Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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Malaysian – Kestabilan

May 27th, 2011 · No Comments · Malaysian, Stability


Relates to stability

It is apparent that the root word stabil has been adapted from the English ‘stable’, and both imply the state of being firmly established. It is the heavy and persistent emphasis placed on kestabilan in Malaysia – including the centrality it is given in political discourse – that really distinguishes the Malay from the English term. In contemporary Malaysia, kestabilan is often used with politik (politics), ekonomi (economics) or sosial (social) – all spheres seen to be critical to the security of the country. Reacting to the sudden inflation in fuel prices in 2008, the Head of the PAS Youth Wing, Salahuddin Ayub, argued that the heavy burden placed upon the working classes would have a debilitating effect on the peoples’ social and economic stability (kestabilan sosial dan ekonomi rakyat).[1]

UMNO politicians dominating the government – at the opposite end of the political spectrum – have a similar understanding of the words stabil and kestabilan. UMNO’s chief contribution to the making of modern Malaysia, according to former Prime Minister Ahmad Badawi, was to promote harmony among different groups, eradicate poverty, foster development and ensure political stability (kestabilan  politik). These are the key ingredients considered by some in Malaysia to have transformed the country into a living model for other developing nations. Such linking of kestabilan with other concepts, such as the economy, politics and social cohesion, was evident as well in the rhetoric of his predecessor, Mahathir. A few months prior to his stepping down from the office of Prime Minister in October 2003, Mahathir stressed that freedom (kebebasan), economic success, and racial harmony in Malaysia had all arisen from the country’s kestabilan politik (political stability).  One reaction to the perceived onslaught of Islamic extremism, was an insistence that Malaysians ensure the country’s stability was not threatened by divisive forces, whether from within or externally. PAS, conservative Islamic groups and home grown militants were portrayed as negative influences within the country even though in actual fact there has been quite a strong cooperation between UMNO and very conservative Islamic groups in state religious authority. Transnational movements such as the Al-Qaeda terrorist network were identified as challenges from without.[2]




[1] ‘Usul mengenai tsunami inflasi ke Parlimen’, Harakah, 6 June 2008,, accessed on 6 October 2008.

[2] ‘Ucapan Bajet Tahun 2004’, The Prime Minister’s Office of Malaysia, 12 August 2003,, accessed on 7 October 2008.


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