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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Our Malaysia, Our Folly

Our Malaysia, Our Folly

It is high time that we face up to the fact that Malaysians are paying the price for their folly, and more distressingly, their vanity.

We were fools for believing in political rhetoric that left us divided, distrustful and wholly vulnerable to exploitation. We were bigger fools for having allowed our vanity to persuade us to that cause. As we clamoured and argued amongst ourselves about not very much to begin with, the Government we should have all been watching like hawks – for which government is it that has been capable of refraining from giving in to temptation – was on a frolic all of its own.

I drove into Putrajaya this morning. Once again, I was reminded of the colossal waste of money that Putrajaya was and continues to be. Leave aside the fact that most of us go to Putrajaya not because we want to but because we have no choice. Consider instead how much it cost us. Some speculated, almost reverentially, that it had cost some RM4 billion, a fearful sum beyond imagination. Some said it was far less, others insisted it was far more. Last month, under pressure from a more sizeable opposition presence in Parliament the Prime Minister disclosed that it had cost the nation to date a staggering RM11.83 billion

The Malaysian experience does not allow for any justification for that sort of expenditure. Rural and urban poverty is still a reality just as not having meaningful access to electricity and water is in some parts of the country. Those of us lucky to have access to these utilities are obliged to pay dearly for the privilege, just as we do for a range of other services. Our public healthcare and education systems need a major overhaul to get them to even acceptable levels and so on and so forth. The average Malaysian spends a great deal of time worrying about the fact that there is not very much left over at the end of the month and what that means.

The potential real development and essentials, from schools to dialysis machines to vaccines, that RM12 billion could buy is mind-boggling and the Government spent it all on Putrajaya. Did we need it? I do not think so but then, judging by the pontificating we have been hearing as of late, it would appear that the Government considers an ivory tower a prerequisite to it being able to function.

We are not without blame. We were stakeholders in the Government we voted in, it is what we allowed it to become. We let ourselves be seduced by its pied-piper tune of race and religion, privilege, supremacy and power sharing, stability and prosperity. We clapped our hands gleefully as it stroked our collective ego, some would say lobotomized us, with Malaysia Boleh.

Worlds best, truly Asia, everyone loves us. We are Malaysian.

We cheered as we were told that we were sending a Malaysian into space, even though it was costing a us a great deal of money, directly and indirectly – there were submarines in the mix, after all – and even though we really did not need a man in space, particularly one who was interested in making teh tarik and playing congkak.

We cheered as the petro-ringgits were spent as if they were going out fashion on the trinkets for us, and the big ticket items for a small elite. We cheered as we were told, over and over again, that we were the finest at this and the greatest at that, even as standards across the board were declining rapidly. University ratings, corruption and rule of law indexes, we slid down all of them without discrimination. Did we care? Apparently not, like that Emperor with his new clothes we were more interested in the lies.

The reality is that the Government does not have an explanation for the use of the billions of ringgit of oil revenue that has been generated since 1974. Though some of it has been ploughed back into the nation, a great deal of it has been applied without thought to the future or has been allowed to dissipate through unaddressed corruption, cronyism and sheer incompetence in an orgy of reckless and unnecessary spending. As the Malays say, bagai kera dapatkan bunga.

The question is what do we do about it now that rocketing crude oil prices have allowed us to see how mismanaged this nation has been, still is.

The veil has been lifted. As we stare out at the approaching storm clouds, we must be resolute, firm in our understanding and belief that inflation and hardship do not recognize race and religion, they cut into all of us. And we must recognize that it only as a united force, as Malaysians, that we can do what it is that needs to be done. Demanding our just dues.

(Malay Mail; 10th June 2008)



L_J said...

And whose fault (folly) is all this? One man: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohd, now widely adored by his fascist and racist audience and devotees on his Che Det Blog



Samuel Goh Kim Eng said...

It's more than "Hello, Dolly!"
When we examine our costly folly
More expansive than dressing Molly
No fuel left for the kettle of Polly

(C) Samuel Goh Kim Eng - 110608
Wed. 11th June 2008.

Anonymous said...

Where did all the money go? Into the overseas bank accounts of corrupted politicians and their cronies that where it went.

Billions have been flowing out of the country via illegal money transfer through legitimate money changers.

What did Bank Negara do? Hid behind the politicians and continue to let the flow go out of the country coz everyone already had their hands in the money pots.

