Observations of a Kenyan student in Malaysia on the country – a beautiful nation with beautiful people who live with a stinking political system, institutional rot, and the trouble with the Malay leadership.
Being a student in Malaysia, I have learnt many new things: a new country, a new culture, people, food, etc. Malaysia is a beautiful nation with beautiful people, but probably a nation that has the worst political system.
When you look from afar, when you see the dazzling Twin Towers, the sky crappers, the trains, the paved roads, the almost all tarmacked lanes, it is beautiful and satisfying, but beyond that there is stinking political system – one devoid of decency and human good, a godless politics that thrives in indecency, skulduggery and simply outright demagoguery.
I remember Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi saying in 2006, “… the Malays will do anything to achieve something in politics(or something to that effect) and that anything includes vomit inducing rhetoric and actions.” He was right! He was booted out disgracefully after being stabbed in the back by some of his Cabinet Ministers.
Malaysia’s story is not new. Its racial politics, stifling bureaucracy, bulging and ever increasing civil service, third world politics, controlled society, partisan bodies and unthinking religious entities are issues one reads about almost on daily basis. Malaysia is not a nation that has bright future.
I remember as a kid, circa 1995 reading somewhere a robust statement made by Prof. Ali Mazrui, recognised as one of the 100 most influential intellectuals today where he praised the nation and predicted a bright future. Prof. Mazrui was in particular intrigued by the then Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. One decade later, you won’t hear the Kenyan-American professor talking of Malaysia.
That was when the economy was strong, institutional rot hidden from the public, social discontent minimal, political demagoguery not widely practiced, and Malaysia was surging. Dr. Mahathir and his then Deputy, Anwar Ibrahim were extremely popular in the Muslim (and non-Muslim to a large extent) world. They were where the Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan is today. Unchallenged and probably unparalleled when measured against fellow Muslim leaders.
Then came 1998, where Dr. Mahathir and Anwar clashed over the 1997/8 Asian financial crisis and some internal succession politics. Anwar was sacked, brutally beaten and jailed on fabricated charges of sodomy. Dr. Mahathir, realizing Anwar’s appeal both locally and abroad went overdrive to neutralise him. He did it (at least until he left power in 2003) but at the expense of Malaysia.
Malaysia has never recovered from that humiliating experience since then and it will never. Make no mistake about it; neither Dr. Mahathir nor Malaysia will recover from that ugly episode.
Anwar today is facing sodomy charges again. The new allegation would even beat the first one in stupidity. At least, in the first one, Malaysians were innocent enough to be shocked. Now, they aren’t. In fact, they have become accustomed to the brutality of the system that they smile, resigned to that fate.
Only Chinua Achebe can describe their resignation and hopelessness like he did in his A Man of the People. Foreign students in Malaysia joke about this immoral politics, “Why doesn’t Malaysia introduce Bachelor in Sodomology?” Then they can shout to the world that they can or boleh as they say in Malaysia.
This is a nation that’s losing its soul, its spiritual side, its human side. It is becoming concrete, merciless, immoral, godless and utterly ruthless. All the signs that the edifice is to come tumbling down are there, but the elite are interested in one thing: assassinating Anwar and they refuse to see the imminent danger.
But that’s not the subject here; it is the defeatism culture of the Malay leadership. Being a Somali ethnic myself, I’m in no position to blame others or point out their shortcomings, after all, my people have nothing to be proud of. May be Islam only, and even that Islam, they have rendered it cruel and tribal.
In Malaysia, there are three main races, the Malays who are the majority, the Chinese and the Indians, then there is motley of other races and tribes but politics revolves around the three main ones. Malaysia’s greatest challenge has been how to balance the economic disparity between the native Malays and the migrant communities who have made big (at least many of them) in Malaysia.
The racial riots of 1969 define Malaysia till today.
After that deadly rioting, a new economic policy (NEP) was formulated. The target was to alleviate Malay poverty (plus the poverty of others), rearrange the economic imbalance, support Malays to get a foothold and make them have at least 30% equity. Four decades later, it stands at 19%.
In those four decades, entire countries were built from scratch, of course others failed, but in Malaysia, they couldn’t manage one policy in four decades and worse, many continue to insist that the failed policy should be maintained. Like a drug addict who holds on to his fatal drugs, some Malays have become addicts.
It is killing them, killing their souls, killing their humanity, killing their spirit, killing their will, killing their dignity, killing their Islam and killing their country.
LB: Comments are closed until the publication of part 2 tomorrow. This post was previously published here.