Ak57\’s Weblog

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Archive for March 2008

Post-Election Celebration Dinners

I had the good fortune of attending two dinner functions last weekend – one for Nurul Izzah’s Lembah Pantai team, the other for the PKR/PAS/PSM Subang coalition supporters.

Lembah Pantai Dinner

We started our dinner function around 8.30 PM at Bayu Timor, a restaurant in PJ owned by two members of our 1999 Lembah Pantai team. Quite a nice restaurant actually 🙂 It was a small affair, perhaps 30-40 people almost all of whom were from 1999 so the atmosphere was like a family reunion. Sadly there were a few people that I wanted to meet who didn’t turn up, maybe they had lost touch with hq.

Raja Petra was there as well, which was quite a nice surprise for me. He entertained us for about half an hour while we were waiting for Nurul Izzah to arrive. Some of the things he spoke on were:

  • That some Opposition candidates won because of the people’s desire for change, not individual merit – quote, “The ABU movement – Anyone But UMNO”
  • How Tengku Razaleigh will make a move towards becoming Prime Minister in light of BN’s election losses
  • The real meaning of Barisan Rakyat (which I have written about here)

Nurul Izzah came with her entourage around 10 PM, gave a short thank you speech, then stayed for 15 minutes to individually greet those present before leaving for another function (I’m guessing there were multiple celebration dinners that night heh).

Following that some people left, the rest of us had a nice chat and I heard plenty of interesting stories. It really was a joyous occasion for me because I hadn’t seen many of these people for 8 years; suddenly it was like I’m back at our Shadow President’s house at one of our many 1999 era get-togethers 🙂

I also had a long memorable discussion with Nurul Izzah’s right hand man about campaign strategies and post-campaign strategies. It is always nice to meet someone willing to discuss such things with me. As to what those strategies are, I’m keeping it under my hat of course 😉 Everyone left around 12.45 AM.

PKR/PAS/PSM Dinner

I had no idea this function was open to the public, so I was quite surprised to see the huge crowd in the BU3 hall on Sunday night at 8.30 PM. Didn’t see all the volunteers I had met during the campaign though but it was a nice surprise to see the Bandar Utama RA members that I had met at yesterday’s RA meeting, nice chaps 🙂 As expected the three candidates gave thank you speeches to the crowd, after which a buffet dinner followed. I then followed some of the Bilik Gerakan gang to Centerpoint after the crowd had dispersed for a post-makan minum session, think we left at 1 AM.

pkr_post_dinner1.png

Written by ak57

March 22, 2008 at 10:53 pm

The Barisan Rakyat Myth

Barisan Rakyat PosterWhen I first heard mention of the term Barisan Rakyat, I thought it sounded good. I guess you could translate it as People’s Front or People’s Coalition, but the inclusion of ‘People’ in the title is probably why I liked it more than Barisan Alternatif. The message of ‘Alternative’ just says, ‘we are different from those in power’ whereas ‘People’ says ‘we are of the people’. I like that.

After I read of the launch of the People’s Voice and People’s Declaration and saw the photos of the Opposition party members I misunderstood it to mean that they had endorsed Barisan Rakyat and adopted it as a term to describe an alliance of Opposition parties. How could I not misunderstand this statement by Haris Ibrahim?

To BN, let this photo represent the alliance between the Rakyat and Barisan Rakyat founded on an aspiration to restore good governance to our country and secure justice and equality for all.


– quoted from a post on People’s Parliament (link)

Contacts at PKR and DAP headquarters said I was wrong; the only alliance term used is Barisan Alternatif which only refers to PKR+PAS. A few individual candidates were using ‘Barisan Rakyat’ in reference to themselves only, without endorsement from their party headquarters. Lim Kit Siang even issued a statement saying ‘there is no such thing as Barisan Rakyat’ – I am glad he did so.

To be quite frank I got a bit annoyed with the writers at The People’s Parliament because they were helping to spread this misinterpretation. I looked through their postings for the past couple of months, and the usage of the term Barisan Rakyat by them indicates that it is in reference only to the Opposition parties and not themselves or the people.

The Real Meaning of Barisan Rakyat

At a dinner I attended last Saturday, Raja Petra gave a clear definition of Barisan Rakyat:

Barisan Rakyat is not a reference to an alliance between any of the political parties. It is a reference to us, the people, and our support for those parties.

This statement really helped relieve some of my frustration. Until he said that I had no idea that that was the meaning, because by this time bloggers, forum/blog commenter’s and even people on the street had adopted the term to be a reference to the Opposition parties.

