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United we stand, divided we fall

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Patriot is concerned about our economic situation and how badly our people will be affected in the impending world economic downturn.

Our nation is at a critical period.

We are faced with numerous challenges, many inherited from the previous administration plus new ones, which, if not handled well, may cause our nation and people to suffer a long period of poverty at best or lead us to a national break-up and economic chaos plunging us into fourth world status at worst.

The last thing we need is for someone to publicly declare that Tanah Melayu is for the Malays. Wisdom escaped Perlis Mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin when he did just that in a recent video sermon.

No one is disputing there is a dominant race in national identity, as what Asri postulated. Rather than fanning the fire to an already high tempo of socio-religious discourse, he should urge all Malaysians to stay united to face the economic challenges ahead.

The previous administration that governed more than 60 years with a near monopoly of a dominant race (if that is what Asri asked for) in public administration fumbled big time. Scandals were aplenty, from Bank Bumiputra Finance in the 1980s to the mother of all scandals, 1MBD. Yet, Asri said little or nothing against the perpetrators of those scandals.

The first year of Pakatan Harapan’s governance saw too much racial and religious politicking stirred by opposition parties to derail planned reforms – which frustrated the performance of the young and not so experienced ministers. It caused the PH government to lose its bearing. There was no clear narrative of where our nation was heading. A whole year was directionless and lost.

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The prime minister has now announced the “shared prosperity” concept, setting a clear direction forward. On 9 May 2019, commemorating the first anniversary of the general election, Dr Mahathir Mohamad spelt out the aims of “shared prosperity” and said: “To provide a decent standard of living to all Malaysians…. to ensure that all people will benefit from the nation’s wealth fairly and equitably…. that all these initiatives under its promises will be fulfilled so that all future achievements will be based on inclusivity, justice so that the nation’s wealth will be shared by all based on the spirit of shared prosperity.”

Distinctive words from the stated aim are – fairly and equitably, inclusivity, and justice. Our prime minister has set a tone for a new socio-economic-political construct. All cabinet members and political leaders are expected to comprehend the concept and more importantly what it entails. The learned Perlis mufti is expected to comprehend too.

By stating that China is for Chinese, India is for Indians, Western countries are for white people, and Tanah Melayu is for Malays, Asri has instigated an unwelcome mockery that may rip further our fragile inter-ethnic relations, and the Semenanjung-Sabah and Sarawak distrust.

We in Patriot are concerned about our economic situation and how badly our people will be affected in the impending world economic downturn. National debt and liabilities are now at RM1.1tn, increased from RM1.06tn in June 2018. Starting this year, gross exports have begun to decline, and this is worrying because exports have been for years a major contributor to our national income.

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The household debt to GDP ratio is 83% – the highest in the Asean region. If a recession hits, and quite likely it will, bad debts will skyrocketing. Furthermore, the cost of living pressure for those in the bottom 40% of households, especially in essential items such as food and housing, is a perpetual burden and will continue to get worse.

Patriot sees the only way forward is for all Malaysians to be united and capitalise on lending each other strength. The spirit of shared prosperity has no room for a parochial mentality. Absolutely no room for racism and an attitude of exclusivity. Malaysia is for all Malaysians, and we would be wise to know – united we stand, divided we fall.

Retired Brigadier General Dato Mohamed Arshad Raji is president of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan.

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