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Only last night, their police force dispersed a peaceful gathering of people who were present to promote a call for better government from cleaner elections. Some opposition members of their parliament and others were nabbed and taken away. All were later released but one (probably a photographer).|
Given the widespread admission of graft and money politics where votes are bought and future favours promised in the forthcoming elections of the malay youth and main wings which form the main federal government party (Umno), it is quite understandable why Umno would be concerned enough to make sure such assemblies not gain momentum by using the police under them.
They have done so before against other causes such as the economic marginalization of the indian community in that country and para-judicial actions against the head of the opposition camp (PKR/Pakatan), both of which later contributed greatly to the loss by the Umno-run federal government of five states and the traditional two-thirds majority in their parliament.
All these actions have caused tensions and also two contradictions - the police are seen to be against the very people they should be protecting - the peaceful people wanting to voice for improvements in the way the country should be run - and also despite the notion of a police state, the crime rate has increased and the people feel unsafe which had led to their paying money for private guards to the roads of their own homes.
Maybe it's the way the federal government there are doing there. Presumably a democracy should allow for peaceful gatherings yet the permit for last night's gathering was not approved. The people went ahead and so it can be said they broke the law. The question however lingers - why was the approval not given?
In fact there was talk that a speakers corner like in London's Hyde Park where anyone can stand on a box and say anything as is done in parliament would be set up in exactly the same site in last night's dispersal. Now that's also not likely to be approved.
That country actually has great potential. Rich in natural resources, blessed by a hot but rainy weather throughout the year, located at the crossroads of east-west trade, endowed with educated people like the chinese who can speak three languages (malay, english and chinese), and free from natural disasters, it should have risen as much as its small neighbour, Singapore, while retaining its international attractiveness as a country made prominent by three equally cultured races.
Yet, today for all the seeming stability on the surface, there is an undercurrent of tension underneath. And that's probably the three factors of race, religion and rights have mixed themselves up to complicate the coexistence and cooperation between the races to such an extent the people have become polarized by political parties which came up to make use of those factors to champion their individual causes.
Because of the losses sustained by Umno in the last elections, there has been some hand-wringing by their members. In the past, Umno only spoke about the rights of the malays and gave occasional lip-service to the other citizens, the nonmalays. Where they failed to realize that when they spoke as Umno, the nonmalays saw them as the federal government since they held the most votes in the ruling coalition. And the federal government controls all the ruling ministries such as finance, education, employment and so on.
In fact the term 'bumiputra' was coined to assert their 'right' to those rights which they said was due to a 'social contract' handed down after the british got the malay sultanate to agree to absorb the chinese and indian workers then as citizens. However some people including at least one prominent malay academician have denied there was even such a contract although elements of the agreement have been incorporated in the federal constitution of that country, which again has been revised many times.
The complications arose because the british and the malay sultanate forgot one thing - that those immigrants' future generations would be born in the country who would not be able to understand why they could not have the same rights as their malay brothers when all are born on the same land and suffer the same needs. Initially it was easy to say it was alright. The malays were not doing as well as the others. But as time went on and from one Umno administration to the next, especially in the one run by their ex-Prime Minister, Mahathir, a malay middle-class was formed quickly followed by a super-rich class who made a lot of money from government contracts liberally given to them under the bumiputra-exclusive national economic policy and some of those incomes were later parlayed as campaign funds to support Umno to win in future elections so much so today that party has at least two billion in its account.
While all this was going on, the people started to doubt two things that Umno can be counted to say all the time. One, that the malay population was actually in the majority to some sixty-eight percent. The last census showed that if it included the indigenous natives, then that would be correct. But if it was just malays, then it was fifty percent so that the population was split exactly down the center between malays and non-malays. As an extension, the people also suspected that the great number of indonesians and filipino muslims who were illegal immigrants in their states in east malaysia were deliberately given citizenships in order to raise the proportion of 'malay'/'bumiputra' numbers in the population. Whether that is true or not remains a question mark. Two, some of the people who had processed the shareholdings and other wealth of the economy had found that the malays actually held over forty percent either directly or indirectly so that what Umno had persisted in saying the NEP should continue because the malays today hold less than 19 percent was also to be doubted. Needless to say, questions unclarified on matters such as these will increase tensions between the races, especially when even Mahathir who is seen as the chief protector of malay interests to this day had come out to admit the Chinese are the ones who are paying over ninety percent of the income tax to the government/land.
Because of all these factors and the general view that Umno has lost much grounds, there has lately been a resurgence of malay nationalism as a last ditch attempt to stem the growing tide of disenchantment with Umno and prevent what is seen as loss of grounds for malay rights. However there is now a difference. In the past, those who had been vocal in defending malay rights could be compellingly argued against using reality and common sense and the fact they acted boorishly and without careful thought. Today there is a small but growing pool of more sophisticated malay middleclass who can write good english and thus articulate their case to other malay middleclass in what remains basically a feudalised malay society held together by titles. polemics and soporifics. Now the malay middleclass has two groups, the modern and open-minded who could see the problems and what needs to be done in terms of transparency and good government, and the close-minded who can use the original 'social contract' as their weapon to crowbar their way to a point of view- that the country belongs to the malays and the nonmalays must follow a malay way especially with regards the use of language and the schools their children must attend. While there is this dichotomy in having two groups, there is however another situation. Both are held together by the same faith, Islam, and even the moderate middleclass malay will not want to be seen, in public anyway, saying or doing anything against the religion of his peers, whichever political or mindset position they may carry. And since those who are firebrands about their definition of what is malaysian nationalism will always say their piece the loudest, the situation may deteriorate in the future where tension will increase to the same level as seen in 1969. As an example of one such firebrand, someone who said he has been adviser to some big companies in southeast asia on military strategies, and running by the nom-deplume 'kijangmas' has written extremely vitriolic statements in excellent english in his blog against the non-malays while using the rationale of malay nationalism. The situation may brew further. In fact recently, two malay moderates and national luminaries, Raja Petra (RPK) who is a cousin to the sultan of one of the states, and Zaid Ibrahim (Law Minister who resigned over the use of the ISA to detain citizens without trial) were vilified for their calls to the malays at large to be more reasonable and progressive in the treatment of malay rights, position, and faith, since for the case of rights, they consider them as creating unnecesary crutches that prevent the malays from wanting to make progress by their own effort.
to be contd 1/2