Kampong Don Quixotes And Their Enemies

by M. Bakri Musa

Leaders of Kongress Permuafakatan Melayu (Malay Solidarity Congress) are obsessed with fighting imagined enemies of so-called Ketuanan Melayu. These kampong Don Quixotes are consumed with slaying foes that exist only in their florid imaginations. Like the deluded knight-errant de La Mancha, these leaders are oblivious to the fact that the world mocks them with undisguised contempt.

It saddens me that this Congress was led by Ismail Hussein and Osman Bakar, intellectual giants for whom I have the greatest respect. Ismail was the long-time head of the Malay Studies Department at the University of Malaya, while Osman was a former professor at Georgetown University.

It seems that every few years the Malay elite, as well as those who think that they belong there, go into spasms of agony and feel compelled to gather and pontificate on what ills our people.

The pattern is also predictable: a flood of shrill press releases, followed by an elaborate congress officiated by some “has-been” leaders, and the ensuing slew of high-minded resolutions calling on the government to “do something!” The hue and cry would persist for a few weeks, at most.

A few months later and all would be forgotten. Give a few more years and those same issues would again be resurrected, and the whole pattern repeated.

A few years ago there was the Badan Tindakan Melayu (Malay Action Front) led by Ghaffar Baba, after he lost his chance to be the country’s number one. A few years prior to that, there was the Forum of Malay Professionals.

Not-So-Hidden Hands

This latest congress was sponsored by GAPENA, the Malay acronym for the National Writers Association. Despite its pretentious “national” label, GAPENA is essentially a Malay entity.

Writing is not exactly a well-paying profession, more so for Malay writers. So for GAPENA to sponsor this event at an upscale facility and pay for the accommodations of the attendees must mean that it had a sugar daddy. Even the Bar Council, the body for a more lucrative profession, depended on the government to pay for its recent gala dinner for Prime Minister Abdullah and the fired judges.

Reading the papers presented and resolutions adopted, I am persuaded by the wisdom, “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” It is obvious who funds these pipers at the Congress. The papers and resolutions were so shamelessly pro-UMNO that they could have been ghost written by its operatives.

The congress attracted over 200 Malay NGOs. Many were sham organizations created overnight so their “president” and “secretary” could enjoy a three-day paid syok sendiri (self indulgence) stay in Johore Baru.

The more than two dozen resolutions adopted dealt with Islam, politics, education, as well as Malay language and culture, among others. These folks obviously confused the problems of Malays with those of UMNO. Or perhaps this was a clumsy attempt by UMNO to use politically naïve and all-too-willing academics to advance its cause.

The participants obviously did not ponder a simple thought. If after over five decades of UMNO rule the “Malay problem” is getting worse (as this congress tried to impress upon us), would it not make sense now to let others take over?
This Congress also decided to set up a permanent secretariate, Majlis Muafakat Melayu Malaysia (4M) – Malay Solidarity Council of Malaysia. They initially decided to form “3M” without the “Malaysia,” but seeing that the famous trademark was already taken, they belatedly added the fourth “M.” In so doing they also revealed their insularity, for the problems afflicting us are also shared by others in the greater Malay world.

Their amateurism again showed when they failed to flesh out important details like how the secretariate would be funded.

My Resolutions San Congress

Malays do not have to create phantom enemies out there; our problems are real, and right in front of and within us. Peruse the daily headlines of abandoned babies and rampaging Mat Rempits, as well as the statistics on child and spousal abuses, school dropout rates, and other socioeconomic indices.

Besides, nobody is suggesting doing away with Malay sultans, language, or culture. Abolishing Malay special privileges – the mortal and eternal fear of these folks – would require a constitutional amendment. The votes are just not there, now or in the future.

These congresses serve only to divert our attention; they offer no thoughtful solutions. For contrast, I offer my own resolutions, san an expensive elaborate congress.

