Is the Malaysia project a non-starter?

August 23, 2016

Is the Malaysia project a non-starter?

by Dr. KJ John

In the Seven (7) Habits series, Stephen Covey’s central thesis is that we must grow or develop habits for growth and development in meaningful and significant ways. He argues that all human or organic systems must first grow from total dependence (and appreciate all its full meanings) to independence or human freedoms, and then, finally and fully appreciate interdependence with others of like-heart and mind. This is also the Hearts and Mind agenda of our NGO.

Full understanding and appreciation of real and true meaning of interdependence must belong to every one of the stakeholders and partners in a shared and common enterprise. It must become a shared vision for posterity; and never to be compromised.

Whether it is the UN or the EU, or even federated states like the US or Malaysia, or our simple OHMSI Sdn Bhd; interdependence properly understood and stewarded defines real and true meanings of the so-called freedom we ‘pretend to enjoy’, it then becomes real ‘merdeka’.

Covey’s 7-Habits

Habit 1: Be Proactive
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Habit 4: Think Win-Win
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
Habit 6: Synergise
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw”

– Stephen R Covey, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’

Malaysia-Land of Beauty

I will try to evaluate our Malaysia project, not simply from a historical perspective, but more importantly from a worldview perspective and see what Covey might be saying to us. Such a perspective puts a very high premium on human values for growth within the ethics and culture of lived life; in seeking to move organic systems from the full dependence towards voluntary and volitional inter-dependence.

The Malaysia project

Malaysia came into existence on September 16, 2016. But, that fact is not clearly taught in history. Not many of us today can change that false reality interpreted today. Before that date we had four independent states called Federation of Malaya, Singapore, and the North Borneo States of Sarawak and Sabah; each with their own unique story about the movement from dependence towards independence and now interdependence.

Rightly or wrongly, for reasons of their own, in August 1965 Singapore chose to leave Malaysia by mutual agreement and consent between the leaderships of Malaysia and the island state. I am not sure if and whether Sarawak and Sabah or the United Kingdom had any direct say in this matter.

Therefore, after a short marriage of two years, Singapore exercised their ‘move from total dependence from the United Kingdom towards independence from the new Malaysia’. They wanted to learn and grow the experience and freedom with true independence.

Sarawak and Sabah may have had views about such a move by Singapore, but I do not know those facts, but they too surely want to experience movement from full dependence towards true independence. And their growth experiences will be surely very different.

Sarawak and Sabah’s self-governance experience

Have the Sarawak and Sabah governments and their political leadership learned true independence and interdependence from their many years as a one-third partner of Malaysia; even as the Malaysia Agreement gave them some clear and separate jurisdictions?

Many of these legal rights and privileges were captured within the revised Federal Constitution of Malaysia and including recognition of their 18 and 20 point submissions. Was there ever consensus on those two documents by the political leadership of Malaysia?

But why therefore, after more than 50 years within Malaysia, do they now put their foot down about Petronas’ governance and staff recruitment strength and raise issues about employment permits? As a public policy person, I am simply wondering loudly.

What have they really learnt about independence, or interdependence, or is it still merely dependence, if anything at all? Or, do these jurisdictional governance regimes feel like, we the Malayans, have thoroughly abused them altogether?

Learning from Covey

In my Pet Theory R, relationships are an important and elemental R. Therefore, building and growing our knowledge about ‘nurturing and growing mature relationships’ using the Covey’s three-step process and applying them to his seven habits for Sarawak and Sabah relationships with Malayans may be instructional:

  • Malaya was proactive in nurturing a relationship with Sarawak and Sabah; Brunei however did not respond in the same way. Why? We still grew Malaysia. Did we ask Indonesia at all?
  • Our end in mind was always National Unity and regional stability; and more recently, we have added words like integration and integrity. I call that agenda: integration with integrity.
  • What is our First Things First? Is it Malaysia, ‘Melayusia’, or ketuanan bumiputra for now or centre versus periphery in governance of lived life and stewardship of resources; including all human beings especially citizens?
  • Do we think win-win every time we have bilateral issues in our relationships concerns? Or, can we really begin to think win-win-win to endure stewardship as the third win for the sake of all human beings?
  • Do we seek to understand before we seek to be understood? I did not understand Sarawakians until I met the Kelabits earlier and now, after I spent 10 days in Baram Valley. Maximus Ongkili, Beth Baikan and Bernard Dompok taught me to learn to understand Kadazans.
  • Have we really learnt to synergise? Why then is the Malaysian Public Service still more than 80 percent made up of peninsular Malays (non-Malays are less than 10 percent I believe)? This issue is reflective of the Petronas case story. Synergy would allow for creating new values; not simply depreciating existing values.
  • Finally, from my experience on the ground, and meeting so many smart and equally ambitious Orang Ulu Sarawak and Kadazans; these questions are my Covey test for all of Malayans to sharpen our saw or ‘tools of execution and evaluation’ so that we can see and learn the real meaning of Malaysian interdependence and not allow it to become a foolhardy project.

KJ JOHN, PhD, was in public service for 32 years having served as a researcher, trainer, and policy adviser to the International Trade and Industry Ministry and the National IT Council (NITC) of the government of Malaysia. The views expressed here are his personal views and not those of any institution he is involved with. Write to him at with any feedback or views.

4 thoughts on “Is the Malaysia project a non-starter?

