‘Semua’ breakdown here, ‘summore’ we thrash-talk Singapore

Everything seems to be in tatters in our country, but our ministers happily tell us that everything is A-OK – ‘kononnya’. Malaysians are watching nervously, yet we really don’t know what to do about all of this.

(FMT) – After our last general election in 2018, many things we believed in, seem to have dissipated.

A former Malaysian ambassador wrote poignantly earlier this week in his blog that currently, we are presented with three coalitions to vote for.

Our next general election should be coming up within this year. He wrote that the front runner seems to be a coalition of the corrupt, the second group is a coalition of traitors, and bringing up the rear, a coalition that messed up pretty badly, the last time we voted them in.

So, what hope is there for us, ordinary Malaysian folks?

A month ago, I wrote in this column that we cannot even compete with tiny Singapore. Many readers, especially the jingoistic and ultra-patriotic ones, pummelled me for daring to say this. And yes, there were some who ‘advised’ me to go live in ‘sterile’ Singapore.

Speaking of sterile – Douglas Lim, arguably the best loved stand-up comedian in Malaysia, recently did a parody on Singapore. Douglas is a real funny-man and a good friend.

He joked in his inimitable hilarious way that everything in Singapore is sterile, the food there has no taste, and that their people simply have nothing exciting to look forward to.

I laughed, then I cried.

After a hiatus of two and a half years, I went to Singapore last week for work. Douglas is absolutely right; their food can’t compare to ours. Hands down, we beat them flat.

But that’s about where it stops!

Everything else works, unlike here. And, I mean properly works.

In Malaysia, our LRT – breakdown; renewing passports at the immigration office – process breakdown; once the borders opened up, there were two-to-three-hour queues for our desperately needed tourists to get into the country – system breakdown; many services from the national registration office to the inland revenue are being delayed – government breakdown.

I left from KLIA to Singapore’s Changi Airport. It was an absolute contrast in atmosphere. My departure was from a drab and lifeless airport that had so many shops boarded up, but I arrived at a vibrant airport that has clearly bounced back. It was vivacious and all the shops were open for business as usual.

I landed in Terminal 1 at Singapore’s Changi Airport, and there was a huge queue at immigration. This was obviously good for their economy. People were coming into the country in droves. But it took all of 10 minutes to clear the hundreds of people who were present, while I was standing in the queue.

The officers were systematic, polite and actually welcoming. There was no smell of stale smoke wafting from the corridors, and none of them looked disengaged or disinterested, but seemed rather pleased to see us foreigners coming back into their country.

The immigration officer handling my passport was a friendly Malay gentleman. I wished him “Selamat Hari Raya” on account of it still being the celebratory month. He joyfully thanked me and welcomed me to his country in Bahasa Malaysia by saying, “Selamat Datang ke Singapura”.

The one-minute transaction was so damned pleasant.

Ask your foreign friends about their experience. Check with those who’ve arrived here since the reopening of our borders. They will tell you horror stories about their two- or sometimes three-hour wait in the passport clearance queue, and of the ubiquitous systems breakdown.

Getting a taxi was easy and again so organised. In the four days I was there, I didn’t wait for more than three to four minutes to secure an e-hailing ride. Even their casual ‘Grab’ drivers are competent.

Singapore’s public transport system is like a finely choreographed orchestra.

On a few occasions, I had to use their MRT, which is akin to our LRT in Kuala Lumpur, with the difference being that in Singapore it works properly, and is actually on time. In our capital city, our LRT seems to break down every other day. And of course, our operators blame the manufacturers for plant closures due to the pandemic, and the difficulties in getting spare parts.

Just a point to note. Singapore also buys trains from China, specifically Shanghai, like us.

With all the drama going on with our public transportation systems, instead of developing an integrated plan for the nation, or at least for the Klang Valley to start off with, we just want to build more highways, and enrich the entitled. Go figure!

Nobody here takes things seriously, least of all, the people who should give us good governance.

I think the best part of my four-day stay was that I walked a lot in the city. It was pedestrian friendly. The sidewalks actually function. They were properly paved, and free from hindrances like pot-holes, broken tiles, and random hawkers blocking the way. It is a far cry from the obstacle course pavements that end abruptly that we get in Kuala Lumpur.

Douglas Lim is right about Singapore being somewhat sterile. But the reality is that the country is citizen-friendly, and it’s governed with the people in mind.

The government there has its own set of issues. Singapore’s 57-year-old one-party rule, regular clamp downs on opposition politicians, and their niggling human right’s dodginess, are clear for all to see.

But ultimately, as citizens, their people are given good and solid governance.

In Malaysia, we like to wax lyrical about our ‘soulfulness’ when we compare ourselves to our southern cousins. We have more freedoms, some say. Our system is less rigid and regimented, others claim.

But at the end of the day, ‘semua’ breakdown in our country.

We might have more soul here, but nothing really works for us properly, as citizens. Singapore may be sterile, but at least Singaporeans have hope that their government will do right by them.

On the contrary, we seem to have no clear direction, perspective, or even genuine hope. And, the scary part is that Malaysians don’t know where we are heading to.