Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ibrahim Ali and the Christians – Pray for those who hurt you

Ironically, a person like Ibrahim Ali provides a platform for Christians to become better Christians.

Let me explain.

Have you ever wondered why when Jesus wanted to liberate Israel from tyrannical Rome (the Government during his time) instead of asking Rome to change, he sought to persuade Israel to change? Jesus felt that without the change of hearts in Israel itself, liberation in any form is impossible.

Jesus at great length explained that the resentment and bitterness that his fellow brethren carried in their hearts was nothing short of suicidal. In fact he suggested that they be smart and read the signs of the times (e.g. in Luke 12:54-56) and not to follow the Zealots.

No… not just the Zealots, he told them not to even listen to their own leaders and priests, and he called them hypocrites (refer to Mark 12:13-17). He discerned the times and was wise in strategy on how he chose to act (refer to John 7:3-9). He suggested that the best way to liberate their enemies is to LOVE them. To do good to those who hate you and to pray for those who hurt you. 

Malaysian Christians must search deep within and ask, “Do I trust Jesus? Do I believe in his words? Am I willing to practice what he asks of me?

“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies!
Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you.
Pray for those who hurt you.” - Luke 6:27-28

According to the Bible, without love and compassion all religiosity is empty and of no use.

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels,but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains,but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poorand even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others,
I would have gained nothing.” - 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Do you trust Jesus?

Anas Zubedy
Kuala Lumpur


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

If I am from BN or UMNO, I would have neutralised the DAP!

It is getting a little annoying…

Each time I write something positive about BN/UMNO or something negative about PR or its component parties, instead of judging my ideas based on their merits, scores of supporters of the opposition are quick to suggest that I am a BN or UMNO member or agent.  That I was being paid to speak on their behalf or simply that I am a crony getting business from the government.

This was especially true and gained momentum after I wrote an open letter to YB Lim Guan Eng suggesting ideas on how DAP can increase Malay support by empathising and understanding them better, deeply considering their concerns. In that letter, I also suggested that YB Lim Kit Siang should graciously retire from politics. This letter attracted hundreds of immediate reactions and many more thereafter from the opposition camp. It also brings forth the wrath from hard core (and may I say unthinking) DAP supporters.

Another example is my disagreement with Haris Ibrahim’s attitude towards change, his ABU approach.  Even Haris Ibrahim, a person whom I see as a genuine change agent  (although I do not agree with the route he chose to better Malaysian politics) cannot help but suggest in his note to me published in his blog, “As I share the views of many that you are in some way tied with the powers that be,…”.

So let me make myself clear. I am not from BN or UMNO, although I will be quick to support and promote any initiatives by them (or the opposition) which I consider good for the country. I do not get business from any political contacts; in fact have made sure my company stand above board and do not seek government contracts – although in business there is nothing wrong with that!

To illustrate further, let me put it this way. If I am a BN or UMNO member, I would first and foremost have worked towards the demise of DAP and the end of Lim Kit Siang’s political power from the late eighties.

Let me explain.

I was a student at UM’s Faculty of Economics majoring in Public Administration (a coursework that covers many political and government related subjects). I was privileged to have a good academic as a lecturer, a pro DAP scholar; Associate Professor Michael Ong whom I believe is a close friend to Lim Kit Siang. I borrowed many books and asked many questions from the good Professor. (His copy of ‘Time Bomb In Malaysia’ a best seller in the late 70s and early 80s, for example was a personal gift from the book’s author, Lim Kit Siang). The 7th General Elections 1986 smacked right in the middle of my university life. I discovered three important things about the DAP from these experiences.

1.    Lim Kit Siang was a capable opposition leader. His speeches and opinions in parliament were well researched. He puts in a lot of hard work, thinking and effort to represent the opposition team and the ‘other’ Malaysia, rightly or wrongly. The salary that we the rakyat paid him as an opposition leader was well worth it. (Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the current opposition leader).

2.    While they may have improved markedly, the DAP’s election machinery then (in 1986 election) was shameful, disorganised, and in many places non-existent. UMNO on the other hand had the most efficient, effective and dynamic election machinery and operations in the country. (I used to suggest during my talks, if the Malays can run their businesses the way UMNO managed elections, we can do away with the NEP!)

3.    The number of members in DAP is negligible – not even 10 thousand then. DAP’s performance during elections are mostly based on the pendulum swings of Chinese voters who are very sensitive to the state of economic health of the nation. Even today, I do not think DAP has more than 100 thousand members, perhaps at most 60 thousand.

