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Malaysia, in the eyes of foreigners

  • Foreigners have no idea why many remain loyal to the ruling party despite all the scandals and irregularities.

Sin Chew Daily

Malaysia has once again come under international media limelight that also brings the 14th general elections into focus. The Economist and South China Morning Post have published articles to analyze the elections which will be called very soon.

Among the local issues that have become darlings of foreign media are the seizure of Malaysian tycoon Jho Low's Equanimity luxury yacht by the Indonesian authorities, some RM433 million 1MDB assets frozen and nationalized by Switzerland as unclaimed monies and the Swiss parliament is set to debate the motion on the return of the assets to Malaysia. Also in the focus is Alex Turnbull, son of Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who was forced to leave Goldman Sachs he once served for raising the issue of the shady deal between the multinational finance company and 1MDB. An ally of US President Donald Trump allegedly sought US$75 million reward from Jho Low to get the DOJ to stop investigating the 1MDB scandal.

As if that is not enough, the Australian media also reported that the A$320,000 bank deposit of Malaysian CID director Wan Ahmad Najmuddin Mohd with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia was seized for suspected links to money laundering activities.

To many foreigners, Malaysia is a country infused with mysteries after mysteries, and they are consequently very interested in stories about this country. For example, the two Wall Street Journal reporters who first exposed the 1MDB scandal in 2015, will publish a new book on Jho Low and 1MDB this September; MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show" recently talked about this scandal, so did the latest issue of Indonesian magazine Tempo.

All these point to the fact that what happens to Malaysia is by and large "newsworthy" globally, but no matter how they analyze, they most definitely have no way of understanding the Malaysian politics and how the people here actually feel.

They may not even understand that with all these incidents taking place right under their nose, the Malaysian public have become increasingly indifferent to politics. Is it because they have abandoned their ideals or are just disenchanted with the uninspiring performance of the opposition?

They have no way to tell why Malay leaders who used to be as intimate as father and son will turn against each other today, while an erstwhile sworn enemy becomes a close ally.

They also cannot understand why Pakatan Harapan's election manifesto has contradictorily put on the colors of Malay agenda despite its much lauded reform pledges. It appears that the Malaysian politics is indeed full of contradictions and unpredictabilities, as BN component parties remain dead loyal despite the bumi economic empowerment policy, RUU355 and attacks on tycoon Robert Kuok.

Foreigners are most perplexed that a 93-year-old former leader widely seen as the destroyer of the system now takes on the image of reformer, who if elected will create another world record.

Umno's racial politics and PAS' Islamism are moving much closer these days, and we will now see Mahathir's nationalism facing off with Umno's Malays-first advocacy. Could the Malays be more united after GE14 or are they more divided?

Foreigners will also be treated with the utterly confusing show where politicians of all age groups and colors jump onto the stage with their own tricks. We have yet to see how many of them will eventually defect, jump ship or bow out of politics after the curtain falls on the elections.

They have little idea what the majority Malays here are fearful of, and what Chinese and Indian Malaysians want from the government or what are in the minds of East Malaysian politicians. Coming into play is a concoction of highly intricate ethnic sentiments, long-standing grudges and historical factors that few foreigners can understand.

Elsewhere in this world, it is completely normal for NGO leaders to join politics, but over here this luxury has been denied by the Malaysian public. The decisions by Bersih 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah and IDEAS founder Wan Saiful Wan Jan to join politics should by right win the applause of Malaysians. There is no way to accomplish the mission of reforming the country if these people wash their hands of the problems.

It has been ten whole years since the March 8, 2008 elections. Unfortunately we have not moved forward but backward. Who should be blamed for all this? This again is what foreigners can hardly fathom.

They can at best pass their own remarks and conclusions no matter how far they go into them. In the end, only Malaysian voters can decide their own destiny.

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