Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A glimpse of what might have been.....

Posted on September 29, 2012

Singapore River in the 60s

9th August, 47 years ago, Singapore was expelled from the newly formed Malaysia.
Blogger KTemoc reports, and many have
Singapore in the 70s and 80s
confirmed this, that "When LKY had no further choice but to accept the expulsion he actually broke down during a televised press conference, stating emotionally:
"For me, it is a moment of anguish. All my life, my whole adult life, I … I believed in Malaysian merger and unity of the two territories. You know that we, as a people are connected by geography, economics, by ties of kinship … It broke everything we stood for ……. "
Forty-five years later, in 2010, in an interview with the New York Times, LKY had this to say :
"Well, first I regret having been turfed out of Malaysia.  I think if the Tunku had kept us together, what we did in Singapore, had Malaysia accepted a multiracial base for their society, much of what we've achieved in Singapore would be achieved in Malaysia.  But not as much because it's a much broader base. We would have improved inter-racial relations and an improved holistic situation.  Now we have a very polarized Malaysia, Malays, Chinese and Indians in separate schools, living separate lives and not really getting on with one another".
So, what did Singapore achieve, that LKY asserts we in Malaysia did not, and, if he is right, why did we not?
In my view, four recent reports say it all.
Singapore today
On 15th August, this year, The Wall Street Journal, relying on a report released by Knight Frank and Citi Private Wealth, reported that Singapore is "the wealthiest nation in the world by GDP per capita, beating out Norway, the U.S., Hong Kong and Switzerland".
This, the islanders south of Johor achieved notwithstanding the island nation state being, as described by The New York Times, in its edited report of that interview with LKY, a 'resource-poor island'.
Below are excerpts from that LKY interview that give an insight on his views on some of the things that  Singapore did right to get to where they are now.
"We made quite sure whatever your race, language or religion, you are an equal citizen and we'll drum that into the people and I think our Chinese understand and today we have an integrated society.  Our Malays are English-educated, they're no longer like the Malays in Malaysia and you can see there are some still wearing headscarves but very modern looking."
…if you chose the easy way… and switch to racial politics, this society is finished.  The easiest way to get majority vote is vote for me, we're Chinese, they're Indians, they're Malays.  Our society will be ripped apart.  If you do not have a cohesive society, you cannot make progress."
…All are thoroughly mixed.  Willy-nilly, your neighbours are Indians, Malays, you go to the same shopping malls, you go to the same schools, the same playing fields, you go up and down the same lifts.  We cannot allow segregation."
…don't play race, language, religion.  We've got here, we've become cohesive, keep it that way.  We've not used Chinese as a majority language because it will split the population.  We have English as our working language, it's equal for everybody, and it's given us the progress because we're connected to the world".
And his thoughts on where we went wrong?
"Malaysia took the different line; Malaysians saw it as a Malay country, all others are lodgers, "orang tumpangan", and they the Bumiputras, sons of the soil, run the show. So the Sultans, the Chief Justice and judges, generals, police commissioner, the whole hierarchy is Malay. All the big contracts for Malays.  Malay is the language of the schools although it does not get them into modern knowledge.  So the Chinese build and find their own independent schools to teach Chinese, the Tamils create their own Tamil schools, which do not get them jobs. It's a most unhappy situation".
The three other reports I will refer to after this, I believe, will bear out that the short excerpt below from LKY's interview puts in sharp contrast Mahathir, Pak Lah and Najib, on the one hand, and their Singapore counterparts, on the other, and best explains why, even as Singapore is today touted as the world's richest nation, we may be on the brink of financial disaster, if not bankruptcy.
"We are non-corrupt.  We lead modest lives".
Whilst Singapore, with scant natural resources at its disposal, has made it to the top, Sabah, probably the most blessed resources-wise, is
Impoverished household in Sabah. 40% of poor households in Malaysia are to be found in Sabah
reported by the World Bank in a report in November, 2010, as the poorest. The report, in PDF, is linked below. Read from page 64 on if you  want to get straight to the part in question.
Awang Abdillah, in his comment in FMT earlier this month, offers one very important perspective.
First, both Sabah and Sarawak were duped, the former, it seems by means most foul, to part with their oil for a miserly royalty of 5% of all the oil that rightfully belongs to the people of Sabah and Sarawak.
Then, quoting Awang, "the oil revenues allocated to Sarawak and Sabah are meagre sums. However, the actual development funds returned and allocated to the two states from the petroleum revenue earned by the federal government fall far below
Extreme poverty in Sarawak drives young children into the labour force
the requirements of the two states. This can be judged by the slow development of the state transport and infrastructure projects such as highways and bridges ,and the state of poverty prevalent in the rural areas. Even if there are substantial allocations of funds for development projects, most of them would go to the BN crony companies with very much inflated, unreasonable contract prices".
The third and fourth reports probably sum up all that is wrong in Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak today and why, even as Singapore sits on the pinnacle, we languish at the bottom on almost all fronts.
On 2nd August, this year, FMT reported that Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman was the subject of simultaneous investigations in 4 countries over alleged money laundering of funds that run into billions, if not trillions.
And last week, the Bruno Manser Fund released a report that Sarawak Chief Minister is worth US$15 billion, making him the richest man in Malaysia.
To-date, the Najib administration has not moved to take any action.
He will not.
During Pak Lah's term, when the scandal broke linking Najib to the RM500 million commission in the Scorpene deal, no action was taken.
And during Mahathir's watch, it was the same.
No action.
Such is the way of UMNO.
What was it LKY said?
"We are non-corrupt.  We lead modest lives".
LKY said one other thing towards the end of that interview.
"I'm not saying that everything I did was right, but everything I did was for an honourable purpose".
Can Mahathir, Pak Lah and Najib, in all good conscience, say the same?
Where did we go wrong?
At the risk of stating the case too simplistically, I will touch on just two points.
First, as LKY put it, we allowed UMNO to divide us along racial lines and, when they saw the need, to pit us one against the other.
Once divided, they would rule us ad infinitum.
Then, in my view, the NEP, quite in order conceptually, provided the perfect vehicle, from the days of Mahathir to the present, to facilitate huge and surreptitious leakages from the national coffers.
Today, they have become so accustomed to helping themselves to whatever they will, that little shame is felt even as scandal upon financial scandal is exposed.
Will we not learn?
Will we not put in place a system that never allows this dark episode in our national history to ever repeat, should we succeed, come the 13th General Election, of removing the UMNO / BN scourge from Putrajaya and installing a new pro-reform government?
In a few hours from now, starting at 10am, a civil society initiative called the Social Inclusion Agenda will be discussed at a dialogue convened at the Rumah Anak Bangsa Malaysia and to which political parties on both side of the divide have been invited.
A daft bill to give effect to the fullest aspirations of this effort has also been drawn up for the consideration of the political parties.
In my honest view, it seeks to address all that went wrong in the implementation of the NEP since the era of Mahathir up to the present.
And it will set the platform for a comprehensive program to address the needs of those long marginalised in this country, without considerations of ethnicity.
I call on the Pakatan parties and all other non-BN parties to give this effort their fullest support and to pledge that if the people mandate you to administer the nation from Putrajaya post the 13th GE, you will make the Social Inclusion Agenda a reality.
To my fellow anak bangsa Malaysia, I urge you to make every effort to familiarise yourselves with the Social Inclusion Agenda and, if, as I do, you see its worth, to lend it your fullest support.
A media statement was issued on 14th August when this effort was first launched. You can read the same HERE.
Farida has written up a report of that launch. You can read that HERE.
The draft Social Inclusion Agenda bill, in PDF, is linked below.
It is never too late to do right by our people.

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