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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Politics Of Race

The Politics Of Race

It is abundantly clear that the politics of race has slowly and surely brought to this country to the brink of disaster.

We are a nation divided, kept from strength by divisive policies that constantly remind us of our differences rather than our similarities and, in doing so, breed distrust and weakness. We have been reduced to nothing more than representatives of our different ethnic communities. Instead of being husband, father, wife, mother, child, lawyer, artist, accountant, doctor or public intellectual, we are instead Malay, Chinese, Indian or Other, the value we can each add to this society limited by the box that keeps us in our respective categories.

Though this may serve political interests, ‘divide and rule’ having always been a useful strategy for ensuring dominion, it does not serve our interests and those of the nation.

The NEP was intended to address disparities in income levels between the primary ethnic groups even as it addressed poverty across the board. I believe that over the years political interests had gradually hijacked the policy, so much so that Ketuanan Melayu has come to define the social contract for some while others believe that affirmative action is a permanent privilege of birth notwithstanding the policy having led to the enrichment of a small elite at the expense of the wider community and the nation.

Accepting that this is a contentious issue, consider instead where race based policies have left the nation and the Malay community respectively.

Where public education is concerned, though the policy has allowed for greater Malay student intake into institutions of learning at all levels, admission quotas and declining standards in a mass assembly style education system have led to the production of graduates, Malays and non-Malays alike, who are simply not good or confident enough to do what it takes or sufficiently experienced to deal with multi-racial existence. This has been influenced to an extent by political objectives that have suborned quality to quantity and, in having permitted race based appointments of educators, subjected the education system to a cycle that undermines it.

Seeing as how local graduates, diploma holders or school leavers form the bulk of the work force, in part due to more young Malaysians choosing not to return home after completing their studies abroad because they do not believe they can achieve the quality of life they aspire to here, this cannot be a good thing. It is no secret that the country faces a major human resource shortage.

This has had serious implications. One of the more evident knock-on effects is the impact it has had on the civil service. It is an open secret that race has played a big role, and continues to do so, in appointments and promotions, having resulted in a civil service made up almost entirely of Malays, graduates of local universities and schools in the main. In time, it has come to be dominated by persons who are not sufficiently equipped with the skill, knowledge and experience to do what they have to, unlike their predecessors.

The same can also be said of public institutions such as the Judiciary. Appointments to the bench have largely been from the Attorney General’s Chambers or the Judicial services and in this way the civil service experience, such as it is, has found its way onto the bench.

In all of this and more, race has figured very prominently, even though it should not have. It is not insignificant that of the ten Federal Court judges currently serving, eight are Malays, as are fifteen of the twenty serving Court of Appeal judges and thirty-three of the forty-eight serving High Court judges, the overwhelming majority of them having been appointed from the civil service.

This raises important questions. Though affirmative action may be a relevant consideration for us, what is the cost we will have to pay for it? Do we have to sacrifice our competitiveness and sustainability?

I think not. There are ways in which the poor and the disadvantaged, Malays and non-Malays alike, can be assisted without having to sacrifice the competitiveness of the nation or the individual Malaysian’s right to be the best he or she can be. Creating the methods by which this can be done requires maturity, a consideration of what this country needs in the long run and, above all, a jettisoning of political interests.

Sadly, it would seem that the Government has been incapable of this.

Take the Judiciary for instance. The Prime Minister has publicly admitted that we may not have the best persons for the job on the bench. It also appears as if race quotas have been imposed on appointments. How is it that that could have been permitted? The Judiciary is a crucial institution, a cornerstone of democracy that requires the best minds to function as it was meant to. Leave aside the fact that the Constitution does not authorize such quotas for the Judiciary, that justice can be served by reference to ethnic considerations defies logic and common sense. Justice is blind to all considerations, race and religion included.

That the Government was prepared to allow the Judiciary to be subverted in this way is indication enough of how it is that other aspects of governance have been approached, especially those essential to the functioning of the pluralist democracy that Malaysia is. It is hardly surprising then that race relations has taken on an edge that it never had before.

(Malay Mail; 29th July 2008)


NB. The special status of the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak is constitutionally enshrined in Article 153 of the Federal Constitution. As I have written elsewhere, this allows for measures to be taken in protection of these groups. Nothing in this comment is intended to undermine the significance of that constitutional provision.


