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Kampung Don Quixotes and their Enemies
Dr. Bakri Musa
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Leaders of Kongress Permuafakatan Melayu (Malay Solidarity Congress) are obsessed with fighting imagined enemies of so-called Ketuanan Melayu.
These kampong Don Quixotes are consumed with slaying foes that exist only in their florid imaginations.
These leaders (of Kongress Permuafakatan Melayu) are oblivious to the fact that the world mocks them with undisguised contempt.
It saddens me that this Congress was led by Ismail Hussein and Osman Bakar, intellectual giants for whom I have the greatest respect.
Ismail was the long-time head of the Malay Studies Department at the University of Malaya, while Osman was a former professor at Georgetown University.
It seems that every few years the Malay elite, as well as those who think that they belong there, go into spasms of agony and feel compelled to gather and pontificate on what ills our people.
The pattern is also predictable: a flood of shrill press releases, followed by an elaborate congress officiated by some “has-been” leaders, and the ensuing slew of high-minded resolutions calling on the government to “do something!”
The hue and cry would persist for a few weeks, at most.
A few months later and all would be forgotten.
Give a few more years and those same issues would again be resurrected, and the whole pattern repeated.
This latest Congress (Kongress Permuafakatan Melayu) was sponsored by GAPENA, the Malay acronym for the National Writers Association. Despite its pretentious “national” label, GAPENA is essentially a Malay entity.
Writing is not exactly a well-paying profession, more so for Malay writers. So for GAPENA to sponsor this event at an upscale facility and pay for the accommodations of the attendees must mean that it had a sugar daddy. (Even the Bar Council, the body for a more lucrative profession, depended on the government to pay for its recent gala dinner for Prime Minister Abdullah and the fired judges.)
Reading the papers presented and resolutions adopted, I am persuaded by the wisdom, “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” It is obvious who funds these pipers at the Congress. The papers and resolutions were so shamelessly pro-UMNO that they could have been ghost written by its operatives.
The congress attracted over 200 Malay NGOs. Many were sham organizations created overnight so their “president” and “secretary” could enjoy a three-day paid syok sendiri (self indulgence) stay in Johore Baru.
The more than two dozen resolutions adopted dealt with Islam, politics, education, as well as Malay language and culture, among others.
These folks obviously CONFUSED the problems of Malays with those of UMNO.
Or perhaps this was a clumsy attempt by UMNO to use politically naïve and all-too-willing academics to advance its cause.
The participants obviously did not ponder a simple thought. If after over five decades of UMNO rule the “Malay problem” is getting worse (as this congress tried to impress upon us), would it not make sense now to let others take over?
This Congress also decided to set up a permanent secretariate, Majlis Muafakat Melayu Malaysia (4M) – Malay Solidarity Council of Malaysia.
They initially decided to form “3M” without the “Malaysia,” but seeing that the famous trademark was already taken, they belatedly added the fourth “M.”
In so doing they also revealed their insularity, for the problems afflicting us are also shared by others in the greater Malay world.
Their amateurism again showed when they failed to flesh out important details like how the secretariate would be funded.
Malays do not have to create phantom enemies out there; our problems are real, and right in front of and within us.
Peruse the daily headlines of abandoned babies and rampaging Mat Rempits, as well as the statistics on child and spousal abuses, school dropout rates, and other socioeconomic indices.
Besides, nobody is suggesting doing away with Malay sultans, language, or culture. Abolishing Malay special privileges – the mortal and eternal fear of these folks – would require a constitutional amendment. The votes are just not there, now or in the future.
These congresses serve only to divert our attention; they offer NO thoughtful solutions.
As you smoke that expensive Cuban cigar in a posh restaurant, ponder how many days a villager would have to work to pay for it.
As most high-flying Malays today are only a generation removed from the grinding poverty of the kampong, that thought ought to restrain their flamboyance. This earning equivalent is also what bankers consider before giving out loans, as for example, mortgage payments not exceeding a third of your income. That is being prudent. It will also save you from the lethal clutches of the Ah Longs.
Note: A few years ago there was the Badan Tindakan Melayu (Malay Action Front) led by Ghaffar Baba, after he lost his chance to be the country’s number one. A few years prior to that, there was the Forum of Malay Professionals.