Malaysia: This Is Only The Beginning

By Farish A Noor

Recently I found myself in an open discussion with some of my students in the university I am based at in Indonesia. At the tender age of 18, this first-year student demonstrated both the intellectual acumen and political commitment I have come to expect from those twice his age, yet he was just one of the many students whom I am proud to say have come under my care and tutelage. After ten years of teaching experience, I have come to the simple conclusion that my Indonesian students are by far the smartest, gutsiest, honest and dedicated compared to the students I have taught in Malaysia, Singapore, Germany, France and Holland. Why?

That an 18 year old can begin his university life equipped with enough political knowledge and commitment is a testimony to the success of a primary and secondary educational system that got it right. This boy is the product of the post-Suharto educational system of Indonesia, and living proof that the reformasi (reform) movement of the 1990s in Indonesia has succeeded.

Yet the success of reformasi in Indonesia depended upon the quiet dedication of a legion of activist-academics who toiled day and night to dismantle the hegemonic structures of power and knowledge that were developed and consolidated during the three decades of Suharto’s rule. This meant that they had to confront not only the hegemony of the old regime, but also replace much of the human and ideological resources that had been put in place between 1970 to 1998. Ten years later, the results are only beginning to show and it has proven to be a worthwhile endeavor after all.

Malaysia today is at a similar crossroads where Indonesia was a decade ago. With the febrile grip of the Badawi government growing weaker by the day, there is much speculation that Malaysia’s former Deputy Prime Minister and now de facto leader of the opposition, Anwar Ibrahim, is poised to take over the reins of power. It is widely speculated that Anwar now has more than forty members of Parliament who are prepared to leave the ruling UMNO party and join his People’s Alliance to take over from the unpopular and discredited government of Badawi. Anwar has written to Badawi and called for a dialogue between the two to discuss a peaceful transition of power: something that has never happened in the course of Malaysia’s 51-year history.

Should such a transition happen, however, it would only mark the beginning of what must be a long and difficult process of reform and reconstruction. Like Indonesia, Malaysia has lived under half a century of hegemonic rule by one party – UMNO – and the ruling coalition it leads. Five decades of UMNO rule translates into five decades of pro-UMNO propaganda that has been normalised as news in the press, official history in school textbooks, official discourse in the workings of the state. This also means that the entire apparatus of the state – from the police and the armed forces to the bureaucracy, educational institutions, economic sector, etc. – have all been stamped with the lingering imprint of UMNO and UMNO’s brand of racialised ethno-nationalist politics.

Taking over the government of Malaysia is just the first step to reforming the country. What many Malaysians do not perhaps realise is how difficult and long the process of reconstruction will take. For instance, the task of re-writing the country’s official history, that has so long borne the bias and slant of UMNO’s ideologues, will be a herculean task in itself. Malaysia’s communally fragmented society will demand representation on all levels in the new curriculum of the national educational system. The Muslims, for instance, may insist on a re-writing of Malaysian history primarily from their Islamist perspective. Other ethnic and cultural minorities may likewise call for an equally sectarian interpretation of history as well. And even if such a comprehensive history could be written, would a new government have the will to see to it that it is taught in schools? Decades of UMNO hegemony has also ensured that a pro-UMNO bias remains in many institutions of the state and to some extent the official ideology of UMNO has been internalised by many members of the bureaucracy. One can anticipate many rounds of furious polemics, protests and counter-protests, and not to mention countless efforts to sabotage the reform process in Malaysia before it even gets off the ground.

Compared to the long road ahead and the obstacles that are bound to be put up in the face of reform, winning power and taking over the government will seem a relatively easy task. Much more difficult will be having to dismantle the structures of power and knowledge that have grown sedimented for so long, and overturning the dominant culture of racialised politics that has divided Malaysian society thus far.

What is required therefore is a spirit of universal citizenship and a commitment to a non-racialised and non-communitarian Malaysia: a task that the present opposition alliance itself is not perhaps ready to take on considering its own communalist make-up, divided as it is between communitarian Islamists and left-leaning democrats. The first and enduring task therefore has to be the inculcation of the value of universal citizenship and civic commitment to Malaysia. Until today Malaysians see themselves as members of the Malay, Chinese or Indian races first, or place their religious identity before citizenship. Yet the creation of a democratic and equal Malaysia relies on that intangible quality known as Malaysian citizenship, a quality that is hard to quantify or define but crucial nonetheless for nation-building. Are there enough of such Malaysian-minded Malaysians who can build a new non-racialised non-sectarian Malaysia? Time alone will tell, but for now the prospect of an unprecedented change of government is the first of many long and difficult steps that has to be taken in the slow birth of a reformed Malaysia.

  1. #1 by AsalUsuLMalaysia on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 3:24 am

    Politics is a pendulum whose swings between anarchy and tyranny are fueled by perpetually rejuvenated illusions. (Words of Wisdom from Albert Einstein).

    The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. (Why Socialism?)


  2. #2 by just a moment on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 3:35 am

    From previous thread..AsalUsuLMalaysia Says:

    Today at 02: 16.15 (21 minutes ago)
    Sorry side track abit, copy from via EMAIL…

    “THE MALAYSIAN MALAY” by Dr Syed Alwi of Singapore

    Dear Editor,

    As you know, I am an avid watcher of ……

    Thanks AsalUsuLMalaysia and for this write up Dr Syed Alwi,

    I just cannot sleep, after reading Dr Syed’s message, my heart feel so hurt and a little envy as well. Can we have our kids mixed freely as God’s wish? All we, the rakyat merely ask for is a chance to let our children mixed freely and without fear in this country becuase God allows us to live in peace and love one another. A father with kids feel that their freedom as a normal citizen have been raped!! How does it feel for your childrens?