The second and third points above brought me to a simple common sense conclusion – even for a 22 year old undergraduate. It is easy for UMNO and BN to kill off DAP and Lim Kit Siang’s power base. Infiltrate them with thousands of hard core Malay members from UMNO, change the flavour of the DAP and vote Lim Kit Siang out or dilute his power within his own power base. You cannot do that with MCA and MIC, as they are raced based parties. But the DAP is open to all and as such, the majority race (the Malays) can easily take advantage.

Even today!

With less than 100 thousand members, it is not too difficult a task to neutralise DAP and the Lims. In fact, even PAS with a million members can ‘donate’ 100 thousand members and make DAP ‘Islamic’ with the same formula. Anwar Ibrahim’s ABIM gang alone could do the job rather efficiently if they wanted to. And remember, UMNO has 3 million members!
Now, why UMNO/BN has not done that is a billion ringgit question. As I have suggested I am not from the coalition, so I can only theorise. Perhaps they practice fair play. Or, the strategists in UMNO/BN believe that it is good to have a little manageable competition that is disorganised, inefficient, ineffective and non-threatening. This is perhaps a good way to ensure their own team does not get complacent – like big Brands in FMCG (like Milo) allowing smaller brands to exist (like Vico). Or perhaps, they never thought about it or, nobody was keen on the project. What do you think?

So, where am I getting at?

1.    If I am from UMNO or BN all these while, I would have at the point of graduation joined UMNO and be the architect who destroyed DAP and the Lims. I would have earned my stripes and gained a really handsome position.  I graduated in 1988. I was a project person. By the second year I was already teaching the juniors how to manage successful projects and sat on boards of advisors with the professors and university officials. I had the experience of running the biggest and perhaps one of the most successful projects ever seen at Universiti Malaya. At the height of the project, I had almost 1000 people running the show reporting to my team of 50 capable, hardworking, united core team organisers – I was then only 21 years old.

I am confident (and knew then) that if upon graduation I joined such a well-greased organisation like UMNO that has already have in place concrete people, structure and processes, I would have been able to neutralise DAP and Lim Kit Siang by mid 90s. Perhaps, many would not have heard of Lim Guan Eng as he would be insignificant within his own party. To date, those who tried to challenge the Lims are fellow Chinese who is dependent on the same limited support base as they – hard core Chinese. None so far who joined the DAP with their own power base. It is difficult to win an incumbent on their own tuft; you need to create a new playing ground, new rules, new people, new thinking.

2.    I would like to humbly suggest that pro opposition supporters and key opinion makers to have a little more respect towards centrists like me and my friends. Understand that sometimes we are with you; sometimes we are with BN and many times we provide a third alternative (for example our middle path position towards peaceful demonstrations that was finally practiced by the organisers of #KL112 and the people in power). Understand that such position is all right and natural. You do not have the monopoly of truth and good. None does. Not you, not BN. Stop believing that you are holier than the rest of us and quit being arrogant. Stop spewing “Shame on you” and “if you are not with us then you are against us" mantras, leaving no room for a centrist position, no chance to just be a non-partisan rakyat.

Please remember that we who are not from any political parties will likely form the biggest voting bloc. Even in America, the two-party system example that you so readily flaunt, the independents represent the largest bloc, 40% in 2012. Democrats only had 31% while Republicans, 27%. 

3.    When we provide a feedback, and especially if the feedback suggests that the current government’s action or idea is the better one; stop, think, reflect, and listen. Your supporters and cohorts will likely go against them blindly. BN supporters will likely follow them without much thought too. We, the non-partisans are the best check and balance. End your childish attacks, rough language, holier than thou statements, and accusations that we are being bought over simply because you are afraid that your unthinking blind supporters may just START TO THINK. We are not here to neuter your position or the position of your opponent. We are here to tell out the truth, as we see it. Your behaviour is beginning to be a little annoying.  This takes me to the fourth and final point.

4.    Honestly, many of my centrist friends and I are getting a little tired of you. We are fast becoming irritated and if pushed any further we may just work against you. In fact, a few of my friends are already skewing towards BN in the last few months. These were the people who voted against BN in the last general election because they were irritated by them. Now they are finding you as the irritating one. When the BN lost its 2/3rd majority and 5-state governments, these group of voters exclaimed, “Padan muka” to BN. Don’t ever think that they will not do the same to you if you too act with arrogance and are annoying. With the combined votes of BN supporters and the independents, Malaysia will go back to the days where BN not only has a 2/3rd majority, but a very comfortable one. And if that happens, the results of GE12 may just be a one-time wonder.

