BN leaders wary of reforms

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The current BN leaders are pre-occupied with self-fulfilment and hesitant about pushing for reforms for fear of losing power. Maybe they could learn a few things from our southern neighbour, suggests Christopher Barnabas.


I am sure we have come across propaganda from BN leaders to emulate successes of highly innovative and entrepreneurial countries. Mahathir’s Look East policy in the 1980s comes to mind, while the recent obsession in meeting Obama points towards a westernised vision by the current Najib administration.

While Malaysia stands idle and directionless in a “middle income” syndrome unable to compete innovatively with advanced economies like Singapore, Taiwan, and Korea or as a low-cost manufacturing hub verses the likes of Thailand, Vietnam, or Indonesia, it is potentially time to consider some salient points. How has our southern neighbour been transformed from a small fishing village to a vibrant cosmopolitan and first world country? Singapore’s leaders point to four key factors: capable leaders, a meritocracy, a level-playing field, and a command of English.

It is somewhat coincidental that I wrote an article last week entitled “When BN Leaders fail to lead, think alternative”, touching on the very foundation of having capable leaders to lead the country out of this downward economic and racial spiral.

The current BN leaders are pre-occupied with self-fulfilment, hesitant in pushing for reforms for fear of losing power; thus they tread along racial lines depending on which demographic they are addressing. Across the causeway, however, Singapore attracts the best talents (many of whom are ex-Malaysians… even at ministerial level) to form an exceptionally able government.

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The issue of meritocracy is certainly hot since Najib stepped into office last year. His NEM pushed for “market friendly”, “merit-based”, “transparent”, and “needs based” policies, only to backtrack during a Perkasa gathering. Last weekend, his flip-flop agenda continued, this time describing his government’s “balancing act” in satisfying the demands of the various ethnic communities in the country, implying that the NEP would remain mostly unchanged after 40 years. That’s the same NEP that has enriched the elite few while the rakyat’s suffering continues.

In a recent speech by Singapore’s Berita Harian editor Guntor Sadali (in response to Mahathir’s negative statement about Singapore Malays), he stated that Singapore Malays do not want the crutch mentality, as it will make them into the “2M” community; the first M for “manja” (spoilt) while the second M for “malas” (lazy).

“Meritocracy has proven to be good and fair, as it pushes us to work hard and be proud of our achievements. We may wear the same clothes, eat the same food, speak the same language, and practise the same culture (as Umno Malays I must add), however, the similarities end there,” Sadali added.

For an economy to develop, the need for a level-playing field is crucial. Competition amongst the masses promotes innovation and entrepreneurship, the very core fundamentals required for sustainable development in a country. Umno leaders, on the other hand, falsely instil a negative pre-notion in the Malays, creating a mental trap that they will lose against the other races. Such negativity breeds generations of mediocrity for those that subscribe to this propaganda.

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Lastly, while the command of English is surely vital in the business world, it is again the flip-flop mentality of our leaders on the education policies that never fails to confuse the masses. We marvel at such misguided policies and conclude that it may be their desperate attempt to restrain knowledge to the people so as to avoid questions on their weak governance. As Sudali noted, for “Malays in Singapore, power is not about wielding the keris, but rather the knowledge that is gained by hard work and determination in a trusted education system. That is the real power”.

It is time we educated these so-called leaders to wake up to the reality that despite the enormous natural and human resources available in the country, we trail shamelessly behind our southern neighbour in almost all aspects of economy and education. Try looking South … for a change.

Christopher Barnabas is an Aliran member

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