It would seem that a reasoned analysis of Malaysia cannot be made without some comparison with Singapore. Like it or not, Singapore’s history and future are very much linked with those of Malaysia. So while the title of this write-up is chosen as The Dumbing Down of Malaysia, it could just as well be The Idealisation of Singapore.
Malaysia’s NEP was conceived in response to social forces that were threatening to break it asunder. This must be acknowledged. It therefore has a strong basis in reality and pertinence. It was what we desperately needed.
Unfortunately, over time, the NEP has been hijacked by Ketuanan Melayu. In NEP implementation, communist style Ketuanan Melayu type cadres, bureaucrats and politicians were placed in every nook and corner of society. They have now formed an upper class in society that think of its benefits and privileges as a birth right not a policy of social engineering. Privileges are now thought of as permanent and not a temporary re-dress of imbalances in the same way that although communism sought to do away with the state, communist cadres sought to make the state all powerful and permanent in order to maintain their power and privileges.
The chance came for such a hijacking when the communist style cadres saw an ideal opportunity to push aside competition from the nons using racial arguments. This opportunistic effort was so successful that communist style UMNO cadres now dominate political, social and economic life in Malaysia and they are not about to surrender this dominance to anybody.
Such dominance naturally leads to use of force and dirty tricks especially by the UMNO controlled communist style police and judiciary in order to maintain monopoly of power and the suppression of any real competition as society grows, develops and changes over time.
It also leads to a strong culture of denial in almost everything including denial that Malaysia is governed based on the rationale of racism and the government structure is closely copied from the communist model. It therefore leads to government by closing both eyes to abuse of power and corruption.
It leads to hypocrisy as a way of life and thought in all sections of society – eg. those people who reason that buying of AS1M is a necessity for survival by a neglected section of society conveniently gloss over the fact that it is OK for them to buy AS1M but it is not OK for others to receive bumiputra privileges, that receiving kampong roads, bridges and computers in exchange for votes is not OK but supporting UMNO with purchases of “investment and development” funds is.
It leads to loss of spirituality with selfishness, greed, lust and individualism becoming the dominant way of thinking in society.
It leads to Malays suppressing other Malays because a new generation grows up and is forced to face the old generation of incompetents who are corrupt and abuse their power to keep their positions and privileges.
It leads to nons joining forces with Malays to contest elections against other nons who have similarly joined up with Malays but who now cling on stubbornly to power with the help of dirty tricks and police violence.
It leads to a dumbing down of Malaysia because incompetent communist style cadres in every nook and corner of society refuse to face free and fair competition but instead abuse their power to maintain themselves in their privileged positions on a permanent basis.
On the other hand, Singapore did not experience such a disastrous hijacking during its development. While UMNO had to rely on inexperienced and poorly trained peasants and sons of peasants as its base of support as well as to govern the country, Singapore relied on the English educated who were by happy circumstance the best trained and best educated. There was no need for PAP cadres to hijack the state for themselves. They already ruled the roost both through monopoly of power as well as monopoly of competition by dint of being the best trained and the best educated. The Chinese and Malay educated Singaporeans were reduced to the level of coolies.
Singapore is also the biggest city and hence the heaviest concentration of capital in the region. They used it to maintain themselves as the economic overlords of the region. To this day, Singapore is the biggest foreign investor in Malaysia. As such it continues to suck up profits and wealth from Malaysia. It is this wealth and economic power that some Malaysians hunger for and idealise in the form of singing praises for Singapore.
Of course the PAP changed in response to changes in the global situation, the same way that UMNO is forced to try and reform in response to the fact that children growing up in Malaysia cannot be stopped from growing and that new generations of more competent and skilled people are rapidly coming to the fore to challenge the old incompetent incumbents.
The PAP started to mandarinise Singapore in response to the China coming up as a global economic force. Unfortunately, this effort is only partially successful and Singapore is forced to fall back on its heavy reliance on the west. The Chinese educated in Singapore however are no longer content to play second fiddle to the English educated.
What of Singapore’s future? What guarantee is there that it will continue to find the best and the most talented to lead the country forward? After all, it has the same communist style structure of government that Malaysia has. And its dependence on the English educated as the best trained and the best educated was a happy coincidence rather than any purposeful strength of its institutions to pick the best and the brightest. In fact, Lee Kuan Yew’s inability to find a suitable successor is symptomatic of the difficulty of Singapore to choose the best and the brightest. They will eventually have to settle for a decrepit dynastic system. This is the natural trend at the moment.
At the moment, Singapore also depends on importing talent from Malaysia and the west to keep up its rate of development since its own institutions and systems can only come up with competent technicians at best. In future, as the world becomes multi-polar, Singapore society will also become more seriously split with different interest groups representing the various global powers contending for supremacy in Singapore. Its dynastic system (more or less similar to North Korea’s with Zimbabwe style intolerance of political opposition) will not be able to withstand these contradictions.
Malaysia’s problems however seem to have surfaced much earlier than Singapore’s and there is a good chance it will also be resolved much earlier. Reform is going to be painful and difficult, communist style cadres embedded in every nook and corner of society will not give up power so readily. UMNO may yet succeed in reform, but it must replace deadwood with talent, but if deadwood are the pillars of its support, it is in a precarious position. Eventually deadwood will rot and collapse, but if it replaces the communist style deadwood with capitalist type talent, it will no longer be in a position of dominance and monopoly. This is UMNO’s predicament.
Of course what I have said above is trying to see what the future holds and nobody can predict the future with any accuracy. I do not pretend things will go as I see it. What do you think?