The story of ‘Ben’ in Sabah who cycles for kilometres daily to deliver food deserves national attention and debate.
For a long time, employers, business leaders and condescending politicians have sold us tales about Malaysians being lazy, choosy and unwilling to take up demanding jobs. That argument was used repeatedly to justify the import of millions of lowly paid foreign workers.
Today, as the country remains heavily reliant on a lucrative, cheap and easy supply of migrant workers (legal and undocumented), the Covid-19 challenges prove that Malaysians are not lazy, nor are they unwilling to take on any hard work.
Vested political interests appear to have profiteered from facilitating the influx of such cheap labour, including undocumented workers.
Their low wages boost the profit margins of plantation owners, factory owners, contractors, builders and all kinds of retail and wholesale businesses.
As the pandemic tears through the job markets, with few innovative government strategies to redeploy locals who are out of work or suffering large pay cuts, we can see how resilient and determined our own citizens can be.
Look at the many Malaysians along the roads and in residential areas, in rain and broiling sunshine, as they deliver online orders and takeaway food.
This is the right time for a national policy review of our labour policies. If we do revamp the existing policy, the next crisis could reduce us to chaos. We must restore the dignity of labour to create a more self-sufficient and resilient economy.
The policies designed and driven by condescending political leaders to create a few more millionaires and a handful of billionaires must cease.
Only a healthier and happier people with ample opportunities for work can protect our nation.
Online learning exposes unacceptable failures
The pandemic has also exposed the failure of a nation that kept preaching about development.
The Ministry of Education in its bid to get just 10% of primary students back to their studies through online teaching has inadvertently exposed how much successive governments have failed the people.
Despite six decades of independence, access to enormous oil wealth, the many skyscrapers, a Formula One racing circuit and the sprawling Putrajaya – which costs so much to maintain – and not forgetting the 1MDB fund – many poor students are unable to buy their own laptops and tablets to study online. These poor pupils are not only found in far-flung rural areas, but also in urban areas in the Klang Valley.
And having clinched the ‘trophy’ for the world’s largest still-unresolved kleptocratic scandal, the government is struggling to give each deserving student a free laptop or tablet.
What a shame.
And so, caring NGOs and individuals are coming to the rescue in pockets here and there. More groups should come together and ensure that the authorities are taken to task for their failures.
Despite all the proclamations in creating Cyberjaya and boasting about racing ahead with IT and now AI, when the government fails even one student with undelivered promises, it is one too many.
We have seen how unprepared the Ministry of Health was in getting personal protective equipment to the frontline health workers.
We see how ordinary people and NGOs have to rush to a crisis scene first when floods hit poor villagers, despite the country employing one of the world’s biggest civil services per capita. We even see Good Samaritans having to fill potholes on our roads simply because the authorities are oblivious to them – unless it hurts a minister or a VIP. We see caring people feeding the growing numbers of the homeless and the hungry in our cities.
But we cannot rely on such goodwill forever to cover up for the sins of a failed political agenda. The pandemic has revealed our true state of governance – and its failures.
On the flip side, Daim Zainuddin recently emerged from a long silence to fire a broadside at Umno, a race-based political party that has helmed the nation for six decades. He claimed Umno is “filled with warlords”.
But Abdul Rahman Dahlan, a former federal minister, rebutted Daim, saying that Umno was not the only party with warlords; all parties in Malaysia had warlords.
Thanks to the two politicians’ honesty, they have confirmed what many Malaysians have long believed. This is the beauty of truth. We cannot keep it submerged eternally.
This rich nation of ours has been plundered and mismanaged by politicians and vested interests and the henchmen within the shadows of the warlords for far too long.
Warlord-ism is not a strength nor an asset in democratic nation-building. It is an entrenched system of governance by a cartel. They seize political power and use that clout to galvanise the wealth of the nation to enrich themselves and share the spoils with patronising slaves of greed – all the while pretending to be doing good for the nation.
Name me one political warlord in Malaysia or elsewhere who lives within his or her monthly salaries. Name me one political warlord who does not have substantial shares in businesses or who does not have some links to lucrative businesses that are fed with government tenders?
For as long as political warlords tightly guard the political landscape, the wealth of this nation is not going to be shared with ordinary people.
Meanwhile, the corruption that keeps bubbling will remain deeply rooted. It serves as a perfect, all-weather conduit for warlords to remain in power for eternity.
What the country needs is a united front of people to stand their ground to fight this scourge of warlords. Defenders of true democracy and vanguards of the dignity of humanity must stand up and be counted.
That is a daunting thought. The warlords are maha-supremos at the game. They not only have their palms on the nation’s wealth, but their influence extends far and wide, with many at their beck and call.
But unless these warlords are vanquished, we can forget about genuine, principled politicians stepping into the vacuum.
What hope is there for Malaysia? Not much, really.
It would suit the interests of powerful nations scrambling for economic and territorial supremacy for warlord-ism to thrive in Malaysia. It is to their advantage. We see it so clearly in many resource-rich nations in the developing world.
Our nation is a gift from the Almighty and our actions must not betray the trust placed upon us by the Almighty.
Warlord-ism goes against the grain of every religious teaching.
Peace-loving Malaysians must seize the chance to rebuild our nation in the coming general election – and not further entrench the warlords who thrive in Malaysia.
The doctor’s expired prescription
Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir Mohamad has shown he has little new to offer. He said recently he would rejoin Umno if the party returned to its original policy of fighting for religion, race and country.
Mahathir should know that Malaysia is a country that depends on and therefore should care for all its people. Race-based and religious-centred political ideologies have long past their shelf life.
What we need is a political party that can stand up to defend all the people, irrespective of their ethnic origins or religious preferences, and to ensure we all play our roles, according to our innate strengths, for the betterment of the people. This will put Malaysia back on track as a modernising, progressive and democratic nation.
Mahathir’s credo of protecting and fighting for one race and one religion not only insults the people but is an expired prescription for a move inclusive world.
It is sad that despite the people giving Mahathir a second chance in 2018, he not only dumped us but continues to talk about race and religion.
“Malay first, Malaysian second” politicians, beware
The Ruler of Johor, in his inspiring 2021 Lunar New Year message, highlighted what national unity is all about.
The Royal Press Office stated the sultan referred to the Chinese in Johor as part of “Bangsa Johor” and even stressed that the Johor Chinese are just like the Malays, Indians and others, “who are all Malaysians”.
He did not bat an eyelid in giving due credit to the Bangsa Johor Chinese who came from China as early as 1844 to help open large-scale gambier and pepper farms.
Muhyiddin, who hails from a Johor constituency, should have learned something before he opened his mouth in 2010 to proclaim he is a “Malay first”.
It is hollow to speak of national unity after so many years if politicians cannot harness the people’s strengths and build a more inclusive Malaysia.
The politicians should not waste more of the nation’s resources with sloganeering and national unity programmes, if they cannot come out in the open and speak with conviction.
Perhaps the PM should have learned these valuable lessons a decade ago, as the race card he once used is haunting him, esepcially after his launch of the national unity agenda.