AND MY DREAM OF A BETTER MALAYSIA VIA BERSIH 4
BY TOH MAY FOOK
I am by destiny intimately linked to China, Japan and Indonesia, in that particular order. I wish to say that my homeland Malaysia is far behind in various different areas compared to these three countries according to my knowledge and experience. Not as ancient and great as China, not as disciplined and organised as Japan and not as beautiful and exciting as Indonesia but I am still helplessly in love with my homeland Malaysia passionately. I do not wish to analyse and explain why, I believe it is not necessary.
Bersih 4 will be my last chance to restore the Malaysia that I knew and that's one of the reasons why I will still be taking to the streets for 34 hours on 29/30. (PART 1)
I was born in Brickfields,and I grew up in Brickfields. The National Mosque together with various places of worship all over Brickfields from the Lake Garden to Ananda Krishnan's house at the end of Jalan Berhala were my playgrounds. We, we didn't know that race and religions were sensitive and they were not sensitive at that time, hence we mocked and teased each other along racial and religious lines after some silly quarrels but always without real malice; we played, fought and plotted against each other but later, we always ended up still liking each other after making up otherwise we would have had no 'enemy' to play with. ( PART 2 )
Then came one day on 13th May 1969 when I was 11 years old, suffering a brief bout of fever probably after some mischievous adventures in the rain with other kids.
We were told about riots and killing in Kampong Bahru and the Chow Kit area. Gangsters practically took over our community around Lorong Scott ironically just across the Klang River from the old Palace. I remember the radio blasting warnings about curfew, helicopters flying low with loud speakers warning people about the curfew. Later that evening, a group of gangsters with parangs came to our house and demanded that Ahmad, our tenant, be brought out and killed. My father and our neighbour Bakar Singh pleaded and saved Ahmad who was a staff at the nearby KTM station. He always made fun of my childish behaviour and called me Tong Tong Singh yet I didn't want him to be killed by the gangsters at that time.
Although I had always hated him for calling me Tong Tong Singh, I still knew that he was a kind and innocent man who should not be harmed.
Ahmad survived May 13 in Brickfields in his room with provisions from my father and Bakar Singh but he left us after the curfew, sadly missed by us, including me who used hate him for always calling me Tong Tong Singh. ( PART 3 )
After May 13th, everything changed though not clearly known to kids like us, we were just being told that we should no longer make fun of others according to their race and religious beliefs. I remember thinking about how else I could retaliate to those who called me chinagui if I didn't call them kellinggui or malaigui, all without real malice. I thought it must have been some kind of adult quarrels like ours and that soon they will make up and be nice to each other just like us kids. We were after all, living so close to each other.
But soon, to our disgust and horror, we found out that the adults were taking it seriously and we kids really can not make fun of each other anymore because race and religion had suddenly become sensitive and taboo. ( PART 4 )
Over many long years, I discovered that Malaysian May 13th in 1969 was in fact a political coup during those turbulent years unaware by us naughty innocent kids.
I learnt later that there was also a coup in Indonesia in 1965 causing the downfall of Soekarno, launching the Soeharto Era while China was embroiled in The Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution beginning in 1966, yet another very complicated political struggle lasting 10 years.
Back in Malaysia, the political coup on May 13th had resulted in the establishment of many far reaching policies. The New Economic Policy (NEP) was launched for supposedly 20 years to correct the racial imbalances of wealth distribution, hence race discrimination is institutionalised but given a noble name of affirmative action and the term Bumiputra was created. The right thinking of the DPM at that time Tun Dr Ismail was actually against the idea for fear of "the patient becoming too dependent on the strong dosage of the drug and not wanting to recover" and he was unfortunately proven right as when the term of the NEP expired in the 90s, the affirmative action was extended under another name for another 10 years and when it expired in the new millennium, the policy in essence was already enshrined and the political power of the day did not even bother to put a time frame to achieve the so called fair distribution of wealth.
Meanwhile many non Bumiputras lost precious opportunities to higher education and in civil services and later they even lost career opportunities in the corporate world as most big corporations turned into GLCs.
Even the professional world was not spared, chances of non Bumiputras moving up their deserving career path were slim in Accountancy, Law, Medicine and almost all other professional fields. (PART 5)
According to the power of the day, the noble aim of correcting the racial imbalances in wealth distribution was still not achieved after more than 40 years of affirmative action but actually the wealth deprived from the non Bumiputras was not wholly channelled to assist ordinary Bumiputras.
Another special privileged class among the ruling political elites emerged to loot the nation like there is no tomorrow, leaving most of the marginalised Bumiputra still marginalised.
