The trouble with our race relations

Kee Thuan Chye | Mar 5, 2012


Blogger Hussein Abdul Hamid aka Steadyaku47 made waves when he wrote in a posting asking the Chinese not to blame the Malays for being treated as ‘second-class citizens’.

Civil society activist Haris Ibrahim felt “troubled”. He was equally disturbed by what Raja Petra Kamarudin (RPK) had written about the Malays having become “kecik hati” (disappointed) because they feel the Chinese are not real friends to them.

Haris asked a senior journalist friend about what RPK had expressed, and the friend said it was true. He said the Umno-controlled media had been influencing the Malays by spinning that the DAP, “which is painted as a Chinese party, would be the principal benefactor if Pakatan Rakyat came to power”.

As I see it, this is ironic. The media says that the DAP is riding high in Pakatan and Umno leaders drum it in that PAS has become a puppet of the DAP, but look at what the MCA, Umno’s partner, is saying.

Repeating his theme for the umpteenth time, MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek has just called the DAP, in relation to PAS, a “political eunuch”. He insists, as he has insisted many times before, that the DAP will have no guts and ability to stop PAS from bossing Pakatan and getting its way, including implementing hudud and establishing an Islamic state.

What a contradiction between what Umno says and what the MCA says! Umno says the DAP will be the principal benefactor, the MCA says PAS will be the one and the DAP will be the loser. So whom do we believe?

Of course, it’s plain to see that the BN strategy adheres to the archaic mould – Umno says one thing to its Malay audience, the MCA says another thing to its Chinese audience. Never mind if they are contradictory.

Perhaps that could have worked in the old days, when mass communication technology was not so sophisticated, but today anyone with brains and knowledge would say, “Whom are Umno and the MCA trying to deceive?”

The truth must be somewhere in the middle – if Pakatan wins, both the DAP and PAS will be winners, and both will likely see each other as equal partners. On hudud and the Islamic state, they have already agreed to disagree. So if Pakatan takes Putrajaya, there cannot be an Islamic state unless the DAP agrees.

Not all Malays are Umnoputras

Coming back to Steadyaku47’s proposition, I have to say that although some Chinese might have been resentful of the Malays in the past, they have since realised that the people responsible are actually Umno – and, by extension, the MCA as well.

This explains why the Chinese have largely rejected the MCA. Even former finance minister Daim Zainuddin has recently said that at the next general election, he expects only 20 percent of the Chinese to vote for BN. And that these would mostly be rural Chinese.

Nowadays, the majority of the Chinese blame Umno – and therefore BN – for making them “second-class citizens”.

In fact, a Chinese friend of mine asserts, “The Chinese have never blamed the Malays. Ask any Chinese person and they will tell you that. They do not blame; instead, they will compromise and look around for a solution. If they cannot find a solution, they will move away.”

He’s mostly right. It explains why Chinese businessmen still do all right settling for sub-contract work from bumiputeras who get government contracts (unless they are cronies of the government, like some of the big towkays, who get contracts directly); why until March 8, 2008, they rarely spoke out against the system even though it discriminated against them; and why so many Chinese have emigrated since the New Economic Policy came into force.

Those who stay back work doubly hard to make sure they fulfil certain dreams, and if they can’t get into the civil service, they go to the private sector. They do grumble and sometimes target certain Malays who have beaten them to certain opportunities, but they rarely malign the entire race.

Gov’t has poisoned ethnic ties

But to be fair to Steadyaku47, his blog posting does not accuse the Chinese of blaming the Malays as a whole. It is most unfortunate that his blaring headline, ‘The Chinese Must Stop Blaming the Malays!’ (with exclamation mark, to boot), gives that wrong impression.

After reading his article carefully, one would realise that Steadyaku47’s real intention is to urge the Chinese to blame the BN government, Umno, the MCA and “the lack of education to make our young understand the need to celebrate our differences”.

In fact, a large part of the article shows understanding and sympathy for the plight of the Chinese. And it also expresses the embarrassment Malays feel for having “a Malay-led government that is corrupt, arrogant and totally without compassion for its own race”.

Steadyaku47 asks, “Do you want to be a Malay whose private life … is under the control of … government-appointed religious bodies that think that it is their duty to raid houses of ill-repute to save Malay girls from … depravity while the same politicians that appointed them have lives that would rival Hugh Hefner’s?”

I think Steadyaku47’s intent is honest and sincere, and his meaning is clear.

We should be more concerned about Haris’s concern, i.e. that the Malays are “kecik hati” regarding the Chinese, thanks to the spin of the Umno-controlled media.

This idea that the Chinese are not friendly needs to be debunked, but it’s going to be very difficult because the government has done such an excellent job over the last few decades of polarising the races and sowing suspicion between them.

It will take decades more to undo the damage. It will take re-education. It will take new government policies that radically change the racial paradigm, beginning with the dismantling of race-based political parties. It will take the organising of countless programmes to foster goodwill among the various races.

Will it happen under the current BN government? Or will it stand a better chance under a Pakatan government? This is something Malaysians will need to think about when they cast their votes at the next general election.

The day when the Chinese and the Malays feel they are real friends will still be a long time coming, but the outcome of the next elections could decide if it can be somewhat shortened.


KEE THUAN CHYE is the author of the new book ‘No More Bullshit, Please, We’re All Malaysians’.

  1. #1 by k1980 on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 - 12:58 am

    Is umno angry with the Bayan Mutiara sale by tender (RM240 per sq ft) because it was trying to purchase it at RM8,082 an acre?

  2. #2 by yhsiew on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 - 12:59 am

    ///The Chinese have never blamed the Malays. Ask any Chinese person and they will tell you that.///

    Correct, the Malays on the street are not at fault. It is Umno and MCA which are causing the trouble.

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 - 1:53 am

    Mr Kee Thuan Chye has correctly stated that “the government (and if I may add the structure of our communal politics based on race based parties of UMNO, MCA & MIC) has done such an excellent job over the last few decades of polarising the races and sowing suspicion between them”. Having said this and also having said “the day when the Chinese and the Malays feel they are real friends will still be a long time coming”, Mr Kee should have just stopped there and at that instead of – by next breath – and in a manner directly contradictory to what he just said – try reconcile and explain away, in a strained language and by convoluted argument what he perceives as Chinese or some Chinese’s sentiments or attitudes or whatever friends of Pakatan like Abdul Hamid aka Steadyaku47 or Harris said.

  4. #4 by k1980 on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 - 2:06 am

    Open letter to Viagra Chua but so far no reply from that hamsap fella

    Putrajaya has fewer than 7000 registered voters but Kit Siang’s constituency of Ipoh Timur has more than 76000 while Kapar in Selangor has 112000. And yet you proclaim together with Umno that our elections are free and fair.

  5. #5 by monsterball on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 - 3:57 am

    Nothing new.
    Without race and religion politics by UMNO b…they are dead ducks.
    Bottom line…will Malaysians love to be fooled.
    Only idiots do not want a change of a 55 year old Govt..regardless good or bad….and we know how bad it is….don’t we.
    Focus on getting rid of corruptions and murders…with thieves and killers walking freely…with no fear.
    Change the Govt. or else dead corpse after being raped can be your love one.
    This is a country with laws of the jungle.

  6. #6 by monsterball on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 - 4:00 am

    Why do you think Anwar is shouting “REFORMASI” for years.
    Why do you think Najib want Anwar in jail so badly.

