Stand up and be counted, Malaysia

By Azmi Sharom | Brave New World

It is strange that in the 21st century, we are still having to face the problem of institutionalised racism.

OVER the past week or so, there have been some developments in our country which are more disturbing than usual.

In particular, the two cases of alleged racist remarks by school heads; the accusations that Penang mosques have replaced the Yang di-Pertuan Agong with the Chief Minister’s name in their prayers; and the continued insistence that Article 153 of the Constitution is equal to an inalienable right that could not be questioned.

These events are interrelated and it seems to me that they indicate that there is a battle of ideology going on in the country now.

On one side is the idea that a person’s ethnicity and religion entitles him to be treated better than anyone else who is different. On the other side is the idea that equality is an aspiration that is both noble and necessary for nation building.

It is strange that in the 21st century we are still having to face the problem of institutionalised racism.

Looking at our history, one can see why this has occurred. The combination of race-based politics and poorly interpreted constitutional provisions have meant that the idea of racial and religious superiority has been allowed to grow and become the norm rather than something undesirable and out of the ordinary.

How else can one explain the possibility that teachers, the very people to whom we entrust the education of our children, can have such warped values and also have the gall to express those views publicly?

How else can we explain the near rabid attack on the Penang Chief Minister for something which he and the state religious department have vehemently denied and in fact would have been insane to attempt?

Let’s analyse this one step at a time. When the dominant political parties in this country do not have any political ideology to speak of and are instead, based on the principle that each race-based component has a duty to safeguard the interest of its community, what one has is a recipe for the kind of policy and rhetoric that divides rather than unites.

Historically, one can see the reasons why the politics of the nation was forged in this way. It was a necessary evil in the face of the divide-and-rule policy by the British to show that even when separate, the three major communities of the nation can still work together politically.

However, it is an unsustainable model and what started life as a fairly rosy example of racial cooperation too easily descended into crude racialist type politics.

Which is why the early aspirations that our founding fathers had for a society treated with equality has now been all but buried by the idea that one race is superior to others and in fact is the only race with any right to be here in Malaysia.

This is because in the battlefields of politics, it is easiest to appeal to base racialist emotions, especially when without those types of ideas, a party based on race will have no collateral to work with.

In this kind of political atmosphere, it is of no surprise that what has been forgotten is that the basis of this nation was one of justice and equality. And the document that is meant to protect that, the Federal Constitution, has been misinterpreted to the extent that there is no longer any trace of this aspiration in the mainstream discourse of the day.

Let us be absolutely clear on this matter, the Constitution does give powers to the government to take affirmative action and it does acknowledge the fact that Islam has a special place in the public life of the nation.

What it does not intend to do however is create a perpetual system of ethnic-based favourable treatment nor does it advocate the idea that all other religious beliefs must be subservient to Islam.

However, instead of this reasonable position, what we have today is the idea that affirmative action for Malays is unquestionable and to be continued in perpetuity becoming the norm.

This cannot be further from the truth as there are no legal justification for it at all.

Article 153 of the Federal Constitution is seen as the holy grail for those who hold this view. However, if we examine the provision closely we will notice two things.

Firstly, affirmative action is not a Malay right. Article 153 does not endow a right. What it does is to merely give government the power to take affirmative action despite the overarching ideal of equality which is enshrined in Article 8 of the Constitution.

To support this contention, we see that Article 8 clearly states that all citizens in this country are equal except for situations specifically provided for in the Constitution. Those “specific provisions” are found in Article 153 and there are not many of them.

They include the power to establish quotas for the civil service, permits and licences, scholarships and education.

Therefore anything other than these areas should not be subjected to affirmative action.

Furthermore, any affirmative action has to be reasonable. The idea of what is reasonable must surely be open to research and debate otherwise there will always be the risk of abuse and wastage of resources.

This being the case, although questioning the existence of such a power to have affirmative action is moot, discussion on the efficacy of affirmative action policies and programmes surely is not.

The way the discourse is today, and not merely by the racialist fringe but by mainstream politicians in power, is that even the implementation of Article 153 is not to be questioned at all.

