Four decades of a Malay Myth


February 2, 2017

Four decades of a Malay Myth

by Masturah Alatas

Masturah Alatas

Masturah Alatas (pic above) takes a close look at the legacy and impact of her father’s seminal study of ‘Malayness’, The Myth of the Lazy Native, which turns 40 this year.

“Our Production Manager estimates that we would very likely have finished copies of both books in December, and would therefore be able to publish in January, 1977.”

With these long-awaited words that reached Singapore in a letter dated 14 September 1976, Malaysian sociologist Syed Hussein Alatas (1928-2007) received confirmation that his books, The Myth of the Lazy Native and Intellectuals in Developing Societies, would finally be published in London by Frank Cass.

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The Myth of the Lazy Native is Syed Hussein Alatas’ widely acknowledged critique of the colonial construction of Malay, Filipino and Javanese natives from the 16th to the 20th century. Drawing on the work of Karl Mannheim and the sociology of knowledge, Alatas analyses the origins and functions of such myths in the creation and reinforcement of colonial ideology and capitalism.

The book constitutes in his own words: ‘an effort to correct a one-sided colonial view of the Asian native and his society’ and will be of interest to students and scholars of colonialism, post-colonialism, sociology and South East Asian Studies.–www.routledge.com

Murray Mindlin was the Cass editor who wrote the letter. He also happened to be the Hebrew translator of James Joyce’s Ulysses, a fitting fact since The Myth of the Lazy Native (henceforth Lazy Native) was caught up in its own, long-drawn-out publishing odyssey. Shunned by publishers in Malaysia and Singapore, Alatas first submitted Intellectuals to Frank Cass in early 1972 at the suggestion of social anthropologist, Ernest Gellner. In corresponding with Cass editors about that book, later the same year Alatas casually mentioned that he was completing the Lazy Native that he had started working on in 1966.

“At the moment I am finishing a manuscript of about 100,000 words on the myth of the lazy native in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, from the 16th to the 20th centuries. It is a study of the function and origin of this myth in the colonial ideology. Dutch, Malay and English sources are used. The discipline applied is the sociology of knowledge. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first work of its kind,” Alatas wrote.

Young editor Jim Muir, who would later become the BBC’s correspondent for the Middle East, immediately asked to see the manuscript. Struck by the title and subject, he felt Lazy Native “would probably fit very well into our Library of Peasant Studies.”

The story of the publishing vicissitudes of Lazy Native is documented in my book, The Life in the Writing (2010), as is the work’s international reception by the likes of Victor Gordon Kiernan, Edward W Said, Ziauddin Sardar and many others.

There are several ways to assess the status of Lazy Native in the 40 years of its existence. We can check databases to see where it has been cited and syllabi to know where it is taught. Social media will give us an idea of who is reading it, talking about it, and going to conferences, seminars and festivals where it is studied.

Image result for The Myth of the Lazy Native

One could say that a revived interest in the book is due, in part, to the efforts of his son and my brother, Syed Farid Alatas, a sociologist at The National University of Singapore, not just through teaching, public speaking and his own writing but also because he solicited a reprint of a paperback and more affordable edition of Lazy Native from Routledge (2010). Malaysians will remember that the hardback Cass edition of Lazy Native once went for over 400 ringgit (roughly $US90 in today’s money). Syed Farid Alatas was also proactive in getting a second edition of the Malay translation of the book, Mitos Pribumi Malas, reissued with Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (2009).

It is worth mentioning—as translation studies scholar Nazry Bahrawi has noted—that the Malay translation, or rather adaptation of Lazy Native from the 1987 Indonesian translation, contains some omissions, including excluded lines and passages that are present in both the English and Indonesian versions. One omission is the line “The degradation of the Malay character is an attempt by the ruling party to absolve itself from blame for real or expected failures to ensure the progress of the Malay community” (Lazy Native, 1977, p 181). The book contains no note from the translator, Zainab Kassim, as to the reasons for these omissions.

Whatever the case, we can conclude that irrespective of the availability of the book in English and Malay, what the quality of the Malay translation is, or how much or little it is actually read and talked about, Lazy Native seems to have found its place in the sun as a classic, and not just because Bahrawi and other scholars recognise it as a seminal text located within postcolonial theory. Not only has the Lazy Native walked right out of the Library of Peasant Studies into the libraries of Malay studies, cultural studies, sociology, history and literature—not to mention the personal libraries of many Malaysians— the book also seems to be sitting in the collective Malaysian imagination as a disgruntled trope, even though Syed Hussein Alatas himself had doubts about how many people had actually read and understood it.