Why were the money changers carrying RM3 million out of KLIA during the most recent robbery (different money changers had been robbed countless times previously)? Well, it's one of the daily transfer of money out of the country..... no one is following closely the case coz the higher fellas are involved in the illegal TT. It's a known fact......

It's a lucrative pipeline running parallel to the oil pipeline......

It really sucks knowing that so much money is going out of the country unrecorded and it's the nation's money going to the pockets of corrupted officials.....

Hope these people burn in hell!!!!!

Starmandala said...

Eloquent and succinct, Imtiaz. Pity the nation didn't read this excellent critique 20 years ago... or even 10... when the Malaysian voter could so easily have thrown BN out during the 1999 elections. Nevertheless, better late than never :-)

Robert Teh said...


I am with you, soul and mind on this, and let's make a difference by telling our children to make this country a better place for all.

Definitely not in our lifetime but in their (our children) lifetime, we hope they could one day live, work and play as true rakyat of a united nation. Not one torn apart by race, creed, religion or color, perpetuated by politicians for their own sefish interest and greed.

Unknown said...

Great writings and so much for promises from them however every dog has his days and you can't fool all the people all the time.

The hawk will watch them :)

Steven Foong said...

I thought it was fighter jets that were involved in our bid to send one of us to space and not submarines.

Pat said...

An excellent piece again, Imtiaz. You are one of the reasons why I stay away from writing on these topics. I'm copying and pasting (with acknowledgements) you in my blog - sorry I don't know how to 'link' yet; still learning; rusty old brain lah. With people like you writing, there is hope yet for all of us. Lots for us to think about here. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Getting some of this maturity into the heads of the people in this country whom only care for their own rice bowl.... sigh...

Unknown said...

everything is clear in hindsight. Mahatir is tha main culprit but we just cannot afford to go back in time.

For the folly that is us, we should steadfastly go forward. There should be less politicking and UMNO and the malays in particular should be reminded thereof.

Wait and malaysia will fall backward further. Let us not hero worship politicians, for they are most fallible.

Anonymous said...

At least voters did the RIGHT thing on 8 Mar to vote in 82 opposition MPs and gave 5 state govts to the Pakatan Rakyat. Had the GE been free and fair, there would have been no doubt that the BN would fall at the centre.

Malaysians will redeem themselves when we vote out UMNO/BN in the next GE. Better still if Anwar can push them to the opposition through defections before 16 Sept. This might not be democratic, but then in the first place, has the BN ever respected democracy? Has the BN ever subscribed to the practice of a level playing field in the elections? Let Rashid of SPR speak truthfully about this instead of telling us that the Emperor has the nicest clothes

Anonymous said...

Dear Rakyat,

I keep telling that, its time we the rakyat take matters in our hands. Walk to Putrajaya and throw the Prime Ministers and BN Ministers out. We have to take radical action, otherwise we are going nowhere.The learned people will say we have to follow the democratic rule blah blah. I say in this country it doesnt work because we are not on the same playing field with the goverment. They do not follow democracy. Overthrow the goverment, thats the only way out...

Unknown said...

Dear Malek,

Thanks for this wonderful piece.
All Malaysians should read this.


Anonymous said...

The person at fault is the "Man or Woman in the Mirror".

You voted the politicians into office.

(Or you didnt have the time to register to vote. How many people still havent registered?)

I too am at fault. I didnt force myself into a political party and by consensus get my view that we are citizens of the country, and the country comes first. Not our pockets. We were living a comfortable life, and we accepted it.

Thanks Imtiaz as usual very cogent and timely.

The milk is spilt. We can stand around crying OR we pick up the pieces, and go forward.

Let History be our teacher, yet not our Prisoner.

Forget the hatred, forget the anger. Let's just start the healing process and the rebuilding of Malaysia.

Can we do it? Yes, if we come together as Civil Society of Malaysia.

Light a candle, and let the spirit of the 5th of November live!

V for Victory not Vendetta (leave that to the Maker).

Anonymous said...

Painfully true. You have said everything that needed to be said. Will we ever get to see a Brave New World?

Old Fart said...

But why blame all the politicians for?

Have we not hear and read it when the Prime minister and the various UMNO leaders have often said that the people support them? We keep voting them in. so aren't they allowed to think that these are what the people want anyway?

Of course all of us reading this think otherwise and I bet our votes were not wasted on them. But we remain the minority. the got the license and the franchise to spend our money as they wish. And if they want to pay RM300 for a RM3 screw driver...mind you in the last elections it would seem just about 50% of the population think that it is perfectly alright.

