This is the second in the series of ‘A Round up of what is making the news in Malaysia’. I explained the reasoning behind it in my first post.

Malaysian politics continues to excite and stun in equal measure. The most exciting news has to be that Anwar Ibrahim is standing for Parliament. Anwar Ibrahim is one of the few politicians who constantly manages to excite both the Western and Eastern world. He is hugely erudite and fluent, a charismatic speaker and projects an image of being the ‘people’s man’. Whether he is still able to capture the hearts ands minds of Malaysian voters remains to be seen but it is highly probable that he will win the safe seat of Port Dickson when the by-election happens. The current Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohammed, has said that he will step aside in two years time for Anwar to become Prime Minister of Malaysia. Perhaps Anwar’s popularity will be tested then.

‘Malaysia Baru’ (new Malaysia) continues to buck the global trend by exhibiting an ability to look beyond what other countries accept at face value. While Western politicians are quite happy to ignore how public sector workers are being priced out of cities and major towns, Malaysia has set up a committee to examine the reasons why there is a teacher shortage in the country. Common factors already cited are the high cost of living and the places in which some schools are situated. You can read about it here

 

Malaysia’s pale imitation of Pablo Escobar, Jho Low, may finally be on the Malaysian police’s radar. Reports suggest that the police have ‘tracked’ Jho Low. For the sake of the sanity of Malaysian citizens let’s hope that Jho Low is thrown into the slammer soon because I, for one, do not want to be playing the same old guessing game of ‘where is Jho Low’ from here till Christmas come. Can you imagine it? While the British are playing Monopoly or Twister during the holiday season we, Malaysians, will be sitting around discussing the whereabouts of an alleged fraudster with rotund cheeks. While I abhor ‘fat shaming’, there is something Dickensian and just about drawing attention to someone who most likely did grow fat from greed and avarice.  It is reported that Jho Low bought Kim Kardashian a luxury car. You can read about the Jho Low breakthrough here.

 

 

Lest I have given the impression that all is well with Malaysia here is some news about just how far it still has to go, especially over minority rights.  Two women were caned under the justice system for having lesbian sex. It is extraordinary how a country which was hailed as a ‘beacon’ for democracy in May after the elections finds it hard to accept LGBT rights. You can read about it here.

Till the next time.

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There was something rather desolate about Vince Cable’s announcement on 7 September. Yes, politics undergoes change and a level of fluidity that should never render it possible to be frozen. Political parties have to adapt accordingly. Given all this I am still, almost a week on, struggling to find the big picture of wisdom in Vince’s announcement.

I fear that Vince is preparing party members for a hollowing out period that will now follow.

The only analogy I can draw for my assertion is a stuffed marrow. The flesh, Lib Dem party, is being scooped out to be filled in with so-called ‘moderates’ from the Labour and Tory party. Together,  a band of merry moderates will be created within the space of where the Lib Dem party currently operates. I don’t think that current Lib Dem members will be displaced. It will be a case of having new structures forced upon us.

The idea of opening up the party to others is a good one in itself. That is what the concept of ‘membership’ is all about. The Lib Dems have always been great at welcoming new and returning members. The collective hospitality of the party is second to none. Radicalising the means of joining a political party isn’t radical. It’s a method that is widely used by political movements such as Diem25, Avaaz and numerous others.

Political movements are reactionary and spontaneously formed. They attract members who are drawn by specific campaigning messages. It works well but these are political movements which campaign either around single issues or around an overarching message like ‘reforming Europe’, in Diem25’s case.

A political party will, inevitably, have to play the political game by positioning itself in such a way so as to attract voters. It is never at liberty to pick and choose what it campaigns on.

The Lib Dem party is a political one which fields candidates in elections on manifesto pledges. There is no centrality of an idea. One could argue that Liberalism is the core concept but when you consider that Liberalism has been hijacked by the right i.e the Tory party then where does that leave the Lib Dems?

In many ways modern politics has rendered Liberalism to be an abstract concept. There is no universal application of Liberalism. While it broadly stands for equality, fairness etc, a Liberal like me would argue to the death that Liberalism does not encompass austerity politics.

Ed Davey, Lib Dem MP for Kingston and Surbiton, has conflated the idea of trust with reform of the party’s membership. No matter which angle I dissect this statement from it simply seems to lack logic. The idea of trust in Liberalism stems from the ‘Social Contract‘ and is about citizens and governments.

