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Sakmongkol ak 47

Saturday 27 December 2008

Melayu: A Rejoinder to Sir Tong Kol

There was this description:

The Malays:

The Mohammedan Malays, whose country this was, numbered half the population( that time)…..Were distinguished by the qualities of dignity rare in this world. By impeccable manners, by love of an easy going life and consequently a lack of interest in making money.

The Chinese.

No contrast could have been more extravagant that the regal splendour or the simple lives of the Malays with the lives of 2 million industrious Chinese. Certainly it was the Chinese who provided the industry and wealth to make Malaya prosper.

Going into Chinatown is like turning to another country, another world. The easygoing walk of the Malays gave way to the bustle of the Chinese hawkers loping along, …this was the hectic frenzy of every Chinatown in every settlement in Malaya.

The Malays are described as, if a single word is permitted, laid back. Easy going but never lazy. The relationship between easy going and lack of interest in making money, is an rebuttable assumption. Not discussed here presently. The Chinese on the other hand is a bundle of energy. Always on the move, fast, agitated, bustle.

To me the lessons there are straightforward if we are honest to ourselves. Staying put does not bring us prosperity, moving always, working, these do. Nothing genetics about that- just an instantiated form of behaviour. Its just attitude expressed in work form. The route to prosperity lies in the old school way- work and work.

When I wrote part 3 of my Melayu and their social latitude, I had not commented on the comments given by Sir Tong Kol and Aporcyphalist. Because I had intended to expand on their ideas. Here is the first.

For example Sir Tong Kol drew lessons from those choosing to live a sheltered and familiar life with those daring to venture into unfamiliar territory. To me, Sir Tong Kol’s ‘geography’ symbolises an attitudinal personal ideology. One, - preference of the sheltered and familiar life, the other, willingness to venture out into the unknown. Thus, the Kedah rulers who stayed home were contrasted with those who dared venture out to Bangkok and India. Fortune favoured the ones who dared venture out. Or those Johore rulers who dared to go out of their shores and came back brimming with ideas. Same stock of people within the same genetic pool, but with different social outlook shaped by an external stimuli.

Sir Tong Kol also pointed out to the “ The Malays of Melaka were all over the region. They occupied a strip of land with no hinterland. The riverine Malays did not integrate with the prevalent economic trends of the region, did they?”

Again, those going all over, braving the elements and the unfamiliar did better than their riverine cousins.

Sometimes, some form of disorder or disturbance to the status quo was necessary to usher in a sea-change of perceptions. As pointed out by Sri Tong Kol:- The Perak Malays were liberated by the Birch incident because the rotation system meant no Royal household could be sure of the throne. Thus the Royalties of Perak made sure their scions were properly educated; the Orang Besar scrambled for superior education. Wahab, Panglima Bukit Gantang became a pioneering lawyer. His feat bred other successes - Suffian Hashim,and many others.

The progression towards improvement was not without hurdles. One such hurdle, mentioned by Sir Tong Kol, was the creation of the rent seeking class.

A major shortcoming, a retrogression, of the Malays is the elevation of the Support Economy - chaps who have made themselves full-time political operatives. They are proper talents, highly-motivated, but because there is no visible means of income, others seem to be a) inspired, thus the desire to emulate the business module of the political operatives; b) incensed, so they poured negative energy to work against Umno and the system.
These talents now in the Support Economy tend to be insular and incestuous (politically) because they need to be around to cheer and support the political boss when he is back in the Kawasan. They should be unleashed to get the muda-mudi yang melepak di Muara, Muar, to get off despair, into work. Really we need to man-mark the young of the small towns and the kampungs.
No quick fixes. No get-rich-quick adventures. No easy templates, and formatted-thinking.

The contrasting phases in the travail of the Malay can be seen in the modern-day implementation of government policy. Consider the case of FELDA, initiated by the great Tun Razak. Tun Razak exemplified the leader who was a thinker-mulling over the strategic things that can invigorate the Malays. FELDA was one of them.

What was the idea behind the uprooting of Malays from their traditional settings( kampungs, familiar life) and transporting to have them settled in a vastly and totally new world surrounding? I prefer to think that as a strategy by Tun Razak to force the Malays to adopt the pioneering and adventurous sprit. The wholesale displacement of Malays from the traditional and ultra conservative settings of shaman, bomohs, jins and jembalangs, was not only a physical one, but also a strategy, designed to extricate the Malays from the shackles of constricting traditionalism. It was supposed to be the Malay Great leap Forward. Had Tun Razak lived longer, who knows, other than Father of Development, he could have been our own Great Helmsman.

Malays all over the country were forced to interact with cousins from different places, adopt and make adjustments for co-existence and probably acquire new values to move along.

Except, just like Sir Tong Kol argued, the spanner in the works, was retrogression. Tun Razak did not live along. We would never know what steps he would have taken. He would have probably recognised the continued need for firm leadership among FELDA Malays. To suddenly uproot the Malays from their traditional setting and trusting they could, on their own volition, move on, was a monumental overestimation. It was a case to too much too fast. The Malays, especially those just forcefully weaned off from the comforting embrace of traditional setting, needed a structured leadership. They need an ordered and disciplined regime so to speak. Perhaps for a limited time. The reasons for the need for such structured and ordered regime, which arises from firm leadership are many. Lack of education, steep in their conservatism, fearful too- these required directed leadership. Perhaps the absence of this structured and ordered regime, accounts for the many social ills besetting FELDA in recent years.

So we come back to the need of (a) the nurturing process and (b) the need for affirmative leadership. The nurturing process involves the inculcation of values supportive of an independent role by individuals to shape their destiny. Affirmative leadership is required during the formative years to soften the impact of cultural shocks.

The problem is, what does one mean by affirmative leadership? Maybe next time, we’ll discuss this.

Next: a rejoinder to the cryptic Apocryphalist.


Anonymous,  27 December 2008 at 08:59  

Pardon, Datuk.

This for Mat Cendana to help him help others.

Thanks, Datuk.

mamasita 27 December 2008 at 10:00  

Hai Walla,
hope you're feeling much better!Happy New Year and hopefully less rheumatism for the coming year..hehehe

Anonymous,  27 December 2008 at 15:17  

Dato Sak has stirred this insipid mind once more. I’m getting a bit sterile on the mental stage over this forced break by the other half. Well, with limited bandwidth & references due to the location I just have to write something quick behind the back of the other half .

“Consider the case of FELDA, initiated by the great Tun Razak. Tun Razak exemplified the leader who was a thinker-mulling over the strategic things that can invigorate the Malays. FELDA was one of them.”

There were some ‘resemblances’ in this FELDA scheme with the earlier formation of new village, under the British colonial masters. The new village was forcedly formed by the British to control the insurgency of the Malayan Communists among the Chinese Malayan populace. According to some historians, the British succeeded because they gained the support of the people within these villages. This is what the British called HAM (Hearts And Minds), or psychological warfare.

Similarly Tun Razak enticed the Malays to move to the FELDA scheme by providing incentives like free lands, seeds & fertilizers, with free accommodations included. All the inhabitants needed to do were to cultivate the lands for agricultural returns.

The ultimate aim was to capture the HAM of the Malays, to uplift themselves via initial govt provisions. Unfortunately, the end net result cannot be the same as the new village scheme. The reasons have been succinctly described by Sak. The FELDA failed to win the HAM of the participating Malays over the years. Thus leaves behind a great vision in its ‘moribund’ stage - a sad corporate version of ‘hidup segan, mati tak mahu’.

So what made the British successful & yet the Malaysian failed? Leadership? The resiliency of the incipient people involved?

The ‘guinea pigs’ were both forced to uproot from their traditional settings and transported to have them settled in a vastly and totally new world surrounding? One came with favourable incentives while the others were forcefully evaded. If any, the HAM of the first should be won with a forgone conclusion!

Fast forward to present day. There are many M’sian companies venture to overseas for projects. Many has success, many don’t. Compare IJM, WCT, PECD & RANHILL, what can one infer? Has the Malays come of age or still stuck as a juvenile?

At the end it still boiled down to the questions of “ 1) there are NO conscientious movers out there to lead the herd to the water-hole. 2) even when one reaches the waterhole, convince one individual cow to drink may then be an issue. What about the whole herd?”

In another words, capable leadership of few & HAM of many of the Malays! Lacking any one ingredient, nothing will move!

Incidentally, the FELDA is also a very good reflection for its bigger brother – the NEP. Btw does anyone know that there is a foreign input to the NEP? The opinions of Dr Just Faaland will be very interesting indeed as a person closely working on the NEP & still alive.


Saya... 28 December 2008 at 00:22  


I'm back from my Cannes of the Masses aka PD trip! Anyone miss moi? Hahaha...(see glwnet, I know some impressive German words wait maybe it doesn't count after all, I got that one from the U2 "achtung baby" album...heheh)

Sorry Dato, just wanted to sampaikan everyone here Salam Maal Hijrah 1430...may we reflect on the past and prepare for the future...

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