Personal thoughts of Wan Saiful Wan Jan

IDEAS is recruiting

The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) is recruiting for the positions below. Please click below to find more information about each post.

Chief Operating Officer
Three years since its founding, IDEAS is embarking on an ambitious three-year strategic plan centered around “making markets work for the poor,
underprivileged and the disabled”. We are now looking for a team of high-performing individuals to strengthen the organisation and make this aim a reality. We seek a high-performing, experienced and confident leader to be our Chief Operating Officer to lead the management and delivery of the IDEAS’ strategy and to work closely with the CEO on all organisational matters during this very exciting growth phase.

Manager, Education
Over the next three years, IDEAS intends to strengthen our position to become the organisation that researches and advocates for greater parental choice, competition and accountability in the school system, with particular interest in ensuring that the poor, underprivileged and the disabled are not marginalised as our country moves forward. IDEAS seeks a Manager, Education to develop and lead the strategy, research and management of the organisation’s Education unit. The Manager, Education will play a critical role in delivering IDEAS’ organisational strategy.

IDEAS seeks an Administrator to be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organisation. The Administrator will play a critical role in delivering IDEAS’ strategy by leading the office operations and the organisation of our events.

(It looks like we are still unable to fix the problem with IDEAS’ website. So I am afraid I have to put this advert here. Maybe we should be looking for an IT person soon too!)


Filed under: Freedom & Liberty, Malaysia

IDEAS: GE13 is partially free and not fair.

IDEAS’ website (www.ideas.org.my) has exceeded its bandwith. Unfortunately we do not have the money to pay for a bigger bandwith. So for the time being, I am putting up the GE13 election observation report here, together with our position on the matter. I am sorry for the inconvenience.


Click here to download full report: GE13 Observation Interim 8 May 2013


The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) was accredited by the Election Commission of Malaysia (EC) to observe the
recently concluded 13th General Elections. Our mandate was to observe, record, analyse and report events leading up to GE13, and subsequently recommend ways to improve any weaknesses found. We benchmarked our observation against the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Declaration on Criteria for Free and Fair Elections. We deployed 325 observers to 99 parliamentary constituencies in Peninsula Malaysia and 6 overseas polling centres.

Generally, we found that EC successfully ensured the overall process between nomination day and election day proceeded smoothly without any major glitches. Complaints have been filed about the possibility of phantom voters and the failure of the indelible ink to work as it should.  Both are important issues that must be addressed. However, we position these two issues in the context of the wider lack of trust in the integrity of the electoral roll, instead of simply a weakness of the EC. In order to address the root cause of the problem, serious
attention must be given to improving the integrity of the electoral roll.  This involves improving the integrity of the National Registration Department’s database, which may not be within the EC’s purview.

It is important to examine the events building up to GE13 in order to get a better perspective. Taking a long-term view, we saw that:

1. The media was heavily biased in favour of Barisan Nasional. State-funded media platforms have been abused to project partisan
views to the public.

2. There were doubts about the EC’s impartiality and competency despite their many efforts to improve the electoral system. They were
seen as being part of an already biased civil service.  The fact that EC members repeatedly issued statements that could be construed as
partisan did not help.  Their defensiveness when criticised further angered the public.

3. Trust in the integrity of the electoral roll is low.  This resulted in the public being very cautious when there were reports of
foreigners being flown in, when they saw foreign-looking individuals, or when the indelible ink was seen as ineffective.

4. The Registrar of Societies did not treat all political parties equally, delaying the registration process of non-BN parties.

5. Constituency sizes are too unequal, allowing parties that win many smaller seats to win parliament, despite not commanding popular

6. Financing of political parties is not transparent, resulting in a big lack of clarity about the financial standing of the competing parties.

7. During the campaigning period, government and armed forces facilities were repeatedly used for campaigning purposes during the official campaign period.

8. Racial issues were dangerously exploited for political gains. There were many instances of BN fishing for votes by sowing mistrust
between the Chinese and Malay communities.

Therefore, although the official campaign period and electoral processes may have proceeded smoothly and with minimal major issues,
wider issues that are not within the EC’s purview have built up over the last few years.  These issues conspired against non-BN parties,
therefore creating a very uneven field. Due to these reasons, we conclude that GE13 was only partially free and not fair.


Click here to download full report: GE13 Observation Interim 8 May 2013



Filed under: Malaysia, Politics

Temporary leave from blogging

I feel guilty for failing to update  this blog regularly. But, I  am also finding it rather impractical to continue updating this blog due to the following reasons:

So, let’s call a spade a spade. I might as well admit that it is unlikely I will update this blog until the above arrangements change. Until then, let’s stick to the above channels.

Filed under: Personal

Menjadi ahli Angkatan Amanah Merdeka (Amanah)

Many have asked how they can join Angkatan Amanah Merdeka that was launched by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah yesterday. The process is very simple. Please visit http://member.amanah.my/ and complete the membership form.

Ramai yang bertanya bagaimana untuk menjadi ahli Angkatan Amanah Merdeka yang dilancarkan oleh Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah kelmarin. Proses pendaftaran mudah sahaja. Sila ke http://member.amanah.my/ dan lengkapkan borang pendafaran.


Filed under: Amanah

Angkatan Amanah Merdeka (Amanah)

Banyak pihak yang tertarik dengan berita penubuhan Angkatan Amanah Merdeka (Amanah). Ada juga yang mengatakan bahawa setelah sekian lama menunggu, akhirnya Tengku Razaeleigh Hamzah kini mula bangkit untuk mmenyatakan pandangan, seterusnya memimpin sebuah pergerakan nasional yang sekian lama dinanti-nantikan.

Lihat contoh ulasan di sini:
1. The Star (21 Julai 2011)
2. The Malaysian Insider (20 Julai 2011)
3. Free Malaysia Today (19 Julai 2011)
4. Malaysia Today (19 Julai 2011)
5. Abnmulya blog
6. Sayuti Omar Blog

… dan banyak lagi.

Kebanyakan ulasan ini adalah berdasarkan kenyataan yang saya keluarkan untuk menjemput media ke majlsi pelancaran Amanah pada Jumaat 22 Julai di Memorial Tunku Abdul Rahman. Saya tampalkan kenyataan tersebut di bawah.

Keahlian Amanah terbuka kepada semua individu, tanpa mengira kaum atau agama. Kami tidak mengira parti politik mana yang anda sertai, tetapi kami mengalu-alukan semua individu yang berkongsi keyakinan terhadap Amanah Merdeka Bapa Malaysia seperti yang dinyatakan di bawah. Secara kebetulan visi ini rupanya dikongsi oleh mereka daripada pelbagai latarbelakang politik.

Maka barisan kepimpinan yang akan diumumkan esok di majlis pelancaran akan terdiri daripada tokoh-tokoh veteran daripada pelbagai latarbelakang. Pihak media banyak yang terlalu menekankan kepelbagaian latar belakang politik ini, sehingga ada yang memberi gambaran seolah-olah di dalam Amanah akan ada wakil-wakil setiap parti politik. Ini tidak tepat.

Sudah pasti kami mengalu-alukan setiap tokoh daripada pelbagai parti. Saya gembira kerana media memberikan penekanan terhadap penyatuan pelbagai parti kerana ini melambangkan betapa mereka sendiri sudah muak dengan politik kepartian yang melampau yang kini semakin meluas. Tetapi yang lebih penting bagi Amanah ialah komitmen terhadap Amanat Merdeka Bapa Malaysia. Bukan keahlian dalam parti A atau parti B atau perwakilan “rasmi” daripada parti itu dan ini, seperti yang digambarkan oleh beberapa laporan media.

Ramai juga yang bertanya siapa lagi yang akan mengepalai Amanah. Semua ini akan diumumkan esok.

Kami menjemput semua individu untuk sama-sama menyertai Amanah. Saya amat berminat untuk bertemu mereka yang mahu mengusahakan penubuhan Amanah peringkat negeri atau kawasan.

Borang keahlian akan mula diedarkan esok di majlis pelancaran. Laman web kami juga akan mula beroperasi secepat mungkin.

Semua pembaca juga dijemput untuk hadir ke majlis pelancaran esok (maklumat lanjut di bawah)


Kenyataan asal yang saya keluarkan pada 19 Julai kepada media untuk menjemput mereka membuat liputan majlis pelancaran Amanah:

Dear all,

I am pleased to let you know that YBM Tengku Tan Sri Razaleigh Hamzah will launch his new organisation – Angkatan Amanah Merdeka (Amanah) – on:
Date: Friday, 22 July 2011
Time: from 9.30am
Venue: Auditorium, Memorial Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, Jalan Dato Onn, Kuala Lumpur

YBM Tengku Tan Sri Razaleigh Hamzah, as Founding President of Amanah, will deliver a keynote speech at this event.

