IDEAS: Decentralise IGP powers to gain more public support

Source: FMT News

Think-tank chief Wan Saiful Wan Jan reveals study suggesting people are worried over too much power being in the hands of one man. Pic taken from FMT News.

Think-tank chief Wan Saiful Wan Jan reveals study suggesting people are worried over too much power being in the hands of one man. Pic taken from FMT News.

PETALING JAYA: Is there too much power in the hands of one man in the Royal Malaysian Police?

That is the question that the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) posits in a new study on the powers held by the Inspector-General of Police (IGP).

“The Royal Malaysia Police has been criticised by various sections of society and at times these criticisms are unfair.

“A decentralisation of powers can help reduce these criticisms,” IDEAS Chief Executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan said about the report called Strengthening the Royal Malaysia Police by Enhancing Accountability.

In the study, IDEAS describes how the IGP has been given various powers, either by law or institutional design.

“So, we have recommended how the police force can ensure the public continues to support the IGP in the exercise of his powers through decentralising some of those powers. Read more

Set up Charities Commission to ​regulate NGO funding — IDEAS

Source: IDEAS


Set up Charities Commission to regulate NGO funding

Kuala Lumpur, 4 November 2016 – Commenting on calls by Minister Datuk Paul Low and Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman to ban foreign funding and for greater scrutiny over ‘political’ non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Chief Executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), Wan Saiful Wan Jan said, “A ban on foreign funding is unnecessary but I fully support the spirit behind these suggestions – that is to promote and enhance transparency and accountability among NGOs”.

“If NGOs call for greater transparency and accountability in government, then they should also apply those principles to themselves and lead by example. I am particularly pleased that Azalina suggested for the proposed Political Donations and Expenditure Act (PDEA) to be the basis for regulating NGO funding. This law does not yet exist as it was proposed as part of the National Consultative Committee on Political Financing’s recommendations. I was a member of that Committee chaired by Datuk Paul Low and I am elated that another Cabinet member has now shown open support for the Committee’s ideas.”

“Many of the Committee’s recommendations can also be used to regulate funding for civil society as the principles of transparency and accountability envisioned by the Committee’s proposal should be applicable to everyone. However, I wonder what is meant by the term ‘politically-interested’ NGOs. Does this mean that any organisation interested in pursuing matters such as transparency and good governance is also deemed politically inclined? What about local chapters of international bodies like Transparency International or Amnesty International? Will they no longer be able to receive foreign funds from their headquarters?”, asked Wan Saiful. Read more

Wan Saiful: Malaysian voters still favour communal politics

Source: The Star Online

Wan Saiful Wan Jan. Pic by Tan Kim Bock.

Wan Saiful Wan Jan. Pic by Tan Kim Bock.

KUALA LUMPUR: Communal political parties are what Malaysian voters seem to want and what voters have continuously voted for, said Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) chief executive officer Wan Saiful Wan Jan (pix).

Since independence, Malaysia has seen a rise of many communal parties like Umno, MCA and MIC, he said.

“There are some parties that try to change this situation. But the reality is that when it comes to deciding electoral strategy, they have to be communal too,” he said at a forum organised by Centre for Global Affairs Malaysia (Icon) titled “Revisiting Democracy: Global and Domestic Trends” on Thursday.

He said that political parties have to consider the ethnic distribution of constituency and who they want to fill the spot.

“Even the non-communal parties need to play the communal game. That is what our democracy demand of those who want to contest in the game,” said Wan Saiful.

Wan Saiful said that democracy is about what is popular, not about what is good. Read more

Reclaiming our Federal Constitution — Tunku Zain Al-’Abidin

Source: The Malay Mail Online


OCTOBER 14 — Among our citizens, vastly different interpretations of our Constitution exist. Each formed from different worldviews, each proclaiming legitimacy. If this trend continues unabated, greater polarisation will occur.

That is why steps need to be taken to ensure the vast majority of Malaysians accept a common understanding of the supreme law of the land.

To reclaim it, we need to understand how it came into being. Those who possessed sovereignty and political power agreed our new nation required a constitution, and one was duly drafted and approved. But when was their understanding of this document contested to the extent it became necessary to say we need to reclaim it?

Early opponents of our Constitution were easy to identify since they rejected it outright; but later, the tools of reinterpretation and amendment were used to slowly change its character. This was a political process, often using racial or religious language, accompanied by the centralisation of power. Read more

Liberalism Conference 2016: Can Liberalism Save Malaysia?

Liberalism Conference 2016: Can Liberalism Save Malaysia?

Who is this for and how to register?

We welcome everyone to attend this conference. Fees start at RM 100.00 for adults and RM 50.00 for students to register please click here

Liberalism in Malaysia

Referred to as either Libertarianism in the United States or Classical Liberalism in the United Kingdom, the term Liberalism has become increasingly misunderstood in Malaysia.

Liberalism has in fact been part and parcel of Malaysia’s genesis. On 31 August 1957, Tunku Abdul Rahman read out the Proclamation of Independence which included the words (that the Federation) “shall be for ever a sovereign democratic and independent State founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of its people…“. Our Rukun Negara which came about after the tragedy of 13 May 1969 held that Malaysia aspires to achieve unity amongst its people by “ensuring a liberal approach to her rich and diverse cultural traditions“. Vision 2020 also holds that one day Malaysians will live in a society “that is democratic, liberal and tolerant, caring, economically just and equitable, progressive and prosperous.

Liberalism forms an important part of our nation’s birth, it was referred to during our greatest moment of crisis and it is one of our greatest aspirations for our future. So what does liberalism have to say about the challenges faced by our country today?  How can liberal ideas be used to formulate a solution?  Can liberalism save Malaysia?

This conference will explore the big issues, to spark a debate about the role of liberal ideas in our country today.

What is the Conference about?

The conference explores the relevance of liberalism today in Malaysia. We begin with a discussion on Malaysia’s future in an increasingly illiberal environment by Dr Razeen Sally, former Chair of IDEAS’ Political Economy and Governance Programme and world class international trade expert. This is followed by a panel discussion on how liberalism can help avoid billion ringgit scandals involving Government linked companies including the infamous 1MDB Sovereign Wealth Fund. The conference then delves deeper into the concept of multiculturalism and the importance of liberalism in Malaysia – which neither forces assimilation nor restricts personal freedoms in the guise of achieving national harmony.  Finally the conference looks into how Malaysia can move beyond race and religion in politics – and how liberalism may provide an answer to this dilemma.

‘Is bid to rein in Malaysian Bar a retaliatory action by AG?’

Source: Malaysiakini

Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) today questioned if the planned amendments to the Legal Profession Act 1976 is attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali’s way of retaliating against the Malaysian Bar for criticising him.

The think tank’s chief executive director, Wan Saiful Wan Jan, said the proposed amendments, which would, among others, introduce government representatives in the Bar, did not appear to be a cabinet initiative.

He cited as proof Tourism Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz’s criticism against the amendments.

By speaking up, Nazri indicates that this was not a cabinet decision, which means it must have been the action of one agency only. Read more

The changing face of corporate Malaysia

Source: The Star Online

Permodalan Nasional Berhad - one of Malaysia's GLIC. Pic by Tan Kim Bock

Permodalan Nasional Berhad – one of Malaysia’s GLIC. Pic by Tan Kim Bock

EVER wondered who dominate corporate Malaysia?

While Malaysia has its fair share of tycoons who have built their empires over the years, most of the country’s largest corporations are actually controlled by a select group of government-linked investment companies or GLICs who own major stakes in many large listed corporations in Malaysia dubbed government linked companies or GLCs.

For example, GLCs make up eight out of the 10 largest listed companies in Malaysia by market capitalisation and these eight have a combined market cap of a staggering RM452bil. There are a whole host of other GLCs in Malaysia, listed and unlisted.

And these GLICs in turn are under the control of the Finance Ministry, Universiti Malaya economics professor Dr Edmund Terence Gomez points out. (See graphic)

While similar structures exist in countries such as Singapore, Gomez, who presented a paper on the ownership and control of GLICs this week, is of the view that this is an inefficient ownership structure for corporate Malaysia.

Read more

Who Owns Corporate Malaysia Now?


Who Owns Corporate Malaysia Now?:
Ownership and Control of Government-Linked Investment Companies — Prof. Edmund Terence Gomez

This lecture reviews the evolving nature of state-business relations through a historical analysis of Malaysia’s seven government-linked investment companies (GLICs), including Khazanah Nasional and the Employees Provident Fund, that are key actors in all sectors of the economy.

These GLICs, which serve as sovereign wealth funds and savings-based institutions that vary significantly in terms of their size and objectives, own and control a large number of private and publicly-listed companies through complex pyramid-type organizational structures. The government, under different Prime Ministers, has employed these GLICs in the economy and in the corporate sector in different ways. Abdul Razak initiated their active involvement in the economy through his interventionist New Economic Policy.

Mahathir Mohamad stressed privatization that entailed the divestment of the GLICs’ corporate assets to businesspeople through a system of selective patronage to create corporate captains. A number of these companies were re-nationalized after the 1997 Asian currency crisis.

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi introduced a transformation plan in 2005 to improve efficiency within GLICs that had become owners of Malaysia’s leading publicly-listed companies. Najib Razak actively uses the GLICs to drive economic growth while also encouraging them to invest in the economies of developing countries.

A network mapping of the GLICs’ ownership and control of Malaysia’s top 100 publicly-listed companies will be provided to show the extent of their presence in the corporate sector. The political implications of the GLICs’ significant presence in the corporate sector will be assessed.

This lecture is jointly hosted by the University of Malaya’s Faculty of Economics & Administration and IDEAS, the Institute for Democracy & Economic Affairs.

Date: Thursday, 21 July 2016
Time: 10.00AM
Venue: Lecture Theatre 3, Faculty of Economics & Administration, University of Malaya

Edmund Terence Gomez is Professor of Political Economy at the Faculty of Economics & Administration, University of Malaya. Recently, he was appointed as the Senior Fellow at IDEAS. He specializes in state-market relations and the linkages between politics, policies and business development. His international publications include Malaysia’s Political Economy: Politics, Patronage and Profits (Cambridge University Press, 1997), Political Business in East Asia (Routledge, 2002),The Politics of Resource Extraction: Indigenous Peoples, Multinational Corporations and the State (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2012) and Government-Linked Companies and Sustainable, Equitable Development (Routledge, 2015). He is also Senior Fellow at IDEAS.


Post event news coverage:  The changing face of corporate Malaysia [23 Jul 2016]

Travel ban step in wrong direction, says IDEAS

Source: The Edge Markets

Pic taken from The Star Online

Pic taken from The Star Online

KUALA LUMPUR (May 18): The move to enforce travel bans on those who criticise the Malaysian government is a step in the wrong direction, according to Institute for Democracy and Economic Affair’s (IDEAS).

In a statement today commenting on a report quoting the Immigration Director-General who confirmed the existence of such provisions and stated passports were a privilege and not a right, IDEAS chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan said such arbitrary travel bans should not be happening in a country like Malaysia, especially if the Government claims to be progressive and democratic.

He said the freedom of movement which includes the right to travel, is a universal human right.

“The United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 which the Malaysian government has claimed to adopt and uphold, specifies that everyone has the right to leave the country and to return.

“This rule is also against fundamental democratic principles which require that the people of a country be able to express not only support for the government, but also to criticize its policies and actions without fear of recrimination or reprisals,” said Wan Saiful.

He stressed that the government should bear this in mind, particularly since it is making a bid for another term on the UN Human Rights Council.     Read more

Malaysian Bar raises doubt over seriousness to reform anti-graft body

Source: The Malaysian Insider

Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru has raised concerns over the recommendations to reform MACC. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, December 16, 2015.

The Parliament’s reaction to the proposed recommendations to reform the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) reflected how serious those in power were in tackling graft in the country, participants in a seminar were told today.

Steven Thiru, the president of the Malaysian Bar, said the way the recommendations were pitched would determine if they would survive the passage in Parliament.

He, however, admitted that “we may not get all that we ask for”.

Steven was answering a question raised by a participant in the seminar on reforming the anti-graft watchdog in Kuching, Sarawak.

What the Bar, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas), Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) and Citizens Network for a Better Malaysia were asking for was the creation of the Independent Anti-Corruption Commission (IACC), expanding the definition of gratification and the power to investigate individuals living beyond their means, amending legislations such as the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010, the Witness Protection Act 2009, adoption of a Freedom of Information Act and an Asset Declaration Act. Read more