Uthaya’s 53 new Indian majority seats: A racist in the mould of Dr M?

Kenny Gan, Hornbill Unleashed

There is no doubt that race is still an important component of politics in Malaysia to this day. The mindset and culture created by more than half a century of racial politics will take time to be erased. However the first step has been taken with formation of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition after the 2008 general election. The essence of the PR coalition is to move away from sectarian politics to real issues instead of being encumbered with race at every turn. Racial politics saps the nation’s potential and is deleterious to a harmonious multiracial society but it serves Umno’s divide and rule policy well.

Hence it comes as a repugnant backward step that the Human Rights Party headed by P Uthayakumar saw fit to propose to the Parliamentary Select Committee on electoral reform for at least 15 new Indian majority parliament seats and 38 state seats to be created. He wants the seats to be “at least 70% Indian majority”. How the Election Commission is supposed to gerrymander the seats to his requirement which is an affront to democracy is not mentioned. Perhaps this “one stroke of a pen” politician who has declared that 90% of Indian problems can be solved by giving land to Tamil schools can enlighten us.

But should we be surprised at HRP’s racial demands when this party has unabashedly looked at everything through a racial lens? Actually the name “Human Rights Party” is a misnomer and it should be more appropriately renamed “Hindu Rights Party” as HRP was set up solely to champion only one ethnic community and specifically Tamil Hindus within that community.

Pouring Fuel on Fire

No, we are not surprised but we are only surprised that HRP and its leader still fail to see the futility of their racial approach. There is no doubt that Malaysia has one of the most unfair racial policies in the world but trying to fight racism with racism is like pouring fuel on a fire you are trying to put out. You cannot fight Umno’s racism with more of the same because it only deepens the schism between ethnic groups and sets the stage for even more racial bargaining. If one racial group can demand so can other racial groups. Extremist demands from Indians only give credibility to Perkasa’s demands for Malays and embolden them to make more demands. Then Chinese will get into the act and soon Malaysia will be partitioned into racial ghettos.

It is clear that the system of racial politics where resources and opportunities are distributed by race does not work. 54 years of raced based parties championing the rights of its own ethnic group has resulted in a predictable outcome – the dominant race gets the most and the weakest race gets the least. Furthermore, the rights of the dominant race continue to be enlarged at the expense of the others. Why then does Uthayakumar want to propagate a system which is guaranteed to marginalize Indians? Can HRP match Perkasa in making and obtaining racial demands? Or are Indians only entitled to make racial demands while others must keep quiet?

It has been said that 70% of Indians are poor but Indians are not a classless society. There are also rich Indians like Ananda Krishnan and Tony Fernandez and middle class Indians. As the community has stratified into classes trying to solve the Indian problem with race based affirmative action will just result in the same abuse seen with Bumiputra affirmative action. Help will not reach those who need it most but will be hijacked by those who are strong enough to grab them. Any other outcome is just idealistic.

The Myth of Racial Representation

The other fallacy which must be addressed is that only Indians and help Indians. Uthayakumar’s demand for Indian elected representatives goes to the core of his penchant for this myth. If this is true then Indians should just support MIC and Chinese have no reason to turn away from MCA. Why create another coalition of race based parties which will only propagate the same system? Old wine in new bottle is not going to taste any different.

We should not be concerned about the race of our elected representatives but focus on electing whoever can serve best. This means moving away from the race based mentality of having someone of the same race to represent you. An elected representative should take care of everybody in his or her constituency irrespective of race. Selection based on race only gives an opportunity for unsavoury characters to come in at the expense of better quality candidates. There is absolutely no reason to suppose that an Indian will take care of the Indian community better than a dedicated and selfless representative from another race.

Of course BN is ingenious at playing this race game. Chinese are told that if they support MCA they will have no representation in government. Even MCA President Chua Soi Lek has issued a transparent threat that MCA will not accept any government posts if the party garners worse results than the last general election. To the Chinese such threats roll off like pouring water on a keladi leaf. What is the point of representation which is powerless and voiceless when it comes to community rights and only behaves like apologists for Umno? Indians should emulate Chinese in this respect and reject the myth of racial representation.