June 2nd 2018


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY The Greens: the political equivalent of bilgewater

EDITORIAL Malaysian election sends shockwaves across South-East Asia

GENDER AND SPORT Transgender playing in women's football league gains attention

CANBERRA OBSERVED Beyond tomorrow a bridge too far for politicians to plan

ENERGY Why renewables destabilise the power grid

LAW AND FREEDOM Exemptions: at issue with Dr Zimmermann

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Behind the U.S.-North Korea rapprochement

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Two to tango: Where to now for U.S. and China?

LIFE ISSUES So, is this not pro-life?

POLITICS AND CULTURE The West won the world but may lose its soul

MILITARY BIOGRAPHY Commanders: the men who resolve questions of life and death

HUMOUR

MUSIC Eurovision: Wailing and gnashing of teeth

CINEMA Superhero movies: A Chestertonian consideration

BOOK REVIEW A man for all seasons and hemispheres

BOOK REVIEW Mid-century gem of Catholic fiction

POETRY

LETTERS

ECONOMICS Vatican document nails some of the causes of the GFC

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EDITORIAL
Malaysian election sends shockwaves across South-East Asia


by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, June 2, 2018

The election of a coalition government headed by retired Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad marks the end of 61 years of one-party government in Malaysia, a rejection of corruption, and a clear signal that the people of Malaysia want a new direction for the predominantly Muslim country.

Fresh out of prison: Anwar Ibrahim

Since Malaysia broke with Singapore, the country has been run by the party that represented Malays and Islam, the Barisan Nasional. The party ran the country in the interests of ethnic Malays, who are overwhelmingly Muslim, and discriminated against minorities, whether Chinese, Indian or Christian, in business, government, the professions and education.

Dr Mahathir, now aged 92, served as Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003.

His tenure as Prime Minister was marked by rapid economic growth, until the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997–98, and an increasingly authoritarian style in which he ousted rivals within his own party, including his charismatic deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, whom he had arrested and charged with sodomy, a damning charge in a conservative Muslim society.

However, his term in government is still viewed favourably by most Malaysians.

Dr Mahathir fell out with his successors, most notably Najib Razak, who was Prime Minister from 2009 until his recent defeat.

Corruption

Najib and his family have been accused of large-scale corruption, principally over a strategic investment fund owned by the government.

In 2015, Najib was accused by leading Western media of channelling over 2.67 billion ringgit (nearly $A892 million) from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a government-run strategic development company, to his personal bank accounts.

The money involved a joint venture with Saudi-owned oil company PetroSaudi. Najib claimed he had received the money as a gift from the Saudi Royal Family.

The government tried to hush up the scandal, but it would not go away.

On top of this, Najib introduced a 6 per cent GST, which principally affects low-income earners, provoking further hostility.

In 2015, Dr Mahathir established his own party, the Malaysian United Indigenous Party, which joined the opposition coalition, the Alliance of Hope. At the time of the election, Dr Mahathir was chairman of the Alliance, and the imprisoned former Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, was described as “leader”.

The Alliance of Hope has over 120 seats in the new Malaysian lower house, while the Barisan Nasional has about 100.

As the Alliance of Hope represents a number of parties, whose views represent everything from secular to political Islam – and were united mainly by their opposition to the former government – it will be difficult to get them to speak with one voice, particularly against a cohesive opposition.

Pivotal to this transition will be Dr Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim, who was released from prison after the election.

While Dr Mahathir was crucial to legitimising the new government, at the age of 92 he is clearly an interim leader. He has already indicated that he will step down as Prime Minister in favour of Anwar Ibrahim in due course.

Anwar is a devout Muslim, and has made clear that he is vehemently opposed to corruption, which has become a way of life in Malaysia. He has also repeatedly stated that he is totally committed to the rule of law, strongly supports pluralist democracy, and opposes the politicisation of Islam.

One of his most cogent articles appeared in Time magazine on September 12, 2012. Under the title, “Who hijacked Islam?” Anwar condemned the terrorist organisation founded by Osama bin Laden, and said it had set back the course of democracy in the Muslim world by decades.

“Never in Islam’s history have the actions of so few of its followers caused the religion and its community of believers to be such an abomination in the eyes of others,” he said.

“One is therefore perturbed by the confusion among Muslims who res­ponded to the attack with a misplaced diatribe against the U.S. In Malaysia, the government-controlled media have been deployed to stir up anti-American sentiments, while members of the poli­tical elite use a different language for international diplomacy …

“The need for Muslim societies to address their internal social and political development has become more urgent than ever. Economic development alone is clearly insufficient: it creates its own tensions in the social and political spheres, which must be addressed. A proper orientation must be developed for Muslim engagement with the world at large.”

He concluded: “For more than 100 years, the Muslim world has had to grapple with the problem of modernity. Of greatest urgency is the effort to inculcate an intellectual and political orientation that promotes democracy and openness.

“Intellectuals and politicians must have the courage to condemn fanaticism in all its forms. But they must, in the same breath, equally condemn the tyrants and oppressive regimes that dash every hope of peaceful change.”

He will now have to deliver on these lofty convictions.

Peter Westmore is Publisher of News Weekly.




























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