We cordially invite you to cover this event. An invitation card is attached.

For further information, please contact:
Puan Khatijah (03 2148 5655)
Encik Vinesh (017 201 4507)
Encik Lukhman (012 204 6746)

The purpose of Angkatan Amanah Merdeka, or, in short, Amanah, is: “To reaffirm, to inculcate and to re-ignite the sense of togetherness and true family spirit that prevailed among all Malaysians during the time of our common struggle for national independence.”

We believe that it is important to revive the legacy of “AMANAT MERDEKA BAPA MALAYSIA” in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Constitution of Malaysia.

Tunku Abdul Rahman’s “Amanat Merdeka Bapa Malaysia” reads:

“If we really want to come together as a family and live under one roof called Malaysia, we must be sincere with one another – Malay, Chiense, Indian, Dayak, Kadazan, Siamese and others – Muslims, Budhists, Hindu, Christian, etc”

“If we are sincere then we cannot say anything that will hurt one another. We cannot also do anything that will hurt each other.”

“As sincere members of one family we must always be there to help one another. The rich must help the poor and the succesful must help the unfortunate. Only then can we become one people and a country that is united and strong. Everyone will be happy. Only then will Malaysia be respected by the world”

The mission of Amanah:

1. To rekindle the legacy, promise and ideals of Bapa Malaysia and the Founding Fathers so that all Malaysians may live together as members of a truly just, fair, progressive, united and happy national community

2. To earnestly acknowledge, affirm and respect the sovereignty of the constituent states of the Malaysian Federation, consistent with the principles of federalism, consistent with democratic principles and in true spirit of the Constitution

3. To ensure that our national institutions respect and uphold the rule of law, democratic principles, rights and universal values.

4. To support a government and administration that is:
– transparent and accountable,
– truly competent and efficient,
– free of corruption and cronyism,
– clean and honest,
– fair and trustworthy,
that will be fully able to serve its functions and meet its responsibilities, freely and fairly. An administration that will always be mindful of the rights and interests of the people in whose name and cause it is appointed to serve.

5. To promote the socioeconomic well-being of the people, so that all Malaysians may enjoy truly advanced, progressive, fair and equitable lives — individually upholding filial piety and other noble values and collectively joined together in sincere family kinship as members of our national community and as stakeholders in our common national destiny.

6. To support an economic policy that will help achieve and sustain a high standard of living for the people, based on the principle of justice, fairness and balance, consistent with the constitution and under a stable monetary condition.

Yours sincerely,
Wan Saiful Wan Jan
Amanah Central Committee Member

Filed under: Freedom & Liberty, Malaysia

Prime Minister Najib meets Queen Elizabeth II

Prime Minister Najib meets Queen Elizabeth II on 14 July 2011.

Picture from The Sun. I noticed that it was removed at 12.44am, and then added back at 12.50am. So, I thought best if I just post it here in case it is removed again.

Filed under: Britain, Malaysia

Principles before partisanship

It has been a while since I updated this blog. That’s because all my writings are already posted on http://www.ideas.org.my. But I really should try to update this every so often.

Last week my article below (and here) was published in The Star (iPad edition). The responses I received were divided – those who are already partisan said that the piece is too idealistic, while those who are not partisan suggested that they understood where I was coming from.

Let me provide two illustrations on how things could be if we had more people who hold stringly to their principles BEFORE entering politics.

Example 1: Check out Mark Pritchard’s video here (the first video).

Example 2: Check out this article by Tim Montgomerie.

In both instances we have Conservative MPs standing up fighting for what they believe is right. Can you imagine any Malaysian MP doing it in Dewan Rakyat? I can’t. Not from BN. Not from Pakatan. Not from UMNO. Not from PAS.

Many political activists in Malaysia are simply visionless and spineless, the only thing they know is to follow blindly what their masters say.

Principles before partisanship
By Wan Saiful Wan Jan, for The Star iPad edition, 22 June 2011

My diary has been extraordinarily full over the last few weeks. On average I took part, either as a speaker or moderator, in three or four events every week. I can make two observations from these engagements.

First, too many things have been turned into a partisan debate. I don’t mind when issues are ‘politicised’ because we can hardly avoid politics. It plays an important role in almost every aspect of our lives.

