Malaysia already on path to be like Singapore, says Zaid


(MM) – Malay leaders’ preoccupation with upholding the Malay-Muslim identity has set Malaysia on a firm trajectory to become a country unable to meet its own needs, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim said today.

The former minister said the policy of mollycoddling the Malays will only get in the way of efforts to keep up with rapid globalisation, industrialisation and modernisation.

Comparing the situation to Singapore, Zaid said the neighbouring city state became the success that it is today by doing the opposite — using English as the main language and not any dialect of the majority Chinese to shape their mindset and outlook to be the modern people they are today.

“The only time Malaysia’s fate and that of Singapore will converge is 30 years from now. Singapore, in wanting to attract the super-rich and super-talented, will slowly drive its own people elsewhere to look for jobs and places to live. Land in the Republic will be too expensive for the average Singaporean who will have to emigrate,” he said in his latest posting on his blog, The Zaidgeist.

“Malaysians too will suffer the same fate. Malaysian leaders will want to keep pace with globalisation, industrialisation and modernisation at breakneck speed but they will not be able to produce home-grown talent nor will they capitalise on the existing capabilities of Malaysians,” he added.

Zaid said there is nothing wrong with emulating Singapore’s success, shrugging off an earlier claim by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that Malaysia will become like its neighbour — where political and economic power are held by the Chinese — should the opposition Pakatan Rakyat take over.

“In the first place, should we want to be like Singapore? Yes. Most definitely. I think it’s not a bad idea to emulate its success. If we were like Singapore, at least Malaysians would speak and write better English than, say, the Americans.

“Our corruption index would be low, our civil servants more multiracial, our public transport second to none and our economic position would be much stronger. Our public toilets would definitely be much cleaner. Even our public housing and affordable home-ownership models would be the talk of other countries,” he said.

Zaid, however, noted that the country is not yet ready to pursue such goals as it suffers from a dearth of strong leadership that can see through far-reaching political, legal and economic transformations over the long term.

Training his guns on Malay community’s leaders, the senior lawyer said their preoccupation with making sure the Malays are “Malay enough” detracts from the real need to modernise the mindsets of all Malaysians, especially through education.

“They take it upon themselves to make Malays ‘better Muslims’. Religion and God become their remit and national duty. For example, they are responsible for the ‘purity’ and ‘sanctity’ of the Islamic faith and the ‘aqidah’ of Muslims is under their charge.

“The national school that we once had has disappeared because of the introduction of religion into the school system. The look and feel of the national school is gone, which partly explains the proliferation of ‘national-type’ schools. The rich, of course, gravitate to private and international schools while Ministers send their children overseas.”

Zaid said political interests have taken over from the focus of educating the future generation.

“They will not reform schools nor will they simplify their own roles in government. They will still be overprotective of Malays and Muslims. In the end, they will have to bring in more foreign expertise to meet the country’s economic and developmental needs.

“This begs the question: if we are going to end up like Singapore in 30 years, why bother trying to be like them now?” he said.