Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

A Malay Male Slams Malaysian Malaysia and the Opposition

Written by johnleemk on 1:14:53 pm Mar 24, 2007.

Amir Hafizi, who is apparently a former journalist at the Malay Mail, appears to have a blog of his own called the Malay Male. It's quite a funny one too, if you don't mind the occasional (okay, frequent) vulgarity. Tonight before going to bed, I found his latest profane tirade. (And I mean it when I say this is profane, though it's normal by his standards.)

Here is a choice quote I particularly enjoyed:

The opposition in Malaysia is so fucking pathetic.

They are so pathetic that Tourism Minister Tengku Adnan's asshole can win the next general election single-handedly.

When presented with a choice between KuNan's asshole and the Malaysian Opposition, I guarandamntee you that Malaysians will re-instate an asshole into parliament.

And that's just the beginning. Overall, I would recommend his post for anyone interested in Malaysian politics, provided they can put up with the vulgarity. Despite the swearing, Amir makes a lot of good points I have been trying to make.

The whole gist of his post is simple: the opposition needs to appeal to the average voter. The operative assumption that they have been working on is that people will vote once they know how terrible the government is. But this only motivates the opposition's traditional base of supporters, without having any real impact on the voters who count.

At the end of his article, Amir points out that his parents have been hardcore UMNO supporters since before independence, and suggests that they are the audience the opposition should be targeting. I, however, would not go that far.

I believe in incremental steps in anything — it's almost impossible to pull something tremendous off without going through several baby steps. The opposition trying to win over UMNO's base would be like a baby trying to run a marathon before it could crawl.

That, however, is no excuse not to eventually target them. The opposition should always have the ruling regime's traditional supporters in mind, and should always be thinking about the next baby step it can take to come closer to winning them over.

As I've suggested before, to take the Democratic Action Party as one example, they could start with just a few Malay voters. The starting is always the hardest, but once they get their first Malay Member of Parliament, they can move on to greater things. They will gain momentum, until they can start winning in Malay-majority constituencies, and perhaps one day a majority in Parliament itself.

The opposition seems to pride itself on doing the things that appeal to its traditional base — the non-Malays and the Malaysian intelligentsia. They do a good job of pandering to them. But as Amir notes, that will never be enough to take power.

As he concludes:

So you have to start LISTENING. Not shouting. You have to fucking LISTEN. Otherwise, douse yourself with gasoline and jump off a building. Now.

The opposition thus far has done a lousy job of listening to the average Malaysian. The average Malaysian isn't necessarily a hardcore government supporter — but he's often skeptical of the opposition. Without a concrete reason to vote for them, as Amir says, they will let "Tengku Adnan's asshole ... win the next general election single-handedly".

It's time the opposition woke up and faced this reality.

On a slightly different note, I must take exception to Amir's suggestion that an eradication of Malay special privileges is playing racial politics. It's no more playing racial politics than the blacks of South Africa demanding political equality.

On the other hand, though, he may be having in mind the situation of the United States. Over there, anyone calling for total equality and railing against affirmative action is often realy indeed playing racial politics. As Lyndon Johnson said, how is it fair and non-racial to discriminate against a class of men for years, suddenly unleash them, and tell them to run a race against normal people on a level playing field? In reality, that field is hardly level.

But leveling the playing field does not necessarily entail special privileges for a particular class of people. The Americans had slavery enshrined in their Constitution for almost a century. Should they have then enshrined affirmative action in their Constitution after the slaves were freed, or after the civil rights movement of the 1960s?

Similarly, nobody doubts that the Malays have been given a horrid deal by the colonial regime and by the business elite of the country. But nobody would complain about helping a Malaysian comrade in need. The trouble is, are we truly Malaysian brothers- and sisters-in-arms, or are we segregated into first and second class comrades?

The Constitution — at least as it is interpreted by our government and politicians — divides us into two classes of citizens, Bumiputra and non-Bumiputra. When at the most fundamental level, we are told we are not even fully Malaysian, is it fair or reasonable to expect us to behave as full Malaysians?

I do not think there would be a problem with the New Economic Policy if its scope were limited to Malays with a net worth of less than, say, RM1 million (just to pick an arbitrary figure out of a hat). Nor would there be a problem if we were all acknowledged as equal Malaysians lending our fellow Malaysians a hand.

This is why it is non-racial to demand political equality — because by erasing the distinction between first and second class citizens, we are not playing on racial issues, but eliminating them as issues altogether.

Amir also criticises the DAP's "Malaysian Malaysia" campaign as ambiguous and thus irrelevant:

Malaysian Malaysia? Way to go, assholes. Can't you be more ambiguous?

These stupidly vague statements gives UMNO room to fill in the blanks with whatever they wish. Being unforthcoming is one of the reasons for DAP's irrelevance in parliament.

In this, I wholeheartedly agree. Already in the 1960s, political scientists were noting that "Malaysian Malaysia" is a very clunky phrase that cannot be easily translated into either Malay or Chinese. (Interestingly, effectively relegating its reach to the intelligentsia.) Its association with the People's Action Party and Lee Kuan Yew, two figures of hate in Malaysia thanks to our dysfunctional relationship with Singapore also make its usage suicidal.

As nice as the term is, it's simply impractical to fight for a "Malaysian Malaysia". Were the DAP a bit wiser, it would have adopted and claimed the government's "Bangsa Malaysia" slogan as its own. This would especially be effective since it seems the government has all but abandoned this idea.

Instead, the DAP has come up with its own slogan — "Malaysian First". It remains to be seen how effective this is, but unless the major structural issues with the DAP are cleared up, mere slogan changes will never be enough.

The overall issues with the opposition raised by Amir are cogent and clear. And perhaps most importantly, they are presented in a far more interesting blasphemous and far less dry atmosphere than that of my articles. (Well, they aren't so dry when I write tongue-in-cheek, as I did in the previous sentence...)

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