2016 has closed to an end, and we take a look back on highlight events which coloured the year.
Enemies Turned into Friends
In March, former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad teamed up with his former political foes i.e Lim Kit Siang (DAP), Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and other civil activists, in the ‘Save Malaysia’ campaign. The group also called for a referendum known as Deklarasi Rakyat (Citizens’ Declaration) to oust Datuk Seri Najib from his office, citing several unexplained allegations and poor performances as the causes of untrustworthiness[i]. However, some remain unconvinced, saying that the removal of DS Najib may not be the magic solution to “save Malaysia”. As it is, the movement remains as a voice rather than an action.
Scandals after scandals
TIME produced an article which lists down Malaysia as one of the most corrupt country in the world[ii]. This may not be surprising to some, given 1MDB, but the more alarming fact is that many top government officials were robbing government resources, and got away with it all this while. Governing any country should not be a wealth-making career, but that is clearly not the case with a KBS official arrested, who got away with RM100m and several luxury cars[iii]. Another huge breakthrough by SPRM was the RM112m cash found in relation to a former Jabatan Air Negeri Sabah (JANS) Deputy Director, who is investigated for several corruption cases[iv].
Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM)
The party, which was founded on Aug 9, is led by former PM Tun Mahathir Mohamad along with the ousted politicians, TS Muhyiddin Yassin and Mukhriz Mahathir. On 8th September, the Registrar of Societies approved the party’s registration application and registered it under the name PPBM[v]. However, some critics have spoken out against the establishment of the party, among many diatribes likening it to UMNO due to the Malay supremacy principle that the party practices. Yet, this biggest flaw perhaps is where it draws its strength from[vi].
Sarawak State Election
The state election, which was held on 7th May, has seen Barisan Nasional winning 87.8% of the house (72 out of 82 available seats)[vii] compared to only 77.5% in the previous election. DAP won seven out of the 31 seats contested whereas PKR managed to defend all three of its previous seats. Some attributed the landslide win to the Sarawak Chief Minister, Tan Sri Adenan Satem, who gained the trust of the voters by pledging that he would not abandon the community and that his beneficial policies for the ethnic group would remain[viii]. Some see this election as proof that DS Najib would give in to a statist sentiment played by the local leaders, over nationalist ideals, in order to stay in power.
Malaysia-China relations reached a new high following DS Najib’s visit to Beijing, where he signed 14 bilateral agreements worth a combined RM144 billion. The main reason being to bring more FDIs (Foreign Direct Investment) into the country, yet critics have been concerned with the growing influence of China in our economy. Early this year, China General Nuclear Power Corp Ltd. (CGN Power) paid RM9.83 bil to purchase the power assets owned by 1MDB. China Railway Engineering Corp Ltd. (CREC) partnered with IWH to take over 60% stake in the Bandar Malaysia project in KL. Plus, the government also awarded RM7.13 bil Gemas-JB electrified tracking project to China Railway Construction Corp (CRCC) without an open tender process. Despite that, optimists like TS Jeffrey Cheah has been supportive of the move, contending that it is needed to encourage more partnerships in the private sectors[ix].
Labour Market Scandals
A Guardian investigation on labour rights in Malaysia found out that three companies – Samsung, Panasonic, McDonald – have been affiliated with labour abuse, citing that the workers in their supply chains were being exploited and underpaid. McDonald’s said it has now ended its contract with the labour company it used[x]. Low wages have long been among the woes Malaysians face and this sheds some light on some cases involving Malaysian employers.
Central Banking – Governor succession, interest rate and weak currency
Bank Negara Malaysia appointed Deputy Governor, Datuk Muhammad Ibrahim as the successor to TS Zeti Akhtar Aziz after her 16 years as the governor. The ringgit, in respond, reversed a drop after the news of the appointment, relieving pressure on the weakening currency[xi]. Following that, in July, the Central Bank lowered its Overnight Policy Rate (OPR) from 3.25% to 3% for the first time in 2 years to support the growth of domestic economy[xii]. Later this year, the central bank introduced new measures to spur domestic trade of the ringgit by limiting the export proceeds in foreign currencies up to only 25%. The move has been able to curb the local currency’s offshore trade and thus stabilising the rate.
UPSR – for better or worse?
