Malaysiakini Letter

'Malaysia Baru'? What a joke

Amirul Yahya  |  Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | Nothing has improved since GE14. Malaysians have voted out BN but there’s only so much the new government can do for a society that’s still stuck thinking along racial and religious lines.

Let’s be honest. Pakatan Harapan would not have won without the majority of Malay support. And the only reason that happened was because of various factors.

One, Najib Abdul Razak’s existence was a toxic reminder of a corrupt political class. Two, Harapan was smart to drum up the 1MDB issue and link it to the rising cost of living and the pain of the GST. When it comes to voting, the Malaysian masses, we think in two boxes - financial survivability and identity politics.

Three, Harapan would not have won without Dr Mahathir Mohamad who gave the Malay population confidence that the Malay privileges would still be protected under the new regime.

Yet, the only thing that has really improved since “Malaysia Baru” is the new administration weeding out corruption, our greater freedom of expression and the airing of the previous administration's financial problems.

The important issues of race and religion remain the same. The reactions to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination  (Icerd), LGBT and Article 153 issues remain sensitive. Now, when in the hot seat, Harapan politicians realise how difficult it is to enact cultural, racial and religious reforms while maintaining a political career beyond the next election.

May 13, whether we’d like to admit it or not, has left a scar that will never heal on the Malaysian psyche. Since then, and for fifty years, the Malays have been handed a crutch while having their economic and existential insecurities fed by Umno who laid the foundation for a societal Stockholm syndrome.

The issues of the Malays all have to do with economics, due to their majority population - a fact that will forever justify their need for a crutch for their Malay privileges. And, of course, the majority of the Malays are in the B40. Has anyone pulled up the population statistics to see why?

In a system that excludes the non-Malays from benefits, it is not a surprise that the non-Malays have since responded with a tit-for-tat. Chinese job advertisements and rental flyers state conditions that look, smell and taste racist but this is denied on the grounds of “cultural ease at workplace” or “business decisions”.

Any wonder why then the Malays choose to flock to the civil service where the government at least offers them job security? Or SMEs that are Malay-only, similarly to how some SMEs are non-Malay only? Or what about Chinese vernacular or tahfiz schools that are culturally insular, yet defended so viciously by their supporters? While ironically missing the fact that these schools prevent important lessons on Malaysian assimilation and integration from a young age.

The non-Malays want Malays to be more liberal and act less religious. The Malays want non-Malays to respect their religious needs. No one wins, and no one ever will. This is the seed of May 13 that’s been passed down for generations and feels irreversible. And neither side wants to set aside their egos for it.

This is especially true for Klang Valley urbanites. The “liberal” class whose perspective exists in their own bubble expects the rest of the country to do the same. How many of these in the “Bangsar Bubblys” have actually set aside their privileges to understand and empathise with those outside of their comfort zone?

Do they even care about the economic and cultural conditions of those living in rural areas? Or is winning over the impoverished Malay rural class only important when it comes to winning votes for elections?

So many people I know who from the “Bangsar Bubble” only went down to mingle with the mak cik and pak cik in the warong just before GE14. After Harapan won, they went back to their above living wage restaurants and cafes and were nowhere to be seen in the hot outdoors.

Let’s face it - until our politicians are brave enough to amend the constitution, especially Article 153, we will forever face this problem. As long as we play tit-for-tat, we’ll forever be a racist Malaysia. As long as the Klang Valley liberals see the rural Malay community as a “voting bank” without understanding or intelligently dealing with their insecurities, we’ll forever be caught in this vicious cycle.

The Malays aren’t going to give their position up and the non-Malays cannot forever resist passively. It’s so obvious we didn’t learn any lesson from fifty years ago. Malaysia Baru? What a joke.


The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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