Options for Non-Malays in the Fog of Politics

What I have to say is not new. Most people know this in their hearts except that after 53 years of censorship and fear, ideas tend to get fossilized in place and cannot break out of their old confines. I hope that by going through old ideas from a new perspective, a new realization can take place. 

By batsman 

The obsessions around which life and politics revolve in Malaysia are the Malay versus Malay (1st) contest on the one hand and the Malay versus non-Malay (2nd) contest on the other. We cannot escape these obsessions however much we try. Owing to the complexity of the forces and emotions involved, could we re-look them from another angle to get a better understanding? 

Everybody knows that the 1st contest is not as acute as the 2nd. In fact some people might even describe the 2nd contest as a conflict given the fact that Malaysia has already experienced at least 2 pogroms in recent times – one directed at the Chinese and the other at the Indians. 

However the sharpness of the 2nd contest does not reduce the strategic importance of the 1st. It is only natural for a people oppressed and marginalized and suffering at least a pogrom each to feel extreme hurt and distress. This is compounded by a hopeless sense of betrayal since for 53 years the non-Malays have voted for and helped maintain UMNO in power. ADDED to this is the fact that frequent threats are made of new pogroms to come. 

It is only natural under these conditions for oppressed, marginalized and threatened people to react emotionally to provocation – purposely manufactured or otherwise. I submit such a reaction is counter-productive. 

The 1st contest is not as acute as the 2nd. This is because it is purposefully designed to be so. Malays are molly coddled and given special privileges to reduce the sharpness of the conflict. They are persuaded to support UMNO through the Ketuanan Melayu concept. However, in spite of all these, the 1st contest is of primary strategic importance for it carries the seed of social change and reform. It promises to change Malaysian society from one of dark depravity of racism, greed, corruption and sin to a new improved model where people are more ethical, fairer and there is greater justice all round. 

What then are the non-Malays to do? Their pain is sharp and intolerable. Hope is almost disappearing round the corner where queues form in foreign embassies of Malaysians with the best talent and highest education applying to migrate. I suppose this is one valid option, but there are others. 

And they do not entail non-Malays giving up their rights to defend themselves and protest against injustice. It just needs the realisation that the whole of Malaysia is not only walking a political tight-rope, it is entangled in a web of sensitive racial booby-traps weaved by UMNO over 53 years in power. 

They have to realize that because of the dangerous situation Malaysia finds itself in, they have to get involved in politics and unravel the entangled web strand by strand in a disciplined and purposeful way and not in emotional outbursts. This is a priority because 50 odd years of staying away from politics and relying on UMNO by giving it monopoly of power to govern well and to do justice to all Malaysians is a guaranteed formula for betrayal. 

However painful it feels to be marginalized and deprived of using your talents to the full or even threatened and disturbed just trying to live your life peacefully, it is a mistake to make the 2nd contest the primary one through emotional outbursts. Quite a few Malays on both sides of the political divide will resent any attempt to turn their contest into a more acute one based on the desperate cries of the non-Malays trying to force greater attention to their plight and seizing the initiative by turning aggressive when the response to address injustices is slow, confused or hesitant. 

Malay society must develop and change mainly by its own internal contradictions. It is Malays who must change and be seen to make the change. If non-Malays are seen to be trying to force this pace, it will be seen as an attempt by the non-Malays to seize power because UMNO will shout very loudly as much even if it is just the desperate cries of non-Malays to address injustices. 

So Malays of the opposition are walking a tight-rope too. This is in the nature of entangled webs. They too have to unravel the strands purposefully one by one and not rush things blindly and get even more entangled. It is not as if life exists in a vacuum and there are no obstacles and sabotage of the things one feels is the right thing to do. 

My arguments run the danger that it seems to suggest that the opposition do nothing or slow down, that non-Malays should not defend themselves against injustice and that Malays in the opposition should continue to pander to the sensitivities of the Malays. 

This is the last thing I am suggesting. Even as the booby-trapped entanglements weaved by UMNO is not something to dismiss lightly, there is a way around it. 

It is by cooperation between decent people of all races because often it is difficult to remove some booby-trapped strands especially when they are placed in awkward places you cannot reach. Under such circumstances a good friend can help remove them for you and likewise you do the same for him. This means you may have to stop struggling in panic or shouting emotionally and loudly while your friend carefully picks off the booby-traps for you. 

If the cooperation is strengthened over time and with training and skill, the booby-trapped strands of entanglement can be removed faster than UMNO can lay them. When this situation is reached, hope will shine much more brightly. 

Right now, cooperation is still awkward and hesitant. People tend to concentrate on their own problems – the non-Malays on the injustices inflicted upon them and the Malays with how to persuade their community to give up benefits and privileges to walk a more ethical road with pride, dignity and integrity and without losing too much in the bargain. 

This situation still favours UMNO because booby-traps are disarmed only by “consensus to stay of execution” i.e. submission to UMNO threats. Decent people have to put more effort into reaching out to each other and to strengthen mutual understanding and cooperation raising the level of skill in removing booby-traps in the process. 

This is why the non-Malays cannot abandon the field now and surrender political monopoly to UMNO. It would be a tragedy to continue to use the same tactics you have used for 50 odds years and which are proven to be mistaken and disastrous. 

The old paradigms are proving obsolete and becoming more rotten over time. They cannot support life under new circumstances anymore. This means people of all races suffer trying to live under a regime and institutions that no longer fit the times. In a sense it is not just the Malays who have to make sacrifices and change, the non-Malays too must make sacrifices and change for the better, unless you guys have the arrogance think you are already perfect as you are more talented and command a greater premium for your labour in foreign countries. Heeheehee.