Nobody asks non-Malay politicians when they will ditch the bumi system - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, February 08, 2021
Malaysiakini : If my answers frighten you, Vincent, then you should cease asking scary questions. - Jules Winnfield in the movie Pulp Fiction
| Lee Hwok Aun of the Iseas–Yusof Ishak Institute asks, “Will
bumiputeras ever relinquish the privileges they enjoy?”, believing, like
a majority of non-Malays and 'liberal'-minded Malays, that this
question, although provocative, is one that needs to be asked.
you, this piece is not directed specifically at Lee, because this
question and certain themes involving this question have been around for
some time now.
a charitable reading of the question, it is a red herring, but more
often, it is a deflection from the mainstream politics of this country
that enables the bumiputera system and which forms the basis of
political compromises which over the years has had diminishing returns.
of all, non-Malays and the politicians they vote for enable the system
of privileges – as defined by the former deputy governor of the central
bank that is the starting point of Lee’s piece – and other Malay uber
alles policies that everyone seems to think are detrimental to this
Second, non-Malay politicians not only actively seek to
promote such policies but do so in either overtly or sub rosa methods to
cling on to the meagre influence the Malay uber alles establishment
allows them to have.
Third, non-Malay political operatives savage
each other. Normally this happens to operatives from opposing coalitions
but it also happens fairly frequently within coalitions as a means to
whittle away opposition from threats to the political stability of the
coalition when it comes to bumiputera sensitivities.
political base of non-Malay political operatives, and by this I mean the
base which was birthed with the ejection of Anwar Ibrahim from the Umno
paradise have sublimated desires for systemic change in favour of a
Manichean agenda of replacing Umno or whatever bogeyman they can come up
with in lieu of promised egalitarian reforms.
Hence this question
of asking will the majority ever give up their privileges is
disingenuous. Why? Because there is no alternative when it comes to the
bumiputera system and the reason why there is no alternative is because
there are no political alternatives that political operatives are
offering to the majority.
can only ask this question – will bumiputeras ever relinquish the
privileges they enjoy – when there is a clear alternative to the system
that grants them those privileges.
There never has been an
alternative to the kind of racial politics that BN offers, and there
never has been an alternative ‘Malay’ political power structure for
Malays to gravitate to. Mind you, this is not only a Malay problem; the
other communities have the same problem.
Honestly, how can anyone
even ask if Malays will ever give up their privileges when the supposed
progressive polity in this country endorses a coalition which lynchpin
was a Malay-only party which everyone, including non-Malay political
operatives claimed, were needed to secure the Malay vote?
anyone else see the hypocrisy of even asking the question when
everything political operatives do – from either coalition – is to
ensure that that system of privilege is maintained? Nobody asks
non-Malay politicians when they are going to ditch the bumiputera
Does stating clearly that the opposition is a secular and
egalitarian opposition make the situation better or worse? Or is it
better doubling or sometimes tripling religious funds, mucking about in
religious spaces of the majority, in demonstrations of kumbaya, do more
If you have a clear position then you get to ask the
question, when will the Malays give up their privileges? But if you do
not have a clear position, then what difference does the question make?
Would voting for anything opposed to Umno/Bersatu/PAS suddenly save this
The erosion of support for BN amongst the
non-Malay communities has little to do with ideology but rather, the
excesses of Umno and the erosion of non-Malay ‘rights’ under successive
Umno potentates, while the non-Malay component parties looked on while
filling their coffers.
Non-Malay political parties have this
delusion that they are independent operators. They are not. They are in
reality proxies for Malay power structures, with varying degrees of
public and private influence within Malay hegemons. To believe
otherwise, would be delusional.
‘Malay’ politician is acutely aware that championing the ‘Malay’ cause
does not mean emancipating the Malay community but rather enslaving
them. Of course, nobody thinks they are enslaving their community but
carrying out so-called favourable policies meant to protect their
community from the ‘others’.
The reality is all that these
policies have done - religiously, sociologically, economically, or
ideologically - is to instil a sense of independence in the non-Malay
community and dependence in the Malay polity. I would argue (and have)
that there is not really a sense of ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ in the general
Malay community but rather a ‘Ketuanan Umno’ that has been the dominant
expression of ‘Malay’ nationalism.
Folks talk about “utopian”
ideals, but this is rather cynical and only in Malaysia can someone
claim that baseline democratic principles or ideas are “utopian”. They
Needs-based affirmative action and secular policies
involving religion are within our reach or rather there was a time
before the Arab-isation process that they were within our reach because
we were more secular and egalitarian until the mainstream political
establishment reengineered the political landscape after May 13th.
reason why they are now considered “utopian” is because we have had
successive coalitions and political operatives who slowly chipped away
at principles they claimed they had in a bid to secure power. Those
principles of egalitarianism and secularism were ditched in favour of
pragmatic power-sharing which, turned out to be neither pragmatic nor
any genuine sharing of power.
So until and unless there is a clear
alternative to the system of privilege that is endorsed by mainstream
Malay and non-Malay political entities, nobody gets to ask that question
as a genuine starting point for a reasoned discourse on race in this
country. The very question is compromised. It is only honestly asked
when it is a reflection of the political landscape that offers an
It is a scary question and one that can only be really answered at the ballot box, which I suppose is the scary part.
there is a clear alternative, that question is a deflection, something
people comfort themselves by asking because it feeds into the Manichean
narrative that everything wrong in this country is because the majority
does not want to give up their privileges.