NBOS to
explore
innovative
initiatives

PUTRAJAYA — Malaysia will be organising the National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS) International Week 2016 to explore the various creative and innovative initiatives carried out by Malaysia.

Chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa said this is also to observe how collaboration and sharing of resources by adopting the NBOS approach have delivered high impact to the people while keeping costs low.

“The exhibition will display initiatives implemented based on impact themes, keeping to the NBOS idea of cutting across mental and structural silos,” he said.

In conjunction with the NBOS International Week 2016, various programme shall be highlighted such as the International Conference on the Blue Ocean Strategy (ICBOS) which will be held from Aug 16 to18.

The ICBOS is aimed to at giving opportunities for participants to share knowledge and ideas, on injecting creativity and innovation, in the formulation and implementation of national policies and initiatives that impact the people.

This is in light of Malaysia’s very own success in applying the NBOS that puts creativity and innovation at the heart of its national development strategy and efforts towards achieving a high income developed nation status by 2020.

“TParticipants at ICBOS includes national leaders from commonwealth members countries, Asean members states and members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

The Global Blue Awards is held in conjunction with ICBOS to recognise highly creative and innovative initiatives around the world.

Maybank, BSN revise 
base lending rate

KUALA LUMPUR — Maybank said it is revising its base rate and base lending rate (BLR) effective today, in line with the cut in the overnight policy rate by Bank Negara Malaysia.

Maybank’s base rate will be decreased by 20 basis points from 3.20% per annum (p.a.) to 3.00% p.a. while its base lending rate will also be revised from 6.85% to 6.65% p.a.

Similarly, the Islamic base rate and base financing rate (BFR) will be reduced by 20 basis points to 3.00% p.a. and 6.65% p.a. respectively from 3.20% p.a. and 6.85% p.a. previously.

Maybank group president and chief executive officer Datuk Abdul Farid Alias said the revision will benefit borrowers as all loans and financing pegged to the base rates would also be adjusted accordingly.

“This revision will assist existing and potential borrowers with the current challenging environment and help spur economic and business growth in the country,” he said.

In line with the reduction in BLR/BFR and base rates, Maybank’s deposit rates will also be revised downwards by up to 20 basis points.

The last revision in Maybank’s BLR was in July 2014 when it was raised by 25 basis points to 6.85% p.a.

Bank Simpanan Nasional is also revising its base rate, to boost its take-up rate and capture at least 10,000 new borrowers with its Youth Housing Scheme.

Deputy chief executive (Strategy & Communication) Kameel Abdul Halim said only 2,000 borrowers took advantage of the scheme, aimed at helping married youths own their first home.

“The scheme runs for two years and if there is a need we shall extend it,” he said.

Ringgit gain, Bursa losses

Local equity markets are likely to trade higher following BNM surprise decision to cut interest rates to 3% as it will be seen as an attempt to encourage growth, said FXTM vice president of corporate development and market research Jameel Ahmad.

“This is generally how equity markets react globally when a central bank issues a statement of intent to keep monetary policy accommodative to possible risks,” he added.

The benchmark FBM KLCI closed higher Wednesday at 1,660.39, rising 6.42 points from its closing the previous day. Yesterday, it closed at 1,654.78 (-5.610 points).

Jameel noted that the ringgit appears to have gained slightly in the aftermath of the decision, but this is more likely due the increased risk appetite across global markets as concerns over the European Union (EU) referendum outcome begin to subside.

The ringgit stood at 3.9690/9740 versus the greenback at close of trading Wednesday from 3.9785/9825 Tuesday. It continued these gains yesterday to close at 3.9465.

“There is still a high level of uncertainty over how the EU referendum outcome is going to play out in the longer-term, however at least a United Kingdom government has now been formed that will attempt to tackle this risk as and when it comes.

“The more positive news for the ringgit is that the EU referendum uncertainty is being seen as an understandable reason for the Federal Reserve to postpone further increases to United States interest rates and this will benefit the emerging market currencies as a whole,” the analyst said.

