28th December 2009, 05:24 PM
The madness of 2009
24 Dec 09 : 8.00AM
By Deborah Loh
THE year 2009 has been a breathless one of political upheaval. But as we sift through the year's events, we ask, which were the ones that really mattered? Which events indicate if democracy and political maturity are improving? Which tell us things are becoming worse?
The Nut Graph offers its take on 10 highlights of 2009:
1. Eight by-elections.
2. The Perak coup.
3. The sixth prime minister.
4. Teoh Beng Hock and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
5. The Port Klang Free Zone scandal.
6. The MCA crisis.
7. PAS-Umno unity talks.
8. Kartika's whipping sentence.
9. Women and the law.
10. World rankings.
Downgrades for Malaysia were recorded for 2009 in several indices. Transparency International's 2009 Corruption Perception Index saw Malaysia slide from 47th to 56th place out of 180 countries. The placing was the lowest ever in recent years of steady decline.
Malaysia was also downgraded from the Tier 2 Watchlist to the Tier 3 blacklist on the Trafficking in Persons 2009 report. It said Malaysia had become a destination, and, to some extent, a source and transit point for human trafficking.
In Reporters Without Borders' Press Freedom Index, Malaysia slipped slightly from 132 to 131 this year, a status-quo verdict indicating a lack of progress. In the Global Gender Gap Report 2009, Malaysian women were worse off in 2009 at 101th place, compared with 96 in 2008, 92 in 2007, and 72 in 2006. The Nut Graph.... (http://thenutgraph.com/madness-of-2009)
30th December 2009, 07:16 AM
Cheerless year for a tormented nation
AB Sulaiman, Dec 29, 09
An old friend Don came visiting from London to spend Christmas and the New Year, a season usually associated with happiness and good cheer, and we met for lunch. He saw me with a face normally cheery but this time looking so very glum. He rightfully asked why.
At this period of the country's history, I replied, it is difficult to be happy, for the nation's 'feel good' factor is dissipating. I told him the country is speedily marching down the road to despair. The country is in a self-destruct mode, and is imploding.
And all this happening under the 'Ketuanan Melayu' tutelage, fueled by its self-styled ideology of 'untuk agama, bangsa dan negara' (for religion, race and nation); a concept portraying the exclusivity and grandeur of the Malay ethnic group, the sanctity of Islam and the interest of the nation above everything else.
Don is no stranger to Malaysia for he worked here before for over a decade. He knows about the Malay struggle to preserve its 'mertabat', its dignity, honour, status and prestige, the basis for its ideology.
But of late the Ketuanan Melayu, I told Don, has lost sight of its chosen ideals. Judging by what has transpired in the last months or so, the leaders have been doing the opposite: instead of preserving Malay dignity and honour, it has systematically destroyed whatever had existed before.
Today Ketuanan Melayu is all about abject abuse of power, crass greed and massive corruption. Or, about a leadership institution applying its policy of racism, bigotry and ethno-nationalism trying to cover it track of power abuse, greed and corruption; all in order to stay alive.
I told him that the leadership under this ideological cloak has craftily robbed power from the people. I told him that Ketuanan Melayu has been a leadership that is emotive, subjective and potentially damaging to the long-term interest of the nation.
Not too long ago it operated under the motto 'Bersih, Cekap dan Amanah' (Clean, Effective, Trustworthy) but turned out neither clean, effective nor trustworthy. Today it's under '1Malaysia' but no one, least of all Najib Razak the prime minister, has explained what '1' refers to. (One race, nation, law, leader, loyal unquestioning citizens?).
And yes, the leaders have gone all out to split the multi-ethnic people by creating a dual legal system, one for the Malays, and the other for non-Malays. And judging by the actions and utterances of political leaders like Ahmad Ismail (from Penang Umno) and editors of the Utusan Malaysia (the unofficial mouthpiece of Umno) the authorities appeared to tacitly been instigating the Malay to go for another May 13, 1969 racial riot.
And whatever for?
Perhaps when such incident occurs then the government would have the rationale to declare a state of emergency, suspend the constitution, put a despot to singly run the country and hey presto, all problems can be swept under the carpet!
I told Don that the Ketuanan Melayu leadership has been running the country in the most autocratic fashion. It is sadly lacking in check and balance, of transparency, honesty, integrity and professionalism.
As the principle of check and balance and transparency are missing, the leadership had taken this opportunity to wrestle power from the people for their exclusive use. Inevitably they proved right the Lord Acton's dictum that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The plundering goes on
Much like the Malay wisdom 'macam tikus jatuh ke beras' (like a mouse falling into a sack full of rice) the Malay establishment became centrally powerful and have taken note of the fat balances in the Treasury and Petronas coffers.
Inevitably in a system where the law is king, the king suddenly becomes the law, as in the case of the Perak constitutional debacle. The rule of law becomes the rule of private interests. With this little technicality done away with, it's open sesame to the nation's cash balances.
While the plundering goes on, Malaysians are gagged into silence and are becoming robotic and passive citizens. For example, we are not allowed to demonstrate and protest against government policies. We are even liable for arrest for wearing black shirts!
For the last few months or so, the country has been hit with exposure of one corruption case following another committed by leaders at the highest levels and involving obscene amounts (e.g. potentially up to RM12 billion for the PKFZ alone).
