Came across this while doing some research. Given the present debate about Jeremy Corbyn having used the word ‘irony’, it does seem like a remarkable coincidence.

P/S I am not a member of the Labour Party and this blog post is not intended to sway opinion one way or another about the allegations of anti-Semitism in the party of which I have no experience or knowledge of.

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On the 10th of May 2018 the Malaysian electorate voted into power a coalition of the opposition called Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) in the General Election. The election results reverberated around the world and not just with the expat Malaysian community. The world’s press was stunned too. Malaysian citizens ousted the previous ruling party, Barisan Nasional,  who had been in power since 1957 when Malaysia gained independence from Britain. I blogged about it here.

It was expected that Barisan Nasional would scoop another win primarily because vote rigging was expected to occur as it had in previous elections. Something different happened this time. There was a young voter base who yearned for democracy after living all their young lives under an authoritarian government masquerading as democrats. Voters felt financially and morally cheated by the (previous government’s) financial embezzlement known as the ‘1 MDB Scandal’.

Everyone who voted for the opposition had their own story to tell. Some of it personal. Some of it imbued with a despair over the state of the economy with  inequality on the rise and rising prices. What ultimately mattered was the sense of national unity that spread like a Mexican wave across the world among Malaysians at the result.

A term has been coined for the new Malaysian era and it is ‘Malaysia Baru’ (New Malaysia). ‘Malaysia Baru’ has a free press. In the post-Barisan Nasional world, press restrictions have been lifted by the new government. This is a first for Malaysians and, as a result, there is a thirst for knowledge and news about what is happening.

I am launching a weekly series pulling together what is making the news in Malaysia to make it easier for Malaysians living globally to get a quick snapshot. Everyone of us wants to play a part in ‘Malaysia Baru’ even if it’s just to offer an armchair sort of opinion. Never fear. Everyone’s opinion matters in building a coalition of hope.

This is what is making the news this week but the first entry below is a nostalgic look back.

Tash Aw’s recollections

Even though it’s been 4 months since the election victory, Malaysians have not tired of relating stories to each other about where they were and which media channel they were following when news broke about Pakatan Harapan’s win. Tash Aw, Malaysian novelist, wrote about the events of election evening capturing the drama and momentum of it all for the New York Times. You can read it here.

Where is Jho Low?

Malaysia’s version of Pablo Escobar, Jho Low, who is a rich financier grown stout on profits creamed off, allegedly, public funds has been charged with money laundering. Bloomberg nicknamed Jho Low the ‘fugitive financier’ because he has been in hiding, widely thought to be either in Hong Kong or in China. Interpol is involved in the search. In a case of the apple does not fall far from the tree, his father, Low Hock Peng, has also been charged. Both men are alleged to be central players in the 1MDB scandal, transferring millions of Malaysian ringgit into their own accounts. You can read about it here. Let’s hope that he is found so the justice process can be set in motion further.

LGBT rights

It was hoped that the new Malaysia would recognise LGBT rights as being part of a promised new human rights agenda. There are worrying signs that a battle of ideologies is being played out on the field of LGBT rights with right wingers using religion and morality as a reason to push back against demands for recognition by LGBT folk. This battle isn’t peculiar to Malaysia but has a particular poignancy because gay and trans citizens had hoped for official acknowledgement of their very existence as a basis for a new social contract between citizen and government. You can read about it here.

Malaysia shows Donald Trump the way by scrapping law on fake news

Who would have thought it? America, long held as the beacon of press freedom and free speech, is headed by a President who uses the term ‘fake news’ with as much frequency as Malaysians use the word ‘food’. The only difference being that Malaysians recognise food when they see it whereas Donald Trump is selective in his pronouncement of what is real news @Fox news channel. You can read about the repeal here.

Mahathir, the Prime Minister, talks about a ‘new colonialism’ while visiting China

Mahathir was in China this week holding talks on rail and pipeline deals which, Najib, the previous Prime Minister had agreed. The deals total $23 billion. Mahathir is worried about China’s growing presence in the Asian region, both, economically and politically. It is within this context that he has warned against a ‘new version of colonialism’. Mahathir sees the deals agreed by Najib as cover for money transfers to bail out 1MDB. While all roads may lead to Rome, all Malaysian roads seem to lead to 1MDB. Mahathir has concerns about the balance of power which China wields through free trade agreements warning that, “we do not want a situation where there is a new version of colonialism happening because poor countries are unable to compete with rich countries…”. You can read about it here.

Till next week’s round up.

 

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I previously wrote almost in despair about the immigration policy paper being debated at conference in September. You can read the blog post here. Lib Dem Voice has published articles too on the same topic.

I am always delighted when people leave comments and the following one was left by Janet King. I have published it below without edits because it throws some more light on the paper and the context for it. While I still worry about the inclusion of wording which suggests that immigrants are to be blamed for economic failures, Janet King’s long comment deserves consideration.

Janet King, August 19, 2018

This is my personal opinion although I am a founder member of Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary and represent our organisation at Detention Forum.