AirAsia new planes delivery to be completed by 2028

KUALA LUMPUR — AirAsia, which announced that it had placed an order with Airbus SAS for 100 A321neo aircraft, expects delivery of 10 aircraft annually as from 2019.

The deliveries will be fulfilled by 2028.

Based on the published price of US$125.7 million (RM496.5 million) per aircraft, the order could worth US$12.6 billion but the actual invoice price could be much lower after the discount.

TA Securities yesterday maintained “Neutral” on AirAsia, saying on aircraft purchase or upgrade has been a business practice in the industry for an airline to stay competitive.

“We reiterate ‘Sell’ recommendation on AirAsia with unchanged target price of RM2.76, based on nine times 9x CY17 EPS,” said the research firm.

“At this junction, we assume that the delivery of new A321neo in 2019 to be used to replace those older aircraft.”

“No change to our FY16-18 earnings projections. The new order will not affect our capex assumption as the delivery will take place in 2019,” said TA Securities.

“We continue to see imbalance risk-return trade off which foreign funds may switch to cheaper airline stocks in the region amid the political and economic uncertainty in Malaysia,” it said.

On Wednesday, AirAsia said it signed a firm agreement to buy 100 A321neos in a deal that swells its already-record order tally for Airbus’s single-aisle family to 575 aircraft, 170 of which are already in the fleet.

Asian carriers are making the running at Farnborough as economic growth spurs demand for new routes and extra frequencies. The trend is prompting low-cost operators that have already amassed large order backlogs to add even more planes, with India’s SpiceJet Ltd also weighing an order for as many as 100 Boeing 737s or Airbus A320s, though it is not certain if a decision can be reached this week.

AirAsia Bhd also said the announcement of a dual listing in Hong Kong is not an option that it is formally considered now and it is not pursuing any new joint venture in China. In a filing to Bursa Malaysia on Tuesday, AirAsia clarified news reports in major newspapers that it was eyeing dual listing on Hong Kong.

“In any event, such an exercise could not be undertaken without the proposal being deliberated by the board or without prior consideration of the various regulatory and commercial aspects on the matter. None of which has been undertaken thus far,” it said.

AirAsia also clarified news that it was mulling a joint venture in China. It said from time to time, the low-cost carrier received proposals to establish airline joint-ventures in various jurisdictions.

Why women are winning at political game

NOW that two of the world’s five biggest economies — Germany and the United Kingdom — are headed by women, and the biggest one of all, the United States, has a woman front-runner in its presidential election, the glass ceiling in politics can probably be declared broken, and it is time to consider what kind of change this brings to the world.

The overall statistics of female leadership do not look particularly encouraging. There are fewer women heads of government today than there were last year. Not even five per cent of government leaders are women. Yet they are winning where it matters: If there was a way to weigh women’s influence by the might of the countries they run, the US, Germany and the UK would swing the balance in their favour.

It’s infinitely harder for women to break through to the top in big, fiercely competitive democracies than in smaller countries like the Nordics and the Baltic states, which have provided most female government leaders in recent years. And it’s doubly hard for a woman to reach high office in a country with a conservative Catholic tradition like Poland — where Beata Szydlo is currently prime minister.

Adding to the collective clout of Merkel, May and, potentially, Clinton, some important nations that aren’t run by women have women strategically placed one day to take over the leadership of governing parties or win high office as strong opposition figures.

In the UK, presumptive Prime Minister Theresa May won the position after another woman, Andrea Leadsom, dropped out of the race for Conservative Party leadership.

In Germany, Julia Kloeckner is seen as a potential successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel, as is Ursula von der Leyen, the current defence minister. In Portugal, Assuncao Cristas is the first woman to lead the conservative party and the face of the country’s center-right opposition. In Spain, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria has long been Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s second in command. Though she is seen as a technocrat rather than a politician, she has been indispensable to the centre-right Popular Party. In the UK, Angela Eagle is a contender for the top post in the Labour Party, and the Scottish Nationalist Party is run by Nicola Sturgeon, who may yet preside over another Scottish bid to leave the UK.

