Where is Anwar Taking Us?

What is Anwar’s end game?

From ABIM President to Deputy Prime Minister to Jail Bird and now Prime Minister. His party rose from the ashes of Reformasi yet reform does not seem to be on his agenda.

He was elected member of parliament for Tambun because almost 100% of Non-Malay votes went to him. Without them he might have lost because he lost the Malay votes. Since his election there is nothing I can point to that he has done for the people of Tambun. He has not even tried to help the farmers who were recently evicted by the State Government. But maybe a prime minister is too busy to deal with petty things like the welfare of his constituents.

 Let’s look at the big picture. He promised a needs-based affirmative action policy where poor Malays as well as Non-Malays will be assisted. Yet race based policies remain in place.  On the other hand, he has done many things in his short stint as PM that make the Non-Malays very nervous.

He has given Jakim more money than he budgeted for spending on helping the rural communities. He has given Jakim more power to influence the direction of our economy than his partners in Party Harapan. He plunged headlong into the Palestine conflict ignoring the possible backlash of American and European sanctions. What will his backing for Hamas signal to potential foreign investors?

His use of small children in his crusade against Israel was ill thought out. It certainly got a lot of publicity even if most were negative.

He thought his commitment to Hamas would win him brownie points with Muslims in the country. It failed to deliver Malay votes, going by the thrashing UMNO got in the Kemaman by-elections.   It has not taken the wind out of PAS’s sails.

He sends money to Palestine when poor Malaysians go without. But what does all this do for our country as a whole, barring the syok factor for Malays.

Anwar must remember he is no longer the young firebrand ABIM President. As prime minister he cannot act like a student leader leading a protest.

A wiser head would have still protested and made his point on Palestine but at the same time looked after the broader interests of the country. Even the most passionate supporters of Hamas; at the end of the day, has bills to pay, we need jobs, investments; alienating our major trading partners the U.S. and Europe is shooting ourselves in the foot.

If as it seems, Anwar is not prepared to implement needs-based policies which would have been a first baby step towards a united nation of equal citizens, can we assume he wants to retain the status quo – the never ending privileges for Malays? Before you knee-jerk react and cry foul, I am on record as a supporter of Article 153 of our Constitution. What I am against is the abuse of Article 153 both in spirit and in implementation.

His “green” credentials plus his shift in the direction of the Conservatives, Malay Nationalists and Islamists do not augur well for Bangsa Malaysia.

Politicians exist on votes therefore it is pertinent to ask what

is the end game of the Malay Conservatives and Islamists or for that matter that of Malays in general? How Malays regard the future of the country – as a Malay nation or a multi-racial secular Malaysian nation as intended by our founding fathers, matters a great deal.

We often talk of the silent majority – the liberal, tolerant and fair Malay Malaysians who want a Malaysian Malaysia.  Is it a product of our wishful thinking? Do they exist? I am beginning to wonder.

 There are the usual few “dissenters”- voices in the wilderness, but by no stretch of the imagination can they be considered the “silent majority”. There are definitely no voices from Malay political leaders calling for a united Malaysia; not even from the next generation of Malay leaders like Rafizi, Nurul Izzah or Syed Siddiq who have remained silent on Bangsa Malaysia.

Has Anwar decided that his political future lies in out Islamising PAS, be the “jaguh kampong” rather than “jaguh negara”?

Is total domination the end game of Malays where Non-Malays remain second class, living here at the pleasure of the Tuan; guests without proprietorial rights to the house (which they helped to build) and expected to take what is given and be thankful for it.

Post Tunku every prime minister has been Malay first and Malaysian second. They only vary in degrees. Is Anwar any different?

Is Total Malay Domination Possible?

Yes and No. This is a tale of two Malaysia.

YES in Malaya where they are the overwhelming majority and where the voice of Malay nationalism and Islamisation grows stronger by the day and where Deep State is in play.

Anwar’s dangling of a needs-based affirmative action is just that, a carrot to shut the Non-Malays up but it is only talk, there is no blueprint to replace race-based policies. On the other hand, we get a glimpse of where he is taking us by his actions.

