UPDATE (16 Dec. 2008)
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"... Umno information chief Tan Sri Muhammad Muhd Taib says ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy) is just a catchphrase, and does NOT exist in real life.
He said ketuanan Melayu was a phrase coined by some people for purposes best known to themselves. He reminded those who talked about ketuanan Melayu the whole day, or write and sing about it that at the end of the day it is meaningless no matter how much many times they shout "ketuanan Melayu" if they do nothing to better themselves.
Muhammad Taib said what should be noted is that Malays do not have the the vast knowledge and capability to to compete with others, and whatever talk about ketuanan Melayu and Malay dominance is irrelevant...."
Read here for more
- Read here: "Linguistics and the Third Reich (Nazi Germany) : Mother-tongue Fascism, Race and the Science of Language", by Christopher M. Hutton
"FASCISM sees the struggle of NATION and RACE (read: 'ketuanan melayu' ) as fundamental in society, in OPPOSITION to CAPITALISM's focus on the value of productivity and individualism.
The nation is seen in FASCISM as a single organic entity which binds people together by their ancestry and is seen as a natural unifying force of people.
FASCISM seeks to solve existing economic, political, and social problems by exalting the nation or race (read: 'bangsa') above all else, and promoting cults of unity, strength and purity...."
Read here for more
A Middle-Class Malay Perspective:
"... The definition of ketuanan Melayu seems to be Umno. It always seems to lead back to Umno’s agenda. The tone of it is fascistic.
The biggest thing that makes me uneasy about the concept of ketuanan Melayu is that it’s increasingly being used in fascist ways.
(It is) outmoded, out of step with the times we live in, when the world is becoming more and more global. The world over, people are bringing down barriers of race, yet we are trying to instill and install those outmoded values.
I think the races should be treated equally. My personal view is that we should give everybody equal opportunities because the policies favouring Malays haven’t been used properly.
And given that the people who are supposed to safeguard the correct implementation of the (NEP) policies are the same ones who benefit from them, I’m not optimistic that those policies will be correctly implemented.
It is so easy to play to the rural Malay masses, to instill that kind of fear, and make people feel extremely powerless.
(And) there’s no tradition of talking critically about race and identity politics. You’re almost suspended in a vacuum..."
A middle class Malay perspective
Excerpts: Read here for more
In the debate over the concept of ketuanan Melayu and the Malay community’s political future, the quiet voices of urban middle-class Malays have yet to make themselves heard.
I spoke to several members of a tribe that, while small in number, is intriguing from a social anthropology perspective.
Anak "Datuk" Class
The Malays of the anak Datuk class – the children of senior civil servants and technocrats whose parents’ careers in public service predated the Mahathir era – are interesting in that their values and ideas about Malaysia must have been formed at least in part by their families’ experiences of nation building.
As their parents made the country, it stands to reason that they would have a considerable emotional stake in how it develops in the future... (and) their feelings about ketuanan Melayu show a marked diversity.
- Fahmi Fadzil
Fahmi Fadzil, 27, is a writer and performer. He is the son of Datuk Fadzil Yunus, the former director-general – and later general manager – of the Felda group of companies, and Datin Fauziah Ramly, a senior civil servant who was most recently a Commissioner with the Public Service Commission.
I asked him what he makes of the concept of ketuanan Melayu (and) does he subscribe in any way to the idea that the Malays are the natural leaders – or in some way the owners – of Malaysia?
“I never grew up thinking about it (Ketuanan Melayu) very much. My parents never spoke to me about it. Even when I was in college the whole matter was never really present in how I saw things.
I think because I live in KL – and especially because my parents came from that group of earlier middle class Malay civil servants – I don’t think I would subscribe to ideas of ketuanan Melayu.
On my father’s side I’m the fourth generation born on this peninsula, on my mother’s side just the third generation, so I see myself as a pendatang too.
No. I don’t subscribe to the idea of a natural leadership role for the Malays. More than that, as a Muslim, I don’t see the need for this. There is no such thing as one group being ethnically superior to another.