This is surely wrong based both on the meaning of the Constitution as well as the principle held by the founding fathers that Article 153 was an unfortunate but necessary aberration from the ideals of equality and that it was to be used not in perpetuity.

With these kinds of distortion of law, is it any wonder then that we still get people actually classifying whole swathes of the citizenry as having no right to be here?

Is it any wonder then that a crazy accusation against a Chief Minister whose government has given twice as much money to the Islamic bodies in the state than the previous administration, can give rise to the belief that he is a threat to the faith?

If this country is to have any future as a true nation, the time has come for those who believe in the ideals of equality, ideals which were held by the political founding fathers of the country as well as the traditional Rulers of that time, to stand up and be counted.

To not be cowed by the bigots and to say that this is our country and it stands on noble humanitarian ideals, not opportunistic racialist thinking.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 4:18 pm

    Its not a battle of ideology but a battle against mutation and corruption of the Malay culture, society and way of life. This is a foreign disease brought by Mahathirist and spread recklessly.

    What we are talking about saving what Malays truly hold dear and value, what defined them from the ages and what is part of their soul that make them special. You lose that, you lose what being Malay is.

  2. #2 by Godfather on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 4:27 pm

    Even though Mamakthir is getting solid support amongst the visitors to his blog, the actual numbers are likely to be small and confined to his band of rabid supporters. I’m more heartened by the positions taken by Karim Raslan, Mariam Mokhtar and now Azmi Sharom, which proves that there are sensible people around.

    The more appropriate heading for this article should be “Stand up and be counted, Najib” for he has so far been proven to be impotent, and incapable of making the right decisions. The longer the President of UMNO remains elegantly silent, the bolder the fringe groups like Perkasa and MFM become – with the support of fringe politicians like Mamakthir, who becomes more and more vitriolic in their comments.

  3. #3 by dagen on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 4:32 pm

    “How else can we explain the near rabid attack on the Penang Chief Minister for something which he and the state religious department have vehemently denied and in fact would have been insane to attempt?” – author.

    Yes. Look at toyo-the-indon and the insane accusation he kicked up last year on the mosque loudspeaker incident. Didnt the mosque clarified the matter just like now? Yes umno is insane. And because they are insane they therefore see others as insane too. So it is not difficult to see how umno could fathom guan eng directing the mosque the make the changes. Oh boy those idiots are paranoid.

  4. #4 by undertaker888 on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 4:42 pm

    first we need to kick the mamaks and indons out of malaysian politics. they all pretend to be malay. they are just going after $$$ by inciting race and religion. but sadly, there are still gullible malays who believe in them.

  5. #5 by waterfrontcoolie on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 4:48 pm

    Azmi, like all rational Malaysians has the right to ask what happen to a nation that prefers to back paddle all the last 30 years. And the man who proclaimed that meritocracy equals racism is still standing tall and has the support of many who didit without realizing that they have been insulted by him all along! It is indeed insulting to be branded that one could not compete because one is born of certain colour or faith. I wouldn’t take it for anything in exchange but then …. We can just hope that people like Azmi, Mariam, Art and so on do take cognition of the real problems created by vested interests for their own benefits at the expense of the nation and in the process the bottom half of the people in the nation. Who would they be? Yes a majority of them would be the real Malays! As things are, the Non-Malays are being questioned every time we raise our concern on the follies that are been created as long term burdens to the nation. Those jokers at PERKASA nver question who would be the final victims of all these excesses.

  6. #6 by boh-liao on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 4:59 pm

    #2: “Stand up and be counted, Najib”
    Betul kah?
    No hear NKRA meh? Ask RM who is busy looking 4 Tongkat Ali
    NKRA – Najib Kecut, Rosmah Atas
    Tolong, tolong lah, stand up, screamed someone in exasperation in Putrajaya

  7. #7 by johnnypok on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 5:35 pm

    We are suffering from a form of terminal illness, after being infected by “TDM” virus, about 25 years ago, and we are heading for a big-scale civil war. Malaya will be history … most probably sold to Singapore and Indonesia.

  8. #8 by dagen on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 6:06 pm

    Perkasa directs umno to abolish all chinese and tamil schools.