Last but not least … how you react to this article will show if you understand the stakes at hand, can be helped to change, or simply incorrigible.
Thank you.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sabah : The Truth Will Set The People Free by Dr. Chandra Muzaffar - Yayasan 1 Malaysia

It is important that the general public waits until the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) completes its work and announces its findings before it draws conclusions about the motives behind the issuance of Malaysian identity documents to foreigners in the past. Only then would people in both Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia have a clear picture of what really happened, and why.

If statements by individual witnesses are viewed as the entire truth, we may fall into the trap of subscribing to partial accounts of a complex reality. After all, the statements issued by some witnesses on the third day of the Inquiry were contradicted by subsequent testimonies on the fourth and fifth days. This is what one should expect in an open and honest investigation.

Establishing a Royal Commission on such a contentious and controversial issue which has been at the core of Sabah politics for more than three decades was an act of tremendous courage on the part of the Najib Government. It demonstrates a readiness to embrace the truth however painful it may be. It is only when the whole truth is known that the multireligious and multi-cultural people of Sabah will be rid of misgivings, doubts and suspicions which have sullied their hitherto harmonious inter-ethnic ties.

To enable the truth to set the people free, they should not overlook a critical dimension in the issuance of Malaysian identity documents and indeed, the conferment of citizenship upon foreigners. A significant portion of those who sought refuge in Sabah from the seventies onwards comprised the tragic victims of a protracted war in Mindanao which has just ended. This is the humanitarian aspect of citizenship which a civilised state must uphold if it is genuinely committed to compassion and justice. 

There are other angles to citizenship which were among the principal considerations in the accommodation of recently domiciled Chinese and Indian communities in Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia) on the eve of Merdeka in 1957. Their role in the crucial tin and rubber sectors of the economy, the threat posed by the largely Chinese communist insurgency, and the need for inter-ethnic cooperation in the drive towards Merdeka were some of the principal reasons why a million Chinese and Indians were conferred citizenship in the twinkling of an eye. As Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has correctly observed, the UMNO elite was even prepared to set aside conventional citizenship norms in order to bring the new Malayans abroad. This was in stark contrast to the approach adopted by leaders in other similarly divided societies --- societies in which an indigenous-non-indigenous dichotomy had developed as a result of colonial rule such as Indonesia and Burma (Myanmar) --- where the rules of citizenship were stringently applied so as to ensure the assimilation of the foreign component.

In Malaysia, on the other hand, accommodation of the other changed the landscape drastically. The people who had given the land its identity through Malay Sultanates that have existed for hundreds of years were now relegated to a community among communities. In other words, by extending citizenship to the Chinese and Indians on such generous terms, the very character of the nascent nation had changed. Adjusting Malay rights arising from this consciousness of a Malay land with the interests of the non-Malays through integration via common citizenship in a larger Malaysian nation has remained themost fundamental challenge of the last 55 years.

In a sense, Sabah, by conferring citizenship upon the migrants from its neighbourhood, in the eighties and nineties, has also experienced a parallel, though different, transformation. The non-Muslim Bumiputra component of the population which was the largest segment of a multi-religious society at the time of the state’s incorporation into Malaysia in 1963, lost its lead position to the Muslim Bumiputra component. The angst and anxiety this has created in various circles is understandable and should be addressed with much empathy.

Harmonising the interests of these two segments with the non-Muslim, non-Bumiputra elements, calls for astute statesmanship and dexterity.  In this regard, Sabah is fortunate to have as one of its foremost leaders a person like Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kittingan whose political maturity and wisdom have helped to sustain an appreciable degree of interreligious and inter-cultural peace.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The NEP: The Good and the Bad - Revisited

 Note: This article is from chapter 6 of the book -  The Middle Path: An Alternative To The Partisan Madness

What is the NEP?

In a simple definition, the New Economic Policy is Malaysia’s socioeconomic affirmative action plan. It was implemented in 1971 in the aftermath of the 1969 racial riots, and the period set for the implementation of NEP was 1971-1990.

The overriding objective of the NEP was stated as national Unity. The goal of the NEP was two pronged – one, eradicate poverty; and two, restructure society to eliminate the identification of race with economic function through rapid expansion of the economy over time. However, it was clearly stated that this restructuring of the racial composition of employment and ownership of wealth was to be done without denying opportunities to others. The strategy was to accelerate economic growth, but at the same time, redirect the benefits more to the disadvantaged.

What is the background of the NEP?

The NEP has historical basis. Even from the colonial days before Merdeka, the Malays had been given certain privileges by the British, especially quotas for public scholarship and civil service employment.

