The political situation in Malaysia under the BN government is like an oil spill and the racial politics is the match the sparks the fire to the oil spil and it burns with no control. It burns and contaminates the air, water and earth untill all living forms drown from its toxic fumes.
Former Prime Minister, Tun Mahathir himself acknowledged that Malaysians have racial tendencies. According to Mahathir, those who accuse him of being racist are in fact racist themselves.
Post the bloody riots of 1969, the Malaysian government under the administration of Mahathir had two choices. It was to either continue the divide and conquer policy of the British or unite Malaysian under one agreement: to develop Malaysia together. Yet, Mahathir chose a road that would lead Malaysia into a road of full of twists and turns and a society separated from each other.
The racial politics such as the cowhead incident and call for the death of Pulau Pinang’s Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng have futher separated the ravine between races in Malaysia. The New Economic Policy (NEP) was launched to close that gap amongst the three main ethnic groups in Malaysia; which are the Chinese, Malays and the Indians as well as pulling Malaysians out of the vicious poverty cycle. However, what was achieved by the NEP is the start to the critical separation gap between the races in Malaysia.
As a former Prime Minister that still has major influences over the Malay community, Mahathir utilizes a lot of racial issues to ignite dissatisfaction between the three main ethnic groups in Malaysia. One of the racial issues raised by Dr Mahathir is accusing PAKATAN of using racial politics for their own interests.
So is the statement by him that calls on Malaysians to surrender themselves to accept that Malaysia is a more racist country now than it was back in the day. And the last the last example of the racial issue raised by Mahathir is the statement that some Malays are ever ready to gamble away anything just to gain power and divide the Malays till it makes the Malays weak.
Until today, the racial politics by Mahathir is being continued by the members of UMNO, as can be seen by the statement of the Deputy Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin who accused DAP of being a racist and chauvinistic political party for claiming that the public sector is ruined for being monopolized by the Malays. This follows the statement by the DAP Deputy President, Ariffin SM Omar that claimed the issue of corruption will be effectively fought if the public sector is not monopolized by a single ethnic group.
Malaysians will always be reminded of the bloody tragedy of 1969. Shahrizat stated the 1969 tragedy will most probably re-occur if Umno becomes weak and fails to overcome the challenges faced. The Deputy Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin raised the 1969 tragedy to say that Malaysians live in peace and wish these peaceful times to continue. Muhyiddin Yassin also said that the opposition has decided to raise dissatisfaction for Malaysians to hate and want to topple the BN government. Najib on the other hand, ordered the controversial film, Tanda Putera to be screened to Felda settlers. Muhyiddin also concurred that the showing of Tanda Putera is appropriate for selected private screenings and not for open screenings.
This is although in 2009, Malaysia with other 141 countries signed the Durban Declaration in which the main objective of the declaration was to put an end to racial tendencies, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance. Yet, what is occurring is the direct opposite. Individuals such as Ambiga Sreenevasan have become victims of racial politics by being openly mocked, her personal life invaded and threatened just because she called for a just, free and fair election. Ambiga was also threatened by Member of Parliament (MP) of Sri Gading, Datuk Mohammad Aziz to be hanged till she died, as according to the Sri Gading MP, Ambiga wanted to topple the government.
The BN government used the slogan of “Malay Supremacy” and religion to fish for votes. Former Prime Minister, Abdullah Badawi used the concept of Isam Hadhari to fish for non-Muslim vote to convince the non-Bumiputeras that the Bumiputeras and the Islam is moderate and non extremist. On the other hand, Najib used the slogan “1Malaysia” as an effort to convince the non-Bumiputeras that they are not forgotten in developing the nation. In the Malay language media, PAS is always pictured as a slave to DAP. Meanwhile, DAP is pictured as an anti-Malay party. Najib on the other hand described the support to the DAP will be the cause of Islam being oppressed and the votes to PAS will lead to discord.
