Political, social leaders say Malaysia is on the wrong track

Lawyer and blogger Haris Ibrahim said the March 8 political tsunami was not a popular vote for Pakatan Rakyat but a vote of disgust and dissent against Barisan Nasional.

By Neville Spykerman, The Malaysian Insider

Is Malaysia going down the same road of Pakistan which is already considered a failed state by the world community?

Yes, according to political economist Charles Santiago, who argues the country has all the underpinning characteristics of a failed state.

Speaking at a debate entitled “Quo Vadis Malaysia” yesterday, he said the nation is facing a crisis of confidence not only politically but ecologically and economically.

“We have the largest bureaucracy in Southeast Asia but we cannot say very much for its delivery.”

The first-term Member of Parliament for Klang also lashed out at local councils which he described as a hotbed of corruption with a high level of racism.

Similarly the education system has failed to unite Malaysians and the fact that vernacular schools are flourishing indicates non-Malay parents have no confidence in national schools, he said.

He said the issue of race and religion is becoming more contentious and this can be seen with the issue of child conversion and custody disputes involving Muslim converts and their former spouses.

He added some ministers were appointed just because they can speak English and this indicates the quality of the government as a whole.

“While the ministers are bad, their deputies are worse when it comes to taking questions in Parliament, that is if they even bother to show up.”

Economically, Malaysia’s two stimulus plans have been late on arrival.

The first plan was unveiled in November last year but the first 50 per cent of the RM7 billion that was promised only reached ministries in the third week of January.

In comparison, Santiago said Australia spent A$10 billion between Dec 2 and Christmas 2008 to spike the economy by 1.2 per cent in order to cushion the downturn this year.

“I just don’t see the commitment on the part of the government to counter the crisis.”

He claimed RM25 billion out if the RM60 billion in the second stimulus package announced in March is to bail out failed businesses and only RM2 billion has been allocated to retrain workers.

“Zero will be spent on workers who lose their jobs.”

He said the numbers of workers who have lost their jobs being reported is a far cry from the true figure.

The statistics indicate 68,000 have been laid off so far but these do not include factories which outsource their labour and who merely have to tell the outsourcing company to stop sending workers.

Santiago said fortunately for the country, the people are waking up and forcing a two-party system which is the way forward.

If the people themselves don’t make a change, then they cannot blame the government.

“People’s prayers and politics must go together in order to make the change.”

PAS MP Khalid Samad from Shah Alam said the Islamic party was faced with a great challenge in reversing Umno’s influence over Malays.

“Umno has given the impression they’re the champion of the Malays and defenders of Islam. Any deviation from this could spell the demise of the race.”

Worse still, Malays are taught to sacrifice their principles and to justify wrongs when they are done for the sake of their race.

However since 1990, PAS has been making strides to cooperate with other opposition parties and is making the party more relevant to both Malays and non-Malays.

“We want to re-educate Muslims that Umno is a terrible representation of Islam.”

PAS is doing this by returning to the basic inseparable principles of fear of God and justice.

Khalid said there were no shortcuts to building a better Malaysia.

Lawyer and blogger Haris Ibrahim said the March 8 political tsunami was not a popular vote for Pakatan Rakyat but a vote of disgust and dissent against Barisan Nasional.

He said the pendulum will swing back to BN in the 13th general election if Pakatan Rakyat does not buck up.

Fortunately for the country, a third force is emerging, comprising people who are demanding and prepared to complain.

He said unlike before the middle class was now attending candlelight vigils to voice their dissent and there is greater realisation that the country is on the wrong track.

“We have turned the other cheek for too long.”

He said the Dayaks in Sabah and Sarawak are getting by with as little as RM250 a month while the country has been producing oil since 1974.

Harris said the way forward is for decent Malaysians to come together to demand for change, educating the young and working towards justice for all.

“Malaysia does not need armchair critics but people who are willing to tell politicians they are not good enough and vote for change.”

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, who moderated the debate held at St Francis Xavier Church in Jalan Gasing, pointed out that between four million and five million eligible voters did not vote in the last general election.

“We deserve the government we get.”

He added organisers of the debate had tried their level best to get panellists from BN but to no avail.

“We tried and tried and tried but they are very shy.”