Malaysiakini Opinion

Malay dignity as wavy as the blade of a keris

S Thayaparan  |  Published:  |  Modified:

“The dignity of the Malays has nothing to do with keris. The dignity of the Malays will be redeemed if the Malays succeed in various fields - politics, mastery of knowledge, economy and social.”

- Then-deputy prime minister Najib Abdul Razak

The above quote was the response of Najib Abdul Razak to the apology tendered by the then-Umno Youth head Hishammuddin Hussein over the whole “keris issue”. As usual when Umno does badly in the polls, something like the keris is whipped out and the others are reminded of their place on the food chain.

At the time, I thought it somewhat queer that Malay dignity needed to be redeemed. My first thought was, who was holding on to it, until the Malays become masters of all they surveyed? Did the so-called “Malay dignity” fit into a box, or was it kept in one of those environmentally-friendly bags, that tear very easily? I am talking about those cheap ones, not the fancy ones that come with a brand name imprinted on it.

I soon forgot all about Malay dignity because a Malay friend of mine, one of those true green PAS activists, decided that he was not going to participate in politics any more because he finally caught on to the fact that everyone was using “Malay dignity” as a means to control the Malay polity and the only legitimate means of control, in his words - “should come from the Quran”. Go figure.

Of Malay dignity, this is what I wrote last month: “What this Bersih rally (Bersih 5) needs to be about is the dignity and integrity of the Malays. It needs to address the reality that Malay leadership has failed this country and the only way to restore any semblance of dignity to the Malay polity would be for the so-called ‘leaders’ of the Malay community, with the help of their non-Malay counterparts, to mobilise the Malay demographic into coming to the mother of all street parties.”

Some folks took exception to this. Close friends of mine argued that this should be a ‘Malaysian’ demonstration and some opposition supporters actually believe we have a post-racial opposition. These same folks also believe that we should be pragmatic and were pushing the ‘PAS for All’ agenda. Go figure.

However, when the chips are down there is only ‘ketuanan Umno’ and the rest of us ‘pendatangs’. Malay dignity - what a juvenile and immature platform to base an ideology on - is how Umno defines it and how the opposition panders to it.

When the then prime minster said that Umno is a “sacred party”, I read it as “Umno is a scared party” and just for a moment, I assumed that there was bit of self-reflection on the part of the not Malaysian Official 1.

Only in Malaysian politics could an Umno potentate talk about dignity and in the same breath remind his cronies that it is he and he alone who dispenses monies to “cool their heads”. Umno Malay dignity is the continued existence of a system of patronage...

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