It was troubling to learn that the majority ethnic Malay community in the country could become an ‘endangered species’ in the foreseeable future.
Not that they are in the same category as the Javan rhinos, whose numbers are depleting due to hunting and habitat loss.
Nonagenarian Dr Mahathir Mohamad recently warned that the Malay community faces extinction within the next decade unless they remain united.
This may sound like a ‘dinosaur prediction’, but the term extinction is eerie, as it suggests an existential end.
Mahathir obviously knows what it means to be extinct, at least politically! The former Langkawi MP, who lost his deposit in the 2022 general election, warned that the community could end up being subjected to – heaven forbid – oppression by “others” in the Malaysian polity.
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So it stands to reason why he recently stressed that the ethnic minorities, especially the Indians, had to be 100% loyal to the country and become ‘Malay’ like him.
After all, the Malay community is united in common purpose, jettisoning any elements of vested interests, jealousy or other dark designs – especially among their leaders – that could distract the community away from its collective interests and concerns.
Mahathir’s warning was raised during a recent session titled “Sesi minda negarawan: Iktibar 150 tahun Perjanjian Pangkor” (A statesman reflects on the lessons from the Pangkor Treaty 150 years ago) at the Perdana Leadership Foundation. The ex-PM called for action to address the challenges the Malays face.
In his twilight years and as a true-blue ‘Malay’, it must have been frightening for him to think of losing a community he has held dearly throughout his political life. Never mind that the community are in the majority in the country and hold almost all levers of power.
In reality, the fertility rates of bumiputra, Chinese and Indian women have all been falling over the years. That said, the fertility rate of bumiputra women is still higher than their Chinese and Indian counterparts – though even so only at population replacement levels.
Nevertheless, Mahathir’s fear of the collective extinction of the Malays may persist, perhaps aggravated by certain quarters’ lingering suspicion of ‘communists’ and corruption in the ranks of the minorities.
To be sure, Mahathir often appears to carry the burden of the entire community on his shoulder. This may explain why – contrary to popular myth – he has disdained the amassing of wealth for himself or his family while holding the highest office in the land.
To show his intense distaste for corruption, Mahathir even challenged the authorities to investigate those with the Tun honorific. Why, he even dared the anti-corruption commission to seize the Tuns’ properties if they failed to explain the sources of their wealth!
The former PM has always put the Malay community before himself – which is why he often found himself having to form political parties to prioritise Malay concerns and interests.
But he is easily misunderstood. Some people even maliciously accuse him of disuniting the Malay community by forming one Malay-based party after another throughout his political career.
Poor Mahathir, all he wanted to do was to unite the Malays!
The legendary Hang Tuah’s contention “Takkan Melayu hilang di dunia” (the Malays will never disappear from the face of the Earth) does not appear to cut ice with Mahathir. The 98-year-old presumably knows that the ancient warrior was unable to imagine the harsh political machinations of the contemporary world.
It may not be far from the truth to say that the opposition Perikatan Nasional coalition holds Mahathir in high esteem. Like him, PN is also deeply concerned about the survival of the Malay community.
The similarity does not end there. Many of the experienced PN leaders also fully understand how it feels to be pushed to near extinction. Birds of a feather flock together, as they say!
But extinction is not an option for Mahathir and these like-minded politicians who relentlessly strive to protect the Malay community they so love and value!