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Thursday, February 28, 2019

No truth to Malays being under siege



QUESTION TIME
 | Umno and PAS seem to be making headway in getting Malays to think they are under siege, using a variety of extreme arguments. Poor defence by Pakatan Harapan, particularly Bersatu, which is trying hard - too hard - to gain Malay support, has exacerbated the situation.

Are we lunging head-first into a racial and religious abyss yet again if things are not controlled? Or are opportunistic politicians deliberately stoking the fires of racial and religious bigotry yet again for their own gains to whip up popular support against the government?
Or is there truth to those allegations that Malays are being sidelined by the new government and there is a real danger that they may be alienated from mainstream development as a result of the changeover in government? Are they really under siege? Let’s see.
Malays form just over 50% of the population and bumiputeras some 67%. All citizens of Malaysia have equal rights under the law. While Islam is the official religion of the state, the basic nature of the legal system is secular and everyone has the right to freely practice his/her own religion so long as it doesn’t infringe upon the rights of others.
However, Malays (and other bumiputeras) have special privileges to help them achieve economic parity with the other races. The right to have vernacular schools as part of the system is enshrined in the constitution.
Given that, let’s now examine some of the criticisms that Umno/PAS have made, some very vociferously and in a rather threatening manner.
1. Malays don’t support the current government
Perhaps about a third do support Harapan. If Umno were in power, or PAS for that matter in coalition with other parties apart from the three mentioned, the same would be true. Again, because of a three-way split in the votes, Harapan does not even have the popular vote, which it did at the end of the previous elections in May 2013. It is wrong to interpret this as something sinister.
2. Non-Malay appointments to key positions are bad for Malays
The three appointments cited over and over again are the posts of finance minister, attorney-general and chief justice. It’s mischievous to say that’s detrimental to Malays because it is professionalism and competence that counts - not race - as PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim quite rightly pointed out. There are enough ministers and high government officials who are Malays to check any bias easily.
3. DAP is running the government
DAP is supposedly pulling the strings to control Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, but more likely it is the other way around given the powerful incumbency of any sitting prime minister, and laws are yet to be changed to decrease prime ministerial powers. This is the old trick of calling the DAP the bogeyman.
4. Ratification of Icerd is an attack on Malays/bumiputeras/Muslims
Icerd, a UN-sponsored agreement on human rights, has enough exceptions to ensure that Malay (and bumiputera) privileges need not be withdrawn if you are a signatory. But blatant politicking, threats of violence and Bersatu’s fear of losing Malay support resulted in the government abandoning its pledge of ratifying Icerd.
5. AG/PM shielding Adib’s assaulters
The death of a firefighter, Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim, during the Seafield temple riots, opened up a Pandora's box of problems, but to say that the AG and the PM are shielding the firefighter’s killers is way, way over the top. The right thing was to order an inquest to get to the root of how he died, which the AG promptly did. How can that be shielding killers? So far the inquest has not produced a single eyewitness to the alleged assault on the firefighter, indicating how much the incident has been politicised.
6. Insult of Prophet Muhammad blown out of proportion
All right-thinking Malaysians believe that people’s personal beliefs and religions should not be insulted. But cool minds should always remember that an exception is not a rule. If some idiot, belonging to whatever religion, insults someone else, others will be falling into that idiot’s trap if they think he represents everyone from his race. If people are going to be prosecuted for religious and racial results, do so without exception and in complete fairness.
7. Placing of idols in mosques is another assault on Islam
Again, this is an exception. It turns out that the suspect is Muslim and he has been billed as a mentally unstable person. This is what we should call all people who want to cause racial and religious strife. Leave it at that, stop their actions and don’t make a big deal of it.
8. Malay privileges are under threat
What has the Harapan government done to threaten Malay privileges? Does running a government more honestly, diligently and with less corruption affect the privileges and the well-being of the ordinary Malay? In fact, eventually, if economic benefits are filtered down to the rakyat, everyone benefits and the most downtrodden will benefit the most. Those who won’t are those who stole directly and indirectly by any number of devious means. No non-Malay I have spoken to is against special privileges, only its abuse.
9. Malays are under siege by the non-Malays
Nothing that Harapan has done so far or what it has promised to do will affect the rights, privileges or benefits of the Malays at large. Any government which protects the rights and privileges of the majority will automatically protect Malays who are in the majority. It could not be further from the truth to say that Malays are under siege, but it is a great rallying cry for Umno/PAS.
An insult to Malays
To say that most Malays will not understand these arguments is to insult them. If they wanted Umno to stay in power, they would have voted for them. They wanted something better than Umno - the swing away from the power they gave Umno previously was split between PAS and Harapan. If PAS were within Harapan, the latter would have had majority Malay support.
I believe most Malays don’t buy these arguments by the Umno/PAS axis, but these two parties, which rely solely on Malay votes for power, are forcing their views upon the Malays.
If you are a Malay and if you don’t think Malays are under siege, you are going to be hard put to defend your position in public. That’s because you may be considered to be against the race and, worse, against the religion too - a traitor in the midst of the Malays, or at least that is the narrative of Umno/PAS.
Thus Umno/PAS, by pressuring Malays to be anti-non-Malay, are putting Malays under siege, not the non-Malays. They are playing the race-religion card to incite unrest for their own insidious benefit.
But the last elections showed that Malays are not going to be so easily manipulated by such arguments. Which is why there was a large swing away from Umno to other parties such as PAS, PKR and Amanah.
Bersatu is showing itself to be a mere Umno relic, and was largely rejected by the Malays in the last elections, performing badly in the Malay heartland states of Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu, winning only 25% of parliamentary seats contested overall.
Bersatu should not take the old, failed method used by Umno and PAS, but forge a new relationship with the Malays based on honesty, incorruptibility, competence and truth, with the ultimate aim of helping the Malay poor to uplift his living standard.
This includes things like a minimum wage, a much-improved education system with emphasis on the right subjects, and yes, English, to lift them through better jobs and income, instead of consigning them as cheap labour to businesses. The Umno way of patronage and corruption is not the way to build a Malay upper class - they build thieves and crooks.
Instead of trying to outdo Umno/PAS in its rhetoric to protect Malays, instead of the old, tired and blatantly wrong approach of “watch out for the non-Malays,” this is the new rhetoric that Harapan needs to take to the Malays.
That helps ensure Malaysians can live in peace and make this the land of opportunity for everyone. It does require some give-and-take from everyone. But there needs to be an outright rejection of politicians who play the race-religion card, no matter from which side of the divide.


P GUNASEGARAM says there is racism from all sides even if it is more subtle sometimes. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com. - Mkini

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