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It is therefore legitimate to ask: after 40 years, is the myth of the lazy native still a myth? Former Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad seems not to think so. According to him, the Malays are lazy because they don’t study hard enough, they can’t master English and they prefer to become Mat Rempit (motorcycle gangsters). What is missing from the narrative is if it is laziness or hard work that has to do with how the current Prime Minister, Najib Razak, was able to allegedly channel more than $1 billion into his personal bank accounts.

Historian Zaharah Sulaiman, instead, believes that if “Malays are called lazy and not innovative, it’s because the knowledge, the peoples who have the knowledge have gone extinct,” and that ‘foreign invasions’ that led to the ‘grabbing’ of riches has a lot to do with the extinction of this knowledge.

But in the chapter “The disappearance of the indigenous trading class”, Alatas does not so simplistically attribute the destruction of the trading class to foreign invasion. If anything, he provides sociological analysis showing how local rulers were sometimes complicit with colonial masters in bringing about the disappearance of the native trading class — for example when local chiefs acted as agents for the Dutch East India Company.

Alatas framed his critique of colonial capitalism that exploited the image of the lazy native with economic and sociological analyses. Indeed, he called it “colonial capitalism” and not white capitalism. And nowhere in Lazy Native does he blame the other ethnicities of Malaysia—the Chinese or the Indians—for the condition of the Malays.

It is important to understand this to distance the kind of critique Alatas performs in Lazy Native and the language he uses from, say, rants about  “Chinese privilege” in Singapore, in which the term itself makes a direct link of ethnicity—one ethnicity in particular—to majority class and political privilege, and abuse of power. If Alatas has tried to help us see the wrongness in the ideological necessity of giving laziness a Malay face, we are invited to think about the wrongness in the ideological insistence of giving a Chinese face to privilege.

Finally, Lazy Native has inadvertently generated it own myth that needs to be debunked if we are to understand what unique scholarship really means— the claim that the book contributed to Edward W Said’s thesis on Orientalism. This claim has been made by several scholars all over the world.

Orientalism (1978) was already written and sent off to the publisher when Alatas’ book came out the year before Said’s did. At the time, the two men never even knew or corresponded with each other. I know this because both men told me so.

Masturah Alatas is a writer and teacher who lives in Macerata, Italy. She is the author of The girl who made it snow in Singapore (2008) and The life in the writing (2010), a memoir-biography about her father, Syed Hussein Alatas.

http://www.newmandala.org/four-decades-malay-myth/

 

Malaysia: Why Democratic Change Has Not Been Possible


December 16,2016

Malaysia: Why Democratic Change Has Not Been Possible

Anwar Ibrahim’s Quest for Freedom denied by Federal Court


December 14, 2016

Anwar Ibrahim’s Quest for Freedom denied by Federal Court

by Hafidz Yatim

http://www.malaysiakini.com

This outcome is not unexpected because our Judiciary is not independent.  Out of the window goes our system of checks and balances when the Executive Branch overpowers our Judiciary and Parliament (the Legislative branch), and the Rule of Law is absent.

As my friend  Stanford University’s Dr. David Cohen said at a seminar at The University of Cambodia Human Rights Forum a few days ago that without the Rule of Law a citizen is denied Justice. “The Rule of Law is the foundation of Human Rights and good governance is an essential element of the Rule of Law.”–Din Merican

The Federal  Court today dismissed PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim’s review of the Sodomy II conviction and sentence. With this, Anwar, formerly Malaysia’s opposition leader, is expected to remain in jail until mid-2018.

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Chief Judge of Malaya Justice Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin

The Five-member bench led by Chief Judge of Malaya Justice Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin ruled there was no bias or procedural unfairnes in the decision of the previous Federal Court panel.

On the issue of the premature and swift response from the Prime Minister’s Office to the Sodomy II verdict on February 10 last year, Justice Zulkefli said while the statement, as argued by the appellant, had given the public the impression that Anwar did not receive a fair and independent hearing, the court took the view it was not within the control of the court to stop the issuance of the statement.

