I ashamed to be a Malaysian

July 19, 2016

I ashamed to be a Malaysian

At one time, it was the in-thing for government supporters to say that Malaysia was better than many Third World countries and we should be grateful for that. The joke now is we are directly comparable to some corrupt Third World regime out there.

The joke hurts because it is true in a substantive way. All those joking jabs are no longer petty. It saps our pride away.I know who to blame for that. I put the blame squarely on the Prime Minister and 1MDB. They are an acute source of embarrassment for me.–Hafiz Noor Shams

by Hafiz Noor Shams


I think I am well-exposed to foreigners’ opinions about Malaysia beyond the editorial stance of various foreign newspapers. I have friends of diverse national origins and I work for a global organisation where many of my colleagues are not Malaysians. I keep in touch with them regularly and so I get to learn of their personal and professional views about the country.

najib razak

President Barack Obama shakes the hand of Malaysia’s Most Corrupt Prime Minister–How could you be so wrong, Mr. Obama!

Everybody has an opinion. But do they know Malaysia? They might be able to tell you where it is on the map. They would know the Petronas Twin Towers. They might know who Mahathir Mohamad or Anwar Ibrahim is.

But if you dig a little deeper you will realise most of them usually do not track our news closely. Sure, they would remember reading some odd news like how naked hikers supposedly angered the spirits up on Mount Kinabalu. Sometimes, some third-rated politicians — even ministers — would say the darnedest thing and make it to the news.

These friends and colleagues would turn these trivial snapshots of Malaysian life into joking jabs at me. I would not protest too much as these embarrassing episodes would pass quickly. These kinds of news are light reading of no real consequence written to amuse the world on a slow news day.

But something more serious and lasting is hogging the headlines of some of the world’s finest newspapers in the past few months. Our prime minister and his troubled brainchild 1MDB are regularly mentioned in the context of corruption and power abuse across the world. As the Prime Minister’s reputation is left in tatters, so too is Malaysia’s.

Foreigners are becoming more aware of the grave trouble besetting Malaysia. A London colleague told me his unsophisticated English mother living all the way up north in Newcastle had begun asking about 1MDB and Najib. That is a sign of how widely known the corruption scandal is.

My friends from abroad have also begun asking me about the situation here. The questions asked make me feel ashamed of being a Malaysian.

Not too long ago, I always felt a little bit proud talking about Malaysia. We have achieved so much over the years. I sensed a kind of economic optimism that might even match the 1990s boom years. Socially, politically and economically, I felt we were almost there with the challenges ahead of us very surmountable. As a member of that generation who sang the song Wawasan 2020 at the top of our lungs every Monday morning during our school assembly, “there” was well within our lifetime.

Sadly, that optimism is fading fast. Whenever I talk about Malaysia today, it is no longer about that country on the cusp of something grander. Instead, I feel like I am referring to a Third World country with its Third World regime where power abuse is common and might is right.

At one time, it was the in-thing for government supporters to say that Malaysia was better than many Third World countries and we should be grateful for that. The joke now is we are directly comparable to some corrupt Third World regime out there.

The joke hurts because it is true in a substantive way. All those joking jabs are no longer petty. It saps our pride away.I know who to blame for that. I put the blame squarely on the prime minister and 1MDB. They are an acute source of embarrassment for me.


17 thoughts on “I ashamed to be a Malaysian

  1. Sad, ashamed and pessimistic? THIS is what DECADES of reverse discrimination produce? NO WONDER a mediocrity like Najib has done what he has done so badly and getting away with it..The simple matter many other countries have had much tougher challenges with their abusive and corrupt leaders. Najib is nothing and so is the whole lot of UMNO/BN leaders. Even Hadi’s PAS are not that big a deal.

    Malaysia and Malays still have a lot of future – IF IT DECIDES to do so, IF IT WANTS IT AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR IT. BUT IF ITS GOING TO HAND THE RESPONSIBILITY TO SELFISH IRRESPONSIBLE EXCUSE MAKERS AND THEMSELVES EXCUSE MAKERS, yes much will be lost eventually. EVEN THEN, its not impossible to rebuilt if everything is lost. In fact, if the Malays and Malaysian do not make the choice now, these days, then the choice will be made from them. They will have to rebuilt, can be done, but they have to lose first – because they do not want to decide..

  2. Grey in Boleh Land

    Boleh land – Anything Oso Can – Malaysia Boleh!

