Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

This Country Belongs to the Malays

Written by johnleemk on 4:01:22 am Aug 27, 2007.
Categories: , ,

One of the most sensational things you can do in this country is talk about race. The next most sensational thing is religion. If you talk about both, as one chap did, you provoke an endless torrent of letters for Malaysiakini to publish.

I'm going to stick to one today — the subject of race. Almost everyone has an opinion on which race Malaysia belongs to. Hardly anybody seems to buy into the idea that Malaysia belongs to Malaysians.

I'm not necessarily talking about what people say in words. You can find a lot of highfalutin' talk about how Malaysia is for everybody, although there are a substantial number who make no attempt to hide their support of murdering those they consider unMalaysian.

But if you examine people's actions, or even words where they have to put their money where their mouth is, you realise how true non-racialism is in such short supply.

So, if I bemoan racialism so much, why do I say this country belongs to the Malays? Have I not been far more contemptuous of this fabricated social contract than most Malaysians, even the irresponsibly insane, dare to be?

Because I believe that in our urge to harp on this Malaysian identity, we have forgotten about the Malays. We have forgotten that they, too, are Malaysian.

There are many Malays who see the Malaysian identity as exclusively Malays. But at the same time, they cannot view the Malaysian identity as one shared between Malays and non-Malays.

In part, I believe, the fault must lie with non-Malays who expound on the importance of equality without remembering that equality must be for all Malaysians. We cannot afford to continually disadvantage the Malays, refusing to assist them with the tools they need to survive and prosper.

That is why we need affirmative action for the economically disadvantaged, regardless of race. Malays are Malaysians too, and all Malaysians must have an equal stake in this country, and an equal chance to move forward.

Yet, far too often, this idea of equality is bought and sold as an idea of the non-Malays. The Malays feel threatened when it is said that the country belongs to all Malaysians, and by extension, the non-Malays. In part, they feel threatened because, as Mahathir Mohamad said himself in The Malay Dilemma, having granted political equality, are they now to supposedly compete on a level economic playing field having been unprepared to compete at all?

Of course, the other part in this is pride — the Malays have yet to grasp the idea that this cannot be a country of many peoples separated by race. I found it jarring to read one Malay supremacist's blog, finding that he has no qualms about having non-Malay friends, but equally no qualms about proclaiming his support for the current Deputy Prime Minister because he once proclaimed he would bathe his keris in the blood of Malaysian citizens who happen to be Chinese.

This cognitive dissonance is astounding, and it is one that has to be fought and grappled with. But at the same time, it is not enough to harp on the fact that an accident of birth should not be the determinant of who loves the country most, and who thus deserves to be accorded its loyalty. True, love and loyalty lie not in the blood, but in the heart.

But nevertheless, how can we say that this country belongs to all Malaysians if one ethnic group is denied access to the commercial life of Malaysia, also by an accident of birth? Calibre and capability do not lie in the blood either.

The Malays and bumiputra in general have been disadvantaged by lacking the resources for an education which puts them in a position to compete, and to a lesser extent, by racism amongst those controlling certain business interests. Those Malays who have had the benefit of a good education are doing very well for themselves, regardless of whether they have political connections or access to special privileges.

We must not tolerate political discrimination on the grounds of birth. But neither can we accept economic discrimination on the grounds of "Oh, the community you were born into has that problem, but we're not going to bother with fixing it because mother nature knows best!"

This country belongs to Malaysians. But the Malaysian nation has a place for everyone, Malay or non-Malay. How can we say this country belongs to Malaysians, if it does not truly has a place for the Malays? This country belongs to the Malaysian people — Malay, Chinese, Indian, Eurasian, East Malaysian bumiputra, or whatever ethnic background they may be. And, in the end, as one early American said, we must all hang together, or else we shall most assuredly all hang separately.


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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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