On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Most of us want to move forward

Malaysians generally do not expect our politicians to admit they have done wrong, let alone to apologise. 

But it cannot be denied that many Malaysians, regardless of their race, have expressed their unhappiness and uneasiness at the inflammatory speeches made by some Umno delegates. 

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak have done a good job at the party assembly putting the remarks in perspective. They have also given their assurance to non-Malays that they have rights as citizens. 

Najib has also asked the authorities to investigate the Umno speakers who made remarks deemed to be seditious, describing some as "extreme."  

Outspoken Umno leader Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said the law would be allowed to take its course against those who had gone too far. 

He warned that those who had spoken out of line at the party assembly should be prepared to face the consequences, saying "those who made speeches that were seditious will face the music." 

Barisan Nasional component party leaders, who attended the Cabinet meeting last week in their capacity as ministers, also expressed their unhappiness at the hurtful remarks made by these delegates. 

The statements from Umno leaders like Abdullah, Najib and Nazri are reassuring to Malaysians, as their views will be regarded as the official stand of the Umno leadership. 

If action were to be taken against these irresponsible speakers, it would set a precedent and serve as a warning to other communal-minded politicians from other parties. 

The message is simple and clear: if you exploit the subjects of race and religion in your fire-and-brimstone speeches, you will be burnt. 

Umno delegates, in their preoccupation with their share in the Malaysian economy, could have spent more time deliberating on the economic aspects of Pak Lah's speech. 

Even the media should be blamed. Perhaps there were just too many news angles to choose from and the more sensational aspects like religious ultra-conservatism, press freedom and corruption were picked. 

Many Malaysians have expressed their views on what they regard as an economic slowdown. Bank Negara may have released good growth figures but among many ordinary Malaysians, the pinch of an increasing cost of living is being felt. 

Businessmen have complained of fewer jobs and contracts while others have expressed fear of competition from other countries, particularly our drop in Foreign Direct Investments (FDI). 

Pak Lah has addressed their concerns in an honest and open manner. Those who missed these crucial parts should refer to his full speech again. 

He acknowledged that Malaysians "want quick results" with complaints "that FDI is slowing" and the "stock market is sluggish." 

But he has offered reasons – some of our neighbours post impressive FDI numbers because they have allowed their companies to be bought by foreign investors. 

"We believe in selective mergers and acquisitions, and maintaining control of strategic assets," he said. "We can increase the FDI figures many times over with the stroke of a pen but it will mean loss of control. If I do that, you will be the first to condemn me." 

He also gave this advice to Umno delegates: be more competitive and innovative because the new way breeds more confidence, and that future economic growth will not just be dependent upon government spending but will be based on innovation and creativity. 

It's a shame that the words of the Prime Minister were lost in the sound and fury of some Umno speakers. 

In a globalised economy, where even the concept of a nation-state is losing its importance, we cannot escape from adapting to a borderless world. 

Pak Lah has spoken of a "transformative effect" that he wished to create – it is now up to Malaysians to help him realise his wish. 

No Malaysians should blame their fellow countrymen if they fall behind.  


  • Wong Chun Wai can be reached at onthebeat@thestar.com.my