New Malaysia: One year on

Yap Yok Foo

Modified 7 May 2019, 9:56 am

COMMENT | As I look back on that momentous event that unravelled on that night in May last year, I must confess that I am totally underwhelmed.

Years before the 12th and 13th general elections, I was part of that populace that could see how the corrupt BN regime was slowly but surely turning my beloved country into a failing state, with worsening race relations and unfair practices in almost every aspect of life. 

The national educational system, which had nurtured me and my wife so well, had deteriorated so badly that I had to take my three children outside it.

I saw cronyism in the commercial affairs of the country where those connected were rewarded with cushy sweetheart deals to operate highways, import foreign labour, procure medicine and drugs and rice and other prerequisites of life. 

Civil servants and politicians in high places had become conduits and commission agents for the provision of defence materials and related goods and services. 

Many lived lifestyles totally out of sync with the income from their positions in government and the civil service. It was like free-for-all pillage and plunder of the country's coffers.

The continual gerrymandering of the Election Commission was a brazen, blatant and barefaced scheme to ensure BN would continue to rule forever. Repressive laws were enacted to silence the opposition.

And in the middle of it all was the horrendous story of the biggest heist in world history, the 1MDB saga, that continues to unravel.

So, on that day in May, when Dr Mahathir Mohamad (photo) was sworn in as prime minister, millions of us sighed with relief that salvation was at hand. 

We now had hope, and not just in the name of the Pakatan Harapan that formed the government. What a country to look forward to – a New Malaysia, free from corruption, and where people are treated as Malaysians, and not as Malays, Chinese or Indians.

That euphoria seemed to live on for weeks until, little by little, the early optimism was slowly chipped away.

'We cannot afford to abolish the highway tolls', 'We never thought we would win', 'We cannot ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination', 'We would spook the Malays if educational opportunities are made fairer', 'The Unified Examination Certificate recognition needs more study', 'Local elections? We need to study this further', ad nauseam.

Read more: The Icerd outrage

Then my wife, a government pensioner, came back from Universiti Malaya Medical Centre and told me she now has to buy her 'bone supplement', something that had been prescribed to her years ago. 

What? By stopping the procurement of drugs and medicine through cronies, the government must be saving millions every month, so why is the supply of medicine to government pensioners being curtailed? Can anyone help me understand why this is so?

Then it transpired that there are federal ministers who professed to have academic qualifications, which proved bogus. But unlike, say, in Japan or the United Kingdom, where the culprit would either commit harakiri or resign, our ministers stayed on and chipped away more of my 'harapan' for integrity.

We hear of renegotiation of BN-initiated agreements and how much has been saved; but what about the highway concession agreements? Are we allowing the unfair contracts to go on and the rakyat continue to pay?

In my view, it would be so easy to impose a 95 percent tax on all income derived from the operations of highways to bring all the concessionaires to heel. It should be easy to abolish tolls in accordance with the Harapan manifesto. Then I remember my peribahasa, "Mahu sa'ribu daya, ta'mahu sa'ribu dalek" (If you want, a thousand reasons, if you don't, a thousand excuses).

We read of mysterious deaths and disappearances during the days of the Najib Abdul Razak regime, and reasonably expected immediate action to uncover the truth behind the death of Teoh Beng Hock or the disappearance of pastor Raymond Koh or the whereabouts of M Indira Gandhi's daughter, Prasana Diksa.

But the horrifying truth is seeping out that elements of the police may well be culpable. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes (Who will watch the watchmen)?

We read of rehabilitation of discredited politicians and their absorption into one of the parties in the ruling coalition, and soon had to endure talk of the Bumiputera Agenda. Race-based rather than needs-based – a total antithesis of the aspiration of the touted New Malaysia. 

Same old, same old

Wait a minute... was there really a change of government after GE14? Did the same BN government carry on with a change of name from BN to Harapan? The same prime ministerial style is still going strong. Leftover fried rice is taken out and refried. Race-based policies continue. 

It's all same old, same old.

Two persons in Malaysian politics had earned my respect and admiration for their fearless adherence to principles of good governance. Their incorruptibility and integrity had earned them the distinguished title of 'Mr Opposition' during their heyday. 

Dr Tan Chee Khoon has passed away, but Lim Kit Siang is now muted. Surely the latter is not, by any stretch of imagination, quietly accepting the shenanigans of other members of Harapan.

In the darkest of nights before GE14 when we felt hopeless, hapless and helpless from the onslaught of the excesses of the Najib regime, there was always a ray of hope at the back of our mind. 

There was this expectation of "when Anwar Ibrahim and Lim Kit Siang come to power." That mantra of the two messiahs sustained and kept us going.

Now Lim is muted, and Anwar does not want to spook the Malays and one year on, the Harapan government continues to prove inept, indecisive and reluctant or incapable of fulfilling its promises of a New Malaysia.

The shocking realisation has just dawned on me. If this Harapan government fails, what hope is there for my children and my grandchildren?

Once more, Malaysia, I cry for you.

YAP YOK FOO is a retired chartered accountant and author of Grandfather Stories.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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