Resolution # 1 Education: On the evening of every school day, I would turn off the television set, help my children with their schoolwork, and read to them at bedtime. I would attend parent-teachers’ conferences and other school events. On special occasions like Hari Rayas, I would give gifts of books.

The cost of my proposition ranges from zero (bedtime reading) to modest (books); the benefits, immense and everlasting.

Resolution #2 Islam: I would teach my children the tenets of Islam. The central message of our faith is, “Command good, and forbid evil!” The rest is commentary. I would have them strive to live, and not merely recite, the words of the Quran.

Before undertaking a pilgrimage, I would first make sure that my children’s education was taken care of, my debts paid, and my old age provided for so I would not be a burden to others. I would not sell my land to fund my pilgrimage.

Instead of undertaking an umrah or another pilgrimage, I would donate the funds to an orphanage. I do not know whether Allah would consider this to be more meritorious, but I am certain those orphans would benefit greatly.

Resolution #3 Halal and Haram: I will teach my children to follow the injuctions of the Quran, to discern halal from haram. For example, if they get paid a dollar, they should give three dollars worth of work; one dollar to cover the salary, another for the overhead, and the third for the employer’s profit. Anything less and they would be earning gaji buta (“blind salary”), and that is haram. Corruption is also haram, and so too breach of faith and cheating your customers.

Resolution #4 Economy: To be economically successful we must emulate those who are. Meaning, we have to save and invest, individually and as a society. When we spend, we have to be mindul of its opportunity cost and earning equivalent. Would it be better to spend RM50,000 on your daughter’s ostentatious wedding or on a payment towards her first house? At a societal level, is it better to spend the billions of Wang Ehsan to host the Monsoon Cup or build a university? That’s opportunity cost, or foregone opportunities.

As you smoke that expensive Cuban cigar in a posh restaurant, ponder how many days a villager would have to work to pay for it. As most high-flying Malays today are only a generation removed from the grinding poverty of the kampong, that thought ought to restrain their flamboyance. This earning equivalent is also what bankers consider before giving out loans, as for example, mortgage payments not exceeding a third of your income. That is being prudent. It will also save you from the lethal clutches of the Ah Longs.

My resolutions do not require a permanent secretariate or a massive bureaucracy; each of us can implement them. My resolutions would also go a long way in ameliorating the “Malay problem,” and certainly more useful than those hifalutin ideas thrown about at this and previous congresses.

  1. #1 by max2811 on Monday, 19 May 2008 - 8:47 am

    Please do release and unleash them. For some of us, there’s nothing to lose.

  2. #2 by apa-ini on Monday, 19 May 2008 - 9:29 am

    Please make a correction to Osman Bakar and an Apology is due all the same !

    Bakri Musa made an error by refering Osman Bakar to Emeritus Professor Dr Osman Bakar.

    Emeritus Dr Osman Bakar is a Philosopher of Science and would have no time for all this nonsense.

    The Muafakat group is Osman Abu Bakar, a politician.

  3. #3 by bakrimusa on Monday, 19 May 2008 - 10:54 am


    Many readers have wrote me privately to say that the “Osman Bakar” in my piece was Ustaz Usman Bakar from Perak and NOT the Osman Bakar I know who was formerly of Georgetown University. I unreservedly apologize to Professor Osman Bakar for misrepresenting him. I should have checked my facts ahead of time.

    I should have also paid attention to my sixth sense, as it would have been totally out of character for that great scholar (the real Osman Bakar) to do what I thought he did. I have Osman’s old e-mail address; I will try to contact him to apologize to him directly. If any of you have his current one, please let me know privately ([email protected]) and I will write him personally.

    M. Bakri Musa

  4. #4 by novice101 on Monday, 19 May 2008 - 11:44 am

    Thank you for this article. As a non-Malay, I find the proposals suggested to counter the existing ills (social problems)facing the nation which are based on the Koran teachings and based on pure needs,are truly apt.

    Thank you, too, for exposing the imagined foes created in the minds of the proponents of the Malay Consolidarity Council. You are right, the non-Malays are not asking for the removal of the sultans, nor are we trying to destroy the Malay culture and language. What we are asking is our basic rights as Malaysian citizens.

