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Malaysia’s missing mojo: Nation must regain lost momentum

Let our conversations be about conserving what we have and finding ways to make Malaysia more harmonious, liveable and loved


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By M Santhananaban

On the evening of Saturday, 27 April, a gridlock at the Sungei Besi toll plaza brought traffic to and from Kuala Lumpur to a standstill.

Long tailbacks crawled to the toll plaza from Kuala Lumpur at about 18:00. Mobile phone apps showed that the 9.1km drive to the Sungai Ramal area would take 39 minutes. The destination was reached at 19:55, which meant that the journey took 110 minutes. This was 100 minutes over the normal commuting time despite having to incur the 82 sen toll charge.

It had rained that evening, but that was not unusual given our climate. No explanation was offered for this awful waste of productive time. The media did not report about this massive jam. After all, this is the ‘new normal’ – motorists seem to have grown used to such deplorable delays.

This crawl is a metaphor for Malaysia’s current slow motion or even standstill. There is a clear and present danger that the country is rapidly losing whatever is left of its old dynamism and momentum. The nation appears stuck in a time warp.

For a start, it is the same old cast of leaders of a past generation. The nation, it seems, simply refuses to move on. Instead, it gets bogged down with inalterable individual leaders or inconsequential matters.

Some specific examples come to mind.

Former Prime Minister Najib Razak was convicted and sentenced to a 12-year prison term on 23 August 2022. The high-profile and transparent trial had lasted four years.

During the trial, three different prime ministers helmed the country. Barely two years after Najib’s imprisonment, much discussion and even dispute lingers over the verdict, the sentence and its variation by the Pardons Board.

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May 13 in 1969 was a dark and disgraceful episode in Malaysia’s history. To prevent a repeat, the government introduced a broad range of drastic reforms, amended the Federal Constitution and enacted new laws. It also set up agencies to distribute opportunities and wealth.

But if one follows the political discourse, it would seem almost every prime minister has had to constantly warn of the imminence of another such incident and even indulge in fear-mongering.

The constant talk of Tanah Melayu (Malay land) is another oft-repeated theme in certain quarters of extremist politicking. When Malaysia was formed in September 1963, the old Persekutuan Tanah Melayu (Federation of Malaya) became a vital part of Malaysia, together with Sabah and Sarawak.

To harp on that old political entity, which has been empowered and vastly enlarged by the inclusion of Sabah and Sarawak, seems passé. When the water from the river joins the ocean, it becomes identified with the larger reality. It seems like many on the peninsula fail to appreciate and embrace this larger, living reality.

Next, a sensational issue of a small consignment of socks that had words deemed offensive emerged. Despite a prompt apology and corrective action by the vendor, closure over the issue has remained elusive. The resort to boycotts and other forms of bias have had a negative effect on overall business and employment prospects.

It is high time the entire country moves on. The current government must come up with policies to provide for the future.

Paying more attention to clean air, reliable water and power supply, flood prevention, food security and traffic flow is crucial. So too the need to foster greater national unity and improve the quality of education and healthcare.

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Opinion leaders must focus on building the competitiveness and resilience of the entire nation. They do not need to engage in divisive polemics that undermine inter-ethnic and inter-religious harmony.

Leaders must focus on domestic issues and not be unduly distracted by overseas travel and intractable global issues. Asean cannot be ignored either.

We must be dedicated and loyal to the Rukun Negara (National Principles), the nation’s territorial integrity, and respect for law and order.

Let our conversations be about conserving what we have and finding ways to make Malaysia more harmonious, liveable and loved.

As things stand, there is really no credible alternative to the current “unity government” in our plural society. It has to be supported for it to remain in office, at least until the next general election, expected in 2027.

Many still remember the lamentable leaders who emerged through the back door when the 2018 general election was overturned in 2020 – and do not wish to see their return.

Dato’ M Santhananaban is a former ambassador with 45 years of public sector experience.

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.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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Orang Ulu
Orang Ulu
5 May 2024 12.20pm

Now everyone knows who this NATO PM really is.

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