The madness must end

I first heard of the ‘Mad man’ Gaddafi when I was in form 5.  Then a colonel (some says he was only a captain then), he and a group of young officers staged a coup detat, and grabbed power,  apparently with only 48 rounds of ammunition (according to Wikipidea), when the former King was away from the country.

Now that I am in my late fifties, this madman is still around.

He closed the AMerican and British bases, nationalised oil companies, and was one of the main movers of embargo of oil to the west, causing the oil price to escalate in 1973. He was also suspected to be behind certain terrorist groups.

He was called Mad man of Africa for a reason. In recent days, people of Libya has come out in full force to demonstrate and demand that he steps down , after ruling the country as his private fiefdom for 41 years. Instead of negotiating and bowing to such demands, he ordered air fighter planes , which are meant to protect the people of Libya from invasion, to bomb the demonstrators.  He also used mercenaries , as some of his own troops were reported to have resisted his order to open fire on their  own countrymen, to kill demonstrators.

Fighter pilots and navy vessles have gone to Malta to resist his orders. Many diplomats all around the world too have resigned and spoken out against the massacre. It is clear that this is just the beginning of killings, as the mad man has vowed to fight to his last bullets .

The civilised world must do something to stop this madness and massacre of the innocent. Although it is the practice for countries not to interfere in the problems of other countries, in this case, it has already gone beyond ‘internal affairs’ and has become a case of intentional genocides against ordinary people.

By using fighter planes to bomb demonstrators, it has gone beyond normal limits and practice of trying to maintain order. It is massacre and intentional killings, like what the Nazis did to the Jews, only this time, it is one Arab doing it to other Arabs, who have supported him for more than 4 decades.

A ruler has certain obligation to his people, not the least the protection of their lives and properties. The country belongs to the people, not to any single person. It is the people that make up a country. It is the citizens that are the ultimate bosses of the country.

Mao once famously said that power comes from the barrels of the guns, but what gives the legitimacy to that power is the people’s support. When that support is no longer there, insisting on using gun barrels will just buy  time, at the expense of killings tens of thousands of innocent. Ultimately such dictatorship will not be sustainable, as people around him will start to abandon ship.

It is really sad to see innocent people being killed just because they want better lives and more freedom. For the sake of Libyan people, perhaps the army must do to him what he did to the  former King in 1969, for that is the only way to save more people from being killed.



A dream called Malaysia

I am quoting the interview by Malaysia Chronicle with John Mallot, former Ambassador to malaysia whose recent article ” The price of Malaysia’s racism”  attracted a lot of attention, and was quoted in this blog a few posts earlier. For the full article of the interview, pls go to Malaysia Chronicle here.

Appended below is the full text of the Q&A conducted through email:

(1) Chronicle: You have been accused of writing your WSJ op-ed for ulterior purposes – spinning was the word DPM Muhyiddin used. Is this true and why?

Malott: I had no ulterior motive. I have been thinking about this subject for a long time, and I wrote the article out of growing concern for Malaysia’s future. I don’t think I was spinning anything.  I tried hard to keep it factual. Years ago, when I wrote speeches and memos for the State Department, I learned that you will be challenged, so be sure that you are accurate and can prove everything you say. It is interesting that people say I was spinning or had my facts wrong, but no one has pointed out anything that was incorrect. People can disagree with the analysis and my conclusions, but the examples and statistics I gave are all documented.

It is not at all unusual in the US for former government officials to write or comment on their areas of expertise. When you watch CNN today, there are plenty of former US Ambassadors and State Department officials talking about the situation in Egypt, for example. There is no ulterior motive. They just want to help people to be better informed.

(2) Chronicle: Both the DPM and Ibrahim Ali have accused you of having links or being sponsored by Anwar Ibrahim. Is this true? If not, why do you think they made such conclusions?

Malott: I am not sponsored by Anwar, I do not lobby for him, I am not his advisor, he does not tell me what to think and say, and no one pays me to do what I do. I never consult with him or anyone else before I write about Malaysia. He sees my articles when everyone else does.

My wife and I became close to Anwar’s family after I left the State Department, during the time that Anwar was in jail.  We stayed in touch by phone and email, but it was all personal and not political. We wanted them to know that someone cared and that they were not forgotten. I am sure that the Special Branch was monitoring Azizah’s phone and emails, so we would never talk politics. I did not want to put her in a difficult position. We would call up the daughters on their birthdays and send cards and so on. My wife even wrote a book about Azizah, called “Struggle for Justice.”

As most people know, I was very vocal in those days, supporting the call for Anwar’s freedom. As the Ambassador at the time he was arrested and beaten up, I knew what the truth was, and when I became a private citizen in 1999, I decided that I would speak out. To my mind, Anwar was a political prisoner, and I knew that a great injustice had been done. I was not going to remain silent, especially at a time when so many others were afraid to speak up. Nobody could arrest me, because I was in America. I would tell people that my goal was Anwar’s freedom, but it was up to the people of Malaysia what his political future would be.

When I was Ambassador, I knew Anwar only on a professional and official basis, just like the other Ambassadors did. When he came to Washington to be a visiting professor at Johns Hopkins and Georgetown, it was the first time that I got to know him personally. Anwar was traveling a lot in those days, making speeches, so we did not see him as much as we did the family. Sometimes the girls would come over and we would barbeque chicken together, or Hiroko would teach them how to make sushi.

Anwar refers to Hiroko and me as “family friends.” But we have no professional or official relationship with each other. Since some people in Malaysia like to call him an American agent, I think the last thing he would want is to be connected to me in other than a personal way. We are friends, but I do think we share a common vision of Malaysia’s future and the kind of country it could be.

(3) Chronicle: What was the real motivation for your article? Given the responses so far, do you think you have achieved your objective? Did you have an objective when you wrote the story?

Malott: As I said earlier, I am very concerned about developments in Malaysia. The growing racial and religious tensions are one part of that. I had something that I wanted to say, and I said it. I also think that the Malaysian economy should be growing faster than it is, that its competitiveness is declining, and it is losing its attractiveness for foreign investors.

If anyone is spinning today, it is the Malaysian Government. There are few foreign experts on Malaysia, and it is rare for the foreign press to report on Malaysian developments. I thought it was important for people outside Malaysia to know that there is a real gap between the image they are trying to convey overseas and the reality on the ground. There are religious and racial tensions in every country, but I wanted people to know that in the case of Malaysia, the Government itself is condoning and even provoking those tensions.  Even today I read that the Government’s Islamic Affairs Department wants to ban Valentine’s Day because it is a Christian celebration. I don’t know any Christian who thinks that Valentine’s Day – exchanging cards or giving someone chocolate — is a religious ritual.

I have been surprised by the positive reaction to the article. It has gotten more attention than anything I have ever written. And I am very pleased to see so many Malaysians engage in a good discussion of the issues in the comments sections. Of course there are a few cybertroopers who are bashing me, but just like Ibrahim Ali, they just rant and rave and call names, but they don’t have anything to say about the substance of the issue, and they can’t point out anything that is incorrect.

(4) Chronicle: Some commentators have said you wrote from the point of view of only the non-Malays and did not take into account the sensitivities and struggles of the Malays? Do you think there is some basis to this view and why?

Malott: I agree with criticism that I did not focus on the attitudes that some Chinese and Indians have towards Malays. But that is all at the private level. We cannot stop people from believing what they believe. But what I was talking about, and the examples I gave, were the words and actions of the Government and its senior officials. They were not speaking as individuals or like a “man on the street.” They are the Government. In addition, the government, as a matter of policy, has institutionalized some forms of discrimination, like the two examples I gave — the 30% set-aside for stock and housing discounts.

Toward the end of the article, I pointed out that there are now two clear and different visions of Malaysia’s future – are we a Malaysian country or a Malay country. Those differing views are also held within the Malay community. In a way Mahathir represents both views. Years ago he was Mr. Bangsa Malaysia, and now he talks about Tanah Melayu.

When I read the comments on the different websites, I saw that there were many Malays who wanted me to know that it was not just Chinese and Indians who are leaving the country, but also Malays who feel that their personal future is bleak. But I don’t know whether that is because of the economic slowdown, or because getting ahead is still all about connections and who you know rather than what you know, or because they side with the opposition and not the Government.

As for the struggle and sensitivities of the Malays, I have been following that discussion. But it seems that just as not everyone can agree on Malaysia’s future, people also cannot agree on Malaysia’s past. I don’t think I could contribute much by jumping into that kind of internal discussion. I am not an expert on that part of Malaysia’s history.

(5) Chronicle: Given the feedback that you have received in the past two days, do you still stand by your story and would you retract any particular part or make any amendments?

