Friday, December 28, 2018

Punjab Food Authority declares 61 ghee, cooking oil brands ‘unhealthy’

Punjab Food Authority declares 61 ghee, cooking oil brands ‘unhealthy’

LAHORE: The Punjab Food Authority (PFA) has declared 61 ghee and cooking oil brands unhealthy for usage and seized 47,233 liters of ghee and cooking oil after a sample collection drive in the market.
During the drive, 61 brands of oil and ghee failed to meet the quality standards whereas 118 others were found up to the mark, PFA Director General Muhammad Usman said.

The drive was launched to check standards, quality and the availability of requisite micronutrients in ghee and cooking oil, said the PFA Director and the provincial food regulatory authority would not allow anyone to sell products that are injurious to health, he added.

Following the drive of collecting 267 samples of cooking oil and ghee for laboratory test, the PFA released the results of sample collection of edible ghee and cooking oil. However, the analysis of 88 brands is under process, the regulatory body said.
The ghee and cooking oil which are unfit for consumption as per PFA standards, include Abid Koh-e-Noor Banaspati, Ambar Banaspati, Apna Banaspati, Apna Canola Oil, Areej Premium Banaspati, Atif Banaspati, Attiya Banaspati, Badar Cooking Oil, Behtreen Banaspati, Crispo Vegetable Oil, Dawat Cooking Oil, Enam Cooking Oil, Faizi Banaspati, Gai Canola Cooking Oil, Gai Cooking Oil, Gai Sunflower Cooking Oil, Ghousia Banaspati, Ghousia Canola Oil, Gold Rehmat Banaspati, Hoor Canola Oil, Hoor Cooking Oil, Hoor Sunflower Oil, Ittehad Cooking Oil, Kamiyab Cooking Oil, Kamran Banaspati, Karwan Banaspati, Kausar Canola Oil, Kausar Cooking Oil, Khajoor Cooking Oil, Kisan Cooking Oil (Sunflower), Lives Cooking Oil, Mamta Banaspati, Mujahid Cooking Oil, Naimat Canola Oil, Naturelle Cooking Oil, Nice Banaspati, Nirala Banaspati, Olio Premium Canola Oil, Olio Premium Sunflower Oil, Qarni Banaspati, Rahat Banaspati Ghee, Seasons Frying Oil, Sitara Cooking Oil, Sultan Sunflower Oil, Zareen Banaspati, Chand Banaspati, Ella Cooking Oil, Evolin Vegetable Banaspati, Evolin Vegetable Cooking Oil, Fauji Cooking Oil, Golden Sun Banaspati, Golden Sun Cooking Oil, Ittehad Banaspati, Khajur Banaspati, Lives Banaspati, Madni Cooking Oil, Shamim Banaspati, Sultan Canola Oil, Sultan Cooking Oil and Zaiqa Cooking Oil.


Norway's decision to ban palm-oil biofuels 'unfair and unjust'

 Norway's decision to ban palm-oil biofuels 'unfair and unjust'

KUALA LUMPUR: Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok has urged Norway to review its recent decision to phase out the country's use of biofuels based on palm oil.

In a statement issued today, she said Malaysia's efforts to foster sustainable palm oil production practices in the country were "not appreciated and largely ignored by Europe, including Norway".

"We view this as unfair and unjust, going against free and fair trade, and is certainly not something we will take lightly."

On Dec 6 this year, the Norwegian Parliament voted to implement measures and taxes to exclude palm oil-based biofuels with high deforestation risk, effective Jan 1, 2020.

Kok said the Malaysian government is not convinced that the evaluation of palm oil has been fair and just. "Without clear and proper definitions and based on a decision not supported by validated facts, we are concerned that Norway, like some countries in Europe, will generalize and lump together all palm oil producers as drivers of deforestation and therefore deemed as unsustainable."

She said the move will adversely affect bilateral trade relations between Malaysia and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) as well as serve as an obstacle to the Malaysia EFTA partnership talks.

"The Malaysia EFTA partnership agreement must provide fair market access to all of the countries involved, including fair treatment of sustainable palm oil which is produced in Malaysia. 

"Without this fair market access, it will not be in the interest of Malaysia to pursue what will be a bad deal for the country and its people, particularly our 650,000 oil palm smallholders whose livelihood is at stake," she said.

