Wednesday 19 September 2012

Which promises, whose lies?

  • KJ John
  • 11:44AM Sep 18, 2012
I am rather amused about the stated ambitions of both sets of peninsula-led political parties regarding the future of a free and equitable 1BangsaMalaysia. This coinage is my attempt at integrating Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Bangsa Malaysia version with Najib Abdul Razak’s 1Malaysia vision; to mean a Malaysia where there is only one equal ethnic group wherein all of them feel included as 1st class citizens.

Malaysia recently finished our independence and National Day celebrations. This is my first year noticing the minimal number of flags flown in all neighbourhoods, whether for Merdeka, or even on Malaysia Day. We should not politicise these national unity events with partisan agendas, promises, or lies, but instead must always sustain it as a voluntary event for the heart-felt expression of all Malaysians.

One coalition’s vision declared they have already fulfilled promises, and accused the other of being liars, whereas the other makes new promises which imply breaching and transcending past lies, especially related to the Malaysia Agreement.

Truth and lies about Malaysia

FMT recently reported that Democracy Sabah or Desah, a Sabah-based NGO, had said that “people deserve to be told the truth” about how the facts have been distorted to dilute the role of the two former British colonies in the formation of Malaysia.

azlanFormer Sabah state secretary Simon Sipaun, who heads the NGO, said even federal statutes and the federal constitution seemed to reflect this, though it was well-known that it is not historical truth. FMT extensively quoted him:

“Desah is perplexed that under Article 160 of the federal constitution, Merdeka Day’ refers to Aug 31, 1957 and the Federation of Malaysia means the Federation of Malaya Agreement, 1957,” said Sipaun days ahead of the 49th anniversary of the formation of Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963.

“Desah’s understanding of historical facts is that Malaya gained independence from Britain on Aug 31, 1957, six years before the formation of Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963.

“North Borneo [as Sabah was then known] gained independence from the British on Aug 31, 1963 and Sarawak on July 22, 1963.

“Historical facts indicate that Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak gained independence on three separate and different dates respectively. How can it be possible for all of them to be celebrating their 55th year of independence on Aug 31, 2012?

“It will be more truthful to say that Malaysia is celebrating Malaya’s 55th year of independence on Aug 31, 2012,” Sipaun said.

Are we 1BangsaMalaysia?

For the Malaysia Day celebrations, I attended an event organised by our NGO, Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia or SABM. The guest speaker for the dinner was Hannah Yeoh, the assemblyperson for Subang Jaya. Her topic was Bangsa Malaysia: Illusion or reality?

azlanYeoh related her family’s predicament when they chose to identify as Bangsa Malaysians, with the birth of their daughter, Shay Adora. Her husband Ram is of ethnic Indian heritage, whereas Hannah is of Chinese parentage. They chose to fill in the information about the new birth of a daughter as a Bangsa Malaysian or Anak Malaysia.

Guess what happened? The registration clerk decided to ignore their declaration of facts, and chose to assign “Chinese” as the race of the new born child. The computer programme did not allow the clerk to even register a blank, although they tried.

Hannah is now expecting her second child and if the same set of “Hobson’s choice model of decision-making” continues, maybe the “Malaysia Boleh framework of illogical arguments” would declare the next child as an Indian or ‘Lain-lain”. This nomenclature is used when their race-based logic is denied by their still undefined term called ‘race’. Therefore I understand that all Kadazans, Ibans and Orang Asli are also considered ‘Others’.

It is precisely this framework of outdated concepts and the implied definitions which are what I call “idiocratic” or rule by law. The concept of ‘race,’ is a socio-political category in which there is no rational scientific basis for such definitions. Genome science does not use this concept of ‘race’ but rather ‘ethnicity’ which includes cultural traits such as language, religion, family customs, and food preferences.

The Malay word bangsa is part of the problem. It carries dual meanings; one which relates to a kind of ethnicity (which is explicitly and uniquely defined in our federal constitution), and another which means a nation-state.

Thus when Mahathir used the term Bangsa Malaysia in 1981, his Vision 2020 speech was delivered in the English language. Therefore, any translation of the English equivalent of the word bangsa, must be used in the Malay word for the United Nations as Bangsa-Bangsa Bersatu; not in terms of Malay ethnicity.

Shay Adora Ram an Anak Malaysia

It is Prime Minister Najib, rightly or wrongly, who is promoting his 1Malaysia dream as his framework for national unity. Within this concept of national unity, my question to the Umno-led government is, “why is the much abused concept of racial or ethnic identity necessary information for any model of good citizenship?”

To my mind, both Hannah and Ram are 1st generation Anak Malaysians and their offspring must surely be 2nd generation Malaysian. Of what consequence or relevance is there really for establishing an inaccurate or incorrect definition of ethnic heritage other than for the personal use of the incumbent for the sake of knowing their own identity and heritage?

But, as always, these are never defined by the state, but really in what and how the incumbent chooses and makes the best of life. On the exact same matter, Singapore has developed a more rational way to address the same problem.

While Hannah and Ram wait patiently for their appeal to be reviewed by the home affairs minister, I pray that the PM would be more decisive and clear about the meaning and definition of his 1Malaysia dream and avoid false promises or further propagating any more lies about the Malaysian dream of national unity.

The Malaysian aspiration for unity must belong to the hearts of every Malaysian and no amount of external compulsion can create the requisite voluntary love for their own nation.

KJ JOHN was in public service for 29 years. The views expressed here are his personal views and not those of any institution he is involved with. Write to him at with any feedback or views.

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