August 19, 2007

Crushing An Ant While White Elephant Runs Wild

The country's Cabinet seems to have terribly misplaced priorities. Instead of having an urgent meeting or meetings to discuss the RM 4.6 billion PKFZ fiasco which many are worried will be a gigantic white elephant requiring a government bailout, the cabinet instead had spent an inordinate amount of time discussing about the 6-minute rap video produced by a Malaysian student studying in Taiwan.

Those who have watched the video would recognise that Wee Meng Chee has spent a lot of time and effort to put together the video and has demonstrated his artistic talents and creativity in doing so. Although his choice of words, which may be vulgar sometimes, and the use of the national anthem and flag may not be proper, the video has succinctly capture the sentiments of a Malaysian youth like Wee. This is a mark of good art and this is the reason why the video is so popular as other Malaysians can identify with it.

Responsible leaders of a country should be asking why he has made this video and probe deeper into the message it carries. Are there truths depicted in the video which they should address? Is it the unfairness in education system which has caused the dissatisfactions in youths like Wee? Is it the corruption culture which has become so ingrained in our society that has caused the despair? Are there inefficiencies and poor attitute in the civil service which has caused frustration to people who have to deal with it?

Granted the video may have offended the sensibilities of some but for this Wee has already made a public apology to the government and Malaysians. Although some politicians in the BN have openly stated that his apology should be accepted, it seems like the cabinet has decided to pursue the matter and may take further action. Mohd Nazri stated that Wee "can be charged under the Sedition Act", that "we must allow the attorney-general to investigate and decide whether to take him to court," and will even consider extraditing Wee if he does not come back to Malaysia! Rais Yatim also wants the issue to be investigated to see whether the National Anthem Act has been violated.

Where were these righteous ministers when more blatant racial remarks and threatening gestures were made by other top UMNO politicians? Why were they so silent then? More recently, the ex-Mentri Besar of Selangor and UMNO Information Chief has also made remarks which can be considered seditious resulting in a police report been made against him by members of a NGO. Are these ministers going to "allow the attorney-general to investigate and decide whether to take him to court” in this case?

Instead of focussing on crushing and destroying the future of the young student, Wee, shouldn't the government be concentrating on the white elephant which the RM 4.6 billion PKFZ is in danger of becoming? This scandal has many dubious transactions some of which must be investigated by the police, ACA and the AG and the culprits brought to book. Malaysians have been waiting for an explanation and action but patience is wearing thin. Numerous reports on PKFZ have already appeared in the online media a few months earlier, police reports have been made by an Opposition member as early as 2004 and the mainstream print media has highlighted the story a week ago. However, we still do not have any answers from the country's leaders.

In response to the headline news "Disaster Zone" , the PM said that he wants the Transport Minister to report to him on this. On 15 Aug 2007, when queried by reporters the Transport Minister said a report has already been submitted to the PM. Now can we expect some answers soon?

If the government persists in its persecution of the young Malaysian student it will only reinforce the perception of an uncaring government insensitive to the problems facing its youths and people.

If the government maintains its deafening silence on the PKFZ affair, it will only confirm the suspicions that there will be a coverup of serious inproprieties and a major bailout using taxpayers money. Any talk of transparency, accountability and fight against corruption by the government will sound very hollow indeed.

August 14, 2007

Dissatisfaction with Mahathir's legacy cause of emigration

Last week, Mahathir who retired as the Prime Minister in 2003 told delegates at the Langkawi International Dialogue that developed nations did not pay a single cent when they “whisked away” brilliant students. He said,

"But our countries spent money educating our people, right from kindergarten to university and after spending that much of money, only a handful are brilliant.
"Yet, they come and grab our IPs to work in their countries without paying us anything, ..."

In Malaysia, many people especially students leave the country not because developed countries come to entice them away. They leave because of the deplorable state of affairs in the country. Mahathir should be reminded that this state of affairs is partly a legacy of his 22 years of iron-fist administration. Perhaps he should read the moving letter reproduced below eloquently-written by a father who has reluctantly sent his son overseas.

