The Global ‘Climate Strike’ And Haze Must Be A Wake-Up Call

During a recent interview with Bloomberg, KEADILAN president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim described Malaysia’s latest bout with the haze as a form of “ecological warfare”.

He also called for outrage on the part of Malaysians, for the companies that were allegedly responsible for the forest fires in Indonesia which caused it to be held accountable – regardless of whether they are from Malaysia, Indonesia or other countries.

At the same time, youth all over the world—including in Malaysia—have taken to the streets as part of the “Global Climate Strike” inspired by the teenage activist Greta Thunberg.

Anwar’s comments and the youthful climate strikers share a common thread.

They are both telling us the same thing: protecting the environment and addressing climate change have become existential, mainstream political issues.

Anyone who still feels that this is an elite, fringe or Western-driven phenomenon is courting disaster. Neither can it be the flavour of the month.

We only need to look at the real suffering that the weeks of haze have caused Malaysians regardless of race, religion or socio-economic status to see how this affects us all.

Let us also not forget the UKM study which showed that the 2013 haze caused our country RM1.57bil in healthcare and loss of income opportunities. We can only imagine what the bill in 2019 will be like.

Sustainability is inextricably linked with economic progress: we cannot have one without the other.

There have been many suggestions of how ordinary Malaysians can do their part to reduce climate change, including everything from using less single-use plastic to taking public transportation more.

These are all worthy ideas that we ought to adopt if we can.

But ultimately, what is needed is for governments to lead the way by their policies and actions.

Malaysian leaders and their counterparts elsewhere cannot demand that their people change their lifestyles without first taking a good, hard look at their own.

There are some things that the Pakatan Harapan administration can consider towards greater sustainability, such as making government buildings energy efficient, whether federal, state or local government.

Malaysia has a decade-old Green Building Index (GBI). All government-owned buildings should strive to be on it by a certain deadline – say end-2024.

Measures to prevent wastage of resources like water and electricity in such facilities should be enforced and stepped up. Rainwater harvesting must be expanded extensively.

The government’s fleet of vehicles – including those used by Ministers should move to energy-efficient vehicles (EEVs). More needs to be done to facilitate the use of electric vehicles.

The Cabinet has reportedly approved an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act (EECA) to be tabled at Parliament later this year. This should be done: my Dewan Rakyat colleagues and I look forward to debating and passing it.

Encouraging recycling is also a good measure but we must realise that many people find the process confusing and opaque.

When I was a student in London, households are simply required to sort their waste into recyclables and non-recyclables. But in some local councils in Malaysia, waste separation is complicated and as a result ineffective. Hence, simplifying recycling practices is something authorities should look into.

Next, law enforcement is key. As per Anwar’s call, those who damage our environment must be brought to justice without fear or favour.

Cooperation with our neighbours to fight forest fires and other climate change phenomena must increase. Nations must be willing to coordinate with each other for the common good. We may find arguing about where did rendang originate from to be funny, but the debate about who is responsible for the haze actually cost lives.

Sustainability has to be at the core of Malaysia’s agriculture. But it must be adopted at all levels.

For instance, the bulk of oil palm, not only in our country but globally, is grown by smallholders – some 40% according to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

Both the public and private sector as well as civil society must work together to ensure that smallholders can adopt sustainable agrarian practices that are both effective as well as affordable. There’s no way we can make our food and basic goods sustainable without this happening.

Also, 20% of Malaysia’s energy mix still comes from coal. An IDEAS Malaysia report has argued that this figure actually grew from 5% in 1996. It’s 2019, and more needs to be done to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels in favour of renewables. That will also help to increase usage of electric vehicles and public transport, resulting in a cleaner environment.

There has been talk of the need to introduce a carbon tax and reduce fuel subsidies.

This is admittedly a contentious issue. The key is to ensure justice prevails.

What is needed is comprehensive and accurate data, so that the implementation of both initiatives when they happen can be properly targeted.

There is also a big difference between Klang Valley which has a fast improving public transportation system and the rest of Malaysia where people still depend on private vehicles.

