English Channel swim by Malik a personal feat but it must be seen in proper perspective and context so that the spirit of “Malaysia Boleh” can be properly channelled towards world’s best national feats
- DAP Forum on “Malaysia among world’s top ten least corrupt nations by 2013”
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): In his 46th National Day Message, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad made special mention of Abdul Malik Mydin, the first Malaysian to swim across the English Channel, “bringing glory to the race, religion and country, besides himself”.
He returned to the subject in the same week at the seventh Malaysia Super Corridor (MSC) International Advisory Panel (IAP) meeting at Cyberjaya where he said that Malaysian workers had the capacity to undertake highly-skilled jobs. He said: “They can do all kinds of things like swim across the English Channel and do sophisticated jobs. Malaysia Boleh. Malaysia Can.”
Mahathir is a great believer and promoter of the “Malaysia Boleh” spirit. This “Malaysia Boleh” spirit, however, should be manifested and properly channeled towards world’s best national feats which will uplift Malaysia’s international prestige, honour and standing like being among the world’s ten least corrupt nations, having world-class universities or internationally recognized as among the world’s most dedicated and efficient civil services.
Malik’s conquest of the 21-mile English Channel, considered the “Mount Everest” of marathon swimming, on August 3, 2003 in 17 hours 42 minutes is a great personal feat and deserved all national attention and support.
However, the government and nation should not go overboard as Malik’s English Channel swim must be seen in proper perspective and context. We must not delude ourselves into believing that the world sat up and noticed Malik’s English Channel swim.
This is because over 630 individuals have made successful English Channel swims out of over 6,000 known attempts. The first documented conquest of the English Channel was 128 years ago by Capt. Matthew Webb on 24.8.1875 in 21 hours and 45 minutes. Among those who have conquered the English Channel was a 12-year-old boy in 1979, a 12-year-old girl in 1983, a 65-year-old man in 1983, and a 45-year-old woman in 1975. Last year, a Texan paraplegic, Jason Pipoly, 32, who had lost the use of his legs and gets around in a wheelchair, crossed the English channel, swimming it in 13 hours and 48 minutes.
The first woman to swim the English Channel was 19-year-old American Gertrude Ederle on 6th August 1926, setting a woman’s record that stood for 35 years - 14 hours and 31 minutes. On that day, the sea was so rough that steamship crossings had been cancelled.
The “King of English Channel” is journalist Kevin Murphy who has done 32 crossings.
The “Queen of the English Channel” is British currency trader Alison Streeter, who had swam the Channel more times than anyone – over 40 crossings – and the first woman to swim the “double” (i.e. swim the English Channel back and forth) and the only woman ever to have completed the “three-way”, i.e. England to France, back and to France again. She first swam the Channel at 18 and her fastest swim was 8 hours 48 minutes – an hour and a half off the American-held world record.
The English Channel swim by Malik is a personal feat but it must be seen in proper perspective and context so that the spirit of “Malaysia Boleh” can be properly channelled towards world’s best national feats, like the topic of tonight’s forum - “Malaysia among world’s top ten least corrupt nations by 2013”! Are Malaysians as a people prepared for international feats as a nation and aim for world-class standards?
Recently, I had occasion to criticize the Gerakan leadership for being content with Malaysia’s lowly 33rd ranking out of 102 countries in the Transparency International (TI)’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2002, after slipping from the already poor 23rd placing seven years ago in 1995.
There is no “Malaysia Boleh” spirit when Malaysia is in the company of the world’s corrupt nations. Let us manifest the “Malaysia Boleh” spirit by joining the ranks of the world’s least corrupt nations.
For this reason, the cry of “Malaysia Boleh” must be made meaningful, starting by adopting the target of ranking the country among the world’s top ten least corrupt nations in a decade by 2013, which should become a national priority objective incorporated into the Eighth Malaysia Plan Mid-Term Review when it is debated and adopted by Parliament at its current meeting before it adjourns in November.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman