live and work in harmony, at ease and at peace with each other. It must be a model that can integrate and accommodate the different ethnic groups and religions. It must allay their collective fears for change in the future brought upon by living through the history of the past. Pakatan Rakyat before this and Pakatan Harapan until now have failed to do this.   

To remove a regime sustained by racial politics exercising authoritarian power where elections are not held on a level playing field, the opposition must recognize the differing ethnic or religious support each brings as building blocks to the coalition are also the stumbling blocks to success. To succeed they will need to bring their policies towards the centre avoiding extreme positions that appeal to their supporters but offend others. Each party’s leadership and rank and file need to display wisdom to accept a model for bringing the voters of different ethnicity and religions to support the cause, moderate their policies and tamper their rhetoric. 

They need to have humility to accept their party may not play the role the dominant partner or its leader the supreme commander of the coalition or designated prime minister. They need patience to make the coalition work, its common policies accepted and confidence in the coalition instilled in the electorate. They need to cooperate and work as a team to achieve success, there is no room for prima donnas.

Political Coalition Negotiating as an Electoral Alliance.
Pakatan Harapan negotiates seat allocation like an electoral alliance not a political coalition. An electoral alliance is an agreement made before the election amongst opposition parties to ensure a straight fight between opposition candidates and the ruling party. There is no agreement on policies and government positions. If the electoral alliance wins they may or may not form a government amongst themselves. One or more of the opposition parties may instead even put their lot with the ruling party to form the government. This is what PAS said they will do in the 14GE. The party to rule the federation or the state will be the one with the most seats. This is the reason each opposition party is jockeying for winnable seats, seeking dominance to for appoint the prime minister or chief minister, federal or state ministerial posts including local councillors and village chiefs. This is the main cause for the lack of cooperation and teamwork amongst the Pakatan parties. As patience, tolerance and goodwill have human limits this negotiation system is a model for the self-destruction of Pakatan.

A political coalition on the other hand is an agreement by the political parties before election not only on the allocation of the seats but also the policies and administration of the government if it wins. There is a prior agreement on the post of the prime minister, the cabinet of the federation, the chief minister and executive members for each state, the division and allocation of government positions and including GLC directorship. If the coalition wins and one of the parties fail to win its allocation of seats or even one single seat, the power-sharing agreement is nevertheless put into effect. This ensures unity, mutual assistance and support for each party by the others in the coalition.

It is better for Pakatan to argue the seat allocation, ministerial positions and resolve the differences now than wait to negotiate when elections are called only for the coalition to collapse on nomination day.          

Model for Governing a Deeply Divided Society
Pakatan must adopt a suitable model for the government of a plural society. We are all fully aware Malaysia is a society deeply divided by ethnicity, race, religion and language. These ethnic divisions produce ethnic political parties and ethnic voting. With the first past the post system of election and majority rule, UMNO as an ethnic party supported by the majority ethnic group, it can dominate minority groups seemingly in perpetuity.

Ethnic activists and political entrepreneurs make blatant communal appeals and outbid moderate politicians, mobilizing members, polarizing society and magnifying inter-ethnic group dilemmas. Non-rational factors such as emotions, historical memories and myths exacerbate the inter-ethnic tensions. In Malaysia, access to resources lies in the heart of the inter-ethnic tensions. Property rights, jobs, scholarships, education admissions, language rights, government contracts and development allocations confer benefits to the majority ethnic group. Political power is therefore of critical importance. The ethnic group that controls political power gain access to these goods and resources thereby ensuring their social and economic welfare. Where policies and programmes to aid those living in poverty and the disadvantaged is classified by ethnic origins and not class, ethnic minorities are marginalised and discriminated. In a multi-ethnic society such as ours the struggle to control state policy produces the competing ethnic interest.

It is therefore imperative Pakatan Harapan is able to present its vision for interethnic political conciliation.    

Pakatan must apply Centripetalism and discard Consociationalism
Barisan Nasional boasts the best approach for achieving stability in our plural society is the BN way. It preaches that only by having race-based parties that are able to come to some degree of understanding and cooperation are we able to achieve a fragile unity and some measure of peace.

In the euphoria of winning five states, denying BN its two-third parliament majority in 2008 and 51% of the popular vote in 2013, some believe racial politics is ended by a Pakatan grand coalition replacing the BN grand coalition. PKR and PAS replace UMNO to represent the Malays and DAP replaces MCA, Gerakan, MIC and the others to represent the non-Malays. It is a simplistic idea and one that is wrong.

Consociationalism failed Malaysia
The BN grand coalition is held out as a form of consociationalist government. A consociationalist government is a model used in plural societies to manage ethnic conflict. It consists of a grand coalition government of elites from each political party representing exclusively his own ethnic group. It is based on the assumption that the elites recognise non-cooperation would lead to adverse consequences, that decisions are made by consensus and right of minority veto would allow the different groups to have a say on policy making and government decisions.

