Malaysia on its way to being a failed state, analysts say

THE jury is still out whether Malaysia is a failed state or not.

Analysts told The Malaysian Insight that while Putrajaya has failed to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, people’s welfare and economy, the government is still in control and the administrative functions are still intact.

It is not a successful government simply because it could not achieve the objectives it had set, they said.

They attributed the government’s failures to the political instability caused by lack of support for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, and its decision not to engage others in finding solutions.

“The government’s inability to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, people’s welfare and economy has turned Malaysia into a somewhat failed state,” he said.

Malaysia yesterday registered a new record high of 15,573 daily Covid-19 cases, taking the national caseload to 980,491.

The number of fatalities stands at 7,718 after 144 deaths were reported yesterday.

Wong said the signs that this government has failed are all there – from the white flag campaign, flip-flops on standard operating procedure (SOP) and the increasing Covid-19 cases and deaths.

He said the government’s failure was fundamentally caused by two striking factors.

“First, the oligarchic mode of governance where decisions are made by ministers and senior civil servants, ignoring opposition MPs and even government backbenchers, let alone the wider society except some well-connected business interests and pressure groups.

“Second, the new political reality of a hung Parliament where the government no longer commands a strong majority,” Wong told The Malaysian Insight.

He said Muhyiddin had failed to recognise or accept the latter and instead amplified the first by narrowing the decision-making process to the nine-man National Security Council under the emergency order.

“It is like a Malaysian driver speeding in Indonesia when it is his first time driving on the right side of the road. How not to fail?”

Wong was commenting on an article by Bloomberg columnist Daniel Moss who recently wrote that Malaysia may be heading towards becoming a failed state following political instability, mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic and the emergence of the white flag movement.

To get Malaysia back on track, Wong said either the government must change its way of doing things or step down.

“(But) not even a fresh election will resolve this if it returns to another hung Parliament,” he said.

He said the government could share data widely with Parliament and the public, so that “we can have better policies, as well as fewer blind spots and flip-flops”.

“This breaks down the informational monopoly held by the technocrats, accepts resistance based on institutional tribalism.”

Analysts say the white flag movement gives the perception the government is not concerned over the plight of the people. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, July 24, 2021.
Analysts say the white flag movement gives the perception the government is not concerned over the plight of the people. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, July 24, 2021.

Not a total failure

International Islamic University lecturer Dr Tunku Mohar Tunku Mohd Mokhtar meanwhile said the current government has not totally failed as it still has control and its administrative functions are intact.

“However, it is not a successful government simply because it could not achieve the objectives it set for the functioning of a government.

“It could not address the pandemic crisis appropriately.”

Tunku Mohar said a failed government, in political science, was basically a government that could not function for various reasons.

“It does not have control or authority over its people. In that situation, the political situations and administrative functions will be in chaos.”

He said a major issue for Perikatan Nasional was that it is not the government that the voters elected in the 14th general election.

“It (PN) could be respectable if it can carry out its functions properly, but instead, it suppresses the democratic process by declaring an emergency and suspending Parliament.

“It did that in the guise of addressing the pandemic, but what it actually did was to ensure the government would not fall amid grievances from parties and the people who supported it.”

Tunku Mohar said that while PN could still use government machinery to address the pandemic and the wellbeing of the people, its policies could not solve the problems of the people.

“Because of this, we can say that the government has partially failed.”

Losing war on perception

Universiti Sains Malaysia political analyst Dr Azmil Mohd Tayeb said that the government lacked a fixed and comprehensive policy in dealing with the pandemic.

He said that there were also cases of double standards where the ruling class appears to be able to do anything while the underprivileged people were severely punished when violating the SOP.

“Perceptions are important in politics and this is the perception formed in a society where politicians and other elites can escape the SOP imposed on the (poor) people.

“Social media also play a role in shaping and spreading this perception in society as we can see in the comment space on Facebook and Instagram as well as tweets on Twitter.”

He added that the white flag movement also gave the perception that the government was not concerned over the plight of the people.

The white flag movement began earlier this month where families who are facing hunger or need any other kind of assistance are encouraged to wave a white flag or put a piece of white cloth outside their homes to signal that they need help.

The idea is that by spotting the white flag, neighbours and good samaritans can reach out to them.