She added that this was the reason the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia recently declined to collaborate at the EU workshop on Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) in relation to palm oil production. 

"Nevertheless, we urge Norway to review this discriminatory policy and we invite Norway’s lawmakers to come to Malaysia and see for themselves and better understand the sustainable practices that are a hallmark of the Malaysian palm oil industry," she said.

Kok highlighted that Malaysia is prescribing to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 sustainable development goals.

It has also implemented mandatory certification of palm oil production and its supply chain via Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MPSO).

"As a responsible producer of palm oil, we have already set in motion various initiatives to ensure sustainable practices are the norm rather than the exception, throughout the palm oil value chain," she said.


Is Malaysia a secular state?

Is Malaysia a secular state?

THE question whether Malaysia is an Islamic or secular state has come in for continuous debate in Malaysia. Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad argues that in an Islamic state like Malaysia, justice applies to all, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
For some, this position remains simply because Islam is the only religion stated in the Federal Constitution. Unlike Turkey and India where the word “secular” is clearly provided in their respective constitutions, such a provision is not found in the Federal Constitution.
Notwithstanding the above, the relevant White Paper signifies that the country was meant to be a secular state. In the early stage of the drafting of the Federal Constitution, the Reid Commission had proposed inserting a provision stating the country is a secular state. However, in the final stage, they agreed to accept a provision that made Islam the official religion of the federation, but it shall not impose any disability on non-Muslim nationals professing their own religions and shall not imply that the state is not a secular state.
Furthermore, historians have suggested that Malaya was an Islamic state. Islamic laws were in practice, which included criminal and civil laws. The most common Islamic laws notably are Hukum Kanun Melaka, Undang-undang Pahang, Undang-undang Johor, Undang-undang Perak and others. However, when the British colonised Malaya, all these laws were gradually changed to English laws through courts’ judgements where English judges preferred to refer to English laws. English law also made its presence here through codified laws, such as the Contract Act, Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code etc.
Ironically, when Malaya gained independence on Aug 31, 1957, the words “Islamic state” were not incorporated into the Constitution. Nor is the word “secular” found in the Federal Constitution. It was only on Sept 29, 2001, after 44 years of independence, during his tenure as the fourth prime minister, Dr Mahathir made a declaration that Malaysia was an Islamic state.
This announcement was not followed by any amendment to the Federal Constitution until today.
Article 3(1) reiterates the rights protected under Article 11(1) and also reaffirms the supremacy of Islam under the Federal Constitution. Furthermore, Islam is placed above other religions in the federation, yet in Che Omar bin Che Soh v Public Prosecutor [1988] 2 MLJ 55, the Supreme Court (now the Federal Court) held that “although there can be no doubt that Islam is not just a mere collection of dogmas and rituals, but a complete way of life covering all fields of human activities, may they be private or public, legal, political, economic, social, cultural, moral or judicial”, the provision of Article 3(1) merely provided for a ritualistic and ceremonial role of Islam.
Sheridan (a constitutional text writer) also seems to agree with the Che Omar decision. He posits that Article 3(1) does not mean anything except that it imposes an obligation on the participants in any federal ceremony to regulate any religious parts of the event according to Muslim rites.
However, according to another constitutional text writer, Abdul Aziz Bari, this case does not elaborate clearly the position of Islam as stated in the Reid’s Commission Report and the White Paper.
Thus, he argues that the Che Omar decision merely ruled that Article 3(1) should not become the basis to challenge the legality of statutes. In other words, it merely limits the operation of Islam as stated in the provision. It must also be noted that the extent and implementation of Islam in the Federal Constitution should not be assessed or interpreted solely from the context or point of view of Article 3(1).
It is also contended that the Che Omar decision merely differentiated the position of Islamic law as prescribed by Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution. It was argued by the appellant that since Islam is the religion of the federation, and since the Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land, the imposition of the death penalty upon drug traffickers, not being an Islamic law per se and not in accordance with hudud or qisas laws, is contrary to Islamic injunctions and is therefore unconstitutional. The Supreme Court (now the Federal Court) rejected this argument, saying that the provision in Article 3(1) does not actually give the meaning that Malaysia is an Islamic state, where in reality Islamic law only applies to Muslims merely in matters of personal laws. And since the Constitution makes a clear distinction between private law and public law, offences like drug trafficking are under the Federal List, and therefore constitutional.
Perhaps the position taken by Shad Faruqi and Aziz Bari that categorises Malaysia somewhere between the secular state and the Islamic state could be the answer to the ambiguity of the position of Islam in Malaysia. Thus, according to Shad Faruqi, “Malaysia is neither a full-fledged Islamic state nor wholly secular”, but that “in view of the fact that Muslims constitute the majority population, and Islamisation is being vigorously enforced, Malaysia can indeed be described as an Islamic or Muslim state”.
In addition, Shad Faruqi adds that “in a secular constitution, there is no prescribed official religion and no state aid is given to any religion or for any religious activities, but the word religion does occur at least 24 times in the Federal Constitution”.
Despite the fact that the Federal Constitution does not provide a clear provision to advocate that Malaysia is an Islamic state, there are significant provisions such as Articles 3(1) and 12(2) in the Constitution that signify the religion of Islam is given a special position in the Federation. One may conclude that Malaysia is not a secular state, nor is it a truly theocratic state.