Scandals of substantial leakages and corruption surfaced every now and then and many skilful politicians became super rich. During my earlier career, I was exposed one way or another to many financial scandals because of my profession as a Chartered Accountant, such as the London Dawn Raid, BMF Hong Kong, the looting of Sabah Foundation, Sabah Gas Industry, Perwaja Steel, Deposit Taking Cooperative Societies Crisis, looting of government land around KL (not the present IMDB Scandal), various privatisation of highway and toll collection concessions, Bank Negara Speculation of Forex and many many more, too many for me to recall without causing me trauma.
In all the scandals, usually scapegoats took the blame and those skilful political mastermind escaped with the loots together with their cronies. The fear of Tun Dr Ismail has turned into reality, political careers transformed into opportunity for quick wealth. As long as one can find his way into the inner circle, wealth is assured but it is from the tragic collective looting of public fund.
Tun Dr Ismail's call for those who wish to seek public office must first established themselves in their respective field of career was totally ignored. Years after his passing, his own political party has set up Putri wing and later even Putra wing, tragic indeed. (PART 6)
With so many young, ambitious and passionate politicians emerging everyday, soon the pressure is on the Chief to sustain the Spoils System. Hence appointees to almost every institution of governance is based on political consideration. After the Rakyat is divided into Bumiputras and non-Bumiputras, the Bumiputras are then divided according to their political affiliations.
While the looting of the nation continues and the Rakyat are further fragmented, the institutions of governance deteriorated rapidly. Many are shocked with the recent removal and appointments of various key officers in various key institutions such as in the Attorney General Chambers, MACC, Bank Negara and even the Special Branch within the PDRM! Such removals and the new appointments are being suspected of being politically motivated to cover up the present massive financial scandal.
Indeed it has been like that for a long long time. This time it is just too naked in the eyes of the Rakyat and created lots of unease or even anger. According to what I have read and researched, this is a clear sign that the self destructive Spoils System is beginning to collapse. (PART 7)
With the Rakyat intentionally fragmented to preserve the power of the day, ordinary Rakyat faces much difficulty and unhappiness with dwindling opportunity for upward mobility in the social hierarchy.
Coupled with ever rising cost of living with huge national resources looted by skilful politicians, ordinary Rakyat begins to voice out their suffering.
I once was lost in the maze of tolled highways around Subang area and it cost me almost RM20 toll fees paid to several concessionaires to eventually get out. Then I thought to myself, how can ordinary Rakyat afford this?
Toll roads are simply built to squeeze more money from the suffering Rakyat and not really to ease traffic congestion or for convenience and comfort of users. The initial promise of for every toll road, there will be alternative non tolled road was long forgotten. In fact some stretches of previously existing non tolled Federal Highway was later tolled! This must be daylight Highway robbery indeed. (PART 8)
Sensing the unease among the ordinary Rakyat and having lost substantial support in the last 2 general election even with ridiculous gerrymandering, the power of the day then aggressively playing racial and religious issues to keep the Rakyat apart.
The looting simply can not stop as the power of the day keeps feeling heavier and heavier pressure from their fellow looters on how to distribute the loot. The recent statement by the sitting Prime Minister that he has to constantly looking for political funding is really chilling and yes, the situation has become so bad that the power of the day has to think of how to loot more and more to sustain the now unsustainable Spoils System or political patronage instead of how to govern better.
Ordinary Rakyat feeling the unbearable oppression became angry and there is hardly any avenue at all to voice their genuine dissatisfactions and grievances. Meanwhile the ordinary Rakyat are also forced to witness the daily stupid and grotesque exploitations of staged racial and religious issues.
Recently, even some prominent Malays couldn't take it anymore and formed a group known as the Prominent 25 and they even appealed to the Rulers to save our nation from rotting further.
In fact, the proven movement of Bersih is the right platform for the Rakyat to stand up to be counted and a massive Bersih movement to be witnessed by the global community can not be ignored by the power of the day. (PART 9)
I was serving in Indonesia in early nineties and within the first week there in Jakarta, I got into trouble with the police for refusing to pay bribe and there are many stories of my very interesting encounters with the police, immigration and even the local neighbourhood authority.
Long story short, I was very upset but fortunately I was serving a very respectable and noble business conglomerate with very wise, kind and open bosses who were willing to hear me out and offered their kind support.
I once asked my supremo boss Pak Aryanto if there is any hope for Indonesia given the level of rampant corruption all around everywhere, Pak Aryanto whom I deeply respect told me that once the system is reformed, which he believes it must, good people will emerge from everywhere to embrace what is right and good.
