Malaysia: Questions to ponder

July 26, 2015

COMMENT: I cannot disagree with Zainah Anwar on the issues she raised in her article.  Spot on, but we have reached beyond theKamsiah and Din 2015 CNY pondering stage since the rot started long before Najib became the 6th Prime Minister in 2009.

Who was the Prime Minister who brazenly stated that our country is an Islamic state and who played the race card? Let us not forget that he came to power on the back of ultra-Malay nationalism and Islamism. Who destroyed our system of governance to leave as his legacy a powerful office of Prime Minister and a UMNO President who cannot be challenged.

He now is the man who is leading the charge to overthrow Najib from high office. He cannot conveniently say that he is not good at picking his successors (Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Najib Razak). He eliminated some outstanding UMNO leaders like Tun Musa Hitam, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim and created UMNO  Baru so that he could govern without opposition from his party and Parliament with the help of a compliant Judiciary and a civil service which  he could manipulate to achieve his political goals and perpetuate his rule (he did it for 22+ years).

Mahathir Lawan Najib

Today we have become a failed nation led by a kleptocracy under the leadership of a weak and corrupt Prime Minister Najib Razak.  UMNO is beyond redemption. In stead, we have to ponder whether UMNO of pagar makan padi types should continue to govern our country.

For me the answer is clear: No, UMNO which is trapped in a culture of patronage, cronyism, and corruption cannot be expected to revamp itself and govern differently. But what is the alternative?

Right now, given the fact the political opposition is in total disarray and UMNO is without a replacement, we have no choice but to endure the pain and agony of Najib’s transformational leadership for a few more years. The Economist could be right in coming to this conclusion. May God save Malaysia.–Din Merican

Malaysia: Questions to ponder

As issue and more issues made the headlines, will there be an implosion of all the things that Malaysia had built over the years?

I AM beginning to feel as if this country and its rakyat are being crushed and pummelled by wrecking balls.

JELAJAH JANJI DETEPATI / KULIMThe wrecking ball of race and religion, of insatiable greed, of never-­ending sense of entitlements, of unpunished crimes and abuses, of ideology over rational thinking, justice, and fair play.

These concerns are nothing new. What’s new is the breathtaking scale, the endlessness of it all, and the shamelessness with which the perpetrators display their unscrupulous, destructive and criminal behaviour, in words and deeds.

 The seeds of this rot were sown a long time ago. Any dominant party in power breeds its own seeds of destruction. For too long, too many of its leaders and party apparatchiks get away with all manner of transgressions. They tend to believe they are immune from any form of retribution.

I was in Geneva two weeks ago and UN officials and activists I met were asking what was happening to Malaysia.How did things get this bad? We were once a model country that others looked up to as a prosperous, progressive, politically stable, multi-ethnic society. We are a high middle-income developing country, not a basket case.

Now we are looking more and more like another banana republic, with scandals galore making global headlines. The deep concern many feel that these wrecking balls could lead to an implosion of everything that we have built over the ­decades is real. And what is scary is that there are people who are priming for trouble to break.

The Low Yat plaza riot will not be the last in their scheme of things. Thank God, the IGP and his forces acted fast in nipping the problem in the bud and stating the facts clearly and unambiguously. It was a crime; not about one race trying to cheat another.

Najib and 1MDBAll those who exploited the situation by making hate speech to manufacture racial conflict must be charged for their role in inciting violence.

Lessons must be learnt fast if we want to stop those determined to destroy the country in order to remain in power and preserve what they believe are their lifetime entitlements – on nothing but the basis of birth.

As desperation over the inevitable closing chapter sets in, there will be more attempts to ignite fires of racial conflict.

The truth is the ruling elite is becoming more and more beleaguered – under the weight and scope of allegations of misappropriation of public funds, plummeting popularity and finding itself devoid of new blood and new ideas, and certainly bereft of courage and will to bring the transformation needed to win back public support.

Let’s manufacture more threats to add to the standard “Malays under threat”, “Islam under threat”. Now it’s “national security under threat” as more and more damning evidence of mind-blowing brazen sleaze and corruption is revealed.

Who is really threatening whose survival? And what has happened to the warnings given at the UMNO General Assembly last year that UMNO must “change or be dead”? It looks like the choice UMNO has made is very clear.

Unless a new breed of young far-sighted leaders come forward with the will and courage to change the system – political and economic – to become more inclusive, more just, more honest, more transparent, we are really seeing the end of a long era in Malaysian politics. Time has run out for this old form of authoritarian politics and rule by a privileged elite.

