Monday, September 01, 2003

‘Work hard for success’

Dr Mahathir Mohamad

Sept 1: The following is a translation of the text of the National Day speech delivered by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday night.

This is my last opportunity to deliver an address on such a meaningful day for us, our Independence Day, our National Day. Thus, I seek your indulgence in permitting me a lengthier address than my previous ones.

There are many messages that I wish to express, which I feel could benefit us all as well as benefit our beloved nation, our own nation, Malaysia.

This year, we celebrate our 46th Independence Day. Our people are truly fortunate to be able to celebrate it without fear of any threat while the world is shrouded in apprehension caused by violence, invasion and war.

It's almost been five decades since we have been free from foreign rule. This is because our people of many races have matured politically and democratically, and cherish stability and peace.

We are not greedy in wanting to grab everything just for ourselves. We are not violent in taking our share. Instead, we believe in and are willing to share, to wisely share what we have. We are willing to accept a portion, because we believe and know that in peace and stability our share will grow and expand.

We also know that if we grab everything for ourselves, the result is racial tension, causing the country to become unstable and not peaceful. Thus, whatever we have obtained would not grow. Indeed, it would shrink, and in the end we would have nothing.

If the world's problems are carefully observed, it's clear that cruelty, chaos and wars are caused by greed and selfishness. An unwillingness to share is the cause of chaos.

That's the reason why in formulating the New Economic Policy, for instance, although the Bumiputeras formed the majority, they were willing to accept only 30 per cent, not 40 per cent for Bumiputeras and 30 per cent for foreigners. We know it is not that easy even to achieve this target. After 33 years of the NEP, the Bumiputera equity is just 19 per cent. We can protest, but the figure will not increase. On the contrary, it will decline.

There are some among us who are unhappy with our failure to meet the objectives of the NEP after 46 years of independence. Surely, some would like to find fault, especially with the Government. Can't the Government just give the Bumiputeras their allocation? In fact, the Government has done that. But if the Bumiputeras are still short of their equity, it is because they sell their shares to non-Bumiputeras for fast profit. Not only shares but also contracts, opportunities and whatever else is given has been sold, which will undoubtedly cause the NEP to fail. Even the 19 per cent equity has been attained because the shares are allocated to Bumiputera institutions which have not sold them.

Why is this happening? Why have the objectives of the NEP not been fully achieved? Why dispose of the portions allotted to us? The reasons are impatience, a penchant for something easy, greed.

On this auspicious day, the day we mark our independence and the right to manage our own affairs, let's admit our mistakes and rectify them, especially for the Bumiputeras. We are as capable as the others. If we are prepared to work hard, be patient and not seek the easy way out, believe me, we can succeed like the others. Other people also make mistakes but it is harder to ask them to correct themselves so that it will benefit us.

Recently, a Malay swam 58km across the English Channel. The attempt was started four years ago. He had not only to train and strengthen his self-discipline, but also overcome the mental pressure arising from financial difficulties and lack of moral support.

Similarly with Azhar, who wanted to sail solo around the world. Many were unconvinced and did not believe that Malik would make the attempt, still less succeed. But he did not give up, remained committed and persevered to achieve his big ambition.

While swimming in the channel with its cold waters, huge waves and strong currents, he was under tremendous physical and mental pressure. One would surely contemplate abandoning and calling it quits. Only his strong spirit prevented him from taking the easy way out. The original distance of 32km had increased to 58km because of strong currents. But Malik's spirits remained high. Every minute, he made 60 strokes, which continued for 18 hours. He continued until he reached French shores.

This is a big challenge which he chose to overcome himself, and he did it successfully, bringing glory to the race, religion and country, besides himself.

When Azhar returned from his solo voyage around the world, many asked him how he managed to do it. Malik would also be asked the same question.

Here, I would like to express my disappointment because many Malays, including the youths, asked Azhar: "What knowledge did he use?" The knowledge they were referring to was that of the supernatural, one interspersed with certain prayers which purportedly guarantee success. They are interested in this so that they can also overcome challenges and obstacles easily. Their attitude is no different from those who pursue the art of invincibility which they believe will protect them from bullets and knives. That's why they are brave.

There is no art of invincibility, there are no supernatural powers that will guarantee success.

The Malays, who are all Muslims and who believe in the Quran and Hadith, must surely know that the Prophet himself had to overcome various challenges and obstacles and tasted failure before achieving success. And the Prophet was not invincible. At Jabal Uhud, he suffered serious injuries.

If humans can be invincible, Allah would surely have conferred it on the Prophet. His struggles to expand Islam would be made easier.

