Seminar on “Challenges Facing the New Malaysia”

YBhg. Datuk A. Kadir Jasin, media and communications adviser to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad delivered this seminar at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute on 24 April 2019.


Malaysia in Transition Seminar Series

Wednesday, 24 April 2019 – The results of Malaysia’s 14th General Elections held in May last year were unexpected and transformative. One year on, as the new administration continues to try and deliver its campaign promises and carry out institutional reforms, it is now more important than ever to be mindful of the challenges that lie ahead. In order to shed light on the ruling coalition’s performance and some of the political developments on the ground, the Malaysia Studies Programme at ISEAS organised a seminar featuring YBhg. Datuk A. Kadir Jasin, media and communications adviser to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

From left to right:  Dr Francis Hutchinson, Datuk Kadir Jasin and Mr Choi Shing Kwok. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Following the introductory remarks by Dr Francis Hutchinson, Senior Fellow at ISEAS, Datuk Jasin began his presentation by talking about Pakatan Harapan’s pivotal role in improving the state of Malaysia’s democracy and rule of law, despite having been in power for less than a year. Immediately drawing the audience’s attention to the factors behind the delay in fulfilling the promises made during the election campaign, Datuk Jasin said that it was difficult to undo the former Barisan Nasional government’s six decades long branding. Moreover, the party manifesto had been prepared by young, inexperienced members, without expecting to win the election, he added.

On the topic of hurdles facing the government, Datuk Jasin said that the slow pace of repeal of certain laws could be attributed to the limited number of PH representatives in the upper house of the Malaysian Parliament, which continues to be controlled by BN nominees. To garner more support in the Dewan Negara, PH has been open to the idea of accepting former BN ministers.

Dr Francis Hutchinson and Datuk Kadir Jasin during the seminar on 24 April 2019. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Another reason he cited was the lack of compatibility between the ministers and civil servants. Given that the majority of people who make up the PH coalition used to be in the opposition, there remained a general lack of trust between them and the civil servants, based on prior experience. The government has been constantly striving to smooth out the differences, he further commented.

Additionally, PH, thus far, had not fared well in rural Malaysia where loyalties remained aligned with BN. Nevertheless, Datuk Jasin highlighted the administration’s continued subsidies to the rural poor, who account for a significant share of the country’s population, despite the subsidies being a legacy of the previous BN government.

The seminar was well-attended.  (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

The seminar was 90 minutes long and was attended by an audience of 117 people, including research scholars, students, members of the media and the public. Datuk Jasin also answered their questions on an array of topics, including the political rhetoric surrounding the 1962 Water Agreement between Singapore and Malaysia; bilateral trade relations; and press freedom in Malaysia.