Whither the “Rukun” of the “Negara”?

Posted on September 8, 2013

9


many-colours-one-dream

By Jayanath Appudurai

_________________________

We are far from realizing the vision set forth in this historic document proclaimed by Parliament on the 31st August 1970.

OUR NATION, MALAYSIA, being dedicated:-

To achieving a greater unity of all her peoples;

To maintaining a democratic way of life;

To creating a just society in which the wealth of the nation shall be equitably shared;

To ensuring a liberal approach to her rich and diverse cultural traditions; and

To building a progressive society which shall be oriented to modern science and technology;

Forty three years have passed since the Rukunegara (and the NEP as the policy instrument) were presented as the way forward towards rebuilding the nation after the trauma of 1969.

Whilst we can argue about the how we have fared in all of the above aspirations, our concern must necessarily be with the objective to create “a just society in which the wealth of the nation shall be equitably shared”.

Let us examine the evidence using household income distribution.

The current population of 29 million can be divided into approximately 6.5 million households.

Official data (DOSM,2012) reveal that the ‘Bottom 40%’ (2.6 million households) has an average monthly income of RM 1,847 compared to RM 12,159 for the ‘Top 20%’ (1.3 million households). The Income Share of the ‘Bottom 40%’ is 14.8% compared to the 51.4% share of the ‘Top 20%’ households.  And the ‘Top10%’ of households has an income share of 32.3% compared to 1.9% for the ‘Bottom 10%’ households.

This yawning income inequality gap is a recipe for disaster in any society!

Today, almost forty percent of our people are still trapped in the inter-generational cycle of poverty and inequality.

Poor and Low Income households comprising almost 14 million Anak Bangsa Malaysia lack the capability to overcome the multi-dimensional disadvantages they face on a daily basis. Their upward mobility is severely constrained due to the inadequate asset base that includes low levels of education and skills, poor nutrition and health; and unwholesome living conditions.

A host of social ills associated with dysfunctional families from this stratum of our society is becoming evident. Increasing rates of substance abuse, delinquency and dropouts, child abuse, crime and mental illnesses, are clear indicators that something is amiss in our society.

There is also an increasing disconnect between our people from the Bottom 40% households with the rest of society. Vulnerable individuals and groups continue to encounter prejudice and discrimination, and remain marginalized.

Today, the real tragedy is that both politicians and the people alike rant and rave about the rising crime rate, as if it is an isolated phenomenon.

This inability or unwillingness to analyze the problem in the context of the decades of poverty and marginalization would cost us dearly.

The problem would not just go away because we choose to ignore it or continue to use our ethnic lenses to analyze it.

We need to urgently address the root causes of poverty and inequality and not just continue to lackadaisically treat the symptoms!

Handouts and 1-shirt fits all prescriptions are but temporary.

This is the time to come together to address the real issues in a non-partisan and dispassionate manner.

We need a new policy paradigm that focuses on long term solutions to bring about a socially just and more inclusive society. To do this we must first decouple the ‘politics of ethnicity’ from the policy planning and the institutional delivery systems.

The Social Inclusion Act [SIA, 2012] proposed by civil society in August 2012 seeks to address this through the establishment of a Social Inclusion Commission answerable directly to Parliament.

This Commission should be mandated to have oversight over all matters of poverty reduction and marginalization. {http://www.sayaanakbangsamalaysia.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=760:articles-on-the-proposed-social-inclusion-act-2012&catid=43&Itemid=56}

It has been a year since the SIA was mooted. The response from political parties from both sides of the divide (with the exception of the ideologically based parties PSM & PRM) has been at best, lukewarm. Despite all attempts to engage, the idea has been politely ignored by both the BN and PR coalitions.

The probable reason – the proposed Commission would drastically reduce the power to control and distribute resources that can potentially be used to guarantee electoral success! Clearly the transactional model of politics takes precedence over addressing the real needs of the people, and that which requires adopting a long-term transformational paradigm.

We most certainly cannot wait another 50 years to resolve it …that would be too late!

Hence, this reminder to revisit the Rukunegara proclamation.

“Selamat Menyambut Hari Malaysia Ke-50”