    Thank you for speaking out.

  5. #5 by limkamput on Monday, 19 May 2008 - 12:36 pm

    Mostly beautifully written, but I feel like crying. Why people like you are not in the mainstream doing something for Malaysians in general and Malays in particular. Surely your ideas are simple to implement and yet cost almost nothing. We are a nation in the whirlpool now, spinning all the way to the bottomless pit.

  6. #6 by limkamput on Monday, 19 May 2008 - 12:41 pm

    “I do not know whether Allah would consider this to be more meritorious, but I am certain those orphans would benefit greatly” Bakri Musa

    Certainly sir, God will understand. If He does not, then He is not God.

  7. #7 by limkamput on Monday, 19 May 2008 - 12:41 pm

    “As you smoke that expensive Cuban cigar in a posh restaurant, ponder how many days a villager would have to work to pay for it.” Bakri Musa

    There is a saying the way we spend is an indication how easy or difficult we get the money. No, I don’t think they will ever ponder how the villagers or urban poor live. They get their money without working for it. They don’t know how the heck they become so rich in the first place.

  8. #8 by EddieTheHead on Monday, 19 May 2008 - 1:15 pm

    As a “non” who grew up in those dreadful days of the keralite’s leadership, I came to the conclusion that the Malays only want our money, our toil and sweat, and also our blood.

    Bakri Musa proved it otherwise.

  9. #9 by Loh on Monday, 19 May 2008 - 3:35 pm

    ///Besides, nobody is suggesting doing away with Malay sultans, language, or culture. Abolishing Malay special privileges – the mortal and eternal fear of these folks – would require a constitutional amendment. The votes are just not there, now or in the future.///–Bakri Musa

    The late Tun Dr Ismail said that Malays would willingly forgo Article 153 which is now termed as Malay special privileges, when they now longer require it. They will forgo it out of pride. TDI knew very well and was sincere in stating that the reason for the inclusion of that article was to help Malays achieve a certain standards, possibly within 15 years, and subject to review, as specified in the original version of the Federal Constitution. The time bound provision was intended to help Malays to be competitive in the real world, and to have their standards of living upgraded so that their offspring would be ready to pick up the skills needed in facing the real world. The special privilege was never intended as crutch for Malays to be perpetually dependent on government. It was much less to serve as evidence that Malays have more power over non-Malays as citizens, as TDM administration made it out to be.

    In 1969, some ambitious politicians utilized the poor showing of the Alliance government election to remove Tunku following the bloody riots. UMNO racists have since relied on the successful divide and rule formulae in the name of NEP to monopolize power. More tragically was the fact that a pseudo Malay, or Malay with Indian father and Malay mother had to exhibit his racist qualification to be accepted as Malay leader, and the rest was history.

    TDI considered that Malays would forgo article 153 out of pride, but other racists UMNO leaders believe that the lesser beings, the followers needed not be concerned with pride, of themselves or of the race. Indeed for Mamak, Malay is a race for his political opportunities and convenience, and he can feel no shame because deep down, he is certain of what ethnological group he belongs, and a bad name given to Malays does him no harm.

    Should the Malays fear the expiry of article 153 when it was originally time bound? It is human nature that any provision for an advantage should remain so when it is there at no cost. But is Article 153 truly available to all Malays at no cost to them, but only at some cost to non-Malays.

    The country with UMNO rule for 50 years shows that NEP and Article 153 was beneficial to UMNOputras, at the expense of Malays and non-Malays alike, more so for the latter. Should Malays feel happy that non-Malays pay more than them so that some bodies from their community gain them all? That is what the racist UMNO politicians, including the expired PM want them to believe. They would soon come to the conclusion that it would be better for the country when it becomes like Pakistan or Iran when the country become exclusively home of the Muslims, and Muslims alone.

