Statement that Malaysia accepts Robert Mugabe to the country on the basis of medical tourism is very disappointing

Zimbabwe is at a crossroads. The future of this long-suffering, kleptocracy-ridden nation depends—not only on the choices of its leaders and people—but whether the international community has the courage to stand by its principles.

A military coup—for that is what it was despite all the denials—can never be the way to solve a country’s problems, no matter how dire. No credit or recognition should be given to any military-led or backed regime.

Whatever the case, President Robert Mugabe must surely realize that his people have turned against him and, more importantly, that his time in power is up. The only legitimate and acceptable outcome to the current impasse is the complete, peaceful restoration of civilian rule as well as free and fair elections for a new government of national reconciliation.

The international community—including and especially regional bodies such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC)—should countenance no other resolution.

Separately, there have been online reports that Mugabe may seek asylum in either Singapore or Malaysia.

One hopes that this is not true and if so, that the government of Malaysia not allow him to do so. The statement by Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi that Malaysia does not stop him from coming to Malaysia on the basis of medical tourism is very disappointing.

Malaysia should not be party to any deal which prevents or retards the democratisation as well as the course of justice in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe’s fate should ultimately be decided by the people of Zimbabwe via a civilian, democratically-elected government.

In support of petition for Petronas to divest from Myanmar

We would like to express our support for the petition signed on 8 November 2017 by some 47 Malaysian Members of Parliament from Pakatan Harapan, Warisan and PAS calling on Petronas to divest from the Union of Myanmar.

The petition quite rightly notes that the Rohingya ethnic minority in Myanmar has been subjected to “…systematic ethnic cleansing that (among others) involved torture, indiscriminate murder, burning of settlements, rape and intimidation in the last 10 years.”

As such, it calls on Petronas to completely divest from Myanmar from 1 January 2018 unless and until:

“a. Government of Myanmar recognized (sic) that ethnic minority Rohingya are legitimate citizens of Myanmar and are accorded the rights and protection given to other citizens of Myanmar; and

b. All manner of intimidation, subjugation, discrimination and crime against them (ethnic minority Rohingya) are stopped immediately and comprehensively.”

Petronas should realize that its investments have an impact on the lives of the people of the countries that it chooses to do business in.

At the same time—as a government-linked company and one of the most respectable and recognisable Malaysian brands globally—its decisions in this regard also have a direct impact on our country’s reputation and moral standing.

The Myanmar military has not ceased its violent actions in the Rakhine state despite international pressure.

It therefore behoves global corporate citizens—if they truly care about human rights and their reputations—to take a stand on this matter.

Continuing to invest and do business in Myanmar without demanding changes to its policies means that companies which engage in such activities are also complicit in the actions of the military-backed regime.

We therefore call on Petronas to accept the petition of the 47 MPs, as well as for its President and CEO Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin to meet with a delegation of those legislators to discuss this matter as requested in the letter dated 7 November 2017 from Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli.

The Najib administration must be responsible for the failure of KR1M

I am very concerned regarding adverse developments in the case of Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M), which impacts the livelihood of hundreds or maybe even thousands of Malaysian workers.

In the most recent statement by the Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Minister Hamzah Zainudin, the fate of the KR1M workers lie in the hands of the company handling it, Mydin Mohamed Holdings Sdn Bhd.

Meanwhile in previous reports, Mydin Managing Director, Ameer Ali Mydin has claimed that the government project has caused massive losses for the company.

It seems both parties have refused to take responsibility for the mess, with the government blaming Mydin for increasing prices while Mydin, a profit-making company, has said the venture is mere CSR.

Like many other 1Malaysia project, the Najib Razak administration has failed to comprehensively plan the initiative and as a result a lot of people is negatively impacted by its failure.

The underlying issue is the increase in costs of living – the introduction of GST and low wages – that must be overcome.

The government must take responsibility for these blunders.

Listening to the hope of young Malaysians

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about the youth vote in Malaysia.

There has been a lot of attention on what young Malaysians care about politically, as well as what could get them out to the polling booths – or make them stay away.

To get answers to these questions, KEADILAN Youth has been trying to engage young Malaysians through a series of events called Teh Tarik Sessions.

The first of these began in mid-August, when Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail came to Setiawangsa, a marginal seat in Kuala Lumpur held by Barisan Nasional.

From there, we have gone to small towns in Kelantan, Perak and Johor, as well as Felda plantations in Negri Sembilan.

Soon, we plan to go all over Malaysia – from Perlis to Sabah – to talk about what KEADILAN and Pakatan Harapan can do for the youth.

