Dear son, dear Dad

Raja Petra Kamarudin

A reflection of ‘old’ and ‘new’ Malay thinking

(Previously published in the Free Anwar Campaign website in March 2004, soon after Malaysia’s 11th General Election)

Dear Son,

I thought I would write you this letter, which I feel is long overdue and should actually have been done much earlier. In light of the present euphoria of the aftermath of the 11th General Election maybe I should have a man-to-man ‘talk’ with you about some of the realities of life.

No, I am not going to talk about the ‘birds and the bees’, as in these modern times I am sure you could tell me more about that subject. I want to talk to you about our race, Melayu.

When you came home for your semester breaks, I quietly listened to your rhetoric of freedom of speech, equality for all races, eradication of poverty, and all such notions without comment. I understand that you are young and just beginning to open your eyes to what is going on in this world, so I thought I would allow you to speak your mind.

Mind you, in my days, I could never speak to your grandfather is such a tone of voice. He would never tolerate my ‘independent’ views and would regard it as insolence. But that was then and today I appreciate the fact that the young tend to speak their minds, so I allowed you to ramble on. Now, however, it is my turn to speak my mind and I hope you too will allow me my right to speak, just like how I allowed you yours.

I want to remind you that you are Malay, first and last. Whatever you say and do must be tempered with this in mind. This fact tends to escape you and your idealistic beliefs do not take this into consideration.

You oppose the Umno-led Barisan Nasional because you say it is a corrupt government. You say it does not allow freedom of speech, association and assembly. You say it is undemocratic and despotic. And you go on and on listing everything that you perceive are wrong with it.

I must remind you, however, that this is the same government that gave you, me, and your grandfather, an education. Without this government that you despise so much would we be where we are today? We would still be in the kampong planting padi like my grandfather before this.

You are looking for perfection. But perfection does not exist here on earth. Perfection only exists in the afterlife (akhirat), so you will have to wait until you die before you see this perfection. As long as you are on earth you will be faced with imperfections, so you will have to learn to live with this situation.

I too would like to see a perfect world; a world filled with justice, equality, freedom, and all those ‘modern’ values you students shout about. But would you be prepared to gain all this at the expense of the Malay race?

I know you worked hard and campaigned for the opposition during the recently concluded general election. And I also know you are terribly frustrated and disappointed with the outcome of the election. I will not hold my punches here. As you said, the opposition won, or could have won, but it was robbed of its win through an unfair election system and a biased Election Commission.

I shall not insult your intelligence by denying all this, as I know you are smart enough to see things for what they are. But it is my duty as your father and a Malay to explain certain things that maybe you have overlooked in your zeal of upholding your modern ideas.

You must understand that the Election Commission is run by us Malays. It is there merely to ensure that we, the Malays, retain our political power. You accuse the Election Commission of manipulating the elections and of unfair practices. This has nothing to do with fair or unfair. It is all about ensuring that we, the Malays, do not lose our political power to the non-Malays.

Why do you think Tunku Abdul Rahman kicked Singapore out of Malaysia? Can you imagine what would happen to us Malays if Singapore was still part of Malaysia today? The Chinese would sweep all the seats and we Malays would be reduced to a minority. Can you imagine being a second-class citizen in our own country the way the Malays in Singapore are?

You say you support keADILan because it is a multiracial party that fights for equality for all races. Do you know what keADILan is asking for? How can there be equality for all races? We Malays own this land and the other races are all immigrants. They do not deserve equal rights.

You must remember, when we gained independence in 1957, it was agreed that all these immigrants would be given citizenship as long as the Malays are given special rights and privileges. This is why we have a Ketuanan Melayu policy. The Chinese and Indians agreed to this so we gave them citizenship. Now that they are citizens they demand equal rights. This is a breach of agreement. If they do not agree to Malays being given special rights and privileges why agree to it in 1957? They should have disagreed then. Then we could have sent them back to India and China. We did not force them to become citizens of this country. They wanted citizenship. And the terms and conditions of their citizenship was discussed and agreed. It was a social contract between them and us. How can they now turn round and not agree to it?

