The Ugly Malays. Corrupt. Klepto. Arrogant. Liars.
At 72 years of age, I remember Tun Razak and the times that he lived in with clarity. I remember him as a stern unsmiling man resolute in the things he had set his mind on doing. I remember him in his bush jacket and cane traveling into the hinterland and rural areas visiting Felda settlements seeing for himself what Felda was doing for the rural population. I remember the many trips our family took in the early 60’s in our Borgward Isabella car across the country, north to south and east to west and seeing for myself the acres and acres of oil palm plantations being carved out of the jungles beside the highway for these Felda settlers. In seeing these vast plantations, and the wooden huts housing the settlers, I had a sense that our nation and our people were developing – not only in the urban areas but also in the rural hinterlands.
What did we know of politics then? Nothing! We know of Umno. We know of DAP and their Rocket symbol. Of Ahmad Boestaman of Party Rakyat and a few other politicians, but these were all remote figures and their names were mentioned with awe and reverence. I remember Toh Puan Rahah name was also mentioned as she was also part of an illustrious family. Her sister was married to Tun Hussein. These were Malays we respected and I would not think twice about bowing low and kissing their hand in respect should I had ever met any of them in person – as I would do when meeting my elders in my family…or for that matter any Malay elders. In the presence of these elders, we wait to be spoken to and remain respectfully in the background waiting to be called or asked to fetch a drink for them or anything else they might need or want us to do. To have been in their presence was enough to give us a high for many days afterward. My grandfather was the first Malay doctor and his children, my uncles, were senior civil servants and I would not be remiss in telling you guys that we consider ourselves as Malays who were privileged to have been born as part of the Dr. Latiff clan – but even we were not anywhere close to the status that Tun Razak and his family had then reached. In those times grace, respect, and adat was everything. Yes, there were Chinese and Indians around us but I must confess that I consider the Malays then, to be better mannered and with more grace than others.
So what am I getting at by saying these things?
All these days of respect and grace that I can clearly remember, took place in the early ’60s and ’70s. All that I learned during those times while I was growing up from my parents and my elders and from those around me, …all these teachings are still with me today when I am 72. I respect those who are older than me no matter who they are. In the things I do every day, I speak politely and behave properly. And in the manner that I interact with others, I am always respectful. I am grateful to have had my Uncles and Aunties and my dear parents to show me how life is to be lived and how we should respect and show humility to others in everything that we do and I am grateful that others also accord me the same respect that I show them. For what we had then, a car, a decent house, and good food on the table, I was always reminded by my parents to be grateful. From young until today, this is how I live my life. This is me. What I always wonder these days is simply this. How is it that there are many Malays who are different from the Malays that I remember from the years gone by?
How is it that three decades ago when Tunku, Tun Razak, and Tun Hussein Onn were prime minister, I held them all in awe and reverence, and yet today, the prime minister of Malaysia is someone I call Din, and I have only contempt and loathing for Din. What I know of his time in public office is one of corruption, abuse of political office, and infidelity to his wife and treason to his Tanah Air. What has happened in the intervening years between the time of the first three PM that we had and the last four PM that we had had – Mahathir, Pak Lah, Najib, and now Muhyiddin? What, for lack of a better analogy, what has happened to the Malays?
What has happened to the Malays indeed! Today the son of Tun Razak, the same Tun Razak that I once held in awe and reverence is the biggest thief that we and the world have ever known. This is not an “if” or a “maybe”. Najib Razak has been branded a thief by the US Justice Department that investigates international corruption. In the country he had been prime minister of until a few years back, Najib has been charged with a slew of corruption and money laundering charges on an industrial scale, and so has his wife, children, and other family members.
Tun Hussein’s son, Hishamuddin too is under scrutiny not only by the Judiciary but also by Umno’s disciplinary committee on corruption and other charges.
These are children of Malay leaders whose contribution to our Tanah Air had defined its history and economic, racial, and religious trajectory. Their family have been and still are, at the very apex of Malay society by pedigree and birth. They should all be part of the Malay elites who willingly and unselfishly would have been expected by the Malays to continue to serve the Rakyat of their Tanah Air, and this service to the nation and its people is not only expected of themselves but also to honor the legacy of their father. Instead, nothing can be further from that truth.
They are indeed at the apex of Malay society not because of their pedigree or birth but because of their abuse and misuse of their public office. Where could they have learned that “craft?”…the “craft” of corruption and money politics? Their fathers would not condone what they have done. Their fathers would have had them and anybody else who has been treasonous to their own country…. their fathers would have had them punished and make them return every single cent that they have taken from the national coffers that they have not earned legally. Instead, what do we have today?
These sons of illustrious father and family are wallowing in corruption, kleptocracy, and every imaginable ill that people in public office can and will do, to profit illegally from their tenure in office. How has it come to this? Why has it come to this? Is there any plausible explanation, and reason for these Malay elites to behave in a shameful manner that they now do? I can say it is because of their greed, but, where did they learn about greed? How did the greed start? I can say a hunger for political power – but political power for what purpose and from where did they learn to hunger for political power? Not from their fathers! Not from others in their families! Did they not think that what they do now will reflect and affect the deeds that their father has done while serving the nation….or does that not matter to them?
The reality of what these Malay leaders have become – greedy, arrogant, and bereft of humanity, grace, and any sense of self – has now become second nature to too many Malays. The Malays are now greedy, arrogant, and bereft of humanity, grace, and any sense of self and I see no end to this cancer spreading to other Malays if the other Malays have not already all been infected by these toxic ills that threaten the very existence of the Malays as they have been in the days before Umno. That I dare to write about this will surely earn me condemnation from my peers and other Malays but for this, I care tuppence for. What I do care about is whether there are any Malays left who will say enough is enough! Are there Malays out there who will not be part of this conspiracy among the Malay political elites to corrupt other Malays totally to their way of life and deeds? Or has enough of the Malays gone to the “other” side and embrace kleptocracy, greed, and arrogance to now make it impossible for the Malays to come back from the dark side and be once again the people there once were? Can the Malays once again be the people for whom respect, humility, grace, and reverence for others, is a way of life?