The thing I remember most from school, from kelas agama, (is that) from the early days of Islam there was a clear message that you were all the same. Whether you were Arabs or not, you are all the same now.
We should be talking about values and principles held by people rather than subscribing to simplistic ideas of certain ethnicities being the owners of the land. I don’t subscribe to that, and even if I did, I think the rightful owners would be the Orang Asal.”
- Datuk Zahim Albakri
Datuk Zahim Albakri, 45, the director and actor, is the son of Datuk Ikmal Hisham Albakri, the first Malay architect and the first President of Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia, who designed the National Library, Putra World Trade Centre, and the Bank Bumiputera headquarters in KL.
Zahim’s grandfather, Datuk Seri Mustafa Albakri, of the Malayan Civil Service, was the first Commissioner of the Election Commission and the first Keeper of the Ruler’s Seal.
For Zahim, coming to grips with the concept of ketuanan Melayu means dispelling ambiguity:
“There seems to be a confusion between the bumiputera policy (the New Economic Policy) and the idea of ketuanan Melayu.
The bumiputera policy was a reaction to the riots of 1969, whereas ketuanan Melayu, in the Constitution, I don’t think is particularly giving special privileges or rights to the Malays, it’s to ensure that the Malay Rulers have a certain place, to ensure that those institutions continue.
I grew up in a family where we were brought up with the understanding that the Malay rulers are there, and this is our history, our culture.
I grew up with my granddad being proudly Malay, and proudly Orang Perak. There was this sense of being proud of our culture. But never were we made to think that being Malay gave us a right to something beyond.
I was brought up (to believe) that every citizen in Malaysia was equal. I was never brought up believing that Malays should have more than everyone else.
(On having a non-Malay Prime Minister), I have no problem with a non-Malay PM. It should be about their competence. It should be the best person for the job.”
- Datin Saidah Rastam
The composer Datin Saidah Rastam comes from a family steeped in public life. Her maternal grandfather was Perak’s 14th Datuk Panglima Kinta, who held 56 public service posts at the time of his death.
Her father is Datuk Rastam Hadi, the former managing director of Petronas and former deputy governor of Bank Negara. Her husband is the urbane lawyer-turned-banker Datuk Charon Mokhzani (who, with exquisite politeness, declined to be interviewed for this article).
“I think the races should be treated equally and the biggest thing that makes me uneasy about the concept of ketuanan Melayu is that it’s increasingly being used in fascist ways.
(The NEP) was a necessary thing at the time, given the racial tensions, but that’s different from the concept of Malay supremacy.
Tun Razak said that that was only for that time, and this NEP thing would end at some point, so that’s different from the notion that there’s an inherent Malay supremacy that can’t be questioned, which I’m very uneasy with.
I’m somebody who benefited from the policies which favoured Malays – at the outset I’m happy to admit that. But looking at things today, my personal view is that we should give everybody equal opportunities because the policies favouring Malays haven’t been used properly.
And given that the people who are supposed to safeguard the correct implementation of the policies are the same ones who benefit from them, I’m not optimistic that those policies will be correctly implemented.”
- Dain-Iskandar Said
Dain-Iskandar Said is a writer and film director. His father was Datuk Mohamed Said Zain, a diplomat and intelligence officer.
" (The concept of ketuanan Melayu) is outmoded, out of step with the times we live in, when the world is becoming more and more global. The world over, people are bringing down barriers of race, yet we are trying to instill and install those outmoded values.”
First, what is a Malay? Most Malays I know are some kind of mix, so who defines being Malay? Who are the guardians of the definition?
The definition of ketuanan Melayu seems to be Umno; it always seems to lead back to Umno’s agenda.
I’m not saying that outside of it it’s not valid; it may be valid to a lot of people. I can understand that. The main problem is the way it’s implemented. The tone of it is fascistic.”
(The promotion of the tenets of ketuanan Melayu ) exposes deep insecurity, because if you really believe you are leading this country, what are you so scared of ?
