ALTHOUGH the rakyat have three prime ministers come and gone in the last three years, power in the country and how it is being governed is concentrated in the hands of a small group of elites.
The general public may find the idea farfetched or preposterous.
This small group is comprised of the leader of the country’s biggest political party and a handful of council members and close advisers, major corporate owners, directors and high-ranking officers of the armed forces.
They work and play together, employ one another, and marry into each other’s families. Their common experiences have given them shared perspectives in terms of economics and politics.
Just look at the upper echelons of the country’s leadership since 1981. Top positions wield the power to run the programmes and activities of major political, economic, legal, educational, cultural, scientific and civic institutions. The occupants of these offices control half of the nation’s industrial, communications, transportation and banking assets, and two-thirds of all insurance assets.
In addition, they direct substantial resources of government trust funds and government-linked entities, be it listed and those unlisted on Bursa Malaysia.
They hold the most influential posts in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government, and control over the mass media.
At the top of this small group, another small group the elite makes all of the most important decisions for everyone below.
A relatively small middle tier consists of individuals one normally thinks of when discussing senators, MPs, assemblymen, mayors, party leaders and the like.
The rakyat sit the bottom. They are the average men and women in the country who are powerless to hold the top level accountable.
In short, a small group of people decides the life-and-death issues for the nation, leaving relatively minor matters for the middle tier to handle and almost nothing for the rakyat to decide for themselves.
It is indeed a grim picture.
Many of this group’s members have enjoyed a head-start in life by virtue of their being born into prominent families. Many have tried but rarely succeeded in being co-opted into this small group.
This small group of elites draw strength from controlling the highest positions in the political and business world and from shared values and beliefs.
They occupy the command posts of society. These positions give their holders enormous authority over not just governmental, but financial, educational, social, civic, and cultural institutions as well.
Decisions made in the boardrooms of large corporations and banks affect inflation and employment rates. The influence of the chief executives of Tenaga Nasional, Telekom, Maybank, CIMB, for instance, sometimes rivals that of the international trade or domestic trade ministers.