RACISM is toxic and very evident in Malaysia. It is well organised and has become systemic.Key political parties are race-based and for nearly six decades, this was the accepted formula. We all contributed to this progression as they were elected and re-elected.Racism is a human condition that we are all called to transcend. The “other” always remains a significant contributor to who we become.For more than two decades Dr Mahathir Mohamad was at the helm. Prior to his arrival we had the Rukunegara – a testament of hope and an enabler to the New Economic Policy (NEP).The NEP was inspired by the Rukunegara and aimed at realising the twin commitments aimed at eradicating poverty irrespective of race and the restructuring of society by removing identification of race with vocation or location. Both these prongs were mutually reinforcing.Slogan after slogan giving assurances that things hopefully will be different were bought by Malaysians only to be disappointed time and time again.At the last elections, there were only two survivors, one from MCA and another from MIC both just managing to win their seats by merely a few hundred votes. This literally brought the Barisan Nasional (BN) experiment to an end buried by racism, greed and corruption.What does this say? There was no evaluation, post-election analysis to see how they could do better. On the contrary it was business as usual and no one was worried that the BN formula had crumpled.When the vision of Rukunegara and the objective of social justice began to wane, these were replaced by an overemphasis on race and religion.Today, we have to ask ourselves what happened to the preamble to the Rukunegara? The desire to bring greater unity; maintaining a democratic way of life; creating a just society where the wealth of the nation shall be equitably shared; a liberal approach to her rich and diverse cultural traditions and the goal of building a progressive society orientated to modern science and technology.Why this fear of the non-Malays? The chancellor of the exchequer in the UK is not white as are several members of Boris Johnson’s cabinet. President Joe Biden’s cabinet represents an array of Americans of different origins.Singapore respects this diversity but here in Malaysia to have a Chinese Malaysian as a finance minister is seen as threatening by radical Malays. Why so if he is capable? Is this not a racist response? Is it a question of merit or of race?We pledged our united efforts to attain these goals by adhering to these principles namely Belief in God; Loyalty to King and Country; Upholding the Constitution; Rule of Law and Good Behaviour and Morality.While we can accept articles one and two, we failed in upholding our constitution, the rule of law and espousing good behaviour and morality. Our leadership remains deficit in character, vision and values.There are always perpetrators as there are victims and it is thus not surprising that there are different perceptions and narratives on events. Many perpetrators within the political parties and in the civil service would never cast themselves as racist but by their silence they espouse the cause.Abdul Razak Hussein and a group of politicians exerted pressure and this led to the late Tunku Abdul Rahman’s resignation. The NEP and the resulting BN formula secured the support of the people and hence they formed the government. It was to be a 20-year experiment aimed at achieving social justice and unity.After this period, it resurrected itself under new nomenclature. Now after six decades, where are we? There was hardly any regular monitoring, reviews or adjustments.The policy continued and no one had the guts to face the fact that the NEP did not achieve the ends it espoused of enhancing social justice and unity.It merged into special Malay rights and became a sensitive issue or seditious.Anwar Ibrahim, the facts now speak for themselves. You have a civil service, army, navy, police and even judiciary predominantly under the hands of one race.What has been done for the non-Malay Malaysians who have been discriminated when it comes to promotions within the service, scholarships opportunities at local universities just to mention a few headlines? All this is self-evident and you know it.Autocracy breeds a culture of silence and promotes a culture of obedience. You are not to question authority and if the personality is titled and has privileges even more so.You can say all you want about Tommy Thomas’ book but you cannot deny his moral courage to state what he has done.No one needs to agree with all of Thomas’ perspectives. Many can say all that they want regarding the Official Secrets Act, the oath of secrecy, revoking his titles, yet these will never change the narrative. He says it as he sees it and that is the author’s prerogative.The earlier attorneys-general perhaps did not have much to say that may have shown them in good light nor did they have the courage to air their grievances to make a difference.Consider all the scandals, including one that afflicted you so personally. They even punched you and it took several years before the conviction of an inspector-general of police and the admission of the fact. You well remember the role of the then AG over this incident.When exposed they become a closed-knit group. This is their strength for otherwise how could we be where we are today, notorious for the high levels of corruption all through the system.Let us admit that we do not have the capacity to identify daylight robbery that goes on under the guise of race and corruption. Just consider the salaries paid to many of the CEOs of government-linked entities. It is just atrocious. A recently reported study shows how much information is hidden. There is no transparency.Study the underperforming entities like 1MDB, FGV Holdings Bhd, Lembaga Tabung Haji and Malaysia Airlines to mention a few. Despite the nation carrying debts totalling RM1 trillion in government liabilities, there is no attempt to rationalise the remuneration packages of those heading these organisations.On the credibility of the AG’s Chambers, a book by Abdul Gani Patail and Mohamed Apandi Ali could also be best sellers. They served though interesting times.The former was removed abruptly and would have interesting insights that would be of value for the AGC and for Malaysians. What about the Kevin Morais saga? The latter and his clearance of Najib Razak on the 1MDB issue would be helpful to understand his mind.The dismissal of 46 charges brought against Sabah’s Musa Aman, who was later acquitted both for corruption and money-laundering only brought negative perceptions about the AGC.Was it because he could not even be indicted on one of these charges? They did the same also with Najib’s stepson. Does this bring confidence and trust to the office of the AG?Whatever you may say to defend the civil service, serious reforms are needed so that Malaysians of all races can feel that they have an equal opportunity to serve the nation. The selection process and the standards which respect meritocracy need to be encouraged.It is sad that the Malays have been sold the colonial notion that they are lazy and unproductive. More so, when such statements are repeatedly uttered by their own leaders.Dr Mahathir must have faced several challenges as he held the reins of the Pakatan Harapan government. People questioned him and he did not have a free rein to do as he liked.This was difficult for him as his two decades of experience was as an autocrat. He is no manager of diversity or a reformer. The very fact that he had so many deputy prime ministers during his earlier tenure underlines this reality.Managing diversity and accepting differing narratives are part of an interdependent globalised world. These could provide insights that may be helpful. To condemn the narrative, to lodge police reports and threaten an author with legal actions only shows how little people respect diversity and differing views.Even the book Breaking the Silence – Voices of Moderation published by G25 a group of 25 prominent Malays with essays from many of them was banned.How intolerant have we become of views that differ from those in the extreme right. Such actions only serve to indirectly strengthen the views of the extremist fringe. The argumentative Indian Malaysian, the pragmatic Chinese Malaysian and the cultured Malay Malaysian together with the indigenous people from Sabah and Sarawak have all an equal role to play in fashioning the Malaysia of tomorrow.We may have differing views perspectives and narratives. These must be matched with the reality on the ground, the aspirations of the people and a leadership that has character.This is critical for any reform agenda and while I agree with much of the reform agenda, I am saddened that this is no more the focus of the present backdoor government.When even a Muslim Malaysian Appeals Court judge cannot have the right of reply then we can only reflect on Voltaire’s saying, “It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong”.What then becomes of justice, your oath of office to preserve, protect and defend the constitution and the fear of the court of public opinion? When the authorities exert such pressure, they do so because they fear the exposure and a cover up possibly provides an easier and better option than to adjudicate serious matters.This is critical for a diverse nation like Malaysia. Inclusion, participation and a sense of being needed are all critical if we want to build a cohesive society. – February 15, 2021.* K. Haridas reads The Malaysian Insight. * This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.
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