The price of teh tarik mamak is influenced by the politics around sugar subsidies. The quality of teachers in schools is dependent on the politics around teacher placement. And how much we pay for our iPads is subject to the politics around import duties and taxation. So, I don’t mind debating politics. It is part of life.

But the problem arises when politics is confused with partisanship. Partisanship has become so bad, such that we can’t even have a healthy political debate anymore. How many times have you heard a debate ending with “Of course you will say that, you support party X”? That is the best way to end a debate without solving the issue. It does not contribute to healthy debate culture.

Second, too many people think that the only way to solve problems is by entering partisan politics. They feel that joining a political party is a must, otherwise you might as well shut up. Hence we see droves of very clever youths joining political parties, hoping that they can solve problems from within a partisan environment.

What they don’t realise is that they cannot solve a structural problem by becoming part of the problematic structure. Instead, they eventually become partisan too. They obediently choose their party above rational thinking and reasoning. Defending the parties that they support takes precedence over the truth. They will vote regardless of whether the party offers good or bad policies.

Take for example the issue of ethnic discrimination policies in Malaysia. I see so many people who, in their university years, talk about the need to end racial and religious discriminations. They thought that in order to end it, they must join a political party. Soon after joining a party, they start thinking about how best to attract the “Malay votes” or “Chinese votes” or “Muslim votes”.

Lo and behold these aspiring youths eventually become a cog in discriminatory political machines that they wanted to destroy in the first place. They joined intending to be part of the solution, they end up being part of the problem.

The two actually feeds into each other, producing a viscious cycle. We turn issues into a partisan debate, and we ourselves willingly become partisan. As a result we see more things along a partisan divide, and we call for more people to divide themselves according to how political parties view issues.

It is about time we find a way out from this viscious cycle.

I was invited to speak at an event organised by the Bangi branch of Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM) last Sunday and I suggested that they must avoid the urge to join any political party. Instead, they should focus on strengthening civil society.

I reasoned that we have allowed political parties to trample over civil society for too long. Political parties have vested interest. Their sole ambition is power. Civil society organisations are supposed to have principles that act as a mechanism for check and balance against politicians. Civil society should not become agencies of politicians or political parties.

In a country like Malaysia where political parties are huge, the check and balance mechanism is even more important.

I have seen so many organisations and individuals ending up as mouthpieces of political parties and politicians even though they claim to be part of the civil society. Worse still, there are some entities who masquerade as civil society organisations, when, in reality, they were set up by political parties to lie and deceive the populace in the guise of an NGO. This is truly despicable.

It is as if we have allowed politicians to shape the agenda and we merely follow. If this trend continues, civil society in Malaysia has a bleak future.

We call our elected representatives “Wakil Rakyat” for a very good reason. They are there to represent us, as our “wakil”. We are the ones who appoint them, pay their salaries, and determine whether or not they should continue in office. Why do we allow them to be our masters?

The inversed relationship is wrong and must be corrected. It is civil society that is supposed to shape the political landscape. We should have our own principles with which we influence the political debate and politicians. Politicians are supposed to follow our lead, and we must reclaim the right to lead.

Filed under: Malaysia, Politics

Forum Generasi Muda

I spoke and then chaired a session at Forum Generasi Muda organised by Ministry of Youths and Sports & ISIS yesterday, in Seremban. It was a very interactive crowd. Many stood up to speak their minds, and they didn’t mince their words.

Well done to the organisers.

Filed under: Malaysia, Personal

Sang Pencerah – a story of the founder of Muhammadiyah

In a phone conversation with Dr Asri Zainal Abidin yesterday afternoon, he suggested that I watch ‘Sang Pencerah”. I did so last night.

This turned out to be a beautiful movie about Kiyai Haji Dahlan, founder of the reformist movement Muhammadiyah, advocate of ijtihad and knowledge-based reasoning, campaigner against blind-following and blind-obedience of religious scholars.

Best quote: When a group of would-be students said that usually they learn merely by listening to what the teacher says, Ahmad Dahlan said: “Jadi yang pintar hanya guru ngajinya? Muridnya hanya mengikuti gurunya? Pengajian di sini, kalian yang menentukan. Dimulai dari bertanya”. (minute 20.05)

Filed under: Freedom & Liberty, Personal

The structure of libertarian thought

Filed under: Freedom & Liberty


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