After six decades of Malaysian nation-building and half a century of Rukun Negara, we should be talking about the “Malaysian Dilemma” instead of the “Malay Dilemma” or the “Non-Malay Dilemma”

After six decades of Malaysian nation-building and half a century of Rukun Negara, we should be talking about the “Malaysian Dilemma” instead of the “Malay Dilemma” or the “Non-Malay Dilemma”.

This thought came to me when I read the report “Mahathir ramps up race rhetoric after joining Putra”.

The news report quoted Mahathir as saying:

“That’s why before I die, I will work for my race.

“Call me racist, but Malays are now left behind after giving way to the foreigners.”

Two days ago, in a talk to senior military officers in Putrajaya, I said I had been to China few times, but I never felt at home. But when the plane returned to Malaysia, I felt I was returning home.

I shared with them a 54-year-old Official Secrets Act (OSA) document, which was declassified on 24th February 2020 as a result of a defamation suit I instituted against the former Inspector-General of Police, Tun Hanif Omar to show how loyal and consistent DAP leaders and I had been through the decades in the pursuit of the Malaysian Dream.

This was a statement I made to the police while in police custody at the Kuala Selangor Police Station lock-up under my first Internal Security Act detention after I voluntarily flew back to Malaysia on 18th May 1969.

In my over half-a-century of political life, I have been demonised and accused of all sorts of things — that I was the main figure of the May 13, 1969 racial riots; anti-Malay; anti-Indian and even anti-Chinese; that I was a secret agent of CIA, M16, KGB and even Australian Secret Service; that I was a communist and most lately promoting Islamophobia.

I was asked about my views on many things — on the May 13, 1969 riots, my political stand and my “future plan” and this is what I said to the Police in May 1969:

“My Political Stand

83. Like any colleagues in the DAP, I believe:

(a) That Malaysia is a multi-racial, multi-lingual, and multi-cultural society, and that a viable Malaysian nation can only be formed if all the races and groups in the country are given an equal stake in the Malaysian sun.

(b) that in a multi-racial society like Malaysia, violence and any ideology of force, as for instance advocated by the CPM can only lead to the disintegration of the country because it quickly degenerates into racial conflict. I therefore deplore force and violence of all forms.

(c) that in a multi-racial society, if any racial group feels it is backward, either educationally, economically, culturally, linguistically, or politically, then racial antagonism will be created. Every attempt must be made to remove these imbalances between the races and groups.

(d) that poverty is not a communal problem. It is a socio-economic problem. To regard poverty as a racial problem is to increase racial antagonism in this country.

(e) that democratic socialism can close the gap between the haves and the have-nots of all races.

(f) that I want a clean, honest, efficient, incorruptible, and effective government.

(g) that only parliamentary democracy can prevent a racial clash. Any other form of government will only lead to racial mistrust.

(h) that communism is unconducive in a multi-racial society like Malaysia.

My Future Plan

84. I intend to continue with my political work in the DAP to help bring about a genuine nation of Malaysians:

(a) where every citizen, regardless of his race, language or religion, regards himself as a Malaysian first and his racial identity secondary;

(b) where Malaysians of all races have more in common with one another than with their ‘blood brothers’ counterpart in China, India or Indonesia. Unless we can achieve this, Malaysia cannot be said to have become “A Nation of Malaysians”.

85. Inside and outside Parliament, my and my party’s theme will continue to be:

(a) that all Malaysians must be Malaysian conscious;

(b) to work in unison to make Malaysia a united, harmonious, and prosperous nation.

The nation’s founding fathers, Onn Jaafar, Tunku Abdul Raham, Tun Razak, Tun Hussein Onn, Tun Tan Cheng Lock, and Tun Sambanthan envisaged a nation comprising Malays and non-Malays and that is why there is Article 43 in the Malaysian Constitution which does not limit a Prime Minister to the Malays, where non-Malays are not constitutionally barred from holding the office of Prime Minister although Article 43(7) barred a person who is a citizen by naturalization or by registration under Article 17 from becoming Prime Minister.

I do not expect to see a non-Malay to become a Prime Minister in my lifetime or even my children’s lifetime.

But I posed this question in Parliament during the debate of 2009 Budget debate in Parliament in November 2008.

I said it was unthinkable even until very recently for anyone to believe that it was possible for a black, who were slaves until some 150 years ago, to be able to become President of US.

With Obama’s historic breakthrough, many Malaysians were asking whether it was possible for a Chinese, Indian, Kadazan, or Dayak to become the Prime Minister of Malaysia although the Constitution is very clear that any Malaysian citizen, regardless of race or religion can become Prime Minister.

I said if such a question was asked 50 years ago, the nation’s founders like Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, Tun Dr. Ismail, Tun Hussein Onn, Tun Tan Cheng Lock, Tun Tan Siew Sin, and Tun V.T. Sambanthan would unhesitatingly answered in the positive as there was no constitutional bar — separate from the question of whether it was likely to happen.

I said in November 2018:

“But if the same question is asked now, there will be strong voices (as heard in Parliament today when this question was posed) who would rise up to say no.

“Who is going against the Merdeka Constitution and the social contract reached by the forefathers of the major communities to achieve national independence half a century ago?

“Why is Malaysian race relations and nation-building going backwards in the past 50 years as compared to the historic breakthrough in race relations in the United States with Obama’s historic victory in the US presidential elections?”

We seem to have slipped further in the year 2023.

It is not that a non-Malay is to become a Prime Minister in this generation or the next, but Mahathir as senior Cabinet Minister for seven years and twice as Prime Minister of Malaysia for as long as 24 years seem to have forgotten his Ministerial and Prime Ministerial oath he had taken to “preserve, protect, and defend” the Malaysian Constitution?

After six decades of nation-building, Malaysia has slipped from a first-rate world-class nation to a second-class mediocre country. We have become a nation in decline.

Are we fated to end up as a divided, failed, and kleptocratic state on Malaysia’s Centennial in 2057?

This is the most important question in Malaysia today, not the rhetorical and baseless question why the Malays have lost economic and political power to the non-Malays, but whether Malaysians, regardless of race, religion, or region, can reset and return to the original nation-building principles of our nation’s founding fathers to reunite a very polarised plural society and make Malaysia a first-rate world-class nation with world-class political, economic, educational and social system instead of hurtling along to become a divided, failed and kleptocratic state on Malaysia’s Centennial in 2057.

(Media Statement by DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang in Penang on Friday, March 3, 2023)

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