Dr Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil is associate professor and deputy chief executive officer, International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia

Japan open test for more foreign workers but will Japanese accept them?


  • A Japanese government advertisement about foreign workers
  • Many Japanese are opposed to new legislation aimed at bringing more foreign workers into the country, despite severe labour shortages
Ken Kato has been a lifelong supporter of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, but says his faith in its good judgment has been tested by a new law passed earlier this month that could open the nation’s doors to hundreds of thousands of foreign workers.
Despite the insistence of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that Japan needs an influx of workers from overseas to make up for a severe labour shortage – which will only worsen as the nation’s birth rate contracts and its population ages – Kato is far from convinced.

“The government has bent far too much to the demands of the business lobby when the economy is strong, but we all know that the economy will not always be this strong and we will find ourselves with thousands of foreign workers and not enough jobs for Japanese people,” he said.
Kato is among the 55 per cent of people in Japan who are opposed to the new law, according to a poll by the Mainichi newspaper on December 17.
The issue is so contentious that it appears to have put a dent in Abe’s approval rating, which stood at 37 per cent after the law was passed – a four percentage point decrease.

‘Pollution by tourism’: How Japan fell out of love with visitors from China and beyond

But this has not dissuaded the prime minister, who defended letting up to 345,150 foreign workers enter the country over five years by saying the situation “requires immediate attention”.
“The entire country is short of workers and the new system is needed for talented foreigners to further contribute to Japan,” he said at a press conference.
Japan’s unemployment rate is at its lowest in 25 years, while job availability has risen to its highest level in more than 44 years, meaning there are now 160 jobs available for every 100 people seeking employment.

The legislation passed despite opposition in parliament. Photo: Kyodo via AP

The new legislation could certainly help plug this gap between supply and demand. But a look at the mixed results from an earlier scheme designed to encourage foreign workers sheds light on why many are concerned.
The Technical Internship Trainee Programme, which started in 1993, was initially described as a way of helping people from developing countries learn new skills that they could use when they had left Japan.

It was soon criticised for loopholes that permitted companies to abuse its terms, paying far less than the legal minimum wage, making workers put in unpaid overtime and providing them with sub-standard accommodation and working conditions. Some 22 foreign trainees died in work-related accidents between 2014 and 2016, while conditions were so bad at a number of work sites that the trainees fled.

Protesters held a rally against the bill in December

Conscious of public opinion and the fallout from its previous attempts at bringing in more foreign workers, the government has outlined a number of initiatives that it hopes will help migrants assimilate into Japanese society more smoothly.
These include establishing consultation centres in all of Japan’s 47 prefectures and providing help with things like setting up bank accounts, securing accommodation and arranging mobile phone contracts.
Employers will also be required to provide evidence that they have no links to organised crime, have never previously forced workers to resign, and are committed to paying salaries that are equivalent to those of Japanese workers doing the same tasks.

A Filipino trainee worker in Hiroshima prefecture

If foreign workers are happy and comfortable in their new lives, the thinking goes, then there is less likelihood of friction with their Japanese neighbours and work colleagues. But is that enough?
“It is good that the government is setting up consultation centres and will help foreign workers to open bank accounts and so on, but we want them to do more to protect the rights of people in their workplaces and in broader Japanese society,” said Kosuke Oie, a member of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations’ committee to address issues concerning foreign workers.

