Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ethnic Outbidding Spiraling Up

It is strange to find that in the midst of the so-called shift toward non-communal politics, as many political pundits claim, ethnic outbidding continues to spiral up. Why do I say this?

1. There has been high expectation among the non-Malays that if the Pakatan Rakyat takes over the federal government, one or more deputy prime ministers will be appointed from among the non-Malay legislators. Yesterday, outgoing Kedah MCA Chief, Dato’ Boey Chin Gan, called on the government to appoint four DPMs - one each from among the Chinese, Indian, Sabah and Sarawak leaders. The BN in this regard must outbid the Pakatan Rakyat on the appointment of non-Malays as deputy prime ministers. The reason is, the four DPMs will be at a better position to look after the interests of each ethnic community that they represent. Doesn't this sound communal?

2. In response to Datuk Ahmad Ismail’s “racist” remarks, all Chinese-based political parties launched nationwide attacks on the UMNO politician. It seems that there has been a race of who-speaks-louder-for-the-Chinese in the Ahmad saga. Malay leaders, except a handful of Ahmad’s supporters, tried to be “sopan” by either offering apology to the Chinese community, supporting the offer of apology, or kept quiet. Ahmad himself, until this article is written, has refused to apologize.

3. Gerakan mulled leaving Barisan Nasional for quite some time now. And today, after a spate of tit for tat between Gerakan Acting President Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon and Ahmad, Tsu Koon finally said it loud in the open that Gerakan may leave Barisan Nasional - if UMNO does not change. The fact is the Chinese-based political party’s future looks very dim should UMNO-led Barisan Nasional fail to change, i.e. - to accord "equal" rights to the Chinese community (which means more rights than are currently enjoyed by the Chinese) in the face of “greener pasture” offered by the Pakatan. For Gerakan, BN must outbid Pakatan in this psychological race. Only by doing this, the party will be able to re-surrect itself under the BN's banner. And Tsu Koon's call for BN to move away from "race-based" politics is in fact a glossy cover on an essentially race-based demand.

4. Just before the March general elections, four DAP Members of Parliament (Theresa Kok, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw, Tan Kok Wai and Fong Kui Lun) protested against the usage of Jawi on streets signboards in Kuala Lumpur. They wanted them to be replaced with “Muhibbah” signboards in Chinese and Tamil languages apart from Malay, the National language (Not so “Muhibbah” if it means an open show of disrespect for Jawi, the Malay script in a Malay-majority country where Malay language is both the national and the official language). In July, Gerakan Youth tried to “outbid” the DAP-led Penang state government by putting up six street signboards in Mandarin in Georgetown. This is not withstanding the fact that existing guidelines only require the use of National Language, not other vernacular languages, on streets signboards. This politics of language, which is reminiscent of the pre-merdeka demand for multilingualism, is unmistakably one of the glaring features of communal politics in Malaysia.

My definition of communal politics is articulation of interests and mobilization of political support based on one's communal identity to the exclusion or at the expense of the interests of other communities. When a politician pursues the interests of his own community to the exclusion or at the expense of the interests of other communities, it is communal. In a communally heteregenous society, where each communal groups have competing interests (which is quite natural) - be it political, economic, religious or cultural - non-communal politics have a tall order.
Do we really think that our politics is becoming more non-communal now? Or, are we witnessing an enhancement of communalism - albeit in a new form? Let's think about it. Hopefully, people won't call me a racist by posing this question.


  1. Aku bimbang...
    Aku sangat bimbang...
    Apa kesudahan untuk kesemua simpang siur politik tanah air muktahir ini..
    Aku amat bimbang...

  2. Duhai bangsaku..
    Apa nasib bangsaku?
    Kami tidak berlaku kejam pada sesiapa..
    Politikus yang durjana menyebabkan banyak kepincangan..
    Kami yang di bawah hanya menerima akibat..
    Orang besar yang melakukan yang bukan-bukan.. Orang kecil yang mendapat akibat..
    Kami tidak pernah menganggu sesiapa..
    Tetapi, kenapa kami kerap diganggu???