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What has the Malay Dignity Congress achieved?

  • What has the Malay Dignity Congress achieved? Well, for one, it has succeeded in hurting the non-Malays. If it meant to cement Malay unity, it didn't manage to do that.

By Mohsin Abdullah

Ironic isn’t it? That the Malay Dignity Congress was held a day after the unveiling of the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030.

SPV is designed to address issues faced by Malaysians of all races and religions. Hence the term “shared prosperity”.

The irony is that the “concerns” of the organizers of the Malay Dignity Congress were, more or less, the very same ones the SPV is seeking to address, including issues pertaining to the Malays.

So can it be said holding the congress a day after SPV was made known would render it “redundant”?

Anyway, the organizers somehow saw it right to go ahead with the congress. Perhaps they had planned it much earlier without knowing SPV would be unveiled a day before their event.

Perhaps they felt the congress must be held because according to head of the event’s secretariat Professor Datuk Dr Zainal Kling, “the congress is a response to challenges against the Malays”.

And he went on to say there are many questions which not only “belittle Malays but also question the Malays’ bumiputra rights, the position of the royalty as well as question Islam and cultural issues such as the national language”.

Zainal did not say who had asked such questions but later told MalaysiaKini he was referring to “certain non-Malays”.

And to kick off the congress he presented a hardline speech full of emphasis on the sovereignty and special position of the Malay race, that is putting it rather mildly. But I don’t intend to repeat it word for word as many already know what he had said.

Many non-Malays were and are still hurt and angry. Rightly so. But while I feel for the non-Malays, it must be said that the action of “certain non-Malays” had made it easier for the likes of Zainal to come up with such rhetoric.

Perhaps they had their reasons for doing so or maybe it’s a case of tic for tac. But it somehow gave Zainal and Co the “bullets to shoot at them.” In short, give them excuses to do what they do.

Whatever it is, the congress as we know came up with resolutions which in a nutshell is seen by non-Malays as not being fair to them. Again this is putting it mildly. And I must say the non-Malays do have valid points.

Hence the earlier concerns of non-Malays that the congress would be all about racial sentiment and the “strengthening” of Ketuanan Melayu or Malay supremacy were justified.

In the words of an old friend of mine, veteran journalist Zin Mamud, the congress is “divisive in nature”.

I agree.

And the presence of Tun Mahathir Mohamad at the congress did not go down well with non-Malays. What more when he too delivered a speech although he said he attended “as a Malay leader and not as prime minister”.

The non-Malays were not amused and I can't blame them for being so. But said a non-Malay observer, “This is the problem with non-Malays – they suffer from a victim mentality and cannot understand politics”.

But as I see it naturally, the non-Malays were sad, angry and disappointed with Mahathir “allowing himself” to be associated with the congress organizers and to some of the things he had said.

However DAP’s Ramkarpal Singh’s take on Mahathir’s remarks, or rather a portion of it, somehow missed the point. As least that how I see it.

The DAP man said Mahathir’s remarks on how the Malays were forced to accept orang asing or foreigners during British rule in exchange for independence “is downright insulting”.

Ramkaprpal was referring to a part of Mahathir’s speech at the congress when he said (in Bahasa Melayu): “The foreigners felt comfortable in this country and wanted to stay. Like it or not we were forced to accept or we would not have achieved independence.”

Another observer (a Malay this time) tells me, “Tun was merely talking about history. What’s there to feel insulted about ?” I concur but if I may add since our founding fathers had agreed to the terms set by the British it is only right for everybody in particular present day Malays to abide by what was agreed upon. The non-Malays we have now are born and bred in Malaysia and are not orang asing. But the problem, as I see it, is they are still viewed as orang asing or pendatang.

Back to Mahathir. A day or two before the congress, the prime minister was quoted as saying there would be no politics at the congress and “we are not racists... we are not attacking other people... we only want to give critical advice to the Malay community.”

It is worth nothing according to media reports, when Zainal gave his speech that hurt the feelings of non-Malays, Mahathir had not arrived at the congress venue and thus said Mahathir, “I did not hear what was said.”

Anyway, Mahathir kept his part of the bargain and gave the critical advice to the Malay community. As the non-Malay observer sees it, Mahathir’s appearance at the congress “was very cynical and he used it to lambast the crutch culture of the Malays”.

Indeed lambast his own race was what Mahathir did. Hard and blunt. Obviously too hard and too blunt for some Malay individuals, NGOs as well as political parties who hit back at him for putting down and embarrassing “your own people”. They blame him for woes “besieging” the Malays.

PAS blames Mahathir (and Pakatan Harapan) for “not realizing the Malay agenda“, but its president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang deems it necessary to pen a message on a PAS online bulletin board to sing Mahathir’s tune, saying, "Malays are in deep sleep and living in ignorance despite being in their own land.”

No big surprise the individuals , NGOs and political parties, what more PAS who had hit out at Mahathir, did not even raise an eyebrow although Hadi said the same things Mahathir said about their “bangsa“.

Which brings me me to this: What has the congress managed to achieve?

Well, for one, it has succeeded in hurting the non-Malays. If it meant to cement Malay unity, I don’t think it managed to do that as we have seen Malays “attacking” Malays as soon as the congress ended. And I am not referring to Mahathir only.

As the non-Malay observer puts it: “The congress is already proving a failure as contenting groups are rancouring among themselves – NGO like ISMA versus Zainal Kling, etc., and there is a lot of negative reaction to the congress even among the Malays.”

To me, he’s right.

(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)

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