To list every single statement made by the BN government that is racist will take up more words and paper than what can be written in this writing. The change from a racial political arena is not an easy feat. Even though the Americans have been independent for more than 200 years, it can be seen that the divide between the races particularly post President Obama elected as President shows the worst in American racism. Barack Obama has been accused a Kenyan, an Indonesian, an African Tribal chief, a foreign Muslim, in every sense a man not worthy of being an American President simply because he is not white. This inadvertently triggered the hidden racial undercurrent of America.
UMNO always picture themselves as the only political party that bring forth any change in this country. But the two strategies applied by the BN government of fear tactics and the mentality of being attacked is no longer effective post 2008. These two strategies have been used by the Bush administration in 2001 to launch the war on Iraq against Saddam and the so called “Weapons of Mass Destruction”. However, as history shown, the use of these two strategies will usually backfire on its master.
Reform and change coveted by Najib are no longer the reform and change wanted by Malaysians. Instead, post 2008, Malaysians see the drive for reform and change through ideas and policies based on justice, equality and transparency. Reform and change that is coveted by Malaysians is the reduction on the emphasis on race and religious extremism and place that focus on merit and effort.
Consequences of Political Games
In America, the choice of Americans to elect an African-American President has brought forth allegations of him neither being a true President nor a true American. And just as in America, race is about power and it is through power that resources are distributed. The use of race is fades out when it is no longer use as fuel to burn the fuel of racism but if used in a certain context, such as the “War on Terror”, it can be used as leverage for revenge.
In South Africa, post apartheid policy, the South Africans whom were oppressed during that period chose to not act on revenge against the former apartheid government. Their decision was seen as a miracle. However, in recent years, South Africa seems to be falling back into its racial tendencies. This follows the South African political party, African National Congress (ANC) just as in the BN government chose to blame everyone else and defend the acts of the party members without any regards to limitations.
If the BN government wishes to continue the police of separation race and religion, hence, Malaysia will fall into the footsteps of South Africa. The South Africa Airline, or SAA, had a problem with the ratio of equal race of aircraft carrier pilots. 85 percent of pilots are white and only 15 percent of pilots are black or other minorities. 19 years after independence, South Africa is still reeling from issues of race, representation and equality. However, in 56 years of Independence, BN in Malaysia is guilty of practicing institutionalized racism.
According to statistics, the income of black South Africans is still lower than the income of white South Africans. ANC just as the BN government is the majority political party and holds the administrative power in South Africa, they too have failed to forward any solutions to the high divide of income between the races in that country. This is clearer in post independence of South Africa where the whites earn manifold while the blacks are still stuck in poverty.
Long term racial politics equate to negative side effects to not only the social aspects, but also the political arena. It brings forth the negative side affects to the economy, particularly the local economy. Until 2011, one third of the one million Malaysians graduates have migrated to overseas in which 88 percent of Malaysians in Singapore are Chinese. Just as the main reason for migration given by migrated Malaysians is the absence of social justice.
Talentcorp was given the mandate to bring home Malaysians from overseas is clear sign of rhetoric’s by Najib’s administration. It is chaired by a Bumiputera and the members of its Board of Trustees are only Bumiputeras. For a body that was given a mandate to bring home Malaysia from oversees that are mainly Chinese, Talentcorp under Najib’s administration is the most significant rhetoric of racial politics in his administration.
The lesson to be taken by the racial politics of Najib’s administration is when the BN government implements policies that are supposedly intended to fix problems of racial politics through invasive policies such as NEP and Talentcorp, it actually encourages racism and not end it. Meanwhile, racism in developed nations such as United States of America displays the failure of the American government to medicate the side effects of racism to the future generation and the children of their children’s future. In the Malaysian context, the BN government has been given a mandate for more than 50 years and the problem of racism has instead spread pervasively everywhere branch of Malaysian society.
