January 30, 2010
The Fallacy of Malay Unity
by Suflan Shamsuddin*
They say, that when a stick is on its own, it can be broken. But when many sticks are bound together, they become strong and unbreakable. So for Malays to be strong and unbreakable they must unite. For if not, then the non-Malays, and all those who wish to undermine the Malay race and Islam, will break them. This is what Perkasa and others like them peddle to the Malays. What a load of hogwash! And I say this as a Malay and a Muslim.
In reality, this call for Malay unity is the opposite of what is needed to bring members of my community out of its despair. And the reason is simple.
The price Malays pay for this unity is their individuality. If you belong to a herd, and your strength comes from the herd, then as an individual, you are weak. No capacity for self determination when left to your own device. You become subservient to a set of values that is driven by the elite, who will act as your protector, and who will demand your obedience. You will have no capacity to challenge the elite, and you will cower to those in authority, happy to be either an underachieving dependent of the system, or aspiring to join the ranks of the elite, to do that which once was done unto you.
The outcome of continued dependence on Malay unity is obvious. A select, strong and powerful elite will remain in control of wealth and power; and a mass of happy ignorant followers will continue to be dragged along with what is pronounced by those with authority, never daring to question, never daring to challenge, and ever willing to fight the fight, if called upon by their leaders.
As a community, you might say (but hardly unequivocally) that you are strong. But as individuals, you would be weak, with no sense of personal accountability, no understanding of the importance of individual freedoms, no desire to self-improve and work hard, no desire to play fair.
The world has moved on. Today, national boundaries help determine where we pay our taxes, and under which legal jurisdiction are we subject. But with the revolution of information and technology, territorial national boundaries do nothing to keep global market and socio-economic forces from affecting each and every one of us as individuals every single second of the day.
No matter who we are, whether we be Malays, Chinese, Indian, the responsibilities are the same. We each need to be fully contributing and responsible individuals, who will add value to that part of society to which we belong (whether we define that territorially, religiously or culturally), and to care for and look out for the happiness and welfare of those whom we love.
And for us to be able to do this effectively we must be individually capable. Each of us must build the right set of values, priorities and character, and not simply belong to a herd, following aimlessly with everyone else. Because market forces don’t affect the herd in today’s global world. It affects the individual. And a weak, non-contributing and continually dependent Malay, no matter how strong his community might be as a united force, is no good to anybody.
I shudder to think of the kind of Malays that will be created if Perkasa had its way.
*The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist. Suflan qualified as a barrister at law from Middle Temple and has been called to the Malaysian Bar. He is currently working in a Fortune 500 company as a senior counsel and is based in London. He is also author of the book “RESET: Rethinking the Malaysian Political Paradigm”.