Mahathir gives despicable twist to meaning of loyalty

The former prime minister’s recent narrow and bigoted views reduce him to a pathetic, desperate politician.

(FMT) – Loyalty is defined in all dictionaries as giving or showing firm and constant support or allegiance to a person or institution. The synonyms for the word include dutiful, trustworthy, steadfast, faithful and committed.

In general terms, it is faithfulness to a nation, cause and country. It can be of an individual to the country of birth, or one’s declared home nation by naturalisation. It involves patriotism and respecting the nation’s constitution and laws.

In the context of the contributions of citizens, those words are simply about Malaysians being law-abiding citizens who pay their taxes, respect the laws of the nation, respect the rights of others and are not seditious, among others. And who are thankful for the many good things the country has provided.

That is also true of most forebears of non-Malay Malaysians, stretching as far back as three or four generations.

But many are forced to repeat the obvious, given that the likes of Mahathir constantly question the loyalty and position of non-Malays.

This coterie of bigoted leaders must time and again be reminded that it is the blood, sweat and tears of all Malaysians that made the country what it is today.

Otherwise, the younger generation of Malays will be misled to believe that the non-Malay communities came here to grab their opportunities and rights.

The Mahathir interview

Mahathir’s latest disparaging remarks were made in a recent interview with Thanthi TV, a Tamil news channel based in Chennai, India. He said Indians in Malaysia must remember that they are Malaysians more than they are immigrants from other countries.

He reportedly claimed that Malaysian Indians want to identify themselves with their country of origin. However, they should instead fully assimilate and “become Malay”, he said. While Malaysian Indians had certain rights, “they cannot claim that this country belongs (to them)”.

For those who missed it, his body language can be interpreted in so many ways. He said it without batting an eyelid, which can be interpreted to mean he has been holding Malaysian Indians in contempt all along.

Mahathir’s racist rant 66 years after Malaya’s independence as a multi-racial nation was made without showing any feeling. He appeared very detached when uttering these words. Almost clinical, from someone trained as a doctor.

When asked about his Indian origins, Mahathir said he’s not a migrant because he has fully accepted that the country belonged to the Malays and has accepted Malay as his language and culture. He said he knows nothing about his Indian culture and language and as such, he is 100% Malay.

Everyone knows Mahathir was born in Kedah and was not an immigrant who gave up his religion or culture. It was his Indian Muslim grandfather who migrated to Malaya and married a Malay woman.

Pushing for assimilation

I am not sure if he is suggesting that all non-Muslims should become Muslims and, thus Malays after a generation, as a condition to show their loyalty to the nation.

But if he is, he should know better that this is completely illogical and exposes his hidden bigotry.

Mahathir has never wavered from his idea of assimilation for non-Malays, inherent in Barisan Nasional’s one-language policy that the DAP fought steadfastly against from the 1970s to the 1990s. The DAP campaigned for integration, instead of assimilation.

Mahathir changed his tune after the 1990 general election revealed that non-Malays largely rejected BN. To win them back, he adopted Vision 2020, which proposed the creation of Bangsa Malaysia. Now I doubt he really believed in this. Secretly, he still preferred assimilation, not integration.

Those who served

Loyalty should be measured by one being an exemplary citizen who abhors corruption and abuse of power, and who has contributed to the nation.

There are tens of thousands of non-Malays who have served and are still members of the armed forces and police, swearing to defend all Malaysians irrespective of race.

More would have taken this career route if the unwritten quota system, especially for promotions to senior positions in these services, did not exist. Mahathir has also forgotten the loyal non-Malay teachers and lecturers who diligently educated him and millions of Malays too.

As a journalist, I have covered his overseas trips as prime minister, where his entourage of security personnel and doctors included Indians and Chinese. They guarded his life, yet he continues to judge the loyalty of their communities based on their constitutional right to practise their culture, speak their mother tongue and attend vernacular schools.

Granted, there are some Malaysians who are not proficient in the national language, but surely one cannot judge their loyalty using this criterion.

Where are the other voices?

Many individuals and groups have hit out at Mahathir for his unguarded comments, made with so much callousness. It was cruel to the huge number of non-Malay citizens who had and still are contributing to the nation in so many ways.

But the sad part is that these are mainly non-Malay voices, making it look like a racial battle. It would be a pleasant change to see some prominent Malay leaders standing up and telling the good doctor that his diagnosis is totally off the mark.

Someone said we should all ignore his utterly nonsensical rants. However, he spoke to a Tamil Nadu TV station which has a huge reach there. The population of the Indian state is 72 million, more than twice that of Malaysia. One can just imagine the reach.

All Malaysians need a pat on the back for the country having made progress, despite the pressures posed by multiculturalism and the additional and constant pressures about race and religion applied by politicians.

It’s time for Mahathir to stop his kind of talk, for the good of the nation.