A wake-up call from flight MH370 for complacent Malaysians

By Chandran Nair
Financial Times

The aircraft’s disappearance has focused international attention on the country, writes Chandran Nair

Anyone who knows Malaysia or who has visited since the tragic events surrounding flight MH370 will have been struck by the coming together of all in a society that is often, erroneously, portrayed by outsiders as divided along racial and religious lines. Weekend newspapers carried articles about the unfairness of the global media coverage. While some of this was the typical patriotism one sees in any country when tragedy strikes, mostly it showed people from across the board supporting the government despite some embarrassment about its initial mismanagement and incompetence in handling the crisis.

Malaysians resent the way their country has been depicted as a politically corrupt backwater, technically inept and lacking in business and crisis management skills.

The question for Malaysians is why, and what now? The country has never had so much sustained international media scrutiny and it did not pass the test – unfair as much of it may have been. However, it serves as a call to action for Malaysians in general and the government to reshape the country and stop squandering its luck and enormous potential. Malaysia does not suffer from huge political unrest or poverty, or from earthquakes and typhoons; indeed, it is endowed with tremendous natural resources and a small population.

But like all lucky people Malaysians have taken these for granted and become complacent.

Change should start by reflecting on how negatively the world saw Malaysia even before the current media attention. First, for more than a decade there has been the saga of the Anwar Ibrahim trials in all its sordid detail, and which remains unresolved. There was the coverage of muggings and robberies, with news reports of armed guards outside restaurants in the capital, even though Malaysia is one of the safest countries to visit. Third, an interfaith debate about use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims – a non-issue for most Muslim scholars around the world – gave the false impression that the country is over-run by Islamic fundamentalists.

In fact, the other real issues with Malaysia are far less well known. Start with the falling standards of education, especially at primary level. This system had earlier helped produce the current generation of Malaysians who are able to work at all levels around the world. Then there is the inadequate enforcement of resource and environmental laws in one of the world’s most biodiverse countries, one consequence of which has been the unimaginable – a water shortage in the tropics. Last, there are the public health issues arising from the spread of dengue fever that has reached epidemic status in some parts of the country.

The good news is Malaysia has the resources and expertise to tackle these issues by itself. But it needs political will from everyone. All Malaysians should take responsibility as they contributed to the current corrosive politics and apathy.

There are lessons in the MH370 disaster for others too, of course. For technologically less advanced countries the question is how much the procurement of advanced technology genuinely translates into creating a modern society if the soft infrastructure of people, organisations and culture is lacking. How many of the world’s most sophisticated aircraft, not to mention arms, computing systems and transport infrastructure are sold to countries that have the cash but have not invested in the institutions to manage and maintain them.

Finally, the region would do well to build stronger co-operation in air and maritime affairs. Malaysia should lead an initiative across the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that would prevent a repeat of the obvious lack of co-operation, detection, reporting and information sharing in the early days of the crisis. In the event of incidents at sea, a regional-level capacity for search and rescue operations is long overdue. It would also avoid the embarrassment of having to turn to the US for help and thereby straying into geopolitical difficulties. If Malaysia and the world can learn a few lessons, maybe we will – even in a small way – have honoured those who are lost.

The writer is a Malaysian based in Hong Kong. He is the founder and CEO of the Global Institute for Tomorrow and creator of the book project The Other Hundred

Source: Financial Times


Chinese translation:

2014年04月09日

MH370事件值得马来西亚自省

全球未来研究所行政总裁 程子俊 为英国《金融时报》撰稿


任何一个知道马来西亚、或在MH370航班引发的悲剧性事 件后去过马来西亚的人,都会深有感触地发现,这个常被外界错误地描述为因内部存在不同种族和宗教而四分五裂的社会,其实是多么的团结。上周末的一些报刊文 章谈到了全球媒体报道的不公正。虽然这里面有典型的爱国主义成分(你在任何遭遇不幸的国家都能看到这一点),但它们主要凸显出了马来西亚全体人民对政府的 一致支持——尽管在处置这场危机的过程中,马来西亚政府最初表现出的管理不当和无能有些令人尴尬。

马来西亚人对自己的国家被描绘为政治腐败、闭塞、技术上无能、以及缺乏商业与危机管理技巧感到愤慨。

对马来西亚人来说,问题在于为什么外界会这样描绘、以及现在该怎么做?这个国家从未受到国际媒体如此高强度的持续监督,它的表现的确不及格——尽管 其中许多监督并不公正。不过,这种监督吹响了一个号角,号召马来西亚全体国民和政府采取行动,重塑国家形象,不再挥霍国家的运气和巨大潜力。马来西亚不面 临大规模政治动荡、贫困、地震和台风等问题;实际上,它不但天生就拥有无尽的自然资源,而且人口也不多。

但就像所有的幸运儿一样,马来西亚人将这一切视为理所当然,变得自满起来。

早 在引来媒体当前这波关注之前,马来西亚人就该认真思考外界对本国的看法有多负面,进而开始作出改变。首先,有关安瓦尔•易卜拉欣(Anwar Ibrahim)的充满龌龊细节的传奇般审判已上演了十几年,迄今仍悬而未决。其次,尽管马来西亚是世界上最安全的旅游国家之一,但还是能看到关于抢劫的 报道、以及首都餐馆外有武装警卫守卫的新闻。第三,就非穆斯林使用“安拉”(Allah)一词(在世界各地的多数穆斯林学者看来,这并非什么问题)展开的 跨信仰辩论,给人一种伊斯兰原教旨主义者在这个国家泛滥的错误印象。

事实上,马来西亚其他切实问题的知名度远没有上述问题那么高。打头的便是教育水准的不断下降,尤其是初级教育。这套教育制度曾帮助培养出当前这代马 来西亚人,让他们能胜任全世界任何层级的工作。其次,马来西亚作为全球生物多样性最丰富的国家之一,在资源和环境方面执法不力,这导致了一个不可思议的后 果——身处热带居然缺水。最后是公众健康问题,在马来西亚部分地区,登革热的蔓延已达到流行病级别。

好消息是,马来西亚拥有独立解决上述问题的资源和专业知识。但前提是每个人都拿出政治意愿。所有马来西亚人都应负起责任,因为他们共同促成了当前的政治腐败和冷漠。

当然,其他国家也可从MH370灾难中汲取教训。对那些技术欠发达的国家来说,问题在于如果缺乏人、组织和文化等软基础设施,先进技术的采购能在多 大程度上真正转化为现代社会的构建。全世界有多少最先进的飞机(更不消说武器、计算系统和交通基础设施)卖给了那些有钱、却不投资建设管理和维护飞机的机 构的国家。

最后,本地区最好在海空事务方面建立更强大的合作。马来西亚应该在东南亚国家联盟(ASEAN,简称:东盟)里带头改变,防止此次危机初期在合作、 探测、汇报和资源共享方面出现的明显欠缺再度上演。早就该构建地区级的搜救行动能力,应对海上有事的情况。如此还可避免不得不向美国求助的尴尬局面,从而 也避免误闯地缘政治困局。如果马来西亚和世界能从整件事中汲取一些教训,或许我们就算是已向那些失踪的人献上了哪怕是小小的敬意。

本文作者是常驻香港的马来西亚人,他是全球未来研究所(Global Institute for Tomorrow)的创办人和行政总裁,也是《The Other Hundred》图书项目的构思者

译者/何黎

原载: 《金融时报》