Women, of course, have attained political heights before, but many of those were from political families or clans that were part of their countries’ business elite. The current generation of leaders is different. Merkel and May are the daughters of pastors. Clinton’s father was a small businessman. Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo comes from a miner’s family. Most of the opposition figures do not have an elite background, either — Kloeckner’s family are vintners, Eagle and Sturgeon come from working-class stock. Von der Leyen was perhaps the only one born into the political establishment. Her father was a senior eurocrat.

Some common characteristics of past women leaders still hold, though. Women of high political attainment tend to have few children. May, Merkel, Sturgeon, Kloeckner and Eagle have no children, Clinton and Saenz de Santamaria have one child each. Szydlo has two. Cristas and von der Leyen are exceptions, with four and seven kids, respectively.

The most striking similarity among the current crop of women leaders, however, is that they are mostly conservative, non-ideological and compromise-oriented. May is a star example: She was a mild supporter of the “Remain” camp but is willing to make a success of Brexit. Merkel, Szydlo, Saenz de Santamaria, Clinton — all of them are known for being flexible, versed in the workings of political machines and skilled, common-sense negotiators. No firebrands. Even Eagle, far from being a political conservative, has a Blairite past that some Labour supporters begrudge her. She served in the Blair and Brown governments, and she voted for the
Iraq war.

This seems to support the (disputed) stereotype that women are more risk-averse than men. None of the current women leaders is a habitual risk-taker — Merkel surprised everyone last year when she threw Germany’s doors open to refugees, but even that wasn’t a political gamble but rather a moral imperative for the preacher’s daughter, who has since used her formidable political skills to scale back the initial generosity. That might explain why women have finally reached the top of the political hierarchy in some of the world’s most powerful nations, but not the top positions in the world’s biggest companies. Just as among world leaders, fewer than five per cent of S&P 500 chief executives are women — but not one of them leads a top-10 company by market capitalisation.

Risk is more acceptable in business, and it is often required to stay at the top. In politics, especially in these contentious times, the ability to try for consensus and settle for a compromise is a more essential skill. Clinton has stressed this during her campaign while uncompromising Bernie Sanders was her rival. Merkel has proved to be an unsurpassed master of the deal which imposes equal pain on all sides; she’s not loved for it, but arguably, nobody else would be as effective. May is known for being steadfast and even stubborn, but her very rise is based on a compromise, and her career depends on making it work.

Empathy and flexibility, in various combinations, are the qualities that have helped these women beat men at their own game. They haven’t shown much flash or charisma, but they’ve been practical, resilient, patient.

These qualities are not essentially or universally feminine, of course, and nor are risk-aversion and a lack of showmanship. There are different paths to success for women. Virginia Raggi, who recently became Rome’s youngest ever mayor and who is seen as a threat to establishment politicians such as Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (who ran a smaller city before taking top office), is as charismatic as they come, and she’s a populist from the irreverent Five Star Movement. Marine Le Pen, the scourge of France’s political elite, is a rabble-rouser and a risk-taker who loves a scrap.

The general rule, though, appears to be that women are called on to lead when division is too bitter and men are prone to turning every discussion into a contest of wills. Merkel, May, Clinton are tough women — but they prioritise getting the job done. — Bloomberg

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Palliative care for more than just cancer patients

In a medical ward, Mat, a 59-year-old man with advanced lung cancer sits up in his bed. He has just had a course of radiotherapy for his cancer and is feeling some pain in his chest as well as feeling breathless.

On Mat’s left is a 64-year-old man with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a condition he has had for many years and getting worse. He is breathless with very minimal effort and his regular medication is not working as well as it used to.

To Mat’s right is a 47-year-old man who is in the hospital for the fourth time this year because of frequent shortness of breath and chest pains. Five years ago, he was diagnosed with heart failure and is struggling with the symptoms.

During the ward round, the doctor in charge spoke to all three of them about their illness and made some suggestions.

