By Commander (Rtd) S. Thayaparan | 29 June 2011
Introduction by CPI
Although this rebuttal to an open letter has been posed elsewhere, we feel it deserves wider public attention. This is because the subject matter with which the two letters deal, and the opinions expressed are representative of the divergent perspectives among the Malay and non-Malay elite regarding the rights of the various communities and their proper place in the country.
We will leave it to readers to decide on which one is the more persuasive perspective intellectually and morally.
The outing of Anas Zubedy
Commander (Rtd) S. Thayaparan, Royal Malaysian Navy, is a regular kopi-tiam kaki of mine. He graduated from the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth in 1965. His tour of duty saw him as Commanding Officer of KD Tombak, KD Gempita, KD Ganyang and Executive Officer on Training Frigate KD Hang Tuah.
Through self-study he qualified to read law at Lincoln’s Inn and was the first Malaysian Naval Officer to be called to the Malaysian Bar in 1985.
Commander Thaya was the prosecutor for the Navy in the case of the collision between K.D. RAJA JARUM and M.V. SHOUMARU, and acted as Defense Counsel in the case of the sinking off the petrol vessel K.D. SRI PERAK in the South China Sea, both making front-page news.
Since retiring from the Navy, his expertise were sought in Timor Leste supervising both Parliament and Presidential elections and as a UN Volunteer Sri Lanka. He is currently with Yayasan Salam, an NGO.
His articles often appear in the Mainstream Media. He sent me this article as a blog-post. It is a rebuttal to ANAS ZUBEDY:
1. Openly acknowledge that we were sired from a Malay polity
Without an iota of doubt, make it clear that you completely accept history that this country is sired from a Malay polity; with a history, religion and way of life that are from the Malay-Islamic tradition. Only when you make it very clear that you acknowledge this history, communication lines will begin to open.
1. Firstly, who do you mean by “we”? We as a nation? We as a culture? Who comprises this “we”? We are a diverse group of people seeking shelter in a country not our own. The only people who can legitatemely say they are “natives” are the Orang Asli and the indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak. Perhaps it is you who should acknowledge that before the arrival of Islam, “you” were Hindus. Perhaps it is “you” who should acknowledge that your culture contains aspects from both Chinese and Indian Culture.
Perhaps this should be acknowledged in our history books and taught to our young. Perhaps when you acknowledge this like many other Malays, you would be able to empathize with the rest of us who acknowledge the polyglot nature of our culture. Just ask the Baba Chinese or the Chittys of Malacca. I assure you when you acknowledge this; you will find communication much easier.
2. Appreciate that the Malays shared the land
Generally, the Malays are a gracious people. They are more inclined towards giving than taking. They showed this when they agreed to share Tanah Melayu. They see it as a sacrifice. You must learn to understand why they feel that way.
2. I appreciate that the indigenous people shared their land…….Not that they had much choice in the matter.
I think grace is shared by most people in this country. I suggest you read up on how the Malay rulers negotiated this “giving” of Malay land. I suggest you educate yourself on who helped build the infrastructure of this Malay land. I hope some day you understand the sacrifice of the Non-Malays who contributed in a very significant way during and before the coming of the British to this land you seem to think the Malays shared with us.
They agreed that from 1957 onwards the communities who came here initially to earn a living were automatically promoted from “immigrants” to co-owners of the land. They welcomed millions as fellow citizens. By doing so, the Malays agreed to become a community among communities. All they asked was to be assured of two things – that their Malay Rulers and that their religion Islam are respected.
Who has disrespected Malay rulers and denigrated Islam. Who has curtailed the powers of the Sultans? Who has made a mockery of the great religion which is Islam? Yes we are different communities living under the umbrella of certain principles , the most important of which you mentioned but the fact is, it is UMNO and UMNO alone who is responsible for the lessening of power of the Sultans and the injudicious way Islam is applied. Anyone who becomes a citizen is expected to follow the laws of the land. The non Malays have honored this. I suggest you look to UMNO who claim they represent the Malays who have usurped the powers of the Sultan and denigrated Islam.
A show of appreciation for this act of sharing will make a big difference to the Malay community. If you and the DAP set the example to appreciate that the Malays shared the land, the hearts of the Malay community will open to you. Just a simple acknowledgement, a simple thank you, would have warmed their hearts.
Why should the DAP thank the Malays? And by Malays I mean people like you. Perhaps it is people like you who should thank the non-Malays. Who pays more taxes? Money that goes into education institutions that benefit the majority of Malays. Money that goes into religious organizations that morally police the Malays. Money that goes into institutions that denigrate other races – BTN for instance. Perhaps it is people like you who should be thanking the Non Malays. We are a simple people and I am sure we would receive your appreciation with open arms.
3. Get to know the Malays
You (Guan Eng) and the DAP need to get to know the Malays and get to know Islam. Embrace both the good and bad within the Malay community. Learn to accept their idiosyncrasies, just like there are idiosyncrasies in any other culture.
3. I think Mr. Guan Eng knows the Malays pretty well. After all he was detained under the ISA for defending a Malay girl while the Malay Menteri Besar who assaulted her got away scott free. So, really it is you who need to know Mr. Guan and the rest of the DAP better.
It is you who need to understand that Mr. Guan Eng and the DAP already know the Malays. Mr. Guan Eng for instance probably got to know more about Malay culture when he was detained under the ISA with Mat Sabu his PAS comrade. I have no idea what you mean by getting to know the Malay community. As a people we understand each others community. The DAP is merely a political party and not some sort of stand in for the Chinese community.
If the DAP really wants to represent all Malaysians, regardless of race and religion, you need to understand all Malaysians. And the Malays need to know that you understand them. Fifty-four years after agreeing to become a community among communities, they are naturally concerned that those in authority are people who will not understand their needs.
Of course the DAP wants to represent all Malaysian. This is why their political principles are based on certain basic commonalities that all communities can subscribe to. Of course the Malays understand the DAP especially now that the DAP is forging closer ties with PAS. They understand better now because the blindfold is slowly but surely being lifted of their eyes.
They see that both DAP and PAS are working together for the benefit of all people and that all people of this country are equal and should be treated as such. The Malays realize that people in authority have used race for years to divide this country while enriching themselves and exploiting their gracious nature.
As a basic start, it would be good to learn and practise Malay peribahasa. Peribahasa has been a part of Malay culture for many generations and it reveals many insights into the values of the Malays. If you use it in your daily conversation, it will give you a medium to gently communicate with the hearts of the Malays. Another simple thing to cultivate is the habit of wearing traditional Malay wear, especially during official functions. Perhaps you can also organise programmes for your leaders to stay in a Malay kamping. It will be a good eye-opener for them to understand how to relate to the Malays.
I have no idea what you mean by Malay adat and peribahasa. Exactly what has this got do to with understanding Malay culture? Does Mr. Guan Eng speak Malay? Yes he does. Is the manner in which he speaks it rude? No it isn’t. Does Mr. Guan respect the Malay community? Has he allocated funds and resources to help the community? Yes he has. In short, has he run the state he leads competently?
What is wearing Malay traditional dress really mean? What is staying in a Malay kampong achieve? If people are in need regardless of race, an effective leader carries out programmes that benefit them. Your mundane suggestions make it seem as though Mr. Guan Eng is an alien, who has no clue of Malay culture when he has lived here all his life. Perhaps it is people like you who should wear the traditional dress of Non-Malays then maybe you would not feel as though non Malays don’t understand you.
If the DAP practises simple gestures like this, it is an opportunity to show that you respect and value Malay culture. It will demonstrate the DAP’s inclusiveness. A good example of inclusive culture is shown in the Peranakan community who draw from both Malay and Chinese traditions. By being inclusive, they do not lose out anything but become a richer people for it.
Practicing simple gestures like you describe is nothing but symbolic gestures meant to distract from the real problem of the community. I would rather Mr. Guan Eng concentrate on the numerous social problem that affects the Malay community and by helping remedy such problems, Malays (like you) will realize that substance is far more productive than form.
4. Say sorry
Some of the DAP’s actions in the past, rightly or wrongly, may have hurt the Malay community. For the Malays to stop seeing the DAP as an antagonist, the DAP has to acknowledge the hurt they have caused the Malays and say sorry. If you look at the practice of asking for forgiveness every Aidilfitri, you will realise how important this act is to the culture. The Malays will say sorry even if they did not do wrong. They will ask for forgiveness simply as a good gesture out of respect. They say sorry all the time. That is embeddedin the Malay culture. The Chinese may see saying sorry as “losing face” but for the Malays, saying sorry it is to give the other party “face” – an act of high culture.
4. What does the DAP need to apologize for?
Please list out the wrongdoings that the DAP has perpetuated against the Malay community. Why is the Malay community feelings hurt? What exactly has the DAP done? Please be specific, because simply asking for an unwarranted apology is the height of hubris and exactly the sense of entitlement that the policies of UMNO have created.
But seeing how Malays like you, like to say sorry, perhaps you could apologize for Ibrahim Ali, for waving the Keris around, for the systemic discrimination that the Non Malays have to put up with, the constant reminders that we are foreigners even though as I have stated above it is our taxes that are being used for the majority.
Sometimes, to achieve bigger purposes we know that we have to humble ourselves and take the wiser path. In this spirit, I suggest that you apologise for the chauvinistic actions the DAP has taken in the past. For example, the DAP’s attempt to forge a “Malaysian Malaysia” in the way of making the Malay culture and all cultures of Malaysia equal. That is wrong to our history. They are inconsistent with the DAP’s objectives as an inclusive Malaysian party.
Right, now we get to the crux of the matter. You do not think that non Malay culture is equal to Malay culture. Behind your benign rhetoric is really a supremacist, wanting his due. Yes, we are all equal. In other words, you probably are a firm believer in Ketuanan Melayu. I trust you realize that PAS has abandoned that perspective. Thankfully most Malays are not like you. When you finally ever read Malaysian history you will be disappointed to discover that what you think of as Malay has got a lot to with non Malay cultures. I hope the DAP never bows down to the supremacy you subscibe. I hope no party ever bows down to your racist and bigoted views.
