Friday, August 29, 2014

The 1MDB approach to human rights


When we talk about human rights, most people equate human rights to freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of religion, freedom of sexual orientation, and whatnot. This is the limited scope of human rights from the understanding of most.

One thing common in the advocacy of human rights in most parts of the world is that the fight for human rights is confined to the more affluent societies. Societies that are being torn apart by civil strife have no time to stop and think about human rights. They are too busy just trying to stay alive.

This may be a bit unfair to say but you can afford to advocate human rights when your society already has everything. When you lack the basics required to sustain life and allow you quality of life, freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of religion, freedom of sexual orientation, and so on, are meaningless. All these do not put food on the table or allow your very sick child to reach adulthood.

What most advocates of human rights do not understand is that the right to education, or the right to a good education, plus the right to quality of life, also come under the ambit of human rights. To deny citizens an education or a good education, plus to deny them quality of life, is also a violation of their human rights.

We must not only look at human rights from the western perception. Societies that already have everything would definitely look at the issue of human rights from a more sophisticate level. Societies that still lack basic needs would have to look at the issue of human rights from the level of needs and not wants.

And there is a large difference between needs and wants.

After the need of food on the table, clothes on our backs, and a roof over our heads, we need education, quality of life, and to develop our youth who are the future of our nation. Societies that have degenerated into hell on earth are those that have neglected this very fundamental requirement.

The Malaysian government’s 1MDB programme is basically just this. The three main focuses of the 1MDB strategy are:

1. Education
2. Improving Quality of Life
3. Youth Development

The opposition, plus even some of those in government, appear opposed to the 1MDB programme. But have you noticed that most of those opposed to the 1MDB are those from the urban areas?

This means those who already have everything do not want the 1MDB. However, those from the rural areas, or from parts of Malaysia that are not as developed as the urban areas and big cities, welcome the 1MDB as the means to pull themselves out of the miserable state they live in.

Take the Ebola outbreak in Africa that is currently worrying the entire world. The UN WHO says that the problem they face is ignorance. It is due to ignorance and a lack of education that are the obstacles to the battle against Ebola.

Take the many civil wars that are going on in many parts of the world. This is also being blamed on ignorance, lack of education and poor opportunities for the youth due to lack of programmes to develop the youth.

Take any problem the world is facing and invariably it all points back to lack of education, lack of quality of life, and lack of youth development. Hence to ignore these issues is to invite civil strife in time to come when the country has a large neglected population whose needs have not been taken care of.

The 1MDB programme is a long-term programme meant to ensure that the youth have a place under the Malaysian sun. We must remember that Malaysia’s population is growing and that the majority are youths.
In 1970, Malaysia’s population was just 10 million. Today, it is 30 million, a tripling in just 40 years or so. 

By 2050, Malaysia is expected to have a population of 60 million or more and if by that time we have millions of Malaysians who have been left behind we cannot even imagine the explosive situation the country will face if the youth are not equipped to face the future properly prepared.

At the time of Merdeka, Malaysia had a large lower class with a small higher class. Today, Malaysia has a large middle class, so large that the middle class can be sub-divided into three categories: the upper-middle class, middle-middle class and lower-middle class.

While the upper-middle class is affluent enough to not need programmes such as 1MDB, and therefore oppose it, it is the lower- and middle-middle class that we need to be concerned about. And this is the category that 1MDB is addressing, before they feel that they are the ignored class and take by force what has been denied them.

As Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said 30 years ago in 1982 when he addressed a group of businessmen at the Equatorial Hotel in Kuala Lumpur: we need to look after the poor so that the rich can live in peace and not face the risk of an unsatisfied poorer class who are jealous of the rich and take by force from the rich.

Maybe Dr Mahathir forgot what he said when he defended programmes such as the New Economic Policy that was meant to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor where one race is rich and the other one is poor.

And the 1MDB programme is not race-based because even Chinese schools are included in this programme.

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