Monday, July 7, 2008

MALAYSIAKINI: It's the economy, stupid!

Like many M'sians I have been agog and repulsed (at the same time) at the gutter politics that has engulfed our beloved country. Many M'sians have begun to pine for the relatively serendipitous era of benevolent dictatorship under Dr M. Despite the absence of democratic space there was, at least - so these M'sians reason - certainty.
Witness the Malaysiakini reports Rakyat 'sodomised' by government or Headlines online and so on and it will be apparent why many fair-minded M'sians feel the fatigue and fear of uncertainty. Add to it the economic realities of inflationary pressure from the fuel price hikes and rising food prices - add to it the dismal indication from Bursa Malaysia - add to it the indignation from feedback such as 'Politicians greedy for power' in Malaysiakini - you will, no doubt, get the bleak picture of a hotchpot of meandering emotions, mostly negative.
But I honestly don't think we should be nostalgic for the previous era under Dr M. To consider a reversion would be like an ostrich sticking its head in the sand to avoid processing this new amount of data. We would be like a caged bird that fears the uncertainty that comes with flying out of an open cage. We would be like toddlers who feel the pain of a bad fall and want to crawl back into the dark and warm and cosy womb of the mother.
On March 8, whether by design or by accident, the M'sian electorate voted for the possibility of change. My humble take on the sentiment exhibited on March 8 is, that the electorate wanted a change from a system that favoured the few over the many; a system that pampered the few while marginalising the many; a system that rewarded psychophantic behaviour over truth-telling behaviour; a system that favoured rent-seeking behaviour and ignored the inconvenience of greater economic competitiveness and, the list goes on.
Sure, we were enthralled by the oratory of Anwar, Hadi, Kit Siang, Guan Eng and Husam. Sure we found the likes of Hannah and Nie Ching fresh and cute. But to say that such phenomena was the tipping point belies the real truth.
The truth may be (please take note BN think-tanks and strategists) the genuine feeling that the system is rotting. The system is rotting if the Prime Minister announces a policy, say, on Police reform but fails to see it through; the system is rotting if a 5-year plan, say, the 9MP creates corridors/ verandahs/ canopies/ pegolas that favours an elite group of construction companies but leaves the ordinary M'sians wondering "where's the beef?"; the system is rotting if the Election Commission commits a flip-flop on indelible ink and, yet, no one is fired; and, the list goes on.
It is not the personalities that matter. M'sians crave for a system that does NOT depend on personalities like Dr M, or Najib, or Anwar. We crave for a system that is meritocratic; that draws the best and brightest minds; a system that is able to create economic plans far ahead of the curve; a system that creates a fund that will preserve the country's wealth for future generations; a system where disputes are adjudicated in our courts with fairness and intelligence; a system where the best young M'sian minds (regardless of ethnicity) is harnessed and nurtured in local universities that rank in the Global Top 10; and the list goes on.
Although I understand that we, as a nation, are undergoing a transition from the era of benevolent despotism to an era where the democratic space is more open, I refuse to be drawn into political shenanigans and gutter politics. Frankly, all fair-minded M'sians are fully aware that for every sodomy-like allegation cast against Anwar by BN there is a countervailing sodomy/murder allegation cast against Najib. And, let us not even start with the nepotism and somnambulist allegations against Pak Lah.
If we take a holistic view of M'sia as a developing economy and a developing multiracial and multifaith sovereign nation - if we take into account that it has been half a century since we achieved Merdeka - the likes of Pak Lah, Najib and Anwar must be measured by whether they made M'sia a better place for all M'sians or, whether they made us worse off.
So, whoever wins or loses, I am reminded of Carville's scribble on the whiteboard in the basement of the Arkansas Governor's Mansion in 1991, when Bill Clinton first ran for the US Presidency, "IT'S THE ECONOMY, STUPID!"


Anonymous said...

I agree with your view on the current state of Malaysia. Most of the MSM and also some bloggers have their own selfish agenda in their message which distort readers perception and very dangerous for those with fertile imagination especially on the negative side.

I would like to add :-
1) For those who yearn for certainty, are the result of over the years of systematic programming right from bad education to bad economic policy.

As a result, majority of the workforce are working their butt (seems to be a favorite word nowadays) out but still trying to make ends meet day in day out compared with our neighbour down south.

For this reason, these group of people would rather revert to status quo. Why create unnecessary problem ?

