Malaysiakini Opinion

Bumiputeraism root of nation's racial politics

S Thayaparan  |  Published:  |  Modified:

“These policies have been abused and misused by certain strata of the administration to benefit just a very few selected Umnoputras up the food chain, while many Malays have been ignored.”
- Rais Hussin, Bersatu supreme council leader

COMMENT | I have no idea why Bersatu leader Rais Hussin would take issue with the comments of Amercian professor Meredith Weiss in the lefty magazine Jacobian since it is a rather benign piece on the Pakatan Harapan victory on May 9.

And, of course, Rais ends the way how some Malaysians end their critique of any argument, resorting to the ad hominem of the “armchair critic” and "… the safe confines of her ivory towers in the US” as if Malaysia is some sort of hotspot instead of a stable democracy that rejected a kleptocrat.

When Western academics and whistleblowers dissed former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak, they were embraced – but any hint of a criticism or insight on the current Harapan new deal is scorned.

Rais objects to the “why” this rejection of Umno came about and the obstacles (ideology in this case) for truly reforming the system which Weiss claims are the “ketuanan” ideology (bumiputeraism) and personality politics that dominate the Harapan regime.

Anyone reading the article will find nothing offensive and certainly not anything resembling the literary ramblings of the New Yorker.

More importantly, what Weiss claims is something the outlier political pundits have been saying since the Harapan win, which predictably has been drowned out by the schizophrenic Harapan political operatives and the faithful.

It must be swell (so far) for this new administration that people are not shouting “apartheid” whenever a Harapan political operative talks about 'Malay' rights in some form or another.

Rais himself acknowledged that the previous government’s Malay rights-based initiatives would not be ditched but reformed so they help the average Malay and not the Umnoputra. The current Bersatu grand poobah latest comments on Khazanah echo the same sentiment.

Has the average Malay been damned by the system set up to “lift them up”? The answer is, maybe it is the system that is the problem.

The same fable that the 'Malays' need that little something extra to compete is what drives the various Malay hegemons squabbling for power amongst themselves. Malay political power structures use the same methods to ensure compliance in the Malay community but with varying degrees of compromises to their non-Malay allies.

Meanwhile, nobody from the establishment then and now pays attention to academic studies which point to a different narrative of bumiputera equity and the other sacred cows of Malay/Muslim political power structures. Try asking academic Dr Lim Teck Ghee about the reception his study received from the previous Umno administration. What do you think the current Harapan administration thinks of it?

The bumiputera agenda is always defined by its proponents as a means to elevate the Malay community. There is nothing inherently racist about this system, they argue, but it has always been "abused" by various Malay power structures. This is the foundation of...

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