Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 9 March 2018

The Pakatan manifesto for GE14 promises many things and the most welcome ones are the calls to repeal draconian laws, make several commissions directly answerable to Parliament and cut the PMO fat, which is long overdue. Beyond these critically needed reforms, the manifesto is long on populist concepts but short on actionable specifics. The current water crisis in Selangor is yet another reminder of the dire consequences of such cavalier populist policies as Selangor’s free water policy. Is providing cheaper cars the answer to our traffic problems or purely populist? The manifesto proposal to “resolve issue of unilateral child conversion in a harmonious manner” is no doubt well-intentioned but wishful thinking in the current toxic climate without spelling out the clear constitutional and juridical positions on this issue.

Fundamentally, the manifesto lacks three vital changes sorely needed to take our country into a new beginning after sixty years of BN rule, namely: a race-free agenda to unify the nation; a progressive tax structure to redistribute wealth and a truly democratic society.

  1. A truly democratic society

Term limits for the PM, CM & MB are welcome and overdue. We are told that it will not be applied retrospectively to Selangor and Penang, the states that PH already rule. Why not? The democratic principle behind the term limit for these posts is simply that elected officials can over time obtain too much power or authority and thus makes them less representative of all the citizens. It is also to prevent chances of corruption. As we have seen only recently, even within a two-term service, corporate interests including those in property and finance can provide inducements to the incumbent leaders such as drastic discounts on house purchases. There is clearly a correlation between the length of time a politician serves and the degree to which he/she has opportunities to engage in corruption. So, if Pakatan truly believes in democracy, it should adhere to the two-term limit for their MB in Selangor and CM in Penang as of now.

  1. A national agenda:

Now with Pakatan having embraced the leader of Parti Pribumi as the prospective Prime Minister, there is no mention of an end to the NEP in their GE14 manifesto. This is indeed bad news for those who had hopes of a more liberal economic policy and also for all who have criticised the government for its racially discriminatory economic and educational policies. PH tries to suck up to the “Malay Agenda” by proposing puzzling proposals such as “restoring State Sultans’ powers”. Which sultan’s powers are PH referring to that have been weakened? The ones that Mahathir effected during his reign? Please be specific.

And are we going to go through the same “statistical charade” that we have seen through the 50 years of NEP with the manifesto’s proposal to “increase Bumiputera equity through GLC management buyouts? Which class of Bumiputeras is going to gain from this? Doesn’t it matter whether or not the poorer Bumiputeras benefit? The statistics on “Bumiputera equity” are meaningless when such equity can be resold to Non-Bumiputeras as soon as it is allocated and when Bumiputera companies fail such as happened during the 1997 financial crisis.

Instead of needs-based measures that target the lower-income and marginalized sectors, the Pakatan manifesto follows the same divide-and-rule method of BN’s. Thus, Indians have been specifically identified for special treatment as increasing their numbers in premium schools and Mara institutions. But the manifesto does not specify by how much. And what about the Chinese, Eurasians and the Orang Asli? Pakatan would like to “invest in training schemes for Indians” but a needs-based policy would be more cost effective and unifying to open the “Bumiputeras Only” institutions in this country to all Malaysians.

The NEP was scheduled to end in 1990 but has become a populist never ending policy to win over the Bumiputras while benefiting mainly the political elite. Instead, it is common sense that poor rural Malaysians should be assisted based on their needs according to the particular economic sectors in which they live and work. Today, with the lack of ethnic diversity in the civil and armed forces, it is high time that recruitment and promotion in these services are based on merit. Does PH address this? Does PH propose an expiry date for the NEP or is this not going to be realised in our lifetime?

  1. Progressive taxes on the super-rich:

Pakatan does not tell us how their many populist promises will be financed. There are no fiscal policies to redistribute wealth, never mind fundamental changes in economic policies, including nationalisation of utilities. Malaysia is one of the few countries where the super-rich do not have to contribute part of their wealth to finance state welfare. How much do the top 10% of earners contribute to total tax revenues?

Across the developed world, the rich are expected to pay a substantial share of taxes and this share has risen in recent decades. According to the OECD, the top 10 per cent of earners contribute about a third of total tax revenues — 28 per cent in France, 31 per cent in Germany, 39 per cent in Britain and 42 per cent in Italy. America’s wealthiest households contribute a larger share to government than in any other OECD country, at 45 per cent. In Europe, they certainly have more to show for it — social services, unemployment benefits, a national health system and other social benefits. Despite this, William Buffett, one of America’s richest men recently criticised the US tax system as manifestly unfair since he is taxed at a lower rate than his secretary!

Malaysia’s income tax system grants greater tax savings for the rich as well as encourages tax evasion. We rank among the world’s top countries for illicit outflow of money. What reforms does the Pakatan manifesto propose to prevent tax evasion? The limited coverage has resulted in poor revenue generation. Without sufficient revenue, individual income tax cannot provide substantial funds for poverty lifting projects.

Similarly, we do not see a higher marginal tax rate on high-income earners and a correspondingly lower tax rate for lower income earners; an incremental Capital Gains Tax on property; a progressive inheritance tax; a tax on all international financial transactions and hedge funds; a progressive tax on all luxury goods.

  1. A progressive economic policy:

Pakatan has all along stood for the same neo-liberal capitalist policies as the BN. Consequently, their manifesto does not have a progressive economic policy including nationalising all utilities and essential services including water resources, health, public transport and energy. They have not proposed measures to ensure that government enterprises such as the GLCs are owned and controlled by the Malaysian peoples at federal, state and local levels and to bring respite to our lowest paid workers who deserve a decent standard of living and not populist crumbs.

  1. Mother tongue education as part of the National Education System

The Pakatan manifesto pledges to recognise the UEC and to build one Tamil Secondary school. That is good. But are the Chinese and Tamil schools still going to be treated like step children in this country with a few schools being allowed to be built and the Chinese Secondary schools getting occasional funding at the pleasure of the government whenever elections are round the corner?

  1. Defence cuts

The Pakatan manifesto is silent about their defence policy, which is surprising as they speak vociferously against the commissions that are creamed off from big arms deals. While we are agonising over giving our lowest paid workers a guaranteed minimum wage of RM1,500, the government is coolly shopping for the next generation Multi-Role Combat Aircraft to replace the MIGs. British Aerospace (BAE) is trying to flog their Typhoons and other special offers in a RM10 billion arms deal! It is expected that the government will go through with this deal as soon as they get their mandate after GE14.

Beyond GE14

It is time that BN and PH take human rights seriously and respect all Malaysian citizens irrespective of ethnicity, religious beliefs, gender or sexuality so that we can march forward as a unified nation. Furthermore, in the states under both BN and PH, deforestation by developers goes on uninhibited, highways, tunnels and land reclamation continue unabated without concern for the environment, the public commons and the marginalised people living there. A just, democratic and progressive alternative calls for a living wage and rights for all workers; a reasonable pension at retirement; affordable and liveable housing; free tertiary education (means tested for the well-off); formal or informal elected local government; commitment to international human rights practices and covenants.

The neo-liberal ideologies that both BN and PH practice involves allowing private developers to buy up public assets. Such a practice has serious consequences in that it overrides and neglects the people’s interests and degrades our precious environment which is regarded as a free resource. As a result, we are left with polluted air, questionable water quality, and limited green commons. We want a Government that will take the lead in sustainable development initiatives such as renewable energy, that will benefit ordinary Malaysians and their environment. The current reliance on the private sector results in environmentally harmful and socially destructive projects. A people’s government would enforce recycling measures, responsible waste disposal and enact laws to protect animal welfare. Such a progressive government would also make it a priority to put the rights and livelihood of the Orang Asal at the top of the national agenda by recognizing their rights over the land they have been occupying for centuries, prohibiting logging in Orang Asal land and ensuring all Orang Asal villages have adequate social facilities and services.


Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 20 July 2016

After the asinine and vexatious ‘Kajang Move’ when Pakatan forced a byelection in Kajang in 2014, we now hear the DAP is contemplating a snap election in the entire Penang state. If, as some political analysts have said, that this move is motivated by internal DAP power politics to consolidate the power of the incumbent, then it is certainly asinine and vexatious. And if this is an attempt by the DAP leadership at a so-called “referendum” on the Chief Minister’s beleaguered situation, they should think again…

ALL politicians must be free of corruption

The DAP should know that even if they win a landslide victory at this proposed snap election, it does not decide the verdict of the Chief Minister’s corruption charges. The Chief Minister’s innocence can only be decided by the Malaysian Judiciary. So why burden the electorate with this time and money wasting ploy? Is the entire election campaign going to be a detailed examination of the facts in the CM’s corruption charges? Obviously not…

The question of selective prosecution is a separate issue although it does not rule out the fact that ALL politicians and public servants – without exception – must be FREE OF CORRUPTION whether these cases involve 2.6 billion or 2.6 million or even 2.6 thousand ringgit. To presume – as is implied in the snap election move – that the Chief Minister of Penang is incorruptible is as absurd as the belief in human angels!

Try and argue selective prosecution

The Chief Minister of Penang can certainly try and claim that there is selective prosecution in his case by showing that the prosecutorial policy was motivated by a discriminatory purpose and that similarly situated individuals of a different class or political party were not prosecuted. Nevertheless, the merits of his own corruption case will still need to be examined in court. Needless to say, the Attorney General will elicit cases involving past UMNO Menteris Besar who have been charged to show that there is no selective prosecution.