His total imposition of Malay in all dealings with the government is no different from what Sabri did. This has emboldened “little napoleons”. The latest example when JPJ insists that the public must speak only in Malay if they want to be served shows how far “Malayisation” has gone. There is no law that requires us to do this yet there is no comment from the minister of transport on this abuse of power by his officers. It is a sign how powerful Deep State is that ministers can be ignored.

Malay will supersede everything even if it results in a sub-par education and in lessening our country’s competitiveness. Our schools are increasingly totally Malay medium with a heavy dose of Islam in their syllabus – whatever the sensitivities of the other races. English seems like an afterthought despite its importance in our dealings with the wider world.

A “Malay Only” bureaucracy will hinder trade and investments which already complain of too much red tape. We used to be attractive to foreign investors when English was widely used but if Anwar insists that all dealings with the government must only be in Malay what is the advantage we have over Vietnam, Indonesia or Bangladesh?

Vernacular schools are saved only because of the Constitution, but it is just a stay of execution until Malay parties get the 2/3 majority to change the constitution. In any case, vernacular schools are starved of government funds and survive on financial support from their respective communities.

  The empowerment of Jakim to ensure Islamic values are central to every government policy is a threat to Non-Muslims.

Every federal agency and every government department is overwhelmingly staffed by one race. Promotion is race- based and not on merit. Non-Malays when employed in government are mere tokens to give the illusion of a united multi-racial nation.

At every turn Islam is foisted on the Non-Malays either directly or indirectly. From doas in schools, to disallowing carols – the latest being TVS censoring of what carols can be included in its Christmas programme. To removing symbols in Mission Schools, to complaints about anything that hints at another religion (especially Christianity) if it offends Muslim sensitivities.

From every perspective we already have Malay domination in Malaya.

NO. Sarawak and Sabah will not allow Malay domination. They will defend their pluralism and their independence to make decisions which affect their future.

Sarawak has thumbed its nose at Putrajaya regarding the “Malay Only” order by Anwar . The Deputy Chief of UMNO in Sabah has called for the return of English medium schools and supports the use of English as a second language in government departments. So where does that leave Putrajaya’s “Malay Only” edict?

Sarawak has defied Putrajaya’s order to use its assessment criteria for the SPM, preferring their own which many independent observers say is superior to the Ministry of Education’s.

Both Sabah and Sarawak have used their powers to refuse entry to Islamic radicals and racist politicians and other undesirable elements.

State apparatus have been used to neutralise federal edicts when unacceptable to the locals. Deep State is not so effective when state administrators are there to look after state interests. It is the plural and secular nature of Sarawak and Sabah that has prevented domination by any one community.  

If push comes to shove, both states have the option of secession provided by the Malaysia Agreement. Malay domination in East Malaysia will not happen as long as Sarawakians and Sabahans are in charge of their own destiny.

What About Bangsa Malaysia?

Let me put it bluntly, there will be NO Bangsa Malaysia – not in the foreseeable future, not the way things are shaping up.

Consider this:

No Malay leader wants it. Other than Tunku, every prime minister since has been racially discriminatory – in other words none worked towards Bangsa Malaysia.  By the way, the term “Bangsa Malaysia” was coined by Mahathir when his premiership was threatened and the Non-Malays saved him; believing that Mahathir really meant to deliver Bangsa Malaysia. It was a con the Non-Malays fell for in their desperation for a silver lining.

Anwar talks of a needs-based affirmative action policy. If Malaysians assume it means the removal of race discrimination and the beginning of a “Bangsa Malaysia” then Anwar’s lack of action on this matter show otherwise.

I don’t think Malays will let go of the privileged position they have given themselves.  Politicians prefer the easier route of race and religion, whereas Malaysian Malaysia is a tough sell to Malay voters.

There is not even the slightest attempt at national unity. The Ministry of National Unity is an empty show directed by a minister who shows no enthusiasm for the task and is bereft of ideas of how to bring the different races together.

There will be no Bangsa Malaysia because the party that sold the dream to the Non-Malays has sold out. DAP rode to power on the back of a Malaysia for all Malaysians. After gaining power they have forgotten their promise to their supporters. In fact they have not delivered on their promise of UE acceptance or Local Government Elections. There are other election promises they have broken. There are more important things on the mind of DAP leaders, like how to keep their seat at the top table and the perks that go with it – much like MCA and MIC.