‘That racism is still there’: film to relive slaughter of Koreans after Japan’s Great Kanto earthquake

Oie and his colleagues are concerned that the new system risks repeating the same mistakes as the old, while also being open to exploitation by unscrupulous brokers if the hiring of overseas workers is left entirely to the private sector.
The five-year limit on workers’ stays in Japan comes with its own set of problems, too.
“We don’t want to be in a situation in which we treat foreign workers well but then, when the economy suddenly shrinks, we force them to leave again,” he said. “We need to have objective and transparent rules in place.”

 volunteer firefighter from East Timor in Japan, with his children. Photo: Reuters

Given that the legislation has already been enacted and the scheme begins on April 1, some say there’s little that can be done now to change course.
“There are people who are going to be frightened of foreigners talking in different languages, being a little louder than Japanese normally are and forgetting to put the right rubbish out on the correct day, but the government is trying to focus on the positives and I think we should too,” said Jun Okumura, a political analyst at the Meiji Institute for Global Affairs.
“The government may not have spun this issue quite as positively as [it] could have done and that has fed into the negative feelings in the media and among ordinary people who fear foreigners in their midst, but I believe these are going to be hard-working people who want to come here to earn some money for their families and their futures, not the sort who are going to rape our women and kill our taxi drivers.”

In Japan’s dying countryside, ancient festivals struggle to live

Kato, who owns a business selling Buddhist religious items, still isn’t convinced.
“When we look at European countries – France, Britain, Germany – that have let in tens of thousands of immigrants from other countries, other cultures, I think the danger is clear,” he said.
“We have to be worried about extremism that could be a threat to the security of Japanese people and the examples of other countries should teach us something. We need to look after our own first and foremost.”


No smoking' signs go up in Shah Alam public spaces from Jan 1

No smoking' signs go up in Shah Alam public spaces from Jan 1

PETALING JAYA: No smoking signs will be put up in public spaces around Shah Alam come Jan 1, in line with the federal government's directive to ban smoking in all eateries nationwide, says Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) mayor Datuk Ahmad Zaharin Mohd Saad.

Though the directive is meant for restaurants, Ahmad Zaharin said he fully supported the idea of discouraging smoking elsewhere in order to educate the public.

We will put up no-smoking signs in public spaces, like parks, for example, and maybe have a corner for smokers. 

"We are still studying that.

"Other business operators, like restaurants, would have to get their own signboards done and displayed at their premises," he said after chairing the council's last full board meeting of 2018.

On Wednesday (Dec 27), representatives from all local councils in the Klang Valley attended a briefing by the Health Ministry on the guidelines and mechanism of the smoking ban.

"Once we get all the necessary information from the ministry, we will start issuing notices to restaurant operators and take further action where necessary," Ahmad Zaharin said.

In terms of enforcement and manpower, existing officers would have to take on more tasks to aid in enforcing the smoking ban, he added.

It was previously reported that the first six months of eateries in the country being gazetted as non-smoking zones from January would serve as a grace period for smokers.

In addition, 24-hour restaurants in Shah Alam will also have to comply with MBSA's compulsory two-hour cleaning ruling that will come into effect next year. 

"In fact, we have already implemented the two-hour cleaning period for all 24-hour restaurants, but we have not stated it in their business licence yet.

"Now, we will take this more seriously and include the cleaning and operating hours in their business licence, both for new applicants and those renewing for next year," the mayor said.

Currently, MBSA is still mulling a suitable fixed time when restaurants must close for two hours every day for cleaning to take place.

One of the suggestions given during the meeting was between 2am and 4am.

A standardised cleaning hours would be more convenient for customers, while making it easier for enforcement officers to monitor whether operators are in compliance.

On a separate matter, councillor Siow Fun Yean urged enforcement officers to form a task force and inspect the many kindergartens mushrooming around the Setia Alam neighbourhoods.

"In some neighbourhoods, you can even see at least 10% of the houses have been converted into kindergartens," he said.

Siow said some of them might not be licensed. He expressed hopes that officers would take prompt action.


