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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Finding Equilibrium

Finding Equilibrium

Zaid Ibrahim’s impassioned call for a rejection of race politics last Friday at the LawAsia conference is one that deserves its place in history. His plea for the restoration of democracy and the Rule of Law has reverberated throughout the nation.

This is not surprising. Zaid’s message is rooted in an obviously deep and heartfelt commitment to the nation and the interests of all its citizens. Where the Malays are concerned, he is strident in his rejection of policies that have left the community struggling against a siege mentality that robs it of its ability to meet the challenges of a globalizing world. As he observes, the “Malays are now a clear majority in numbers. The fear of their being out numbered is baseless; they are not under siege. The institutions of government are such that the Malays are effectively represented, and the there is no way the interest of the Malays can be taken away other than through their own weakness and folly.”

Equally forceful in his defence of non-Malay interest, Zaid laments attempts by politicians to do away with a social contract that guarantees “equality and the promise of the Rule of Law” in favour of one that promotes a supremacist ideology that ultimately serves only the interests of an elite. This, he opines, has left the nation deeply divided and cut off from the democracy and Rule of Law so vital for the sustainable and inclusive development that all Malaysians need, irrespective of race and religion.

Put another way, Zaid has given voice to what it is most Malaysians think: that we need to be united to face the future. The founders of this nation understood we could, appreciating that there was no reason for fear and that we had every reason for mutual respect and dignity. Fear mongering has however kept us apart and from seeing the threats that confront us, and what we need to do to counter them.

Zaid’s message is persuasive for its simplicity and self-evident truth. He must be credited for having been able to say what had to be said, as it needed to be said.

If there is any doubt as to the legitimacy of the viewpoint expressed, then we need only consider the reactions from senior UMNO members entrenched in the leadership structure of the party. These reactions not only make it evident that Zaid hit the nail on the head, they also show why it is UMNO and the Barisan Nasional need to seriously reconsider how to make themselves relevant. Two responses are illustrative.

Perlis UMNO liaison chief and former Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim had this to say, according to media reports, “Zaid should repent. Otherwise he should get out of the ‘rumpun Melayu’. Paraphrased by BERNAMA, his explanation for this was that “if Zaid continued to question the Malay supremacy concept, then he should no longer be a Malay as a Malay should be defending the Malays and not running them down.”

But, is that not what Zaid was doing? Apparently not, for the New Straits Times reported Home Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, who is incidentally an UMNO supreme council member, as saying that Zaid was “a traitor to his own race and should apologise for his remarks.”

Both responses are so self-defeating that they boggle the mind. They typify the might is right attitude that Zaid speaks out against. Being senior UMNO members, both individuals must be open to the possibilities. As Zaid put it, if “affirmative action is truly benchmarked on the equitable sharing of wealth that is sustainable, then we must confront the truth and change our political paradigm; 40 years of discrimination and subsidy have not brought us closer.”

Zaid was not alone in expressing concerns about the way things are. At the same conference, His Royal Highness Raja Nazrin Shah, the Raja Muda of Perak, called for a rejection of discriminatory policies. The Raja Muda observed that the “consequence of not empowering citizens or, worse, disempowering them, is to create a deep sense of alienation and hostility. Indeed, it is very often an overwhelming sense of alienation and powerlessness that causes the rash acts of violence that fracture societies. It gives these citizens every reason to seek to divide society in order to redress their dissatisfactions. This is bad and insensitive politics. On another level, we cannot morally turn our backs on the fundamental responsibility of ensuring that all stakeholders in our society, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, have a place under the sun.”

The ideal could not be better articulated. Malaysians, all of us, want our place in the sun. We do not wish to live in fear, looking over our shoulders all the time. There is more than enough for us all to share in. We have been blessed with a nation so abundant with resources and so rich with potential that generation upon generation will be able to live in peace and prosperity. The only catch, if it can be called that, is that we need to be left alone to find our equilibrium. Only then can we get on with the task of doing it right.

(Malay Mail; 4th November 2008)



Anonymous said...

The Rakyat of Malaysian must be perturbed that despite the clear message sent throught the GE12 and the Permatang Pauh By-elections, UMNO wallows in its state of denial. Its ruling members, disturbingly the senior members who are vying for higher positions, continue to carp on racist sentiments and demagoguery.

