Tuesday, March 25, 2008

3Cs of New Politics: Competition, Co-operation & Convergence

I spoke at the 3rd instalment of The Star post-elections forum with the key theme being what Malaysians can expect in the light of the political tsunami that swept across Peninsula Malaysia in the recently concluded General Elections.

I must say, political analysts all over the world who are interested in Malaysia, have never had it so good, so much to discuss and debate about over the overhaul of politics in Malaysia.

The Star gave the forum extended coverage here (on what the panelist discussed) and here (on the sensitivity of amending the constitution). And credit where its due, the coverage was certainly fair. Only little quip was the fact that I reportedly quoted the example of BN amending the constitution to protect the rights of the Sultan here, which I didn't.
He pointed out that the Barisan Nasional Government had amended the Federal Constitution many times over the last 50 years but the changes were to protect the rights of the Sultan, uphold Islam and interests of the ruling coalition to consolidate its position.
Other than that (which I'm not fussed about), the overall paragraph reflected what I said in response to the former Health Minister, Datuk Chua Soi Lek's caution that amending the constitution "is a very sensitive question. Please don’t treat changing the constitution like a joke."

My very short 15 minutes "thesis" during the forum was what I termed the 3Cs of New Politics in Malaysia - Competition, Co-operation and Convergence. And to me, the most mentally intriguing and exciting aspects of the 3Cs is the multi-faceted and multi-layered levels in which the 3Cs apply.

You can also view the video of my take, courtesy of The Star here.

Without attempting to write a 5 page essay, I'll try to summarize what I said here.


You'll get two levels of competition. One between the loose coalition of PKR, DAP and PAS (which I'll term "Barisan Rakyat (BR)" although it's not a formal coalition for convenience) versus the BN government. You'll get an element of competition in the Dewan Rakyat where the opposition members forms more than a third of the parliament. But more importantly, there's a competition of governance between states run by BR versus the federal government by BN.

If DAP succeeds in making Penang a model state for governance and economy, then it'll certainly add pressure to the BN government to do the same at the federal level or they may just lose more seats in the next elections.

On the other hand, there'll also be healthy competition between the BR parties for they each have states in which the respective party leaders get to set the agenda - Penang (DAP), Selangor (PKR) and Kelantan/Kedah (PAS). Each will try to prove to the rakyat that they are competent in governing the states and will not want to lose out to the other in terms of promoting policies which will ultimately benefit the rakyat.

The clear winners of this competition will be the rakyat, for competition will shift from ADUNs from BN parties competing to outperform each other in terms of how much wealth they can accumulate whilst in power, to actually focusing on the interest of the people, as they now realise (some belatedly) that they can be unseated.


Questions will definitely be raised on how the newly formed BR coalition will co-operate with one another, particularly given some of their conflicting ideologies. Will we be able to focus strictly on common grounds such as justice and good governance and not get distracted by other issues? Even from an economic policy stand point, there are differences between DAP and PKR such as on the treatment of subsidies.

But more interestingly, is the question of co-operation between the BN federal governments and the BR controlled state governments. While in the past, BN could afford to marginalise the states of Kelantan and Terengganu (when it was in PAS hands) as they were contributing little to the overall Malaysian economy, BN doesn't have such options when dealing with the economically powerful states of Penang, Perak and Selangor. Attempting to "kill" these states, will just be acts of chopping off one's nose to spite one's face (i.e., self-defeating).

Instead, I see an era of forced co-operation, to ensure that both the states and the overall Malaysian economy continues to move forward. The strategy then for BN and BR is the "spin" to convince voters that the "growth" in the coming 4 to 5 years are attributed to their policies and not the opponents.


It is widely acknowledged that the mainstream media (MSM) were overwhelming pro-establishment while the online and other alternative media tends to be anti-establishment. Some MSMs went clearly to the extent of painting surreal pictures of the state of the government and Malaysia, but at the same time, certain (not all) online sites also propagated information which were clearly misleading.