Woman jumps to her death in malaysia

Woman jumps to her death at Sunway Pyramid Shopping Centre

SUBANG JAYA: A woman jumped to her death from the first floor of the Sunway Pyramid Shopping Centre here, this morning.
The woman, in her 30s, is said to have climbed over the first floor railing and “dived” off, landing at the foot of an escalator on the Lower Ground 2 level – meaning that she fell three storeys in the 11.20am incident.
According to the shopping mall’s management, the woman survived the fall but suffered serious injuries and was rushed to the Sunway Medical Centre, where she was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.
A video clip of the moments following the woman’s apparent suicide attempt – which has gone viral on social media – shows the woman on an ambulance stretcher, being tended to by Emergency Rescue Service (EMRS) personnel. Puddles of the woman’s blood can be seen near the escalator, as several shoppers look on in shock.
One witness, who declined to be identified, said the woman had been at the mall with a female friend, who was later seen weeping next to the prostrate woman.


Immigration: Caning good deterrent against hiring illegal immigrants

Immigration: Caning good deterrent against hiring illegal immigrants

KOTA KINABALU: Caning would be a good deterrent to keep employers from hiring or harbouring six or more illegal foreign workers, says Immigration director-general Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali.

He said caning was provided for under the Immigration Act 1959/63 for those employing six or more illegal immigrants.

Our record shows that over the past two years only three employers have been ordered to be caned from the 1,400 employers charged in courts,” Mustafar told reporters here after attending the Sabah Immigration Department monthly gathering on Friday (Dec 28).

“Some people say that caning could be seen as a cruel action, but if we look at it from a security and sovereignty (point of view), the Immigration Department cannot compromise on such a matter,” he added.

Mustafar said other countries also had provisions for mandatory caning as a deterrent against employers who hire illegal immigrants, as well as illegal immigrants who are repeat offenders.  

Mustafar said caning immigration offenders had a positive effect on controlling illegal immigrant problems in other countries.

“This is a issue of sovereignty and security. We feel that the provisions of the law should be used to send a clear message to the such employers hiring illegals.

He added that that a total of 27,000 people were screened during 1,371 operations in Sabah this year.

They detained 4,800 of them and 62 employers were also arrested during operations in the state in 2018.

He added that 47,000 illegal immigrants were arrested nationwide in some 14,500 operations and that approximately190,000 people this year were screened this year.

He said 1,400 employers had been charged in court and some their cases had been decided while others were still in progress.


Thursday, December 27, 2018

No toll increase on 21 highways next year

No toll increase on 21 highways next year

The Cabinet has decided on Dec 12 to freeze all toll hikes for all vehicle classes on 21 highways across the country that were eligible for an increase in 2019. Pix by NSTP/Iqmal Haqim Rosman

PUTRAJAYA: The Cabinet has decided on Dec 12 to freeze all toll hikes for all vehicle classes on 21 highways across the country that were eligible for an increase in 2019.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said this was a marked enhancement from the Budget 2019 announcement made on Nov 2, which scheduled to freeze all toll hikes next year for intra-city tolls only.

Aside from the comprehensive toll hike freeze for 21 highways nationwide, he added, the decision would also involve buses on eight highways, along with the abolition of motorcycle tolls for the Penang Bridge (First Penang Bridge), the Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah Bridge (Second Penang Bridge) and the Second Link in Johor beginning Jan 1 next year, which would cost the government RM994.43 million.

“The comprehensive toll hike freeze is an ongoing effort by the Pakatan Harapan-led federal government to alleviate the burden of rising living costs borne by all Malaysians.
“(Due to the) the toll hike freeze for all vehicle classes on these 21 highways, the government will incur RM972.75 million in compensation payments to the relevant highway toll concessionaires for 2019,” said the minister in a statement today, adding that nearly 40 tolls on these 21 highways would be affected by the decision.

The 21 highways are the North-South Highway; Malaysia-Singapore Second Link Highway; Kesas Highway; North-South Expressway Central Link (ELITE Highway) ; East Coast Highway Phase 1; Sungai Besi Highway (Besraya); New Pantai Expressway (NPE); Damansara-Puchong Expressway; Ampang-Kuala Lumpur Elevated Highway (Akleh); Butterworth-Kulim Expressway; Duta-Ulu Klang Expressway; Maju Expressway (MEX); Kajang–Seremban Highway (Lekas); Senai-Desaru Expressway; Sprint Highway;South Klang Valley Expressway (SKVE); Seremban-Port Dickson Highway;New North Klang Straits Bypass (NNKSB); Guthrie Corridor Expressway; Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah Bridge (JPP2) and Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART).