The period of British rule left behind some remnant effects on our society and economy. The economic system and the geographical location of where we lived and worked were divided along racial lines. The Malays were largely concentrated in the traditional agricultural sector where per capita income was the lowest and poverty was the highest. The Chinese were concentrated in mining, manufacturing and construction where per capita income was recorded as much higher. The Indians were largely labourers in estates and mining.
The NEP was announced in June 1970 in the aftermath of the racial riots in 1969. Whatever is said about the immediate causes of the riots, the root cause for the unrest was socioeconomical imbalance. It was clear that the problem of poverty and the economic differences along racial lines were detrimental to social stability and national Unity and had to be addressed immediately. The NEP was formulated as a concerted effort to reduce poverty and restructure the economy.

What was the poverty level and distribution of economic wealth at that point?

At that point of time in 1970, the recorded number of
households living in poverty was 49.3%. The top 5% richest households were obtaining 30% of the total income. Of those living below the poverty line, 64.8% were from the Bumiputera population, 39.2% of the Indians and 26.0% of the Chinese.

In terms of wealth distribution, it is recorded that the Bumiputera had 2.4% of equity capital, Indians held 1.1%, the Chinese accounted for 27.2%, those categorised as Others had 6.0% and foreigners held 63.3%.

What was the target of the NEP?

The target of the NEP was to reduce overall poverty to 16.7% by 1990. In terms of restructuring the economy, the target was to increase Bumiputera share of corporate capital from 2.4% to 30%, the share of the Chinese, Indians and others to increase from 34.3% to 40%, while that of foreigners would be reduced from 63.3% to 30% -- a 30-40-30 ratio of distribution
among Bumiputera, other Malaysians and foreigners.

Why was the NEP so important?

Affirmative action plans like the NEP are important because the disadvantaged in society must be helped. When one segment of the society is disadvantaged, to have an equal playing field in our economic system will not be fair. To use a simple analogy, it is like playing golf – a beginner must be given a handicap or he/she will stand no chance - it will be an unfair game skewed towards the experienced player. Socio-economically, nobody should be left behind. This is imperative because history has shown that once there is a segment of society left behind economically, there are greater chances of social unrest.

It is important for every society to have affirmative action plans, but it must be planned very carefully. Ours was called the New Economic Policy (1971-1990). The NEP was successful in many ways.

What were the good things that came from the NEP?

There have been many. I will outline seven here:

1) The NEP managed to reduce poverty.
According to official data, percentage of households living below poverty line across all ethnic groups has been reduced from 49.3% in 1970 to 15% in 1990, and in 2009 overall poverty had been reduced to 3.8%.

2) The NEP managed to restructure the economy.

Post-NEP, the wealth ownership of the Bumiputera had increased from 2.4% to 19.3%, the share of the Chinese, Indians and other Malaysians was 46.8%, surpassing the target; while the share of foreign ownership was reduced to 33.9%. By 2008, Bumiputera share had increased slightly to 21.9%, non-Bumiputera share was reduced to 36.7% and the share of foreigners, 41.4%. While recorded numbers vary from one report to another, it generally shows that the NEP has achieved a much more equitable and sustainable distribution compared to the 2.4 - 34.3 - 63.3% ratio pre-NEP.

At the same time, after the NEP in 1990, the number of Bumiputera employed in the industrial sector like mining, manufacturing, construction and utilities also had arose significantly. Bumiputera representation also increased in professional and technical categories and at the administrative and managerial levels.

3) We have managed to create a large segment of middle class Bumiputeras.

Today, the Bumiputera make up a significant percentage of management and professionals. The NEP has played a huge part to make this happen.

4) We recovered from social unrest caused by poverty and economic imbalances

The NEP has been instrumental in regulating a peaceful tenure in society.

5) It has played a big part in national Unity.

With increased movement of different ethnic groups into various sectors during the NEP, businesses are no longer exclusive to the membership of certain ethnic groups as they were prone to before. It has allowed Malaysians of all races to enter all areas of professions and intermingle both economically and socially. In fact it is the workplace that is our actual 1Malaysia, the platform for us to work together in Unity.

6)In fact, there is now more intermingling even within race groups.

Prior to the NEP, businesses not only employed people from their own ethnic group, they also limited employment to those within their clan. The Hokkiens would employ mainly only the Hokkiens, the Cantonese employed the Cantonese; the Gujeratis employed the Gujeratis. Signs of intra-race delineation can still be seen through the Hokkien, Cantonese or other foundations that were established historically and exist until today. We tend to see the NEP from an inter-racial angle, but before NEP, intra-race disparity was also an issue.

