By Multatuli Murtadi
There is really only one issue in GE15. It is the same in GE14, 13, 12 and so on since 1970. RACE.
Political commentators have been writing about it in every election. In one way or another reference will be made to race somewhere along the discussions whatever the topic – race lies at the bottom of it. Race (and religion – since all Malays are required to be Muslims), is the weapon of choice of every Malay leader. Even those who profess to be liberal and progressive will not touch this holy cow beyond the perfunctory “moving to a needs-based affirmative action” policy. No one, with the rare exception (I can think of only Siti Kassim, Haris Ibrahim, Mariam Mokhtar, Rasdi) will come right out to say that we must get rid of Bumiputraism, get rid of the notion of Ketuanan Melayu. Have one class of citizenship – Malaysian, with one Malaysian as equal as another. On the contrary, our politicians exploit race and religion – stoking up racial issues to consolidate the Malays’ position as the self-appointed primus inter pares.
Why do I say there is only one issue – RACE?
What about Corruption? Low Education Standards, Brain Drain, Bloated Bureaucracy and Low Productivity, A Fractured Nation cleaved along racial and religious fault lines, the list goes on. All the above-mentioned are important issues deserving of our attention but if we look closer, there is a common thread that runs through all of them – RACE.
Corruption is colour blind it is true, but when one race dictates policies only one race benefits. When government is dominated by one race (whether politically or the executive) you have a quid pro quo situation. Where only one race make the decisions, it encourages the unscrupulous to demand something for giving contracts or granting licences or APs the Non-Malays have little choice but to meet those demands in order to ‘cari makan’. I am not for one minute suggesting that Malays are inherently corrupt. Anyone put in that position – Chinese, Indians etc will be tempted to exploit their ‘special status’.
What is more serious is when a significant section of the Malay Community feel that nothing is wrong when “bossku” steal billions. Any attack on Najib Razak, the convicted felon, is deemed by this group as an attack on the whole community and thus must be defended.
If we were all Malaysians period, it would not matter the colour of the thief we would with have dealt with him accordingly, but because RACE is so much part of our national psyche, many in that community feel they must defend their own who after all was misled by a corrupt Chinese.
Education policies, it would appear, are made with racial and religious considerations overriding that of sound education principles which produce a workforce that industry needs. It does not matter if Malay does not prepare our young to compete in what is now a global market. It does not matter if Religious School graduates are practically useless as far as industry is concerned. Race dictates our education policies from university entry,to appointments of vice chancellors. Meritocracy gives way to race.
Brain Drain: We have lost over two million Malaysians who have left the country for different reasons, but mostly because of the racial discrimination practised by the government. When Non-Malays find that their talents are unappreciated in their own country and when those less talented are promoted because of race, surely it’s time to leave. The message is very clear: Your country does not want you, your colour does not fit.
We know of the founders of Grab, the inventor of the pen-drive, the lady in NASA and so many more. But we lost also people with skills (carpenters, builders, mechanics, electricians, nurses, teachers, small traders) the unsung heroes who help to build our country. They moved for economic reasons but also because they want a more secure future for their children – they don’t want their children growing up in a country where they are second class. We will continue to bleed talents as long as we practise racial discrimination.
The sultans are not helping, even though they claim they rule for all their subjects irrespective of race. When a sultan demands that only a Malay (of his choice) can be Menteri Besar or Datuk Bandar, he is not only overstepping his powers as a constitutional monarch, but he is also not ruling for all his subjects. In a feudal society like the Malays, we know how influential sultans are. They can take the lead for a Bangsar Perak etc but will they?
Will There Be A Malaysia As We Know It?
We talk about the obvious issues like corruption, brain drain etc but what is more important is the changing face of Malaysia.
We used to mix freely, bantering with other races without anyone taking offence. In school, we picked our friends not by race but by common interests and how well we got along. Work colleagues eat and drink together in kopi tiams. But no more.
Today we hardly mix – Malays and Non-Malays. We walk on egg shells the few occasions when Malays and Non-Malays are together. We have polite conversations, each side consciously ignoring the elephant in the room – RACE.
Non-Malays still mix with each other freely like before and their friendship is easy and unguarded just like their older generation. You cannot say this with the Malays – they keep mostly to themselves in school as well as at work. Our society has been cleaved by race and religion – deliberately I would say, to divide and rule.
What is most frightening is that the country we founded in 1957 (and later joined by Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore) will no longer exist if we continue with this racial divide.
Singapore was kicked out because Lee Kuan Yew would not accept the racial divide. It was prepared to debate on ideas, policies which cut across race. Lee Kuan Yew did say more than once that he will debate on who can deliver to the country and who can serve the majority Malays better, but if every argument comes down to race then the country is doomed. We are not yet doomed but we will be if we continue down the slippery slope of race and religion. The relative positions of Malaysia and Singapore tells us who is right. Ask any Malay Singaporean and he will tell you he is better off in Singapore.
A sure sign of ‘doom’ is when the Malays accept that it is their lot to be ‘Tuan’ and it is the lot of the others to be second class. Similarly when the Non-Malays accept that it is their lot to be second class in their own country and that the only solution is to emigrate. You already see signs of this when young Non-Malays do not question the position of their Malay colleagues. It is depressing when the younger generation (taking MUDA as an example) seem to accept the status quo on the racial positions of the different communities. Indeed MUDA’s leader has openly declared that he will not sign the ICERD [which bans racial discrimination in any form) yet none of his “leadership group” has questioned this.
Already Zahid Hamidi the president of UMNO has called for another two generations of special privileges for the Malays, as if 60 years is not enough, he wants 100 years. By then the ‘master- servant’ relationship between the Malays and the Non-Malays would be set in stone.
Thankfully there are still Malaysians who will fight for a Malaysian Malaysia but they need to do more to make their voices heard. The ‘silent majority’ can remain silent no more.
Before you cast your vote in GE15 ask yourself what you want: A Malay Nation or A Malaysian Nation. If it is the former all you have to do is ‘nothing’! If you want Bangsa Malaysia then you have to work for it.
Ask your candidate where he stands on RACE. By his answer you know that he is also for corruption, abuse of power and everything that race politics has brought OR that he will work to heal the divide between the races and set us on the path to national unity, peace and prosperity.
Vote wisely in GE15.
(The views expressed are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rebuilding Malaysia.)
By Multatuli Murtadi, Kelantan
Three Malaysians – Malay, Chinese, Indian – in hot soup