    The manner in which constant fear and intimidation the Goment is exhibiting, will no doubt create more ’slaves’ instead of citizens. What level this nation is going to improved if you have slaves??!!!
    Why Malaysia is not improving? Not progressing? Because the rakyat have been treated like slaves!! And as slaves, you don’t go looking for more work and you just wait for the next orders. Thats why we are where we are today! Are you all still not convince this far?

    Ok, as slaves, the order finally came – Vision 2020!! TDM with ‘unlimited powers’ and with the freedom to dream and to be creative with imagination has put Malaysia on the world Map, for the right or wrong reasons, I leave it to you… The point Im trying to say here is,

    Unless and until the rakyat’s freedom to live is not ‘policed’ and
    been ‘ISAed” This country can florish 30 folds!!! Get away from this threats of treating citizens as slaves!!!

    The ball is in BN’s court at this moment, Its up to you and all of us!

    Its a crying shame when God has bless this country with abundance of natural resources and human talents plus a ‘Holy’ nation, did not only tapped its potential, is right now destroying what God have gave us. What have Malaysia got to show to our children? What have Malaysia got to show to the world? What have each one of us have to show to our own God? Its a sin! Have mercy on us all God. We need You right now! to show us Your way. Its your will and let your will be done! amen

  3. #3 by sA1nT_Jam3s on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 3:40 am

    Now I understand Abdullah’s stand..

    He doesnt want to give up power yet because he wants to save Malaysia from 2 destructive forces: his own greedy lackeys whom he has grown tired of and upset with but he cant dispose of them because they are too institutionalised-I mean their greed..their fingers have morphed into with the cookie jar and prising it off would take big time surgery..

    the 2nd force according to Mr farish would be the fragmented opposition-each pursuing their own agendas-secular,left leaning,race based etc which have yet to morph and gel into a strong viable alternative-not yet now at least-

    There is the man of the hour and there is the villian-who’s who depends on which camp you are in- but however, in the fast shifting sands of our political landscape-let not there be vicitms, let not justice nor freedom be victimised, most importantly, let not our sanity and judgement be victimised by the insanity and bigotry of a few..

    Let there be healthy and responsible discourse-this is the progress that we yearn for and I believe the shared vision of Mr. Abdullah albeit with tied hands and gagged mouth..

    Unshackle yourself so that we can be unshackled!

    Let sanity and good sense prevail and more importantly let justice and freedom flourish!

  4. #4 by AsalUsuLMalaysia on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 3:49 am

    Just would like share this in here, i had insomnia symptoms lately.

    Does Evil Exist?…

    “Darkness is in reality the absence of light.”

    Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the “cold that comes when there is no heat” or the “darkness that comes when there is no light.”

  5. #5 by peterchiang on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 4:01 am

    There is no Mr nice or Mr Clean in politics, only the more efficient versus the least efficient one. Next!

  6. #6 by Robin01 on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 4:41 am

    Hi, I am new to this site. Been reading the comments and amazed at how you guys can stay awake at this hour (I am at the other side of the world). I am sickening by what happened. I saw a glimpse of hope after GE12, but recent developments again leave me distressed. Especially after reading that article by Dr Syed Alwi. It is still a long long way to go when come to trying to change some people’s mentality. My brother always tells me this country is hopeless and asks me not o come back…

  7. #7 by Robin01 on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 4:45 am

    Any way to bring the Dr Syed Alwi article forwward to ‘them’? Where was it published in the first place?

  8. #8 by lopez on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 6:30 am

    this neighbhour is a very populated nation, they are entirely different from bolihland in my ways and form, their history may be conruent but is dissimilar.
    the fabric of the population is also different, the population is also different, their values are different and most important their laws are not the same at all.

    Only a sample of the students , selected from the population reached your classroom.

  9. #9 by Lee Wang Yen on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 6:35 am

    On 16 Sept, Anwar said that the number of defecting MPs was increasing by the hour. This was at best exaggeration and at worst dishonest.

    By the number of people increasing by the hour, one could only mean that there is at least one additional person every hour. Otherwise, he either did not really understand what he said or was disingenuous or simply joking. Assuming that he had already obtained 32 defections prior to the media conference, since he made that statement at about 2.30pm on 16 Sept, he should have already obtained at least 41 by 11.30pm on the same day.

    It seems that Anwar does not think that making accurate and responsible statements is very important. We do not need another habitual liar after having one for 5 years.

  10. #10 by Lee Wang Yen on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 6:38 am

    oops ‘…at worst dishonesty.’

  11. #11 by HJ Angus on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 6:44 am

    “increasing by the hour” should not been taken literally.
    Even after PR takes over, definitely there will be much resistance especially from some quarters who have gotten used to BN style.

    But if corruption is tackled seriously, most Malaysians will support a new government. But we must always be vigilant that government does not grow too big like at present.

    Now there is a hint of ISA for Anwar and that really would be a sad day for Malaysia for we will surely join the Zimbabwee club.

  12. #12 by Lee Wang Yen on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 7:05 am

    When Abdullah said in February that the parliament would not be dissolved, should we take him literally?

    When Abdullah said in June that there would not be a petrol price hike, should we take him literally?

    When Abdullah promised reforms, should we take him literally?

    What would you say to those who tried to defend Abdullah’s flip-flopping by saying that we should not take Abdullah’s words literally?

    The final question, should we take Anwar’s promises (e.g. abolish NEP, ISA, lower petrol price to RM2, stamp out corruption) literally?

  13. #13 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 7:07 am

    Lopez : good observation – Today at 06: 30.01 (2 minutes ago)
    Farish A Noor going all out to extol virtues of “Reformasi”.

    There is certainly more democratic space (and with it religious extremism & bombings???) – under Susilo Bambang than authoritarian Suharto (like Pak Lah comparedto TDM) but have social/economicconditions (voters’ concerns) improved irreversibly? Have corruption and cronyism abated? Has the Justice system improved? Anyone here knows?

