Chapter 17: Granting Malaysians Their Merdeka

M. Bakri Musa

Dismantling the Feudal Culture

One would expect that since the sultans are secure with their affluence through generous civil allowances and other privileges, they would be spared the obsession of acquiring further wealth.

Far from it! They are the first to hog the public trough. The sultans still consider public land their personal fiefdom. These sultans have also become even more enterprising, shamelessly selling royal titles. Datukships can now be had for a mere RM200,000. They are prostituting the institution of royalty. The reason for this greed is that they are still stuck in the mindset of the material phase.

Contrast the behaviors of the Malay royalty class to its European counterpart. Even during medieval times the European royalty and aristocrats had a sense of philanthropy. They were patrons of the arts and regularly took under their wings talented musicians and artists. Mozart, Michelangelo and others had generous royal patrons.

Such philanthropy is notably absent among Malay sultans and nobility. This is surprising as the sultans are titular heads of Islam, and charity is one of the five pillars of the faith, ahead of fasting and the Hajj. One would expect the sultans to lead with their philanthropy. Not so! It is doubtful whether they even pay their mandatory zakat (tithe). There is no evidence of any waning of this greed as these sultans continue to squat on the apex of the special privileges heap. As they are role models, it is no surprise that such crass materialism and lack of altruism and public charity permeate the larger society.

Such philanthropy is also noticeably absent among the Chinese, whether Malaysian, Singapore, or the Red China variety.

Malays pay homage to their sultans like Hindus to their deities, with offerings of tributes, services, and valuables. In days of yore, it was quite common to see the entire family’s wealth from prized buffaloes to premium harvest rice offered to the sultans while the peasant’s family was left destitute. Today’s sultans are continuing this acquisitive avarice by grabbing the state’s modern offerings like public lands, contracts, and concessions. They feel affronted when the chief minister would not accede to their voracious greed.