Trust Us GangIn their book Why Nations Fail, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson argue with evidence across history and geography that authoritarian “extractive” political and economic institutions designed by elites in order to and perpetuate their power at the expense of the majority of the people are bound to run out of steam.

The pride we have in our beloved country is that was NOT our history. That was not how Malaysia began. But today this is where we are heading.

Just look at the alleged Mara scandal. An agency set up to redress a historical econo­mic injustice against the Malays ends up led by people cheating the very group they are supposed to help, pocketing millions in barefaced shenanigans.

A policy vehicle pumped with hundreds of millions of taxpayers money to eradicate poverty on the basis of race gets abused by the privileged elite of that race.

This is yet another case of pagar makan padi. Those entrusted to protect you, instead betray you. And there are many more such scandals, just waiting to be surfaced.

Let’s ask some hard questions here. Why after decades of rigorous development planning, 40% of Malaysian households earn only about RM1,847 a month?Why after more than four decades of the NEP, 75.5% of those at the bottom are bumiputras?

Why in spite of the billions poured into education and boarding schools, 64.3% of the bumiputra workforce have only SPM qualifications? Why some 90% of the unemployable university graduates are bumiputras?

Why of the RM54bil worth of shares pumped to bumiputra individuals and institutions between 1984 and 2005, only RM2bil remained in bumiputra hands today?

And why oh why should the bumiputras continue to raise a begging bowl and ask for more of the same kind of handouts from the same ruling elite? The bottom 40% get crumbs. Let’s focus our attention on these priorities.

Malaysia: More Young Malays rejecting Malay-centric UMNO

July 26, 2015

Malaysia: More Young Malays joining DAP and rejecting Malay-centric UMNO

by Jennifer


Far from being mere yes-men as alleged by Utusan Malaysia columnist recently, the Malays who join DAP do not believe in self-entitlement but instead accept its culture built on merit, a Malay DAP federal lawmaker said.

These Malays are also academically accomplished and thick-skinned enough to endure and share the ideals of the party’s politics and “don’t expect a 30% discount on anything”, Raub MP Dato’ Mohd Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz told The Malaysian Insider.

“They understand that elections to the CEC (central executive committee) are not a matter of being given a seat on the basis that a Malay is entitled to many things.

“You have to prove and earn it. Take the sons of Karpal Singh, for example. They are there because they are good, and they are not Chinese.”

Citing another example, that of Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto, AriffAriff Sabri said she was not in the party because she was the daughter of former DAP leader P. Patto, but because she was talented and genuine.

However, becoming a member of the democratic socialist party was a bold step for any Malay as he was opening himself to the vilest of condemnation, including being labelled the running dogs of the Chinese, betrayer of the Malay race, apostate and abandoning Islam, said Ariff, a former UMNO assemblyman.

This would ring true given the claims by Utusan Malaysia columnist Ku Seman Ku Hussain on July 4 that Malay DAP members were mere “yes-men” and needed to be in higher positions to really change the perception that the opposition party was Chinese-centric.

Ku Seman also labelled the DAP Malays as an “unfortunate” generation, saying they were playing cheerleaders for a party which attacked Malay interests.

“If DAP’s pull factor is that it transcends race and religion, then there is only one race that stands out in the party.The race is still a main factor in DAP. Only the Malays in the party are too stupid to understand that fact.”

But Ariff countered that their numbers and positions did not matter, instead it was more important that the issues articulated and fought by the party were getting the support of the people.

He said that all one needed to do was to look at the quality of the current DAP leadership, adding that its MPs were among the best. He added that the Malays who joined DAP were the kind who would feel a sense of shame if they were lagging behind.

“The Malay who joins DAP must feel left behind and slacking when they see people like Tony Pua, Ong Kian Ming, Anthony Loke, (Liew) Chin Tong and othDyana Sofya2ers, articulating issues of importance.

“Seeing these people in action ought to produce a feeling of wanting to compete on those terms.Raub MP Datuk Mohd Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz defends his choice of joining DAP, saying the Malays in the party are not mere yes-men. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, July 26, 2015.Raub MP Datuk Mohd Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz defends his choice of joining DAP, saying the Malays in the party are not mere yes-men.