    Maybe too early to say. With recent 30% increase in government-administered fuel prices in May & opposition PDI-P gaining popularity against Golkar, Susilo’s coalition government, will the president (like our PM) revert to authorianism and iron rule when power is threatened?

    Well at least Susilo Bambang does not have to deal with past dictator Suharto – unlike Pak Lah who still have to fend off attacks by Suharto’s admirer TDM seeking to stir UMNO politics against incumbent.

    These 3 octogenaians – military general Suharto, physician Mahathir & lawyer Lee Kuan Yew – were a mutual admiration club admiring how their authoritarian strong leadership – trading off against civil liberties – have put food on the table for and brought prosperity their peoples until Hedge Funds in Asian Currency Crisis attacked, the Rupiah dived, Mahathir ring fenced the Ringgit to weather it, S’pore emerged relatively unscathed (LKY’s reserves as well as relative corruption free system compared to the other 2).

    Suharto was forced to resign, later corruption charges brought against him, in comparison TDM fares very well, resigning like LKY on own volition, and still today can actively oppose incumbent leader without being ISAed!

    AsLopez said, the countries are different for easy generalisation as to how “reformasi” movement would impact as interacting against Suharto’s, TDM’s and LKY’s legacies as they affect the relevant countries’ bureaucracy, educational institutions, economic sector – and future prospects of democracy.

  14. #14 by Lee Wang Yen on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 7:13 am

    Anwar’s supporters: Be patient! It takes time to change. Although 16 Sept has come and gone, we need to have faith that change will eventually come. Don’t lose hope. Lawan tetap lawan! We must continue to support PR’s effort to takeover the government.’

    MCA/GERAKAN: Be patient! It takes time for UMNO and BN to change. Although there have not many substantial changes since 8/3, we need to have faith that change will eventually come. Don’t lose hope. Lawan (corrupt practices and racist elements in UMNO and BN) tetap lawan! We must continut to support MCA/GERAKAN’s role in BN as a catalyst to change it for the better.’

    I reject the former because I have always rejected the latter. However, many who have rejected the latter are urging the former.

  15. #15 by Lee Wang Yen on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 7:15 am

    oops…’continue to support’

  16. #16 by yhsiew on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 7:26 am

    Reform necessitates change of people’s mindsets.

    Unfortunately people are resistant to change. This was evident when Microsoft changed its computer operating system from DOS to Windows – can’t tell how many people had muttered a curse at Microsoft!

    Even if PR succeeds in taking over the federal government, it will have a difficult job to persuade people, which had been so entrenched with BN values and ideals in the past 51 years, to adapt to a new way of life that is noble and upright.

  17. #17 by Lee Wang Yen on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 7:30 am

    Ahmad Ismail, ‘Orang Cina pendatang and penumpang’

    Abdullah, ‘He didn’t mean it’

    A Chinese Malaysia, ‘Are you saying that we should not take Ahmad literally?’

  18. #18 by js on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 7:35 am

    I will try myself to forget the 916 matter and focus on my work. I really lost my patient to wait for a good news or “surprise” which claimed by DSAI. I do hope everything go fine and smoothly.

    Never give up to fight for better Msia is one thing BUT you cannot keep on claiming that you have “numbers” and yet no action is taken despite AAB has said PR did not mention about the power transition matter in the letter submitted to him on the 15/9 and he is not going to meet up with DSAI. I believe most of the PR supporters knew that it is impossible for PR to topple the government at this moment.

    Hopefully my perception is wrong.

  19. #19 by richmom on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 7:45 am

    I had a dream….that our primary school has all the Malaysian children under one roof learning and exploring together. There are classes like languages, arts, sports, religious studies,computer,craft works….etc. Our children are free to choose what they want to study instead of we force them to learn.Childhood is the most beautiful and interesting part of anyone’s life.They will know who they want to become as they discovered what is best for themselves.They also leaen to mix well with others and respect each others preference and opinions.Change must begin ffom education and perception

  20. #20 by HJ Angus on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 7:48 am

    I am not sure about the overall situation in Indonesia but a few weeks ago in the Jakarta Post, there was a headline news about a senior Public Prosecutor being jailed for 20 years in Jakarta for corruption.

    I also remember the late Christopher Fernando accusing a top government official of tampering with evidence on ChannelNewsAsia but no action was taken – not against him for making the statement or the the official concerned for trying to fix Anwar.

  21. #21 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 7:48 am

    Wah, Wang Yen, you seem very disllusioned (at this juncture) with Anwar. :) Maybe you should give him another week or so to see what happens.

    Talking about politicians in general and whether their words can be taken literally, I wonder whether you have seen the movie “The Hunt for Red October” (about a Russian nuclear submarine defecting to US starring – Alec Baldwin as CIA analyst, Sean Connery as submarine’s captain and Jeffrey Pelt as US Secretary of State having to determine whether submarine is defecting as CIA analyst contends or poised to attack US).

    In one scene, the Secretary of state confides in the analyst, “Listen, I’m a politician which means I’m a cheat and a liar, and when I’m not kissing babies I’m stealing their lollipops.”

    Talking about Anwar, at the way he is pushing, the likelihood is that he will, as a matter of time, be arrested. His chances are better if he could prove the numbers of defections sooner. Can he? [Sabah Progressive pulled out of BN yesterday but instead of joining Pakatan Rakyat to ad to the numbers becomes an independent party]. What gives? Will more follow?

    PM has taken over Defence Ministry possibly to shore up power (since he is directly or indirectly controlling police through Home Ministry).

    I don’t know what he has in mind.

    However it is clear that arresting Anwar (if this really happens) may spark wide spread demonstrations (beside international remonstrations). If Pak Lah does not want to go the way of Suharto (forced to step down in the face of growing street demonstrations) he has to call in the army to help police restore public order.

    If Anwar can’t prove the numbers by then, it would provide a justification to domestic & international critics for his arrest – that he is nothing but an irresponsible trouble maker seeking to foment uncertainty and hype a fall of govt via crossovers to the detriment of security, investment and economy.

    I think the PM has sounded this out yesterday that he is threat to security & economy.

    I notice – it seems to be a pattern – first, a public complaint of wrong doing will be made against the offender , then comes the arrest. It has happened in cases of Hindraf’s, RPK’s & blogger PAS’s Syed Azidi aka Kickdefella (who turned Malaysian flag upside down). It might well happen to Anwar, now that he has been warned.

  22. #22 by chin on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 7:59 am

    Peterchiang is right ! There are no Mr.Clean or Mr.Nice in politics. Efficiency is the key !
    Because most nations would like to hear what they wanna to hear from politicians. The fact that how the presentations was being made is pretty damn important. Just like a card game, someone gonna to win with others gonna to lose.
    In the end of the day, its how the politicians balance off the trial balance…..

  23. #23 by cactus of sarawak on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 8:38 am

    Taking it literally or not, Bee-Ant have 51 years of record. The rest is up to you to define.

  24. #24 by Bigjoe on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 8:42 am

    Of course its the beginning but I think Dr. Noor is too trapped in the mindset that the problem is even mostly with the mass population.

    Throughout history the Malays and Malaysia has been hampered by the weakness of the Malay leaders to lead. It does redeem itself in occasions such as now but by and large too many weak Malay leader and especially at the top. How can you explain given the resources and the ovewhelming advantages they had, they failed to deliver to the Malay masses compared to its neigbour down south where the Malay minority faced discrimination, underresources and yet is actually better off comparatively? The excuses of their own race weakness is just no longer acceptable excuse for weak leadership, its a reason for strong and good leadership.

    While there is no doubt delivery to the social Malaysia agenda is a top priority, a system to encourage the best and most ideal Malay leadership is perhaps just as important. The Malay leadership need a dynamic system that can tolerate change and new ideas and push the best upfront not coddled the old, the well-connected, the well-greased. This is even harder and no less important.

  25. #25 by HJ Angus on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 8:57 am

    One of UMNO’s weakness to produce good leaders is that the top posts are circulated among the elite group.

    It is like a family business – where one warlord rises, his relatives also move up. Since there are usually 2 or 3 different families they have to take turns at the helm (or till) whichever you like.

    Of course TDM started the minimum nominations scheme that encourages money politics.

  26. #26 by ktteokt on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 9:29 am

    This may be the beginning for PR but it is definitely the end for BN!

  27. #27 by taiking on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 10:21 am

    Lost hope already?

    I think not. I trust that everyone is still clearly holding on to the view that malaysia is in dire need of change and that pakatan is the correct ticket to buy. Putting it bluntly, is umno a viable alternative? Half a centuary in its control and now this rich and colourful nation of ours is wasting away. Can we still entrust the same bunch of people with our new hope – the hope of forging a united race on the basis of true meritocray and real equality; and not umno’s divisive racial policy and umno’s brand of meritocracy and equality.

    The passing of 916 without the promised event blasting itself into the open is a dissapointment. The dissapointment reflects the impatience of the people to see change. The unjust, illogical and unncessarily costly events and policies of the past in cumulation with those of current dates have stretched the people’s tolerance beyond breaking point. And this is a fact.

    I hold firmly to the view (not just a hope) that the change will happen.

    Umno is sinking under its own internal problems and bikering. Imagine this. Even if najib successfully got rid of badawi, can he sit comfortably? Quite apart from the controversies surrounding him, one must remember that it was his father who booted kerismudin’s father out of office by creating the may 13 incident. Would kerismudin be willing to acknowledge najib’s captaincy. The characters may have changed but problem at the top is likely to continue on.

    And umno is sinking because it is also not able to relate well with the masses by reason of its arrogance, partial policies, and disrespect for basic rights. Umno no longer has any truly conscientious and capable leader (Zaid was the last). And its members have all lost sight of their role and duties as the government of the day and have replaced them with an economic objective i.e. the objective of personal wealth accumulation.

    But how is it that umno is still standing today? Umno is like a giant and giants go down slowly, at least during the early stages and they almost always collapse suddenly in the end with a loud and clumsy thud. In other words, the end could actually be nearer than we thought. And Farish Noor’s words are timely reminder for all of us of the hardwork that lies ahead.

    Stay on course and be prepared for the re-construction works.

  28. #28 by swipenter on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 10:37 am

    The first to change should be the feudalistic mindset of the majority. The indonesians mindset is not hindered by such baggage to adapt to new realities facing them

  29. #29 by jeremiah on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 10:46 am

    The simple “glue” that will hold PR’s differing parties together is to have policies that put the family first. This is the common ground that holds Asians such as Malaysians together.

    On the one hand, there are democratic pressures to uphold individual rights and on the other hand, external religious and ideological pressures which have only in common, the well-being of the family and future generations.

    Do want our children to love values upholding the family or other ideologies that lead to endless negotiations and legalism? On this, all Msians of all stripes and cultures will have a common ground.

  30. #30 by jeremiah on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 10:47 am

    Correction: “Do we want our children to love values upholding the family or other ideologies that lead to endless negotiations and legalism? On this, all Msians of all stripes and cultures will have a common ground…”

  31. #31 by AhPek on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 11:09 am

    ‘Wah, Wang Yen,you seem very disillusioned (at this juncture) withAnwar.Maybe you should give him a week or so to see what happens.’. Jeffrey.

    By then it is probably either Anwar the new PM of Malaysia or Anwar the cell-mate of RPK.

  32. #32 by TheWrathOfGrapes on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 11:25 am

    Farish Noor, one swallow does not a spring make…
    Nor a summer

  33. #33 by AsalUsuLMalaysia on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 11:26 am

    Robin01 Says:

    Today at 04: 45.54 (6 hours ago)
    Any way to bring the Dr Syed Alwi article forwward to ‘them’? Where was it published in the first place?


  34. #34 by drngsc on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 2:11 pm

    It was Mahatma Ghandhi who gave us the 7 sins in life
    Politics without principles
    Commerce without morality
    Wealth without work
    Education without character
    Science without humanity
    Pleasure without conscience
    Worship without sacrifice
    We need a change.
    God bless the new Malaysia.

  35. #35 by drngsc on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 2:12 pm

    It was Mahatma Ghandhi who gave us the 7 sins in life

    Politics without principles
    Commerce without morality
    Wealth without work
    Education without character
    Science without humanity
    Pleasure without conscience
    Worship without sacrifice

    We need a change.
    God bless the new Malaysia.

  36. #36 by Loh on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 3:12 pm

    ///What is required therefore is a spirit of universal citizenship and a commitment to a non-racialised and non-communitarian Malaysia:///– Farish A Noor.

    This must have been the aim of the founders of the Alliance party. Unfortunately, 51 years after independence, the country is on the path exactly opposite what has been stated above. The journey in the reversed direction took root since TDM came into power in 1981. In 2008, he even suggests, or questioning on behalf of some professionals who exist only in TDM’s mind, that Tunku was wrong in granting citizenships to non-Malays. That questions the very foundation of the country. His article “Malay unity and Malaysian unity” appearing in on 15 September says it all.

    I wish to take this occasion to present my comments on his article, and I hope that others can offer their view on his article too.

    From 15 Sept 2008

    ///1. Malaysia has a multi-racial population but is quite unique in that the division is not just by race alone but by religion, language, culture and economic situation. Unity in such a diversity is extremely difficult to achieve.///–TDM

    Unity will only grow when people believe that they share common destiny. They will gain as much in prosperity, and suffer as much in time of difficulties. Together they will strive to make the environment better. Diversity is strength where each will do better with their comparative advantages. When the people in charge of the fate of the nation decided to achieve certain superiority either in terms of identification with race or religion, and when those who are not so identified, as TDM will calls them not integrated, they face discrimination. When the people could not communicate well, misunderstanding existed, but after 51 years of independence all misunderstandings have been removed. People know very well that discrimination by race and religion is government policies, either in the law, or in the implementation. Unity was made difficult by the people in power, but they blame it on the differences in race or religion.

    ///2. If we study other nations where people of different ethnic groups have immigrated, we will find that integration and unity depended on several important factors. Firstly the indigenous people or the people who had set up the country make up at least initially, a very big proportion of the population. Additionally they would be dominant and materially successful. The small numbers of immigrants trickling in found it judicious and beneficial to be identified with the numerically superior and powerful dominant inhabitants. They would willingly forget their original languages and adopt the language of the people of the country as well as their culture; they would intermarry and over time they would be totally absorbed and assimilated and identified with the indigenous people. In such a situation unity is not a problem. The United States is one such country where the original language and basic culture of first settlers are accepted by later immigrants.///—TDM

    USA is successful in military and economic power because it practices democracy, and people there may not be born equal, but they are equal before the law after birth. At the time of our independence in 1957, there was still segregation in USA where blacks were not allowed to be in white schools and they were not allowed to ride in buses with the whites. We did not have such discrimination nor did the government of Malaya organized racial discrimination at the time of independence. Today, the people of USA are treated equally in every respect, jobs, education, and economic opportunities. When race relation between the people progresses in USA, it regresses in Malaysia under the aegis of the government through a dominant race-based political party.
    In TDM’s words, the people who [“They would willingly forget their original languages and adopt the language of the people of the country as well as their culture; they would intermarry and over time they would be totally absorbed and assimilated and identified with the indigenous people”] are represented by the family tree of TDM would help unity in the country. The fact was these people not only pretend to be the indigenous people, they were the persons who insisted that different treatment should be made to those whom TDM identified with, and the others who happened to belong to different religious groups.

    ///3. In the old days before the coming of the Europeans the few Chinese and Indians who settled in Malacca adopted the language and much of the culture of the Malays. Though there was no assimilation nevertheless good relations existed between the immigrant settlers and the Malays. Unfortunately when later the China-born Chinese-speaking immigrants dominated in numbers as well as economic wealth, the Malay speaking Baba and Nyonya deliberately dropped their Malay language and Baba culture and reverted to being Chinese in every way possible.///—TDM

    TDM’s words :“the Malay speaking Baba and Nyonya deliberately dropped their Malay language and Baba culture and reverted to being Chinese in every way possible.” are a figment of his imagination. TDM would assume that culture is something one could switch on or off, rather than a part of living. One learns languages and uses the medium which could be most effective in communicating with other persons. Ordinary person without superiority or inferiority complex would not bother which language medium of communication is chosen. Language used for diplomatic occasions and purposes excepted.

    TDM’s words: {Unfortunately when later the China-born Chinese-speaking immigrants dominated in numbers as well as economic wealth,} serve to create wrong impression and to distort facts. The Chinese did come to Malaysia in large number over time; some were as far back as 10 generations ago, not counting those who had been Nyoya and Baba since the Malacca sultanate. Did the Chinese dominate economic wealth, or was it the other foreigners?

    TDM could have used the ownership data appearing in the Five-Year-Plan where Malays’ share of corporate ownership was shown at1.43% in 1970 for his argument. But that figures cannot be relevant, and is certainly not true. FELDA in 1970 owned a million acres of rubber and oil palm plantation, as many acres as all the European owns estate combined. A million acres well managed FELDA plantation (at RM 3,000 an acre at the average price per acre of small holding in 1970) would have put Malay ownership of agriculture at RM 3 billion in 1970. It should have accounted for 18% of total corporate wealth at that time. The government has said that Malays’ share of corporate ownership reached 18% in late 1990s, and remained at that for over a decade. They certainly know that the statistics is false, and that explains why they have not been prepared to reveal the true data having promised to do so two years ago. The controversy over ASLI’s report on this issue has not been settled.

