Changing mental landscape of the Malays

Posted on July 22, 2010

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Source : http://sakmongkol.blogspot.com/2010/07/changing-mental-landscape-of-malays.html

Sakmongkol AK47 is Dato’ Mohd.Ariff Sabri bin Hj. Abdul Aziz. He was ADUN of Pulau Manis, Pekan.(2004-2008) . He studied Economics at University Malaya and University of Manchester(Owens). He can be reached at the following e mail: ariff.sabri@gmail.com

The 3 part article is reproduced fully here :

Dear Dato’,
I am 65 and have no stable job. I have been following your blog for quite sometimes and I find it informative, direct and dare to point out weaknesses in UMNO, the government and the Malays in general. My favourite newspapers used to be Utusan and the New Straits Times. I have stop reading them. And now I also stop watching TV3 and RTM news. I just cannot stand it anymore.

I am not a member of any political party. As an ordinary citizen, like most other citizens of this country, I want a Malaysia which is progressive, modern and tolerant and most importantly a government which practices fairness, justice, etc. I want to see the government fight corruption whole-heartedly, practice transparency and stop cronysm.

The government says they are doing all these. What I can see it is all talk and no action. I sometimes cannot comprehends the reasoning and logics given by judges, including those sitting in the highest court. DS Najib has been talking non-stop of everything that can bring good to the country. But I didn’t see any result, as if he forget everything he said once he finished talking. Our DPM has a brain more like a 17-year olds. And I didn’t hear anything worth listening from the UMNO vice-presidents, and what more senior ministers, especially Rais Yatim.  When I think of the country’s future I feel hopeless. I don’t think UMNO, under the present leadership, can lead the country forward. I hope your writings will be more forceful and cover wider subjects especially on reinventing the Malay minds.

Actually, the Malays has nothing to be proud of. We have to understand and accept our weaknesses. We are lacking in so many things. As I see it, the Malays are going backward. The Malay mind has to be revamped and re-programmed. We cannot go forward using the current mind-set. What can people like Ibrahim Ali help to advance the Malays?

What happen to our government servants? Every decisions, however minor, has to be brought and decided by committees. What’s the use of sending them to Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, etc. Where is the delegation of duties in the government? even buying stationeries has to go to the committee. You can see the quality of Malay university professors talking on TV talk shows. They talk to please their hosts and to protect their positions, rather than truth and facts.

Another sore point for me. When a problem occurs in our society most Malay leaders points out the lack of religious education as the main cause. To me this is too simplistic and sometimes irrelevant. But the Malays in general can accept this line of reasoning, which doesn’t requires THINKING. Anything bad that happen in society is blamed on the lack of religious education. We know that society’s problems are very complex and cannot be solely attributed to religious factors. But the Malays seem to think that religion is everything, at least a large majority of them.

That was a letter I received over the e mail from a Malay gentleman. I have chosen not to reveal his name. What if this gentleman’s personal perceptions represent what the typical Malay now thinks of?

Our government needs to recognise this. The way we govern may no longer be sustainable. We govern with the belief that our population stays in villages, shut out from information waves and excluded from rising awareness. So we think, we secure peoples blind trust when we give free houses to a certain number of applicants. For 100 people who got free houses, there may be 1000 people cursing the government why they didn’t get the houses. They blame the penghulu, they blame the ketua kampong, they blame the district office they blame the ADUN for skewed selection process. The sad truth is, they are probably right.

In a few years, most of our population will live in cities. Villages and kampongs change in character, as the old give way to the young. People develop different expectations. Children who are better educated tell parents a different story. That’s reverse counsel. Parents aren’t equipped to tell children what’s good for society. Educated children at various levels tell parents what’s good for society-things like right to a decent living because government exists to manage the economy properly. And standards of assessment such as what the above gentleman is saying- good governance, fair, free from cronyism, free from corruption. People no longer want to accept the arguments of ‘democracy tax’ whereby democratic countries have to tolerate certain levels of inept bureaucracy, certain levels of nepotism and cronyism, certain levels of corruption. Why? Because people are better informed and this agitates and move them into action.

A government that sits stubbornly refusing to adapt to a changing political landscape, is simply pushed to the back seat. If UMNO doesn’t adapt to these changes, it loses relevance.

