Malaysiakini Letter

What has race or religion got to do with governance?

Ronald Benjamin  |  Published:  |  Modified:

The current controversy on the challenge by a PKR youth leader to Umno to amend the constitution to ensure that position of prime minister is given to a Malay, has brought about various responses among politicians.

It is obvious that the Umno youth leader is basically reacting to Umno's criticism of PKR that it would compromise the position of the Malays if it came to power.

The DAP secretary general has stated that political reality of an ethnic Malay majority makes the post of prime minister an automatic choice for Malays.

PAS believes that only a Muslim should be given the post of prime minister.

Umno, the dominant party in Barisan, believes that it is the only party that would guarantee that the prime minister's post and critical cabinet positions are given to Malays.

What is obvious from these polemics is the lack of trust in the integrity of fellow Malaysians to take care of one another without the guarantee of ethnic based political institutions.

When one goes further, one can observe that political leaders of respective component parties in the BN are given ministerial posts not because of governing competence of proven track records but rather their position in their respective parties.

There is lack of distinction between political and governing competence.

The fundamental question is; what has ethnicity or religion got to do with governance? Is it not character and expertise that matters most?

Will not the Chinese, Indians and the indigenous community of Sabah and Sarawak take care of their fellow Malay citizens if one of them is chosen as prime minister?

Why are Malaysian political elites stuck with an ethnic mindset that is an antithesis to common citizenship?

Is there a link between ethnic dominance and competence?

It is obvious that ethnic considerations and positions in respective political parties are the criteria when comes to cabinet positions.

That is why we find ourselves trapped as a middle income country because major policy issues in the country revolves around an ethnic framework that has become a web of steel, due to vested political interests rather than the common good of the nation.

Global realities in a competitive world requires competent governance.

Malaysian leaders should take a look at countries like India where the current position of prime minister is held by a Sikh who belongs to a minority community even though India is a country where the majority are Hindus.

Critical posts such as the finance, trade and home ministries have also been given to individuals whose native language is not Hindi, and not from the Congress party.

The reason of this type of appointment has political realities in mind, but a common citizenship, a political ideology that is inclusive, and a common struggle on a given issue, are major factors.

It is time for Malaysian political parties to go beyond thinking in ethnic terms.

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