A divisible ‘One Malaysia’?


While we hear the ‘One Malaysia’ slogan being trumpeted, we have also seen the evolution of structural violence in our economic, educational, cultural, and legal systems.


Azly Rahman


I grew up hearing slogans, as each regime passed power to its successor.

In the 1960s it was Bersatu teguh, bercerai roboh. In the 1970s it was Bersekutu bertambah mutu. In the 1980s we were serenaded for 22 years with Bersih, Cekap, Amanah.

There was  a song Demi Negara that went along as soundtrack. Next came a new leader with Kepimpinan Melalui Teladan and Islam Hadhari. Now we have One (1) Malaysia.

Malaysians saw the chronology of sloganising as ‘unity increases quality’, ‘clean, efficient, trustworthy’, ‘leadership via good example’ and finally ‘Malaysia as one’.

Nice slogans. We have created branding in governance. But if we are to lift the veil and look at what is behind these words, we will discover the complex interplay between political-economy and hidden agendas, between political bribery and hegemony, and between ethnocentrism and hedonistic capitalism.

Malaysians are not as excited as Americans when Barack Obama took control to create a ‘One America, indivisible with liberty and justice for all’. Malaysians have a long way to go in terms of translating slogans into data-driven system of governing.

For Muslims, Malaysia in this age is like Mekkah circa the emergence of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) – hedonistic, tribalistic, with multiple demigods of materialism, contradictory and hypocritical. 

Like Mekkah during the reign of Abu Sufyan, when power rested on the display of signs and symbols of wealth and little concern for the plight of the poor, Malaysia has evolved into a country in which the disparity between the rich and the poor has become too wide and that those in power use any means to ensure that divisions in society are maintained. Thus we have a country in which homes of the poor are bulldozed to build yet another shopping mall.

While we hear the ‘One Malaysia’ slogan being trumpeted, we have also seen the evolution of structural violence in our economic, educational, cultural, and legal systems.

We have Acts that imprison the body, mind, and spirit of our citizens. Using the state ideological apparatuses, the powerful among us have used power not to liberate, but to cage the powerless.

Structural problems

But as in many a renewal processes, we must continue to work towards dismantling the very foundation of race-based politics; from the psychological to  the ideological. The problem is not necessarily in the leadership that moves from one hegemonic phase to another; the problem is deeply structural.

The structure can no longer hold the weight of the masses that are demanding for justice to serve all and not to enrich the few. The violence that need to be eradicated is inherent in the system; a system that is build upon slogans and feel-good messages trumpeted across ages through the media controlled by those who own the means of intellectual, economic, and perhaps moral production.

I propose that the beginning of a successful goal of a ‘One Malaysia’ nation should begin with the dismantling of all race-based political parties. As long as we are organised along racial lines, we will continue to protect each others' interest using the idea of might is right.

Our institutions will continue to be built along these lines and our culture will continue to evolve in ways that will enable and disable each other. Our children will continue to learn about better ways not to tolerate each other and how to build walls and cages around us. We will, as citizens, continue to see race and ethnicity – rather than class or caste – as obstacles to progress.

I propose we pry through the slogans and make the government of the day accountable. If the regime says that is one of ‘clean, efficient, trustworthy’, we must demand proof that it is so.

If the regime of Najib Abdul Razak wants to see a One Malaysia, we must demand that the One-ness of Malaysia be rebuilt on the foundation of politics, economics, culture, and education that will ensure that a humane system of regulative and distributive justice is installed, made transparent and always evolves to deal with the challenges of globalisation and multi-culturalism.

In One Malaysia we are seeing merely systemic change; a fine-tuning of a system that is breaking down. Those who created and run the machine are also breaking down and plagued with a political pathological  condition that exacerbates the problem.

In One Malaysia, what we need is a truly revolutionary process of transformation that will bring back the dignity of the poor and the dispossessed of all ethnic groups, punish the robber barons, bring back freedom of inquiry in all our educational and cultural institutions, create a God-fearing law enforcement system.

Most importantly, it must create a cadre of leaders that will explore what humane capitalism means rather than sloganise on human capitalism that create a newer form of indentured servitude.

In short we need to explore the primacy of ‘spiritual capitalism’ rather than continue to become capitalists evolving into merely spirits in a material world.

Let us make our slogans meaningful. Like a living holy scripture.

While the opinion in the article is mine,
the comments are yours;
present them rationally and ethically.