    ///4. Difficulties in assimilation arise when the late comers are more dynamic and better equipped to progress than the indigenous people. A feeling of superiority towards the indigenous people tended to keep the late-comers apart. As their community grew they established separate enclaves and erect invisible barriers against the indigenous. As their numbers grew the separation became deeper.///–TDM

    Assimilation is a term used to describe the extent the people adapted to the life in the new place they call home. Acquiring the language and culture of the local is always done out of necessity, and for seeking happiness. It cannot be the sense of superiority that kept immigrant apart from the local people. It is the convenient of staying together with those who can communicate without having to take the trouble to consciously learn a new language, as man is by nature lazy. Over time, immigrants do acquire slowly some vocabulary to go by.

    TDM should thank god that most of the Chinese who migrated to Malaya then were not as educated as his father was, coming to be the headmaster of a school. TDM’s had a head start and thought that all the Chinese were equally blessed, and were able to act sombong bodoh against the local.

    Though the immigrants grouped among themselves, and lived apart from the Malays, they were always courteous towards each others. There were no conflicts, and they were decent to each others as acquaintances, and later as friends. Though they had limited vocabulary for the different races then to be engaged in in-depth discussions, they each led their separate lives in peace. Today though most people have the command of common languages they are not able to engage in true heart to heart talk. The political parties and government policies keep them apart, especially after the emergency rule in 1969.

    ///5. The British are only partly responsible for the separation of the races in Malaysia, for keeping the Malays in the rural areas, the Chinese in the urban areas and the Indians in the estates. The different races are also responsible. They made no attempt to mix together as a matter of preference.///—TDM

    The preferences were out of convenience without malice. It was not a case of superiority complex of one against the others as TDM suggested. Strangers are usually not enemies until somebody poisoned them.

    ///6. The Malays before World War II really believed that the Chinese and Indians were temporary guests who would return to their countries once they had made enough money. So it was at the beginning.///—TDM

    TDM is trying to justify the statement of one person who was suspended by UMNO. Did the inspiration come from TDM for the controversial speech in Permatang Paul by-election?

    ///7. Even when they showed signs of staying permanently, the Malays and their Rulers believed the British would honour the treaties which recognised the Malay States as the land of the Malays, the peninsula as Tanah Melayu or Malay Land.///— TDM

    This is the creative way of changing history. The British honoured its promise to make Malaya an independent country respecting the constitution. The government should have taken oath like the US president to uphold the constitution.

    ///8. But after the Brits returned after the war they talked of “giving” this country to whoever wishes to stay here. Although the Malays rejected this and forced the Malayan Union to be abandoned, they realised that things had changed and they had to recognise the claims of some of the non-Malays at least.///– TDM

    The citizenship right agreed to by UMNO leaders under the presidency of Tunku must have taken past history into account. It is not comprehensive to make selective justification here.

    ///9. To cut a long story short independent Malaysia recognised the citizenship rights of the non-Malays and gave them quite freely. This is unlike many countries in the region where strict conditions were imposed. In fact, some immigrants were actually expelled.///– TDM

    Different countries have different names just like their history. What is done outside has no basis for justifying action within this country.

    ///10. The hope at independence was that the non-Malays would accept a single national language and a single national identity. But it became clear very quickly that the Chinese and the Indians wanted to retain their identities, their mother tongue and their culture. They did not want to be solely Malaysians, certainly not Malays.///– TDM

    The non-Malays have always been law abiding, before and after independence. UMNO leaders before TDM never intended non-Malays to be Malays. Some might be regretting that they might have wrongly admitted undesirable elements as Malays. Tunku had said something like he certainly was not a Mamak. TDM is still expressing his objection to the Chinese and the Indians for retaining their identities, their mother tongue and their cultures, he should ask whether these Malaysian Chinese and Indians are any less Malaysian in retaining all their identity. The definition of ethnic cleansing is to remove all those who differ from the identity of the majority.

    The United Nations convention recognizes retaining mother tongue and culture as basic human rights. Yet a head of government for 22 years of a country which is a member of United Nations would ignore such convention in his writing. He must have been an international outcast all this while.

    ///11. At the beginning some prominent people tried multi-racial politics but this was rejected by the ordinary Malays, Chinese and Indians. In the end we settled for a compromise – retain your racial identity but cooperate with each other in a coalition of racial parties.///–TDM

    That worked well until somebody engineered the emergency rule in 1969. After that UMNO has been most happy with the results. It openly threatened to bring a repeat of it.

    ///12. Politically it was a good formula and it worked. But when English schools were abolished and the Malay, Chinese and Indians children went to their own schools rather than to the national schools where the teaching was in the National Language. The hope for true national integration faded. After this even the attempt to put the schools from the three language streams in one campus was rejected by the Chinese.///—TDM

    Some 60,000 Malay students are in Chinese primary schools. They who did not know Chinese education have chosen them, certainly because they are convinced of what good the school could offer. Naturally the parents of Chinese students would send them to one they are certain to be good for their children. It is again provided in Human Rights convention of the United Nations that parents should choose where to educate their children. Is TDM against that charter?

    TDM was insinuating that the Chinese choose the schools for reasons of his own imagination. He mixes education with politics, and in the process, his policies lay foundations for the greatest harm to human resources in the country.

    ///13. It is no good blaming the politicians for perpetuating racial schism. Some of them who tried to ignore racial loyalties simply failed politically. For various reasons the races preferred to stay separated. They may meet at their work place or the playing field but they go home to separate enclaves according to their race.///– TDM

    The polarization of the races is due to racist politics. The people mixed well during Tunku’s reign. Racial relationship began to rot after the emergency rule in 1969, and NEP. It is because people are afraid to fail politically that they cling to racist politics. It is because politics is not a profession for serving fellow citizens but a ticket to gravy train that politicians chose politics as the most convenient route to wealth. They would migrate when the country goes to the dogs.

