When it comes to ICERD, New Malaysia is the Old Racist Devil again

November 25,2018

When it comes to ICERD, New Malaysia is the Old Racist Devil again–BACK TO UMNO 1946. This time with PAS

By S Thayaparan


I said the old devils are at it again,

And it’s right now like it was back then,

The old devils are at it again.

– William Elliot Whitmore, ‘Old Devils

Image result for icerd malaysia

COMMENT | In an interview, DAP’s Lim Guan Eng was reported to have said “the situation needed to be pacified, it should not stop people from continuing to express their views on ICERD (International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination).”

Really? So, let me get this straight.

Image result for icerd malaysia

ICERD–MY  WAY or JUST HIT The North-South Highway

 DAP, which has not given its official stand on the ratification of ICERD, wants people to express their views on this issue?  DAP, who routinely mocks MCA for being subservient to UMNO wants people to express their views even though it has not declared its own position on the issue after the cabinet decided (by consensus) not to ratify Icerd?

DAP, the purveyors of the Bangsa Malaysia Kool-Aid, wants people to express their views, even though it has warned the Chinese community (and others) to be wary until after the December 8 anti-ICERD celebration?

So, the Finance Minister of this country, who has made these tirades about speaking the ‘truth’ even though it is economically or politically disadvantageous to do so, suddenly seems to have lost his ability to speak when it comes to the issue of ICERD.

But don’t worry folks, I am sure you will speak up on this issue, even when Lim, if asked to comment, will just deflect, leaving you holding the bag.  Another DAP leader, says this country needs a vision which highlights the virtue of the middle ground.

When politicians babble on about the middle ground, what they forget to tell you is that it is contextual. Here in this country, when I talk to people about what they think the middle ground is, they speak of middle Malaysia with two definitions.

Image result for icerd malaysia

The first is the social contract. It is not a real document but rather it is an unspoken understanding. The middle ground is that there are policies and ideologies in place that benefit the majority, and as long as minorities can exist comfortably, albeit with limited freedoms, they must not question the inequalities of the system, even if that system which claims to “uplift” the majority is in reality detrimental to the community.

The second definition was borne out of the political turmoil that split the Malay community when Anwar Ibrahim was ejected from the UMNO paradise. Or at least, that’s the narrative that we are most familiar with.  This middle ground is defined by concepts like equality, secularism and numerous other progressive ideas championed by the urban educated electorate.

So when people talk of Bangsa Malaysia for instance, they are really talking about the idea that everyone is equal in law and the aspirations to certain fundamental freedoms that people in other countries take for granted.

Here’s the thing though, ICERD was that vision of a middle ground that Pakatan Harapan claimed fidelity to. It is in their manifesto and the rhetoric of the more outspoken members of its coalition.

Rational (Harapan-aligned) critics of ICERD did not make the argument that the treaty would destroy the Malay community because they could not point to anything that did that.

What they argued was that the ratification of ICERD would be politically disadvantageous – or so they claim – and that the present government would lose its credentials as protectors of race and religion. This neatly falls into the first definition of the middle ground.

The reality is that ICER was a symbol and a declaration which is actually a baseline for functional democracies for the second definition. The religious far-right who oppose Icerd did so because they believed in the supremacy of their race and religion. What Icerd did was to say everyone should be equal.

Threats of violence work

By not ratifying Icerd, the government did two things. First, it legitimised the views of people like PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang. This really does not bother me. Hadi is the politically incorrect face of Malay supremacy.

As I said earlier – “The funny thing is that state governments controlled by the opposition bend over backwards to accommodate Muslim preoccupations and have to continuously defend themselves against charges of racism and yet the mainstream Malay establishment does not disavow someone like Hadi.”

Think of it this way. Has any Malay-Muslim Harapan politician come out and say that Hadi is wrong when it comes to issues of race and religion? Have any of these politicians offered an antithetical view of Hadi’s numerous toxic narratives?

Sure, some political operatives have made meek protestations and gingerly attempted to offer a counterview, but nobody has had the cojones to say Hadi’s view of Islam is wrong.

So I am not so worried about the first point because the foundation of mainstream Malay politics is racial supremacy, but what has happened over the years is that mainstream Malay power structures have done a reasonable job in balancing Malay and non-Malay expectations so we did not turn into just another failed Islamic state.

The second point is far more dangerous. When Harapan rejected ICERD, they sent a message to the religious far-right that their threats of violence work.Now, some would say, hasn’t this always been the case? No, this time is different because Harapan, which claimed to be a progressive force, caved in to the religious far-right.

This was not the UMNO decades-long hegemon playing to the gallery. This was a supposed multiracial coalition telling the racial and religious far-right that they were afraid to confront them even though they had federal power.

It sent a signal that the Harapan government could be brought to its knees when the issues of race and religion are used. The problem here is that the racial and religious far-right could turn every issue into a religious or racial issue and by attrition, bring down a democratically-elected government.

If this sounds scary, it really isn’t. What the Harapan government should do is determine which kind of middle ground they want to occupy. This would mean jettisoning those ideas which they have long promulgated to rile up the base.

Chin Tong is wrong when he talks about a non-Malay periphery electorate wanting to fight fire with fire. What they want – and I doubt they are a periphery – is for Harapan to occupy the second definition of the middle ground. This puts them in conflict with those who view the first definition as pragmatic and conducive to maintaining power in this system.

Harapan, and the DAP specifically, has to find its scrotal sac and define the middle ground even if it means acknowledging that there is no new Malaysia, only a BN Redux.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.


17 thoughts on “When it comes to ICERD, New Malaysia is the Old Racist Devil again

  1. Why get upset with DAP for backing down? The anti-establishment Waytha backed down first. The Commander is wrong, its not the first time DAP has backed down from what it believes, choosing to be practical and DAP has made it clear for a long time now, that it does not oppose “Malay right” despite its founding that there is no such thing as Malay “rights” but temporary privilleges – which by the way it continue to tell the story bringing up the Reed Commission when it can..

    No left wing cause have ever succeed without being practical without real circumstances changing to be able to..Article 1(4) of ICERD is exactly what Article 153 was suppose to be. But an entire mythology has been created since 1969 about it – on purpose so that it becomes a third rail in Malaysia politics, whoever touches it gets burned.

    It WAS NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN – and Mahathir knew it from the start. He played it perfectly – letting the left fall flat on its face. BUT now a problem really arises because the rabid political animals have tasted blood and they are even MORE frenzied. The rabid animals want more blood and they are hunting even harder for it everywhere they can find – real or not, damn with the rules and principles. They just want more blood.

  2. second outcome, henceforth lynching mob will dictate the governance of the country. yes Mr. Lim Guan Eng, siting at perch of perks you would want calmness and subservience of the the discriminated and oppressed whose life chances and outcome has been suppressed for the last 60 years while the DAP Lims family sails away in luxury cruiser. Come of it Lim. Are you any different from the yes sir syndrome of MCA.

  3. IECRD should NOT be ratified because, like numerous other seemingly innocuous Conventions, Treaties etc, it will leave countries like ours open to all kinds of arm twisting even sanctions, if we should be deemed not to be willing to toe the line of standards set by outsiders. And who will arbitrate in disputes?
    Points of view expressed in this article are, therefore, completely off the mark…

    • You may as well get away from the United Nations and its institutions. Islam and Malay supremacy are set in stone in the Constitution. Look from another dimension. They form the majority and they produce more children than the others. There are also powerful Sultans to protect the religion and race and the overwhelmingly Malay staffed and controlled armed forces. So monolithic and overpowering, where is the chipping away?

  4. Kit Siang: Malaysians won’t want ICERD at the price of another May 13 riot. Do you expect any courage in PH Government to face the threats from religious extremists? More demands are in the coming from what we have been reading from unscrupulous fanatics. Would PH Government give in to all their demands when Hadi and Zahid threaten to amass the nation with 1million to start riots?

