Citizens’ uprising mark the demise of political cartels and economic hoarding

By J. D. Lovrenciear

Indeed what we are witnessing in the Middle East region today signals a piercing, warning signal to the world that regimes guilty of economic hoarding and political cartels do not belong to the increasingly liberalising global environment.

Despite the police brutality and curtailing control mechanisms tightly in place, more and more countries are discovering that people’s willpower is no match.

Today, beginning with Tunisia and followed closely by Egypt, citizens there have shown the world that any amount of suppression and oppression is not able to imprison forever their passion for democratic equality and penchant for civil liberties.

If the media reports in the world are to be believed (assuming that these news bearers are not muzzled or harnessed by politicians with vested interest), the tide for change is bound to be spreading in a contagious manner from East to West, North to South.

Already Algeria, Bahrain, Iran and Yemen are beginning to experience people uprisings.

Triggered by increasing food prices, oppressive laws that curtail human dignity, inequalities in the equitable distribution of a nation’s wealth, concentration of power among those with vested and extreme interests – all of these have precipitated in the uprising by the common citizens.

Algerians under the pressure of rising basic food prices are crying out for the ouster of their eleven years reign President. Bahrain’s King Hamad Isa al-Khalifa is giving out to every family USD 2,700 cash to quell unrest, seemingly. In Iran the hardliner President is seeing the wrath of tens of thousands as they clash with police. In Yemen the peope are up in arms against repression, corruption and economic conditions that only favour the rich and powerful.

What then would be the defining moments of truth for Malaysia? The answers lie in our political history of 53+ years.

Foremost, it is fortunate that the Tun Dr M2 did not cling to his premiership till this date. Unfortunately however, the cartel politics of Malaysia poses a contingent problem.

It has been a tradition within the political corridors to ensure that sons and daughters take over from where their fathers left. There is nothing wrong in this provided that the individual taking on the reigns is competent on his or her own merits. There is nothing wrong if the rakyat vote without manipulation an individual to take on the mantle.

But when politicking and strategic manoeuvring come into play, there is bound to be serious repercussions. In this New Age of a ‘Networked Society’ fuelled by the accelerating ‘Information Society’, cartel castles will be demolished.

Next, let us take a look at our socio-political fabric. After decades of affirmative policies, we still see inequalities in the economic pie sharing. For argument’s sake let us assess the sitz-im-leben using race as an indicator:

•         The number of Malays who are still in the marginally poor category is a shame.

•         The number of young Malay youths who have fallen by the wayside of the nation’s human capital development is alarming. The old attribute of ‘Ahmad the driver’ is still prevalent. Just take a headcount of the number of unskilled workers comprising of pizza-delivery boys, dispatch riders, and mundane factory workers these past thirty years.

•         The number of Malay youths who have fallen under drugs, street racing gambits and other vices is not hard to pinpoint.

•         The numbers of Indian youths who are unable to find meaningful and gainful employment have taken to parang wielding gangsterism. The number of police arrests and custodial deaths can be a tip-of-the iceberg count.

•         Vice dens can still be associated with the Chinese as legitimate and honourable avenues to be economically and financially rewarded have shrunk.

•         In the name of higher profit margins we import millions of workers to harvest our palm oil, build houses and high-rise structures. Our own manpower is left in the lurch without becoming skilled workers who could form a formidable export industry in the future.

The economic factor under the label of NEP that we have prided these past thirty years seemed to be working pretty fine as we were told in the past. Attempts to question its quantum progress were quickly snuffed under the overwhelming threats of ISA and OSA or even the horrendous claim of ‘do not be anti-national’.

But truth always surfaces. Today we witness the number of poor Malaysians struggling to eke out a living on a RM3,000 and below monthly income.

Yes, we have made sure that everyone can have a car which they will be burdened to pay for over the next nine years. Yes we have succeeded in getting car owners to leave their cars at home and ride to work to save on their expenses.

Yes we have ensured that everyone can buy a roof over their heads provided they are in government employment or able to meet the monthly instalments that are scrutinized by the approving banks. And for the next fifteen to twenty years of your working life you slog to pay off the monthly rates.

Be it oil, sugar or rice – we are today at the mercy of rising food prices outside the borders of the country. The government can do nothing to alleviate the burden as rightly pointed out by a minister recently. Even our hugely US-export oriented trade and crude oil economy cannot save the ordinary rakyat from the ravages of world food shortage.

Yes we have great monumental buildings and spanking roads. But the rakyat on the road is worse off than when he lived in Indian Sentul, Chinese Jinjang or the humble Kampong Melayu forty years ago. Today the working soul has to pay for everything – from water, electricity, toll and parking to hospital visits and education. Never mind if he cannot even find a tiny plot to grow his own vegetables or be able to cast the net for some fish at the confluence of the KL-Klang rivers.

Seemingly, we have progressed. But our minds are closed with racism, religious discrimination and the chase after money, money, money and more money as the end all. Profiteering, hoarding and kickbacks are the rule of the economic game – be it the kedai runcit, the wholesaler, the contractor or the big time arms importer.

We are still battling after all these many decades on our education system. It is still the same old issue of Bahasa Malaysia versus English.

In a nutshell, if truly we have progressed as a nation of ONE people, advancing with the goodwill and honour of yesteryears, BN would not be battling its way to the polls today.

If truly we had no political cartels, we would not be seeing DSAI as a force to be contended with.

If truly we had an economy that was built on equitable distribution that emphasised the meaningful survival of the humble rakyat, we would not be questioning the notion of wealth accumulation which is the current trend among the powerful.

If truly we had our nation built on true democracy and exemplary civil liberties, we need not worry about the tides of change sweeping the world. In fact we will be party to promote change in the world for the better.

Time will tell viva Malaysia.