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‘Disappointing’ anti-ICERD rally – and the ‘scramble for Malays’

Photograph: Asyraf Rasid/The Sun Daily

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We need to stop talking about a section of our society as if they will never hear, read or understand what is being said about them, says Mary Chin.

Mukhriz Mahathir’s daughter isn’t the only one disappointed – many others too, whether or not for the same reasons. I’d rather leave Melia Serena’s expression as it is, and attend instead to the major ‘disappointment’ of those who had anticipated a spectacle ala Red Shirts.

The rally to oppose the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination on 8 December ended with a prayer. What an anti-climax!

There was no excuse for any riot police water cannons or trucks to swing into action – which was, sadly, a secret wish of some, whether consciously, semi-consciously, subconsciously or unconsciously.

There was neither parang nor blood, not even fire — to the disappointment of those scouting for graphic content, which would then perhaps be used to propagate the same decade-old campaign, “See those wild Umno-Pas thugs? Bersih rallies were never like that!”

Of course, nothing stopped these folks from circulating a couple of videos of other protests (some sourced from as far as Indonesia) as live updates of the 8 December rally here.

All the same, some folks stocked up foods and provisions last week, as they did for the 2018 general election. Without any real threat, young and healthy people with no life-threatening medical condition stocking up – for what? For the same reason some warned of trouble on election night. Days later, missing any sign of major trouble, some still anticipated unrest.

For all its ills, the Red Shirts never tried painting Bersih members as violent thugs. Here, let us not argue who is more samseng (those accused of being samseng or those needing to call others samseng). Can we stop that campaign against our fellow countrymen and women?

Healing and recollection

Folks, it is really time to (re)collect ourselves. It is time to heal, time to reconcile. The Ubah tsunami has already succeeded; what more do people want? Do people need to behave in such a driven (or possessed) way, unable to put any brake on that momentum to attack?

Why are people still punching their fists into the air even as the opponent is already on the floor? Why punch into the air even after the opponent has been taken off the wrestling ring on a stretcher?

Let each of us (re)collect ourselves. Some did this ‘attacking’ more seriously; others did it more casually, just for syok and recreation, without considering the impact of their actions and their share of social responsibility. Some did it more knowingly; others did it less knowingly. Some got drawn in by peer pressure; others were simply not steady enough to face the brainwashing assault.

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Rafizi openly stated that his Invoke machinery submitted data on some of us to Facebook for micro-targeting, “Once you have the profiles, you know the big issues or emotional points attached to a certain profile or group. From there, we decide what kind of content or campaign to develop in order to make use of that profiling … Facebook will come back to us and say, of the 50,000 people we submitted only 10,000 have Facebook accounts; but they won’t tell us which ones. They will then tell us the cost of sending a post to these 10,000 people is, say 20 sen each, and they charge us.”

While some knowingly and deliberately joined Rafizi’s band of ‘cyber troopers’, spreading like wildfire the posts he injected into the media stream, there were others who until now remain oblivious that they themselves had been used.

Whatever it was, it is time to disarm, put down our swords, drop all manipulation and quit the game. Najib is now toppled for good, and he won’t be able to make any comeback.

Those who need to follow the exchanges between divisive politicians can refer to their Facebook and Twitter feeds. If politicians like them do not know how else to be, let them be and let the rest of us return to our senses. Some of the content out there is of neither practical nor academic value in nation-building and deserve no space in mainstream media. News portals should not reserve multiple top grids on the homepage for them.

Bleeding, choking matters of emergency

For now, let us leave the UN convention alone. The time is not ripe – not because ‘they’ are not ready, but for two reasons.

First, that decade-long crossfire victimised a specific section of our society. Our landscape would have been very different if it had not been charred by divisive sentiments aggravated by Najib and Jakim on the other hand, Pakatan and Ubah on the other.

Second, what we experience now is a void in leadership. There is none that could align us and lead us back to values. Ours is just a populist government that finds itself torn between pleasing those in favour of and those against the UN convention.

Yes, there will always be dissent. But Justin Trudeau is able to give Canadians a clear set of shared values and a common sense of what is right and wrong. We have nothing of that sort. Values? Integrity? The last general election was mainly about money.

