Sep 1, 2007

Malaysia: 50 Years of Independence

"Fifty years ago a young democracy came into being on the Malayan peninsula. To secure it's freedom, the people had to defeat a communist insurgency and chart a course that gave all its people equal rights. That democracy, like so many in East Asia, has flourished based on principles of respect for the rights of all in society, regardless of ethnicity or religious belief. Malaysia today is a prosperous nation and a beacon of hope." - President George W. Bush on Malaysia's 50th year of independence

As Malaysians celebrate fifty years of independence, the foreign media reports are hardly celebratory and some, such as the Economist, in an article entitled "Tall Buildings, Narrow Minds" would use the occasion to cite Malaysia's less than stellar record on human rights. Without disputing much of the veracity found in the article, I'm left thinking to myself that there is above all else, a time and a place for everything, and rather than use this occasion to critique Malaysia perhaps it would be wiser to recognize Malaysia's achievements and progress over the years. Progress that I sincerely believe overshadows many of the nation's faults.

The Malaysia of today is almost unrecognizable from when I first landed over here in this part of the world way back in 1987 and even more so since Malaysia first achieved independence on the 31st of August 1957. Over the years I've seen the development of the North-South highway, cutting what used to be a day long trip from Singapore down to three hours. I've seen the small villages of wooden kampong houses and rubber plantations magically transform into a thriving modern day cities and most importantly I've seen how when Malaysians put aside their differences, they can truly achieve greatness.

Needless to say, there are going to be challenges along the way and people who are genuinely frustrated with discrimination and a plethora of other sociopolitical reasons. And not unlike America, or any other country for that matter, Malaysia has their fair share of divisive race-baiting charlatans who seem to be overly eager to unsheathe their krisses and run amok chasing monkeys, but interestingly enough, they are finding themselves increasingly marginalized by of all things, technology. As Malaysia celebrates fifty years of independence, technology rather than politics is proving to be the primary catalyst for liberty and freedom in ways that none would have ever imagined in the past. Patience in this respect will ultimately prove to be a virtue.

In the years ahead, the circumstances might change from time to time but the overall challenge for Malaysia has always remained the same, and that is to keep the economy growing at a brisk rate, continue to lure foreign investment and at the same time wield a 'soft authoritatianism' to constantly, behind the scenes, defuse all the ethnic and religious time-bombs that are ever present in a modern day multicultural country such as Malaysia.

Rather than being overly critical of Malaysia, there might be something to learn here if you just look closely enough.


  1. Anonymous8:30 PM

    Thanks for the complements about Malaysia. Are you still selling hotdogs at Hartamas and what are your opening hours? Are you going to open in Bukit Bintang or somewhere in PJ? Thanks.

  2. Danny's is on hiatus for a while - but will be back.

  3. Thank you for your kind and true words. I'm a happy Malaysian of Chinese descent (not dissent!), and believe me there are a majority of us but the thing is we are silent and thus the ingrates make all the noise :-) People today only see the negatives but ignore the still bigger positives. Wait till a real crisis emerges - then people realise what they had when they lose it. Let's hope that more people like you & me will prevent such. Happy New Year 2008.


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