Malaysia was one of three countries considered by the Economist for the ‘Country of the Year’ award in 2018. Ethiopia and Armenia were the other two finalists with the latter being the winner. The word that will figure in the minds of Liberal Malaysians at this news will be ‘ambivalence’.
At the start of 2018 it was quite impossible to imagine that Malaysia could win or, let alone, be in the running for any international award with the word ‘best’ in it. The ruling party at that time, Barisan National, had been in power since the end of colonialism in 1957. It was a party mired in corruption of epic proportions and was dragging the country down with it. People were desperate for change. The opposition was voted in in May through high voter turnout.
It was an election hailed for being truly democratic in nature. The New York Times published an article titled, ‘What Just Happened in Malaysia?’
Hope and change was in the air, finally. However, since then it is becoming clear that change is either slow to arrive or will never arrive. This change revolves around the rights of minorities in Malaysia. Malay rights are so deeply entrenched that the Government is running scared of repealing these and introducing the notion of equal rights for all citizens.
This intransigent stance has cost Malaysia the crowning glory of ‘Country of the Year’ award.
As a Liberal Malaysian I am left wondering whether there is cause for celebration at all. It would have been unthinkable at one time for Malaysia to figure in any nomination for ‘best country’ but the victory seems exceedingly hollow today. To have come thus far and to fall back on a ‘no change’ political agenda is an abysmal mockery of democracy.