Malaysia 2012 – National Suicide or A New Paradigm
by Matthias Chang on 31 Dec 2011 1 Comment

Now that we have got over the nonsensical political rhetoric of the self-deluded politicians in the 4th quarter of 2011 and the merriment of Christmas, it is time for a reality check.

In 2007, Malaysia completed the 50 years cycle (i.e. 1957 -2007) which had two phases or mini-cycles of 25 years each. The 12 years following the Second World War (1945 -1957) ravaged our country as a result of British Colonial agenda. It was 12 years of intense civil war, a critical struggle within the context of the  global Cold War between the Anglo-American-led Imperialist forces on the one hand and the National Liberation Movements aligned with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. It was an epic struggle between the forces of what was commonly referred to as the “Right” and the “Left”. And to the victors across the global war theatres, the spoils of wars and their version of history but the narratives till today remain controversial.

The scars of this struggle are still evident in the current politics of Malaysia. In many ways we are as divided now as we were then. New euphemisms have replaced old labels. The British colonial “Divide and Rule” policy has morphed into new forms and those who strived for political power have learnt well from their British tutors.

“Mother England”, the originator of Parliamentary Democracy has no more than 5 major political parties since the time of Cromwell and Constitutional Monarchy. Today, it has essentially three major parties – the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, and the Liberals, just barely.

But, in Malaysia we now have 13 parties in the Barisan Nasional (14 previously) which had evolved and grown from the original three – UMNO, MCA and MIC of the Alliance Coalition. There are four parties in the Pakatan Rakyat. The component parties of both Coalitions are demarcated along racial, sectarian and opportunistic vested interests. There are a few more on the side-lines either aligned with the Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat.

That Malaysia has become what it is today is the result of many factors – wise leadership, the people’s pragmatic sense for survival, abundant resources and her own version of Parliamentary Democracy. Externally, the Anglo-American political elites were shrewd enough to realise that after 12 years of colonial war, it would not be feasible and economical to maintain direct rule and granted Independence to salvage whatever there was left of the British Empire. The status quo was maintained and supported in myriad ways, principally through trade, education and military ties.

The first 25 years (1957 -1982) essentially focused on establishing political, economic and administrative infrastructures which laid the foundation for the next 25 years. The second cycle (1982 -2007) was the transformation of the economy from one that was essentially agricultural to that of a modern mixed economy. The cycle peaked in 2003, but there was enough steam to see her through to 2007 when with the onset of the Global Financial Tsunami, she began her downward slide.

Even without the external economic factors, a country having peaked cannot but slide negatively downwards. In the normal course of such cycles, the downward movement would be slow in the first few years until it gathers momentum and reaches bottom at the end of the second 25 years cycle, marked by occasional short and abrupt up-trends during the downward spiral. However, unfortunately for Malaysia, as a result of Badawi’s mismanagement and financial rape by his cronies, infected by the Goldman Sach’s disease, RM900 billion was wasted in the short period of five years (2003 -2008). There was not much to show for the big bucks!

The punishment was swift and drastic. In the 2008 General Elections, Barisan Nasional lost its historic two-thirds majority in Parliament (which it had maintained since 1957) and five State Governments in the states of Kelantan, Penang, Kedah, Perak and Selangor. In 2009, it was able to snatch back Perak following the defections of members from the Opposition parties. However, Barisan Nasional has yet to recover fully from this political devastation.

Politics is about power – the seizure and thereafter the retention of power for as long as possible.

When a country is developing, working to build the economic pie, the people’s priority was one of survival, economic well-being and basic education. Malaysia, being a multi-racial, cultural and religious nation, it was not surprising that the politics was ethno-centric, for it was far easier to mobilise on ethnic lines than to appeal to the nationalist abstract. The more intellectual were persuaded by ideology but by and large, people sought stability and security through common identity – race, clans, religious and cultural affinities. This specific type of affiliation reflects a peculiar insecurity of the respective communities.

Ethno-centrism has served Malaysia well in the last three decades, but it has now reached a point whereby its effectiveness and usefulness have been questioned. This is to be expected and there is nothing that anyone can do to turn the clock back.

When a community advances economically, the very impetus that united them previously is now the bone of contention. Invariably, the gravy train that left the station can only take onboard the selected few, the political and financial elites that enjoyed the patronage of the ruling party. This became entrenched as a system when the ruling elite was so dominant that it held sway for over four decades, giving rise to major contradictions within each community until the bubble exploded in 2008.