Care must be taken that the changes do not become a burden on the B40s in our society. It can be done.

Indeed, a carbon tax and cutting fuel subsidies will be of little use to the environment if the burden falls disproportionately on the poor and underprivileged.

Anwar and the climate strikers are both calling for not only individuals and companies, but also nation-states, to act for the future.

Their voices must be heard as the future of our planet is at stake.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD is the Chief Organising Secretary of KEADILAN and MP for Setiawangsa. He has written several books in Malay and English. His latest books are a new edition of Moving Forward: Malays for the 21st Century and 9 May 2019: Notes from the Frontline.

Moving Forward Together Progressively

A decade ago, PKR politician Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad wrote his book, Moving Forward: Malays for the 21st, because he felt his community’s future was best assured with progressive politics.

He alIso believed that the fate of such progressive politics in Malaysia was in the hands of the Malays.

At that time, Nik Nazmi was (and is still) pushing for a more progressive paradigm where Malaysians would be at ease with their country’s diversity.

His book, Moving Forward, argued that the state of mind of the Malays was crucial if any change in Malaysia is to be sustainable.

Malays are by sheer number the biggest community in the country; we are also the fastest growing. Constitutionally, historically and culturally, we occupy a special position in Malaysia, ” he wrote in the preface of the updated edition of Moving Forward published this year.

Ten years after the publication of the book, the author observed on WhatsApp groups, Facebook page and mamak shops that the Malay community across all segments have become more worried.

“The issues of LGBT rights and child marriage exposed the deep divide in Malaysian society. This came to a head when the government spoke of ratifying the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd) – a convention ratified by all Muslim majority countries except for Malaysia and Brunei – resulting in a massive rally combining PAS, Umno and right-wing NGOs, ” he wrote.

“In light of these events, Moving Forward is just as relevant today as it was in 2009. While the content remains largely the same as it was when it was first published.”

On Thursday, I interviewed the Setiawangsa MP at his service centre in Kuala Lumpur to get his insight on his community, their challenges and political future:

> How should the Malays move forward?

We are talking Malay equity being little. The New Economic Policy (NEP) has succeeded in creating a Malay middle class. There’s no question about that.

But if you look at the numbers deeper – there are books like Muhammed Abdul Khalid’s The Colour of Inequality: Ethnicity, Class, Income and Wealth in Malaysia – the NEP has created a gap which it can’t overcome. We see a large gap between rich Malays and poor Malays.

What we need to look at is how to solve the issue. But we need to address the problems that are affecting the B40 (bottom 40% households) which is mostly Malay Bumiputra.

But if we purely apply a race orientated approach, which many of our policies are based on today, the ones who benefit will be rich Malays – the Taman Tun Malays, the Damansara Malays. Whereas the Felda planters, paddy farmers, fishermen, the urban poor will not get the benefit.

What I’m saying is that it creates a gap between the rich and poor Malays. It also creates other issues – the poor Malays have been given this illusion that their problems happen because of the non-Malays. I accept that there are problems with private sector discrimination and all that because our system is a zero-sum game.

But at the end of the day, they will look for a bogeyman to blame. These issues are played up by the elites in a way for them to continue to get the power and to continue to get this preferential treatment.

> What’s the difference between 2009 when your book was published and 2019?

What happened in GE14 is historic. But there is a great sense of insecurity. Malay political identity has various parties representing the community. You have Umno practically splitting up into Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, and you have PAS splitting into Amanah.

But at the same time, you see PAS and Umno – the original Malay parties – getting closer and closer. So, in the short term, it makes sense for them. They look at what’s happening on WhatsApp, the likes they get on Facebook, and it’s easy to be carried away with that.

But for the future of this country, where do the non-Malays, which still consists of a huge proportion of the country, stand?

Umno’s strength has always been traditionally with Barisan National. PAS’ biggest gain was when it joined Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah (which had a loose coalition with Gagasan Rakyat), Barisan Alternatif and Pakatan Rakyat.

