Malaysia is a one of a kind unique and a rare gem of a nation. A melting pot of infinite ingredients and mixed culture. We are a mixture of various races, speaking a plethora of different languages. This beautiful country is what blends us all together, coalescing all strengths and weaknesses. Here we are at Asia’s southernmost tip, the only nation with land on both continental Asia and the Malay Archipelago.
Only here can you find a significant portion of the population that has roots from two of the world’s oldest civilisations; India and China. The Malays share similar cultural values with Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country. Islam as a religion gives us access to the Muslim world.
The inherited British system meanwhile gives us access to the Western world as well. We are like chameleons, and we can infiltrate and be at home in almost every nation on Earth.
Interestingly, a survey by Facebook found that Malaysia is the most cyber sociable country with the most Facebook friends.
Malaysia is also a country of Multiples. We are the only country on Earth that is multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi race-based sports associations, chambers of commerce & industry, and political parties, multi-national cuisines, multi-government (one federal and 13 state governments), and multi-monarchies (nine kings from the world’s total 35 monarchs).
If the above is not enough, let me reinforce my case with the following arguments:
We are the only nation on the planet that has vowed to protect Allah, and ban others from using that name; and have allegedly labeled hotdogs and rootbeer as haram due to literal reasons.
We house the oldest tropical rainforest, said to be over 130 million years old, older than the Amazon and Congo Basins, home to 14,500 species of flowering plants and trees, with more than 200 species of mammals, 600 species of birds, 140 species of snakes and 60 species of lizards.
And we had the longest King Cobra in the world, measuring in at 5.71 metres, that was found in Port Dickson in 1937.
We also have the biggest roundabout in the world in Putrajaya measuring at 3.5 kilometres in circumference; arguably we also have the “biggest spin in the world”, too.
Yes, Malaysia is unique. Not just truly Asia, but truly The World! Can you beat that?
Not to mention our eclectic and exhaustive list of cuisines which spans a line from the East to the West. What dishes can’t you find here?
Blessed with abundant natural resources and harvests, from tin to rubber, palm oil, timber, bauxite, and of course with petroleum being the most precious now. Malaysia is a rich country. So based on our uniqueness, we have all the essential ingredients to thrive and flourish as “a paradise on earth”, but have we done so?
The Land of Multiples comes with multiple problems
It is shocking how this small country of 31.8 million people managed to shockingly earn the most unwelcome title of the region’s most unequal nation, most in-efficient energy user, among its many other titles including being the home to the world’s largest financial scandal, 1MDB.
Prior to 1MDB, we have had a litany of scandals from Bank Bumiputera, Perwaja, Metramac, Malaysia Airlines, Bank Islam, Transmile, Megan Media, Scan Associates, and a yearly recurrence of repeated “red reports” on audits of government agencies from the Auditor-General’s Office. All of these scandals point to one indisputable conclusion - rampant corruption.
We are trapped in a hollow economy, with over reliance on foreign workers, with the majority of our population earning low income and facing distressing rise in the cost of living. Moreover, the majority of Malaysians do not have savings adequate to survive more than one month if they lose their job.
A serious pensions crisis is looming where two-thirds 54-year-olds have less than RM50,000 in their Employees Provident Fund (EPF) accounts.
We are perceived to have First World infrastructure but sadly demonstrate a Third World culture or attitude. We score in the bottom third on international education rankings, many of our drivers are insane with road thugs and mat rempits, we are number 20 in the world in terms of fatalities from road accident per capita, besides facing severe vandalism in our cities, having unprofessional and unethical taxi drivers and widespread claims that Kuala Lumpur is one of, if not the rudest city on Earth.
Environmentally, mother nature is crying; we have flash floods (poor town planning coupled with inadequate facilities management) in our cities, massive flooding on the East Coast, poor management of our water resources and supply, poor waste management, and rampant illegal dump-sites plus “illegal logging” of our forests and mountains, even in water catchment areas.
Malaysians are also famous for how gullible we can be when it comes to popular get-rich-quick money making schemes! There is a massive, parallel underground economy, covering illegal gambling, drug and other commodity smuggling, pirate DVDs, and credit card cloning. These are also “unwarranted (and unwanted) awards” of Malaysian innovation and enterprise, often derided sarcastically as “Malaysia Boleh”.
The saddest part is, on almost every street and traffic lights pole, without fail, there will be two types of glaring advertisements, either the telephone numbers of Ah Longs (illegal money lenders) or the number for massage and escorts services.
Politics is so intense that there is no time to formulate policies, but energy is wasted to tirelessly attack one another. Politics of hate and racial polarisation have been in the forefront over the past two decades. Human rights, questionable discretionary laws, politically motivated and selective persecutions are also issues plaguing the country. Judicial independence appears to have lost credibility.
As a result we scored 66th of 73 countries on Electoral Integrity and 146th of 180 on World Press Freedom Indices.
So, are we doomed “to rot in purgatory”? Are we heading south? Potentially, but, there is a way out, if only we want to take it.
If there is one thing that history has taught us, it is that there are endless impossibilities. Throughout human existence, we have been continuously surprised by the successes of nations deemed to be insignificant; for example, The illiterate Mongolians, under Genghis Khan, went on to conquer two-thirds of the then-known world, coming from out of nowhere.
The Arabs were nomads, rated no higher than slaves in the eyes of the Romans and Persians.