Anonymous said...

If this supposedly reform minded PM can think that appointing a UMNO Chief Justice is OK, what chance really is systematic reform? The man don't even understand basic fundamentals of good governance and management...

Anonymous said...

“By All Means and that the Means Justify the Ends”.

Let us all begin with a clean slate. Anwar Ibrahim was freed in 2004 and the charges against him irrevocably quashed in the 1998 saga.

1] then Anwar decides to set up Pakatan Raayat to bring together diverse political groups from the mainly Malay religious PAS to the mainly Chinese socialist DAP and in between a motley crowd of moderate Malaysians with high ideals of Justice who called themselves Parti Keadilan Raayat.

2] March 8, 2008 saw a shock never seen before in General Elections, perhaps quite similar to 1969 but for the right reasons this time. PR took 5 States and has some 81 MPs to slow down the extremes of UMNO.

3] Anwar Ibrahim becomes eligible to stand as MP and he wants to form the next Government the soonest. He has drawn solid support and th elikelihood of toppling the UMNO government.

4] UMNO, in particular, the leaders and followers has never been threatened before like this in the History of the Malay Civilisation. The last time the Malay Sultanates got threatened were the Portuguese, Dutch and eventually, the British.

5] This time a Malay Hero, Anwar Ibrahim is challenging them. A Universal Malay who is at ease with the al Kafiruns American, Europeans and Jews and the Chinese, Japanese, Arabs, African.

6] A Malay Hero cannot behave or have an attitude like that, we must remain under the Coconut Shell, parochial an dour World is the Kampung and try tobehave like the Desert Arabs.

7] The Malay Fedual & Patronage Value System starts from the Kampung Cawangan, Bahagian, ADUN, EXCO, MPs, Cabinet Ministers, VPs, DPM & PM.
In between and intertwined is the IGP & Police, AG and Judges, JPJ, Customs, Immigration, and now Doctors and Government Hospitals.

8] Anwar Ibrahim is seriously and showingly threatening this 600 years of Malay Feudal System right from its roots and nutrients.

9] UMNO Leaders and their followers and some of the Racist and Racialist PAS leaders and followers feel DEEPLY threantened as never before. All are now living in great fear of losing everything that they hold dear ie. the Patronage Feudal System.

10] What do you do to scuttle the surge of Anwar Ibrahim and the concept and ideals of Pakatan Raayat. STOP Anwar Ibrahim at all cost.

Create more fear among the Malays, divide the PAS and attack their basic human needs Food, Shelter, Clothes and Warm which they may not no longer so freely if Pakatan Raayat takes over.

11] What happens if Pakatan Raayat takes over : the Judiciary, Police, AG, JPJ, Immigration, Customs and Treasury will be reformed; all the Local Councils, State Governments, EXCOs, Kampung, Masjids, KEMAS, everything, may eventually undergo a process of CLEANSING and REFORMASI !

Many Corrupt Deals and One-Sided Agreements with GLCs and the Government will be reviewed and the Corrupt will be prosecuted and may even end up in JAILs.

This is the BIGGEST WORRY of every UMNO Leader & some PAS nationalists!

The rise of True Muslim Leaders and followers like that in Cosmpolitan Andulusia or Uthmaniyyah Turkey [there were many Jews and Christians around and trading with China thru' Silk Route continues]

So, Anwar Ibrahim must be STOPPED .. what is the means SODOMY !

ahoo said...

Nero's plays while Rome is burnt. Thus, M'sia will be burnt by the very politicians that are tasked to handle our country's affair but yet are playing politics that are despice by every sector of society. M'sia has had lost its cutting edge when the race based policies was implemented. After the taste of power and wealth, the power that be started to think that this is God's given land flowing with endless milk and honey. They have absolute rights to rape and plunder it as they sees it right.

I have the highest regards for you, as in many ways you have done well in your quest for human rights and I pray that this beloved country of ours will produce more of such sons to take this nation forward irrespective of race and religion but by one's capability. Only those with God fearing attitude and are well educated can liberate this nation from the shackle of the racist politicians who serve their own pockets rather than the people.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. - Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

Anonymous said...