“As a separate branch of the government, the Judiciary and the courts operate independently in their decision-making process, with no interference from other branches of government.There has to exist a clear separation of powers between the judiciary and the other two arms of the government in order to uphold the rule of law,” he said.

Ruling further that there was no merit in the allegation that the statement was issued prematurely, he added this did not fall under the ambit of Rule 137 (that allowed a review).

“There is no evidence to show that there was any communication whatsoever between the PMO and the Federal Court, either prior or subsequent to the decision on the case,” Justice Zulkefli said in the unanimous decision.

The other judges were Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Justice Richard Malanjum, along with Federal court judges Hasan Lah, Abu Samah Nordin and Zaharah Ibrahim.

However Justice Malanjum was not on the bench today as he had to attend the funeral of a relative who had passed away.

Shafee’s conduct no bearing on outcome

The Federal Court also dismissed the questioning of the conduct of senior lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who led the prosecution team in the Sodomy II appeals in the Court of Appeal and Federal Court, by Anwar’s lawyers.

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Justice Zulkefli said while the appellant contended that Shafee’s speech at a roadshow had tainted the prosecutor’s office in conducting the trial fairly, the court was of the view that the alleged misconduct, if any, had no bearing on the outcome of the decision of the Federal Court.

“We noted there is no evidence furnished or averment of any sort made by the applicant to suggest that this alleged misconduct of the lead prosecutor had influenced the decision of the Federal Court on Feb 10, 2015,” he said. The judge further cited Shafee’s appointment as prosecutor by the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

On the earlier Federal Court’s judgment by Chief Justice Arifin Zakaria, which made mention of previous sodomy incidents that had been ruled as expunged by the High Court, Justice Zulkefli said this issue of misevaluation of evidence, improper direction and non-direction of the trial judge were not within the permitted circumstances that the court could exercise its inherent jurisdiction to review.

“We would like to state on this issue now raised before us that we found that it was not raised before the Federal Court. It is for this reason that we think the Federal Court did not address this point at all and hence no reason was given on the issue of the admission or rejection of the alleged inadmissible evidence,” he said.

On the issue of complainant Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan not bringing the lubricant KY Jelly, the Federal Court said according to the record of proceedings in the High Court, it was dealt with extensively by both the defence and the prosecution.

Justice Zulkefli said the earlier judgment by the Federal Court court held there was no conclusive proof that KY Jelly had spilled on the carpet and it was of the view that the carpet was not a critical piece of evidence to the prosecution’s case. “It is therefore our judgment that this issue of KY Jelly raised by the applicant is a non-issue and it had not caused injustice to the applicant,” he said.

While Anwar’s defence team maintained the integrity of the crime scene was compromised as Saiful had claimed the incident took place on the carpet in Unit 11-5-1, whereas the carpet was found in Unit 11-5-2, the court held that it could not accept the argument as the earlier panel ruled the issue of how the carpet was moved was not critical to the prosecution’s case.

“We do not think that we should look into what that other compelling evidence was as found by the Federal Court,” Justice Zulkefli said.

The court also ruled there was no merit to Anwar’s defence contention that there was a break in the chain of evidence, saying there was no serious injustice in the chain of custody of the exhibits.

“For the above reasons, we find there is no merit in the application and this is not a fit and proper case for the court to exercise its inherent jurisdiction to make any order for the case to be reviewed,” Justice Zulkefli said.

Nobody takes Malaysia’s Budget seriously and here’s why


October 24, 2016

Nobody takes Malaysia’s Budget seriously and  here’s why

by T K Chua

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

“It is simple; the annual budget can’t instil discipline if there is no oversight. The annual budget can’t function as an instrument of control if borrowing and off-budget activities are allowed to roam free, unrestrained and unchecked.”–T K Chua

Image result for Najib's 2016-2017 Budget

When I read “Why I didn’t watch the Budget speech” as written by Kensi from Sarawak, I found my feelings were the same. For the first time in a quarter century I did not sit through the whole Budget speech. I walked off after the first hour or so.

The Budget has long lost its aura. It is just an annual pomp for fund managers to get excited and for the government to announce some goodies. Whether or not the goodies are carried out as planned is as good as anyone’s guess.

