MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku



10 APRIL 2024

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Did Malaysia get any better in 2023?


What have we, as Malaysians, learnt in 2023?

As we wrap up the year, let’s take stock. Many use the end of year as a period to reflect on their achievements and disappointments, and to make some plans for the coming year.

Malaysia started the year with an unprecedented “unity” government. The administration was paradoxical, but it seemed like the only way forward. The so-called moderates got together and formed a rather uncomfortable government. For rational Malaysians, devoid of radical racial and religious inclinations, this was the best case scenario from a “train-wreck” of a general election in 2022. The alternative was the “green-wave” and this was definitely a bridge too far to cross.

How did our motley crew government perform this year? Well, the report card is polarised. Some say that they have performed admirably well under the terrible circumstances they found themselves in. Their detractors however claim that the economy and racial fissures have gotten worse.

Ultimately, most common folk like you and me just hope for our “rice bowls” to be secured so that we can go about our lives in peace. For many, this government is no better or worse than its predecessors.

Our Prime Minister has been interesting to watch, though. He has an erudite and savvy style. At times, he wants to be everything for everyone, and this irks some. The reformists who want change, think he’s slowed down and is pandering to the “ultras.” To the pragmatists, the PM is just a consummate politician who knows how to play to the gallery.

Ironically, many of the “reformists” who are clamouring for change now were in fact in positions of authority in previous administrations. When they could, they did nothing, but today, they demand.

The country also saw a doubling down of the Islamisation agenda by the opposition with more racial and religious edicts being declared. To shore up his own Islamist credentials, the PM raised the budget for the Islamic Affairs Department and added them into policy deliberations; he went on to preside over religious conversions; and he became a ferocious advocate on the international circuit for the Palestinian cause.

Like I said earlier, the Prime Minister wants to be everything for everyone.

The single largest party in government wasn’t without its own problems either. In 2023, DAP experienced severe in-fighting, mud-slinging, jostling for positions, a full scale purge of the non-compliant, the alienation of their Indian vote bank, and ongoing “first-families” dynamics. The unending spat between the current and former chief ministers of Penang has “killed” many in the cross-fire, and left deep scars.

Umno is going through a period…of what, we don’t know yet. Consolidation? Reform? Your guess is as good as mine.

However, our brethren in East Malaysia have done well in 2023. There are still major issues with MA63 agreements that are not being fulfilled. But, Sarawak in particular, has got emboldened, and has not hesitated to tell the politicians from the Peninsula to “shove it” when some edicts and declarations don’t make sense to them.

When the PM said all official letters must be in Bahasa Malaysia, the Sarawak Premier just declared that the state government will still work with English. On whether Muslims could extend Christmas greetings, he just dismissed it as too “stupid” to even discuss.

While Sarawak has truly acted like “kingmakers” in the federal government, the Malaysian Indian community has become even more fragmented, and continues to languish behind economically.

The old guard, as always, resurfaced. Our nonagenarian former prime minister pops up from time to time to make one controversial statement or another. But now, his long time sidekick and finance minister is being probed for wrong doings. Only time will tell if the “fat lady sings.”

So, politically 2023 hasn’t been very different from any year in the past 40 years or so in Malaysia. No politician can really be trusted to keep their promises to the electorate and “as sure as the sun rises in the east” they will only do what is expedient for themselves, and not for the citizens.

Socio-economically, it’s been a tough year. We are still reeling from the aftermath of the gruelling pandemic. Small businesses especially, faced continued hardship. With little relief from our government, many of us survived only through grit and a “can do” attitude.

Socially, the suspicious racial and religious undercurrents remain. The special privileges of the majority community in Malaysia continues to breed a lack of inclusiveness. While the general populace may be ambivalent to the Malaysian-first agenda, politicians and their parties actively make sure we don’t even think about it. Being race-based, the Malaysian-first narrative will render many parties obsolete. So, these politicians remain parochial.

In turn, this leads to more fissures. The Malays want to be more “Malay-Muslim” and as a result, the other communities follow suit. The Indians want to be more “Indian” and so on.

Perhaps we should all dial it down a notch and see things for what they really are. Malaysians need to focus on real issues like the economy, the mending of multicultural ties, and to be inclusive to live harmoniously.

Happy New Year, everyone.


The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of  FMT

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