Anwar Ibrahim: A Lone Voice from Prison delivers a Message of Hope

July 25, 2015

MALAYSIA: A Lone Voice from Prison delivers a Message of Hope

Anwar --The Prisoner

Anwar Ibrahim


With the Najib Administration facing even more pressure now to explain the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal, Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim has seized the opportunity to rally his supporters, saying although tough times are expected ahead for Malaysians, the country’s growing opposition cannot be silenced.

Anwar, who was given the opportunity to pen an Op-Ed for the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the international daily now facing the possibility of lawsuit by Malaysia’s Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, said Malaysia is ready for the change long-trumpeted by the federal opposition, one that he claimed would see a return to the underpinnings of the Federal Constitution.

The PKR de facto leader, now five months into his five-year jail sentence for sodomy, also said a “brighter future” is possible with good governance and the rule of law.

“We believe in the dismantling of Malaysia’s system of race-based privileges that has devolved into nothing more than rent-seeking for the privileged few. We believe that corruption is a slow bleed that robs future generations of the education and business opportunities that will make them prosper,” he wrote in the piece.

Anwar, who was the Deputy Prime Minister from 1993 to 1998, said his decision to stay in the country to face prosecution had not been easy and had put a “tremendous burden” on his family but insisted that he had done so because he believes the country is ready for change.

“Malaysia is ready for change.This is why, rather than flee my country, I chose to stay and continue the fight for peaceful, democratic reform from my prison cell,” he said.

He also said in four decades in public service, this was the first time racial and religious sensitivities have become so inflamed, and at the same time so poorly managed by the country’s political leadership.

He said the “real danger ahead” is that Malaysia could devolve into a failed state after several decades of economic mismanagement, opaque governance and overspending.

“The irresponsible manner in which the current leadership is handling religious issues to curry favor from the extreme right is fueling sectarianism.Increased political repression may drive some to give up on the political system altogether and consider extralegal means to cause change, thus creating a tragic, vicious cycle,” Anwar added.

The only way out of this “mess”, he said, was to uphold the Malaysian Constitution, to ensure better checks and balance in the administration, keep the elections free and fair; and a media that is not afraid to challenge authority.

The Najib government is currently under pressure to explain the 1MDB scandal, following the series of exposes by media outfits claiming to be in possession of documents that show impropriety in the state investor’s allegedly opaque deals.

In its July 2 exposé, WSJ, citing documents from Malaysian investigators currently probing 1MDB’s financials, said a money trail showed that US$700 million (RM2.6 billion) had been funnelled into what is believed to be Najib’s accounts.

The discredited idea of race

July 19. 2015

The discredited idea of race

by Josh

Mahathir- The Kerala ManThe Kerala Man

Let’s be clear – the melee at Low Yat Plaza last weekend was racially motivated, because the thugs were clearly going after the Chinese around there, not sparing even the journalists covering the commotion. But it would be a grave mistake to label it as a ‘racial riot’, for there has been no retaliation on the part of the Chinese; even the wider Malay community has condemned the incident and urged calm.

It is therefore of utmost importance that the general public refrain from provoking the situation further by lashing out at others with a racially-charged tone. For instance, what purpose does it serve if the non-Malays tar the entire Malay community with the same brush? It would only alienate those who are equally disgusted by the hooligans in their midst and, worse, push some of them onto the brink of extremism.

hishamuddin-husseinThe Turkish Man

An eye for an eye only makes the world go blind. Enough said. Then again, what is a race? Once, a Malay friend asked me: “I just met a distant relative, also a Muslim and Malay, but he looks so Chinese to me. Why?”

“Ya lor, why ah? Did you ever ask why the Sultan of Johor has a very Eurasian face but is still a Malay?” I threw the question back to her, and she looked puzzled. (Although I am not so sure if the royals would often speak Malay among themselves to qualify them for being Malay as one of the criteria set out in the constitution!)

Najib al BugisThe Bugis Malay

To me, race is never genetically determined but socio-politically constructed. Taiwanese, for example, are culturally Chinese but they are now possessed of a very different identity from the mainland Chinese due to the socio-political development over the last three decades. More and more Taiwanese now desire a distinct ethnicity that would mark them out from China. Nearly two decades after the handover from the British in 1997, there are noticeable signs that Hong Kong is heading in the same direction.

Zahid Hamidi The Java Man The  Java Man

Meanwhile, there are still a sizeable number of Japanese who were left behind in China after World War II and adopted by Chinese parents. Some eventually ‘returned’ to Japan as adults but found themselves unable to fit into contemporary Japanese society. One can’t blame them, for they had been raised as Chinese all their life.

