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Why Malaysia needs wide-ranging reforms

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Wide-ranging progressive reforms and a comprehensive overhaul to strengthen laws are badly needed to prevent abuse of power, says Dominic Damian.

When Attorney General Tommy Thomas spoke some time ago about the need for reforms, the implications went much deeper.

It may be that our existing laws and structures, institutions and even the Constitution have glaring vulnerabilities which can be exploited by deceptive individuals or parties who may gain access to unbridled power to inflict misery upon the nation. 

The best intended laws can fail against a lack of morality among any powerful quarters. It is not legal tweaking that can stop them but holistic sweeping reforms that will serve as the guardian against potential abuse.

Some questions come to mind: What really broke this nation? What robbed it of its soul? What tore it apart and drove us to our knees? What eroded the spirit of unity?

What motivated a government with a cross section of qualified individuals with wealth and academic leanings to allow stealing and plundering from public coffers?

The obvious answer: existing laws were used to embolden and empower those with selective morality. Some of them were already powerful and remorseless. Yet they were lacking in conscience, without much empathy for anyone else, except themselves and their families.

They had conceptions of governance that were far removed from a shared humanity.Their shameless philosophy allowed them to promote a selfish culture of entitlement. Their weaved the notion of racial and religious exclusiveness and spread the idea that the royalty was under persistent threat.

These distractions helped to conceal their main agenda of massive pillage and plunder.

Grip on power

It all started with an insatiable appetite for power, which happens ordinarily enough anywhere in the world. Nothing exceptional about this. But when combined with visions of securing control and power to leave behind a legacy, the evolution was dramatic and evident.

They had to manufacture controversy about something they knew would strike a chord. Something had to be produced to promote specific potent causes that would strike a chord. The reconstruction of social philosophy and the reinterpretation of religion were obvious choices.

Efforts at racial divisiveness were introduced in stages to ensure power. It did not happen overnight; rather it was a combined cocktail of the three R’s – race, religion and royalty – injected into the main arteries of the nation. Slowly, this brew seeped into every corner of not just governance but the nation itself.

Concerned citizens and groups protested about the perceived future dangers but to no avail. Some quarters labelled them as “communists” or saw them as grave threats to the nation. Their ideals of these concerned folks were ignored, and several were hauled up.

Policies for ethnic affirmative action, which were bound by a certain timeframe, are for all intents and purposes now virtually immovable. All kinds of justifications were used to impose racial inequalities in an acceptable form that could evade the radar of human rights groups within the country and abroad.

We witnessed the staging of various protests and the setting up of groups to defend the honour, always supposedly under threat, of “race, religion and royalty”.

After all these years, these notions came home to roost as scandals that plagued the nation. But the irony is that the theft and plunder transcended the racial and religious minefield. Cold hard cash cut through the created divisions.

As painful as it is, there is a purpose and reason for these negatives. They expose the falsity of the proponents of these values – which ought to render their causes morally reprehensible and ineffective.

They consistently created the impression that the issue of the three R’s being , being under threat was of paramount importance while all others concerns were just inconsequential.

This camouflaged the insidious greed that was not just lurking in the shadows, but clearly visible and tolerated. A pervasive culture of entitlement spread across the political spectrum and gained acceptance.

Nationalism hijacked by racial agenda

The mantra of race, religion and royalty being under threat had negative consequences.

Nationalism, which is a positive binding force in any nation, was hijacked here as exclusive to just one ethnic group. National TV stations increasingly marginalised other ethnic groups. One could hardly see an integrated mixed platform of actors or truly Malaysian stories with an all-inclusive cast other than at festive occasions. A nation starved of a national identity responded enthusiastically to the occasional multicultural forays in movies like Sepet.

It was not just the arts, aligned or dependent on government funding, that was affected – sports, education, health and employment appeared to be similarly stifled due to a lack of integration that naturally provides competition. The result: a significant drop in the quality of services.

This prevailing delusion lent a sense of entitlement that such distorted values had to be defended at all costs. History was rewritten. Unashamedly, anyone outside the dominant framework was regarded as “pendatang”.

This arrogance is still being advocated and perpetuated by some small groups, individuals and political parties.

There are no two ways about it: wide-ranging progressive reforms and a comprehensive overhaul to strengthen laws are an inevitability, considering the travesties that have plagued the nation.

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