Have a great Malaysia Day.


4 Responses to “[2082] Of Malaysia Day #47”

  1. on 17 Sep 2009 at 21:39 oster

    I had recently stumbled on admonitory piece of complaints about ‘Malaysian Imperialism’ on the Malaysian Insider and while I respect your voice as an alternative and rare libertarian one, I’d have to say I cannot resist feeling offended by the somewhat condescending tone you had taken.

    It is analogous to the new kid crashing the scene to lecture the old-timers.

    Certainly, I may only vouch, with anecdotal evidence, for my fellow Sabahans, but we have never been blind to the fact that the federal government is at fault. In fact, the struggle against the feds have been ongoing since the 60s, beginning first with Tun Mustapha’s reticence (not entirely selfless) which was ‘remedied’ by the ruling feds (Alliance) by shifting support to Tun Fuad Stephens.

    The same happened to Harris Salleh and Pairin, both of which were subsequently toppled with a slight (understatement) nudge fro the feds.

    You only need dig up the old pages of the Daily Express (not the UK tabloid) from the 60s through the 80s to realise this. Sabahans are not alien to the fact that the feds are the problem, hence the constant pounding on the 20 points agreement, which while not explicitly about federalism, does assert it to a certain extent.

    Never has there been antagonism against the peninsular states themselves, as you contend. But certainly, hostility has been rife against those FROM the peninsular states (i.e. individuals). Mainly, these are manifestations of the same anger against the feds, in that we are discontented (whether rightly or wrongly) by the fact that federal offices (very powerful) are led by Westerners, as are numerous schools and other government-led bodies.

    There is a feeling also that these individuals, tied as they are to the state and in Malaysia, the ruling parties as well, brought with it a seemingly alien culture of outright divisions and competition amongst ethnic groups.

    As for the power of our federal representative, you are certainly correct in over-representation.

    You are however, woefully mistaken in thinking that this translates into anything meaningful.

    A simple read-through of PBS’s early history would suffice. In fact, just look at the non-presence of the traditional Western parties in Sabah, and you would realise that self-determination has always been the key aspect of Sabahan politics.

    Hell, PBS leaders were once arrested under the ISA due to alleged secessionist sympathies.

    You seem to have the ideal parliament in mind, where our odd 50+ MPs will somehow have the leverage to fight for our rights. This is not the US Congress. This is the Parliament of Malaysia.

    Never mind that until 2008, these MPs weren’t anywhere near a majority of BN MPs. PBS once held a lion’s share (20+) of the Sabahan seats and sat in the opposition. Did this help? No. It didn’t help when they were in the government benches either.

    Why? Well because it is the institutions that matter, not the individuals. Ask an UMNO man what should be done for the country, and he will inevitably give you an answer about what the PM should do. No word of institutional change, such as devolution of powers.

    So it seems, you have fallen into the same trap of asking us to rely on our individual representatives, who will remain ineffectual until there are institutional reforms.

    Sabahans, for their own part, have been cowed by 40 years of federal intervention, and are now reduced to praying that the PM, an individual tied to individual needs and wants, to appoint Sabahan ministers, instead of lobbying for devolution, which will render the need for Sabahan ministers far less important.

    We have been effectively tamed. 4 years of economic stasis due to a federal government shutout as punishment for voting in an opposition government has killed our will. Well in fact it didn’t, we voted in an opposition government for another 5 years in 1994, but it seems the wills of enough assemblymen were already crushed.

    Until there is institutional change, we will never effectively leverage our numbers. It bears reminding that even with our numbers, we will never form a majority of any governing majority, and in a centralised state such as ours you must know that it is winner takes all.

    I do need intend this to be a diatribe against your character, but your arguments in your piece seemed to have skimmed through 40 years of complex politics and history with reckless disregard for all the struggles in support of true federalism, that I was energetically provoked. Perhaps that was your intention, I don’t know.

