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Apologise or be damned

Zaid Ibrahim the black sheep?

AT the rate things are going, a Malay leader could soon be cast out by his own party for defending equality, fairness and rule of law for all Malaysians.

It is sadly expected in Malaysia that non-Malays who point out problems inherent in the notion of ketuanan Melayu will be publicly attacked by certain Malay leaders. The loudest in leading these attacks are usually Umno leaders, probably by virtue of their dominance within the Barisan Nasional (BN) ruling coalition.

Most recently, Gerakan Wanita chief Datuk Tan Lian Hoe was subjected to such public attacks, including in Parliament. The vilification was targeted at her speech during Gerakan’s annual national delegates conference in mid-October 2008, about the origins of the Malay.

Datuk Zaid Ibrahim is now in the crosshairs. That a Malay leader is being called a traitor for questioning an ideology that presupposes Malay superiority indicates just how much is at stake.

Keris thumping

Thus far, Zaid has been asked to apologise to the Malays for challenging the “rights of Malay supremacy.” Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar has called Zaid a traitor to his own community for threatening and negating the history of the Malay struggle. These views have been echoed by other Umno leaders including youth chief hopeful Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir and outgoing youth chief Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

Umno supreme council member Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim even went as far as to ask Zaid to bertaubat or repent for his “extreme views.” “Jika tidak, Zaid perlu keluar dari rumpun bangsa Melayu,” Shahidan was quoted as saying in Utusan Malaysia.

This is no different from Umno leaders asking, both in Parliament and in their general assembly, non-Malays, who question the way the country is being governed, to get out.

If we are to take the calls for Zaid to apologise at face value, it would seem that the former minister in the prime minister’s department was deeply erroneous in his ways. And that somehow, he insulted and showed disrespect to the Malays when he questioned the idea of ketuanan Melayu.

But what exactly did Zaid say in his speech at the Lawasia Conference on 31 Oct 2008?

Equality for all

At the crux of Zaid’s argument that the ketuanan Melayu model has failed is a question he rightfully asks all Malaysians to consider: “At the end of the day, we must ask ourselves what it is that will allow us to protect all Malaysians, including the Malays?”

Malay supremacy?

He argues that the “social contract” envisioned by our founding leaders was the “guarantee of equality and the promise of the Rule of Law.” But that social contract, he observes, was unilaterally restructured by Umno in the 1980s.

“The essence of its reconstructed meaning was this: that Malaysia is primarily the home of the Malays, and that the non-Malays should acknowledge that primacy by showing deference to the Malays and Malay issues….This marked the advent of ketuanan Melayu or, in English, Malay supremacy. Affirmative action and special status became a matter of privilege by reference to race rather than need, and questioning this new status quo was not to be tolerated.”

Zaid’s observations are spot on as proven by the attacks he is now facing from within Umno. But he has stood his ground because his position is a clear, rational and fair assessment of the current politics practised in this country.

Zaid says the BN government must abandon its reworked and flawed concept of the “social contract” which promotes Malay superiority over other Malaysians. It was, and still is, he says, “impossible to reconcile the principles of equality and civil rights of the people of this country with the primacy of one group over all others.”

A social contract that employs ketuanan Melayu is a failure because it resorts “to a political culture of promoting fear and division amongst the people.” It should be replaced with a form of democracy that recognises and respects the rights and dignity of all citizens, as was promised by the nation’s original social contract.

Threatening supremacy

And so what exactly is Zaid being asked to apologise for?

Zaid Ibrahim
Speaking up for equality

For questioning a politically constructed notion of racial superiority that divides Malaysians instead of uniting us? For pointing out that Umno’s version of the social contract only serves those who rule? For asking that all Malaysians be treated equally and that every citizen’s rights be respected?

On the flip side of the same coin, what does it say about the Umno leaders who have called for Zaid to bertaubat, apologise, and leave the Malay race? That they subscribe to the notion of Malay supremacy, which in countries such as Germany would be considered no different from fascism? That they don’t believe in all Malaysians deserving equal treatment and respect?

But we shouldn’t be too surprised at the reactions to Zaid’s position. It is those who have the deepest vested interests in sustaining a system that benefits them who would be the first to quash contesting voices such as Tan’s and Zaid’s. Especially when they have been in power for half a century.

