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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

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Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

A Collective Malay Shame And Tragedy

A Collective Malay Shame And Tragedy
M. Bakri Musa
www.bakrimusa.com


Reading the US Department Of Justice’s (DOJ) criminal indictment of November 1, 2018 relating to 1MDB, as well as its earlier (July 2016) civil forfeiture lawsuit on assets allegedly linked to it, I am struck by three singular observations.

First is the appalling avarice of the alleged culprits; second, the utter impunity with which they conducted themselves; and third, the sheer stupidity of the man without whose authority those shenanigans would not have been possible–Malaysian Official 1, as referred to in both charges. The world now knows him as Najib Razak. While he is not facing any DOJ charges as yet, in Malaysia he faces three criminal ones that could put him in jail for the rest of his life.

This 1MDB heist is by far the most complex and largest in terms of monetary value. The sheer hubris of the perpetrators to think that they could get away with it. As for Najib, he is not terribly bright, just wily enough to know that his fellow ministers and UMNO leaders could be bought cheaply with the loot from 1MDB.

As for his rise in UMNO, that too is more the consequence of Malay culture. Malays are suckers for terhutang budi, an excessive sense of gratitude. With Najib, it was for his father, Malaysia’s second Prime Minister who died unexpectedly while in office in 1976.

Had Najib not been a Bin Tun Razak, he would be but a middling civil servant, at best. At worse, he would have been flogged and jailed decades ago for “close proximity.”

Think of it; had those religious police in Port Dickson been in their usual zealous mode then and ignored his Bin Razak status, or the powerful had not been terhutang budi, Malaysia would have been spared much grief today, and a whole lot less debt.

The trail of financial liabilities of 1MDB, though massive and painful, is at least quantifiable. Not so the associated lost opportunities. Had the billions not been squandered on luxuries in London, Beverley Hills, and New York or funding soft porno movies, but on improving national schools and FELDA settlements, we would be that much closer to the goals of Ketuanan Melayuand Vision 2020.

This being Malaysia, the dangerous race factor is never far from the surface. That is the most pernicious and consequential legacy of 1MDB. Already there are ugly rumors, and not just within UMNO but also other segments of the Malay community, blaming those smart, greedy Chinese once again taking advantage if not outright cheating sweet, innocent Malay leaders. Even Najib is now distancing himself from Jho Low. This potential explosive component is the most dangerous and incendiary, and one that cannot be unquantied.

Even uglier and more painful to express publicly is this:  Malays are downright ashamed by the outrageous behaviors of their corrupt leaders. Not stated but obvious is that all those charged in Malaysia are Malays, not ordinary ones but top leaders.

Malaysians must thank Mahathir for appointing Tommy Thomas as Attorney-General. It is amazing what you can achieve when you put a premium on honesty, integrity, and competence. Yes, there were many Malays who complained of Thomas not being a Malay or Muslim, as well as on his less-than-polished Malay. Regardless, he put to shame his predecessor, Apandi Ali. He, together with Najib, Zahid, Azeez and others, is but an unmitigated disaster and gross embarrassment to Malays and Muslims, bar none.

By normal reckoning, Apandi should have been impeached. Again in a perversion of values, Najib made him a Tan Sri, and the Agung agreed. Like it or not, to many non-Malays as well as Malays, the likes of Najib and Apandi represent the best that our community could offer. That hurts! As for those other champions of Ketuanan Melayu, their goals would be achieved that much faster and more efficaciously if they would first get rid from their midst these characters.

            It is good to be reminded that with DOJ’s filings, a pivotal defendant in its criminal case has already pleaded guilty; with its civil, at least two have agreed to settle.

Much can be deduced from the local reactions, and even more so from the lack of same among some notable quarters. It is not surprising that simple kampung folks still believe Najib despite those charges as well as the boxes of gold and cash hauled from his residences. They still believe that the money was for them!

What stretches one’s credulity is that UMNO leaders too bought Najib’s snake oil, and they included many lawyers and accountants, as well as an Oxford graduate and even an Ivy League PhD!

Then there is the stunning silence of the ulama and sultans. Sly Najib had diverted some 1MDB crumbs to fund free Hajjs. I imagine the same dynamics work with the sultans, except that crumbs would not do it for them. That is the greatest Malay shame and tragedy.

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