For Class 5 vehicles (buses), Lim said, the Cabinet had given the greenlight to freeze toll hikes with an estimated cost of RM1.68 million on eight highways - Cheras-Kajang Highway (Grand Saga); Kuala Lumpur-Karak Highway; Kemuning-Shah Alam Highway; Butterworth Outer Ring Road (BORR) Highway; Kajang Silk Highway; KL-Kuala Selangor Expressway; New Pantai Expressway, and Sprint Highway, involving about 20 tolls.

As announced in the tabling of Budget 2019, the minister said the government would abolish toll for motorcyclists travelling through the Penang Bridge (First Penang Bridge) and the Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah Bridge (Second Penang Bridge) in Penang, as well as through the Second Link in Johor.

“This measure will cost the government about RM20 million per annum in compensation payments effective Jan 1 2019.”
Lim added the government was currently studying the best method to fulfil its general election manifesto promise as stated in the Buku Harapan, adding the toll hike freeze was part of these efforts.


Monday, December 24, 2018


And the Malaysian of the Year 2018 is…

To say 2018 has been a momentous year would be an understatement. As we come to the closing days of the year, we know that we have lived in, and experienced, one of the seminal, defining years in Malaysian history.
It was the year of many firsts, especially in politics: A former prime minister became prime minister for the second time; at 93, Dr Mahathir Mohamad also became the oldest prime minister in the world; another former prime minister faced criminal charges; and a woman became deputy prime minister.
Also, the unstoppable Barisan Nasional (BN) was thrown out by an electorate seeking changes; Umno, MCA and MIC which had formed the government since the first general election in 1955, found themselves on the opposition bench; the DAP, which had been in the opposition since its founding in 1965, suddenly found itself in government; several top civil servants – including the attorney-general, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief, the chief justice and the Treasury secretary-general, were eased out or resigned; and while the Pakatan Harapan (PH) won control of the Dewan Rakyat the BN retained control of the Dewan Negara.
Who among the main players in this dramatic change has had the biggest impact on the nation’s direction in 2018? Is it Dr Mahathir, former prime minister Najib Razak, or PKR supremo and former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim?
Is it Lim Guan Eng who became the first Chinese finance minister in 44 years? Is it his father Lim Kit Siang – a man who has gone through hellish situations, survived the turbulence of politics, and when his party, as a PH partner, finally formed the government, decided not to be a minister? Or is it P Waytha Moorthy, a rebel who led Hindraf to fight the Indian cause and who briefly fled the country to avoid possible arrest but is now a minister shouldering responsibility for the improvement of the Indian community?
What about Attorney-General Tommy Thomas who has unflinchingly gone after suspected wrongdoers and is working to improve the legal system? What about Bersih 2.0 which has played a pivotal role in waking Malaysians to their rights, galvanising them into action and taking on the might of the previous government to ensure free and fair elections?
Is it the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission that is relentlessly pursuing the corrupt after May 9? Or is it the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal that rocked the nation and led to probes in several countries, bringing in its wake unwanted and ugly attention to Malaysia?
Let’s take a look at Najib. Like his father Razak Hussein, Najib served as prime minister and Umno president. In 2009 he became prime minister and was going strong until the winds of change swept him out of office and into the court of law. He is the first former prime minister to be charged for criminal offences – in this case graft and money-laundering linked to 1MDB, which he set up.