"""""""""""Umno Perak offers to merge with PAS

IPOH - UMNO in Perak has offered to merge with Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and together rule the northern state, upping the ante in the so-called Malay unity talks.
Umno's Perak chief Tajol Rosli Ghazali said that the merged parties in the state could continue to have a PAS leader as Menteri Besar.

Datuk Seri Tajol said the Umno-PAS Perak government would be more stable than the current one made up of the Pakatan Rakyat, New Straits Times reported yesterday.

'To develop and achieve Vision 2020, we must have political stability. And it cannot exist without cooperation between Umno and PAS,' Mr Tajol said. Malaysia plans to become a developed nation by 2020.

The offer, although immediately spurned by PAS leaders in Perak, is sure to add to worries in Pakatan about the strength of their alliance.

'As far as PAS in Perak is concerned, we will be in Pakatan forever and ever. There is no way we will pair with them,' said Perak Menteri Besar Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, who is from PAS.

Pakatan is made up of the multi-racial Parti Keadilan Rakyat, the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party and Islamic party PAS.

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi two weeks ago surprised many Pakatan leaders, including those in PAS, when he said he had held low-key meetings with PAS chiefs to talk about Malay unity and the future role of Islam in the country.

Leaders of PAS have since been split over the issue of working with Umno, seen by many as a bitter opponent for Malay votes.

Influential PAS spiritual leader Nik Aziz Nik Mat last week said that the two parties should disband and form a new party for all Malays. This was rejected by most central Umno leaders, but seemed to have found support in Umno Perak.

Mr Tajol, who was Menteri Besar in the previous administration, added another sweetener for PAS: that the party would get 'three or four' state executive councillor posts, the equivalent of state ministerial posts.

He said recently that the Pakatan government in Perak would fall by Aug 31, hinting at defections from Pakatan assemblymen. """""""""""""""""

Now, heres what i dont understand. If UMNO were really sincere, why dont they offer to merge with PAS in the states where they control! and give up the Mentri Besar-ship to PAS. Say in Johor, Melaka or Pahang?

Why does it have to be in states held by Pakatan? states like Perak and Selangor Why?

You can tell here its because they want to create a backdoor opening back into power

they will never give up their own states, wake UP PAS!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Interesting posting Mr. Imtiaz. In your labels you mention about 'Bangsa Malaysia'. Upon reading it I can't help myself from asking you these questions: Does anything called as Bangsa Malaysia really exist? If they does exist how you define them?
Thank You

Anonymous said...

Much has been said about the issues that U have been mentioned.

And YET zilch effort has been done to rectify these discrepancies?

WHY? How come?

The bottom of it all is Human Maturity!

After 50+yrs of independence & 38+yrs of NEP, majority of the Malay is still VERY feudalistic & ethno-centred.

In fact the trend is showing positive feedback reaction towards self-centred, both politically & religiously.

Thus ketuanan Melayu & 'malayalised' Islam!

Ketuanan Melayu - everything must have the 'interest of the Malays' at the top, irrespective that the end results only benefit a selected group of 'elite malays'.

A symptom of if-I-don't-get-it-at-least-my-kind-get-it. Even thought that 'my kind' is incompetent, not-up-to-the-grade, the-best-of-the-worst type.

'Malayalised' Islam - RPK mentioned in quite a number of his write-ups - form over substance. As long as the name of Islam is THERE, let the TRUE Teachings be damned.

The latest issue of umno/pas secret meetings are the manifestation of this twisted understanding of Islam. Does Islam allows the followers to back-stake their allieds because of the self-interest of the sectarian issues?

There might be signs that some Malay has outgrown & reached the desired level of maturity.

Majority is still self-centred, with bruised ego mixed with low self-esteem. Coupled these traces with skewed political interests & manipulative politicians one get the Malay Malaysians of today - still trapped through the poison of NEP & BTN. These twin pillars of the 'Malay cancer' have blinded many young Malays for their fault sense of 'achievements' & untested market worthiness. Wost of all - the effect of end-justify-mean as in the latest case of Anwar's 'sodomee'.

So as long as the Malay Malaysians remain in this humanity cocoon NOTHING will come out in the form of Malaysia for Malaysian!

Anonymous said...

Dear Malik,

Unless my fellow Malay brothers and sisters take up the cause for a Malaysia that is essentially skin colour and race blind, where there is a more level playing field, I see a bleak future for this country. A country torn asunder by this "us versus them" mentality.