We see the leadership bullying, tormenting and intimidating the citizenry, like going after Raja Petra Kamarudin for 'insulting Islam' (whatever that means) an apparently seditious act; for arresting Tan Hoon Cheng (left) for reporting the utterances of Umno bigwig Ahmad Ismail (something like “if you don't like this country, go back to China”) in her newspaper Sin Chew Daily; for its treatment of P Uthayakumar, a Hindraf leader.
We see the ulamas claiming the corpses of people who were apparently Muslims before they died; oblivious to the emotional trauma this body snatching is causing to the living relatives.
We see the chief secretary making the very telling statement that civil servants are loyal to the government. To him, the government is responsible the people so civil servants must support it. He forgets (or chooses to forget) that civil servants as incumbents of the executive branch of government should be loyal to the people. Just who pay their salaries anyway?
It is obvious that once in power, the Ketuanan Melayu leadership literally becomes the 'Tuan' (master) who quickly then treat the citizens like serfs; oh, it's so feudal.
The CM and PM's wife
Consider the following too, I told Don: we have a PM who in the court of public opinion has a closet containing many skeletons. Just how effectively he can run the country is painful even to ponder over.
We have two jet engines stolen from the inventory of the Royal Malaysian Air Force. We have the roof of newly built stadiums crashing down mercifully not causing any death. We have a bridge across a river that also collapsed but this time causing the drowning and death of three tender lives.
Of late, we see a chief minister allegedly remitting RM10 million abroad and Rosmah Mansor the spouse of the PM allegedly receiving RM600,000 whilst abroad, acts which are criminal and treasonous, but never mind, apparently the Bank Negara is chasing after the money changer facilitating the transactions!
Government institutions too have contributed their share in eroding the feel good factor of the country. A suspected criminal A Kugan died while in police custody. Teoh Beng Hock a political aide, died while in the custody of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
Partly for this and other possible reasons, the country's human rights ranking plummeted, as does corruption's. Even immigration records of Altantuya Shaariibuu, a Mongolian woman (later found murdered by government agents), went missing.
Social institutions suffered breakdowns. In the court of public opinion for example the integrity and professionalism of the judiciary is at an all-time low, this on account of judges being promoted based on personal rather than professional considerations. Public opinion says that many court decisions this year have been controversial in nature. And in any case, some judges have been known not to write their judgments in time if at all.
The education system is in mess as demonstrated by the large number of unemployable graduates. The ranking of public universities organised by THES (Times Higher Education Supplement) is nothing to be proud of.
What could be the cause or causes of the implosion? Scholars and academic can debate over this point and come with some consensus. I have my own theory, and told Dom it: that the NEP has not been successful at its ending year 1990. The reasons for the failure can again be many but partly due to the Malays not having the mental aptitude to rise to the challenge; so all early successes were literally props, no the genuine article.
As a result, the Malay then began to feel more insecure, have much less confidence in himself and his abilities. Paranoia inevitably sets in. The Ketuanan Melayu leaders then took note of the insecurity, add to it the fear factor (fear of religion and government) and made a bee line to the Treasury. Corruption then sets in.
Seeing with greater clarity
I told Don that the country is being run by the principles of might is right. In the past, this has been the case too but then the government was in control of the mass media and could easily use power to silence the people. When caught doing what they shouldn't such things were easily put aside with the compliant mass media smoothening things out. The leaders caught with their hands in the honey jar could get away very easily.
But that was yesterday. Today we have the Internet, this marvelous borderless invention of man. With it we can be situated anywhere and communicate with a second party anywhere with no 'Ministry of Doctoring of Information' to filter and regulate communication, news or information.
We citizens are able to see things in better perspective as we have access to genuine news, information and knowledge. What we know today is the result of this new environment. What we see with greater clarity are the excesses of corruption, mismanagement, despotism of our leaders.
Blogger after blogger have come forward expressing his sadness, despair despondence and unhappiness over the scale of these Ketuanan Melayu misdeeds.
I told also about the people's reaction to the leaders' governing style. There are those who think the moon of the government, so to them it is business as usual. There are those who are more critical, but would not wish to rock the boat, or felt helpless in doing something or the other about the situation.
There are those who begin taking their money out of the country. These are those who walk out and migrate to more hospitable climes where the government is more responsible and accountable to the people.
These have been the reasons why I had the glum look, I told my friend. The leaders have made Malaysia into a cheerless country. Its soul has been sold to the devil by corruption and materialism. It is tormented by its own leaders.
My reunion with Don turned out to be one of giving a quick narration of the sorry state of affairs of the country. It is not a pleasant account, but frank and honest. If we have another reunion next year, let's hope you can tell me something better, he said.
I look forward to that. In the meantime, I can only hope.
AB SULAIMAN is an observer of human traits and foibles, especially within the context of religion and culture. As a liberal, he marvels at the way orthodoxy fights to maintain its credibility in a devilishly fast-changing world. He hopes to provide some understanding to the issues at hand and wherever possible, suggest some solutions. He holds a Bachelor in Social Sciences (1967) Leicester, UK and a Diploma in Public Administration (1971) Universiti Malaya. Malaysiakini. Subscription required. (http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/120750)
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