Later, sparked by financial crisis in 1998 which turned into political crisis and even massive riots and social unrests around Jakarta, there was a regime change. B.J. Habibie who was essentially a technocrat took over as the new President and in his only 500 plus days in office, he passed 90 plus reform based legislations, therefore setting the stage for the transformation of Indonesia.
After a succession of a couple of good Presidents in between several not so good Presidents, Indonesia has finally transformed and today Jokowi, a simpleton, no insult intended, coming not from the political elite became the President and an ethnic Chinese, Basuki Tchahaya Purnama aka Ahok became the Governor of Jakarta, after radically transforming the huge city in 20 months as the Deputy of Jokowi! Today, corruption is a very dirty word in Indonesia.
The inspiring story of the transformation of Indonesian towards the right direction should be known to the ordinary Rakyat of Malaysia now to convince everyone that the way out for this beloved land of ours will not come from the politicians. It has to come from everyone of us, the students, the workers, the managers, the professionals, the pensioners, the old and the young, the Malays, the Chinese and the Indians, the Muslims and the Christians, in short, everyone who realises that he is being oppressed, on the street of KL on 29/30 this month.
Do remember that changing the bandits will not save us but changing the system will. Somehow I missed my supremo boss Pak Aryanto very much in moments like this. (PART 10)
When I asked Pak Aryanto on the future of Indonesia back then, thank God he didn't take offence and I believe, as usual, he dispensed his wisdom very freely in very simple words out of his sincere heart:
"When the system is reformed, which it must, good people will emerge from everywhere to do good and to do what is right.”
I have not actually researched into how B.J. Habibie administered the huge and diverse Nusantara but from the little that I know, upon being sworn in as the President, he withdrew himself from the earlier ruling Golkar Party as he believes that the sitting President should serve the Nation and should not be distracted by party's politics.
Habibie then decreed that no head of any political party can be appointed as Minister in the Pemerintah Pusat.
Whereas in Malaysia, every head of the political party within BN is assured of a Federer ministership or Chief Ministership! Haven't they been told and understand about what is the seriously self destructive Spoils System under President Jackson during the early
founding years of the US?
Bersih 4 is only hours away, therefore before I can write panjang lebar on what were the 90 plus pro reform legislations that President Habibie had passed during his politically very unpopular 500 plus days in office which set the stage for the revival of the Nusantara, allow me to freely articulate on what is needed for us to reform this very critically ill nation that we still helplessly love passionately. (PART 11)
We need to be aware that Bersih is not about replacing one bandit with another, the whole political system has to be reformed and yes, I am reminded that one of the first things that Habibie did upon taking over the Presidency was to release all the political prisoners/prisoners of conscience and issued a Presidential Instruction forbidding the usage of the term pribumi and non-pribumi.
From the time B.J.Habibie started the political and social reform in 1998 till the election of Joko Widodo, being not from the political elite and non military, as the 7th President of the Republic of Indonesia in 2014, I would like to consider that the beautiful and vibrant Nusantara has finally been successfully reformed.
It took 16 long years for the vast and complex Nusantara to have reformed but we, Malaysia, we are not as huge and complex as Indonesia and therefore prayerfully we need less time, but we can definitely learn much from the experience of Indonesia in reforming and transforming.
Perhaps political reform should start with the highest political position in our land, the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister should be constitutionally bound to serve every Malaysian Citizens and no undue privileges to geographical, racial, religious and party consideration are allowed.
The spoken words and conduct of the Prime Minister should be guided accordingly.
The present sitting PM's frequent utterance of how UMNO must be in power to protect the Malays is grotesque and is very unbecoming of a national leader especially so when the PM himself is propagating the political slogan of IM4U, PM FOR ALL, ONE MALAYSIA and even 1MDB.
The indoctrinated fallacy of the Malays needing protection and UMNO was their protector is full of unholy intent or niat yang tidak suci. In actual fact, who are the worst victims of UMNO's protracted rule and looting of the nation? The marginalised rural and urban Malays with the wrong political alignment or without any political affiliation, the low ranking Malay civil servants all across the civil service including those in PDRM and the army.
What does UMNO stand for when the top leadership after Tun Hussein Onn era is one after another involved in one financial scandal after another financial scandal?
UMNO today is nothing more than the head of the looters aka Barisan National. Take a closer look at the membership of UMNO today, where are all the dedicated teachers, community leaders and patriotic bangsawan or Noble men?
Umno has successfully revolutionised itself since the early 80s from the respectable patriotic party formed in 1946, towards the wrong direction.