No one can deny that the New Economic Policy (NEP) provided opportunities in all sectors of the economy to the Malay community and provided a bigger slice of the economic cake to the other communities. There were grouses, but generally the people were contented with the economic progress that was achieved. Malaysia was the envy of the developing world.

However, our success has brought about the emergence of a mindset within the ruling elites that the wealth of the nation is their entitlement and at every turn, they shall have the priority of the first bite! And while RM millions is beyond the imagination of the many, to the elites, anything less than a RM billion is small change. This cancer is so pervasive that public monies amounting to RM250 million was given to a company controlled by the family of a minister to operate a cattle farm. But for the exposé by the Accountant-General, none would have been wiser. And when it was reported that the Deputy Minister of Finance received ‘donations’ into his personal account purportedly for his constituents, there has been no investigations by the Anti-corruption agency. Other regulatory authorities turned a blind eye.

The conventional wisdom seems to be, “It’s alright to get rich by any means, just don’t get caught. And if you do get into a mess, make sure that you have the protection of those who wield power.”

There are other issues that have riled the electorate but none has aroused the anger of the people more than the abuse of power to enrich the political elite, their families and their parasitic entourage.

I may well be crucified for speaking this unpleasant truth, but if there is no meaningful change on the part of those who wield power and those who aspire for power, let me assure them that they will suffer a fate worse than any that could be inflicted on me for telling the truth. Speaking truth to the people seems old-fashioned. There is a need to engage public relations consultants to polish up the lingo and to use abstract terms and expressions to foster a “feel-good factor” when reality is otherwise. 

This apparent failing of our politicians reminds me of the wise words of Confucius, “If language is not correct then what is said is not what is meant. If what is said is not what is meant, then what ought to be done remains undone. If this remains undone, then morals and acts deteriorate. If morals and acts deteriorate, justice will go astray. If justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence, there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.”

But our politicians continue to take the electorate for fools. They campaign against corruption, exhort morality and righteousness, but their actions betray their conscience. They have none, empty vessels!

Where did they learn the craft of devious language? Would it be a surprise if I say from the USA? President Woodrow Wilson is an expert in this craft. The New Republic has this to say about this “new” political language, “Moral enthusiasm is what he gives us, redeemed only by the most abstract reference to living… When you have cleaned your morality into a collection of abstract nouns, you have something that is clean and white. But what else have you?”

Angelo Codevilla correctly observed that such talk remains the common currency of prestige journals as well as TV commentary and Presidential campaigns and it is no different in Malaysia. He also pointed that calling things by their name, using words according to their ordinary meaning, anchors the mind to reality. But when reality is bitter, when the things differ from what we wish, we sugarcoat them with euphemism or put our wishes names on them. Consequently, we fool ourselves.

Why is this so? Why would politicians adopt such devious language? Niccoló Machiavelli explains thus, “Each abstraction or euphemism distorts an unpleasant fact of life, makes impossible things seem possible, unmanageable ones seem manageable. The sum of them shields our statesmen’s axiom against common sense.”

In essence, our politicians across the political divide continually lie to us so as to perpetuate the status quo. But, lately they have degenerated into gutter politics – sowing hatred and bigotry and breading fear and insecurity. The end game is the power to control the RM billions worth of resources and the printing machine called Bank Negara!

The 13th General Elections will be a political No-Holds-Barred contest and it will be nasty, no two ways about it. The stakes are just too high to fight by the Queensbury rules. To the victor, the spoils of war!

So will there be an election in 2012?

Given the stakes, it would be foolish for the Pakatan Rakyat coalition to dissolve the State Assemblies which they are in control. They have four insurmountable fortresses from which to launch attacks and to defend their territory. In a Chinese treatise on war, the worst policy is to attack a walled city or fortress. For the Barisan Nasional to call for an election in 2012 is to attack a walled city or fortress and they will be attacking four fortresses.

It will be a different scenario in 2013 as both the Federal and State governments’ terms will expire and there has to be simultaneous elections at the state and federal levels. The dilemma faced by the contending strategists is who stands to be stronger or weaker over time come 2013.

The factor that will determine this outcome will be the side which is more skilful in using the correct language to win the hearts and minds of the electorate. I am not optimistic that both sides can rise to the occasion and so it will be a bloody contest in 2013.

[Courtesy Matthias

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