Remaking of society: Malaysia and Singapore
In the late 1960’s Singapore started to reform it’s society vigorously due to it’s small size and it’s vulnerability as an economy keeping in mind Sukarno was a threat. The PAP leaders in Singapore (Goh Keng Swee and Lee Kwan Yew) changed their identity when they formed Singapore. Consider that both leaders either belonged to the Straits Chinese and/or the Peranakan. They now called themselves Chinese leaders of a multiracial Singapore and abandoned the use of Hokkien and Teochew in the teaching of school curriculum and opted for Mandarin. I beleive the argument was with regards to army service men in the 1970’s not understanding each others dialects. The PAP was and is a multiracial party but this is not the focus of this post.
Across the causeway in Malaysia as a result of the racial riots in Kuala Lumpur on May 13 1969 besides a curb on free speech, the NEP (New Economic Policy) was implemented by the then Deputy Prime Minister (Timbalan Perdana Mentri) Tun Abdul Razak. That was not however a major shift due to the reason that these policies at that time were meant to be temporary and not permanent. (The NEP was to accord affirmative action to push the Malays to become close to equal in economic prosperity in comparison with the Chinese). When Tun, Dr. Mahathir Mohammed became premier in 1981 the shift that was meant to be temporary soon turned into something that was close to permanent. I believe the law still indicates that all Malaysians regardless of religion or race is equal, where affirmative policies can be implemented. With the Islamic revolution in Iran (1979) in full swing in the 1980’s Barisan Nasional created Islamic courts under article 121(A) of the constitution in the Peninsula. More women started to wear the tudung (commonly known as the hijab in the rest of the world). Mahathir was really good at implementing Islamic and Western principles at almost the same time. Weekends which used to constitute Fridays and Saturdays in Johor for example was changed to Saturdays and Sundays in the 1990’s. People were suspected of not being married were being issued summons in parks and in other public areas for holding hands. Cars and highways were being built at a phenomenal rate to show that Malaysia had the capability of building highways that were as good as the interstates in the United States. The major companies that were government aided like Proton, Perodua, UEM, Renong and PLUS were headed by the “Malays”. The reason why I have placed the word Malay in quotations is because some of the companies were headed by incompetent people. Let me clarify that I am in no way being racist as I am aware of some very capable Malays in high positions in companies with no external nudging.
Let us move towards the events of the past couple of years notably the endorsement of Perkasa by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammed which called for Ketuanan Melayu (Malay Supremacy) and Lee Kwan Yew’s book on “Hard Truths”, where he talks about the Malays in Singapore being separate and not assimilating “with the Chinese”. I wonder if both the strong men in the region put way too much focus on a particular racial group while the others treaded along.
Where is all of this going to lead? Especially with regards to the group of “stupid” and/or loyal supporters of both leaders.