Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Malay Supremacy Unimportant?

Written by johnleemk on 12:29:57 pm Jun 8, 2007.
Categories: ,

As some might have noticed, I have been frequently mentioning Bakri Musa's name in my recent articles. This is because I have been slowly plodding through his latest book, Towards A Competitive Malaysia, and keep finding inspiration in it.

Bakri has some truly unique ideas about Malaysia and how to improve it. His books contain more solid proposals than anything that has emerged from the mouths of all Malaysian politicians, put together. (For those who have not read it, I highly recommend Bakri's The Malay Dilemma Revisited.)

One unique perspective Bakri has is on the idea of ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy). Bakri has correctly noted, in columns as well as in his book, that Malay supremacy is meaningless because though it may be de jure, it is not de facto — the reality is that the Malays are not able to enforce their supremacy because they don't have the substance to back them up, because their leaders have focused more on rhetoric than on actually uplifting their community.

Another interesting thing Bakri has to say about ketuanan Melayu is that non-Malays should not concern themselves too much with this, because the Malays have no real way to enforce their supposed supremacy.

I really have to disagree with Bakri on this. This is not because I disagree with his premise that the Malays are unable to truly subjugate the non-Malays at the moment because they lack the socioeconomic clout required to do so.

No, this is because I think you have to look at things from the perspective of incremental change. I believe that the only way to effect change in this country, in almost any society, is through incremental change.

The Islamists quietly and slowly took over our society through incremental steps. Likewise, the Malay supremacists are trying to do the same. They have not gotten far beyond keris-waving antics, however, not just because they lack the economic power to do so, but because they have been held back by the vehement reaction of a vocal segment of Malaysian society — that segment which recognises that the Malay supremacists have no standing whatsoever.

In reality, contrary to what Bakri asserts, they do not even have true de jure supremacy. All they have is Article 153 of the Federal Constitution, which as I pointed out after the scandalous UMNO general assembly last year, explicitly provides for all members of the Malaysian community, Bumi or non-Bumi.

The Malay supremacists are launching a frontal attack on the rights of non-Malay Malaysians, and if they are not beaten back, they will advance, slowly but surely — incrementally. They gain mindshare simply by spreading lies, such as the idea that Malay supremacy is enshrined in the Constitution, or that there is some "social contract". (And does anyone recall that ridiculous critique of Bangsa Malaysia?)

Bakri is right in one thing, however — there is no way for the non-Malays to make progress when it comes to true equality for all Malaysians by launching a frontal assault. They will be beaten back by the Malay supremacists, and hijacked by the non-Malay bigots.

No, what we need is incremental change through the backdoor. By properly implementing the New Economic Policy and staying true to the policy of ending identification of race with socioeconomic function, we can create economic equality in Malaysian society, and the frustration of the oppressed Malays, which is what lends Malay supremacy its impetus and raison d'etre, will die a natural death.

Moreover, what will end is the vicious denial of de facto equality to Malaysians. Non-Malays may hold the supreme hand economically, but our subtle political oppression remains more than just a thorn in our flesh, but a real heartache — especially for those who actually love the country.

It is bad enough that I can die for my country, and that my children will still be denied equal placement in government educational institutions, still be denied equal opportunity to serve in the government, and still face discrimination from the state in the private sector.

But what stings almost as badly is how one could die a thousand deaths for Malaysia, and remain a kaum pendatang, never acknowledged as a true Malaysian.

Of the Malaysians awarded the highest honour this country can give, the vast majority are non-Malays. Yet they are still treated as dogs by the vocal Malay supremacists, and their shills in the government.

For the moment, though they may be yelled at like dogs, at least they can't be shot at like dogs. But if we are not careful about incremental change, this is what will happen. We must act to prevent it, and that means fighting the Malay supremacists at the front, while liberating the Malay masses from economic oppression at the back. Only then can we have true equality for all Malaysians.


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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

Infernal Ramblings is run by John Lee. For more, see the About section. If you have any questions or comments, do drop him a line.


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