COMMENT | "Kumpulan pentadbir kerajaan baharu yang dipimpin PH pada hari ini mengamalkan dasar 'lead by example' dan saya yakin ia menjadi tarikan untuk mereka menyertai kita terutama Bersatu... kita tidak sekat asalkan mereka tinggalkan budaya lama," - Ahli Majlis Pemimpin Tertinggi Bersatu Mohd Redzuan Yusof (above)
The liberal intelligentsia in this country plays the same kind of game the far right in this country play. Both use race to detract from objectively examining policy decisions and political rhetoric. The far-right makes everything about race, while the liberal intelligentsia attempts to erase “race” from the discourse. The latter enabled by this nonsensical Bangsa Malaysia claptrap.
Entrepreneur Development Minister Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof's recent statement that the Malays have conceded too much to “racists” is the kind of “Apa lagi Cina mahu” Malay politics that passes as brilliant political strategy in this country. The context of this was the “khat” issue, but it could be used for any issue when it comes to Malay race-based parties.
Blaming Sin Chew and Dong Zong are political moves but underneath it are the simmering race tensions that people often ignore in favour of political bromides. When Redzuan, for instance, say something like this - "What is mine is mine, and what is yours is also mine." - this is the essence of racial supremacy.
This should not be dismissed as communal distrust because every policy of the government of the day is meant to firm up support of the majority race. Race and religion is front and centre when it comes to policy consideration. To argue otherwise, to make it seem as if there is a political alternative is mendacious.
Electoral strategies and governmental policies include the major component of race. So this idea that we are suspicious of each and not trusting one another is not something which should be dismissed. There are legitimate reasons why the various communities do not trust each other and to solely blame politicians, as the left and well-meaning "moderates" tend to do, is misguided.
I wonder what kind of response Redzuan will get from his fellow cabinet ministers? After all, what non-Malay Malaysians want is an equal share of the pie. So yes, since nothing is really “mine,” what non-Malays want is what is rightfully “ours”.
Therein lies the rub. Mainstream Malay political dogma is about protecting the entitlement programmes, the state-funded educational opportunities and the vast civil service which is considered employment for the majority race.
When non-Malays say we are “all Malaysians” what does this mean? Article 153 (which is often misinterpreted, but that is not the point) and various other provisions in the constitution divide us along racial and religious lines. There is no mainstream ideological basis for this contention, nor is there any evidence that the political class supports such a notion.
When a politician like Redzuan reminds non-Malays to read the Constitution, he is not asking us to “read” the constitution in the literal sense, but rather he is reminding Malaysians of the fictitious social contract. That non-existent document whereby the non-Malays have to remember that we are the "guests" of Malays, much like how Zakir Naik thinks the old guests should go back to wherever they came from if they question the new quest's motives.
The Apa lagi Cina mahu strategy is not meant for the Chinese. It’s meant for the Malays, who also need to be reminded that their economic and religious security is dependent on Malay power structures, and no matter how much non-Malay power structures attempt to appease the Malay majority, the sole guardians of everything “Malay” belong to the Malay political class, no matter which political party they are from.
This is why making statements of how Harapan should save Utusan - a Malay power structure mouthpiece - is ridiculous and viciously cynical. If you want to save Utusan you would hand it over to those Malays who would turn it back into that "pinko" rag that the British distrusted all those years ago.
While the non-Malays are right to fear that their private and public spaces are going to be intruded on by the state on racial and religious policy decisions, the Malays are right to fear the egalitarian policies would take away their entitlements and their preferential treatment.
A caveat to this last part, said preferential treatment is heavily reliant on class. Hence, what we get are class-based resentments which have nothing to do with actual policies and decisions, but everything to do with corruption and governmental malfeasances. See the Tabung Haji, Felda and other numerous scandals involving “Malay” institutions.
But as one Bersatu politician told me: “Do you know what would happen if we decreased the number of Malay participation in the various programmes if we moved to a needs-based approach? You are a realist, Thaya, what do you think would happen, if Malays suddenly realised they were not getting the lion's share of everything?”
There is that I suppose.
Let us take education for instance. I am against vernacular schools because they do nothing to foster the kind of interactions that are needed to form some sort of social cohesiveness in society.
However, the way national types schools have become mired in religiosity and race-baiting, not to mention becoming a petri dish for all sort of governmental policies, I can understand why non-Malays would not want their children to be part of this system and choose the vernacular alternative. I understand why some parents choose to privately educate their children. Or how some parents send their children to live with relatives so they could use the home address for one of the better national schools.
We need to openly talk about issues like race and religion without hiding behind dodgy concepts. And it is the progressive forces in Malaysia who should be defining the discourse, not the political class which needs to protect the power it has accumulated.
This would explain, why non-Malay politicians have such a hard time pushing egalitarian policies, but it would also explain why they see political capital in the status quo remaining.
All that has changed is the spin that non-Malays should buy into the social contract because Malaysia is under new management, which is what Harapan politicians are offering its non-Malay base now.
When liberals go on about how Dong Zong or Hindraf are “racists” – something DAP supporters used to say about Hindraf, Waythayamoorthy and Uthayakumar, – I always wonder what planet they are on. Sure, the polemics of race-based interests groups bother me too but to pretend that we are not living in a country where race is embedded in nearly every policy decision be it, social, economic or political, is far more damaging than what mainstream Malay politics or the far right does.
A non-Malay activist wrote to me in a blithering rage asking what more does someone like Redzuan want from the Chinese community. I replied that she was missing the point. Redzuan does not want anything more from the Chinese community. He merely wants the Chinese community to play the same game they did when they were supporting the MCA. He wants the DAP to play the same role as the MCA did. He wants the status quo.
Redzuan is leading by example.