7)The most important positive outcome of the NEP is that communities were saved from poverty.
The real mean income of the bottom 40% of those in Peninsular Malaysia increased from $76 in 1970 to $421 in 1990. Figures from Sabah showed an increase from $68 to $390 and in Sarawak, mean income rose from $74 to $436.Those who suffer from hardcore poverty, who get less than half of the income on the poverty line, was reduced to 4% of total households in 1990. In 2008 the recorded percentage of hardcore poor was 1.8%.

That millions of families were alleviated from the clutches of poverty – this is something that we should all be proud of; be deeply grateful for and celebrate.

What were the failures of the NEP?

One of the biggest failures of the NEP is that it failed to help many non-Bumiputeras who deserved to benefit from affirmative action. The Indian poor, especially from the rural estate communities, are one of the main groups that are still in poverty until today. The data of results from the NEP showed that the share of wealth of non-Bumiputeras increased to 46.8% in 1990; however of this 46.8%, 44.9% of the share belonged to the Chinese, only 1% to the Indians and 0.7% to Others.

We need to urgently address the poverty problems of the Indian poor community. We cannot let there be a segment still living in poverty in our society. The HINDRAF movement and the 2007 HINDRAF rally are signs of discontent and unrest that is caused by economic imbalance. With an affirmative action plan such as NEP, no community should have been left out.

At the same time, there has been some abuse of the NEP. There are some undeserving individuals who have enough capacity to fend for themselves but have been given a free ride on the NEP. I see this as the reason why many Malaysians are not happy with the NEP.

How did this abuse happen?

Firstly, we did not make things crystal clear from the very beginning. At the design stage of a public policy, we must state what we want and what we do not want. This must be clear. If our goal is to eradicate poverty, we must also state clearly that it is only for the poor and must not cover the rich. Failing to do so, it will be subject to abuse.
Secondly, we also need to define clearly that an affirmative action policy like the NEP cannot be made a permanent crutch. As the situation among the people gets better, we need to gradually withdraw aid, phase by phase. In this way, we help the poor out of poverty but do not create a society that is dependent on assistance.
Thirdly, it was a mistake to plan the NEP only for a twenty year timeframe. It is too ambitious to implement such a huge social engineering project in such limited time. We cannot reverse five hundred years of colonisation within a few decades. I will explain this later.

Why were some segments of Malaysians neglected?

One of the main groups which were neglected were the Indians from the estate communities. This happened because the data for the Indian poor were not carefully and accurately captured. The statistics from the richer Indians and the poor ones were grouped together, creating a distorted average.
I am fortunate because from my experiences growing up among them in Penang, I know that the Indians are not one homogenous community. I have Indian friends who
are very, very rich and I know many around my neighbourhood who were very, very poor. The data used for the NEP failed to consider the very poor Indians in rural areas, estates and the urban poor. So because we did not capture that, a big segment of those who are poor and deserving of aid, especially the poor Indians, were neglected (read more in Chapter 5).

What were some other shortcomings of the NEP?

Two other serious shortcomings.

Firstly, our children are too young to understand the socioeconomic big picture of why we needed to come up with something like the NEP. As they go through school, they may feel that there are two different groups of people defined by ethnic background. We need to really deal with this issue.
Secondly, the public sector needs to be restructured. The civil service did not go through the same rigorous restructuring. We need to ensure that our public sector is better represented by all the ethnic groups in this country. For example, in our national schools, students should be able to look at their teachers and see good people teaching them from various races. Our civil services should have people from all races who are able to connect to and empathise with the general population of Malaysians. Our civil service should be seen as reflective of the colourful Malaysian people.

Earlier, you mentioned twenty years is too short a time. Why?

Yes, a twenty year plan is too short a timeframe for a major social engineering plan. When we set such a big goal to implement so many changes, a longer process is required. When we force the process into such a short timeframe, people tend to cut corners. Achieving the numbers became the goal; not really making sure there is real social change. We forced those who are not ready and load money onto people who may not know how to make the best use of it; or to put it another way, we simply made millionaires out of thin air. This is one of the main root problems with the NEP. We were in too much of a hurry to increase the share of wealth for the Bumiputera, rather than increase the knowledge, skills, culture and the ability to fend for one’s self.

The good and bad considered, did the NEP achieve its purpose?

