Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser, 5 Aug 2016

Mahathir’s new “Bumi-only” party deserves to be shunned like the other mono-ethnic parties in the BN. I am truly surprised that leaders of Pakatan Harapan as well as some civil society leaders have welcomed this new party with open arms when it is neither civil nor hopeful.

Can any civil society leader or political leader espousing progressive reforms for our country accept a political party that is open only to “Bumiputeras”? Have they lost their marbles simply because Mahathir is staunchly anti-Najib? They better come to their senses or they may lose their credibility altogether in their contortionist bid to perform the art of the possible.

Racism and racial discrimination have been part of Malaysian political, economic, social and cultural realities ever since colonial times. Today, race has been so deeply institutionalised that it is a key factor determining benefits from government development policies, bids for business contracts, education policy, social policy, cultural policy, entry into educational institutions, discounts for purchasing houses and other official policies. Practically every aspect of Malaysian life is permeated by the so-called “Bumiputra policy” based on Malay-centrism. This is unabashedly spelled out by political leaders in the daily mass media in Malaysia.

Institutional racism is an integral part of the Malaysian socio-political system. The ruling coalition is still dominated by racially-defined component parties, the United Malays National Organisation, the Malaysian Chinese Association and the Malaysian Indian Congress. These parties compete for electoral support from their respective “racial” constituencies by pandering to “racial” interests. Invariably, their racist inclinations are exposed at their respective party congresses.

UMNO, the ruling party continues to insist that “Malay Unity” and even “Malay Dominance” are essential for National Unity. “Malay dominance” is invariably used interchangeably with “Malay Privileges”, which these ruling Malay elite justify in the Malaysian Federal Constitution. No doubt Mahathir is still caught up in this racist ideology.

Reformists must transcend “Race”

It is time for Malaysians to reaffirm the non-discriminatory basis of the Federal Constitution and to uphold human rights principles which are strictly anti-racist. Article 8 (1) of the Malaysian Constitution clearly spells out the principle of equality of all Malaysians while Article 12 (1) allows no discrimination against any citizens on the grounds of religion, race, descent or place of birth.

While it is widely recognised that racial polarisation exists in many Malaysian institutions such as schools, universities, the civil service, it must be stressed that this is not a “natural” consequence of a plural society. On the contrary, through the years there have been deliberate attempts by those in power to create divisions among the people. There is general agreement that racial polarisation has its origins in colonial divide-and-rule strategy.

The racialist formula (UMNO-MCA-MIC) was institutionalised in the Alliance at Independence and perpetuated by the Barisan Nasional to the present day. Attempts at creating racial discord among the people continue to be perpetrated in public institutions and the mass media whenever it suits the politicians.

Of all the official policies and public institutions which practice racial discrimination, there is none more pervasive than the New Economic Policy (NEP) which has been implemented as a fait accompli after the Emergency declared in 1969. Although its specific objectives were “restructuring of society to correct the economic imbalance of wealth holding which led to the identification of race with economic function” and “eradication of poverty irrespective of race”, the NEP has been implemented these thirty years in a racially discriminatory way with little transparency or accountability.

Racist game over, Tun

Mahathir’s “Malay Dilemma” was an instant hit among the emergent Malay state capitalists in UMNO since it provided the instant recipe for them to rally populist support for their bid for power during May 13, 1969. It was the time tested recipe for opportunistic politicians to use “race” as the rallying cry for political support.

Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” was of course the model of such a political route. Since the demise of Hitler and his race-steeped ideology and the price paid in blood by the freedom loving peoples of the world, racism, racial discrimination and other forms of intolerance have been outlawed in the world community.

The very existence of racially-based political parties – UMNO, MCA and MIC – is an anachronism way past their sell-by date. Where in the world today can one find political parties that are restricted to only one race?

Time for non-racial solutions to Malaysian challenges

We will only truly be a united nation when we ban race-based political parties from our midst and ratify the Convention on the Eradication of Racism and Racial Discrimination (CERD). This can be done through a Race & Religious Relations Act and Equality & Human Rights Commission. It would be the mother of all transformations!

Political parties formed on the basis of “race” to further the interests of their respective “races” should be outlawed as such practices are inconsistent with international conventions against racism and racial discrimination.

My admonition to Tun is:

“Wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age.  Sometimes age just shows up all by itself.”