Foong Li Mei brings you another edition of REFSA Rojak – a weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia by Research for Social Advancement (REFSA). REFSA Rojak – “trawl the newsflow, cut to the core and focus on the really pertinent. Full of flavour, lots of crunch, this is the concise snapshot to help Malaysians keep abreast of the issues of the day.”

Deflecting criticism Mahathir-style

Misery loves company. Neck-deep in the stench of Ops Durian Buruk (or Project IC), Tun Dr Mahathir resorted to dragging our founding father, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman, into the prickly scandal of granting citizenship to immigrants.

During the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI), Mahathir admitted to granting citizenship to Filipinos in Sabah when he was Prime Minister. However, he declared that this was “within the law”, and denied that it was to secure a firm grip on the resource-rich state. Mahathir even accused Tunku of having done “worse” – granting citizenship to one million “unqualified people” in Peninsular Malaysia before Independence.

Two constitutional law experts, Abdul Aziz Bari and Tommy Thomas, have rubbished Mahathir’s claims. Both clarified that Tunku gave out citizenship to non-Malays based on a social contract, which among others include their acceptance of the special position of Malays. In contrast, Mahathir’s ‘generosity’ in granting citizenship was “naked, partisan politics to give electoral advantage to one party”, Thomas said. Abdul Aziz also urged the BN coalition to respond to Mahathir, who has “virtually said that the Chinese and Indians got their citizenship through immoral and illegal means”.

Former National Registration Department (NRD) director Datuk Abdul Rauf Sani told the RCI that identity cards were issued mainly to increase the number of Muslim voters in Sabah. He was also aware that immigrants were “taught how to vote in elections, otherwise their identity cards would be cancelled”.

Doubt circles Mahathir’s claims like flies. Mahathir made a sharp U-turn from his insistence in 2011that he had no knowledge of Project IC.  By accusing Tunku, he hopes to deflect the harsh condemnation that has come his way. Packaging the “but-what-he-did-was-worse” red herring rhetoric as reputation-scrubbing solution only succeeds in intensifying a fraudulent act – and Malaysians are no longer buying any of it.

Doctor who?

The dubious doctorate saga is back, and as in all sequels, the present story is not better than the previous one. Most of us would remember the much-disputed doctorate conferred upon our Prime Minister’s wife by Curtin University. Now it is our deputy prime minister’s turn.  The United States Sports Academy (USSA) has bestowed on Tan Sri Muhyiddin an honorary doctorate for advancing sports through the ‘one student, one sport’ programme.

One local company got the contract to bring in USSA trainers to train 1,000 of our physical education (PE) teachers. What raises brows is that the company had scored the RM23 million contract via direct negotiations.

Evoking more suspicion is that said company is linked to an UMNO leader, according to DAP’s election strategist Ong Kian Ming. The company sells sports equipment, and it is doubtful if it has any experience in education.

It is difficult to imagine how this deal will “advance sports”. What kind of ‘training’ would our PE teachers receive when USSA primarily teaches through online distance learning? Apparently, the campus also consists of a single building and has no track or field.

There is hardly any honour in a doctorate when its conferment is fishy.

No truth in crime statistics? No worries

The crime statistics that our government was once proud of are now downgraded to ‘unimportant’. Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin has brushed aside the crime index, saying that “the figures can be disputed”. He was responding to accusations from crime watchdog MyWatch that kidnapping, extortion and causing grievous injury are being classified as non-index crime in order to lower the crime index.

Hishammuddin’s statement is tantamount to saying that the National Key Results Area of crime fighting comprises fraudulent data, charged Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua. He pointed out that the BN government had “based its entire achievement and ‘success’ in fighting crime on the statistics”, but the same figures were disputed when manipulation was discovered.

If the government only acknowledges data that sings their ‘achievements’, is it any wonder that the rakyat’s pleas and petitions are often falling upon deaf ears?

Stand up (on foreign soil) and be counted!

Good news, overseas Malaysians – you can now do your part for Malaysia’s future in the 13th General Elections. Postal voting forms are now available on the Election Commission (EC) website.  However, postal voting is not applicable to Malaysians living in south Thailand, Singapore, Brunei and Kalimantan, Indonesia – which means they will have to return home to vote.

The good news is marred by the fact that voter information on the EC website can be easily accessed by a third party. Questions abound on how BN obtained voters’ details, which are printed on a “new year’s greeting letter” allegedly sent by PM Dato’ Sri Najib to voters in Selangor. According to Selangor DAP secretary Ean Yong Hian Wah, while information on a voter’s constituency can be accessed from the EC website, it is not possible to get the voter’s address.

With the exposure of so many discrepancies and scandals, it seems that GE-13 would be our murkiest one yet. While we are still in the dark about the exact election date, let us not be complacent. The fight for transparency and accountability continues.

Why ‘Rojak’? Disparate flavours and textures come together in a harmonious mix to make this delicious but underrated concoction. Our Rojak weekly is much like this mix, making sense of the noise of daily newsflow and politicking.

It is also our ultimate dream that our multi-ethnic melange of communities can be made richer within the unique ‘sauce’ that is Malaysia. Let’s take pride in the ‘rojakness’ of our nation!


[Image credit: Tun Dr Mahathir –, shield – iprole/, durian thorns – mioawee/, Tunku Abdul Rahman – ]


Click here for previous issues of REFSA Rojak.

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REFSA is an independent, not-for-profit research institute providing relevant and reliable information on social, economic and political issues affecting Malaysians with the aim of promoting open and constructive...