Reproduced from Malaysiakini

I bade my son farewell today
A Father's Yoke
Jul 16, 07 5:00pm

My son, Ryan, who is 18, left to further his studies in Australia
today. He goes to embark on his tertiary studies at a reputed
university - ordinarily, something to be proud of. However, it was
more sadness than pride that ruled the day.

I have pondered many a time as to why we come to a point where it
is like tossing your child out of a flaming or sinking ship. We have
many universities here, yet we have to sacrifice so much to send
them abroad. Why? Thanks to the politicised education system, it is
not in his interest to study here - even when we are now a global

Many nations who lagged behind us have closed the gap or gone
ahead. Had he gone through the local universities, his mobility in
terms of employability worldwide would be seriously curtailed. The
major corporations in Malaysia generally prefer the foreign
graduates - especially those from ranked universities.

The polarisation that is systemic ensures that his circle of friends
more likely would be non-Malay or non-Muslim. This would be a
major disadvantage in a multi-cultural society - increasingly the
trend in many progressive countries. When I was a student in the
70s, our friendships were not determined by our race or religion. In
fact, in many cases, we got to know our friends' ethnic origins many
years later when they got married and we attended their wedding

In today's increasingly common parlance, I am reminded repeatedly
that I am a third generation 'pendatang'. My son therefore will be
the fourth - one who like me, speaks only English and Malay.
‘Pendatang’ nonetheless. Scholarships by and large are a mirage for
folk like us. Just like crumbs and morsels that fall off a dining table.

So what are we griping about in the land of blue skies and 'ais
kachang'? Our land of blue skies could and should have been a land
of milk, honey and plenty. Instead, we have increasingly unfettered
corruption, polarisation, degeneration of our education system right
from Standard 1 to full blown chaos at the tertiary level.

The perception of fair play as played out in the judiciary gives one
little to look forward to in seeking justice. Our sports achievements
- barring a few rare exceptions - have seen a massive slide. Even
this has been politicised. From a feared soccer nation, we are now
below Singapore and Thailand. Sportsmen sell out on their honour
and country. Wonder who they learnt this from. From multi-racial
teams for soccer, hockey and rugby, we put out almost
homogenous teams today. The results speak for themselves.

When my son is ready to join the job market, the civil service would
not even be a considered option. Turn back the clock about 50 years
and one sees the stark difference - when the best brains competed
to join the service.

So, as a 'pendatang', my advice to others like me is that you
cherish and value the limited time you have with your children
because unlike others, you are not guaranteed the opportunity to be
at their side - or even a short distance behind - to see that they
don’t tumble along life's walkway.

When they are packed off at 18, the chances of them returning is so
much less. The plus side is that as parents, we know that we have
given them the opportunity to make their best shot for the years to

Farewell son, the grass may not be greener on the other side, but
the skies are more blue. And even if the grass is not greener, it is
grass you can stand on with your head held high. God Bless.

August 12, 2007

Another scandal to cost country RM 4.6 billion

The Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) will cost a mind-boggling RM 4.6 billion. Since the Port Klang Authority (PKA) which owns the PKFZ is not in a financial position to pay for the costs, a government bailout seems to be on the cards and the taxpayers will ultimately be footing the bill. What is amazing is that early warning signs of problems and irregularities in the project including warnings from the auditor-general were not heeded.

As early as 2004, an Opposition member has lodged a police report over the land purchase by PKA. It does not look like there has been any investigations yet after 3 years. This is in contrast to the swift action they took to investigate a police report by Muhammad Muhammad Taib against Malaysia Today's Raja Petra Kamarudin within days.

