Assessments and predictions of Malaysia's political climate made at conference of "International Business Environment" in April 1984 at Magdalen College,Oxford University.
Malaysia must still be regarded as one of the more stable members of ASEAN.It is prosperous and, despite the effects of the global recession, is likely to become more so in the later 1980s and 1990s.
Nevertheless there are constitutional, religious and socio-economic problems to face.None pose an immediate threat to the country's relative stability; but, as with any multi-racial, multi-lingual and predominantly Islamic nation with a wide gulf between rich and poor, conditions exist for long term tension.
The country's medium term outlook is dominated by three major concerns:
--firstly, the delicate constitutional balance between elected politicians and the Sultans.There are likely to be continuing conflicts between progressive democrats and those who believe that certain powers should remain with the traditional rulers;
--secondly, the recent rapid growth in the influence of Islam overlaps the constitutional struggles.The Islamic movement is notionally headed by the Sultans and other traditional rulers.Decisions which cause affront to the Sultans could inflame Islamic passions already smouldering under the influence of global Islamic revival.
--thirdly, there is a long term threat to Malaysia's comparative serenity stemming from the complex and ambitious economic reorganization launched in 1971, the New Economic Policy.The NEP has its main target a massive increase in public ownership by the Malay (or bumiputra) community.By 1990, the NEP architects say, bumiputra participation in the economy should be at least 30%--a target which non-Malay critics say is too high.But the firm implementation of the policy suggests that some of the targets will be realized.After 1990, though, any further favouring of the bumiputras might exacerbate tensions between the racial groups--a spectre which, since the 1969 race riots in Kuala Lumpur, remains at the back of all Malaysian ruler's mind.