Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Change is Not Naivete

Written by johnleemk on 1:44:18 pm May 15, 2007.
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The other side of the chatroom debate, ketuanan Melayu and its historical background has already been covered. Now the other issue is, is it naive to work for change? Is everything just fine?

No, it is not — we are straddling a very odd hybrid of two racially discriminatory approaches to political and economic opportunities, and a very odd hybrid of apartheid and assimilation.

What does it matter if the minorities supposedly have "more rights" if these rights are meaningless in a Malaysian context? What is more important — the right not to be called a pendatang asing and treated like a migrant who can be deported at the first convenient opportunity, or the right to government funding for a parallel segregated school system?

The correct thing to do now is to restore the original understanding of the Constitution as written by the Reid Commission and approved by the Alliance — to create full equality of opportunity for all Malaysians in both political and economic areas.

Of course, you will now ask, how can this be done? The most important thing is to win over the Malays so they will support change, instead of sitting back and letting change overtake us — or, worse, sitting back and believing change is not coming. Once Malay support is secured, the hardest part is done. But is this practical?

It is one thing to believe in an ideal that cannot be achieved. It is another thing to believe in an ideal that can be attained. If other countries can engender respect for their Constitutions and rule of law, why not us? If South Korea and Taiwan could do this after decades of authoritarianism and facades of democracy, why not us? If ethnically and religiously complex nations like the United States, Australia or even India (yes, there isn't such a thing as a united Indian race) can do this, why not us?

The racial problem is a huge one, but not insurmountable. In the first place, as Time noted almost 38 years ago after May 13:

The Chinese and Indians resented Malay-backed plans favoring the majority, including one to make Malay the official school and government language. The poorer, more rural Malays became jealous of Chinese and Indian prosperity. Perhaps the Alliance's greatest failing was that it served to benefit primarily those at the top. ... For a Chinese or Indian who was not well-off, or for a Malay who was not well-connected, there was little largesse in the system. Even for those who were favored, hard feelings persisted. One towkay recently told a Malay official: "If it weren't for the Chinese, you Malays would be sitting on the floor without tables and chairs." Replied the official: "If I knew I could get every damned Chinaman out of the country, I would willingly go back to sitting on the floor."
Nobody outside the elite has ever benefited significantly from this regime's policies. All we have to do is show how we can implement policies which will truly benefit the Malaysian poor, which are overwhelmingly Malay anyway. (Most Indians are poor, but most poor are Malays.)

And if this results in change, with a new government elected that does not hew to the outdated racial paradigms of yesteryear? Will there be another May 13? Possibly, but not likely.

Considering how screwed up our electoral system is anyway, it would need a serious shift of support to the opposition for them to take power — and if the ruling regime tries to stir up unrest, it would not only be inviting foreign criticism and massive capital flight, but also massive domestic discontent, even from the Malays since they would have voted opposition too.

Joshvinder accuses me of naivete. But it is he who is naive, having fallen for the official position on history, which is meant to cow non-Malays into submission. And if my interpretation of history is wrong, so what? Does it make change any more difficult? The only obstacle to change is winning Malay support for it, because the Malays must lead any initiative to change the country. Once that is down, the rest is simple.

And for the assumption that the Malays can't be won over? A Malay Male has already dealt with that. Change isn't naivete. Change is in our future. The only question is whether we will be ready, because if we are not, we are as good as dead.


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