Similarly is the political situation in South Africa in which the political party of the Democratic Alliance consists of whites and those with mixed backgrounds and the biggest South African political party consists mainly of blacks South Africans. Just as the political parties in South Africa are based in race, so is the Malaysian political landscape. Old political parties such as the MIC, MCA and UMNO consist of Indians, Chinese and Malays, respectively. The political parties of DAP; PAS and PKR meanwhile, took the decision to expand the membership of their parties to all Malaysians, notwithstanding race and religion.
The race sentiments repetitively played by UMNO in which in 2009, the Minister of Home Affairs, Hishammuddin Hussein defended the cow head demonstrators. And politicians such as Zulkifli Noordin are given the free reign to spew racist statements run parallel to the South African politician that sang “Shoot the Boer”, an anti-white song from the apartheid years.
The Legacy of Dato Onn Jaafar
The yearning to end racial politics is not something new. In 1949, Dato Onn Jaafar suggested this question to the Malays, “It is absolutely vital for the Malays to seek closer ties with others in this country. It is time that we took a wider view than the view of a village. I ask you, which will you choose? Peace or chaos, friendship or hostility?
Then, in June 1951, Dato Onn Jaafar suggested the UMNO membership to be expanded to non Malaysia and be given a new name, “United Malayan National Organisation” to mirror this change. His suggestion was shot down and Dato Onn Jaafar finally could not agree with the racial politics practised by UMNO and chose to leave the party.
Dato Onn Jaafar was a visionary leader. He attempted to encourage the participation of all Malaysians and not just a small group of Malaysians into the development of the country. However, his vision was bulldozed and his dream, denied.
Najib tried the best that he could to be like Dato Onn Jaafar. Various ‘transformations’ were launched. Yet, he could never come close to what Dato Onn Jaafar was as the transformation that was launched by Najib is not a wholesome transformation. The only pride gained from Najib’s transformation is the widely paraded 1Malaysia concept that instead of bridging the divide, it actually expanded the divide between Malaysians.
The call to end the era of racial politics have reverberated throughout the country since the time of Dato Onn Jaafar, however, under the BN administration, this call under the 1Malaysia slogan was reduced to a rhetoric of Najib’s. The practice of racial politics has not only increased the divide between the races in this country, it also became the source of the plummeting quality of education in Malaysia. For example, the quality of education at the University of Malaya has dropped following the entry quotas based on race and political interference in the university management.
Bersih rally gave the impression that the gap between the races may be brought closer if there is a common interest; of free and fair elections. At the other end of the spectrum, post-implementation 1Malaysia slogan, BN chief Teng Chang Yeow acknowledge racial politics have further increased the racial gap in Malaysia.
Malaysia is at a crossroad. Similarly Malaysia is a country with conflicting identity. That is not to forget the clash of the elite world and the general public. The 1Malaysia slogan in its irony that was supposed to bridge the different ethnics in Malaysia, was instead manipulated by the BN government to widen the divide between the races for their own political and power interests. So are the BN government leadership that vociferates the 1Malaysia slogan but introduces themselves according to race first and nationality second.
The NEP legacy is not that it succeeded to reduce the poverty rate and in a way raised the Malaysian economy. However, its’ true legacy is that NEP succeeded to increase the divide between races just as it increased the gap between the rich and the poor. It created a landscape of segregation and separation between class, religion and race.
The unity and transformation under the 1Malaysia slogan is a form of rhetoric that actually hides the ulterior motives. It protects the political interests and the power behind the soul of the people. While the people struggle with the identity forced upon by the BN government under the 1Malaysia slogan with the people’s own identity, racial politics have been forced onto the people to ensure the survival of a political party.
It now lies in the people to end this dirty political game. Racial politics is the fire that destroys everything in its path. Just as water extinguishes fire, unity of the people without any political slogans, with good intent can extinguish the fire of racism. Malaysians have shown their ability to unite without the rhetorical slogan of 1Malaysia.
If Najib is honest in his efforts as a Prime Minister that would also potentially become a former Prime Minister, hence, he should take this opportunity to put a stop to the dirty political games of UMNO that was committed through racial politics. However, that is only a dream that can never happen considering Najib’s past record as Malaysia’s Prime Minister.