Opinion

The red-shirts and the futility of Malay privilege

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“Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.”

- George Gordon Byron

Zikri Kamarulzaman’s piece about a red night with Jamal had perhaps one of the best opening paragraphs I have seen in Malaysiakini reportage in some time. Not only was the article an interesting read about a subject which has truly been flogged but it was noteworthy because it described - unintentionally or not - the desperation within the ultra-Malay ranks and the rather pathetic obscurantism that defines right-wing Malay politics.

That line “a score of red-clad youths lingered like soldier fire ants protecting the colony” is worth the price of subscription but also accurately reflects the Umno caste structure and the underlying feudalistic nature of Malay society. While Jamal Mohd Yunos and his red-shirts may be Umno outsourced thugs, it would be a mistake to dismiss them as an aberration as far as mainstream Malay politics is concerned.

Because there never has been an alternative to the kind of racial politics that Umno offers, and there never has been an alternative ‘Malay’ political power structure for Malays to gravitate to. Mind you, this is not only a Malay problem; the other communities have the same problem.

The erosion of support for BN amongst the non-Malay communities has little to do with ideology but rather the excesses of Umno and the erosion of non-Malay ‘rights’ under successive Umno potentates, while the non-Malay components parties looked on while filling their coffers.

This is not to say all is lost in the Malay community. Where the opposition succeeds is when they remind the Malay community that the community is not monolithic. I drew attention to this in one of my numerous articles about former prime minister and current de facto leader of the opposition, Dr Mahathir Mohamad:

“What is lost and what Umno fears are remnants of a Malay polychromatic past, which emblems like flags and literature are slowing resurfacing which reminds the Malay community of their diverse past. How this lost past is slowly being reintroduced into the community and influencing the Malay community is beyond the scope of this piece and perhaps beyond my ability to articulate.

“The Malay community is fractured but merely claiming that Pakatan is duping those Malays in the opposition is the dumbest form of Umno propaganda. Mahathir’s old canards, which perhaps could have galvanised Malay support en masse in the past, are all but over. Signs are evident even to those who practice their dark sorcery in the corridors of Putrajaya that a certain segment of the Malay community is immune to the spells of Umno.”

So while Jamal and his merry red-shirts are the agents provocateurs of Umno, what they say and do is reflective of certain mindset of a disenfranchised community who still think that only Umno can protect them and what they hold true from the other communities.

Those other communities who seem to profit from this land, although they do not have but more importantly, do not need those special rights and privileges which were supposed to elevate the Malay community but instead has left them trailing in the wake of the progress of the non-Malay communities.

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