The misunderstanding had spread too far – can you blame the people? Looking at the poster I can see both interpretations now:

  1. The people of Malaysia endorses these political parties
  2. These political parties are united together for the people of Malaysia

Combine that with the existing terms of Barisan Nasional and Barisan Alternatif as references to party coalitions and there seems to have been no way for the true meaning of Barisan Rakyat to spread.

I have a very low tolerance for lies so it galls me to hear statements like, “Barisan Rakyat has taken five state governments”, “I voted for Barisan Rakyat” or, “BR must stop fighting amongst themselves”. I have even heard some PKR people use the Barisan Rakyat term in reference to the unnamed alliance between the Opposition parties. They should know better.

SV Singam wrote a good post explaining who Barisan Rakyat is on the 14th of March (link). I figured the usage of the term on the site would change, though it has not and looks like it will continue to be used in reference to the political parties.

Closing Thoughts

I think my frustration will fade in time. The Opposition parties would benefit from a formal alliance, however DAP’s enmity towards PAS seems to be a permanent roadblock to that. Yet they have to work together in governing the states won, so in time I hope PAS lets go of its association with ambitions of setting up an Islamic State even at the risk of losing members.

If public opinion is that the alliance already exists and is called Barisan Rakyat, then the parties would have no choice but to adopt that as their name when they do officially form an alliance.

Barisan Rakyat would have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. A term coined to indicate the shared goals between the people and the political parties, bestowed upon them to show their unity. I end this article with a quote from Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda:

It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. What after all are a square and a circle? They are mere words and words can be moulded until they clothe ideas in disguise.

Written by ak57

March 22, 2008 at 2:22 am

NEP’s Twilight Years

The goal of the New Economic Policy (NEP), or Dasar Ekonomi Baru (DEB), was to eradicate poverty by redistributing wealth among the three major races in Malaysia – Malays/Bumiputras, Chinese and Indians. This was noticeably done by offering benefits to Bumiputras, akin to affirmative action. Some of these benefits are:

  1. Priority placement in universities (ethnic quotas)
  2. Discounts on housing loans
  3. Loans/Mutual funds available only for Bumiputras, or discounted for them
  4. Minimum percentage of equity owned by KLSE companies must be by Bumiputras
  5. Many government projects to be given only to Bumiputra owned companies

Unfortunately in the almost four decades since this policy has been implemented, all it has accomplished is:

  1. Redistribute wealth from other races into a minority of uber-rich Bumiputras
  2. Create a superiority complex among these uber-rich Bumiputras
  3. Encourage laziness/laid-back attitude among some Bumiputras because they don’t have to work as hard as other races to become wealthy
  4. Create the perception among non-Bumiputras that Bumiputras aren’t very smart, probably owing to the laid-back attitude (I’m not kidding, I have seen and heard this mentioned many times)
  5. Ferment unrest among other races due to the economic disadvantages of not being a Bumiputra
NEP #1

Personal Experiences

I have never made use of my Bumiputra benefits:

  1. I have never bought a house nor do I see myself buying one in the near future
  2. I do not own any Amanah Saham shares or taken the special Bumiputra-only loan that allows me to buy them at a profit (yes, it is a loan that pays for itself)
  3. I have not registered my company with the Ministry of Finance in order to gain access to government tenders
  4. I was offered a job once based on my Bumiputra status alone – the company didn’t even want to interview me! They merely wanted to fill their quota
  5. I once had a boss that constantly complained about how useless I was to him, because I did not look like a Bumiputra and was considered (by him) to be ‘not good enough’ to get government contracts
  6. Many non-Bumis automatically assume I am not very bright and act incredibly surprised when I prove them wrong, quote, “I never thought Malay could do that!”
  7. Despite them knowing about these facts, I still get some occasional verbal abuse from non-Bumiputra friends about how much they suffer because of people like me

Looking at this list now I must admit I seem rather silly. Had I taken advantage of the personal/business loans I would be much better off. Sadly I never really had the means to get started on the loan due to hovering in the lower middle class income range, and also because of my anger at being accused of being another free-loading Bumiputra. At least I can honestly retort that I never claimed any Bumiputra benefits 🙂

Enter PKR

When Keadilan was formed back in 1999 I was quite happy to be a part of the Lembah Pantai branch. During our early meetings I approached most of the members privately to discuss my idea to either phase out Bumiputra benefits, or to award benefits based on income level instead. Both approaches were supported 100%; the race of the listener was not an issue. I felt great, because prior to coming into Keadilan whenever I had mentioned this idea to Bumiputras they would get really angry.

NEP #2

In 2004 I was not able to take part in campaigning, though I did manage to look at the party manifesto and saw the dreaded phrase, ‘Abolishment of NEP’.

