50 Years of Merdeka: Past and Future — A Reflection

The nation achieved independence in 1957 at the same time as Ghana, when both countries were almost on par economically. Both countries are celebrating their golden jubilee of national independence this year, but Ghana is a failure in economic development, with its per capita income only about one-tenth that of Malaysia.

Should Malaysia feel proud that we are now ten times better off than Ghana, as had been suggested by a Barisan Nasional MP in Parliament?

This depends on whether we want to compare with the best or with the worst. There is no point in talking about” excellence, glory and distinction” if we are only proud to be compared with failed states and not prepared to compete with our equals or betters.

Malaysia was No. 2 in Asia after Japan in terms of prosperity and income when it achieved independence in 1957, despite having a per capita income of only US$200 per year. However, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore have caught up with us and gone ahead.

Although Malaysia’s per capita GNP had started to trail behind Hong Kong and Singapore in the first decade after independence, we were still ahead of South Korea and Taiwan. Malaysia’s per capita GNP in 1967 stood at US$290 as compared to Taiwan’s US$250 and South Korea’s US$160.

In 1967, Singapore’s per capita GNP was US$600 while Hong Kong US$620.

In the past four decades, South Korea’s per capita income multiplied about a hundred-fold, Taiwan by some 60-fold, Singapore by 45-fold, Hong Kong by some 40-fold with Malaysia lagging with an increase of only some 17 fold.

The brain drain of over a million talented, creative and enterprising Malaysians in the past four decades as a result of the New Economic Policy must bear primary responsibility for Malaysia trailing so behind Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea.

Let us not indulge in any finger-pointing exercise but let us own up to our mistakes and have the courage to correct them in the best interests of the nation and future generations.

The most meaningful way for the nation to celebrate our 50th Merdeka Anniversary is for the government to end the denial complex and recognise that driving over a million talented, creative and enterprising Malaysians from our shores in the past four decades because of discriminatory policies is one of our greatest nation-building failures and to summon a national resolve to end the root causes to prevent another wave of such brain drain.

The future of Malaysia in the globalised economy lies in the ability of Malaysia to compete with the rest of the world, and not the competition between Malays and non-Malays in Malaysia.

This challenge holds the key to the success, prosperity and greatness of Malaysia in the next 50 years.

(Contribution to Technology Business Review 50th Merdeka Anniversary special issue)

  1. #1 by k1980 on Sunday, 26 August 2007 - 11:55 am

    Just as tiny pigeons can bring down a mighty iron bridge, a wealthy country can be brought down by corrupt leaders
    “Pigeon dung can be a serious issue—it’s acidic and will easily eat away almost any metal,… It can wash into and then rust the bolts and rivets of bridges if they’re not cleaned and checked properly.”

  2. #2 by Woody on Sunday, 26 August 2007 - 2:10 pm

    The whole developed world is talking about globalisation and we are still living under a coconut shell.

    As long as there is no competition and NEP, Malaysia will be slow in progress.

    With all the cronism and fiascos, in another 10 or 20 years, Malaysia will be worse off than Ghana.

    Welcome DISASTER 2020………

  3. #3 by shortie kiasu on Sunday, 26 August 2007 - 2:13 pm

    We can only pray for that to happen:- “The most meaningful way for the nation to celebrate our 50th Merdeka Anniversary is for the government to end the denial complex and recognise that driving over a million talented, creative and enterprising Malaysians from our shores in the past four decades because of discriminatory policies is one of our greatest nation-building failures and to summon a national resolve to end the root causes to prevent another wave of such brain drain.” LKT.

    It is like the practioner of protectionist policy, who will never relinquishes the policy that benefit he himself.

    He will cling on for dear life for as long as he can and with the power of ruling majority, no way that will be changed.

    We have witnessed that for the last five decades.

  4. #4 by cool man on Sunday, 26 August 2007 - 3:37 pm

    First of all, are we (the non-malays, that is) really to believe that the government will abolish or tone down the New Economic Policy in the near future?

    We must be realistic, if you have the right to buy a property at a discount and have scholarships for your children, would you let go of these rights?

    With Chinese population dwindling in Malaysia, what needs to be done depends on the Chinese themselves.

    When it comes to the matter of the dwindling number of Chinese Malaysians, we should talk about quality, not quantity.

    We should resolve why the Chinese-Malaysian population is reducing. Official figures have more than one million Chinese Malaysians emigrating over the past 25 years. Why did they emigrate? I am sure the government knows.

    Straight A students can’t get scholarships or university places. Nothing new, it is been that way for the past 35 years. Nowadays, even enlightened malay Malaysians are speaking up on this injustice. The Gerakan and MCA? Busy making money from private colleges.

    What is so great about having TAR College or Utar which took more than 35 years of begging? Why should it be so difficult to set up an independent university when we have scores of public ones?

    While we push young talented people away, other countries notably Singapore, Australia and the US welcome them with open arms.

    Is it logical that we drive away our young talented ones and then invite retired Mat Sallehs to live here and exploit our low-cost of living?

    Singapore’s success in particular owes much to these ex-Malaysians or their descendants including Hon Sui Sen, Goh Keng Swee, Goh Chok Tong, just to name a few.

    About 30 percent of top management in both Singapore’s government and corporate sector are ex-Malaysians. We export them so that Singapore can compete with, and then whack us.

    Korea and Taiwan, both way behind us in the 70s and 80s are now way ahead. Thailand is breathing down our necks.

    Sadly, there is just no integrity in the nation’s leadership.

  5. #5 by mwt on Sunday, 26 August 2007 - 3:40 pm

    The Malays have been misled into this NEP false dream and until they are fully awaken and enlightened, the dream will last a while and takes its full course. When will they ever comprehend its existence in this physical reality of the individual man and its great dependence upon other races and species to co-exist and survive?
    And yet we still have this former premier TDM (without the wisdom of old age?) stating without sounding cynical in his closing remarks when accepting the red/black cover book from Prowaris
    “But I hope those people who still love this country, those people who really care for this country, wake up and do something. Don’t just have small seminars”
    How can they comprehend that “no race is an island” when we have such leaders still holding onto the hatred and suspicions to the neighbor (majority Chinese) down south?

    For once, they must learn to swallow their pride and put the Nation ahead of its Race and UMNO in the national quest. More details at:

    (NB: Prowaris, the Malay Professional Organisation and the Malaysian NGOs Council (MAPAN) presented former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad a list of 20 demands on the South Johore Economic Region also known as the Iskandar Development Region (IDR). Dr Mahathir has been opposing the IDR, claiming that it is a sell-out to Singapore.

  6. #6 by dawsheng on Sunday, 26 August 2007 - 4:53 pm

    IDR is a sell out to Singapore no matter how you see it, that’s the truth! From the business perspective, it is nothing more but selling it cheap. Prowaris’s demand, of course is laughble as the contents of their demands is also nothing more than just to keep Johor Bahru as it is, that’s how far they will be capable of developing IDR. Now, if you know how to develop a city, this hinterland can be half successful compares to its neighbour, to the very least. However this depends on whether someone is farsighted enough and know how to take advantage of the environment. Ten years has gone since the Asian Financial Crisis, what has the BN government learned, nothing!

    Singapore went on to develop a whole new central business district (located beside its old one) and two integrated IR (located beside to the new CBD). Investor confident in the country is ever increasing and at a all time high due to transparent government policies, no red tape, no corruptions and fair competitions in an open market with abundance talented people from all over the world at your service. In their quest and determination to be the first future city in the world, Singapore government formed many agencies that work closely with private insitutions to train its workforce to cater for future demands, they all have been snapped up by the way. Right here Prowaris offer twenty demands to stay forever as a third world city. Aren’t we’ve been missing a lot?

