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Saturday, October 29, 2016

The red shirts and the futility of Malay privilege



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“Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.”
- George Gordon Byron
Zikri Kamarulzaman’s piece about a red night with Jamal had perhaps one of the best opening paragraphs I have seen in Malaysiakini reportage in some time. Not only was the article an interesting read about a subject which has truly been flogged but it was noteworthy because it described - unintentionally or not - the desperation within the ultra-Malay ranks and the rather pathetic obscurantism that defines right-wing Malay politics.
That line “a score of red-clad youths lingered like soldier fire ants protecting the colony” is worth the price of subscription but also accurately reflects the Umno caste structure and the underlying feudalistic nature of Malay society. While Jamal Mohd Yunos and his red-shirts may be Umno outsourced thugs, it would be a mistake to dismiss them as an aberration as far as mainstream Malay politics is concerned.
Because there never has been an alternative to the kind of racial politics that Umno offers, and there never has been an alternative ‘Malay’ political power structure for Malays to gravitate to. Mind you, this is not only a Malay problem; the other communities have the same problem.
The erosion of support for BN amongst the non-Malay communities has little to do with ideology but rather the excesses of Umno and the erosion of non-Malay ‘rights’ under successive Umno potentates, while the non-Malay components parties looked on while filling their coffers.
This is not to say all is lost in the Malay community. Where the opposition succeeds is when they remind the Malay community that the community is not monolithic. I drew attention to this in one of my numerous articles about former prime minister and current de facto leader of the opposition, Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
“What is lost and what Umno fears are remnants of a Malay polychromatic past, which emblems like flags and literature are slowing resurfacing which reminds the Malay community of their diverse past. How this lost past is slowly being reintroduced into the community and influencing the Malay community is beyond the scope of this piece and perhaps beyond my ability to articulate.
“The Malay community is fractured but merely claiming that Pakatan is duping those Malays in the opposition is the dumbest form of Umno propaganda. Mahathir’s old canards, which perhaps could have galvanised Malay support en masse in the past, are all but over. Signs are evident even to those who practice their dark sorcery in the corridors of Putrajaya that a certain segment of the Malay community is immune to the spells of Umno.”
So while Jamal and his merry red shirts are the agents provocateurs of Umno, what they say and do is reflective of certain mindset of a disenfranchised community who still think that only Umno can protect them and what they hold true from the other communities.
Those other communities who seem to profit from this land, although they do not have but more importantly, do not need those special rights and privileges which were supposed to elevate the Malay community but instead has left them trailing in the wake of the progress of the non-Malay communities.
Self-fulfilling prophesy
It is also important to note that these red shirts are the dying embers caught up in a fast changing geopolitical struggle that will ultimately undermine whatever notions of ‘ketuanan Melayu’ privilege they think is owed. The corrupt regime that they choose to defend, that colony of thieves and plunderers will soon pay homage to a regional or maybe regional powers whose influence will change the Malay community in ways that could never fathom.
[To recap my definition of ‘ketuanan Melayu’ from a previous article: “I would argue (and have) that there is not really a sense of ‘ketuanan Melayu’ in the general Malay community but rather a ‘ketuanan Umno’ that has been the dominant expression of ‘Malay’ nationalism.”]
Add to this, the rise of Islamic extremism which the regime has coddled for years and what you have is a powder keg of religious instability that would not only destabilise the country but also the region. In other words, at the rate we are going, there really is no point in believing in the fantasy of Transformasi Nasional 2050.
The idea that the Malays are under siege has become a self-fulfilling prophesy. I have very little doubt that what would ultimately destroy Umno hegemony is not democracy, but rather those puppet strings attached to corrupt kleptocrats who had to find a way out of the mess they created by making nice with foreign powers who care very little for Malay pride but place emphasis on Malay subservience.
While Jamal may claim that his war is with the “DAP Chinese”, the reality is that he is waging war against his countrymen who form part of a greater diaspora. Jamal already concedes that the racial game is lost by claiming that the “accursed” DAP would not be subservient to pure Malay power like how the MCA did all those years.
A couple of years ago, I wrote this: “What is really destroying the MCA is not the propaganda of the DAP but the acceptance by a large voting demographic of the Chinese community that no representation in the government is better than MCA representation.”
In other words, the “accursed” DAP is supported by the majority of the Chinese community, which means that Jamal’s main problem is with the majority of the Chinese community who support the DAP.
Remember when the Chinese ambassador did a walkabout in Petaling Street when Jamal threatened a riot if the police did not act against counterfeit goods? This is what the Chinese ambassador Huang Huikang said: “But with regard to the infringement on China’s national interests, violations of legal rights and interests of Chinese citizens and businesses which may damage the friendly relationship between China and the host country, we will not sit by idly.”
Flash forward a year and the Najib regime is supposedly buying ships from China. Of course, all this is part of enhancing our relationship with China: “We will be signing many new agreements and understandings that will elevate the relationship between our two nations to even greater heights,” said PM Najib Abdul Razak.
Now imagine if Jamal has his wish and Kuala Lumpur is painted red with an attack on Bersih by the thugs who claim that all they want is peace by destroying their main opponents, the DAP Chinese. How do you think this will play out regionally?
Someone should remind the red shirts that because of the financial excess of Umno, chequebook diplomacy could turn into gunboat diplomacy. This is what happens when you choose racial unity over national unity.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.-Mkini

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