I don’t think any of the other races want to take that away from you. They can’t, because in the Constitution are enshrined certain precepts.
While many of us middle class Malays can be liberal and open, there’s never been any kind of infrastructure that supports ideas or traditions of openness.
So on the one hand you have people who are willing to be open and liberal, but on the other hand it is so easy to destroy it, because there is no critical, intellectual or educational infrastructure to support those ideas.
When you attack something that has no support, it is so easy to play to the rural Malay masses, to instill that kind of fear, and make people feel extremely powerless.
There’s no tradition of talking critically about race and identity politics. You’re almost suspended in a vacuum.”
Malaysia’s many problems and tensions should not be ignored.
They need to be addressed by continued, forthright yet respectful debate by citizens, and the issue of ketuanan Melayu is NO exception.
There is hope yet for Malaysia – Opinions on Ketuanan Melayu
Farouk A. Peru
Read here for more
Call me a pessimist but when I look at Malaysian politics, I see bleak futures. The reason for my pessimism is the prevalence of the kind of politics which is destined to bring about division among Malaysians: racial and religious communalism (read: UMNO and PAS respectively).
However, after reading this article, I was heartened because there are now seeds of change among the Malays. After all, the head of the Parti Socialis Malaysia is a Malay, Dr Mohd. Nasir Hashim.
The interviewees are whom Huzir Sulaiman considers to be middle-class Malays, Malays of the Anak Datuk class whose parents were top-level civil servants and technocrats BEFORE the time of Tun M(ahathir.)
Does Huzir detect perhaps a change after Tun M(ahathir ) came into power? Perhaps it was Tun M’s subtly xenophobic policies which rerouted the direction towards which Malaysians were going towards instead, the divisive mess we have today. I would find that extremely ironic given my opinion of Tun M’s giant intellect.
The people whom Huzir (interviewed) were diverse in their opinions about Ketuanan Melayu but all shared the same basic notion that the concept was unacceptable.
Fahmi Fadzil whose father was the general manager of the Felda group of companies and mother was a commissioner with the Public Services Commission (both very Melayu institutions) would NOT subscribe to the idea of Ketuanan Melayu and very honestly admits that his own parents were descendants of pendatangs! I had to reread this last paragraph a few times to make sure I had not misunderstood.
But there it was – clear as day – Fahmi had admitted the fact most Malays are loathe to admit. Except for the Orang Asli, Fahmi asserts, we are all pendatangs.
Fahmi was not done yet. He then asserted that as a Muslim, the idea of Ketuanan Melayu was not acceptable. Islam , he believes, eradicated the differences between the races.
I would add that while Islam itself has done this, Muslims themselves have not put this into practise. Muslims have created another racial construct out of the amalgamated Islamic cultures and excluded those who don’t belong to this construct, calling them ‘kafirs’. I would further assert that the Quran itself does NOT promote this, asserting that essentially, mankind is one nation (2/213). However, we must still congratulate Fahmi for daring to go where no PAS man has dared gone before.
Another interviewee was Zahim Albakri, - quite a pedigree of Melayuness indeed - yet Zahim says, although he is proud of being a Malay and a Perakian Malay at that, this pride did NOT entail an ‘othering’ of fellow Malaysians. Rather, he believes that all citizens are equal and doesn’t even have a problem with a non-Malay prime minister!
The last interviewee was Saidah Rahim. She carefully historicised the NEP, deeming it necessary at the time of its inception. I disagree with this idea myself. I believe that the Malays, being Muslims, should have established the Quranic social program (not to be mistaken for the Taliban state, please) which aims to provide growth for all human beings regardless of race and religion. Using the rhetoric of race is never necessary and always detrimental.
The article focussed on middle-class Malays but I imagine Huzir would agree that there are upper and working class Malays who are just as enthusiastic about a truly democratic and equitable Malaysia.
The dream isn’t that far away but the realisation would take effort and determination and most of all, a paradigm shift of titanic proportions.