The next day, a palliative care physician came to the ward and spoke to Mat. The patient was asked how the cancer was affecting him, what symptoms were most troubling and what were the most important things that could make his life better. He was asked what he had been told, what he understood about his illness and where he wanted to be cared for.

Options for care were discussed and a plan agreed, together with Mat’s doctor.

With a few changes in his medication, Mat felt less breathless and pain was now hardly a problem. He was happy and plans were made for him to go home. A community palliative care service was contacted and Mat would continue to be supported by a community team, which included professional nurses and doctors, equipped with medications and available for emergency support.

After Mat left the ward, the other two patients looked at each other and asked their physician about palliative care. They said all of them had problems with breathing and wondered whether palliative care might also be useful for them. “What about me?” they asked their doctor.

Although much of the early emphasis of palliative care was for cancer patients, such care is appropriate for many other illnesses.

As palliative care focuses on the symptoms associated with life-threatening illness and works well with patients where their primary physician continues to provide disease modifying treatment, more and more such patients could benefit from palliative care.

There is an increasing body of evidence for the benefit of palliative care treatment for patients with HIV/ AIDS, various organ failures, motor neuron disease and Alzheimer’s disease. In some hospitals in other countries, there are specific palliative care services for such diseases.

Both the World Health Organisation’s Global Atlas of Palliative Care at the End of Life 2014 and Hospis Malaysia Palliative Care Needs Assessment 2016 illustrate the scope of illnesses that can benefit from palliative care.

Despite this, in Malaysia, very few patients with diseases other than cancer are referred for palliative care. Many palliative care services themselves are also hesitant to accept such patients.

Improving the standards and competency of palliative care services should improve access to its care.

Palliative care should never be a “luxury” option for cancer patients.

Dr Ednin Hamzah is Hospis Malaysia chief executive officer

Give ‘Cinderella’ or ‘Rapunzel’ helping hand

THE United States’ office to monitor and combat trafficking in persons in its 2015 report retained Malaysia on its Tier-2 watch list ranking. This ranking means that based on the Trafficking Victims Protection Act 2000 (a US law), “Malaysia does not meet the minimum standards but is making significant efforts to do so”.

While the debate will rage on as to whether the ranking was too high, too low or just right, what often seems to be more problematic is that people do not know what human trafficking is.

Is a human trafficking victim the same as a refugee? Does it involve undocumented migrants? How about stateless people? Is it about sex slaves? Is it about prostitution or forced begging? What is the connection with holding or confiscating domestic workers (maids) passports? Is it the same or is there a link with people smuggling? These are just some questions and interrelated issues which blur the lines.

The Anti-Trafficking of Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007, our law, states that “trafficking in persons means all actions involved in acquiring or maintaining the labour or services of a person through coercion, and includes the act of recruiting, conveying, transferring, harbouring, providing or receiving a person for the purposes of this Act”.

Is that clear? I suspect for most people it is not.

Instead of all those words, may I suggest a working definition; human trafficking is where and when a perpetrator uses force, fraud or coercion to control a victim to obtain labour, services or human organs.

Even though this is such a simple definition, most of us will not be able to use it to identify a victim of human trafficking until we have a clear picture or example in our mind. One of the best sources of mental pictures can be drawn from fairy tales. Let’s use Cinderella and Rapunzel. What do these two characters have in common? The answer is that they were both victims of human trafficking.

I’ll use the working definition and the two stories to illustrate.

In Cinderella’s story, the stepmother and her daughters were the perpetrator who forced Cinderella to be their slave-housekeeper and do everything they wanted without pay. The stepmother benefited from Cinderella’s labour in a situation where Cinderella had no ability to escape.

In Rapunzel’s story, the stepmother was the perpetrator who deceived Rapunzel to make sure that she would not leave the tower. The stepmother could use the magic in Rapunzel’s hair to stay young and beautiful. Rapunzel, without chains or bars, was deceived into believing that her tower was a fortress against evils outside but in reality, it was a jail tower. The stepmother intentionally benefitted from that while Rapunzel remained a slave to these deceptions.

