Will Rafizi-Johari’s guilty verdict galvanise the Malay vote? - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Saturday, February 10, 2018
Malaysiakini : “It’s been six years and most of you would have forgotten it. Such is life - we move on.” – Rafizi Ramli on the National Feedlot Corporation scandal.
COMMENT | As someone who has publicly agreed and disagreed with Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli, I have to say that I was impressed with his ‘no regrets’ take on the guilty verdict of his Bafia (Banking and Financial Institutions Act) trial. I sincerely hope that his message is disseminated to the demographic
that needs to hear it most but more importantly, I hope that former bank
clerk Johari Mohamad who exposed these “secrets” also pens a letter as
to why he did it and what he had hoped to achieve.
It is important that the Malay community hears from someone who
whistle-blew because it shifts attention away from the professional
politician and centres the discourse on the average rakyat who did
something, for whatever reasons, because he believed that it would
benefit the public. This makes the personal political and we should
understand by now, this is a potent tool in the arsenal of winning
hearts and minds.
Already the establishment spin is out - painting Rafizi’s actions as
that of a man who would abuse the most scared of our banking laws, a
manipulator of whistleblowers and someone who for the sake of martyrdom,
attempted to sabotage the economic interest of this country. Rafizi who has been on the forefront of governmental malfeasance when
it comes to institutional corruption - be it land deals, Tabung Haji or
the myriad other scandals he has exposed - plays well with the urban
educated demographic but does he resonate with the demographic that
Pakatan Harapan claims it needs to take Putrajaya?
Corruption scandals are complicated. People do not have the time to
sift through the minutiae of records and public documents most often
written in legalese. The struggle to convey all of this in digestible
segments to disenfranchised/rural communities whose “interests” are
confined to local issues is an obstacle for most Harapan political
People always say, why do these rural folks keep voting BN when it is
evidently against their self-interests? If there is one thing that
these corruption scandals expose is that the system is designed to
exploit and “rob” from the very community that Umno claims to want to
defend and uplift. If exposing the plunderers of the Malay community was
really an example of Malay righteousness, then someone like Rafizi
would probably be the biggest defender of Malay interests and
self-preservation in this country.
However, because he attacks the institutions and power structures
deemed “Malay”, he is instead cast as the interloper working with
‘pendatang’ power structures to destabilise Malay privileges and rights
in this country. His exposes are deemed treachery and his collaboration
with the “enemies” of Islam and political power structures deemed
anathema to Malay supremacy constantly puts him on the defensive, which
is where Umno wants him to be.
Much like how W.E.B Du Bois’s in ‘Black Reconstruction in America’
expounded on the concept of “whiteness” as a “public and psychological
wage” - this idea that whiteness elevated the status of poor whites over
blacks, giving them a perceived superior status (which in reality had
tremendous value), whereby they supported the land-owning/political
class which exploited them while enriching themselves - the idea of
‘Ketuanan Melayu’ and the so-called codified Malay rights and privileges
acts as a counter intuitive, if effective means, of gaining support
from an electorate always in fear of losing their status – real but
worthless* – in a changing geopolitical landscape. See my thoughts on
this here. *(Worthless in against the traits of self-reliance and economic savvy
of other communities forced to be independent through historical and
Our system of entitlement
What the corruption scandals that Rafizi has really exposed is that
the Umno regime is the economic crutch of the majority Malay community.
Forget about the kool-aid that this is a not a racial issue; it is.
What these scandals, be it land scandals, religious institutions
scandals and the plethora of “dirt” Rafizi has managed to unearth, is
that the system of entitlement, either directly or indirectly, meant to
help the disenfranchised of the Malay community for whatever reasons has
been abused by the Umno state. And yet this is not enough, or at least
history demonstrates that it is not enough, to actually weaken the Umno
When it comes to communal economic interests - the country has been
through some trying economic times - the demographic that sustains and
enables the Umno regime have kept them in power. So this idea that if
the people are hurting in their wallets, they would decide to vote
against purveyors of race and religion is suspect. This, by the way, is
not an invitation to discuss the racial politics of Harapan.
Of course, the Umno regime wants to portray the naysayers as economic
saboteurs - they claim that detractors want the economy to fail in
their quest for power - but the reality is that the systemic abuses by
the state is weakening the economy. While economists practice their
voodoo, either in support of Harapan or in support of the Umno
establishment, the demographic that both needs to elevate them to power
continues to support - thus far - a system which disenfranchises them,
yet tells them that they are the masters of the land.
Hence the more corruption in land deals, religious institutions and
other “Malay” institutions discounting those public institutions which
are deemed “Malay” institutions by right-wing types, the more Malay
supremacy is portrayed as under threat even though in cases such as
these, it is Malay politicians and outliers who expose such corruption
in the system.
Interesting side not. The graft allegations and childish back and
forth between the MCA and DAP is another example of how the system
distorts the issue of corruption, and encourages minority communities to
cannibalise each other in service of the greater Malay hegemon.
I have no idea if the guilty verdict of Rafizi and Johari would
galvanise the Malay polity to the unjust manner in which powerbrokers in
the hegemon have value - economic, social, legal - over the rest of the
community but if the narratives of the establishment hold, as they have
done in the past, the guilty verdict of these two men will just be
another in the long line of silencing dissent in the Malay community.
The only other alternative for so-called oppositional Malay power
structures intent on playing this game is to increase the psychological
and public wages of the Malay community.
This, of course, would be a guilty verdict on the political process of this country.