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Malaysia’s National Budget is Petty Cash for this First Couple. When the cash is finished, just borrow more or ask Bank Negara to print more money and then pass the burden to ordinary Malaysians by way of debt service or inflation. That is Najibonomics: Tax and Spend recklessly.–Din Merican

Why do I say our federal budget is meaningless?First, the annual budget has never capped the amount of borrowing that the federal government could incur each year. If the federal government may borrow without restraint, who bothers whether our projected revenues and expenses are adhered to? If revenues fall short, the government could borrow more to fill the gap. If expenses burst the budget, again the government could borrow more.

Where are the restraints and control that the annual budget is supposed to provide? In fact, the annual supplementary budgets are clear indications that the budget has failed to keep government financial indiscipline in check. The government will borrow and spend as it wishes, regardless of the revenue performance or actual expenditure incurred.

Second, the annual budget is just a mechanism to dish out allocations, but never to accomplish its intended outcomes. We mistakenly look at the allocation earmarked for each programme as if it is a fait accompli.

But this is far from true. For example, just look at the allocation for subsidies which the government has always bragged about. It is time for the government to list out how much of the allocation has reached the intended target groups and how much of it was siphoned off by corrupt officials, businessmen and those who could indulge in arbitrage.

Seriously, if budget spending has been constantly effective over the years, I believe there would be no more poor people in this country.

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Third, the annual federal budget is no longer the true representation of government financial commitment and responsibility. Off-budget agencies and activities have now overwhelmed traditional government ministries and departments.

Parliamentary oversight of government taxation and expenditure through the annual budget is at best only half correct.

When non-financial public enterprises and GLCs set up ventures, incur debt and impose contingent liabilities on the government, did they get the approval of Parliament to begin with? When government decides on privatisation projects, including guaranteeing revenues and profits of privatised entities, did it seek the approval of Parliament?

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This guy is excited about the Budget–He is the Minister of Defense: Commissions

I thought the Federal Constitution, (through Part VII – Financial Provisions), is very clear on financial oversights by Parliament – no taxation shall be levied or expenditures incurred unless with expressed authority of federal law. How then did the government spend and borrow so massively through off-budget agencies such as GLCs and Non-financial public enterprises?

It is simple; the annual budget can’t instil discipline if there is no oversight. The annual budget can’t function as an instrument of control if borrowing and off-budget activities are allowed to roam free, unrestrained and unchecked.

T.K. Chua is an FMT reader.

National Ideology (Rukunegara)–The Unity Glue


October 3, 2016

Malaysia: National Ideology (Rukunegara)–The Unity Glue

by Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos

http://www.themalaymailonline.com

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 A nation without an ideology is like a teenager without a direction. A direction of some sort, even a broad and general one, for example, to appreciate life and its gifts is essential to determine the quality of life.

It also acts as a fence that reminds the teenager to be wary of influences that may make him unappreciative of life’s gifts, such as indulgence in drug abuse.

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Likewise, a nation will just float along aimlessly and in conflicting directions if the people lack a national ideal they can use as a yardstick. I have written many times before, asking what is our national dream and philosophy, keeping in mind we are a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and cosmopolitan nation.

We require a common national philosophy and a set of national values that can unite us as Malaysians and guide our Malaysian spirit to evolve and grow. Like nurturing a child, a nation requires constant nurturing, too.

Today, we perceive our nation to be in a state of ethnic, religious, social and economic tatters. Madness in behaviour and speeches, and mediocrity in work and productivity appear to have become a national norm.

Our leaders have to be proactive to reverse this trend and correct the perception. If the leaders are able to remove the political cataract blinding their eyes, they will see the nation is crying out for a direction and a national philosophy all Malaysians can identify with.

As a nation that achieved independence, we were learning how to co-exist as Malaysians due to our diverse backgrounds.

We had our first racial clash, albeit politically originated, in May 1969. That was our first and I am sure our last bitter experience of a civil clash.

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As a result of this bitter experience, our past leaders were wise to recognise the need for a national ideology which can be a guiding force to unite and provide a national direction for the people.

The National Consultative Council, headed by the late Tun Abdul Razak, had the unity and “soul” of the nation in mind when the principles of the Rukunegara were formulated.

What is so special about the Rukunegara? Firstly, everyone seems to have forgotten it was formalised as a national ideology through a declaration by none other than DYMM Yang diPertuan Agong on  August 31, 1970.

I learned the Rukunegara in school and I recall reciting it at school assemblies. It represented our national values. It has five main principles namely, Belief in God, Loyalty to the King and the country, upholding the Constitution, Rule of Law, and good behaviour and morality.

