MALAYSIANS' addiction to the question of race is evident in the current controversy over the idea of a Bangsa Malaysia.

I am indeed surprised that the Mentri Besar of Johore has come out in opposition to this new concept of a national "race", in preference for the Umno orthodoxy of Malay dominance. In those years when we were in the same Chamber on top of the hill, I had known him personally to be a very nice chap, a distinguished academic, and a moderate at heart.

But then, the undercurrents within Umno are eddying with dizzying complexity on the eve of their general assembly. The national spotlight is on this monolith of a political party. More than a few ambitious Umno politicians would be itching to gain legitimacy of leadership by playing the role of champion of the Malay race. Their political survival may depend how well they project themselves in that role.

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