The remarks by the Johor Mentri Besar concerning the unsuitability of 'Bangsa Malaysia' as well as meritocracy in local universities hit the nail on the head as far as they point to where Malaysia is heading to.
Whilst I cannot argue with the objectives of the proponents of Bangsa Malaysia, I tend to agree with the Johor MB that realistically speaking, it is an idealistic endeavour.
On the other hand, I think the MCA-sponsored idea of Rakyat Malaysia is a better option. If we look around us, truly successful multicultural nations do not predicate national identity based on ethnicity. There is no such thing as an American race of merely Americans.
Similarly, there should just be Malaysians and not the impractical idea of creating a Malaysian race. We should move away from race and talk about ethnicities. Similarly, we should move away from racial politics and move into an era where ethnicity no longer dominates. In short, we should all be Malaysians first.
Now, here is where I begin to disagree with the Johor MB. He has eloquently said that meritocracy is a bad word. It is linked to prejudice. In this case, of the urban elite versus the backward rural folk. There is no level playing field, he claims.
This is true even after nearly 50 years of BN rule. I applaud the MB of Johor for admitting that development has been unequal. He should also add the urban poor to his list.
What has happened to the NEP and the NDP? The answer lies in the imperfect, often corrupt-ridden, delivery system. The business of government is to govern and not oversee. Therefore, if the marginalised are to be helped, an ombudsman responsible to Parliament should be instituted to monitor the implementation of government policies. We must also thank the Johor MB for pointing this disparity out to us.
The implementation of merit-based policies is riddled with problems. Who is to determine who is worthy? In public universities, most of which are dominated my bumiputera academics and students, I believe it will be very hard to begin discrimination policies. Is the MB suggesting that we should begin discriminating against urban bumiputeras? If so, he would be equally hard-pressed for most of them are overseas where they are competing and I believe, doing quite well without any crutches!
To suggest what really motivated the Johor MB to go against government policy would be speculation. But his comments have made clear to us his stand on the issue. It may sound a little old-fashioned but I believe it still has currency among Umno members. For those non-Umno Malays who have not directly benefitted from the generosity of the government, they may begin to question why this is so and when they can get a taste of the largesse.
But I hope Malaysians will continue to demonstrate great maturity over public issues. The recent municipal 'castle-building affair' is a good indicator of our maturity. We have realised that too much action too soon is bad for the country. I continue to have much faith in the approach taken by the current PM in combating corruption.
He has allowed much freedom to leaders as well as the ordinary citizens to voice their opinions. He now has to listen to the Johor MB, pay due attention to the strains for the good old days when privileges meant getting a lot of things for nothing and most importantly, getting away with it.
There is only one problem with having national consciousness like Rakyat Malaysia - it creates a new platform where the nation comes first and not the party, or even an ethnic group. This means less castles in the air, more competition which in turn means a stronger nation where no citizens need feel second-best.