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The political myth of Malay unity

  • Mahathir's Malay unity call couldn't have come as a bigger embarrassment for the other PH components which have ascended to power after breaking the monoracial unity spell. Photo courtesy: Bernama

By TAY TIAN YAN
Sin Chew Daily

Mahathir has invited Malay political parties, including members of Umno, to join PPBM for a Malay “grand unity”.

“Malay unity” again? We heard this from Umno before, and now PPBM is doing the same thing!

For decades Umno has been calling itself the protector of the Malays, and has wanted all Malays to unite under Umno and be put under the oversight of its ultra-conservative nationalism.

Against this backdrop, anyone not supporting Umno is seen as a traitor to the Malays, giving other races the opportunity to seize power from them.

Such a simple reasoning has been instilled into the Malay society for decades, was deeply ingrained in the hearts of many when political awareness was still scarce, and has provided Umno a fertile ground for continued survival.

After the “protector” role came under wide acceptance of the Malays, Umno was able to rule supreme and grow into an unbeatable power monster.

Driven by such a myth, the government's policies began to slant, public interests privatized, the nation's development tipped out of balance.

The power monster had a way of fattening itself, by consuming the nation's resources and excluding the dissidents within the organization as it headed towards its ultimate demise.

This whole process of political malady has begun with a very simple belief: the grand unity of one particular ethnic community.

Perhaps the corruption has gone beyond the point of tolerance of many who have grown extremely frustrated with political monopoly, the voters hit back powerfully in GE14 to momentarily terminate the Umno regime.

Monoracial unity has become a political myth that allows the believers to infinitely stretch their imagination albeit without a solid base.

When Mahathir was shouting the “Malay unity” slogan, his mentality remained very much at the time he was presiding over Umno.

He talked about “Malay unity” when dealing with PKR then, just as when he hammered DAP.

The “Malay unity” mantra seemed to work very well to bring the Malays into submission when the community was divided.

But this Malay unity thing hardly works today!

The Malay society is no longer the same today, thanks to the baptism of modernization and Islamization. Its value system is increasingly diverse and intra-community hierarchy is increasingly apparent. Such differences and diversification have made it impossible to bring the people together with a simple “Malay unity” slogan.

To the more moderate and liberal Malays, all they want is a diverse society ruled by law, not exclusionary Malay unity.

As for the religious fundamentalists, they are faithfully adhering to religious teachings based on the Islamic faith that will eventually lead to a morally superior society, not one bound by the narrow-minded Malay unity.

And for the middle class, they embrace economic development and social stability as well as global connectivity and inter-community consensus, Malay unity does not seem to go well with such goals.

Those in the medium and lower social classes would say they want manageable goods prices and sufficient incomes to settle their daily bills. They want the government to help improve their livelihood, but can Malay unity do this for them?

Even Umno's Malay unity plan has hit a wall, and is now revising it with PAS cooperation to a “Malay-Muslim grand unity” in hope of recouping its lost support. Whether this formula works remains to be seen.

PPBM under Mahathir is still very much Umno in mentality, and Umno's old slogan is now popping out afresh from his mouth even though those in Umno call him the real culprit who shatters the Malay unity grand vision.

Sure enough there is still market for Malay nationalism, albeit now monopolized by Umno-PAS which dwarfs Mahathir's Malay unity vision.

Mahathir's Malay unity call couldn't have come as a bigger embarrassment for the other PH components which have ascended to power after breaking the monoracial unity spell.

Perhaps it is now time for us to think which way PH or the nation should be headed to.

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