Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ku Li: The infrastructure of institutions

I'm reiterating my bewilderment as to why UMNO and BN still choose to ignore Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. Granted that there is an entire political power superstructure that is dominated by the likes of Najib and Muhyiddin presently, but, why can't UMNO-BN loyalists like Tengku Razaleigh be given the political forum and space within UMNO and BN to contribute his considerable experience and wisdom?

The fact that men like Tengku Razaleigh continue to be marginalised lends credence to the perception that UMNO and BN are still in the "divide-and-rule" and denial mode in spite of clear and incontrovertible evidence that all is still not well for the coalition and each component.

Here's another piece of perspective from the great man. Do read my end-notes below, though.

The best of what we already had, come 1957 and 1963, were a set of viable modern institutions practices and skills: the Westminster model of Parliamentary democracy, civil law grounded in a Constitution, a capable and independent civil service, including an excellent teaching service, armed forces and police, good schools, sophisticated trade practices and markets, financial markets, and modern methods of management such as those applied in our plantation sector. We were already a functioning country integrated into global markets. The challenges of development and nation-building were serious, but we faced them with an independent judiciary, a professional civil service and a well-defined set of relationships between a Federal Government and our individually sovereign states. Indeed we were able to face these challenges because these institutions functioned well.

Institutionally, we had a good start as a nation. Why is it important to recall this?

For one it makes sense of the feeling among many Malaysians and international friends who have observed Malaysia over a longer period that Malaysia has seen better days. There is a feeling of wasted promise, of having lost our way, or declined beyond the point of no return.

This feeling is too sharp, and too pervasive to be put down to the nostalgia of always finding “the good old days best.” The illusion of nostalgia doesn’t explain why we are losing our best and brightest. Those who can stay away and settle overseas do so, with the encouragement of their parents. Their parents tell them to remain where they are, there is nothing for them here. The illusion of nostalgia does not explain why parents fight to send their children to private and international schools rather than the national schools they themselves went to. The very same politicians who recite nationalist slogans about our national schools and turn the curriculum into an ideological hammer send their own children to international schools here or in Australia and Britain. They know better than anyone else the shape our schools are in. It is no illusion that people do not have the faith in our judiciary and police that they once had.

Malaysians are losing faith in their future despite the evidence of material progress around us, despite being a relatively successful country. We have lots of infrastructure. Lots of malls and highways. Especially toll highways. It is not for want of physical infrastructure, dubious as some of it is, that we feel we languish. It is a sense that we are losing the institutional infrastructure of civilized society.

That infrastructure, whether indigenous or acquired, was already in place at independence. Having secured our political independence through a consultative and deliberative process, we were well placed to build upon this foundation. We had a complex system of laws, conventions and practices but crucially we had the people capable of understanding and administering such a system. We had a civil service and a political class trained and socialized into the practices of the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy. Core principles of accountability, check and balance and independence were lodged in the habits, thought patterns and behaviour of our civil servants and judges.

If Malaysians feel a sense of loss, tell their children not to come home from overseas, or are making plans to emigrate, it is not because they do not love this country or are ungrateful for tarred roads and bridges. It is because they feel the erosion of the institutional infrastructure of our society. Institutional intangibles such as the rule of law, accountability and transparency are the basis of a people’s confidence in their society.

We acknowledge and celebrate our ties to British education and British institutions not out of sentimentality but out of an understanding that these are foundational influences that have had much to do with stability and competitiveness as a nation. British educational, administrative, legal and cultural institutions continue to be of vital importance to us as Malaysians. We need to affirm these links without political blinkers, understand their cultural, political and economic importance to us, and build on them. One result of such a change of attitude should be a rethinking of our attitude to the English language. By now it is also a Malaysian language. It would be sheer hypocrisy to deny its value and centrality to us as Malaysians. Do we continue to deny in political rhetoric what we practice in reality, or do we grasp the situation and come up with better policies for the teaching and adoption of the language?

I cannot deny that Tengku Razaleigh's words and perspectives are a balm to soothe the sores of the pronouncements and policies and administrative decisions of the Malaysian government agencies that seem to frame all policies and decisions on the basis of race instead of principle.

However, the stark contrast between what the Tengku espouses and what many of his colleagues in UMNO are doing publicly and within the Malaysian government is quite glaring.

What is a Malaysian voter to make of this Jekyll and Hyde nature of UMNO?


walla said...

The infrastructure of institutions in this country has eroded only because the infrastructure of racial politics has been institutionalized.

What is the structure of the second infrastructure?

It is made of three concentric circles. Innermost circle covers the Umno supreme council and some veterans. Middle circle covers the GA delegates and some supporters. Outermost circle covers those who had retired from high office in the government by virtue of their ranking in Umno.

