"What would we have been, if not for UMNO/BN, Mahathir, Pak Lah, and ...Najib"
To wade through today's murky political waters, it is important for voters to possess the appropriate tools to separate fact from fiction and make the correct conclusions. In the light of this need, it is necessary to revisit some of the postings on cyberspace that fly in the face of the truth. One such piece was written by lawyer and activist Haris Ibrahim headlined:
"A glimpse of what might have been but for UMNO/BN,Mahathir, Pak Lah, and ... Najib".
He implied that Malaysia could have become as 'successful' as Singapore but for...
It is however more appropriate to ask the question:
"What would we have been, if not for UMNO/BN, Mahathir, Pak Lah, and ...Najib"
In his blog posted on 29 September 2012, Haris drew conclusions based largely on what former Singapore Premier Lee Kuan Yew had said in an interview with the New York Times in 2010. Haris asks what was it that Singapore had done right, and what was it that Malaysia had done wrong these past few decades.
Haris illustrated his article by showing pictures that ostensibly showed Singapore’s transformation from a riverine village to a modern metropolis, the implication being that Malaysia has remained in the backwaters since independence.
Haris said LKY was quoted as having made the following statements (shown in italics):
LKY: "I think if the Tunku ( Malaysia's first Prime Minister) had kept us together, what we did in Singapore, had Malaysia accepted a multiracial base for their society, much of what we’ve achieved in Singapore would be achieved in Malaysia."
The fact however is that LKY cannot take all the credit for Singapore's economic success. Thanks to the colonial powers, Singapore was already a thriving entrepot trading post in the early 19th century--long before the PAP came into power. Malaysia, on the other hand, started almost from ground zero. At independence it was considered by foreigners as a basket case, with the same chance of success as the poorest of the global poor. Malaysia's economic success was therefore also spectacular. (See below)
LKY: “We made quite sure whatever your race, language or religion, you are an equal citizen and we’ll drum that into the people and I think our Chinese understand and today we have an integrated society. Our Malays are English-educated; they’re no longer like the Malays in Malaysia and you can see there are some still wearing headscarves but very modern looking.”
Well, not quite true. Ask the Singaporean Malay and he will tell you
• that there is discrimination in the award of scholarships. Last year (and for several years in succession) there was not a single Malay (or Indian) successful candidate among the list of local scholarship recipients.
• that there is discrimination in the private sector. Advertisements for positions today simply state “Must be conversant in Mandarin” or “Must be effectively bilingual” as an essential requirement. This effectively cuts out Malays and Indians.
• that the Chinese community has been the largest beneficiaries of all of the government’s economic policies.
• that there are elite Chinese only schools and co-ed Special Assistance Plans (SAP) schools where the Chinese outnumber the minority races by a massive ratio. Prestigious scholarships are virtually dished out to them annually by the private and public sectors.
• that questions are being asked why many Malays are 'exempted' from serving national service.
• that Chinese is the language that is spoken as the native tongue by the greatest number of Singaporeans. Malay was only chosen as the "national language" by the Singaporean government after independence from Britain in the 1960s to avoid friction with Singapore's neighbours.
• Social integration is far from smooth on the ground. To some locals, newcomers —particularly Mainland Chinese — are commonly seen as uncouth and prone to objectionable behaviors. Similarly, South Asian construction workers and Filipino domestic workers have also been singled out as targets of public. A spate of online disputes in 2011 involving Mainland Chinese immigrants ridiculing Singaporeans as “ungracious,” “disgusting and inferior” reveals the extent of social discord. In August 2011, an immigrant family from China went so far as to lodge a complaint against their Singaporean-Indian neighbors for the smell of curry emanating from their cooking. In response, a Facebook page urging Singaporeans to prepare curry on a designated Sunday drew over 57,600 supporters.
• why is it that Singaporeans are not trusted to provide security services to LKY and the subsequent Prime Ministers at 38 Oxley Road? That job, for the last 50 years, had been outsourced to Nepali Gurkha soldiers.