The implication is when Umno and PAS get closer whether it can win power, and if it wins power, at what cost?

Now Umno has nothing to lose, in a sense for them, they can try to win power at all cost. Previously, they were leading the government. They were very reliant on the (non-Malays) at a certain extent. Now they feel that it doesn’t matter.

This is bad for the country as a whole.

> Why is the Khat, Zakir Naik and boycott non-Muslim products controversy happening now?

It is the result of political insecurity. As I said, the strategy that Umno and PAS are choosing now is to play up race and religion. This is not the PAS of (party spiritual adviser Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat). This is not the 1Malaysia which (former Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak) used to talk about. In a way, you can understand where they are coming from. They need to think we need to win first, and if the nation burns, then the nation burns.

With Zakir Naik, some Malays think that they are giving up their identity because it is a DAP-dominated government. That is the narrative created. It stems from their insecurity… this cultural insecurity that religion and race are under threat.

Plus, as I said, fundamentally it is from economic insecurity, so they are looking for who to blame – Chinese bosses or the Pakatan government? And Pakatan government and Chinese bosses tend to overlap.

> Pakatan is getting an average of 30% of the total Malay votes, how can the coalition go beyond that?

We did well in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Negeri Sembilan, Melaka and Johor. We did badly in Perak, Kedah and we lost Perlis and Pahang. We didn’t win a single seat in Terengganu and Kelantan.

My take is Umno and PAS are always traditionally present in Malay society. From birth to marriage to death, their interactions are with the ketua kampung who is usually appointed by Umno and the imam who is generally from PAS.

But on the flip side, the society is changing. There are more Malays in urban areas, and Umno and PAS do not influence their life.

Umno represents race and royalty while PAS represents religion. Between the two parties they already got the 3Rs which are traditional in Malay politics. It is something comforting and easier to stomach compared to complex ideals like multiracialism and all that.

And simply because they have been there forever. Umno has been around since the 1940s and PAS since the 1950s whereas the Pakatan parties are new.

> In GE15, how can Pakatan maintain the Malay seats it won or win more seats from the community?

How far Umno and PAS unity will take place is also a question. A marriage is always nice at the dating period, which is where they are now. And then who pays how much of the bills – which means who gets the seat and all that?

Najib tried to do it before GE14 but there was a revolt in Umno in Kelantan.

I agree we cannot look at it lightly. If it doesn’t happen, it’s a bonus. But if it happens, how do we face it?

We have to work harder. And I think all efforts should be on the economy. It doesn’t have to be race-oriented. The moment we are talking about helping people at the bottom and the middle of society, the bulk would be the Malays, without leaving behind the Indians, the non-Muslim Bumiputra and some Chinese who were in that category.

I don’t think a Malay who can afford (to buy) a bungalow for RM5mil should get a discount whatsoever. But a working-class Malaysian, who is predominantly Malay, earning RM2,000 to RM3000, should be assisted to afford a house.

Ultimately, we need to address economic issues – bread and butter.

I think GST had a bigger role in Najib’s defeat than 1MDB. 1MDB, of course, provided a nice narrative – ‘Where did our money go? To the super yacht? To the young, pudgy boy? To the diamond?’

But do you think people would care if the economy was doing well?