To the above, I can almost hear a retort in the background "If you pendatangs don't like it, buzz off".


Against that kind of mentality entrenched over 50 years of indoctrination, I make no apology for being a pessimist.

mei1 said...

The education system should include a lesson on social contract, pls read the
'Social contract': A class perspective by Dr Kua Kia Soong at

In short, drastic change in mindset is needed for all the politicians, government officials, etc you name it

Anonymous said...

It is always easy to comment from the comfort of ones chair. One of the outcome of the PRU12 is suddenly everyone became an expert to what have gone wrong in Malaysia. Everyone seem to have a great idea of how this have come about but one common thing and an easy sittng duck, is just blame the government. One wonders where were all these people just before the PRU12? Had the PRU12 been the same as all the other PRU before it, my guess is the same group would have kept their silence.

Yes it would be great if all the human race have one religion, one ideology. But the fact is it is not. Live with it. It certain good book it is said that he created us with many races so that we may learn from one another. Never was there an intention to abolish the differences and became one. Why is it that when we talked about one nation we must refer as one race? What's wrong being different race as long as we all can be united. Just because we have MCA, MIC, UMNO...etc does not mean it is wrong, as long as each respect one another and be fair, and championed each other rights. The reality out there, and you can do your own random sampling, is that in any organization each race tends to mingled and contented within their own. It is natural, and there nothing wrong with it.

So if PKR come to power tomorrow, you think things are going to be different? And all the DAP, PAS, Keadilan will dissolve and become one party for all? Dream on. Go, and see and the best institutions, most developed, most educated, you will see the same thing. Malay will be with malays, chinese with chinese, and so on. Go to the streets and see the stalls. Find a place where all races sit together. Majority, and I stress, majority will be racially divided. But that is not wrong. It is healthy, as long as we remain objective and united in our ideals of being fair, professional and not racist.

We have developed a unique historical state where all can work together and maintain our individuality. And we should cherish that. What we need is the learned among us to remain objective and fair to represent our group and steer this coutry to further greatness. The alternative is unthinkable. Indonesia tried total assimilation. Sri lanka ends up fighting. We, can make the difference.

Anonymous said...

Dear Malik,

I think people like you should do more :-

1) translaste all your writtings to B.M.,may be publish a book or two. give speeches in BM, organise seminar to share your thoughts to the Malay masses.

2) join politic.

All the Malay who share the same ideals as your goodselves to come together and do more for this country of ours.

Anonymous said...

I have a feeling of being threatened by your article. But then the success of the country must come first not the race. Nevertheless I have to agree that the standard of the civil service leave much to be desired. Looking at our history since merdeka, our economic progress is falling behind many countries. During the 70s we were identified as one of the leading countries in Asia ahead of countries like Korea, and probably on par with Singapore. Thereafter with NEP, malays in general appears to have more opportunities and some handful of Malays were elevated with wealth. Now we found out that we are being paid less (correct me if I am wrong) compared with our non malay counterparts because our qualifications and experiences are not at par with them. And also our productivity is lower. This truth is a direct result of NEP. I can't blame the private sector because the Govt. themself is paying much less. As such there is really nothing to complain about.
Sad to say the NEP is creating problems now. And the forseeable future. Look at the top brass polis and the home minister. How can they exposed themselves to be so "unlearned"!, so uneducated!. Appears that they didn't really understand the laws of this countries. Bungling, fumbles, mistakes....hei did they ever go to schools.....A really laughing stock.

Only with the success of the nation can we talk of making the malay race successful. Ruining the country in the name of NEP is unacceptable.


Anonymous said...

Wa, I'm dan surprised the Malay Mail actually published it. Your column is on every Tuesday, is it?

I may have to re-think my 'boycott buying any mainstream newspaper' policy...

Anonymous said...

Hi, Malik Imtiaz Sarwar. This is my first ever comment, in any sort of blog. But I felt compelled to write after reading your post. Your article says it all. BN's continued state of denial puts the future of all Malaysians in jeopardy.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Malik Imtiaz Sarwar. This is my first ever comment, in any sort of blog. But I felt compelled to write after reading your post. Your article says it all. BN's continued state of denial puts the future of all Malaysians in jeopardy.