These fairy tales end well with the age old phrase, “they lived happily ever after”. But for the 30 million modern-day slaves worldwide, their fate, at best remains bleak.

How do you spot and help a “Cinderella or a Rapunzel”, the victim in the real world? How do you spot an “evil stepmother” i.e. the perpetrator?

Since most victims of human trafficking in Malaysia are foreign workers, look for these indicators of victimisation; poor physical health, confiscated passports, restriction of movement, compulsory overtime, no rest days or days off.

If you are an employer and want to avoid the risk of being prosecuted for modern-day slavery, do not confiscate passports of workers, do not restrict their movements, do not force or coerce them to work and pay them what is due under the law.

So if you think that there is a “Cinderella or Rapunzel” that needs help, you may call 999 to conduct a rescue or an NGO for help or more information so that they, the victims may have a chance to be free and to “live happily ever after”.

DANIEL LO

SPECIAL OFFICER (HUMAN RIGHTS) TO DATUK PAUL LOW, MINISTER IN THE PRIME MINISTER’S DEPARTMENT

Perpetrators of temple desecration must be punished

I REFER to your report “Task force to probe desecration of temples” (Malay Mail, July 11).

Hindus in Malaysia and worldwide are outraged at the frequent desecration of temples in Ipoh, Penang and Kedah recently.

Rising hate crime assault on religious places of worship has angered the Hindu community, particularly in Penang where there were four cases.

This is causing great concern as it contravenes the freedom of worship as spelt out in our Federal Constitution.

The desecration of the Sri Muneeswarar Temple in Jalan Tengku Kudin reported on July 10 saw three deities damaged.

On July 2, a statue of a Hindu deity in the Dewa Sri Mathuraiveeran Temple in Kampung Sungai Nibong Kechil near Bayan Lepas was defiled and last month, two temples in Penanti, the Sri Dharma Muniswarar Temple and Muthu Mariamman Temple, were also vandalised.

On April 24, the desecration of the Sree Muneeswaran Amman Temple in Ipoh resulted in many statues being broken.

The perpetrators must be brought to book and we hope the police’s efforts to track them down will bear fruit. They should be charged under Section 295 of the Penal Code for desecrating a place of worship with intent to insult the Hindu religion.

Malaysia is supposed to be considered a liberal Muslim nation but recent events have painted a very negative image of our country internationally.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has made various attempts to enhance inter-faith dialogue but some religious extremists, without any show of respect for other religions and faiths, are trying to create racial tension. They want to destroy the peace and harmony which the nation had fostered among the various races for the past 59 years.

A distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a recent statement in Nevada in the United States, said that it was shocking for the hard working, harmonious and peaceful Malaysian Hindu community, who had made lot of contributions to the nation and society, to receive such signals of hatred and anger.

C. SATHASIVAM SITHERAVELLU

SEREMBAN

Give Jalur Gemilang respect it deserves

THE flag fiasco where a torn and tattered Jalur Gemilang (Stripes of Glory) was left flying pitiably last Friday from the flagpole at Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur, has left a terrible taste in many mouths.

That it took a Facebook user Regu Natesan to alert Kuala Lumpur City Hall to this dismal state of affairs may be indicative of the lack of attention paid to the national flag by many.

I am sorry that City Hall falls into this category as it allowed an emblem of national sovereignty and pride to flutter high above the city in such a pitiable condition.

We would have expected those responsible for the padang (and flagpole) where Tunku Abdul Rahman proclaimed independence in 1957 to have had a constant eye on the area.

But alas, they did not, and Malaysians and tourists alike failed to view the Jalur Gemilang at the heart of town in all its glory for four days.

Of course, mayor Datuk Mhd Amin Nordin Abdul Aziz was suitably upset in word and demeanour when he turned up on Monday to see the flagpole still missing its flag.

He had promised that it would be hoisted at the wekly flag-raising ceremony at the padang on Monday morning.

The flag-raising that fateful morning was postponed to eight hours later when the contractor responsible for the flagpole (and flag) completed the stitching of the replacement flag.

