by T.K Tan
As Peninsular Malaysia ushers in its 55th year of existence, for many of us, there is not much to celebrate about. Many Malaysians are discontented with the order of things in the federation. Can we rise above the dismal state of affairs?
Fractured State of Union
After 55 years, we are no closer to achieving the Bangsa Malaysia (Malaysian race) ideal. Indeed latent distrust towards each other seems to be the order of the day, no thanks to the divide and rule tactics of the longest elected party in the world, UMNO.
In a series of opinion polls conducted by Merdeka Centre from 2006 to 2011, the results show a deteriorating trend of national unity. In 2006, 45 percent of those surveyed considered themselves Malaysian first. In 2011, a similar poll registered only 39 percent affirmative response.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s famous diatribe calling himself a ‘Malay first, Malaysian second’ is unfortunately a shared view for many of us. In the 2006 poll, more than half the Malay respondents think of themselves as Malays first.
The 2006 survey asked the respondents why are they proud of being a Malaysian? 47 percent answered that it was only due to the peace and stability in this country. Are we merely co-existing with each other in this land? Is Bangsa Malaysia a pipe dream for us?
Beware the Watchmen
When the Alliance parties of UMNO, MCA and MIC negotiated independence for Malaya in 1956, they were entrusted to bring a fair deal for Malayans.
Unlike the unsubstantiated social contract mentioned by Tun Dr Mahathir that threatens those who question the sanctity of Malay ‘rights’, the understanding was for everyone to be able to benefit equally from this entity known as Federation of Malaya.
However, UMNO-BN’s five decades of mismanagement has returned a dismal record. After 55 years, Indians are the second poorest community in Malaysia. They form 60 percent of the squatter urban squatters and 41 percent of the beggars (The Economist 22 February 2003).
According to researcher Jayanath Appudurai, 32 percent of Indian households are living below poverty level, the highest proportion in Peninsular Malaysia.
For those who are mobile and educated, overseas destinations and jobs are the natural course of choice. According to the World Bank Report “Malaysia Economic Monitor: Brain Drain” (MEMBD), more than 1 million Malaysians have left the country. 88 percent are Chinese.
As for the Malays, UMNO’s entrusted stead, the record is not much better. Despite being blessed with oil and gas resources, Kelantan and Terengganu, the overwhelming Malay-majority states, are ranked third and fourth in the nation’s poverty rates.
The much maligned New Economic Policy (NEP) which was launched to address the wealth disparity amongst the races after the May 13 racial riots has been abused beyond recognition.
The Malay community’s Gini coefficient (measure of income distribution disparity) is consistently higher than the Chinese and Indians despite them receiving lower distribution of the NEP’s largesse in aggregate. In short, UMNO has failed everyone miserably.
A Monster Reared
At the core of the malaise besetting the nation is UMNO’s greed and wicked design for maintaining power. Its history of political dominance has been manifest since 1957.
From 1960 onwards, the Alliance with its legislative dominance amended the constitution numerous times in order to control the appointment of the Election Commission (EC) members.
It gave the incumbent government control over the EC and to gerrymander the electorate seats expansively that allowed UMNO and the Alliance to win general elections handily. (1)
When any states still showed political defiance, UMNO was not above interfering unconstitutionally in state governments. Malaya witnessed its first fall of an elected opposition state government in Terengganu after some PAS ADUNs defected to UMNO after inducements were dangled for them.
In Kelantan in 1978, an emergency situation was declared over the state after a crisis was manufactured by UMNO-linked demonstrators. UMNO subsequently won the state elections over a weakened PAS. (2)
But the most brutal crisis ever concocted by UMNO was the May 13 racial riots that saw unaccounted number of deaths. To this day no independent commission of inquiry to investigate the cause or the happenings of the bloody incident has ever been engaged by the UMNO government.
The government’s White Paper attached the blame mostly on DAP and unofficially, the Chinese. UMNO has since then constantly used the racial riots as a foil to scaremonger the Malays into believing they would lose power if UMNO loses the elections.
Engineering A Mindset
Since the 1970s, the UMNO government has embarked on indoctrinating the Malay supremacy mindset. According to studies made by the Centre of Malaysian Chinese Studies (CMCS) and Nanyang University Alumni Association of Malaya (NYUAA, Malaya), school history textbook content began to heavily report Malay accounts at the expense of other races. Even museums’ contents mostly reflected Malay perspective.
Civil servants composition too began to be dominated overwhelmingly by one race. According to a report by Ipoh Timor MP Lim Kit Siang, in the 1970s Malays form around 60 percent of the civil service. In 2010 the figure is 78 percent.
Whenever opposition parties question the implementation of the NEP, UMNO invariably uses it as an excuse that it is a questioning of Malay rights. This poisoned mindset has bred mistrust particularly amongst the Malays toward others.
A 2010 Merdeka Centre survey poll shows that 72 percent of the Malays continued to believe the necessity of NEP to help the Malays in spite of its many failures.
With political dominance came hubris and corruption. While other countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines have been improving their corruption rankings, Malaysia’s ranking has been falling since 1995, from sixth position to 11th position.
Restoring A Promise
Former Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman once said his aim was to build a prosperous and happy Malayan society. Unfortunately for us, UMNO’s dismal record in ruling the nation shows why it will never happen.
UMNO has shamelessly continued to use the May 13 riots to scaremonger the people to vote it into power in every GE. In addition it intentionally keeps the people poor in order to win their votes through vote buying in GE.
It is no secret why Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has won his biggest approval from the poorest segment of the society in many of the opinion polls conducted, courtesy of his populist measures. (Free Malaysia Today, 1 June 2012).
Can we change the course of events? The March 2008 general election result was a fortuitous event for Malaysians. The long forgotten principles of transparent, honest and accountable governance are making its way back in the Pakatan Rakyat-run states of Penang, Selangor, Kedah and Kelantan.
However that providential bounty is under risk. Perak PR government lasted just under 11 months before an unconstitutional and ugly power coup felled it.
An electoral fraud is now being engineered in Selangor. Reports of a large number of unaccounted voter registrations are surfacing there, triggering possibility of the incumbent PR government being voted out with phantom voters.
The wall that UMNO constructed by dividing the people await our tearing it down. It begins when we start disbelieving lies peddled to perpetuate it for the benefit of the select. Will Malaysians take heed? – The Rocket
1) Electoral Politics in Malaysia : ‘Managing’ Elections in A Plural Society
2) Islam Embedded: The Historical Development of PAS, Farish A. Noor