Race-based politics, the barrier to racial integration

Raja Petra Kamarudin

Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the Government cannot create a separate branch or stream in the national education system that serves as a 100 per cent alternative for any one group.

He said he would continue with efforts to strengthen national schools so that they become the first choice of all the people.

He said a two-stream system – national school and non-national school – in the education system, which required the people to choose one over the other, should be avoided as it would not bring any good to the country.

“Two systems will have the people moving along in a parallel line, and they will never meet. It is not good for the nation,” he told a press conference on Monday.

Abdullah was commenting on a move by the MCA to send him a memorandum shortly asking for an increase in the number of national type Chinese schools in the country under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP).

The proposal has drawn opposition from various parties, including politicians and academics who, among other things, want the vision school and national school agenda to be continued to foster national integration.

A vision school is where a national, a Chinese and a Tamil school are housed under one roof and pupils share a common canteen and playground so that there is greater integration.

The Prime Minister said the Government would respect the guarantee in the Education Act for non-Bumiputera pupils to obtain their education in primary schools in their mother tongue.

“But our hope is that after they complete their primary education in Chinese or Tamil schools, they continue in national schools.

“And in the national schools, I believe, with the same curriculum and the facilities available, students of all races and religions can interact,” he said, adding that this would lead to the desired strengthening of unity.

The Prime Minister said: “My message is very clear – our children must have the time to be together. This is the best strategy (for racial unity).”

Abdullah said he held strongly to the belief of education being the programme and strategy that can strengthen unity.

He added that the Government wanted to ensure that teaching and education opportunities in national schools were the best possible.

Well, in response to the above statement by our illustrious Prime Minister, I only have one comment to make: Bullshit!

What is Pak Lah going to suggest next to improve racial integration in the country? Everyone must have Malaysian names? Ali, Ahmad, Muhammad, Lee, Wong, Lim, Tan, Subramaniam, Rajadurai, Kalimutu, DeCosta, Peter, Moggie, Gunting, and all these ‘non-Malaysian’ names will no longer be allowed? All Malaysians born from today onwards must choose from a list of approved ‘Malaysian’ names? I suppose the Ministry will then come out with a ‘Book of Malaysian Names’ that parents can choose from when it comes time for them to register the birth of their off-springs.

To be fair to all races, the new Malaysian names must not be Malay, Arab, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan, Javanese, Iban, Dayak, or Bajau in origin, nor borrowed from any of the ethnic communities of East or Peninsular Malaysia. They must ‘universal’ names that will not give any indication as to the original ethnicities of that particular person. For example, Petra could be one of those names. Petra is Greek, Latin, German, Malay and Scandinavian in one. Therefore, no one can claim that Petra belongs to any one race. If there are not enough ‘universal’ names, then Dewan Bahasa can invent new ones like how it invents new ‘Malaysian’ words every day. The important thing though is the name will give absolutely no indication whatsoever as to the ethnicity of that person. If someone called Rudy phones you, will never suspect for one second what he is. As far as the name indicates, he is Malaysian, and that is all.

The next thing would be dressing. No one must wear Malay, Indian, Chinese or any ethnic costumes or national dress. We will come out with an official Malaysian costume which everyone must wear. Maybe it would be a piece of cloth tied around the waist or something like that. Underwear would be optional and left to the wearer to decide if he would prefer ‘freedom of movement’. Whatever it is, the dressing will not give one any idea whatsoever as to the original ethnicity of the wearer of the clothes.

Once names and dressing have been standardised or Malaysianised, we next move to language and culture. As planned, all will speak a common language, Bahasa Malaysia, which will be a mix of many languages and an invention of new words and terms. ‘Ciplak’, a favourite Malaysian hobby will be one word that should be adopted. So go for words like ‘lepak’, ‘kowtim’, and so on, which, like Latin, are single words that best describe Malaysian culture and traditions. The others we can invent as we go along. There would also no longer be any Christmas Hari Raya, Chinese New Year or Deepavali celebrations. We would have one Kongsi Raya for all races to celebrate. Maybe that could be celebrated on ‘Malaysia Day’, the date when Sabah and Sarawak joined Malaysia.

