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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Playing the losing non-Malay race card



“The question of racism has been abolished... that is what is more important to us than that little fight that he (former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad) is trying to create. I always stand by the ruling prime minister.”
- S Samy Vellu, former MIC chief
Former MIC chief S Samy Vellu admitted in a Malaysiakini interview that the MIC really did not have a voice in the Mahathir regime. And it may very well be that the current Umno potentate has done more for “Tamil education” in this country than the former Umno prime minster with “Indian heritage”, but the real question will always be, has all this money helped the “Indian” community in this country?
That is a question that only the Indian community can answer. However with regards to the general race discourse, as I outlined in last piece about the "Indian" problem and the rabbit hole of Malaysian politics - “Because politics in Malaysia is race-based and the alternative media (especially the English media) is defined by the crudest partisan expectations, issues like tokenism, appropriation and crypto-racism, is subsumed beneath a steady diet of Umno transgression and socio-political red herrings” - this idea that there is a difference in the discourse concerning race in the mainstream and alternative media is complete bull manure.
While MIC chief Dr S Subramaniam may be right about what the current Umno poohbah has done for his collection plate, he forgets that Prime Minister Najib Razak has also done far more for the Indian Muslim community than the former prime minister with Indian heritage when he accepted Kimma - The Malaysian Indian Muslim Congress - as associate members of Umno.
Like all good Indian Muslims and their relationship with their Malay Muslim brethren, the parameters of the union was well-defined. According to the grand Umno poohbah - “But they (Kimma) cannot be involved in Umno’s internal matters” - and since Umno internal matters bypass cabinet decisions (which has been proven time and again), I suppose Indian Muslims, when they are not running Umno in a de facto manner - which is the main gripe of Malay nationalist types and especially against former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad - they have to be content to be observers (at least publicly) like the MIC.
Anyone who is interested in what people think of the Indian community should lurk on social media forums and alternative news sites’ comments sections. As one Chinese academic and proponent of Chinese-language education said to me, he has not seen such overt racism and this coming from someone who has dealt with the Umno regime for years. If the race discourse in this country is dominated by the Malay/Chinese dialectic, it is because the opposition has not moved it from this safe zone. I mean does anyone really care how the Indian community votes?
What is the latest statistics on the “Indian” demographic? Does the fact there are so many stateless Indians skewers the official statistics? And does the fact that there are so many “Indian” foreigners who have been given citizenship but who because of their religion become something else, skewers the statistics?
Some people do not even self-identify as “Indian” preferring instead to highlight whatever sub-group they come from making cultural and economic variations to differentiate themselves from the disenfranchised Indian community who make up the bulk of the criminal underclass in this country and are the object of derision of a particular type of opposition voters.
Value of Indian vote
Forget about dodgy official statistics for a moment and consider that the value of a Malay vote - because of gerrymandering, it is greater than that of a Chinese vote. What do you think the value of an Indian vote is? At this stage because of the idiotic way in which how the “Malay” race is defined in this country and because of the phenomenon of constitutionally-created Malays, I would argue that the Indian vote is near meaningless.
If the Indian vote is meaningless, this would mean that the MIC is meaningless. If the MIC is meaningless, this would mean that whatever issues the Indian community faces are meaningless from a political capital standpoint. Before anyone says there are only “Malaysian” issues, I think you should take a good hard look around at the comments of your fellow partisans, the narratives of the state, the policies of both Umno and the opposition, and see how hypocritical, duplicitous and malicious such rejoinders are.
MIC political operatives tell me, like their opposition counterparts, Indian politicians have to rely on Malay and Chinese votes to get elected. While MIC candidates have some leeway (meaningless as it were) when it comes to pushing Indian issues, opposition Indian politicians have a harder time justifying “racial” issues in the Bangsa Malaysia milieu.
So, someone like Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) president Muhyiddin Yassin can go on about a Malay tsunami, the DAP and MCA can bicker on about who better represents the Chinese community but whenever the Indian issue comes into play, partisans - and truth be told this is mainly an opposition tactic - everyone suddenly becomes race-blind.
One political analyst recently got into a discussion with me about voting across racial lines. He took exception with a quote of mine that he disagreed with, because according to him, the opposition has an ideological stance which is completely different from the ruling Umno hegemon. I reproduce the specific quote below -
“In addition, this idea that voting across racial lines as some sort of evidence of burgeoning multiracial solidarity is complete bunkum. The real test is when people vote across ethnic and religious lines in support of ideologies that run counter to the interests of their communities and by this, I mean egalitarian ideas that run afoul of constitutional sacred cows and social and religious dogma.”
My argument has always been that there is really very little difference between the opposition and the Umno establishment when it comes to the racial politics in this country. Just a couple of months ago, I made this point again - “Part of the reason for this kind of thinking is that the opposition has never really addressed the systemic dysfunctionality that plagues the country. There has never really been a serious dialectic within the opposition on the issues of race, religion and institutional integrity. The 1MDB issue has been the centrepiece of the fight against Umno but as anyone on the ground will tell you, this has not gained any traction with the demographic that the opposition needs most.”
What this latest MIC fiasco demonstrates is not that the MIC is irrelevant or that this is merely just another opportunity for partisans to pour scorn on the MIC and Umno. The real issue here is that the MIC is the first political party to fold in the racial card game of Malaysians politics.
You can bet that there will only be one political party left at the table of this racial card game and it will not be the one which believes in Bangsa Malaysia.

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

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