One must give due credit to Prime Minister Najib Razak for his attempt at developing an inclusive Malaysia through the One Malaysia concept which was launched 5 years ago. 1Malaysia was to unite all Malaysians under a common set of values transcending ethnicity and religion evolving around a culture of excellence, perseverance, humility, acceptance, loyalty, meritocracy, education and integrity (www.1Malaysia.com.my). The 27 products under the concept ranged from the noble such as free medical treatment for senior citizens, low risk maternity centers, mobile clinics and student discount cards to the rather exotic including a people’s menu, people’s fish shop and people’s shop. 1MDB was however not part of the original 1Malaysia program.
After 5 years of 1Malaysia, it does not take a genius to figure out that Malaysia is worse off and even more divided than before. Although I must admit that PM Najib has quite an inclusive outlook looking at his impressive 1MDB friends ranging from rich Arab sheikhs to international bankers and a playboy Malaysian Chinese millionaire. Under the circumstances, one cannot really fault him for sacrificing meritocracy for loyalty in the appointment of his Deputy PM and the new Attorney General while he is persevering to hang on to power by all means. Integrity was a foregone conclusion in any case given the decadent state of UMNO and BN that he inherited and which he has now taken to new depths of ignominy. Culture of excellence, humility, acceptance and education are nice words to include in speeches but most Malaysians would like to see some evidence of actions matching words (or in Malay cakap tak serupa bikin).
Unfortunately for Najib, the 1MDB fiasco involving dodgy financial transactions overshadows whatever benefits were brought about by the 1Malaysia concept and programs. There was and continues to be absolutely no socio-economic rationale for 1MDB given that Khazanah Malaysia, TNB or a myriad of other GLCs and private investors were better placed to carry out the intended real estate and energy investments. If these more established corporate players were unable or unwilling to take on these new investments or were denied these opportunities, it makes the 1MDB proposition even more dubious.
If anything, 1MDB has provided a glimpse into the workings of the murky depths of the UMNO-led BN government where the nation’s interests are sacrificed for the wealth of politicians and their cronies. This is probably the most significant unintended outcome of 1Malaysia: to unite all thinking Malaysians against the greed, corruption and incompetence of the UMNO/BN leadership. The UMNO leadership is too compromised for any hope in cleaning house through internal reforms. The rest of the BN parties depending on UMNO’s gravy train have no real incentives to reform. The only hope for Malaysia and Malaysians is to throw out UMNO/BN at the next general elections.