Mhd Amin has promised to review the contract of the flag supplier who obviously fouled up without a reserve flag in hand despite being paid handsomely for the job.

It remains to be seen if enough has been said by this newspaper and others to prevent a recurrence. We should collectively as denizens of the federal capital wait and see.

The farce continued with the realisation dawning on all that there were no extra flags in store in the event of an emergency when inclement weather wreaked havoc on high-flying flags.

And the mayor took pains to remind us of the vagaries of weather that may inflict damage on the delicate material, twinkling satin (no less), which may be replaced with a sturdier polyester.

Malay Mail took issue with the flag-less pole for no other reason than the Jalur Gemilang representing each and every Malaysian’s citizenship and right to call himself a son of our soil.

It may not have appeared as important to others who may have over time forgotten the significance of the standard-bearer of the sense of national being which came into existence as a symbol of independence.

But why are Malaysians not as perturbed over the condition of the national flag at home as they are when it is disabused abroad by some with an axe to grind against us?

We kick up a row when this happens but maintain a studied silence when the flag is disrespected. The mind boggles.

I dread to think of the state of our national and state flags around the country and the attention, or lack of it, paid thereof.

The federal government and state governments need to carry out a check on these pennants that give us joy and pride when raised in local and international arenas to mark political or sporting landmarks.

All Malaysians come together with one heart when the Jalur Gemilang is raised or the Negara Ku is sung, regardless of race or religion.

When our soldiers who sacrifice their lives here or abroad are given the official honours due them, their coffins are wrapped in the national flag — the highest honour for a Malaysian.

Given the significance of the Jalur Gemilang, it is shocking that some chose to trample on its dignity and honour.

Perhaps, we need to re-read and re-educate the nation on the National Emblems (Control of Display) Act 1949 (Revised 1977) which seeks to protect our national treasures including the flag and national anthem.

The national flag and anthem are sure rallying points for a disparate people torn apart by our ideosyncracies, fears and prejudices.

We can come together as one standing behind our flag and singing the Negara Ku.

For the record, these are the salient features of the Jalur Gemilang.

The Jalur Gemilang comprises a field of 14 alternating red and white stripes along the fly and a blue canton bearing a crescent and a 14-point star known as the Bintang Persekutuan (Federal Star).

The 14 stripes, of equal width, represent the equal status in the federation of the 13 member states and the federal government, while the 14 points of the star represent the unity between these entities.

The crescent represents Islam, the country’s official religion; the blue canton symbolises the unity of the Malaysian people; the yellow of the star and crescent is the royal colour of the Malay rulers.

The original flag, re-designed in 1963 when Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak joined the federation of Malaya, and again in 1965 when Singapore left, had no name.

The name Jalur Gemilang was given in 1997.

Balan Moses, Associate Editor in charge of content development, feels a sense of pride when he comes across the Jalur Gemilang at home or abroad. At a time when Malaysians are being pulled apart, we can come together as one under the national flag and Negara Ku. Moses can be contacted at bmoses@mmail.com.my

Believe it or not, 1968 was worse

ACCORDING to the Chinese Zodiac, 1968 and 2016 are both the Year of the Monkey. But maybe we should call this the Year of the Ghost Monkey of 1968. From the presidential primaries to the convention platform battles to bloody mayhem in the streets, 1968 is the go-to, default metaphor for what we seem to be reliving.

This year, like 1968, is certainly one of bitter conflict and wrenching change. And why is that a surprise? Some things don’t change. A nation of several hundred million people, drawn from all over the world, can never exactly become a peaceable kingdom, a beloved community. Creeds differ, values clash; rival factions, communities and priorities compete.

Harmony would be nice and an end to bloodshed is a goal to which most Americans can subscribe. But bear in mind that it has always been through conflict that Americans have decided who they are as a nation, discarding old assumptions and redefining identity and mission.

