Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Bangi and Assistant Political Education Director for the Democratic Action Party (DAP) on the 1st of February, 2021

Is Malaysia in danger of being the new ‘sick man’ of South East Asia?

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Philippines was known as the ‘sick man’ of Asia because of its poor economic record and unwillingness of foreign companies to invest in the country under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. Even after the fall of Marcos in 1986, it took the Philippines decades before foreign investors returned to the country. Is Malaysia in danger of going down the same path and be seen as the new ‘sick man’ of Asia in the 2020s because of political ineptitude and the inability to manage the COVID crisis under the Perikatan Nasion (PN) government?

The inability of the PN government to manage the 3rd wave of COVID cases has resulted in the 2nd Movement Control Order (MCO) at the start of 2021. At the same time, new data has emerged which shows a significant decline in foreign investor confidence in Malaysia. According to the January 2021 issue of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), it was reported that FDI inflows to South East Asia fell by 31% to US$107 billion in 2020. While a fall in FDI inflows into the region in 2020 was not surprising given the impact of the COVID pandemic, what was shocking was the fact that FDI inflows to Malaysia fell by 68% compared to Singapore (-37%), Indonesia (-24%), Indonesia (-10%) and Thailand (-50%). FDI into the Philippines, no longer the sick man of Asia, actually rose by 29% in 2020.[1]

These figures are ACTUAL FDI inflows to the respective countries unlike the FDI figures announced by the Minister of Finance, Tengku Zafrul, earlier this year, which are only approved investments and not realized investments.

Malaysia’s poor performance in terms of actual FDI inflows in 2020 was reported by many local publications and would no doubt have been picked up by the foreign press. At the same time, reports on some multinational companies moving their regional Headquarters (HQs) out of Malaysia to places like Indonesia have also created the image that Malaysia is no longer an attractive place for foreign investors. These reports play in a part in building the larger narrative that Malaysia is lagging behind our neighbours on many fronts – not being able to manage the COVID crisis, plagued by political instability, having an incompetent cabinet and flip flopping on government policies in ways which damage the business environment.

While these negative reports have been circulating for the past week, the Minister of International Trade and Industry (MITI) have not issued any statements to address this issue or to counter this negative narrative which is plaguing the country’s image domestically and internationally. Just as he was inept at managing his portfolio when he was the Minister of Economic Affairs (MEA) in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, he is proving himself equally (if not more) inept in his current responsibility as MITI Minister. With this kind of economic and political leadership under the PN government, it would not be surprising if Malaysia finds itself being labelled as the new ‘sick man’ of Asia.


[1] https://unctad.org/system/files/official-document/diaeiainf2021d1_en.pdf

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Bangi and Assistant Political Education Director for the Democratic Action Party (DAP) on the 22nd of January, 2021

The National Security Council (NSC) failed the country in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in allowing inter-state travel in December 2020 when the “percent positive” testing rate for the virus was over 5%

On the 18th of January, 2021, I published a list of 10 COVID-19 related questions directed to the Director General (DG) of Health, Tan Sri Dr. Noor Hisham.[1] One of the questions I asked was whether the DG would publish the Rt Values by state so that the public can know the projected COVID-19 trends for each state and also how the Rt value can be used to determine when the current MCO 2.0 can be lifted for each state. I would like to thank the DG for publishing the latest Rt values by the state yesterday, on the 21st of January, 2021.[2] These projections show that the number of daily COVID-19 could reach 8000 cases by the end of March 2021 if the Rt value remains at 1.1 for the entire country.

Apart from the Rt value, we should also focus on the daily “percent positive” rate of COVID-19 tests. I also called for this figure to be revealed nationally and by state. Although the positive testing rate is not published publicly by the Ministry of Health (MOH), these figures are provided to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and subsequently published in the “OUR WORLD IN DATA” website.[3]

Why is the daily “percent positive” rate an important measure? According to experts at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the percent positive is a critical measure because it gives us an indication how widespread infection is in the area where the testing is occurring—and whether levels of testing are keeping up with levels of disease transmission.“[4] How should we interpret this “percent positive” figure? What levels should be considered too high?

According to the WHO, the threshold of “percent positive” is 5%. Only when this figure drops to less than 5% should a government relax existing public health measures put in place to control the spread of COVID-19. On the 21st of January 2021, CodeBlue reported that Malaysia’s “percent positive” rate has been more than 5% since the 6th of November 2020 and has not dropped below 5% since.[5] (Figures reproduced in Figure 1 below) Since the “percent positive” rate was more than 5% in the months of November and December, why did the National Security Council (NSC) allow for inter-state travel to take place starting on the 7th of December 2020 under the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO)? Could this have contributed to the spike in the number of COVID cases especially given the high amount of travel to places like Langkawi during the end of the year holiday?

This is another example of the lack of consistency on the part of the National Security Council (NSC) when it comes to public policies in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Decisions to restrict movement and then later increase restrictions do not seem to be based on any consistent rules or guidelines. The Perikatan Nasional (PN) government has once again failed to convince the public that it has a consistent, coherent, and comprehensive plan to control this pandemic.


