COMMENT I would like to start with a quote from my late grandfather, Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman. “Why did we fight for Merdeka? So that the different races can be divided? That can’t be the way, right? That can’t be why all these great Malay and Umno leaders fought for this... Something is wrong...
“I hope the new discussions will start. Why are we building Malaysia? What Malaysia are we building? What kind of symbol is Malaysia supposed to be?”
Malaysia is neck deep in a political crisis, and fate has fallen onto the hands of the people of Malaysia. It is up to us on whether this beloved country of ours sinks or swims. After 59 years, Malaysia has yet to break free from the shackles of colonialism. What was meant to have invigorated the poor in Malaysia and elevate them, has caused a schism in which the majority of society has regressed and formed various tribes that are constantly at odds with one another.
It has not taken us long to discover that the struggle against colonialism does not end with the attainment of national independence. Independence is only the prelude to a new and more involved struggle for the right to conduct our own economic and social affairs; to construct our society according to our aspirations, unhampered by crushing and humiliating authoritarian control and interference.
Many have been brought up with the idea that Umno is their birthright. The Malays have been force fed a culture that over time it became part of the political socio-economic makeup of the Malay race. Those that dared to oppose the very notion of Umno and its ideology, would face humiliation and disdain. A Malay could not simply berate Umno. If you try, you will be branded a traitor to the Malay race.
Umno is not an organisation, that can be separated from Malay society, disciplined, or even quite defined. It is an amorphous grouping of different tribes of the Malays and its hinterlands of more than 200 autonomous divisions and perhaps 3,000,000 immediate members, along with a much larger population of dependents, clients, and friends.
It is an understanding, a way of justice, a means of creating wealth and spreading it around.
It has been a part of life in Malaysia for the better half of a century. At its strongest it has grown in recent years into a complete parallel world and, in many people’s minds, a father figure. Malays refer to it as “the system” with resignation and pride. Umno offers them work, lends them money, protects them from “outsiders with a hidden agenda to suppress and control the Malay mind”.
The problem is that periodically Umno also tries to tear itself apart, and when that happens, ordinary Malays need to duck.
Original struggle has passed
The original struggle for Umno has passed and whilst we offer condolences to the herculean efforts of our forefathers, the Malay consciousness has been lying comatose. For all the ethno-religious chauvinism perpetuated and encouraged by Umno today, they have forgotten the people, especially the Malays who are starving for quality leadership.
The Malays, like everyone else, have their own minds and they should be allowed the freedom to choose whichever political party to support, and in turn it is up to the said political parties to give a concise vision as to how their lives can be led independently. The monopoly over the Malay political consciousness needs to be reawakened.
1. That Islam is a religion in which the Malays keep themselves and their families grounded;
2. The sanctity and sovereignty of the royal houses, that is dear to their hearts;
3. Their culture to not be diluted by foreign influence;
4. The land that they toil on bear fruit and allows them to prosper;
5. For their children and grandchildren to continue with the aforementioned and not allow outsiders to take what is theirs, ie a return to colonialism where they will be subjected to be slaves of an overlord.
The last point, is what is currently happening to the Malays, by the very system that they are forced to stay loyal to, as ethno-religious policies are used as a backdrop to hinder the evolution of the Malay, and, their beloved royal houses have become colonised and controlled by the greedy and self-serving politicians.
The government wanders this terrain on its own uncertain missions. You have to wonder what it is trying to achieve when, for instance, it stops some people for questioning on the streets, or throws others in prison for the silliest of reasons.
In a place like Malaysia - where the prime minister condones irresponsible and selfish acts as a natural right and publicly impugns the courts - it becomes hard to believe that police actions are sincerely about law and order, or that officials still believe that law and order matter. As warfare raged within Umno, Malaysia itself was teetering on the edge of economic turmoil and threatening to drag Malaysians down with it.
A political party was submitted on Aug 9, 2016 to emancipate the Malays from the tyrannic clutches of the Umno overlord and a prime minister who does not instill confidence in the minds of every right-minded Malaysian. Within a few hours, before having any say, critics and sceptics have spoken out and amongst the many diatribes thrown towards Parti Bersatu is that it will lead Malaysia back to square one and the raison d’etre is that it is a carbon copy of Umno.
Political and social anger aimed towards Umno is warranted, as much as those that dislike any other political movement, but for the critics to label Parti Bersatu as a clone of Umno, I would like to state that they are wrong. Their anger is justified. The founding fathers of Parti Bersatu, by forming this party, have silently acknowledged that they have made mistakes and ordinary people have paid the price. The party in itself should be seen as an act of atonement.
The move to create a Malay-centric party that rivals Umno in ideology is their way of saying - “We have made mistakes, and we are here to help. Barisan and Umno can only be brought down if we fight in their strongholds, and to win Putrajaya, we must provide a sustainable and just platform for the Malays.”
It’s biggest flaw is where it draws its strength from
If Parti Bersatu’s biggest flaw and weakness is that it is Malay-centric and exclusive, this is where it draws its strengths from. Moreover, if one can find fault in Parti Bersatu, they must also come to the realisation that Pakatan is filled with weaknesses and flaws.
The notion of a multi-cultural coalition whose very lifeline depends on the urban-centric and egalitarian nature of DAP and PKR, is a plus for me personally, but to the ignorant and sheltered - they do not understand anything beyond the ‘system’. This is the weakness of Pakatan, as the hinterland are not represented.
I do not wish to point fingers and bring out old arguments, but what Malaysia currently needs is emancipation and evolution, with the latter being an effort from ordinary Malaysians themselves. Anger and frustration can be a drive, but it should not cloud one’s judgment and praying for a party that is meant to act as a bridge between Pakatan and the Malays, especially those in the hinterland.
Malaysians have a decision to make. Either sit idly by and continue to point fingers at each other and pour criticism over a party that is providing an alternative to the Malays and emancipate them from a party that has lost its way and using threats to subjugate the people of Malaysia. Or, they can forgive the past and encourage the leadership of Parti Bersatu by supporting them in their endeavours.
Look to the young leaders that Parti Bersatu are training, like Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman. This will be the future of Malaysia. Parti Bersatu must be encouraged as it is the only way for the Malays to accept an alternative to Umno, and for Pakatan (or whichever opposition pact arises from Bersatu joining the fray) to finally rid itself of its disenfranchised ways and build a sustainable and equitable future for Malaysia.
Parti Bersatu will be the bridge for others to understand the Malay political consciousness and for the Malays to understand the other races. Furthermore, whilst it is a Malay party that welcomes participation from other ethnicities, it is merely a Malay voice on behalf of Pakatan.
It is already facing an uphill battle against a government machinery with their tentacles entrenched in every hinterland household. Thus, whilst we must insist that our leaders heed the calls for a just economical policy that is inclusive and allows us to work together it is only together that we can learn, achieve success and transcend race and religion.
Without Malays there can be no Malaysia.
Without the other races there can be no Malaysia.
Only together Malays, bumis, Chinese, and Indians, can there be Malaysia.
Without Parti Bersatu, there can be no Malays.
Without the other races’ support, there can be no Parti Bersatu.
Give Parti Bersatu a chance.
Give Parti Bersatu the hope of transforming Malaysia.
TARIQ ISMAIL is the founder of Facebook page Aura Merdeka and is the grandson of Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman.