ARE you Malay first? Or Malaysian first? That is the current rhetoric in some parts of our political landscape and is spurring some Malaysians to engage in a contest over what it means to be Malaysian.
For certain the question is not a new one. The DAP has for the longest time been brandishing the motto of “Bangsa Malaysia” in an attempt to dismantle the Barisan Nasional (BN)’s race-based politics. DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang, for one, is nowhere close to letting up on this issue. He has demanded repeatedly for, especially, Umno politicians to declare if they are Malaysian or Malay first.
And while Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin seemingly failed the test question, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz recently scored some points by declaring he was “Malaysian first and Malay next”. But is the question really about which should come first? Why does it seem to matter so much? And which of the two labels — one about race and the other about citizenship — is more profoundly important to us as Malaysian citizens?
Asset vs liability
If there’s anything that we’ve learnt from our series of Found in Malaysia interviews, it’s that our identities are far more complex than, first, the British colonialists and now, the BN government would like us to believe.