There will be no BangsaMalaysia because the Chinese and Indian political leaders (of any party in West Malaysia) do not have the moral courage to demand equal citizenship. They offer themselves as the lesser evil, not as a beacon of hope for a Malaysian Malaysia.

There will be no Bangsa Malaysia because the Chinese and Indians  do not want it enough to fight for  it. They too readily reach out for Plan B – to emigrate; instead of staying to fight for what is rightfully theirs. Perhaps they have been disappointed (or should I say played out) so many times by those who claim to be their leaders that Plan B seems the easier option. Emigrating is easier than trying to convince the Malay majority that equal citizenship is a win win solution for all Malaysians. Exiting, seeking pastures new in a foreign land, is a tried and tested solution for over two million Malaysians since Merdeka. Nothing has changed.

There will be no Bangsa Malaysia because Sarawak and Sabah will not demand it. Sarawak and Sabah politicians are more concerned with what happens in their states.  They have Bangsa Sarawak and Bangsa Sabah, they live harmoniously as one people and that is enough. Bangsa Malaysia is not a priority for them. The problems of the non-Malays in Malaya are not their problems. They also have the silver bullet of secession should Malaya Malays try to dominate them.

So what happens to the Non-Malays? On the present trajectory there will be very few of them left in two decades. The younger generation are told to make a new life abroad where they will be equal citizens,  the old will die here and there will be no replacements.

Maybe this is the end game of Malays – to sit it out and let time take care of the pendatangs while they multiply.

If we go down the path of hudud and shariah law many Malays will also leave. Anwar’s attempt at bringing back the “brains” is targeted at Malay emigres, he is not concerned about the non-Malays, if he is he would have dealt with the “elephant in the room.” But even then, he failed to attract Malays to return. Life style, better pay, a less oppressive society are factors influencing their decision.

While one never says “never”, I would say the chances of Bangsa Malaysia is remote as long as Anwar is prime minister. In fact there is no Malay leader we know, that will push for Bangsa Malaysia.

Bangsa Malaysia is achievable if Malay leaders push for it. It entails political risks which unfortunately none is willing to take – even if they truly believe in a united, diversified, multi-racial Malaysia. It is easier to play on Malay insecurities and entitlements to gain power.

Our hope lies in a leader from Sarawak or Sabah becoming the prime minister or deputy prime minister and a coalition that is committed to Bangsa Malaysia and which has a blueprint  to achieve national unity.

Or, if wishful thinking is allowed, that a “Boestaman” will emerge from among the Malays who will fight against exploitation and for egalitarianism and a Malaysian Malaysia.

Ahmad Boestaman, the “people’s tiger” from Perak, fought for social justice irrespective of race, all those years back. Compared to Boestaman Anwar is a charlatan.

There are many other Malay leaders like Boestaman who while fiercely Malay and would fight for Malay interests, also stood for a multi-racial united Malaysia.  Onn Jaafar and Tunku we know of. Then there are others like Abdul Wahab, Panglima Bukit Gantang from Perak, we know less of. Then others like Hamid Tuah at the kampong level who while fighting for Malay peasants was multi-racial in his outlook. “He fought for the dignity of Malay peasants, not racial divide” says his daughter Siti Nor. She inferred that were there Chinese peasants he would have fought for them too.

Fairness, tolerance and multi-racialism is not alien to the Malay soul.

Racism and intolerance is not in the Malay DNA.

Sarawak has shown that Malays have nothing to fear from Bangsa Malaysia. The Chinese and Indians will never take over and they have never aspired to be prime ministers. They just want to be treated fairly and have equal citizenship – affirmative action is not the problem but racism is.

No Bangsa Malaysia, What then?

The status quo will remain – a divided Malaya and a united Sarawak and Sabah. An increasingly Malay and Islamic Malaya where Non-Malays remain second class.

A secular, tolerant Sarawak and Sabah where there is no first or  second class, only Sarawakian or Sabahan.

This is a tale of two countries.

We don’t need to read the entrails of a goat to tell our country’s future. If race and religion continue to dictate our policy decisions our country will quickly become third class.