The BN grand coalition failed Malaysia. UMNO enjoys complete dominance and control of BN. The other parties have no influence over government decisions and policies. It has been shown in the past sixty years that consociationalism did not work for Malaysia and other South East Asian countries. It stratified ethnic identity and heightened ethnic differences. The temptation for the elites falling prey to corruption proved too much for many to resist. Interethnic accommodation deteriorated as the rule of law weakened due to the legal institutions’ inability to stand up to the strong political elites. Further, consociationalism proved to be incompatible with open, competitive democracy as a result of a perceived need to control political expression of ethnicity and management of communal relations. The consociational governments of Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia (where the 1993 constitution required a two-third vote of confidence for the investiture of a new government) and Indonesia (during the 1950’s and under the presidency of Abdulrrahman Wahid between 1999 and 2001) descended into semi-democracies or outright authoritarian regimes.            

Centripetalism is the correct tool
PKR believes to end racial politics, Pakatan must discard consociationlism. PKR sees centripetalism as the only model for managing our ethnic issues. The best way to mitigate the destructive patterns of a divided society is not to encourage the formation of ethnic political parties or to replicate existing ethnic divisions in the legislature and other government institutions, but rather to depoliticize ethnicity by requiring politicians and their supporters to accommodate each ethnic group, to seek support from across the ethnic divide and making voters based their choice on issues other than ethnicity.

Centripetalism is the approach to pull the different ethnic groups towards moderate, compromising policies. 

Politicians in a multi-ethnic party have to appeal to all segments instead of shopping for votes in his own community. Politicians from multi-ethnic parties make cross-ethnic appeals and demonstrate their capacity to represent groups besides their own. Under a centripetalist model politicians move to the centre of policy issues to attract voters from all ethnic groups. It emphasizes the importance of encouraging integration across ethno-political divides.

PKR leaders and representatives being members of a truly multiracial political party have proven their ability to reach out and attract votes from all ethnic groups besides their own, moderate their political rhetoric on potentially divisive issues and have learned to broaden their policy positions to make cross-ethnic appeals.

Anwar Ibrahim has called out from the depths of his prison cell for the party and Pakatan to persevere with the centripetalist model. He knows it works. In 2008, Anwar Ibrahim was able to take Lim Guan Eng into the kampongs and Malay majority constituencies to hold him out as a chief minister who can take care of Malay interest as well as Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Dayak and all Malaysians.  

Putting Centripetalism into practice
To end racial politics Pakatan must adopt centripetalism. This means Pakatan must reject the grand coalition of ethnic parties. DAP is in substance a Chinese-based party expanding into mixed non-Malay seats. By taking away the non-Malay seats from PKR and Amanah, their essential nature of being multi-racial parties is eroded. DAP’s demand, in effect, is for these parties to cede their non-Malay seats, consequently their non-Malay leadership, elected representatives, members and support base to DAP. DAP is pushing PKR and Amanah into becoming Malay political parties. By doing so, DAP is pushing Pakatan into adopting the BN failed consociationlist model.      
Adoption and implementation of the centripetalist model is not by one party or the other in Pakatan demanding for winnable seats, it is by the distribution of all Malay-majority, Chinese-majority, mixed seats across the board to each of the three parties equally subject to the peculiar demographics of the states and constituencies. This means PKR and Amanah must be allocated Chinese-majority seats and DAP Malay-majority seats. Each of the parties have to be allocated both urban as well as rural seats. In this way each of the component parties in order to win their diverse ethnic seats has to move their policies from the extreme into the centre and their leadership and grass roots shift their rhetoric from intemperance to moderation.  

Leadership and Dominance
Without in any way being disrespectful to the leadership and capabilities of Lim Kit Siang, Lim Guan Eng and all DAP leaders and members, the sad but undeniable truth is the road to end racial politics, no matter how one tries to twist and turn, must pass through the gates of the 60% Malay-Muslim majority holding the key to 114 parliamentary seats in peninsula Malaysia. Gerrymandering and malapportionment will always be there. We have to take this in our stride in the fight against racial politics and an authoritarian regime. Only a Malay-Muslim majority political party which espouses moderation, equality and multi-ethnicity can take us there.

UMNO is well aware of this and have placed great emphasis to remind Malays on the need for Malay unity to protect their race, religion and culture. To maintain their hold on Malay support, Malay leaders who dare to join multi-ethnic political parties are cut-off from the community, turned into outcasts, persecuted, imprisoned and discredited. UMNO did this to Dato Onn Jaffar, have done this to Anwar Ibrahim and will do this to the young Malay leaders, activists, academicians and student leaders. The price extracted on Malays who choose multi-ethnicity and equity is a high one. Anwar Ibrahim has broken this psychological chain used to tie the Malays to UMNO by paying the heavy price of being persecuted, loss of personal liberty and physical well-being. This precious prize so dearly won must be fully capitalized upon by Pakatan.

