The Sungai Kandis question: Do Malays want to be Malaysians?

By Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi

The short answer to the title as a question above is…no. Malays, from my academic reading, just want to be Malays and Muslims. They think other people like Chinese and Indians and Kadazans should be Malaysians. Not the Malays.

Why? Well, the Malays for some reason feel that this country is historically theirs and other people are just “pendatang” or immigrants. Never mind that some of these Malays come from Minangkabau, Indonesia, or from Pattani, Thailand, or from some of the other thousands of islands in the archipelago, they still think this country is “historically” theirs.

My ancestry is barely 100 years old, from Pattani while my wife’s great grandfather got off the boat at the turn of the 19th century from Minangkabau.

To me, we are all “pendatang” – except those indigenous Orang Asli whom we “Malays” have pushed away to the periphery of existence. We modern Malays are just like the Europeans who settled in North America by displacing the arrow-shooting Indians from their ancestral lands.

I have friends, relatives, co-workers at a prestigious public university, and also classmates who are Malays. I guess the number would reach roughly 500. If you include my public university students, the number would be 10 times as high but I do not have much contact with them. Aside from my five children and one wife, I would say none of the Malays I know wants to be Malaysian. They all want to be patriotic Malays or religious Muslims. Only when they are overseas would you hear them proclaiming themselves to be “Malaysian”. Why? Their country is Malaysia and their passports say they are Malaysians.

Thus it is so sad to hear a high ranking PAS politician say that the only thing the Malay voters should think about is “Melayu dan Islam”. To hell with Malaysia – perhaps that might be the sentiment. I was most happy at first to hear Khairy Jamaluddin wanting, at long last, to be Malaysian. But he lost in the contest for the Umno presidency and Umno now wants to be “Melayu dulu, kini dan selamanya”.

The Sungai Kandis by-election will be upon us sooner than we think. The numbers are frightening. PAS garnered 7,573 votes, obviously from Malays, for the seat in the May 9 general election which was won by a Pakatan Harapan candidate. Umno garnered 11,518 votes, I guess mostly from Malays too. When one academic said Umno should not play the race and religious card, I wanted to laugh. What else are Umno and PAS good at? Management? Honesty? Integrity? Allow me to use Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s eloquent phrase…”Podah!!”

The phrases “Menteri Kewangan Cina” and “Peguam Negara India” and many other “Cina” rhetoric will definitely be the order of the day. Now, the funny thing is, I am not blaming or attacking Umno and PAS for this. These two parties, believe it or not, are, in one sense, innocent.

The Malay voters are the real problem. Not Umno and PAS. It is the Malay goreng pisang seller as well as the Malay university professor who are racist and simply selfish about what the country should be. Even if Umno and PAS were to be dissolved one day, it would still not solve the “Malays want to be Melayu and not Malaysian” syndrome.

Our religious and so-called academic education are the real culprits: they have produced a majority of Malays who do not care what being a Malaysian is all about.

After the Sungai Kandis by-election, we will be celebrating our Merdeka. Now, in light of the country being deep in debt, I suggest that we forego spending money on this year’s Merdeka celebration. Anyway, what are we celebrating, really? To me it’s same old same old. As the Malay Pulau Pinang saying goes…“pi mai pi mai dok tang tu jugak”.

Of course, many Malays reading this piece will try to drown out my voice by shouting that the Chinese and Indians also want to be Chinese and Indians and not Malaysians, and that they are the real problem in this Tanah Melayu!

I have many Chinese and Indian friends. I truly believe they all want to be Malaysians, unlike the Melayu friends that I have. Many are disappointed, sad and completely frightened at the attitude of most Malays who do not seem to care about our formula of co-existence and want only their side of the equation “dulu, kini dan selamanya”.

With the new Pakatan Harapan government there is now, perhaps, an opportunity to rekindle the light that is almost diminishing, the flame that is the life force of Malaysia, Will it flare up into a torch and beacon of hope or will it be blown off by the mere wisp of Malay racism and Islamic bigotry? I would like to contribute my idea and ideal of what it is to be a Malaysian:

“A Malaysian is one who is proud of his or her own race, religion and ethnic culture but also views other races with a different religion and culture as a necessary and critical part of their social, economic and spiritual life.

As there is no family that has children who like the same thing or behave in the same way or have the same mental aptitudes, so must a country view its diverse races as the different yet necessary units of the whole. A family is a unit of different individuals with the same DNA and thus a nation is a family of different cultures with the same objectives of peaceful co-existence, meaningful co-operation and spiritual brotherhood.

If any of us says that it is better that this nation survive with only one ethnic group with the same religion and culture, then it is like a person who prefers to live alone without children or a spouse. Life is about accepting differences and dealing with it in order to strengthen spiritual peace.

There is no life and spiritual enlightenment without strife and challenges. God has made life and strife as inseparable partners for humankind to climb spiritual heights. We are all in the same ship in a vast ocean of challenges heading towards a common destiny.”

Instead of fire crackers, let us contemplate the strange words above extolling unity, love and compassion within diversity. Instead of parades, let us wonder about our common history and future destiny as a nation of many races, faiths and cultures with a single idea and ideal of mutual and harmonious co-existence. If one race or faith rocks the boat, we will all fall. There is no “pergi balik negeri”. This is our “negeri”, our boat, our island. Either we set sail to a single mutual objective or we will all float lost in the sea of mistrust and ignorance.

Professor Dr Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi works at UCSI University, KL

The views of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.