[1] https://www.facebook.com/ongkianming/posts/3659240927464274

[2] http://covid-19.moh.gov.my/semasa-kkm/2021/01/unjuran-r-naught-12092020-hingga-31052021

[3] https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus

[4] https://www.jhsph.edu/covid-19/articles/covid-19-testing-understanding-the-percent-positive.html

[5]https://codeblue.galencentre.org/2021/01/21/malaysia-under-testing-for-covid-19-since-november/

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Bangi and Assistant Political Education Director for the Democratic Action Party (DAP) on the 20th of January, 2021

Why we need to move away from Trump and Najib

The 20th of January 2021 will mark the end of the tumultuous four years Trump’s presidency. The 9th of May 2018 marked the end of Najib’s kleptocratic prime ministership. The Republican Party and its leadership will not find it easy to move away from Trump and his legacy, just as UMNO and its leadership has not found it easy to move away from Najib and his 1MDB baggage. But for the sake of the party and country, the Republicans must leave the legacy of Trump behind. And for the sake of Malaysia, UMNO and its leaders must move away from Najib and his ignominious 1MDB legacy that current and future generations of Malaysians will continue to pay for many years to come.

Republican supporters of Trump and UMNO supporters of Najib suffer from “denial syndrome”. For the former, they do not want to admit that Trump is a serial liar because admitting this means that they have been fooled by Trump throughout his presidency. Whether it is his lies about the crowd size during his inauguration or saying that the 2020 presidential elections were ‘stolen’ from him, his ardent supporters have to believe his message in totality – hook, line, and sinker – in order to preserve their own credibility.

For the latter, they don’t want to believe that Najib was complicit in the mega-1MDB scandal because to do so means that they were fooled into defending him in the first place when news about this scandal broke out. So they hold on to the myth that Najib took the 1MDB money to help the poor, he took the money to help UMNO leaders in their constituencies, and that he was fooled by the ‘mastermind’ behind this scandal, Jho Low.

For the Republican and UMNO leaders respectively, I suspect that most of them are cognizant of the fact that Trump is a serial liar and that Najib was complicit in the 1MDB scandal. But they dare not say this publicly because this would shatter the ‘myth’ that Trump is really out there fighting for the little guy and that Najib is an honest Prime Minister who wants the best for Malaysia. Other than a few brave souls like Mitt Romney (Republican Senator representing UTAH) and Khairy Jamaluddin, not many leaders from their respective sides have publicly denounced the actions of Trump and of Najib.

For the Republican leaders, some of them may feel beholden to Trump for helping them win their seats in past elections. Trump may have helped raise money for some of them. Many of them probably fear the prospect of being challenged in the Republican primary if they do not show absolute loyalty to Trump.

For the UMNO leaders, many of them would have been ‘helped’ by Najib when he was Prime Minister. Some may feel beholden to him for their current political position. They would also acknowledge that Najib is still a powerful personality and leader within UMNO.

Trump will likely continue to command public attention after his presidency ends. He will find new ways of reaching out to his supporters if he remains banned on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. And he will want to continue to influence his Republican base.

For Najib, he (or rather, his team) is probably the most effective user of social media among all the politicians in the country. His attempts at rebranding himself as “BOSSKU” is well-known nationwide. His Facebook posts continue to receive significant public attention and also news coverage. He is probably the best social media ‘troll’ in Malaysia in his use of social media to cast ‘shade’ against his political opponents. His popularity on social media may be one of the reasons why UMNO leaders still fear him and do not want to offend him publicly.

But it would be a mistake to think that Trump and Najib’s social media popularity translates into majority voter support. While Trump has a very vocal support base, he still lost the 2020 presidential elections by approximately 7 million votes (please check). His popularity would certainly have fallen further after his instigation to his supporters to attack the Capital building in Washington DC on the 6th of January 2021. There will probably be new legal cases filed against Trump after he leaves office and this will serve as a stark reminder of his abuses of power during his presidency.

Najib may still have many supporters on social media but every time he appears in court for a 1MDB related hearing, it is a public reminder that this scandal will follow him for the rest of his life. (Not to mention his wife, Rosmah’s, court appearances in the RM1.25 billion hybrid solar project bribery case) Najib (and Rosmah) would certainly be a political liability for UMNO if he were to play a prominent leadership role in the next general election.

I do not presume to know what is the best way for the Republican party and UMNO to move on from the toxic hold which Trump and Najib have on these parties, respectively. What I DO KNOW is that the future prospects for both parties would be much brighter without the influence of Trump and Najib. And the future of the United States and of Malaysia would be significantly better if both these figures can be marginalized politically in their respective countries. For the sake of America’s democracy, the Republicans and the country need to move on from Trump. For the sake of Malaysia’s future, UMNO and the country need to move on from Najib.