The rural people who lack information due to poor internet and social media penetration are victims of Umno’s religious and political propaganda, observes Tota.
Immediately after winning a slim majority to form a minority government, Najib claimed that the voters in the urban and semi-urban areas had been duped good and proper by the Opposition. Just imagine, the intelligent, the better-educated and better informed being duped wholesale!
On the other hand, the rural people who lack information owing to poor internet and social media penetration and who are victims of Umno’s religious and political propaganda are the ones said to be choosing wisely by voting for the BN. Some have said that Umno has indeed become a “parti kampung”.
In 1999, when a large member of Malays deserted Umno, a deranged ex-PM said that the rural people voted with their heads while the urbanists voted with their hearts, meaning guided by their emotions. History has repeated itself.
Below I provide concrete evidence of how Umno has successfully duped the poor Malay rakyat in the last 56 years from Dr M Bakri Musa’s book “Liberating the Malay mind”. Here are several few excerpts:
A free mind can best be illustrated by this story of Mullah Nasaruddin, a famous alim known for his effective use of ordinary and often self-deprecating stories to drive home a point, illuminate a concept, or challenge conventional wisdom.
He had a neighbour who was fond of borrowing items from him and conveniently forgetting to return them. One day this neighbour came to the Mullah to borrow his donkey. The Mullah, anticipating the request, had earlier locked his animal away in the barn at the back and out of sight.
Upon hearing the request, the Mullah confidently replied that his donkey had been taken away earlier by his brother. As the disappointed neighbour turned away, he heard the braying of the donkey and quickly turned around to remark, “I thought you said your donkey was gone!”
To which the Mullah replied, “Do you believe the braying of a donkey or the words of a Mullah?”
If you can accept that at times a donkey can be the bearer of the truth, and a Mullah the purveyor of untruth, then you have exhibited a free mind, minda merdeka. There are many reasons why we continue believing the Mullah despite the donkey braying in our face, and we will explore some of these subsequently.
One can easily be hoodwinked by the government’s glossy publications and the leaders’ rosy recounting of our country’s achievements. Take the “Malaysian Quality of Life 2004 Report” produced by the Prime Minister’s Department.
At 113 pages it is full of glossy pictures of clean, well-trimmed suburban neighbourhoods, neat kampung houses, and of course the iconic Petronas Towers. There is also a picture of earnest executives engaged in video-conferencing, highlighting the latest technology gizmo.
The cover features the responsible minister, Mustafa Mohamed, beaming against the backdrop of a lush, luxurious golf course. That image reveals more of the truth, perhaps unintended; the golf course is exactly where you are likely to find these ministers most of the time.
If you were to visit that minister’s old kampong in Jeli, Kelantan, the reality would be far different. I have no data specific to Jeli but a recent study of Pulau Redong and Pulau Perhentian (published in June 2011), two islands off the Terengganu coast, would shock anyone. A fifth of the villagers have no formal education whatsoever, while half had only primary level. This in 2011! Their average income is less than RM500 per month, considerably less than what Indonesian maids in Malaysia earn.
As a needless reminder, those villagers are exclusively Malays. More shockingly and reflective of the overall abysmal socio-economic condition, two-thirds of the respondents expect “little” or “no change” in the next five years. They have given up hope. So much for the grandiose promises made at the recently concluded Umno General Assembly (December 2011) about “protecting and enhancing” the position of Malays!
Of course those high-flying Umno operatives would not know that. After all when they do visit those islands they are certain to stay at the exclusive Berjaya Resort, with taxpayers footing the bill of course. There they are able to partake in video-conferencing and access the internet. For the islanders, however, fewer than four per cent have internet access. Both islands have a thriving tourism industry with high-paying jobs. Those jobs, however, are out of reach to the residents due to their lack of skills and education.
If you want an accurate picture of the status and future of Malays, then visit those islands, but do not stay at the resorts. If you do, you are unlikely to meet many Malays except for the gardeners and maids. Those resident Malays on the islands represent the bulk of the race; they are a universe away from their fellow bumiputras like (former) Women Affairs Minister Sharizat Jalil with her ultra-luxury condos at Bangsar, courtesy of hefty bumiputra discounts and generous “soft” government loans.
The harsh reality is that far too many of our leaders are but sly foxes cloaked in shepherd’s clothing. Instead of leading us from one lush meadow to the next, they would be the first to prey upon us. Instead of protecting us, these “shepherds” would ensure that they have their istana kayangan (fantasy palaces) first, and if there were the odd pieces of lumber left over, only then could the flock hope to have a wall around their shed.
… likewise our obscenely opulent political leaders exemplified by former Selangor Chief Minister Khir Toyo and Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi. These are the leaders who are forever exhorting us towards “unity”. It is a unity to serve their purpose, not the rakyat.