Malott: No, I am very happy with the article. I would not take out or change anything. Like any op-ed, there is a limit on the number of words you can write. In some places I wish I could have said more, but there wasn’t enough space.

I saw that the New Straits Times had an op-ed criticising what I wrote. I read it three times but still don’t understand what the writer was trying to say. But I did send an email to them saying I would be happy to write an op-ed for them, explaining my views. Of course, I am sure they will never agree.  But I do feel like I would like to say something more on this subject, at the right time. I already have a title in mind – “There Once Was a Dream Called Malaysia” – that’s a takeoff from the movie “The Gladiator.” But the editors always write the titles, not the author. The editor at the AWSJ wrote the title over my op-ed. I thought he summed up the article very well. There will be a price to pay if the Government doesn’t change its actions.

(6) Chronicle: You spent several years in Malaysia and we understand you keep very close contact with the country and the developments in the neighboring nations as well. What sort of immediate political future do you see for Malaysia when the next GE takes place? Who do you think will win? Also, a lot of people have predicted Egypt and Tunisia scenarios happening here, do you think so?

Malott: There is an American baseball player, Yogi Berra, who is famous for saying, “I never make predictions, especially about the future.”  There also is another saying, “a week is a lifetime in politics,” meaning that things can change very rapidly. So I really don’t want to predict the outcome.

I think that BN and PR present very clear alternatives for Malaysia’s future. Even between the two Malay parties, UMNO and PAS, I think there is a clear difference. All Malays are Muslims, but I think UMNO is more about race and being Malay, and PAS is more about being Muslim. Race is the starting point for UMNO, while Islam is the starting point for PAS.

Malaysia now has a credible opposition for the first time in its history. I think the Malaysian people will be given a real choice about their country’s direction.  It is up to the Malaysian people to choose.

As an outsider, my concern is that the elections should be fair. I have seen and studied elections in many countries. I think it is hard for the opposition in Malaysia, because they have to campaign with one hand tied behind their back. The Government controls the airwaves, and opposition newspapers cannot be sold to the general public. The police can deny permits or harass political gatherings, as we have seen.  The Election Commission is not truly independent, and so on.

I don’t see a Tunisia or Egypt scenario playing out in Malaysia. In general I think Malaysians are a very patient lot, and other than 1969 there is no real history of political violence. If anything starts to happen, I think the RMP would not hesitate to crack down, as they have in the past.

(7) Chronicle: Lastly, could you tell us if you hold any official role currently?

Malott: No, I do not hold any official government position. I left the State Department in 1999, and I don’t have any intention or desire to return to government. I am happy with what I am doing today. 

(John Malott, who was U.S. ambassador to Malaysia from 1995 to 1998, is now the President and CEO of the Japan-America Society of Washington DC)

Speed vs speed

I am posting 2 pictures here.

the first one taken from Asiaone website ( click here . )

It is about Singapore broadband service: 100Mbps at Singapore$49.80 (equals roughly to RM118)

Second one is our unifi service advertisement . 20Mbps at RM249.

There is a cheaper VIP 5 for RM149, for a speed of 5Mbps. You get seomthing like a free phone, TV on demand service .

I am not making any comparison. Just figure it out yourself.

Living at the bottom of a well

How far our country has drifted apart can be seen from the hoo-ha over the celebration of Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day is not a religious occasion, even though the practice starts from the West. It is not a Christian tradition, nor related to any pagan activity.

I read a news report that the Tunisians are using roses and the Valentine Occasion to celebrate the disposal of Ben Ali one month ago. They must understand Valentine’s Day better.

It is of course up to any preacher or any religious person to stop his or her own followers from celebrating such an occasion, since that is what religious freedom is about. It is also the duty of a religious teacher to show his followers the right path.

But to attach the word ‘sin’ to that day and attribute that day to another religion without knowing how the occasion started in history and how most people celebrate it is really laughable.

I, myself, have not celebrated Valentine’s Day for a long time, but I will never stop my children or other people from celebrating the occasion.

How does a typical young couple celebrate the occasion? I asked my children and their friends, mainly in their 20s, how they celebrated the occasion this year as well as year before. I received the following answer.

Normally, it is just a way of showing love (“showing love” is different from “making love”, I must stress);  a typical boy goes to a typical girl’s house and presents her with flowers or a gift. They then proceed to dinner, and given the high price of food, not necessarily will choose to patronise a posh hotel restaurant. Most of them will go to a mid-range but decent restaurant, and after dinner, they head to the cinema, and after that, the boy sends the girl home.