Another, more subtle, difference between Malaysia and Singapore is this: Singapore believes in a foreigners first, locals second policy. That is why Singapore is haven to the super rich of the world. Forty per cent of Singapore residents are foreigners. The local Singaporeans are beginning to resent their presence because they are partly the reason for the high cost of living.
LKY: “Malaysia took the different line. Malay is the language of the schools although it does not get them into modern knowledge. So the Chinese build and find their own independent schools to teach Chinese, the Tamils create their own Tamil schools, which do not get them jobs. It’s a most unhappy situation”.
That is a jaundiced view, not supported by the facts:
A recent scholarly article by A. Abhayaratne of the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka said the following:
"In the East and Southeast region, Malaysia stands out as one of the most outstanding economies in terms of the rate of economic growth and poverty reduction. During the last three decades, the annual growth of gross domestic product was higher than 6 percent except during the recession in 1985-86 and the financial crisis in 1997. This is a very impressive rate of growth by developing country standard. Consistent with the high growth rates during the period, per capita income increased from US$ 900 in 1970 to US$ 3400 in 2000 (Bank Negara Malaysia, 2000). Per capita income in Malaysia in 2000 was second highest in Southeast Asia and considerably higher than that of other countries of the region.
"During the same period, the Malaysian economy experienced a dramatic reduction in the incidence of poverty. Poverty incidence in Malaysia fell from 52.4% in 1970 to 5.5% in 2000. There was also considerable progress in reducing hard-core poverty as well to only 0.5% by 2000. The reduction in poverty was accompanied by rising living standards with a relatively equal distribution of income.
"It has been suggested by a number of studies that the large reductions in poverty incidence in Malaysia was the result of the high growth achieved by the economy. Some other studies suggest that this success in poverty reduction has not been a result of growth alone. They claim that this success was unlikely without the relentless efforts of the government in including poverty eradication as a major development objective and formulating specific policies and programs aiming at eradicating poverty."
LKY: “We are non-corrupt. We lead modest lives”.
Sure. If other political leaders are also paid like Singapore politicians (the Prime Minister is paid US$1.7 million per year and the Cabinet Ministers also similarly high salaries), perhaps there will be little or no corruption.
Haris then quoted a report by The Wall Street Journal that said Singapore was “the wealthiest nation in the world by GDP per capita, beating out Norway, the U.S., Hong Kong and Switzerland.
But that doesn’t say much about the quality of life of the Singaporeans. Every weekend, thousands of islanders cross the Causeway into Johor Bharu, and travel as far inland as Malacca for a taste of the good life.
• Four out of five Singaporeans live in cramped high-rise HDB flats.
• More and more Singaporeans are packing up their bags and moving abroad.
As of June 2011, an estimated 192,300 Singaporeans live abroad. An average of about 1,200 highly educated Singaporeans (including 300 naturalized citizens) give up their citizenship each year in favor of others.
• In some social surveys among Singaporean youth, more than half of those surveyed would leave the country to build their careers if given the chance.
• A recent report by the Economist Intelligence Unit said that Singapore was the sixth most expensive city in the world. By comparison, Kuala Lumpur ranked 62nd out of 79 surveyed. The cost of living in Singapore is 200% or 300% higher than in Malaysia. There are also other exorbitant costs in Singapore like the S$80,000 license to own a car.
And consider these too:
• KL is world's 10th top destination city •KL is 5th Best Value International City: Trip Index 2012•Malaysia dubbed 14th most competitive economy•Malaysia is 9th hottest real estate market in the world•Malaysia ranked 5th inthe best international cities category, outranking Singapore•KL is Asia's most attractive property investment market.
What indeed would we have done without UMNO/BN, and Tun Mahathir Mohamad, Tun Abdullah Badawi and Dato' Seri Najib Tun Razak.