1 Malaysia: Another morning glory? — Tunku Abdul Aziz

MAY 8 — An old English friend of mine, the late Humphrey Ball, the Malacca lawyer, once described Malaysia, his adopted country, as a morning glory — a reference to “a climbing plant with flowers shaped like trumpets that open in the morning and close in late afternoon.”

Having lived among us for so long, he was used to putting up with our little foibles, and if he was irritated by them, he kept his feelings very much to himself. Humphrey was the quintessential English gentleman.
We were having breakfast and it was a lovely morning and the city looked splendid. In between another cup of tea and a round of toast and marmalade, he surveyed the Kuala Lumpur skyline from the veranda of the Selangor Club and declared that from his experience, many of the state of the art concrete and stainless steel structures that were jostling for breathing space in the ever expanding concrete jungle of Malaysian towns and cities would go the way of all the other buildings he had seen in this country — in wreck and ruin within a few years.
“You know, Tunku, Malaysia is not unlike the morning glory,” he intoned.
Humphrey was, of course, right. We are good at building with the help of legions of exploited foreign labour. Maintenance is not part of the equation and we see this not only in the state of our buildings but also our suburban roads.
We neglect to repair a small hole as soon as it appears in the road until it becomes big enough to maim or kill a motorcyclist or damage a car. The Government, both Federal and State, is lucky that suing the authorities for negligence has not become a common feature of Malaysian life.
This is because the overwhelming majority of our people are ignorant of their rights. The time is not too far away when, as in the US and other developed countries, the authorities will be held legally accountable for their actions — in this instance, their lack of action.
Humphrey’s morning glory best describes our general attitude and approach to civic or public duty and responsibility. We undertake a government construction project with a lot of trumpeting and enthusiasm, but we seldom ever complete it successfully.
We see hundreds of such monuments to crony capitalism and entrenched, systemic corruption in every state of the nation. This is what happens when governance is driven by political rather than rational considerations. When meritocracy is on the backburner instead of in the driver’s seat, this is to be expected.
Datuk Seri Najib Razak may mean well in what he says about policy reforms, but will he be allowed the freedom to act effectively? Present indications are that he will be allowed to talk about his vision of a united and prosperous Malaysia ad infinitum.
His rival and other powerful political minders know that there is not much harm done to existing policies that benefit the party as long as they control and curtail his actions. He may not know it, but he has already caught the morning glory disease of beginning with a bang and ending with a deafening whimper.
Najib must wish he had not spent so much public money that is needed more urgently elsewhere to launch his 1 Malaysia, which looks destined for an early demise, like the morning glory of Humphrey’s evocative analogy. 1 Malaysia will forever remain a puerile offering of a confused mind that is best forgotten before the nation is subjected to further ridicule.
Please do not get me wrong. I have, all my life, promoted racial unity and integration, the acceptance instead of tolerance of cultural diversity, long before Najib even thought about these unifying elements.
But my version of 1 Malaysia is one that provides equal opportunity for all, based on the principles of justice and fair play.
My 1 Malaysia is a Malaysian Malaysia where all citizens are treated equally and discrimination in any shape or form is outlawed.
My 1 Malaysia is Middle Malaysia where extremism in economic, social, and political terms is totally expunged, and where the notion of racial supremacy is killed as soon as it rears its ugly head.
My 1 Malaysia will be free of the contradictions such as we see in our existing policies that favour a particular section of the Malaysian community to the detriment of sustainable overall development.
For the life of me I cannot see Najib delivering on my order. Can you, my fellow Malaysians? — mysinchew.com
Ahad, 2010 Mei 09


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