My reply to Bersatu’s Rais Hussin

Opinion  |  S Thayaparan
Published:  |  Modified:

“But you know as well as I, patriotism is a word; and one that generally comes to mean either my country, right or wrong, which is infamous, or my country is always right, which is imbecile.”

― Patrick O'Brian, ‘Master and Commander’

COMMENT | In responding to my piece critical of his piece, Rais Hussin makes a couple of fundamental errors regarding my position on the issue of the Uyghur Muslims. The first is his claim that I wrote that Malaysia is still practising some sort of "apartheid” system. This is objectively false. In fact, I argued the opposite.

Here is what I wrote: “People have stopped using the term 'apartheid' when they talk to me about the institutionalised discrimination because they understand that I go a bit bonkers. The last person who used it got testimonials from a South African friend of mine, which he submitted in one of the truth and reconciliation committees. But I digress.”

Indeed, in numerous other articles pre and post-May 9, I have made it clear that use of the word “apartheid” to describe the systemic discrimination that non-Malays face in this country is morally reprehensible. This is a matter of public record and, of course, there are many readers of Malaysiakini who disseminate my articles elsewhere who disagree with me.

The second error Rais makes is claiming that I do not think it is in “the ambit of Malaysia to speak out against the atrocities of the Rohingyas nor Uyghurs.” This again is a willful misreading of my piece.

Here is what I wrote: “We could argue about the means they take to ensure their security but is this really a productive discussion since we cannot fall back on any first principles that would legitimise our criticism against the PRC?”

In other words, I am of the opinion that China has every right to defend itself against what it views as “internal” threats and if we do criticise them, our criticism would carry more weight if we relied on first principles, a history of rejecting extremism and a contemporary commitment of ensuring an egalitarian Malaysia.

I have no idea why Rais would bring up the New Economic Policy (NEP) and the narrative of correcting whatever perceived “imbalance” between the various ethnic groups in this country. In my piece, I made it very clear that the alleged systemic discrimination that the Uyghurs face was not the same as “bumiputera” rights or the manifestations of those rights through state power.

I was very clear that only people in Malaysia who face the kind of discrimination that the Uyghurs allegedly face are the Orang Asal and I reminded my Chinese and Indian brethren of this reality:

“Malaysians should educate themselves on the realities of these people when it comes to how the majority deals with minority ethnic communities - beyond the Chinese/Indian dialectic. Then you will discover the real horrors of what some communities go through.”

This is the reason why I highlighted the issue of the systemic discrimination faced by the Orang Asal, which is far more severe than anything the “other” minorities face in this country. You see, we have, for the most part, a political apparatus which deals which our grievances, whereas the Orang Asal are most often left to the mercy of the state and whoever that controls it...

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