By Mariam Mokhtar
The Umno-Baru General Assembly is always a grand affair. Hundreds of datuks and datins congregate in one place for several days. They wear their uniforms of blood red, puce pink or royal blue, but the uber rich are differentiated from the rest by the latest imported luxury cars in which they arrive.
If cattle are the status symbol of wealth for the Masai of Kenya, then handbags, watches and cars are the Malaysian equivalent. To alight from a luxury car with a unique number plate tells others that you have reached the inner circle.
At this year’s assembly, there’s the usual sabre rattling that we’ve been hearing every year in the past few years. The Malays are warned that the Chinese are out to destroy them.
And, of course, there’s the theme of Ketuanan Melayu. The fictional story Firdaus, a successful young Malay man, is told in a leaflet promoted by the Higher Education Ministry.
A few days ago, the DPM, Zahid Hamidi, likened the opposition to the Nazis. He does not know his history. The irony is that the Nazis promoted the supremacy of the Aryan race, much like Umno-Baru promotes Ketuanan Melayu. In the end, the Nazis were destroyed by the combined efforts of strange bedfellows – communist Russia, capitalist America and imperial Britain.
In the back-to-the-future story of Firdaus, we are told that he had memorised the Quran by the time he was 15. He is fluent in French, Mandarin, Arabic, English and Malay. He gained triple first class degrees in mathematics, accounting, and syariah law from Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia before he qualified with an MBA from an unspecified university in France and a PhD from Harvard.
If only the Higher Education Ministry had a magic formula to get more Malay boys to study and not drop out of school. These dropouts excel at becoming Mat Rempits. The fiction hides the Malay reality.
Firdaus, the young adult, becomes a CEO for a wakaf-based entity called SU Corporation. Flying on a private jet, he is seen leaving London for New York, where he is to sign an agreement for the purchase of a corporate office next to the Trump Tower in New York.
The really worked overtime on this one. One only wishes that they could be a bit more creative in depicting Firdaus’s choice of travel. By 2050, we won’t be rattling around in jets, but probably in teleporters. The Trump Tower will probably be dwarfed by other towers, or would have been demolished to make way for more green areas.
Firdaus drinks espresso while talking to his mother, who is in Baling, Kedah. She is wearing a red tudung which her son bought from a boutique in Milan. It is hilarious that Firdaus’ mother speaks to her son on an old Nokia phone. These phones will be museum pieces by 2050, and it is doubtful that the technology to support it will still be around. The choice of Baling is significant, as Baling was where hungry farmers staged hunger riots during Anwar Ibrahim’s student days.
In what is clearly designed to show Firdaus’ compassion, we are told that he will be returning home to help poor families.
If only that were true. So many of our young don’t care for their elderly parents, let alone other people. The budget allocation for the elderly this year was negligible.
Anyhow, where is the successful Malay woman? Is she busy taking care of her brood of 12 in a high rise condominium?
Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.
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