    Wow. Man with oversized ketuanan sure speaks with oversize conviction.

  9. #9 by boh-liao on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 6:35 pm

    31 Aug 2010 is a few days away
    53 years after Merdeka of Malaya, no unity of rakyat against d outside world
    But all sorts of racist remarks n provocative lies 2 stir up mass hysteria 4 Ketuanan Melayu
    Everyday we r wasting our time n negative energy on racial thingy n lies n more lies
    Rather than making real efforts 2 eliminate corruption, punish corrupt kakis, right things which r obviously wrong, n make dis nation a better home 4 all of us

  10. #10 by tunglang on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 6:52 pm

    The Americans, the Europeans, the countries with good foresight and judgement are clamoring to learn Chinese, Indian and Russian foreign languages knowing the future of doing business and cultural exchanges with these upcoming economic giants is inevitable and mutually profitable.

    This ‘Perkosa’ must be in its own sepia-dreamland with self-delusions turning its clock backward to its heydays of ketuanan with one proud ability – to converse in Malay only.

    Today’s global new rules of competitive survival do not recognize one race domination, not ever in a coconut island, much less a sovereign country. Borderless playing field is the new ground of engagement. (Daily) CHANGE to survive or to prosper is the norm rather than the fear of losing out in the global realities of the 21st Century.

    One of the rules of global realities: Speak in the languages of the Giants.

  11. #11 by Loh on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 7:27 pm

    Mahathir’s words

    Dr. Mahathir Mohamad
    on August 24, 2010 5:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (137) | TrackBacks (0)

    ///1. In 1964 Malaysia held its first elections. The Tunku had an understanding with the Chief Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Kwan Yew that the PAP (People Action Party) would contest only in Singapore and would stay out of the rest of Malaysia. It was really not a smart kind of agreement. It was not put on paper at all. Only an understanding between two leaders.

    2. It was not surprising that the PAP decided to contest in the peninsular. Lee had expected the Malaysian Chinese who had been represented in the Government only by the MCA could be persuaded to support him. If he defeated the MCA then the Tunku would replace the MCA with the PAP in the Alliance.

    7. Strangely the PAP bid failed against the MCA. But the Tunku was shocked and decided that Singapore’s inclusion in Malaysia posed great danger. One year after the election Singapore was expelled. But the PAP chauvinistic legacy was taken up by the DAP. And the slogan “Malaysian Malaysia” continued to figure in Malaysian politics, evolving into a new catchword, “Meritocracy”. If “Malaysian Malaysia” conjures equality between races, “Meritocracy” implies something stronger. It implies dominance by the race with the greatest merit in every field; in education, in business and in all fields of human endeavour.///–Mahathir
    Mahathir tried with his three paragraphs to blame Lee Kwan Yew for not keeping to the promise not to contest in the Peninsular, and he blamed Tunku for taking that personally to get Singapore out of Malaysia. Mahathir must have used those lines after the May 13, 1969 to blame Tunku for losing Singapore. Even now after the separation has been documented by Lee Kwan Yew in his memoirs “The Singapore Story”, Mahathir still chooses to distort history. The memoirs detailed the events leading to the separation, from Albar stroke up Malay passions in page 551, to “Talak,Talak, Talak till page 663. It certainly was not because Tunku was shocked with PAP contesting in Peninsular.
    ///3. The PAP is a Chinese party largely. But it had always projected itself as non-racial. To win in Malaysia he had to appeal to Chinese chauvinism. However he could not do this openly.
    4. Being the astute politician that he is, Lee came up with a slogan which did not sound chauvinistic but which played up Chinese sentiments to the core. The slogan was “Malaysian Malaysia”. ///– Mahathir

    A party cannot be considered racial simply by the racial origin of the majority of its membership, or that of the leaders. Only the manifesto of the party that champion racist interests could be term racial. PAP had no racist manifesto. Mahathir acknowledges that he found no evidence that PAP appealed openly to Chinese Chauvinism and yet he claims that PAP used the term ‘Malaysian Malaysia’ to achieve Chinese Chauvinism. If the Chinese support the concept of Malaysian Malaysia to the core, it shows that Chinese are patriotic to the concept of Malaysia as a nation, and that Malaysia belongs to all Malaysians irrespective of race. How can the acceptance of the nation as belonging equally to all its national be wrong? If that is Chauvinistic, it is Malaysian chauvinism.