Today, ambitious wealth and rent seekers jammed up the leadership of all levels of UMNO within it's 191 Divisions nation wide because the Spoils System that has never been questioned allowed them to do so.
When the sitting President of UMNO who is also the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance gestured that he can't say whether it is right or wrong for RM2,6 billion to be deposited into his personal account because there is no Law on political donation in Malaysia, surely all Malaysian with the exception of those fellow beneficiaries/looters, are unbelievably shocked and deemed unacceptable, what about according to the Law of our conscience?
The Chairman of the feared and respected Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) of Indonesia, Abraham Samad has a very interesting childhood story.
When he was in primary school, he once took 5 chalks home, his mother questioned him on those 5 chalks and he explained that he took it from the school and that the teacher was there and the other children also frequently took those chalks home as they wish and the teacher never say anything.
His mother then told him that whenever he takes anything from anywhere which does not belong to him, with or without anyone knowing or watching, it is still an act of stealing. Her words cut deep into his souls and many years later, Abraham Samad became the very effective Head of KPK who has no fear to prosecute and convict all levels of offenders, from low level civil servant to especially those holding power including the family members of the sitting President.
Even Jokowi, while serving as the Mayor of Jakarta, being a great fan of Metallica, has to surrender a guitar given to him by the band when reminded that it could be construed to be gratification!
Therefore, Malaysian Prime Minister should also be constitutionally bound to respect, protect and uphold the independence of all institutions of governance. With our bitter experience, we simply can not afford to grant so much power to the highest political position of the land. (PART 12)
Being brought up in Brickfields from a poor working class family, I have always considered myself street smart as I did survive, but in reality, maybe I am just a starry eyed idealist because some years ago, upon witnessing the ups and downs of some of my highly qualified university mates in the field of politics, I asked a very prominent local business person why would intelligent and capable people want to be involved in the dirty world of politics and I was told that because there is vast quick wealth to be grabbed.
For the record, I served Tun Sir Henry H.S. Lee by his side in Tun's family conglomerate in the late 80s. I was constantly reminded that one should not seek public office unless the intention is to serve and therefore you have to established yourself first in the trade or profession of your choice. Looking back, that was the noble thoughts of the old school together with the likes of Tun Dr Ismail, the noble thoughts and believes that had long been discarded by the neo political class of wealth and rent seekers.
Tun H.S. Lee, with his cable reaching directly to the Windsor and also the Whitehall was very influential during General Gerald Templer’s Governorship in the then Malaya and later, instrumental in the peaceful talks for independence with the British. Tun Lee's earlier peers during his time in Cambridge include King George VI and many then sitting British Cabinet Members.
Tun was also one of the signatories on our Declaration of Independence; my point is that Tun was also a Kaum Pendatang, but unlike my father who came to this land with sehelai dan sepinggan, Tun Lee was the descendant of a very illustrious Mandarin class since the Qing Dynasty, Tun's ancestors served as the Viceroy of both Guandong and Guangxi province and one of his uncle was a Minister in Sun Yat Sen's first Cabinet of the then new ly established Republic of China.
Tun Lee shared the aspiration for independence together with Dato Onn Jaafar and later his great buddy, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Bapa Malaysia. It was told to me that Tunku used to conduct many meetings of national importance in the residence of Tun Lee at 24, Jalan U Thant. In fact, the round table which was used for their frequent meetings was exhibited at Museum Negara for one week after the passing of Tun Lee in 1988.
I have digressed too far and let me recompose my thoughts and continue later. I meant to talk about political reform with reference to the functional composition of the Cabinet; before I continue, look at the Cabinet post 1957 and the Cabinet now and I don't think I need to deliberate any further. (PART 13)
So good people who had contributed to the Independence Movement filled the first Cabinet according to their area of expertise. Tun Sir Henry H.S. Lee for example became the first Minister of Finance in the new Nation.
Today, every head of the political party within the ruling BN Federal Government is given a seat in the Cabinet. When the Cabinet became so bloated until no meaningful function can be established, these Ministers were simply referred to as Ministers in the Prime Minister Department! The practice is so crude and grotesque, what does the tittle mean? Whats is their exact portfolio?
The second item to be reformed then must be to constitutionalised the composition of the Cabinet.
The sitting Prime Minister must resigned from the head of his political party and the Prime Minister can not hold multiple portfolio. There must be a limit to the number of members in the cabinet and the qualifications of these ministers be made available for close scrutiny by interested public. Provided always that no Minister should also serve as the head of any political party.
The head of political party should focus on their own complex party politics and the Prime Minister with his Cabinet paid by the people must look after the affairs of the country and the well being of all the Rakyat.