This elections has proven the influence of the Internet, not only directly on voters who have access to Internet in the urban centres, but also the fact that information on the Internet can be channelled even to the pakciks and makciks in the kampungs via secondary points of information e.g., children studying in cities or persons of influence in villages who'll pass on information at coffee shops.

As a result, we're likely to see not only competition (between print and online media), co-operation (e.g., Star setting up online news portal) but also convergence. Credibility becomes critical. As the print media (some anyway) realise that their papers are no longer in sync with the pulse of the nation, they will have little choice but to realign their editorial slant to be much more balanced between alternative views. Similarly, should some of current portals which enjoy a huge readership not strengthen their journalistic integrity, then it may just suffer the same fate as the print media today, in the next general elections.

And finally, there's the question of convergence in terms of recognition by the various ethnic groups in Malaysia as Malaysians, as opposed to the racially divisive politics of the past, as epitomised by race-based parties in BN. At the surface level, there appears to be a breakthrough when Malays began voting for DAP while Chinese voted for PAS. However, I would certainly put in a word of caution as voters in Malaysia appeared to be voting more against BN, then for BR parties. With a little permitted exaggeration, for some seats previously held by BN, even if you had placed a cow as a opposition candidate, the cow would still have won!

Hence it may be too early to conclude on racial convergence in the current elections. What is more, the winning parties in certain states are restricted via "royal advice" against appointing non-Muslim deputy menteri besars, with some even asked to form the state executive committees (excos) based on specific racial make-ups.

While setbacks are only to be expected, I certainly hope that over the next 4-5 years before the next general elections, the BR parties will play their part to ensure that racially divisive politics can be further reduced, and the rakyat will be asked to vote for a candidate based on merit, i.e., his or her ability to serve all Malaysians regardless of race and religion.


Anonymous said...

You may be right about the cow. The cow would have won if it was a one to one fight, but if it was a 3 party fight, the cow would not win but only diluted to a certain extent the opposition candidate's winning margin; and for some, the unbeliveable thing that happened was, the face and the name of the opposition candidate is so unknown to the voters even at the time of "X-ing" the vote !!

Anonymous said...

The constitution was ammended to protect the rights of the sultan?
Is that a joke? Mahatir limited the rights of the Sultan in the 80s and proceeded to remove their immunity in the 90s. I would think if he was still around, he would be working on eliminating the monarchy system. (Not a bad thing actually). A real democracy does not require rubber stamp Sultan. They serve no purpose in their current capacity. Islam needs no protection and there is none that a rubber stamp Sultan can provide.
So this whole idea of a protector of Malay and Islam is bogus.

Anonymous said...

The MSM can always have a political bias on some issues and that is what an op-ed is for.

What the reading audience wants is a fair and balanced perspective, ie. if 30,000 people took part inthe Bersih rally, then don't report as 3,000. Let's not distort facts !

Another aspect that can give the MSM more credibility is more invetigative reporting (without fear or favour) especially when it involves taxpayer's monies. Examples such as the PKFZ scandal and current Terengganu crisis involving the ex-MB's purported extravagances should be invetigated and reported to the public so that the rakyat does not get speculative. Just the facts !

Jazzi said...

Well spoken! =) Really enjoyed watching the video, quite refreshing to see eloquent and intellectual parliament in action, setting the standard for the sort of quality we should expect from the MPs! =)

Anonymous said...

I can the start contrast is how your discussion is more systematic compared to the others just making brownie points like they are in high school and they get points for participation.

However systematic analysis is one thing, realizing something out of system analysis is another.

As you point out, it will be interesting, not necessarily a blessing.

Anonymous said...

Well spoken - guess with your IT background, you could easily package your contents objectively and clearly.

I like the first "C" - Competition. As the results will be an important element in the rakyat's score card for GE13.

The best and the fittest will enjoy the confidence of the rakyats to ensure a second term.

Good luck to the BR MPs .. work hard and work smart !!

