I suppose no one was really surprised that the recently concluded Kongres Maruah Melayu (Malay Dignity Congress) quickly descended into just another occasion for Ketuanan Melayu ideologues to vent their bigotry upon ethnic and religious minorities.
Dr Zainal Kling, one of the organizers for the event, set the stage for what followed by ranting about how people (non-Malays, of course) want to put Islam down, mock our rulers and our standing, manipulate us and undermine our dignity. He ended up with a rejoinder to non-Malays that “Malaysia is for Malays.”
Despite loudly protesting the loss of Malay dignity, however, they cheerfully invited UMNO to the event, seemingly unmindful of the fact that it is UMNO itself that has betrayed the Malays.
How quickly they seem to have forgotten that it was UMNO, a party that long claimed to champion Malay rights and Islam, that brought the country to the very brink of ruin. Their greed and unscrupulousness almost drove the nation to its knees and tarnished its international reputation. What is worse, a clutch of these same so-called champions of race and religion was even willing to treacherously collude with a foreign power to cover up their misdeeds.
Because of their bigoty, incompetence, impropriety and sense of entitlement, the nation is now facing huge difficulties. Our education system is an utter disaster, corruption is rife, our once proud national institutions are in decay, and the vast majority of Malaysians are stuck with low wages and high levels of debt. In the meantime, the families and cronies of these champions of race and religion continue to reap most of the economic benefits and grow richer while cynically moaning the loss of Malay rights.
No amount of shouting and screaming about the loss of dignity and blaming others can divert attention from their own colossal failures. If they genuinely felt a loss of dignity, they should have taken their own leaders to task rather than vent their fury on ethnic minorities.
Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad could, of course, have used the occasion to stop the race-baiting and call for greater national unity to face the challenges ahead. Instead, he joined the pity-party lamenting how Malay “dignity is mocked and we are looked down upon.” He then went on to blame the Malays for their plight conveniently ignoring the fact that it is the Malay political elites who have tarnished not just the dignity of the Malays but of the whole nation.
Political elites always find it easier to blame others – both Malays and non-Malays – for their own failures. Instead of doing the hard work of finding real solutions to the many problems the nation faces, they scapegoat minorities and manipulate the masses with fake narratives and false fears about threats to Islam, the Malay rulers and Malay rights.
Mahathir too made no secret of his disdain for non-Malays. He lamented the fact that he had to depend on non-Malay support and was, consequently, obliged to “think about the feelings of the other races.”
He was also quoted as saying that his party was “forced” to work with non-Malays because of Malay disunity, and that, as a consequence, the Malays were now weak and indebted to non-Malays. As well, he complained that the non-Malays enjoyed “greater control” today and opined that because Malays are too reliant on others, they have become “enslaved.”
His message was clear: Malays need to be united (behind him, of course) if they expect to see less non-Malay ministers, parliamentarians and senior officials, and less concessions made to non-Malays. To him it is all a zero-sum game – anything that is given to non-Malays is a loss to the Malays.
What a shocking and incendiary assertion coming from the leader of a multiracial coalition, a man who himself was saved from political oblivion by non-Malay voters when even his own community soundly repudiated him.
As well, what an insane and inane comment coming from a Malay prime minister heading a government dominated by Malays in a country that is predominantly and very firmly Malay-Muslim. Is there no end to this absurdity? Perhaps it is not their dignity they should be concerned about as much as their pathological insecurity and inability to grasp reality.
As expected, Mahathir summarily dismissed criticism about the racist bent of the congress. Belittling and threatening ethnic minorities, insisting they don’t really belong here, that they have no right to aspire to senior positions within the government, that even their citizenship could be forfeit is now all apparently acceptable, the new normal in Malaysia Baru.
Mahathir can spin it any which way he wants but no words can describe the sense of utter betrayal that most, if not all, non-Malays must now feel. Of course, we expect our prime minister to reassure the Malays that their rights will always be protected but what we don’t expect is for our prime minister to throw us under the bus just to win cheap points in front of a bunch of bigots.
Let’s hope that the non-Malay voters in Tanjung Piai will send, on all our behalf, a clear and unequivocal message to him that enough is enough by roundly boycotting his party at the polls. We must disabuse him of the notion that he can treat us with contempt and still expect us to be “grateful” to him.
In the meantime, the political leaders and academicians who organized the Malay Dignity Congress must know in no uncertain terms that dignity cannot be built upon bigotry, intolerance and extremism. If they really want to be respected, they should strive instead to serve the nation with integrity, honour and respect for the rights of all Malaysians.
Whether they like it or not, Malaysia is irrevocably multi-ethnic and multi-religious. All ethnic groups have shed their blood, toiled and sacrificed for this nation of ours and no one can ever take that away from any of us. The sooner we all learn to live together and respect each other, the better it will be for all of us.
[Dennis Ignatius | Kuala Lumpur |8th October 2019]