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As in the much bigger Indonesia, Malaysia could not give birth to even one single great writer, scientist or thinker.
In smaller towns, the situation is even more pathetic. Kuching was celebrating the fact that the long postponed light rail project will soon start being constructed. But the 2ndera of Dr. M has begun. Countless public works have been stopped. What was already there, like the only existing public railroad in Borneo, which originates in Kota Kinabalu, has been castrated, its service reduced to two runs per day.
Why? So, just as in Indonesia and Thailand, private vehicles could be force-sold to the citizens, so gas could be burned, and corporations could make billions from building new roads, further ruining the natural environment as well as the urban areas.
And those well-funded Malaysian intellectuals? As mentioned earlier in this essay, they began glorifying the highway-builders in their books, even in novels. Coincidence? I will leave it up to you to decide!
Dr. M. torpedoed many grand projects previously signed with China. That was most likely the deal that was made behind the closed doors: the "new" government would enjoy peace with the West. London and Washington will stop trashing the old man and his coalition. Local NGOs and Malaysian artists and 'intellectuals' paid by the Western organizations, institutions and governments will scale down or even entirely stop their criticism. In exchange, the Belt and Road Initiative(BRI) will be almost entirely kicked out of Malaysia, or at least, thoroughly castrated.
This is of course an absolutely horrible deal for Malaysia, but it appears that for as long as this government is in place, the trend is here to stay. After all, 'it is all about China, isn't it?' At least for the West and its dependencies.
Everything has somehow failed in Malaysia, but especially those dreams about the building of a great, proud and productive nation.
I filmed in Kota Kinabalu, recently. Two years ago, there was an attempt to build a boardwalk, a public area facing the sea. You know, a small replica of those grand waterfronts that one can see in Latin America, South Africa, Europe, and of course in China, and even in the Gulf. Now, with the new government, even that tiny public space was privatized; rented to some businesswoman from Kuala Lumpur. She fenced it off, put some kitsch figures and a tiny shack with a "horror show" performance, and began charging an entry fee of RM5 (US1.25) per person.
I asked the cashier how she felt about this corporate takeover of a stunning public space?
She did not understand. I asked about savage capitalism in Malaysia; she had no idea what I was talking about.
Later, I asked several of my Malaysian friends about the ruined land, which has been unbearably scarred by the oil palm plantations (almost half of the world's production), or by mines and other terrible ventures. They refused to comment, at least on the record. Reason: "Too dangerous". "They all have families".
I talked to the indigenous people of Borneo, in Sabah and Sarawak. They did talk. About brutality, about being forced to convert, religiously. About people who were killed, who disappeared.
I talked to people in Papua New Guinea and from the Solomon Islands, where the Malaysian logging companies had been committing crimes against humanity, including rapes, torture and sexual abuse of children. I described my finding in my book Oceania.
Homeless children from the Philippines in Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia
(Image by Andre Vltchek) Details DMCA
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