Learn from PAS

August 19th, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Opinion No Responses
Learn from PAS

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan. First published  as “Learn from the dynamics in PAS “in The Star 19 August 2014

Last Sunday evening, I attended an event where the PAS “poster boys” once again tried to convince the public that their party can be trusted despite what happened in the Selangor MB crisis.

The speakers were Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad, PAS central committee member Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, and PAS Youth Chief Suhaizan Kayat.

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A youthful vision of ASEAN

August 15th, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Opinion No Responses
A youthful vision of ASEAN

by Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz. First published by the Borneo Post Online 15 August 2014

AMIDST the asinine squalor of domestic politics centred on egos, greed, broken promises, claims of disloyalty and presumptuous attempts to reconcile interpretations of “what the voters actually want” with the manner in which the state constitution actually endows legitimacy, shafts of optimistic light have, thankfully, managed to shine through this post-Raya period.

August always features a high density of student events as organisers take advantage of overlapping holidays for students from local and foreign universities, but this year I haven’t been able to say yes to as many speaking invitations as I would like.

So far I’ve done a book sharing session for ‘Roaming Beyond the Fence’ at the remarkable Popular Book Fest (where I was nominated for the Readers’ Choice Award but gladly lost to Tim Donoghue’s ‘The Tiger of Jelutong’), and then co-judged a group of pre-university students at the LSE Malaysia Club’s inaugural Economic Leadership Forum.

But so far the most engaging session has been at UKM, where Professor Datuk Saran Kaur Gill, executive director of the Asean Youth Volunteer-Leaders Secretariat and a deputy vice-chancellor, invited me to speak about the role of Asean civil society — a topic which I had spoken about some months to a group of mostly Malaysian civil servants (see ‘Strengthen civil society in Asean’, Conservatively Speaking Freely, April 14, 2014 in The Borneo Post). This time, at this second Asean Youth Volunteer Programme, the audience was 50 youth volunteers, selected competitively from 1,400 applicants from across all 10 member countries.

This fact alone suggested that these youths were genuinely committed to Asean, unlike many politicians sent on conferences across the region to pay lip service to an entity that they have no motivation in actually promoting. I told the 18- to 30-year-olds that no community can be forced into being: leaders cannot simply tell 600 million people of diverse national, cultural, religious or ethnic backgrounds that they are now part of a community and expect them to embrace it (particularly when some of these leaders promote or tolerate division in their own countries if it suits their political survival).

Rather, the successful realisation of an Asean community depends on a cohesive Asean civil society that concerns itself with issues across the region. Unfortunately, the differing levels of democratic health across the 10 countries means that for now, civil society flourishes in certain places and is stifled in others: indeed, official Asean events with civil society have seen the farcical inclusion of only ‘government-sponsored NGOs’ — a despicable contradiction in terms.

Last year the programme’s theme was protecting Asean’s environment, and this year it is on Asean’s heritage: worthy causes, for sure — and since they’re going to Melaka I pointed out that democratic principles such as rule of law and separation of powers as well as free movement of capital, goods and labour as espoused by the Asean Economic Community are nothing new, and a far cry from being alien concepts that are incompatible with our cultural traditions.

However, if we want to forge something that can truly be called ‘Asean civil society’, rather than just an amalgam of unequal civil society landscapes across the region, then democratic institutions need to be strengthened everywhere, and I hope the organisers fully dedicate a future edition to this theme. Encouragingly, the representatives from Vietnam and Myanmar agreed with me, and then the Indonesians and Filipinos in the group, shyly at first but quickly more confidently, alluded to the complementary features of strong democracy that I had mentioned in my speech — decentralisation (via the example of the rise of President-Elect Jokowi), limiting executive authority, the importance of a truly private (instead of a crony-capitalist) sector — and how they too wanted to ensure these things were protected. The CLMV participants seemed comforted to share in similar challenges.

Towards the end one lady wondered whether national sovereignty should be obsolete in a future Asean: I asked her to consider why you would want to transfer sovereignty when the risks are so high. For the foreseeable future, our nation states are more likely better protectors of individual rights and freedoms than a hypothetical superstate, and the idea of centralising decision-making power should only be revisited once there is more democratic parity in the region.

Egotistical and greedy politicians like to cause chaos when the prize is substantial power and resources: imagine the power and resources a hypothetical Asean President or Prime Minister (that constitutional question would be a headache in itself) would have. And imagine the chaos, when the tussle over the leadership of a single state in one of Asean’s comparatively better democracies is chaotic enough.

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Tunku Abidin Muhriz is president of IDEAS.

Image credit: inewmedia.org

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Khalid must go

August 5th, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Opinion 2 Responses
Khalid must go

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan. First published by The Star 5 August 2014

It is really sad that the Raya festivities were clouded by the Selangor Menteri Besar crisis. Even on the Raya day itself I was receiving calls from reporters asking for comments.

