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Malaysia must move past toxic racial bigotry in politics

We need a credible opposition to provide proper checks and balances on the government

Be fair to everyone - ARNOLDUS/PIXABAY

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A few months ago, a former leader of Malaysia posted the following prose on social media:

“Definitive people

  1. Migrants, who are identified with the definitive people, have full rights in this country.
  2. Migrants wishing to continue their linkage with their countries of origin cannot become definitive people.
  3. They cannot claim ownership of this country.

“Who owns the country?

  1. Ownership of a country changes only with conquest or permanent colonisation.
  2. Thus America, the Latin American countries, Canada, Australia.
  3. Has Malaysia been conquered or colonised by the migrants and their descendants?
  4. Singapore has.
  5. Yet the Malay and Borneo states have not been conquered.
  6. They remain the countries of the indigenous definitive people.

“Malaysia a Malay country

  1. Stop talking about Malaysia as a multiracial country.
  2. It is not.
  3. It is a Malay country that hosts people from other countries.
  4. Many countries do this, but these countries remain the land of the definitive people.”

My reaction then was one of bewilderment. What was the author’s point in defining a “definitive people”? What about “who owns the country?”?

His prose was completely disjointed. It made no sense and appeared to be a hurried, impetuous series of texts that one often shoots off while killing time in the bathroom.

As to his request to “stop talking about Malaysia as a multiracial country”, the author should cease regurgitating empirical rubbish.

This list of what makes a “Malay” country is not only exclusivist, it is divisive, empirically false and incredibly unethical.

The author certainly knows that Malaysia is a multi-racial country, yet he persists with his nonsense.

Overall, his string of controversial statements and writings have upset many Malaysians. Even foreign onlookers are dismissive. They advocate integration and ethno-racial harmony in their own countries.

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Needless to say, the public is exhausted. Citizens want honest economic reform, less corruption, and more national and personal savings.

We want the current government to have the political will to eradicate the culture of patronage and cronyism. We elected the Anwar Ibrahim government to put the country back on track.

While it is our duty to give the “Madani” (civil and compassionate) administration time and space for reforms, it must not test our patience.

Please take note of the following:

It is time to closely monitor both education ministries. It is not enough to simply allocate further billions of ringgit.

To date, the performance of both ministries has been lacklustre and incredibly disappointing. The sooner Anwar and his team take stock of these ministries, the better for the nation.

Second, some leaders’ toxic brand of communalism, especially from the opposition and certain sectors of the civil service and the public, is disgusting.

Certain groups continue to fixate on populism rather than on national issues and concrete policies.

For the country to reform and progress, we need a credible opposition to challenge the government of the day.

We do not need a hysterical opposition shamelessly yelling in Parliament on infantile issues.

A credible opposition will provide checks and balances on an even more credible and proactive sitting government. This is basic in any parliamentary democracy.

Both the “unity government” and the opposition must learn how to debate intelligently. Use facts rather than racism and bigotry.

We keep saying most in Malaysia are a “peace-loving” people. We keep reassuring ourselves that May 13, 1969, will not be repeated.

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Don’t be too sure.

We claim to be a Muslim country. A true Muslim (or for that matter, any spiritual or religious person) should care first about the fundamental ethics of living in a society.

They would respect creation by initiating reforms for long-term societal benefit, rather than short-term individual gains.

They would embrace diversity, using it to enhance the quality of their life, where all will benefit.

How is the Muslim leadership in this country reacting, though? Just a few months ago, Muslims in Selangor were reminded about the use of the word Allah.

The imam during a Friday khutbah (sermon) reiterated that it is not permitted to be used by non-Muslims in the state.

How useful is this for a nation to progress? Is this type of khutbah useful or even ethical in the current context of Malaysia? How will a poor Malay-Muslim improve his or her life by focusing on who does or does not use (the word) Allah?

Third, what is the purpose of describing a “definitive people”?

“Definitive” means being decisive about something, often with authority. For example, let’s say the prime minister of country A has made a definitive decision to eradicate corruption. With authority, he or she decided that corruption must be eradicated.

Similarly, a definitive people would be an authoritative group, community or nation of people, with the authority to ‘be a society’ and live in harmony as interactive groups on the land.

In the context of Malaysia and her Federal Constitution, the definitive people comprise all our nation’s citizens.

The Constitution sets the parameters on how our government governs and how justice is administered.

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Sadly, many in Malaysia are ignorant of our Constitution and our history. Under it, a person is a citizen provided one of his or her parents is, at the time of birth, a Malaysian citizen or permanent resident.

Citizenship was obtained because it is clearly stated in the Constitution. There is no mention of any magnanimous ‘gifting’ of the right of citizenship to these immigrants.

People who were once migrants settled in the country and later became citizens. Generations later, they have become ‘organic’ components of the nation, rightful and natural citizens of society.

It is mean and insulting to spew falsehoods that they continue to be “guests” or that they are being “hosted” by the “definitive people of the land”.

Furthermore, in this era of hegemony, super-globalisation and big-power geopolitical rivalry, it is more relevant to speak out against neo-colonialism, post-coloniality and “coloniality at home”.

Maybe it’s time for certain politicians and spent leaders to take a crash course from the few scholars left in the country who can educate them about these concepts. – Free Malaysia Today

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.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
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Dr SnMn
Dr SnMn
16 Dec 2023 3.35pm

Slm Msia. see oneself as a common human being. As brothers as sisters in a one common God-given world. one needs to ‘Educate’ oneself spiritually and with simple commonsense on this. … men should move forward with dignity for oneself n family.Then our younger generation can be more harmonious.We need to look seriously toward our Common Future. We can learn from other failed nations. Let’s all contemplate on one nationhood.

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