May 9, 2018 was a “gift of hope” which civic societies can help to fruition by playing an important role in nation building in New Malaysia – developing ways for the different races and religions to interact more and better understand each other
I am greatly honoured, deeply humbled and completely overwhelmed by the award of the Paul Harris Fellowship of Rotary Club of Damansara West.
I commend the Rotary Club of Damansara West for living up to the famous Rotary motto of “Service Above Self”, and in particular for its “Every Child Every Year”, “Gift of Heart” and “Gift of Sight” programmes to provide breakfast to needy children and bring life and sight to low-income families by funding pediatric hole-in-heart surgeries and cataract operations.
Tonight is a special occasion, for today is 5.9.2018, which has a special affinity to 9.5.2018, the Polling Day of the 14th General Election which provided to all Malaysians a “gift of hope” that life could be better in Malaysia under a new government, that Malaysians can hope and dream again to make Malaysia a great and respected nation in the world.
I recall that when I first set out 53 years ago on the political journey, there was no thought about elections, becoming a State Assemblyman, Member of Parliament or forming governments just ideals and principles although these became necessary elements in the ensuing process.
I was propelled solely by the idealism of youth to contribute to the building of a better Malaysia, which is united, harmonious, democratic, progressive and prosperous, where there is rule of law, good governance, public integrity and economic well-being; to build a Malaysia which is admired and respected by the world as a world-class nation in various fields of human endeavour.
Or in the words of Bapa Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman, the vision of Malaysia as “a beacon of light in a difficult and distracted world”.
In the Merdeka Proclamation 1957 and the Malaysia Proclamation 1963, it was proclaimed that Malaysia “shall be for ever a sovereign democratic and independent State founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of its people and the maintenance of a just peace among all nations”.
If Malaysia had been true to these promises and pledges, Malaysia would never have become a global kleptocracy (i.e. a rule by a thief or thieves) and a kakistocracy (ie. a government run by the worst or most unscrupulous of people).
When the country achieved independent nationhood on August 31, 1957, it was to herald the beginning of a new era where all its citizens could dare to dream big dreams to remake the world.
But had we been able to achieve world-class status in every field of human endeavor, whether political, economic, educational, social, environmental or on good governance after six decades?
Sadly, we failed as one country after another overtook us in development, excellence and progress. We seemed to have lost our way and trapped in the trajectory hurtling towards a failed state, rogue democracy, global kleptocracy and kakistocracy.
There was widespread despair and sense of hopelessness – our best and brightest were leaving our shores to join the Malaysian Diaspora worldwide, and more and more parents were telling their children abroad to stay overseas rather than to come home.
Is there any hope for the future?
Then the miracle of 5.9.2018 happened, which provided Malaysians with a new hope that we have a second chance to build a New Malaysia. On that day, Malaysians inside the country and in the worldwide Diaspora stood up and felt proud, imbued with great hopes for the nation!
We are completing the fourth month of the new Pakatan Harapan Government.
A fortnight ago, we were inundated by the 100-day syndrome in the media with headlines like “100 Days – New Malaysia”; “Prestasi 100 Hari”; “Janji 100 hari tertunai?”, “100-day report card on Pakatan Harapan: Looking Rosy for Now” and “What The People Say”.
While it is good to assess what had been achieved in the first hundred days or first four months of the Pakatan Harapan government as a form of report card, what is more important is whether the Malaysian ship of state had made a critical turn of direction from a trajectory of a failed, kleptocratic and kakistocratic state to a trajectory of greater national unity, integrity, democracy, rule of law and excellence.
While it is not possible to undo in four months all the abuses and excesses of power in six decades of power, the country had set a new course in nation-building in the first four months of the Pakatan Harapan Government towards a New Malaysia especially in the direction of public integrity, rule of law, democracy, good governance and greater transparency.
Firstly, there is the restoration of the doctrine of separation of powers with a Parliament which is not a creature of the Executive and the Prime Minister to aid and abet the suppression of the 1MDB corruption and money-laundering scandal and Malaysia becoming a global kleptocracy.
The new Speaker in the new Parliament had liberated Members of Parliament from the albatross of the former Speaker of the 13th Parliament who virtually banned the 1MDB scandal as a taboo subject in the previous Parliament; there was the parliamentary motion directing the Auditor-General and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to conduct again a detailed investigation into the embezzlement and the corruption scandal with regard to 1MDB and its related companies in order to restore the dignity of the Dewan Rakyat and for all related information to be made public; and thirdly, the appointment of an Opposition MP as Chairman of the PAC.
Secondly, there is the restoration of the doctrine of separation of powers with a Judiciary which is not a creature of the Executive and the Prime Minister, with the appointment of the new Chief Justice, Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, new Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Ahmad Maarop and new Attorney-General Tommy Thomas.
Thirdly, the transformation of Malaysia from a global kleptocracy into a leading nation of integrity in the world, not only with comprehensive investigation into the 1MDB scandal but a clean-up of the corrupt system of governance in Malaysia – which, according to the Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad, have gone “several layers deep” in the higher echelons of the public service.
