Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The years of living racially - S THAYAPARAN

"Whatever we wish to achieve in the future, it must begin by knowing where we are in the present - not where we wish we were, or where we wish others to think we are, but where we are in fact." - Thomas Sowell (Economic Facts and Fallacies)

COMMENT So, let me get this straight. Bersih leader Ambiga Sreenevasan believes that racial politics should end and the way to end it would be to engage in more... racial politics?

niat forum election 120812 ambigaNational Indian Rights Action Team's (Niat's) rather self-serving list of demands, I say self-serving because one of the components of the three cabinet ministers post and four deputy ministers reserved (for Indians) would not only include elected representatives but also (surprise, surprise) those appointed from NGOs.

Question. If a Chinese or Malay NGO candidate/elected representative has done "more" for the Indian community that an Indian candidate, would the said individual still be considered for the ‘Indian-only' post?

I would bet my last ringgit that if Pakatan Rakyat (if they ever come into federal power) were to announce such a strategy, they would be received with open arms by a certain section of the Malaysian voting public who claim to be interested in a race-blind society but who in reality understand the code Pakatan uses to demonstrate its commitment to the idea that their racial expectations would be met in a more "honest" manner by a non-BN government.

I don't think the plan is "too idealistic", I think it's downright myopic, cynical and detrimental to any sort of "racial harmony" that oppositional types like to say is part of the ‘change' agenda and the kind of racial nonsense Umno-BN has been peddling for decades. Can you imagine the fallout if this were a group of Chinese NGOs having a list of demands for the government?

The editorial warlocks over at Utusan Malaysia and the Perkasa thugs would be having epileptic fits and Umno would be leaping for joy at the unexpected windfall of actually being in the Pakatan position of doing nothing while their adversary shoot himself in the foot.

NONEPoor DAP, while their golden boy Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has to go out of his way to calm Malay nerves that nobody in his party would ever seek the highest office in the land, here we have Indians NGOs being satisfied with second best and worse of all a position given to them by their Malay masters.

It's funny, actually. Lim has to fend off allegations from a rival political party (MCA) that he is giving false hope to the Chinese community with regards to leading this country, all the while proving an extremely effective elected representative for the state he runs.

Indians, or those claiming to represent them, on the other are so marginalised that they do not even pose a credible threat to the powers-that-be.

Yet another racial formula

Apparently the Niat booklet explains that the marginalisation of the Indian community was due to under representation in the government. Apparently two former prime ministers agree with this claim. Really?

I believe the Indians are marginalised because they continued to vote for inept corrupt leaders who bilked them with the sacred cows of religion and culture and an apathetic Indian middle-class who didn't give a damn about their community. All this set the stage of an eventual class conflict as expressed by the ‘mandore' sentiments of Hindraf. (This opinion drew much flack when it first appeared in my 'The slaying of our sacred cows' piece)

And if the two former prime ministers thought that under representation was the cause of the marginalisation of the Indian community, why didn't they do anything to fix it? I mean if it was easy a putting a couple of token Indians in positions of power, which would in turn ‘fix' the Indian problem, they why not do it?

najib thaipusam batu caves 070212The answer is simple. A marginalised and fractured Indian community served the interests of the ruling elite. The Umno racial formula and the complicity of the Indian ‘mandores' ensured that the Indian vote bank would be bought over by short-term racialist gains.

What this silly list of demands is attempting is another kind of racial formula. And why not? If anything, Chinese and Indian support of Pakatan is not really based on any egalitarian foundation but rather that their racialist expectations would be better served by an alliance which is not as corrupt and (here's the hilarious part) racist, as Umno.

Nobody in Pakatan (with a few exceptions) dares put forward the idea that a non-Malay could ever lead this country but Pakatan supporters make the appropriate noise when it comes to meritocracy and race blindness when it is politically expedient to do so.

The usual justification is that the Malay community is the majority and only they can decide if and when it is palatable for a Malaysian regardless of his or her race to ascend by popular will to the highest office in the land. So don't rock the boat. The goal is to be led by a forward-thinking Malay and banish the hated BN from Putrajaya.

Yup, and once there, we can still play the same racial game with ideas of the sort espoused by Niat but coming from Pakatan no doubt it would be more palatable. And once this happens we will unfortunately once again, get the government we deserve.

Ambiga praises this initiative as proposing solutions rather than a list of problems, but what if the solutions are as bad as the problems?

thaipusam najib 070212How does having a Department of Minority Affairs and Development help minority communities here in Malaysia? Has the Women's Affairs Department helped women in Malaysia? Has the Orang Asli Department helped alleviate the problems faced by the indigenous peoples of this land?

I would argue that all these ‘minority' departments have just added to the bureaucratic nightmare which is the Malaysian civil service and has become the breeding ground for the despised cronycrats.

I was of course smirking at the suggestion that banning the sale of alcohol in convenience stores would help ‘curb' alcoholism in the Indian community. Didn't PAS attempt this dance before?

Interesting isn't it, how these religious types (and I'm assuming religious types of every flavour had their say in this list of demands) always resort to enforcing their value system on others instead of accepting the reality that when it comes to social ills like alcoholism, the aspect of personal responsibility should be front and centre of any effort to curb the problem.

Provocative ideas

Why not champion some of the more provocative ideas which have been out there for decades? Here are a few.

Dismantle the federal bureaucracy which is there to provide employment for a specific racial group, which in turn nurtures as sense of entitlement within this section of the Malaysian polity. Dismantle the NEP (New Economic Policy) and institute a class-based affirmative action programme.

Halt state/federal funding for vernacular/religious schools. Re-establish English as the medium of instruction in school, with Malay being a compulsory paper. Add Mandarin and Tamil to the compulsory list. Do away with the race-based quota system when it comes to educational opportunities.

jerit tamil school parliament protest 290307 lim kit siangCurb the powers of religious institutions, especially if they attempt through religious dogma to undermine the relationships between the diverse religious communities in the country. Concentrate on rural development as a means of raising the standard of living instead of viewing them as ignorant vote banks.

These are just a few ideas that have been floating out there for decades and not solutions. Solutions come about if people are willing to consider these ideas as a basis for possible solutions that would lead us out of this racial quagmire we find ourselves in.

Perhaps if we vote for people who believe that these ideas are sound and that it should at least be attempted after decades of following our Pavlovian response to racial hot-button issues, maybe it would lead to a situation where the ‘majority' has no hang-up as to who leads Malaysia.

Maybe it would lead to a political climate where NGOs don't have to propose race-based solutions to problems caused by raced-based preoccupations in the first place.

niat forum election 120812 niat secretary arun dorasamyIf anything Niat secretary Arun Dorasamy (right), this is "too idealistic" and not your demands, which is merely playing the same race game repeatedly and hoping for a different outcome. Understand now, that both our ideas would no doubt draw flack from a certain section of the Malay community nurtured into believing that their very survival depends on the game being rigged in their favour.

But the difference is that Niat's demands is in effect threshing away in racial quicksand worsening the situation while the ideas I'm highlighting are an attempt to grab a vine to pull us out of this mess.

The tragedy is this election is for the average Pakatan supporter, it is a choice between the lesser of two evils (as some too comfortably claim). Perhaps this is why Niat's suggestions would at the end of the day be implemented if Pakatan ever comes into power (even though it is mocked now) and the ideas I talked about would be consigned to the rubbish bin.

Change is only meaningful if it involves sacrifice and nobody wants to rock the boat when the port of Putrajaya is within reach.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

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