How does the government reach out to the people? I was listening to the talk given by Robert Fisk yesterday. He was talking about Palestine mainly but he also touched about journalism in general. People all over the world, and not just the gentleman above no longer believe and even read mainstream journalists any more. They believed that mainstream journalists no longer report the truth. They just earn a living from the owners of newspapers. So in Malaysia if the mainstream papers are actually owned by the government, eventually the government will not be believed. Bob Fisk was telling, tongue in cheek I hope, that you have to start a new newspaper.

The government says they are doing all these. What I can see it is all talk and no action. I sometimes cannot comprehends the reasoning and logics given by judges, including those sitting in the highest court. DS Najib has been talking non-stop of everything that can bring good to the country. But I didn’t see any result, as if he forget everything he said once he finished talking. Our DPM has a brain more like a 17-year olds. And I didn’t hear anything worth listening from the UMNO vice-presidents, and what more senior ministers, especially Rais Yatim.  When I think of the country’s future I feel hopeless. I don’t think UMNO, under the present leadership, can lead the country forward. I hope your writings will be more forceful and cover wider subjects especially on reinventing the Malay minds.

We now move on to a another portion from the Malay gentleman’s note.

I hope I am wrong in treating the Malay gentleman’s thinking as being representative of the typical Malay man. I would have thought, the things that matter most in the mind  of the Malay man and all Malaysians is economic development. That’s the first function and most important at that of the government.

In what kind of environment is economic development and advances best achieved? This basic question needed to be looked at carefully. Recently, in the monthly or weekly assembly the PM has with civil servants, he spoke of creating an ecosystem where the best talent emerges. I suppose by that he means the culture- set of beliefs, social precepts, principles by which the best among peers will emerge to lead the nation. Such a proposal is laudable.

How do we achieve that in an environment where we know, the talent level among our civil servants is wanting in many aspects? Our bureaucratic lethargy perhaps is slightly better than the infamous Indian bureaucracy. We share the same default position-taking as far as revolutionary and unconventional ideas are concerned. Our default position to new ideas is to say no. No to this project. No to that proposal. But eventually the proposals we first submitted resurface by a new proposer under a new package.

So, I would guess that the default position when our PM is talking about an ecosystem that promotes excellence and a culture that allows emergence of talent is-Go And Fly Kite. We hear recently of widespread stoppage of directives from politicians when powerful KSU’s demand written instructions from politicians before they will even commit any work. Because the powerful fraternity of KSUs still remember when one of their own, Dr. Abdul Aziz was done in by Anwar Musa. So it’s now retribution time. So I am skeptical when the PM speaks about that ecosystem, as to whether his exhortations went down well.

Let’s build that ecosystem in UMNO politics first. Create that culture where the talented can prosper. The fastest way to lose public confidence is to contradict ourselves . if we have this basic stand of wanting to create such an ecosystem, let’s set that ecosystem in UMNO politics.

Our system as it is now, is that of a privileged society based on the privilege of property( read wealthy) and rank( read lineage). Desiring the ecosystem which the PM wants, requires the cessation and giving up of a privileged society based on the privilege of property and rank FOR a society where men are rewarded according to their ability and contribution to society.

The universal principle borne out in history is that only when men are encouraged to give their best will society progress. So the ecosystem which the PM mentioned must incorporate the principle of creating a culture that makes it worth for a man to give his best. That can only occur when the principle that a man is justly rewarded in accordance to his ability ,diligence and determination is put in place or willed in place. In an ecosystem where the lazy and the incompetent were rewarded as much as the industrious and the intelligent,, we will end with an ecosystem where the abler will hold back so as not to work harder than their under-performing brethren.
Next, the leadership.

This is the most damning indictment on the leadership of our country. It would seem our leadership has lost all perception of credibility.

I am afraid I can’t share this gentleman’s pessimism. The jury is still out on opposition controlled governments. It’s still early to tell. The PKR people in government are all ex UMNO people. They have the same culture and probably the same deplorable habits. They don’t have the same emotional constitution like the DAP and PAS people. They are going to be the sick man of PKR.

