Appealing to the primordial instincts of one’s political base may help one gain brownie points easily, but it does a great disservice to the community one claims to champion, writes Mustafa K Anuar.
The recent demand by right-wing Perkasa that the presence of ethnic Indians in the federal cabinet be pruned to a few is a stark reminder that ethnicity in Malaysia often overwhelms almost everything, including competency and professionalism, to the detriment of our common good.
The Malay rights group argued that Indian representation in the cabinet does not reflect their 7% composition of the country’s total population and hence, their number in the cabinet should be slashed accordingly.
While ethnic numbers may be a vital factor in political postings, it should not, at the same time, drown out the importance of competency and accountability.
That every able Malaysian citizen, irrespective of ethnicity, religion and creed, has equal opportunity to harness his or her potential and make a meaningful contribution to the wellbeing of our society is and should be a given.
And yet, it is most unfortunate that even after decades of political independence, such an important democratic principle is still being disputed or mocked directly or otherwise, judging by the racist rhetoric that has emerged in recent months.
Under normal circumstances, competency and professionalism should rise above everything else, including ethnic or religious factors. For, our experience has shown, having more than a handful of ministers of Malay descent doesn’t necessarily serve as a much-needed bulwark against incompetency and, lo and behold, corruption. The previous Umno-Barisan Nasional government of yore bears classic testimony.
Right-thinking Malaysians would only call for a removal of certain ministers if they are found to be utterly incompetent, dishonest and worse, corrupt. And not because they happen to be born into a particular ethnic group, which, incidentally, is not of their own choosing.
To pander to such racialised insistence is to entertain what appears to be coming from a group whose grey matter is dangerously fast disappearing.
This should be of our great concern because it is essentially race-baiting in a political atmosphere that is fluid, especially in the wake of the opposition from segments of the Malay-Muslim community towards the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination ,which was hurriedly given a calculated twist by detractors so that it has an ethnic and religious flavour.
Besides, the Perkasas of this world are barking up the wrong tree. They should instead train their sight on those who committed dereliction of duty and were caught with their hands in the cookie jar in government institutions and agencies.
These people, most of whom are Malay, could surely grace a hall of shame. Or, does this require one to simply turn a blind eye to the culpable politicians and civil servants simply because they’re “our kind”?
Aren’t these right-wing groups disturbed by the fact that these corrupt individuals have smeared Islam, given that they are mostly Muslim? Shouldn’t their betrayal of the people’s trust, particularly of the Malay-Muslims, anger these Malay groups who are supposedly protecting Malay-Muslim interests?
Instead, Perkasa president Ibrahim Ali was fuming mad with the non-Malays, and he threatened to run amok across the country because he claimed the tolerance of the Malays, who supposedly had been “stepped on” by others, had reached its end.
It baffles the mind though that Perkasa, like Umno’s Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, thinks that running amok is what it takes to defend the dignity of the community – for, if running amok necessitates losing one’s mind like a spoilt child, at least temporarily, wouldn’t that reflect badly on the community they’re supposed to represent?
As it is, nonchalantly calling someone a “pig”, as Ibrahim did to Minister P Waytha Moorthy recently, is not the kind of language most Malaysians cherish. Besides, putting someone down with such uncouth language doesn’t necessarily make one superior to others.
In his purported desire to protect and advance the dignity and interests of his own community, Ibrahim and his ilk would do the Malay community a world of good if instead he goes down to the ground to, say, provide some assistance to the poor and the needy, who require technical training and credit facilities for small businesses so that the people concerned can hold their heads high in the company of other communities.
Merely appealing to the primordial instincts of one’s political base may help one gain brownie points easily, but this is doing a great disservice to the community whose wellbeing and dignity one claims to champion.