Malaysiakini : “You can fail many times, but you're not a failure until you begin to blame somebody else.” - John Burroughs
| The difference between Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and prime
minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim when it comes to dealing with the
Malays is not ideological but rhetorical. While the old maverick
is wont to lecture and bemoan specific traits of his “people” – while
blowing the dog whistle when it comes to the non-Malays – Anwar Ibrahim
likes to find scapegoats in his quest to project some sort of leadership
Despite the differences in rhetoric, both carry out racial policies which are detrimental to the Malay community. Anwar’s
latest tirade when it comes to the plight of the “rural Malays” is to
blame the “urban elites” for distracting from the economic woes of the
rural Malay communities. There is an element in the Malay
political elite of PKR who seem to think that their perceived lack of
“Malayness” is brought upon by egalitarian ideas that emanate from the
urban and semi-urban centres, which is dominated by non-Malay concerns.
“don’t spook the Malays” narrative is a projection about the perceived
lack of (rural) Malay support of the progressive Malay faction of PKR,
which ironically is the panacea for the lopsided policies that have been
detrimental to the Malay polity. Young Malay leaders, some of who
have jumped on the bandwagon, citing “ultra-liberal Malays” and other
such nonsense, are merely reacting to the right-wing elements in PKR and
from Bersatu, who are jostling for power in this post-May 9 reality.
scapegoating of the “urban elites” is just another narrative employed
by Malay political powerbrokers to deflect from the reality that
policies meant to favour the dominant Malay polity have been an abject
failure. Or rather, the short-term gains of such policies have come back
to bite the behinds of Malay power structures bereft and fearful of
progressive ideas that could change the political and social landscape
of the Malay polity.
When Anwar Ibrahim says
something like this: “…at times, the elite seems to ignore these real
problems. I’ve not heard them talking about… poverty, inequality...”,
the question becomes, where has he been? Not only have the urban elites
been talking about poverty and equality but these same urban elites were
suckered into believing that only the current prime minister has the
“trust” of the rural Malays, which is why they embraced his political
comeback and anointed him the Grand Poohbah of Harapan. It was
Anwar Ibrahim who was viewed as not up to the task of corralling the
rural Malays to the Harapan banner, even though he has spent an
inordinate amount of time and political capital to try forge a
relationship with this demographic.
People obsessed with meritocracy
when Anwar Ibrahim claims that people are obsessed with meritocracy,
and uses “somebody from the Dayak tribe” as an example of why
affirmative action is needed, this is not only mendacious, but I would
First off, children from tribes in Sarawak would be more
vulnerable to unilateral conversion rather than the inequalities of the
bureaucracies when it comes to preserving their special rights.
Secondly, what about the poor non-Malay kid who managed to score the
required nine As but is marginalised from the system because hundreds of
Malay students who do not qualify get to participate in the system,
merely because of race? What about the children of privileged Malays who
use the system at the expense of disenfranchised Malays?
claims that the urban elites are cut off from rural bread and butter
issues but the reality is that the urban elites are obsessed with bread
and butter issues of the whole country. Economic bread and butter
issues are the catalyst from aberrant political upheavals and when you
are the minority (especially when it comes to progressive politics), you
understand that while you may be hurting in a bad economy, the people
who could do the most damage to your economic and social stability are
the disenfranchised who wield lopsided political power, through their
Why do you think non-Malays – specifically the Chinese
community – are scapegoated as an economic threat to the Malay
community? Because it is easier to blame a community for bad policy
decisions than to reverse course and attempt policies which would not be
politically attractive in the short term, but specifically in this
context because Harapan does not want to do the hard work of using its
apparatus for messaging and shifting public opinion.
And it is
bizarre. Anwar claims that the rural communities want to be reassured
that the Malay language and their special rights are preserved and that
they are afraid of certain government policies, which they view as
threats to those issues. Really? When Anwar says that there is no harm
when it comes to mastering the Malay language, where exactly was anyone
posing a threat to the language?
Cause of the plight of the rural Malays
this got anything to do with the UEC demand from the Chinese community?
Is Bahasa Melayu under threat because of the refusal to recognise the
UEC? Then just come out and say it. Look, the reason why the rural Malay
communities are in the situation they are in is because, for decades,
successive Umno regimes deprived them of the opportunities and
advantages that urban people have.
They did this because they
wanted a convenient rural vote bank, which they could use as a potent
weapon, in terms of votes and narratives against the non-Malay
communities, who were not dependent on government handouts but who were
God’s honest truth. It is pointless for Anwar Ibrahim to lecture urban
elites into going down into rural areas and doing charitable work
because the onus is on the government, both state and federal, to ensure
egalitarian programmes which would help all marginalised communities,
instead of expecting more handouts from privileged urban people – who,
let’s face it, are struggling with economic issues of their own. Does
Anwar really think that all people who make their homes in urban centres
Besides privileged urbanites, who are so inclined
have their hands looking full as against the disenfranchised in the
urban areas, mucking about in the rural heartlands presents social and
public relations problems of their own. What the Malay political
apparatus should be doing is defunding those “Malays” institutions that
are leaching money from public coffers, which could be put to better use
instead of the indoctrination and subservience, which is the desiderata
of mainstream Malay politics and the function of those institutions.
of course, there are the Malay plutocrats who are engaged in larcenous
behaviour when it comes to Malay entitlements – and looting, when it
comes to Malay-Muslim fundings. In the end, Anwar’s folly is the
willful denial that policies meant to empower the Malays are, in
reality, predatory policies which disenfranchise the greater Malay
community and from which the fallout is the racial and religious
divisions in this country.
Anwar can take heart because his folly is shared by the political class in this country.