Malaysia a failed state? Not yet … but where are we heading?

Coherent decisions must be made on how to overcome the crisis and clear the mess we are in

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A recent Bloomberg article saying that Malaysia “is staggering down the road to being a failed state” sparked much angst.

When I think of failed states, I think of certain Middle Eastern countries where governments are no longer in control. When the Bloomberg article described the country as “staggering down the road”, I think of someone bent double and more or less crawling on all fours.

I do not see Malaysia going that way – at least not yet. But where are we exactly – as a people, as a country, as a nation? We are not a failed state but we are not doing well at all. We have a prime minister and a government disconnected from the people.

Tengku Zafrul Aziz was asked in a recent interview about the political situation in the country. His reply: “less than ideal” but he was “cautiously optimistic that Putrajaya would be able to achieve its goals in curbing Covid-19”.

“I don’t think anyone knows what to do, really. There is no so-called precedent nor textbook to refer,” he added. “So it’s important that we do our best … (and) we all together unite to win the war against Covid-19.”

This could be the first time a minister has been honest enough to admit the political situation was “less than ideal”. He said he had met opposition party leaders and stakeholders to tap their expertise for the national recovery plan to be debated in Parliament. 

He probably had no choice because the government is on shaky ground with criticisms of the coalition government growing harsher. Meanwhile, a coalition partner, Umno, has announced it would no longer back the prime minister.

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It boils down to this: this morally illegitimate government has totally failed the country and its people.

As for the minister’s comments on Covid, it is fair to say we are in uncharted territory. We should have learned something from the many trial-and-error measures the government has carried out – much to the frustration of the people.

We should be listening, watching and learning what scientists, virologists, epidemiologists, medical practitioners and researchers from other parts of the world are doing. Maybe we should mix and match and adapt their ideas in dealing with what is happening in their own countries to what is happening here in Malaysia.

The climbing Covid numbers and the government’s inability to stem the tide, along with all the various lockdowns and assorted Covid rules and restrictions, have made the situation worse than it ever was.

People are being deprived of their livelihoods with no money to feed their families. Many have to line up for food and basic supplies. Suicide rates have risen as people grow desperate, unable to cope. Some have hoisted white flags outside their homes in an admission of defeat.

To rub salt into their wounds, the prime minister responded: “I think if we go to the ground, we will probably find the kitchens of homes to be full (with supplies).” And he suggests, almost sarcastically, that they hang blue flags instead. (Blue is the colour of the logo of the ruling Perikatan Nasional coalition.)

Seriously? Is he utterly ignorant or utterly arrogant? The prime minister’s kitchen, wherever he is living, must be filled with mouth-watering food, so why should he care? Maybe he and his minions should take all the food they have in their kitchens and distribute it to those in need.

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Then, there is the slow vaccination process and what seems to be conflicting comments about the efficacy of the Sinovac vaccine from the government and medical experts. I doubt these concerns have anything to do with anti-China rhetoric, as some seem to think.

More to the point is the flip-flopping by the government on whether to use Sinovac, with nobody from the government informing the people why. As one of the many millions of people vaccinated with Sinovac – without any choice in the matter – I see questions raised about its overall efficacy, especially against the Delta variant and given the deaths in Indonesia.

So, where we are as a people, a country, a nation heading? It is heart-warming that we, the people, are all still together. And it remains to be seen how long more the government’s antics will be tolerated.

Hopefully, with the reconvening of Parliament later this month and an end to the ‘state of emergency’ (which should never have been allowed), we will see some light at the end of this dark tunnel. The people probably won’t care if it is a ‘hybrid’ session or an ‘in-person’ sitting.

What is crucial is that coherent decisions must be made on how to overcome the crisis and clear the mess the country is in. Hopefully, the politicians will be able to put aside their partisan interests and place the needs of the people before their own political agenda.

Jem, an Aliran reader, still cares deeply about Sabah, despite having lived in the peninsula for some time

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Paul Lim
Paul Lim
25 Jul 2021 12.58pm

Whether Malaysia is a failed state depends upon definition one takes but we can be sure it is a mailing state. We do not need to look elsewhere in the world for exemples of failed state. Just look at Myanmar and will Malaysia go the Myanmar way? Civil Society should see how it can organise itself to beat COVID. The present situation should point to society that it cannot depend on this government to lead at all.