Malaysia in restrospect
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Malaysia in restrospect

SO 2018 is finally upon us and as is customary, many are going over the events of the past year, reflecting on lessons learned, mistakes made and achievements unlocked.

But when you really think about it, the new year is just the flip of a page on the calendar, and the first day of the year – Jan 1 – is no different from any other day.

Still, let’s for a second entertain the thought that by crossing into 2018, we’re moving past a major life milestone.

For that purpose, I’d like to take a look back (or as many would call it… a throwback) at some of the developments of 2017 that I feel really impacted Malaysia, and that I hope we will view as missteps never to be repeated in the new year.

1. Corruption

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1MDB was once a pet project of Najib, who chaired its advisory board until last year. Source: Reuters

Sadly, this is an issue that has dominated public discourse in Malaysia for years now. And 2017 was no different.

In the past year, we heard of huge corruption scandals allegedly involving the country’s most powerful political players. Yes, we’re talking about the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) controversy, a multi-billion dollar financial scandal that the opposition has repeatedly linked to the country’s prime minister, Najib Razak.

But 1MDB wasn’t the only scandal to rock the nation.

Some smaller fish involved in smaller corruption cases were also caught in 2017. Local government authorities were detained and investigated for having cash and assets that, although compared to the 1MDB scandal may sound ridiculously small, is still actually ridiculously huge. Tell me that RM112 million (US$28 million) in cash between two individuals isn’t massive.

This is perhaps indicative of just how ingrained corruption is in our society, involving individuals in both the upper and lower echelons of power. The biggest challenge for us (some might even call it an impossible challenge) is figuring out how to stamp out corruption… for good. Or maybe this is wishful thinking? Let’s hope not.

SEE ALSO: Are we really seeing an end to corruption in Malaysia? Far from it

2. Racism and religious intolerance

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Nurhanizah Abdul Rahman and her dog Bubu became the subject of national debate in 2017 over whether Muslims were allowed to own dogs as pets in Malaysia. Source: Youtube

And here’s another issue we unfortunately can’t seem to hear enough of.

Malaysia’s “social contract”, an agreement between the state and its people concerning the citizenship rights of the Bumiputera (sons of the soil) and non-Bumiputera, has often been used as a political tool to divide and conquer.

Politicians and other authorities often pit each racial and religious groups against each other, playing on their insecurities so that they’d forever remain as enemies – a classic move by the powerful looking to stay in power.

Race and affirmative action have become so set in government policy that any attempt to change the status quo could set off a series of potentially damaging events for the country.

SEE ALSO: When Malaysians are apathetic to racism

3. Rapists marrying their victims

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Image depicts a traditional Malay wedding ceremony. Source: Shutterstock

Malaysia, it seems, has a very disturbing method of dealing with rapists.

In 2017, we heard of numerous cases where male rapists caught for the offence offered to marry their victims in order to “take responsibility” for their crime.

Did their victims have anything to say about that? Not at all.

Most of the victims were under-aged and the sad thing about it is that their parents would agree to the marriage because they actually believe it is the right thing to do.

SEE ALSO: Rapists marrying their victims is becoming an accepted practice in Malaysia

4. Malaysians and the Rohingya

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Protesters hold placards near the Burmese embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Aug 30, 2017. Source: Reuters/Angie Teo

Malaysians seem to hold the plight of the Rohingya very close to their hearts. They feel that the oppressed and persecuted community of Burma (Myanmar), who are Muslims, need to be helped. Even the government is getting into the action by holding rallies and delivering fiery speeches.

However, it’s a classic case of all talk and no real action. I say this because we haven’t really done anything to improve or change the issue. For one, the Malaysian government organised a protest to show their displeasure towards the Burmese government. Shouldn’t the government actually be using their diplomatic clout instead?

As for the Malaysian people, although many donate financially or in kind to the Rohingya refugees, they could still do more. Instead of holding small protests against the Burmese government, how about pressuring their own government instead?

Get our parliamentarians to change our refugee policy. Currently, Malaysia doesn’t even recognise refugees. If we really wanted to help, we should ratify the 1951 Refugee Convention. If we just make a lot of noise but not take any action, then we’re just full of hot air.

SEE ALSO: Malaysians will protest Rohingyan plight with rage, then they forget

5. Unaccountability and irresponsibility

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A family member of a victim of the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah religious school fire cries during a burial in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Sep 15, 2017. Source: Reuters/Lai Seng Sin

When the huge fire that razed the hostel of a religious tahfiz school in Kuala Lumpur happened several months ago, so many people who should have been held accountable escaped punishment by providing all kinds of excuses on why the fire happened, not once accepting blame for it.

The fire killed over 20 people, students and teachers included, and it highlighted how the school authorities were irresponsible, how the local government authorities were irresponsible and how even parents were irresponsible.

But at the end of the day, they all blamed it on fate.

SEE ALSO: Tahfiz school fire: Their deaths are on our hands

So these are the five main issues or incidents that I feel really impacted our country in 2017.

What we do with them is in our hands – we could look back on these events and shake our heads in remorse but do nothing to change things going forward, or we could decide to join the good fight, take the wheels and help one another pilot the country into a brighter future.

Lest we forget, those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Happy 2018, everyone.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of Asian Correspondent