I’ve been thinking about one of my favourite 1960s writers, the remarkable Vietnam War correspondent Michael Herr, who died two weeks ago. He covered the Vietnam War for “Esquire” in 1967-68, and his book, “Dispatches,” remains one of the greatest works about that troubled conflict. (Herr also contributed to the screenplays of two iconic Hollywood movies about the war, “Apocalypse Now” and “Full Metal Jacket.”)

“Dispatches” is more than a war memoir, however. It offers genuine insight into American history and the American character. “There was such a dense concentration of American energy there,” Herr wrote of Vietnam in the late 1960s. “American and essentially adolescent, if that energy could have been channelled into anything more than waste and pain it would have lighted up Indochina for a thousand years.”

I can’t think of any other American writer who has managed to pack into one sentence so much love for his country and so much disdain for the folly in which, in that instance, it was engaged.

Another passage in “Dispatches” also came to mind last week. Herr describes the first time he went on a mission with a company of Marines, and ended up caught in a fire-fight, hugging the ground for hours, “listening to it going on, the moaning and whining and the dull repetitions of whump whump whump and dit dit dit, listening to a boy who’d somehow broken his thumb sobbing and gagging, and thinking ‘Oh my God, this thing is on a loop!’”

Here’s last week’s loop: Tuesday, “whump whump whump,” black man in Louisiana pinned to the ground by police officers then shot to death. Wednesday, “dit dit dit,” another black man, this time in Minnesota, shot and killed in the front seat of his car as, his girlfriend said, he tried to produce the driver’s licence demanded by a police officer – she sat in the seat beside him, her young daughter in the back seat. Thursday night, “dit whump dit,” five Dallas policemen targeted and murdered by a vengeful rooftop sniper, seven others wounded. Senseless death of innocent victims, brought home in disturbingly graphic detail via cable news and social media. Is it apocalypse now in the streets of America?

If history is on a loop, are we back in the world of “Dispatches”? Is this 1968 redux? Do we really have to sit through this movie again?

Not likely. Fifty years have indeed changed America. The country is more diverse, ethnically, racially and religiously. There is a far more substantial black middle class than in 1968. (While at the same time the problem of black poverty, and for that matter white poverty, seems more intractable than ever.) Although it’s sometimes hard to remember with all the noise generated by polarising politicians, the United States is more tolerant than it was a half century ago – when the idea that there would someday be a black president seemed impossibly remote, and the notion of gay marriage unimaginable.

In 1968, the nation was still adjusting to the US Supreme Court’s wonderfully named decision “Loving v. Virginia,” issued the previous June, which overturned laws that banned interracial marriage. Until then, nearly one-third of American states had such laws on their books. Today at least 12 per cent of all new marriages in the United States unite interracial couples.

It’s true that the presumptive presidential candidate of the party of Abraham Lincoln wants to make America “great again” by turning back the clock to the imagined splendor of an era of racial and ethnic homogeneity. But come November, after all the shouting and posturing, there will come a great moment of clarity, when the diverse population of America votes.

Speaking of clarifying moments in American history, in his first speech as president in March 1861, the first Republican president of the United States beseeched his fellow countrymen to listen to the “better angels of their nature” and avoid the looming Civil War. That did not, Lincoln assured Southerners, mean the end of slavery, at least in the short run.

His appeal fell on deaf ears. But just two and a half years later, in a November 1863 address at Gettysburg, Lincoln proclaimed a “new birth of freedom”, carrying on and transforming the meaning of the American experiment, in which there no longer was a place for human servitude. And, in doing so, changed the nation.

History was not on a loop in the 1860s.

Nor in the 1960s. In a Memphis church on April 3, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr reflected on the possibility of his own death. He had been nearly killed by a deranged assailant in 1958, and he explained why he was glad to have survived – and not just because he loved life.

“I wouldn’t have been around here in 1960,” King recalled, “when students all over the South started sitting in at lunch counters.” What those students were doing, he said, was making America great again by setting out to challenge and change its injustices: “They were really standing up for the best in the American dream, and taking the whole nation back to those great wells of democracy the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.”