The Teh Tarik Sessions are designed to be two-way dialogues. They are not in the typical ceramah format, but more attuned to a generation that is used to lively engagement on social media.

We serve attendees teh tarik (preferably “kurang manis”) and broadcast these sessions live on the internet.

A lot of the issues that they raise are well known.

Falling commodity prices and opaque practices in Felda plantations; the flooding of foreign workers and a lack of well-paying jobs, which force young Malaysians to bigger cities in the country or even abroad; being forced to take on crippling debts to sustain their livelihood; discrimination faced by the Orang Asli community – the list goes on.

Many also complain about the impact of massive budget cuts, particularly on the education and healthcare sectors.

In rural Negri Sembilan, low- and middle-income families spoke of being “asked” to pay RM10 for school stationery.

A family in a kampung in Perak complained about having to reject an offer for their child to further his studies overseas because the parents were expected to advance the money for the first four months of preparatory studies at a local private college.

Doctors told me how they spent their own money to minimise costs for poor patients.

How did it come to this?

In 1991, when I was in primary school, Wawasan 2020 was the order of the day.

In drawing and essay-writing competitions, my friends dreamt of flying cars and shining cities.

Malaysians were also told that the country would finally come of age. Not just an economically developed nation, but also one united as a Bangsa Malaysia: liberal and tolerant, democratic and progressive.

We are just over two years away from that magic date, but we seem to be more far away than ever from the objectives mentioned in Wawasan 2020.

Ironically, Umno-BN is now shifting to a new goalpost – 2050 (“TN50”) – pushing the dream farther and farther away.

KEADILAN and PH Youth’s pitch in these Teh Tarik Sessions is this: let’s not wait until 2050. We have the opportunity in the next general election to change our country – to uplift our generation and our children’s.

For Sabah and Sarawak, we want to go beyond the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

We want more revenue to stay in these states, and to increase their responsibilities in key portfolios.

We also want to promote greater decentralisation for schools and district education offices, while ensuring greater investment in educational infrastructure in impoverished parts of the country.

We will offer free higher education at public universities, with a living stipend for students from low- and middle-income families.

At the same time, we will also provide more routes to vocational and technical education to improve the quality of our workers.

We also believe that wages in Malaysia need to increase. There must also be incentives to encourage profitable companies to provide living wages to their workers.

There has to be greater coordination between the government, private sector and unions to increase wages and productivity for workers.

And, our country needs a roadmap to reduce foreign workers, and offer incentives to encourage the hiring of skilled local workers.

We need more affordable housing, whether bought or rented, for Malaysian citizens in the Klang Valley, Penang and south Johor.

The government should be looking out for first-time homebuyers who want to live in their homes, not absentee speculators who flip their properties for profit.

The destruction of our public institutions also means that we need to focus on restoring their integrity.

Freedom of information legislation, introduced in Selangor and Penang, needs to be introduced at the federal level.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission needs to be made truly independent, with its own prosecutorial powers.

Committees in Parliament and state assemblies – similar to SELCAT in Selangor – need to be formed to allow the overseeing of government authorities.

This is our offer to young Malaysians.

I know that many of them have found our country’s politics thus far disheartening, its parties – on both sides of the fence – wanting.

But, change has never come from people – especially the young – sitting on the sidelines, not voting and refusing to engage in the political process.

Here is an old cliché but one that rings true: the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

As for PH Youth, we hope to promote the politics of hope, not fear; unity, not division.

All we ask, is for one chance – five years – to set the country back in the right direction.

We believe that young Malaysians can, and will, make a big difference.

Malaysia Day message

I would like to wish all Malaysians a Happy Malaysia Day.

Today, we celebrate the birth of our nation.

54 years ago, Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya came together to form a new country. While Singapore did not stay, the Federation that was built all those years ago, on 16 September 1963 endures.

Our diversity is not only what sets Malaysia apart from other nations, but is what defines us as a people.

Nation-building is always a work in progress and in this respect, our country still has a long way to go in fulfilling its promise, set out in the Proclamation of Malaysia, that we should be a “…independent and sovereign democratic State founded upon liberty and justice, ever seeking to defend and uphold peace and harmony among its people and to perpetuate peace among nations.”

For one thing, there is still massive imbalances in terms of infrastructure and economic development, especially in respect to Sabah and Sarawak.

There is also a gulf in terms of respect, understanding and knowledge between Peninsular and East Malaysia that urgently needs to be bridged.

