‘Paradigm paralysis’

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The more race continues to drive our policies and choices, the more radical and polarised the situation is going to be. It is time for change, asserts K Haridas.

Race-based politics is getting us nowhere -  Photo credit: http://umno-kselangor.blogspot.com
Race-based politics is getting us nowhere – Photo credit: http://umno-kselangor.blogspot.com

It is a stark choice that Malaysians face as they go to the polls early in May. After 55 years of race-based politics Malaysians have to think hard and clear if this is the most just basis for the long term future of their nation.

Do we want more and more of the same? Great promises but little delivery. Ethnic rhetoric and then the magic of 1Malaysia and Unity. In the early years, when Dato Onn founded the Independence of Malaya Party (IMP), he was a visionary who saw that the long term future of this nation cannot be based on race. However, he was well before his time.

Now that we have had five decades and more of race-based politics, we have to conclude that the paradigm of race can get us this far and no further. The more we play the race card, the greater are the challenges we will face in dealing with modernisation and the challenges of tomorrow. We are today a very polarised society be it in the peninsula or in Sabah and Sarawak. Race seems to be the final arbiter and that is why we witness so much selective justice and discrimination. Our slogans of Rukunegara to 1Malaysia have not moved us to pull together as a nation.

In the early days it was economics and its identification with race. Positive discrimination through NEP using the instruments of quotas and preferences helped to level the playing field. What this has succeeded in doing is to replace one type of identification with race with another more widespread as can be seen in the civil service, army, police and other services. Education has similarly been both politicised and polarised that today we have a situation where public universities are so overwhelmingly filled with bumiputeras while private colleges and universities are largely filled with non-Malays.

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The net effect is what is often described as ‘paradigm paralysis’. This is a sign that such a belief system or policy can no more deliver fairness and justice. The more race continues to drive our policies and choices, the more radical and polarised the situation is going to be. The politicians are not going to be able to deliver. They are unable to get down from the tiger they have mounted for fear of being eaten alive. The NEP is one good example. It was to end in 1990 but got a new incarnation in name to be called the National Development Policy, which in the end was only old wine in a new bottle.

Corruption is another malaise that informs us of the failure of the paradigm of race. With nepotism, cronyism and a total lack of transparency, we see our institutions of governance weakened. The judiciary, the attorney general’s chambers and the MACC are all victims of such paralysis. What is the net result of all the various Commissions of Inquiry be it the on the Lingam issue or on the police? These are all symptoms of a greater failure and the paradigm paralysis to which race-based politics has led us.

If we want to build a progressive and dynamic Malaysia that future does not lie by following the same paradigm. This will only lead us into greater failure and crisis. It is therefore important that we look at the choices we have before us and do not continue to condemn ourselves to be bound by the chains of race; instead, we need to awaken and move our nation forward by making a conscious decision to break away from race based politics.

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This is not to say that we are anti-BN but it is to admit that it can take us no further. We need to grasp this moment and give a new direction to the politics of our nation if we want to make and contribute to a different future. For the sake of our children we need to do this earnestly. The alternatives are stark and Malaysians are challenged to cast their vote to make that difference.

K Haridas is an Aliran member based in Petaling Jaya.

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