Thursday, November 13, 2008
Discourse on Bangsa Malaysia I: Racial Multiracial Politics
Perdana Leadership Foundation organised a discourse on Bangsa Malaysia at their Putrajaya office yesterday.
Dr Mahathir delivered the keynote address and followed by a panelist discussion comprise namely of Dr Chandra Muzaffar of JUST, Prof Shamsul Amri of ATMA, UKM, Dr KJ John of Unversituy College Sedaya, youth representative, Mr Akvin Goh from YTL, and moderated by Dato Ahmad Dahan from Gabem.
Having once attended a Bangsa Malaysia do last year, this was truly open, sincere and refreshing inspiring affair over the previously skewedly opinionated and Malay/UMNO-bashing intended affair. There was the horrifying incident of a moderator imposing a one-minute limit on a certain audience to speak and yet allow others to yap aimlessly with no time limit.
The observations of Dr Mahathir, opening brief list by Dato Ahmad Dahan, overview of the subject matter by Prof Shamsul, a refreshing new perspective by Dr Chandra, and snippets of ideas from Dr KJ John and Alvin Goh are useful information and views worthy to be shared.
In his off-the cuff keynote speech, Dr Mahathir made a comparison of countries like Switzerland, United States and Australia and conclude that Malaysia is unique in the fact that its highly segregated population - segregated by race, religion, living areas, schools, and economic activites - could live peacefully.
He gave his historical observation of Malaysian politics to show that the willingness of UMNO's Malay-based polity to share power and cooperation with race-based political parties provided the stability, balancing factor, and contributed immensely to the peace and posperity of the state.
Citing the first election in 1955, he said Malay could monopolise power to itself but UMNO choose to share power with other races. During the time, Malay voters comprise 90% of eligible voters but UMNO shared seats with MCA and campaign for MCA to win in Malay majority areas. Perikatan won 51 of the 52 seats to enable a majority in the 90-person colonial-time Legislative Council (Legco).
That spirit of power sharing gave them continual electoral success. UMNO continues to support non Malay candidates in Malay majority areas and campaign to Malays to support for Non Malay candidates. In 1999, during the financial crisis and Anwar issue, it was the Chinese and non Malays voters that supported UMNO.
Race-based Parties Relevant in Tackling Racism
Dr Mahathir dismissed the view that the recent general election points to the rejection of race based politics. Race-based Barisan Nasional (BN) is still relevant to tackle racism.
"The BN has proven that for the last 50 years, the party has actually reduced the debate on racism and developed this country to the level that we are today," he said.
Dr Mahathir observed that after the general election, we are more racial than ever. "We debate about race every day, more than before," he said.
He believed, "If the outcome of the March general election was a rejection of racial politics, there would be less talk about race today. Instead, race has become a central issue since March. That election has stimulated discussion about little else other than race."
"Why they don't like the social contract, it is because of the race (factor), why they want a non-Malay PM, this is because of the race (factor too)," he added.
"To say that the BN did not do well because people rejected the race-based party is quite wrong. How can they say the rejection was because of the race-based party ... because the party they are supporting like PAS, DAP and Keadilan are also race-based parties."
"Apart from some window-dressing, it's still the old DAP". DAPs members are only Chinese. PAS is obviously Malay. While he described PKR as a hodgepodge of Islamist, pro-Hindraf, and pro-Chinese educationists. After Anwar, he asked who will lead the PKR? If it is led by a non-Malay, he believed it will not have the support of the Malays."
Unifying Through Language
In his discussion of Switzerland, America and Australia, he noted that language plays a role in unifying and shaping the respective bangsa or nation.
In trilingual Switzerland, the notion of a national language does not hold there but the population is able to command two language and that enable the country to unify. In America, the English language, culture, and tradition of the first settler was adopted as the unifying common factor in its nation building. So does Australia.
Quiting from Rocky's post, "Dr M also chided those who clamour for a Bangsa Malaysia but are unwilling to give due regards to the national language. These people, he said, should emulate Obama and children of migrant races in the US, Switzerland and Australia."
"Obama, who must be in some ways a descendant of a slave, is today US President. The blacks had tribes in Africa but after years in the US they all speak English. English is their mother tongue. The speak English at work, at school and at home. The same as the migrant Jews. They became naturalised American citizens. But they accept that as Americans they must speak English."
"Dr M said Bangsa Malaysia exists but mostly among Malaysians abroad," he said.
"I've met many Malaysians overseas. Those who approached me introduced themselves as Malaysians, not Chinese Malaysians or Indian Malaysians or Malay Malaysians. Just Malaysians."
Sekolah Wawasan and Social Interaction
The little interaction between races from school level brought about Government to consider the Sekolah Wawasan. He said, "For a Bangsa Malaysia to be born, the current race-based schooling system must go".
"This is the only country where we have different streams of schools: Chinese, Tamil and National schools. The Chinese educationists (Dong Jiao Zhong) think their kids should not get any close to Malays from the national schools. Or they might turn into Chinese Mat rempits."
"The idea of Sekolah Wawasan was to put the 3 schools in one campus. This will compel the children of different races to meet and interact with each other. Morning assembly would be held together. The pupils will be in one assembly. When they play, they'll play together. Not Chinese school vs National school.
"I must admit the Sekolah Wawasan concept did not get support, especially from the Chinese educationist groups. They don't want to have anything to do with the Malays."
People-Driven Move for Bangsa Malaysia
Dr Mahathir said dismantling the issue should be done slowly and the people must be prepared to make a sacrifice and fasten the proses by restoring national stability.
"That can only be done, of course, not through posturing by the opposition party." he added.
He emphasised that developing a Bangsa Malaysia is through people and not by political imposition.
A point that could be added to his people-desired change is that there should not be any political imposition, but lawyers involvement too! The adversarial nature of lawyer-activist championing causes through legal-laced shallow rhetorics does not auger well for the drive towards bangsa Malaysia.
The discussion in the panelist session is covered in the subsequent posting here.
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