Could it be that that which had not been awarded to the Prophet can be given to ordinary people, who are Muslims but not free from committing mistakes? If we really believe in the hadith and sunnah of the Prophet, we should emulate his faith, discipline, courage and determination. We can pray to Allah for protection. We can pray that we be given success. But God did not promise success only by praying. God wants us to work hard and make preparations so that we will succeed. This was what was done by the Prophet to attain success.

When Iraq was attacked, many Muslims prayed but still Iraq was defeated and invaded. Did God not fulfil our prayers? Far from it. Iraq was defeated because efforts towards self-defence were not made.

Saddam's rule was cruel, suppressing his own people until they hated him and were not prepared to sacrifice their lives defending him. Saddam's defeat was his own doing because he did not adhere to the teachings of Islam on the preparations for defence. Our prayers are not sufficient to overcome the failure of Iraqi leaders who neglected the true teachings of the religion.

It is the same with overcoming the challenges in sailing around the world, swimming across the English Channel, climbing Mount Everest, reaching the North Pole and other feats. We can pray because ultimately it would be God who determines whether we succeed or not. But besides our prayers, we must make preparations.

The knowledge we have to acquire is about sailing, swimming and others. We have to train hard, which takes a lot of time. We have to psyche ourselves with spirit and discipline. Only after we have equipped ourselves with skills and the right spirit can we make the attempt. We may succeed. We may fail. If we fail, we rise and try again. We pray, we seek God's help and we try again and again. If we succeed, we are thankful, but if we are not, we are not disappointed.

We have big ambitions. We want to see our people in space. We need suitable candidates, with spirit, discipline and who are courageous. We pray, but we will also make adequate preparations. It is hoped that many will offer to become the first Malaysian astronaut, which will further bring glory to the country.

We can be successful in any field if we are prepared to train, have discipline, patience and are not greedy. There is nothing easy in any work. There are some who think that if they acquire a certain position, they will succeed. There are those who feel that if they are in power, they can bring success to the country. There is no need to say thank you to anyone for the benefits we receive.

In a society in which the people are taught to be ungrateful, everyone will give priority to their interest only. There will be no friendship; in fact, the family spirit will be absent. All will be greedy and the society will no longer be civilised. The society that will emerge is one of the Stone Age, where the powerful will grab everything for themselves, and the weak will be oppressed to the extent that they will never rise again.

This is a society where the people are taught to be ungrateful to those who have provided help. It is a society which is un-Islamic. Those propagating the culture of ungratefulness in the name of Islam will not make it part of the religion. Those un-Islamic will remain un-Islamic. Actually, those propagating and nurturing this culture are traitors to Islam and Muslims.

If Muslims adhere to the true teachings of the religion, teachings which are not twisted by those with self-interest, the community will progress and be successful in every field. But many among us do not practise the teachings of Islam.

In business, we will succeed if we practice trustworthiness, patience, discipline, honesty, sincerity and are able to control our desires. But when we are not patient to be rich we sell our share, our name, the dignity of our race and our religion. Then surely we will fail and lose out.

Perhaps, in the initial stage, selling our share will give us instant profit. Selling our religion will give political victory to us. But in the end, we will definitely lose, we will not be trusted, not respected, we are charged in court, found guilty and sentenced to jail.

For those who sell their religion for selfinterest, they are sinful because of the catastrophe they bring to other Muslims. The community is weakened, oppressed and ridiculed among the followers. When there are people opposing the quest for knowledge because religion purportedly does not call on its followers to acquire knowledge they label as secular, and because of this Muslims become stupid and easily controlled by others, inevitably the great losers would be Islam and the Muslims.

Our failure will be caused by our neglect of the good teachings, especially the true ones, and our submission to lusts until we are even willing to co-operate with the devil. The result of this co-operation is now clearly evident when we are willing to ridicule Allah, equating Him with humanity's bad characteristics.

We will also fail in our daily life. We fail because we do not subscribe to good values, we are ungrateful for the benefits that we have.

Malaysia is no longer a small nation. Fortysix years ago, its population was only five million with an average annual income of RM800 per person. There were no highways, water and electricity supply, schools, clinics and hospitals. Job opportunities were also scarce, including land for cultivation.

Now, the population is 25 million, with a per capita income of RM14,000. Infrastructure facilities almost equal those of developed countries. If in 1957, the lowest wage for civil servants was RM25 and the highest RM1,950, which means 78 times more, the lowest pay now is RM480 and the highest RM13,940. The gulf between the lowest and highest has been reduced by 29 times but the former has enjoyed an increase of 19 times compared to only seven times for the highest.

