The BLACK Art of Divide and Rule

By Multatuli Murtadi

Multatuli said “We have our own bomohs of this black art. Mahathir is the grandmaster. The others who followed him have used the same trick to win or retain power even today…”

In the early days of post independence there was a real sense of togetherness among the different races. We were going to build a happy, harmonious, prosperous and progressive nation together. The sky is the limit for our new nation.

The government of the day showed the way. The cabinet was multi-racial, our schools and universities were very mixed, our national sport teams were truly Malaysian and players were chosen on merit only. Children played together, blind to race or religion.

Government departments and the military and police were generally reflective of the country’s demography. We all stood misty eyed and with a lump in our throats as our flag was raised. We were all proudly Malaysian.

After Tunku was deposed in a coup (his own words)  things started to change. Malay leaders started to frame policies in a racial (and later also religious) context. The other partners in the coalition (MCA and MIC and later Gerakan) were either compromised or too weak to oppose the new policies which were unmistakenly biased against the Non Malays, however much the government tried to disguise it as ‘affirmative action’ to bring the Malays up to the economic level of the others. Half a century later the Malay leaders are still “lifting” the Malays up. What they have done is to create a class of super rich Malays and a Malay bourgeoisie and a poor Malay B40 class. The socio-economic divide within the Malay community is glaringly obvious.

There is still a well of goodwill and community between the races but the well is getting dry. Soon it will be completely dry if ordinary Malaysians do nothing.

Understanding the Black Art

So how do people who get along as individuals become enemies as a group?

Simple, just divide the people and give them labels. Then exaggerate their differences instead of accentuating their commonalities. Create differences if none exists. This is the “Black Art of Divide and Rule”. It’s the oldest political trick in the world. History is full of “leaders” who practise this. 

We have our own bomohs of this black art. Mahathir is the grandmaster. The others who followed him have used the same trick to win or retain power even today.

This is how it works:

  1. Divide society. How? Create two tribes – Bumiputras and Non-Bumiputras. The former basically all Malay (the Orang Aslis and Natives are just tokens). The other tribe comprises all the other races (including the nominal “bumiputras”).
  2. Create distrust between the two tribes. Tell the Malays that the non-Malays are out to cheat them, take their land and so forth.
  3. Paint the other tribe as greedy, evil – whose sole purpose is to take everything for themselves and leave your tribe poor and destitute – in effect to exterminate your tribe ( like the ‘Red Indians’ to use Mahathir’s example).
  4. Give your tribe privileges and tell them the other tribe is out to take the privileges away. This gives them something tangible to fight for.
  5. Paint your own tribe as the original owners of the land while at the same time paint the others as immigrants. This gives your tribe a veneer of legitimacy to special treatment in perpetuity. 

6.  Paint the other tribe as unbelievers who drink and gamble, idol worshippers who will lead your people astray. Paint your tribe as good people who are not corrupt and who do not drink or gamble.

Then tell your tribe that these infidels are out to change your religion.

So now you have two tribes at each other’s throat. If there are members from your tribe who question your stand or who preach inclusiveness, label them as traitors; make them social pariahs in their own community.

While dividing the races, these leaders make noise about wanting national unity. They come up with slogans like Bangsa Malaysia, 1Malaysia, Keluarga Malaysia. They set up talkshops like the National Unity Advisory Council. They do everything to give the impression that they want Bangsa Malaysia while working against it. Bangsa Malaysia is the last thing UMNO, PAS, Bersatu or PN want.

If Malaysia were a petri dish you would have a culture of different micro organisms living together.

This multi-organism culture thrives in an environment of inclusiveness, tolerance and fairness created by the first scientist. His work is recognised all over the world and other scientists who want to create a similar culture in their own countries were eager to learn from this experiment.

Then along comes a scientist; because he is second rate he knows he is never going to be able to replicate this successful culture. So to spoil the good work he introduces malignant micro organisms which disrupts the harmony between the earlier micro organisms. He changes the environment of the petri dish to favour his own malignant micro organisms. The petri dish cultured by the original scientist is spoilt and nothing will be saved if something is not done.

The petri dish is my metaphor for Malaysia.

Inshallah we will break the evil spell of these political bomohs. Good Muslims will follow the middle path of fairness, justice and non-discrimination as taught by the Prophet (PBUH).

It is not possible for evil people to divide the country if the citizens are united. Even if they have different ideas how to tackle the problems in our country and support different parties or ideologies; if they regard themselves as Malaysians first and Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan-Dusun etc, after.

They may quarrel as rivals of different political parties, but they at no time regard the other side as the “enemy” – only as rivals. When citizens think as Malaysians and do what is good for the whole country and not just what is good for his tribe, the bomoh cannot cast his evil spell.

Malaysians are decent people. The pandemic has brought out the best in us where we respond to the White Flag irrespective of race or religion. I must say it has also brought out the worst when those in power profit from the people’s misery – they cheat everyone irrespective of race.

The Pak Chik in the market does not want to be left behind but at the same time he does not want Ah Kow or Muthu to suffer. But when Pak Chik is told by politicians that Ah Kow and Muthu are ganging up on him; that they are his enemies then he will of course put up a fight and this is what the bomoh wants.

In his poem, “Sahabat-ku”, Usman Awang asks, “Why am I Bumiputra and you are not?”

To divide and rule of course!

Politicians who are bankrupt of ideas, who do not have a road map ahead for the country and who cannot deliver despite ruling for sixty years, will use Divide and Rule. Their success has encouraged them to continue with this Black Art. They don’t care if this makes the country poorer and in the end those they claim to be fighting for, will be the biggest losers. They don’t care if the country breaks up.

There can be unity in diversity – in our skin colour and culture if we let a hundred different flowers bloom.  Children in the same family have different ideas yet they remain members of the family. Good parents do not favour one over the other. We can differ in our politics, let a thousand thoughts contend.

Understanding this Black Art is the start to defeating the racists and religious extremists.

As long as we are Bangsa Malaysia the bomohs of the Black Art will fail.

Don’t let the well of goodwill run dry.

(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

Rebuilding Malaysia


  • Frankie Chong says:

    Brilliant analysis of the present dire situation in our beloved country. Truth can hurt, but turning our face away and pretending all is well is a time bomb in the making. Conscientious Malaysians should rise up and reject this cancer growing racial discrimination and religious extremism. Spread this message. May God help us.

  • Gurunathan says:

    The petri-dish is glass made. Its fragile.


    Very true gone r d days of sitting together n enjoying whatever v do together.PPL NEED T OK CHANGE FAST.

  • Alex Seet says:

    Until and unless all of us are sincere on Bangsa Malaysia – nothing changes.
    Don’t based on colors skin, we might be different in color skin but our blood remains the same color – red!

  • Mohd Noor Suffian bin Abdullah says:

    Kusufian Write@blogspot
    #BEBAS Malaysia
    UMM-I PRU 15

  • mg says:

    Orang Asli in WM are not Bumis.

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