Can Malaysia avoid the fate of a failed state like Sri Lanka?

The two books launched today have sombre titles, “Malaysia Towads GE15 and Beyond” and “Dark Forces Changing Malaysia” , but they contained important question marks as the final decision has not been taken and as last page of the book on “Dark Forces” put it: GE 15 will decide the future of the nation – a Malay-Malaysia or a Malaysian-Malaysia.

The jailing of former Prime Minister, Najib Razak and the corruption conviction of his wife, Rosmah Mansor, and the contribution of the recent irrational, extremist and bigoted utterances of Hadi Awang, may bring about a sea-change in Malaysian politics.

The UMNO leadership has positioned itself not only as the defender if the mega and monstrous 1MDB scandal, but put itself in the forefront of forces subverting the original nation-building principles and policies which have guided the four first UMNO Presidents, Onn Jafaar, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Razak Hussein and Hussein Onn by attacking the doctrine of the separation of powers and the principles of the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, good governance and respect for human rights.

Two events caught my attention recently – the most touching and heart-warming reference for the former lord president Salleh Abas by the judiciary, where the Chief Justice, Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat said that the constitutional crisis of 1988 had shown that despite attempts to undermine the independence of the judiciary, judges must be faithful to the Federal Constitution and be resolute in upholding the rule of law.

Describing the 1988 constitutional crisis which saw the removal of Salleh from his post as Lord President as the “darkest chapter in the history of the Malaysian judiciary”, Tengku Maimum stressed that an independent judiciary that is free from external influences is the “life-blood of constitutionalism in a democratic society”.

She said: “This is the foundation of judicial power and the central component of the doctrine of separation of power”.

For three decades since the 1988 constitutional crisis, the principles of the separation of power, the rule of law and the independence of judiciary, came under a cloud – but the political miracle of the 14th General Election on May 9, 2018 had brought out the sun.

This is an important development in the reset to return to the original nation-building principles and policies embedded in the Constitution and the Rukun Negara and for Malaysia to fulfil her potential to become a world-class great plural nation – but this is only one step in the reset as we need a total reset to save Malaysia.

The other event is the recent comment of the former deputy prime minister Tun Musa Hitam that he had never seen the country’s courts act so independently on political matters before.

Are the three million UMNO members going to undo what the four first UMNO Presidents have done in laying down the original nation-building principles for a plural society – constitutional monarchy, parliamentary democracy, separation of powers, rule of law, good governance, public integrity, meritocracy, respect for human rights, equal citizenship and national unity from our multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural diversity which is an asset and not a liability?

I see the bright side rather the negative aspects of Hadi’s recent irrational, extremist and bigoted statements, like his baseless accusation that the non-Malays and non-bumiputeras are the root cause of corruption, as it is the best time for Islam in Malaysia to prove to the world that it could adapt to the global reality of a diverse religious world, especially as there is growing freedoms and liberalisation in the Middle East and key Islamic nations. Why is Hadi banned from Saudi Arabia and other OIC nations although he is the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to the Middle East with Ministerial rank!

Today, there was a writ –up in Malaysiakini entitled: “GE15: May the least despised coalition win” which among other things said:

“Harapan, which was given the mandate to administer the country in 2018, had left many of its supporters bewildered and disenchanted after reneging on key parts of its election manifesto.”

Firstly, Pakatan Harapan never reneged on its election manifesto. I remember meeting the Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in mid-2019 to impress on him the importance of delivering the Pakatan Harapan’s election pledges, and to be frank with the people why it was not possible to implement certain election pledges in a five-year mandate.

I left the February 21, 2020 meeting of Pakatan Harapan Presidential Council meeting convinced that Anwar Ibrahim would be the Prime Minister at the end of the year after the APEC meeting, but Sheraton Move political conspiracy after the PH Presidential meeting changed the course of history.

The 15GE will prove whether we can learn from Sri Lanka and avoid being a kleptocracy, kakistocracy, a rogue and failed state and instead leverage on our assets at the confluence of four great civilisations to become a world-class great plural nation.

If Sri Lanka had any period in the last seventy years asked itself what went wrong, and self-corrected itself and reset its nation-building policies and principles, it could have avoided its sorry fate today.

Seventy years ago, Colombo was famous for Colombo Plan, a regional inter-governmental organisation to develop human resources in the south and south-east regions of Asia, but today, Colombo is associated with the infamy of a fleeing President after winning a landslide election and the burning of the residences of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers.

If Malaysia wants to avoid the “failed-state” example of Sri Lanka before Malaysia’s Centennial in the coming decades, then Malaysia must undergo a national introspection as to “What Went Wrong” with Malaysia and asked why we have not been able to fulfil our potential to be a world-class great nation and instead became a “kleptocracy at its worst”.

Among the mistakes we have made in nation-building policies and principles in the last half-a-century causing us to lose out to more and more countries, including the likely prospect of losing out to China and Indonesia by the end of this decade in the Transparency International Corruption index are:

  • Failure to accept that Malaysia is a plural society and that our multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious diversity is our asset and not our liability.
  • Non-Compliance with Article 8(i) of the Constitution that “All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law”, where there are no first-class, second-class or third-class Malaysian citizens but where all are equal citizens.
  • Worsening of corruption – 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 by the RM100 million Bank Rakyat scandal in 1979, the RM2.5 billion Bumiputra Malaysia Finance (BMF) scandal in 1983 and the RM50 billion 1MDB scandal in the last decade.
  • Declining educational standards and failure of the Educational Blueprint target for Malaysia to be above global average and be in top one-third of countries in international educational assessments.
  • Deviations and abuses of the New Economic Policy and its continuance after 1990 although its time-frame was for 20 years.
  • The first Malaysian Diaspora where over a million of the best and brightest Malaysians emigrated to make other nations great instead of Malaysia great.
  • The 50-year Nightmare of Illegal immigrants in Sabah given voting rights.

I have maintained that the most important question in Malaysia today is not who will win the next general election but whether Malaysia will become a failed state before Malaysia’s Centennial in the coming decades by avoiding Sri Lanka’s fate with a reset of nation-building policies and principles.

I leave you with this question, which a challenge to all Malaysians in the 15GE!

Are Malaysians capable of bringing about second Political Miracle in the 15GE?

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri