Friday, August 07, 2009

Why is Malaysia a failed state and I am certainly not proud of it

Malaysia is a failed state - Raja Petra Kamarudin

Malaysia Today (22/1/2008): Over the last decade or so, since the Reformasi 'explosion' of 1998, I have met many Western journalists who passed this way in search of a story. Most of them wanted to meet me to talk about the goings-on in the local scene, in particular in relation to the opposition. Some imagine themselves as experts or authorities on human rights issues and of course countries like Malaysia are way at the bottom of their list of countries guilty of human rights abuses.

I actually get quite irritated when I speak to these Western journalists, those who imagine themselves as experts or authorities on matters concerning human rights. They are very patronising and speak with a high-and-mighty, holier-than-thou tone of voice. They always say they want to 'interview' me to get my views and thoughts on various issues. But when we meet it ends up with them lecturing me on what is wrong with this country and what 'people like us' should do to correct this sorry state of affairs.

Hey, you want my views, I will give it to you. I did not ask to meet you. You asked to meet me. But if you are meeting me to give me your views and to tell me what is wrong with this country and what 'we' should do about it, then I do not need to meet you. I have just too much work to do and am too busy to waste my valuable time to hear a sermon from people who think they are right because of the colour of their skin and we are wrong also for the same reason.

Yes, that's right, these Westerners harbour this impression that because they are Westerners they must be right and because we are Asians then we must be wrong. White is right (and some say might is also right), so we non-whites must sit through an hour of an 'interview' getting lectured on the Western perception of right and wrong. And they show this 'we know what we are talking about' streak in the way they write and talk. And they don't talk to you. They talk down at you.

If I were to write an article that the Jews are the cause of the Middle East crisis and it is because of their Zionist policy and their illegal occupation of Arab land that there is so much strife and killing I would be whacked to kingdom come. If I were to write that the so-called Holocaust did not happen and there is no evidence it did happen they would probably send a hit squad to bump me off. Running down the Jews is a no-no and no white-skin journalist would allow you to do this.

If I were to whack Islamic countries or Asian dictators, I would be viewed as a great person. And if I who whacks Islamic countries or Asian dictators am a Muslim on top of that, then I would be hailed as a great liberal Muslim or Asian. Westerners just love Muslims or Asians who whack their own kind. This sort of gives them the feeling that they are certainly right if the Muslims or Asians agree with what they have to say.

Sure, most Asian, African, Latin American and African countries are failed states. Not all failed states are Muslim countries of course but all Muslim countries are certainly failed states. And these countries deserve getting whacked. But who is the cause of this? These Western journalists who whack countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, etc., seem to overlook one thing. Many of these countries would not even exist if not for the Western powers. The Western powers created many of these countries after the two 'great' wars. And many of these failed states and dictatorships would have fallen a long time ago if not for the fact that the Western powers propped them up for their own self-interest.

Iran, for example, is not a failed state because it is non-white or because it is an Islamic country. It is a failed state because the West propped it up and closed its eyes to the human rights abuses under the Shah. Iran served the interest of the West so the West ignored the rampant and blatant human rights abuses and pretended it did not exist. Iraq was the same case. Whatever Saddam Hussein did was not something he did when he was opposed to the West but long before that while he still served the interest of the West. But the West closed its eyes to all this and pretended nothing was happening because Iraq was useful to Western interests.

Closer to home, Vietnam, Korea, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, etc., were all also led by dictators who not only had no respect for human rights but did not even understand the meaning of the term. So the dictators of Vietnam, Korea, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, etc., were also tolerated and supported. Only when they could no longer serve the interest of the West were they condemned and allowed to fall in favour of 'popular peoples' movements'.

The West is a hypocrite. The West created all these monsters, these failed states. And those from the West now come here to preach to us about what is good and what is bad and about how bad Malaysia is. And we have to sit through hours of 'interviews' listening to them go on about what 'we' should be doing to correct this.

Do they not realise that their governments created these monsters? Do they not realise that many of these monsters did not exist until their governments carved out new countries from the spoils of the two 'great' wars and which they divided amongst them to serve as their colonies? Do they not realise that their governments propped up all these failed states because the dictators running these failed states served the interest of the West? Who are they to tell us what is right and what is wrong and what we should do about it? Why did they not scream, rant and rave 50 or 60 years ago before these failed states became failed states and before the dictators running these failed states had exterminated millions of their own citizens as well as citizens of their neighbouring countries?

It is now three generations or more since many of these failed states were created. Today, the grandchildren are condemning the failed states which were created by their grandfathers and which were propped up by their fathers. These present day Western journalists somehow feel they have earned the right to criticise countries like Malaysia and sermon us as to what we should be doing. And they adopt this high-and-mighty, holier-than-thou tone of voice when lecturing us.

Many do not really understand the term 'failed state' so I have extracted below what Weber and Wikipedia have to say on the matter. You will notice that Malaysia certainly fits the bill of a failed state as evident in the parts we have highlighted in bold. Yes, Malaysia is, by 'Western' standards, a failed state, and I do not quite disagree with their prognosis. My only beef is that countries like Malaysia became failed states because the West allowed them to become so and because they served the interest of the West to become so. Failed states need to be propped up so the West would be required to do this propping up. In this way failed states would continue to be beholden to the West. It is only when they no longer serve the interest of the West would failed states be allowed to fall at the detriment of the population as what we have seen in many countries where the dictators finally fell only to bring the country out of the frying pan and into the fire.

What is a failed state and how would we recognise one?

There are several indicators of a failed state. The declaration that a state has 'failed' is generally controversial since, when made authoritatively, this assessment may carry significant geopolitical consequences.

Indicators include:

1. a state whose central government is so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of its territory (the level of control required to avoid being considered a failed state varies considerably amongst authorities),

2. legitimate authority to make collective decisions has been eroded,

3. reasonable public services can not be provided,

4. widespread corruption and criminality,

5. refugees and involuntary movement of populations,

6. sharp economic decline,

7. failed interaction with other states.

A state could be said to 'succeed' if it maintains a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within its borders. When this is broken (e.g., through the dominant presence of warlords, militias, or terrorism), the very existence of the state becomes dubious, and the state becomes a failed state. The difficulty of determining whether a government maintains 'a monopoly on the legitimate use of force' (which includes the problems of the definition of 'legitimate') means it is not clear precisely when a state can be said to have 'failed'. This problem of legitimacy can be solved by understanding what Weber intended by it. Weber clearly explains that only the state has the means of production necessary for physical violence (politics as vocation). This means that the state does not require legitimacy for achieving monopoly on the means of violence (de facto) but will need one if it needs to use it (de jure).

The term is also used in the sense of a state that has been rendered ineffective (i.e., has nominal military/police control over its territory only in the sense of having no armed opposition groups directly challenging state authority; in short, the 'no news is good news' approach) and is not able to enforce its laws uniformly because of high crime rates, extreme political corruption, an extensive informal market, impenetrable bureaucracy, judicial ineffectiveness, military interference in politics, cultural situations in which traditional leaders wield more power than the state over a certain area but do not compete with the state, or a number of other factors.

Indicators of state vulnerability

The index's ranks are based on twelve indicators of state vulnerability - four social, two economic and six political. The indicators are not designed to forecast when states may experience violence or collapse. Instead, they are meant to measure a state's vulnerability to collapse or conflict.

Social indicators

1. Demographic pressures: including the pressures deriving from high population density relative to food supply and other life-sustaining resources. The pressure from a population's settlement patterns and physical settings, including border disputes, ownership or occupancy of land, access to transportation outlets, control of religious or historical sites, and proximity to environmental hazards.

2. Massive movement of refugees and internally displaced peoples: forced uprooting of large communities as a result of random or targeted violence and/or repression, causing food shortages, disease, lack of clean water, land competition, and turmoil that can spiral into larger humanitarian and security problems, both within and between countries.

3. Legacy of vengeance-seeking group grievance: based on recent or past injustices, which could date back centuries. Including atrocities committed with impunity against communal groups and/or specific groups singled out by state authorities, or by dominant groups, for persecution or repression. Institutionalized political exclusion. Public scapegoating of groups believed to have acquired wealth, status or power as evidenced in the emergence of 'hate' radio, pamphleteering and stereotypical or nationalistic political rhetoric.

4. Chronic and sustained human flight: both the 'brain drain' of professionals, intellectuals and political dissidents and voluntary emigration of 'the middle class'. Growth of exile/expat communities are also used as part of this indicator.

Economic indicators

5. Uneven economic development along group lines: determined by group-based inequality, or perceived inequality, in education, jobs, and economic status. Also measured by group-based poverty levels, infant mortality rates, education levels.

6. Sharp and/or severe economic decline: measured by a progressive economic decline of the society as a whole (using: per capita income, GNP, debt, child mortality rates, poverty levels, business failures.) A sudden drop in commodity prices, trade revenue, foreign investment or debt payments. Collapse or devaluation of the national currency and a growth of hidden economies, including the drug trade, smuggling, and capital flight. Failure of the state to pay salaries of government employees and armed forces or to meet other financial obligations to its citizens, such as pension payments.

Political Indicators

7. Criminalization and/or delegitimisation of the state: endemic corruption or profiteering by ruling elites and resistance to transparency, accountability and political representation. Includes any widespread loss of popular confidence in state institutions and processes.

8. Progressive deterioration of public services: a disappearance of basic state functions that serve the people, including failure to protect citizens from terrorism and violence and to provide essential services, such as health, education, sanitation, public transportation. Also using the state apparatus for agencies that serve the ruling elites, such as the security forces, presidential staff, central bank, diplomatic service, customs and collection agencies.

9. Widespread violation of human rights: an emergence of authoritarian, dictatorial or military rule in which constitutional and democratic institutions and processes are suspended or manipulated. Outbreaks of politically inspired (as opposed to criminal) violence against innocent civilians. A rising number of political prisoners or dissidents who are denied due process consistent with international norms and practices. Any widespread abuse of legal, political and social rights, including those of individuals, groups or cultural institutions (e.g., harassment of the press, politicisation of the judiciary, internal use of military for political ends, public repression of political opponents, religious or cultural persecution.)

10. Security apparatus as ‘state within a state’: an emergence of elite or praetorian guards that operate with impunity. Emergence of state-sponsored or state-supported private militias that terrorize political opponents, suspected 'enemies', or civilians seen to be sympathetic to the opposition. An 'army within an army' that serves the interests of the dominant military or political clique. Emergence of rival militias, guerilla forces or private armies in an armed struggle or protracted violent campaigns against state security forces.

11. Rise of factionalised elites: a fragmentation of ruling elites and state institutions along group lines. Any use of nationalistic political rhetoric by ruling elites, often in terms of communal irredentism or of communal solidarity (e.g., 'ethnic cleansing' or 'defending the faith'.)

12. Intervention of other states or external factors: military or Para-military engagement in the internal affairs of the state at risk by outside armies, states, identity groups or entities that affect the internal balance of power or resolution of the conflict. Intervention by donors, especially if there is a tendency towards over-dependence on foreign aid or peacekeeping missions.

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