By W Long*
Malaysia is beyond saving. The country has 4 destructive elements that no other country has — some countries may have 1, 2 or even 3 of the factors but not all 4.
1. Racial Discrimination
Racial divide encompasses all economic and cultural activities and is deeply ingrained in the people’s consciousness. The country is sadly divided along racial lines. This is the work of extremists in UMNO and PAS who deliberately push forward the economically false idea of ‘catching up’. Mahathir at the helm for 22 years has done the country tremendous harm with his racial bigoty and he himself is predominantly responsible for the ills the country is facing. Government agencies, civil service, education institutions, GLCs, bank and finance, and even the private sector are overwhelmingly staffed by one race. The ‘affirmative action’ policy benefits only entrenched elites, not the ordinary poor Malays who are left behind.
2. Religious Intolerance
In the past, the races mingled together, in festivals and other occasions. Now, simple social events do not see much in terms of people from different races getting together. Even food and other product names have been distorted for political ends, to stirring up unnecessary uneasiness.
3. Rampant Corruption
Rampant corruption is at all levels, from the very top to the bottom, and is causing an irreparable economic toll on the country. Malaysia is among the top most corrupt countries in the world. The rule of law can be bent for corruption. Tokenism and make believe realities remain.
Malaysia’s political legacy is that of a king, and sultans in 9 states. This is fine if the king and sultans strictly adhere to their duties, and do not actively take part in business. The real fallout is that titles are given by the royalty at various levels to ordinary people, for recognition of work or position, or for gratuity — the Tan Sri, Dato, Datuk, Datuk Seri, and the like. The people conferred with these titles often abuse their position and titles to leverage on, and get away with excesses. It is alright for historical and legacy reasons to keep the system of a king and state Sultans, but the conferring of such titles should end, putting an end to extended feudalism.
Most countries have corruption in one form or another at various degrees. Some Middle East countries are religiously intolerant (of other religions), but their people are homogeneous, not multi racial. Thus, Malaysia has the distinction of having 4 imponderables.
Malaysia can only be saved by a no-nonsense strong leader. He or she has to come from the Malay rank. The leader should address 2 of the 4 factors — rampant corruption, racial divide and mitigate the other 2 — religious intolerance and feudalism.
Punish corruption at all levels. As the saying goes “justice must not only be done, but seen to be done”. No compromise for political position, friends or relatives. Remuneration for work, especially for the lower levels, needs to be adequate, as a deterrent against corruption. But in Malaysia it is not an inadequate level for the higher rank, rather greed is the issue. The rule of law must be applied equally across society.
Racial diversity is a strength, not a weakness. Malaysia is blessed with a different racial mix. They bring their time-tested values to the economy. Chinese are by nature hard working, industrial, and incline towards commerce and business. Indians are more intellectually inclined, tending to law and organizational matters. The other races, the Ibans, other natives, Eurasians, have their own inherent positives to contribute. It is a fallacy to think that Chinese and Indians will only employ their own. Common sense and business reality will dictate employee mix.
Countries with a homogeneous population, with no race divide, if not properly managed are just as well in a rut. Diversity is not an issue if well managed.
Leadership is everything. Many countries sadly lack good leadership. Malaysia is one of these, lacking good far sighted strong leadership.
Malaysia has blown past the cross road. It is very late but not impossible if only ….. If not corrected, the country is sliding fast towards 3rd world status.
Either the country goes down the drain, and falls behind the fast-catching up African countries, or finds the will and courage to right itself.
Young people nowadays grow up thinking that South Korea, China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan), Singapore are always advancing and more prosperous. Not too long ago, in the 1970s Malaysia was among this group. It is time to catch up.
*W. Long was born and grew up in Malaysia, but saw the light at the tunnel in the 1980s and switched citizenship. Still, like many ex-Malaysians, Long still has feelings towards the country, with many friends and relatives living there, and only hopes for the best for the country.