An Open Letter to The Prime Minister on National Unity, by Yin
Dear Prime Minister
I have lived through the halcyon days before and immediately after Merdeka like so many Malaysians of my generation. Well not everything was perfect but compared to things since 1970 they were a hundred times better regarding race relations and social and religious tolerance.
We had our racial prejudices to be sure but not state sponsored racial discrimination. And socially there were not the taboos we now have. The different races would sit together in the coffeeshop to chat. We visited each other’s houses – I slept over at my Malay neighbour’s house sometimes.
Malaysians are not racist but politicians stir up racial tensions
The point I am making is that Malaysians from whichever ethnic background are by and large not racist. We get along. Even now we get along; it is the politicians who stir up racial tensions – putting the idea that the Malays are superior to the others.
Politicians exploit our communal differences to stay in power. Malay leaders tell the Malays that only UMNO can take care of their interests and if not for UMNO they would be extinct like the Red Indians of America. MCA tell the Chinese that if not for them even the crumbs UMNO throw them will be gone. Same for the MIC. You yourself have used race and religion to further your political ambitions.
Forty eight years of racial discrimination disguised as ‘affirmative action’ followed. The rationale being that the Malays need special privileges to help lift them socially and economically. (Even now you say this). Four decades later the ordinary Malays are not much better off. On the other hand their fellow Malays who had influence and political connections did very well. The poor Malays are fed the narrative of “Ketuanan Melayu!” that they are the prince of the soil and the non-Malays are just guests in this country; here on the generosity and kindness of the Malays. The government reinforced this claim by rewriting history.
The more the Malay masses are disgruntled with their lot the louder these bigots and racists shout that “they must defend the Malay race and Islam”. Against whom is unclear. Certain Malay leaders even vowed to bathe their kris in Chinese blood.
The New Dawn
GE14; and there is talk of a ‘New Dawn’. Talk of national unity is rife. Even old dogs have changed their tune. “Time to end ‘race supremacy’, former Trade and International Industry Minister, Rafidah Aziz, tells Malaysians” (Bernama – Oct 23 2018). Other Malay academics have critiqued the government’s blue print for National Unity (refer Tajuddin Rasdi – “Looking out of the box for a National Unity Blueprint” – Oct 24 2018 Free Malaysia Today).
It is good that we now we can have a conversation on how to unite the country. Not too long ago to even question Bumiputraism was an offence.
My question to you is: “How do you unite the country when you divide the people into Bumiputras and Non-Bumiputras? One given favourable treatment over the other. Essentially we have become a nation of First Class and Second Class Citizens. Maybe not in name but in the treatment we receive from the government.
It’s all in the name of ‘affirmative action’ claims the government. Since when has ‘affirmative action’ been race based? But after forty plus years of ‘affirmative action’ and you still have the number of Malay poor we have; tells us that this is a scam by the Malay politicians and elite to enrich themselves. What has the colour of one’s skin or one’s religion got to do with affirmative action. How does giving a Malay rich discount on house purchases benefit the poor Malays? Does not giving the children of rich Malays scholarships to study in universities deprive the poor Malay children of that money?
At the same time what happens to the poor non-Bumiputras? They miss out because they are the wrong colour.
A country cannot unite when citizens are treated differently
We cannot have National Unity if we treat our citizens differently according to their race and religion. You cannot unite a country when you already divide them into Bumiputras and Non-Bumiputras? This is not rocket science.
The calls for national unity ring hollow when there are those in your cabinet who proudly proclaim to be Malay first and Malaysian a distant third after Islam.
How sincere are you about uniting the country Mr Prime Minister when your party is exclusively Malay. When its agenda is primarily to fight for Malay interests (just like UMNO). Mr Prime Minister are you prime minister for the Malays first and then only prime minister for Malaysians?
There are many steps we have to take to remake our country into the multiracial nation we are – of many peoples may cultures and religions but one nation.
Teach children the real history of our country
The whole fabric of our country has been contaminated by forty plus years of institutional racism – from the civil service to the armed forces; from schools (we still have schools exclusively for Malays sixty years after independence) to universities. We have to teach our children the real history of our country based on facts and not fabrications coloured by the political leanings of those in power. We have to start practising genuine freedom of religion and not pay lip service while discriminating against those not of the Islamic faith.
One wonders about the real purpose of the recent Bumiputra Congress where Malay leaders gathered to discuss how to improve the Malays’ lot. Why is this treated as a Malay problem to be solved by Malay leaders only and not a Malaysian problem where non-Malays can also contribute with solutions? Surely the uplifting of any section of our society is everyone’s concern. It makes one doubt the government’s sincerity about national unity. Are they going to come up with a new Ketuanan Melayu strategy disguised as “affirmative action”?
Try something else
Talk of national unity is just talk if you and your cabinet colleagues do not lead by example. After half a century of racial policies which have largely failed to solve the problem of the Malay poor (and which has dragged the country down) do you not think we should try something else?
Surely the ‘New Dawn’ promised by GE14 should include an end to institutional racism.
Even your old cabinet colleague has seen the light and called for an end to racial supremacy. You should too.
Mr Prime Minister you have said how thankful you are to be given a chance to correct the mistakes you made your first time round in power. Not many of us are lucky to be given a second chance. Use it. Or are you the leopard which cannot change its spots?
I suppose we shall have to wait and see.
Ward 5 – Tanjong Rambutan
(The views expressed are those of the contributor)