To ratify the UN convention or not, both sides of the divide have extrapolated way too far into their own doomsday tales. Whether we ratify now or later, it isn’t going to be the end of the world.

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Can we agree on one thing: nobody is bleeding, nobody is choking because of the UN convention. There is no haemorrhage that needs to be stopped as a matter of emergency.

Can we also agree on another thing: nobody will bleed and nobody will choke because of the convention. Higher education, for instance, is far more accessible than ever.

Just to put things in context and perspective, contrast the UN convention with, say, the Wang Kelian case. Human trafficking is plainly a matter of emergency, and so is wrongful detention, where many are literally (not figuratively) suffering. What are we waiting for?

But we only get a cold, indifferent and tidak-apa response from the ever-righteous and the loudest crowd claiming to champion human rights. If the Ubah folks made public statements about Maria Chin Abdullah’s detention, why are they largely quiet when it comes to victims of human trafficking?

At this very moment, now and everyday, many souls continue to endure the horrible agony of human trafficking and slavery. In the case of Wang Kelian, some were buried either alive or dead or any degree in between. Acting a minute sooner in cases of human trafficking could save many lives.

So who are the rural Malays?

It is time to pull ourselves together and drop that campaign against one another.

We need to stop using the term rural Malays to refer to people who don’t know anything, who stand in our way, who are convertible (by tactical means) but ‘unteachable’.

Rural Malays simply means Malays who live in rural areas – full stop. It has nothing to do with busloads of people allegedly paid to attend Umno or Pas events, or allegedly paid to vote for Umno or Pas.

They are not a group of people to be tackled, to be fixed, or to be focused on. Those strategies are rather ‘samseng’, if you like. Can victorious Malaysians be a little more honourable?

Rural Malays are neither illiterate nor the poorest of the poor. That is a false narrative painted by the campaigners, masking the reality of urban poverty and non-Malay hardcore poverty. That goes to show the Ubah team’s lack of sincerity in eradicating poverty.

Rural Malays are not mired in child marriages either. As pointed out by the Women’s Aid Organisation vice-president, last year’s statistics showed that 52% or 968 from the total applications for child marriage were non-Muslim.

Rural Malays are not security personnel waiting to check our dress-code either. If they find us in the neighbourhood, they will welcome us into their homes with no judgement whatsoever about the shorts we are wearing.

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Don’t use “rural Malays” to refer to hearts and minds who are unable to embrace any joint heritage. After all, the recent decree to remove other languages from road signs did not come from a rural Malay kampung.

Why do we keep hearing anout “rural Malays” but not estate Indians or kampung Chinese?

Future generations will find this gross stereotyping unforgivable. Our parents didn’t hand this down to us. It is the signature invention of the 2013-and-2018-general-election generation – an invention future generations will struggle to erase.

The scramble for Malays

The term rural Malays was coined as a device to redraw our social patterns – a rumusan (formula) to win power, a new system of classification to broaden the base.

That the Ubah crowd welcomes members of any ethnic origin is touted as non-race-based. On the flip side of the coin, however, we get the split among the Malays, which should not have happened at all. Pakatan and Ubah are at least as guilty as Umno and Pas in splitting the Malays.

Ours has been ‘a scramble for Malays’ rather than ‘a scramble for Africa’ (a term frequently used to describe the historical invasion, occupation, colonisation and annexation of Africa by European powers). Malays are targeted just because they hold the key to the rise and fall of political parties.

There are valid reasons for some quarters to feel anxious. It is time for healing. Stop poking at wounds still fresh.

We need to stop talking about a section of our society as if they will never hear, read or understand what is being said about them. Anyone need to know how that feels? Imagine getting old and becoming frail, when our kids start talking about us right next to us, without any eye contact with us, referring to us as “he” or “she” rather than “Papa” or “Mama”, deciding our every move and every step without taking the faintest cue from us.

If we have got that minimal Malaysian value we have not yet lost, we would instantly recognise that behaviour as biadap and kurang ajar. We can’t talk about people as if they will never hear, read or understand what is being said. So let us stop doing that to whichever selection of Malays the Ubah movement singled out as blocking its way.

It is time to stop that ‘scramble for Malays’ and that campaign against one another other. Can we stop right here and right now?

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