    I saw somewhere before in a documentary a clip where a local newscaster was interviewing a foreigner (businessman) who had been trading in this region for a very long time on what he thought about corruption in this region and here was his answer:

    Indonesia – black (bad)
    Singapore – white (no corruption)
    Malaysia (Boleh Land) – grey (somewhere in between)

    He said, ‘It’s easy if it is black or white, but when it is grey, it is very confusing!

    Here’s more about corruption in the region and Boleh Land:

    In Indonesia, the practice of corruption is very systematic, one knows who to pay to, how to pay them and after that, whatever he wants is or are delivered. No questions asked.

    In this country, as I said before, it is very confusing because there’s no system.

    One pays someone as he arrives at the payee’s office doorstep and then out come others from all over, from the windows, ceilings, walls and even floors asking for their share otherwise, your file/s will not move.

    Upon leaving the door after he thought that the matter was done, he meets with a queue who appeared suddenly from nowhere outside and had to pay each and everyone of them. Never mind if this is the way, he thought further, but after some months later and after paying a lot of money, whatever he wants and asked for, thinking that he had done everything that he was required to do, are still not delivered.

    So macammanadey, apalagi yang diaorang mahu?

    Maybe Malaysia should have a department known as : The Department of Accepted Corruption and station it at Putrajaya and work hand-in-hand with MACC.

  3. Quote:- “The questions asked make me feel ashamed of being a Malaysian”

    I think he would feel less ashamed if he had asked himself the same questions and provide answers to himself?

    The fact that he requires foreigners to actually ask him embarrassing questions to make him feel ashamed already tells us a lot about him, because it means that if no foreigner ever asked him, he wouldn’t feel ashamed at all?

    Quote:- “I know who to blame for that. I put the blame squarely on the prime minister and 1MDB”

    Yes, all those countless Monday morning school assembly singing has finally come to this.

    Perhaps now is an opportune time for him to ask himself, why and how the present PM and perhaps PMs hereafter can be so utterly despicable as to be an “acute source of embarrassment” to someone who works for “a global organisation”

  4. I jst got to knw fr niece on ‘confusing corruption’ ; she has been driving to work with a car licence obtained 8 mths ago but now wants to ride a bike. Mom bought her a new bike but she needs to get a driving institute (middle man cost) to get her the L-licence instead of getting sch L-licence direct fr JPJ. Her passing of the written (or computer test) not recognised so he has to retake (unnessary cost). Then for bike riding training in the circuit, she must use the old bike (like an old junk, hande stiff etc) of the driving institue, instead of her new bike wch she has been riding on the road in her housing estate; she has to pay RM15 each time she uses this old bike to ride in the circuit. As i said ‘confusing corruption’ + rent seeking of the lowest level

  5. Some countries legalize prostitution, others drug. We should consider to legalize bribe.

    Why not. Malaysia boleh maaaaa?

  6. If najib conspired wit own UMNO guys to siphon off those bills… I think it’s not as worst as conspired wit foreigners to siphon off Malaysia billion.

    Some sort of… U can say it as..a rich kid planning his own kidnapping …just to get more money from his rich father. After getting the ransom money.. He split it wit his conspirator… This thing happen where having stupid son. How silly it is?
    Never expect this coming from a leader of a country..

  7. “The Times” front caption itself is fake, a fraud and nonexistance. Impossible to proceed with any concrete trust based on factual presentations.

  8. Someone asked me would corruption end in Malaysia? My answer was a terse “yes” with a proviso, of course. “when the cursed Umno is history”.

  9. I always made sure that I clarify I am CHINESE with Malaysian citizenship as opposed to “THOSE people”.

    No problem.

  10. You hate Najib so much until you think other people is so stupid too
    That is the character that cause pembangkang never win in Malaysia

  11. As a Canadian I know very little about the current public climate and political discourse of Malaysia but I stand with you in your hopes for a better country 🙂

    Everyone deserves a free and just society where one can rise up with their friends and family and work together for a common good.

    This is the heart of what it means to be a human in any country/culture.

    Good on you for writing about the subject and drawing attention 🙂

  12. Decades of power has entrenched corruption and discrimination into Malaysian society, education, public service, armed forces, industry, commerce and politics.
    Sadly, I doubt there will ever be a broom big enough to sweep out this amount of rot and decay.
    Najib is the product of the system. Hopefully, his sins will act as a beacon for reform.

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