The sad thing is that it’s not as if our racially discriminatory policies have benefitted the Malay masses. The Malay B40 is growing; they are now talking about B60.

It is worthwhile noting that the present system while depriving the non-Malays of their legitimate rights, is also not really helping the poor Malays.  This race-based system allows the elite and privileged Malays to take undue advantage to consolidate their influence and position to perpetuate their economic interests. It is not easy for the less privileged Malays to break out of their poverty circle when they are denied economic opportunities which only the rich and elite Malays can exploit. The wealth gap between the rich and poor Malays is the widest intra-race of the different communities.

Sir Gerald Templer predicted this over seventy years ago; when he talked about the Malays exploiting their own kind under a race and religion model of government. He called it “Social Crystallisation”. The problem is, in our race and religion driven political environment, easy scapegoats can be found to hide the incompetence of Malay leaders.

Despite everything, we are not yet over the precipice. But unless Malay leaders change, there will be no Malaysian Nation as our founders intended – only a Malay Nation and the Independent States of Sarawak and Sabah.

Where is Anwar taking us? Nowhere!

He is bogged down in race and religion politics like all the others.

The Mahathir/Ramasamy Tiff

The disagreement between Mahathir and Ramasamy requires a mention.

Mahathir blamed the Chinese and others for not assimilating with Malay society. He praised the Chinese (Tionghuas) in Indonesia for assimilating with Indonesians. In this Mahathir is wrong. The Chinese in Indonesia did not assimilate in the sense of “Masuk Melayu”. Under Suharto’s dictatorship they were required to change their names but a cursory observation would show that many were thinly disguised Chinese names. The Chinese in Indonesia speak Mandarin or dialect with other Chinese . Their cuisine is basically Chinese with local influence. Post Suharto under more tolerant regimes (Gus Dur – Abdulrahman Wahid, Joko Widodo) the Chinese have openly practised Chinese customs again. While most retained their Indonesianised Chinese names, many reverted to their original Chinese names. Chinese signs are allowed and if you are in Medan, do visit what is probably the biggest Buddhist temple complex in this part of the world. Indonesia is a modern, progressive, tolerant state and not one that imposes “assimilation” as inferred by Mahathir. Or one that imposes Islamic dress code or other requirements on others (except Acheh). The majority native Indonesians accept the minority Chinese (and others) as equals. The law does not provide for special privileges to any race. Indonesia’s national motto says it best “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity In Diversity).

If Mahathir is suggesting that we emulate Indonesia it would be a good thing.

Ramasamy laid part of the blame for our “separateness” on the British and Mahathir.

Most Malaysians will concur that Mahathir was and is, a divisive prime minister. But concerning the British, it’s not black and white.

Take what you want from their argument but the facts show differently. But before we get into the blame game, let us get the fundamentals right.

“Assimilation” is not the same as “Integration”.

In the Malay context, assimilation means “masuk Melayu”. The adoption of the Malay Culture, customs and Islam wholesale. In other words, abandoning one’s culture and becoming a Malay in everything except one’s DNA. While some have done so – abandoning their own culture; even denying their roots – it is not so easy for most.

How do two ancient and arguably more sophisticated cultures,  subsume into a younger culture? Nevertheless, the government in power at that time tried to do this under the National Culture Policy (1971).

The policy banned cultures which are not Malay or Native (I suspect as a sop to the natives of Sabah and Sarawak) or Islamic from public space. Overnight Chinese and Indian Cultural dances were not allowed in schools. Lion dance was forbidden in public. (However, ballet was allowed – you figure that out for yourself).

Chinese and Indian signage were banned, and a bold attempt was made to remove the centuries old “Bukit China” in Malacca town where the early Chinese to the Kingdom of Malacca are buried.  This was a historical and Chinese cultural collateral damage the Malays were prepared to sacrifice in the name of development.

For the first time post-independence, MCA, MIC, DAP and the hundreds of Chinese and Indian guilds and associations spoke with one voice. As a result, the attempt at forced assimilation was abandoned.