Land Purchase

Area: 405 hectares
Cost: RM1.05 billion (RM25 per sq ft)
Seller: Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB)

The seller KDSB originally bought the land - farm land and mangrove swamps - from Pulau Lumut Development Cooperative Bhd (PLDCB) for a total of RM 95 million. KDSB sold the land to PKFZ in 2002 for RM1.05 billion making a handsome profit of RM955 million on the land sale alone. These raise a few questions.

What is the justification for the Selangor government to give 405 hectares of land to Pulau Lumut Development Cooperative Bhd (PLDCB) just a few years before it was approached by KDSB? What happened to the RM 95 million and what is it being used for now? According to this report, "Blood runs deep in troubled RM4.6b PKFZ", the present PLDCB chairperson is a Selangor executive councillor, Sementa state assembly person and is the head of the Kapar UMNO division.

Next, is the 10-fold increase in land price within a few years warranted? According to industry sources, the land should not cost more than RM17 - RM19 per square foot even with reclamation works and the provision of basic infrastructure. Without reclamation works the price should be lower. Did PKFZ tried to get the best price? Apparently not. The lawyer firm appointed to represent them in this billion dollar land purchase is the same lawyer acting for the seller KDSB! (According to the same report, the head of this lawyer firm happens to be the vice-chief of the Kapar Umno division). It seems like PKFZ is so anxious to buy the land that 2% of the purchase price was paid to KDSB on the same day the offer letter of purchase was issued - before getting the approval from PKA’s board of directors and before the purchase agreement was signed!

Development costs

Original estimate - RM 100 million
Final costs RM 3.6 billion
Developer: Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB)

According to a Business Times report on 11 August 2007 titled "RM4.6b white elephant?",

  • "The Government initially approved a cost of RM100 million to develop PKFZ, after which any additional cost had to be approved first by the Ministry of Finance. However, Kuala Dimensi has flagged a RM3.6 billion in cost overruns since starting the project in 2003," said a source close to the matter.

  • "How did they (PKA) decide to invest that amount (RM3.6 billion)? Why 512 warehouses? Did PKA conduct a feasibility study to determine what type of infrastructure would be required before starting construction? As it is, the take-up rate for space at PKFZ remains low," an industry source told Business Times.

  • "For example, PTP will only develop the land in its Pelepas Free Zone when there is investment. "To date, the port has spent some RM300 million to develop infrastructure in Pelepas Free Zone which is similar in size to PKFZ," the source added.
It is not surprising that eight months after its completion, the PKFZ now resembles a ghost town, with only about a dozen tenants scattered about the site which has 512 warehouses and four blocks of 8-storey office complexes.

All those responsible for making the decisions to spend RM4.6 billion on PKFZ must be made accountable for the scandal. If there are improprieties which warrant investigations by the ACA or the police, they must be carried out immediately.

There should be no more bailout. PKA is a privatised entity which has exposed itself to the tremendous financial liabilities. It should resolve its own problems without the government and ultimately the taxpayers having to bear the cost of its imprudence. Malaysians are sick and tired of the series of bailouts in the past and will not tolerate another one mega-bailout!

August 10, 2007

Sabah A "Fixed Deposit" For BN?

I find it very strange that the DPM, Najib Razak chose to describe Sabah to be a "fixed deposit" for UMNO and BN. Speaking in a joint meeting of UMNO divisions on 4 Aug 2007, he said "Sabah is a stronghold for Umno and BN. It is our fixed deposit in defending the party and BN." as reported in the NST.

The truth of his claim that Sabah is a stronghold for BN is besides the point here. If he thinks Sabah is indeed a stronghold for them, he could have called Sabah "a fortress" or "a bastion" but instead he chose to called it a "fixed deposit". Why the fixation on money and bank accounts? Could it be that he has unconsciously revealed what UMNO and BN really stands for and what they care about most in resource-rich Sabah is a source of constant revenue and for whom if I may add?

Sabahans should not tolerate such an insult from a national leader and should ensure that Sabah will not continue to be a "fixed deposit" for UMNO and BN in the future. They should only elect state and federal leaders who understand their roles and responsibilities and are sincere in working for the good of the people in the state.