The present sitting Prime Minister simply should not shamelessly declared that he has to constantly looking for funds to support his UMNO as if that is the key function as the Prime Minister of Malaysia.
Next to be reformed will be the appointment of the head of several key institutions of governance. (PART 14)
The recent abrupt removals and appointments of several key personnels in the AGC, SPRM, PDRM and Bank Negara demonstrated the key weakness in our nation, which is the dangerous concentration of power.
Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
To avoid such gross abuse of power, the appointment and removal of the following key positions in the civil service should be made by the Agong at the recommendation of the Prime Minister, provided always that the recommended appointment or removal has been approved by no less that 75% of the members in the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara.
1) Chief Secretary
2) Each and every Judge in the Federal Court
3) Attorney General
4) Inspector General of Police
5) Chairman of SPRM
6) Governor of Bank Negara
7) Accountant General
8) Auditor General
So the third area of political reform is on the checks and balances on the appointment of key person to the key institutions of governance. (PART15)
One of the most ridiculous political development in our nation is the abolishing of the local council election.
Before Independence was granted, the first ever election in this land was the Kuala Lumpur Municipality Council Election of 1952 of which the residents in KL were to elect 12 councillors with another 6 appointed by the Sultan of Selangor. The Councillors were to be responsible to the local residents on how the city was to be managed.
By the way, in that election in 1952, MCA won 6 seats, UMNO 3, Dato Onn's IPM won two seats ( with one seat won by an Indian lady as MIC was aligned with IPM at that time) and one seat was won by an independent candidate.
My boss Tun Sir Henry H.S. Lee and his son Datuk Douglas Lee won 2 seats under the MCA then, meaning 17% of elected seats. Just for the record again.
The local council election was later abolished with excuses that can no longer be tolerated today.
Far worse, today, even Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur is placed under the Ministry of Federal Territory with the Secretary General of UMNO being the Minister!
Return the Local Council Election, the local people must be given the rights to hire and fire whoever they deemed fit and able to run the city, very simple and reasonable.
The rather obvious needs for electoral reform including the reintroduction of the Local Council Election will be the fourth area in our urgent political reform. (PART16)
We have deliberated on 4 most important areas for political reform:
1) The office of the Prime Minister
2) The Cabinets
3) Key position in various important institutions of governance
4) Electoral reform
Now we address the much more sensitive issues of social reform.
First and foremost, it is extremely destructive for a nation to have different classes of citizen, it is simply unwise especially such differentiation is along racial lines.
Upon taking over the Presidency, Habibie issued a Presidential Instruction forbidding the usage of the terms pribumi and non-pribumi. There must be a holistic sense of belonging if we want everyone in the country to contribute his best.
Equal opportunity must be made available to all regardless of one's geographical, ethnic origin or religious conviction. Does it matter about a person's geographical,ethnic or religious background as long as he can do a good job in his choice of career and contribute to the nation in a very sincere way?
Conversely, do we still feel it is alright if "one of our kind" suspected of a simple phone theft stirred up a riot and still being portrayed as a Wira by some political provocateurs while the suspect's own father who was an OKU was shameful enough to cover his face with magazine while walking out from the Court? What nilai murni are we embracing?
What about a 70 year old patriotic political party turning into a den of thieves by successfully playing racial and religious issues? Still not enough for us to be awaken about the destructive forces of fragmentisation of the Rakyat according to race?
Divide and Rule used to be the effective tool of the past colonial masters and now the local political elites are simply too skilful in playing with it.
If we do not object to the manipulation of racial sentiments by political parties, then we have not Merdeka at all.
At this critical moment when the highest political figure of this country is causing our nation to suffer so much humiliation and shame internationally, embroiled in huge financial scandal and again, resorting to the racial and religious arsenal to defend his indefensible position, shall we all not tell him no, this time you can't escape by playing racial or religious sentiments.
It is really sad for corrupt and mentally challenged political leaders to even claim that it was haram to attend the Bersih 4 Movement.
Even seven yellow balloons printed with the word JUSTICE floating in a mall could disrupt an event attended by the Prime Minister himself and the Real Prime Minister herself.
Do away with naked racial discrimination and embrace unity in diversity as what Bung Karno passionately promoted as Bhinneka Tunggal Ika! I believe the country will be vibrant again.
We do not need BTN to poison the minds of our young people, we do not need AKU JANJI to lock the minds of our academicians and other civil servants and Talent Corp can close shop.
The moment meritocracy is genuinely practice all across the land, Malaysia will prosper once again and everyone wins. (PART 17)