These last few days, I have been reading about, yet another potential event of instability called the “Dubai Move,”: a change of government in the making, allegedly as a natural development of Malaysian-styled Machiavellian politics. Of Statutory Declarations and how and when a new government might be formed before the appointment of the new Ruler, whose tenure is rotational and stable, in a system of Constitutional Monarchy in which the King cannot overstep his boundary. It is said that the current Opposition block has the necessary numbers (120) to bring down the government led by Anwar Ibrahim. It is claimed that the Constitutional Monarch of Malaysia will need to see that number to consent to installation of a new government.
The government of Anwar Ibrahim propped up out of a razor-thin majority only a year old is under threat of another “overthrow, ” so as the story goes. The ongoing Mahathir-Anwar enmity at play in a butterfly-effect of personality and race-based politics of accommodations and appeasement as I have followed since the early 1980s.
The only constant thing is instability. The chaos of not having a good system of check and balances, local elections, and limited term of prime-ministership, besides a political culture still at the juvenile or even infantile stage ever plagued with cancerous race and religious undertones.
It brings me back to my childhood days, when I used to memorize names of world leaders, as I read the newspapers delivered to the steps of my grandpa’s kampong house in Johor Bahru, a southern state of Malaysia. They are Utusan Melayu in Jawi and The New Straits Times in English, both I read voraciously. I can still write in Jawi, beautifully, I think. Thanks to my mother and blessing her soul for giving me the early education of a Johorean, with pride of my cultural heritage.
Anyways, one of the names I love repeating (yes, child’s obsession is being obsessed by names he/she would repeat till he/she becomes intoxicated and stoned with word) is that of the prime minister of Thailand “Thanom Kittikachorn who governed around the same time as Malaysia’s Tunku Abdul Rahman. I just love the name. And names of the Thai people. They are challenging to pronounce, and they carry a certain Sanskrit/Buddhist/Bangkok/Golok/ Chiang Mai charm to it.
But Thai politics is even more interesting. The people change the prime ministers ever so often that I find it hard to keep up memorizing the names of those who lasted in office ranging from a few days to just a few years. The last name I paid attention to was Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, her prime minister when, as a doctoral student at Columbia University in New York City, I was authoring a paper on the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, I called “The Tom Yum Effect.”
Today, as I was going through the narratives in cyberspace concerning Malaysian politics of the plots of this and that which hopes to bring the Anwar Ibrahim government down, I recall a cartoon by the great Malaysian treasure of a cartoonist Lat when he caricatured the change of Thai Prime minister as a tourist attraction, as such as the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace.
Malaysian politics is experiencing the Thai Effect of collapsing regimes, instability, and frequency of the change of prime ministers. The politics of vendetta is the name of the game. Of whom has the numbers to form a government, albeit momentarily. Politics of whoever has the power will want to settle old scores. To hunt, for whatever legitimate reason, based on suitable data gathered for prosecution. The politics of pay to play. Whichever gets the most offer to crossover, will play and at times get counteroffers too. These are the cases creating the current scenario of evolving instability.
Work that is supposed to be done to install a system of social justice, peace and stability, raising of citizen’s income and economic prosperity via ethical practices, mindful education that enculturalizes best practices, environmental healing and sustainability, and all aspects of development (of the people, by the people, and for the people with the three pillars of political-economy, social responsibility, and human rights and dignity in place,) cannot be the focus of national development of this country rich in resources and cultural diversity. The currency is one of the worst-preforming in Asia now, foreign investors are weary of the instability, and brewing microbially is the threat of the rise of ethnic chauvinism and religious fundamentalism. Today too, anti-Americanism is growing louder as the Mideast crisis escalates.
Such is the situation Malaysia is in. A country with extremely talented people of multicultural strength who would otherwise, in a situation of stability, like Singapore and many Scandinavian countries would have flourished with less ideological and psychological obstruction, more hope to harness high creativity, and serve the country so that Malaysia can develop into a high-income country and the next generations be ensured a stable place to be in and to take pride in living in this beautiful, and still relatively peaceful country.
We are becoming Thailand. One difference is this: Thailand is still a stable country with a strong and spiritually revered monarchy. By law, culture, and tradition. A monocultural nation-state with most Thais.
But why is this happening in Malaysia? What then must her people do? What would it take to install a “Napoleonic” type of stability?
I wish the country well.