No victims in ‘ketuanan Melayu’, only volunteers - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Malaysiakini : “Equality before the law is probably forever unattainable. It is a
noble ideal, but it can never be realised, for what men value in this
world is not rights but privileges.” – HL Mencken
COMMENT | So Pakatan Harapan prime minister-designate Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that because rural Malay constituencies are given disproportionate weightage, a Malay-based party – Bersatu – is needed because the multiracial approach of the opposition has thus far failed.
Okay, fine. What I want to know is if Harapan comes into power, will
this issue be resolved, and will we no longer have to be at the mercy of
rural Malay voters and hence race-based politics? People say that poor folk are ignorant or uninformed about what Umno
is doing, and thus the magic bullet of enlightenment if Harapan wins
will start the long, slow process of building a more equitable Malaysia.
This, of course, discounts the reality that Malay-based hegemons need
the same demographic (just the way they are) to remain in power, and so
do their non-Malay component parties.
But hang on. I know many poor, ill-informed non-Malays, and they
understand that they are being screwed by the economic and social
policies of this government. They understand that their children are at a
disadvantage when it comes to the system but have thrived nonetheless. I mean, how long does it take for the Malays to catch up? How long
does it take Malays to achieve “parity” with the other races? The former
prime minister seems to think that economic divisions between rich and
poor along ethnic lines will destabilise the country. But here’s the
thing, the rich/poor divide in majority communities usually start with
the rich demonising minorities; when this ends, the majority implodes.
Hence the Umnoputras demonise the Chinese community (maybe throw in a
little Indian hate for the sake of completeness), and when the dust
settles, the Malay polity implodes with the coronation of extreme
Islamism to rectify the so-called inequalities of the system, which
usually means a new class of theocratic potentates to replace the
plutocrats of Umno. Honestly, this idea that rural voters are poor and ignorant, keeping
Umno in power, is the political canard that will spell our doom. Well,
okay, they may be economically disadvantaged – is that the politically
correct term? – but maybe they do not give a crap about the corruption
for cultural or religious reasons.
I mean, all this talk about God punishing wrongdoers while still
voting for those wrongdoers should tell you something. Maybe they also
vote for self-preservation, or out of spite, because they see non-Malay
communities who do not have the same privileges as them, but are somehow
in a better position. It does not matter who taught them to hate, what
matters is that nobody wants to stop reinforcing this dogma.
They have political leaders bending over backwards, handing out
short-term benefits for the long con. They have institutions telling
them theirs is a superior religion, thus making them a superior people.
They have agencies, institutions, universities, and myriad other
publicly-funded organisations all geared to facilitate their well-being
and act as a conduit into the economic sphere. Furthermore, they know – and this is the scary part – that social and
economic mobility are gained by advancing in a corrupt bureaucracy
which privileges their ethnicity.
Do you think that anyone would give this up? Do you think that it is
the interests of Malay political hegemons to foster independence from a
system that needs the disproportionate weightage of the votes these
people provide? What is that old saying - there are no victims, only
So re-reading political risk analyst Manjit Bhatia’s letter
again, and paying particular attention to this – “So why should Umno's
Malay demographic bite the hands that feed it? Why would that demographic even hold the Umno Leninist state to account?” – perhaps I answered
the question too cavalierly, too optimistically. It deserves a better
response but unfortunately, I neither have the intellectual capabilities
nor the spiritual acuity to craft a reply.
I wonder why non-Malays bother voting when it comes to this rigged
game. Sure, we may be able to influence the urban centres, but it is not
as if the political leadership of the opposition is willing to change
the system. Check that. Or that they will be allowed to change the
The common refrain is that it takes time. No, it does not. The
government is always acting unilaterally to change things. This is how
the system is set up. The reality is that it benefits the community and
its leadership to keep this system in place. This is why any Malay who deviates from the prepared
ethno-nationalist and religious script is demonised. They are not only
demonised by the Umno establishment, they are rejected by the
oppositional powerbrokers, who essentially want the same game because it
is the surest root to power.
So maybe it is time to forget this nonsense that this country will
ever be one where its citizens are equal before the law. Maybe it is
time to forget about the opposition raging against this ‘ketuanan’ horse
manure, because the reality is that the non-Malay community has never
needed the government, and in fact some have thrived in an ecosystem of
systemic inequalities and religious interference.
That’s the old formula, right? Expressed in such ideologically-loaded
statements like “The non-Malays – Chinese – have the private sector,
while the Malays have the public sector.” Each of us in our little
boxes, like the ones we check to inform the state which race and
religion we identify with. Is there some clarity in thinking this way? Is there merit in
believing this pragmatism trumps the kleptocracy of the state?
Pragmatism in knowing, but not saying, that it is in nobody's interest
to change the system, but instead replacing the powerbrokers in the
hopes of maintaining some kind of social and political equilibrium?
Some Malaysiakini readers have emailed me and expressed
simpatico with my disappointment with the opposition. I had to tell them
that I got everything I wanted from the opposition. I wanted the
opposition to stop waffling and name the old maverick their prime
minister. I wanted the opposition to stop negotiating with PAS. I wanted
the opposition to pay attention to the Indian vote. Yup, it’s all
Anything to “win” a two-party system, which people like Kua Kia
Soong, the good folks at Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), the UndiRosak
kids, and numerous truly independent political outliers remind us that
it means squat if there is no commitment to anything that would separate
the ruling coalition from the one that replaces it.
I watched a BBC HardTalk episode where Stephen Sackur interviewed the
writer Mohsin Hamid, and when pressed why he was still optimistic, he
said (and I am paraphrasing here) that societies change because of the
younger generation. When old men die, so do their ideas that have held
sway for far too long. I sincerely hope this happens in Malaysia.
When it comes to our political system – and make no mistake, this
system is ‘ketuanan Melayu’ – there are no victims, only volunteers.