    ///14. We had opted for democracy and popularity decides who rules the country. Those who reject racialism simply lost popular support. But those who embrace racialism won.///– TDM

    The pioneer was none other than TDM. It was because politicians were too lazy to care for the good of the people, and be judged by their performances for the benefits of the voters that opportunist politicians chose the approach of divide and rule to ensure reelection to position of power. That started the vicious circle, and so racism became the means to an end, and justifiably so. Ever since, the objective of politicians were to win, and they created a culture that the end justifies the means. When racism became a norm, politicians were able to use spoil-sharing approach to perpetuate power through corrupt means. Voters of the dominant race would condone the actions of corrupt politicians when they got to partake in the share of gains through corruption. That explains why when corruption in the BN government has been so rampant, with TDM himself squealing on the practices, and the voters fully aware of the malpractices, racial voting returned BN parties the majority to rule.

    ///15. They are not racists. The leaders of the different races were, at least in the beginning, able to get along well with each other. They developed close friendship. But they had to be very conscious of their racial backing and to cater to racial demands.///– TDM

    The problem the so-called leaders faced was their own creation. They chose not to develop the mindset of their followers to value the virtue of fairness and justice. They were made to believe that might is right, and so long as there had the numbers, they were able to demand unreasonable share of their rights. So, all issues turn racial, and leaders are then their own captive, when they were serving as politicians not for the interest of the nation, but for their own personal interests.

    It was worse when a leader moved away form racists’ policies, but was faulted by his nemesis that he did not do enough for his race and religion. The examples were TDM accusing Tunku for not doing enough for Malays, and he continues to make such accusation years later when nobody would come to Tunku’s defense. TDM promised to be the greatest racist of all Malays, and succeeded in holding power as absolute emperor for 22 years. Later when PM AAB said he wanted to be a PM for all Malaysians, TDM accused AAB for not doing enough for Malays. The greatest danger is not catering to the needs of the community, but to the desires of opportunists in the same party.

    ///16. The lower ranking leaders, the ordinary members of political parties and the people as a whole had shown no sign of forgetting their racial identity. There may be few liberal minded ones who reject race, but some who do this do so because they believe their own race would gain by it. So even these people are racialist at heart. ///—TDM

    The mindset is that politics is the easiest route to wealth and power, and the success stories are dominated by racists. Tunku was a negative example on path to failure, for those who did not know the true cause of it.

    ///17. Then came the resurgence of Islam worldwide. The Malaysian Malays began to adopt Islamic conservativeness especially with the dress code. This tended to push them further apart from the non-Muslims who saw this as an attempt to differentiate Muslim Malaysians from non-Muslim Malaysians. Some people suspect that this is the intention.

    18. The behaviour of some extremist exponents of Islamic separateness did not help.

    19. And so the races drifted further and further apart. All the time the so-called non-racial parties with their single-minded campaign against the positions of the Malays and Islam as agreed upon at the beginning actually intensified Malay racial sentiments, causing them to yearn for Malay unity rather than Malaysian unity.///–TDM

    Nobody questions the position of Malays and Islam, but the race-based party creates the impression of under a state of siege so that they could rise as the saviour of the race and religion. The people only question the implementation of the policies. For example, when article 153 provides that a reasonable proportion of education facilities should be reserved for Malays, that proportion could not be 100%. When one talks about reserving a reasonable proportion, it could at most amount to the population ratio. NEP was said to be implemented as promised by the late Tun Razak for 20 years, ending 1990. Would not a right minded person think that when the 20 years is up, a stop ought to be made to it? It was mentioned that a 30% ownership share for Malays was the aim of NEP, should not an evaluation be made to the actual achievements 38 years after the advent of NEP? When statistics is used, and everybody knows that statistics can lie, should it not be reasonable to have independent evaluation of the relevance and reliability of statistics on the actual situation? That is not questioning Malay rights, this questions government’s governance.

    ///20. The ideal of having a non-racial Malaysian nationality has now been almost forgotten. As the self-proclaimed non-racists attacked Malay racialism, the feeling among the Malays hardened. Openly the Malays have not attacked Chinese racialism as manifested by their practical rejection of the use of the National language, their rejection of the National schools, their Malaysian Malaysia slogan. If they do it would be muted and certainly not as blatant as non-Malay attacks against Malay racialism. ///–TDM

    Is it not the correct aspiration of all Malaysians that they are treated equal in the country, which PM AAB had even promised as such? There is no where in the world where there is a state organized racial discrimination programme against the minority group. Citizenships signify equal rights and equal obligations. As society progress, idea of superiority about race and religion should cease; it should cease too in the country. The governments elsewhere swear to uphold the constitution where the states have one. The people only yearned for the protection of the constitution, and that are their basic citizenship rights.

    Parents choose to send their children based on their conditions and it is their human rights. Language is a means for communication, and it is only people who like to incite hatred against others that count the use of language and medium of education as a sign of loyalty to the country. There are traitors who are experts in languages, and so language proficiency is no proof of loyalty. When a person who suggested that he preferred the participation of another country to fight the British and consequently be part of another nation rather than to accept all inhabitants as citizens without having to fight his loyalty is suspect.

    ///21. The Malays have seen what has happened to the Malays of Singapore and they have no desire to be like Singapore Malays.///—TDM

    A survey should be conducted on whether Malays in Malaysia would like to be under the government by people who rule like the Singapore government through its meritocratic approach, or under the BN government which rules on cronyism. That should remove the choice based on the resources the two countries could offer. Nobody would want to have only one-fifth when you can have one whole unit of any earning.

