Picture by Malaysia Chronicle
Money, power, sex and corruption are embodied into a Malaysian political culture since the early time of economic awakening. The nation enjoyed higher Gross National Income per capita in late 1980’s and continues to fluctuate into a greater number and statistics till today. See indexmundi.com. The indicator shows that Malaysia’s economy is growing up tremendously with increasing of Gross National Product fluctuating between max 10.30% and min -6.20%. See tradingeconomic.com. Malaysia was once called as the Asian Tiger Economy with fast growing economy in early 1990’s till late millennium; over passing its neighbors Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. It was a pride for Malaysia to be the first automotive manufacturer in Asia apart from Japan- with their first breed of Proton Saga. Industries booming by the increasing FDI in every sector of industries named it manufacturing, plantation, technology and finance.
That was the greatest moment for Malaysia under the Mahathirism; the father of modernization, Asian’s genius. Politic was full of turbulence but the economy is growing up. Economic holds the liberalism in Malaysia’s politic under the one party dominance with no competition from opposition. Malaysia enjoyed “stability” under the rigid rule of law and guided democracy. Those worked well for at least 20 years. Democracy was made illiberal with limitation of public’s governance, check and balance and transparency. Oppositions have no voice in the parliament as there were strict acts that forbid then to oppose and object injustice in law-making. Internal Security Act has been used to limit the opposition’s progress and at the same time permits the government to change laws and acts at their will.
Malaysia has enjoy decades of unfair game of political and economic triumph but forgets about the revolution of it citizens. Nevertheless, there is one major power that made Malaysian’s politic at one side dominance; money politics. It is practiced from the highest power stage to the lowest ground of politic. It has been used in selecting party’s councils, representatives and even to the election of party’s branch’s head. This phenomenon is practice well in every party under the coalition named it UMNO, MCA, MIC, PBB, PBS and small minority parties. It is all about wining power battle at all cost because the reward is greater than the risk. In investment term, it is called “high risk with high return”.
In last general election, money politic decides the majority mostly in rural area where voter are bought by cash, cheque, development projects and not least feast and live band shows. Najib’s freebies worked well with his simple majority although billion ringgit has been “invested” in buying vote from the public servants and the citizens. It was the first in history of Malaysia that the citizens are given such an amount of money to buy vote. RM 500.00 given to every household with the household income less than RM 3000.00, RM 200.00 smart phone rebate for youths and RM250.00 book voucher for students. Government spent billion of ringgit for the freebies which affected their reserve, pension funds, tender acquisition and the claim payment of the civil servants. Many have been affected badly by the rain of money that was initiated to win the general election at all means. Business is getting sluggish when computer is given for free from one monopoly supplier. The value of the government tenders have been shrunken to the minimal to give way for cash gift and all sorts of financial aids. Small and Medium enterprises who rely mostly on government project have to obey the hiking cost of labor and operation with the minimal resources; which affected their income and cash flows.
In every village, money is given to the party committees to be distributed among the voters. Bundles of money are moving in and out form every political campaign and the people sees it as an opportunity to get free money in every 5 years or less. Monetizing politic is the most effective way to be in power and it is proven in most of the election in Malaysia. There is no act to investigate and charge someone who practiced money politic as the power of Election Commission is limited; only to run and regulate the election process. It is a save game for those who keen to invest in money politics.
Party candidates are sponsored by business person as a stake holder, hoping that they will get return from their nomination fee. It has been practiced long before when politics is made as a business platform by the politicians themselves. Cronyism begins to flourish the politics and its stakeholders which have created the social class divisions, exclusiveness and feudalism. Citizens are arranged by classes based on their economic power and its position in the politic.
Should money politic continue to be as a culture and norm is a democratic Malaysia? Few decades ago it seems to work well in America during the era of it industrial awakening; John.D Roketfeller’s Standard Oil, Andrew Carnegie’s US Steel and J.P. Morgan’s General Electric. Somehow, the public’s power over passed the money politic in America under the man behind the drama; Theodore Roosevelt.
Unless, if there is courage to defy greed and money politics, we will understand and realize of what we have lack of-integrity. Malaysia is no more the Asian Tiger economy due to it bad politics, rising of illiberal democracy and polarizations among the citizens. We have lost a of precious time to grow the economy into it glory which has been grabbed by Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea as we enjoy politic more than focusing on building a great nation as it was. Malaysia can have the best political system and games but if it is lacking in weighing its economic and social burden, it will be an uncertainty in another term of new formed government.