Hornbill Unleashed

May 4, 2017

Do non-Muslims never want to be PM?

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:02 AM

And how easy it is to recognise the revenant shapes that the old unchanging enemies – racism, leader worship, superstition – assume when they reappear amongst us (often bodyguarded by their new apologists.)”

– Christopher Hitchens, ‘Arguably: Selected Essays’

I realise that I am in the minority when I write on subjects like this, but I guess that is just the nature of oppositional politics in this country. I am in total disagreement with Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng on the issue of non-Muslims/Malay never wanting to be prime minister. While I have no idea of the accuracy of various polls – complete voodoo, if you ask me – I realise that many Malays will never accept a non-Malay prime minister.

But if you accept this premise, then you have to accept the premise that non-Malays will never truly be citizens in this country. You have to accept that what we will have are non-Malay powerbrokers working with Malay potentates having some control of the direction of this country, but this will always be a weapon that will be used against non-Malays when the hegemonic interests of Malay power structures are under threat. This applies to not only BN but also Pakatan Harapan, or whatever it is called.

If you accept this premise, you may also believe that whatever change happens, it will probably be better than what Umno offers and may even “save” this country. This kind of thinking is in itself a kind of self-imposed apartheid and I suppose is a pragmatic strategy when dealing with a racist hegemon, but is ultimately morally and intellectually untenable.

It is also a self-fulfilling prophesy so long as non-Malays are not treated as equal citizens –

1) When we do not have opposition parties demanding equal treatment.

2) When we do not have Malays standing in support of non-Malays with regard to egalitarianism, the paradigm will not shift and the best we could hope for is that things will not get worse, and the reality that we are second-class citizens – and will always be second-class citizens – trumps any kind of paradigm-shifting principles.

“Equality” is unfortunately an all or nothing proposition and while there will always be systemic unbalances that needs to be addressed, there should always be equality before the law and a constitution that recognises such imperatives.

I realise that many opposition supporters do not subscribe to my views on this subject, but ultimately when we pick through the wreckage of this country, historians will realise that we never really had a chance because we never really had a committed civil rights movement to stem the tide of racial and religious supremacy.

I asked emeritus professor Shad Saleem Faruqi what he thought of PAS’ proposal and this is his reply – “I don’t support the PAS proposal even though it is known that some countries like Lebanon prescribe that the president shall belong to one religious community and the PM to another. My objection is based on the following grounds:

“1) The proposal violates Article 8 of our constitution.

“2) It violates flagrantly the rights of Sabah and Sarawak. The proposal will drive a wedge between West and East Malaysia.

“3) The constitutional amendment if any will require the consent of Sabah and Sarawak.

“4) I think the proposal is totally unnecessary. On the present electoral system, the constituencies have been crafted in such way as to maximise Malay representation in Parliament.

“5) The matter should be left to the democratic process. Whichever party or coalition wins should choose its leader.”

It should surprise no one that PAS has a tendency to play fast and loose and disregarding common standards of decency when it comes to imposing Islamic hegemony. Forget about the constitutionality of their proposal which ultimately boils down to the fact that they realise that the only way to maintain Islamic supremacy is if we all agree to a suicide pact, which this proposal is.

Political stratagem

If you agree with Lim Guan Eng for whatever reason, this article is not for you. While most opposition political pundits believe that this issue is a distraction from the real goal of removing a kleptocrat, I obviously believe otherwise.

I want to explore a few statements by the chief minister of Penang. This is one of my ‘bear witness type’ articles but truthfully, I think all my pieces have this in common.

1) “…they are trying to bring up racial and extreme sentiments that the prime minister must be Malay and Muslim, as if there are non-Muslims who want to claim that position.”

While I get that Guan Eng was attempting to reassure those Malays thinking about voting for Harapan that no non-Muslim member of this principled coalition would ever seek the highest office in the land, he should also be aware that the non-Muslim bumiputera of Sabah and Sarawak are also affected by his choice of words.

He should also be aware that by speaking for all non-Muslims, he is enabling and perpetrating the toxic religious and racial supremacy the opposition claims to despise. Even if this is a political stratagem, what we have witnessed is a long history of pandering to the baser impulses of a certain section of the Malay/Muslim polity which has proven disastrous to the opposition. The most egregious was the ‘PAS for All’ gambit.

2) “The country should be heading towards an environment that is based on justice and freedom, and against corruption.”

But how can the country be headed in this direction when the stratagems of Umno are working because the opposition does not counter it but merely reinforces the dogma of racial and religious superiority for political gain?

PAS goes on a “Malay/Muslim” prime minister because they are acutely aware of how the non-Muslim bumiputera of Sabah and Sarawak have just as much right as anyone (in Malaysia) of aspiring to the highest office in the land. They realise that there is an awakening in Sabah and Sarawak and while this may not necessarily benefit the opposition, who knows what kind of political realignment will emerge from a nationalistic Sabah and Sarawak.

While of course, there are constitutional requirements that need to be met and which PAS’ proposal most probably contravenes, this insidious strategy that non-Muslims should always prostrate themselves at the altar of political expediency ultimately benefits Umno and whichever Malay power structure that eventually replaces Umno.

Let me put it this way. If for instance a Malay from the DAP decides to seek the highest office in the land and is backed by the majority of the party, what do you think the narrative would be from Umno or whichever Malay power structure this Malay candidate is facing?

Would it help if the DAP or any non-Malay/Muslim political party had in its charter that none of their non-Malay/Muslim members would ever seek the highest office in the land? How about the second in line? Why not extend the logic further and make it clear which posts are suitable, and by suitable, I mean not threatening the sensitivities of the Malay polity?

I do not, for one second, believe that if the opposition wins by some miracle the next general election, issues such as these will become a thing of the past. What I believe is that the opposition will realise the precarious nature of the Malay vote and will do everything in its power to maintain hegemony with subservient non-Malay/Muslim powerbrokers.

This will extend to policies which are detrimental to the long-term survival of this country and because partisan fervour is such, we would have created an alternative suicide pact.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.
Source : @ Malaysiakini


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