Imagining A Different Future


May 31, 2015

Imagining A Different Future

by Dr. M Bakri Musa
Morgan-Hill, California

Much is at stake for Malays. Only those lulled by Hang Tuah’s blustery Takkan Melayu hilang di dunia (Malays will never be lost from this world) would pretend otherwise. History is replete with examples of once great civilizations now reduced to footnotes. At best they are but objects of tourists’ curiosities, as with the Mayans.

melayu2UMNO Malays

It is unlikely for Malay civilization to disappear; there are nearly a quarter billion of us in the greater Nusantara world of Southeast Asia. There is, however, a fate far worse, and that is for Malaysia to be developed but with Malays shunted aside, reduced to performing exotic songs and dances for tourists.

There are about 17 million Malays in Malaysia, comparable to the population of the Netherlands. Their colonial record excluded, the Dutch should be our inspiration of what a population of 17 million could achieve.

Consider Rotterdam, Europe’s busiest port. One expects that title to go to a port in Britain, Germany, or Russia. Then consider the following famous brands: Shell (petroleum), Phillips (electronics), Unilever (consumer goods), Heineken (beer), and ING (financial services). Those are all Dutch companies.

Hosts of eminent organizations like the International Criminal Court and International Court of Justice are headquartered in the Netherlands. More remarkable is this. That country is behind only America and France in agricultural exports, despite a quarter of its land being below sea level!

Compare that to Malays and Malaysia. Malays are in political control; non-Malays cannot challenge that; it is a demographic reality. We have a land mass ten times that of the Netherlands, and none of it underwater, except when it rains and our rivers get clogged with pollution. Then it seems the entire country is underwater, paralyzed and gasping for air.

Imagine if we could achieve even a tenth of what the Dutch have done! That should be our goal and inspiration, not endless reciting of Hang Tuah’s immortal words or the incessant hollering of Ketuanan Melayu.

We are being hoodwinked by the government’s glossy publications and our leaders’ rosy accounts. Take the “Malaysian Quality of Life 2004 Report” produced by the Prime Minister’s Department. At 113 pages, it is full of glossy pictures of well-trimmed suburban neighborhoods, neat kampong houses, and of course the iconic Petronas Towers. There is also a picture of earnest executives engaged in videoconferencing, highlighting the latest technology gizmo.

The cover features the responsible minister, Mustapa Mohamed, beaming against the backdrop of a lush, luxurious golf course. That image reveals more of the truth, perhaps unintended; the golf course is exactly where you are likely to find these ministers.

Malay_1Performing exotic songs and dances for tourists.

Visit the minister’s kampong in Jeli, Kelantan, and the reality would be far different. I have no data specific on Jeli but a recent study of Pulau Redong and Pulau Perhentian, islands off Trengganu, would shock anyone. A fifth of the villagers have no formal education; half only primary level. This in 2011! Their average income is less than what Indonesian maids earn. As a needless reminder, those villagers are Malays.

More shocking and reflective of the malaise, two-thirds of the respondents expect “little” or “no change.” They have given up hope. So much for UMNO’s grandiose promises on “protecting and enhancing” the position of Malays!

When those high-flying UMNO operatives visit the east coast they lodge at the exclusive Chinese-owned Berjaya Resort, with taxpayers footing the bill. There they could partake in video conferencing. For the islanders, however, fewer than four percent have Internet access. There is a thriving tourism industry but those jobs are out of reach to the residents for lack of skills and education.

Those islanders’ world is a universe away from that of their fellow Bumiputras like former Women Affairs Minister Sharizat Jalil with her ultra-luxury condos courtesy of hefty Bumiputra discounts and generous “soft” government loans.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (L) and his wife Rosmah Mansor (R) arrive at the airport in Tokyo on May 24, 2015. Najib is on a three day visit to Japan.   AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO

The grumpy and prematurely aging Prime Minister Najib and his First Lady Rosmah Mansor

Tun Razak’s New Economic Policy, Mahathir’s Vision 2020, and now Najib’s 1-Malaysia all have the same aspiration of turning Malaysia into a developed nation. For Malaysia to be developed however, we must first develop its biggest demographic group – Malays. So long as Malays remain backward, so will Malaysia. Tun Razak’s NEP recognized this central reality. Vision 2020 and 1-Malaysia are eerily silent on it.

Despite this glaring omission, Vision 2020 caught on, Mahathir’s domineering personality snuffing out potential criticisms, at least while he was in power. Najib is not so blessed personality-wise; hence his difficulty selling his 1-Malaysia even to his party members!

Solving Malaysia’s problems would necessitate us to first address those of the Malays. The accepted assumption is that by solving Malaysia’s problems, those of the Malays would automatically be resolved, the rising tide lifting all boats. Less appreciated is that a rising tide lifts only those boats that are free to float. Those trapped under low bridges or with short anchor rode would be swamped. For a rising tide to be a benefit and not a threat we must first ensure that all boats are free to float; otherwise they would be doomed.

Liberating the Malay mind is equivalent to freeing our prahus (boats), of giving them adequate anchor lines or moving them away from under bridges and other encumbrances. Today there are just too many Malay boats that are being hampered. We must first free them; otherwise the rising tide would do them no favor. It would only swamp them.

This essay is adapted from the author’s book, Liberating The Malay Mind, ZI Publications Sdn Bhd, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, 2013

What’s Happening to Malaysia?


