The Great Malaysian Train Robbery

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Our national news is the stuff of legends, writes Sheila Santharamohana. Most Malaysians stay riveted for hours to online news portals reading about real-life scandals, sexual indiscretions, murder, betrayal, greed, conspiracies.

Murder, betrayal and greed are some of the key ingredients in the script of our national reality show - Graphic: freemalaysiatoday
Murder, betrayal and greed are some of the key ingredients in the script of our national reality show – Graphic: freemalaysiatoday

Malaysia is the most exciting country to live within the South-East Asian Region.

We have the greatest beaches, the tallest flagpole, the best food, and the longest yee sang (or Prosperity Toss practised by the Chinese). We also have the best education system in the world and the best and most vibrant democracy. And most of all, Malaysia has the most vibrant, Oscar-standard, and colourful political dramas.

Our national news is the stuff of legends. Most Malaysians stay riveted for hours to online news portals reading about real-life scandals, sexual indiscretions, murder, betrayal, greed, conspiracies. Of course, we also cringe at the utter shamelessness and embarrassment of it all. Seriously, when they say real life is better than fiction, it cannot be truer in this country.

Fortunately, what stops us, the hapless addicts from descending into hopelessness is Malaysia’s cast of heroes. They come in the unlikeliest forms such as those of Irene Fernandez, Tijah, A Samad Said, Peter John Jaban, Rafizi Ramli, Wong Tack and a score of other ordinary people made extraordinary by their selfless work for all and especially the voiceless and downtrodden. They battle the Goliaths of Malaysian villainy, notwithstanding the injustice of Malaysian laws. Amazingly, just like in the movies, they still remain strong enough to fight the good fight, even after several rounds.

While we have these remarkable heroes, we also have an epic line-up of powerful villains, liars and cowards and their equally repulsive minions. Self-serving, greedy and conniving, they fester and permeate every level, feeding off and into a system that enriches them and impoverishes everyone else.

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The Usual Suspects at the top of this food chain are merciless but they are obvious. More insidious above them though, is the Mastermind. He is the unseen hand who orchestrates the rise and fall of characters in this ‘wayang kulit’. This man is the Puppet Master. He doesn’t age nor does he repent.

The next strata below are the shadier ninja cronies who have been given free rein to squeeze the lower orders. Notable characters are the Nasi Lemak Monopolist, the Power Magnate, The Loyal Developer and The Investment Banker. The accounts of their rapid rise to success are lauded as stories of Malaysian rags-to-riches miracles. Their airbrushed visages on magazines remind the average Malaysian viewers that wealth is achievable – by some who know someone.

Undoubtedly, for those in the lower rungs, it is a cruel circle to be in, as each acolyte makes uncertain alliances jostling for favour and power. As we watch the drama unfold, Malaysians wait and wonder when all this back scratching is going to turn into back stabbing. We have seen it time and again in episodes involving the “Carpet Dealer”, the “Malay First”, The “Mongolian Murder”, the “Soiled Leg” and the “Fourth Floor Patriot”.

Five-plus decades on, perhaps the storylines are getting stale. Perhaps we have had enough of this great tragic comedy. Perhaps we have had enough of watching and waiting because as I see it, no one is laughing anymore.

This country was a gravy train for the undeserving few at the expense of the many. It is now a train wreck of a country. The tunnel is up ahead. Do we watch and wait? Will we emerge at the other end intact?

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Folks, it is time to pick another channel.

Sheila Santharamohana is an Aliran member based in the Klang Valley.

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