With Merdeka Day nearing, I am going to re-visit an old article which I wrote in July 2007, and which was published in the opinion column in Malaysiakini on Jul 19 2007.
The truths remain, and hence it is still valid even though 3 plus years have gone by. Many of you have read this before but i think it is still worth a second reading.
The Inconvenient Truths
When a patient is told that he has a malignant disease, typically there would be one of these three types of responses.
The first group will just take it in their stride after the initial shock. They will then become proactive in learning about the disease, following the doctor’s prescription for treatment, changing his lifestyle and diet, and start to fight back. Often this type of patients do very well, and many of them, if the initial stage is not too advanced, overcome the malignancy and become a healthy person again. Because of the positive lifestyle change, he may even live longer and healthier than otherwise.
The second type will go into a denial syndrome- bad things only happen to other people, bad things don’t happen to good people like them. Some begin to believe that this cannot be true and they go into a self denial state, believing that the diagnosis is wrong and nothing bad is going to happen to them.
Often they do not even inform their family members and just live day by day, hoping that their self denial will make the disease go away. By the time end stage symptoms develop and they have no choice but to seek treatment, because of pain or obstruction, the disease is beyond treatment.
The third group is the timid and pessimistic type. They become depressed with self pity, leave whatever decision to their family, and passively follow treatment and blame their fate for the illness. The outcome often depends on the type of family members he/she has.
To the second group, getting cancer is an “inconvenient truth”. They hope for the best and hope that the truth will never bother them. They just leave everything as it is and carrying on as if nothing has happened. Ultimately, of course, the cancer will be beyond cure and the patient will succumb to the cancer and die.
The third group is not willing to face the truth either but at least, they have a fighting chance depending on the people around them.
The first inconvenient truth
The same can be said of the ills in a country, and corruption is the mother of all ills. Corruption to a country is like cancer to a person – it spreads and becomes extensive if not treated.
We know there is corruption in the police force as determined by the Royal Commission of Police a few years back. We also know that the Commission also recommended the treatment – the setting up of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).
The diagnosis is there, the prescription is there, but we act as if we belong to the second category of patients. We are in a self denial mode believing falsely that things will just sort itself out if everything is left as it is. We deny the inconvenient truth.
When finally we realise our folly and have to face the inconvenient truth, the ills of corruption will have spread beyond every nook and corner- it will be beyond cure.
As a person trained in treatment of diseases, it really does not make sense to me that if the diagnosis is known and the prescription given, why is there a delay in instituting the treatment? Why are we waiting? The longer we wait, the worse will be the prognosis.
Show the will, face the inconvenient truth and fight back against crime by setting up the IPCMC.
Another inconvenient truth
The second inconvenient truth is about our cake – our economic cake. In the early 60s, just after our independence, our Malaysian cake was about three times the size of the Korean cake, despite having a smaller population.
In the early 80s, the Korean cake has caught up with us and was about the same size as our cake, but per capita wise, each of us still eat more cake than the Korean because we have a smaller population.
In 2006, the Korean cake has become four times bigger than our cake. Despite their population being much bigger than us, each Korean now eats more cake than each Malaysian. What went wrong?
If we care to stop and ponder for a while, the reason is very simple. It is because our leaders and politicians are too engrossed in how to divide the cake rather than concentrating their efforts on expanding the cake.
If from the start, our emphasis had been on finding the best ways to expand the cake, like the Koreans, we would have maintained our lead over the Koreans, and each of us now would have a much bigger cake to eat.
If we have been busy expanding our cake, we could have reached first world status by now. Our per capita cake share would have reached the standard of the first world, and all of us, regardless of race, would be much richer.
We could have afforded better education for our kids, we could have afforded better housing, we could have afforded better transport system, better healthcare and the list would go on and on…..
The government would have bigger cake too, which means that there would be more money to help the poor, both rural and urban; more money to give scholarships for children of the poor, regardless of colour, more money to build more schools, colleges and universities.
Sometimes, we need to look further ahead rather than just look at the things in front of our eyes. If we have been more farsighted, all of us would have been rewarded with a bigger share of cake by now.
