Malay Backwardness goes beyond Public Administration

August 7, 2017

Malay Backwardness goes beyond Public Administration

by Dr. M. Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California

Image result for Terence Gomez on GLCs


If Malay immaturity and underdevelopment (backwardness) are so blatant in areas where we dominate (politics and public administration), imagine the situation elsewhere. Again, we do not need expensive consultants’ reports or the academics’ graph-laden presentations to expose that sorry reality.

Consider our marginal role in the economy. Stroll down any street in any town, and that fact would be jarring and obvious. Even if we were to mandate that those business signs be “Malaynized” or in Malay, that would not alter the sorry reality. It would only make the situation worse by camouflaging the problem, as is happening in Thailand and Indonesia. Guess who owns Malaysia’s most successful conglomerate Berjaya (Malay word meaning success)?

If those Malay leaders and civil servants were to have a leak in their home faucets or their cars break down, the plumber or auto mechanic who respond would more likely be a non-Malay, or even non-Malaysian, just as it was half a century ago. At another level, every year thousands of houses expropriated from non-Malay developers and then offered to Malays at substantial discounts remain unsold.

Then consider our young. The overwhelming majority of unemployed graduates are Malays. They are not so much unemployed as unemployable, reflecting the quality of local public institutions, again under Malay leadership, by statutes. We Malays are also overrepresented in the dysfunctional categories, from drug abuse and HIV infections to abandoned babies and broken families.

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The Malay Financial Genius

Those glaring and embarrassing realities would preclude any self-respecting Malay leader from jetting around in luxurious private jets at public expense, or have their children own plush penthouse suites in London and palatial mansions in Beverly Hills. These Malay leaders should be embarrassed. Instead they, from Najib on down, flaunt their flamboyant lifestyles. They lack maruah; they know no shame.

Malays are proud of such “glorious” government-linked companies (GLCs) as Khazanah (a holding company), Petronas (the giant oil company), and Sime Darby (a conglomerate). Those companies are Malays only in terms of their senior leadership and employees, not ownership. Being GLCs, they could easily change their character with a change in the government, as with the state GLCs in Penang. This Malay pride is misplaced for another reason. These GLCs have failed in their mission to spearhead Malay entry into the business world, its reason for being. Instead these GLCs have been debased into a cesspool of continuing corruption. 1MDB is only the latest, as well as most expensive and egregious.

These GLCs suck up scarce public funds. Few are profitable. Again, like the money pocketed by corrupt officials, the lost opportunity for those precious funds is enormous. Think of the good had those billions diverted to UMNO kleptocrats were instead used to better libraries and laboratories in rural schools!

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The picture is equally ugly with education. Again, we do not need highfalutin reports to tell us that we are far behind. When Ungku Aziz led the University of Malaya many decades ago, it would consistently rank high; today, well, it is still ahead of the University of Timbuktu, but only slightly.

The sorry decline of our universities is but one example. Another is more simple and direct. In the 1980s I could still find some Malay students at Stanford and other elite American campuses. Today there are as rare as dew in a mid-Malaysian morning. Further back, when I was at Malay College in the early 1960s, it was still preparing students for entry into universities. Today those students have to go elsewhere for their matriculation.

Malay College started its first IB matriculating class in 2011, a full decade in the planning and nearly three decades after the college discontinued its Sixth Form. The college has an impressive governing board, with Raja Nazrin as its chairman. Despite having such luminaries, the pace of change was glacial. Imagine at lesser institutions! While IB everywhere is the top choice for students, not so at Malay College. Its students prefer going elsewhere.

Yet when we peruse the statistics in such publications as the Malaysian Quality of Life 2004 Report, we are assured that we have made great progress. Worse, we believe such reports! Consider the one sector where Malays pride ourselves in having a heavy presence–public transportation. During my youth, nearly all public bus companies were controlled by non-Malays, except for the occasional ones like the one plying in the northeastern states and the old Sri Jaya Company (now defunct) in Kuala Lumpur.

Then there was the Malay Transport Company serving my village at Sri Menanti, Negri Sembilan. Granted, its service was erratic but at least there was a service. Today that company is long gone and the village is now without any bus service, erratic or otherwise.

In the 1980s matters seemingly improved, with many more “Malay” bus companies. That however, was achieved not through the initiatives of Malay entrepreneurs but through fiat. The government forced existing non-Malay companies to “re-structure” and include Malay partners.