There are many good benefits stemming from the NEP. On a micro level, we targeted the majority of rakyat, the Bumiputera, which made up 65% of our population. So it is not an elitist program just for helping a small group of people who are already rich. The NEP targeted aid for a large representation of Malaysians both from the Peninsular and Sabah and Sarawak - the impact is very wide ranging.

The country as a whole benefited because we made sure that millions of people got out of poverty. The NEP is one of the reasons why millions of people can now fend for themselves and millions of people had a chance to get education. Our per capita income has grown manifold, seven to eight times since 1970 and the NEP has been instrumental in bringing us to where we are today. One of the biggest benefits is that it has helped regulate peace and harmony in our society.

Should affirmative action plans continue?

Affirmative action plans are important for every society, but we need to learn from our experience and take corrective measures. Whatever problems that arose with the NEP needs to be corrected. We need to do careful research to identify the segments of poor Malaysians who need to be helped, regardless of race. We must plan it carefully to make sure that anyone in need must not be left behind.

What is the status of NEP now, after the end of its term in 1990?

While the official term for NEP ended in 1990, its underlying principle has been continued in subsequent plans – the National Development Policy, National Vision Policy, and National Mission. Now there is the Tenth Malaysia Plan, 2011-2015. However, with the NEP, from 1970 to 1990 we had a clear vision, focus and a target for development that was defined in certain terms – to redistribute the share of wealth to 30-40-30 and to restructure society to eliminate identification of race with economic function. It was crystal clear and very precise – the nation was in agreement and heading in one direction.  

 After the NEP, however, we have been uncertain about where we are heading. We now have a nation in transition. One segment of society thinks that affirmative action should stop; the other side says it should be continued. One side has data which says we have achieved the target; the other has data which says that we have not yet achieved the target. We need to iron out these issues with maturity, reasonably and based on facts. We need to get to work, start setting a new target to move forward in development.

How should we look at the NEP?

 Let’s view it in a balance. There are good points and bad points about it. It has contributed constructively to build up our country, and it has also brought some negative outcomes. Whatever we feel about it, the NEP happened and now we need to reflect on where we are as a society in reality. Let’s look at all the information and data objectively and identify what are the good points to take from the NEP and what lessons we can learn from it. When we see our past and present in a balanced, truthful perspective, it will help us to formulate a plan to move forward.

How should we move forward?

Moving forward, there is a need for us to clarify what affirmative action plans we have now for the poor and disadvantaged. We need to study and define current problems, set our targets clearly and formulate a plan to achieve these targets. We need to make it clear to the nation what goals we are agreeing on and what strategies we are carrying out to achieve it.

Secondly, as we look ahead we need to deal with the emerging issues of urbanisation and the urban poor. While we made progress in uplifting the rural poor, now we need to also start giving due consideration to the urban poor. We need to study more about the impacts of urbanisation and the emerging challenges that come with an increasing urban poor population. We need to have structures and processes to deal with the situation, look into issues like housing - if too many people are packed into small areas, it will have negative social impacts. We need to create ways to aid the urban poor and buffer them from negative effects; or else urban social problems will continue to rise and bring in other implications. The configuration of what needs to be done will be different. In urban communities it is no longer one ethnic group but a multi-ethnic group - we have Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Ibans, etc. and so many others.

In your opinion, what is the single greatest impact of the NEP and how has it affected Malaysians as a whole?

To a large extent, the NEP is a defining factor in making our country what it is today. We are all products of NEP, whether we have benefited from it or not.

The real concern about the NEP today is that many Malaysians use the NEP as a simple justification for various issues, and because of that we have lost self-confidence. It is not uncommon, for example, to hear parents say that their children are not doing well because of the NEP; this is especially true among non-beneficiaries of it. At the same time, many Bumiputeras believe falsely that without the NEP they cannot stand on their own, and in this way they too have lost self-confidence.

The real problem now is that when we blame the NEP for why we do not do well, we lose the most essential values. We lose the value of working hard and fighting through problems, and the value of self-determination in spite of difficult circumstances, which are necessary frameworks for success. This is ironic because it is these principles that our forefathers held on to and it is their hard work despite much more difficult and oppressive circumstances that allowed them to achieve success. Yet today, many simply place the blame on policies and we’re teaching our children to do the same. In this way, the NEP has created generations that are more extrinsic, who rely on outside factors rather than being self-dependent.Another offshoot of justifying situations externally like this is it also causes us to lose our ability to be content with what we have. For example, we have many Malaysians who have achieved success and are already living in abundance, for example, yet feel unhappy because they fault the NEP as a reason why they could not get more.

