The three monkeys syndrome

Raja Petra Kamarudin

One-time Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad was one for launching concepts and slogans. Amongst one of his earlier campaigns was ‘Leadership by Example’. Basically, Dr Mahathir was of the opinion that Malaysians are, in general, a bunch of monkeys. So he thought a ‘monkey see, monkey do’ policy would be good for the country. This would be fine if the monkey’s master was teaching Malaysians noble and virtuous values. But when Malaysian values are warped, invariably, Malaysians would also adopt these same deviant values.

And if you do not agree that Malaysians are monkeys, just see how they drive on Malaysian roads. Only a society of monkeys would drive the way Malaysians do. And that is why I refuse to own a car or drive anymore.

Anyway, back to the issue of leadership by example or monkey see, monkey do. Take corruption as an example. When the top is corrupted, then the bottom would be corrupted as well. The tail always follows the head. I have personally known OCPDs (Officer Commanding Police District) and CPOs (State Chief Police Officers) who were masterminds behind certain rings and syndicates. Some were actually my very close friends back in the 1970s and 1980s. I of course knew they were no angels, maybe even the devil in disguise, but they were my friends nevertheless.

One notorious OCPD who later made CPO, who I will not mention by name, was selling pistol licences at RM50,000 a licence to whomsoever could afford to pay the price. Later, he rose up in the world and headed the syndicate to smuggle into Malaysia luxury cars stolen in Singapore. Of course, it was not enough for only police involvement as the cars needed to be ‘legally’ imported, then ‘legally’ registered as ‘imported’ cars. So the Customs Department and the Road Transport Department also needed to be involved. And it was not enough that the officers and bosses alone were involved because all the way down the line to the clerks and office boys also needed to play their part for the ring to succeed, plus operate undetected.

In short, the entire Police Department, Customs Department and the Road Transport Department must be part of the ring for everything to work. And, when the top is corrupted, the bottom would not only find it easy and lucrative to be corrupted as well, but they would see it as quite alright since Malaysia practices leadership by example.

Monkey see, monkey do.

While on the subject of monkeys, there is another monkey concept called the three monkeys — see no evil, say no evil, hear no evil.

And this is another monkey concept Malaysia practices.

Malaysian Malays, meaning of course Muslims, would like this to be the concept of Malaysia Today. They have problems accepting the fact that Malaysia Today is an issue-driven site as opposed to the conventional sites that deal with events and general news items.

Malaysia Today is, in a way, a free for all or no holds barred site that allows discourse on anything and everything. This would certainly be good in matured societies where the people are educated enough to agree to disagree and disagree with decorum and etiquette. But Malaysia is far from matured or educated, at times downright uncivilised, so decorum and etiquette are alien and unknown concepts. Some Muslims may even view these concepts as too western and bordering on anti-Islamic values. And those propagating these values would in turn be perceived as anti-Islam or Muslims who have deviated from Islam.

Malays do not want to hear negative comments about their race or religion. It is not that they do not realise non-Malays view Malays negatively, sometimes to the point of looking down on Malays with utter contempt, or that non-Muslims fear Islam, at times despising Islam and regarding it as a religion of Satan. They would just prefer not hearing anyone disagreeing with them; that is all.

Let us say we agree with this concept of ‘no bad news please’. Let us say we are aware that non-Malays and non-Muslims look down on the Malays and Islam. Let us say they can continue despising Malays and Islam, but just do not openly say it — in particular, do not post any messages in Malaysia Today’s blog indicating that non-Malays and non-Muslims despise, fear or misunderstand the Malays and Islam. If you like the Malays and Islam, then by all means post messages of support in Malaysia Today. However, if you do not, then just keep silent and please do not post any messages indicating your displeasure at the Malays and Islam.

Okay, this is how Malaysia Today will conduct itself from now on. If you got something nice to say about the Malays and Islam, then post your messages in the blogs by all means. But if you hate the Malays and Islam, then just keep quiet and don’t you dare post any messages in the blogs because, if you do, we will just delete them and not allow anyone to read them.

And why do we do this?

Well, the arguments have already been posted all over Malaysia Today’s various blogs.

1) We do not want to create tension where the various races and advocates of the different religions may hate each other or take to the streets and kill each other.

2) We do not want those Muslims who are weak in their faith and religious knowledge to start believing that Islam is bad whereby they may leave Islam and convert to other religions.

