In today’s Malaysia, one can get along by going along (and of course one can go farther as a Malay rather than a Chinese or Indian), but it is also true that one can be run over.
US Ambassador to Malaysia
Echoing a conventional wisdom widely held among politically-conscious Malaysians, the US Ambassador to Malaysia told the State Department in 2008 that
- Umno is a Malay supremacist party by ideology
- Malaysia is a one-party state
- Umno is seen as a means to get rich
He also said Umno’s politics and bullying tactics were making many Malaysians decide to emigrate rather than wait to crushed by the party’s policies and practices.
The comments came in a Wikileaked cable of 22 July 2008, when the US Ambassador, James Keith, reviewed Malaysia’s political situation in the light of explosive revelations made that month in statutory declarations implicating Najib Tun Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor in the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu, the Mongolian translator in the Scorpene submarines purchase by the Malaysian government.
The cable, published at Malaysia Today under an arrangement with WikiLeaks and not yet available at the WikiLeaks site, said:
The ruling party is relying primarily on its own party structure and the embedded system of carrots and sticks to keep party membership in line. As in other one-party states, the party is seen opportunistically as a mechanism for personal advancement and enrichment.
There is an ideological component, in terms of Malay supremacy, but that is in practice a matter of institutionalized opportunism. In good times UMNO can maintain control by distributing power and money to get what it wants. In bad times, it uses the stick, and for now that means intimidation.
The ruling elite maintains control over the security apparatus through party stalwarts who run the security institutions, mainly the police but also the military. We believe the military will remain loyal to legitimate leadership and is not a likely tool to overturn an elected, royally-approved and Malay-led government from either the ruling or opposition side. The police, on the other hand, follow orders from the ruling party.
The “commando-style” arrest of Anwar last week, the roadblocks and security checks throughout the city of Kuala Lumpur, the recent arrest of blogger Raja Petra, intimidation of Sabah politicians, and the authorities’ strident rhetoric are all part of a broad message to the Malaysian people that they had better not stand in UMNO’s path. In today’s Malaysia, one can get along by going along (and of course one can go farther as a Malay rather than a Chinese or Indian), but it is also true that one can be run over.
We only have anecdotal evidence for this, but the sad spiral into past patterns may have become the predicate for some middle and upper class Malaysians who have the option of emigrating. Rather than wait to be run over, it is far preferable to get out of the game.