I find it even more difficult to appreciate that Ketuanan Melayu is being espoused by the very man (Tun Mahathir) who was the first to enunciate in 1990 this nations Vision 2020 to become a developed country in all its ramifications and which captured the imagination of the rakyat of this country.

HRH Raja Nazrin and Datuk Zaid are both absolutely right in their perceptive views and comments. I believe this resonates very deeply with not only the non-Malays but also the many right thinking Malay citizens. I have a clear sense that UMNO leaders are accelerating its implosion and many sensible members may be quietly leaving or remaining dormant or inactive and waiting for the right opportunity to leave. 50 years after Merdeka and when the world is fast becoming a small space in this universe, UMNO wants to hold back time and space. Tun Mahathir (and UMNO) is doing a deriding his legacy and the tremendous contributions to the development of this country if they continue in the present vein, all for the purposes of political victory. This will be a hollow victory, void of value and bitter to the taste!

Anonymous said...

It is sad that each time someone criticises UMNO's entrenched concept of racism which is "Ketuanan Melayu", he is branded a racist by the UMNO leaders themselves. In this case the whistleblower is the culprit in the eyes of UMNO. There must be sufficient numbers of Malays like Zaid, Haris Ibrahim, Azly Rahman and Raja Petra to openly come up and criticise Ketuanan Melayu for its explicit racism. Their numbers must increase day by day such that eventually the Malays will be able to judge for themselves who the real "traitors" to their race are, namely the UMNO leaders who have been accusing Zaid and others of being racists. At a time when the whole world is phasing out racism, UMNO through Ketuanan Melayu and Dr Mahathir want to be even bigger racists than the former apartheid regime of South Africa.

mei1 said...

Once UMNO (not BN) is still ruling the country, it'll be hopeless for equilibrium.

However, there's still a possibility that revolution is going to happen, like RPK said, it may be too early to give up hope & let's plan & hope for this year's Christmas to be the best Christmas in 51 years since Merdeka. Well, fingers crossed for that!!

Anonymous said...

the response from syed albar and shahidan is not surprising. they are part of the inner circle of ultra rights in UMNO which at this moment has the dominant voice.
its also the same from the mukhris who believes that the only change that can be effected is to further strengten Ketuanan Melayu, never mind the social divide nor the general economic well being of the populace.
These ultras are all aiming their machine gun at Zaid to score points as the UMNO election draws near. I can only envision Zaid has to resign from UMNO or he will be sacked soon coz his only defender is a lame duck PM now.

Anonymous said...

It is fairly obvious that many in the UMNO don't want to discuss these issues and when it is brought up they close their ears and start making absurd statements. Just like little children unable to win a fight, so they resort to name calling and desk thumping.

Malaysia is in need of a civil rights movement and better education. We should be able to engage in meaningful discussion on race and religion without having to call each other names or get angry.

My biggest fear is that this is being taught in our schools and Universities. That this sort of boorish behaviour is the norm.

Anonymous said...

I just read that Raja Petra is to be released !! I can't believe it. Did I get it right? You won!!! CONGRATULATIONS to all you guys!!

de minimis said...

May I join in with the kudos and bouquets to you and the rest of the most excellent legal team that successfully persuaded the Shah Alam High Court on the mala fides of RPK's detention. You are one of the best contemporary example of the greatness of the Malaysia Bar and the important role that it continues to play in Malaysia.

Richard Loh said...


You and your team did a very good job and fight till the end to released RPK

Sorry, have to post this somewhere to congratulate you and your team.

Anonymous said...

Your speech at the conference Mr MIS is also very impressive, moving, and inspirational. Where can we find the speech? And congrats on winning RPK's HC application. May justice prevail always.

Kris said...

As always Malik, your clarity of thought is humbling...

Zaids and HRH Raja Nazrins speeches and observations give rise to a hope that intellect, reason and decency will prevail over greed, fear and the hegemony conducted by the basest of peoples we currently see...

Anonymous said...


jazrul said...

50 years after Merdeka and when the world is fast becoming a small space in this universe, UMNO wants to hold back time and space.

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