August 18, 2016
Who’s afraid of Dr M?
My strong suspicion is we get the world we deserve.”
– Ray Velcoro in ‘True Detective’
In my last article, I made three points. The first, that the creation of another Malay power structure was unproductive and what the Najib refuseniks “need to do is work with the opposition without causing any more political fissures”.
The second was that “having the same interests [in removing Najib] and ‘not repeating the mistakes of the past’ are mutually exclusive”. The third, to “radicalise the Malay community by advocating ideas that would make any red shirt-clad Malay nationalist quiver with rage because it comes from former UMNO power brokers.”
I would like to elaborate on these three points because I am an outlier “keling” and sometimes, something more is needed than just “podah”. By registering this new ‘Malay’ political party, former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is attempting to do what political prisoner Anwar Ibrahim failed to do.
Do not get me wrong, Anwar had much success in changing the political landscape of this country but he did not manage to galvanise the Malay vote to the point where PKR alone, up to a point until Anwar landed in Sungei Buloh, was a credible alternative to UMNO.
This is why PKR’s over reliance on PAS has resulted in the neutering of the oppositional front. However, the charges that this is “just another racist party” are disingenuous considering the ethos of the so-called alternative pact. From a purely descriptive stance, there are only multiracial opposition parties in Malaysia. In substance, these parties are either pandering to the Malay vote or outright concerning themselves with furthering the agenda of the ‘Malay’ polity to sustain political survival.
Therefore, what we have in the Peninsular are mainstream Malay power structures like UMNO and PAS, a political party like PKR whose leadership has publicly stated that the Malay vote is paramount to their survival hence political rhetoric and policy decisions are based on the sensitivities and preoccupations of this particular community.
Meanwhile, DAP continues to seek ways to increase its Malay membership in an effort to shed its so-called Chinese chauvinistic image, only to be hampered by operatives suffering from foot-in-mouth disease, an epidemic that the DAP leadership seems reluctant to confront.
The idea that this new Malay political party could galvanise the rural Malay vote is misguided. About the so-called “rural vote”, I said this in a piece on the recently concluded by-elections – “So if UMNO delivers everything it says it will deliver, the cycle of complicity will continue. Disenfranchised people will continue voting for a regime which puts rice in their bowls. I am not talking about the urban class but rather those people who have depended on real power, federal power exercised corruptly for their benefit. That is the culture some people forget that we are dealing with. We nurtured this culture.”
The only way this new party is going to get the rural Malay vote is to outspend UMNO or to destabilise the UMNO state level machinery. The latter is possible considering the Mahathir sympathisers within UMNO but unless this new party is willing to commit massive sums, the idea of outspending the King of Cash is ludicrous.
A shared goal
My second point is where it gets messy. The agenda of removing the current UMNO Prime Minister, which no doubt is a shared goal, and with reforming the system, are unfortunately (in my book) mutually exclusive. Many of my friends have taken exception to this statement arguing that they are not mutually exclusive. I sympathise with their argument and indeed in the past have put forward the same argument.
An Indian opposition supporter sent me an email, questioning how I could advocate the opposition working with Mahathir after he used the “keling” word. The first thing I did was send him links of every racist or bigoted utterings of oppositional political figures and asked how could I sincerely advocate for the opposition?
This is not meant as some sort of apologia on behalf of the former prime minster but rather that nobody in Malaysia get to ride on his or her high horse. Political adversaries working together is unfortunately what democracy is all about and this has nothing to with having a saviour – an unfortunate straw man – but capitalising on political and resources to overcome a political foe who is turning this country into another failed Islamic state.
Concerning ideas that “correct past mistakes”, what new ideas have the opposition actually advocated? The New Economic Policy (NEP) is redefined as class-based with the provision that the ‘Malay’ community as the majority will benefit the most. Supposedly secular parties fund Islamic organisations in an effort to get more ‘Malay’ votes.
Academics that propose equal opportunity laws or advocate ideas that slay communal scared cows are vilified as “idealists” and lectured on the “reality of our political system” or reminded that UMNO is the biggest racist party ever when in substance; their preferred political alliance operates in the same if subtle manner.
In one of my numerous pieces about the racial game here in Malaysia, I wrote, “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.”
Indeed, opposition parties like to promote the idea that they have dropped their racial and cultural baggage but the reality is that political expediency wins out every single time because people say one thing but do and mean another. I am referring to the voting public and not only politicians.
With regards to PAS and DAP, I wrote this: “The old PAS and the old DAP were offering up ideological alternatives to Barisan National that the voting public rejected for various reasons. I would argue that the DAP and PAS of old were more ideologically pure than they are now but that is a story for another time.”
This brings me to my final point, radicalising the Malay community. I have written how the non-Malay community played a big part in the mess we find ourselves by sustaining Umno all these years. I also concede that the opposition for whatever reasons is chasing the Malay vote at the expense of egalitarian ideas, therefore offering no real alternative for Malaysians to take refuge in, intellectually and spiritually.
In a piece praising PKR operative Wan Ji Wan Hussin, I wrote, “I have always been sceptical of the opposition and downright scornful of the UMNO establishment. While UMNO during elections season attempts to bribe non-Muslims with goodies – and it is open season on non-Muslims when votes need not be counted – the religious politics of the opposition has been a mess of political opportunism and homages to political correctness. Neither approach is suitable for the long-term social and political stability of Malaysia.”
We have had many Malaysians who champion egalitarian ideas. PSM for instance is one such political organisation that states their ideas and goals clearly but observe how they are treated by the average opposition supporter and intelligentsia.
Therefore, I know where I stand politically and hopefully some readers do too. In one of my earlier pieces, I wrote about how the Indian community should slay some of their scared cows. I also wrote of the DAP and the Chinese community, which was met with howls of racist indignation.
I will not be held responsible for whatever problems facing the ‘Malay’ community using the “we are all Malaysians” argument. Malays should speak up for themselves, demand leadership from their own community much like how minorities everywhere in the world demand it. Do not blame the existential crisis of the Malay community on the non-Malays and use the idea of a Malaysian identity as short hand to circumvent hard questions about one’s own community.
I would argue that every minority community in this country has done its share of soul searching and even though we may find fault in what they have discovered or are discovering, this idea – actually, I would use the term propaganda that being “Malaysian” means ignoring race and culture in favour of bromides – is the kool aid Malaysia does not need.