We need to be aware of this, and to spend time reflecting on where we are now and where we are heading next. If we have yet to do so, we must accept what has happened in the past. To accept it does not mean we have to agree with it, but we recognise where our society is as a result of it and find a way to move forward. The NEP happened; whether or not we benefited from it, some have been impacted positively and some negatively. Let’s accept that, take what we can from it and move forward. Let’s stop using race-based policies or any other policy as a blame point for where we are or where we are not; let’s regain our self-confidence to determine our own actions and our own success. This is what is more important.

What should Malaysians do to understand affirmative action plans like the NEP better?

We need to start reading more. Read balanced, informative books on the NEP, not those written by politicians with political agenda or writers aligned with partisan politics. It is better to read books written by serious academicians. When we look at the real numbers, we will see the real reasons and bigger picture behind the NEP. For example, many people would be surprised to learn that in 1970, the Bumiputeras had only 2.4% of the nation’s wealth.

Secondly, on the personal side, those who can afford it might want to implement your own affirmative action plans. Perhaps you can help your family members, your brother, your cousin, your colleague, your neighbour. Sponsor the education of those who need it, perhaps for the children of your neighbour or someone working in your office, maybe the cleaner or your maid. That is affirmative action at the ground level. When you do that, you, your family and your children will really understand how affirmative action plans work and why they are so important.

Malaysia’s Gov Debt to GDP

Many like to talk about our Gov Debt to GDP painting myopic pictures to where we stand today. While politicians have their own agendas in playing up or playing down on an issue, we the Malaysian voters must work a little harder and seek for truth, be rationale. We must not be  hoodwinked :).

Please use some IQ in analysing the data below. Make (1) a comparison of our debt in the early 90s  with today, and (2) also compare where we are with the other countries. Pls note that the Asian numbers below reflects total credit, not just Gov Debt. If anyone has a chart that shows Asia’s Govt Debt to GDP, pls oblige to send to me via email to

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

#KL112: Middle Path Wins

About a year and a half ago, I brought forth a proposition:

Peaceful demonstrations are part and parcel of democracy. Our Federal Constitution through Article 10 grants us the right to freedom of speech, expression and assembly. It is an excellent avenue for the government to get direct feedback from the rakyat. It is a check-and-balance mechanism, a safety valve for the rakyat to vent out their frustrations openly.

If this direct feedback from the very people they are elected to serve will help our government play its role better, then we should provide avenues for the rakyat to be better heard. We need support systems and processes to allow for peaceful demonstrations one that expresses the rakyat’s aspirations while minimising disruptions.

About two weeks later, in another piece, I elaborated my point.

I would be happier if the government allocates space and provisions for people to march, because it is within the rights of the people and it will be more fun. In the Klang Valley, I have suggested Putrajaya. In that situation, PDRM would be able to work together with the marchers to ensure a smooth journey. They could work together with the organisers to designate a route and provide safe passage for all. We could take care of the wellbeing of the people, even prepare water in case people are dehydrated and ambulances in case people are unwell. Allocate space for temporary stalls, selling all kinds of fun stuff like merchandise, ice kacang, cendol, souvenirs, etc. We need to chill out a little, and disagree with each other without hatred.

I do not expect a wholesale and widespread acceptance of my proposition. It’s only natural to expect opposing views. In particular, an anonymous writer – who goes by the moniker ‘Pak Sako’ – challenges my proposition. He posits that:

This false compromise either signals a weakness of resolve that misses the whole point of a situation, or masks a sly strategy that claims “moderation” to blunt progressive action (painted falsely as extreme) so that the conservative status quo prevails.

Pak Sako also goes on to describe the ‘third alternative’ as I had proposed to be “neutering”.

In light of recent events – the recent Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat, otherwise known as #KL112; which actually transpired (for the most part) as what I have proposed; I’m glad to know that my supposed “false compromise” did not “blunt progressive action”. It most definitely did not “neuter” any movements. In fact, to claim the middle path alternative as neutering progress is to neuter peaceful means and promote extreme ideas and behaviours. Fortunately, it would appear that the rakyat is more sensible these days.

I feel vindicated that my proposition and call for action is en vogue. I feel vindicated that the taunts and disparaging comments hurled my way have been proven wrong.  I feel vindicated that Pak Sako, whoever he (or she) might be, and his words now lack authority.

However, as much as I’m delighted by the feeling of vindication, I feel a greater joy in knowing that the middle path way has been given a chance by our local politicians as well as the rakyat. Perhaps the merits of the middle path as the way of the future; and that it is responsible, just, realistic, and smart – are sitting more and more comfortably with the greater, more mature Malaysians.