We can only hope that when and if Pakatan does come into federal power, they will change the system to ensure that the Attorney General is truly independent. For the moment, short of the DAP declaring itself a revolutionary party and will have nothing to do with the bourgeois state, we are stuck with the Malaysian Judiciary – warts and all – at this point in time. In fact there are so many DAP lawyers doing very well in their legal careers I doubt very much that they are about to boycott the Malaysian Judiciary!

No, a snap election for the whole of Penang state will be wasteful, counter-productive and most importantly, will not decide the innocence or guilt of the Chief Minister in his corruption charges.


By Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 18 July 2016

In Bolehland, Tun Mahathir announces the formation of a new political party without having to lay out the policies or at least the political colour of this new party. It suffices that he is anti-Najib – that seems to be all you need to be in order to join the Pakatan Harapan coalition. From the fuss that was accorded him in the recent ‘Citizens’ Declaration’ by the Pakatan leaders, it does look as if he might take over the mantle of ‘de facto’ Opposition leader of the new ‘Pakatun’ coalition.

For a former prime Minister who ruled this country with an iron fist for more than twenty years and who set up the trappings of economic and political power that the current Prime Minister now lords over, what are the policies of Tun Mahathir’s new party that are so different from the other parties in Malaysia? That is the question all discerning Malaysians want to know.

Does his new party address all the issues surrounding human rights and democracy and neo-liberal economic policies that he implemented in the Eighties and Nineties? Tun Mahathir has to this day still not apologized to all the victims of Operation Lalang or to the former Lord President whom he sacked in 1988 together with other Supreme Court judges. This plunged the Malaysian Judiciary into its gravest crisis that the country has still not recovered until today. He has also not compared all the financial scandals during his rule to that of the present Prime Minister’s. According to the social scientist Barry Wain, these financial scandals during Mahathir’s rule cost the rakyat close to RM100 billion.

So Tun, It is not enough just to be anti-Najib to try and gain electoral support. Malaysians are wise to this attempt by politicians to ride on the anti-Najib wave without telling us their policies.

Superman’s policies

Recently, we were treated to the spectacle of DAP’s erstwhile “Superman” declaring his views on the China-ASEAN spat over the South China Sea soon after the judgement by the International Tribunal at the Hague. It was only after the outcry from the public that the DAP’s Superman finally met his krypton. For such an important foreign policy statement, one would have expected the top DAP leadership to release a press statement on the issue. Instead they relied on their ‘Superman’ to take on the mantle of foreign policy spokesperson.

For years, “Superman” had played the convenient role of the DAP’s “loose cannon” to be set against the party’s political opponents. He provided ceramah amusement and was feted at party functions. Then Superman began to takeoff by expanding his portfolio. When he unleashed his homophobic aside against a columnist in the online press, the DAP kept a discreet silence although in another situation, the DAP Secretary-General had expressed the party’s position visavis the LGBT community: “When did the state government recognise LGBT rights?” he pouted. (Mkini 2.6.2016)

Again, as a party committed to human rights, one would have expected an unequivocal policy stand by the DAP on the rights of the oppressed LGBT community instead of such a passive and negative denial.

Never Ending (Bumiputera) Policy

On the polarizing issues dividing Malaysians, we don’t hear very much these days from Pakatan politicians regarding the BN’s New Economic Policy anymore. It is as if Pakatan Harapan will continue with this racially discriminatory policy if they ever come into power. Will the Tun’s new party continue with this “Bumiputera Agenda”? If so, how will this square with Pakatan Harapan’s stand on this?

The ‘Pakatun’ coalition should spell out in no uncertain terms well before GE14 whether they intend to have a Non-Racial Economic Policy committed to equality and affirmative action based on need, sector and class. The Malaysian people have put up with this blatantly racial discriminatory policy since 1971 at great cost to the nation’s development and unity.

What progressive fiscal and social policies?

Will the ‘Pakatun’ coalition impose a higher marginal tax rate on high income earners and other taxes on wealth, luxury goods and speculative capital in order to close the income inequality gap? Is Tun Mahathir also committed to scrapping the regressive GST? Will the new Opposition coalition have concrete housing, health and transport policies for the lower income earners that are an alternative to BN’s policies?

Has Tun Mahathir been rehabilitated?

In other words, has Tun Mahathir undergone a dramatic transformation in his conscientization to people-centred philosophy or is he simply stuck in his anti-Najib groove? Do the other parties in the Opposition coalition even care if he has become a born-again democrat with a new commitment to human rights and social justice?

And last but not least, can he even be admitted into the Opposition coalition – never mind lead it – if he still clings on to his prejudice that Anwar Ibrahim is morally unqualified to be the Prime Minister-in-waiting?