May 15, 2015

Phnom Penh by The Mekong

What’s Happening to Malaysia?

by Syed Hamid Albar*

http://syedhamidalbar44.blogspot.com/

Syed Hamid AlbarThe political scene of Malaysia and its final outcome is being followed closely by domestic and foreign political  observers and pundits. Never in the country’s history has there been such intense polemics and uncertainty on the sustainability of the government. The norm is after the government has been formed, it will move on with its responsibility of governing.

At the same time within the Barisan Nasional (BN) they expressed surprise at how the party could reduce its majority and  clamour for a postmortem of the GE13 to know the reasons. To outsiders it was obvious that the component parties on the whole particularly in Peninsular Malaysia did not have the acceptance of the Chinese and urban voters. Nothing unusual about that. It is not only UMNO that has to change but the component parties need to carry out some soul searching reforms of themselves.

Coming out of this dismal performance there were some intelligent and some funny speculations and responses on what should be the next cause of action the leadership should take. After all the BN had presented a very attractive manifesto promising all kinds of things if it got back to power. Additionally BN spent a lot of money in the election campaign to regain the support of the voters particularly the Chinese but failed. During the election campaign Najib’s advisors have also interestingly asked him to adopt the election strategy of a Presidential election akin to that of Obama. In their view Najib is more popular and acceptable than UMNO or BN. In short they considered his aura and personality would carry the party to victory. Of course this did not happen.

Unfortunately while this works in the UMNO areas but it did not alter the Chinese and urban voters who already decided they wanted change. Immediately after the election results, Najib publicly said that the Chinese voters had betrayed BN. This announcement did not go down well with the Chinese voters. This is now in the pages of history. The  Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) with such dismal performance decided to stay out of the government but came back later on the persuasion of Najib.

Thus although the overall total seats obtained by BN was less than the votes or seats obtained in the 12th GE Najib decided to stay on as leader of the government and party. Some political observers and pundits thought Najib should make way for his Deputy to take over the helm of leadership in the party and government as was the case with his predecessor. Najib was said to be involved in cleverly maneuvering his predecessor’s exit. However Najib ensured this forced exit did not happen to him. He thus quickly garnered the support of the BN Members of Parliament including those from Sabah and Sarawak. For this support he rewarded the leaders of both States well by appointing many of them into his Cabinet.

It must be remembered prior to this he also made sure that all the MPs elected are his men and loyalists. In this way his leadership of the government was well secured.The rationale for him to pass the baton of leadership to his Number Two did not arise. Furthermore having the support from the Sarawak and Sabah MP’s Najib’s position at the helm of the government could not be challenged. Therefore any possible dissent or request for him to step down was totally silenced. Again this was another clever political maneuvering by Najib. Unfortunate for Najib many of his political advisors, who stood for election did not win their seats.

Two years down the road of the General Election the clamour for him to go came back to the centre stage from within and outside the party. This time the voice is louder and stronger and made worse by many unwise and unpopular policies and public statements issued or made by his Cabinet colleagues. Additionally, there were all kinds of stories and scandals were exposed particularly by the social media affecting the image and credibility of the government.

Najib and RosmahThis pressure comes also from Tun Dr.Mahathir and those close to him. The social media was at the forefront of the strong criticisms and open campaign asking him to go. This time it was not merely on the scandals but also on his economic policies and personal lifestyle. The Tun for the first time highlighted the conspicuous and ostentatious lifestyle of the Prime Minister’s wife, his relationship with Jho Low and the high debt position of 1MDB. This was worsened by the implementation of the GST and the inconsistencies of his  explanation to the public which created enormous public displeasure.

This time around it could be seen he is just hanging by the tooth and nail. His own team made contradictory statements that are inconsistent with the principle of collective responsibility as members of the Cabinet. There is a lot of political shadow boxing within the party and government.

On the other side, Tun Dr. Mahathir and his supporters have stepped up their campaign to remove him. Without being apologetic he openly goes around to demand for Najib  to resign. The groundswell for Mahathir’s call is getting stronger and louder. Whether Najib would be able to withstand this onslaught is for everyone to wait and see. It had rattled him but he made a defiant statement that he would not step down at the call of Mahathir since the people has given him the mandate to lead the country. Definitely what is happening has caused what Tun Musa Hitam  to say that the country was imploding which made the political environment and the government business directionless.

Najib Vs MahathirThere seem to be counter move against Tun Dr. Mahathir and his former Ministers like Daim and Zainudin Maidin. This made the spat between Tun Dr. Mahathir and Najib to become more serious and vicious. The public  likes all these to end one way or another to move on with their daily life. Tun Mahathir on record never likes to loose a war or a battle. The country is going to continue hearing his criticisms of Najib and demanding him to step down in favor of Muhyiddin.

This puts Muhyiddin on the spot whether to remain loyal to Najib or take the cue from Mahathir to force his boss to quit. This state of neither here nor there cannot go on for long. Yesterday (May 11)’s Supreme Council meeting seems to bring back calmness to the government and party. The dust has settled on the ground. It is important that new controversies do not keep on surfacing. Najib and Muhyiddin including party and government leaders must not at least in public be perceived to have differences which could cause the public to loose confidence and trust on the leadership of the  party and government;

*Syed Hamid Albar was a former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Home Affairs. Malaysia.