  7. #7 by Winston on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 - 8:48 am

    Mr Kee, simply put, the whole sorry business we are seeing today is caused by UMNO/BN and its lackeys.
    And the reason they are doing is not difficult to see or understand.
    In fact, it’s child’s play!!
    In a nutshell, they just want to protect and prolong their criminal activities.
    And they would go to great lengths to do so.
    As for PAS implementing the Hudud laws, only criminals like them will be having nightmares.
    Hardworking, God fearing Malaysian citizens have no fear.
    Now, another aspect of all their wild accusations as well as criminal activities so close to the next GE.
    The aim undoubtedly is to fritter away the concentration of the PR’s leaders from focusing on this election which most probably will favour the PR.
    The BN will not leave any stones unturned and any ploy untried, to deflect the success of the PR.
    That’s why the top PR leaders must focus their attention on the next GE like one would a laser beam!!!
    Win the next GE and the rest, as they say, is history!!!!

  8. #8 by drngsc on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 - 9:06 am

    Malaysia is at the crossroads. All Malaysians must rise up, and be counted. 55 years is enough. They have ruin our country.
    We need a change. The status quo will not do.
    Please vote correctly at GE 13.

    Change we must. Change we can.
    We need to change the tenant at Putrajaya. This is the year for change. Let us all work very very hard. For a better Malaysia and future.

  9. #9 by sotong on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 - 9:22 am

    Blame the ordinary Malays?

    But MCA, MIC and etc.. who ” claimed ” to represent the non Malays do not have any problem with the BN’s power sharing and policies! It’s obvious, they have benefited substantially from the situation.

    If you fully understand the ordinary Malays’ difficult situation… will be thankful you are NOT an ordinary Malay.

  10. #10 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 - 9:26 am

    ///In fact, a Chinese friend of mine asserts, “The Chinese have never blamed the Malays. Ask any Chinese person and they will tell you that. They do not blame; instead, they will compromise and look around for a solution. If they cannot find a solution, they will move away.” ///

    How very true! Chinese are terribly realistic and pragmatic. Umno is the real culprit for having practised racial politics. The average chinese is actually easily impressed by one fact; and it is this: The ability to work hard. Any average Joe Ahmad who is prepared to work hard would earn the respect of his chinese boss and this already is a good starting point. Then again umno has different ideas about things – the order of things. Umno wants umnoputras to be bosses and everyone else to be their subordinates. And so the matter gets complicated.

  11. #11 by cseng on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 - 11:26 am

    //RPK had written about the Malays having become “kecik hati” (disappointed) because they feel the Chinese are not real friends to them.//

    By that argument, just replaced Malay with Chinese, it has the same effect. That is what UMNO’s idea and agenda.

    I am chinese and I never blame Malay, but I blamed institutional racism, I blame the government, I blame BN as ‘The’ problem of all these.

    In fact, I felt sorry for most rural Malay, Umno feeds them with siege mentality, then, role play as only ‘bangsa’ protector shielding them from whatever threats (whatever umno feel fits, thru TV3), including their own shadow. Most of them are less informed, poor critical thinking and lack of alternative views, they subscribed to this sorry fiction stories.

    Like it or not, Malay still the majority, if Malay do not progress, all standstill. How could others not befriend with you?

  12. #12 by mm08 on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 - 1:46 pm

    i think people now are more open and mature. We have no problem with any race as long as they are malaysian. The racist problem is being brought up by the politician mainly to scare of the people. So that the people will vote them then they can continue to corrupt. But we are smarter now and know how to differentiate the right from wrong. We have to stand up and fight for the right thing like Lynas, we reject it so we are sending a strong message to the government we do not want it! same goes to the corrupt government also we will be sending a strong message via next election to tell them they are not relevant anymore.

  13. #13 by good coolie on Saturday, 10 March 2012 - 12:30 am

    Hello, who said that the Chinese will not accept hardworking Indians and Malays into their establishments? Indians, try applying for tyre-changing and car-washing jobs; Malays can apply for the driving jobs! Perhaps the Chinese have changed, but being an old man, I can’t see any signs of it! Now am I a racialist, my friend Ah Kow?

  14. #14 by on cheng on Saturday, 10 March 2012 - 7:44 pm

    Damages already done by you know who… ? (who had rule Msia for the past 54 years??)
    will take long , long time to mend the damages

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