2) I agree with you that we need to focus on a system rather than people, also written by etheorist People vs System

I would like to use the analogy of us having a dengue fever. Our antibody (People's power) will continue to fight against the virus (corrupted lawmakers) until the blood platlette count start to increase. For those of us or our family member who have contracted dengue before will understand that we have to wait out anxious period and hope that we'll not have to go through blood transfussion. For dengue, we can put a finger on the timeframe ie 7days but for the uncertainty that we are facing nobody knows it how long this will pan out.

The scary part is that Politics running and ruining the country as written by MalaysianInsider

Anonymous said...

The truth hurts.

The Chinese or the yellow race is what brings progress. Just look at Asia……….is enough.

Whether they do it internationally or locally they will survive.

We can distinctly see the lowering of Malaysia standards of living as the percentage of Chinese in this country goes down.

In the 70s we were tops with 40 over percent of Chinese and today with only 25 percent we are far behind Singapore, Hong Kong and Korea.

Main reason is the number of such Chinese migrating to these countries - the best ones and rich ones.

Next ten years as the percentage goes even lower, we would be nearing Indonesia or Philippines.

Meanwhile enjoy your stay and the good time.

On the whole as the Chinese spreads out throughout the world, the average standards of these will have much higher standards of living over others.

Anonymous said...

I wish to point out that the Orang Asli, not the malays, are the original inhabitants of Malaysia. Most of the malay Malaysians came from Sumatra and other parts of Indonesia. They only migrated here much earlier than the Chinese and Indian Malaysians. It does not mean they deserve privileges or rights just because they were the pioneer immigrants.

I applaud the non-malays who have kept quiet but are though uneasy over these special rights. You are true heroes, willing to show malays that you can succeed despite the odds. But neither I nor you should give up the right to be a first-class citizen of your country.

In fact there is nothing wrong in working hand in hand for the greater good of Malaysia. As for the malays who insist on hiding behind the veil of malay special rights - you have lost the respect of non-malays a long time ago.

Most non-malays I know come from low and middle income families. They struggled to save every sen. They like everyone else, spent their hard earned savings plus their EPF funds to educate their children. The poor ones can’t even do that as there is no one to help them. Can they ask for help from the government? Who represents these people?

It is arguable that if not for the contributions of the Chinese and Indian Malaysians who helped in the development of this country tremendously, Malaysia would probably be in same category like Indonesia or the Philippines, if not worst.

The malay and others of the same mind should learn to stand on their own feet rather than claim for special privileges and rights. The world is becoming globalised and if they don't change their attitude, they will only become beggars in their own country.

Anonymous said...

It is a sad story for both Sabah and Sarawak for joining Malaysia. Just look at Brunei and Singapore to see the answer.

Sabah and Sarawak is being raped by Malaya till dry, all the oil and timber from the two states is being used to finance all the failed projects and also to feed all the Umno zealots.

Ask the Iban and Kandazan, they are being marginalized. Now the government even want to make the country into an Islamic state, did Sabah and Sarawak agree to join an Islamic state in the first place?

September 16 is a day for mourning, a day of shame for Malaysia.

Anonymous said...

As a post-independence-born Malaysian, I would like to offer my thoughts on Article 153 of the federal constitution which mentions the special position of the malays. Please note that there is no mention of the words 'special rights' or 'special privileges' in the constitution.

For too long, there has been a lack of understanding of what our forefathers had in mind when they included this clause in our much talked about social contract. To gain a better understanding, let us take a trip back in time to 1957 to actually visualise the scene then.

In a scenario where the immigrant Chinese and Indians were seeking citizenship rights in Malaysia, it is reasonable to presume that they would have had to understand and acknowledge the difficulties faced by the majority malays.

And this is where the meaning of the words 'special position' comes into focus. What did our forefathers mean by the special position of the malays? Did they mean that the malays would have special rights and privileges in perpetuity? Did they mean that the malays would enjoy a higher status than all the other races?

If this is what our forefathers had intended, then our constitution would have mentioned this specifically. However, the social contract or constitution does not say so.

What then, could the words 'special position' mean? It is reasonable to infer that our forefathers were concerned first by the fact that the malays were left behind economically despite being the indigenous majority in the country.

Secondly, they were concerned by the fact that, despite being immigrants, the Chinese and a small segment of the Indian community were relatively much better off.

The clause was therefore more so of an acknowledgment by the non-malays of the disadvantageous economic situation of the malays. The consideration given by the former to the latter when entering into the social contract for citizenship rights was agree to provide some measure of support for the malays to improve their economic standing.

If our forefathers had meant for these preferences to last in perpetuity, then there would not have been a request for a review in 15 years.