And this is what keADILan is fighting for. They are supporting the non-Malays in breaching the agreement made in 1957. An agreement is an agreement. If you want to break it, fine. If you no longer want to honour the agreement, then that is okay. But the clause in that agreement where they got citizenship must also be rescinded. The non-Malays will then have to go back to their own country. After all, no one is forcing them to live here. If they do not like it, they can leave. But do not expect us Malays to give up our special rights and privileges which have already been agreed upon long before independence.

You say the Election Commission cheated. They did not cheat. They just ensured we Malays continue to dominate Malaysian politics till the end of time. Parties like keADILan are dangerous. They pawn the country to the non-Malays just for the sake of political power. The Election Commission cannot allow this. Parties like keADILan must be wiped out from this country. Parties that collaborate with the non-Malays to rob Malays of our political power must be exterminated.

If you think the Election Commission is there to manage fair elections then you are mistaken. It is there to ensure that political power does not fall into the hands of the Chinese. It is there to ensure that your children and grandchildren have a place in Malaysia and will not become second-class citizens in our own country.

But the Election Commission is not the only player in this whole conspiracy. I should know as I used to work in the National Registration Department and it was our job to issue identity cards. Without these identity cards the Election Commission can do very little. Umno decides how many voters it needs and where they are needed. We will then ‘generate’ these voters through the issuing of identity cards. The Election Commission then registers them in the respective constituencies based on the identity cards we issue.

So you see; I was very much a part of the system. And it was a system meant to ensure Malays remain lords of this land.

I hope I was able to shed some light on what, to you, must be a most perplexing situation. Never mind. You are young. Your blood is hot. Later in life you will realise and understand what, today, I am saying. And one day you too will be telling your hot-blooded children what I am telling you now.

Your Dad.

Dear dad,

Thank you for your letter of 24 March 2004, which just arrived yesterday by Pos Laju. Maybe from now on we should just use the regular postal service. At least it will arrive at the very latest in three days rather than six.

I must admit I was very surprised to receive your letter. I was at first afraid to open it lest it be some bad news from home. After all, you have never written to me before and this is the first time, so I suspected it surely could not have been any good news. After reading your letter I now realise why you chose to write rather than tell me to my face what you said in that letter.

I understand and respect your views on Ketuanan Melayu. Many of your generation, especially those who have served the government, share your same views, so you are not alone. But my generation no longer holds dear the concept of Ketuanan Melayu.

You say we owe the government a debt for the education we have received. Are you saying you, I and grandfather would never have received an education and would still be planting padi back in the kampong if not for the government? What about all those Africans and Latin Americans who live in third world countries just like us? They too are educated, in fact better educated than us. Do their countries also have a Ketuanan Melayu policy? If not, then how did they receive an education and how come they have a higher ratio of university graduates compared to Malaysia?

The only reason we need government assistance is because we have to pay for our education and the government gives us loans to finance our education. However, if education was free, then we will not need any government assistance would we? We need government loans because there are not enough places in local universities so we have to go to an overseas university. And this costs money. But if we did not have to go overseas and could instead go to a local university then the problem of financing would be solved, as we will not need any.

One can argue that building universities costs money. How much are we talking about? In the last 25 years or so, our national petroleum company, Petronas, has earned an estimated RM500 billion to RM750 billion in revenue. The actual figure is still a mystery as Petronas needs to only report to the Prime Minister and need not table its accounts for public perusal, not even to Parliament. Could not one or two billion of that be used to build more universities? In fact, they could even have easily spent ten billion Ringgit without feeling the pinch and many universities could have been built with that amount of money.

As an example, look at China, a poor country that has to support 20% of the world’s population. China has more than 1,000 universities. Beijing alone, whose population is less than half of Malaysia’s, has more than 100 universities. If China can do it why can’t Malaysia? How many universities does Malaysia have? Going by Beijing’s ratio, we should have more than 200 universities. But we have less than 10% of that. Yet, on a per capita basis, we are richer than China.

To say the Malays would never receive an education unless we have a preferential treatment policy and unless the government hands out charity to the Malays is an insult to our race. We are admitting that the Malays are failures and can only succeed with government handouts. As a proud Malay, I should imagine you would be the last to admit this. I would imagine you would want to say that the Malays can succeed under any circumstances if just given a fair chance.

On your argument of ensuring the Malays do not lose their political domination, Dad, have you analysed the latest election results? The ruling party created 25 additional Parliamentary seats. At the same time they redrew the election boundaries. Let us take one example, Kuantan.