Out of all the people I asked, no one went dancing after dinner. It is not like those college graduation balls where you may have dancing after dinner. Those occasions are organised en mass; Valentine’s is between two persons only.

Of course, I am just middle-class, and the friends of my children are all middle-class as well. I do not know what those in the higher echelons of society, like the children of ministers, top government servants or big tycoons, do. But if I am not wrong, there are more middle-class people than upper class, and therefore, the middle-class experience may be a better barometer of how Valentine’s Day is usually spent.

Remember Mother’s Day and Father’s Day — also practices that originate from the west but not religion-related — where working children will take their parents out for a meal, not so much for the food, but as a token of appreciation and a mark of respect, indirectly telling their parents that however busy they are, they still have a place in their heart for their parents.

My late parents used to tell me that I did not need to take them to posh restaurant. Just the restaurant down the road would do. My late father would say it was not the food that mattered, but the thought that counts.

Valentine’s Day is one such occasion. An occasion where a husband can show his love for and appreciation to his wife and a couple in a relationship show each other that they have a place in their heart for their loved ones.

It is the thought of taking their loved ones out that counts; not the food. I do not know about the dancing and sinful act part, since none as far as I know would do such a thing. “Sinful acts” resulting in unwed babies can actually be done on any other day, not necessary on Valentine’s Day, as long as the moral values of the people involved are low.

To equate love and sinful activities is naive, and demonstrates a real breakdown in understanding of another person’s value system and culture. Over 50 years after attaining nationhood, it is really a shame that the people have drifted so much further apart.

What is the point of having open houses when we do not even make an effort to understand the culture, and belief and value systems of another person?

I blame this on education. Our education has failed to produce thinking, intelligent, liberal, analytical and tolerant individuals.

Instead, we, as a nation, have become increasingly narrow-minded.  The sky that we view from the bottom of our well is unfortunately — to too many of us — the whole world.


(This article is also posted in the breaking view section of TMI ,  click here)

How Mubarak got so rich

This is an article from yahoo finance (US News).  After reading it, you will understand the anger of Egpytian people. He is just a  person on government salary but he is now estimated to have 40 to 70 billions US dollars, richer than even Bill gates.

Many authoritarian dictators must be having wealth that is as much as this former strong man of Egypt :

How Mubarak got so Rich

Rick Newman, On Friday February 11, 2011, 5:28 pm EST

There are no Mubaraks on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people, but there sure ought to be.

The mounting pressure from 18 days of historic protests finally drove Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from office, after three decades as his nation’s iron-fisted ruler. But over that time, Mubarak amassed a fortune that should finance a pretty comfortable retirement. The British Guardian newspaper cites Middle Eastern sources placing the wealth of Mubarak and his family at somewhere between $40 billion and $70 billion. That’s a pretty good pension for government work. The world’s richest man–Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim–is worth about $54 billion, by comparison. Bill Gates is close behind, with a net worth of about $53 billion.


Mubarak, of course, was a military man, not a businessman. But running a country with a suspended constitution for 30 years generates certain perks, and Mubarak was in a position to take a slice of virtually every significant business deal in the country, from development projects throughout the Nile basin to transit projects on the Suez Canal, which is a conduit for about 4 percent of the world’s oil shipments. “There was no accountability, no need for transparency,” says Prof. Amaney Jamal of Princeton University. “He was able to reach into the economic sphere and benefit from monopolies, bribery fees, red-tape fees, and nepotism. It was guaranteed profit.”

Had the typical Egyptian enjoyed a morsel of that, Mubarak might still be in power. But Egypt, despite a cadre of well-educated young people, has struggled as an economic backwater. The nation’s GDP per capita is just $6,200, according to the CIA–one-seventh what it is in the United States. That output ranks 136th in the world, even though Egypt ranks 16th in population. Mubarak had been working on a set of economic reforms, but they stalled during the global recession. The chronic lack of jobs and upward mobility was perhaps the biggest factor driving millions of enraged Egyptian youths into the streets, demanding change.


Estimates of Mubarak’s wealth will probably be hard to verify, if not impossible (one reason dictators tend not to make it onto Forbes’s annual list). His money is certainly not sitting in an Egyptian vault, waiting to be counted. And his delayed exit may have allowed Mubarak time to move money around and hide significant parts of his fortune. The Swiss government has said it is temporarily freezing any assets in Swiss banks that could be linked to Mubarak, an uncharacteristically aggressive move for the secretive banking nation. But that doesn’t mean the money will ever be returned to the Egyptian people, and it may even find its way to Mubarak eventually. Other Mubarak funds are reportedly sitting in British banks, and Mubarak was no doubt wily enough to squire away some cash in unlikely places. Plus, an eventual exile deal could allow Mubarak to retain some of his wealth, no questions asked, as long as he and his family leave Egypt and make no further bids for power.

Epic skimming is a common privilege of Middle Eastern despots, and Mubarak and his two sons, Gamal and Alaa, were a bit less conspicuous than some of the Saudi princes and other Middle Eastern royals seen partying from time to time on the French Riviera or other hotspots. The family does reportedly own posh estates in London, New York, and Beverly Hills, plus a number of properties around the Egyptian resort town of Sharm El Sheikh, where Mubarak reportedly went after resigning the presidency.

Mubarak also spread the wealth far and wide in Egyptian power circles–another Middle Eastern tradition–one reason he incurred the kind of loyalty that allowed him to rule for a remarkable three decades. Top Army officials were almost certainly on his payroll, which might help explain why the Army eased him out in the end–allowing a kind of in-country exile–instead of hounding him out of Egypt or imprisoning him once it was clear the tide had turned against him for good.


That money trail, in fact, will help determine whether Egypt becomes a more prosperous, democratic country, or continues to muddle along as an economic basket case. Even though he’s out of power, Mubarak may still be able to influence the Army officials running the country, through the financial connections that made them all wealthy. And if not Mubarak, the next leader may be poised to start lining his pockets the same way Mubarak did. For Egypt to have a more effective, transparent economy, all of that will have to be cleaned up. There are probably a lot of people in Cairo who have been checking their bank balances lately.

It’s not me!!

The Old Horse has expressed regret over the arrest of 106 people in 1987.

As is his usual style, there is always something to justify his action, and this time, he blamed it on the police’s advice to arrest these people.

The police  has a duty to look after the security of the nation, and it is up to them to make recommendation and it is their right to make any such recommendation.  However, having said that, the ultimate decision and thus the ultimate responsibility is with the person who issued the order to arrest these people.  In doing so, he must take into consideration other factors ;  whether such action was right in a democratic society, and the reasons for  the tension at that time. In fact, as a shrewd politician, there were many ways for him to nip the tension in the bud.

Then there is the question of why not all who fanned racial tension arrested? Was that too recommended by police or was the list amended to keep his supporters off it?

He must now understand why so many in the civil society has asked for the abolition of detention without trial. It is like allowing someone to keep a gun at hand. The chances of that person using that gun to shoot someone who provoke him is definitetly higher than another person who has no gun at all. So to prevent abuse of arresting political opponents, such repressive detention law must be done away. There is no 2 ways about it. Reviewing it would not be enough; it is like replacing the gun with  a smaller calibre one   — the small calibre gun can still kill, and the chances of using it in anger would be similar to that of using a bigger calibre gun.

The Price of Malaysia’s Racism – WSJ

This is an article in a renowned paper and written by a former Ambassador to Malaysia:

* The Wall Street Journal


* FEBRUARY 8, 2011

The Price of Malaysia’s Racism

Slower growth and a drain of talented citizens are only the beginning.


Malaysia’s national tourism agency promotes the country as “a bubbling, bustling melting pot of races and religions where Malays, Indians, Chinese and many other ethnic groups live together in peace and harmony.” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak echoed this view when he announced his government’s theme, One Malaysia. “What makes Malaysia unique,” Mr. Najib said, “is the diversity of our peoples. One Malaysia’s goal is to preserve and enhance this unity in diversity, which has always been our strength and remains our best hope for the future.”

If Mr. Najib is serious about achieving that goal, a long look in the mirror might be in order first. Despite the government’s new catchphrase, racial and religious tensions are higher today than when Mr. Najib took office in 2009. Indeed, they are worse than at any time since 1969, when at least 200 people died in racial clashes between the majority Malay and minority Chinese communities. The recent deterioration is due to the troubling fact that the country’s leadership is tolerating, and in some cases provoking, ethnic factionalism through words and actions.

For instance, when the Catholic archbishop of Kuala Lumpur invited the prime minister for a Christmas Day open house last December, Hardev Kaur, an aide to Mr. Najib, said Christian crosses would have to be removed. There could be no carols or prayers, so as not to offend the prime minister, who is Muslim. Ms. Kaur later insisted that she “had made it clear that it was a request and not an instruction,” as if any Malaysian could say no to a request from the prime minister’s office.