When I see the compulsory requirement for non-malay companies to hand over a certain portion of their equity to the malays for no input at all, I am tempted to ask: Is this what our forefathers had in mind? I can go on listing the abuses forever because there are plenty of them.

It is intriguing to hear senior Umno and BN leaders repeatedly asking the people to adhere to the social contract. What contract they are referring to? It cannot be the federal constitution. It is most probably some contract that they have entered into unilaterally without the agreement of the non-malays.

So it seems to be incorrect to firstly equate the words 'special position' with 'special rights and privileges'. Secondly, it also seems incorrect to suggest that the malays have special rights and privileges in perpetuity and therefore, that they have a higher status than everyone else.

The non-malays only agreed to allow them preferences over the others for a finite period of time. It has now been almost 50 years since independent but has such a meaningful review of those preferences taken place at all? Absolutely not.

In fact what has happened is that successive BN governments, dominated by Umno, and especially after the 1969 tragedy, have taken the liberty to very liberally interpret Article 153. This has led to the wholesale abuse of the consideration provided by the non-malays in 1957 for their citizenship rights.

It seems to me that the real social contract of 1957 was torn up long ago by the BN government with the way in which the NEP was implemented from the 1970s onwards.

To me, the real social contract of 1957 has long been dead. I hope the day will come when the people of Malaysia in the true independent spirit will make it live again.

Then perhaps, we would not have to spend hundreds of millions ringgit on nonsensical projects like the National Service to inculcate unity amongst the races.

Anonymous said...

I have suggested in the past that Chinese Malaysians should just gather their wealth and leave Malaysia and let malays them become backwards.

Singapore is desperately looking for skilled foreign workers due to dwindling birthrates. Many Indians are working over there. Seriously Chinese Malaysians should look into moving to Singapore.

I am sure China can make good use of the wealth of Chinese Malaysians. Is there any policy the China government have enacted to encourage overseas Chinese to come back and make China their home once again?

That will teach the Malaysians a lesson. Their economy will crumble and will put them back 50 years.

Anonymous said...

Part 1 - The origin of pendatang:

· Malays - come from Indonesia and Yunnan.
· Chinese - come from China.
· Indians - come from India.

Part 2 - Why they come to Malaysia:

· Malays - easy life, food aplenty around those days, like fish from the river etc.
· Chinese - looking for a living.
· Indians - looking for a living and goes back.

Part 3 - Pendatang's attitude:

· Malays - the words 'relax la', 'bantuan kerajaan' and 'cukup makan' are their daily words.
· Chinese - work, work and work but also spend.
· Indians - work, earn and save but spend little.

Looking at the mindsets of various pendatang. You tell me is it possible to be one Bangsa Malaysia? Never! For oil will never mix with water.

If you tell the Chinese to close down Chinese schools, the children will not taught to be hardworking anymore, so they become lazy and can they ask for bantuan kerajaan?

No! Right? So let the Chinese have more Chinese schools to teach the principle of hardworking, integrity, trustworthy etc, thus others can get more shares.

Those days the government control the Chinese schools is because of communist. Now where got communist again? Bodoh!

Anonymous said...

Well, NEP actually is not that bad for non-malays after all. Everything has its cons and pros. 10 years ago, thanks to NEP, I was rejected by UM when I applied for engineering course. I was admitted to NUS of Singapore instead for engineering course.

Today, I can proudly say that I was graduated from a top 10 university in the Asia. If I were to admit to UM 10 years ago, today I might be too ashamed to tell people that I had graduated from UM.

For those talented non-malays, looks global if Malaysia does not welcome you. Be farsighted, be realistic and look beyond Malaysia, nobody in Malaysia appreciate your patriotism.

I graduated from NUS since I was abandoned by UM and now I am working in a MNC in Singapore. I doubt I can find any job back in Malaysia with the same pay and job satisfaction.

I have a cousin who just graduated from a USA university and immediately offered a job with US$5000, which is RM18000, almost equal our PM Badawi's pay.

You see, your future is brighter every way you go if you are talented, why restrict yourself to Malaysia who does not welcome you! You will be rotten fast staying put here.

If we look at history, a country who did not cherish its talents sure will not going any way except doom. Sad to say Malaysia never learns from the history and repeating the same mistake again.

With the current rate of brain drain, one day the local talents will be dried up. No foreign company will want to invest in a country where they had difficulty hiring employees especially in high tech area.

Soon all those companies left behind are purely agriculture or which rely on Malaysia's natural resources. Malaysia is going to nowhere if the existing policy is not changed. Vision 2020 is only remaining a dream, I can guarantee you with 99% confident.