The few savvy Chinese businessmen who saw that as an opportunity to cash out their investments by jacking up the values of their companies came out like bandits, quite apart from earning the enduring gratitude of Malay elite. That in turn smoothed the way for these Chinese businessmen to do even more lucrative businesses with their new masters.

Image result for Foh Hup Bus Company
End of a Legacy–A Victim of Bumiputrarisation


The few arrogant holdouts came to regret their decisions. The owners of the Foh Hup Bus Company that plied the busy and highly lucrative Seremban-Kuala Lumpur route did not wish to share their pot of honey. They also smugly believed that Malays were not suitable business partners. With the completion of the new highway between the two cities and the license for that route awarded to a Malay enterprise (by then Prime Minister Dr.Mahathir Mohamad), Foh Hup’s market collapsed. The company got to keep its jar of honey alright, but the bees were taken away.

Despite that jump start, today Malays are back to square one. Bus companies throughout the peninsula may be in Malay hands, but the system is broken down, mechanically and financially.

A Malay Bullshit Artiste–Mirroring the Malay Mindset

Image result for Kissing Zahid Hamidi 's hand

Malay underdevelopment is not just relative (as compared to other groups and nations) but also absolute. Meaning, as compared to a generation ago, we are today making even slower progress if not actually regressing. The examples cited here may not mean much in the greater scheme of things but they are emblematic of our overall inadequacies and underdevelopment. Our backwardness is worse when compared to the First World, and widening. That is hidden as our leaders continually compare us to the likes of Zimbabwe and Papua New Guinea. It is also hidden because of the vibrant contributions from non-Malays. Malays are deluded into thinking that those achievements were ours too.

I am not revealing anything new much less profound here. The only difference is that I offer a different approach in analyzing and solving these problems.

Image result for Kissing Rosmah's Hand

Our leaders are heavy into sloganeering, with such strident calls as revolusi mental, glokal Melayu, and Ketuanan Melayu, that is, when they are not busy blaming our culture and our innate nature, as well as our lack of unity and our ‘straying” from our faith. My approach would first require us to have an open mind so we could view our problems from different perspectives and not be trapped by our current preconceptions. The solutions would then be much easier to find.

14 thoughts on “Malay Backwardness goes beyond Public Administration

  1. After 40 yeras of NEP Malays dont have much to show for. Look at the skyline in Kuala Lumpur, how many skyscrapers have Malay names on top? IN spite of billions in contracts, handouts and loans how many Malay contractors have their own construction equipments or heavy machinery like cranes and tractors?

    Malays are happy with a used BMW or Mercedes Benz to show that they have arrived. Memberships in golf clubs and country clubs and dining in 5 star hotels. How many successful Malay entrepreneurs have their own buildings or a string of buildings and factories?

  2. Quote:- “The solutions would then be much easier to find”

    If what Dr. Bakri says is true, then the “Malays”, (in inverted commas as its ethnic etymology is presently in dispute among the great political minds of the country), are not even aware of the problem.

    There is no other way to harden steel except through tempering. A piece of wood carving, however beautiful, will eventually rot away.

    Go to today’s Singapore “Straits Times” paper and read about 2 Singaporean women. One about to enter the race for the elected presidency and the other a hawker’s daughter turned banker.

    One Malay, the other Chinese. Both are women in a male dominated society which make their successes even more remarkable.

    But then these two women, (and many others like them), are products of a certain kind of society; the kind of Malays that Dr. Bakri laments about are also the products of a certain kind of society which, the way things are going among the elite of the Malay society, will inevitably stay with us even long after Dr. Bakri, (and others), bang out another 5005 articles.

    No Chinese is born fully equipped with a “business acumen” gene, (though some may argue that somehow Indians are born with an argumentative gene), just as you will never find a piece of tempered steel freshly dug up from the ground.

    So Dr. Bakri, the solution is there all the time. Perhaps through the writings of Malays like yourself the furnace to start the tempering process will hopefully be fired up.

    • Sorry to correct you Wyne,tempering doesnt harden the steel but the process makes the steel less brittle after hardening.

