Friday, November 21, 2008

Why this obsession whether a non-Malay can become Malaysia's PM

Sejak kemenangan Obama sebagai Presiden Amerika Syarikat ke 44 bulan Jan nanti ta habis-habis perorangan bukan Melayu serta parti politik dan NGO di kuasai bukan Melayu menimbulkan persoalan kenapa bukan Melayu tidak boleh jadi Perdana Menteri Malaysia.Terakhir suatu makalah dalam The New Sunday Times yang menyebut: "Barrack Obama's victory raises the question of whether someone from an ethnic minority can rise to the highest political office in the land in Malaysia".Saya pada hari itu juga telah mengutus surat menjawab persoalan yang ta' habis-habis menjadi persoalan kepada bukan Melayu sebagai kaum minoriti dalam negara ini. Malangnya hingga hari ini surat itu masih tidak ujud. Maka itu saya perturunkan surat itu di sini untuk tatapan semua bloggers

Please allow me to respond to your feature by Chok Suat Ling “Time for change is not here yet” in today’s Sunday Times (pg 20).

I cannot help but wonder why all this sudden call for a change in the Malaysian politic to enable a non-Malay to become the Prime Minister just as Barrack Obama, a negro, has been elected the 44th President of the United States.

Thus your correspondent quoted a political analyst Ong Kian Ming as saying: “The vision of America as a place where every child, regardless of race or religion, can aspire to the highest office in the land is surely one in which we can all support”.

First about the religion bit: Ong is deluding himself for no way can a Muslim be elected President, at least not in the foreseeable future. Even a Catholic was only accepted as recent as the 1960s when John F Kennedy was elected.

It is thus naïve of Ong to even suggest that Obama was elected for being a Muslim. He is not a Muslim. Period. Nor was he ever brought up as a Muslim since his maternal grand parents are to all intent and purposes are Christian whites. Even his late Kenyan father, a born Muslim died an atheist. He would never have even been nominated by the Democrats had he been a Muslim. So Mr. Ong stop deluding yourself.

But before going further let me just state that a person like Obama would have been accepted as a Prime Minister in this country long before this. This is because to all intent and purposes Obama is an American, a person who have accepted the American way, the American language (English) and American culture and life style.

Thus in Malaysia anyone who is willing to accept the norms and way of life of the majority Malays, as the original inhabitants of this land, would have been accepted as a leader of the nation. Just consider Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Hussein Onn and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. They are all second generation ethnically mixed Malays – just like Obama a second generation mixed American.

All the three Malaysian leaders are accepted as Malays without question. I can cite at least four former reporters of the New Straits Times despite being born Chinese or Indians are already accepted by the Malays as their own – even a first generation. This is because they do speak Bahasa Melayu as a matter of course at home, follow the Malay custom especially at home and are Muslims mainly because they are married to Muslim women or men.

I can mention many more including a number of Chinese and Indians Ustazs already accepted as Malays. And these are first generation converts, what more the second generation.

Thus from this you can see how accommodative and liberal the Malays are. They have never consider matters on racial lines yet they have been accused as being racists. In fact it is those people who question why a non-Malay can’t be the Prime Minister of this country are the racists.

Take a look at Penang. Even when Umno won the majority seats in the Penang Assembly 10 years ago the Umno leadership still accepted Tan Sri Koh Su Khoon as the Chief Minister only because the majority of the people of Penang are Chinese. Would the Chinese accept an Indian to be the CM there?

And the Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong in response to the Obama victory has already stated in no uncertain terms that only a Chinese can be the Prime Minister there. Do the Malays complain?

So to say that the Obama victory in America could be a lesson for Malaysia (ie the Malay majority) is an insult to the Malays.

It could of course be a lesson to the non Malays. That is they should be willing to replicate what the latter day immigrants and the minority groups in America are willing to do, ie become Americans adhering to the American way adopting its customs, language and way of life. What it means is that the latter day immigrants are willing to forgo their own dispositions to assimilate into the American way of life.

This American way is based on the Anglo-Saxon customs and norms that were brought by the original immigrants, the Pilgrim Fathers as well as the continental Europeans with their Anglo Saxon way of life.

So I have a simple question to the likes of your correspondent and the many other non-Malays who have been making similar comments. Are you willing to assimilate into the Malaysian way as what all the Americans are wont to do? Looking at the situation in this country with each of the minority groups proud of their heritage and ways, I guess not.

So Malaysia is obviously very much different from America. Its formation is based on an understanding of give and take where the minority immigrants were given wholesale citizenship status by the majority group under the Jus Soli principle just before we gained our independence. (At that time there were only 250,000 non Malays who are citizens against 2 million Malays.)

In exchange the minority groups recognize the special rights of the original inhabitants of the country (which were already in the statutes of the Federation of Malaya Agreement in 1948) just as rights of the Chinese and Indians as minorities are also recognised.

Thus each of the minority nationalities like the Chinese and the Indians continue with their own practices and customs and there was as such no melting pot as in America where the minority groups were willing to forgo their ways by accepting and adopting the customs of the majority as the basis for the American way.

People forget that this country is part of the Malay Archipelago which runs from Southern Thailand in the north to Indonesia in the west and south and the Philippines in the East. There are even pockets of Malay enclaves in Vietnam and Kampuchea.

There were already then Malay empires like Langkasuka, Srivijaya, the Majapahit and the Melaka Sultanate years before the intrusion of the colonial powers, the British, the Dutch, the Portuguese and the Spaniards. Thus the fact that some of the Malays in Malaysia being immigrants from Indonesia (as one Gerakan leader who obviously is ignorant of the region’s history had charged) is of no significance for historically the Malays as seafarers had always moved and settled from one area of the archipelago to another area within the archipelago.

Its only when the colonial powers began to demarcate the archipelago into their domains and as their colonies that problem of nationality arises.

So there is no question that the Malay way of life should form the basis of the Malaysian culture if there were to be a melting pot. But this is not to be as the minority groups are not willing to assimilate and the Malays had not forced them to.

Thus until today the Chinese and Tamils continue with their way of life unimpeded. Even their schools, the Chinese and the Tamil schools continue to flourish with government assistance.

And perhaps because of this even acceptance of Bahasa Melayu as the national and official language is constantly being chipped at. Thus when the government decide to give prominence to the learning of English considering it being the universal language certain groups conveniently used that to downgrade usage of Bahasa Melayu.

So even road signs that have for ages been only in Bahasa is being questioned with road names now being put up in Chinese as well as Tamil in George Town and parts of Taman Seputih in Kuala Lumpur. And this was done on the excuse of making it convenient to tourists who do not understand Bahasa or English to be able to read the road signs. (I wonder how many tourists can’t read the romanised Bahasa road signs). How convenient some people can be when they want to question what has already been accepted and entrenched in the Federal Constitution.

So some non-Malay analysts, NGO and political leaders conveniently forgot to mention how different the US is from Malaysia in so far as acceptance of the American lifestyle and way of life by all who think of themselves as Americans. But can we say the same for Malaysians of Chinese and Indian origins? Even the question of language is still not fully accepted let alone the Malay culture and ways of life.
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