In my posting Malaysians ‘foreigners’ in Malaysia Anonymous from Sarawak indicated he/she isn’t too happy about our Peninsula-style racism, most noticeable in politics when UMNO and DAP campaigned in Malaysia’s biggest state. It’s a despicable but not exclusively Peninsula political culture, and I do agree with his/her apprehension.
Unfortunately race is an intrinsic part of our origin, history, environment, political development and thus politics. To nobly ignore it means loss of support from voters, for the ruling (then Perikatan-Alliance, now) Barisan Nasional (BN) has made sure race would be the driving force of politics.
Over the years they have nurtured our generally racist attitudes with regular indoctrination of why race needs to be protected. When the clarion cry of Bangsa dan Negara is made, you may bet the Bangsa doesn't mean Malaysians. With this core engine of Malaysian politics, the BN ensures its dominance in the political field. Divide and conquer, with its complement of component parties picking up the entire divided field.
Race-based politics have seen UMNO, MCA, MIC as the unholy Taikoh, Junior Sidekick and Tambi – the other parties are mere variations of them. Even Gerakan, once a proud multiethnic party with its leadership made up of a group of multiethnic intellectuals and street-wise politicians, has degenerated today into a race-based party after years of racial contamination in the BN.
What about parties like the DAP and its political ideology of Malaysian Malaysia, a noble aspiration that won’t see realisation for a good many decades? How many Malays would flock to join it and thus support the very undermining of race-based (instead of needs-based) privileges? Those who do are the idealistic few, and I salute them, but the reality is there aren’t many.
It’s not that the DAP hasn’t tried recruiting Malays into its fold; it’s just near impossible. The best current Malay candidates would have been Dr Syed Husin Ali and his PRM but alas, the good doctor led his PRM people into PKR, a loss for a Malaysian alternative political party.
Thus the DAP, whether it likes it or not has by default become a political party supported mainly by non-Malays. Its membership is not entirely Chinese and the mix is certainly better than the Gerakan, but to all intent and purpose it’s a Chinese-Indian party – thus race-based too. It also suits UMNO to have the DAP around as a Chinese-Indian based party, to put down MCA or the MIC if the latter two get too big for their own shoes.
What about the PKR then, once expected to be a 1969 Gerakan Mark II? The raison d'etre of the party is Anwar Ibrahim. If Anwar Ibrahim returns to UMNO, PKR is dead; and if he doesn't, PKR is equally dead for then he would be considered by UMNO as a politically spent force and thus presenting no significant political threat to anyone. The problem with Anwar Ibrahim, as we his former supporters see it, is his lack of commitment, thus signalling his unspoken wish to return to UMNO, much as he may disclaim [always qualified] that option.
The only two parties cohesive enough to present a reasonable show of parliamentary opposition are Islamic PAS and secular DAP. The former is perceived as a hardline fundamentalist Islamic party and very much dreaded by non-Muslims, while the latter is viewed by Malays as a Chinese party out to destroy affirmative actions for the Malays.
The taikongs at BN smiles at the lack of choice for Malaysian voters, knowing it alone stands as the best compromise, despite it being the ineffective, inefficient, and rotten party it has been.
It is like a Brahma-faced option, with one NEP & Ketuanan Melayu face for the Malays, another countenance for the Chinese with hopes of access to the centre of political powers and its largess, likewise with one more specially for the Indians, and a fourth face for the other minorities.
Opportunistic, avaricious and deliberately divisive politics has screwed up our opportunity of a Bangsa Malaysia. Some of us go around saying proudly “I am Malaysian”, yet the truth is that does ring somewhat hollow in our own ears!
But what can we do except to keep trying. That’s why ordinary Sarawakians must join in to strive for a Bangsa Malaysia rather than stay out like ostriches.