Malaysia has come a long way since it independence in 1957. From an agricultural based country, it has become one of the most developed country in Southeast Asia. Like any progressive nation, its development comes with a cost. Any man-made improvisations is imbued with inadvertant problems. There is no such thing as an absolute solution.
Malaysia has become a part of the globalization process since the 15th century. Not wanting to be lagged behind, Malaysia went through rapid industrialization and development aiming to achieve its Vision 2010 as championed by Dr. Mahathir from the 80s. A combination of its national policies, technological advancement and international influence has contoured the Malaysian society in a way that we have never imagined.
From its nascence, the nation was consisted of a tolerant society. The divisions of the society was generally ethno-religious based. Inter-marriages existed but were rare. The various ethnic groups were unified for a common cause; to achieve independence. They also had a common “enemy”; the colonial powers. Of course, the undercurrents of racial hostility did linger, but in order to achieve independence from the British, they had to co-operate in harmony.
The current fragmentation of the Malaysian society is more complex. The divisions of society has evolved into fractures of ideologies, religious doctrines, income classes, geographical and so forth. Within a particular ethno-religious group itself, there are further categorizations of people.
The Malays for example, are divided into four. First are “Islamist Malays” who wish for the reign of Islam in this country. They believe that Malaysia is a secular state and is too tolerant to the extent it has compromised the tenets of religion in its administration. Then there are the “Liberal Malays” who put human rights a priority above anything else. They seek justice, freedom and equality for every being in this country despite of race or religion. The third group are the “Ultra-Malays” who believe that the Malays should remain as the leaders of the country to protect the ethnic group for the sake of its ethnic and religious survival. The last group is the “Apathetic Malays” who only hope for peace and prosper.
The social discontents in Malaysia also involves the mushrooming of pressure groups and rise of social institutions representing their social groups in voicing out their interests to the government. The communication between the government and these groups are more interactive as compared to the previous years. Pressure groups are becoming more effective in influencing the government’s decision and policies. However, the channel of communication should be improvised for a better understanding of the groups’ needs. This is to avoid miscalculation of decisions that may cause possible embarrassing public uproar.
The challenges of the state’s political order does not end with local and national turmoils. On the international level, the country is affected in numerous aspects. Malaysia happens to be a part of a global economy which is facing uncertain economic future. Hence, the sluggishness of its own economy. The country is also susceptible to the extreme ideological influences by Western and Islamic countries which is not compatible with the context of the Malaysian society. These ideological influences are not necessarily for the good of man or creed but are in fact political in nature.
This situation presages the great challenges that the future holds for the Malaysian government. In fact, every democratic government in the world are facing difficulties in maintaining social, political and economic order caused by the threats of globalization. In a world where people have become more educated and better informed in different ways, uniting people is no easy feat.
To have a democratic government or an improved state of living is not sufficient in executing good governance. The spread of the right knowledge and information is the key to social order and unity. The government must be well aware of the threats of unwanted radical ideas and also take proactive action in communicating with the public on its governance efforts.