Why dread?

Take your tv remote control for example. Imagine if one day someone were to tell you they were going to take away your remote if you vote for them. How every time you want to change the channel, you would have to walk across the room to your tv set, twiddle some knobs and walk back.

I felt that the trick would be to slowly move the remote further and further away, thereby developing the capability of being able to run over to the tv directly. That’s the whole point of phasing out. This phrase in the manifesto is a sure vote-loser I thought. NEP needs to be phased out, not abolished!

NEP #3

The Threat of Abolishment

But who really fears the removal of NEP (i.e. economic Bumiputra benefits)?

  • The uber-rich Bumiputras, because it stops them from effortlessly becoming even more rich
  • The middle class who are currently gaining from it
  • The Bumiputras who view NEP as a shield that ‘protects’ them from economy controlling non-Bumis

However the poor and lower middle class (borderline poor) have not benefited from it. The economic gap between the uber-rich and the rest of the people is incredibly large. Unfortunately for the ruling party (many of whom are the uber-rich mentioned), the poor form the majority of voters in many states which is why during PKR’s recent campaign you see they spent most, if not all their time wooing the poor voters.

Unlike the 2004 Election, in the 2008 Election PKR had the Malaysian Economic Agenda (MEA), a replacement for the NEP that awards benefits based on merit (like income level) rather than race. With this replacement policy in hand, no voter could fear the statement of ‘Abolishment of NEP’.

Now with Kedah, Penang, Kelantan, Perak and Selangor in Opposition hands, the NEP is in serious danger of disappearing. Small wonder then that UMNO staged protests against it in Penang and Selangor, while using their own media viz. the mainstream media to play up the issue.

Articles related to the protests:

Malaysiakini: UMNO holds one hour protest in Komtar (link)
Malaysiakini: Penang rally, police warn ISA will be used (link)
NST: Rumour-mongers get ISA warning (link)

BN’s control of the mainstream media has given them an advantage because they can suppress any information on the MEA. But with five states in their hands the Opposition parties have proven that control of the media no longer gives total control over information, so this anti-NEP movement is bound to fizzle out soon.

Unless of course PKR amends the MEA to be merit and race-based, or makes other drastic changes to it. I think it is more likely BN will copy ideas from MEA and try to take credit for it.

While it is most doubtful that the Opposition parties would/could remove all the Bumiputra benefits overnight, we are definitely about to experience the end of the NEP. These twilight years should prove quite interesting 🙂

Written by ak57

March 21, 2008 at 2:31 pm

Protests of the Racists

There have been a number of protests in the last couple of weeks, all driven by individuals with a racist agenda. This is one of my pet peeves so be prepared for a long post.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by ak57

March 20, 2008 at 8:56 pm

Protests in Perak Unheeded

Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin (PAS) was sworn in as Perak Menteri Besar on the 17th of March in Kuala Kangsar. There were a number of protests against this decision by the Sultan, with the general theme being that BN should form the state government.

I do agree with them somewhat in the sense that BN did grab the most seats, whereas the Opposition coalition are not a formal alliance. Ultimately it was up to the Sultan to decide though, and reasonable people should accept his decision.

I did find one protest hilarious enough to write about though:

Nine women NGOs have made an urgent plea for the Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah to postpone the swearing-in ceremony scheduled tomorrow and to consider instead the option of a minority BN government.

In a hastily called press conference leading to it being held at the coffee house of a hotel here, the group representatives said they were worried and had no confidence that the coalition government of DAP, Parti Keadilan Rakyat and PAS would be able to achieve a stable state government.

The group, naming themselves the Perak Malay Women NGO Meeting, cited the much-publicised bickering of the three parties as a pointer to this assumption which they reached in a meeting on Saturday. The nine organisations are the districts Perak Women and Family Development Council, the (WI) Women Grouping, Gerakwanis Belia 4B, Perak Malaysian Muslim Women Welfare Body, Perak Women Cooperative, members of the Pertubuhan Peladang Kawasan (PPK), Jawatankuasa Kemajuan dan Keselamatan Kampung (JKKK), the Henry Gurney Alumni and the women members of the Gabungan Pelajar Melayu Semenanjung (GPMS).