    If Malays accept that planet earth is meant for all human beings, and that they have a share of the world outside the confine of the national boundary, then they should learn to be comfortable living in the real world within the confine of the national boundary, so that they can be comfortable to be outside the boundary. Besides, in allowing themselves to live in the real world, they would able to enjoy a higher standard of living when the country is run by statesmen rather than by racist politicians, who use their positions for their own interests.

    The future of Malaysia lies in the realization by Malays in the curse in disguise of the continued dependence on Article 153. They cannot remove UMNO excess without first removing their racist mindset.

  10. #10 by cancan on Monday, 19 May 2008 - 10:29 pm

    We do not need fire for our already burning fire

    Link: http://www.kingsmary.blogspot.com/

  11. #11 by One4All4One on Monday, 19 May 2008 - 10:47 pm

    When will they ever learn?

    Where is wisdom their wisdom?

    When will they ever grow up?

    When will they stop fantasising and face reality?

    When will they stop blaming others for their own short comings?

    When will they start being responsible?

    When will they stand on their own feet?

    When will they stop depending on handouts?

    When will they face challenges head on just like others?

    When will they stop looking for scapegoats?

    When will they stop hiding behind titles?

    When, when when…..

    Questions which beg for answers..in our society.

    When the election was lost…blame others except themselves.

    When the contract could not be obtained…blame others.

    When the quota falls short…blame the system, except their own shortcomings or failure.

    When others do well…accuse them of stealing the wealth.

    When others succeded…accuse them of usurping powers.

    When others achieved…accuse them for not respecting one’s culture, race and religion.

    It is just a mess here.

    When will they ever learn…

  12. #12 by One4All4One on Monday, 19 May 2008 - 10:48 pm

    Oops..sorry..line two typo error..

    Where is their wisdom?

  13. #13 by DontPlayGod on Thursday, 22 May 2008 - 10:52 am

    Dear Bakri,

    I find it so sad that there are so few Malays like you! Or like Azly Rahman, Raja Petra, etc. As it is now, for every one Malay like you(and RPK. etc.) there are at least fifty thousand(most of them in UMNO) who belong to the group as what you describe above. Already, even the Tun and other Malay leaders imply Malays are those Malays who are in UMNO or supporters of UMNO.

    Another 15 to 20 years further down the road, when TDM’s dreams of having more than 80% Malays of the population, Malaysia will then be heading to be a full Islamic State a la Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc. For the non-Malays then, it will be time to say adios. Of course, the exodus has already started long ago, only by that time, the exodus will be like a flood.

  14. #14 by One4All4One on Thursday, 22 May 2008 - 10:17 pm

    If one truly subscribes to a true religion, there is no fear of losing one’s place in this world. We leave it to God to guide and protect us.

    As God’s Religion is Universal in nature, there should not be any attempt to ‘own’ it. A true Religion belongs to the whole of humanity. Hence to say that a particular religion belongs to so-and-so people is indeed a mistake and should be corrected.

    Sad to say such inclination happen in our country. It can be seen as an attempt to restrict the people concern, and is counter to God’s Teachings.

    A person who has attained an age of maturity should be allowed to seek God’s teachings. An open attitude would allow the mind to be more acceptable to other people’s practices and beliefs.

    However, there are always people in our midst who would attempt to influence others to think otherwise. They have their personal motives and agenda. To counter falling into ignorance, education is of utmost importance. With proper education, one can think correctly and would not be influenced negatively or unnecessarily. Until then, truth would not prevail.

    The same principle applies to other spheres of human activities.

    For example, a political party is just a political party and should not be lifted to the stature of a ‘religion’. However, ignorance breeds ignorance. And oppportunists pound on them as though they are grist to the mill.

    To stay loyal to any particular organisation should be subject to the relevance and usefulness of the organisation itself. If the relevance has been outlived, change would be welcomed.

    Indeed true knowledge and learning is of utmost importance to mankind in their quest for truth. Wisdom tells one what one needs to do. The will and ability to act appropriately is a sign of true knowledge and wisdom.

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