Malaysia Dateline

Hold “What Went Wrong?” sessions to find out why Malaysia failed to achieve a world-class nation

I propose that all political parties, NGOs, youth associations and student clubs hold “What Went Wrong?” sessions throughout the country to find out why Malaysia, in more than six decades of nation-building, failed to achieve her potential to become a world-class great nation and what is the way forward.

When Malaya, now Malaysia, achieved her independence in 1957, Bapa Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman expressed the hope that the new nation would become “a beacon of light in a difficult and distracted world”?

We are now in the 65th year of our nation-building.

Are we in the advanced stage of achieving the Tunku’s vision of Malaysia being “a beacon of light in a difficult and distracted world” or have we lost this vision and contributing to the world becoming a “difficult and distracted world” by becoming a kleptocracy?

In 1971, the second Prime Minister, Tun Razak introduced the Rukun Negara and the NEP.

Fifty-one years ago in February 1971, I declared the DAP stand on NEP in Parliament:

“We are dedicated to the abolition of poverty and economic backwardness regardless of race. We want to create a classless community of Malaysians based on fellowship, co-operation and service, where there is no exploitation of man by man, class by class or race by race.

“We support any measure which will help better the lot of the Malay poor. But we are strongly opposed to the use of Malay special rights to enrich the new Malay rich to make them richer, while the mass of peasantry and poor are exploited as ever…

“The problem in Malaysia is complicated by an ostensible double coincidence. Firstly, the class divisions in our country appear very often to coincide with communal division, secondly, the disparity in incomes and productivity between urban and rural areas appear also to coincide along racial lines as towns are predominantly non-Malay while the mass of Malays live in rural areas.

“Such urban-rural economic disparity and imbalance, however, is not a phenomenon peculiar to Malaysia. Similar social, economic and cultural disparities as between rural and urban areas also confront other developing countries. This is indeed a universal problem, reflecting the slower pace of socio-economic process in the rural as compared to the urban areas.

“The key to bridging this urban-rural imbalance is to promote greater and faster economic growth in the rural areas, and not by embracing and implementing an evil, pernicious and racialist doctrine equating economic disparity and imbalance with the racial division in the country.

“Any attempt to impose racial theories and solutions to basically economic problems of the have-nots is dangerous as it will pit one race against another, which must culminate in a racial holocaust. It will also be founded on the monstrous falsehood that all the haves in Malaysia are non-Malays, while the Malays are all the have-nots.

“The basic problems in Malaysia are an economic and class one, and not a racial problem.”

Veteran economist and a founder of Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER), Tan Sri Kamal Salih has called for the abolition of the New Economic Policy (NEP) and to replace it with a needs-based policy to overhaul the economy.

He said: “Only 10%, who are the rich, have benefited from the NEP. The rest, such as the M20 and B40, are struggling. The income disparity continues to widen after the pandemic.”

Kamal pointed out that there are an estimated 800,000 unemployed Malaysians, of whom about 30% are graduates who have “nowhere to go”.

He also said about 90% workers in Malaysia have mismatched jobs, with people being in the wrong positions or line of work.

“We need to overcome this. Also too much political interference in the economy. It is counterproductive.”

Nazir Razak, the son of Malaysia’s second prime minister who was the architect of the New Economic Policy (NEP) Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, said many of the principles in the NEP no longer work and have instead led to dysfunctional politics and growing divisions among Malaysia’s communities.

He said the status quo was quickly becoming untenable and asked if the country’s leaders had the initiative to develop and implement new political, economic, and social systems as the NEP was not meant to be a permanent solution.

Former Perlis Mentri Besar and former Dewan Negara President, Tan Sri
Abdul Hamid Pawanteh said Malaysia is on track to become the worst country in the world unless its custodians change how they conduct themselves in leading the nation.

He said the ills – from healthcare, to the economy and politics – afflicting the country will worsen unless a determined sense of change takes place soon.

He blamed it on the education system, which has failed to produce the right type of leaders for the new age of globalisation and emergence of great threats, such as Covid-19.

We have failed to achieve Vision 2020 to be an united and developed nation, a Bangsa Malaysia, infused by strong moral and ethical values, living in a society that is democratic, liberal and tolerant, caring, economically just and equitable, progressive and prosperous, and in full possession of an economy that is competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient.

We have failed to achieve the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025 to achieve above global average and be in top one-third of countries in international education standards.

The 1Malaysia slogan has been replaced by the 1MDB scandal.

Malaysia has lost it way in nation-building after 65 years, failed to become a Tiger economy or a world-class great nation.

We have increased our national per capita income by 30-fold from 1970 to the present day but we have increased by more than 63,000-fold the corruption and financial scandals in this period, as illustrated RM100 million Bank Rakyat scandal in 1979, the RM2.5 billion Bumiputra Malaysia Finance (BMF) scandal in 1983 and the RM42 billion 1MDB scandal in the last decade.

In the past half-a-century, Malaysia lost out to Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Vietnam.

Will we lose out China and Indonesia before the end of this decade in the annual Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI)?

Will we lose out to more countries in economic development, even to Indonesia and the Philippines, come 2,040 or 2,050 – well before Malaysia’s Centennial?

Can we return to the nation-building policies and principles in our Constitution and Rukun Negara – constitutional monarchy, parliamentary democracy, separation of powers, rule of law, good governance, public integrity, respect for human rights, Islam as the religion of the nation and freedom of worship for all other religions and national unity from our multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural diversity where there are no first-class and second-class citizens whether based on race, religion or region?

“What Went Wrong?” should be a question asked by every patriotic Malaysian, regardless of race, religion, region, age or gender if Malaysia is to fulfil her potential to be a world-class great nation.