Ex-AG’s disclosure of racial brainwashing is most troubling
K. Parkaran -February 6, 2021 8:45 AM
What resembled a political earthquake occured over last weekend when former attorney-general Tommy Thomas released his explosive book that revolved around his dealings with the top men in the government during his 20 months in office.
As expected, it did shock most Malaysians to read about the goings-on in the corridors of power, which we kind of suspected all along but which only came to light through his book, ‘My Story – Justice in the Wilderness’.
His revelations have been followed by some aftershocks. I think most Malaysians are a bit unsure on the legalities involved in his decision to write but it appears that he must have taken a calculated risk in choosing to divulge certain information. After all, he is not a novice in this field.
Of course such a high level of disclosure will have its share of denials, legal suits, police reports and political statements. But Malaysians who have been through institutionalised discrimination in the name of national interest can surely empathise with some of his observations.
But to completely ignore many of the truths or important instances of dysfunction that he had pointed out would be akin to sticking our heads in the sand. He has indeed raised many “triable” issues, borrowing a legal term.
To me, the underlying message in a good part of his story was that racism and religious bigotry had shown up in many ugly forms in the running of the government, and that these were strong elements that ultimately pushed him out of the office.
What I felt was true and something that even the worst of his critics cannot deny were a couple of his quotes that showed a deep sense of racism many non-Malays face in most facets of their lives. They are:
“Everything I did was painted in racial tones and hues. And they succeeded. The brainwashing achieved its objectives. Objectively speaking, attacks on non-Malay holders of two offices in a government otherwise dominated by Malays just did not make any sense. It was neither rational nor logical.”
He went on to say: “The prime minister and deputy prime minister were Malay. The majority of the members of the Pakatan Harapan Cabinet were Malay. Yet, the perceived insecurity. It was as if millions of people belonging to the majority race could not sleep soundly because a Chinese was finance minister, and an Indian, attorney-general.”
If a government officer at a level so high had found it hard to handle racist undertones, and, with Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the helm, failed to put the fanatics in their places, then what hope do the vulnerable Malaysians in the lower rungs of society have?
We have a situation where the minority is yearning to be regarded as Malaysians of equal standing like the rest, while the majority is saying we are supreme and you do not question this privilege.
Once you are told to continue working hard, pay your taxes and accept your place in Malaysian society as a second-class citizen without question, then I guess you end up in a fool’s paradise.
Interestingly, some groups of Indians seem to be doing just that by becoming associate members of Islamist PAS, without full rights compared to their Muslim counterparts. But then again it is their democratic right.
We are facing a new reality from generations of racist attitudes which are now woven into our systems and institutions like poisonous threads, hurting most of us, including many Malays.
Because of the unwritten policies and political push for racial and religious supremacy, unfair racial stereotypes have taken root in the hearts of many Malaysians.
Maybe it may not be obvious to some but these cause us to react to people differently whether we are on the streets, in lifts, at the mall or in encounters between the police and citizens.
Racism, in my view, is the cumulative result of all those policies, thoughts and acts. They add up to a pattern in which people of certain colour and background are routinely and systematically treated differently from other people.
Obviously our politics do not help to bridge these differences, if anything they appear to be making things worse, as attested to by Thomas.
Maybe we should take his book as an apocalyptic revelation, as he has been there and seen it all, and he is not running for office.
I think the people who are shaping our lives, the politicians, ought to really listen. Just listen to how our institutions work for or against our friends, who are Malaysians too, in their daily lives.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.