(for those who are interested to read more about what UMNO and BN have done in Sabah, please read these Special Reports on Sabah)

August 9, 2007

Inspiring Speeches of Raja Nazrin

In the previous posts, I have highlighted excerpts from the inspiring speeches of Raja Nazrin which he had made recently. To make it easier for those who wants to read and download the full text of the speeches, they are listed below together with the locations where they can be found online.

3 April 2007
Keynote address at the Young Malaysians' Roundtable Discussion on National Unity and Development in Malaysia: Challenges and Prospects for Nation Building

31 July 2007
Inaugural lecture to commemorate the legacy of Professor Syed Hussein Alatas titled "Towards a decent social order for all Malaysians"

3 Aug 2007
Speech made at the launch of a book on former Deputy Prime Minister Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman titled "Not because of position: Tun Dr Ismail and his time"

5 Aug 2007
Keynote address at the first annual Student Leaders Summit 2007 - "Celebrating 50 Years of Nationhood"

Challenges and prospects for nation-building

(excerpts from the keynote address by the Raja Muda of Perak, Raja Dr Nazrin Shah, at the first annual Student Leaders Summit 2007 on 5 Aug 2007)

When the New Economic Policy (NEP) was established, it was to address the problem of economic function being identified along the lines of ethnicity, and the problem of widespread poverty. All quarters of society came to an agreement that in order for nation-building to proceed, certain sacrifices had to be made to help the underperforming groups. But it was not a case where one party was to benefit at another's expense. Distribution was to take place within the context of a growing economy. It was meant to be a situation of give-and-take that would result in economic growth shared by all segments of society.

Today, the give-and-take attitude seems to have dissipated. Malaysians are exhibiting signs of polarisation along ethnic and religious lines. Some groups bear grudges against what is perceived as preferential treatment. Others regard preferential treatment as an indisputable entitlement.

As I have said elsewhere, to ensure sustained success at nation-building, Malaysians of all races,religions, and geographic locations need to believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have a place under the Malaysian sun. Only when each citizen believes that he or she has a common home, is presented common opportunities, given due recognition and is working towards a common destiny, will he or she make the sacrifices needed for the long haul.

Managing change is not easy and nation-building does not occur naturally in any society, let alone a pluralistic one. Allow me to suggest three essentials for effective and sustained nation-building.

The first is the Rule of Law and the inviolability of the constitution. The constitution is the supreme law of the country which guarantees fundamental liberties to every citizen. A cleverly crafted document, it clearly provides for adequate checks and balances against excesses through the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches -- with each protected from encroachment by the other.

The second element necessary in nation-building is economic and social justice for all. All groups in society, regardless of ethnic group, religion or gender, must participate in making decisions that affect their lives and livelihood. They must have a voice and a place in all sectors. They must carry equal responsibilities in making society work. The people we work and play with, the friendships we make, must never be constrained by ethnicity. Preconceptions, parochialism and chauvinism can be eradicated if we interact actively with others of a different ethnic group or religion -- even if it is just one teacher, one man or one schoolmate. In many areas, this is absent and it must change.

The third requisite to nation-building is good governance and a thriving civil society. Institutions of governance must demonstrate and generate norms and behaviour that are fundamentally efficient, productive and just. Only those who are capable, responsible and scrupulously honest should be allowed to serve in positions of leadership. Those who are inefficient, incompetent and, most importantly, corrupt should be held in absolute contempt. There must also be concrete anticorruption measures and management practices based on efficiency, transparency and accountability. It is also very important that we have leaders who are earnest in maintaining unity, never resorting to religious or ethnic posturing to further their political careers at the expense of peace and security. Should they fail in this respect, they must be held accountable and answerable before the law.

