It is not right for Mahathir presume to know what it is like to be an Indian

Mahathir was born in 1925. Before our constitution came into force, he would have had to spend at least the first 32 years of his life, being a non-Malay. 

Nehru Sathiamoorthy

Dr Mahathir is a constitutional Malay. What this means is that his identity as a Malay does not come from his ancestors through his parents, but by the power of the constitution.

Mahathir’s identity at birth would have followed the identity of his father, who was a non-Malay. Mahathir probably only became Malay after the year 1957, when our constitution came into force, and allowed him to claim the Malay identity, by virtue of article 160, which defines a Malay as someone who is “Muslim by religion, habitually speaks the Malay language and adheres to customs of the Malays.”

Mahathir was born in 1925. Before our constitution came into force, he would have had to spend at least the first 32 years of his life, being a non-Malay.

Mahathir’s recent statement that “Indians are disloyal to Malaysia” also likely stems from his personal experience of being an Indian in the past. If you notice, Mahathir did not say how he knows that Indians are disloyal to Malaysia. He did not cite any study or research to come to the conclusion. That Mahathir is in possession of knowledge without external data is a clear indication that his knowledge is derived from inner experience. In other words, Mahathir is claiming that knows that Indians are not loyal to Malaysia, simply because when he was an Indian in the past, he was not loyal to Malaysia.  In his point of view, he probably believes that he only developed loyalty towards Malaysia, after he converted and became a Malay.

Now there are two reasons why a person will discard their birth identity and embrace a new one at a later age. The first is that they were harmed or face the potential of being harmed because of their old identity and second is because they are able to obtain more benefits with a new identity.

Mahathir obviously changed his identity for the second reason, because the first is self-evidently untrue.

Race wise, Mahathir comes from a mixed Indian background, and appearance wise, he looks more Malay than Indian. I too come from a mixed Indian background and appearance wise and I also look more Malay than Indian, so I can with full confidence say that if are Indian who look like a Malay, not only will you not face any discrimination, ostracization or persecution from the Indian community, you are likely to be treated better than an Indian who looks like an Indian.

Considering this, Mahathir almost certainly chose to discard his old identity as an Indian and transform himself into a Malay because he saw more benefits in being a Malay, not because he was harmed by being an Indian.

Personally, I don’t think there is anything wrong with Mahathir converting into a Malay.

I believe that every human being has an inalienable right to pursue worth, meaning and purpose in their lives, and to achieve this, sometimes we have to change our identity.  If Mahathir believes that it is by being Malay that he will be able to secure his destiny in life, I think it is his duty and obligation to honour his destiny.

I believe that Mahathir is a person who is a born leader. Without converting into becoming a Malay, I doubt he would have been able to fulfil his destiny of being the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

I don’t know what sort of Indian community we had in the 50s or 60s, but I would like to believe that when Mahathir decided to become a Malay, none of us begrudged him, desired to harm him or asked him to pay back what he owed us, when he decided to discard our shared identity.

While I do believe it to be true that he might not have been able to fulfil his destiny of being the Prime Minister of Malaysia for as long as he identified with us, I also believe that while he was one of us, we had not only not harmed him, we had equipped him with the skills and abilities that allowed him to become the Prime Minister of Malaysia later on.

There were many great Malay leaders during Mahathir’s time, but the fact that he managed to defeat them all of them and rise to become the paramount leader of the Malays for decades, is to a degree, the result of the skills and training that he had received during his time as an Indian.

For all that we had done for him, we are not even asking Mahathir to be grateful to us or do us good. Instead, we are just asking him to not be ungrateful to us and do us harm.

Since he has chosen to forget us, why not forget us completely. Why assume that he knows what it is like to be us when he is no longer one of us?

Just because he was disloyal to Malaysia when he was an Indian, he shouldn’t assume that all Indians are disloyal to Malaysia. Just because he had to become a  Malay to become loyal to Malaysia, he shouldn’t presume that all Indians have to become Malay before we can be loyal to Malaysia.

At this late stage in his life, it might be time for him to ask himself as to the real reason why he decided to discard his birth identity all those years ago ? Was it really because we, the people who shared his old identity, were such a miserable lot, that we can’t even be loyal to our own country,  or is it because he needed to do what he needed to do to become the top leader of the country?

If he answers the question truthfully, maybe he will finally realise that we are not as bad as he thinks, he is  more flawed than he assumes  and it is not fair for him to paint us in such a bad light, just to make himself feel good about himself.