Questions for Malaysia to ponder

I am beginning to feel as if Malaysia and its people are being crushed and pummelled by wrecking balls.

The wrecking balls of race and religion, of insatiable greed, sense of entitlement, unpunished crimes and abuses and ideology over rational thinking, justice and fair play. These concerns are nothing new. What's new is the breathtaking scale and the shamelessness with which the perpetrators display their unscrupulous, destructive and criminal behaviour.

The seeds of this rot were sown long ago. Any dominant party in power breeds its own seeds of destruction. For too long, too many of its leaders and party apparatchiks got away with transgressions. They tend to believe they are immune from any form of retribution.

We were once a model country that others looked up to as a prosperous, progressive, politically stable and multi-ethnic society. Now we are looking more and more like another banana republic, with scandals galore making global headlines.

The deep concern many feel that these wrecking balls could lead to an implosion of everything that we have built over the­decades is real.

And what is scary is that there are people who are priming for trouble to break.

The Low Yat Plaza riot will not be the last in their scheme of things.

The Inspector-General of Police and his forces acted fast in nipping the problem in the bud and stating the facts clearly and unambiguously. It was a crime, not about one race trying to cheat another. All who exploited the situation by making hate speeches to manufacture racial conflict must be charged for their role in inciting violence. Lessons must be learnt fast if we want to stop those determined to destroy the country to remain in power and preserve what they believe are their lifetime entitlements on the basis of birth.

As desperation over the inevitable closing chapter sets in, there will be more attempts to ignite fires of racial conflict.

The truth is that the ruling elite is becoming more and more beleaguered - under the weight and scope of allegations of misappropriation of public funds, plummeting popularity and finding itself devoid of new blood and new ideas, and certainly bereft of courage and will to bring the transformation needed to win back public support.

Let's manufacture more threats to add to the standard "Malays under threat", "Islam under threat". Now it's "national security under threat" as more and more damning evidence of mind-blowing brazen sleaze and corruption is revealed.

Who is really threatening whose survival? And what has happened to the warnings given at the Umno general assembly last year that Umno must "change or be dead"? It looks like the choice Umno has made is very clear. Unless a new breed of young far-sighted leaders come forward with the will and courage to change the system - political and economic - to become more inclusive, more just, more honest, more transparent, we are really seeing the end of a long era in Malaysian politics.

Why, after decades of rigorous development planning, do 40 per cent of Malaysian households earn only about RM1,850 (S$663) a month? Why, after more than four decades of the New Economic Policy, are 75.5 per cent of those at the bottom Malays?

Why, in spite of the billions poured into education and boarding schools, do 64.3 per cent of the bumiputera workforce have only secondary school qualifications? Why are some 90 per cent of the unemployable university graduates Malays?

Why, of the RM54 billion worth of shares pumped to Malay individuals and institutions between 1984 and 2005, only RM2 billion remain in Malay hands today? And why, oh why, should the Malays continue to raise a begging bowl and ask for more of the same kind of handouts from the same ruling elite?

The bottom 40 per cent get crumbs. Let's focus our attention on these priorities.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2015, with the headline 'Questions for Malaysia to ponder'. Print Edition | Subscribe