BTN is a tool for Umno’s propaganda

– Iskandar Fareez
The Malaysian Insider
21 June 2015

I am appalled to read the recent statement made by the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Razali Ibrahim in defence of the National Civic Bureau (BTN).

Perhaps the leaking of presentation slides are not enough and Razali needs more testimonials from participants before he admits that BTN was and will continue to be a tool for Umno’s political propaganda.

From my personal experience going through training at BTN during my secondary school days, the modules were designed with the purpose of indoctrinating participants with a Malay supremacist agenda under the guise of nation building.

Being only in my teen years, we were called on to defend Malaysia’s current leadership to avoid any split of Malay political dominance.

We were cautioned that any hints of discord among the Malay community will be used by the opportunist non-Malays to take over the country.

Essentially, the key message was that the lack of participation of the Malays in the economic sector necessitated initiatives to maintain Malay (read: Umno’s) political leadership to ensure the survival of the community.

Any calls for equal rights or meritocracy should be construed as a threat towards this goal.

This idea wasn’t just covered in one or two sessions, but it became the underlying theme of the entire course.

Selective statistics were used to justify this claim and rationalise the structural discrimination practiced in Malaysia.

To put it in simple terms: the Malays are the victim and the Non-Malays are the oppressors.

Unfortunately, I grew up believing this rhetoric and began to view my Non-Malay friends in a bad light. I began to be wary of their actions and intentions.

It came to point where everything became construed as the “non-Malay’s agenda” to weaken the Malays.

However, after a few years I began to discard this silly notion and acknowledge that it was just another baseless claim.

Getting to know my fellow Malaysians from various backgrounds as individuals helped me understand that we are not as different as we were portrayed to be.

All of us want a better life and a better future. None of which involves wishing for the detriment of the other.

After reading through BTN’s leaked presentation slides, it saddens me that even after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s call for inclusivity through his 1Malaysia initiative, Umno is still employing this archaic method to control the minds of youths and the civil service.

I felt that I had to voice out to stop this vicious cycle of segregation. BTN must be brought to an end.

I also regret that instead of investigating upon the matter, Razali retaliated on those who questioned BTN by insinuating that people who support the opposition are less patriotic than those who back Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN).

Of course, in a democracy, this assumption is completely inaccurate. Anyone is free to participate in the political process.

Additionally, being critical of BN which happens to be the government of the day, only provides check and balance to the system to ensure the interest of the people is always prioritised.

The fact that such statements can be uttered by a minister holding office without any reprimand shows how ingrained this propaganda has seeped through our society; equating the ruling party to the country, thereby labelling any form of dissent as unpatriotic.

As a result, we could have a society that is compliant even to the gravest atrocities committed by the government of the day, all in the name of being ‘a good citizen’.

Indeed, a propaganda unit funded by the tax-payers have no place in a functioning democracy.

According to DAP Parliamentary Leader Lim Kit Siang, the budget for the BTN has been steadily increasing over the years, climbing from some RM20 million in the 1980s and RM200 million in the 1990s to the latest figure of RM365 million for the 2010-2015 period.

May I suggest that we put these funds to better use by channelling them to schools that gravely need the additional resources?

Investing in a propaganda machinery will only produce robots that do as they are told.

But investing education will produce talents that we badly need to steer this country back to the right direction; of moderation and acceptance.

My experience of BTN might differ from yours so I invite you to share your experience and hopefully we can get the message through to Razali and show that we want the government to stop wasting our tax money. End BTN once and for all. – June 21, 2015.

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