Please do not be tempted by material gains and hold on tight to your ethics and principles.

ong said...

This sort of quality and fair talk we want. GOOD JOB.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. It's almost like Economics. Years ago, when BN ruled, it was a monopoly and as opposed to anti-trust in Microsoft case, it was now anti-graft. We have made the change, and leave it to "market" forces to determine the fate of the country. Just like in a corporate setting, competition is a healthy thing and it certainly benefits the consumers/people. After all, the country belongs to the people and not just a selected few who control the policies as they like from their armchair.

Anonymous said...

That MCA DVD star spoke quite well though:))

Maybe he din't contest, he can now talk kok.

Anonymous said...

is it just me or Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed exhibited what a typical arrogant umno politician sounds like, who again used 513 as a fear tactic albeit he kept on diverting the fear factor.

And stop referring the founding father's doctrines as I have no clue who's the founding fathers of malaysia are.

Anonymous said...

Don't have a cow, man....

Anonymous said...

Oops, you dont care 2 hoots about the founding fathers, or histiory for that matter. Why not we abolish chinese school or chinese new year for a start and and just have one common national school and celebrate natioanl day.

Anonymous said...

Dear Tony

Impressed! is what I can say for your 15 minutes of brief but yet significant and powerful analysis of the new politics in Malaysia. I have attended all the 3 forums and had no doubt that The Star would even try to interpret the words of certain speakers differently. The wind has changed and so has The Star recently though only to a negligible degree. It's my hope that they will realise their social responsibility to disseminate the truth to the public.

I particularly like your wittiness and outspoken style. We need more MPs with similar quality to spur the country ahead.

All the 3Cs mentioned are key areas but cooperation would be of utmost importance to ensure the smooth administration towards a better economy for our country. All concern should let bygone be bygone and work together and move forward for a better tomorrow for us and our children. Our resources can be put to better use than digging up the past. Having said that, the current new Govt. of 5 States need only to expose a few concrete evidences of the misconducts and misappropriations of certain parties to put them out of their miseries for good.

One other very critical area would be the judiciary system. Our current law is as good as no law. It is really scary that there is no longer any justice in this country. The Federal Govt can promise anything but as long as the judiciary does not act independently, everyone should be very afraid of their rights being violated. Hopefully, Datuk Zaid's proposals would come to play soon. This is one area I hope our MPs will voice on.

You are absolutely right that the MPs should not be engrossed on the nitty gritty things but solve the cause of the problems. The local councils should be given a severe wake-up call instead of having MPs and State Assemblymen running their errands for them. It is really frustrating to be given the run around each time one approached them.

Keep up the momentum as there will be many out there waiting to see the new ruling states fumble. You have my full support.

Lynn Cheah

Anonymous said...

Nur Jazlan essentially admitted that BN is a complete failure... the only success he cited was getting independence from the British. And his fluff on "shared vision" was annoying.

But I think his point on leadership is valid. As is his warning on economic realities.

Anonymous said...

Dear YB

Good points made! Clear & decisive. Any reason why you spoke 1st (Part 1 in Star Online Video)? Not sure what the other speakers were talking about apart from trying to do more PR work or propaganda about why their party lost, they were misunderstood, insisting racial politics here to stay, my party got more members than yours, blah blah blah. Don't think they understood the actual topic of the forum.

However, some of the points (although out of topic) mentioned by the "opposition" should also be taken notice...there seem to be a lot of hidden messages coming from the old-hand in politics. These are cunning politicians at work which do not appeal for future generations - but that doesn't mean irrelevant.

Make PJ proud again!

Anonymous said...

Think the speaker who talked more about Indonesia & Taiwan, talk more about Malaysia instead. Historically, culturally & politically, the other 2 countries were very different to Malaysia. Furthermore, there is no race-base politics in those countries. He was out of topic. KMT in Taiwan won because the people of Taiwan has had enough of the previous corrupt government. The Indonesian situation was due to too many factions & there was no true homegeneity in the Indonesian archipelago. Suharto's government was disabled mainly due to the 1997 financial crisis. Partly also being a dictator & holding to power too long. Greed & Power always leads to disastrous consequences for any nation.