Note: highlighting was added and not from original text of the speech

(The full text is available at: Challenges and prospects for nation-building: A lesson for the young and bright, 5 Aug 2007,

August 7, 2007

Do not betray citizens' loyalty

(Translated excerpts from the speech by Raja Nazrin at the launch of a book on former Deputy Prime Minister Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman titled "Not because of position: Tun Dr Ismail and his time" in Universiti Malaya on 3 Aug 2007)

As I read about Tun Dr. Ismail, I realise more and more what an extraordinary person he was; a statesman, an inspirational leader and a visionary. Tun Dr. Ismail envisaged a Malaysia for all without color lines, without ethnic borders and without any one group feeling a sense of inferiority. He recognised the importance of open mindedness in addressing day to day issues and problems; the importance of listening and learning from others particularly from those who are more advanced....

This first wave of leaders displayed very strong integrity which is hard to dispute. They displayed faithfulness to their struggle, high principles and loyalty to their race and nation. These first-wave leaders were the elites of their race then, most were from aristocratic lineage or upper middle-class, but their hearts and souls were always with the ordinary citizen - understanding the suffering and experiences of the farmers and ordinary labourers. They took up the responsibility of speaking up for, and worked towards improving the fate of the lower classes and of all citizens. That was the spirit that enabled this country to become politically stable and economically prosperous.

After 50 years of independence, this spirit of helping the majority of the rakyat should not be something far away from the hearts of those with positions and power. The poor and the lower classes still need to be and should continue to be helped. The citizens' loyalty to their leaders must not be defiled by the actions of leaders, who stray from the path of truth, because they are driven by greed to obtain wealth for themselves and their families. Leaders are like trees and the rakyat are like the roots, which will determine the health and height of the tree. Learn from and make an example of the leadership qualities exhibited by Tun Dr Ismail and the first wave of post-Merdeka leaders, such as their genuineness, sacrifices, sincerity and integrity.

Note: highlighting was added and not from original text of the speech

(Full text of the speech mainly in Bahasa Malaysia is available at: Don’t take citizens’ loyalty for granted, Raja Nazrin to leaders, 03 Aug 2007,

(Translation of excerpts into English available at: Revive principles of Ismail's struggle, 6 Aug 2007,

August 6, 2007

What Is A Decent Social Order?

(Excerpts from the inaugural lecture by Raja Nazrin on July 31 2007 to commemorate the legacy of Professor Syed Hussein Alatas)

A decent social order would be one where the social factors mentioned above produce social norms and behaviour that are fundamentally efficient, productive and just. Not only that, I would add that the idea of decency implies standards that are more than minimally adequate but which correspond to the highest international levels. What does all this mean in concrete terms? What characteristics or traits would a decent social order in Malaysia have? Let me quickly summarise five of them.

First, if Malaysia is to have a decent social order, it cannot be characterised by social fragmentation and polarisation. The social order must be one that leads to cohesion within and among communites. There must be horizontal equity whereby all Malaysians in equal circumstances are treated in exactly the same way.

Second, the social norms that a decent social order produce would lead Malaysians of all races and religions to engage one another with absoulte civility and respect. Coercion and overt and covert threats of violence as a means of attaining political, economic and social ends would never be sanctioned. The only legitimate way to take into account differences and resolve problems is through dialogue and negotiations.

Third, Malaysians would feel a deep-seated sense of ownership over the problems of the country. They would be motivated to take decisive action and to make whatever sacrifices that are necessary for the good of the country. There would not be the high degree of indifference and apathy that there is at present. There would not be the tendency to escape from the challenges confronting the country or to apportion blame.

Fourth, only Malaysians who are capable, hard working, bold and scrupulously honest would be allowed to serve in positions of responsibility. Those who are inefficient, incompetent and most importantly, corrupt would be held in absolute and utter contempt by society. In this regard, the fight against corruption would be the first priortiy in the Malaysian development agenda. It would be recognised that corruption ensures that no decent social order is possible. Actions to ensure a corruption-free society would be unrelenting.