The inconvenient truth that has caused our cake to grow slower than the Koreans, the Hongkies, the Singaporeans is very simply this: we have been too engrossed in dividing the cake rather than expanding the cake.
We know this inconvenient truth, both the politicians and the people. Are we like the second category of patients mentioned above who are in a self denial state.
The question is: Are we bold enough to face this inconvenient truth, change our tactic and try to concentrate on expanding the cake rather than dividing the cake? This surely needs the political will of a leadership that does not just think of votes but rather the well being of the country.
The third inconvenient truth
One young hawker, who is a patient of mine, an ethnic Chinese Malaysian, chatted with me after seeing me for a stress related symptom some time back. He spoke passable English, but according to him, he can speak, like most youngsters of his age, very fluent Bahasa. He in fact had a fairly good grade in his SPM, and is just past his 21st birthday.
He did not continue studying as he is not from a rich family. He applied to join the civil service but did not receive any reply. He applied to many big corporations to work as a clerk, and was sadly turned down. He worked in a snooker center but found out that there were some bad hats there.
In the end, he decided to open a stall, together with his gir friend and a relative, selling ‘yao cha kui‘, the oil fried flour dough. Business is OK, and he is surviving, but I suspect he does not quite like the work. That explains the stress that he was under.
Some of his classmates have become VCD peddlers, the types in pasar malam selling pirated discs, and often are the ones that end up in a police lock-up whenever there is a raid on VCD peddlers, while their bosses will be safely enjoying themselves in a nightclub.
None of them was employed in any government agencies or civil service. Many others become hawkers like him and that explains why there are so many hawkers everywhere.
The point I wish to put across is a letter I read in malaysiakini some time back by a person called “Free Trade M” who apparently has just came back to Malaysia after a stint overseas. After reading this letter, I can’t help but think of this young hawker that I chatted with.
I quote part of this letter that is relevant to my patient’s plight: “ I have been back two months and I have yet to see a Chinese postman. an Indian toll booth collector. I have not heard of a director-general of a government ministry nor have I met a CEO of any of the key 20 GLC (government-linked companies) who is a Chinese.
“I have yet to see a Chinese face at the immigration booths of KLIA, at the customs counter, in the police patrol cars on the Plus highway. I use the Chinese example but it covers all non-Malays.”
This is indeed the true picture and I believe to be one of the many reasons that racial polarisation is getting more acute.
I can’t help but think that perhaps the government should open some of the vacant positions to non-Malays. It would not augur well for the country if the civil service and the government linked companies and agencies employed only people of one ethnic group.
For one thing, during Hari Raya, there would not be any people of other races to man the departments.
More importantly, this would only make the civil servants think along an ethnic line, perhaps not consciously and purposefully, but more due to a lack of understanding of other races, when planning or carrying out certain projects. When a policy is seen to be skewed in the interest of only one race, bad sentiments will inevitably build up in the others.
On the other hand, even if there is only just a small proportion of non-Malays working together with the Malay civil servants in an office, there would be much better racial understanding, much better religious understanding and cultural exchange. Each side will better understand the sensitivities of others, and each side would strive to be more moderate in their thinking. This will encourage broader mindsets among the decision makers of the country.
This group of people can also serve as the bridge builders across the racial divide.
If we are really for a harmonious society, racial lines must be blurred. The private sector perhaps can take in more Malays and the government sectors perhaps should in turn take in more non- Malays.
Another advantage of opening the civil service door a little bit is that by having a bigger pool to choose from, more talented and capable people can be employed in the civil service. More ideas and creativity will be brought into the civil service which will help to spur the country to greater heights.
We need to have the best in the civil service if we want to excel. We need to have friends and colleagues of other races in order to have national unity –real unity! Just paying lip service and shouting slogans of unity will not make us an united nation. This is the third inconvenient truth that we need to face and tackle.
HSU DAR REN is a medical doctor with interest in politics and socio-economic issues. He believes in the preservation of nature and a green environment.