Malaysia Dateline

5 books and Malaysia has taken a wrong turn in nation-building

I have been recommending five books for reading by all MPs and Malaysians, not to agree or disagree with what is written in these books, but to understand how Malaysia took a wrong turn in nation-building in the last half-a-century and must take corrective action to prevent a Second Malaysian Diaspora by fulfilling Malaysia’s destiny to become a world-class great nation with Malaysian First mindset and commitment.

These five books are:

What’s In A Name – Nazir Razak
Capturing Hope – Mahathir Mohamad
Final Reckoning – Romen Bose
Paradise Lost – Dennis Ignatius
My Story: Justice in the Wilderness – Tommy Thomas

Malaysians have not fully realise the historic significance of the 14th General Election on May 9, 2018 when we ended the political hegemony of UMNO.

Now most people are wiser after the event and claimed they had expected the 14th general election result

If you had asked me on the morning of May 9, 2018, I would say I never expected UMNO to be toppled that day.

According to Roman Bose’ insider account in his book (Tommy Thomas has described Roman Bose as Najib’s spin-doctor), Najib Razak never expected to be thrown out of office that day. In fact, up to the end of polling, Najib was expecting a restoration of UMNO’s political hegemony by winning two-thirds majority in Parliament that day.

The 14thth General Election results produced a new political scenario seeking a new political equilibrium where the voices of the people matter in shaping the destiny of the nation resulting in the turmoil which saw four Prime Ministers in five years.

The lesson for Malaysians is to realise that a political struggle to make Malaysia a world-class great nation is a long and arduous one and require perseverance and stamina for the long haul.

It has taken half-a-century to break UMNO political hegemony.

Will we need another half-a-century before Malaysia’s Centennial in 2063 to become a world- class great nation?

There is much negativity in the land.

As Dennis Ignatius said in his book:

“Given the way things have unfolded in the last few years, there is understandably a great deal of gloom about the future. Many are so disgusted and disillusioned that they want nothing more to do with our politics because they have concluded that the system is hopelessly beyond repair, that nothing will change no matter who they vote for. Not a few have suggested to me that our nation is now in a downward spiral that cannot be reversed; other talk about leaving. Time and time again, as I took straw polls at social gatherings and meetings, the majority shook their heads in despair when asked about the future. It is not hard to understand their despair.

“But our past doesn’t have to define our future. The future is what we make of it, it is not written in stone. It will be determined by the choices we make and the decisions we take going forward. Anything is possible; GE14 proved that. Looking ahead, I see both harbingers of hope and auguries of despair. How these eventually play out and to what degree will, I think, determine what our future will look like.” (p.298)

Malaysia needs a reset to become a world-class great nation and to use Bapa Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman’s words, “a haven of peace, harmony and happiness” and “a beacon of light in a difficult and distracted world”.

There is no reason why we cannot achieve this vision of Malaysia as a world-class great country as Malaysia is at the confluence of four great civilisations – Malay/Islamic, Chinese, Indian and Western – if we can leverage on the best values and virtues of these four great civilisations.

If Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or region, cannot distinguish between what is right and what is wrong, it is not only a failure of the national education system and nation building for the past half-a-century, there could be no future for Malaysia.

Recently, Malaysians underwent great tests – the two-year Covid-19 pandemic, the “once-in-a-century” floods disaster and the worst crisis of confidence of the country’s anti-corruption agency, the MACC – and these three tests showed that Malaysians can differentiate right from wrong and that Malaysia’s future is not a lost cause.

More Malaysians must be in the forefront to demand reforms to bring about an united and inclusive citizenry, regardless of race, religion or region; a free press, an independent judiciary, a vibrant Parliament, a competent civil service and an accountable police force.

Malaysians must be in forefront to mobilise Malaysians to spearhead the reset of national policies in the next half-a-century to bring about such institutional reforms so that Malaysia can be a world-class great nation.

We must not give in to hopelessness, dejection or despair. We have suffered great setbacks but we have achieved great strides.

Under the Merdeka compact 1957 and Malaysia Agreement 1963, Malaysia has only a future as a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural nation and not as a Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan or Dayak land or as a Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Sikhist or Taoist country.

That is why there is the provision in the Malaysian Constitution that any Malaysian can be a Prime Minster of Malaysia, and the post is not exclusively only for a Malay or a Muslim.