At the same time, the principles of federalism still have not taken root, if the confrontational attitude that the Federal Government has adopted in regards to certain states is anything to go by.

Moreover, forging as well as defending Malaysia’s ethnic and religious diversity is a constant struggle that transcends generations.

Malaysia will succeed and prevail through genuine and courageous leadership that puts the nation first—rather than seeking political expedience and pandering to vested interests.

While the efforts of the Sabah and Sarawak governments to seek greater autonomy are welcome, it is unlikely that their efforts will result in concrete benefits to the people of these states without a sea change at the federal level.

When all is said and done, the status quo has more or less prevailed in these states for decades—and it is arguable whether it has made its people happier or more prosperous.

It is important that we use this time to honestly reflect on where we are going as a country and how our Federation can be strengthened.

We cannot take our nationhood for granted. Neither can we dismiss the importance of elevating the tone of our politics even as we seek to meet the challenges of today’s world.

Pakatan Harapan Youth has released a series of policy proposals on how we can strengthen federalism in Malaysia.

This includes making Sabah and Sarawak equal partners with Peninsular Malaysia, not mere states; the return of autonomy that goes beyond the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and creating more jobs and opportunities for young Sabahans and Sarawakians in their respective states.

Let us build a truly free and fair Malaysia where all our children have a place in the sun.

Najib’s meeting with Trump raises many questions

Prime Minister Najib Razak has met with US President Donald Trump.

The primary issue is what the trip has accomplished for the country’s interests.

It was reported by the White House that before his bilateral meeting with President Trump, Najib said that “…we want to help you in terms of strengthening the U.S.”

This apparently includes increasing the number of Boeing planes to be purchased by Malaysia Airlines, by the EPF investing “three to four additional billion dollars to support your (i.e. Trump) infrastructure redevelopment in the United States” and for Khazanah Nasional to also increase its investments in Silicon Valley high-tech companies.

Again, a number of questions arise from this. Why should Malaysia want to strengthen the US? What impact could we have in any case? At the same time, it is also very strange for us to be investing in US infrastructure while seeking investment for our own projects from China.

It is also significant that—although he quite rightly stated that Malaysia is “…committed to fight Daesh, IS, Al-Qaeda, Abu Sayyaf – you name it”—based on the abovementioned White House readout, the Palestinian and Rohingya issues were apparently not mentioned in this conference.

One cannot help but wonder whether an opportunity was missed for Najib – as a Southeast Asian, Muslim and developing world leader – to raise these issues while the eyes of the world was on him and President Trump.

Why – given his apparent championship of these issues – did he not speak out on these crises withTrump?

The Washington Post has also reported that the Prime Minister stayed in the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC. How much did this stay cost the Malaysian taxpayer?

Moreover, it must be pointed out that President Trump still owns an interest in the hotel through a revocable trust. This arrangement has been criticised by US civil society and media, as it allegedly allows the President to draw money from his businesses.

The question then arises as to whether it was appropriate for the Malaysian delegation to have been housed in the hotel.
Najib and his administration need to answer these questions.

The horrors visited upon the Rohingya must be stopped now

All Malaysians are no doubt appalled by the violence and suffering taking place in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, especially the unspeakable, unjustifiable horrors being visited upon the Rohingya people.

Moreover, the violence against the Rohingya and the humanitarian crisis it is exacerbating could have a profoundly destabilising effect not only to Myanmar and its neighbours, but to the Southeast and South Asian regions

All Malaysians should therefore unite to press our government, as well as the international community—including multilateral institutions such as the UN, the OIC and ASEAN—to take all possible diplomatic action to end the violence in the Rakhine.

At the same time, a lasting and just solution to the status of the Rohingya people must also be found—including the immediate and unconditional restoration of their citizenship rights in the Union of Myanmar.

I hope that the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat will allow Malaysia’s MPs to debate this pressing international issue when the House reconvenes.

Indeed, it is not inappropriate for an extraordinary session of Parliament to be called to discuss what foreign policy steps Malaysia can take to end this catastrophe.

I also hope that authorities will—while upholding the rule of the law—consider leniency in dealing with the Rohingya protestors who were arrested near the Myanmar Embassy in Kuala Lumpur recently.

Prominent figures from the Federal government and certain political parties have, after all, in the not-too-distant-past also taken part in similar public gatherings on behalf of the Rohingya cause.

