Malaysia : A Lesson Never Learnt

To any ‘expert’ (can anyone call themselves that?) and observer of Malaysian politics, if ever there was a moment in time that merited the dissolution of Parliament thus paving way for snap elections to be called, this would probably be the best of times to do exactly just that.

The Prime Minister’s Office, Putrajaya. (Images by Shah Said ; 2020 ; @ all rights reserved)

But lest Malaysians need reminding, as we are wont to do at times, we are also in the midst of a pandemic and this is probably, if not definitely, the worst of times to even think of calling for a by-election, never mind a general election.

The numbers coming from the Ministry of Health (MoH) look encouraging enough to elicit, grudgingly of course, praise from members of the current opposition, qualified (but of course) and the graph seems to have flattened enough, the fight is, as correctly highlighted by the very people in MoH who are so recognisable in today’s Malaysia, not yet won, with ‘vigilance’ and ‘self discipline’ being the operative buzzwords.

YAB Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the 8th Prime Minister of Malaysia

We have been forewarned that life, as we know it, will never and shall never be the same again. In its place, ‘New Norm’ has taken centre stage, with ‘social distancing’ one of the retinue in the line behind ‘New Norm’. Hence, recent announcements by governments all over the world, and Malaysia is no exception, of steps to open up their respective economies have to be taken in its proper context ; these countries are opening up not because they wanted to BUT because they have to. The state of the economy dictates so, should there be any left.

Crime rates took a deep dive when the Movement Control Order (MCO) aka The Lockdown, was first announced and then enforced strictly to the SOP. This plunge in crime stats was good news indeed and even led us to believe that robbers, thieves and burglars are as concerned not only about their own health but also that of their loved ones as well.

Of course, the fact the large number of police personnel on the streets complemented with the presence of armed military personnel making their presence felt is just mere coincidence. That and the fact that people are just staying and working from home does make the idea of committing a burglary a little bit problematic, to say the least.

It also won’t do if after ‘a job’, it is discovered that the house owner is a positive, resulting in ‘contact tracing’ procedures activated by both MoH and the police. Imagine the embarrassment for the perpetrators.

Working from and staying at home does have its advantages. For most, the quality of life have generally improved with renewed ties within the family and their respective communities, as well as providing the general public time to catch up with the latest going-ons in the country and elsewhere, prompting many of us to take a step back and have a re-look at the overall picture.

The quality of air, as in the quality of life, also seems to be getting better. Less traffic on the roads leading to less smog and hopefully, this year we shall all be missing the annual August migration, like that of the African wildlife on the big African plains, of thick smoke and carbon pollutants from our neighbour.

Its absence will be very much welcomed, naturally, for its not just us who live across one of the busiest straits in the world, if not the busiest, or in the case of the island of Borneo, living on the other side of the mountain ranges, who are feeling the effects, but also the local population who lived barely a few kilometres from the annual farm clearing extravaganza. A reprieve too for the Indonesian government officials who would otherwise have to field questions from their annoyed ASEAN counterparts directly affected by the annual event, we are sure.

The haze at the causeway linking Johor Bahru in Malaysia to Singapore. (Images courtesy of IB Times UK)

Prior to the MCO, it was observed that the ‘political temperature’ was somewhat approaching boiling point, making the older folks who have lived through some of the country’s darkest chapters in its history, somewhat concerned and wary of the rhetoric that was beginning to seriously eat away at the very stitches that bind the fabric of our society.

The re-alignment of political forces in Malaysia and the formation of a ‘Perikatan Nasional’ (PN) under the premiership of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin at the federal level, albeit with a VERY VERY SLIM AND FLUCTUATING majority, followed by a re-alignment at the states governed then by Pakatan Harapan (PH) with slim majorities themselves, helped bring down the ‘political temperature’ a notch or two. That and the very obvious candidate, the Covid-19 pandemic.

As that issue was being addressed, focus was already shifted to two other main issues of ongoing concern : getting the country to be declared Covid-free (almost near impossible with new cases reported from countries declared free earlier) and getting the economy back into gear.

In order to do just that, Malaysia needed to bring about a ‘stable’ political and social environment and for that, a stable government would be required, a government who would address the needs and the wants of the majority of the people, if not all.

It would be fair, would it not, to say that the people’s concerns mainly centre, amongst others, on (a) the right to feel safe and secure from harm, physical or otherwise, in their own homes or in public, (b) the right to pursue socio-economic activities for the social and economic betterment of oneself and one’s family, and (c) the right to expect the rights accorded to them as per the Federal Constitution are respected and protected.

His Majesty The 16th Yang Di Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah ibni Almarhum Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah of Pahang (images courtesy of Bernama)

Looking back, in May 1969, Malaysia witnessed the racial riots which coincided with the aftermath of the 1969 General Elections. There are many versions of the events before and during one of the darkest chapters in Malaysian history, depending on the source of the information. But one thing was for certain, the damage was deep and extensive.

As part of the healing process, a re-alignment of political forces was brought about by Tun Abdul Razak, the then Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia and who later became the second Prime Minister of Malaysia. With the re-alignment of these political forces, focus and energy was shifted away from the political arena to addressing the more pressing issues of the day ie the socio-economic well being of the people.

Sounds familiar? The question that should be on everyone’s lips is, could an episode from the country’s darkest moments be repeated fifty years down the road? To many, it could and does seem to be heading that way, what with controversy after controversy, either by way of social media or the mainstream media, coming to the fore with regular frequency, touching the sensitivities related to the four ‘untouchable’ issues, which are amongst others : the special rights accorded to the Malays and the Bumiputera, the status of Islam as the official religion of the Federation, the status of the Malay language as the official language of the country, and last but least, the status and dignities of the His Majesties, The Yang Di Pertuan Agong and his brother Malay rulers.

It needed to be highlighted that during negotiations leading to independence, it was not an afterthought that these issues were addressed and guaranteed their place in the Federal Constitution. Hence, an attack on these issues were deemed to be an affront and a direct attempt at creating an act of highly mischievious and suspicious intent.



OUR NATION, MALAYSIA, being dedicated

to achieving a greater unity of all her peoples;
to maintaining a democratic way of life;
to creating a just society in which the wealth of the nation shall be
equitably shared;
to ensuring a liberal approach to her rich and diverse cultural traditions;
to building a progressive society which shall be oriented to modern
science and technology;

WE, her peoples, pledge our united efforts to attain these ends guided by these principles:

Belief in God
Loyalty to King and Country
Upholding the Constitution
Rule of Law
Good Behaviour and Morality

Sowing discord in a country that is made up of peoples of different ethnicities and different faiths and beliefs is a no-no. Or has the lessons of the past not been learnt?

The re-alignment of political forces may have addressed that pressingly urgent issue, bringing the ‘political temperatures’ down a notch or two, to levels safe enough to avert a potential interracial disaster. But as in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, vigilance is the buzzword.

It is within this context that repeated attempts to re-seize power by the very person who had given it up in the first place must be seen for what it is : an unhealthy lust for power and a conduct unbecoming from one once so highly respected. Maybe, in his defense, he may not know of the dangers that had clung onto his coattails, for which we surely would love to believe he knew not, in light of his advancing years.

But to paraphrase one of his many sayings in the past, being a medically trained physician, should a diagnosis indicate the presence of a life threatening tumour, its best to get the operation done and remove the tumour. After all, the life of the patient is of utmost importance.

And yes, the life of the patient, and in this case the country itself, is of the utmost importance.

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