We must rise up and ensure that the way of life, long-cherished before and after Merdeka, is not consigned to the backwaters by self-serving Umno leaders, says Hussein Hamid.
The future and destiny of the Malay race does not lie in the hands of Najib Razak – however much Najib would like it to be so. Neither does it lie in the hands of Umno or any other Malay, Mamak, Jawa, Bugis or any others who would like us to think that they are that saviours or ‘Hang Tuahs’ of the Malay race.
Who says that the Malay race needs “saving”? Who says the Malay race is about to pale into insignificance if the Malays no longer hold political power?
Today I do not see a single Malay …. not a single Malay …. who would have the credentials to even think that they could be that individual. Not because there are none around. Not because a Malay who could do so has yet to be born. There is someone out there who can do so, but it does not necessarily have to be another Malay who can save the Malays.
What the Malays need is not a Malay leader to save the Malays, but a leader who understands that it is not only the Malays that need saving in Malaysia. Today everyone in Malaysia needs to be saved. None more so amongst us than those who are in the minority, the aged, the underprivileged and those living in poverty.
Save these people first and then the Malays will be saved and all Malaysian will be saved. Saved from a life that is blighted by the politics of race and religion; saved from the insane proliferation of politically driven corruption and arrogance; and saved from a future that now promises only doom and gloom for generations to come.
But so ingrained has the spectre of race and religion been etched into the consciousness of so many of us that even as I write this I know there are many Malaysians who will have dismissed what I write here as being the chatter of an irrelevant Malay who is a traitor to his own kind. A Malay who has forgotten his roots and to whom he owes his past, present and future to. Sebagai kacang lupakan kulit, they will say.
I am comfortable with that cloak. Indeed I have forgotten many of the things that I have gone through in life for the past six decades and counting. I have forgotten that I am a Malay in the strictest sense as Umno wants me to remember myself.
Umno tells me that I am a product of what Umno has made the Malays to be. That Malay takes political power to be one of the Malays’ inalienable right, and with it comes Ketuanan Melayu from cradle to grave. I have forgotten that.
Umno tells me that the Chinese who have been at the heart of our Malaysian culture and commerce are now our sworn enemies for their intent is political and commercial dominance over all things Malaysian and then relegating the Malays back to the kampungs where they came from! This not only have I forgotten, but I have never taken it to heart.
I have long questioned the necessity and wisdom of making the Chinese my enemies. I grew up with them in schools and had them for neighbours for as long as I can remember. I learned from the Chinese more in commerce than I have learned from what Umno leaders tell me about business.
Today, not only do I have Chinese friends, but my favourite cousin from Kuala Pilah regrets that “my children will never know of their brethren from mainland China. To you who know not your forebears if there is a glimpse of an opening, open the door and seek the answers”. His heart-felt regret must surely strike a chord among those of us who are of mixed racial parentage – myself, included, for my wife is Greek and I am a Bugis.
Umno also tells me that Christianity and Christians are working relentlessly to convert Muslims to their way of life and doing so overtly and covertly in their homes, in churches and in every conceivable way – even taking the name of Allah in vain by making it their own in Bibles.
And so it is right that Umno, in the name of the Muslims, takes punitive action against Christians and Christianity to stop them from doing so. This is an insult to Muslims and to Islam for does not Islam teach its adherents to live in harmony with others?
What all this has done is to unleash unprecedented public outrage across Malaysia. Malaysian of all races and religions have pledged, some silently and some loudly, that their way of life, long cherished before and after Merdeka, would not be consigned to the backwaters by the emerging arrogant and self-serving Malay political leaders from within Umno. And from day to day, I marvelled at how this pledge by Malaysians has taken root.
We saw this in the results of the 12th General Election.
We saw this as Malaysians rose up and demonstrated their abhorrence of each persecution by the Barisan Nasional government of those who were prevented from organising or speaking freely about their aspiration for a Malaysia we all aspire to. A Malaysia with good governance and a Malaysia free of politically induced religious and racial strife.
And we see it again today as the 1MDB issue has galvanised Malaysians across race, religious and political divides to stand united against a prime minister who we all agree “must go”.
How have we come to this? Where, after all, did all this political dissent against a once powerful Umno and its all powerful president start?
For me, it started close to home when the business opportunity given to me by the Umno-led government was taken away from me by cronies and cohorts of the same Umno-led government. In the beginning I found myself in competition with Pernas. Then in contracts and tenders I was up against companies with deep and insidious links with past and present politicians in Umno.
And then, when it came to “business opportunities” worth millions, the outstretched hands of Umno politicians and their cronies waiting for bribes were impossible to ignore if you do business in Malaysia.
In my life and in the world I live in, I saw injustice as non-Malay children did not have an ITM to go to. Nor did they have the scholarships nor the opportunity to enter educational facilities freely as racially imposed segregation to favour the Malays was imposed in many educational facilities from primary schools to universities.
At work , letters to government departments were to be written in Bahasa – a feat even I found challenging having been educated in English all my life. I wonder how the non-Malays were coping with it, then and now?
Everywhere I looked, Ketuanan Melayu intruded into everything every Malaysian does and everything that I do too. I had a “standing privilege” over the non-Malays that I could call upon at will to favour me in education, in business and in life.
A privilege that Umno has conferred upon me from cradle to grave. If used wisely, it would grant me a head start in life over other non-Malays. If used selfishly, maliciously and with intent for personal profit without concern about its adverse consequences to others, it would grant you even more of a head start over other Malays and non-Malays!
These are fundamental threats to the Malaysian way of life. They seeks to upturn all that we have known and learned from the life that we have known. And this, Umno had sought to do away with from three decades ago, when Mahathir first came to power. It was done to favour Mahathir’s position as Prime Minister and consequently that of Umno as the political party in government.
While the Rakyat have been accepting their lot under these circumstance it has been the environmental and economic abuse that has ultimately sparked widespread outrage. Each and every Malaysian has been affected in a direct and tangible way by the use and abuse of political office for personal and financial gain.
These everyday concerns of the Rakyat – being deprived of their rights to education, work opportunities, a decent and affordable roof over their head, decent food on the table, and the hope that the future would bring them better times – have become endemic in the Malaysia that we now have because of these environmental and economic abuses by our political leaders.
And now there is also the issue of human rights and the freedom of the Rakyat for responsible dissent as provided for in the Malaysian Constitution. Our protest about the goings-on in 1MDB is merely a symptom of these ills.
This morning, I wondered what Anwar would be thinking of as he sits down to breakfast. Whatever you may say of him, he has been relentless in his pursuit of our rights and what is our due as rakyat under this insidious Barisan Nasional government at great personal cost – some would say sacrifice – as he once again languishes in prison.
Like Anwar, we too must be relentless if we aspire for a Malaysia where life is more than just politics. As my cousin in Kuala Pilah said, when reminiscing about his children not knowing their brethren from mainland China, “if there is a glimpse of an opening, open the door and seek the answers”.
I want to remind you that what is now happening in our nation today gives us all a glimpse of more than an opening to what our future can be and the opportunity to open that door to seek the answers to the problems that we now have.
What will you do?
Hussein Hamid is blogger steadyaku47 and has been blogging since 2009. He writes on all things social and political in Malaysia. He resides in Melbourne and maintains contact with acquaintances in Malaysia to keep abreast of developments.