Anonymous said...

We CAN discuss racial matters without disrespecting the Constitution. Problem is that people don't believe, or not willing to believe it, or outrightly refuse to believe that we could. Hence all objections the instance a forum (no matter how civil or mature or moderated or controlled) to discuss these matters are suggested. This is also why I don't see the dissolution and merging of certain 2 big parties as a good thing. It's a contradiction to say of unity on one hand and that it fights for all regardless of creed on the other. In any case, I don't believe it will ever happen either. Just some grand show.

Anonymous said...

I am mindful though that many matters previously silent before have been slowly coming out, government willing to admit their mistakes and at least there are talks of changes going around. Of course talking is not enough, but hopefully there will be enough conscience and goodwill to keep push things along to the positive side.

Anonymous said...

mr malik,
you are a true malaysian intellectual. its sad at this present state of our country is in now. i hv always enjoyed multiracialism. thats the beauty of malaysia. because of the umno regime from TDM era racism in every govt policy sets in. learning english and mastering it makes us competent in this global age and not unpatriotic. i squirm whenever i hear our home minister speak. BTW
where is our de facto law minister.
is he going to push for judicial reforms regardless.

Anonymous said...

Dear Malik,

That is a tremendous piece of writing , I must say,

I did a slightly different approach to it in my quiet blog sometime ago..

I took a doctor as example, if we keep succumbed to the need of racial quota in place of meritocracy, we essentially surrender our rights to have the very best doctor to treat us when we get sick and grow old..


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad that some of the comments here which are from the Malay him/herself, is declining NEP and be able to say it loud here even with a name signed.

Truly, I'm touched to see this as one who theoretically should be the beneficial group of NEP is saying NO to this injustice deployment of governance. NEP from the years of deployment by UMNO is truly an ashamed of human rights where people are being judged from the color of their skin but not their ability. Imagine how those other Malaysian who is non Bumiputera sacrisfy and humiliated through out all this years, while the other direct beneficial group decline to take this policy away although they know this is injustice. You wouldn't know how many tears have fallen due to the unequal opportunity to have education even though with a good result has planted hate and no mercy in the heart of so many generation of those we so called 'non Bumi'.

Malik is talking from the efficiency of nation point of view, and I'm elaborating more from the true feeling point of view from the group that has been discriminated for years, about the guilty of racist policy. Come and go and look for your own eyes, to those poor Indian and Chinese, those live in low cost flat, on how does the discrimination of skin color make generation and generation of suffer, on how is their feeling of being look down because of skin color, that most of us decline to admit it.

I'm hoping to see more and more open debate and discussion about this issues and I hope, during the discussion, no one will treat the others same Malaysian with a different standard anymore, as with no reason, they should be treated that way.


A voice from the group who being discriminated by racist policy

Anonymous said...

It now appears to me that the problem began with the concept of "Ketuanan Melayu".

This concept was introduced around the time when Malaysia was working hard to achieve independence from the British.

As we are all aware, the malays were marginalised in the economic sector and perhaps to a large extend the political side as well.

The malay leaders of the time tried to boost the spirit of the malay community by introducing the concept of "Ketuanan Melayu".

So, the malay leaders at that time used the concept "Ketuanan Melayu" as a rallying point not as a tool to oppress or rid the non-malays, but merely as a cry to prevent the malays from drifting towards oblivion in the era of Malaysia as a country.

While the other concepts ranging from ethnic cleansing to white supremacy are meant to dominate and wipe out the other races, "Ketuanan Melayu" is only meant to help the malays to get to equal footing with the non-malays.

Implosion said...

I'd like to see Anwar change the "malay mentality" in Malaysia. It's a gargantuan task, but it takes someone like him to do it.
I've kept my copy of his book The Asian Renaissance since the 90's. I believe he has only written one, but it has more substance than any of the books Mahathir keeps churning out.

I also think that Pak Lah COULD HAVE done so much- and he is capable of so much- he has allowed the inklings of democracy under his rule. He has allowed the high court to overturn the lower courts decision so that Anwar can be free. He allowed a televised debate. He is anti corruption (supposedly). But he is weak, he has succumbed to UMNO peer pressure. Party politics is driven by lots of fear and survival instinct.