In the past, Kuantan had about 70,000 voters. Then the Election Commission transferred about 20,000 Malay voters to Paya Besar. With the ‘loss’ of 20,000 Malay voters, Kuantan now became a ‘Chinese’ seat. So the ruling party had to field a Chinese candidate in Kuantan, which traditionally had been an UMNO or Malay seat.

This was done all over the country. In an attempt to defeat PAS and keADILan, both who depended on Malay votes, Malay majority constituencies were carved up and turned into ‘Chinese’ seats. And what is the result of all this?

In the recent election, UMNO won only 96 seats in Peninsular Malaysia and another 11 in Sabah, a total of 107 out of 219; slightly less than half the seats in Parliament. And this is supposed to be UMNO’s best performance ever. Imagine what it would look like if UMNO performed badly, say like in 1999?

UMNO, which at one time had the majority seats in Parliament, is now just the largest minority. If you want to include the PAS and keADILan seats as ‘Malay’ seats, though they do not regard themselves as Malay parties, then the total would be 115 seats.

In what way do you say UMNO’s or the Election Commission’s interest is merely to ensure that Malay political domination is not eroded. The way I see it, the manipulation of election boundaries has done exactly this, erode Malay political domination. Now, I am not propagating or supporting the idea of Malay political domination mind you. I am just showing you that your argument in justifying the Gerrymandering and rampant cheating in the last election as necessary in the interest of Malay political domination does not hold water. What it has done instead is to give the non-Malays a stronger voice in Parliament.

Allow me to paint this hypothetical scenario. What if the non-Malay parties, even those in the ruling coalition, gang up on UMNO? And what if PAS and keADILan side with the non-Malay parties in the interest of multi-racial politics, or at best, do not side with anyone? Would your UMNO then still be able to defend the Ketuanan Melayu policy with less than half the seats in Parliament?

So you see, your loyalty to UMNO based on the notion that it is defending Malay rights and privileges is flawed. UMNO can only do so as long as the rest do not mount any challenge and are prepared to live and let live. However, once they decide to change things and make a move to end the Ketuanan Melayu, then there is very little UMNO can do.

I know, Dad, this fact has never occurred to you. You have always believed that UMNO is invincible and commands the majority voice in Parliament. This is not so. In fact, even the policy of Malay as the national language and Islam as the official religion can be abolished if the majority in Parliament wishes for this to happen. Then whom does UMNO turn to? The rulers? We must remember that the rulers are no longer required. Even if they do not sign the law it will still automatically become law, with or without their signatures.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah pointed this out in the late 1980s when he opposed the Constitutional Crisis engineered by UMNO, which may I add our new Prime Minister, Pak Lah, too opposed. Tengku Razaleigh asked what if one day UMNO loses its majority in Parliament and the non-Malays seek to remove Malay as the national language and Islam as the official religion? Now, said Tengku Razaleigh, it cannot be done without the rulers’ unanimous consent. But once the amendments to the constitution are made and the rulers’ consent is no longer required, then the Malays face the danger of losing their language and religion plus their special rights and privileges.

More than twenty years ago Tengku Razaleigh saw this coming. He knew UMNO would one day lose its majority in Parliament and the only thing left for the Malays would be their Raja-Raja Melayu. Today, what Tengku Razaleigh predicted has happened.

I must repeat that I do not subscribe to the concept of Ketuanan Melayu. You do, Dad. I just want to point out that if the only reason you support UMNO is to defend the Ketuanan Melayu, then that reason no longer exists. The Ketuanan Melayu will remain not because UMNO says so. It will remain because the non-UMNO Parliamentarians allow it to. In that case, is there any longer any reason to continue supporting UMNO?

Your son.

Note: I have closed the blogs for both my columns, MONDAY MORNING BLUES and LOONY MALAYSIA. Of late, these two blogs have seen much racial slurs and religion bashing. There are those who feel MALAYSIA TODAY must not censor any postings in the spirit of freedom of expression while some feel that offensive postings should be deleted. Since one man’s meat is another man’s poison, it would be better that we just ban all postings altogether until bloggers are able to debate in a more matured manner. We will monitor the other blogs and do the necessary if these irrational postings migrate there.