Malaysiakini Opinion

What does RM1.1b worth of BTN hate get you?

S Thayaparan  |  Published:  |  Modified:

“When we don't know who to hate, we hate ourselves.”

- Chuck Palahniuk, ‘Invisible Monsters’

COMMENT | Okay, I will admit to being pretty bummed out that the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) was not axed. I mean think of all the money we would save and there would be less of a need for kids to break open their piggy banks.

But sure, I get it. It would look bad for the new administration if a federal religious authority was axed. As it is, the Malay far-right crowd are claiming that this new administration would destroy ‘bangsa’ (race) and ‘agama’ (religion) and culling this particular body would reinforce this perception.

But seriously, the Biro Tatanegara (BTN), spared? When the Selangor and Penang state governments banned their students and civil servants from attending these courses, it seemed as if political operatives finally got it. Even Kelantan jumped on the bandwagon, stating that they would not send their people for these brainwashing initiatives unless the BTN “curriculum was not changed in accordance with Islam.” So maybe PAS only got half of it.

Where did I get that RM1.1 billion figure? Well, Wong Chun Wai wrote a pretty good piece for The StarPretty hate machine – which neatly defined the problem with the BTN courses. And he should know, right? I’m kidding, Wong, it’s the new Malaysia so everyone has got a say. But seriously folks, people have heard stories about the BTN courses. There were testimonials of the kind of horse manure that goes on there.

Has anyone really visited their official website? I do, pretty often. The images there serve a purpose. Loads of images of Malay civil servants and the activities that BTN carries out. This provides a narrative that the dominant Malay majority are the ones who actually serve the state, serve the country and in essence, serve the political party - Umno - that supposedly serves the Malay community.

This is a powerful narrative captured in images and it is amplified when minions of Umno used to claim that it is the non-Malays who are not patriotic, it is the non-Malays’ religions which threatens Islam.

Some would argue that there are a few bad apples in the organisation, so get rid of them. Well in Wong’s article, he quotes former minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Nazri Abdul Aziz, who in 2009 pushed back on the horse manure in Parliament that the work of a few bad apples sullied the programme - “Don’t think that people outside do not know about the syllabus based on patriotism for Malays. They know what the syllabus is all about, so who are we to say that it did not happen? You want to lie? You make people laugh.

“I mean, there are people who attended the courses who came out very angry. There were many instances of the use of words like Ketuanan Melayu. It is ridiculous. Do they want to say that Malaysia belongs only to the Malays and the government is only a Malay government? Should only the Malays be given the spirit of patriotism? Other races are not patriotic about their country?”

Okay, you may say, fine, reform BTN. Sounds simple, right? Has anyone stopped to think, why this organisation is needed? Forget about what it is costing taxpayers but why would there ever need to be a government agency instilling “patriotism” in the civil service and students...

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