Prof Dr Ramasamy: Dr Mahathir was the most racist and divisive PM

By Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy, KTemoc Konsiders

All this while, when we talk of national unity in the country, we tend to talk of integration and not assimilation.

Integration of ethnic groups is about accepting others on the basis of certain civic considerations rather than the outright giving up of their respective identities.

Assimilation is about giving up particular identities to accept the identity of a major ethnic group.

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad bemoans the fact that we in Malaysia do not have assimilation but the maintenance of separate distinct identities.

This is the reason why his party Pejuang is Malay-based in order to compete with other Malay parties such as Umno and PAS.

Doing otherwise will mean disaster to the future of his new party Pejuang, a party that was formed recently after Dr Mahathir was ditched from Bersatu.

The seeds of separate ethnic and religious identities were sown during the British colonial era and were merely continued in the post-colonial era.

The compartmentalisation of the different ethnic groups in the country was related to the migration of the non-Malays, Chinese and Indians.

By separating the two communities, from the Malays, the British wanted to give an impression that they were the protectors of the latter.

Special attention were given to their special institutions such as the royalty, language and religion and others.

Separate identities

In a sense, this divide and rule policy suited the British colonial interest for political stability and for the extraction of economic surplus.

The divisions of races was also challenged by the Communist Party and social and political forces based on ideology rather than race or religion.

Umno founder Datuk Onn Jaafar even suggested to open up Umno to other races but it was vehemently opposed resulting in his resignation.

Thus, it was not that there were no other alternatives to the ethnic one, but these were repressed both in the colonial and post-colonial periods.

The political model that got the blessing of the British was the coming together of an ethnic alliance of Umno, the MCA and MIC.

It was this alliance that sealed the fate of other political experiments that would have gone beyond ethnicity.

The successive leaders of Umno who became Prime Ministers of the country found comfort in the inter-ethnic of consociational model of political representation.

It was a model that was based on the preponderant might model of Umno’s political hegemony in return for some concessions to the non-Malays.

Dr Mahathir had a chance to reverse this method of governance, but since the ethnic model with Umno dominance was useful to him, he continued with this racial model as it allowed for unlimited extraction of economic surplus for the Malay elite and at the same time satisfying the non-Malay elite.

The ethnic model was reinforced with the coming of other prime ministers as the stakes were too high to abandon this model of governance.

It is not that the people were not willing to give up their separate identities as bemoaned by Dr Mahathir.

They were conditioned over the last few decades that the ethnic model was the only alternate.

Now Malaysians are paying the heavy and costly price of the politics of the racial model of governance.

Dr Mahathir might blame the people for wanting to maintain separate identities that stand in the way of assimilation.

Total domination

Even if we don’t have the minimal version of national integration, what is the point of talking about an assimilation?

It serves no purpose to blame Malaysians wanting to maintain separate identities as these were thrust upon in a political environment that had antecedents in the past history.

It is not that people don’t want to adhere to certain common civic principles that might cut across ethnic and religious divide.

Even that is not possible in a society that is highly divisive.

Who brought and stamped the divisions on the people? It is certainly due to leaders like Dr Mahathir and others. Of all the past prime ministers of the country, Dr Mahathir was the most racist and divisive leader.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s remarks on how the Malays were forced to accept orang asing (foreigners) during British rule in exchange for independence is downright insulting and unbecoming of a prime minister who represents all Malaysians, said DAP lawmaker Ramkarpal Singh.

Ramkarpal was referring to the prime minister’s speech at the Malay Dignity Congress, where Mahathir said:

“… Orang asing berasa selesa dengan negara kita dan mereka ingin tinggal di sini. Nak tak nak pun, kita terpaksa terima, kalau tidak kita tidak akan mencapai kemerdekaan.”

(Translation of above: The foreigners felt comfortable in this country and wanted to stay. Like it or not, we were forced to accept or we would not have achieved independence)

Mahathir’s “orang asing” or “foreigners” refer to non-Malay Malaysian citizens (to wit, Chinese and Indian Malaysians)

The strange thing about him is the fact that he forgets the past – deliberately or not – by putting the blame on the people for not wanting to assimilate.

I am not sure whether he really wants assimilation which means the total domination of Malays over the non-Malays.

But most of the time, he really doesn’t mean what he says. But the abandonment of the present model of politics might not be conducive to the Malay status quo. This is given the fact that the present divisive model ensures unimpeded extraction by the elite Malays.

Rather than expecting an assimilationist model, I think the best that the Government can do at present is to take proactive measures to mitigate the worst effects of racial and religious polarisation in the country.

I am sorry that Dr Mahathir might have been the prime minister of this country twice but it had been a political disaster.

Pejuang is just mosquito political party that is trying to project a clean image. It is just matter of time it will be relegated to our memories.