In 1973, the father persuaded several opposition parties to join the Alliance and form the BN; in 2018, the son watched as the BN splintered and returned to the Alliance position with the three original partners – Umno, MCA and MIC – largely due to his failures.
There is no gainsaying the fact that 1MDB was a major reason for the fall of the BN. Although the 1MDB saga had been around since DAP leader Tony Pua raised it in 2010, it did not gain attention until 2014. However, Najib’s government managed to keep it under control by several clever moves, including replacing attorney-general Gani Patail with Mohamed Apandi Ali. The mainstream media buried news of 1MDB and only some news portals and The Edge Weekly carried criticism of the finance ministry-owned investment fund. But when Dr Mahathir entered the fray to openly oppose Najib and formed PPBM, 1MDB became a potent weapon.
What about Anwar, the prime minister-in-waiting, for Malaysian of the Year? The charismatic politician is back in action, holding the attention of his audience with his oratorical skills which he massages to suit the audience. He was jailed, a second time, on a charge of sodomy by the Najib administration but received a full pardon from the King after PH won the election. Even while in prison twice and even when he did not have power or money to offer his followers, his charisma, and a band of loyalists, kept his party, PKR, going. Today, PKR is the party with the largest number of parliamentarians. What a victory. It speaks well of his political canniness.
The DAP deserves to be considered for the title, too, because from a rank outsider, from a party whose leaders and members never really thought it would be able to form the government, it is today in a position to influence national policy. Despite all the years of suffering under a BN regime that was out to paint it as chauvinistic and anti-Malay, despite all the years of harassment by government agencies, it not only survived, it triumphed in 2018. Its perseverance, one-pointedness and organisational ability has seen it rise above the odds.
And what can I say about Dr Mahathir that hasn’t already been said? He is the comeback kid par excellence. At an age when most people would prefer to stay at home and spend time with great-grandchildren, he is directing the course of the nation.
He could have retired as prime minister and enjoyed the pensions and perks that come with it. But he didn’t. He felt the country was going in the wrong direction and that he was needed. When he formed PPBM and joined the PH alliance of PKR, DAP and Amanah, the voting public felt the nation needed him.
By leading the PH to victory he has changed the course of the nation. His motley coalition of parties unseated the Barisan Nasional behemoth which had been in power since Independence in 1957, first as the Alliance and later as the BN.
He has shown that bitter enemies can work together for a common goal. Three years ago, who would have believed that Dr Mahathir would work hand in hand with Anwar, the former deputy prime minister whom his administration jailed? Who would have believed that he could work with the DAP, which he had excoriated all his political life until 2017, especially its leader Lim Kit Siang, whom his administration also jailed at one time?
In the aftermath of the May 9 general election victory, he successfully manoeuvred the splintering of the BN coalition. Not only did he remove the threat of the BN’s fixed vote deposits of Sarawak and Sabah but also turned them around into supporting his administration. And he brought to heel the once mighty Umno, the party he helmed for more than 20 years.
There is generally greater confidence among people of a better future, although lately this has been waning. There is greater democratic space and a concerted effort to root out corruption.
While some older Malaysian’s are still skeptical about him, given the slide in democratic practices during his first stint as prime minister, many younger people see him as the only leader capable of bringing about a New Malaysia which practices greater democracy.
I find the pace at which he is going simply amazing. The oldest prime minister in the world has become an example not just for Malaysians to emulate but the world to follow. His sheer willpower and determination is unbelievable, and puts to shame many people decades younger.
As a look back, I can see that all the above are worthy of being named Malaysian of the Year, with Dr Mahathir topping the list by a long chalk.
However, there is someone else who has to be considered too. I am talking about you. Yes, you, the voter.
Malaysian voters struggled against impediments stacked by the machinations of the BN. Many NGOs and individuals called out the Election Commission for favouring the BN, especially in its electoral boundary redelineation exercise and imposition of certain rules to frustrate the opposition, which it denied. The services of several top civil servants and agencies were used by the BN to deny an opposition victory. Also employed was the usual scare tactic of racial riots if the BN were to lose.
Voters wanted change: a more democratic society where they could express themselves without fear of being detained or harassed; a more Malaysian government that would address the needs of all citizens; a proper separation of powers between the Executive, Parliament and the Judiciary; and a nation where racial and religious issues would not be used by the elite to stay in power. They also wanted better living standards and better control on the cost of living.
A substantial number of voters decided that enough was enough. Aghast at the direction the nation was taking, they decided to put a brake on it; they decided to be agents of change. Picking up courage, they threw caution to the wind as they trooped to the polling booths and marked the most important X in their lives. And in the process altered the fate of the nation – and theirs too.
For the courage shown in overcoming complacency and fear, for becoming agents of change and giving notice to politicians that they are asserting their right for a say in the nation’s direction, and for showing that change is possible if people act in unison, the Malaysian Voter is the Malaysian of the Year for 2018.
A Kathirasen is executive editor at FMT


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