THIS is a story about Malaysia.
It is a spot on earth blessed with everything: water, oil, natural gas, palm oil, rubber, best diving spots in the world, postcard-perfect beaches, universal education, affordable healthcare, a sprinkling of different cultures and food most people can only dream about and last but not least, unbelievable hospitality.
We have it all.
But we seem determined to destroy our paradise.
Not a day goes by without a headline telling us that all is not well. Child dies after a beating in a religious school. Pastor abducted in broad daylight. Three out of four Malaysians unable to muster RM1,000 in an emergency. Nearly 100,000 civil servants on the cusp of bankruptcy. Conveyor belt of graduates facing a lifetime on the margins.
These headlines tell a deeper story of failure of planning and public policy and the disregard for the rule of law.
But these shortcomings can be fixed with the right people in Putrajaya.
More onerous is the job of reversing the poisoning of hearts and minds that has been going on for so many years; the insidious attempt to make us see each other as enemies.
Sadly, we have leaders, politicians, religious scholars and little Napoleons hell bent on taking the country down a ruinous path.
To gain political power or to hold on to power, they are willing to play the religious and racial card with wanton disregard to the damage it is doing to the real treasure of Malaysia: Malaysians.
As the country pauses to dissect and digest the divisive rhetoric at the just-concluded annual congress of PAS, it is worth noting that what Abdul Hadi Awang and his friends offered was just the appetiser.
There will be a spike in the them versus us; Muslim versus non-Muslim; Malay versus non-Malay discourse in the run-up to the 14th general election (GE14).
In the Umno camp, strategists believe that they have a bankable plan to defeat Pakatan Harapan – push the Malay-Muslim agenda to the extreme right and watch the pact of PKR, DAP, Amanah and Bersatu stumble and implode.
They believe that PKR and Bersatu will attempt to follow the Umno move to the right to prove their Malay credentials. In doing so, PKR and Bersatu will be slammed publicly by DAP politicians and the opposition coalition will be hit by in-fighting.
A sound election, perhaps. But at what cost?
The casualties of this strategy will be ordinary Malaysians.
More and more, we will see each other as strangers. More and more, that poisonous bile spewed by politicians and religious leaders will lead us to view each other with suspicion, disdain even.
More and more, we will view everything about Malaysia as a zero-sum game.
A real sad day when this blessed spot of earth with so much loses its biggest treasure: Malaysians with love and empathy for each other.