Indonesia and Malaysia need to focus on a ‘soft’ approach to tackle IS support on social media

A government worker removes ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) flags painted on to walls near Veteran Street in Surakarta City, Indonesia, in an attempt to discourage the promotion of the jihadist group in the region, 5 August 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Authors: Stefanie Kam and Robi Sugara, RSIS

In response to the rise in Indonesian and Malaysian fighters joining the extremist Islamic State (IS) group, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur have taken action to criminalise membership. The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the nation’s top Muslim clerical body, also released a statement that it was haram, or forbidden, for Muslims to participate in IS activities. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has also issued a strongly worded statement condemning IS for its actions, which ‘run counter to Islamic faith, culture and to common humanity’. Read more…

Japan’s elderly in Malaysia, like shooting stars in the twilight

Japanese expatriate artist Masami Teraoka, age 78, smiles. Japanese elderly are leaving Japan to enjoy new lives overseas and countries such as Malaysia are offering a special visa to do so. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Shiori Shakuto-Neoh, ANU

With a quarter of the population above 65 years old, Japan has become a ‘super-aged society’. The now retiring members of the baby-boomer generation have enjoyed rapid economic growth in their working lives. They were appreciated as the workforce behind Japan’s internationally acclaimed ‘miracle’ economy. Today, they have retired into a completely different society: Japan is facing a burgeoning deficit as well as the fallout — humanitarian, economic and political — of the 3/11 triple disaster. Read more…

Obama gets down to business in Malaysia

President Barack Obama and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak smile as they participate in a joint news conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Shankaran Nambiar, MIER

President Obama’s two-day visit to Malaysia is a feather in Prime Minister Najib’s cap. But it is a decoration that carries certain obligations given the implications of what Obama has conveyed.

The decision to include Malaysia as part of Obama’s Asia tour was strategically timed since the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is still being hotly debated there. Read more…

On the Malaysian economy, government still thinks it knows best

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak takes a look at the model of the Kuala Lumpur International Financial District, named the Tun Razak Exchange, during its launching ceremony in Kuala Lumpur in July 2012 (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tony Pua, Kuala Lumpur

In 2009, when the Malaysian prime minister first launched the New Economic Model (NEM) the policy was deemed a paradigm shift from a government-dominated economy to one that will be spearheaded by the private sector. Prime Minister Najib Razak famously said, ‘the era where the government knows best is over’.

It was difficult to argue against the thrusts of the NEM Read more…

Can Islamic finance bridge Asia’s infrastructure deficit?

A train moves past skycraper buildings in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Could Islamic finance help finance infrastructure in Asia? (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thiam Hee Ng, ADB

The global Islamic debt securities (sukuk) market has grown rapidly, from just US$15 billion in 2001 to US$281 billion in 2013. This increase has been led by Malaysia, which accounts for nearly 60 per cent of total outstanding sukuk. Meanwhile, Middle Eastern countries account for about 30 per cent. Sukuk bonds still only represent a small portion of Asia’s overall bond market, but there is great potential for the sukuk market to grow and play a key role in helping to finance the region’s large infrastructure requirements. Read more…

Why Beijing shouldn’t worry about Manila’s military upgrades

A dilapidated Philippine Navy ship is anchored off Second Thomas Shoal, locally known as Ayungin Shoal. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Joseph Franco, RSIS

On 28 March 2014 Manila signed a US$420 million contract for the delivery of 12 Korean Aerospace Industries FA-50 aircraft for light surface attack and lead-in fighter roles. The purchase marked the return of the Philippine air force to the jet age. So far, it is the highest point in the Philippines’ gradual build-up of a ‘minimum credible defence posture’, and a recapitalisation of Southeast Asia’s least-capable military with the support of the US. Read more…

Malaysia media reforms take one step forward, two steps back

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak prays with senior party members during a celebration after winning the 13th general elections 6 May 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Eric Loo, UOW

Malaysians are evidently freer today to openly criticise their government than they were prior to 1998.

But fundamental reforms that civil societies had hoped for during the internet-driven Reformasi movement in 1998 and Bersih rallies (in 2007, 2011 and 2012) are wanting.