Similarly, why would a Ceylonese Tamil be so eager to differentiate him or herself from an Indian Tamil despite the virtually identical language, food, culture and religion shared between them? Years ago, when I was a language student in Germany, there was a classmate from Russia who happened to be of German ancestry. He told us his grandparents were born in Kaliningrad (Koenigsberg), an erstwhile Prussian territory acquired by the Soviets after the Third Reich was ended, but he would grow up feeling more Russian than German.

What made the discussion even more interesting was that our lecturer was a Dutch national who was born and raised in West Berlin, and a native German speaker!

Given her experience of growing up in a purely German environment, the lecturer could have claimed herself to be a ‘true-blue’ German while the Russian-born classmate could not. But would any DNA test produce a result that says one is German while the other Dutch, other than stating the obvious that they are all Caucasian?

A belief in essential differences

Back to Malaysia. The myth of a pure race is so strong that everybody has an ideal imagination of his or her own race. A belief in essential differences between ‘us’ and ‘them’ is a given, and these differences, often concocted rather than real, are perceived as natural and inherited. The much-touted and ‘celebrated’ multiculturalism is hence simultaneously a blessing and a curse, for we are compelled to constantly identify ourselves against others.

Syed Mokhtar Al-BukharyThe Arab Bumi UMNO crony

The state does not help either, as it excels at exploiting the ethnic differences for its own purpose. With the constitutional definition of the Malay race, it has created a hierarchy within which the Malays are deluded into developing a sense of entitlement. So when a Malay youth is out of job, he or she may not know how to question the government’s employment policy or even the corrupt government itself, but vents his or her anger at the non-Malays.

“At least I am a bumi.” So he or she would reason, and this is also how populists such as Mahathir Mohamad relish in reinforcing the delusion for their own not-so-hidden agenda. It is not too dissimilar from the poor and jobless white youth in America who take delight in beating up the non-whites for ‘stealing jobs from us’, instead of challenging the exploitative and unjust capitalist model that the Republicans hold dear.

Saying “get real, dude, this is a white country and at least I am white” is the only way for them to assert their identity and compensate for their lack of social skills. In UMNO-controlled Malaysia, one can easily replace the word ‘white’ with ‘Malay’ and the implications remain valid.

Malaysian billionaire Vincent Tan speaks to Reuters during an interview in Singapore October 29, 2014. An educational four-year reign as owner of English second-tier club Cardiff City has been akin to graduating with a PhD in soccer management, Tan told Reuters on Wednesday. But the chastening experiences of relegation, the hiring and firing of managers, fan objections to kit colour changes and upcoming court cases have only strengthened Tan's commitment to Cardiff and he plans more soccer investment in Europe and MLS. REUTERS/Edgar Su (SINGAPORE - Tags: SPORT BUSINESS SOCCER)

The  Crony China Man

The same goes with the Chinese, because they are brought up thinking every success is based on their own merit, so much so that even Ling Liong Sik was rich enough to claim his son to be ‘a self-made billionaire’. Not to mention the unspoken habit of the Chinese suppliers in charging the Malay customers more simply for being ‘a victim of the Malay government’.

It is this obsession with ‘a same race with shared moral tendencies and natural affinity’ that prompted the Chinese Malaysian netizens to cry out “we Chinese must unite against them” in the aftermath of the ruckus at Low Yat Plaza, rather than a common stance against violence and racism. Didn’t they know the police who were risking their own safety to control the mob and prevent more untoward incidents are Malay, too?

When would Malaysians learn to stop fighting racism with racism? Race is really a socio-political construct with a clear intention to create a hierarchy for exploitation, manipulation and domination, much as how the colonialists once justified slavery and subjugation based on ‘racial differences’.

Biologically, I may be determined to belong to the Mongoloid race, but there really isn’t a way to conclude genetically if I am Chinese, Korean, Mongol or Japanese. After all, if I met an accident and needed urgent blood transfusion, what would truly matter is if the right – human of course – blood type could be found, not Chinese, Indian, Malay or even Malaysian blood.

Malaysia: Najib is above the Law, shame on the Enforcers and the Judiciary

July 15, 2015

Malaysia: No one is above the Law, but Najib is the Special One

by Manjit Bhatia

Najib in Prayer2

As corruption scandals plague the Prime Minster, this is the moment Malaysians should openly demand justice in their country – something the law and judiciary won’t give them.