We may have to seriously think of an amnesty programme for the anti-corruption programme programme to have full effect, although those guilty of heinous corruption, like the protagonists in the 1MDB scandal and other mini-1MDB scandals in Felda, MARA and Tabung Haji must not be allowed to escape and must be brought to justice.
The recent case of the estate of an UMNO leader who died in a helicopter crash with a RM2.1 billion fortune reveals the tip of an iceberg – which needs vigorous investigation as to how one of the richest Malays in the country could hide his identity for so long, and how many such wealthy “UMNO-putras” are there in a country, and where their wealth were derived from that they could hide them so long and so successfully.
Fourthly, institutional reforms like the impending law and parliamentary reforms such as legislation to repeal draconian and repressive laws and the recent decision to set up six parliamentary select committees.
Fifthly, a more open society with vibrant civil society and freer press.
But there are danger signals – the resort to vicious and toxic politics of race, religion, hate, fear and lies by irresponsible political opportunists in the Opposition to engender distrust, enmity and dissension among races and religions in a “scorched earth” policy, as seen in a recent Himpunan Melayu Bangkit (Malays Arise Rally) and the recent by-election campaigns, revolving around the 3R politics of race, religion and royalty – the lies that the Malays have lost power, and that Islam and the Malay Rulers are under threat.
Such irresponsible politics of race, religion, hate, fear and lies have not ended with the conclusion of the 14th General Election, but are being taken to greater extremes to bring down the Pakatan Harapan Government and restore the old politics of corruption and abuses of power.
The practitioners of the politics of race, religion, hate, fear and lies are fighting a losing battle, but their viciousness and toxicity cannot be under-estimated, and unless they are stopped in their tracks, the hopes and promises of May 9 could be undone.
This is where the civil society can play an important role in nation building in a New Malaysia.
Polls have estimated that some 95% of the Chinese and 70-75% of the Indian voters voted for Pakatan Harapan and a New Malaysia, while only 25 – 30% of the Malays voted for Pakatan Harapan and a New Malaysia.
We will need more than one general election cycle to build a New Malaysia, and we want the New Malaysia agenda of Pakatan Harapan to remain the national agenda for the next two decades, for which we have to win the 15th, 16th and subsequent general elections.
Did the 95% of the Chinese voted for a Chinese Malaysia and the 70-75% of Indians voted for an Indian Malaysia in the 14GE when they voted for Pakatan Harapan so they could bully or dominate other races in the country?
Of course not. Whether Chinese or Indians, they voted for a Malaysia where all Malaysians, whether Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Ibans or Orang Aslis, could have a better quality of life, human dignity, freedom, democracy and good governance where there is no corruption and abuses of power and a Malaysia which is admired and respected by the world.
I do not believe that the 35-40% of Malays who voted for Barisan Nasional and the 30-33% who supported PAS in the 14GE wanted to vote for kleptocracy, abuses and excesses of power and GST as well as the various forms of injustices and oppression under Najib’s premiership.
Can we ensure that in future general elections, we can not only maintain the same level of support from the non-Malay voters, but after we have had the opportunity to tell the truth about 1MDB scandal and other mini-1MDB-like corruption in MARA, FELDA and other public bodies, and revelations about the RM2.1 billion estate of UMNO leaders, more and more Malay voters would support Pakatan Harapan to fight kleptocracy and to ensure that Malaysia stands for clean and honest government and not a corrupt and decadent government?
This is the national challenge of all Malaysians who want to see Malaysia to become a top world class nation and an example to the world of an united, harmonious, successful, democratic, progressive and prosperous nation.
Checks and balances by vibrant civil society and free media are important building blocks for a New Malaysia where there is democracy, rule of law, public integrity and good governance.
But there is another important nation-building role for civic societies in a New Malaysia.
Apart from pockets of Malaysian society, like the Rotary Clubs in Malaysia, the various ethnic communities predominantly live in their own separate worlds so that it is easy for irresponsible, opportunistic and dangerous politicians and their propagandists to preach hatred, bigotry and intolerance , where any Chinese is easily painted as anti-Malay and a Christian or Hindu as anti-Islam.
The Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Ibans, just like Muslims, Buddhists, Christians and Hindus must interact and understand each other more so that they do not easily succumb to the wiles and trickeries of the political opportunists.
We must neutralise the political communalists and bigots in New Malaysia. Let us move beyond the situation where the Malays live mostly in the Malay world, the Chinese in the Chinese world, and the Indian in the Indian world.
We must find ways for all Malaysians, regardless of race or religion, to interact and understand each other, so that they do not fall victim to the toxic and vicious politics of race and religion, hate, fear and lies which must be regarded as the greatest enemies of the New Malaysia.
May 9, 2018 was a “gift of hope” which civic societies can help to fruition by playing an important role in nation building in New Malaysia – developing ways for the different races and religions to interact more and better understand each other.
I leave you food for thought as to how you, the Rotary Club of Damansara West and other civic societies can play this important role in nation building in a New Malaysia.