    ///5. While appearing to be appealing for all Malaysians the slogan was clearly suggesting that there was no equality between the Chinese and the Malays. He and his party was made out to be fighting for equality between the Chinese and the Malays, whereas the MCA represented only the Chinese towkays. ///–Mahathir

    If the hat fits wear it. It was a fact that by the way Alliance government implemented its policies even prior to May 13, there were no equality between the races in the country. It was unfortunate that Tunku accepted to implement the so-called affirmative actions based on race, rather than based on needs. Had the government bothered to establish the criteria for government assistance to Malaysians needing help, rather than to Malays only, there would not be pseudo-Malays who were clearly crooked to the core to have made use of race as an issue for political gains. Now Malays are having problems identifying Indian Muslims separately from Malays.

    ///6. The Malays were alarmed at the prospect of the Peninsular Chinese combining with Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak Chinese to outnumber them. Split as they were between PAS and UMNO, their chances of continuing to dominate Malaysian politics was at risk. ///–Mahathir

    The reason why Malaysia has gone down the route of the most corrupt nation in Asia is because of racial politics and the myth that Malay leaders in government look after Malays’ true interest. It is because UMNO leaders do not accept politics as a noble profession to serve national interest that they chose to appeal to the emotions of Malays on racial ground. Having divided the nation by race, and assured of election to power, they have destroyed government institutions which serve the country to serving their personal desires and political interests. 53 years after the formation of a multi racial nation, racial dominance in politics as an issue is still being kept alive by Mahathir. Satan might have done less harm to Malaysia.

    ///8. When the Malays, understanding the implications, protest against meritocracy, they were condemned as racists. Faced with being labelled as such, most Malays dared not support even the NEP. Some, perhaps due to mistaken pride have begun to support meritocracy, undermining the Malay position further. ///– Mahathir

    UMNO politicians assume that Malays are afraid of competition as though they would be defeated in all fields simply because they were Malays. That is an insult to Malays, and the remark is made by a person with two spoonfuls of Pakistani blood in the body. Even when a person rejects meritocracy, he cannot be termed a racist because no race is averse to meritocratic competition. Mahathir is technically not a racist because he is not Malay. Mahathir demanded that Malays dominate in Malaysia so that he could be regarded as a warrior for Malays. That should make him a racial opportunist.

    ///9. Today we see a lot of Malay NGOs trying to defend the Malay position. Invariably they have been labelled racists. The unfortunate truth is that those who labelled them are equally racists because of their advocacy of meritocracy.///– Mahathir

    The special position of Malays relates to the observation at the time of independence that more Malays than other races were considered weak in some fields of endeavours and that the King was tasked to get the government to help Malays more than helping other races. That special position needs no defence, since by mean tests, those Malays who are weak would be assisted. It is because some Malays who are strong or stronger than non-Malays and who wanted to ensure continued unfair advantage over non-Malays that they want to defend the status quo, at the expense of the pride of the Malay race. They should be called racists because they took position based on race rather than on the right or wrong pertaining to issues not connected with race.

    No race can have a monopoly on meritocracy, and no advocates of meritocracy can be a racist.

    ///10. It is the same with political party which appeal on the basis of the religion of Islam. In Malaysia the Malays are all Muslims. There are quite a large number of Indian Muslims in Malaysia but they do not figure in the political party said to be Islamic. The party, by using Islam, knows full well they are appealing to Malays almost exclusively. But the intention is not to defend the Malays but merely to gain their support. One can say they are not Malay racists. Rather they are Malay political opportunists.

    ///11. That is why they find no difficulty in switching tactics in order to win the support of the non-Malays. Where before they condemn UMNO for working with non-Muslims, today their co-operation with non-Muslims knows no bounds. ///–Mahathir

    By extension all politicians are political opportunists. Since when was Mahathir different from being a political opportunist? Mahathir is worse than ordinary opportunists who seize the opportunities; Mahathir divided the country through his racist pronouncements since 1969 and he had the design to make this a most corrupted country so that he could make national coffers his piggy bank.

