Ku Li: BN power-sharing model broken, needs new one

(The Malaysian Insider) – The ruling Barisan Nasional’s racial power-sharing model is broken with the races now polarised, veteran Umno politician Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah charged today, adding it needs to begin anew with “our common humanity”.

The Gua Musang MP also said race was just a constructed category and called for new ways of mediating conflicts among the races in the country, despite the recent shrill cries of Malay supremacy among his fellow Umno colleagues and Umno-held media.

“The racial power-sharing model now practised by Barisan is broken. It takes more honesty than we are used to in public life to observe that this is not a temporary but a terminal crisis. An old order is ending,” Tengku Razaleigh told the Kelab Umno Australia at the Melbourne University.

He noted the major races remained polarised despite the country’s economic growth and progress towards multiracial politics although the government and opposition are still largely mobilised along racial lines.

“It is not yet time to herald a new dawn. Instead, we are in a transition full of perils and possibilities,” the Kelantan prince said in a copy of the speech sent to The Malaysian Insider.

He told his audience Barisan Nasional was put together to ensure that every community had a place at the table but it was not a permanent solution and the coalition has to wake up to the fact that it no longer worked.

“It was designed as an interim work-around, an early stage on the way to ‘a more perfect union’ and not as the desired end-state. Over the years, however, we have put up barricades around our system as if it were a fore-ordained and permanent ideal.

“In doing so, we have turned a half-way house into our destination, as if we must forever remain a racially divided and racially governed society,” said the politician popularly known as Ku Li.

He said the ideal should be a free and united society in which individuals can express their ethnic and religious identities without being imprisoned in them, adding “We must aim for a society in which public reasoning and not backroom dealing determines our collective decisions.”

Tengku Razaleigh, who lost out again for a shot at the Umno presidency last year, said the power-sharing model in Malaysia was an elite style of government justified by the virtue and competence of natural leaders of the communities.

“It does not work when political parties are led by the ignorant and the corrupt who have no standing in the communities they claim to represent,” he said bluntly, saying the country now has top-down rule and power had become increasingly unaccountable with Umno beholden to the executive.

“Our decades under highly-centralised government undermined our power-sharing formula, just as it undermined key institutions such as the judiciary, the police and the rule of law.

“Our major institutions have survived in appearance while their substance has eroded. Seen in this light, the election results of March 8, which saw the Barisan Nasional handed its worst defeat since 1969, was just the beginning of the collapse of a structure which has long been hollowed out,” Ku Li said.

He told the Kelab Umno Australia that they are generation of transition and would play a key role in determining the country’s outcome.

“We need a new beginning to racial relations in Malaysia, and you must pioneer that beginning. We need to re-design race relations in Malaysia, and you must be the architects and builders of that design,” he told his audience.

He advised them to take advantage of the perspective of distance in overseas education to reformulate questions and come out with answers for the nation.

“Begin with our common humanity. Respect for our common humanity must override all lesser affiliations, including race,” he said, noting one of Islam’s most powerful contributions to human civilisation has been its insistence on the equality of all human beings.

“Islam tolerates no notions of racial superiority or inferiority. All human beings are equal before God. That same principle of equality is absolutely fundamental to democracy, and democracy is a foundational principle of our Constitution.

The veteran politician said democracy is part of the nation’s make-up and although the citizens can gravitate to racial groupings, it should not overshadow the allegiance to the constitution and the claims of equal dignity.