3) We do not want anyone to insult Islam, the Koran, or Prophet Muhammad.

4) We are not at ease seeing our race and religion being slandered and ridiculed.

5) Malaysia Today is run by a Malay-Muslim, so it is the duty of Malaysia Today to delete and forbid any postings not favourable to the Malays or Islam.

6) And so on and so forth.

See no evil, say no evil, hear no evil. Okay, we do that, but does this mean evil does not exist just because we close our eyes with our hands and refuse to look at it, or we close our mouth with our hands and refuse to talk about it, or we close our ears with our hands and refuse to hear about it?

No! Certainly not! It still exists! It is just that we forbid anyone looking at it, talking about it, or hearing about it. By doing so we can give ourselves and everyone else around us this false perception that, in Malaysia, Malays, Chinese, Indians and all those others from the minority ethnicities love each other and live as one, large, happy family, and Muslims and non-Muslims in Malaysia and the world over love each other and respect each other and Malaysia is just like heaven on earth.

But that is not true isn’t it? Malays and non-Malays in Malaysia DO NOT respect each other. Non-Malays are angry at being relegated as ‘second class’ citizens. Non-Malays feel Malays will be nowhere today if not because of the New Economic Policy. Non-Malays feel that the New Economic Policy is just like South Africa’s onetime Apartheid policy. Non-Malays are disgusted that certain government-owned educational institutions are for 100% Malays only whereas the Chinese are not allowed to set up schools using Mandarin as the medium of instruction though they will not be 100% Chinese only and anyone can enrol in these schools.

Malays, on the other hand, view non-Malays as immigrants who are not grateful that they have been given citizenship and that they should be sent ‘home’ if they complain too much, though ‘home’ to these people is Malaysia since they were born in this country. Malays feel those of the same skin colour and religion as Malaysian Malays who migrate to Malaysia should be accorded Bumiputera status though they came to this country only a couple of weeks or a couple of months ago, whereas non-Malays whose ancestors came to Malaysia 500 years or 20 generations ago are not Bumiputeras and should not be given equal status with Bumiputeras. Malays feel that the non-Malays have snatched (rampas) the wealth of this nation leaving the Malays as poor ‘guests’ in their own country.

And the same feelings abound with regards to Islam and the other religions and the Muslims and non-Muslims. But we must not mention this lest we start a quarrel. We must not talk about this lest we hurt someone’s feeling. We must not allow postings in the blogs that may reveal this great unhappiness, gap and disparity lest certain people get upset or angry. We must not allow open debate and discourse in the event that the war of words escalates into fighting and bloodshed on the streets like what happened a couple of occasions in the past.

In short, we must not reveal the true feelings of the Malays and non-Malays or the Muslims and non-Muslims. If we do not, then there will be blissful peace. But if we do, then there will be animosity. And we want blissful peace and not animosity in this country.

I can agree to this. I too want blissful peace. I too do not want animosity. And I too want the Malays to remain in blissful ignorance, fantasising that all is quiet on the Western front — so, since all is quiet, then we cannot be at war. I too want to hear only nice things said about the Malays and Islam — and if any non-Malay or non-Muslim does not like my race or religion he can continue hating me as long as he does not openly say so.

I too would like this country and its citizens to continue with this fallacy and keep painting this perception for the next 100 years that Malaysia is one, large, happy family like how we have been successfully doing so these last 100 years since 1905.

Yes, talking about what ails our society will achieve nothing. Discussing what divides us will not unite us. Thrashing out our problems will not help find solutions. Pretending that we do not have any problems whatsoever would be the best way at bringing peace to this nation.

Monkey sees no evil, says no evil, and hears no evil. And when monkey does not see it, say it, or hear it, then certainly no evil exists. What about the evil thoughts that exist in our minds and our hearts then? Never mind what is in our hearts and minds. They can remain there, for we shall be able to paint this perception of good, though good does not exist, just as long as we do not see it, say it, or hear it, and as long as we leave it buried deep in our minds and hearts.

That, dear Malaysians, is the way to achieve racial integration and religious harmony: by pretending we already have it instead of talking about how to achieve it. And many would like Malaysia Today to participate in this farce by not allowing any postings in the blog that may reveal the true feelings of Malays, non-Malays, Muslims and non-Muslims in Malaysia.