Paperback print ISBN: 9781952636424. E-Book ISBN: 9781952636431. 220 pages.
Since obtaining independence in 1957, Malaysia has had two historic general elections, the first in 2018 and the second in 2022. The 2018 election brought the reformist Pakatan Harapan government into power. Due to both internal and external machinations, the Pakatan Harapan administration collapsed 22 months later. Subsequently, more than two years of socio-political instability ensued, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, economic hardships, and increasing ethnic polarization and identity politics. After the 2022 election, there was renewed hope. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, Pakatan Harapan again leads a new coalition government (dubbed the “unity” government). Sharifah Munirah Alatas discusses these developments in a series of short essays. She highlights the peoples’ hopes for crucial reforms and their lingering despair for what seems unattainable. Alatas focuses on the rise in corruption, identity politics, and what she considers the dismal failure of the nation’s public universities. She questions the future of the nation but hopes for a revolutionary change in leadership attitudes.
“Sharifah Munirah Alatas’s deep-felt essays remind us of the meaning of affirmation and hope. The ideals of nation-building that had inspired Malaya/Malaysia since its creation are still alive. By focusing on the consequences of major threats to progressive development like corruption, identity politics, and educational short-sightedness, these essays show that she is truly the daughter of her respected parents, Hussein and Sarojini Alatas. Her uplifting appeals to all Malaysians deserve to be widely read.”
— WANG GUNGWU, National University of Singapore
“Sharifah Munirah Alatas’s critical reflection on nation-building in Malaysia makes compelling reading, since she highlights major areas of concern obstructing the way to a progressive Malaysian nation and humane society. With clear analysis she focuses, among many broad themes, on the issues of nation-building without a vision, a democracy limited only to the ballot box, a political culture bogged down by identity-politics obsessed with narrow sectarian interests, and an education system geared to mediocrity and sterile imitation of foreign models, devoid of clear educational objectives or purpose. The task of nation-building is greatly complicated by an elite characterised by political leaders or academics lacking in idealism, intellectual interests, beyond the pursuit of honorific titles, material and career advancement. Those seeking better understanding of the challenges of reforms in Malaysia will find this book delightful reading.”
— SHAHARUDDIN MAARUF, Universiti Malaya
S. Munirah Alatas, Ph.D. is a former Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Indonesian International Islamic University (UIII, Jakarta). In March 2023, she retired from a career in Strategic Studies and International Relations at the National University of Malaysia (UKM). Munirah’s doctorate and MA degrees are from Columbia University, and her BA is from the University of Oregon. Her scholarly interests and writings focus on decolonial thought, geopolitics, foreign policy, non-Western International Relations theory, and autonomous social science traditions. Munirah also speaks regularly in public fora and writes in her media columns, on Malaysian politics, civil society, good governance, higher education reform and the future direction of universities.