My company is a USA MNC operating in Singapore. We have a design center here, half of whose employees are Malaysians. We had also a few factories in Johor Bahru, Melaka as well as Penang.

Based on the high percentage of Malaysian employees, if my company will to operate in Malaysia, the operating cost could be more than half. But my company still stay put in Singapore. Why? Mainly due to government policy.

Firstly the NEP, secondly they can't find enough talented local to fill in the position. At the end, my company is moving the low value added, low wage manufacturing job to Malaysia partly because of cheap labour and land cost.

If it is not due to its proximity to Singapore (near to design center), the manufacturing will be moved to Vietnam long time ago. Thus, this is why Singapore per capital is 3X Malaysia. How can Malaysia improve its GDP with only attracting low wage manufacturing job!

Malaysia once is competing with Singapore for foreign investment but not anymore. Now with China, India, Thailand, even Vietnam catching up and opening up fast, Malaysia is competing with these countries for low wage manufacturing job.

With the NEP and other policy, soon Malaysia is losing a tougher war (Vietnam's labour and land is even cheaper than Malaysia). This is why many MNC like Intel had moved their manufacturing site to Vietnam from Malaysia. This is fact and it is happening now, if the government does not do anything, that is it for Malaysia.

This is the con of NEP. But this NEP thing will never diminish the talented mind of non-malays. The more the discrimination, the more non-malays will look for other way to flourish.

UM is like a terminally ill patient and it is beyond cure, there is no point crying over spilled milk. One day, UM will be like the government primary school, abandoned by non-malays.

If there is no opportunity for non-malays in Malaysia, they will look beyond Malaysia, believe me, as a non-malay, if you can survive the harsh discriminative condition in Malaysia, you can flourish and survive any places in this world.

As I said before, NEP is just like a drug for the malays, it can bring short term satisfaction to the malays. Everybody including malay knows that this drug is not good for long term but the malays got so addicted that they cannot live without it anymore.

But on the other hand, for the non-malays, the NEP had caused some short term unhappiness but this will not harm them for the long term, they will study harder, work harder, and get better result, survive any way in the global world.

The non-malays had becoming stronger eventually while the malays will become weaker and weaker until one day, they will not be able to survive in the global world. One very good example is our national car, Proton.

Anonymous said...

I have mentioned that NEP is not constitutional and has extended its period beyond what has been planned to be necessary. 20 years has passed, but greed has set in.

Greed to benefits only a few and not the poverty stricken Malaysians. An affirmative policy that helps the poor regardless of race is needed.

I have also demonstrated that India has Muslim presidents despite being 80% Hindu. Similarly, in Australia there are Asian mayors. In America, New Zealand and many countries, top positions are for the capable not based on race or religion.

Now, let us not sweep all discussions under the carpet with the term Article 153.

Article 153 should always be interpreted together with Article 8 that all Malaysians must be dealt with fairly and treated as equal.

While the positions of the malays are respected and their heritage not forgotten, they are not meant to be the guardians of toll and wealth and collectors that usurp all money, oil and some natural resources till it is left dry.

It is important we publish this, so we do not just shiver when we hear Article 153, and begin to think of greedy ways to gain from another or use it to put down another races.

Article 153:

(1) The quotas reserved must be reasonable and the reservation of licences and permits for malays and natives must be of such proportion as may be deemed reasonable.

(2) The scope of the reservation of quotas is only with respect to positions in public service, scholarships, and other similar educational or training privileges accorded or given by the federal government.

(3) The special reservation of quotas must not affect the rights of other communities.

Apart from the provisions allowed under the abovementioned Article 153, all citizens of Malaysia must be treated as equal. This is clearly provided for under Article 8 of the Federal Constitution.

Article 8:

(1) All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law.

(2) No public authority shall discriminate against any person on the ground that he is resident or carrying on business in any part of the federation outside the jurisdiction of the authority.

(3) There shall be no discrimination in favour of any person on the ground that he is a subject of the ruler of any state.

NEP: It will destroy the Malaysia.

We must demand these changes and the power is with the people. We must go against a corrupt government, a fanatic religious social structure and not accept crime rates and the NEP. We need to change Malaysia and the social structures that are not relevant for Malaysia anymore.

We need to free ourselves from these chains that make our lives not worth living.

Anonymous said...

Lee Kuan Yew said the relationship between Malaysia and Singapore has not always been smooth sailing, and so investing in the Iskandar Development Region (IDR) may not always be smooth sailing for Singaporean companies.

This is simply a statement of fact that nevertheless appears to have gotten local Umno leaders into a tizzy.

