Sunday, July 26, 2020

Racism is closer than you think


Racism is closer than you think

by Mariam Mokhtar

Today, in Malaysia, what the rich Malay wants, he gets; but the poor kampung Malay doesn't get the running water that he wants.

Few Malays dare complain about the carrot and stick approach. Where rewards don't work, repercussion and punishment follow.

In the end, everyone becomes complicit. Even the non-Malays, who have been conditioned by decades of brainwashing, keep quiet.

The obnoxious, noisy racist like the leader of the Red Shirts is easily identified as the "enemy"; but the most harm comes from the silent ones whom we consider our "friends". They close one eye, or are too afraid to speak out.

Two days ago, Setiawangsa MP Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said that Pakatan Harapan could have done more to address the issue of racial and religious discrimination in the country when it was in power.

"Frankly, we didn’t do enough when we were in power. I mean, now we have the benefit of hindsight...," he said.

So, is hindsight the politician's justification for his failure to act?

If Harapan had not reneged on their promise to reform, it might still be in power. Has Nik Nazmi forgotten why we elected Harapan in GE14? One of the reasons was to address racial and religious intolerance.

How many more decades of racially and religiously charged incidents does Harapan need before it acts?

The abduction of Pastor Raymond Koh and three others. The kidnap of Indira Gandhi's daughter.

Why are Indians more likely to die in police custody?

Despite the educational aids, the free computers, the books, and the scholarship, why do many poor Malay boys perform badly at school and drop out altogether, more so than the poor children of the other races?

Some of the predominantly Malay and least diverse communities are the poorest. Why?

An accident with a fire-truck, which caused the death of a fireman, has become racially charged and yet, none of the people who started the riot have been investigated. Instead, the police are still searching for two or three unknown assailants.

The theft of the rakyat's money by Malay leaders amounts to the GDP of many countries, and yet these corrupt politicians are still running free. Is Malay dignity too fragile to allow one of its own, to be imprisoned?

The theft of a mobile phone by a drug addict morphed into a racially charged incident. Fuelled by extremist politicians, the near-riot became a cry to protect Malay dignity. What is dignified about theft? The incident hatched the idea of the failed Low Yat II.

When Harapan failed to ratify both the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd) and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), last year, a Malay relative breathed a sigh of relief.

When I asked why, she said, "I don't want Malay children to lose their scholarships and be deprived of an education. The other races will benefit." Has she heard of meritocracy? Does she assume that all Malays are gobloks (stupid)?

My encounters with racism

Last year, a non-Malay asked me, "Why should you bother about racism? It can't have any impact on your life. As a Malay, what do you know about discrimination?"

My first encounter with racism was after Form Five when I found that some very clever Chinese friends had to leave school and work. Although they excelled in examinations, they were denied scholarships to further their studies. The places had gone to some Malay girls who had failed to secure the minimum grades.

To add insult to injury, their parents were wealthy and could easily afford the college fees and not take the scholarships meant for the less well-off. I may not have directly experienced racism, but the feeling of anger and disappointment for my friends, has stayed with me.

Some years ago, I was invited to a nyonya restaurant in Ipoh's Jalan Anderson for dinner. As I approached the table, the wife of an English expatriate, whose husband was helping to set up the local medical school said, "No. We are not ready to order. Come back in five minutes." My horrified friends told the newbie, "She's our guest." The English woman went beetroot red.

When I went to work in Sarawak, the reception was initially hostile. One Kelabit colleague said, "They see you as an outsider, dari Semenanjung (from the peninsula) who has come to take their jobs."

When a friend visited me at home, a relative came to tell me that the new gardener had arrived. I do not know who was more ashamed. Myself, my engineer friend who was Indian, or my relative.

My friend admitted that he was often mistaken for the driver or the gardener. My relative later said, "Why didn't you tell me, you were expecting an Indian?" I told her off and said, "Don't judge people, or their profession, by their skin colour."

On another occasion, a Malay friend claimed that he was not racist because he had non-Malay friends; but when I asked him, "Would you have a non-Malay as prime minister?", the answer was a firm, "No! It would undermine the nation and we will lose our place in society."

Nik Nazmi and Harapan must confront the uncomfortable truth and deal methodically with the racial and religious intolerance in Malaysia, as they would a business problem.

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO). Blog, Twitter


  1. No Fair.....

    Alliance/BN/Malay/Muslim governments given 13 chances, Harapan/"Chinese dominated" government given only 1 chance. That is racist.

  2. Ah Mok is also thoroughly racist ler..

  3. Mariam Mokhtar is one of the rare open-minded Malays that I have come across.

    She exudes confidence as a woman and a Malay to be able to see things without blinkers.

    I enjoy reading her articles. My regret is that I am unable to support her financially due to my own situation.

  4. Mariam Mokhtar is the real deal

    Many Malays we had once admired sadly fall by the wayside far too easily...RPK, Saifuddin Abdullah, Wan Saiful, Art Harun. The next question to ask is...WHY ?

  5. if one chinese will to do a self introspection like mariam did, we call him her a dog, or fanguzai.

    1. No!

      Just like no Chinese will tag 鲁迅 with a farted label created by a nonchinese!

      鲁迅 did a lot of Chinese 'introspections' - 以笔为刀,字字见血!

      犬养 mfer have u done a crosscheck before u come up with yr one-liner Mariam fart?

      We called 季子越, a real 反骨仔. Bcoz he forgets what's been a Chinese.

      吾广漠 美丽最可爱之中国兮! —— 鲁迅

      U read 鲁迅?

      Maybe those 台毒 versions, especially those that have twisted via 小民的智慧!