  1. /// Is the Malaysia project a non-starter? ///
    /// Malaysia came into existence on September 16, 2016. ///

    You answered yourself, Dr John. The Malaysia project is a non-starter. In fact, it has not started yet. It will only come into existence next month on September 16, 2016. Back to the future. Or forward into the past.

  2. Outsyed the Box’s comments on 1Malaysia’s economy under UMNO Baru-BN’s
    gross kleptocratic misgovernance:

    What about Petronas’ reserves position? How much cash reserves does Petronas have? Some people say Petronas cash reserves will run out by end 2017. Without reserves and with Malaysia’s name stinking to high hell, can Petronas borrow money overseas? Dont say I did not warn you.

    The layoffs in the Oil and Gas industry exceeds way above the 1000 staff cut at Petronas. Plenty O&G companies have closed down or laid off staff. The largest group that is affected are bumiputras. I know O&G people who have quit and gone back to the kampong.

    The question is Petronas still has 50,000 staff. How efficient are they vis a vis the industry?

    That LNG investment in Canada has been a disaster. I have been commenting about it for years now – even without any charts or analysts. But most 100% certainly some people have already become very rich, even from that fiasco.

    This is the scariest part :

    Net income fell to RM348m in three months through June
    RM9.1b a year ago, company said Monday
    Revenue slid 21% RM48.4b

    These are very huge drops. That revenue slide is just in three months. At this pace it could reach RM200 billion drop over 12 months.

    The question is the Budget is due again soon. Where is the gomen going to get dividend money from Petronas to fund their corruption and wastage? How are the GLCs (the fake economy) going to sustain their “money is not an objection” gomen handout dependent business models ?

    The gomen and the GLCs are still dishing out the “feel good” tricks to fool the Malays. That everything is hunky dory fine. This includes the fake ‘high income” notions.

    Here is the reality folks. In the real world, graduate engineers and architects earn starting salaries of less than RM2000. Even after three years working experience engineers earn about RM3000 or less. The American multi national giant Intel pays fresh electronic engineers about RM1800 starting salary. This is the reality in the real economy.

    In the fake economy of the GLCs a fresh graduate (non engineering) was paid RM5000 a month !! A fresh graduate ! ! This is a true story ok. The freshie was given a job travelling to the GLCs overseas offices – which had hired “consultants” who were actually doing the real job. After a while the freshie quit – because there was no real work to do. Then the freshie joined the same ‘consultant’. ……….

    …………….. Recently an ex Petronas engineer was interviewing for a job in the real private sector.. He was in the RM5000 a month salary range. But he could not answer basic questions about engineering. He complained that he was a ‘project manager’ and therefore he had forgotten his engineering. This shows you the difference between the GLC economy and the real economy.

    This is the feel good, “high income” economy to dupe the Malays into thinking that everything is hunky dory fine. It is also easier to steal from them when the Malays can be lulled into “feeling good”…………….

    There are 1.6 million civil servants, over 90% of whom are Malays. I think all the GLCs employ about 500,000 people or more – also mostly Malays. (Petronas alone employs 50,000 people). So there are over 2.0 million people, mostly Malays who are in the relatively “high income” type jobs, in relation to their economic output.

    Here is the question : are their wages proportional to the actual economic output vis a vis the real economy aka the private sector economy?

    If yes, then it is very good for the country.
    If no, then the disaster has begun already.

    I have some feedback about the GST too which I am not going to share. Lets see how much GST the gomen collects this year.

    I have said again, again and again the GST is killing the economy. Economic growth has just been killed off by the GST. How long will it take for the morons to figure this out.

    The largest consumer base in this country the Malays are mostly wage earners. Monthly salary earners. Why? Because the NEP has NOT created the BCIC (bumiputra commercial and industrial community). So Melayu semua masih hidup makan gaji dari majikan.

    The GST has caused price rises of 15% – 20% which has taken away the Malays’ purchasing power by about the same amount. Hence business has shrunk all over the country. The Malays / bumiputras are the largest consumer base in the country. You have killed the goose that lays the golden egg.

    Here is proof:

    Now the gomen says the GDP growth this year is about 4% only ! !
    Before they said 4.5% to 5 %.
    Now they say 4% to 4.5% !!

    From 4.5% down to 4.0% is an 11% deceleration. It is the speed at which the GDP growth is slowing down that is worrying. It is slowing down at a faster pace.

    in the case of Petronas their drop in profits has accelerated by 96% ! !

  3. For the sake of argument, I am going to try to dive into the mindset of a UMNOb Melayu to see if I get to read this right using Covey’s 7-Habits, as a non-UMNOb practising Covey’s 7-Habits.

    Covey’s 7-Habits

    #Habit 1: Be Proactive
    – So, I should be proactive in not losing ground in the interpretation of Article 153. I should be proactive in extending rights for myself. Extending rights for ourselves would extend rights for me. It should work in a way that involve the sharing of goods with least amount of people.

    Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
    – The end is that I get to be rich, powerful, and famous today with the least amount of effort.

    Habit 3: Put First Things First
    – First is Me, then me.

    Habit 4: Think Win-Win
    – I win, then you can ‘bersyukur’ that I win, instead of someone else winning.

    Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
    – I understand if you support me, it is understood that I need to pay you.

    Habit 6: Synergise
    – I tolong gua, gua tolong mu.

    Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw”
    – 1MDB kind of Big Elephant project works.

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