The Malaysian Stand On The Rohingya Must Be Respected

There have been reports that the Government of Myanmar has summoned the Malaysian Ambassador to that country on 31 July 2019 in relation to remarks made by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad on the plight of the Rohingya people.
For the record, Dr Mahathir had recently called for the Rohingya to either be treated as nationals by Myanmar or given territory to form their own state. This is part of the Malaysian government’s entirely correct, consistent and just stance on the Rakhine crisis, of which I am in complete agreement with.
A bloody, genocidal campaign waged by Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, in the state since 2017 has resulted in more than 750,000 Rohingya fleeing the country, as well as credible allegations of mass killings and rape. According to the United Nations, one million Rohingya are now virtually stranded as refugees in neighbouring Bangladesh.
It is perhaps unsurprising that the government of Myanmar would object to the Dr Mahathir’s comments. Nevertheless, their actions betray how completely in denial, indeed, delusional they are regarding the catastrophe the Tatmadaw—who are the true rulers of the Union—have deliberately engineered within their own borders.
Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims that the Prime Minister’s remarks go against ASEAN’s principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states. The Ministry however is either wilfully ignorant or blind to the fact that the ASEAN Charter and the principle of non-interference does not give its members carte blanche to commit human rights abuses or engage in acts of gross impunity.
Indeed, Article 2 (2) (i) of the of the Charter mandates that ASEAN and its member states shall act according to the principles of “…respect for fundamental freedoms, the promotion and protection of human rights, and the promotion of social justice”.
The Yangon regime under its so-called State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi should also realise that the Tatmadaw’s crimes in Rakhine have sparked a humanitarian crisis that has had negative ramifications for the Southeast as well as South Asian regions and beyond. The plight of the Rohingya is no longer an internal issue of Myanmar’s but a regional and indeed global tragedy in the making should urgent action not be taken.
Should Myanmar wish to end the international opprobrium that it has so rightly been subject to, then it should rein in the out-of-control Tatmadaw, punish the preparators of the atrocities in the Rakhine and ensure that all the Rohingya are returned to their homes as well as given their rights as citizens of the Union.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN CHIEF ORGANISING SECRETARY
KEADILAN CENTRAL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL MEMBER
MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT SETIAWANGSA

The Appointment Of Latheefa Koya To MACC

I note the recent appointment of Latheefa Koya as Chief Commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

Latheefa, is both a prominent lawyer and human rights activist. Besides other major cases, she was part of the legal team which represented me in my trials related to the Peaceful Assembly Act—for which I am of course grateful.

Her appointment, however, has given rise to questions which need to be urgently addressed.

Latheefa was, until very recently, a member of KEADILAN. While she has resigned from the party, she did so after the fact of her appointment.

Hence, concerns over her impartiality as head of the MACC—which is an increasingly and especially important public institution in the national reform process—cannot be dismissed.

More importantly however, the manner of her appointment, which, again going by media reports, was decided upon by the Prime Minister alone, goes against the promises Pakatan Harapan made in its last General Elections manifesto.

The 14th Promise of the Buku Harapan clearly states that under a Pakatan Harapan government, the: “MACC will report directly to Parliament, rather than to the Prime Minister. To ensure effective check and balance, the number of MACC Commissioners will be increased and there will be a quota for civil society. One of the Commissioners will become Chairman of MACC, and all Commissioners will have security of tenure.

Appointment of these Commissioners must be validated democratically by Parliament.”

It is true that the relevant amendments to the laws have not been made to provide for these pledges, including for the validation of the Commissioners by Parliament.

However, the appointment ought to have been referred to the Major Public Appointments Committee anyway, to show, if nothing else, that the Pakatan Harapan Federal Government intends to keep its promises.

We cannot blame voters for being cynical or sceptical about our attempts to govern if we cannot deliver on such simple promises.

This has nothing to do with the new Chair’s qualifications or her political preferences when she was a member of the party.

One is sure, and the public has the right to expect, that she will perform her duties without fear or favour.

However, the manner of her appointment is cause for concern as it gives rise to questions over the government’s commitment to the cause of reform.

We were elected on a platform of bold institutional and economic reform.

Our seeming lack of progress on both these fronts is highly worrying.

The Pakatan Harapan federal government must take cognisance of this if it wishes to retain the support of the Malaysian people moving forward, and most importantly, to avoid the mistakes of the past.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN CHIEF ORGANISING SECRETARY
KEADILAN CENTRAL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL MEMBER
SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