Similar examples of insensitivity abound. In September 2009, Minister of Home Affairs Hishammuddin Onn met with protesters who had carried the decapitated head of a cow, a sacred animal in the Hindu religion, to an Indian temple. Mr. Hishammuddin then held a press conference defending their actions. Two months later, Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told Parliament that one reason Malaysia’s armed forces are overwhelmingly Malay is that other ethnic groups have a “low spirit of patriotism.” Under public pressure, he later apologized.

The leading Malay language newspaper, Utusan Melayu, prints what opposition leader Lim Kit Siang calls a daily staple of falsehoods that stoke racial hatred. Utusan, which is owned by Mr. Najib’s political party, has claimed that the opposition would make Malaysia a colony of China and abolish the Malay monarchy. It regularly attacks Chinese Malaysian politicians, and even suggested that one of them, parliamentarian Teresa Kok, should be killed.

This steady erosion of tolerance is more than a political challenge. It’s an economic problem as well.

Once one of the developing world’s stars, Malaysia’s economy has underperformed for the past decade. To meet its much-vaunted goal of becoming a developed nation by 2020, Malaysia needs to grow by 8% per year during this decade. That level of growth will require major private investment from both domestic and foreign sources, upgraded human skills, and significant economic reform. Worsening racial and religious tensions stand in the way.

Almost 500,000 Malaysians left the country between 2007 and 2009, more than doubling the number of Malaysian professionals who live overseas. It appears that most were skilled ethnic Chinese and Indian Malaysians, tired of being treated as second-class citizens in their own country and denied the opportunity to compete on a level playing field, whether in education, business, or government. Many of these emigrants, as well as the many Malaysian students who study overseas and never return (again, most of whom are ethnic Chinese and Indian), have the business, engineering, and scientific skills that Malaysia needs for its future. They also have the cultural and linguistic savvy to enhance Malaysia’s economic ties with Asia’s two biggest growing markets, China and India.

Of course, one could argue that discrimination isn’t new for these Chinese and Indians. Malaysia’s affirmative action policies for its Malay majority—which give them preference in everything from stock allocation to housing discounts—have been in place for decades. So what is driving the ethnic minorities away now?

First, these minorities increasingly feel that they have lost a voice in their own government. The Chinese and Indian political parties in the ruling coalition are supposed to protect the interests of their communities, but over the past few years, they have been neutered. They stand largely silent in the face of the growing racial insults hurled by their Malay political partners. Today over 90% of the civil service, police, military, university lecturers, and overseas diplomatic staff are Malay. Even TalentCorp, the government agency created in 2010 that is supposed to encourage overseas Malaysians to return home, is headed by a Malay, with an all-Malay Board of Trustees.

Second, economic reform and adjustments to the government’s affirmative action policies are on hold. Although Mr. Najib held out the hope of change a year ago with his New Economic Model, which promised an “inclusive” affirmative action policy that would be, in Mr. Najib’s words, “market friendly, merit-based, transparent and needs-based,” he has failed to follow through. This is because of opposition from right-wing militant Malay groups such as Perkasa, which believe that a move towards meritocracy and transparency threatens what they call “Malay rights.”

But stalling reform will mean a further loss in competitiveness and slower growth. It also means that the cronyism and no-bid contracts that favor the well-connected will continue. All this sends a discouraging signal to many young Malaysians that no matter how hard they study or work, they will have a hard time getting ahead.

Mr. Najib may not actually believe much of the rhetoric emanating from his party and his government’s officers, but he tolerates it because he needs to shore up his Malay base. It’s politically convenient at a time when his party faces its most serious opposition challenge in recent memory—and especially when the opposition is challenging the government on ethnic policy and its economic consequences. One young opposition leader, parliamentarian Nurul Izzah Anwar, the daughter of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, has proposed a national debate on what she called the alternative visions of Malaysia’s future—whether it should be a Malay nation or a Malaysian nation. For that, she earned the wrath of Perkasa; the government suggested her remark was “seditious.”

Malaysia’s government might find it politically expedient to stir the racial and religious pot, but its opportunism comes with an economic price tag. Its citizens will continue to vote with their feet and take their money and talents with them. And foreign investors, concerned about racial instability and the absence of meaningful economic reform, will continue to look elsewhere to do business.

Mr. Malott was the U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia, 1995-1998.

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