When on  July 8, Defence Minister Hishamuddin Hussein declared that no-one in Malaysia is “above the law”, many Malaysians would have either shrieked in horror or laughed till their stomachs hurt. But nobody would have shuddered at the idea that Hishamuddin would shamelessly tell another bald-faced lie or trumpet yet another cockamamie from his loft.

Coming from a regime renowned for hiring congenital liars and compulsive shysters since 1969 — although one could also revisit some wild porkies told in the 1950s and 60s — Hishamuddin’s attempt at grabbing the political middle-ground, to be seen as some sort of conciliatory ‘statesman’-like figure, flatly slammed back into his face.

Most Malaysians will have experienced the crudely thwarting ability of the 58-year-old ruling UMNO-Barisan Nasional regime to make the country’s laws bendable. So pliant are they, that today Malaysia’s laws are inherently farcical. Malaysian laws, in general and specific terms, are a disgrace.

Malaysian laws serve UMNO-BN’s narrow, immediate, ideo-political and economic interests. Malaysians understand there is no such things as equality before the law, let alone justice in this increasingly pariah, Third World state with grand pretensions of becoming an “advanced nation” by 2020.

Najib Razak, Hishamuddin’s cousin and boss, Malaysia’s Prime Minister, and Finance Minister to boot, is directly implicated in a monstrous corruption scandal, the likes of which Malaysians have never seen. Some US $700m is alleged to have been transferred to several bank accounts in his name, while 2 million ringgit has been allegedly deposited into his wife’s bank account. It is difficult to see Najib extricating himself with comprehensive inculpability, much less virtuousness, from the mounting shambles around his integrity and political legitimacy.


This is precisely the moment Malaysians should openly demand justice in their country along principles of ‘justice as fairness’. It will not happen. Hishamuddin, an UMNO Vice-President who, in 2005, while clutching the traditional Malay keris (short-sword), threatened to spill non Malay-Muslim blood in the name of Malay superiority, knows this well. So, too, Malaysia’s Bar Council, which has remained peculiarly quiet. Not a squeak.

To all intents and purposes, the entire Malaysian cabinet, including Hishamuddin, would have been aware that the monies transferred into Najib’s personal bank accounts — exposed by The Wall Street Journal on 2 July — had been used to rig the 2013 elections and yet again defraud Malaysians of their right to regime change.

That outcome is now history. But it is another ugly chapter in this country’s growing repulsiveness when added to its penchant to also practice racism and religious bigotry. No court in Malaysia will sit in judgment on these matters. If and when it does, judgment almost always never comes in a hurry, if at all.

Islamic groups — financed by taxpayers and ideologically supported by UMNO, an exclusively Malay-Muslim political party — engage in body and identity snatching: recurring episodes of forced, surreptitious and illegal conversions of non-Muslims to Islam.

Their blackguard actions are soiled in the politics of Islamising the country for purely desperate politically reasons. The greater the Muslim base of Malaysia’s 30 million population, the better the chance of the right wing UMNO continuing to rule Malaysia under false pretenses.

Not that the regime-pliant judiciary would dare preside against the illegalities of the 2013 general elections that clearly depicted UMNO’s fraud, led by Najib. Since 2014, Malaysia’s Federal and Appeals courts have deferred the decision to declare the 2013 poll null and void to the Registrar of Societies. ROS is answerable only to the home minister, a draconian character. In historical terms ROS augments UMNO’s autocratic rule and electoral fraud alongside the regime’s handpicked Election Commission.

Ruling politicians are accorded the same treatment by Malaysia’s ‘laws’, and at a much higher level: they are effectively untouchable. Like all former Inspector-Generals of Police, the current IGP is not a public servant but a puppet of UMNO, whom he and his police force, debauchedly corrupt, protect, come hell or high water. It makes lighter work for Malaysia’s judges.

Mahathir Mohamad-2014

In his time as Prime Minister (1981-2003) Dr Mahathir did his darnedest to destroy the constitution and substantively reduce the position of Malaysia’s monarchs. They are today voiceless, powerless, and were happy to become a despotic class. To the extent that Mahathir for the most part hid behind his repressive laws and the malleable judiciary, Najib has been doing likewise in his bid to stifle popular dissent and the potential for mass revolt.

Murdered Mongolian ex-model Altantuyaa.