Anonymous said...

Time for state government to step up to the plate. Everyday is another day nearer to the next 4-5 years.

Please remember to do your jobs.

Crime is still unbearably high. The state must think of more creative ways to solve crime than just saying the increased how many policeman or built how many police stations.
Please meet the OCPD and local policeman. Work with them.

We must take back our streets

Anonymous said...

Both Nur Jazlan & Chua are still "firm believers" of race-based political parties. Many people like them are still confined within the narrow vision of looking through the race lens.

Anonymous said...

Another thought: there are already mixed-marriages all over the country. How is race based politics applied here? How do these people feel when racial sentiments are touched by BN. Because the % is small, so, they have been ignored & not important to BN agenda.

Race will always be an issue (anywhere in the world) but how do we avoid it from being abused by politicians? Also, is it necessary to harp on it all the time? If society is in the right civilised mind, it will find its way to homogenize itself; not racially nor culturally.

It is not the way forward for a multi-ethnic multi-culture country if race base politics continue to divide the country.

Have a feeling our late TAR wanted to unite all Malaysians after the darkest day of our history but some factions decided to capitalise on it, then engineered to bring him down. It could have been different since. Just a conspiracy theory.

Eventually, those darkest days fortunately became a broken record (or scratched cd nowadays) coz those born after that have no idea what they heck was it all about. In another 1-2 generations, it will just be part of history, just like WWII: e.g. americans fighting germans/japanese during that time, now are sharing economical power (well, in the good times).

Rather than preaching the consequences "should the opposition wins...& not our fault..." (these are cavemen talking), BN should have formulate forgiveness; not continue to preach prejudice & hatred.

After 50 years in the driving seat & still want to sing Peace-Security-Prosperity? That means, BN failed in carrying out their duty for 50 years & we still don't have those qualities as a nation? The slogan was a laughing stock to foreigners.

I think HRH (DYMM) should excercise banishing those who incite racism to a remote island. Otherwise, we will still hear this familiar sentiments echoing over & over again. It won't stop unless a bigger force can stop it. I applaud the Selangor Sultan for sending out a firm warning, especially after the recent demo in Shah Alam. Not even our self-elect PM did nor say anything about it. It is a strange art of leadership.

Anonymous said...

"I think HRH (DYMM) should excercise banishing those who incite racism to a remote island."

Reminds me of Jurassic Park, where dinasours roam.

Anonymous said...

Dear YB,

Could you please enlighten us why the MB of Selangor is having reservation now in the declaration of assets by all the ADUNs and State Councillors afer we have voted them in?

On the other hand in Penang, YAB Lim Guan Eng has announced the pulic assets declaration by State leaders within few days after sworn in.

Even the Barisan Nasional also trumpeted this recently that all Ministers will declare their assets publicly.

We as Rakyat would like you to respond to immediately because we did not voted on the basis that the new Selangor MB states now. Don't forget DAP has 3 EXCOs in Selangor and the MB of Selangor seems to pass the buck to EXCOs.

We like your promise on TRANSPARENCY, INTEGRITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY during your ceramahs. We now would like you to walk the talk.

Extract of interview with new MB of Selangor:

Q. The Penang state government has directed its leading government officers to declare their assets publicly.

A. We’ll do it also. I think we’ve also made the same statement, but the timing of its implementation will take time.

Q. Will they declare to you or directly to the public?

A. I’ll have to ask my excos first. Some do not want to make their declarations public for family reasons.

Q. Even the Barisan Nasional-led federal government is directing cabinet ministers to declare their assets publicly.

A. Well, it’s up to my excos. If they feel they want to make it public, then we’ll make it public. But there are reasons for this, because they say they do not want to show their shareholdings to the public.