Today Malaysia is in disarray; its skipper less than diligent and bordering on being incompetent; its crew tired, distracted and indifferent. The ship of state is headed in the wrong direction, and there are many shoals and reefs ahead. The wind is building up and the water increasingly choppy. The wakes of overtaking ships are battering us.
Worse, those ships were once way behind us. We are being shackled by needlessly intrusive and abusive rules that were meant for a different era when the ship was skippered by people that were not our own. Now our own leaders are exploiting those rules to further their nefarious needs. As we look on deck, we find the ballasts are now rising up, threatening our stability.
We fail to appreciate these cruel realities because our minds are trapped into thinking otherwise; hence my call for Merdeka Minda Melayu. We must have a free mind to appreciate the stark realities we are under and not let our leaders delude us into thinking otherwise. We need a free mind.
A free mind cannot be willed upon; there is no magic wand out there. We have to strive hard – very hard – to liberate our minds, just as hard, if not more so, as we did in liberating our native land. It is a worthy and noble pursuit; a closed mind is the worst prison.
Malaysian leaders never tire of telling us that they are competent and honest despite the mess the country is in, while they luxuriate in palatial mansions. It is obvious to anyone that these leaders could not possibly afford such obscene opulence just on their government wages. To our current mindset, however, doubting would be an act of blasphemy, disloyalty, or even treachery against these leaders.
Returning to the coconut shell metaphor, that little (or even big) frog can be smug about his world and claim to fully comprehend and be in command of it. After all, what is there to understand? His world is dark and small. As for controlling it, he is the only one to obey his orders! What that proverbial Senor Frog does not appreciate is that his universe, huge as it may seem to him, is nothing but a speck.
Those of us on the outside may be tempted to lord it over the unfortunate entrapped frog. We may even pity the poor critter. However, as Pramoedya noted in his Child of All Nations, “Pity is the feeling of well intentioned people who are unable to act.” Impotent, we assuage what little guilt we may harbour by rationalising that the poor soul is probably quite happy with his lot. That may well be; after all you do not miss what you do not know.
My brothers and sisters were enrolled in an English school in the period just before the resurgence of this intense nationalism. My father had gone through great effort and expense to secure our enrolment. Soon after, Malay leaders including Tun Razak were exhorting everyone to support our national language by enrolling their children in these “new” Malay schools. Many responded, transferring their children from English schools to these new Malay schools.
Being Malay schoolteachers, my parents were subjected to intense peer and community pressures to take us out of English school. After all, if Malay teachers did not demonstrate their commitment, who would? However, being Malay school teachers, my parents were also only too aware of the limitations of the Malay stream, in particular the lack of textbooks and trained teachers. My parents were not about to experiment with their children’s future.
What strengthened my father’s conviction to keep us in English school was not only that; rather that Tun Razak and the other Malay leaders were sending their own children to English schools. Razak went further; he sent his to schools in England! You could say that my father heard the braying of the donkey (Razak’s children going to England) and ignored the Mullah, including the top Mullah, Tun Razak.
Many years ago I was visiting my old village and met one of my former kampong mates whose parents had taken him out of English school. On meeting me, his only comment was that my father was wiser than his! The tribute rightly belonged to my father, and I took that compliment to heart!
You do not need statistics to tell the sorry plight of Malays. Visit any kampong or urban slum and you realise that poverty means poor health, lack of drive, and most of all, the giving up of hope.
I fail to see how Malay leaders and sultans could visit these squalid kampongs one moment and in the next fly off around the world in luxury paid for by taxpayers, as Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi did soon after visiting the flood-ravaged southern states in December 2006. He flew to Australia in a brand-new luxurious Airbus specially commissioned for his use.
How could he and his family enjoy their sumptuous dinners and the comfort of their five-star hotels with memories of those struggling villagers still fresh in their minds? Only a generation ago Abdullah’s relatives lived in attap dwellings in the slums of Penang. If he cares to investigate, he probably still has some cousins once or twice removed eking out a subsistence living there.
I cite Abdullah because he reflects the general crisis in Malay leadership. It has not changed with his successor Najib Razak. Indications are that it will still be the same with his anticipated successor, Muhyiddin Yassin. In short, be prepared for the same sorry scenario for the next decade at least. If Abdullah’s five-year tenure is now finally acknowledged as a lost half-decade, then anticipate many more lost decades.
Datuk Onn’s free mind enabled him to hear the braying of the donkey, the rakyat’s abhorrence of the Malayan Union Treaty, and wisely ignored the words of his Mullah … When you hear the donkey bray, do not let the sweet words of the Mullah persuade you otherwise, lest you risk being made a fool like an ass, or worse.
Tota is the pseudonym of a regular contributor to our Thinking Allowed Online column.