    ///22. So their reaction is to seek for Malay unity. They feel threatened, and their fear is real. Admittedly there are among the younger educated Malays a few who claim to reject Malay unity. But these people do not represent the vast majority of the Malays.////–TDM

    It is most convenient to assume one’s preference as the majority choice, and the others the minority. It is easy to quote statistics, pulling it out of thin air to justify a case. This is especially so when there is no evidence to dispute.

    The word unity here is in the context of a vote, to gain majority in an election. The people do not have to decide whether actions were right or wrong since unity would demand that the members take the side the race chooses. Similarly, the issue of fairness and justice cannot influence individual choice.

    To ensure a win in election, Malay politicians emphasize Malay unity for the security of their political career. For that purpose polarization by race is useful, so that grouping of unity by race can be easily achieved. Towards that end ordinary Malays were threatened to fear the absence of Malay unity.

    ///23. Malay unity, if it becomes stronger will make it more difficult to bring about Malaysian unity. But it must be remembered that the Chinese and Indian are also keen to retain their identities more and more. The Hindraf memorandum is very telling. And the Chinese educationists want even stronger role for Chinese language.///—TDM

    The role of Chinese language does not depend on the Chinese in Malaysia. China has already made it the most popular language in the world. Language should not be politicized as TDM likes to do it all the time. People remain what they are, and they do not consciously decide to choose to retain Chinese or Indian identities. They have no political advantage for doing so. It does not make them less obliged for paying taxes, or as a citizen. Only those who intend to split the society would harp on difference between races and religion, the use of languages, and the schools they go to. Have there been anything else which TDM could throw at the Chinese or Indians?

    Everybody knows and would form his own opinion on what Hindraf memorandum is all about. It is only in this country that supporting something could land a person under ISA.

    ///24. The trend is obviously against Malaysian Unity. A weak and unstable Government with its crude attempts to win over the different races through giving in on all demands does not help. Every time it gives in to the demands of one race it simply antagonises and pushes the other races further away.///—TDM

    The demands of the non-Malays if that can be so termed are that they are treated equally as citizens in all sphere of their living space. That should not be seen as demands at all by the BN government, but as a reminder to the government to honour the non-Malays of their basic citizenships. The Malays lose nothing to the non-Malays’ reminder, but in pursuing Malay unity for block Malay votes, UMNO politicians have always find means to demonstrate their heroic acts as saviour of Malay race. TDM excels in zero-sum game of the races, and never fail to criticize AAB for not doing enough for Malays.

    TDM does not intend the paragraph to say that because Malays made demand, non-Malays were pushed away. He had other motives.

    ///25. If we still want Malaysian Unity we need to be willing to make sacrifices regarding what we consider to be our racial rights. Everyone has to do this. The leaders must be given some mandate to discuss these matters in private and to make concessions. After each step the lower rung leaders of each race must be given full briefing as to why the concessions have to be made. It would be useless if they don’t agree.

    26. Provided we can roll back the present unhealthy trends and redirect it towards more positive non-racial objectives, provided we do this slowly by small steps we may be able to create a truly Malaysian identity where race would gradually become less important. It will take time but with sincerity we may reverse the present trends and move towards increasing co-operation and integration. ///–TDM

    Nobody can cry wolf twice. When Anwar is the PM, and TDM keeps to his words to migrate, we will be able to go back to pre-1969 days.

  37. #37 by justice4all on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 3:58 pm

    my fear – now that the govt has demonised Anwar as a threat to the nation’s security and economy, it will want to detain Anwar under the ISA? Remember, how the govt after demonising Hindraf as terrorists, it proceeded to arrest them under the ISA!?

    Actually, Anwar is a threat to UMNO’s security and economy!

  38. #38 by Robin01 on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 4:18 pm

    AsalUsuLMalaysia –

    Thanks for the link.

  39. #39 by despin on Thursday, 18 September 2008 - 5:01 pm

    We will have time to reform and reconstruct our social infrastructure if the new government can focus on growing the economic cake and fulfilling basic Maslow needs such as food, water, housing, employment, health and security.

  40. #40 by lopez on Friday, 19 September 2008 - 12:23 am

    It appears that it can be said that the voices here are concern of their future and their offsprings future. I sounded silly to quote this …who is not anyway?

    At the outset there must be hope however slight but there must be signals of hope, our forefathers had toiled and struggled and brought us up in the best way they could and at all costs to give us a better life if not then at least there is hope.
    However slight the hope maybe it is the our duty to change it into opportunities for better life,,,,for no man is an island we depend others too and they depend upon us
    better life huh…it is relative for our forefather then could not return to their motherland in those times, some of us able to see them in their watery eyes when the subject of home and relatives comes to mind , do you also have tearly eyes on these subjects , we cant imagine the amount of desperation in their lives and some are even willing forgo their surnames and kinships.

    Today some of us have to take up that banner keep the signal of hope alive and in motion, flag it in the strongest possible way you can.

    Where it may be said that you can help if not by doe, then by hand if not so then by your views and opinions

    Waking up is needed from this forth onwards and lets us re connect the lost kinships as our forefathers had in their boat journey to this forsaken land.

  41. #41 by logicman75 on Sunday, 28 September 2008 - 9:32 pm

    Hi, i am a Malaysian living in London but now back in malaysia for work. what i want to see in our education is the elimination of race schools that have long segregated our community. I would prefer the government or the new government to abolish chinese and indian schools and integrate them in the the government school system. The government school system should be overhauled on the similiar basis to English school system where race are to inter mingle during our early age of schooling. We only do this at national service to a lesser degree and university but by then its too late for any race to learn and respecy one another. If Malaysians are talking about root of all causes in our race issues, go back to the schooling system as our parents didn’t have such an issue during their time when all race came togther!…Public school system should have some education streams to cater uniquely to Malays, Chinese and Indians! as that done in England!

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