I think it is really not necessary to be nice to all of them who continue subscribing to this UMNO led government. Indeed I think they well deserve the misery the price hikes they are all facing. Maybe they continue to believe that it is for their own good anyway.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is one worth reading because you don't take sides. Keep it up.

I just want to make two short comments:

1. Mahathir and his lackeys (including some supposed-to-be reputable bloggers) will go on until they destory this country.

2. Don't laught at this! The cabinet (including the PM and DPM) and the government should leave Putrajaya emasse back to their old offices in K.L. which I believe are still largely unoccupied and lease out all the buildings for rent to recover all the monies spent and plough it back into the govenrment coffers to help the poor badly hit rakyat.

Malaysia180 said...

Putrid jaya... RM 11.8 billion of ugliness and bad building techniqes.

It looks like it was designed by a committee. And must make the architects of Malaysia cringe behind their computers

Anonymous said...

Well said sir...but how many of our hillbilly voters give a shit?

As you diplomatically said that they are not stupid in al-Jazaare interview, I think they are.

The basis of their continued support to a government throwing away the wealth of nation is base entirely on unfounded and unjustifiable racist concern.

The urban are not innocent either. Too many of them are complacent, indifferent or just plain without balls.

I realise that I can't blame the corrupt government as much as the Malaysians who do not give a shit about their democratic rights which include the right to question and object.

I hope the advent of the internet is the turning point in Malaysia's history.

Lee Wee Tak

Anonymous said...

"Whatever it is, you still have to vote for BN. It is our saviour" My father's words still ring in my ears. It took many more years to convert my father into accepting that voting for an opposition party would not mean we are any less a Malaysian.

Most of the people were deprived of balanced and honest information. All of the media are in the hands of ruling party/component parties and what they write is news. With draconian laws, independent and truthful news seldom reached the people. No alternative news or views were entertained.

This scenario changed with many conscious-minded taking to the internet. While the BN and its adopted brothers were spewing venom against these "blogged" news, Malaysians finally had the opportunity to learn of what goes on in the "corridors of power". It was only belatedly that the BN and its stalwarts realised as to how people had their views shaped by the internet forum and are now racing to catch-up with the blogging community but it looks like that the internet community is now interested in more of the information and message, that would be absent from mainstream news, which, in all fairness, is wanting from the ruling party, being considered as a whitewash. In fact, the govt and ruling parties are in a catch 22 situation. Not blogging may further drive a wider wedge quite adversarial to them but if they take to blogging, the risk of being exposed further of what lies hidden in the closet is real. Not a good life, isn't it?

Anyway, it is quite refreshing to learn that the internet is here to stay as far as local politics is concerned (Malaysians supposedly hold the record as being the second largest blogging community in the world, only next to the USA). It was a convergence of factors that led to a nightmare for the ruling party. Putting it aptly, the time was just right for an explosion with this convergence. It has been a frustration all these years that had dampened the spirits of the few of us who had watched helplessly the transformation of the country into a regressive state and justifiably looked like that "hope" would be the last hope. Those of us who have the unshakeable belief in the "fundamental rights" and "rules of natural justice" were rendered helpless when state supported or controlled law had been the law of the day.

While my heart would reconcile with the inability or disability or whatever of the common man to be the valiant one to stand with his brethren for "justice", the miserable chapter when and where lawyers appeared to have absconded their responsibilities is a bit heavy for my wrenching heart. Supposedly the men with "knowledge" of what is right and wrong, it so appeared that many belonging to this class were seeking more of comfort pastures and zones. Those who dared to stand-up were few and far apart and the writer of this article (Imtiaz) does shine as one of them. It is wretchedly shameful that lawyers pawned their traditional responsibilty for their personal interest. Look at lawyers' front in Pakistan, a country hardly respected for human rights and justice, and against all odds, the brave men (and women) stood their ground in demanding changes. Would that make our lawyers a bunch of self-crypto selfish stunts? As a common man, I would tend to think so, save of those few who still stand tall in the eyes of the common man. That Malaysians have been dying for the parallels of DR Seeni would seem a fair expectation. While the few struggled with the torch and who deserve the worthy praise, by and large the legal fraternity has failed Malaysians in a very big way. Just ask Malaysians who or what do they know better, the Bar Council or "Makkal Sakthi"?

How far would