Fear and loathing in the non-Malay polity - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, March 09, 2020
Malaysiakini : Power here is a zero-sum game and, in this case, the non-Malays and non-Muslims in Malaysia are the losers. – James Chin
COMMENT | James Chin, professor of Asian Studies, University of Tasmania, wrote
a bleak piece lamenting the right turn of recent Malaysian politics due
to the Sheraton Move and his article’s ominous last line is the opening
quote of this piece. Andrew Sia meanwhile asked, should the non-Malays just give up? Fa Abdul warns that non-Malay fears are justified.
these pieces imply two points which I think need parsing. First, this
idea that non-Malay political operatives have drawn a line in the sand
when it comes to the state’s religious and racial policy. The second
that non-Malay political operatives have been successful in maintaining
that line in the sand.
are false in the sense that non-Malay political participation has
always been about providing a fig leaf of "moderation" for anxious Malay
power structures. The Arabisation process happened and the MCA for
decades narcotised the Chinese community with piecemeal offerings to
satisfy the preoccupations of the community. The recent murmurs by MCA
about how the funding for TAR UC returning to "normal" is a case in
Please do not get me started on Indian political
operatives and their role in this mess. I would argue that the MIC
damaged the Indian community more than mainstream Malay power structures
– and I have beaten that dead horse too many times.
under the Harapan regime, we have seen the rise of Zakir Naik, the machinations of the mufti of Perlis, the abandonment of secular and
egalitarian policies of the manifesto, the LTTE fiasco where Harapan
political operatives were arrested, the "Chinese" communist scare and
various other pro-Islamic initiatives carried out by the ever
compassionate Mujahid Yusof Rawa (photo) on the Muslim polity.
idea that non-Malay participation in the political process reflects a
sort of equilibrium seems, to me, more placebo to calm non-Malay anxiety
than any real reforms to the system. The fact that certain states with
larger non-Malay populations and aligned with Harapan will have to
decide how far they are willing to bend when it comes to the orders from
Putrajaya will no doubt be a collision of states rights (legalese) and
As I write this piece, speculation that a new
cabinet will be sworn in this week, is an interesting development
because we will finally be able to see what a Perikatan Nasional
(Perikatan) government looks like. Are there any clean players in this
coalition? To be honest, I wondered if there were any clean players in
The big question is, will non-Malays be punished
under this new regime, despite all the feel-good rhetoric coming from
the victors of the Sheraton Move? Rhetoric, which apparently has not met
with much enthusiasm by the Umno base, if the reportage is to be
We already know that when it comes to egalitarianism and
secularism, this would not be an issue with this new government. Truth
be told: it was not really an issue with the old government, either.
us face facts. Harapan does not have a good track record with towing
the secular and egalitarian line. Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination (Icerd), the Rome Statute and the numerous other ideas
which would save Malaysia but alienate the Malay polity were abandoned
by Harapan for political and racial expediency.
The big question
is, how far will Perikatan go in the cordoning of our public and private
spheres using race and religion, but more importantly, how many Malay
political operatives from Harapan will accept these policies? Like I
said, for certain states, it will be a collision of state rights and
With the possible inclusion of Abdul Hadi Awang in this Malay uber alles cabinet, the prognosis does in fact seem bleak. Hadi, if you remember, is a big advocate of the “pak turut”
school of moderation, hence we should understand that if there are any
Indians or Chinese in the cabinet, their roles would be limited to the
extent of just nodding their heads. To be fair, they do not actually
represent their communities. So, now more than ever, their participation
is really just a fig leaf for "inclusion".
Of course, for any
policy to take effect and not just by fiat, Perikatan would need the
numbers in Parliament. What is really troubling is if the Malay
political operatives in Harapan choose to side with whatever “Islamic”
or “Malay entric” diktats Perikatan comes up with, all for the cause of
"not spooking the Malays".
wrote: “Umno is still sore at the Malaysian Chinese and Indian
population for voting en bloc against Umno in 2018, which led it to lose
government. Now it’s payback time. Expect more Malay-centric policies
that will punish the Chinese and Indians." I think it has more to do
with the fact that the Malay establishment is weak at the moment and
historically it has always been insecure.
The only reason why
Perikatan continues to make overtures to the non-Malay community is that
it needs them as a fig leaf in its charade as a
multiracial/multi-religious coalition and maybe to hedge its bets
against the possibility of a sizable Malay revolt. Not to mention that
the plum urban seats are the trough from which its cronies feed.
now, they are realising that Bersatu is a lame-duck party. The Umno
leadership is battling a slew of corruption charges and while the PAS
leadership is making the right noises, the PAS base is wondering why the
leadership is not flexing its muscles now that it is a part of the
An emboldened PAS would mean more concessions
to Islamic imperatives and this pantomime of a tolerant Islam would be
in jeopardy with only the royalty (maybe) keeping up an appearance of
The main takeaway I get from political operatives in
Perikatan is that the prime minister has to consolidate his position
because if his government collapses, it would demonstrate that a "Malay
only" government – with a fig leaf of non-Malays participation – is
untenable and a loss of face for the far-right and agents of the fascist
state. When Malay power structures have been in peril, they always turn
to race and religion to gin up the base.
The goal of fear is to
make us distrustful of our fellow Malaysians when we should be
distrustful of the system and how the political operatives we give our
votes to manipulate our fears. As I said in my last piece, we need a
clear choice and not politicians who fudge on issues because it keeps
them in power.
We should understand that keeping them in power, in
reality, meant bupkis when it came to maintaining that line in the
sand, when it came to the creation of an ethnocracy – or if we are
unlucky – a theocracy.