09/10/2021
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Keluarga Malaysia: come on let’s get real

By Mohsin Abdullah

To be honest, I didn’t watch the live TV broadcast. After all, it was “just” the soft launch. The official launch is scheduled for Oct 22 in Kuching, Sarawak.

I’m talking about the Keluarga Malaysia concept’s big kick off.

Not watching the soft launch on Friday Oct 8 does not mean I was dousing cold water over it. The concept is good. Having said that, I have to say I’m not too thrilled. Rather skeptical. It reminds me of Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1Malaysia.

Alright, I’ll say it: I’m pessimistic. But there are many others who are equally pessimistic on the success of Keluarga Malaysia.

I’m not claiming to be talking on behalf of the other pessimists. What I’m stating here is my personal take on the matter.

According to news report a day before the soft launch, the Prime Minister was to share further insights into the Keluarga Malaysia concept.

Based on reports (the ones which I read anyway), the only new info highlighted was the introduction of a 10,000-member Skuad Keluarga Malaysia who will travel the entire nation to help people hit hard by Covid-19 and the economic crisis.

The Prime Minister was quoted reiterating his promise that no one will be left behind under his Keluarga Malaysia initiative.

The first time Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob spoke about the concept was on Aug 22, when he delivered his inaugural speech as Prime Minister.

Keluarga Malaysia, Ismail had said then, is an inclusive concept that cuts across religious, ethnic and racial boundaries which invites Malaysians to come together as a unified family.

Hence the Prime Minister went on to invite Malaysians to set aside their differences and come together to lift the country to greater heights and help realize the 2030 Shared Prosperity Vision.

Emmm, now where did I first hear about that vision? Never mind!

Here’s the thing and its not new. There are many unwritten “policies“ which favour the Malays implemented for years and are still being implemented.

Take all that out and replace it with policies which favor all. Then we would be moving in the right direction towards realizing the Keluarga Malaysia dream. Yes it is a dream.

And then there are the written policies. All overwhelmingly pro-Malay heralded as pro-Bumiputera, some of which even the other Bumiputeras are complaining–the Orang Asli and ethnic communities in Sabah and Sarawak. What more the Chinese, Indians and the “lain lain”.

There’s no need for me to specify what the policies are. We all know the story all too well.

Can or will the Ismail administration do away with all that? And come up with something inclusive?

In substance that is, not just promises.

For the answer, I’ll put forth one latest example: the 12th Malaysia Plan unveiled by the Prime Minister recently.

There are good stuff in it. However, it is seen as dividing instead of bringing the rakyat together.

Long story short, it is about the continuation of the Bumiputera agenda. Again I need to say that when “Bumiputera” is mentioned, it is to be read as “Malay”. Most of the time.

In a nutshell, the government, despite Ismail proclaiming the Keluarga Malaysia concept forms the central theme of his administration, is continuing the racial narrative in drawing up national policies.

After more than half a century of nationhood, isn’t it time to move away from all this? Move towards a needs-based narrative, focusing on regional and socioeconomic imbalances instead?

Bumiputeras (Malays) must be helped. By all means help them–the poor Bumiputeras. But poverty is present also among other communities. They need help as well.

I agree with political analyst Dr Oh Ei Sun when he was quoted saying, “Ismail could have delineated aid along income and regional lines instead.“

He could have, but did not. Or should it be that he could not? Considering the number of the Malay population, which is growing while the non-Malay populace is dwindling?

If one is talking about politics and winning elections, the answer is as clear as broad daylight. Thus we have what we have.

And we also have non-Malay companies especially the successful ones run by the Chinese giving preferences to Chinese in recruitment and in promotion. Why? Its tic for tac obviously.

Retaliation. The government is helping Malays they say, hence why “shouldn’t we help our people“? It is a vicious cycle!

Economic issue is just one of the problems faced by the nation in trying to meet the goals of the Keluarga Malaysia concept. The others are unwritten (we know what they are) as well as the written (we also know what they are) policies mentioned earlier. 

And also the so-called “social contract”. Was there such a “contract” agreed upon by the founding fathers of the nation? If indeed there was one, is it cast in stone?

That apart, admittedly there are racists among us–all of us whether Malays, Chinese, Indians or “lain-lain“. Very much unlike the scenes depicted in the Merdeka videos beautifully crafted by the late Yasmin Ahmad.

Final question: Will Keluarga Malaysia, noble that it is, be a dream realized? I would sadly say no. And I sincerely pray I am wrong.

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

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