Malaysians are the biggest losers
The spat between the ex-prime minister and the current prime minister has worsened. In Malaysia, a number of personalities have dominated the country's scene for far too long and at a great expense to the nation.Here, personality is everything. For example, a banner promoting tourism in Malaysia must portray the PM's face. Any event or programme must be graced by a VIP politician to enhance its publicity in the mass media.
In a recent bloggers' forum, I have said that if a person aspires fame but cannot dance or sing, can try politics. Another unhealthy trend which is perpetuating is the importance of party politics over public governance. In the recent controversial surrounding the Port Klang assemblyman, Zakaria Mat Deros, is a good example. The appointment to public office is made a reward for party electoral triumph. Public perception of nepotism or power abuse is not important.
Similarly, the Dr Mahathir and Abdullah Badawi’s feud is another good example of an excessive politicking in the country. So far, Dr Mahathir has not been able to convince Malaysians that the scrapping of the crooked bridge project is a bad idea. Not scrapping it is a bad one. Moreover, he has failed to convince Malaysians that the national car project i.e. Proton is a viable one considering how poorly the company is being managed.
The irony is he will not spend his own money to buy a Proton car. Then, why do Malaysians have to buy a car which is not value for money in order to keep the company alive? Consumers who shunned the national car maker are merely heeding the government’s advice to buy smartly.The people are not interested in the personal part of the feud between the two personalities. Whoever son is given a bigger contract is not going to make anyone of them look like a worse leader. The most important thing is for patronage politics to stop before it destroys the society.
As for Abdullah, the people are upset of his empty promises more than what he has done. His major problem is he did nothing significant to fulfill his election promises. The reforms he started are almost grinding to a halt or frustratingly slow. Moreover, the spat will almost certainly divert the nation's attention away from the things that Abdullah should do e.g. drive the economy into a higher gear, end nepotism and patronage politics, combat corruption, implement the IPCMC, restructure the education sector, create a truly Bangsa Malaysia, get rid of racism and many more.
It is not too late for Abdullah to leave behind a legacy much bigger and significant than Dr Mahathir. I am sure he will be remembered for ending racial politics in Malaysia. In the 21st century, it is unimaginable for us to continue with this outdated form of political structure. By ending the reign of racial politics, we can better focus on the real issues and challenges at hand without being drawn into an emotional and senseless racial rhetoric and politicking.
I am sure that the poorest 40 percent of the society will thank and remember the prime minister for putting an end to the abuses of patronage politics which was created and perfected by none other than his nemesis, Dr Mahathir. Hence, instead of squabbling over the statistics e.g. 18.9 percent versus 45 percent of Bumiputera corporate equity ownership, we can implement an affirmative policy which truly helps the poorest.
However, in order to preserve political power and influence it is very tempting to disguise patronage politics via various financial ‘handouts’. Speaking as a Chinese Malaysian, I am not upset if the government is really helping the poorest Bumiputera community to enhance their capacity to move up the value chain and consequently improve their living standards.
In fact, the only possible way for the poorest Bumiputera community to advance is via the access to good quality education, skills development and a start-up capital (not ‘handout’). They must be taught good entrepreneurial skills and ethics. The focus of the programme must be on self-sustainability and a real commitment to hard work and tenacity to succeed.
As a Chinese Malaysian too, I would advice the prime minister not to repeat the frustrating statement that the government has given many opportunities to the Chinese community here. It is only humane to allow us to learn our mother tongue and to practice our own culture. These activities are almost self-funded. For a record, almost 30 percent of all primary level students are attending the vernacular schools but these schools received less than 4 percent of the total financial allocation given to the education ministry.
Many Chinese Malaysians are successful because they have inculcated the right human spirit and ethics into their culture. They know that the only way to fill their rice bowl is through hard work and being thrifty. I am sure many of us are more than glad to pass on some lessons learned to our fellow Bumiputera Malaysians.
For the good of the nation, both Dr Mahathir and Abdullah must not perpetuate their squabble. Whoever is more right, let history be the judge. If not, Malaysians of all races will be the biggest losers.