When Harapan can’t talk about race and religion - By Commander (Rtd) S THAYAPARAN Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Malaysiakini : “Beware the ridiculous. It will one day rule you.” - Steven Dietz, ‘God's Country’
COMMENT | We do not normally see pieces like Fa Abdul’s piece ‘And the award for best actor goes to…’ on Malaysiakini
very often. This is to say that the “serious stuff” that Fa Abdul wrote
is ignored for pieces that highlight the corruption scandals in this
country and not the underlying moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the
I realise long-standing friends from the opposition do not like it
when I write these – as one political operative often says – “screeds”.
However as each day passes, I keep thinking of how even if the
opposition loses in the upcoming general election, they will not have
the moral or intellectual high ground. Those people who voted opposition
would not be able to say they voted for change but did not succeed.
If “racism” is such a big issue to people who support the opposition,
if the systemic inequalities that some describe as an “apartheid”
system is really destroying this country, then do we really have a
future when the opposition will never address these issues? Even if by
some miracle they do manage to take over Putrajaya, the opposition would
always be beholden to a demographic that supports institutionalised
When questioning the Pakatan Harapan new deal, I wrote
– “Anti-Chinese narratives fuel ‘ketuanan’ politics and while it may
seem like a good political strategy to further the narratives that the
Malay community is under threat from foreign Chinese intervention, the
reality is thanks to Biro Tatanegara (BTN) courses, the social contract,
the racist rhetoric of Umno, the ‘putar belit’ narratives of the
opposition, this meme that the Malay community will always be under
siege, is what is going to destroy this country in the near future.”
This is why racial politics in this country is so screwed up. While
Bersatu Youth chief Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman gets to wax eloquent
about how a Chinese man is a hero because he defended a Malay man in a
political gathering organised by right-wing Malay nationalists – and
this is precisely what Bersatu is - Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri
Abdul Aziz, a member of another right-wing nationalistic Malay party,
gets to call Perkasa – a right-wing nationalistic NGO - "racist" because
Perkasa cast aspersions on “Chinese” (PRC) development in Malaysia
While I have claimed that a two-party system is the only moral and intellectual argument that one could make for supporting
the opposition, the reality is that I think no political party is
interested in resolving the systemic dysfunction in this country because
the single issue of removing Najib from power dominates mainstream
politics these days. Consider this piece as an attack on my own argument.
Let say the opposition removes Prime Minister Najib Razak from power,
then what? Does the opposition stop all trade deals with China that the
past regime made? Does the new regime repeal all those “security laws”
that the former “kleptocrat” made? Does the new alliance stop peddling
in identity and racial politics that they claim was needed to oust the
Does the new regime start up local council elections even though former prime minister, now the de facto opposition leader, Dr Mahathir Mohamad has claimed that this would be detrimental to race relations in this country?
Will Islamic extremism – which I am on record believing this as the
existential threat facing Malaysia – be halted because the new regime
is “secular in nature? On every “Islamic” issue that has cropped up, and
please keep in mind Islam and race here in Malaysia are not mutually
exclusive, the opposition (especially Muslim opposition politicians
enabled by their non-Muslims counterparts) have dodged, evaded or fudged
from taking any stand which is opposite from the ruling Umno regime.
This is why, this passage from my article – ‘Benching Umno will not preserve our constitution’
– was greeted which much dismay from certain opposition political
operatives who claimed that I was “attacking” the opposition when there
are bigger issues at stake.
“While everyone was blaming Umno for the ‘sandiwara’ of PAS president
Abdul Hadi Awang’s bill, the reality is that Muslim politicians,
especially from the opposition, made no clear statements on their stand
on this Islamic bill. Now some would argue that this is about playing
the game safe and being mindful of the ‘Malay’ vote but the reality is
that since there are no Muslim oppositional voices that are a direct
contrast with that of Umno and PAS, there can be no alliances that
defend and preserve the secularity of the constitution.”
Fa Abdul asks, “But if right is right and wrong is wrong, why do we
take the wrong path to achieve what is right?” Of course, some people
would say that we have to be pragmatic. Yes, because pragmatism under
the decades-long Umno rule delivered us to the current Najib regime.
Pragmatism has led us to collude with the supposed architects of the
mess we are in and pragmatism means that oppositional apparatchiks
attack committed activists who voice concerns about the trend of falling
back into old bad habits would mean further erosions of our civil
rights and liberties.
I have given this hint
before - “If you want to stop religious and racial extremism, stop
funding - on a state level - institutions that enable such impulses in
the guise of reaching out to the Malay/Muslim community. As long as you
are held ransom to the idea that in order to defeat Umno you must use
the same tactics to secure the Malay vote, there is always going to be
that Malay tilt to Umno.”
Here is the thing, though. There is nothing anyone can say that would
change people’s mind. I worry about the day when a smart Umno political
operative would debate an oppositional political operative and it would
be revealed that beyond the 1MDB issue there is not much difference
between the opposition and the establishment when it comes to policy and
ideology, especially now that Bersatu is in the mix.
It would not make a difference though. It has become so bad that
opposition leaders cannot talk about race or religion anymore because of
what the opposition and its supporters have embraced.
If that is not the definition of the wrong path, I do not know what it.