The Japanese used to be lazy drunken farmers before the Meiji revolution. The Vietnamese fought their way and kicked out the French and the Americans from their land and won their freedom.
Nothing is impossible, no matter how hopeless the situation seems. Always remember that the sun only comes out after the darkest point of the night.
The same goes for Malaysia. We have already steered off course and gone astray, so have we reached the depths of darkness and despair from which we can aspire to rise again?
There is a dire need to re-calibrate our way forward so as to head back to the right path for the good of the nation and rakyat.
There is a way out of this state of affairs. We must now admit and acknowledge that critical problems plague our beloved nation. Honesty and sincerity must return to our land.
This calls for every Malaysian to have faith and contribute their share towards this aim. One voice might be insignificant, ten might make a blink, but thousands and millions together can cause thunder and shake the Earth, or at least Putrajaya.
Wish-list for a strong and vibrant Malaysia
So here is my wish-list for Malaysia:
As there is so much to be done, an apt start would be convening a National Consultative Council Part 2 for a “back to the drawing board” social and economic re-engineering. This needs an amalgamation of the best minds across the nation to provide realistic and feasible strategies to chart the way forward for national recalibration.
Malaysia’s natural resources are finite and the environment is precious. An improved resource management structure, where these resources are used optimally to be shared and tasted equally by its rakyat is required. The oil royalty conundrum by the federal government and states involved must be resolved amicably for the best of the rakyat.
Fundamental economic corrections must be made to correct the way we do things. We must evolve from rentier capitalism to techno industrial capitalism. Ideally, we must adapt the best practices from the social market of Europe and the state capitalism of China that are relevant to Malaysia.
Policies must be rakyat-centric, with social justice at its heart, placing decent wealth creation and equitable distribution at the core of its economic deliberations, while providing sustainable environment for corporations to thrive.
Entrepreneurs who can add value, and not mere venture capitalists, are key to our desired success.
We must declare “war” on income and wealth inequality, which creates a never-ending vicious cycle that is detrimental to any society.
Primary boarding schools, affordable housing, people and social enterprises, must be developed and encouraged to be in place wherever they are needed.
Efficient and ‘green’ key sectors namely energy, transportation, construction, water and waste management must be prioritised for their economic and environmental advantages.
Every Malaysian needs and deserves a good balanced life that can be provided by a decent and fair-paying job. The rakyat should not need to have two jobs to live a reasonably conducive and happy life. Relentless, and perhaps unjust economic pursuits have punished the bulk of Malaysians and we have replaced our empathy with apathy.
Functioning family units allow parents to play proactive roles in child upbringing and education and to instil the true “Asian Values” that we so often pronounce, but hardly prioritise in practice.
Women’s empowerment alleviates current burdens on potential economic contributors and offer cohesive social and economic benefits.
Education is paramount as the overarching solution to the majority of the Malaysia’s social and economic ills. Education must be inclusive, and impart moral fibre, critical thinking, humanity, humility, religious tolerance, innovation and creative technological advancement for Malaysians.
A revisit of our national education philosophy must take place and be replaced with the Love Pedagogy.
We need to inculcate a reading culture, critical thinking and prosper our intellectual debating environment. We must celebrate thinkers and philosophers, and provide a conducive environment for public discourse. Intellectuals must be given the mandate to carry the torch and light our candles to see the way forward.
Healthcare must be made affordable and readily available to all segments of the rakyat. We need more hospitals and training hospitals, and well-equipped clinics to serve the sick and needy wherever they reside. A holistic public transportation is another severely needed amenity for the rakyat.
Education and healthcare are indeed too precious and inalienable rights for all Malaysians, and should not be pawns for the politicians to kick around.
Volunteerism, the social activist NGOs, and the “third sector” must be encouraged and enhanced to strengthen democracy and “justice for all” in the country.
Good governance, integrity, freedom of access to information for the media and whistle-blower protection must be truly practiced to enable a successful fight against corruption, aimed at its core and as a check and balance to the principle of separation of power.
The Constitutional Law must reign supreme and needs to be applied justly, and not be abused for the benefit of the subservient cronies of modern dictators. We need “Rule of law” not rule by the Mafia. Democracy must be seen to be alive and be inclusive for every Malaysian's participation, and not just a case of going to the polls every five years.
Let’s put an end to politics of race and hate. Racial harmony must be inculcated and nurtured from home and school at a young age, even before their pre-school years. After all, aren’t we born skin-colour blind?
My wish list for Malaysia is composed of all the proposals that I’ve written, articulated and fought for before.
My mission here is to bring pressure, by means of creating public awareness for a re-navigation to the right path. There are no ‘impossibilities’ that we Malaysians cannot face and overcome and to ensure that everyone in the country counts.
We are a unique nation with the best mixture and ingredients that any nation can ask for. All we need is the intellectual clarity and the will. Let us draw from the power of our uniqueness and diversity and mould them as a pillar of strength to move forward, and never as a crippling weakness, to achieve the Endless Impossibilities and be the best that we can be.
With all my heart, I sincerely echo, Malaysia Boleh! Let's walk this path together, because together we can!
ANAN ALAM FAIZLI holds a doctorate in Business Administration. He is a construction and an oil and gas professional, a concerned Malaysian and is the author of Rich Malaysia, Poor Malaysians and tweets at @aafaizli- Mkini