Singapore so good ya

 Heck, even the father of their newly minted prime minister-designate is ‘Ipoh-mali’.

The current ruling party in our neighbouring and erstwhile former country-mate, Singapore, announced their pick for their next generation prime minister. They seem to have everything under control and properly planned out.

Since tearfully leaving the Malaysia-project in 1965, Singapore has gone on to develop from a swampy island to perhaps one of the shiniest examples for the world on what can happen with determined leadership, and well-thought through governance.

As painful as it is for us Malaysians to admit, our neighbour has surpassed us in so many fields. From technological and educational advancements to monetary policies, and socio-cultural experiments in a plural society, Singapore is arguably leaps and bounds ahead of us.

Their efficiency and ease of transportation; simplicity of structure for opening and conducting business; the ability to keep the nation free from radical religiosity; the proper pedestrian walkways; the frequency of international musicians and bands who opt to stop on tour there instead of here; the glamour and sheen on their Formula One circuit; the pittance I get when I convert my ringgit to their dollars; and the list goes on.

Singapore truly upsets me. And, it should upset you too.

That is, if you are not jingoistic and prone to fall for our perpetual propaganda about Malaysia being “truly Asia” and our penchant for saying to ourselves that “…there’s no place like Malaysia”.

I get irked in Singapore simply because their people are no different than us.

In fact, so many things are manned and run by Malaysians in that country. Our compatriots in Singapore seem to work with so much more purpose and passion. And there is much evidence that the bulk of that nation’s backbone is actually made up of ‘former’ Malaysians.

Heck, even the father of their newly minted prime minister-designate is ‘Ipoh-mali’.

His father went to Singapore to work in sales for Sime Darby, and perhaps thought it was better if he domiciled there, instead of coming back here. There is no doubt that his son could have never been in contention for prime minister-ship in our country.

Things are better in Singapore. With the possible exception being when they appropriate all our food and claim these as their own creations to the world. Aside from that, there is nothing but envy in me about their nation.

The food thing is really very annoying, for sure. But, as a nation, they seem to be better equipped to promote what they offer, globally. And kudos to their government, which seems to know how to ‘market’ their hawker fare more effectively on the international stage, than us.

So, what went wrong for Malaysia?

Now, some people reading this, will, in a nonchalant and blasé way simply tell me that if I don’t like living in Malaysia, I should just leave. Others might get affronted and tell me to move to Singapore. Worse, as a member of a minority community in my country, I have even been told to go back to where I come from, or be grateful for this blessed land.

And, herein lies the problem.

Speaking up and calling a spade exactly what it is, often provokes extreme patriotic sentiments. People in Malaysia are schooled to sweep things under the carpet, and pretend that everything is hunky-dory.

To this mix of apathy, we can add the special privileges and exclusive state-sponsored policies for the majority community in Malaysia. Our leaders set up their leadership legitimacy on a platform of defending these rights. And, in the process, they have bred generations of Malaysians who distrust each other as well as fear losing their rights to other communities.

Rather than providing exemplary and inclusive leadership, they divide us and lord over us. Their modus operandi is to continually stoke the flames of communal and religious intolerance. All the while, they have been accommodating and facilitating the rise of fanaticism. And, they do precious little to assuage the racial tensions that are building up.

On the other hand, in Singapore, their prime minister-designate in 2021 spoke at a public forum on race and racism, where he acknowledged that in any multi-racial society, it is harder to be a minority than the majority. He went on to explain that the majority community in Singapore understood this.

And so, he asked his fellow Singaporeans to do more and take the extra step to make their minority friends, neighbours, and co-workers feel comfortable. He then invited his fellow countrymen and women to treat others in the same way they’d like to be treated, and by their actions, educate their children to do the same.

Will a Malaysian leader ever stand-up in public and acknowledge that it is actually harder and more complex to be part of a minority community in our country?

Of course, no. Not at least in the near future. And this is our problem.

Special interests and privileges; the pandering to the elites; the apologists in our minority community who are only interested in their own personal gain; the rise of religious radicalism; the lack of clarity of leadership; and the non-inclusivity of all races in Malaysia is why we cannot compare and compete with even our tiniest next-door neighbour.

Do we just bury our head in the sand and keep saying that Malaysia is an amazing place to live, or do we finally wake-up and stop our country from going on a downward spiral?

Malaysia needs to decide, and do it quickly.

Written by:

First published by FMT on April 28, 2022.


Adaptation by Fauzi Kadir

Concept/Technicalities/News Preparation assisted by a team of Permadu Journalists

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