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A disease that could kill Malaysia

A media conference on the MH740 in progress - Photograph: themalaymailonline.com

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It has taken a mammoth crisis like MH370 to expose Malaysia’s worrying state of affairs, says Faisal S Hazis.

A media conference on the MH740 in progress - Photograph: themalaymailonline.com
A media conference on the MH740 in progress – Photograph: themalaymailonline.com

 A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing went missing in the wee hours of 8 March 2104. After more than two weeks of an unprecedented international search operation, the disappearance of the ill-fated aircraft remains a mystery, although debris has been spotted southwest of Perth. My heartfelt thoughts go out to the family members of all the passengers and crew.

The tragedy that struck MH370 has put Malaysia under international scrutiny. One of the main talking points has been the way the Malaysian authorities have handled (or rather mishandled) the crisis. “They’re handling a huge global issue as if it was domestic politics,” lamented Clive Kessler, Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of New South Wales. Kessler is a well-respected scholar on Malaysian politics and society.

Others went as far as pointing fingers at the incompetent leadership of the BN-led government for the lack of progress in the search operation. Even China expressed its frustration at the Malaysian government for the perceived holding back of vital information and its slow response to the crisis.

Dominant party syndrome

These criticisms, which did not come from Malaysian opposition leaders, are fair and spot on.

Clearly, the MH370 saga reveals the BN-led government’s long-standing deficiencies. The focus of international criticism against the Malaysian government is not so much on the failure to locate MH370. Critics acknowledge the challenges and difficulties in the search operation.

But the Malaysian government’s lack of leadership, slow response, questionable assets, flip-flopping statements, lack of empathy, authoritarian attitude and an obsession to blame the opposition for all its failings has become a source of bemusement and ridicule. These shortcomings have long been embedded in Malaysia’s system of governance due to the BN’s long dominance of Malaysian politics. These symptoms are merely reflective of a secretive, oppressive and incompetent regime.

Litany of stupidity, incompetence and abrasiveness

Unfortunately, Malaysians have had to live with the BN’s dominant party syndrome for over five decades. In fact, a great majority of Malaysians have accommodated the BN’s failings.

Recently, Malaysians were again reminded of this BN syndrome. Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar showcased BN leaders’ tradition of making stupid and senseless comments by informing Parliament that child rape statistics are higher within the Malay community since Malays are less willing than non-Malays to accept child rape.

When elections have been continuously rigged by the dominant BN, incompetent and backward individuals end up winning. Worse, they are then made Ministers or Deputy Ministers.

Over in Sarawak, the newly-minted Chief Minister Adenan Satem also portrayed another manifestation of this BN syndrome. While campaigning in the Balingian by-election, Adenan urged voters to vote BN as a show of appreciation for the outgoing Balingian state assembly member and former chief minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud. According to Adenan, failing to vote for the BN would amount to being tulah (cursed).

In a dominant party system like Malaysia, the incumbent does not bother to engage the people through policy or debates on issues. It merely buys support or, in the case of Adenan and Balingian, simply coerces them.

And when the dominant party smells resistance, it would quash threats as evident from the conviction of two top opposition leaders recently.

Sadly, the litany of the BN’s dominant party syndrome is likely to plague Malaysians. This is the cost that Malaysians have to bear as a result of continually returning the BN as the country’s dominant ruling party.

Enough is enough

It has taken a mammoth crisis like MH370 to expose Malaysia’s worrying state of affairs. Let us not ignore another manifestation of this BN dominant party syndrome like what we had to during the Lahad Datu intrusion last year. The opposition and several groups took the Malaysian government to task for the way they mishandled the intrusion. But the BN-led government and the general public merely brushed aside these criticisms as ‘being unpatriotic’ and unfair.

By ignoring the BN’s dominant party syndrome, we are allowing the BN to destroy our beloved country. Let us save Malaysia which deserves better. Enough is enough. A majority of the Malaysian electorate want to put a stop to this rot as evident from their rejection of the ruling BN in the 2013 elections. What about the rest of you?

Faisal S Hazis

Co-editor, Aliran e-Newsletter

25 March 2014

Thanks for dropping by! 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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Dr Faisal S Hazis, an Aliran executive committee member and co-editor of our newsletters, is the author of Domination and Contestation: Muslim Bumiputera Politics in Sarawak (2012).He is presently a senior fellow at the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (Ikmas), UKM. His research interests include electoral politics, democratisation and rural informatics.
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