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‘Malays will lose political power’ warning is emotional blackmail

Perak mufti Harussani Zakaria

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There are enough Malays with intelligence and convictions to replace ‘Umno Malays’ and provide the leadership this nation needs, asserts K Haridas.

With due respect to Perak Mufti Harussani Zakaria, his claim that “Malays will lose political power in two years if their leaders continue to fight one another” represents an exaggerated sentiment about today’s reality.

His view is nevertheless possibly correct if one considers ‘Malays’ as representing only ‘Umno Malays’.

Thank God, there are many Malays outside the ambit of Umno and Pas who will ensure that Malays will still play a dominating, effective and responsible role in Malaysian politics.

Malay leadership does not need to fear the role of Islam as this is enshrined in the constitution and state enactments. This will remain as a given. Only those who do not understand and appreciate the federal constitution will speak in terms of an Islamic state.

From his paradigm, Harussani Zakaria is correct and logical but from the context of Malays being larger than ‘Umno Malays’, it sounds foolish. Internal divisions within Pas and Umno blurs the notion of a ‘one Malay’ representative community. There are Malays in PKR, DAP, Party Amanah and Parti Socialist Malaysia. The perspective polarises when some are Malays first and everything else thereafter.

The same fragmentation can be also attributed to the Chinese Malaysian and Indian Malaysian communities. They are likewise represented by several ethnic-based parties and they are also in the opposition parties and thus are not one homogenous group. They likewise hold different perspectives. So what is there to fear at all? They are in no position to threaten ‘Malay’ power!

But those who indulge in fear politics have to create imagined enemies and threats – a sign of creative bankruptcy.

Harussani Zakaria, however, is right in that ‘Umno Malays’ may lose political power because they are perceived to be more loyal to their leader than their party constitution and the federal constitution and seem to protect corrupt leaders. It will be both greed and corruption that will eventually lead to their loss of power and not the threat from any other ethnic community in Malaysia. They need not be attacked because they are already gravely rotten from within.

The strength of Islam cannot be considered in the context of political power alone. Good and effective leadership is an important aspect of managing power. Furthermore, a correct rendering of the spirit of Islam with regards a multi-ethnic society has to be grasped and communicated. All the talk of 1Malaysia and ‘satu jiwa, satu hati’ (one life, one heart) remain mere slogans uttered by politicians who have never understood nor internalised these concepts.

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We need to see the application of convictions. The lalang mentality of saying different things to different communities on different occasions only reveals leaders who have no stand of their own and will read any script prepared by their speech writers for different occasions. This is so true when you read the reports of statements made by our present leaders.

On the one hand, they will speak about the Rukunegara and soon thereafter express ideas that undercut the tenets spelt out by it. Some will speak about ‘moderation’ and then promote extreme ethnic and religious causes that only divide the nation and not unite it. They will lead rallies that promote a narrow ethnic agenda based on fear of The Other. When convenient, 1Malaysia will be their call.

I am affronted by the notion of ‘Malay’ power in the context of being a Malaysian. I can accept Malaysian power even if this is constituted by a large percentage of Malays who are committed to the Malaysian spirit. This is what many hope for and expect.

Can we expect race-based parties to transcend their narrow agendas? This has not been our experience in Malaysia. If only we had leaders who could appreciate the power of being Malaysian and the unity that could emerge from our diversity for the larger good of all, then Vision 2020 would have been a reality.

Another great fear-monger and one-step thinker is our present deputy prime minister who expressed another great startling truth that “Malays will become like Red Indians” in the country. He would have been closer to the mark if he had said that of ‘Umno Malays’ – because they are focussing on the negatives and the quality of their leadership is such that extinction could be their ultimate fate.

They do not even realise that they are undermining themselves through fear, greed and corruption. Unlike the Native Americans, they will be obliterated because they represent no goals beyond race and religion. They fear openness, transparency and accountability, the fruits of being a good person, and will do their utmost to distract anyone in search of the truth. Power is used to cover up wrongdoings by exploiting institutions of governance.

All this fear-mongering and ethnic sentiments that are expressed do not even factor in 40% of Malaysians who also have a voice, a vote and a role in determining the future of this nation in the context of our federal constitution. There is no way Malays will lose power, but there are many signs that ‘Umno Malays’ will lose power.