It would be mandatory for children to be bussed to school. A new Act will be passed in Parliament that would force parents to send their children to school by bus and they would not be allowed to congregate in the bus. One side of the seat would be reserved for what used to be Malay children and the seat next to it would be for those who used to be non-Malay children. The same would go for seats in the classroom and no longer would what used to be Malay kids sit on one side of the classroom and what used to be the non-Malay children on the other side.

With this forced integration and forced common identity and culture law that would come into force, no longer would Malays be easily identified as Malays and vice versa. Further to that, Malays would no longer mingle with Malays only and non-Malays with non-Malays.

Askar Melayu or the Malay Regiment would be changed to Askar Malaysia or Malaysian Regiment and it would no longer be an all-Malay unit but only 50% Malay and 50% non-Malay. KTM would not be called Keretapi Tanah Melayu any longer but Keretapi Malaysia or Malaysian Railways.

Umno must not scream and shout ‘Melayu takkan hilang dari dunia‘ or whatever crap it is that they shout. It should be ‘Malaysian takkan hilang dari dunia’.

And so on and so forth; the list is certainly endless.

Does this all now begin to make sense? It makes as much sense as sending Chinese children to ‘Malay’ schools with the objective of improving racial integration and achieving racial harmony.

Abolishing mother tongue education in the hope that Malays, Chinese and Indians would love each other more is as viable as asking Malays to eat pork, Indians to eat beef and Chinese to eat…well, the Chinese already eat everything anyway…in the hope that we become one large happy Malaysian family.

One way you can definitely achieve racial integration though would be to ban race-based political parties. Umno, MCA and MIC should be banned. Then they would no longer be able to scream and shout that they are defending Malays rights or Chinese rights or Indians rights like they now do. The word ‘Malay’, ‘Chinese’ or ‘Indian’ too should be banned in the names of political parties like how they ban the use of the word or acronym ‘keadilan’ for political parties. Umno would therefore be the United Malaysian National Organisation, and MCA and MIC would have to look for a new Malaysian-based names like Malaysian Capitalists Association and Malaysian Interests Congress.

I went to school in the 1960s. My friends in the Victoria Institution (VI) were Roslan Onn, Gurmit Singh, Teh Yim Seng, Lim Yong Boon, Rajadurai, Zakaria, Aziz Shariff, and many, many more. Somehow we did not look at each other as being from any particular race. We were all buddies and that is all that mattered. We did everything together, from skip school to go watch Rose Chan at BB Park. Yes, we did get into fights. But it was not Malays against Chinese against Indians. It was our multi-racial gang against another multi-racial gang.

When I was old enough to own a motorcycle licence we formed our own multi-racial motorbike gang. We were the Benteng gang and our ‘headquarters’ was, well, Benteng. Our rivals were the other multi-racial motorbike gangs like the Hitler Boys of PJ, the Orchard Road gang of Singapore, the Bulldog Kwan gang of Penang, and those other renowned motorbike gangs of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Then the politicians came in. The Chinese-based Labour Party started to make us realise that we were not one happy multi-racial Malaysian family as we thought we were. They started going round shouting ‘moh tiu Malayan’ (‘no fuck Malays’, meaning ‘to hell with the Malays’). Then Umno Youth retaliated and the bloody race riots of 13 May 1969 erupted. Did the Chinese start it first and the Malays retaliated out of what they perceived as the arrogance of the Chinese? Never mind who started it first because it takes two hands to clap. In the end, all races suffered regardless of who started it. Two wrongs, after all, do not make a right.

From then on we looked at each other as Malays, Chinese and Indians first and Malaysians second. And it took the politicians to make us realise we are not one happy Malaysian family as we had believed all this while but was actually a mix of many different races. If the politicians had just left us alone to lead our lives the way we wanted to, till today I would not be Malay but Malaysian. But they interfered in our lives and brought awareness to us, awareness that we are not Malaysians but Malays, Chinese or Indians.

Hmm, come to think of it, instead of abolishing mother tongue education, maybe we should abolish politicians instead. And instead of closing down Chinese schools we should close down political parties. Now, that would be a guaranteed way of improving racial harmony and eliminating polarisation. Then we can go back to the good old days of the 1960s when Malaysians were one happy family, something which Pak Lah would like to see happen again. Yes, and while we are at it, can we bring back ‘Rose Chan’ as well? Now those were indeed the good old days that I can remember when Malays, Chinese and Indians were united by a ‘common cause’.