It is another sad and tragic truth that UMNO has tarred and feathered DAP as the bogeyman for Malays. It is obviously illogical and absolutely untrue that DAP is anti-Malay and anti-Islam. Unfortunately, ill-advised or instinctive responses to UMNO provocation, the occasional slip of the tongue by DAP leaders and the insensitive statements by overzealous grass root leaders serve to validate UMNO’s claims in the eyes of the Malays. UMNO and its media pounced on such statements to ensure Malays will not forgive and never forget such transgressions. UMNO has dehumanized DAP leaders before the Malays resulting in fear and demonization of DAP. Although DAP seeks to address this stigma by appointing Malay leaders and having elected representatives, some of whom are excellent personalities and parliamentarians, it is an uphill task. There is no chance of winning Malay hearts and minds if one cannot even get pass the door.

Until this can be accomplished DAP needs to be sensitive that expansion by them, their ascendancy and assertiveness is seen as dominance in Pakatan Rakyat before and Pakatan Harapan now. It validates UMNO’s rhetoric that the Malay leaders in PKR and PAS then and Amanah now are DAP puppets who have sold their race to the Chinese. PKR and PAS leaders’ credibility before Malay eyes are severely and irreparably damaged. DAP’s victories sow the seeds of Pakatan’s defeat.

This is attested by the 13th General Elections. DAP’s record winning number of 38 parliament seats was matched by an equal impressive win of 88 seats by UMNO. DAP won all the Chinese-majority seats. UMNO won 83.5% of rural seats containing 73.76% of rural Malay votes. PKR and PAS bore the brunt of UMNO’s resurgence. Malays saw the ascendancy of DAP as a challenge to Malay supremacy. Malays fearful of DAP’s agenda as told by UMNO returned to UMNO’s fold. Voting for the other Malay based parties, PAS and PKR was not an option, because they are part of Pakatan and a vote for Pakatan is a vote for DAP. UMNO’s racial rhetoric struck the right chord with the Malays. Irrational as it may sound the fear of Chinese domination and the Malay race disappearing from the face of the earth saw Malays voting to maintain Ketuanan Melayu despite UMNO’s record of financial scandals, poor governance and corruption. Fear after all, is never rational.

For the 14GE, Hadi Awang recognising this, steered PAS out of Pakatan to work with UMNO. PKR and Amanah have kept the faith. They are however, painfully aware that unless fundamental changes are made in Pakatan to attract Malay votes, DAP’s ascendancy hangs like an albatross over their heads to win Malay support. 
DAP can win all the non-Malay majority seats but these are not enough to form the government. By taking all the non-Malay majority seats and achieving dominance in Pakatan Harapan, DAP is winning the battle but Pakatan will lose the war. The tragic truth of the racial tensions and ugly reality of our ethnic divide must be dealt with in a practical manner otherwise the cracks in Pakatan may lead to permanent fissure. Failure to learn from victories lead to defeat, failure to learn from defeat lead to destruction.
This article is the personal opinion of the writer. It does not reflect the party’s position and nothing is to be construed as such.

William Leong Jee Keen
Member of Parliament Selayang
14th May 2016   

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

William Leong: 'Those who lied to PAC can be jailed up to three years'

Those who lied to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) can be jailed up to three years, said Selayang MP William Leong.
The PKR lawmaker cited Section 20 of the Houses of Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Act which states that those who give false testimony to the House or any House committee can be charged under Section 193 of the Penal Code for giving false evidence.
This is in regard to the PAC report on 1MDB, and the unravelling of information that followed including International Petroleum Investment Co's (IPIC’s) statement that it had no links to Aabar British Virgin Islands.
"Those who have testified before the auditor-general and the PAC have not told the truth,” said Leong who is a PAC member.
"The IPIC's announcements have further exposed that those who testified before the auditor-general and the PAC have withheld vital information and have given false and misleading evidence," he said at a press conference outside the Parliament lobby today.
1MDB had paid US$3.5 billion to Aabar BVI after allegedly being assured by former IPIC and Aabar Investment executives that the BVI company was legitimate.
The executives, Khadem Al Qubaisi and Mohamed Badawy Al Husseiny, have both left IPIC and Aabar respectively, and are reportedly being probed by Abu Dhabi authorities.
Aabar BVI had been shut down last year.
Meanwhile, Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua has called for the PAC to reconvene following IPIC’s termination of its debt-asset swap deal with 1MDB.
"This is because 1MDB had given false impression that its rationalisation plan was going smoothly and that 1MDB would not need help from the government to pay off its debts that exceed RM50 billion," he said.
IPIC in an announcement to the London Stock Exchange yesterday said 1MDB and the Finance Ministry had defaulted on a RM1.1 billion owed to the Abu Dhabi fund.
As a result, IPIC said it and its subsidiary Aabar Investments PJS obligation in the binding term sheet has been terminated.
The Finance Ministry in response said it would honour all its outstanding commitments without going into specifics.