Instead, Malaysians have a government focused on achieving a high-income developed-nation status by 2020 while eschewing the cultural prerequisites of a normative democracy — freedom of access to public information, free and fair elections, vigilant media and press freedom. Read more…

Don’t miss the fiscal reform season in Malaysia

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak takes a rest during the 9th World Islamic Economic Forum at the ExCeL exhibition and convention centre in London. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Shankaran Nambiar, MIER

For a long time, Malaysian policymakers have tip-toed around the question of budget discipline. But the need for fiscal consolidation is pressing, and although the government has recently announced changes that will help reduce the deficit, it needs to make sure that these reforms don’t hit the middle class unfairly. Read more…

Let the Malaysians eat cake?

Shoppers shop for fruits at a stall in Ampang, in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur on February 3, 2014.  As the government seeks to cut fuel and other subsidies to tackle debt, Malaysians have complained about price increases. Inflation stood at 3.2 percent year-on-year in December, up from 2.9 percent year-on-year in November. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Nurhisham Hussein, Kuala Lumpur

Nearly two and a half centuries ago Marie Antoinette, on hearing the French people were short of bread, supposedly said: ‘Let them eat cake’. It was a callous remark, and became a symbol of the French aristocracy’s isolation from the people they governed, a schism that shortly thereafter descended into the brutality and violence of the French Revolution. Antoinette was also known for her lavish spending, to the point of being known as Madame Déficit, further underscoring the differences between the classes. Read more…

New battle lines in Malaysian politics

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks at a rally in Petaling Jaya, near Kuala Lumpur, on May 8, 2013, to protest the May 5 election that was won by the Najib Razak led 13-party Barisan Nasional coalition. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Yang Razali Kassim, RSIS

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak enters 2014 with one big worry on his mind: how to win — and win decisively — the next general election (GE) that must be called by 2018.

The last one seven months ago on 5 May saw his ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition in its worst victory since 1969 Read more…

UMNO divides Malaysia

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak holds the national flag during the opening ceremony of the UMNO 67th General Assembly in Kuala Lumpur, 5 December 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, Universiti Sains Malaysia

Malaysia is a divided nation.

The grim reality of elusive unity, plagued by ethnocentric and ethno-religious divisions, is underlined by the continual existence of fault lines Read more…

Malaysia’s UMNO elections: democratic reform or political survival?

Malaysia Prime Minister and UMNO President Najib Razak in October 2013 (photo: APEC 2013).

Author: Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, Universiti Sains Malaysia

Najib Razak, Malaysia’s sixth Prime Minister and President of United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the main component party of its ruling Barisan Nasional (BN: National Front) coalition, hailed UMNO’s recent internal elections as heralding a new democratic era for both party and country.

Najib claimed that expansion of the UMNO voter base from about 2500 to nearly 150,000 delegates now — by reaching out to the party grassroots and injecting inclusivity in the internal process of electing party hierarchy — would breathe new life into UMNO. Read more…

Malaysia’s bumiputera debate asks the wrong questions

Protestors wear masks as they gather at a stadium during a rally to protest against the results of the Malaysian general election in Kuala Lumpur on May 25, 2013 (Photo: AAP).

Author: Hwok-Aun Lee, University of Malaya

Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak rolled out his Bumiputera Economic Empowerment Programme (BEEP) on 14 September 2013.

The agenda’s blatant political motives, ethnically exclusive giveaways and the absence of any acknowledgment of past shortcomings or lessons learned delighted his UMNO faithful and Malay nationalist audience. Read more…

No more conflict, but unity remains elusive in Malaysia

Malaysians of ethnic Malays walk cross a street in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, 15 September 2013. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Saturday announced cash aid and a raft of measures to bolster the economic status of ethnic Malay majority, deepening a decades-old controversial affirmative action program (Photo: AAP).

Author: Shamsul A. B., National University of Malaysia

As a pluralistic society characterised by a multitude of diversity that was shaped and consolidated during the colonial era, Malaysia exhibits a great deal of differentiation among its population. Since the end of the Second World War there were a number of times when these contradictions ended in violent conflicts resulting in the loss of lives, the last being in May 1969. Read more…