Saiful-Farah: The two faces of Malaysia

By Mariam Mokhtar, Malaysian Mirror

Ask any foreigner what he thinks of Malaysia and he waxes lyrical about our beaches, food, adventure holidays and shopping. Malaysia is a popular tourist destination but are ‘outsiders’ aware of our darker side?

For every satisfied tourist, another would have experienced Malaysia’s other claims to shame – dirty toilets, poor taxi-service, litter or terrible driving habits.

Try and look into every facet of Malaysian life.

We want to be a global nation but we ignore the importance of English. We desire a high income economy but we import low unskilled labour.

We want healthy citizens but place importance on medical tourism at the expense of good affordable medical care for our own people. We want to reverse the brain drain but we do not make it attractive for our skilled people to return.

We pride ourselves on our tolerance but allow extremist groups to vent their anger on the goodwill of peace-loving people by calling for certain races to ‘return where they came from’?

The constitution says everyone is free to practice the religion of his choice and yet some people violently claim ownership of one word, ‘Allah’. When a Muslim insults someone of another faith, he appears to be let off with minimum punishment, if at all.

The country is facing economic hardship and the people have been told that various items will be dearer, and yet the government has found time and resources to publish a book where Prime Minister Najib can ‘refute the various slanders’ directed at him and his administration.

The Penan have been turfed out of their ancestral homelands, but we are told to rejoice as our king will soon have a new palace built at RM800 million.

The people in Sabah and Sarawak suffer because their states lack money and yet they see their country’s resources making their ministers wealthy. These poor people are told that they need a dam but they still can’t afford electricity and drink from water that is polluted and murky from the activities of logging companies or oil palm companies.

The indigenous people are encouraged to promote traditional weaving but the state destroys the jungles in which the raw materials for their handicraft grow. They scrounge a living from government hand-outs but read of billions being siphoned by their leaders to offshore accounts.

The 1Malaysia is supposed to bind us but the deputy prime minister is not committed to this concept.

With an imminent robbery, BN politicians can summon the police immediately and have the thieves killed. When ordinary folk want a basic investigation into the murder of their father, or assault on their relative or a house burglary, they wait endlessly, without any further action.

Corruption is a cancer in our society and yet few big fish get hauled to court.

Muslims are even more confused. Polygamy is permitted under certain circumstances and yet our lawmakers break the law with impunity.

Single mothers who kill their babies now risk capital punishment. Unmarried underage teenagers who have sex must marry so their baby is not born illegitimate irrespective of whether the girl and boy are mature enough to start a family.

The international community praises our judiciary for quickly clearing the backlog of court cases and yet our views about the judiciary, such as suicide notes appearing with incredulity, are in stark contrast to this Bernama report.