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The issue of race and religion so easily blinds people to facts and the reality of the situation. Emotions encourage ‘one-step thinking’, and with fear, people buy into issues of identity despite the lack of both logic and facts. The royalty is made up of Malays and they represent an important institution that is respected by all Malaysians. Then you have the civil service that is controlled by the Malays not to mention the army, navy, air force and police.

Consider also the judiciary and the legislature, and only the blind with little intelligence will say that the Malays are not present in the measure they are in these institutions. The same can be said for other independent commissions and institutions of governance in the nation. Only leaders who have no vision and purpose will use fear as a motivation for power and loyalty.

In the commercial sector, we have numerous government-linked companies and their subsidiaries that define us as a political economy. These are staffed mainly by Malays and financed by public money. No one begrudges these realities, but I take affront when we are made to look stupid by the sheer unintelligent remarks of ‘Umno Malays’ in power.

In five decades, we have realised that race-based politics is divisive, and in the long run will do great damage to our nation. We need leaders who will consistently pull this nation together, its diversity and plural nature, and both move it and motivate it through great causes. Vision 2020 is one, but it is so evident that the present leadership neither has the mind nor the capacity to deliver on this goal.

They are caught within their racial and religious polemics and in doing so they denigrate the role of Islam which is both a faith of peace, submission and example. They are on the other hand interested in moral policing, intruding into the private lives of citizens and embarrassing the nation internationally.

Highlighting your beliefs and exhibiting symbols never changes the price of cheese. In the way you conduct yourself and in your behaviour, you exhibit qualities arising from how you have internalised your beliefs as convictions in your life. On this scale there is much to be desired.

Islam does not say that everyone has a price, and that money can purchase everything including convictions and elections. Wilful silence on the part of many who see the wrong and witness the corruption is undercutting the role of Islamic values in the governance of the nation.

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We have read and seen what has happened to the National Feedlot Corporation. Meanwhile we have Yapein and the saga of the golf equipment as the latest in a series of revelations. We have seen how international trips in the name of Islam and marriage-training have raised eyebrows. We do not have to speak about 1MDB and the saga about political donations and the many stories and counter-tales told to convince the public.

Malays like any community will not be brought down by anyone but by their own failures. The silver lining is that there are enough Malays with intelligence and convictions to replace ‘Umno Malays’ and provide the leadership this nation needs. The choice before all Malaysians is to ensure that we have a level playing field and that when the opportunity for choice beckons, we make the critical choice.

Umno Malays and those in Pas will make it easier for the rest by their very partnership. This will ensure that both do not compromise on issues relating to hudud and other concerns that would exhibit Islam rather than promote its values and convictions. This will be an uneasy marriage – one not made in heaven and could contribute the final nail to the BN coffin.

If individuals do not have the capacity to look at themselves honestly or if an institution or party lacks this capacity for candid internal evaluation, then they will soon believe in the illusion that they are invincible – only to be taught in time that their perceived strength remains purely a self-projected illusion that will be demolished when the challenge comes.

Once members lose the power to reason, debate and disagree and leaders are afraid to test their support, then they promote the status quo purely with a view to survival. There will be no new ideas, no signs of an emerging leadership, no creativity in terms of programmes and issues – except for race and religious polemics used to whip up support.

When you do not have a leadership that can both merge the diversity of the nation and provide leadership to the whole then change is the only option. Umno is preparing itself well for its demise because its leaders do not even get the point – that this nation is more than just Malay.

Patience and vigilance are the order for the day for all Malaysians. Meanwhile, let us ensure that fairness and justice prevail and stand up for the cause of all Malaysians.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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K Haridas, an Aliran executive committee member, is the current honorary secretary of the Business Ethics Institute of Malaysia, chairperson of the Association For The Promotion Of Higher Education In Malaysia and chairperson of the Malaysian chapter of Initiatives of Change International.
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Venki Sankar
Venki Sankar
22 Dec 2015 2.33pm

Well said Haridas! A good & overdue wake up call for our Malay brothers & sisters if only they will take note.

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