New York is the state that never sleeps, whilst Malaysia is the country where its people never stops eating. To my Western friends who are unfamiliar where Malaysia is, it is that chunk of land right below Thailand. Multiculturalism, in my humble opinion, is not what makes Malaysia unique — although it does stand out on tourist brochures. It is the glorious food and, perhaps, the recent high level political scandals that have erupted that makes Malaysia Truly Asia.
Malaysian politics is as colourful as its food and people; I have waited far long to address these symptomatic abuses of power in my country — with the exception of a few rants on my personal Facebook page. Due to my educational pursuits in a foreign land, I may be looked upon as an outsider who has sold out; but in fact, much like many Malaysians, I too am constantly worried and angered by these recent symptomatic high level scandals that are continuously erupting with little to no repercussions whatsoever.
Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy with a Westminster parliamentary system of government in direct reflection of its former colonial masters. Much like the British system of government, the political structure of Malaysia comprises of the King or “Yang Di-Pertuan Agong” whom, unlike the British system of monarchy, rotates every five years and is chosen by the council of rulers comprising of 9 Sultans from 9 Malaysian States. The head of the executive branch of Government, charged with advising the King, is the Prime Minister whose term length constitutionally is determined by the confidence of the lower house of parliament with general elections held no more than five years apart.
In theory, Malaysia does have three branches of government providing checks and balances on one another and, as such, individuals may assume that there is a certain level of fluidity for the gears of democracy. In his last speech to the Constituent Assembly, the writer of the Indian Constitution, Dr. Ambedkar, quotes John Stuart Mills in saying that, “liberties should not be laid at the feet of great men or to trust him with powers which will enable him to subvert their institutions.” On paper, Malaysia is a democracy, but in actuality, Malaysia is a hybrid regime with an autocratic system of governance spearheaded by a single party.
Credit should be given where it's due and, admittedly, I shall be the first to say that the Barisan Nasional party has laid the foundation for modernisation and rapid development in Malaysia via strategic economic plans. Nevertheless, it is time for change. Not merely a change of government, but a structural change involving the reinforcement of the branches of government. The Barisan Nasional government, for over six decades after Malaysia regained its independence from the British, have ruled the political scene with utmost dominance. The lack of checks and balances have forced its governing credibility to dwindle to an all time low.
Unlike the fiery French, or the Americans even for that matter, the spirit of revolt against tyranny is not in the blood of Malaysians. Civil obedience in Malaysia is mandatory as instructed by the State to avoid persecution and thereafter prosecution. Indeed, with a few exceptions in past years, there have been major mass movements but the aftermath of these mass movements have not brought much progressive change.
Corruption in Malaysia is as habitual to Malaysians as a cup of “Teh Tarik” and “Nasi Lemak" for breakfast. The “Tidak Apa” (No Problem) attitude we have developed over time may lead to our downfall. I am by no means a prophet of apocalyptic outlook; nevertheless, our credibility on the world stage is worsening. Increasingly as I travel and meet new people, I have realised that Malaysia’s prominence amongst nations is centered around corruption, the lack of freedom, and a myriad of blunders.
In the legal sphere there has been a slew of attacks on journalist as well as dissenters in opposition to the ruling government. Although I for one admire our dear neighbour Singapore and all it has achieved as a tiny nation state in a short period of time, I am increasingly irked by the fact that Malaysia lacks the same level of respect as Singapore commands even though Malaysia’s economic prospects are much greater. But then again, respect is earned and not given on a silver platter and the Malaysian government has done very little to regain its credibility - not only from its citizens, but from the international community.
From the PKFZ, NFC, and to the current 1MDB scandal that has been ongoing for more than a year now, consuming much time and news slots much like the O.J Simpson car chase, high level individuals in the Government are in constant entanglement with the law. I am by no means an investigative journalist, nor a legal scholar and as such I shall not be the judge, jury, or executioner of these high level individuals. The “Murtabak” or, for my American readers, the Big Mac of all scandals has got to be the 1MDB scandal involving perhaps the most prominent individual in Malaysia whose name I shall not mention.
1 Malaysia Development Berhad, is a government investment fund founded in 2009 by the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Within months of its inception, a multi billion dollar debt load started mounting. According to the Wall Street Journal, as well as numerous other credible news outlets, the scandal spans over at least seven countries and dozens of companies as well as numerous governments. As the investigations were taking place, some $681 million was mysteriously found in the personal account of the PM of Malaysia, further raising eyebrows.
The PM of Malaysia has gone on record saying that it happened to be “donations .Regardless, the source of these funds remains inconclusive till this day. In recent months, both sons of the Prime Minister have also been under scrutiny; recently there has also been reports suggesting that the movie The Wolf of Wall Street was funded using funds procured from 1MDB — as the producer happens to be the stepson of the PM of Malaysia; but then again, these allegations have not been fully proven. Material on the 1MDB scandal and the PM of Malaysia is of the abundance and as such I shall not dwell any further than I already have.
Through twist and turns, uncovering the truth behind this entire scandal is pointless, as every law enforcement agency in the country has deliberately shrugged important evidence under the carpet. However, what can’t be discredited is the evident implication of the Prime Minister and his associates in this scandal.
My intention is not to defame Malaysian politicians, for they are, OBVIOUSLY, Angels sent by God to protect Malaysians from “evil” Western intervention under the command of the Illuminati or Gal Gadot. Nevertheless, with the modicum of intelligence I possess, it has become increasingly hard for me to accept the fact that Malaysian politicians are clear of any wrongdoing, particularly the unscrupulous personal usage of public funds.
Like the skeptic that I am, I have fought hard to find alternate narratives justifying these rampant corruption scandals involving Malaysian politicians, but it is to no avail. As the cost of living continues to mount in Malaysia, as bright young minds are erroneously being denied scholarships to pursue their educational goals due to artificial austerity measures, and as the poor continue to starve due to rising food prices, Malaysia and Malaysians are in serious need of change. Wawasan 2020 (Vision 2020) should not only be about industrialization but also societal and structural development.
Malaysians have far too many buildings to look up to, but far too few politicians to lead them. Nowhere in the world can you find food as delicious and a political scene that is as vibrant as it is in Malaysia. Regardless of my future endeavours in foreign lands, I shall always call Malaysia my home — the land where I can choose to be a glutton 24 hours a day and 7 days a week with politicians to amuse me on the side.
"The Story That Is Dividing Malaysia's Media." - Al Jazeera English. Al Jazeera, 19 Apr. 2016. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.
Brown, Ken, and Tom Wright. "Malaysia's 1MDB Decoded: How Millions Went Missing." The Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street Journal, 22 Nov. 2015. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.
Victor, Daniel, and Richard C. Paddock. "Path of $681 Million: From Saudi Arabia to Malaysian Premier’s Personal Account." The New York Times. The New York Times, 15 Apr. 2016. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.
Gardner, Frank. "Saudi Gift to Malaysia PM Najib Razak 'for Election Campaign'" BBC News. N.p., 27 Jan. 2016. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.
"1MDB Linked to Financing 'Wolf of Wall Street': Report." CNBC. N.p., 02 Apr. 2016. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.