Once you say sorry, it will not be difficult for the Malays to forgive and to forget. It is part of the Islamic principles that are ingrained in the Malay worldview. Prophet Muhammad also showed the example of a forgiving spirit. The Quran in 8:61 commands: “But if they incline to peace, you also incline to it, and (put your) trust in God.”
It amazes me that you advocate Malay supremacy and yet quote the Quran, which is one of the more egalitarian religious books around. I suppose you are Malay first then a Muslim, which is funny because most of the Muslim I know would say that all men are equal before God regardless of race or culture. I repeat unless you have some specific list of wrongs doings done by the DAP; there is nothing really to talk about.
5. Lim Kit Siang must retire
If the DAP is serious about being a multiracial party, it needs to re-brand public perception towards it. There must be fresh leadership so that the DAP is no longer judged based on past actions. The old must make way for the young.
5. Lim Kit Siang must not retire. Again, you are the few who wish to perpetuate this old canard that the DAP is a chauvinistic party. It is not. What the DAP is has a lot to with Mr. Kit Siang. His principles and integrity are vital if the DAP is to navigate this new terrain we find ourselves in.
As long as Lim Kit Siang remains in power directly or indirectly, I feel that the DAP will continue to be perceived as a Chinese-exclusive party. Detractors will use his past actions as a scapegoat to disrupt the DAP’s multiracial aims. This is why I believe that it is good time for Lim Kit Siang to pass the baton to new leaders.
What has Mr. Kit Siang’s leaving got to do with rebranding? The party is rebranding itself with it’s commitment to PAS and the Pakatan Rakyat. They need experienced leaders to offer guidance in these troubled times. I have no idea why you would signal out Mr. Kit Siang and offer no reason for why he should leave except for vague accusations of chauvinism.
You do not have to worry. The only reason why the DAP is perceived to be a Chinese based party is because Utusan Meklayu continues in it’s scurrilous campaign to convince it’s declining readership that the DAP is to be feared, much like how the BN propaganda organs attempted to do so with PAS. Mr. Kit Siang has got nothing to do with it.
6. Be willing to lose out a considerable portion of the Chinese voter base
I am glad that in terms of theory and constitution, the DAP welcomes all as equal members regardless of race and religion. But to really have this in practice, the DAP has to be prepared to lose out the portion of the Chinese voter base who wishes to remain exclusive.
The DAP can be a positive alternative to race-based political parties. To do this you need to let it be known that the DAP is serious about being inclusive to all. Make it clear to the rakyat that you are willing to give up ties with the chauvinistic Chinese, and all Malaysians will feel assured that you will fairly represent all.
6. Again, with the fallacious reasoning. The fortunes of the DAP have risen and fallen because of their association with PAS. One of the reasons they didn’t do well before 2008 was because of their association with PAS. It was PAS who decided to be more inclusive in terms of its principles which is why both the DAP and PAS have benefited.
Exactly who are these chauvinistic Chinese you keep referring to? And what ties have the DAP, got to cut? It is you who are going on about the superiorty of the Malay race and although I do not speak for the DAP; they have no need for your vote. What they do need is the Malay voter who understands that we are all equal and that change is needed for the stewardship of this country. And thanks to the efforts of PAS many more Malays are beginning to realize that the DAP is not a chauvinistic party.
7. Merge the DAP and PKR
The fastest way for the DAP to be a formidable alternative to race-based politics is to merge with PKR. Once you do that, automatically you become a multiracial body – a truly Malaysian party.
Let us be honest with ourselves. The loose coalition of the DAP, PKR and PAS seems similar to the BN formula of Umno, the MCA and MIC. Before long, the rakyat will begin to see you as a copy of BN.
The real issue that needs to be solved here is trust among leaders. When it comes to the membership, the majority will follow the leaders. If you and the DAP leadership make a clear stand to merge with PKR, the majority will follow suit.
7. Why should the DAP merge with PKR. What don’t they merge with Pas? The BN is a coalition of single race based parties. The Pakatan is a coalition of two multiracial parties and one religious one, who have shown that they can attract votes from across the board. The only one who seems to think otherwise is people like you.
I think your idea of merging the parties is pure nonsense. What Pakatan has got going for it is a diversity of views. You can keep screaming about how you think that DAP is not multiracial when what you obviously mean by multiracial is that it needs to be dominated by Malays. That’s not multiracial that’s your supremacist attitude peeking out. As it is, there are Malays who would vote for DAP and their number is growing everyday as they are Chinese who would vote for Pas.
Your idea of a merger while it seems like a nod to multiculturalism is rather about your race insecurities.
Lastly, I felt compelled to respond to your Open letter because it caused great concern amongst the retired Malay Armed Forces personnel I mix with. Has it come to this? They wondered.