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Malaysia needs a manifesto for change that transcends TN50

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We must take a new direction; the old NEP should not be put in a new bottle, says Thuraisingham Shan.

It is just a few years to 2020.

Malaysians, who were riding on the perception of Vision 2020, have now to realise that Vision 2020 has not been achieved. There was too much emphasis on Vision 2020, which did not have the logistics for implementation and which by now is deemed obsolete.

Now we have Prime Minister Najib Razak’s proposed Transformation National Plan, which will take us up to 2050 (TN50).

Malaysia is a paradox in many ways – it is rich in natural resources, and it has thriving industry, and a large pool of technical power. But a mass of its people are poverty-stricken, and in terms of human development, it has fared poorly. The nation started off well enough after independence, but the lack of progress on many fronts since then is a major cause for concern.

Having tasted the fruit of development, Malaysians are hungry for more education, more opportunities, more development. But their dreams of a prosperous and united Malaysia seem to have been shattered as the demons of divisive politics, gaping economic inequalities, increasing racial sentiments and insecurity at our borders tear into the the very idea of nationhood.

More than five decades after the formation of Malaysia, what has been done to preserve the core concept of a Malaysian Malaysia?

An old fatalism has begun to reassert itself, and we have begun to lose our confidence. The goal we assented to is not an unrealistic one. Extrapolating from current growth rates and trends with various improvements and directions, we can aim to provide our citizens with a decent standard of living.

Sustainable, inclusive development

The fundamental ingredient in the evolution of a happy, peaceful and prosperous nation is laying the foundation for sustainable development. As an emerging developing nation, our nation is at a defining moment in history. We need a period of consistent prosperity with inclusion, development with equity and industrialisation with environmental concern

Past successes suggest it is possible. We were able to produce enough food for our population. We started from scratch to have today a high level communication system linking remote regions of our country. Our failures motivate us to try harder.

The perspective of TN50 has to take into consideration a new agenda: for Malaysians to be free from poverty, strong in trade and commerce, science and technology, providing healthcare and education for all. A developed Malaysian nation – the aspiration of many Malaysians since independence.

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We have to evolve and creative political leadership at all levels of governance – from the ignored cooperative sector, which has a membership strength of over 7.5m snowballing to above 15m including family members, the new villages and kampongs to the state assemblies and Parliament.

The ideals of a new Malaysian vision have to transcend Dr Mahathir Mohammed’s Vision 2020, which was a mere statement without logistics for implementation.

Dr Mahathir did not have perfect Vision 20//20. As an elder statesman, he remains in the public eye for his role in nation-building, without reaching out to people to build bridges across religious and social divides.

We have to sincerely focus on transforming our nation into a developed nation based on our reality. We have now to share our ideas to evolve a new creative political leadership at all levels of governance – from the kampongs, new villages, the state machinery to Parliament.

We have to interact with the various research and development machinery, with domain experts, scientists, technologists, bureaucrats, members of industry, media personnel, farmers, political leaders and the youth to play an important role in reshaping our thoughts, to arrive with a new ‘manifesto agenda’.

We need new self leadership to be competitive. The political leaders have to contribute to a new vision with resolve and vision to serve the people through the existing political system in a democratic environment. Without a concrete vision, we won’t have a strategic mission, and there won’t be any real action

We need visionary leadership that percolates to all levels of governance. We have to transcend the ideals of a manifesto, usually prepared for elections to help citizens understand what every party promises to do if a party comes to power. We need a dynamic leadership backed by a good blueprint for the nation.

Manifesto for change needed

We have now to draw up a manifesto for change for elected representatives in kampongs, new villages, state legislative assemblies and Parliament and for the people – to equip them with information to demand good performance from their representatives at the various levels.

We have to be realistic in the realms of creative leadership and people’s aspirations. We need focussed, clear vision for the grassroots to the higher echelons of political leadership.

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We need to ignite the minds of the youth to dedicate themselves to the nation and contribute their best to bring about a change in thinking to make our nation a developed country. As has been said, “ignited minds are the most powerful resource on earth, above earth and under the earth.

History has proved that those who dare and imagine are the ones who break all human barriers and limitations. In every field of human endeavour – whether it is science, medicine, sports, the arts, technology or politics – the names of the people who imagine the impossible are engraved in our history. By breaking the limits of the imagination, they changed the world. We will change the world. – APJ Abdul Kalam

The need of the hour is not talk of peace, progress and prosperity, but honest effort in that direction.

Leaders must:

  • have a vision
  • have passion to realise the vision
  • be able to travel and explore the earth
  • know how to manage both success and failure
  • have the courage to make tough decisions
  • have nobility in management
  • be transparent in their every action
  • master problems and succeed
  • work with integrity and succeed with integrity

We need creative leaders who have these qualities and the vision to work for it. The youth of our country should inherit a nation that is a leader, not a follower.

The Malaysian vision should lead to a fundamental shift to create the needed change.

To begin with, let us look at the areas where Malaysia has core competence:

  • agricultural and food processing.
  • education and healthcare.
  • information and communications technology
  • infrastructure development, which includes reliable and quality electric power, surface transport and infrastructure for all parts of the country including rural and urban areas.
  • Self-reliance and critical technologies, especially in the cooperative sector
  • Provision of urban amentities in rural areas (Pura)

There is a large-scale divide between the rural and urban, which can be identified – and which is manifested in disparities in income levels and the quality of human amenities. This is a matter of concern in sustaining peace and prosperity.

We now have to come up with a sustainable development system which provides urban amenities in rural areas, by harnessing the potential of the rural masses of our nation. Societal transformation can be achieved with the implementation of Pura. It has to be be implemented by the federal and state governments, along with the many private and educational sector initiatives.

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Pura is an amalgamation of technology, people, traditions, skills and entrepreneurial spirit to achieve sustainable development that is financially stable, viable, socially equitable and eco-friendly.

Pura can be a vehicle for a variety of stakeholders – the government, the private sector and the community – to closely work towards socio-economic development based on empowerment rather than endowment.

Towards a new agenda

Transforming Malaysia into a developed nation entails a vision of a country whose citizens live well above the poverty line, with education and health of high standard, with national
security assured.

It means ensuring core competence in certain areas to enable the production of quality goods – for competitive export as well. It means bringing in all-round, inclusive prosperity to the nation,

Fundamental to the evolution of a happy, peaceful and prosperous nation is laying the foundation for sustainable growth and development. We have to seriously tackle the needs of our times – for prosperity with inclusion, development with equity, and industrialisation with concern for the environment.

We have to remove the inertia that has gripped the national psyche, the mindset of defeat.

Thinking is the capital; enterprise is the way. Working and implementating solutions, leadership must lead us to prosperity.

We have to create a nation where poverty has been totally eradicated and literacy removed. We need to to evolve into a society where crime against women and children are absent and no one in society feels alienated

Don’t pretend to be a candle; be a moth. Know the power hidden in serving. We seem to have got stuck with several external forms of politics, mistaking them to be nation-building.

Work with your conscience. Conscience is the light of the sun that burns within the chamber of our hearts, and it will ultimately bring smiles to the faces of millions of Malaysians.

Thuraisingham Shan, with 45 years experience in the cooperative movement, was the first Malaysian to be awarded the Bonow Fellowship Award by the International Co-operative Alliance.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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