What else is there to talk about besides the 3Rs? - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Saturday, July 06, 2019
Malaysiakini : “When all are guilty, no one is; confessions of collective guilt
are the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits, and
the very magnitude of the crime the best excuse for doing nothing.” – Hannah Arendt, On Violence
COMMENT | Malaysiakini recently ran a couple of pieces on the '3R surge', which basically means Malaysians have been talking about the sacred cows of Malaysian politics – race, religion and the rulers – more after the Pakatan Harapan win. Political
operatives have been blaming one another for this, but the reality is
that as long as Malaysians support race-based parties, either
individually or in coalitions, there will always be talk of the 3Rs.
long as there is no alternative that forms the basis of a strictly
secular and egalitarian government, this propaganda of a 'Bangsa
Malaysia' will eventually be the ruination of whatever is in opposition
of the far right of this country. While Umno and PAS continue to
frame the narrative of mainstream Malay politics in this country,
non-Malays have to be content with their supine power structures that
rely on a base which allows them plenty of leeway.
The fear of
losing federal power does not reflect the reality that non-Malays, by
rejecting the paradigm of BN, created in a shift of power at the state
level, and a new dynamic which eventually brought down the Najib Abdul
Razak regime. Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku Rakyat Sabah (Star)
president Jeffrey Kitingan says that politics needs to be more
issue-oriented. But every issue in this country is predicated on "not
spooking the Malays.”
Political operatives from Bersatu and PKR have warned that
Malay support means that the acceptance of egalitarian policies is not
tenable. Meanwhile, DAP - before the historic May 9 win, it was all
about policies which would benefit 'everyone' - has suddenly lost its
voice. A political operative from DAP, who has big ideas
about how to move forward the ministry this individual is in charge of,
tells me that every decision has to take into account the racial and
religious dynamic, which more often than not cripples the
"Everything we do is under a microscope,
and we have to be careful because if we say or do something that
remotely touches on race or religion, we will be attacked by Umno and
PAS, members of our coalition, and even from individuals from the party
itself," this individual relates. This is just a snapshot, but in a
situation like this, does anyone really have to consider why we are
talking about the 3Rs more after the election?
Far right not solely to blame
While I sympathise with this political operative, the reality is that Umno and PAS are not solely to blame for this. While I get that most partisans do not care if Harapan lives up to its ideals and its manifesto,
the political reality is that Umno and PAS are using this – and rightly
so – to demonstrate to the majority that the coalition can't keep its
promises. Indeed, when you think about it, what the Harapan win
has done is rejuvenate certain ideas about race and religion, and
non-Malay compliance when it comes to them. As Kitingan says:
"These are raised because of our racial politics. Umno is for Malays.
They are raising up the sentiments of Malays and Muslims."
plays well to a certain base, who seem to forget that Bersatu was formed
because, in the words of Mahahtir and the complicity of PKR and DAP,
the 'Malays' needed to be reassured that a Malay-based party would look
after their rights and privileges.
This is why merely pointing to the far right as the cause of the escalation of racial and religious rhetoric is bunkum. When
Kitingan says get rid of race-based parties, what exactly does he mean?
Get rid of something like Bersatu, which we are told is the reason why
Harapan won the election? Get rid of Bersatu, which dominates the
policy-making decisions of Harapan? Mahathir has since asked 'Malays' from other Malay parties to join Bersatu
-“Yes, join Bersatu. When our group is big, we become strong, but don’t
stop others from joining the party (Bersatu), let them join.
we are split, we become weak, united we stand, divided we fall (bercerai
roboh, bersatu teguh). (But) we find that there are people forming new
parties, (now) we have become six, soon there will be 10, (then) 100.
There are 30 people in one party, how to win (the election)?”
give credit to Kitingan, he does strike at the heart of the issue when
he says this: "Well, if you have a constitution that says some people
have more rights than the others, then they will pursue the rights as
the basis for their politics. This is happening." Kitingan is right when he says that eventually, this issue will have to be addressed. He
talks about education and other policy reform as a means of tackling
this issue, but that can only happen if a foundation is built on which
younger, more reformist-minded leaders can build upon. This is not
Indeed, it is not the population that needs to be
educated on this issue. It is the political class which determines if
there is a new Malaysia. People will vote for whichever candidate they think best, based on whatever criteria they have. If
people do not have a choice, but are instead voting for more or less
the same candidates, you can bet your last ringgit that the question of
constitutional reform will never be addressed. The realpolitik of the situation is that the non-Malays have always survived in this country.
what irks the far right and probably forms the basis of their politics
is that in many ways, the non-Malays have thrived; while because of the
policies of the Malay political class, there is a Malay polity which is
disenfranchised from the mainstream success that a large class of
Ultimately we will always be talking about the 3Rs, because mainstream power structures have left us little else to talk about.