Did Malaysia mature when we were not looking?

— Ooi Kee Beng
The Malaysian Insider
Oct 31, 2011

OCT 31 — The flurry of Malay organisations making the news in Malaysia bodes well for the country, whether or not these group together extreme rightists, opposition voices, concerned students or professors, or green or human right activists.

The matter has now become too obvious to be denied, which is that the Malay community in Malaysia is like any other community anywhere in the world. Its collectiveness, like anyone else’s, is pragmatic and contingent. This is how it should be. They are not an entity whose extremely diverse and individual needs, thoughts and aspirations can be articulated through one single political party.

The myth is broken. What will take its place is a cacophony of noises or a symphony of tunes, depending on one’s politics and disposition.

That powerful party, Umno, is the oldest in the country, founded as it was just one year after the Second World War. It has dominated Malaysian politics to this day, but now rightly fears that it will lose power in the very near future.

When the party started, its slogan was “Hidup Melayu” — Long Live the Malays. Only after changing that to “Merdeka” in March 1951 did it begin to make serious headway into the popular consciousness.

From the very beginning, Malay political consciousness went in many directions. There were pan-Indonesianists, communists and other leftists, monarchists, Fabian socialists and republicans. The British, with their reputation lost through their defeat by the Japanese, favoured conservatives who were willing to work closely with the nine sultanates. This entity was Umno.

The amazing diversity found in the Malay community — as in all communities — was obvious from the onset. Those more concerned about religious values broke away to form PAS in 1951, while Umno itself split around the same time when its president, Onn Jaafar, left with his group of followers to form the Independence of Malaya Party (IMP).

Umno gained the upper hand through co-operation with the Malayan Chinese Association, formed at the instigation of the British to draw Chinese support away from the communists. This coalition managed to gain independence in 1957 for the country after its electoral successes saw the British abandoning the IMP, which they had favoured since its founding.

Even after 1969, when the so-called Malay agenda could be applied fully through the New Economic Policy, internal fighting continued within Umno, leading to outright splits in 1988 and 1998.

Today, when more and more Malays are urban and well educated, and make up an increasing portion of the population, the expression of diversity within that community — the breaking of the collective myth — should be seen as the coming into being of Malaysia’s modern citizen, largely determined by the Malays.

Opposition from other communities since 1969 has been generally weak, and based on the activism of certain individuals. The propaganda that had served Umno for so long, that the Malays are in danger of extinction, does not work anymore.

This became most obvious when the group Himpun recently demonstrated with a cry against purported Christian threats to Islam.

Despite the claim that a massive crowd of one million would turn up, the Umno government granted the permit. Only 5,000 people showed up, indicating quite clearly that Malays in general cannot relate to the old idle logic any longer.

The Malays continue to decide the national discourse, as they have done since the beginning. But most hearteningly, diversity is taken for granted, and a lot of activism is done in collaboration with non-Malays.

The Malaysian citizen has come into his and her own right.

There is no longer any doubt that the Malays will “hidup”; and Merdeka was won a long time ago. What seems to be the problem now is, how quickly will the death of the old myth mean the fall from power of Umno?

Instead of 1 Malaysia, Umno’s latest slogan, to be correctly reflective of the government’s concerns, should be “Hidup Pemimpin Umno” — Long Live Umno Leaders. — Today

  1. #1 by Godfather on Monday, 31 October 2011 - 10:16 am

    This article is written more in hope than in anything else. There is no maturity in Bolehland. Most things are still being done along racial lines. The worst thing about the Malay culture is that there is this overriding reluctance to attribute blame to a fellow Muslim, even if the evidence of wrongdoing is overwhelming. The most that a Muslim onlooker would do when confronted with evidence of a criminal act by a fellow Muslim is to look away, and pretend that it never existed. Privately some would condemn in anonymity but most, if not all, would rather keep silent for fear of being a traitor to the race or religion.

    Until Muslims in Bolehland can reach out openly to condemn wrongdoings and to fight for justice irrespective of race and religion, then I would say that society has matured. We are a long long way from that.

  2. #2 by Godfather on Monday, 31 October 2011 - 10:22 am

    Look at the recent warning by the Sultan of Johor that he will resign as Pro Chancellor in a local university if the students engage in “illegal” rallies. Illegal in the eyes of whom ? Of course Tuanku meant illegal in the eyes of the ruling government. So students can join Bersih, students can’t march in solidarity with Aziz Bari, students can’t march in protest against the recent Auditor General’s Report.

    Did any Melayu openly counter Tuanku on his threat ? Did any Melayu say “c’mon, this is so outdated, we need students who are politically aware”. Nope. Not a soul from Pakatan or the academia said anything. The fear is to be branded as anti-royalty or worse, anti Islam. Is this fear justified ?

  3. #3 by Godfather on Monday, 31 October 2011 - 10:23 am

    sorry, “…students can”t join Bersih…..”

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Monday, 31 October 2011 - 10:33 am

    How can one say, comparing past with the present, with confidence and rational justification that Malaysia has ‘matured when we were not looking’ just on account only of low turn out for Himpun Rally considered extremist for stoking anti-Christian hysteria when in the past there was neither Himpun nor Perkasa in the first place ?
    The low turnout (supported by Perkasa) has been touted as a “fantastic victory for moderates” and a moment of pride for Malaysians. Were there many Himpuns in the past with high turn out to signify that with passage of time extremism has receded that has resulted in this low turn out ? In the past would Himpun have been allowed to organize a rally of such intention in the stadium??? Please don’t mix up facts with hopes and wishful thinking.

  5. #5 by boh-liao on Monday, 31 October 2011 - 12:03 pm

    M’sia is certainly a mature nation n Malays n Muslims r mature n open-minded people
    Where on earth can 1 find d top brand OWC with a well publicised pleasure-guaranteed manual? Lots of ppl want 2 move 2 M’sia n b members of OWC n enjoy, enjoy, enjoy

  6. #6 by GOD on Monday, 31 October 2011 - 10:56 pm

    Malaysia aged when we were not looking – which is not the same as ‘maturing’. Wine matures with age and gets to be pricy with maturity. In the case of Malaysia, she’s like old wine that has turned to vinegar.

  7. #7 by monsterball on Tuesday, 1 November 2011 - 1:11 am

    If you know how to store wine at right temperature and at right position ..it will get better and better as age catches up….not necessarily turned to vinegar.

  8. #8 by monsterball on Tuesday, 1 November 2011 - 2:19 am

    Malaysians matured and self studied more than from schools…for the past few years that frightens the bunch of crooks asking themselves….”What’s up Doc?”
    No reply from their evil Doc…out come the order…”Defend with your lives from traitors!”
    All is not well….for UMNO b and a devil in disguised as God…. getting ready to run like hell too.

  9. #9 by monsterball on Tuesday, 1 November 2011 - 10:04 am

    Our GOD wants to brag he knows about wine.

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