My Responsibility as a Malaysian – Part 1

2 11 2009

By S. Saravana

It is very interesting when we look back into our Malaysian political history. Not only interesting but I would say knowledge of our history is certainly important for every individual gifted to be Malaysian to know and to understand where we as a nation have come from. In general, knowing our past means having a better understanding of our present; and by knowing our past and understanding our present, one is certainly in a better position to accurately look into the future.

I am neither a political scientist nor a politician. I am just an ordinary Malaysian executing my responsibility as a true Malaysian. The “ordinary people” are the ones who decide the future of our nation by electing our own government, and that I consider as the greatest responsibility of a true Malaysian. In my point of view, in order to exercise our responsibility wisely, it is vital to have a certain extent of knowledge on our past, a good understanding of our present and most important of all, an ability to look accurately into our future.

I love this quote: “Know your past, evaluate your present, look into your future and that formulates your action for today – Anonymous”. This one-sentence quote carries huge interpretation. For now, my article is only covering the first part of this quote, that is “Know your past”. I will be writing on the remaining parts of this quote in my next two articles.


I cannot stress enough the importance for us to know our past. What I meant by “our past” is our country’s administrative history that has shaped Malaysia as what it is today. In this article, I would like to share some information on our administrative history and my personal view on it, a layman’s view.

The most recent Malaysian General Election in 2008 has spurred contrasting views on Malaysian politics. GE12 result appeared to be a shock to BN and many of us while it was just an expected outcome for certain groups of individuals. The two most significant changes that have taken place in GE12 are firstly, BN has lost 2/3 majority in Parliament and secondly, BN has also lost five state legislative assemblies. Let me bring you briefly into the past 12 General Elections, the ones that we have had after our Independence in 1957.

The table and the chart below show the results of all our General Elections from 1959 up to 2008:

Malaysian GEs

The above numbers mean nothing much unless we analyse them. Every single number in the table has its own interpretation. Every movement on the chart shows the outcome of the people’s choice in electing their representatives. Let’s analyse BN’s performance by breaking down the percentage of Parliamentary seats won into a simple scoring system similar to our education system, as follows:

Parliamentary Seats Won by BN (%) Score
≥ 80 % Score A
≥ 60 %  & < 80 % Score B
≥ 50 %  & < 60 % Score C
≥ 0 %  & < 50 % Score D

Now let’s see how BN has fared in the past 12 General Elections since Independence:

Year Performance My view
1959 Score B Unstable
1964 Score A
1969 Score B
1974 Score A Stable
1978 Score A
1982 Score A
1986 Score A
1990 Score B Unstable
1995 Score A
1999 Score B
2004 Score A
2008 Score B
2012 / 2013 Score ??? ???

In summary, I would say that the ruling coalition has performed averagely with 7 scores of A and 5 scores of B. These results included loss of 2/3 majority, firstly in 1969 and again in 2008, as highlighted on the chart above. I would say that scoring a B is acceptable but losing 2/3 majority is a real big issue. How did the Alliance make a strong comeback after losing its 2/3 majority in the 1969 General Election?

The main factor was the smart move by Tun Abdul Razak Hussein in forming a new coalition which not only included the MCA and the MIC but also incorporated some prominent opposition parties. In 1973, the National Front (Barisan Nasional) was formed and later officially registered on 1st July 1974. The new Barisan Nasional coalition was made up of UMNO, MCA, MIC, PAS, PPP, GERAKAN, SUPP, PPBS and USNO. This left DAP, SNAP and Pekemas as weak oppositions.

By having most of the opposition parties crossing over to join the ruling coalition, BN performed very well in the 1974 General Election. In fact, BN’s performance that year was the second best in its history. BN’s best performance was in 2004, just shortly after Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad handed over the country’s leadership to Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

From 1974 to 1986, the ruling coalition has maintained a “Stable” political situation. “Political instability” started after the 1986 General Election and prolonged until today. During this period, you can see BN swung between Score A and Score B in every General Election. BN has performed worst in GE12 in 2008. It only won 63% of the Parliamentary seats, the worst performance ever in its political history. What are the reasons behind BN’s poor performance? Answers to this question are readily available in many forms such as blogs, papers from researchers and many websites.

There are many reasons for BN’s poor performance in GE12 but in my point of view, there are a few main reasons for the coalition’s poor performance. Firstly, its Top Management’s drawbacks. BN’s Top Management’s soft management style was not preferred by the people. People wanted a strong leadership to steer the country’s administration. People were unhappy in having the PM’s son-in-law’s influence in the PM’s decision making. UMNO’s Top Management was poor in that it created a divided support within the party for the PM and the DPM. The final drawback was the heated, racist speeches in UMNO’s annual general assemblies with Keris-wielding acts.

The second reason is the Oppositions’ aggressive approach. I must say the call for “Reformasi” gained support from all ethnic groups. The Oppositions went all out to reach out to the people day after day. Not only the hard work but also the smart move by the Oppositions in utilising various communication channels to reach out to all levels of the people was effective. The outcome of this relentless drive is what was seen in the result of GE12.

The third reason is the awareness created among the people on our country’s economic mismanagement, corruption, crime, money politics, cronyism and other unethical management. The people turned to other options when they realised that the ruling coalition has been affected by negative values.

The fourth reason is the two main rallies in the heart of KL in 2007. Hindraf’s rally swung the Indians’ support towards the Opposition parties while BERSIH’s rally created awareness among the people to have a clean and fair election.

We have briefly looked into our past with the focus on the General Elections. To better understand the results of these General Elections, we would at least need to know the main historical events that had taken place in the past. This is another interesting topic. If you are eager for additional knowledge and would like to have it in a summarised form, look out for my future articles.

The past is something for us to know. It is not something for us to spend most of our time on as the present is more important. I have made it a habit to read our history as part of my reading materials. I urge you to read and know our past too. After reviewing our past, we need to move on to the next important aspect – “The present”. In my next article, I will be writing about some of the current issues that are shaping our political future. Watch out for it.

“Know your past, evaluate your present, look into your future and that formulates your action for today – Anonymous”




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