I have been perturbed by many events of the past one year, starting with the spurt of racial remarks by some UMNO leaders on non-Malays, the sudden rise of the so-called “Malay Sovereignty” (Ketuanan Melayu) and the “social contract”, increasing resentment on the UMNO, the call by some quarters for the unity among the Malay parties (for example UMNO and PAS “muzakarah”), and now the questions about the role of the Sultan in “protecting” the Malay rights and the constitution. At the same time I can sense a real discontentment and restlessness among the Malays on one part; and on the other, the feeling of hopelessness and despair begins to fill the air. I began to wonder, if this is something that has come forth only because of events of late? Or is it that all of these are just reminiscences of a more serious matter that has been at the core of the Malay problems that has been accumulating and building up over the years?
The problem is, you can’t find genuine and healthy discussions on the Malays issues, because the government has been suppressing it for so many years. Whenever these matters are brought up, it will be done in a political context which are heavily manipulated and spun by the mass media to the point that all the fundamental issues will be lost in a bunch of confounding rhetoric. Any genuine attempts to discuss the subject in the mainstream will be curtailed and a lid will immediately be put on it, under the pretext of “safe guarding” the racial harmony in the country.
Under such atmosphere, nobody dares to seriously undertake the subject, very little or almost non-existence of academic research and studies (at the local front), and therefore, the only avenues seems to be discussions in the blogosphere as well as the internet medium (which gave some form of unanimity and conceal the identity of the persons), and day to day discussions among the laymen. The problem that I found in these medium tends to be filled with emotions, anger, frustrations and hyped with lot of sentiments which in turns may aggravate the matter even further.
In this article (and few upcoming articles), I will make an attempt as best as I could to document and hypothesized the Malay issues and hopefully provide critical discourse on the subject matter. I hope that the readers may share and even contemplate on it, and in the process, provide beneficial thoughts and actions that are for our own good.
So let me start with a historical facts about the Malays: “The Malays rose from a very simple agrarian society, never had a long historical traditions to rely on, poorly defined identity, and never being unified under a single ruler or Kingdom, easily segregated into factions and camps that fought each other, and therefore are weak and not equipped to face bigger and major challenges”.
The above statement off course is invented by me, and may cause some Malays to jump on my neck and will be rejected outright by many Malay nationalists. Unfortunately, it is true. The Malays (as I explained in the “Origins of the Malays and Malaysia”), by virtue of its Diasporas and migrations to the region, spread out among the Islands and river banks, remains agrarian and simple society until as recent as 200 years ago. We can’t boast that the Malays have tradition of let say “Malay philosophy”, or “Malay wisdoms”, or any major civilization achievements that others can learn upon. History tells us that over the last 1000 years, the Malays are organized along small Kingdoms across various Islands, which in turns are constantly in conflict with each other. There were never attempts by anyone to unify the Malays across the archipelagos and to establish a unified system, or language, or establish a common base; except that by force, the British and the Dutch creates the so-called two main nations of the Malays: Malaysia (British) and Indonesia (Dutch). If not by virtue of the colonialists, today we probably we have twenty separate Malay nations in the region. The Malays succumbed to any invading power with very little or almost no resistance at all (to the Colonials, Siam, and etc) – why? Because the Malays are easily divided, hard to be unified, have weak leaders, factional fighting (Perak is the example, when the British was called to intercede between the two Prince, which ended up in Pangkor agreement – which begins the British occupation of Malaya). The Malays history is the clearest evidence of the above statement.
Due to such history, the Malays today, are among the weakest of any race in the region and easily succumbed to repeat back what historically they used to be. In the study of human history, many civilization and race, has rise up to prominence and zenith of its power; then after hundreds or thousands of years, suddenly they collapse and today has gone into oblivion, while others transformed itself into another totally new forms of civilizations. Empires rose to its heights, then later on broken up into pieces. But through the process, it creates and define a certain race and people, it also provide the foundations and define their character. There are numerous example that can be listed, such as the Chinese civilization of thousands of years, the Roman empire (which sets the western civilization today), the Islamic empire (that spans a period of 1000 years), the Ottoman (that dominate Eastern Europe for more than 500 years), the Maya and Inca of Latin America, the Mongols and so on. Why the Malays never boast neither a civilization nor an empire? Because they were never equipped, organized or setup to be such. Therefore, what makes anyone think that we can undo the history and beat the odds that we can change overnight and be that great race?