None of what is happening to the Lib Dem party makes sense to me. Instead of addressing the issue of why the party’s popularity is languishing despite having a healthy membership base, the structures are being tinkered with.

All this leads me to conclude that the party is being prepared for ‘others’, hence the leadership’s constant references to new members and new ideas. Who are these ‘others’? Are Vince and his fellow MP’s that wedded to the New Labour cohort under the term ‘centrist’ that the Lib Dem party is  being hollowed out for them to move in to? Time will tell.

 

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I visited the 9/11 memorial during my trip to New York in August. It has to be a living memorial in every sense of the word to those who died that day and who subsequently

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There is a certain game of Darwinism played within the circle of mothers which seeks to shame those perceived as being weak and sentimental.  Crying at the school gates is one. Mother shaming takes many forms and this is one that occurs every September. It is the shaming of mothers who cry over their children starting school for the first time in Reception class. I should know. I cried buckets 15 years ago when my daughter started school.

In fact, I cried for a whole year because it meant that we weren’t able to spend glorious days together anymore doing what we pleased when we pleased. The start of school life is basically the take over of your child’s life by an establishment which sets rules. These rules dictate when you can spend time with your child and some of this time will be taken up by homework. I loved spending time with my little girl. She was 4 when she started school.

Of course I bloody cried given all this. People thought I was weird. I was the butt of jokes for years after. Let me point out that I didn’t stand at the school gates and bawl. That would have been traumatic for my daughter.  But I shed tears after waving her off, shed tears on the way to work and shed tears when the sun was shining and she was in school and not running in parks with me.

My daughter is now 19 and hardly wants to spend any time with me. I had prescience 14 years ago about what lay ahead. I was right to cry. Damn the shamers. Mothers, cry if you want. A child starting school is a big milestone in motherhood.

 

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Malaysia celebrates Merdeka Day today. Translated into English, it means ‘Independence Day’. Pomp and pageantry mark the day every year as it did today in Malaysia. The anniversaries are milestones of the growing number of years since the country gained independence from Britain. It has been six decades.

Malaysia is undergoing a political sea change that would have been thought impossible only a few months ago. The tenets of Liberalism which are under threat in Europe and American seems to be enjoying a revivalism in this tiny country. The Washington Post published this on 9 July this year : “Liberal democracy has its challenges. Even in 2018, however, social movements have upended entrenched single-party regimes in places such as Malaysia and Armenia. 

From a personal point of view, I have been fixated by this paradox. I was born in Malaysia but have lived all of my adult life in London. While I am far more au fait with the British way of life, I have a huge sentimental attachment to the country that I was born and spent my childhood in.

Colonialism is the bridging factor in my life. Post-colonial discourse has occupied much of the political debate in Britain this year what with Windrush, the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London and the appointment of the Prince of Wales as a future head of the Commonwealth and, just this week, the topic arose again in relation to Theresa May’s visit to Africa. The shared history between the colonials and coloniser plays on.

Professor Ashley Jackson, a British expert in Imperial and Military history, has written about how “British possessions in Malaya grew exponentially…” during the days of the Empire. The British formally made Malaya (as it was known then) a colony in 1867 and withdrew in 1957. It is no wonder then that the British left an infusion of cultures behind. However, along with independence comes a sense of wanting to forge an independent sense of self.

The theme for this year’s Malaysian celebrations were comprised of four elements, patriotism, public order, national security and unity of the people expressed through a song titled, Sayangi Malaysiaku (Love My Malaysia).  As post-colonial discourse, these elements do seem to embody Malaysia’s one time stated hope of putting people and country first. These noble aims have been renewed this year following the election of the opposition who have promised freedom of speech and a free press among other things.

A sense of Utopianism now occupies the space where despair once lived within progressive Malaysians. One hopes that there is not a clash between the way things turn out and hope. Max Weber, the famous German sociologist, once said that out of the tension between hope and reality, a sense of fighting for a meaningful future can emerge within which criteria is set for the way the world ought to be.  According to Karl Mannhein, who was also a German sociologist,”With the relinquishment of Utopia, man would lose his will to shape history and therewith his ability to understand it”.

Here’s hoping that the collective Utopianism of Malaysians globally will be a dynamic force for the country’s present and future.

 

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