  3. There is the suggestion here and also the contribution by orang malaya above that the Malays have been had by the non Malays. How wrong could that be? When Dr Mahathir started his privatisation of government agencies, Malay companies and indivuals had the golden opportunity of building on themselves but no, they spent all that money on having a good time, knowing that when the money ran out they could again get handouts. It is this perception that has been their downfall although some had flourished. I still remember with some bitterness of the privatisation of LLN and Telekom. Many colleagues of mine and their families capitalised on banks loans and made hundreds of thousands of dollars. In today’s money that would amount to millions . Actually Dr Bakri, I don’t really see these Malays in second BMWs, they are still revving it up with the latest models. The question to be asked is why has there been not fairer distribution of the wealth. The answer apparently is blowing in the wind. The wind of change that is coming.

    • When TDM mooted Look East Policy..He should have engaged and employed As many Qualified Japanese professionals advisers in all areas of government machinery and GLCs..Their roles were to inculcate the right work mentality/cultures that enabled Japan to rose up from devastating effect of Atomic Bomb..The Japsnese ate very hard working,highly disciplined and possess many world class Working Standard Procedures and highly systematic approaches in all areas ..such as education,healthcare,agriculture,fishery,Research and Development,Town Planning,garbage controlling,environment n pollution control,controlRoadTraffic System,Rail System,Shipping,Emergency respond system..In fact,they possess many foolproof eorking standards the wr Malaysian need very badly..Yes..what we shud do is for Gov to put these Highly Skilled Japanese Technocrats/Advisers with executive powers to speedup the processes of transforming Malaysians into more resourceful leaders of various fields..Sorry to say that Malaysians in general still having attitude problem..We need a kind of regimented but condusive environment for them so together we all able to contribute to the wealth of the Nation..concurrently able to truly harvest the fruits ..thats including owning big sustainable businesses n conglomerates,big buildings etc..and all co owned by Malays,Chinese,Indian n dayaks in s true sense…Not superficial…But all must start from the top…If the head Rots ,the rest will stinks..

  4. “My approach would first require us to have an open mind so we could view our problems from different perspectives…” Bakri.

    Having an open mind requires the Malays to do away with religious dictates passed on by some half-past-six ustazs and ustazahs who believe they are God’s intermediaries on mother Earth. This is a huge handicap that deters Malays from thinking straight.

    • Wow, Tok Cik. I agree with your contention but wonder if JAKIM, the head honcho, representative of collective symptom, would take kindly to it or perhaps they don’t read English or access to this liberalizing and libertarian blog.

    • Fully agree with your contention that religious dictates are indeed a big obstacle to critical thinking skills and open minds. How can this be overcome??? That’s the big question!

  5. Awang Puteh’s piece is very critical, and a welcomed analysis of the reasons for the steady decline of the Malays, misplaced pride and blind faith, coupled with a glaring arrogance among the youth in our education system will only lead to disaster, Depressing!!!

  6. Every individual has his/her problems and challenges in life, it is not unique to the political grouping of ‘ Malays ‘.

    The ordinary Malays are doing alright from organic and natural development of their economy until some inpatient and greedy Malay/Muslim political leaders, without proper consultation with other communities, aggressively and recklessly interfered with the market economy with public and taxpayers money to enrich and benefit a minority of people in position of power, trust and influence and in business.

    The aggressive and reckless interference, together with gross abuse of power, started the corrupt political leadership and culture destroying the country, with business corruption built around political corruption leading to social and moral decay with no end in sight eg. Most Malay/Muslim can live with billions of losses in GLCs and gross mismanagement but would refuse a govt scholarship or a place in the uni for a course of his/her choice of a deserving poor non Malay/Muslim.

  7. To be frank, the biggest backwardness is matter of religion, faith. The Malay in fact moved backwards from where they started and continue to do so even though the evidence is clear. Why support a vision that has already failed where the vision first originate? Iran and Saudi Arabia both now know their past vision of state is not sustainable but the Malays still seek to be achieve what they are trying to walk away from. The Middle East can excuse they have been isolated all this time whereas the Malays have never been, have always been connected to ther relevant cannot excuse they do not know.

  8. It is all about their policies / politics, that is, the politician’s mindset in life that makes a vast difference. When politicians are statesman, they are willing to place the country above self. Look at our Bapa Malaysia, his policy was to lead the people into progress without making himself a rich man. Our later politicians only cared about themselves and how to be rich even before they kick their own buckets. To achieve this, they manipulate the people with their politics to gain power and in the process, amass lots of hidden reserves to perpetuate their existence in power. What better way to do it than to control the mass into ignorance and dependent on them. Policies made to help the Bumiputra ended up enriching the Umnoputra – this is robbing their own kind. Soon they will come for others and All Malaysian will be down the gutter.

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