Lincoln and King lived in difficult times, as we do. It is in just such eras that Americans have rediscovered and refashioned the best traditions bound up in our national experience.

Can we resolve in the years that follow the tumultuous election year of 2016 to listen to the better angels of our nature, and turn the dense concentration of American energy away from waste and pain – and use it instead to light our world? — Reuters

Finding a new leader

THE British Conservative Party has a new leader, and the United Kingdom has a new Prime Minister, following the Westminster convention of the individual most likely to command the majority of the members of the House of Commons being invited by the Head of State to form a government.

The speed with which the party decided and rallied behind their new leader was quicker than expected — it took less than three weeks between David Cameron announcing his desire to resign on June 24 to Queen Elizabeth appointing her 13th Prime Minister, Theresa May. Originally, several rounds of votes among Conservative MPs were to select two candidates for consideration by the wider party membership, but instead, after the first round of voting, a series of withdrawals meant that Theresa May was the only candidate standing.

By contrast, in the UK opposition Labour Party there will now — after weeks of dissent from Labour MPs against their party leader — be a formal leadership election as two candidates have declared their intention to replace Jeremy Corbyn. But even getting to that stage has led to bitter infighting in the party over the rules of the contest — specifically, whether the incumbent should automatically be on the ballot paper, and how long a person needs to have been a party member to vote. The United Kingdom Independence Party is also looking for a new leader.

Of course, the implications of those party leadership contests are less profound since they won’t result in a new Prime Minister. And indeed, there has been disquiet about May’s “coronation”. If her final opponent in the party leadership contest had not withdrawn, there would have been a ballot of 150,000 members of the Conservative Party which would have given the winner a greater legitimacy as leader.

More fundamentally, some argue that an internal party election is no way to select de facto the most powerful executive post in the country. Regardless of Westminster convention, many are saying that until May holds a general election and wins her “own mandate”, her democratic legitimacy will be questioned.

Ironically, since 2011 it has been more difficult for a Prime Minister to decide the timing of an election: whereas before the Prime Minister could ask the monarch to dissolve parliament at any time, the Fixed-term Parliaments Act requires parliamentary approval before the Prime Minister recommends the monarch
to do so.

In Malaysia however, the timing of an election (if before the maximum constitutional limit) still largely lies in the Prime Minister’s hands, as long as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong consents to it — and the same logic applies at the state-level too. The historical record shows that some have waited longer than others to call a general election after accepting the top job.

Whatever controversies, accusations, investigations, revelations or petitions might be ongoing against a Prime Minister or Chief Minister within their party or country, the decision to call an election or whether or not to resign are still very much theirs to make.

Intriguingly, when Tunku Abdul Rahman resigned the premiership in favour of Tun Abdul Razak, he did not relinquish the post of party president simultaneously.

Thus, Tun Abdul Razak has the unique record of having been Prime Minister of the country before becoming the leader of his party: establishing the precedent in Malaysia, one can “command the confidence of the majority of the members of the Dewan Rakyat” without being the leader of the largest party.

Meanwhile in the United States, the process of finalising presidential candidates for the two main political parties has still not completed, months after the first primaries. It may seem much slower and cumbersome than how the Brits have installed a new Prime Minister, but the difference shows that countries can adopt unique practices and processes as a result of their histories, institutions and founding ideologies which nonetheless are broadly accepted by the majority of the population: the process of finding a new leader is
deemed legitimate.

And so, in the UK Conservative Party leadership contest, the method of selecting the next leader was clear. The stakeholders had confidence in those overseeing and operationalising the transition, such as the Chairman of the Conservative Party’s 1922 Committee (consisting of the party’s backbench Members of Parliament). And those outside the party also knew what these rules were, and did not try to reinterpret or usurp them.

I fear that in Malaysia, consensus even on the rules is lacking, especially when figures cite arguments entirely outside the constitution of the country — let alone the rules of political parties — when commenting on the circumstances in which their leaders can be changed.

Tunku Zain Al-’Abidin is Founding President of IDEAS

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