I personally like the way Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim’s style of running the state. I do not know him personally but I have been told many times that he does not allow partisan politics to get in the way of state administration.

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Why more information is better

July 24th, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Opinion No Responses
Why more information is better

by Tricia Yeoh. First published in The Sun Online 24 July 2014

WHAT both MH370 and MH17 have shown us is that accurate and timely information being provided to the public is absolutely crucial, and this is surely a lesson that must be extended beyond moments of crisis.

The MH370 incident took the world by storm in March. And our government suffered the consequences of not having responded with immediacy as well as providing inconsistent press statements. Having learnt from the past, credit should be given to Malaysia Airlines for releasing the MH17 cargo manifest in under a week, after this second tragedy in just four months.

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Prime Ministerial Leadership

July 22nd, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Opinion No Responses
Prime Ministerial Leadership

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan. First published “The face of the Conservatives” 22 July 2014

The whole country is still in shock with what happened to MH17 last week. This is a national tragedy and I wish to express my deepest condolences to the families and relatives of those involved. This incident is particularly painful because two of our staff have loved ones on that fateful flight.

At the time of writing, the details of this incident is still sketchy. So I will not write too much about it yet. The only thing I want to say about this incident is that I find it quite distasteful for people to blame Malaysia Airlines for the downing of MH17. No airline would intentionally put a flight on a route known to be risky. To insinuate otherwise is reckless. And I really hope the international community will work together to bring the perpetrators to justice.

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Brain drain: stop the discrimination

July 8th, 2014 by admin Categories: Economy & Trade, Governance, Opinion, Other One Response
Brain drain: stop the discrimination

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan. First published as “Creating a pasture equally green” in The Star 8 July 2014

I spoke at a panel discussion organised by the Penang Institute last Saturday. Others on the panel were TalentCorp CEO Johan Merican, CEO of Agensi Inovasi Malaysia Mark Rozario, and CEO of Penang Institute Dr Lim Kim Hwa.

The topic was brain drain. Dr Lim and his colleagues recently produced a paper analysing the costs and benefits of the emigration of Malaysian professionals to greener pastures over the years. The panel speakers were invited to comment on their findings and recommendations.

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Fatwa: Dr Asri had a good idea

June 24th, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Opinion, Other No Responses
Fatwa: Dr Asri had a good idea

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan. Published as “Let fatwa bodies flourish” in The Star 24 June 2014

Our country is becoming increasingly polarised, not least due to the actions of some state and federal religious authorities. We have seen worrying incidents lately.

A wedding was interrupted because the bride was a Muslim on paper. The authorities did not visit the bride to check before the wedding, but they opted to gatecrash the wedding itself.

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A transparency tool we can use

June 19th, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Opinion No Responses
A transparency tool we can use

by Tricia Yeoh. First published in the Sun 19 June 2014

During the 2015 Budget Consultation, the World Bank representative said explicitly that Malaysia would have to cut its annual budget down by 2.5% each year starting immediately, if it is serious about fiscal prudence. This is highly unlikely, given that the budget has always grown and never shrunk, not to mention the need for very large supplementary budgets too each year.

In a sense, Malaysia has never quite needed to exercise great fiscal prudence, since we have been able to rely upon revenues reaped from the expansive oil fields off Peninsular and East Malaysia. As stated in my previous column, Malaysia is highly dependent on oil and gas revenues, contributing more than a third of our government coffers.

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MH370 and its political repercussions

June 6th, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Opinion No Responses
MH370 and its political repercussions

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan. First published in The Straits Times 6 June 2014

It is now three months since MH370 disappeared from both civilian and military radar. News about the flight’s disappearance is still heard, but only every now and then. The Malaysian government used to hold daily briefings for the press. That too is no longer the case. The flight is certainly still remembered, but not as prominently as before.

It is now well known that the flight diverted from its path within hours of departing from Kuala Lumpur on March 8, 2014, heading to Beijing. It was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members, from 14 different countries.

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Diamond victory at (the) bay

June 6th, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Opinion No Responses
Diamond victory at (the) bay

by Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz. First published in The Malay Mail 6 June 2014

The penultimate sentence of my article last week was apparently too condensed to be fully understood. What I meant, in reference to political parties’ role in the Perak Menteri Besar crisis of 2009, was that Barisan Nasional should have taken responsibility for selecting candidates who failed to win seats to enable them to form the state government in the first place, and that Pakatan Rakyat should have taken responsibility for selecting candidates who for whatever reason failed to remain loyal to their coalition. These were the real weaknesses, rather than the subsequent decisions of a former Lord President.

Thus the scrutiny placed upon both candidates in the recently concluded by-election in Teluk Intan was most welcome. Admittedly media attention of candidates in a lone parliamentary by-election will exceed coverage of budding state assemblymen amidst a general election, but voters’ desire to research candidates’ credentials will only increase, particularly if they felt betrayed in the past. (Meanwhile in the UK a bill was just announced to enable constituents to sack (“recall”) their MPs.)

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