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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
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, May 05, 2024

The Malaysian Malaise: Political Crises At The Worst Possible Time


The Malaysian Malaise:  Corrupt Leadership; Failing Institutions; And Intolerant Islamism

M. Bakri Musa


Next: Excerpt #1:  Prologue–Political Crisis At The Worst Possible Time


When the virulent Covid-19 virus broke out beyond Wuhan, China, in January 2020, the whole world was consumed in an unprecedented giant effort to contain the pandemic. The whole world that is, but not Malaysia. Then as if that public health threat was not lethal enough, Malaysia was (and still is) one of those self-destructive if not downright dysfunctional countries that brought upon itself additional unneeded and self-inflicted series of political crises. That is the Malaysian malaise. It is the consequence of long standing corrupt incompetent leadership, failing ineffective institutions, and rising intolerant Islamism. Each amplifies the corrosive and destructive effects of the other two.


            The Covid-19 pandemic is now manageable, thanks to better understanding of the virus and consequent development of effective vaccines together with improved public health measures and novel effective therapeutic interventions. However, the political and other major components of the Malaysian malaise are still very much there and fast deteriorating. The tragedy is that those other non-Covid related challenges are all potentially preventable and readily solvable if only Malaysian leaders were to have a modicum of smarts and a sense of dedication. And most of all, not corrupt.


            Stripped to its most elemental level, all these political and other crises are traceable to the inflated personal ego and endless sinister scheming of one conniving character, its former long-time Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad. From entrenched corruption and incompetent leadership to deteriorating institutions and escalating intolerant Islamism, they all bear his trademark scheming fingerprints. In modern management parlance, Mahathir is the root cause of the Malaysian malaise.


            As leader, Mahathir demonstrated all those three foundational malignant defects, and more. Worse than an incompetent leader is one who thinks he or she is otherwise. Likewise a corrupt leader who thinks he is honest, or the pious one who has a perverted version of humanity. Mahathir is all that.


            In late November 2022, like the regular miracle in the southern hemisphere, the metaphorical sun emerged in Malaysia with the defeat of the governing party in the 15th General Elections. Though no coalition or party won an outright majority, the then Agung gave Anwar Ibrahim (his coalition having won the most number of seats and the highest percentage of the popular votes) first crack at forming a new government. Thanks to his considerable political skills, Anwar crafted a coalition that won a two-third majority in the new Parliament at its first seating a month later. There were no dissenting voices in Parliament.


            Perversely and in an almost psychotic disconnect from reality, old Mahathir still sees himself as the nation’s savior. As late as September 2022 he had the temerity, and without any trace of embarrassment, to proclaim himself ready to assume the nation’s leadership once again, and for the third time. In a pean to humility, he did add “if people were to insist on it and the insistence incessant.” Then he would serve for only one year. Such modesty! At least that was an improvement over his previous two-year limitation he had imposed upon himself when he assumed the position for the second time in May 2018. And what a mess he created then, with Malaysians still paying the price.


            The man was finally rebuked and disabused of his delusion of leadership genius. In the general elections a few weeks later, he suffered total political humiliation and rejection. The yet another new coalition he led failed to win a single seat and the man himself lost his electoral deposit. Anyone else would have gotten the message and retreat quietly into the wilderness. Not Mahathir however.


            What a legacy! Those are in addition to the now near-irreversible degradation of Malaysia that is the direct consequence of his earlier and much longer first tenure of nearly 23 years back in the last two decades of the last century. In case the point is missed, and the man never fails to remind us, that was also the duration of Muhammad’s prophethood.


Next:  Excerpt # 2–Mahathir And His Trail of Corrupt, Rotten, and Incompetent Successors


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