– quoted from an article published in NST on 16th March 2008 (link)

In case it is not readily apparent, let me list the NGOs named

  1. Perak Women and Family Development Council
  2. The (WI) Women Grouping
  3. Gerakwanis Belia 4B
  4. Perak Malaysian Muslim Women Welfare Body
  5. Perak Women Cooperative
  6. Members of the Pertubuhan Peladang Kawasan (PPK)
  7. Jawatankuasa Kemajuan dan Keselamatan Kampung (JKKK)
  8. The Henry Gurney Alumni
  9. The women members of the Gabungan Pelajar Melayu Semenanjung (GPMS)

Can you see in any of their titles, a reason for their group to name themselves the Perak Malay Women NGO Meeting? The moment I read that I lost all respect for them, because either they are all racially biased organisations (why can’t the Women Cooperative help non-Malays?) or they felt that non-Malays are not relevant in deciding who leads their state government. Maybe by some bizarre coincidence the non-Malay members of these NGOs were too busy to come? 🙂

It wouldn’t surprise me if they were Puteri Umno travelling incognito 😉 No pictures accompanied the article, so I am unable to find the tell-tale sign of the pink tudung…

Written by ak57

March 20, 2008 at 7:13 pm

Crisis in Perlis

This is a dull skippable post, no analysis or comic – just for record keeping purposes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by ak57

March 20, 2008 at 6:55 pm

Discordance in Perak

Frankly speaking, I feel this ‘crisis’ is just being played up by the media. Did anyone seriously think all three parties would break their pact nationwide?

Who Gets To Be Chief?

DAP wins 18 seats, PKR 7 and PAS 6. Logically speaking DAP should get the highest government position of Chief Minister, but the state constitution requires that person to be a Malay Muslim. So it follows that PKR should get that position.

Instead the Sultan picked the PAS candidate.

Naturally DAP, or should I say, Lim Kit Siang was furious and called for a boycott of the swearing-in ceremony. A strong, negative action when instead they should be showing support for the Opposition alliance. I guess it hasn’t hit home yet that the individual Opposition parties need to leave behind their ‘my rights take precedence over yours’ attitude for the sake of unity.

Lim Kit Siang did the right thing and apologised for the outrage caused by his statement and his son instructed the Perak DAP members to attend the ceremony. But at this point it didn’t seem to matter, because the Sultan decided to postpone the ceremony indefinitely.

Isn’t that sad? I feel sorry for both the PAS candidate and PAS as a party – without a swearing-in ceremony their victory seems less celebratory.

How will this go down in history? Perak liberated by the Opposition, but no swearing-in ceremony because DAP made some noise.

I don’t see it as DAP’s fault – yes they could have spared everyone the bad publicity by not calling for a boycott. But ultimately the decision was up to the Sultan. The Star reported that the ceremony had been postponed indefinitely, but NST reported that it had been postponed pending receipt by the palace of a jointly signed statement by the 31 state assemblymen that they agree to Nizar’s appointment as Chief Minister and will work together in a coalition government.

Dividing the Executive Council

This proved to be difficult for me to understand at first. DAP and PAS apparently had an agreement whereby eight of the ten seats be given to DAP, and the remaining two to PKR and PAS. If you compare the DUN seat ratio of 18-6 for DAP-PAS, it would make sense for DAP to have three times the Exco seats compared to PAS. So 6-2 seems fair.

I guess because DAP had no chance of getting the Chief Minister post they wanted more say in the Executive Council. If DAP had their way PKR would only have the lone Exco seat though, hence PKR’s protest that they would not take part in the administration of the Perak government if these allocations were not revised.

One party protests with a boycott of a ceremony, the other with a boycott of the government administration entirely. I tip my hat to the Opposition; they sure know how to make actions speak far, far louder than any words they could muster.

After some negotiations the final Executive Council line-up is:

  • 6 DAP
  • 3 PKR
  • 1 PAS
  • 1 Senator will be PKR, the other unknown

With a DAP chap as First Deputy Minister and a PKR person as Second Deputy Minister. That seems alright to me, though I wonder whether these two deputies get a swearing-in ceremony or not 😉 How do the three parties negotiate anyway? Hmm…

Conflict in Perak

Side note: While I didn’t care much for NST’s frontpage cartoons, first of the crumbling wheel with the DAP, PKR and PAS logos on it, and today’s one with three evil, scruffy looking cats fighting over a fish bowl (again with Opposition party labels); I must say the artist is quite talented. Its exactly the kind of political cartoon style I find in The Economist, a style I like very much but sadly am not good enough to do 😛 Hope NST breaks out of its Opposition-hatred mode soon.

References:

  • NST: DAP throws spanner in Perak govt plan (link)
  • NST: Kit Siang apologises to regent (link)
  • NST: Regent wants written assurance from parties (link) (another, related article)
  • The Star: Swearing in called off (link)
  • Malaysiakini: Deal stitched, all systems go for Perak (link)

Written by ak57

March 15, 2008 at 2:13 am

Posted in Local News, Malaysian Elections, Politics

Tagged with , , ,