A One Malaysia, not several

May 13, 2009 at 2:54 pm Leave a comment

Manjit Bhatia | May 13, 09 2:25pm

may13I’m aware of the date today – May 13 – and its significance. I’ve been aware of it for a very long time. Just as I’m sure we’re all aware that Malaysia hasn’t progressed an inch since the race riots 40 years ago.

In fact, we’ll probably agree that race relations in Malaysia have deepened – for the worse. The idea that Malaysia is a melting pot of ‘multiculturalism’ may be true in tourism brochures, but that kind of spin and hubris has never held in the political and economic sense. If anything, it’s a black hole.

In yesteryear, during my school days, we used to talk jokingly about the “black hole of Calcutta”. I’ve always thought the ‘black hole’ analogy applies superbly, effortlessly, to the Malaysian political economy context.

And we know why.

The black hole of Malaysia – first Kuala Lumpur, then Putrajaya – resonates well with the recent call for a 1BlackMalaysia day.

Only, for me, since May 13, 1969, every day has been, and will be, a 1BlackMalaysia day – until, and unless, Malaysians of all races stand together as one people. Not as Malays or ‘bumiputera’, or Chinese, or Hindus, or Sikhs, or Christians, or Sinhalese, or whatever else, but as genuine red-blooded bumiputera Malaysians.

Every person, irrespective of his or her race, colour or creed, to use a well-worn cliché, born in Malaysia or to Malaysian parenthood, fitfully and without demur is entitled to be called a bumiputera Malaysian, complete with equal rights as the next person.

But, no, Malaysians are discriminated left, right and center by the dominant Umno regime. This regime, its continuity in form, its re-manifestation many times since 1969 as an ultra nationalist, right-wing bureaucratic authoritarian regime, has trampled the rights of the non-Malays.

It has abused human rights as wantonly as it rules the country. Forty years since the bloody murderous events of May 13, 1969, and 52 years since independence, Malaysia is a country, and its territorial sovereignty permits its nation-state status, but its institutionalised racism – strongly sponsored by Umno and its coalition partners who buttress the divisiveness of ‘Malaysians’ – does not make Malaysia a nation.

Umno and its coalition partners run their divisive politics in true racial segregation-style politics. Everyone of them since the end of the Tunku Abdul Rahman government – who was backstabbed, calculatingly, by Umno’s ultra-nationalist racists led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

This episode started a nasty chapter of ultra-conservative Malay nationalism, whose singular purpose was to champion the Malay polity. Code for racism. It has remained unchanged. The Malay polity is still the key vehicle for legitimating Malay politicians. Just as the Chinese polity is for MCA and the Indian polity is for MIC.

It’s through this vehicle that Umno is today trying to wrest national control of the polity and economy from the re-emergent if imaginary threats of non-Malay Malaysians. It’s bogeyman politics. And it works well in the kampungs. The urban political landscape is something else.

Send unmistakable message to Umno

In 2009, race relations have dived to the precipice. They reflect just how desperately the battered and tarnished Umno, led by new leader Abdul Najib Razak, whose own reputation is questionable, is trying to regain its political ascendancy, much less its hegemony, in the face of the increasingly popular opposition parties.

But something else is happening in Malaysia: the quiet dissonance among Malaysia’s urban voters – of all races – against Umno hegemony and its partners who are equally reliant on racist and divisive politics just to stay alive and at worse relevant.

There’s nothing legitimate and everything illegitimate about Umno and Barsian Nasional and its leaders. They’re the illegitimate wielders of corrupt autocracy and race-based paternalistic politics.

There are no ‘greenshoots’ of democracy emergent in Malaysia in 2009. At least there are none that are truly representative of democracy on the ground. Voting is still along racialist lines. That’s the historical curvature of the Malaysian political economy.

Is Malaysia capable of producing a true mass political protest against the Umno-led regime and its cronies? Yes, but only if all Malaysians want democracy. They’ll need to pour out into every urban street and kampung lane throughout Malaysia – everyone of them, regardless of their race – and together show their intent, their disgust.

Show the regime and its protectionist syndicate, the politicised and corrupt police force, that it wants change. Real change. A One Malaysia, not several. Not for one group of people only. Not for the cronies of the regime. Not for the Malays only. For all Malaysians.

Pipe dreams? Perhaps. But until this happens, it will always be 1BlackMalaysia, every day. A black hole. It’ll always be the black hole of Putrajaya, which will always be anti-democratic, which will always be the purveyor of rule by law. The call for 1BlackMalaysia day is indisputable. It would be fitting, for those who want to mark key dates by donning black shirts.

Send a message to Umno and its partners: democracy in Malaysia is dead, and it’s the direct result of the corrupt and incompetent Umno and BN regime since 1969. Send a message – under Umno and BN, Malaysia is a pariah state.

And if you’re still unconvinced, look at what’s happening in the state of Perak. For all is sickeningly disgusting there – because of Umno, because of the prostrate cowardice and indecency of Umno’s partners in the ruling regime to pressure Umno to change. And because of the two-faced Najib Razak, who speaks with a forked tongue.


MANJIT BHATIA, an academician and writer, is also research director of AsiaRisk, a political, economic and risk analysis consultancy in Australia. He specialises in international economics and politics, with a focus on the Asia-Pacific.

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