July 27, 2016
BERSIH 5.0– It’s about restoring Malay Dignity
by S. Thayaparan
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”–– John F Kennedy, remarks on the first anniversary of the Alliance for Progress, March 13, 1962.
COMMENT: My non-Malay friends, those disinterested in the state of the country but claim to vote opposition, tell me that the important thing for non-Malays to do is to work the system and most importantly, profit from it.
Malaysia, they say, is a great country to live in – stable, sheltered from natural disasters – so what if the government is corrupt? It is like this everywhere, they say.
UMNOo, meanwhile, does it best with its outsourced thugs to push a hegemonic and racist agenda to maintain a ‘social contract’ that has brought stability and wealth to a specific middle class, while subjugating the majority of the Malay polity into subservience to UMNO through Islam.
Nowhere is apathy embraced as a legitimate lifestyle choice and as a means to deflect from issues beyond pecuniary self-interest.
Malays friends of mine – former diplomats, civil servants and military officers – bemoan the fact that “Malay” leadership has devolved into a quagmire of corruption and racism, our public institutions the public face of “Malay superiority” and safety nets for a “Malay” subclass, there to prop up a corrupt regime.
In my piece urging the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak – with apologies to the inspector-general of police (IGP) for my perceived wanton law-breaking – I acknowledged that resignation is the last thing this Umno potentate would consider. Why would he?
Regional media reported that it was business as usual for Najib, a day after the US Department of Justice (DOJ) made its announcement to seize US$1 billion in assets bought with ‘stolen money’ from 1MDB – “The message was clear: the premier is focused on matters at home, especially the economy, as he seeks to preserve support among his ruling party’s base of ethnic Malays, many of them in rural areas. One of his pit stops on Thursday was a speech to employees of a government agency that is tasked with helping thousands of smallholder farmers.”
The IGP also reminded Malaysians that any form of popular dissent would be sanctioned because “We will not allow it because there is a way to ask the prime minister to step down as stipulated in the law,” even though as Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah points out, no rally has been confirmed, only mooted.
The IGP’s pre-emptive strike on democratic ideals would be much appreciated in the Erdogan regime. I hear security personnel are in short supply in Turkey now, so perhaps it would be a good time for “lawatan sambil belajar” (study tour) for the IGP.
Maria Chin Abdullah has confirmed that a rally is on the cards, and former Prime minister and Najib refusenik in Chief Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who has also mooted the idea of popular dissent through street demonstration, added rather impishly, “Malaysians are timid. In other countries, millions take to the streets. Malaysians are very nice, we don’t normally hold such (protests).”
The mother of all street parties
The Bersih chief said: “More important to me would be the objective of the rally and not the venue.” In this piece, I humbly propose my objective of the rally, if given the green light.
Of the last Bersih rally, I wrote, “The dangerous idea of the Bersih rallies is that each time it is held, more diversity is introduced into our public spaces. The dangerous idea that large groups of people of different races, political and racial ideologies are congregating with a specific goal of demonstrating their discontent of the UMNO status quo.”
Diversity should be reflected in the various ‘Malay’ rights groups, political parties and oppositional Malay politicians or personalities sympathetic to whatever strain of oppositional politics they think best serves their communities interests, coming together against corruption.
Let me be very clear, I am not advocating that non-Malays discard their obligation to democracy by not attending this rally but rather that the focus of this rally should be on the Malay community and non-Malay solidarity in fighting corruption, and as rights group Hakam President Ambiga Sreenevasan clearly articulates, “It is not just Najib who is guilty of what is going on in Malaysia, it is the entire cabinet. All those ministers who are saying nothing, it is a sin of omission.”
Simplistically this is the time for that crew-cut Malay thug screaming about special rights to make an alliance with that long-haired liberal university student and say: “You know, we have completely different ideas about what it means to be Malay, but that Prime Minster of ours is really corrupt and although they say our economic numbers may go up, our community is really suffering. Maybe we should do something about that.” (I actually witnessed this at a home of a close Malay friend. Those were not the exact words but the intent is the same).
Defending Malay ‘maruah’ (honour/dignity)
In fact, this Fredrick Douglas quote should be translated to Malay and passed around.
“Those who profess to favour freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
Malays should take heed of what Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar said, “If there are some of you who wish to be an Arab and practise Arab culture, and do not wish to follow our Malay customs and traditions, that is up to you. I also welcome you to live in Saudi Arabia,” but most importantly “…I believe there are Malays who are proud of the Malay culture. At least I am real and not a hypocrite…”
This rally should be, for lack of a better phrase, be about ‘Malay’ pride – ‘maruah’ – and how UMNO has systematically destroyed it. In addition, this message should be delivered loudly and clearly, by a decisive majority of Malay participants made even more ‘Malaysian’ by non-Malay participants.
What the opposition and people who support the opposition have to realise is that there are diverse Malay groups out there with very different ideas about the concept of race and religion that in some cases are anathema to supposed oppositional ideas, but who want Najib to resign because he is allegedly corrupt.
Now I realise some folks will have a problem with what I have written but this is for my Malay comrades, their fears and aspirations. I have said it and the ball is in their court.
In this case, the messenger is as important as the message.