“For Malaysia to succeed, the Malays must succeed”.
The statement above was quoted by Tun Daim Zainuddin in the seminar entitled ‘Naratif Malaysia: Melayu dalam Persoalan Nasional’ (The Malaysian Narrative: Malays in Question) held a few weeks ago. Ironically, the stance and actions of the current Government does not reflect the spirit of this statement; which implies that Malays should be empowered to succeed in various fields in order to make Malaysia a successful country.
The success of the Malay community is an important matter which requires not only hard work and proper thinking. However, it also requires good policy, direction and specific thrusts from different angles. Not merely pressure, insinuations and repeated criticisms.
The Malays are emotional and irrational?
Tun Daim implied that the Malays have lost their dignity and increased in their sense of insecurity. He contrasted the Malay spirit and bravery against Malayan Union in the past to the present Malays.
According to Tun Daim, we used to fight against colonial powers, communists and subversive elements without any bloodshed, but through knowing how to organise collectively and strategically. But now, the Malays have abandoned their dependence on logic and facts and are consumed by the racist and religious rhetoric of politicians. He added that the Malays now choose to be emotional rather than rational.
Tun Daim’s perspective is wrong. The basis of his observation is uncertain and unclear to me. Certainly, even when times have changed and the current and future challenges have evolved, the Malays have remained rational and are not emotional. Just observe how UMNO, as the dominant party of the Malays, accepted its defeat calmly and respected the will of the people in a healthy democracy. The transition of power was very orderly and peaceful.
When Tun Mahathir stated that the Malays were in a state of decline, the Malays did not react emotionally. However, the Malays now acknowledge that the status of our people is now declining under present circumstances.
Then when Tun Mahathir accused the Malays as being lazy, only hoping for help, unskillful in managing finances, extravagant and so many other incitements, the Malays did not react emotionally or respond irrationally to all such insults. This is because as Malays, there is no need to shout it out that we are not lazy and we are not irrational. The attitude and civility of the Malays have progressed far enough than to merely engage in the rebuke of Malay leaders who are quick to label their own community.
Just look around us. It is inconceivable that the Malays choose to face all kinds of challenges, commuting to Singapore every day for their daily bread and butter. It is incredible for many of them in the villages to start the day before dawn, toiling in blood, sweat and tears in the farm or at sea, just to make ends meet.
The geographical divide between the urban and rural areas, attitudes and value systems are not the only causes of our people’s underdevelopment. However, the abuse of the New Economic Policy and the unequal and unfair distribution of opportunities and wealth which existed in the past are the main causes. It turns out that the majority of this injustice was carried out under Tun Daim and Tun Mahathir’s own administration.
The Malay elites such as Tun Daim and his companions were among those who greedily grasped the nation’s wealth and practiced neo-liberal policies, prioritizing profit maximization as well as all sorts of quantitative measures of success. Thus, is it fair that the whole entire Malay race is put to blame instead?
Malays post GE14
The whole political structure and the consciousness of the Malays, before and after the 14th General Election (GE14) seems to have been politicized by irresponsible politicians. From the 1MDB scandal to the Tabung Haji fiasco, to the governance issues of the largest conglomerates of FELDA and Felda Global Ventures (FGV).
Everything according to Tun Daim and Tun Mahathir is very bad and damaged that there is not one slightest hint of benefit reaped by the people under the previous administration. Unknowingly, they accuse UMNO leadership over the past 60 years, yet they themselves were part of and lead UMNO throughout those 60 years.
The Malays listened calmly to all forms of ridicule of the Malay leadership before this and did not react emotionally.
Post GE14, there was an absence of a dominant political party representing the Malays in the Pakatan Harapan government. The Malays are left behind when discourses in the mainstream and alternative media bring foreign narratives to them. The extreme openness and voices that challenge the rights of the Malays and the purity of Islam becomes common. However, yet again the Malays do not react emotionally. They remain calm and noble-minded in navigating the political era of Pakatan Harapan.
Even if the sense of insecurity of the Malays is increasingly turbulent, it stems from the discomfort with the emergence of a systematic political model, allowing the identity and value system of its People to be sneered at and displaced by those who hold political power. This sparks off feelings of discomfort and anger of the Malays, whether conservative or progressive.