When all is said and done however, the only quarters which can bring peace to the Rakhine and justice to the Rohingya are the Government of Myanmar—including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and the Myanmar armed forces (Tatmadaw) under Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

They surely must realise that they are on the wrong side of history in regards to the Rohingya.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s seeming complicity in the violence makes a mockery of her 1991 Nobel Prize for Peace, when she was cited for “…her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights” and for emphasizing “…the need for conciliation between the sharply divided regions and ethnic groups in her country.”

Moreover, the actions of the Tatmadaw are surely jeopardizing the very territorial integrity of Myanmar that Senior General Min Aung Hlaing professes to defend and cherish.

They have it within their power to end the bloodshed in the Rakhine and the oppression of the Rohingya.

The killing must stop and it must stop now.

Condemning the violent incidents at Nothing to Hide 2.0

I condemn the disgraceful, violent incidents which took place at the Nothing to Hide 2.0 forum in Shah Alam on 13 August 2017.

All Malaysians, regardless of their political orientation have the right to take part in public gatherings without fearing for their safety.

The events at the forum were not normal. No sane person can justify brawls and setting off flares at a public forums for whatever reason.

Also, the actions of the perpetrators were an act of gross disrespect to Dr Mahathir Mohamad, as well as to his wife, Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali. The perpetrators and their confederates should be ashamed of themselves.

The police must conduct a thorough investigation into the incidents and take stern action against the perpetrators without fear or favour.

Response to Rosmah seeking to increase budget for Permata

I refer to the recent comments made by the wife of the Prime Minister Rosmah Mansor regarding the Permata programme.

According to reports, Rosmah mentioned that she is looking to increase the budget for Permata and will ask from the Finance Minister, who is her husband.

Permata is fundamentally an education programme, and as such, any education policy should be part of comprehensive Education Ministry initiative.

It is puzzling that Permata is stationed under the Prime Ministers Department when it clearly should be under Education Ministry. What is even more questionable is the fact that no Minister is handling the programme that has a budget of RM85 million, but rather it is helmed by the wife of the Prime Minister who does not have an executive role in the government.

Furthermore, it is absurd for Rosmah to publicly mention that she will speak to her husband about increasing Permata’s budget, whilst neglecting to mention that Permata actually had an increase in budget in 2017 whilst the education budget, especially higher education, has been cut.

If she truly cares for education, allow Permata to be placed under the Education Ministry, with experts and dedicated resources to take over the programme and ensure that it is aligned with the overall direction of the education system.

Rosmah can also make a healthy donation to the Education Ministry while at it, seeing as she shares the aspiration of many to see the success of our education.

Response to challenge by Idris Jusoh for Selangor to implement free education

I refer to the statement made recently by the Higher Education Minister, Idris Jusoh, regarding free education.

According to reports, Idris Jusoh had challenged Selangor to implement free education for Selangor-owned university UNISEL.

This statement is woefully misleading as the Minister would rather focus on gaining political points rather than addressing the facts.

It should be noted here that Pakatan Harapan’s promise to provide free and equitable education is upon winning over the federal government.

Education, including higher education is placed under the Federal list in the Federal Constitution.

In addition, Selangor’s budget is merely RM3 billion compared to the RM260 billion Federal budget, even though we contribute more than 20% of the national Gross Domestic Product.

This is down to tax policy which does not provide a fair tax return distribution among states. Unlike in Germany for example, its Federal Financial Equalisation system sees a more efficient and equitable tax distribution that is almost half of various taxes including corporate tax, income tax and value-added tax.

As such if the Minister feels supportive of our effort to provide free education, why not get the cabinet to revisit the national tax distribution among states.

At the moment, with a budget of RM3.4 billion Selangor is performing wonders with its distribution of state wealth through various initiatives under its Inisiatif Peduli Rakyat programme which now holds about 40 initiatives.

These initiatives ranges from free water, free bus, free WiFi to primary healthcare subsidy scheme (Peduli Sihat) and pre-school subsidy for lower income families (Tunas).

UNISEL’s fee structure is already at an affordable rate compared to other private universities, and under IPR, Selangor also provides education support through Hadiah IPT, Tabung Biasiswa Selangorku, Peduli Siswa, interest-free convertible loan and Brain Bank, a doctorate level scholarship at the world’s top universities.

UNISEL has also introduced a dermasiswa program at the foundation level whereby studies at the foundation level is free if the student continues his or her degree at UNISEL.

The Minister should therefore stick to the facts, focus on uplifting our current derisory state of education and stop playing politics.

After years of governing the country, Barisan Nasional has only caused Malaysia to go backwards and it is time we put a stop to it.

Do not risk the future of our children under a government that does not care about the people’s well-being.