Time to get rid of the nons

Malaysia does not belong to us whether we are Malay or other Malaysians. Rather, we belong to Malaysia and we are her citizens.

Charles CJ Chow, FMT

A typical patriarchic family consists of males and non-males. Functions are distributed according to the two sexes. The non-males are responsible for bearing children and raising them. They also must do household chores such as cooking and cleaning. Males are in charge of more important things such as politics.

You get the drift? Ignore the bigotry in the passage above and focus on the terminology.

Should women be referred to as non-males?

If not, why should some Malaysians be referred to as “non-Malays”?

The term is offensively binary. It implies that there are only two kinds of people in Malaysia – “Malays” and “non-Malays”.

The prefix “non” negates and cancels. The term “non-Malay” is divisive. It is segregationist. It is dehumanising. It is disrespectful.

Would the Malays in Sarawak like to be known as “non-Iban”? Would the Malays in Peninsula Malaysia like to be known as “non-Aborigines”?

Surely, the practice goes against the concept of unity. Continued use of the term “non-Malay” will widen the schism between our communities. Why would we want it to be used to describe one community versus another? It is nonsensical to do so.

If there is any irresistible urge to differentiate the Malays from those citizens who are not Malay, let us henceforth, use the phrase “other Malaysians” instead of “non-Malay”.

After all, the “other Malaysians” are not insignificant. They comprise the communities of Chinese, Indian, Kadazan, Iban, Kelabit, Melanau, Orang Asli (Semang, Negrito, Mah Meri, Senoi et al), Bukitan, Bisayah, Dusun, Sea Dayak, Land Dayak, Kadayan, Kayan, Kenyah, Sabup, Sipeng, Kajang, Sekapan, Kejaman, Lahanan, Punan, Tanjong, Kanowit, Lugat, Lisum, Murut, Penan, Sian, Tagal, Tabyn, Ukit, Thais, Punjabi, Eurasian, and so many other ethnicities who are Malaysian citizens.

It may have been convenient for politicians and lazy commentators to use this loose classification but it is time we put a stop to this apartheid practice.

The Madani government, as champions of unity, should lead this effort loudly. The careless use of the term “non-Malay” would entrench disunity. Getting rid of it would be a step to begin stitching the tear in the fabric of our society.

The inclusive society that we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the divisive and intolerant culture that has become more noticeable recently. Let us fight this malaise before the rot sets in even more.

There is a nonagenarian who in his dotage knows no better than to fan the fires of racism and divisiveness. These fires must be quickly put out before they consume the limited peace and harmony that we as a nation have fought for these 66 years.

It is inexplicable that the Madani government seems to give him free rein to spew his racist rants that can only lead to disharmony and hatred while clamping down hard on rainbow-coloured watches that promote messages of peace and love.

Raiding bookstores and failing to understand the importance of secularity in nation-building, huffing and puffing sweet nothings to sugar-coat the tepid defence of meritocracy and needs-based affirmative action – these are also beyond understanding.

Our leaders seem to be reaching for applause more than efficacy. As a blogger has aptly put, they seem to be “hunting with the hounds and running with the hares”. Lately, they appear to be blowing the horns as well.

The question I would like to ask PMX is: do you want to be effective or popular? Sometimes, you cannot have it both ways.

Of course, we do not expect PMX to be everywhere and do everything all at once. But after about ten months in the driver’s seat, we expect some semblance of the Reformasi movement he once shepherded.

Draconian laws still need to be repealed as touted in earlier Pakatan Harapan campaigns; laws such as the Sedition Act and SOSMA, the Printing Presses and Publications Act, some sections of the Communications and Multimedia Act, to name just a few. Separation of the prosecutorial and legal-advisor functions of the Attorney General is long overdue.

But so far, nothing has been done there, the excuse being that it is not the right time to do so. Why is it that it is never the right time when you are in government than when you are not?

Sometimes it seems that our ex-reformists have, in practice, shown disdain for the very interests they claim to protect.

Sure, humming the anti-corruption mantra chalks up mileage for PMX on the road of good governance. But that tune falls on deaf ears in the face of puzzling discontinuation of criminal proceedings against politicians.

We understand that it can’t be easy for him being in that Catch-22 situation. We see now why he does not wear a neck-tie; there can’t be much room left with the albatross around his neck.

Fixing the economy is of course paramount and much needs to be done. But economic health is a tide that ebbs and flows and is also dependent on international winds and currents. You navigate that as it comes and goes. Not so, with race relations. They are the bedrock upon which our nation is erected. We can and must fix them whenever they deteriorate. We must make them our priority.

One such threat to good race relations is this silly notion that our country belongs to an ethnic group. “It is our land,” they chant and all other Malaysians have been permitted by them to stay in Malaysia.

Nothing can be more illogical than that notion. The country does not belong to anybody. It cannot belong to anyone. Nobody can own a country.

When you own a house, ownership entitles you to deal with the house any way you please. You can sell it, rent it or mortgage it. You can give it away.

You cannot do the same with a country. No citizen can sell, rent, mortgage or give away his country.

Malaysia does not belong to us whether we are Malay or other Malaysians. Rather, we belong to Malaysia. We are her citizens. She can deal with us any way she pleases, subject to the rule of law.

This land we live in is older than the country that lies in it. Thousands of years before we became an independent country, people of different races, cultures and religions lived on this land. Early settlers came from all over the world including Indonesia, China, India, Thailand, the Khmer Empire, Europe. We are the descendants of those people.

The Malayan Peninsula was ruled by the Portuguese for 130 years, by the Dutch for 183 years, the British for 129 years. James Brook and his family ruled Sarawak for about 100 years. To whom did these lands belong during all these centuries?

It is pointless to claim ownership of the land on the basis of who came first because we will never be able to prove that provenance conclusively. Such a claim only begets bigotry.

The truth is, we have always been multi-racial and multicultural for thousands of years. That is our DNA.

And so, as a multi-racial nation, we must be true to our heritage. We must look at each other in a non-binary way.

Come my friends, let us all try. It is still not too late to build a better nation.