Fifth, the public would have a high degree of trust in the pillars of state, the executive, judiciary and legislature, as well as the civil service and police. Those appointed to these institutions would be the best the country has to offer. They would never allow respect for their office to be compromised in anyway, preferring to resign rather than let it fall into disrepute. At all times, the rule of law would prevail.

In short, a decent Malaysian social order would be one that is based on inclusiveness and accommodation as opposed to marginalisation and discrmination.

Note: highlighting was added and not from original text of the speech

(more excerpts of the speech available at: Towards a decent social order for all Malaysians )

August 5, 2007

On Corruption

(Excerpts from the inaugural lecture by Raja Nazrin on July 31 2007 to commemorate the legacy of Professor Syed Hussein Alatas)

Corruption is mankind's most deadly social disease. It is a disease than can undermine good governance, weaken institutional foundations, distort public policy, compromise the rule of law and constrain the economy. If not nipped in the bud, it is like a cancer whose deadly cells multiply rapidly and pervade the body politic. Once corruption becomes widespread, there is the danger that corrupt acts will no longer seem immoral and unlawful - just businessas usual. In Syed Hussein's terminology, it can even become 'an industry' in itself.

A society where corruption is rife is one where the actions of an unprincipled minority have detrimental consequences on the welfare of the majority. The interests of a minority override the interests of the majority. It curbs competitiveness to the detriment of economic and social development. It leads to tremendous misallocation of resources. The cost of doing business becomes unacceptably high. Investors shy away. Incomes fall. Jobs are lost, People suffer.

  • The starting point is with the nation's leaders. Figures in authority must be chosen for their integrity first and qualifications second. They must take personal ownership in bringing out a decent social order, and they must be held accountable if they do not achieve it. Those with a chequered past or clear evidence of questionable morality shouldbe prevented from taking office. There should be zero tolerance for corrupt practices.

  • There must also be concrete anti-corruption measures and management practices based on efficiency, transparencyand accountability. This is the second leg. Unnecessary and complex regulations and licensing requirements should be pared back or else simplified in order to discourage under the table deals. The award of contracts should be fairly and transparently administered. Oversight agencies and appeal processes should be in place to ensure that discretionary power is not abused. It goes without saying that an anti-corruption system must be functioning and effective.

  • The third leg of good governance is the mobilisation of public opinion. Syed Hussein placed great store on the power of public outrage. He believed that if you awakened society's consciousness to the ills of corruption and gave cases of corruption widespread pubilicty, it would generate such an adverse reaction the the government would be forced to take action. Complaints and protests may be irksome, but they should be treated as welcome and constructive feedback.

Note: Fomatting has been modified for better readability on the web.

(text of the speech available at: Towards a decent social order for all Malaysians)

August 4, 2007

Of Fools and Bebalisma

(Excerpts from the inaugural lecture by Raja Nazrin on July 31 2007 to commemorate the legacy of Professor Syed Hussein Alatas)

The one group Alatas turned to was intellectuals, which he believed would serve as an antidote to two widespread 'poisons' in developing countries.

The first of these poisons were those he called 'fools' - persons who were educated but yet unable to provide any creative solutions to the problems of the day or to demonstrate high standards of behaviour and performance. According to him, developing countries lag behind others when a large number of fools determine the interest of the nation. They usually just follow the line of least resistance.

The second poison was 'bebalisma' - a general attitude of ignorance, indifference and indolence (or dislike of work). It makes society non-anticipatory, non-thinking, non-rational and non-contextual. No priority is given to the things that really matter and no embarrassment is felt for mistake and shortcomings.

The concept of the fool and bebalisma struck a chord with the Malaysian public. Who, after all, does not have a favourite personal story of clownish bureaucracy or of bebalism? The stakes, however, are much higher. "To lack intellectuals," Alatas said, "is to lack leadership". "Our national problem', he said, "should be tackled with intellectual justice, not with exploitative ignorance" intellectuals possess the ability to pose, define and analyse problems and propose solutions.

(text of the speech available at: Towards a decent social order for all Malaysians)

Note on bebalisma

To Syed Hussein, bebalisma meant not just stupidity, but implied narrow-mindedness, mindlessness and stubbornness. It is not stupidity of the natural kind, but wilful stupidity that is cultivated, rewarded and socially reproduced.

It is the bebalisma of those who reach positions of leadership in developing societies, due to anything but intellect, wisdom, ability and character.

This, to Syed Hussein, represented the tragedy of the distorted social and economic development of Southeast Asia and the developing world.

(from article by Zainah Anwar)

On Nation-Building

(Excerpts from the keynote address by Raja Nazrin at the Young Malaysians' Roundtable Discussion on National Unity and Development in Malaysia held on 3 April 2007, where he outlined the following seven guidelines for nation-building)

First, Malaysians of all races, religions, and geographic locations need to believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have a place under the Malaysian sun. Only when each citizen believes that he or she has a common home and is working towards a common destiny, will he or she make the sacrifices needed for the long haul. In Malaysia, the Federal Constitution, the Rukun Negara and Vision 2020 encapsulate the rights, hopes and aspirations of the population in a way that no other documents do. The integrity of these documents must be defended and promoted, especially the first.

Second, when we seek solutions to problems in nation-building, we must be careful not to assume away problems. Nation-building is required precisely because there are stark differences within society. If we all walked, talked and thought the same, it would probably not be needed. There will therefore be chauvinistic groups in this country, just as there are in others. They will fight the idea of national unity, block social change and try to be politically dominant. The existence of these groups, however, does not mean that nation-building is a futile exercise. It does mean that we must be prepared to negotiate our way through and around these differences. We can, for example, create social movements that aim to enlighten and dissuade popular support being given to them.

Third, nation-building requires accommodation and compromise. In our haste to be prescriptive, we should not be so idealistic that we are incapable of also being practical. We should not allow perfection to be the enemy of the good. Yes, we should seek the best solutions and expect the highest standards of performance. But we should also be prepared to sacrifice some part of our positions for the good of the whole. The virtues of pure self-interest are largely a myth. What seems to be a reality is that individuals end up worse off when they act out of self-interest, as opposed to acting in their collective group interests.

Fourth, if nation-building is to be successful, enforced solutions must be avoided. Nation-building is effectively rendered null and void by coercion or the threat of violence. Might cannot, and must not, be shown to be right. If solutions cannot be found within the political and social structures, there will be a strong temptation to resort to illegitimate ways and means.

Fifth, nation-building occurs when society is open, tolerant and forward-looking. So important are these values that they are embedded in Vision 2020's nine strategic challenges, as are those of mature democracy, caring society and innovation. Only by being inclusive and participative can the various sectors of our society be productively engaged.It follows that all forms of extremism, chauvinism, racism and isolationism must be guarded against. They must be soundly sanctioned socially, politically and, if necessary, also legally.

Sixth, nation-building is a process rather than an outcome. When Malaysia started off 50 years ago, there were no examples to study. There were no manuals to follow. Mistakes were made and, to a greater or lesser extent, lessons have been learned.

While a sense of impatience is perhaps fully understandable, nation-building takes place over a period of time and only with persistence. Where there is no trust, trust has to be built. Where there is no cooperative network, one has to be established. Building on layers of foundation is the only way to ensure that the process is solid and sustainable.

Seventh, the political, social and economic incentives must reward good behaviour and penalise bad. I know that this statement is virtually self-evident, but it is a fact that many countries are as likely to punish good behaviour as to reward it. After all, if there are benefits for corruption, then there is a real cost to being honest. The incentives for building up a nation must be greater and more compelling than breaking it down. The price of racial and cultural intolerance must be made prohibitively high.

(full text of the speech is available at: Raja Nazrin: Be colour-blind)

8 March 2008

A New And Better Malaysia

Has Emerged