Moving past the issue of race

— Ong Kar Jin (loyarburok)
The Malaysian Insider
April 18, 2013

APRIL 18 — Sixty-two years ago, Datuk Onn Jaafar took a bold political step forward and proposed that Umno open itself to members of other ethnicities. The United Malays National Organisation was to become the United Malayans National Organisation. Sadly, his vision was far ahead of his time and was rejected.

Since the inception of Malaya in 1957 and the Federation of Malaysia in 1963, the political narrative of our country has been one of race. Campaigns, parties, social movements rely on appealing to ethnocentric sentiments to remain relevant.

Post-1969, this narrative hardened and played on fears of ethnic violence. To a large extent, it has reinforced barriers between Malaysians, and created a siege mentality of “us versus them”.

The issue of race has puzzled, haunted and fascinated me my entire life. As a child growing up in a Chinese vernacular school, I was shocked to see how some students treated Malays and Indians. “Babi”, “Keling” and other callous words were thrown about by children as young as 10.

All Malaysians have witnessed this kind of blatant racism, whether by eyewitness, hearsay or personal experience. And many of us are guilty of it. As a collective, we certainly are: stereotypes are perpetrated by parents complaining of racism while being guilty of it all the same, careless comments or dark thoughts in our heart of hearts, generalizing or signing off people based on their race. No one race can blame the other and absolve itself of its own complicity.

We cannot wash away our sins in these matters. Race-based political parties like Umno, MCA and MIC survive because of simple economics: where there is a demand, there will be a supply. These parties are both the cause and effect of our divisions: they are borne out of our own tendencies to divide ourselves and exploit them by emphasising how we are different.

Race-based parties imply that only Chinese can help Chinese best, only Malays will properly serve the interests of Malays, ad infinitum. By being explicitly race-based parties, they state they are their race first and Malaysian second.

The result has been a vicious cycle of spiralling communalism, of fear mongering and hate-inciting.

For perhaps the first time in the history of the nation, Malaysians have a viable alternative to race-based politics in Pakatan Rakyat. Admittedly, parties like the DAP and PAS are still dominated by Chinese and Malays respectively. However, the fundamental difference is that the DAP and PAS are at their heart parties based on ideology and not race.

In the past four years, we have seen a trend towards genuine multiracialism in these parties. The DAP has Dr Ariffin Omar as vice-chairman and Zairil Khir Johari as asstistant national publicity secretary. The PAS Supporters Club was founded by a Chinese, and the party is fielding three non-Muslim candidates for the coming election.

Now, I am not a diehard PR cybertrooper. I do not think PR is an angel, and I believe that even if it comes to power the rakyat should and must monitor the coalition ever so closely since power tends to corrupt. I am also acutely and painfully aware that in many campaigns these parties continue to capitalise on racial tensions.

But the main reason why I am supporting PR is because they represent a shift, however minor, away from racialism and towards nationalism. Names indeed have power, and not having a party constitution explicitly based on race paves the way for further racial integration down the road. And as such, I am also staunchly against any move to dilute PR’s policy, non-race based brand of politics by capitulating to Hindraf demands.

In the 1990s, Dr Mahathir Mohamad famously condemned the apartheid regime of South Africa as a form of racism, oppression and neo-colonialism.

Here’s what one of South Africa’s greatest fighters for equality had to say:

“In my country of South Africa, we struggled for years against the evil system of apartheid that divided human beings, children of the same God, by racial classification and then denied many of them fundamental human rights.” — Desmond Tutu

Come this General Election 2013, Malaysians have a chance to change the political narrative from one of race to one of policy.

To move beyond an archaic, apartheid-like system that emphasises distinctions instead of commonalities. To go past judging and governing a nation based on identity politics and move on to policy/ideology-based politics.

I urge all of you to seize this day. —

  1. #1 by Jeffrey on Friday, 19 April 2013 - 8:10 am

    This General Election 2013 is about TDM’s vision and political legacy based on race which puts Najib’s 1 Malaysia into back burner from day 1. It is whether Malaysians by majority still embrace the tribalism and feudalism of his legacy or have now reached the tipping point to go beyond and move forward. Apparently he does not think so, and he’s either right with BN winning and proven wrong by PR doing better than 2008 or even winning.

  2. #2 by kg on Friday, 19 April 2013 - 9:08 am

    五月五 换政府,
    借眼睛 借月亮,

    眼睛 火箭 月亮 是一家!

  3. #3 by kg on Friday, 19 April 2013 - 9:08 am

    Come 5th of May, change the government,
    But BeEnd wants to assassinate the Rocket;
    So Rocket is lending the moon and the eye,
    For the moon and eye to represent Rocket!

    PKR DAP PAS is one family!

  4. #4 by Bigjoe on Friday, 19 April 2013 - 9:38 am

    It does not matter really. Najib HAS DESTROYED UMNO/BN single-handedly by signing his deal with Waytha from HindrafI(section A). There is NO WAY he can allocate TENS OF BILLIONS to Hindraf Blueprint AND KEEP his crony economics demanded by Perkasa and Mahathirist.

    It does not matter if all Najib does not plan to fufill his pledges any time soon. After a honeymoon period of no more than a year, every Hindraf-inspired group will be making demands left and right and Perkasa/Mahathirist will also react simiarly. IT WILL BE CHAOS.

    All it will take is one year into a new UMNO/BN administration and IT WILL BE CHAOS between the demands of the Hindraf-inspired groups and Perkasa on the other side. ITS NOT GOVERNABLE.. An UMNO/BN administraton afer GE 13 is CHAOS for most of the term..

  5. #5 by kg on Friday, 19 April 2013 - 10:14 am

    I think it the other way round, this is going to be BumNo BeEnd’s biggest blunder so far. This will be one of the most counter productive strategy by Bijan.

    Huge opportunity behind huge crisis. Thanks to BumNo BeEnd, they are helping PR amplifying their wrongdoings, live into GE13.

    Voters will make no mistake, the bad guy is, and has always been BumNo BeEnd. PR’s underdog status could be reinforced, sympathy towards PR could be multiplied.

    Thanks to HisapMud. Now, DAP = PAS, PAS = DAP, DAP = PKR, PKR = DAP. In the end, PAS = DAP = PKR, truly Malaysian PR.

  6. #6 by sotong on Friday, 19 April 2013 - 11:56 am

    They know politics of race and religion are important to divide the people to keep them in power…..with decades of bad leadership and gross mismanagement, extremist and racist in position of power, trust and influence explioted it.

  7. #7 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Friday, 19 April 2013 - 12:38 pm

    What strange development. Umno (through ROS of course) does not recognise DAP’s recently elected CEC. It was meant to be a sabotage, no doubt. As is typical of umno, all shots fired by umno are aimed at its own foot. Perhaps, this latest bullet shot by umno will find its way to umno’s heart, instead.

    The political war path in the country was and has always been dictated by umno. Going by that dictation, DAP although a multi racial political set up, was compelled to do battle more as a chinese-centric party.

    The latest umno attempt to sabotage DAP will finally allow DAP to show voters the true multiracial status of the party as well as its members; and also its multiracial ideals.

    And more importantly, it will also give voters a large dose of comfort and confidence and a definite feeling of security because it will soon become apparent to all in this country that despite what umno and monsterO’mamak claimed and feared the various races in the country could actually work together as one and there will be no likelihood of racial unrest (unless umno instigates one).

    DAP candidates under PAS’ moon? Yeah!

    DAP candidates under PKR’s eye? No problem.

    Time to ABU. Make it a truly national objective and ideal.

  8. #8 by on cheng on Friday, 19 April 2013 - 11:02 pm

    If 44 years after 13 May 1969, they can still said riot or chaos if they don’t win, while they were in power all these whiles, then it only means one thing , that is they had failed miserably in the democracy building and promotion of racial harmony !

  9. #9 by good coolie on Saturday, 20 April 2013 - 12:52 am

    Racial slurs were a common occurrence once. Now it is only common with certain sections of the uneducated public. And because some people sometimes do not know what they do, they can be forgiven. Try to ignore such insults if you are on the receiving end; if you are on the giving end, remember that you are acting impolitely and are worthy of contempt.
    Once, and only once, I went to a football match in a stadium. There were rabid shouts of “Keling” every time a Keling from the opposing State handled the ball well. The same words were not used on the Kelings from their own side. Still, I was hurt, never to attend a football match again.

    By the way, even a wonderful word like “Bhai” can be used pejoratively. When you shout “Melayu” at a Malay, it becomes an insult. By contrast, African Americans would not flinch if someone shouted “Black”. They would just scratch their heads, puzzled!

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