Congratulations to all Malaysians who, consciously or not, are following in the middle path route. Congratulations to the Home Ministry, PDRM, and Stadium Merdeka’s management for co-operating by providing safe passage and not resorting to underhanded and reckless manoeuvres. Congratulations also to PAS and Mat Sabu for being a gracious host and their willingness to work together with all relevant parties to ensure a smooth-sailing event.

In this regards, PAS has shown their maturity and leadership that is neither obnoxious nor self-serving. And they chose to not be offensively assertive like what had happened in previous Bersih rallies. Insistence on details like venue shows a constraint of artificial boundaries that is set within the framework of one’s own mind. Once again, kudos to the organisers and fellow Malaysians who chose not to be bound by that limitation this time around. Both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat, it seems, have made it a point to learn from their own follies in the past.

Allow me to conclude by reiterating a point I made in 2011, which is also included in my book, The Middle Path:

The goal is to get the point across, not to see who can shout the loudest. We must always look for the third alternative, the middle path.

Politics of bitter pill vs instant cure By Chow Kum Hor - New Straits Times

BAD FOR COUNTRY: Political pandering for short-term gains is destructive

A MAN met with a nasty accident and was rushed to a nearby hospital. Just before passing out, he told the doctors, "Do whatever you want, just save me!"
Thankfully, the doctors were skilled and experienced enough to turn the victim's misfortune around. In no time, the patient was back on his feet. But this man has a strange tendency of being very pushy towards his doctors. Whenever ill, he prefers instant remedies, often insisting on being prescribed antibiotics for even the mildest cough and flu.
Sometimes, he demands steroid-laden drugs and overdoses on painkillers because it helps him heal faster, despite professional advice to the contrary. Doctors' warning to cut down on unhealthy diet goes unheeded.
This soon took a toll on his health, as symptoms of drug abuses like overdependence on antibiotics and a dreadful dietary habit set in. In the end, the man whom doctors once saved from a horrific road crash, faces long-term health problems, or even a premature death.
The man's story is very much like our political development.
In the past, we pretty much left it to our politicians to handle our nation's affairs. Back then, most people were illiterate and living below the poverty line. All they cared for was to make ends meet.
Just like the accident victim who left his fate entirely to the doctors, the public then pretty much left it to politicians to steer the nation forward. But as the nation progressed, its people naturally became more assertive and demanding, or even pushy. Politicians, not wanting to get the boot at the ballot box, tried their best to dance to the electorate's tunes. There is nothing wrong with politicians, who are voted in by the people, giving in to what their constituents want.

Read more:Politics of bitter pill vs instant cure

Thursday, January 17, 2013

TWZ - Aren't We All Malaysians?

Zubedy is happy to present our latest book titled, “Aren’t We All Malaysians” by YB Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof (current MP of Parit Buntar; Chairman of PAS’ National Unity Committee).
The book narrates the personal stories, aspirations, and drive of the parliamentarian in his Unity effort to bring all Malaysians together.
Below is the foreword by Anas Zubedy:

"And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colours: verily in that are Signs for those who know." – Quran 30:22
Mujahid and I have been friends since our Form Six days at Penang Free School. We were in the same class. I am also familiar with Mujahid’s late father, Yusof Rawa, the president of PAS in the late 80’s and his more forward thoughts compared to his contemporaries regarding PAS policies. I have always kept abreast with Mujahid’s journey and some of our ideas resonate each other.
At zubedy, our core value is uniting people. Anybody who chooses the same undertaking albeit different approaches is our friend. As far as we are concerned, any Unity movement or endeavour is above politics. We encourage every political body, business organisation, NGO, and civil movement to have their own Unity initiative and Unity cause. zubedy has been promoting Unity with our ‘Many Colors One Race’ platform which we live by and incorporate into everything that we do when we deal with our clients, staff, family, and friends. Furthermore, zubedy believes in adding value to everything that we undertake. Mujahid’s ways reveal how Islam adds value to the Malay race. In this book, Mujahid demonstrates how the Malays are universally connected to the rest of the world through Islam.
As Mujahid heads PAS’ National Unity Committee, he is PAS’ trustee to explore the dynamics between the Muslims and non-Muslims.

Read the rest of the foreword here.
To know more, get your copy of Aren’t We All Malaysians by YB Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof. The book is available at the retail price of RM34.90.
* For direct orders and bulk purchases (at a discounted price), please email No postage fee for Semenanjung Malaysia.
** The book will be available in all major bookstores.