The purpose of instilling these five principles is explained by the preamble to the Rukunegara. The preamble provides Malaysia aspires to achieve a greater unity for all her people by:

  • Maintaining a democratic way of life;
  • Creating a just society in which the wealth of the nation is equitably shared;
  • Ensuring a liberal approach to her rich and diverse cultural traditions, and;
  • Building a progressive society which shall be oriented to modern science and technology;

The Rukunegara contains not only universal values so relevant to a diverse society like ours, but it also sets a clear direction which we all can share to make this nation great. We really need to be united by common values before we are pulled apart by mischief makers in our society who are bent on dividing us.

Image result for The Racist Red Shirts in Malaysia

Image result for The Racist Red Shirts in Malaysia

What is urgently required now is the rebirth of Razak’s political will to give life to the principles of Rukunegara. I support the increasing call that the Rukunegara is made as a preamble to the Constitution of Malaysia.

This will allow the courts to interpret the Federal Constitution within the context of the national philosophy particularly with regards to the protection of the fundamental liberties of the citizens as enshrined in the Constitution.

It will also enable the protection of the constitutional monarchy and the parliamentary democratic political structure of our country.

If our current leadership has Razak’s wisdom, foresight and courage, I foresee discussions, conversations and the political will to promote the Rukunegara to the position it was meant to be.

However, as JUST International President Dr Chandra Muzzafar recently pointed out, since the 1980s, the Rukunegara seemed to have been systematically shunted aside. Is it any surprise then there is a feeling today that our nation seems to have lost its soul while we may have generally achieved major material progress?

I appeal to our current leadership to put back the soul in our nation.

* Jahaberdeen is a senior lawyer and founder of Rapera, a movement which encourages thinking and compassionate citizens. He can be reached at rapera.jay@gmail.com.

Principled Politics of our Time


September 25, 2016

 Principled Politics of Our Time

by Dr. Munir Majid

http://www.thestar.com.my

 

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ALAIN Juppé may not be a household name in Malaysia but the principled politics of this former French Prime Minister (1995-1997) in his country’s fraught national environment is worthy of note.

Despite France’s reputation for being the most pessimistic nation on earth, he projects himself as a prophet of happiness. He attunes himself to the promise of a happy national identity.

He strongly argues the diverse and mixed society is not a threat to France. He is against calls for a ban on burkinis (a preferred swimming costume among Muslim women). He proclaims: “I won’t turn people in France against each other.” Notably, in the Islamophobic climate in France, he holds to the concept of integration against assimilation.

Juppe is not a starry-eyed idealist however. His clear integration carries fixed rules: charter of secularism, reorganise Islam in France to ensure French funding and preaching, firm line on immigration control with annual quotas set by Parliament.

For him: “The role of a political leader is not to add to the unhappiness of the times, or to darken the situation even more.”Juppé is a Gaullist, fighting against Nicolas Sarkozy to win nomination of his party, Les Republicans, for next spring’s presidential election.

Sarkozy is riding the wave of popular sentiment to win nomination by speaking out against Muslims, immigration and all things not lily-white.

Jean-Claude Juncker, perhaps better known in Malaysia as President of the European Commission, sees the need for better explanation of European values against blatant nationalism, the galloping populism that is gripping Europe.

The values of freedom, tolerance and democracy, and the rule of law are a high point for humanity which must be defended. In Britain, after Brexit, some segments of the populace have taken that vote as a democratic mandate for racism.

Polish people, one of the most hardworking in the country’s labour force, have been beaten and, in one case, murdered on the streets of Essex. As of last week there had been 31 attacks on Poles since the Brexit referendum: in Plymouth, Yeovil, St Ives, Harlow and Leeds, among others.

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Juncker is very clear the whole European polity must fight against discrimination and racism. The British Government and laws, of course, do not countenance these attacks.

But there is undoubtedly a strong undercurrent of intolerance and hate in much of Europe which not insignificant numbers of politicians are exploiting and whipping into huge waves of all possible illiberal tendencies.

There are brave, liberal and true politicians who are willing to stand against these waves, for the values of the liberal and tolerant order that recognises the total and full rights of all citizens, not a regime that reduces some of them to the status of semi-citizens, a regime that hounds them to the periphery of national life. People like Juppé and Juncker have a tough fight ahead. But they are in it.

In America we see the rise of Donald Trump as nominee of Abraham’s Lincoln’s party to be President. That is how close illiberalism and intolerance can get to the seat of power to wreak disastrous outcomes: this in America, but not forgetting Europe or anywhere else.

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There are grave dangers of Trump-style fear and demagoguery, and Nicolas Sarkozy’s hard-line brand of national-identity politics, surfing on a fear of Islam and cultural difference. Don’t forget, not too long ago Sarkozy was a respectable centrist politician and President of France. That is how strong the dangerous currents are.

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Former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell may call Trump “a national disgrace” and an “international pariah” (in a leaked email to a former aide in June) but his rise reflects what is happening in America as well.

What the Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton calls the “basket of deplorables” – whether half or all of them – are his supporters, who are American. They are there ready to be turned into overt racists and jingoists by cleverly exploitative politicians like Trump.

There is an argument claiming these Trump supporters are the uneducated underclass – the lumpenproletariat – who have been under-served and under-provided in an economy of huge disparities of income and wealth. This may be so. But as many as half of them? Is American society that poor?

There are actually perfectly “normal and respectable” Americans ready to be had, to go down that racist, Islamophobic and jingoistic path. Quick to blame others. Fast on the draw to exaggerate and to caricature.

These are the people – and there are many of them in the American Congress – who have been against Barack Obama these past eight years he has been US President because he is black.

They have been driven by the power to show, even if a majority of Americans may support Obama, they can jam it and make it difficult, sometimes impossible, for him to do his job – not infrequently against America’s own interest.

These are the people who are so anti-Muslim just beneath the surface that they are quick when scratched to jump and point at the Islamist threat to America. On the other hand they do not see gun laws and the police shooting blacks as any threat to American society.

They are irrational. They are emotional. They are one plus one equals to two people. The type one plus one equals to two populist politicians lap up. Politicians with no principles. Politicians who do not understand the complexity of things.

It is all too easy to whip up xenophobia among them. Looking at all this from Asia, we have no cause to be complacent. Indeed, we have our own dark spots in many countries.

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Taking just Malaysia, we have to defend our democratic, liberal and tolerant tradition. If we allow our populist politicians to ride roughshod over it there will be hell to pay not too far down the road.

It is deeply disturbing the way “liberal” has been turned into a bad word. As if it meant licence and excess, and therefore has to be snuffed out. To be replaced by what? A plutocratic religious order?

Exhortations and many actions point to this. Whipping up a frenzy.It is also deeply disturbing that the consensus on a multi-racial and multi-religious society in Malaysia is being challenged by some quarters. Again, to put what in its place? A uniracial, monocultural polity?

These are big issues principled politicians should take a stand on – like Juppé and Juncker.

Individuals and commentators, and groups like the G25, can make their point, but even they are attacked for being “liberals” who know nothing about religion – by those who claim to know everything.

But even groups like the G25 and those from civil society will ultimately be ineffective if leaders in the formal political system do not take up their cause. Or they have to get into politics.

Let us remind ourselves. When we talk about Vision 2020 we must not just talk about the economic targets. All this was to happen in a country and society that was “democratic, liberal and tolerant.” In a system with “strong moral and ethical values.” Go back and read that statement in 1991 – and hopefully be revived.

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Our King and Rukun Negara

Go back to Rukun Negara in 1970. The aspirations and principles expressed for our society, even if just after the May 1969 racial riots.

Look at them closely: Belief in God; loyalty to King and country; democratic way of life; just society; liberal approach to rich and diverse cultural tradition; rule of law; good behaviour and morality.

They were strong expressions that go back to the Federal Constitution espoused by the two greatest political leaders this country has ever had – Tun Abdul Razak Hussein and Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman – both of whom had the strength of character and leadership to define the future, even as they sought to repair the damage done to the country in 1969.

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We owe it to them – and to ourselves – to make sure the country does not deteriorate. As we look at what is happening in our country, at what is happening in Europe, America and elsewhere in Asia, our politicians particularly must arrest populist tendencies and provide principled leadership to secure the future, and not just fight among themselves for the next piece of cake.

Tan Sri Munir Majid, chairman of Bank Muamalat and visiting senior fellow at LSE Ideas (Centre for International Affairs, Diplomacy and Strategy), is also chairman of CIMB Asean Research Institute.