“The Malays are by nature tends to have deep resentment against each other, and would rather fail together than to see anyone succeed; and they tend to have high level of vindictiveness and prone to be scheming against each other. They would rather deal with someone else, rather than their own people because they have a lot of mistrusts to one another.”
I can’t prove the above statement is true. It is just a hypothesis that I make to describe the behaviour that I have observed. May be it is also true for non-Malays as well, or maybe it is a universal character of the human beings and not only apply exclusively for the Malays. However, the fact is today, I have seen that such things are prevalent and quite wide spread among the Malay community –which makes me wonder why that is the case. Is it because the history makes us to behave in such manner, or is it that the cultural build up transforms us to be in such predicament? At first, I never thought that Malays, being among the most polite and nicest people, can act and behave in such ways; but my experience over the last twenty years prove it to be true. When you are on the pedestal of success, you are being revered to the maximum; you thought that your admirers are genuine and sincere, only to discover later that they will try to it your own flesh alive, if they were given the chance to. Fair and honourable ways of gaining an advantage over your “competitor” is not something that you naturally seek; but rather avoid at all costs (this is totally opposite to the examples of fair and honesty like the Japanese tradition of Samurai, the code of honour (“Bushido”) is revered; or in the Sicilian Mafia, the code of “Omerta” is sanctified – which paradoxically are practiced among the “worst” kind of people). The above statement is off course prevalent in the Malay politics, but surprisingly it is also true among the common people as well. There are many evidences pointing to such things: for example, why Rahim Nor hit and injure Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim will under police custody whereas those things are beyond normal human decency? Why when a new group of people have grabbed over power, they will eliminate all the cronies of the previous group and will push them into extinction? Why it is so hard to get the Malays in Kampung Baru to unite and work together, because clearly they will better off with their properties, than to keep it as it is?
“The Malay society has a weak genetic build up; Years of Malay rules and domination on politics has ingrained and further reinforced such build up that eventually the Malays end up even weaker and less resilient. The Malays are ill equipped to compete, tend to be rent seekers and seek easy way out to get rewards; they tend to be contented very easily with meagre achievements and rewards, and generally myopic in outlook. Their successes generally are very short lived and cannot even last longer than two generations.”
Again, above statement are bombastic and can be considered a massive generalization of the Malays, which many would argue to be too harsh. But then, can we prove that it is not true? The problem is, the more I observe, the more I believe that it is true – because I it is very hard for me to find proofs and examples that show me otherwise. In the 80s we saw few successful Malays businessmen such as Syed Kechik and others – but where are they today? Are there any successors to their empire that we can count on? Then in 90s there are a bunch of other businessmen such as Halim Saad and others – where are they today? Yet we see for example, YTL that was there in 80s and 90s, and they are still around and going strong today. Out of so many Class A bumiputra contractors that were awarded numerous jobs – can we find any of them who can compete internationally?
“Malays are not stupid; in fact they are as intelligent as any other races. However, they are rather pessimistic and submissive in nature; less resenting and more willing to submit to the authorities; would rather absorb their pains than to complaint about it. They would rather compete with their own people, less innovative and would rather buck the trend instead of going against it .They tend to blame others for their own problems, and always hope that someone else solve their problems rather than taking their own initiatives to overcome it”
Definitely IQ or intelligence is not the source of problem for the Malays. It is proven that a Papuan man is as intelligent as an American man; therefore the Malays are definitely not less intelligent than any other races. So what is? It is the attitude. Why such attitude has become so synonym with the Malays is something that puzzles me. May be it is the upbringing and self fulfilling prophecy – that is you were told that you will be such when you grow up, therefore, as you grow up, you behave in what you have been told, and therefore, the prophecy becomes reality. Eventually everyone believes that is true, and hence, everyone will grow up in the same manner and further reinforce the prophecy (an example of this legend of the curse of Langkawi).
To be continued….