    ///12. The difference between UMNO and the other parties is that UMNO is openly partisan, not hiding its concern for the well-being of the Malays. Unfortunately because of mismanagement it has become weak. That is why today we have Perkasa and other Malay NGOs who are as openly concerned about the Malays as the UMNO once was. The condemnation by those said to be advocating meritocracy is because they see the racism of the meritocrats, just as the Malays of 1964 saw the racism of “Malaysian Malaysia”. ///–Mahathir

    If UMNO leaders care for the well-being of the Malays, they would have considered the pride of Malays as the most important attribute in life, like what the late Tun Dr Ismail bin Dato Abdul Rahman. The fact is UMNO leaders since Mahathir became the President chose to divide the people by race to ensure political power. Having assured support, the politicians plunder the country to meet their insatiable desires. Malaysians now earn only a-fifth of what Singaporeans make in a country poor in natural resources.

    ///13. What we are seeing today is not a campaign against racism but a campaign by racists against racists. The meritocrats are as much racists as the Malay NGOs, and Perkasa.

    14. Incidentally by writing this I know the meritocrat racists will condemn me as racist. So be it. ///–Mahathir

    Mahathir made use of Malays as issue to advance his political career, though
    he himself is not Malay, anthropologically, he is an opportunist. He is more appropriately classified a racial opportunist.

  12. #12 by frankyapp on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 7:36 pm

    The war of words between BN and PR have been pretty hot,add more fuel,it will explore and the victims would be mostly inocent and loving malaysians. It’s a shame indeed,some MPs,some vvips,some communal groups are acting pretty insane ( for self interest,greed and crazy for power),should realize and stop,all these racial and political rhetoric in and out side of parliament in order to prevent civil communal commotion. Such communal turmoil will result in everyone losing. Hence why must it be activited ?

  13. #13 by bennylohstocks on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 8:18 pm

  14. #14 by boh-liao on Thursday, 26 August 2010 - 9:49 pm

    While racist MMK stirred up tahi in M’sia n condemned Sg based on twisted lies
    Sg is celebrating with d world by successfully hosting d inaugural Youth Olympic Games

    Sg recognises Unity in Diversity n celebrates Racial Harmony Day annually on 21 July
    Go Google Racial Harmony Day Singapore

    Sg PM will b delivering d 2010 National Day Rally on 29 August (Sunday), 6.45pm
    Listen at

    BTW, 16 September, d day M’sia was formed, is Harry Lee KY’s birthday

  15. #15 by yhsiew on Friday, 27 August 2010 - 7:00 am

    UMNO and Perkasa are oblivious to the fact that in the face of globalization, inter race competition has been shifted to INTER COUNTRY competition. The former is small matter but the latter affects the survival of the country.

    UMNO and Perkasa may succeed in fighting for 67% distribution of wealth for the Bumi, but what is the use if the country collapses economically. When that happens, life will be hard for everybody (be they Bumi or non-Bumi).

    Over the years, the government has paid so much attention to Bumi equities to the extent that it ignored the reality of globalization and the challenges that it brings. The result is a decline in our international competitiveness and a national economy which is going downhill. Countries which once lagged behind us are racing ahead to economic stardom e.g. Vietnam and Indonesia.

    Indonesia, once a third world backwaters, is in place to join the BRIC group of emerging countries comprising Brazil, Russia, India and China which are at a similar stage of newly advanced economic development. Where are we – still fighting which race should get what!

    The government must open its eyes and look BEYOND the Malaysian shore to prepare the country for the onslaught of globalization and hence uplift the economic status of the country.

  16. #16 by Bigjoe on Friday, 27 August 2010 - 8:25 am

    One can blame Perkasa for what they are doing is wrong but DJ Jamaluddin is right about CSL and MCA, they are worst. Harping on Hudud, trying to bait problems between DAP and PAS etc. Its a case where in a difficult situation, they can be a positive force but choose to be a negative destructive one FOR NOT OTHER REASON BUT for their own selfish reasons. Its behaviour of the ignorant, narrow minded, over-entitled, people – its bigotry of the elite and particularly heinous that there should be NOT absolute justification for their behaviour given their basic background.

