Racist Politics in Malaysia–Blame the Whole Shebang


February 19, 2017

Racist Politics in Malaysia–Blame the Whole Shebang

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Racism in Malaysia

It was obvious that bigotry was never a one-way operation, that hatred bred hatred!”

– Isaac Asimov, ‘Pebble in the Sky’

COMMENT: Readers interested in what I write should consider this a companion piece to my article describing how non-Malay Malaysians (specifically) are a tolerant lot.

Image result for A Kadir Jasin

Mahathir’s First Carma (Cari Makan) Journalist–A Kadir Jasin

De facto opposition leader and former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad casually mentioned last week that he was partly to blame for the demonisation of DAP. I suppose this went together with veteran journalist A Kadir Jasin’s admission that he was part of the brainwashing that went, and goes on, in UMNO. They say admitting you have a problem is the first step, but I doubt that the indoctrination of Malay youths will cease any time soon when the opposition is made up of Islamic groups determined to use Islam as a political tool.

I wrote the last part of the above paragraph after the opposition had suffered a setback in the by-election where the current UMNO grand poobah was supposed to receive a black eye but apparently, the opposition punched itself in the face. A reader had emailed and asked if the schadenfreude tasted good, especially since I had predicted the results.

I take no pleasure in any opposition defeat and neither do I take pleasure in a UMNO win. This is the bitter taste of having to choose between the lesser of two evils. Furthermore, when I say “evil”, do not get your panties in a twist because it is an expression and not a description of either political fronts. These days I cannot tell the difference between winning and losing when it comes to “saving Malaysia”.

As I have argued before, a country can recover from corruption scandals, but it rarely recovers from that type of Islam that neutralises the democratic imperative. In Malaysia, where race and religion are not mutually exclusive, the threat from Islamists is coupled with ethno-nationalism.

Image result for The Racist Mahathir kissing the Keris

The  First Malay Nationalist (or is it Racist?)

The de facto Opposition Leader is right when he says that he demonised DAP as DAP and other opposition parties had demonised him. However, the reality is that these political parties were not only demonising their political rivals, they were demonising entire communities.

So, when you want to win, and you demonise your political opponents, and by extension whole communities, the political terrain becomes a battleground for competing racial interests instead of ideological or policy ideas.

This is why I have always been sceptical of the opposition propaganda about voting across racial lines. In one of my numerous articles about race relations in this country, 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.”

While the former Prime Minister (and now de facto Opposition Leader) and the system contributed to Malay fear of DAP, the whole political system and voting patterns of Malaysians is also culpable for this sad state of affairs. UMNO succeeded because the majority of Malaysians voted for race-based parties. Racial preoccupations were the currency that sustained BN politics and still does.

The problem is that because we do not have an alternative, BN politics is the only game in town. Non-Malay oppositional voices and voters do not demand an alternative but rather that the system continues but in a more “fairer” manner.

DAP and MCA furiously battle for the Chinese vote. Meanwhile Malay-dominated so-called multicultural parties battle with UMNO and now PAS for the Malay vote. Until the former Prime Minister showed up, there was no central theme that united the Opposition.

While the charismatic Anwar Ibrahim and the late Tok Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat discovered that populism does not necessarily mean racial or religious preoccupations when it comes to cobbling together a formidable coalition, the emergence of the former Prime Minister as the de facto opposition leader has given the current UMNO regime an opportunity to:

1) Revisit history.

2) Dredge up the financial scandals of the former Prime Minister.

3) Point out that their strategies for securing the Malay vote is based on his strategies that kept him in power for decades.

If anyone is wondering why questions of race always revolves around the Malay and Chinese dialectic, it is because… well, if you are going to ask this question, you have obviously not being paying attention.

All are participants in race game

When I argued that Malaysians were a tolerant lot, the thrust of the piece revolved around how systemic inequalities were a detriment to the non-Muslim population but I failed to emphasise how the non-Malay communities were active participants in the race game in this country.

Voting for race-based parties meant that we did not have to concern ourselves with egalitarian concepts that would have been the basis for a more democratic system. It was not that we were “immature” or “uneducated”, it was just easier to vote for a political hegemon that provided security and stability for decades but not the rights and responsibilities that are part and parcel of a functional democracy.

Image result for UMNO's Grand Poobah Najib Razak

UMNO’s Money Stealing Grand Poobah

Image result for Grand Poobah

Tolerance may have been a one-way street, it was also the street where we stopped by the sidewalk and spat at the “Malays”. There is the other narrative of non-Malays engaging in subtle and overt racism, all the while supporting racial political parties that claimed inclusiveness.

The majority of us did this to ensure that our racial preoccupations were satisfied by a plutocrat class instead of demanding for an accountable and transparent government, but more importantly demanding for a principled opposition who fearlessly made their positions clear instead of championing communal causes under the guise of “multiracial/culturalism”.

The private sector was (is) dominated by Chinese polity who were perpetuating their own form of systemic inequalities and contextualising this reality as a response to the systemic inequality perpetrated by the UMNO Malay state.

While I think, there is generally “a live and let live” vibe between Malaysians, it would be a mistake to assume that this is some sort of national identity or some form of stable unity. I realise that this is political incorrect to say, but the hard truth is that while race relations have been manipulated by establishment (both UMNO and the Opposition), the reality is that there was always tensions between the various races of this country.

