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LETTER | 'You will know that your society is doomed'

LETTER | I am a Malaysian first and a Malay second. I pray to God daily, and I believe in the hereafter where all of us will all be asked to account for what we did or did not do while we were alive. But I am not obsessively and destructively religious. I am unhappy with how my religion has been hijacked for political purposes, and I am angry with the people doing it.

I am also angry with the charlatans and titled people who call themselves our leaders. I am unhappy with the creeping Arabisation of my multiracial and multicultural Malaysia. And I am angry with the dumbing down of the Malay rural population by politicians without integrity, without honour, without honesty and without conscience.

Being often labelled as incendiary by my classmates at the Royal Military College, I want to say something in this 63rd year of our independence. I do not care if you do not like what I am going to say.

Most of my classmates are presently in this "waiting to die mode" and have chosen to detach themselves from worldly affairs. Some will have a slightly longer wait compared to others, but all of us will surely die. Although on future independence days after our deaths, the sun will still shine, and the birds will still sing, I say to them, do you not care what will be the state of this country that you inherited from your fathers, that you will, in turn, leave behind?

Of course, you care. You would be lying if you say you did not care.

If you choose silence, and to die without conscience for the state of the country that we are leaving behind for our grandchildren, and their grandchildren, that is your cowardly choice. I choose to say what I feel, and although alone I cannot do much to change things, I hope by speaking out, enough people will have their conscience pricked, and our numbers may swell enough to outnumber the living dead. And hopefully, the enlightened will be large enough in number to make a difference.

For a start, this affirmative action policy has gone on for far too long.

Although it has helped a lot of Malays, it is a double-edged sword, which is starting to hurt the Malays more than it helps. It has bred a crutch mentality among us Malays, to an extent that initiative and entrepreneurship have atrophied among the Malays. We have become risk-averse.

Our people have now come to believe that they cannot achieve anything without government help. Our race has become the object of derision by the more independently successful Chinese. Let us wean the Malays away from affirmative action. Let us embrace meritocracy. We need to taste hard work and some failure, for us to learn how to walk without needing crutches.

The affirmative action policy, when it was first mooted after the dark days of the May 13 affair, was the right thing to do. But half a century later, this policy has bred a cadre of Malay rent-seekers and politicians, who exploit this policy to enrich themselves immorally and illegally. In the name of helping the Malays, government-linked companies (GLCs) and government-owned companies (GOCs) have often become instruments to steal and to siphon money from public coffers. 

The positions of heads of these GLCs and GOCs have systematically been given not to capable and qualified persons, but are rewards reserved for politicians to entice them to do the bidding of their masters and to leap from one party to another. In addition, these positions are also dangled in front of many senior civil servants, to buy their complicity in nefarious schemes to bleed the country’s coffers.

At the trial of a previous prime minister, we heard how senior civil servants meekly carried out the orders of the sitting PM, without acting as the check and balance that they were intended to be. No doubt they were eyeing titles and cushy positions at GLCs and GOCs after their retirement from the civil service. I say GOCs and GLCs ought to be privatised. The government should only govern, and the private sector should be tasked to do business. This will remove the insidious opportunity for politicians to use the GOCs and GLCs as a political tool.

The effects of this disease are so entrenched today, that we are now derisively labelled as the country with the biggest kleptocracy in the entire world. One of our past prime ministers has even been convicted of a felony, and yet the dedak-infused still kiss his hands and scream, "What is there to be ashamed about?" whenever he makes his police-escorted rounds. What has become of these people?

I worked in the oil industry, and I know that Norway and Malaysia started developing our oil and gas industry at about the same time. In fact, both Norway and Malaysia have about the same size of hydrocarbon reserves beneath our land and our seas. But while Norway managed their bounty carefully, and today they have one of the world’s largest sovereign funds from oil and gas resources, exceeding one trillion US dollars in value, Malaysia has a sovereign debt exceeding RM1.264 trillion, including government liability exposure and commitments

I remember 55 years ago, one of our prime ministers booted Singapore out of Malaysia. I remember clearly watching Lee Kuan Yew crying on the black and white TV after that announcement. I remember that in the few years after that event, how we got one Singapore dollar at the Caltex station just before the Johor Causeway for only 90 Malaysian cents.