    The city is decaying and its backwardness has attracted more criminals than businesses to call it home. I can go on and on about how bad it is, I can go on and on grieving about lost oppostunities, I can even live with it in the past three years. I can ask a lot of questions but all the reasons and the answer is only one. The IDR is doom to failure from the start, Johor Bahru is a casualty of politic!

  7. #7 by boh-liao on Sunday, 26 August 2007 - 5:38 pm

    Is there denial complex for the government to end? As far as the government is concerned, Malaysia is a resounding success, transformed from an agricultural country to an industrial first-world nation, with many firsts in the world.

    For example, the Felda scheme is a successful poverty-eliminating model to be exported to other developing countries, so said an eminent visiting international scholar last week.

    We are our own worst critics who do not appreciate our own achievements. Don’t look at our nation through the narrow slits of our prejudiced eyes. Be thankful for what we have achieved, so said our BN government.

  8. #8 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 26 August 2007 - 6:24 pm

    Denial complex ? Of ciourse the government can say whatever that promotes it. Felda scheme is a success to make some instant millionaires but it is part of the NEP that caused Malaysians to be so much more polarised/divided racially now as compared to 35 years ago. Then what about religious extremism and corruption – aren’t they worse now than then?

    Sure there are achievements but there are also spectacular failures from perspectives of nation building. When you weigh one against the other where does the balance tilt?

  9. #9 by raven77 on Sunday, 26 August 2007 - 7:59 pm

    Go on a silent protest and stay home during merdeka………if the streets are empty when the world’s media descend on 31st August, maybe someone may come to our help……..

  10. #10 by k1980 on Sunday, 26 August 2007 - 9:03 pm

    stay home during merdeka…if the streets are empty when the world’s media descend on 31st August
    The education minister will just force the millions of schoolchildren to fill up all the parks and stadiums to present a potemkin picture that all the rakyat are celebrating ‘merdeka’

  11. #11 by Educator on Sunday, 26 August 2007 - 9:29 pm

    50 Years of Merdeka: Plenty of Past and No Future : The True Reflection.

  12. #12 by Woody on Sunday, 26 August 2007 - 11:03 pm

    What is that we are proud of?????

    1. NEP which benefited only Umnoputra

    2. Kriss waving minister.

    3. Super mega projects

    4. Hollywood type of story telling for PKFZ fiasco.

    5. One eye jack and MCP MP

    6. I do not know type of PM

    7. Filthy rich unemployed fourth floor boy @ SIL @ defacto PM

    8. Mad mad world of police department

    9. Cheap justice of our legal system

    10. The satay king who built a palace in Pandamaram, Klang

    11. Goblok Info minister

    12. One Euro Augusta

    13. Bleeding Proton

    etc, etc

  13. #13 by karaoke singer on Sunday, 26 August 2007 - 11:06 pm

    In the past non Malays helped the Malays to gain independence for this land. Now with the power they have, they use it to suppress. In the future we may fight if we don’t rectify the situation now.

    In the past this land was called Malaya. Now it is called Malaysia. In the future it will not be known as Malaysia.

    In the past Malay women dressed like any other women. Now Malay women are convinced into wearing the headscarf and wearing politely. In the future they might cover themselves like their sisters in the middle east.

    In the past the word Bumiputra did not exist. Now it is used for anyone who is not a Chinese, not an Indian, not an Eurasian and not anyone in that category. In the future the word Bumiputra would become obsolete.

    In the past school children must get a very good result in English. Now they can fail in it and still proceed to university. In the future they have to pass in their own mother tongue and in all the universal languages.

    In the past those who pass their exams get to a higher level of education. Now the credit points help those who fail in a paper. In the future there will not be any formal education.

    In the past Malaya university was known for its’ strictness and anyone who passed are considered the best among the best. Now this university gives special consideration for some people who just can’t perform that well. In the future, all the universities will be equally good and of excellence.

    In the past this land had a lot of primary forests. Now a lot of them are cut down. Some of the money goes to the country. Much of the money goes private. In the future we are left with the secondary forest.

    In the past many people were poor financially. Now there are more rich people. In the future poverty will no longer be detected.