On Nov 17, the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) results were announced nationwide. With a new change in format, there was a huge uproar after only 1.1% achieved straight A’s (it was 8.4% in the previous year)[xiii]. Does this mean that the assessment is better at identifying the highly qualified student? Is the inclusion of High Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) questions effective in creating highly skilled citizens in the future? For now, we have to wait and see.
IPTA – Of funding cuts and rising performances
The consistent cut in overall public universities funds in recent annual budgets forces the IPTAs to initiate their own endowment funds to cater for the lack of funding. As of now, six universities e.g. UPM, UKM etc. have established their own waqf funds to improve their earnings.
On the flip-side, two IPTAs i.e UPM and UM managed to rank 49th and 27th respectively in the QS Asia University Rankings, both showing improvements compared to previous year.
Students are also making us proud, year by year. This year, four students from the UiTM Law Faculty were the second runner-up in World FDI Moot in Buenos Aires, whilst IIUM debaters championed several world debate competitions which put them up on par with debaters from other world leading universities11.
Olympics and Paralympics performances
This year, Malaysia left Olympics/Paralympics with the best ever haul. The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro has seen Malaysia winning four silvers and a bronze; three silvers from badminton, one silver from diving and one bronze from cycling[xiv]. Following that, the Paralympics team achieved three gold medals and a bronze, of which all are contributed by athletics. These achievements are proof that the Malaysian Podium Programme is on the right track to achieve its aim of producing consistent and sustainable finishes for Malaysian athletes.
Malaysia On the Globe
World’s Funniest Person of the Year
On 10th December, Malaysia stand-up comedian Harith Iskander was crowned as the World’s Funniest Person in a competition held in Levi, Finland[xv]. He beat four finalists from the Philippines, Greece, India, and Israel in the final performance. We are proud of and continue to support Malaysian talent.
Puskas Award Candidate
A Malaysian footballer, Faiz Subri beaten off the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar to make the top three shortlist for the Puskas Award, given to a person who is deemed to score the most beautiful goal of the year. The award ceremony will be held in Switzerland on 9th January 2017[xvi].
On 23rd December, The UN Security Council approves a resolution which calls on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.” Interestingly, the resolution was made possible after 4 countries i.e New Zealand, Venezuela, Malaysia and Senegal co-sponsored the draft a day after Egypt withdrew it under pressure from Israel and President-elect Donald Trump, who pushed for a veto. Even more surprising, the United States, abstained from voting, contrary to the past practices of defending Israel in similar occurrences previously[xvii]. A bittersweet farewell from Obama administration perhaps.
Donald Trump IS the President
Donald J. Trump, won the Electoral College against Hillary Clinton. Furthermore, the Republicans also won the Senate by 52 seats to 48 for Democrats, thus retaining the chamber. Both candidates had their fair shares of controversies prior to the election; e.g. Trump’s racist campaign on Mexican immigrants and hateful comments towards a Muslim family as well as his negative view on environmental policies. On the other hand, Clinton’s leaked private email that may have violated federal requirements and suspicions on her foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation[xviii]. President-elect Trump will be inaugurated on 20 January 2017.
A referendum, which was held on 23 June, to decide whether or not UK leaves the EU, has seen the Leave won by 52% to 48%. Following that, David Cameron, the then Prime Minister of Great Britain who promised the referendum as a part of his election manifesto, left the helm and succeeded by Theresa May. Economically, the pound had a tremendous slide to near its 30-year low while Britain lost its top AAA credit rating. Currently, a legal procedure is in process to challenge the government’s right to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The challenge succeeded in High Court, but the government is due to appeal in the Supreme Court. A judgement is expected in January[xix].
The year was filled with joyful moments and valuable lessons. We only move forward when we decide which memories to bring with us, which lessons to learn from, and which mistakes to leave behind.
2017 is rumoured to see the 14th General Election happening. With Brexit and Trump’s win in the background, would GE14 be a huge surprise for us too? A large portion of young voters will be voting for the first time. Will politicians start to appease the youth and will youth claim a larger political space?
Across the globe, many find the stagnating economic growth worrying. Outlooks for 2017 are mostly gloomy, given the many political uncertainties around the world.
However, a new year is welcomed with renewed hope as long as we continue to strive for what is best. We wish you a happy and blessed new year.