A study by Ilham Center with Penang Institute late last year showed that 60% of the Malays are dissatisfied with the government’s performance today. Also, 54% opined that the current government has abandoned the rights of the Malays, while 62.9% believe that the Federal Government is currently controlled by non-Muslims and 62% believe that DAP is the dominant party in Pakatan Harapan.
It is unfortunate if Malay politicians such as Tun Daim argue that since the special rights of Bumiputera and Islam as the Federal Religion are enshrined in the legal framework of the Federal Constitution, then there is nothing to worry about. Tun Daim forgets that the unspoken and unwritten conventions and practices also play the same role and even more importantly, in giving meaning to ‘Malay’ and ‘Islam’ in Malaysia.
The Malay institution, the awareness and ideology of the Malays and more importantly their identity and religion, are not validated and restricted to the provisions of the Federal Constitution. What’s more, if these issues have begun to be undermined and are not positioned in the proper place.
Now, to answer Tun Daim’s question of why the Malays could once build a nation without chanting racial and religious rhetoric. The answer is simple. This is because, under the Barisan Nasional (BN) political alliance, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) has preceded with and protected a fair political formula within a multi-cultural democracy. This political formula has respected the cultural and social norms of our nation.
Now, the situation is different. The country is no longer governed by the usual political model for the Malays but is based on a model of political leadership that is very foreign to the Malays. Moreover, for a Malay to talk about the survival of his race and religion, he would be labeled as extremist and intolerant. He will be condemned, as Tun Daim did himself, with a thousand and one arguments such as dependence on a ‘tongkat’ (walking stick) and other fallacies.
Now, if a Malay appeals to his own people to unite for their own good, he will be labeled as insensitive and malicious. Even resembling a terrorist organization. In the New Malaysia era, it seems anomalous for issues of the Malays and Malayness, Islam and Islamicness to be discussed. That is what really saddens us.
Just look at the boldness of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) leaders who issued statements after statements mirroring Islamophobic sentiments on the political cooperation of Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) and UMNO. It is alleged that the unification of the Malays is ‘declaring war’, an action that would make Malaysia be under Taliban-like ruleand many more painful and insulting accusations. All this is very much offensive to the Malays. However, even if all these are rude and nasty, there are no Malays who have reacted emotionally by going to the streets and demonstrating.
Does not all these highlight Malay maturity? In fact, it is proof of the ignorance of DAP politicians, about politics and the mindset of the Malays.
The Progressive Future of Malays and Malaysia
Muslim Malay political leadership is a trust and responsibility. Not just a struggling legacy. The Malay and Bumiputera Agenda, Malay tolerance and Islamic status, survival and rural competitiveness. All of these are critical issues which require new narratives and shifts in modern and contemporary contexts.
Hence, several Malay leaders are working on UMNO and PAS political cooperation for the sake of our country. It’s not merely carried out as a result of the discomfort of the Malays with the emergence of the new political model. But it is also a democratic way of empowering the essential aspects of a People without forgetting the diversity of Malaysia.
Keep in mind, Tun Daim. All the anxiety and sense of insecurity of the Malays are not unfounded. It’s not something that was deliberately made up. So is the restlessness of PPBM when it is among the smallest entities in Pakatan Harapan. Because of the anxiousness of being kicked out when the power-play changes, the party renegated on their entire earlier hue and cry by enticing and accepting former leaders from a party which was initially said to be rotten and dead. Where is the self-esteem and the principles in these actions? Isn’t this a preposterously cheap political practice made for the continuity of power?
At least, even if we have fallen, even if we are insulted by the leaders of our own people and the other races, despite being accused with all kinds of insults and indignity, UMNO, PAS and the Malays have not sacrificed our principles and belief system of our People. We remain steadfast as Malays. No need to be ashamed to admit that we have made mistakes, not ashamed to continue the fight for life under the leadership of Islam.
Yes, we may have voted out a kleptocractic government. We are grateful for this contribution. But when everything is replaced by a kakistocractic administration, know that Malaysia now is trapped in an era of uncertainty with rotten tumours which is very worrying. Moreover, with a porous political formula which does not guarantee stability. With all this happening, what really is the New Malaysia that we should continually proclaim and defend? Tun Daim, please provide an answer.
*This original article in Bahasa Malaysia has been published on Utusan Melayu