How does one legislate culture especially in a multi-racial, multi-cultural, secular nation? Culture evolves through the social intercourse between the different ethnicities. The Peranakan Culture is a good example of this. The Nonyas and Babas speak Malay, they wear sarong/kebaya, their cuisine is strongly influenced by Malay cooking.

In fact, Malays referred to them as “cina bukan cina”. How more Malaysian can you get?  Culture is dynamic and changes over time – taking in outside influences – even in a mono-culture society.

If our people had been encouraged to mix instead of being divided, we would have arrived at a “Malaysian Culture” in the 60+ years of independence, much as we now talk of the Sarawak Culture.

As for the British, it is convenient to blame them for everything that has gone wrong with the country since Merdeka. While I am not saying the British are blameless, neither are they the villains many cast them as. While they did not proactively promote integration, neither did they divide the races (like what successive Malaysian administrations did and are still doing).

The racial compartmentalisation Ramasamy referred to was due to the economic activities of the different races and also one of a rural-urban divide. In that sense only are the British “dividing” the races.

If anything, the British tried to bring the country together in a secular union free from racial or religious boundaries – a unitary model like India, Canada and other of their colonies.

Onn Jaafar the founder of UMNO tried in his own way to integrate the races politically and failed.

The Malays rejected Onn Jaafar’s opening up UMNO to all races.

It is the Malays who rejected integration at every turn and it is the Malay leaders who continue to divide the country by playing on race and religion.

(The views expressed are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rebuilding Malaysia.)

Rebuilding Malaysia


  • Jimmy says:

    Wonder whether Sarawak and Sabah will open its doors for non-Malays from Malaya to enter their states and become a Sarawakian or a Sabahan. At least the brain drain can be diverted to these 2 states rather than to other countries especially Spore.

  • Dave says:

    Spot on Madam Mariam . The Malays rather go down the hill than working on a level playing field with non Malays. I am flabbergasted that they can’t see the direction of this country in a decade or two to come even it is happening under their nose now . I would say Pakistan is in the making, when religious teachers wields more power than the learned professionals of special skills .

  • Mohan says:

    We are witnessing the most regressive government policies and racial discrimination that will, before long make the people wonder what happened to our beautiful nation. The economic and political decline is unstoppable because the engine of destruction is chosen over progressive cultural transformation of the nation. We only need to read about other failed states to realise where we are and how quickly down the path of greed, corruption and bad politics, our once proud and prosperous country, will succumb. The article should help people who love this country act today. But the good intentions will be suppressed sadly.

  • para says:

    Author is wrong. Assimilation of religion is not compulsory in Indonesia or as planned in Malaysia, although the proponents are hoping to achieve that

    Other than in Indonesia, even Thailand and Philippines Chinese has assimilated. I believed they are natives, only to learn later that they are Chinese who also speak Chinese. They sound less Chinese than Malaysian Chinese . Many non Malays in Malaysia who oppose assimilation have never bothered to see how their brethren have assimilated in those neighboring countries. Even China forces the Xinjiang Muslims to assimilate, yet the Malaysian Chinese refuse.

    Assimilation is necessary. Period. In every country, it’s not wrong for the majority culture, who unfortunately, also call themselves as natives, to want to hold most power,.

    The biggest problem in Malaysia is, the majority are naturally less capable due to being a far younger civilization compared to Chinese and Indians.
    Me being a Non Malay, would not mind assimilating into a better civilised culture. All Malaysians are already unconsciously adapting Western, Arab and Far east cultures. If I am in Japan, Korea, Scandinavian or Balkan countries, I will voluntarily learn and practice their language and culture. However, Malay culture and civilization is very young , mostly clinging to Arab culture and it will be a DOWNGRADE and against evolutionary path, for Indians and Chinese to adapt the troubled Malay-Arab culture.

    If meritocracy is allowed, It’s good for the nation, the Chinese will be ruling Malaysia, the Malays and Indians will be receiving special quota, yet at the same everyone more prosperous exactly like in Singapore. Yes. if meritocracy is allowed, the majority have to sacrifice their political power, exactly like Singapore.

    In summary, the majority , who wants the power, lacking in own but clinging to Arab civilization and enabled by democracy, will not yield .
    The minorities, with older and original civilizations, are unable to regress against the order of nature

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