The political tsunami hitting Malaysia last weekend reminds me very much of the popular tale of the frog that cuddles comfortably in a cauldron of water. The frog feels so comfortable that it has not detected that the water is warming up by a fire coming from under the cauldron. The rate of warming is slow, so the frog does not detect the rising temperature. Until it is too late when it realises the water temperature is too hot for its comfort and has to jump out in great shock.
The March 8, 2008 political tsunami is somewhat like the rising temperature in the cauldron. The Barisan Nasional (read that as Umno, and more specifically, Ketuanan Melayu, or just Malay) mindset has been too comfortable riding the wave of popularity, and for so very long (fifty years), so much so that it has taken the population (especially the Malay segment) for granted, and dis not detect the appearance of hate, disenchantment and detestation simmering and growing on the part of the population. Until it is too late.
And so now what do we have? We have this momentous tsunami taking place in the form of the 12 th general elections. What has hit the Ketuanan Melayu polity is in actual fact more than just political, it is a psychological tsunami. By definition the Ketuanan Melayu, Malay, Umno, and Barisan Nasional (in this context they are arguably synonymous to one another) mindsets have been going about controlling the reins of the country with the traditional mindsets of yesterday. They rest on the ethnocentric platform of ‘ Untuk Agama, Bangsa dan Negara .’ With this they went way beyond reason to protect and propagate the sanctity of Islam, and similarly the elitism of the Malay culture, without paying too much respect to the views and sensitivities of the other communities.
The Malays, in the meantime, were treated like a father treating his favourite son, showering the child with a lot of goodies in the form of subsidies and a long list of affirmative action programmes. Their minds are carefully nurtured to be conservative and in conformity with the status quo. Mainly the child is nurtured and groomed to remain as a child, never allowed to grow into adulthood. The child is spoilt rotten.
All along and very much like the Malay proverb macam tikus jatuh ke beras (like a mouse falling into a sack of rice) the leadership helped itself to the fats of the country involving obscene, ugly and astronomical amounts. All along the non-Malays were treated like enemies as witnessed by the nonchalant way the ulama term all non-Muslim as ‘enemies of Islam’. More than that, it became very complacent, arrogant, immoral, irrational, and totally unprofessional with its leadership performance and accompanied by a deterioration of quality.
Lord Acton’s dictum that power corrupts with absolute power corrupting absolutely comes to the fore. The tsunami then hits with a force far beyond even what the opposition parties had ever anticipated.
This psychological tsunami should be a wake up call to the complacent Barisan Nasional/Umno/ Ketuanan Melayu/Malay mindset. Commentators and columnists have inundated the media, especially the Internet, suggesting ways and means on how this composite Ketuanan Melayu mindset can redeem itself. The writings by Azly Rahman , Ong Kian Ming , for example, are excellent in their analysis and presentation.
I shall limit my contribution by saying that the Malaysian social, economic and political environments have changed since fifty years ago. The people are more educated, urbanised, and are enjoying a higher standard of living. They travel more often to more distant places. More importantly people read more and think more. They are more literate. They are more equipped and able to conceptualise about new ideas and new things around them. People are more matured, more ready to think of alternatives. They are not afraid of alternatives.
Coming back to the frog analogy, the people - and this include very moderate and liberal Malays - are ready to venture out from the Known to the Unknown. Put all these elements together and we have a population being more aware and more knowledgeable of things happening around them. We have a population with a declining group orientation, and taken over by a developed sense of the individual. They would require a leadership as aware and as knowledgeable as them.
The Ketuanan Melayu incumbents should pay heed to this new breed of individual-orientated Malaysians (Malays included) who have their own minds, and mainly have faith, trust, and confidence in their own judgments. Should the leaders not change as well so as to be at par with the people’s mindset, they will not be effective leaders. In such an unfortunate mismatch situation, it is tantamount to an invitation for another more damaging tsunami to come. Ketuanan Melayu culture would surely be drowned by the sheer force of this tsunami .