The politics of race

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When you have a leadership that values loyalty above intelligence, then what you encourage is cover up, says K Haridas.

If race is the ultimate motivating factor and cause that one represents, eventually all that one does will be tainted by an ethnic perspective.

Such a perspective can never be inclusive. It is about one race, and only what benefits that race. Politics of this nature is dangerous in a multi-ethnic environment. To say that other races also do the same does not make it right.

This only furthers fragmentation and polarisation as is so evident in Malaysia today.

Malaysia needs liberation from the politics of race. We have the fashions of democracy, but lack the substance. Race and racial politics have eroded all the values, destroyed the systems and institutions we believe in and stand for as a people. That is why despite the Rukun Negara, Vision 2020 and other altruistic goals like 1Malaysia, we are sinking deeper and deeper into fragmentation and polarisation.

When you have a leadership that values loyalty above intelligence, then what you encourage is cover up. Loyalty to the leader breeds wilful silence and accommodates blatant wrong – because to do otherwise would be seen as disloyalty to the leader and the race.

Look at the rampant crisis of leadership that has so engulfed all the component parties of the Barisan Nasional (BN). What does the MIC, the MCA, Gerakan stand for in reality? Their leadership today is beholden to the racism evident in Umno. What a paradox, but this describes the reality today.

To be a leader in this context, you have to be chauvinistic because you have to appeal to the ethnic benefits that you can both champion and deliver. If you promote justice that is perceived as against your ethnic interest you could easily be perceived as both disloyal to the leader and the race.

Add to this the factor of religion, and you have a mixture that ignites ethnic tensions, violence and irrational behaviour. Portraying a multi-ethnic veneer does not gloss over the racism evident within all the component parties of the BN.

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The race/economic divide brought to birth the New Economic Policy. This positive discrimination policy has contributed to social justice in Malaysia.

But its prolonged application and the attitudes this has fawned now see the reverse in action. The minorities have very little say in the civil service, the armed forces or the police force. Putrajaya is an illusion of the multi-ethnic nature of where we have reached.

Malaysia is not truly Asia as it is lauded to be, and Putrajaya is a good example of a policy that today informs us of what we have achieved. We will probably need a new social justice policy to ensure that the excesses of the NEP are corrected. No one within the ruling coalition is courageous to bite this bullet. This is where the opposition despite its imperfectness has something to offer.

The way the electoral boundaries are charted has ensured that Umno/BN continues to be in power even if it loses the popular vote. Add to this the fixed deposits of Sabah and Sarawak, and you have a skewed democracy.

Sarawak is a very good example of democracy ala corruption or unaccounted wealth at work. They have now elevated their internationally famous ex-chief minister to become the YDP Negeri. The case revolving around his son’s divorce is another million-dollar extravagansa!

One had hoped that the change in the chief minister would have been a new dawn for Malaysia. This was an opportunity for Sarawak to provide a new leadership at the national level.

Their spirit of understanding and respect for diversity is so much needed and their view with regard to the use of the English language has to be lauded. They could have provided the leadership for the ‘third option’ in this challenging phase of national struggle.

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Sarawak, alas, has also let us down because they do not have the moral courage to stand against corruption.

Perhaps it is too much to expect. We can see for ourselves all that is happening, and the lies and counter-lies, the blackmail and murders, the money trail and the corruption and the discredit this is bringing to the integrity of the nation.

Yet while we are taking steps though the Citizens’ Declaration and other initiatives, it is sad that our political framework is not able to provide the tipping point for change. We seem to stew in our own stinking juice!

Many within the ruling elite are too comfortable with the benefits that the present status quo provides. People prefer to remain holding positions rather than valuing personal integrity. The nation, the constitution, their oath of office all mean so little while the nation’s integrity is being openly questioned with facts by the international media.

It is not as though a serious wrong has not been committed. It is just that the people in power are colluding to maintain the status quo at the expense of national integrity.

Whether it is the issue of the late PI Bala’s banishment with his family, the involvement of one of Najib’s brothers, the acquittal of Razak Baginda, the use of C4 to blow up Altantuya, who was then pregnant, and the inconsistent statements now being uttered by Sirul in favour of an involved party, these all raise concern.

There is no smoke without fire, but the investigations have been so done that not all the areas from which the smoke arose have been identified. Some have perhaps been selectively left out.

The fact that such large amounts of money have been transferred into the prime minister’s personal account in Malaysia is an issue that should have embarrassed him enough to resign. To then say that this was a donation used to ensure that the BN would be re-elected is another grave wrong.

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With race as a factor, had such an act been done by an opposition leader he would have been branded a traitor and expelled, perhaps even his citizenship revoked.

But when it comes to Umno, the rules are different. The cause of Umno Malays and their inability to be fair and square without any special advantages has developed in them a ‘handicap’ mentality. They know that if Malaysian democracy was built on one vote and an equal vote, then they would have long gone.

So the need to fiddle with the system is essential for their survival and the ethnic rational provides the necessary justification to do whatever is necessary.

Self-interest in the guise of Umno interest continues. Only a leader who cannot inspire people to join a cause will resort to money power, and Najib is as good an example of this in Malaysia. Perhaps he is the best example at the moment, attempting to outperform his predecessors, who were more subtle in their ways.

“The world suffers a lot. Not because of the violence of bad people, but because of the silence of good people!” said Napoleon. There are many good people at the heart of the affairs of our nation who for one reason or another are opting for silence.

While we know about the violent terrorists and their exploits, we will never hear about the many good people, who remain good for nothing in perpetuating what is gravely wrong by their very silence.

Give it a good reason, and the ends will easily be used to justify the means. But not all will fall for this spin. The rot continues, and when the ’emperor’ eventually falls, he will seem more rotten than he is presently and many will, hopefully, be silently ashamed for being part of his politics of expediency.

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