"I knew I would step on the toes of many people."
– Tommy Thomas (Consider This)
COMMENT | I have no idea why Tommy Thomas’s response to a question of the prime minister of the day choosing a predominantly non-Malay cabinet would be so controversial. After all, we live in a country where the idea that the highest office in the land is verboten to non-Malays, hence it would be a Malay prime minister who would be choosing the cabinet.
Furthermore, we live in a country where it is the mainstream political discourse that Malays should be dominating positions in the state and nobody thinks that the reason why this is so is not because the non-Malays do not have the “best and the brightest” but because it should be based solely on racial and religious criteria.
This policy reality makes any objective assessment of the way appointees carry out their roles impossible because a Malay-only leadership, by its definition, means that any objective assessment of their abilities is moot because race is the determining factor. Qualified independent Malays would be unsuitable for such positions.
In other words, Thomas was not questioning the intelligence of the Malay community but rather imagining a scenario where the exclusion of Malays from the system - as it is now for the non-Malays – would not be the end of the country.
Indeed, a Malay prime minister who would appoint such a cabinet would do so because he or she wanted to make a point. And that point would be, not that race and religion are meaningless, but the very act of appointing a non-Malay dominated cabinet is in itself a political and racial act and that the idea that by birthright only Malays ...