    By bowing to their demands, I think they are not afraid anymore to the rule of law, the motto of PH Government. Tun is not able to take the pressure anymore!

  5. Haha.. Whaddya tell you fellas?

    Nothing’s changed. All that ‘New Malaysia’ sloganeering simply meant – PH’s core is Lembek (Flaccid). This ICERD thingy was so badly mishandled, that even a preschooler would have played it better. Octo and sidekicks are no Reformers but Deformers. Okay?

    The so-called egalitarian, meritorious Tokongists (i.e DAP apologists) are truly lame and SNAFU losers. They tried to deflect blame by playing up issues like TAR-UC/UTAR and burying 5% share MCA.

    Not only did their chief Tokong disavow any knowledge or coercion to ratify ICERD, they even became yodeling apologists for their incompetence, mismanagement and cowardice in the face of the intransigent religio-fascist rabble with circumcised flesh – but without circumcised hearts.. These PASUMNOb characters are the Defamers, who can’t smell their own shit.

    So all we have is a bunch of incompetents who are dedicated to fondling their jewels through their pants, sarong or whatever.

  6. If you remove the clutches immediately, the disabled will not be able to live a normal life. H
    The patient has first to undergo physio theraphy.

  7. The result of 60 years of ‘Malay rights’ under BN rule is telling. It has produced, even Mahathir laments, a majority who are ‘lazy and entitled’ who will have difficulty to compete with the rest in this fast changing world landscape. The country’s economic fortune is also not helping. Having blessed with plentiful commodities, including oil, for this once ‘rich’ country can no longer guarantee success. There’s just too much trade and currency uncertainties and much crippling debts to take care of. Yet, the far right and those who have benefitted plus now the religious ulamaks, instead of working with the government to overcome current headwinds & difficulties and (together) move the country forward, chose instead to further divide the people and raised racial tension and demanded more of the same things….further damaging our ability to attract investors which we need badly.
    To me, a simple issue of wanting to try out something different to make the majority and the country more competitive and resilient and more in line with global reality turned into an ugly racial issue that almost got out of hand. I think the Pakatan leadership should also shoulder blame. They did not display any real will for change (if they did, they would have rolled this out in an organized manner, first educating the masses about the benefits and needs of the change, how their special right and Islam being official religion status are safeguarded & protected and get buy-off from all before tabling in Parliament. Instead they did it in a haphazard way and allowed the trouble makers to dictate terms.

  8. Its sad isn’t it . When it was Tommy Thomas’s appointment , the Prime Minister stood firm. His leadership stood out.

    When the issue was Lim Guan Eng’s appointment, again the Prime Minister stood firm. Again his leadership was outstanding.

    Then came ICERD and he crumbled. How can this man be seen as a good leader?This episode only confirms that he is not the great leader that some think he is. He is still a Malay supremacist .

    And as for the Prime Minister in waiting, his stand on ICERD suggests that he is no better. This means i am not waiting for him to be Prime Minister.

  9. What has DAP got to do with the whole damn thing?
    Damn if you do, damn if you don’t.
    Thaya just couldn’t resist a dig at DAP.
    Who does Thaya want the sacrificial lamb to be?
    Who is the hypocrite here? The writer, the reader, the politicians, the Malays, the Chinese, the Indians? Pray tell me who!
    If the cow does not want to drink, how can you get it to lower its head? So goes a Chinese saying.

  10. Yes, KVYap…it is all about taking a dig…and in the process forgetting that politics is not about being brave but being realistic…

  11. ‘ Then came ICERD and he crumbled. How can this man be seen as a good leader?This episode only confirms that he is not the great leader that some think he is. He is still a Malay supremacist ‘.

    You cannot expect a 93 years old PM to face the criminals and crooks alone, with many inexperience Ministers needing more time to settle in and to carry out the necessary reform.

    Unleash Anwar Ibrahim to support him!

  12. ” Unleash Anwar Ibrahim to support him ! ” sotong

    Hmmm .. sotong i don’t know about the bloghost , but i know i don’t like what you are alluding to . So i won’t dignify it with a response.

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