Monday, January 27, 2014

MULTIRACIALISM IN MALAYSIA


As posted by Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at Che Det on January 27, 2014

1. Malaysia is a multiracial country. It is multiracial in the true sense of the word. This is because Malaysian nationals retain their identification with their countries of origin or where their forebears came from. In no other country with a large number of citizens of foreign origin do we see this retention of previous identities.

2. Initially, during the time of negotiation between the communities for independence, there was some expectation of assimilation into a single Malayan identity. But the resistance was too strong and the leaders gave in so as to get every race to support the quest for independence. Not only should the original identity be maintained but the language, culture and media of instruction in schools should also be maintained.

3. Faced with this reality the leaders of the different races at that time decided on a formula for sharing political power between the races instead. This was to be done by the formation of a coalition of race-based parties. But these parties should work together as a coalition. And so the Alliance consisting of UMNO, MCA and MIC was formed.

4. It worked for a time. But sharing political power was not enough. What about the economy. Initially the leadership believed that all the Malays wanted was to work as salaried workers in the Government.

5. The Chinese were expected to just do business. In those days business meant being shop-keepers. Big business was in the hands of the Europeans.

6. This picture of the Malays being in the Government and the Chinese continuing to be shop-keepers was quite simplistic but it was believed this would be the permanent feature of Malaysia. Not much thought was given to the increase in the Malay population or the wealth to be gained in the economic sector when the Europeans leave.

7. This sharing only of political power did not last. The Malays wanted the wealth from business and the non-Malays wanted the employment opportunities at the highest level in the Government. And so in the 1969 Elections support for the Alliance coalition was not forthcoming. The Alliance won but despite the lower house having an increase in number of seats from 104 to 144, the Alliance won only 74 seats, the same as when the total number of seats was 104 in 1964.

8. Serious riots took place with damage to property and loss of lives. Apparently the formula of sharing between the races in the political field alone was not enough. But the Malay leaders during the rule by the National Operations Council continued to believe in sharing political power. But they also accepted that there was a need to share economic wealth also.

9. The coalition was accordingly enlarged so as to bring in more non-Malays. The National Front which replaced the Alliance included the Chinese – based Gerakan, the Chinese supported Indian – led PPP of Perak, the Sarawak United Peoples Party (Chinese). PAS and the native-based parties of Sarawak also joined the National Front.

10. Having resolved the problem of political power sharing, attention was turned to the sharing of economic wealth. For this the New Economic Policy was enunciated with the objectives of (a) eradicating poverty irrespective of race and (b) eliminating the identification of race with economic functions.

11. Parliament was reconvened in 1972 and the new Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition adopted the New Economic Policy. The majority of the people endorsed the sharing of political power and economic wealth through giving the BN two-thirds majorities in all the Elections from 1974 to 2004.

12. The DAP refused to join the coalition and for a time made up the sole opposition. Obviously it did not agree to the sharing of political power and economic wealth between the races in Malaysia. But DAP’s refusal failed to destabilise the country. Consequently for 30 years Malaysia enjoyed rapid growth. Although the NEP target was not achieved, no one can deny that the economic disparities between the races had been reduced. As for the sharing of political power, the acceptance of many opposition parties into the Government and their involvement in policy making reflect the reality of the political change between the Alliance Coalition and the National Front Coalition.

13. After winning the biggest majority ever (199 out of 222), the BN Government decided to accede to “popular” demands and adopted a more liberal attitude towards both politics and the economic sector. In other words the idea of fair sharing of political power and economic wealth between the different races should be terminated.

14. It believed that this would make it more popular. The opposition would have no issues with which to attack the BN.

15. But in the 2008 Elections it was manifestly clear that the BN had lost popularity instead.

16. It scored less than two-thirds for the first time since 1969, gaining only 140 of the 222 seats. The pro-sharing Malays were dismayed but despite changing their leader, they found that the trend towards liberalisation remained.

17. The belief of the new leadership was that Chinese support would come back if the sharing policies of the NEP were not implemented.

18. Despite obviously rejecting the sharing principle, support for the BN did not return. Instead the DAP dangled before the Chinese the possibility of having both political and economic dominance. This was deemed possible because the Malays had split into three parties and each one of them needed Chinese support in order to win. The Chinese had the deciding vote and were in a position to give victory only to those who believe in throwing out the sharing concept.

19. The slogan coined “Ini kalilah” (this time we can) was used to indicate that political power could be wrested from the BN and the opposition would form the next Government. This opposition Government would discard the sharing principle.

20. Many non-Malay supporters of the BN component parties were convinced that by withdrawing their support the BN would lose and so would the idea of sharing political and economic power between the races.

21. In the event the BN managed to scrape through with a reduced majority, principally through the support of Malays and other indigenous people.

22. Taking advantage of liberalisation and the weakened BN Government, the conflict between the races heated up. The situation in Malaysia is tense as never before.

23. The people show no respect for the Government.

24. Malaysians by and large are not violent people. But for how long can Malaysia remain stable in the face of persistent violation of the good understanding and the sharing of power between the races.

25. Malaysian, be they Malays, Chinese, Indians or the native of Sabah and Sarawak must banish from their minds the idea of racial dominance. This country must be shared and shared fair by all the races.