There will never be a right time to 'spook the Malays' - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Saturday, June 02, 2018
Malaysiakini : What do we do now? – Bill Mckay, The Candidate
COMMENT | The last time someone
tried to 'spook' the Malays about Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) was
when Abdul Khalid Ibrahim was PKR’s big cheese in Selangor, and the
ensuring ruckus necessitated that the then opposition party assume the
predictable supine position when confronted with 'Malay rights'.
Just why was such a suggestion
made to open up UiTM to non-bumiputera participation? According to
Khalid, the menteri besar at the time, "The state government proposed
this because we want to increase our competency in higher education."
"But wait," you may ask, "why is this Malay politician rocking the
opposition boat? Isn't Malay thinking is monolithic?" Before assuming
the supine position, these words escaped Khalid’s mouth: "...it was a
sincere suggestion by someone who has the best interests of the Malays
and Malaysian community at heart (and) at times it is good for us to
accept advice because it will help in global development."
Or how about this. The G25 recently said that Islamic Strategic Research Malaysia (Iksim) should be abolished “...as
we are not sure what they are doing, but maligning other Muslims as
apostates and liberals.” Or this. Former Umno MP Tawfik Ismail calling
for Iksim’s abolishment, but urging the government to dissolve Jakim
immediately. "If the constitution is followed by politicians, Jakim is
unnecessary,” he told The Star.
So effective is the brainwashing that these Malays are only ever
needed when they point to how bad the old administration was, but when
they want real reforms that would truly save Malaysia, Pakatan Harapan
political operatives are silent.
Sure, they get to appear before the Harapan-designed Institutional
Reforms Committee, but what they really need is the support of
politicians who ultimately make these decisions. There’s a difference
between appearing to do something and actually doing it.
Meanwhile, the then-Umno prime minister Najib Abdul Razak warned that
Khalid had no power to compel the university to change its intake
policy. You could say that perhaps now when someone suggests that the
Harapan regime can influence this 'intake' decision, they could do
something about it. But they won’t, and most of the Harapan faithful would agree that this is not the time to 'spook' the Malays.
You think this idea of not spooking the Malays is new? It was drummed
into the heads of the older generation – and maybe the younger
generation too – to never spook the Malays. While Anwar Ibrahim’s message
was delivered in dulcet tones, the reality is that this message has
always been used to remind the non-Malays of their place. Now, of
course, because of regime change, the non-Malays must be even more
concerned of spooking the Malays. This is the new paradigm – or at least
the old one refurbished anew for a new regime.
This time though, Harapan has an edge. A sort of guaranteed
complicity, because its base won this election with Bersatu which made
it very clear that it was there to defend Malays rights. It was there
because there was a need to convince Malays – the rural Malays – that
their rights would be defended by Harapan because of Bersatu. Non-Malay
power structures would not usurp Malay rights and would be subordinate
to those rights. The fact that Harapan did not overwhelmingly command the popular vote makes the situation even more precarious.
By silence or by rhetoric
So the Harapan base and those who voted this time for Harapan did so
because nobody wanted the kleptocrat to rule, but this does not mean
they wanted to change the system. Of course, the people who actually
wanted to change the system were never really advised that there would
never be a good time to spook the Malays.
Even Najib, the deposed grand poobah attempted to reform the system. The always insightful James Chin writing for the New York Times, said: “When Najib came to power in 2009, he convened a group of economists to devise a new economic plan. "The panel recommended replacing the existing racial preferences with
need-based policies that would help any Malaysian, regardless of
ethnicity, at the bottom 40 percent of the population in terms of
household income. "After encountering strong opposition from within Umno, Najib dropped
the idea and instead established yet another agency, Teraju, to
encourage bumiputera participation in the economy.”
Proponents of ketuanan Melayu – or is it 'tiang seri'
now – always like to be vague when it comes to Malay rights or special
privileges or whatever toxic form of the ideology they are defending.
Keeping it vague means that opponents of such claptrap have to venture
into territory which they are warned could get them into trouble with
the former Umno state. These days, of course, it is different. Opponents of such toxic
ideologies will have to contend with the Harapan base who would tell
them that there are bigger issues that this country faces as though
dismantling racist policies was not a big issue.
As if those 'bigger issues' were separate from a system that
encourages a sense of privilege amongst the political elite and concern
by the folks from the Malay heartland that they would be servants in
their own land. Which is why Anwar says something like this: "...a strong confidence
that we will defend the rights of all people without sacrificing
bumiputera interests as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.”
This is a political shell game. First off, the Malays have been told
their 'rights' are always under attack. The reality is that in an
egalitarian society, everyone has the same rights. You cannot defend one
people’s special rights while also defending another communities rights
because those rights will always clash.
What you can do is create a narrative that non-Malays have rights to
their religion and language and such. but those rights will never
compromise the vague ketuanan ideology that Malay politicians claim is
needed for the Malay vote. It is also a false narrative, as we can see how the rights of
non-Muslims have been trampled on through the long Umno watch. By the
way, how are the efforts to stop unilateral conversion coming along with
The same people who were claiming that we were living in an apartheid
state now have no problem with the systemic discrimination that is
being ignored – or worse sustained – by Harapan either by silence or by
rhetoric. After all, the country is being saved from financial ruin and
god knows how long this will play out, right? Those Malays who want an egalitarian system will no doubt be mocked
or vilified for expressing such sentiments and accused of rocking the
Harapan boat. Encouraging the perception that the Malay vote is
monolithic and unchanging is the foundation of Ketuanan politics.
The former Umno state used to vilify Malays who demanded a society
where secular, egalitarian laws applied to all Malaysians. The problem
was that the former Umno state was a kleptocracy and this new Harapan
state can rely on the excesses of the former state to divert attention
from the system that brought us to where we are today.
Remember that racial and religious politics of BN evolved over time
and were supported by the majority of the voting demographic.