This is why talking about “race” in this country is such a demoralising endeavour. Appeals to emotion replace rational discourse. The fact that our constitution is compromised, the system itself is predicated on maintaining racial and religious superiority, makes any discussion about how the non-Malays react to such a system, their complicity in sustaining the system difficult to articulate.

The fault of UMNO and the Opposition is that nobody offered an alternative and Malaysians never expected anything better.

You know what the big difference is between the corruption scandals of UMNO back in the day and the one now is? The difference is that a vast majority of Malaysians kept voting UMNO-BN back then than they do now. This is a testament to not only the political strategies of Mahathir but also the apathy of the Malaysians. This of course is a boon for the Opposition because Mahathir seems to be the only person who can galvanise the opposition. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

 

7 thoughts on “Racist Politics in Malaysia–Blame the Whole Shebang

  1. leaving the question of race out it is with nowhere to choose to go to, aside from what the system already set out for you, any choice but play to the rules. being rules of a zero sum game so that before you are defeated or even better annihilated completely, there has to be a side appearing as winning and the opposite side losing. rules had been twisted here and there, all over in fact. if further in fact the same side perceived themselves to be consistently losing, what alternative is there? is merry-go-round an apt description?

  2. Certaintly there is plenty of blame to go around for the state of affairs but with due respect to the Cmdr. its not true the opposition does not offer choice especially to the Malays – all the different opposition Malay parties are the full option available to them. In particular the Islamist Democrat, Amanah, on paper offer everything they ask for but is the least supported of all the Malay parties and if they buy the nonsense they are DAP stooge, their origin are Anwarista and Erdogan.

    Even on the Issue of RUU 355, the only real Malay opposer leader is Mahathir – and even he has to couch the problem as that of “intent” i.e. Mahathir argue its for politics and even then its not argued that the intent is against the Constitution.

    You cannot solve the problem without dealing with the issue of entitlement, over entitlement. You cannot even start the discussion without admitting they are THIRD RAILS OF POLITICS IN MALAYSIA. The issue is HOW TO SOLVE THIRD RAIL POLITICS IN MALAYSIA – no country really has the answer but eventually, they come back to roost and you pay for it.

  3. Certaintly there is plenty of blame to go around for the state of affairs but with due respect to the Cmdr. its not true the opposition does not offer choice especially to the Malays – all the different opposition Malay parties are the full option available to them. In particular the Islamist Democrat, Amanah, on paper offer everything they ask for but is the least supported of all the Malay parties and if they buy the nonsense they are DAP stooge, their origin are Anwarista and Erdogan.

    Even on the Issue of RUU 355, the only real Malay opposer leader is Mahathir – and even he has to couch the problem as that of “intent” i.e. Mahathir argue its for politics and even then its not argued that the intent is against the Constitution.

    You cannot solve the problem without dealing with the issue of entitlement, over entitlement. You cannot even start the discussion without admitting they are THIRD RAILS OF POLITICS IN MALAYSIA. The issue is HOW TO SOLVE THIRD RAIL POLITICS IN MALAYSIA – no country really has the answer but eventually, they come back to roost and you pay for it.

  4. I believe the real alternative is in the Bersih 4 we used to know, but sadly gone with the loss of its compass, that encompassed issues of common interests, regardless of race and religion– fighting for justice and fairness for all concerned. The magnitude of the estimated 200,000 over participants of all races and beliefs were testimony to its cause.

    I blame the leaders of Bersih for this missed opportunity to save Malaysia from the ruin and doom of the neither we ” take pleasure in a defeat of oppositions ” nor ” a win of UMNO ” situation.

    The platform of Bersih was allowed to be Hijacked or Stolen for the intended purposes. The people’s trust was betrayed. But we still need to look for an viable alternative to save Malaysia for it is the only one left where we truely belong and cherish.

  5. Mr Thayaparan should avoid hyperbole expressions. It may appeal to the academic and intellectuals but ordinary people may find it hard to disgest. Take this lengthy sentence: “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.” If I were to recast it in a simple way I would put as: If you are a Malay and the option is choosing between two candidates – a medicor Malay and a proven able Chinese, vote for the Chinese and likewise for the reverse”

    In ordinary sense Mahathir is an extraordinary man. He brought industrialisation and manufacturing into the country in a big way. He has no obscene riches himself although he might have made others – his so called proxies – rich. I have a lot of confidence in Mahathir’s pecuniary integrity. Let Najib, UMNO Warlords, and Cabinet Members to declare the assets they have, both locally and abroad along with Mahathir. He will be most willing to do so but will the others?

    Even at 91 he is fighting for a national cause for the beterment of people’s lives and for good goveernment. He is lucid in thoughts and messaic in his calls to the people to be aware of the shennaigans of leaders in power and get rid of the whole slate of them. This gift of charisma, ability and mind sharpness does not come easily for most nonagenarians. Mahathir is a chosen one among a few, it appears.

  6. “Mr Thayaparan should avoid hyperbole expressions. It may appeal to the academic and intellectuals but ordinary people may find it hard to disgest.”

    I think the last group of people the Commander wants to appeal to is the intelligentsia. But all this is subjective anyway .

    What is more important is the point of what does this say about Malaysians and the Oppo that they need a man like Octo to save them ?

    While most people find this question inconvenient, Thayaparan’s point is that it is this inconvenience (that Malaysians retreat to) that breeds politicians like Jibby.

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