In Transformers movie, there were Decepticons
In 'transformational' Malaysia, there are Distracticons
Malaysians are constantly overwhelmed by many issues in their lives. In addition to escalating costs of living, high crime rate, and deteriorating quality of lives, they have to face all kind of unproductive issues raised by 'agent provocateurs' of the ruling regime. People who favor the current ruling regime regularly and repeatedly raised these unproductive issues or topics to distract or divert the attention of the people from the core problems of the country.
What are the unproductive issues or topics that are so good at distracting the people?
I can off-hand list out a few typical topics to distract Malaysians from the core problems:
- Touching Dog. A well intended event in accordance to religious precautions was senselessly attacked by people who 'ignore' the religious precautions followed in the event.
- Some politicians and so called social activists endlessly debate the issues on Pendatang and Perantau. Why is there a need to distinguish between Pendatang and Perantau among fellow Malaysians? We do not see Americans questioning if President Obama is Pendatang or Perantau. This topic is used to portray as if the status of Malays in Malaysia is being threatened by Pendatang. Malays are then called upon to support United Malays National Organisation (Umno), the leading party of the ruling regime, to fight for their rights. Seriously, after more than 50 years of safeguarding and advancing Ketuanan Melayu (Malay Supremacy) and yet this very status is still 'insecure'. Umno is either incompetent or just 'cakap tak serupa bikin' (hypocrite).
- This topic of distraction is frequently used when there are corruption or abuse of power cases against the ruling regime or its agencies. For instance, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). 1MDB is known for abuse of government funds and corruptions.
- Oktoberfest is becoming more popular for wrong reasons in Malaysia. It is an evening gathering mainly to consume beer that has been practised for many years. It is also named as Oktoberfest to coincide with the well-known German festival. The ferocious condemnation seems to erroneously imply that beer drinking in Malaysia is 'illegal'. This is untrue. Malaysian laws allow alcohol consuption and alcoholic products are tax-free in several tourist spots. Consuming alcohol however is not allowed for Muslims.
- This alcoholic topic is recently used to distract the people from discussing the inflationary pressure as a result of the imposition of 6% goods and services tax (GST). This topic is also useful to distract people from a public discussion on any revelation of this ruling regime's corrupt practices.
- Halloween celebration has been practised by expatriates and some Malaysians for decades but it is now ruled as against Islam in Malaysia. They talk as if it is now illegal to celebrate Halloween, which is again untrue. However, the ruling regime has made approvals of venue very difficult for anyone to organize Halloween party.
- This topic of distraction is new and it is used for the same purpose as Oktoberfest.
- Use of the word Allah by Christians and Sikhs has existed in Malaysia before the country gained independence in 1957. It was never an issue for more than 50 years but it is a controversy now. It looks like the use of the word Allah is now exclusive to Malaysian Muslims. This is the classic topic used again and again to foster Muslims support for Umno. It goes on the basis that use of the word Allah by non-Muslims would threaten the position of Muslims in Malaysia.
- This topic has never failed to harness heated discussion or even legal actions by Muslims and non Muslims. It has been successful in strengthening Muslim support for Umno. This topic is particularly useful in times of general election, by election and to distract people from the wrongdoing or abusive practices of the ruling regime.
- Ibrahim Ali. He is a key 'agent provocateur' for Umno. Rumour has it that he can be anyone's agent as long as the amount of money is right. Ibrahim is himself a topic to distract Malaysians from core problems. He should be a symbol of Umno that has failed in its Ketuanan Melayu cause. On the contrary, he constantly reminds Malays how 'insecure' their status is today. Hence, they must continue to support Umno.
- Ibrahim would get much publicity from government controlled media when there is an uncovering of a major corruption case against Umno, or before general election or by-election.
- Every now and then there would be a cow-head thrown into an Indian temple or a pig-head thrown into a mosque. Red coloured paint would also be unexpectedly slashed at some religious venues. Heated protests and emotional outbursts from supporters of this ruling regime would then follow suit. These silly events objected by all Malaysians usually happen just before elections.
The next question is why does the ruling regime require these unproductive issues or topics to distract the people?
The ruling regime in Malaysia, Barisan Nasional is led by Umno, and has been in power for 57 years. This regime is plagued by its internal conflicts and is incapable of reinventing itself. It is corrupt, abusive and, in many areas, incompetent. One thing is sure. Umno still wants to hang on to power and continue to reap benefits from the country.
It seems to have gone on to manage Malaysia by way of distraction. Umno leaders are happy as long as Malaysians are distracted from the core problems faced by the people. While Malaysians are distracted, these leaders continue their corrupt and abusive practices to benefit themselves, their families and cronies. There is no political will to advance the country. The only will is to plunder as much as possible before the country is absolutely bankrupt. That is probably the point that they will stop or leave the country.
What are the core problems challenging Malaysian livelihood?
Cost of living in Malaysia has been escalating rapidly. Inflation has been high despite government released numbers. People on the streets are feeling this. Inflation may be partially caused by the world commodity prices but it is made much worse by 'Cronies first, Cash now' corrupt practices. Most of the contracts given out by Malaysian government or its government linked companies tend to be overpriced to ridiculous level. Look at the cost of constructing Malaysian budget air terminal, Klia2. It was no surprise that Malaysia was top in the world in illegal capital outflows on per capita basis, even though China has a higher absolute outflow amount. Why? I suppose all the corrupt money must go somewhere deemed safe.
Malaysia has been among the top in the world when it comes to illegal capital outflows. No country in ASEAN can come close. Not Thailand, not Philippines, not Vietnam and not even Indonesia.
Petrol price increased by 20 sen recently and it looks set to increase further. Coupled with the imposition of 6% GST in April 2015, cost of living will be escalating further. Malaysians are increasingly frustrated with lower and middle income trap. Income improvement is way below the rate of escalating cost of living.
Incapable of or Unwilling to rejuvenate Malaysian economy, the ruling regime resorted to manage the country by way of distraction. In Malaysia, there are 'endless possibilities' to the tricks used by this ruling regime to prolong its life-span. Malaysians will be better off focused on the core problems and not get carried away by unproductive topics raised and sensationalised by Umno. Beware of Umno's Art of Distraction!