And that just means the rest of us, who have a vested interest in a Malaysia that is just and fair for all, must speak up. For if we don’t, it will be supremacist notions that will dictate the way all Malaysians are governed in the years to come.

“Racial supremacy” and “superiority” are bad words in Jacqueline Ann Surin‘s vocabulary. She believes there is only one race — the human race — and all other races are artificially constructed in the interest of those in power.

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14 Responses to “Apologise or be damned”

  1. KW Mak says:

    Regarding Shieko’s 2nd graphic: I love Thundercats!!! Associating them with Umno is so… uhmmm… wrong!

    (Sorry for making an out-of-topic comment, but I must defend the good name of the Thundercats!) :-p

  2. Teh Ewe Leng says:

    This goes to show that Umno has still not accepted what the rakyat wants. Maybe we can tell them more clearly at the next GE. When they lose the government then maybe, just maybe, they will wake up.

  3. Political Indifferent. says:

    So much for unity…. Those who called out the loudest must be the ones with the largest vested interest – much at stake.

    Please be rational. We are Malaysians, not just of one race. Maybe we should learn something from Myanmar where all races are recognized as one. There is no Chinese Myanmarese, Malay Myanmarese, or any other ethnic Myanmarese. Even a poor country like Myanmar is more highly educated and rational than Malaysia.

  4. Ling says:

    I agree with Jacqueline Surin – racial supremacy and superiority are outdated expressions that have no place in today’s world. I thought they went out with the release of Nelson Mandela and the death of apartheid. Umno politicians are behaving like neo-colonists by adopting this ketuanan Melayu policy.

  5. Tracy Ho says:

    I believe in one race, whether one’s skin is black, yellow or white. Everyone living in this planet deserves to be respected and treated as an equal. All the more so from those in power who are supposed to show fair, rational and reasonable leadership.

  6. Gonz says:

    Nothing new here, Anwar (another Malay) has been branded a traitor for a long time as well.

  7. ultraman says:

    What’s wrong with keris-waving? It’s a Malay symbol. 100 years ago, we were banned by the British from carrying them. We are no longer British subjects!!! Who are you to demand for an apology?

  8. Navi says:

    Syed Hamid and Shahidan are trying to claw their way back into prominence in the Umno hierarchy, hence their need to make idiotic statements, championing their imagined supremacy. It smacks of a lack of self-esteem, self-confidence and an inherent disability to distinguish right from wrong. So ingrained is their need to be recognized as leaders of worth and to be in the news at regular intervals, that they forgo logic and make fools of themselves.

  9. Nigel says:

    Amen! Amin! So Mote it Be!

  10. hokgan says:

    Dear, you just took the words of my mouth, in here, I thank you on behalf of all the civilized race. Zaid, you’re brave!

  11. Wong Sang Eng says:

    Ex Minister Zaid Ibrahim resigned as minister in protest of what he believed was the abuse of power in the arrests of Tan, Kok and RPK. It later turned out that the arrests, as I see it, were very much baseless/without sound reason and, true enough, without sufficient reason (such as in RPK’s case, as the learned judge pointed out), thus vindicating his view that the arrests were totally unwarranted.

    His view on the failure of ketuanan Melayu is in part, I believe, based on the inference of the recent results of the trend of voting in which an additional four states went to the control of the more liberal and less race based parties, in that the rakyat wants ketuanan based on “competency, accountability and transparency,” higher qualities then a self aggrandisation and egoistic attitudes as ketuanan Melayu connotes.

  12. coolie master says:

    If Chinese Malaysians are given political power, we might be like Singapore. Their PM admits that only orang Cina can be the PM there. So don’t blame the Malays for not trusting the Chinese.

  13. Eskay says:

    That’s the problem with Umnoputras. While countries in the world, be they communist, socialist or democratic, are opening up to the challenges of the new millennium, the putras still want to be wrapped up and cocooned with old, outdated, antiquated laws, and other supposedly legal provisions.
    This clearly shows their level of self-esteem, maturity and lack of confidence to stand on their own two feet.

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