Malaysiakini : “And how easy it is to recognise the revenant shapes that the old
unchanging enemies—racism, leader worship, superstition—assume when they
reappear amongst us (often bodyguarded by their new apologists).”―
Christopher Hitchens, Arguably: Selected Essays
COMMENT | The recent comment
by Education Minister Maszlee Malik linking the matriculation quota
system to job discrimination in the private sector is not only an Umno
narrative but also a Pakatan Harapan narrative. Whenever issues like
these crop up, Harapan partisans are quick to pounce on personalities
instead of questioning the underlying policies of Harapan.
been one year of Harapan rule and so far what Harapan has done in terms
of policy is to continue the efforts of the previous government in
maintaining racial and religious hegemony. Maszlee may be a convenient
whipping boy but the reality is that it is Harapan which is aping Umno’s
racial and religious narratives.
While P Ramasamy is correct to point out that Maszlee isbehaving
like an Umno clone, what he fails to highlight is that the entire
Harapan government is behaving like the BN regime. This Malay/Chinese
narrative is still defined along the same old lines instead of the
promised egalitarian policies that Harapan campaigned on. Icerd,
the Rome Statute, the backtracking on various social and educational
initiatives, the funding of racial and religious propaganda organs, the
polemics of Harapan Malay politicians and the silence of their non-Malay
counterparts point to a neo-BN reality instead of a “new Malaysia”.
discrimination in the public and the private sectors is not mutually
exclusive. Talking about the discrimination of the quota system and the
discrimination in the private sector either overt, or crypto, is not
something that can and should be had separately. It is part of the
grander, systemic dysfunction brought upon by years of governmental and
commercial manipulation. I may not believe in that mythical social
contract, but an argument could be made that the social contract of
discrimination and racism is a social contract between political and
When Ramasamy asks what is the difference
between Maszlee and Umno politicians, what he really should be asking is
what is the difference between the racial and religious policies of
Umno and Harapan? Is there a difference when it comes to tackling
discrimination in the public and private sectors? Ramasamy's question is
only credible if there are differences between the two and if there is
no difference, then singling out Maszlee for towing familiar Malay
narratives is unfair.
When Ramasamy makes the point of the
realisation that “some of our ministers, like Maszlee, are no different
from the BN era politicians who used race and religion to ensure their
political survival", this is unintentionally funny. Why? Because, if
anything, non-Malay political operatives have been scrambling to not
spook the Malays and are in a state of agitation because their base is
wondering when this “new Malaysia” deal will materialise. DAP, for
instance, having a closed-door debate is the very definition of not
spooking the Malays.
and religious issues are the bread and butter of Malaysian politics.
How could it not be? When the religion of the state dominates and
democratic norms subverted and we have racial policies favouring the
majority community, everything becomes an issue of race and religion.
When non-Malay political operatives defend their religious rights or
defend the rights as non-Malays, they are using race and religion as
political tools because they are the most effective tools when it comes
to dismantling hegemonic power structures and policies.
otherwise, to imply that only Umno/BN politicians do this, is merely
another red herring that Harapan seems to have an endless supply of.
Honestly, when you have a race-based party like Bersatu in the coalition
and the pre-election rhetoric of the then Harapan opposition of
Mahathir being needed to secure the rural Malay vote, what did people
think it meant in terms of Harapan’s policy when it came to racial and
And I’m for non-Malay political operatives
speaking up for their communities. When non-Malay political operatives
like Ramasamy, for instance, challenges Malay orthodoxy when it comes to
constitutionally enshrined rights of non-Malays, this is a good thing.
It is pointless drawing false equivalencies between non-Malays speaking
up for their rights and Malays defending their privileges and it is also
pointless claiming that race and religion are not the bread and butter
issues of all politicians.
Unless the system changes we
have to speak up when racial and religious supremacy rears its ugly head
and we have to think along racial and religious lines because not to do
so would lead us to a theocratic state. We already live in an
course, there is a way to weaken the racial and religious narratives of
this country and differentiating the Harapan regime from the previous
Umno regime. This entails not only introducing anti-discrimination laws
which apply to the public and private sector but also dismantling
institutions, including political parties, which are race-based.
is this really something the Harapan government is interested in?
Ramasamy points to the discrimination faced by the Indians in the
private sector and the monopolisation of bumiputera in the public sector
and asks what the government is doing about that. This is a good
question but why single out Maszlee? Why not single out the whole
government bureaucracy which seems to be there not to challenge
mainstream Malay political orthodoxy but to reinforce it.
this is why the Harapan regime abandoning something like Icerd was the
height of mendacity. Icerd provided the framework when it came to
formulating policy for the public and private sectors. When I wrote this,
“The central theme of Icerd is eliminating all forms of racism and
discrimination and while the legalese of this convention is
contextualised in support of certain race-based agendas, at the heart of
it, what its proponents hoped Icerd would do is put us on the road
towards reforming a system which is mired in the kind of racism and
bigotry detrimental to social and economic cohesion.” It was written to
remind Malaysians that there is politics beyond race and religion. We
must take the first tentative steps.
honestly think that Ramasamy is slowly becoming the conscience of
Harapan but I think he should stop finding convenient whipping boys and
hold Harapan directly responsible for abandoning the fight for a “new