By the lates nineties, however, we had fallen far behind this group and were competing with Thailand and Indonesia. Today, according to the latest World Investment Report, FDI into Malaysia is at about a twenty year low. We are entering the peer group of Cambodia, Myanmar and the Philippines as an investment destination. Thailand, despite a month long siege of the capital, attracted more FDI than we did last year. Indonesia and Vietnam far outperform us, not as a statistical blip but consistently. Soon we shall have difficulty keeping up with The Philippines. This, I believe, is called relegation. If we take into account FDI outflow, the picture is even more interesting. Last year we received US$1.38 billion (RM4.40 billion) in investments but US$ 8.04 billion flowed out. We are the only country in Southeast Asia which has suffered nett FDI outflow. I am not against outward investment. It can be a good thing for the country. But an imbalance on this scale indicates capital flight, not mere investment overseas.
Without a doubt, Malaysia is slipping. Billions have been looted from this
country, and billions more are being siphoned out as our entire political
structure crumbles. Yet we are gathered here in comfort, in a country that
still seems to 'work.' Most of the time. This is due less to good management than to the extraordinary wealth of this country. You were born into a country of immense resources both natural and cultural and social. We have been wearing down this advantage with mismanagement and corruption. With lies, tall tales and theft. We have a political class unwilling or unable to address the central issue of the day because they have grown fat and comfortable with a system built on lies and theft. It is easy to fall into the lull caused by the combination of whatever wealth has not been plundered and removed and political class that lives in a bubble of sycophancy.
I urge you not to fall into that complacency. It is time to wake up.
That waking up can begin here, right here, at this conference. Not tomorrow or the day after but today. So let me, as I have the honour of opening this conference, suggest the following:
Overcome the urge to have our hopes for the future endorsed by the Prime Minister. He will have retired, and I'll be long gone when your future
arrives. The shape of your future is being determined now.
Resist the temptation to say "in line with" when we do something. Your
projects, believe it or not, don't have to be in line with any government
campaign for them to be meaningful. You don't need to polish anyone's apple. Just get on with what you plan to do.
Do not put a lid on certain issues as "sensitive" because someone said they are. Or it is against the Social Contract. Or it is "politicisation". You
don't need to have your conversation delimited by the hyper-sensitive among us. Sensitivity is often a club people use to hit each other with. Reasoned discussion of contentious issues builds understanding and trust. Test this idea.
It's not "uber-liberal" to ask for an end to having politics, economic
policy, education policy and everything and the kitchen sink determined by race. It's called growing up. Go look up "liberal" in a dictionary.
Please resist the temptation to say Salam 1 Malaysia, or Salam Vision
2020 or Salam Malaysia Boleh, or anything like that. Not even when you are reading the news. It's embarrassing. I think it's OK to say plain old salam the way the Holy Prophet did, wishing peace unto all humanity. You say you want to "promote intellectual discourse." I take that to mean you want to have reasonable, thought-through and critical discussions, and slogans are the enemy of thought. Banish them.
Don't let the politicians you have invited here talk down to you.
Don't let them tell you how bright and "exuberant" you are, that you are the future of the nation, etc. If you close your eyes and flow with their
flattery you have safely joined the caravan, a caravan taking the nation
down a sink hole. If they tell you the future is in your hands kindly
request that they hand that future over first. Ask them how come the
youngest member of our cabinet is 45 and is full of discredited hacks? Our Merdeka cabinet had an average age below thirty. You're not the first
generation to be bright. Mine wasn't too stupid. But you could be the first
generation of students and young graduates in fifty years to push this
nation through a major transformation. And it is a transformation we need
You will be told that much is expected of you, much has been given to you, and so forth. This is all true. Actually much has also been stolen from you. Over the last twenty five years, much of the immense wealth generated by our productive people and our vast resources has been looted. This was supposed to have been your patrimony. The uncomplicated sense of belonging fully, wholeheartedly, unreservedly, to this country, in all it diversity, that has been taken from you.