While the wages of all groups have increased by 6.5 per cent annually, the increase in the price of goods or inflation is only 3.3 per cent annually. This means income has increased faster than the prices of goods and services. A bigger income also means higher purchasing power. The (real) income of Malaysians has increased four times since 1957; although the population has increased to 24.8 million in 2002. No other developing country has attained this.

But we have to remember if wages increase, businesses also have to make higher profits. Hence, consumers should be prepared to pay more for the same or better goods or services. After paying a higher price, the purchasing power is still there. Because of this, the quality of life of Malaysians increases. In fact because of price control, Malaysians enjoy a low cost of living compared to the quality of life they are enjoying.

If we are magnanimous and do not only think of ourselves, we can acquire many more benefits that can enhance our quality of life. In fact, if we get things for free, we still have to pay for them indirectly via taxes and other forms of payment. Nothing is free in this world, nor in the next.

As I said earlier, Malaysia is already halfway towards achieving developed-nation status. We cannot get the quality of facilities of a developed nation and yet expect to pay costs on par with that of a developing nation.

The country's finances are not unlimited. If the nation's development were fully dependent on the Government's finances, it is unlikely that we would today have highways, electricity and water supply, sophisticated telecommunications, light-rail services, ports, and other facilities like we have now. The reason we can have all these is because consumers pay to consume.

The Government gives a reasonable amount of subsidies. If the Government has to bear all costs, then those who don't consume will also be forced to pay indirect taxes. It is grossly unjust to force everyone to pay for facilities that are only used by some of the people.

The alternative is to not have all the facilities that are available now. If that is the case, then our quality of life will be no better than that of other developing nations.

There are developed nations whose per capita income is 10 times higher than ours in terms of US dollars. But their purchasing power is only three times higher than ours. In this regard, the purchasing power of the ringgit in Malaysia is almost two-and-a-quarter times or 225 per cent more than the purchasing power of the US dollar in America.

The ringgit's strength in our country is due to our ability to control the price of goods and services, control inflation so to speak. With that, even though wages in the country are low compared with developed countries, our quality of life is not that low compared with them.

At the same time, because our wages are lower than those in developed nations, we can come up with products for export and get foreign exchange because our goods are cheaper and more competitive in the world market. With that, we can attract foreign direct investment and investments from within the country.

Be mindful that there is FDI, investments by foreign investors in our country, because the costs in their countries are high as a result of high wages and a high cost of living.

We can still increase wages without in-creasing costs if our output and productivity can be increased via enhanced efforts and skills, or via better manufacturing methods like automation and the use of IT. Workers must be willing to be retrained so that they are more skilled and can use more sophisticated equipment that can facilitate increased output.

In this regard, the mastery of the English language is very important. This does not mean we want to push our own language, the national language, aside. Our language cannot be promoted if we remain an undeveloped race. Only races which are developed can promote and spread their language.

In early times, the Arabs were a strong, developed race knowledgeable in mathematics, astronomy, science, sailing and others besides religion. Those who want to have the knowledge pioneered by the Arabs must learn Arabic. But today, the language of knowledge is English. If we do not want to be an undeveloped race, we have to learn and be adept in the English language.

Similarly, if we want to enhance our output so that wages will increase, every worker must master the English language, if not fully, then enough to understand the methods of work and instructions in the language. To learn other languages we must also first master English because there are no books and courses on other languages in our own language.

The strategy and approach taken to develop our country and improve the standard of living of Malaysians is carried out with integrity and by formulating our own approach after studying in detail the ways and means of others.

We do not push aside the conventional way or the ways of others blindly, but we also do not accept their ways blindly. When we formulate our own methods, it is done only after studying in detail the conventional ones.

The fruits that we have reaped proves that our way is not by any means inferior compared to the ways of others and is perhaps even better. The world now has acknowledged that we can surmount our problems and achieve better success compared to the ways of others.

We overcame racial problems our way, problems relating to the country's security and peace our way, propelled the nation's development our way, and undertook economic and financial administration our way. Generally, we have succeeded. As such, don't be too quick to judge or criticise when we formulate our own ways to counter our own problems. Have faith that our way is capable of making a success out of our efforts.

For 450 years, the Malay States were colonised and had to send bunga emas and bunga perak to the colonialists. God willing, 46 years ago, we won back our independence and the integrity of our country and race. But now, we have found that those who colonised us are not willing to let us continue being free. Our territories continue to be a target for colonisation. If not directly, then indirectly, they will try to colonise us again.