There is of course the political reality, and even in the United States, it has taken more than 200 years for a black man to become the President of the United States and an ethnic Indian to become the Vice President of the United States.

I do not know whether it will take 200 or more years for a non-Malay to become the Prime Minister of Malaysia, but under the Merdeka and Malaysia compacts, any Malaysian can aspire to the highest political office in the land, whatever the political realities of the country.

We must return to the forefront for Malaysians to be Malaysian first, and not Malay first, Chinese first, Indian first, Kadazan first or Dayak first.

For half-a-century, we have been in decline, overtaken by countries like Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Vietnam.

We must be in the forefront that Malaysia buck up and cease to be a mediocre country, or countries like Indonesia and Philippines will overtake us in the coming decades.

We must understand the significance of the confidence-supply-reform (CSR) Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Prime Minister Ismail Sabri and the four Pakatan Harapan leaders on Sept. 13, 2021.

Critics have accused Pakatan Harapan leaders for ceasing to be Opposition leaders, that they have been co-opted by the government, saying that there was no CSR MoU for the past half-a-century.

They failed to realise that it is the historic decision of the 14th General Election which ended the UMNO political hegemony which produced conditions for the CSR MoU, as in the past half-a-century.

It was because Ismail Sabri was the weakest Prime Minister in the nation’s history that produced the conditions that made the CSR MoU possible.

Six conditions were among the factors which made the CSR MoU possible and necessary:

1. The end of Umno political hegemony on May 9, 2018 where no single political party enjoys a simple majority of Parliament and which created a situation where CSR MOU was feasible. The MOU was unheard-of in the past six decades because UMNO exercised political hegemony.

2. The MoU does not provide for the political advancement of any PH political leader and the CSR MoU is an open document without any secret clauses. Any claim that the CSR MoU has secret clauses is completely baseless.

3. We stopped the PH’s numbers of parliamentarians being used in the “Game of Thrones” of Government parties in the conspiracy to be Prime Minister, as whatever the combination and permutation, Anwar Ibrahim would not be named Prime Minister whether by PN or BN.

4. The CSR MOU was to unite the efforts of all Malaysians to end the exponential increase of Covid-19 cases and deaths. There were 24,599 Covid-19 cases and 393 fatalities on August 26, 2021, five days after Ismail Sabri was sworn in as the ninth Prime Minister of Malaysia, If this exponential daily increase of Covid-19 cases and deaths had not been stopped, we might have cumulative totals of five to 10 million Covid-19 cases and 100,000 – 200,000 Covid-19 deaths at the end of 2021, instead of 2.75 million Covid-19 cases and 31,500 Covid-19 deaths.

5. Pakatan Harapan insisted that the PN government allocate RM45 billion to help Malaysians affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

6. A minimal political consensus for the start of institutional reforms in the country.

But we must not be the slaves of CSR MoU. If Ismail Sabri crossed “red lines” violating what is most decent and honest, then PR leaders must review the CSR MoU.

It is also important that Malaysians understand that the 22-month Pakatan Harapan government was not an unmitigated failure or disaster.

There is legitimate reasons to be unhappy with the pace of institutional reform or the rate of implementation of the election pledges, for I myself am not happy with the 22-month Pakatan Harapan government for I believe it could have done better.

But it is impossible for any government to fulfil an election manifesto meant for five years or 60 months in 22 months as the PH government was toppled by undemocratic, unconstitutional and illegitimate means by the Sheraton Move conspiracy in 22 months.

I met Mahathir in mid-2019 and expressed my concern about the rate of fulfilling the PH election manifesto. I had intended to meet the Prime Minister after the mid-term of the PH government but the PH government was toppled after 22 months.

The PH mandate to fulfil the election manifesto was for five years. If in the first half of the term, the implementation of the election manifesto was slow because of resistance, opposition or even sabotage, this could be remedied in the second half of the five-year term by an acceleration to implement the election pledges. But this was rendered impossible when the PH government was toppled in 22 months.
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Speech by DAP MP for Iskandar Puteri Lim Kit Siang at the launching of Kee Thuan Chye’s “Lim Kit Siang: Malaysian First” in Ipoh at Symphony Suites, Ipoh on Friday, 14th January 2022.