Friday, January 29, 2010


Malaysia has not regained pre-1997 levels of growth, despite the government insisting all is well with the economy. Corruption and patronage have taken firmer hold- as may be indicated by the Port Klang Free Zone controversy. Investors are turning wary of strained ethnic relations in the country, and the baton of 'new Southeast Asian economic powerhouse' has shifted to... Indonesia!
Shocking, especially when you consider that Indonesia has 17.8 % of its population below the poverty line (as of 2007).

Not only that, the Malaysian government is showing a powerful resistance to moving with the times. Rote learning still forms the core of the education system and, bowing to the desires of backward elements in the society, Maths and Science will be taught once again, in Bahasa Malaysia. Plus, the modernization of teaching methods have been slow and unwieldy, and the quality of young teachers being produced yearly is steadily dropping.
This is UPSI- Malaysia's most recognizable teacher training university. Failure to keep its' standards high has led to a drop in teacher quality, and, we all know what happens then.

But, rather than addressing the problem, the government refuses to even acknowledge it, tweaking the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (the most important public exam) to produce a steady 'rise' in the number of top scorers.

Malaysian economic woes also reflect a lack of willingness to change. The government has eyed green technology and energy efficiency warily, with plans slowly getting underway to green Putrajaya and Cyberjaya. Plus, in this country, the Sarawak government has the what, idiocy, temerity, gall (?) to classify coal as a renewable energy source! The government is also the first to cry foul when the West points out environmentally unsound practices here, but shakes its legs when the allegations are proven true. Which is why you'll never here of the Malaysian government trying to go further in grass-to-fuel research.
Palm oil plantations destroy forests- we only have 56% of our forest cover remaining-, reduce biodiversity, and endanger the culture of the Malaysian indigenous people.

It'll have to be eco-unfriendly palm oil, due, perhaps, to national pride.

One of this country's biggest problems -inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations-, however, isn't purely the fault of the government. Nor is there a whole lot the government can do about it- apart from resisting boneheaded courses of action, like fighting over a word to fish for votes.

The solution starts with us ordinary Malaysians, people like you and me. We are the ones who must shelve our default skepticism and at least give 1Malaysia a chance. With everyone I talked to, the immediate response was '1Malaysia is just a show'. Worse, parents subconsciously teach their kids to only mingle among those of their race/ religion, and spout all kinds of racist rhetoric at home. Really, I can think of no other reason as to why self-imposed segregation is observed in each and every Malaysian public school.
Malaysian schools are no longer places for interracial mingling. No surprise, then, that the colours in this photo aren't mixing.

Not only that, the way we treat people and the environment is also fast becoming rotten. We like to say we are a warm, friendly people, but here's the truth.We admire anyone with a lighter skin and blue-er eyes than us, yet shun the poor migrant worker. We hail the white tourist, but scorn the African student.We pity endangered animals only in the lunar calendar and on tee-shirts, yet kill and eat them as soon as we can. We complain about the hot weather, but burn our rubbish and choke the sky with our SUVs.
The SUV is one vehicle that should have never been invented. It pollutes the sky and burns a hole in the pocket. All it does well is boost the ego, as if we need more of that.

So really. It's not all the government's fault. How about we quit complaining, and start thinking of more than ourselves? Of more than oursleves and our exotic dinners, fancy cars and big houses?? How about we spare a thought for the marginalized and poor, the destitute and downtrodden, and of course, the environment? Is it too much to ask that we, government included, use our brains and hearts equally?

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