The Lost Malaysian Dream – Analysis – Eurasia Review


The Tourism Malaysian highlights Malaysia’s ethnic diversity as a unique strength. The website proudly presents Malaysia as the only “a place where all the colors, flavors and sights of Asia come together.” Yet the dominant Ketuanan Melayu The narrative (of Malay supremacy) advocates a Malaysian monoculture, where anything that is not Malay is portrayed as a threat to the Malays’ existence and way of life.

This paradox between what is adopted and the political reality on the ground very quickly transforms the concept of Malaysia as a multicultural nation into a myth. Multiculturalism existed a long time ago, and only the Merdeka generation remembers it today.

Their Malaysia was a nation that had struggled to muster a sense of mission about what Malaysia, and later Malaysia, would stand for.

It is far too simplistic to say that the Chinese of the time did not consider Malaysia their homeland. Many within the Chinese population had strong anti-colonial sentiment and wanted to see an independent Malay nation. At the same time, many relatives of today’s Bumiputeras had just emigrated to Malaysia from Indonesia within the past two generations.

As Dr. Lim Teck Ghee pointed out in his recent article “Muda, the younger generation should start with our real history”, the Reid Commission, who had responsibility for crafting the Malay constitution did not see a two-tier system of citizenship for the new nation. The Section 165 commission of its report saw the need for certain Malay privileges for some time, so that their position within the new nation would not fall behind other races or communities. It was a safety net rather than an ideology.

In Section 168, the Yang di-Pertuan Besar should have the special responsibility of safeguarding the special position of the Malays.

First Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman led the country backed by a coalition of major races. The cabinet was made up of Malays, Chinese and Indians, although UMNO could have ruled alone, winning 34 of 52 seats in the 1955 general election.

After Merdeka, the old colonial restrictions on Chinese businesses were relaxed. This allowed ethnic Chinese to enter most areas of business, especially those previously dominated by the British. Chinese companies and conglomerates have played a major role in Malaysia’s economic development throughout the 20and Century. Foreign direct investment was also buoyant between the 1970s and 1990s in what was then considered an up-and-coming multicultural Malaysia.

At that time, Malaysia had the potential to become one of the major economic powers in the region. However, development has become a very top-down initiative. There were often other agendas sewn into development plans, leading to massive financial scandals that are now symbolized by 1MDB. The GLCs have been propelled to the forefront of the economic scene, dominating the equity holdings of the KLSE. Massive corruption, which some say causes more than 30% leakage in government spending, has been covered up by cash cows like Petronas that supplement government revenue.

Although Malaysia has developed a massive middle class, which is now stuck in the middle-income trap, a super-rich elite class has also developed. The governments they controlled established discriminatory regulations, quotas and restrictive licensing. This has played a major role in creating an undiversified rent-seeking economy.

It has long been questioned whether the New Economic Policy (NEP) actually did what it was designed to do. One of the major spin-offs of this policy was the transformation of the old Ketuanan Melayu ideology into what it is today. This became the foundation of public policy for decades to come, where the civil service became the guardian of the mythical “Malaysian agenda”.

The push towards Islamization and the multi-generational education system undermined the concept of multiculturalism.

The Malay language was ‘Arabized’, Rukun Negara all but disappeared from official functions, non-Malays were alienated by institutionalized discrimination and Malays were told Malaysia was their homeland by many opinion leaders .

Multiculturalism is dead. The Malaysian regime bickers and fights not for the country, not for an ideology, but simply for who should govern. Although the national government of Ismail Sabri Barisan is trying to return to the old multi-racial coalition with MCA and MIC playing a bigger role than before, political actions are still very much based on Ketuanan Melayu ideology.

Malaysia is a deeply divided nation after nearly 70 years of statehood, and the shackles of state intervention in the economy, rampant crony capitalism, corruption and discriminatory policies now show many undesirable residual effects.

National creativity and innovation are stifled by discriminatory regulation. This not only perpetuates a brain drain, but a drain of successful businesses and business ideas. Just look at Malaysian entrepreneur start-up Grab in Singapore to get an indication of what’s going on. Business is hampered by unfair regulations and rules that deny equal entrepreneurial opportunity. Some of these pro-Bumiputera policies are actually disguised benefits for crony capitalists, who have the capital to take advantage of a market due to skewed rules. Ordinary Malays do not benefit from it, therefore do not benefit from it. Thus, the orientation is much more towards rent-seeking than towards taking risks with innovation.

Malaysia faces an innovation deficit. This leaves Malaysia with few potential emerging industries to rebuild the economy and compete on a regional basis. Malaysia risks falling relatively behind other Asian economies in the region before the end of the decade.

Freedom of religion is restricted in Malaysia. This is especially the case for Muslims, who are restricted in how they can practice Islam. Poverty is on the rise again, further dividing society. Malaysia’s various ethnic communities have become alienated from each other due to the divisive social engineering undertaken by governments over the past decades.

Social integration is blocked. The Orang Asli, Dayaks, Kadazans and Orang Asal were encouraged to assimilate with the Malays or face marginalization. Today, many Malays imitate the Arabs, fearing their own colorful culture, which drives the wedge with others.

Malaysia today has a suspect education system that borders on indoctrination. Islamization has destroyed secularism in government. Meritocracy has gone out the window. With the loss of multiculturalism and the rise of Islam in government, there has been a corresponding increase in the level of corruption. This has created strange paradoxes where even the halal integrity of food is threatened due to the greed of a few.

The short-lived government of Pakatan Harapan did very little to restore and promote the concept of multiculturalism. Rukun Negara was not brought back. The ICERD Convention has not been ratified. Education Minister Maszlee Malik has Islamized the education system more than any Barisan Nasional government. Religious Minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa and Deputy Minister Fuziah Salleh have both defended JAKIM over allegations of corruption. The PH government even bailed out a crony company, pumping RM2.7 billion of funds into Sapura, turning it into a GLC.

Which political parties are committed to creating a society based on rebuilding meritocracy, a safety net for the needy and vulnerable, and genuine multiculturalism, in line with Malaysia’s heritage? Which party is really committed to rooting out corruption? Which party is committed to creating equal entrepreneurial opportunity in the economy? Which party will reduce the influence of GLCs and crony conglomerates, so that the playing field is level playing field?

Where is the party that believes in one level of citizenship, where all Malaysians are considered equal? Where is the party that is willing to work hard to eradicate poverty?

The symbolism of convicted criminals on the loose is not a healthy precedent for the nation. This shows that Malaysia is in a moral quagmire. Malaysia needs a political grouping with a real dream for Malaysia. A dream to pursue a path that will not see the country decline further.

This requires a real commitment to multiculturalism. Is there a party ready to do that?

Murray Hunter’s blog can be accessed here


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