    Race relation is difficult anywhere but here in Malaysia we have been infected with unique problems. BUT we also have some things going for us in that the Malays by historically are not racist. Yet the Ah Bengs and Ah Lians of MCA only answer to things falling apart for them, which of their own making, is to pour oil on hot coal. THIS when they can be a positive change, albeit not for their own gains. NOT even the leadership to refrain from pouring the oil on hot coal and take the hits as real leaders should and can given MCA resources.

    Its simple pathetic. Tan Siew Sin and Tan Cheng Lock are shaking their heads in heavan looking at MCA and saying he told them so..

  17. #17 by k1980 on Friday, 27 August 2010 - 8:54 am

    These huge portraits remind everyone of North Korea

  18. #18 by Thor on Friday, 27 August 2010 - 9:37 am

    By Azmi Sharom | Brave New World

    It is strange that in the 21st century, we are still having to face the problem of institutionalised racism.

    If we’re careful and selective in choosing leaders, none of these will happen.
    And if we’re to forbid people who’re of racist in nature to become our leaders, non of these will happen too.
    There’s nothing strange or awkward about it for most of the problem is mainly caused by many of us who’re so ignorant or too dumb.
    Also, the effect of having “imported” people from india, java and of arab countries to become our leaders contribute to these menace as well.

  19. #19 by dagen on Friday, 27 August 2010 - 9:39 am

    Dr mamak sir, so you got your MBBS through race or through hard work and merit? Did your father tell you to relak lah or did he drive you to work and study hard like mad so that you are full of merits?

    Oh I get it. You became the PM not through merit but through race or more precisely through pretension, ie pretending to be of the malay race.

    Makes good sense to me now. Merit is to be cast aside because meritocracy = racism. Should have done it a long time ago. Anyway its not too late to do it now. And without merit in the equation I can immediately construct the conviction that albert einstein and I are not too different.

    I like it, err except that I dont like the idea that that gibberish speaking guy who believes that he is from planet mars and who sleeps on the fivefoot way of my office may construct the conviction that he is (OMG) me. O M G! O M G!

  20. #20 by boh-liao on Friday, 27 August 2010 - 9:50 am

    MMK n Toyol want 2 stand up n b counted
    They volunteer 2 go 2 Indonesia now 2 speak 2 their abang adik

  21. #21 by dagen on Friday, 27 August 2010 - 9:54 am

    The porn actor voiced the view that it is wrong for people to give the opposition a try.

    Ho ho ho ho. Its no pray pray. Its for real mr porn man. The people want umno out for good and this is not an experiment! Not even a lesson to wake umno up. Its out you go umno and dont come back. Ever!

  22. #22 by Godfather on Friday, 27 August 2010 - 10:05 am

    The opposite of meritocracy is mediocrity. I think that’s what Mamakthir wants to perpetuate for the sake of UMNO’s survival.

  23. #23 by Taxidriver on Friday, 27 August 2010 - 11:47 am

    “The opposite of meritocracy is mediocrity. I think that’s what Mamakthir wants to perpetuate for the sake of UMNO’s surviva ”- Godfather

    So that his son muflis can climb up the UMNO hierarchy to protect family’s ill-gotten gains and amass more billions? I hope our Malay brothers wake up and not allow this Mamak to manipulate them further.

  24. #24 by Thor on Friday, 27 August 2010 - 11:53 am

    Mahathir knew very well that if PR were to set foot in Putrajaya, he could well end like Suharto or Marcos.
    That’s why he’s trying hard to create tensions and do whatever, even to the extend of creating a civil war in this country.
    We can never let this “ayahanda” of someone think that he’s the smartest of all.

  25. #25 by frankyapp on Friday, 27 August 2010 - 12:12 pm

    If malays looked closer,most would be pretty shock to finding out that the vast majority of the malays’s wealth in malaysia are in the hands of mamaks.

  26. #26 by boh-liao on Saturday, 28 August 2010 - 3:36 am

    CSL stood up long ago n is as usual always ready n dying 2 stand up again n again 2 b counted n filmed

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