We will however agree that, despite the possible eventualities that can befall PR led governments, the shortcomings and deficiencies of the present national government , cannot and should not be trivialized nor ignored. So we continue to tell it as it is. It’s like the PM once said- the opposition will not win elections, we lose them. Meaning, we must correct our faults. But who is to tell him and the UMNO leadership?

What is our priority? That is the first task of our leader. We have a 1Malaysia which in reality was the muhibbah started by Tun Razak. Coexistence based on mutual respect . Good, we feel nice about it. We Yee Sang together, we Daun Pisangtogether, we Rendang together. Do we live on ideas alone?

We have the NEM. Don’t have a clue what’s it’s all about and how is the NEM relevant to Malays? More important, how can Malays take advantage of the NEM? We don’t have a policy stating its principles. We paid RM 60 million to the few academics who have no inkling of the local environment trying to foist a new economic model on our country. Its free market in a text book. We love ideas. But we love ideas that work more.

We have that senior minister who doesn’t explain to the people what NEM is all about. He is busy showing the PM the uniforms for the Merdeka Day celebrations. By the way, the cloth or uniform cost RM 50-100, or does it cost RM 50-100 per metre? How much are we going to spend for the celebrations?

Jawaharlal Nehru was a man of ideas. But the ideas couldn’t work on Indian society because of the caste system. Ghandi wanted to create village economics- you sit with your loin cloth or kain pulikat by the spinning wheel while we are moving into the 21st century. If I say, Ibrahim Ali is like Ghandi that would be insult to the great man that Ghandi was- but he wants Malays to sit by the spinning wheel and be oblivious to the world outside.

Ok, the PM is more like Nehru in terms of ideas- but can the ideas be foisted onto the Malay mental landscape?

The number 1 priority is economic development. Ibrahim Ali’s issue is with the economics. Yes, we want the NEM but it must be spelt out clearly. At the moment the NEM is all ideas- eventually it comes to the question of what do people really want?

we had the NEP where the government gave out RM 54,000,000,000. Out of that , those who subscribed to Ibrahim Ali’s brand of pressure economics, want more of that. Well, we have to realise that out of that RM 54 billion, only RM 2 billion worth of Malay equities remain while the others gave up RM 52 billion worth. Gave up as in cashing out so that they can lead as bourgeois a life as possible.

So why should I support another round of NEP that will probably end up the same? The PM is right to carry out a new model. All it needs is more amplification, more meat and more explanation to the people. We haven’t done that.

Again, what do people really want? I remember reading somewhere what the Sage of Singapore said- at the end of the day do we think the people want to write editorials or do they want a house, a car, food on the table and a future for their children? At the end you have to answer, the people want reality, not concepts. We don’t want to end up discussing and outshouting each other on what 1Malaysia means. Economically it may mean, some people own the whole of Malaysia.

I support the NEM which taken as a whole poses a new challenge to the mental set up of Malays. We adapt or perish. This part hasn’t been amplified. On the other hand, We are told daily of our limitations. Utusan Malaysia raised the spectre that haunts every Malay- that if we lose political power, we perish. The PM wants to prepare Malays a Malaysia on a different economic plane- the media manipulators and mind benders are preparing Malays to look the other way.

We have lost real political power all this while because we couldn’t back that up by economic power. Others with economic power exert greater persuasiveness over politics. The 28 year old TJ Lo exerts greater influence over politics because of his economic power. A few years ago, we lamented and condemned a certain 28 year old as being the most powerful. We now have a globe traveling, party hopping 28 year old, we marveled at him and hold him in jaw dropping awe. He is going to develop the RM 500 million Sunga Besi Air Base fellers- or really, he is going to flip the deal or has concluded that damn deal. The place is going to be developed by the owners of Pavilion.

We have this aim of making Malaysia a high income economy that by 2020, our PCI will be USD15k. we have a minister who says we will go bankrupt if we don’t cut subsidies or we don’t grow by at least 6%. If deficits outgrow the growth rate, we shall be bankrupt. Contradiction in terms right? Just one year our country goes bankrupt but a year later we become a high income country. Which means what? All the good deals and wealth making opportunities go to the top 20% who will actually reap gargantuan incomes that when divided by the population, still yield us a textbook high PCI.

Idris Jala may be good minister but he makes a lousy leader. We can’t have a leader who airs his personal fears and reservations in public.
Leaders excite and inspire people.