Najib has learnt well from his mentor. Mahathir’s political cretins, in the Gramscian vernacular, have gotten away with some of the worst graft accusations, mostly via their business cronies. Najib and perennially bungling ministers and senior bureaucrats know they need never fear fronting a Malaysian judge. So much so, the rort has continued like an unbridled market for lecherous grubbiness.

Najib has never been before a judge for all the scandals that have erupted under his charge as either a minister in other portfolios, and as prime minister and finance minister since March 2009. His name continues to be linked to the cold-blooded murder of 28-year-old Altantunya Shaariibuu, the Mongolian model and translator in the scandalous Scorpene submarines deal when Najib was defense minister.

To be sure, Najib is most unlikely to be indicted, despite the fact that there is sufficient evidence to, at the very least, raise the possibility if not probability of corruption and electoral fraud. After all, laws in Malaysia are severely asymmetrical and deeply prejudiced. Malaysian laws serve to dispense immediate justice on behalf of its political masters, advance their self-interests as well as those of the filthy-rich class of Malaysians with direct political connections.

There is literally no dispensation or indeed chance of dispensation of credibly proper and full justice against UMNO-BN chieftains and or their business cronies regardless of the existence of irrefutable evidence of various illegalities in their depraved wealth accumulation.

This situation is not helped when the IGP refuses to investigate any of them but is happy to make chronically ill-thought political judgments on behalf of his puppet masters. His investigatory judgments based in law are non-existent.

It is also not helped by the current attorney-general, whose job description is scarcely dissimilar to the IGP’s; the foremost protection of the odiously corrupt, deceitful and treacherous UMNO-BN regime.

UMNO ministers have crawled out of their hiding holes to state and restate with hyena-like frequency that Najib is not legally bound to step down, even as various investigations into his alleged corruption proceed apace. Or that he need not step down at all because he has not broken the law.

The second claim is true — so far, and up to a point. The first one, though, is born of heightened scandalous stupidity. At stake are the names of the offices of prime minister and finance minister and of the country (already damaged goods).

Malaysia is almost wholly dependent on international financial markets, international investors, and international trade for its national income, where the budget deficit is inching up, the current account is narrowing by the month, where unemployment is rising, and where domestic and international capital flight could whack the economy sideways and backwards.

But never mind, just as long as patron Najib, UMNO-BN politicians and their cronies and nepotists remain above Malaysia’s spineless laws. They need not worry in any case: there are no laws in Malaysia to speak of in the first place.

Manjit Bhatia is head of research at AsiaRisk, an economic and political risk consultancy firm.

Malaysia: The Low Yat Plaza Incident is the Hand Maiden of Racists

July 14, 2015

COMMENT: The Najib Administration must not  be dismissive of  this incident. His divide and rule politics of religious exclusivity and racial differentiation has come to roost and is now beginning to threaten communal harmony  and political stability with attendant effects on an already difficult economy.

There is so much anger and frustration in Malaysia that the situation can flare up at the slightest provocation. Pekida and other UMNO-sponsored Malay right-wing elements, the Chinese triads and Indian terror groups  can pounce into action to create chaos.

Kee Calm Eat Kangkung

The Prime Minister must cease playing survival politics and get down to the serious business of governance. Otherwise, like William Shakespeare’s Richard The Third ( Act 5, scene 4, 7–10) he can be expected to be trading his besieged  kingdom for a horse. –Din Merican

Malaysia: The Low Yat Plaza Incident is the Hand Maiden of Racists

by Boo Su-Lyn
Low Yat Plaza  V2

The Low Yat Plaza riot which injured five people was scary with its disturbing racial overtones, and we don’t do Malaysia any favours by pretending that the whole incident had nothing to do with racism.

The original incident seemed simple enough. A Malay man allegedly stole a smart phone from a Chinese trader at a shop in Low Yat Saturday. He was caught and handed over to the Police. Then the upset man brought a group of friends over who allegedly assaulted the workers from the mobile phone outlet and damaged the store, causing about RM70,000 in losses.

The story then took a strange racist twist, with rumours suddenly popping up on social media about how the “cheating” Chinese had tried to sell a counterfeit phone to the Malay man. The Police, by the way, have reportedly dismissed claims about the counterfeit phone.

A riot broke out at Low Yat the following day, with disturbing videos of the violent Malay mob attacking a car with passengers cowering inside, as well as three journalists from the Chinese press.

