Akmal Hisham Zulkifli
On the same day as the Bersih 2.0 rally in Melbourne, I met with a friend, one whom I am not very close to actually. Being a doctor, it's definitely not her fault for not knowing about what has been going on in Malaysia (and worldwide) regarding Bersih 2.0 at all. Doctors are very busy people, as you know.
She asked me about the crowd. "What kind of people were there? Mostly Chinese right? A few Indians?"
My reply was "It was a mixed and balanced crowd. There were Malays, Chinese, Indians and even Australians among us."
"MALAYS ALSO!?", she replied in shock, as if the very thought of Malays speaking out for free and fair elections is blasphemy of the highest order.
I was very disappointed, of course, but did my best to explain. I shall not elaborate on this any further. Of course my friend isn't the only Malaysian who thinks (or by now, thought) in such a way.
We have millions of others like her; doctors, students, engineers, lawyers, pilots, taxi drivers, hawkers etc. who think like she does (did). It is not their fault. It is the fault of those who mislead, those who fail to educate and nurture a real spirit of Malaysianness, and an awareness of the real issues affecting our nation.
Race and politics should not go hand in hand anymore in this time and age. This is not the Middle Ages anymore. This is not the era of the Hundred Years War, the Romance of the Three Kingdoms or the Crusades anymore.
The notion that a member of any race should support only those who are of their own race in politics is simply foolish and idiotic. Should all white Americans have given their support to the Republican Party instead because both their candidates are white as opposed to the Democrats who had a half-African presidential candidate?
Should all Sino-Mauritians oppose Navin Ramgoolam because he is an Indo-Mauritian, not a Sino-Mauritian? Should the French not cheer for Zinedine Zidane whenever he scores a goal because he is ethnically Be! rber (Al gerian) and a Muslim at that (considering the fact that France banned the hijab in schools, last I heard)?
The notion that someone considered a Malay should be expected to give loyalty only to one party is baseless and of great stupidity.
In an ethnically diverse country like Malaysia, the concept of race should have lost its relevance in today's politics already. Malay, Chinese and Indian were simply convenient labels by the British empire during the years when we were colonies or protectorates of the British Crown.
A country is easier to colonise when it is divided. That is why the British had the concept of the 'martial race' in India, where people from certain races like the Jats, the Sikhs, the Rajputs and the Gurkhas were preferred as soldiers as compared to the 'tame' ones.
OK, we are not here to rant about the British. The days of the Empire have ended. Those were different times. Britain today is different. Almost none of today's Britons were born during the time of Queen Victoria and the Empire on which the sun never set.
Please don't tell me you do not know any other person who comes from more than one of the aforementioned categories (Malay/Chinese/Indian/Lain-lain), i.e a mixed person. Do you know how many 'pure Malay' prime ministers we have had?
Zero. Kosong. Illai.
Tunku Abdul Rahman had Thai ancestry, Tun Abdul Razak is part Bugis (as is his son, our current prime minister Najib Razak), Tun Hussein Onn had a Turkish grandmother, Dr Mahathir was of partial Indian descent and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had a Hainanese grandfather, the other grandfather being an Arab.
I have ancestors from Sumatera, Guangdong, Hainan and Kalimantan. I know a Sarawakian guy who has Malay, Iban, Chinese, Dutch and Australian ancestries. I know one with Arab, Chinese and Indonesian ancestries. What, then, do we call all those people?
Politics is not about who this race should support and who that race should support. It sho! uld neve r have been!
In mature democracies with two-party systems, politics are about two different parties with differing ideologies, differing thoughts of how to best run the country. The contrasts between two parties are of the 'Laissez-faire capitalism vs socialism', 'government intervention vs free market' and 'interventionist vs pacificism' types, for example.
NOT of the 'Malay vs Chinese', 'Muslims vs Christians', 'Iban vs Melanau' or whatever nonsense types.
Politics in Malaysia has changed compared to the race-based politics of the past. There is only one place left for racial politics in this world, in this century, and that is the landfill of history.
Unfortunately, many Malaysians have not yet realised this. Many still think 'Malay must support this', 'Chinese must support that', blah blah blah. It sickens me, and yet I know I cannot blame those people. It is those who have indoctrinated them with such thinking that must be blamed.
Wake up, my fellow Malaysians. It is not about what race you are. Did you choose your race before you were born? Did your parents choose theirs?
In today's Malaysia, we should not use race to decide who to vote for. We vote with our hearts and conscience, we vote for those whom we feel could lead the nation to a better future, not for those whose names sound closer to ours.
We vote for those whom we feel could perform better at solving the problems Malaysia faces, not those whose skin colour is a shade closer to ours.
When all Malaysians start realising that, we will become what Malaysia was meant to be.