Ku Li is in that outermost circle. However there's someone else who has also retired but is not in that outermost circle only because he is already in the common centre of the three circles. As we know, the centre doesn't move. If it moves, the circles will have to move as well.

How else can one explain why Ku Li is marginalized on the one hand but that centralized personage is shielded on the other hand from the Lingam case findings of a Royal Commission of Inquiry which is in fact a new example of an infrastructure of institution?

This conclusion all will arrive at by also asking when was it that the infrastructure of institutions of Malaysia had first started to be dismantled.

What about the other component members of BN? Today they are either busy with internecine combats or flapping wings in the absence of fresh ideas for how to answer why they have become irrelevant.

When institutions of westminsterized democracy were dismantled, a vacuum was created. It was filled by new substitutes. These substitutes were all about race, religion and rights. The two people who had defined what the substitutes had to be were Mr Fear and Mr Greed.

Mr Fear plumed the depths of the psyche of the race. Mr Greed came forward with the way out of those depths.

The people who rushed forward to exorcise their fears had to sign up new deals.

The fine print was not read. It says that once you get onto the back of the tiger, you can't get off. The train has no brakes. And because the path or track was a short-cut, the trip was shortened. Since it was shortened, the passenger had not enough time to see the signs and landmarks which would have given clues for the next trip. Thus too many are finding that they are marooned and stuck at the arrival point. Furthermore when they finally looked out the window, they saw a few amongst them had actually scooted off in a space shuttle enroute another planet. Meanwhile the tiger was getting hungrier and more fed-up with its increased load. Nevertheless, Tiger Rail Sdn Bhd is due for listing.

There are other side-effects from dismantling the infrastructure of institutions.

One, the voters, rakyat, common folks, even intelligent masters holders, have come to the conclusion that enough is enough. They stop on the spot. They don't want to give anymore the benefit of the doubt because they have reached their nadir in doubting any benefits spun so far every day in the magnificent procession of sloganeering which appears to be the only sign of life from Putrajaya. And that is because they have drawn their own conclusion that the sloganeering was to hide the profiteering. Because space shuttle fuel is special and damn expensive.

Once the trust of the herd is gone, it is nigh well impossible to get it back. There is a bad aftertaste which no amount of sprigley chewing gum can dissipate. It sticks like radioactive waste.

People are asking: how come now no more brouhaha about billboards? So aman dan damai.

walla said...

Governing is supposed to be a simple thing. Like plumbing. Just get rid of the air pocket and the water will flow again. If stuck, no bath. If bathless, dirty. If dirty, diseased. If diseased, death.

And thus we come to a second side-effect. A nation dies if it doesn't progress. Hardware is only half the story. If an investor says, maybe half in jibe, that he will bring billions if you can guarantee ten thousand engineers, then that should be a wake-up call, even if it was a jibe. That wake-up call had been sounded for more than thirty years. Now we want to wake up when others are already investing in their next buildup? How do you turn the tiger around without ropes? Look for a volunteer to be the meat from the present and aspiring coteries of politicians?

Ask our investment promotion bodies what's their success rate todate. Is there a trending down? By the way, how come they're so quiet these days?

There is yet another side-effect of dismantling the infrastructure of institutions. The bonding between all the races don't congeal. If it doesn't congeal, how can there be cooperation to make Malaysia great again? All the projects and sloganeering will come to naught if the new administrating colonialists decide that it is better for themselves to keep dividing the hearts of the people in order to keep their roles and thus avert the inevitable conclusion they are irrelevant...than to see the bonding come really through because there is a wellspring of goodness in all the peoples...from day one when the nation was formed.

How can one rule for the country to progress based on a contradiction?

And as they go about their deeds practising double standards, this for me, that for you, they create their own encampment and cells of authority. To reinforce that, they put on uniforms. Like in schools. These uniforms together with the superfluous jokes and laughter to hide the creeping loss of confidence will continue to buoy them over the next hurdle. But what are their original intents and final remits? Where is the nobility of the race when uniforms are put on but double standards are practised in legal and financial matters at the top to racial matters at the middle to thuggery at the bottom?

It is not necessary to take stock of all the derring-does of the years. Everyone knows what they were. Everyone expects more to happen in the coming years. Even as the latest annual budget can extend APs to 2015, way past GE13.

So what has changed? Can change really be effected honestly and nobly? Does the bureaucracy of the day see their customers through tinted racist glasses, drawing gall from the philosophy of the party of their masters who hold their purse strings and career progression?

The disease has gone into the bone marrow. It emanated from something wrong in the centre and spread right out concentrically. But because the terms and conditions of a ride on Tiger Rail Sdn Bhd says you can't get a refund, people continue to turn a blind eye to what is going on, day after day.

When one turns a blind eye too often, sight will be finally lost.

Then you can't read this post, can you?