Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Time for a New Social Contract in Malaysia is Now

My latest column for Malaysia Today.

By the Anti-Jihadist

Much hay has been made as of late in regards to Malaysia’s fabled “Social Contract”, which is essentially the basic laws and bedrock assumptions that underpin Malaysian law and society. Having been in place for some 50-odd years now, this ‘contract’ has assumed something akin to sacrosanct proportions in the minds of Malaysian politicians and the public alike. Touching it is now the ‘third rail’ in Malaysian politics—if you touch it, you will die.

But since when is a contract a suicide pact? When it is plainly obvious that a contract is no longer working, or workable, why should anyone continue to adhere to it?

Malaysia’s much-ballyhooed economic growth is now nothing like it was in the heady days of the 1980s or 1990s, and it is hard to continue placing the blame on foreign speculators like George Soros. The brain drain of the nation’s best and brightest to greener pastures overseas continues apace. Intellectual life is stagnating, as is the country’s education system. As the Lina Joy case and other cases clearly shows, the Syariah courts have in essence supplanted the civil court system as the country’s supreme law. As the destruction of temples and churches amply demonstrates, creeping Islamisation has eroded the rights and benefits to non Muslims and non Malays, who have never had much say in their own affairs in the first place. Now they have even less.

Discontent is rising, tensions are increasing, provocations are coming hard on the heels of each other, and this train seems to have no brakes.

I say it’s time for some drastic surgery--it’s high time to tear up the current dysfunctional social contract. If the present contract ever had its day in the sun, clearly those days are long over.

So what might a new, more modern ‘social contract’ for Malaysia look like? To this end, I humbly submit this baker’s dozen of ideas:

1. Have one set of laws that applies equally to everyone, regardless of skin colour, race, or religion. No more ‘bumi’ privileges, and no more official or unofficial racial quotas—a strict meritocracy should be in place at all levels of government, and eventually Malaysian society in general.

2. Ban all race-based organizations, including race-based political parties.

3. The current ‘dual-track’ legal system needs to be abolished. Civil courts must have the final say in all legal matters. Syariah courts should be minimized, or better yet, completely eliminated. If 20 million Muslims in Europe can live without Syariah courts, then why can 15 million Muslim Malays not make do without them?

4. End NEP and any programmes like it, now and forever. If the government is going to hand out welfare, it should be based on need, not on race or ethnicity.

5. Dump the official faith. Governments have no business running religious affairs or legislating morality. Eliminate funding for all religious-based activities and departments. This would, of course, entail the dissolution of all religious police and religious entities such as JAIS and JAKIM at all levels of government.

6. Freedom of religion must be real and guaranteed for all, rather than just being given pro forma lip service. And get rid of the ‘religion’ field on ‘MyKad’ and any other official ID, so there are no more ‘Lina Joys’. A person’s faith, or lack thereof, is not the business of any earthly authority!

7. Make English an official language of the country, and print all government documents in this language.

8. Make English language classes compulsory for all Malaysians starting from Standard One. Teach all subjects in this language, except for Bahasa Melayu/Malaysia, Tamil, Mandarin, and other languages.

9. Establish English departments at all state-run institutions for higher learning. And open a college in Malaysia specifically for training English teachers. Malaysia desperately needs qualified ones, as the current system is totally incapable of creating enough of them. Bring in as many foreign English teachers as required to accomplish these and other goals.

10. Loosen the rules for foreign business and allow increased foreign investment.

11. Phase out all subsidies. The oil is running out, and so will the largess that allows the government to continue these subsidies. Better a soft landing via a phase-out than a brutal price spike that is otherwise inevitable just a few short years from now.

12. No racial preferences or race-based treatment when awarding government contracts.

13. Practice complete freedom of speech—no more censorship or banning of books, TV shows, magazines, movies, or other media.

Malaysia’s current social contract is in fact fatally flawed, because no country that has built its society on envy, coercion, and racial division can ever succeed in the long term. Malaysia is now at the point where radical surgery is required, or this country will fall not just further behind, but out of the race altogether.

And after all, the global race to compete is a race that countries opt out of at their own peril.


Simon Wee said...

If one is to compile what LKY said when Singapore was in Malaysia, that would exactly the same.

In the Malaysian context, any meaningful dialogue leading to new social contract must begin with an unequivocal acknowledgement of Malay policital dominance and institutions in the country to allay the Malay phobia.

The social contract must include the most effective ways to benefit the many Malays and non-Malays in government contracts and tenders, transport industry (it has been decreed as a Malay preserve), manufacturing (many non-Malay plants are unlicensed for obvious reasons) etc. Without such a starting point we can talk until the cows come home, inflaming emotions all along the way.

The solution must be worked out by us Malaysians ourselves and not imposed by foreign powers as what is happening in Iraq. There are no other ways if we are to continue to live in peace. Long live Malaysians.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

I fully agree with your views, and quite frankly more foreigners should start speaking out on this until it becomes a mighty chorus for change. Equal rights and freedom of religion is the right of every human being on this planet. Unfortunately, we have a group of politicians and followers who are racist, selfish, and are afraid to lose their power and privileges. They use religion as a tool control, manipulate and instill fear in the masses. They hide behind laws designed to intimidate minorities.

Having said all the above, change can happen. I look forward to that day.