August 20, 2018
Bangsa Malaysia? Liew’s Canard
by S. Thayaparan
“Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.”
― Noam Chomsky, ‘Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda’
COMMENT | I noticed a radio station that before the elections did not cover politics is now covering politics with a newly discovered vigour. I really have no problem with this. Indeed, journalists from what was the alternative media before the elections have now become “mainstream” in the sense that where mention of them was verboten before the elections, now they and their opinions have become important in this “new Malaysia”.
I noticed that in one of these radio stations’ latest gimmick is centred upon the “Bangsa Malaysia” kool-aid, which I do have a problem with.
Ever since I started writing for Malaysiakini – seven or eight years ago – the major theme of my articles has been a rejection of state propaganda. However, rejecting state propaganda is like shooting fish in a barrel. Far more dangerous was the propaganda of the then opposition, carried out mainly by the DAP, which was the Bangsa Malaysia canard.
An Empty Vessel makes the most noise–Stop Waffling: “I may be Chinese culturally but politically I participate in public life as a Malaysian, not as a Chinese.” Hey, look at yourself and your own party before you talk. I see no difference between Pakatan Harapan (DAP, PKR, Bersatu, Amanah, Warisan), and the New Opposition (UMNO, MCA, MIC, Gerakan and PAS)–Din Merican
I had assumed that after May 9 and the realities of power sharing at a federal level between various Malay-Muslim power structures and the DAP, this nonsense would be dropped. But the reality is that if anything, it has become more virulent. DAP’s Liew Chin Tong’s latest piece is evidence of this.
The piece starts off with a justification of why the 100 days promises were difficult to sustain, which as usual – for some local politicians – meant alluding to the American experience. Cherry picking from the American experience is a mistake that most local politicians make. For the record, most criticism of the 100 days promises of Pakatan Harapan is not that they could not fulfil those promises but rather they were waffling on them.
The Way Forward–Bangsa Malaysia which was officially introduced by Dr Mahathir in 1991, as part of the package in his Vision 2020 project is horse manure today.
Nearly every promise they kept had to be dragged out of Harapan and this is a good thing. Politicians do what is politically expedient, while the citizenry who voted for them have to keep them in check. But this preamble of the hardships Harapan faced when committing to their promise is merely a prelude to the rise of the Bangsa Malaysia canard that Liew is shovelling at us.
Liew says, “For instance, I may be Chinese culturally but politically I participate in public life as a Malaysian, not as a Chinese.”
Really? Forget that the personal is political, but what does political life really mean? Political life in the Malaysian context is defined by constitutional provisions that are manipulated by Malay power structures to maintain racial and religious hegemony at the expense of the minorities. To claim that one participates in political life as a Malaysian is absurd when the majority ethnic group in this country participate in politics as Malays.
Never mind the lunacy of such a claim when the DAP made it very clear that the reason why they joined forces with Bersatu’s Dr Mahathir Mohamad was because they needed the “Malay” vote to save Malaysia.
The point being that “political life” was defined along racial lines, political strategies was endorsed along racial lines, and the outcome of this election is because the majority Malay community was politically fractured. There is a reason why Liew talks about the majority of Malaysians that were happy with the results. The reality is that a majority of Malays did not vote for this coalition.
In fact, the current Prime Minister warned of this very situation when he cautioned that UMNO would fall if the Malays were not unified back in the day when he was called ‘Mahafiruan’ by his political enemies.
“Unlike what Liew contends, the past 100 days did not see the emergence of the Bangsa Malaysia identity but rather that the reality of the power-sharing formula meant that the DAP finally understood what it meant to be MCA. PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim’s rejoinder of not spooking the Malays is a direct refutation of this Bangsa Malaysia horse manure.”–S. Thayaparan
This is not a disconnect. I do not think that this is even some sort of cognitive dissonance. The reality is that most political operatives understand that this Bangsa Malaysia is horse manure. They know that when it comes to Bangsa Malaysia, it does not withstand constitutional scrutiny or even ideological scrutiny but more importantly, it means cannibalising your community to further mainstream Malay agendas.
I talked about this here – “When it comes to racial politics, minorities squabbling for the political interests of majoritarian stakeholders is painful to watch. Malays from either side of the political divide at least sometimes can meet halfway on those politically-designed issues of race and religion. Throw in culture and you have Malay power structures at war, but not tearing each other’s eyes out like how the non-Malay component parties do in the service of gaining political power for their Malay overlords.”
Unlike what Liew contends, the past 100 days did not see the emergence of the Bangsa Malaysia identity but rather that the reality of the power-sharing formula meant that the DAP finally understood what it meant to be MCA. PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim’s rejoinder of not spooking the Malays is a direct refutation of this Bangsa Malaysia horse manure.
The religious and racial issues, whether it is the restructuring of Biro Tatanegara (BTN), the waffling on the National Security Council (NSC), the various racial and religious incidents or policies that the DAP has been strangely quiet on, demonstrates that the Bangsa Malaysia kool-aid means nothing when it comes to the realpolitik of race and religion in this country. Actually, most of my articles leading up the 100-day mark are about these racial and religious tensions in the post-May 9 milieu.
Liew says that there is a need to define what this new Malaysia stands for. Liew says for him, it means that we all see ourselves as first and foremost Malaysian citizens. What does this even mean? Everyone in Malaysia have always seen themselves as Malaysian citizens – that is, if we are lucky enough to have our citizenship acknowledged by the state – but the problem has always been that the state does not view us as equal citizens. Put simply, politics does not view us as equal citizens.
This is the danger of the Bangsa Malaysia kool-aid – it attempts to hide this stark reality.
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.