In an illuminating piece that appeared in NSTOnline on 29th May, 2009, Dr Salim Argoes wasted no time getting to the points that needed to be made.
In his opening sentence, this is what he said :
“I think we are farther apart now than we were in 1969. But you have to remember that I grew up going to an English school, to a university where there were people of all races. At that time, although we did think in terms of race, it wasn’t in the way people do now. We felt that we were Malayans. We socialised much better than we do now”.
Dr Salim then addressed the contention by certain quarters that Bahasa Malaysia can be a unifying factor, first noting that language can also be divisive, and then made the following all-important observation :
If Dr Salim’s right, and I think he is, where did Mahathir go wrong with his Vision 2020 such that he failed to put in place all that was necessary to establish “a united Malaysian nation with a sense of common and shared destiny” ?
In my view, Mahathir did not pay heed to his own observation in that famous Vision 2020 speech of his that this united Malaysian nation that he urged us to forge “cannot be in place so long as there is the identification of race with economic function, and the identification of economic backwardness with race”.
Mahathir did nothing to undo the years of race-based divide-and-rule.
What did he do?
Responding to Part 1 by way of comment, Paul Warren remarked :
“Haven’t you heard of such a thing as “shiok sendiri rhetoric?” Mahathir was full of it for a long time. Epitomised by such things as all his megalomaniac building programmes such as starting with Daya Bumi and ending up with the Twin Towers!!”
I don’t know about the ‘shiok sendiri’ part but, yes, if you take cognisance of Mahathir’s megalomaniac building programme, then you begin to get a sense of the old man’s Vision 2020.
Malaysia attaining developed nation status by 2020 meant putting in place all the outward trappings ordinarily associated with such a nation.
And the heightened consumerism which ordinarily accompanies a growing middle class.
As an oil-producing nation, we certainly had the resources to build, build and build.
And build Mahathir did.
We had the resources, so why did not the Mahathir regime build universities in every state and make education free at every level, set up more dialysis and cardiac centres throughout the country and make such treatment accessible to all at no charge?
As Farish Noor put it in his ‘My ideal politician’, ‘Rather than more bridges crooked or otherwise — built by crooks or otherwise — airports, shopping malls and monuments, we need to build some Malaysians first’.
Why was not the salary scale of those involved in the teaching profession at all levels significantly upgraded so that our children would be taught by the very best that money can buy?
Just one reason.
The jiwa of the man behind Vision 2020 was not in sync with that of the ordinary Malaysians who struggle to make ends meet.
And so, I ask again, what is the difference between Mahathir’s Vision 2020 and Najib’s 1Malaysia?
Is there such a difference between Mahathir and Najib that we should be encouraged to believe that, whilst Mahathiir had little impact in taking us anywhere near the Bangsa Malaysia he spoke of, with Najib, it will be otherwise ?