Every local Umno politician hopes to be in a position to be approving investment flows into the country because to stand as gatekeeper is a very lucrative position, and when public squabbles erupt between Umno politicians about who is the better "protector of malay privileges and rights", it usually means someone just wants a bigger cut of the investment action for himself.

Go figure that one.

Of course, the relationship between Malaysia and Singapore is special because of the race relations issue.

Singapore has been the favourite whipping boy of the Umno-controlled malay vernacular press for the last 50 years, and if anything are seen as even bigger devils than the local Chinese and Indian citizens of Malaysia in the eyes of Malaysia's malay Muslims.

The fact is Singapore's development model has meant that Singapore's malays are far better educated, far better equipped, far better paid, far more self-confident, and self-reliant to deal with globalisation than malay Muslims in Malaysia.

This makes Ketuanan Melayu, the malay Agenda, and the NEP look like failed racist apartheid policies that have impoverished everyone except Umno cronies. Of course, Umno must demonise Singapore to maintain the illusion that Umno politicians are nationalists and not parasites, and more so if Singapore happens to be better educated, meritocratic, richer, and safer than Malaysia.

Malay Muslims in Malaysia have been brainwashed by Umno for the last 50 years into thinking that the Chinese and Indians both Malaysians and Singaporeans have gotten rich at their expense, and this perception probably won't change anytime soon because Umno does not have another elections winning formula if it dumps the present demonisation formulas.

Every time Singapore's first world achievements are compared with the sluggish competitiveness, economic, educational, professional, scientific, technological, and social standard in apartheid Malaysia, there is the predictable keris waving, baying for blood, and frothing at the mouth in every Umno up and down the country in Malaysia.

Although Chinese and Indian Malaysians have simply accepted the gross racial discrimination in business, education, and job as a fact of life in Malaysia, the non-apartheid non-NEP meritocratic Singaporean mindset may not have the stomach for this particular type of nonsense in the IDR.

I think Lee Kuan Yew is way too smart to think the demonisation process of the Chinese and Indians in the Umno-controlled malay vernacular press is going to stop anytime soon. How else is Umno going to win elections except by continuing to perpetrate the lie that the orang asing minorities in Malaysia are a threat to the malays?

Nevertheless Lee Kuan Yew may be hoping Chinese and Indian Singaporean investors will not be discriminated against in the IDR in comparison with investors from countries like China, Europe, Hong Kong, India, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and United States.

In the meantime, I am sure it will simply be business as usual for the rest of us in racial and religious apartheid Malaysia.

Anonymous said...

Malays are more suppressed in their own country by Umno than the suppression suffered by Chinese or Indians. For their pains they are offered the rotten carrots of Ketuanan Melayu and NEP.

The suppression of malays is deep and internal while the suppression of Chinese and Indians is only surface in terms of benefits and material things. That is why some Chinese have the cheek to say that NEP benefits them as it makes them stronger.

The suppression of malays is mental and spiritual enforced by KGB police type tactics. The suppression of malays may be an eternal and permanent one. Umno is a cancer to malay society.

Anonymous said...

I DISAGREE WITH U. If DRM is a dictator as you said......then most of the opposition leader would be in jailed by now...rite? If you think there is a better life out there,,just surrender your citizenship and migrate...nobody will cry for u....and most of all i think you have your own agenda/selfish agenda...dont question the Malay and Bumiputera right.....for whatever reasons.

de minimis said...

I like the energy level going around. I'm glad I'm not a politician. But whether we are politicians or not govt policies affect all of us. The more we insist on our rights, the more the govt (whether BN or Pakatan) will have to hear of voices.

I agree that the NEP has failed. Look at where M'sia's economy is today. Our per capita GDP is about half of Singapore's. Sure, we're a bigger country. Sure, we have to handicap the Bumiputras. But are the Bumiputras really benefitting? As far as we can see only the UMNOputras, MCAputras and MICputras that are benefitting. That's why change is necessary and way overdue.

It really has reached a point where change for change's sake is necessary. Just to break the downward spiral.

I hate the smug superiority complex of the Singaporeans who run the regional HQs for MNCs. The M'sian offices of MNCs are always having to report to the regional HQs in Singapore. Why is that? As some of you guys said, Singapore has the human capital and they have the socio-economic infrastructure.

I don't want any of us to lose hope. GE2008 has shown that many M'sians - malays, chinese, indians, kadazan, iban, etc - we want change. So, we need to keep the momentum going forward. Let's channel our anger and energy towards change. Let's not be tripped up by the politicking that's going on.

de minimis said...

Read this piece from Raja Petra which is relevant to our discussion. It’s all in the game .