    In the past only the Parliament stood out tall and strong. Now the twin towers took over. In the future there might be taller commercialised buildings.

    In the past few vintage cars owned by the few ran on the roads. Now the locally produced much cheaper national cars owned by many are found on the roads. In the future we might have flying saucers.

    In the past the telephone was the latest technology and young girls and boys will be hanging on it for dear life and spent hours on it. Now they can’t do without their mobile phone. In the future we don’t have to carry anything on our hands because there is a small gadget attached to our clothing and we just have to speak normally.

  14. #14 by sheriff singh on Monday, 27 August 2007 - 1:45 am

    “Razak had felt that the estimated RM60,000 to be spent on the construction of the swimming pool could be better used in building three rural health clinics.” Razak truly loved and took care of his people.

    But hey, today’s Cabinet, including Razak’s son, also loved and took care of their people. Really good care summore.

  15. #15 by undergrad2 on Monday, 27 August 2007 - 2:03 am

    “The brain drain of over a million talented, creative and enterprising Malaysians in the past four decades as a result of the New Economic Policy must bear primary responsibility for Malaysia trailing so behind Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea.”

    It is undeniable that migration is a fact of life, of history. There are 150 million people as we speak who live in countries not of their nationalities.

    However, when our best and brightest move to greener pastures perhaps never to return, there is great cause for concern because if greener pastures at home are no longer green, even our local cows would refuse to graze.

    It is no longer a case of the ‘grass always being greener the other side’, but a case of no grass for us to stand on. The cows will never come home!

  16. #16 by sotong on Monday, 27 August 2007 - 7:31 am

    Brain drain is solely caused by the inability of the government to provide and take proper care of their people to play a significant contribution to the country.

    This is one of the most shameful and greatest failure of the government……hard working, independent, talented and enterprising citizens are ” forced” to the country.

    By getting rid of Non Malays, by making them feel unwanted and not belonging, UMNO had achieved its narrow and damaging political objective with permanent, long term and far reaching consequences to the country.

    Too much pride and arrogance but very little leadership with responsibility, accountability and competency!

  17. #17 by k1980 on Monday, 27 August 2007 - 8:24 am

    Quote of the Year: “We are not in the business of cheating the people”

    But then how come we have this tipucracy of a democracy?
    In 2004, the BN won 64 per cent of the votes, which gained it 91 per cent of the seats.

    Kapar constituency in Selangor, the largest in the country, has 104,185 voters while Putrajaya has 5,079. “This means a vote in Putrajaya is worth more than 20 in Kapar.”

    Postal votes made up 4,807 of the 39,141 votes cast in Bukit Bintang — which Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun won by just over 300 votes.

  18. #18 by undergrad2 on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 7:36 am

    “In the future we might have flying saucers” karaoke singer

    Naaah! We already have pigs that fly!

  19. #19 by ktteokt on Thursday, 30 August 2007 - 2:17 pm

    I think it is fifty years of disgrace rather than pride. A nation which has gained independence for half a century is still in the middle of the ocean, trying to keep its head above the water. We are a nation blessed with all the resources necessary to make us a strong nation but mismanagement has resulted in all the blunders we have seen.

    Perhaps it is time for our “leaders” to “face the wall and repent” and see what their deeds and misdeeds were.

  20. #20 by jackrusso on Tuesday, 11 September 2007 - 3:48 pm

    Economically we have achieved and quite rightfully we should be proud of that.

    In every other sense, we have failed!

    The malaysian mentality is a failed mentality. Instead of being a citizen of the world, they are merely citizens of malaysia.

    Can one even imagine; Radin, Badruddin, Yusof, Jarjis and our other like minded racist bigoted illiterate MP’s; living, working, interacting, socialising, forming meaningful friendships, working in international companies, having inrtellectual discourse in Norway, England . Switzerland, Germany etc??

    Impossible? Of course!

    Most malaysians are like them.

  21. #21 by ktteokt on Thursday, 20 September 2007 - 9:44 am


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