Today, the Malaysian dollar and cents have been renamed ringgit and sen, but the Singapore dollar is now worth 3.3 times our miserable ringgit and sen. And Singapore with no natural resources at all, except the perseverance, the will, and the ingenuity of its people, and the strategic thinking of their leaders, is today one of the wealthiest countries in the world, with a per capita GDP around a dozen times more than ours.

We are proud to have a national language which is Malay, but the policy of closing English language schools and converting all schools into effectively Malay medium schools, and leaving vernacular schools in existence, has led to disunity among Malaysians, because our children are now educated in silos, unlike my generation who were educated differently.

Our diversity should have been an asset. Instead, it is highlighted to divide us. Malay was never legally removed as the national language of Singapore, but the pragmatic and smart Singaporeans encouraged the study of English and Mandarin, as these two are the leading languages for commerce and science in our part of the world.

So, our nationalists and leaders have not been very clever. They have not managed the issue very well. I support Malay as the national and unifying language, but I have only contempt for the politicians who caused us to lose the advantage we would have had on the world stage with a population that was multilingual.

I feel sad today in seeing how a section of our Malaysian population is being made to be the bogey for all the failures and weaknesses of another section, the privileged section of the populace. Yet, against all odds, like the people of Singapore, this bogey section of the population are the owners and drivers of the commercial and industrial engines of this country.

In my humble opinion, it is our selfish, dishonest, and immoral leaders who are to be blamed for the mess our country is in, in this 63rd year of our independence. Even as our country bleeds from the Covid-19 calamity, our so-called leaders are still prioritising politics over-focusing on saving the country, just like the proverbial Nero still playing his fiddle while Rome burns. The Malay proverb, “Harapkan pagar, pagar yang memakan padi,” is appropriate, in the case of our Malaysia.

So, the question is, what can we do to pull ourselves out of this cesspool we are all in?

For a start, let us start seeing the elephant in the room. Let us openly talk about our issues and our problems. To my 75-year-old classmates, I say, let us pause a while in our preparations for the hereafter, and try to find a workable solution to this problem confronting our nation. If we do not talk about these issues, if we are silent, no solutions will be volunteered. I know it is difficult for those aboard the gravy train to talk about these things.

But the rest of us who are not, should make ourselves heard. It is too much to expect the BRIM infused and naive rural folks to see the light at this stage, because for a poor family earning just RM1,000 a month, a BRIM gift-payment of RM2,000 of taxpayer's money, is a powerful incentive to continue voting with their pockets instead of with their heads. It brings to mind the story once told about Stalin.

As a lesson to his followers, Stalin once ripped all the feathers off a live chicken. He then set the chicken on the floor a short distance away. The chicken was bloodied and suffering immensely, yet, when Stalin tossed some bits of wheat towards the bloodied chicken, it followed him around whenever he tossed wheat to the chicken.

Stalin then said to his followers, "This is how easy it is to govern naive people. They will follow you, no matter how much pain you cause them, as long as you throw them a little worthless treat, occasionally. One of our past and disgraced PM, who championed the policy that "Cash is King", probably learned it in England where he had most of his education.

In conclusion, I leave you this little anecdote, lifted from the book Atlas Shrugged, written by Ayn Rand in 1957, the year we gained independence from Britain.

"When you see that to produce, you need permission from men who produce nothing. When you see that money flows to those who deal not in goods, but in favours.

When you see that men get richer by graft and by pull, than by work.

And your laws do not protect you from them but protect them from you. When you see corruption being rewarded, and honesty becoming self-sacrifice, you will know that your society is doomed." 

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

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