50 Years After 13 May: The Lessons For Malaysia

50 years have now passed since the tragic events of 13 May 1969. It is, naturally, a solemn, sombre day for Malaysians.
We should all reflect on its lessons. The chief among them is that we should never take our country’s peace and stability for granted.
These are things that we all must contribute to and defend. It is a duty and responsibility for all Malaysian men and women—whatever their station in life.
It is a cause for which we must dedicate our time on this earth to.
National unity and harmony, after all, are always works in progress. Different generations must—in their own way—contribute to the building of our nation and the unification of our people.
There are, regrettably, nefarious elements that are still trying to use race and religion for their own ends, seemingly oblivious to the damage their irresponsible actions and rhetoric are causing to our national fabric.
They are leading the country, as well as the races and religions they pretend to champion to disaster.
Such people and those who back them must be rejected firmly by all Malaysians who love their country.
But we must also realise that our national unity, as well as our capacity for racial and religious coexistence, are intricately linked to the extent of our political freedoms and civil liberties.
Reducing any one of these will diminish the other. Indeed, Malaysia will not be peaceful or secure if its people are not free.
What is needed is maturity—among both Malaysia’s leaders and led—to exercise such freedoms responsibly, for the common, ultimate good of individuals, society and the nation.
By that same gesture, reform will be futile without the creation of better education, jobs, healthcare, housing and opportunities for everyone who lives and works in our land.
Genuine liberty and “shared prosperity”, or more accurately, economic justice—are inseparable: they are dependent on each other; one and the same.
We will have neither if we close our hearts and minds to each other.
Malaysia’s strength lies in its diversity.
It not only gives our country character and variety—but also allows us to be a dynamic force in international affairs and commerce, as well as act as bridge between the different civilisations of the world.
We must realise—and teach our children—to respect, accept and celebrate Malaysia’s multiculturalism and traditions of pluralism.
Difference is not something to be feared, but a means for us to get the best possible outcomes for our country.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN CHIEF ORGANISING SECRETARY
KEADILAN CENTRAL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL MEMBER
SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

The First Anniversary Of The GE14 Victory

Today, we celebrate the first anniversary of the historic 9 May 2018 General Elections.

Many Malaysians will of course be reminiscing about that day.

Many more will also be taking stock of how the Pakatan Harapan federal government has performed and what it needs to do in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.

We won the 14th General Elections because we were united and had the better platform—one that truly gave all Malaysians hope.

Our alliance’s work to reform and save Malaysia has just started.

As recent events highlight, the expectations of Malaysians are high and that they will not hesitate to punish Pakatan Harapan if it lets them down.

Indeed, the greatest “gift” of 9 May was that it showed Malaysians that they can always vote their governments out.

It showed everyone that nobody has a right to be in power indefinitely; that leaders who breach the trust of voters and abuse their privileges will be removed sooner or later.

Moreover, Malaysians showed on 9 May that they expect the highest standards from their elected representatives.

It is not enough for us to just be clean, diligent and personable: we must also lift the dignity of the people.

Still, the only thing our government should have to worry about—and the only thing is needs to be unapologetic about—is to fulfil the promises of Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto.

The promises we made can, should and must be met—with hard work and perseverance.

Saying that they cannot be accomplished will make Malaysians think that we sought power for its own sake.

It will signal to voters that we are no better than the previous regime.

Therefore, on this first anniversary of 9 May, I call on all Pakatan Harapan leaders and component party members to recommit themselves to achieving our manifesto in full.

It will of course not happen overnight—but everything we do and say must be towards achieving the goals set out there.

Fulfilling the manifesto will boost our economy, reduce inequality and accelerate nation-building.

In short, it will move the nation forward and guarantee greater economic justice for all Malaysians.

We must not only it make it easier for our people to do business—whether small or big—but also create jobs with liveable wages for all Malaysians willing to work.

So even as we work to realise our manifesto, the minds of Pakatan Harapan leaders should also be on this: jobs, jobs, jobs.

Though we can and should celebrate the memories of 9 May 2018, our hearts, minds and eyes should be on the future.

Let us never be satisfied with what we have and what we have accomplished. We must move Malaysia forward.

The spirit of 9 May 2018 must live on. We must never let the flame of hope that was ignited that day die out.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN CHIEF ORGANISING SECRETARY
KEADILAN CENTRAL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL MEMBER
SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT