Malaysian leaders have been intentionally entrapping the minds of Malays as a means to retain their power and positions, says prominent Malay intellectual and writer Dr M. Bakri Musa.
Dr Bakri warned that the inevitable advent of the digital world would put an end to such shortsighted leadership regime.
The California-based surgeon, a regular socio-political commentator and author of several books, said it was a common mentality of leaders to try and control their followers, as "corrupt leaders create corrupt followers, who will elect corrupt leaders again".
But Dr Bakri said that information would be increasingly far-reaching with the growth of technology, and that the mark of a great and lasting leadership was its ability to encourage, not suppress, freedom.
"Every leader will like to control their followers, but the inevitable will be to change.
"The digital world – I don’t care how strong you are – it can’t be limited. It’s powerful enough," Dr Bakri told The Malaysian Insider ahead of the launch of his book "Liberating the Malay Mind" in Shah Alam, today.
The book (pic), in English and Bahasa Malaysia, is in its second edition after getting positive reviews when it was first published.
But he said some criticised him by saying he was not qualified to speak on the problem of the Malays because he had been living abroad for decades.
"Judge me on my views and opinions, not on where I live," said Dr Bakri. He said the current state of politics was proof that leaders are unable to keep the people ignorant forever, as the Internet reach continues to grow.
He cited the example of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s controversial RM2.6 billion donation, saying it was unlikely the entire episode would have been exposed if not for the digital world.
Dr Bakri said the Malays had remained intellectually and economically backward in spite of decades of policies and assistance.
"We have been talking about the Malay problem ever since I was young and probably when my grandchildren are grandparents, we’d still be talking about it," he said
"Why is it after 60 years of independence, with sultans and leaders as Malays, and the government being led by Malays, we still have this problem?
"The reason is that we do not know that our minds have been entrapped, imprisoned.
"In my book, I used the metaphor that the Malays are like frogs under a coconut shell.
"The shell will topple one day, make no mistake about it.
The question for our society is if we will topple the coconut shell our way, to minimise the collateral damage, or do we allow it to topple on its own and risk a disaster."
Dr Bakri said Malays who were not properly educated and exposed would be prime targets for "darker and dangerous" influences, including hardline religious teachings.
"Influences such as Isis can be appealing to the Malay mind if they are not adequately exposed and educated.
The leaders must realise that the liberation of the mind is already happening, but the messages that are being sent now are dark and dangerous."
To counter this influence, Dr Bakri suggests a greater liberalisation of the media, saying that the more sources of information available, the better equipped the Malays would be.
Apart from that, he said that a greater immersion of the Malays in commerce and capitalisation would "automatically change their worldview".
"They won’t see people as Chinese or Indian or Malay, they look at everyone as potential customers."
This ability to look beyond race, he said, would help draw the Malays out of their shells.
In his book, Dr Bakri draws on the examples of civilisations and communities around the world which he said shared similar problems with Malays in Malaysia, such as the early Irish and the Italians.
"I want the Malays to realise they have a problem, but it’s not unique to them. There are other societies and civilisations and communities and we can learn from them. They have managed to overcome it.
"We can learn from it and we can overcome it.
" Dr Bakri’s book will be available at all major bookstores nationwide from early February. – January 30, 2016.
Source from The Malaysian Insider