Our sense of ourselves as Malaysians, a free and united people, has been
replaced by a tale of racial strife and resentment that continues to haunt
us. The thing is, this tale is false.
The most precious thing you have been deprived of has been your history. Someone of my generation finds it hard to describe what must seem like a completely different country to you now. Malaysia was not born in strife but in unity. Our independence was achieved through a demonstration of unity by the people in supporting a multiracial government led by Tengku Abdul Rahman. That show of unity, demonstrated first through the municipal elections of 1952 and then through the Alliance's landslide victory in the elections of 1955, showed that the people of Malaya were united in wanting their freedom.
We surprised the British, who thought we could not do this.
Today we are no longer as united as we were then. We are also less free. I
don't think this is a coincidence. It takes free people to have the
psychological strength to overcome the confines of a racialised worldview. It takes free people to overcome those politicians bent on hanging on to power gained by racialising every feature of our life including our football teams.
Hence while you are at this conference, let me argue, that as an absolute
minimum, we should call for the repeal of unjust and much abused Acts which are reversals of freedoms that we won at Merdeka.
I ask you in joining me in calling for the repeal of the ISA and the OSA.
These draconian laws have been used, more often than not, as political tools rather than instruments of national security. They create a climate of fear. These days there is a trend among right wing nationalist groups to identify the ISA with the defence of Malay rights. This is a self-inflicted insult on Malay rights. As if our Constitutional protections needed draconian laws to enforce them. I wish they were as zealous in defending our right not to be robbed by a corrupt ruling elite. We don't seem to be applying the law of the land there, let alone the ISA.
I ask you to join me in calling for the repeal of the Printing and
Publications Act, and above all, the Universities and Colleges Act. I don't
see how you can pursue your student activism with such freedom and support in the UK and Eire while forgetting that your brethren at home are deprived of their basic rights of association and expression by the UCA. The UCA has done immense harm in dumbing down our universities.
We must have freedom as guaranteed under our Constitution. Freedom to
assemble, associate, speak, write, move. This is basic. Even on matters of
race and even on religious matters we should be able to speak freely, and we shall educate each other.
It is time to realise the dream of Dato' Onn and the spirit of the Alliance,
of Tunku Abdul Rahman. That dream was one of unity and a single Malaysian people. They went as far as they could with it in their time. Instead of taking on the torch we have reversed course. The next step for us as a country is to move beyond the infancy of race-based parties to a non-racial party system. Our race-based party system is the key political reason why we are a sick country, declining before our own eyes, with money fleeing and people telling their children not to come home after their studies.
So let us try to take 1 Malaysia seriously. Millions have been spent putting
up billboards and adding the term to every conceivable thing. We even have cuti-cuti 1 Malaysia. Can't take a normal holiday anymore.
This is all fine. Now let us see if it means anything. Let us see the
Government of the day lead by example. 1 Malaysia is empty because it is
propagated by a Government that promotes the racially-based party system that is the chief cause of our inability to grow up in our race relations. Our inability to grow up in our race relations is the chief reason why investors, and we ourselves, no longer have confidence in our economy. The reasons why we are behind Maldives in football, and behind the Philippines in FDI, are linked.
So let us take 1 Malaysia seriously, and convert Barisan Nasional into a
party open to all citizens. Let it be a multiracial party open to direct
membership. PR will be forced to do the same or be left behind the times.
Then we shall have the vehicles for a two party, non-race-based system.
If Umno, MIC or MCA are afraid of losing supporters, let them get their
members to join this new multiracial party. PR should do the same. Nobody need feel left out. Umno members can join en masse. The Hainanese Kopitiam Association can join whichever party they want, or both parties en masse if they like. We can maintain our cherished civil associations, however we choose to associate. But we drop all communalism when we compete for the ballot. When our candidates stand for Elections, let them ever after stand only as Malaysians, better or worse.