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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 15, 2020

2021 Budget - Lessons Not Learned

 2021 Budget – Lessons Not Learned!


M. Bakri Musa


The 2021 Malaysian Budget repeats the same old mistake – the erroneous belief that throwing money at a problem would solve it. As in the past, billions are again being allocated to Bumiputra institutions like JAKIM and JASA, as well as to MARA and UiTM. Despite such generosity, now and in the past, there has been no appreciable improvement in Bumiputra competitiveness vis a vis non-Bumiputras.


Stripped of their fancy acronyms, JAKIM and JASA are but public works programs for otherwise unemployable Bumiputras. Those institutions go beyond. They are responsible for Malays not being competitive. There is little incentive to; the likes of JAKIM and JASA are ready to employ you. If you want Malays to contribute to the socioeconomic development of the nation, as is the aspiration of all Malay leaders, then get rid of those institutions.


            As for the billions for MARA, they will continue to squander that by sending Malays to third-rate universities abroad, though thankfully not in the same massive numbers as in the 1970s and 80s where they sent Malays abroad even for Sixth Form! As for UiTM’s bountiful windfall, none will be used to recruit English and Philosophy Professors. Then we wonder why our students have abysmal English fluency, and are incapable of critical thinking.


            The “help” Malays are getting from their government reminds me of an old Reagan advice to ranchers in the west. “When you hear, ‘I am from the Feds and I am here to help,’ run to the hills fast!”


With JAKIM distracting Malays to be obsessed with getting into Paradise, there would be that much fewer left to ensure that we do not suffer our own collective Hell right here and now in Tanah Melayu. For every Malay consumed with revealed knowledge or prophetic traditions, that would be one fewer to do research on Covid-19, or clean the environment.


What Malays need are better engineers and architects, not more exquisite Qur’an reciters and mesmerizing ulama with their fire-and-brimstone sermons. Consider Malaysian masjids. One showpiece mosque in Kuala Lumpur has acres of open marble floors that are unwalkable because they are exposed to the blazing Malaysian sun. I suppose, to be charitable, that was part of the design – a preview of how hell would be like! Even with recently completed masjids, there are extension cords everywhere as the designers did not anticipate the electrical outlet needs. In Kelantan, the most “Islamic” state, you cannot get clean water to do your ablution.


When we do get those few Malays away from this obsession with religion, we do not let them practice their craft. Instead we seduce them into doing something else, like administrative chores.


It breaks my heart to see those few Malays of my generation who were trained in the sciences being seduced into becoming pseudo-ulama. I would have thought they would have served as much-needed role models for the young in the kampungs by being productive in their respective fields.


It is sad to see the first Malay PhD in mathematics now touring village mosques giving khutba (sermons) on the supposed past glory of Islam in the Malay world. A more worthy legacy would have been for him to establish Institutes of Mathematics to encourage the young to pursue the subject. Another, also of my vintage, abandoned his doctoral work in mathematics at a prestigious university to go into religion.


I am also saddened to see the few precious Malay scientists and professionals not being rewarded and honored, not for their sake but as a societal statement to inspire the young. The honor of Emeritus Professorship is being heaped not upon those few precious Malay pioneers in the sciences and professions, but in Malay and Islamic Studies. We already have a glut of them. Meanwhile we keep harping on the lack of Malays in the sciences!


My late father had an apt observation on that misplaced priority:  Membajakan lallang (adding fertilizer to lallang–a particularly tenacious weed).


A Christian cobbler would best show his faith, wrote Martin Luther, not by carving crucifixes on the shoes he makes but by making them durable and cheap so the poor could afford them. Likewise Muslim engineers would best demonstrate their faith in Allah not by carving intricate Qur’anic verses on the bridges they build but making sure that during floods more water would flow under than over, and that there are no unexpected right angle turns at mid-point.


Islam is a great faith. It has withstood hordes of Mongol invaders as well as Stalin’s brutal suppression. The faith does not need defenders, least of all from these characters in IKIM and JAKIM.


Islam cannot advance in Malaysia if Malays are overrepresented in the socially dysfunctional categories. Getting rid of JAKIM and JASA, as well as MARA and BTN would be a great first step. Thus far that reality has not even registered on Malay leaders.


Non-Malays should relax; quit worrying about all those goodies showered on Bumiputras. Heed the wisdom of Plutarch:  The man who first brought ruin upon the Roman people was he who pampered them by largesse and amusements.


Remember, when Malays holler “Tanah Melayu untuk Melayu!” (Malaysia for Malays!) that is not a threat, it’s more a desperate cry from those betrayed by their leaders.





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