Mariam Mokhtar asks,
“Do we call the non-Malays, Malaysians only when it suits us and when it suits ourselves we say they are “guests”?
With very warm regards,
Primus Inter Pares – The Malay Mindset
By Mariam Mokhtar 29 March, 2020
When I heard the news that the Sunway Corporation pledged Rm34 million to the Covid Fund I shared the happy news with a few friends. At the same time I wondered aloud what happened to Mukhriz, Bukhary, Daim, Najib and all the rich Malays. What have these billionaire Malays contributed?
A Malay friend took umbrage at the inconvenient question.
“Why must it always be about race?” she shot back.
I explained to her that it is the system which has conditioned us to think and act racially. She should ask the Malay leaders the very same question.
Indeed why must it be about race at all? I told her that I wished we could all be just Malaysians. If Americans are just Americans and Indonesians are just Indonesians (and they are a bigger melting pot than us) why are we Bumiputra Malaysians and Non-Bumiputra Malaysians? This is not just a label but it has real consequences for both the Malays and the non-Malays and for national unity.
Isn’t it sad when we read the news and it can be about anything; and our minds go Malay, Chinese or Indian?
Unfortunately this is how we have been conditioned by decades of racial policies.
When our prime minister proclaims himself to be “Malay first” and then only Malaysian what kind of example is he setting?
But let’s leave the politicians alone for today.
What about your average Malay on the street?
When my friend who is well educated and exposed and who I had assumed has a broader worldview than the average Malay took umbrage at my question, I start to wonder… .
Firstly about myself. Am I a racist? Why did I couch my question in a racial context?
Secondly is she a racist? Taking offence with what I will admit is a provocative question. Is she liberal only when it suits her – that we are all Malaysians?
When political commentators say that we must first win the hearts and minds of the rural Malays if we want to win this war on racism; I wonder. Are the rural Malays the only ones anchored in race and religion?
Are the urban Malays, the educated middle class, the professionals and the rich any different? Is talk of Bangsa Malaysia only skin deep – only when it suits them.
Let’s get down to brass tacks. Do you think it has not occurred to the educated middle class Malays that they have the privileges of discounts on house purchases, scholarships for their children etc. How will these be affected if there is Bangsa Malaysia. Will they lose them?
This is the crux of the problem: When you attach privileges to race, how are you going to build a nation?
There have been calls for policies based on needs and not race. Everyone knows this is a fairer system and it cuts across race. At the same time it will focus our resources on the B40 and lift them out of poverty.
But how will the Malay middle class respond to this? When tangible sacrifices are involved that is when we separate the poseurs from those who genuinely are for a Malaysian nation.
One only has to look at the attendees at the MAJU Roadshow.
How many Malays show their support for MAJU’s call for Bangsa Malaysia, and an end to racial and religious bigotry?
There lies your answer.
The commitment to equal citizenship by many goes only as deep as their privileges. They are all for Bangsa Malaysia but only if they remain Primus Inter Pares, with their privileges intact.
In this time of the country’s need there are Malaysians who will contribute despite being discriminated against. Yet the privileged have yet to contribute – I think my question about Mukhriz, Bukhary, Daim, Najib is a pertinent one.
Do we call the non-Malays, Malaysians only when it suits us and when it suits ourselves we say they are “guests”?
It will go a long way to uniting our country if the prime minister takes the lead in declaring himself Malaysian first period.
We must unite as one people not only during a crisis like what we are facing but also after Covid 19. Must it take another virus to make us realise we are all Malaysians whatever our ethnicity. It may be too late then.
(The views expressed are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rebuilding Malaysia.)
Letters from Ward 5, Tanjong Rambutan
NB: I do not have a racist bone in my body, that much I know about myself. My writing is often racially tinged because I want us all to confront this contagion of race which has plagued us for six decades.