Firstly, one has to be aware of what some members of the UK public believe to be the truth ie that immigration is a factor in their own unemployment, their children’s inability to find an affordable home. We all know that this is false and the result of illiberal mainly right wing media drip feeding their readers over many years.

No Liberal Democrat believes this to be true and we have a good record of supporting migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. Please follow us on @LD4SOS and visit http://www.ld4sos.org.uk if you remain unconvinced.

When preparing a policy, any party does well to know the enemy and the policy paper is merely acknowledging the existence of an anti-immigration attitude which undoubtedly exists in parts of this country and which is unfortunately an influence on successive Governments’ policies on migration.

If you read further, you will see that the policy motion seeks to overturn this anti-migration stance and I am of the opinion that policy paper 131 on which the motion is based, is a very good description of liberal values. Indeed it is radical in its proposals to demand the right to work for asylum seekers in any occupation for which they are suitable if their application for asylum has not been determined after 3 months.

This will save a descent into destitution and dependency and also makes economic sense for both migrant and Government. Free ESOL classes as of right, no detention beyond 72 hours, alternatives to detention thus allowing the closure of 6 IRCs are both huge steps forward as you would realise if you had played any part in campaigning for a better, more humane asylum system in the UK.

Some of the policy motion could have been better worded and LD4SOS had sent a fairly long list of amendments to Federal Policy Committee, which we hope will be accepted preferably by the proposers or after debate at Conference.

Rest assured that the Liberal democrat party has not lost its ways and that paper 131, the policy passed at this September’s Conference and our next GE manifesto will not disappoint all those who, like us, are working for an immigration and asylum system which is humane, fair and works for the migrant much more than is the case at present.

Please send your concerns about the current system to the Home Secretary and support us as we try to convince him that the flaws in the system can and must be overcome.

The following comment was left on my blog post by Dave Page.

Thank you Dave and Janet.

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One would think that one would have left the horrors of studying, textbooks, revisions, burning the candle at both ends and exams once one had found a steady and stable career. That is what I thought anyway. till I had a daughter.

About 8 years my daughter, Maelo, woke me up at about 1am one night and asked me explain Schumpeter’s theory to her again. I had introduced her to it during dinner and she had been fascinated by it. When she woke me up and asked me to go through it again I knew that if I didn’t undertake some form of higher level of learning I would become unstuck as her questions grew harder. I resolved then to do a postgraduate qualification. Austerity was introduced soon after and my financial circumstances became severely constrained. I had to wait two more years before I could afford further education.

Eventually I signed up to the University of London and LSE programme to study International Relations. I chose this field given our interest in politics and it was a wide ranging Postgraduate course that covered topics such as political theory, the economy and national security.

It wasn’t easy. During my period of study I had to defer my exams because my husband had a stroke and, in the following years, was diagnosed with cancer.  When I picked up my studies after two years I was doing it under harder circumstances. Working, running a home and studying is a rather tedious and difficult way to live. By this time Maelo was a full-blown teenager. Need I say more!

My final paper was on Nationalism. It has to be the hardest subject that I have ever come across and I do ready widely. Nationalism pervades almost every aspect of people’s lives. The social and political boundaries of the subject were limitless and the analytical lens applied was as wide as an Eagle’s eyes. Trying to distil the concepts down was hard enough given the plethora of theorists who have advanced their own views on it.

Vince Cable, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, has been an ardent supporter of adult education and he is right. So much had changed since I last attended university decades ago. I had to grapple with the use of the internet for my study and learn to search for obscure articles. Also, it gave me an insight into the modern challenges that young people like Maelo face at university. Formal study is bloody difficult at any age but doing it in later years is much harder. However, it did stretch my brain.

My result came through today. The hardship has been worth it. A very special thanks to my personal tutor and mentor, Dr Mark Boden, who slogged the years getting me through it all.

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I am about to board my flight back to London. I have spent a week in New York talking to people, watching the news and, generally, taking things in. If I came looking for an explanation as to why the world is profoundly being changed by Donald Trump then I think that I have partly found the answer. To put it succinctly, the President has absolutely no regard for the country or his peoples. None of this will be news to people back in the UK. What we, perhaps, don’t see so much in the UK is the amount of time and energy that is spent in the USA dissecting his views, Tweets and policies. Almost the whole of American life is taken up by people either opposing him or supporting him. There is no middle way.

During my week I have  photographed people, places and objects which I think in some way represents the fiasco that is America.

The photo below was taken from an exhibition at the Museum of New York Historical Society.

Marilyn Monroe still graces American society. If she were to be alive today would she say to Trump, “You sir are no JFK”?

This image below says it all

More to come when I get back to London. The wifi in Newark Airport keeps dropping out. But if I can finish on one point it would be this. Race politics is pervasive, heated and is constantly being stoked. Just today the news is about Omarosa’s sacking which, seemingly is due to her being black, and the White Supremacist marches around the country one year on from Charlottesville. While Britain has a tradition of following America’s pathways, I hope this is one that we will not be treading.

Bye y’all. Over and out.

 

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