Tuesday 15 July 2008

UMNO's Smoke-Screen for Malays' Perceived Insecurity After March 8 Election

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More than four months since the March 8 general election, some say the Malay community is in its worst-ever crisis.

Others disagree. Such uneasiness (is due) to Umno's hold on the psyche of Malays as the ONLY protector of their interests.

PKR deputy chief and former Universiti Malaya sociology professor Dr Syed Husin Ali calls this a convenient smokescreen for Umno.

"They have MISTAKENLY associated the welfare of the Malays with Umno, and that's why there is all this talk about a crisis.

So if Umno does not do well in the elections, they interpret this as the Malays being threatened.

It was NOT the Malays that lost out (in the election), it was Umno."

Ribut (stormy), berpecah (disunited) and gadai negeri (selling out the country) are some of the terms bandied about in describing what has been called the worst crisis in the Malay community since Independence.

In early May, 2008 the Federation of National Writers Association (Gapena) brought together Malay non-governmental organisations in Johor Baru for three days of talks on how to tackle the "crisis".

The result was the formation of Majlis Muafakat Melayu Malaysia (Malaysian Malay Solidarity Council -- 4M).

Majlis Muafakat Melayu Malaysia (Malaysian Malay Solidarity Council)
warned that unless something immediate and drastic is done, "Melayu akan menjadi musafir di negeri sendiri" (the Malays will be dispossessed in their own land).

Majlis Muafakat Melayu Malaysia sees itself as a non-partisan body to ensure Malays remain "first among equals" among Malaysian communities, no matter what party is in power.

What was especially traumatising for (these) Malay associations and groups that make up 4M is the loss of the Malay heartland states of Kedah and Perak, and to a certain extent Selangor. The groups believe that Malaysia's political landscape post-March 8 will see the demise of the Malays' special position and privileges, and the community's dominance in charting the nation's future.

The 4M warns the ideology of ketuanan Melayu (Malay dominance) and kedaulatan Melayu (Malay sovereignty) will "hilang di dunia" (fade from the world).

A set of resolutions (was presented) to the Sultan of Johor, including demands that Malays and Malay customs remain dominant in the nation's politics, economy and culture. Gapena chairman Tan Sri Ismail Hussin emphasised that these demands neither supported nor was supported by any political party.

Its detractors denounce (4M) as a proxy of Umno. The similarity of tenor and message between supporters of the congress and Umno led critics to question whether or not such a crisis really exists among the Malays.

Malay intellectuals NOT affiliated with 4M argue that Malay political representation was UNTOUCHED by the March 8 "tsunami".

  • In the 2004 elections, when the Barisan Nasional had had its best showing, 120 parliamentary seats had gone to Malay MPs. After the last election, there are now 121.

  • The seats Umno lost went to other Malays, whether from Pas or Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR). Malay MPs even took over seats once held by non-Malays, such as Kuantan, Kota Raja and Teluk Kemang.

  • Prof Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi contends that concerns for the loss of kedaulatan Melayu and the special position of the Malays as enshrined in Article 153 of the Constitution are also UNFOUNDED. Prof Faruqi said the only way Article 153 could be amended would be by a two-thirds vote in the Dewan Rakyat and the approval of the Rulers' Council.

    Prof Faruqi wrote:
    "In the Constitution, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is the protector of the special position of the Malays.

    Whatever the results of a general election, this special position will not be affected."

Kedaulatan Melayu, in short, is held NOT by any political party but by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the nine Malay rulers.

"When it comes to choosing the prime minister," says Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia political scientist Prof Dr Mohammad Agus Yusoff, "the king has the power to choose whom he views can command the confidence of the Dewan Rakyat."

The sultans also have this prerogative over their states, as seen in Perak when Pas' Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin was chosen as menteri besar despite his party holding the fewest seats in the Pakatan Rakyat state government.

4M's claim that it represents Malays is also undermined by the results of the last general election, when tens of thousands helped elect 40 Malay MPs from non-Umno parties.

Says Syed Husin,

"Malays are actually asking, what has Umno really done for them despite being in power for the past 50 years?

The largest segment of the poor are still the Malays."
Mohammad Agus says the general election results reflect a MATURITY in the Malay electorate.

At heart is a question of identity, Mohammad Agus says:

"Whether the Malays will subscribe to a politics of enthnocentric dominance or something more inclusive.

The diversity among Malay politicians now, with their different ideologies and beliefs, can only be a GOOD thing as they compete with each other for the vote of the community.

The BEST Malay politician WILL emerge."

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