The shoplifting was not unusual and had nothing to do with race, certainly. But the subsequent fallout was motivated by racism, with all the belligerent calls on social media to #BoikotCinaPenipu and to boycott Low Yat. There were hostile calls for Malay unity and vague threats of assault, with a photo of a gunman and the words “Call of Duty Low Yat” on Facebook.

Low Yat Plaza violence

There were even calls for arson. Malays were painted as victims, oppressed by the Chinese. At the mob gathering on Sunday night, a Malay man is seen in a video making a racist speech about how Malaysia is “bumi Melayu” and how the Chinese humiliated the Malays.

Police, politicians and the public have been quick to say that the Low Yat incident was not about racism, but just a simple case of theft. Wake up and smell the coffee — the Low Yat riot was racially motivated and it shows how ugly things can get when the economy is bad.

For all our campaigns about “moderation”, the truth is, racism exists in this country and we can’t ignore it. People look for scapegoats when the economy is in the doldrums. The Jews were made a scapegoat for Germany’s economic problems after World War I.

It is easier to blame a person from another ethnic group living near you, who is sitting in the same LRT and eating at the same fast food restaurant in which most of the counter staff appear to be Malays, for robbing you of opportunities in life.


It is  easier to get angry at news of someone from another race ripping off your fellow brethren over something tangible like a phone, than at the purportedly missing billions in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal.

After all, you don’t know exactly how many of those billions come from your taxes. And you don’t see physical cash from your taxes being diverted into someone’s personal bank account.

It’s easier to hit a fellow Malaysian of a different skin colour over perceived injustices, compared to trying to slap the Prime Minister who’s protected by bodyguards and whom you only see in the news, not on the streets.

The government too should be blamed for allowing, and even encouraging, circumstances for a riot to happen. The race-baiting in Utusan Malaysia, the refrain for Malay unity, and Friday sermons that repeatedly label minority groups as “the enemy” have all contributed to this powder keg of racial tension.

A minister who brazenly called for Chinese traders to be boycotted should have been sacked. But instead, he remains in government. The ethnic conflict between the Malays and Chinese is driven by the perception that the Chinese are significantly wealthier. It’s unclear how much of that is really true.

A Khazanah Research Institute study shows that 26 per cent of Bumiputera households earn less than RM2,000 per month, compared to 20 per cent and 14 per cent of Indian and Chinese households respectively. So it is arguable if the Chinese really do dominate the economy.

Racism is not just caused by politicians who use the race card to get support. There are things that do not make it in the news – the wariness of the Malays at eating or drinking at Chinese coffee shops, the unnatural fear of pork to the extent of shunning Chinese ice-cream sellers, the undercurrent of complaints against the Chinese for stealing the country’s wealth and for trampling on the rights of the Malays.

There’s breeding resentment on both sides. The Chinese complain about not getting equal treatment and having to work twice as hard to get the same opportunities as the Malays, who receive coveted positions at public universities, housing discounts etc. They look down on the Malays and perceive them as “lazy”.

When a Malay is hardworking and does make it to the top, they say she’s an exception, not the rule. This makes for uncomfortable reading. But we need to confront racism head on.

We need to acknowledge that we hold racial stereotypes and that such stereotypes comfort us. They make us feel good about ourselves. They make us feel superior. We can laugh at racist jokes but we secretly place our colleagues, acquaintances, civil servants, and traders into racial stereotypes that they happen to fit in.

I myself am guilty of doing it. I compare the Chinese and Malay nasi lemak sellers at the wet market that I regularly go to. The Chinese nasi lemak seller is fast and efficient, but she’s very careful with her portions, always measuring them so she does not give too much.

The Malay trader’s nasi lemak is tastier and he lets customers dole out their own portions, charging a far cheaper price too. But he arrives at a later time than the Chinese, which means fewer customers, and he’s slow.

So I secretly think that the Chinese is a better businesswoman, even though I prefer buying from the Malay nasi lemak seller (when he arrives early enough).And I allow myself to take comfort in the (dangerous) belief that yes, the Malays may get everything handed to them on a silver platter, but we Chinese can still beat them because we’re better, smarter and faster than them.

I feel uncomfortable admitting this in writing. But I must, just like all of us must similarly admit the racial stereotypes we hold if we want Malaysia to move forward. We will never eradicate racism by burying our heads in the sand and pretending that it does not exist.

We need to perhaps befriend more people of other races. Maybe even get into interracial relationships and have babies of mixed ethnicity. Then maybe, just maybe, Malaysia will be a little less racist.