  2. on 20 Sep 2009 at 01:05 Hafiz Noor Shams

    Institution matters no doubt but it is individuals that effect it. Changes come from willingness to change, not by surrendering to the status quo. If your point about institutions need to be repaired first, then I fear it will never get repaired. If the voters themselves elect those who prefer the status quo, having improved institution is a pipe dream.

    You write about the fate of PBS and how Sabah was perhaps purposefully neglected. Sabah is not alone in that matter. Kelantan is a proof to that. Therefore, I cannot share your position.

    Yes, Sabah has a history of rising up but that is in the past. I know Sabah’s history. Yet, what is the point when history is being used to justify non-action?

    One must know when history is helpful and when history is not. To use history to justify the state of “reduced to praying that the PM, an individual tied to individual needs and wants, to appoint Sabahan ministers” falls in the latter classification.

    What matters now is the present time and the future. Only Sabahans can change their fate.

    People in the Peninsula like me who disagree with the federal government, can only provoke questions. If the majority of the local continue to cooperate with the BN led federal government AND actually vote for BN candidate and then still claim Malayan imperialism, well, I have enough of those accusations.

    I’m a federalist and will be more than happy to see a more autonomous Sabah(in fact, more autonomous states in Peninsula as well) within Malaysia. But I cannot accept the charge of imperialism when the majority there themselves continue to vote in the very groups that cause their problems.

    If majority of Sabahans refuse to change their own fate and only happy to shout imperialism, well, I made clear what I thought in the article.

  3. on 21 Sep 2009 at 13:49 oster

    I am not justifying non-action. I am appealing for understanding. and against the general tone of your article.

    Perhaps you did not realise that you were being highly abrasive.

    Picture a white man, more specifically a WASP from the suburbs, a son of educated parents and raised in a middle-class environment, speaking at the NAACP conference. What if he tells them off for being all the stereotypes of the lazy, unambitious bum, while addressing his audience as “you people”, completely ignoring that while individual initiative is important, the cultural baggage passed on by our parents and communities affect us just as much.

    That is what you’ve done here.

    You spoke from a high pedestal, and ignoring the fact that a large majority of Sabahans cannot afford to take the risk of voting for change when there is a great uncertainty that their votes will translate into change or further repression. And considering the odds stacked electorally against the opposition, I think you would agree that the risks of voting opposition is excessively high.

    This is where history provides context. Voters are first and foremost risk analysts. And the Sabahan experience has inflated the perception of this risk.

    So being “reduced to praying that the PM, an individual tied to individual needs and wants, to appoint Sabahan ministers” is highly relevant.

    You cannot broach the subject of Southern Black poverty without understanding the effects of slavery and Jim Crow.

    You cannot broach the subject of African poverty without understanding the effects of colonialism and arbitrary nation-building by arbitrary assignment of borders.

    Similarly, you cannot broach the subject of Sabahan electoral habits without first understanding its history.

    I’ve always said that the high-falutin’ reformist agenda of abstract arguments about the role of the State etc. has always been an urban middle class pursuit.

    And in the context of a purely academic argument, they can rightly ensconce themselves in those debates. And you are academically correct in all you say about Sabahans looking into the future instead of the past and voting their principles.

    But from a pragmatic standpoint, the urban middle class cannot win the country without rural support, not with our present seat allocations at least. And abstract concepts about nation and state discussed within narrow confines will not convince the rural folks.

    Similarly, speaking from your high pedestal and admonishing Sabahans alone will not convince them. It is not an issue about you being right, but you convincing people that you are right.

    And your blithe disregard of the context in which a Sabahan voter’s views are formed is not convincing.

    It’s the age-old issue about empathy, and putting yourself in people’s shoes.


  4. on 21 Sep 2009 at 13:51 oster

    What I am saying is that it’s not what you say but also how you say it. It is silly to assume everyone’s rational, and I am trying to convince you that you need to do more than put forward academic arguments, but persuasive ones as well.

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply