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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. [Volume 39, Number 19, 1976.]

The Malaysian Economic Situation

The Malaysian Economic Situation

Dear Editor,

I quite agree that Malaysia has a class problem. The power it in the hand of the Malay ruling class and the rich Chinese businessmen. All the Prime Ministers of Malaysia have some royal blood in them. In fact Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Abdul Razak are the members of the royal family. As for the Chinese. Tun Tan Diew Sin, who is one of the most properous men in Malaysia, controls the Chinese Organisation, MCA. If one bothers to study the background of the Chinese Ministers, one will find out that they are all very rich. These people join politics not out of any desire to serve the people (Malays, Chinese, or Indiana) but to further their own aims. It is a well known fact that they can get easily obtain permission from the Govt to open out new land, to build shopping complexes, and to get timber concessions etc. And of course, the Malay ruling elite also gains from the deal. That is where corruption sets in.

In normal years, things would be all right in Malaysia. Be investing in the economy, these rich people at least give enough bread crumbs away to make the masses happy. But once the economy stops growing, social mobility is held in check. All the problems begin to surface. This a exactly what has happened in Malaysia during the last few years. The problem is aggravated by the Govt economic strategy which places a very heavy emphasis on helping the Malays. So, the poor Chinese are made to suffer because some of their 'cousins' are rich. And anyway, it is shown that the Govt strategy does not really help to uplift the Malay masses. This is manifested in the student riots and the Baling incident. The Malays are fighting among themselves (i.e. between the ruling elite and the poor Malays).

When I argue that Malaysia faces a class problem, I do not imply that we must encourage a revolution, whereby a working class takes over. The ordinary workers may be incompetent and so can't govern. What the Govt must do is to institutionalise class-struggle in Malaysia so that the workers and the peasants can bargain legally. Only then can the working people get a fair share.

But we all know, the Malaysian Govt does not tolerate any mass movement. It suppresses them legally (i.e. through the Internal Security Act which gives the Govt power to imprison the leaders of those organisations). The Govt is so successful in suppressing them that there are now no effective parties which can articulate the demands and aspirations of the poor masses. This latter problem comes to the notice of the Govt mainly because of the increasing Communist threat. Now, one of the Cabinet Ministers wants to invite some 'Western experts' to Malaysia to seek their advice as to what the poor people or poor Malaysians want. That is really ridiculous. They may be experts but what the hell do they know about what the masses want?

Now, let us return to the question raised earlier (i.e. why does not the Govt institutionalise class-struggle as is done in New Zealand?) The reason is that Malaysia is very dependent on foreign capital for the economic development of the country. And the foreigners are going to invest in Malaysia only if the labour costs (i.e. wages) are kept low, or else they will move their capital elsewhere. (Korea, Hong Kong etc). The Govt is caught in between. It cannot allow the workers to organise themselves to press for higher wages. It has to resort to force when the workers want more. Therefore, the Malaysian Govt is being perceived by the people as helping the foreigners to explo it our country. The fact is that our Govt it quite helpless and it has to play the rules dictated by the foreigners. They have the capital and we don't.

And also the fact that Malaysia is sited in an unstable zone makes the foreigners demand quick return for their capital investments. Thus, their main aim is to get as much money out of Malaysia as possible and within the shortest time possible. This will explain why the workers are still poor in spite of the fact that our economy is growing at the rate of 6% annually. That is really an impressive figure. I would argue that the rather selfish attitude of the foreigners help to push Malaysia into the Communist camp. It is ironic. They say they want to help us but actually they are pushing us to a corner. Foreigners, wake up now or else you will find one country after another falling under communism in Asia. Then, you will have no one to exploit.

Yours sincerely,

A Malaysian.