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Bersatu entrenches belief that ‘Malay rights’ are under threat

COMMENT What Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) is trying to do is capitalising on the fear of the Malays; the fear that they will be displaced from their country. This is a smart political move, by all accounts. It is a clone of Umno, perhaps a more modern and progressive one, but one who wears the racialised, bumi-first skin of Umno all the same.

Therefore, Malays who fear their rights will be taken away if they don’t vote for Umno now have an alternative party they can vote for, in confidence that their rights will be placed first above all else.

Now, my criticism of Bersatu is not that it’s racist; it is simply doing what political parties do - getting votes. What is wrong with Bersatu is that it is further entrenching the belief that ‘Malay rights’ are under threat.

To the root of the matter - why are Malays (especially those in non-urban areas) so insecure of their place in a country where they make up the majority of the population and hold the majority of the highest positions in government and civil services? Why are they so insecure after almost 60 years of protection and support from the government?

Responses to this question will be that many Malays are still poor, and so Malays still need government support. However, the fact is that poverty in Malaysia knows no race. There are just as many (in proportion) Malays living below the poverty and median income line as there are Chinese and Indians. It is better for Malaysia as a whole if the government equalises its support across all ethnic groups.

And so, for the most part, Malays are afraid because they think they should be afraid; they’re being told to be afraid. Umno is playing that fear card, stoking that fear. PAS is playing that fear card, stoking that fear. And now, Bersatu is also playing that fear card, stoking that fear.

Above all else, stoking this fear results in Malays believing that they need a bumi-first party to protect them - when what they really need is a pro-poor, anti-corruption and ethnically/religiously neutral party.

Why do Malays need such a party? It’s because the protection of one racial group above others will mean that poverty will never be solved, and corruption will continue to plague our government.

Ensuring that different opinions are unheard

Furthermore, by barring other races from voting and contesting in its internal elections, Bersatu effectively ensures that different opinions go unheard. This will eventually result in narrow-minded group-think and this will destroy the ‘equality’ platform Bersatu leaders are peddling.

As well-meaning and as intelligent as Bersatu leaders are, without dialogue within the party, its policies will surely fall short of equality and human rights. Without dialogue within the party, its policies will surely place the ‘rights’ of Malays above all others and will perpetuate the belief that Malays need a ‘bumi-first’ party in power to ensure that their place in Malaysia is preserved.

The ‘bumi-first’ politics takes away from the real problems of the country, that of under-development, unemployment, poverty and corruption. The ‘bumi-first’ mentality actually feeds into these issues, and is also fed by them. It is a vicious cycle.

Therefore, to stop this cycle and promote growth and unity in Malaysia, the government should do more for the rural and non-urban populations, regardless of ethnicity or religion. A true party for Malaysians should be one that regards the problems Malaysia faces as problems suffered by all Malaysians, and the solutions lie in supporting all Malaysians.


NANI FAZLUR RAHMAN is a university student studying Economics, Politics and International Studies.

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