The most subtle way to colonise is via the colonisation of our thoughts. When they colonised us then, they never mentioned anything about democracy and human rights. On the contrary, their history was rife with the seizure of lands belonging to the locals, and murder, all on the excuse that they were responsible for spreading their civilisation and religion. They called it their manifest destiny, a responsibility entrusted upon them by God.

But when the countries they colonised achieved independence, democracy and human rights suddenly become exceedingly paramount, so much so that if independent countries are purportedly not democratic or contravene human rights, they can shove aside the independence of newly-independent states and involve themselves in the administration of the countries concerned.

So effective are they in influencing the thoughts of the people of independent countries that many have accused their own governments of wrongdoing and are willing to accept support and assistance from the former colonialists to try and topple their own governments. They do not see the tricks of the colonialists, nor are they aware that they have been used.

In truth, these former colonialists do not support democracy or human rights. When their interests are under threat, they will drop everything and go back to their old ways.

Besides democracy and human rights, our values are also under threat. Crimes like rape, incest and horrific murder are happening every day in our country when they previously did not. This is because the culture of violence and sex is being spread via the television and videos from the West.

There is a degradation of moral values due to pornographic videos, so much so that locals are also willing to act in pornographic films. Western films adulate sex, violence, murder and war. Homosexuality is allowed, even religious leaders are openly gay. They are incensed, especially their journalists, many of whom are gay, when the practice is punished under our laws.

This degradation of morals and frenzy to fulfil all lusts will weaken our spirit to fight and bring ill to society. Their call for corruption to be eradicated is good but our moral corruption by them will stall the development of our race and country.

Our ability to distinguish the good from the bad is diminishing. This, together with other things that disturb our thoughts, like the ideology of liberal democracy and human rights, means the colonisation of our minds is complete.

Then there is colonisation via the economy and finance. Through aid and financial assistance, many developing countries become client states that can easily be manipulated by them. Globalisation, an open market and a world without borders will allow them to enter weak countries freely and control everything including even internal politics. Even though we can enter their countries, our ability is very limited.

Confronted with the threat of being re-colonised, Malaysia turned down aid and cut down loans from developed countries.

God willing, with careful financial management, we freed ourselves from being controlled by foreigners and their agencies.

But in order to do this, we need the people's co-operation. Our values and way of life must be defended. Our output must be increased and requests for government aid must not be more than what the Government can afford. For those that can afford it, they must be prepared to shoulder part of the costs, especially for better facilities.

Our country is our responsibility. It is not that we are arrogant or think that we are so smart that we do not need others. We are willing to learn from the West and the East. But in the end, we must be the ones to decide what should be practised and adopted.

Independence is not something without limits. If we are too liberal and free, there will be a degradation of morals like what we see in very liberal developed nations. We should not be ashamed because we are not as liberal or free as them.

Democracy is meant to ensure a harmonious life. A harmonious life should not be sacrificed for democracy. What is good about democracy is only that it allows us to change the leadership without a struggle or revolution. Unlimited freedom which is supposedly part of democracy is created and added by those who are frustrated since they do not have the support of the majority.

The same applies for the rule of law. The law in this context is the law accepted by a majority of the people. Minority and individual rights must be preserved, but not to the extent that majority rights have to be sacrificed.

Malaysians must understand all this and not be too much in thrall to the views and values of the Europeans. They are not always right and we are not always wrong. If we want to live a good and happy life in our country and get the respect of other races in the world, we must know how to evaluate, test and choose everything we want to make part of our culture and civilisation.

Don't choose what is easy, don't choose because we are afraid of being called old-fashioned. Choose what is good for us.

We are no less smart or capable than others. Our people now not only can climb mountains, walk on ice to the North Pole, swim in cold seas, sail around the world, but they can also supply the world with sophisticated products, build modern buildings and roads in our own country and abroad, prospect for and produce oil worldwide. We can do it. And we can become a developed nation by 2020, God willing.

I apologise if this speech is more focused on the problems of the Bumiputeras, Malays and Islam. This is because their development is still not on par with the other races. My view is that a balance between the Bumiputera and non-Bumiputera is the key to a good and peaceful life on this blessed land. That is why I hope the non-Bumiputeras will not be disappointed by the tone and focus of this speech. If this advice is effective, then all races will benefit from it.

The development of our country is a result of the contributions of all; the security forces, government officials and staff, workers, traders, and small and big businessmen. On my own behalf and that of the Government, I would like to say a very big thank you to all who have made this blessed country a success.

I would like to wish all a happy National Day. God willing, our struggles will be blessed by Allah. God willing, we will become a developed nation by 2020.
New Straits Times

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