By Zaid Ibrahim
Media reports attributed these remarks to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, which he made during an interview on CNN with Christiane Amanpour: “We are not racist at all” and that “the majority of the people must not be marginalised.”
I totally agree with the Prime Minister. There must never be any group, majority or minority, that is marginalised in our country. However, I would like to suggest that Najib’s advisers (including his speech writers) do not put him in a spot by trying to paint a picture that the Malay-Bumiputera are marginalised.
To be marginalised means to be—or to be put—on the fringes of society and to be isolated or excluded from the mainstream of political, social and economic life. Anyone familiar with the situation in Malaysia will tell you that the Malays are not on the fringes. They aren’t isolated at all but in fact constitute a “special” lot with privileges and rights others do not have.
There are marginalised Bumiputera—in Sabah and Sarawak, the Orang Asli in the Peninsula. The Malays may once have been marginalised by a former colonial power, but to describe them as such in the year 2013 is wrong.
It is especially wrong when we have been an independent country for the past 55 years and all the top leaders, both elected and hereditary, have been Malays, and when all the crucial policies of this country have been crafted by Malays for Malays. How on earth can anyone describe the Malays as marginalised today?
And if we’re talking about the colonial era then it wasn’t just the Malays who were marginalised, but everyone else whose skin was not white. In the 1930s, the Royal Selangor Golf Club had a sign up that forbade Chinese and dogs on the premises. That’s marginalisation.
Groups that can be correctly described as marginalised today include the disabled; lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons; indigenous people; religious minorities including Shi’ites; the poor of all races; and so on. The list might be growing but those who are definitely not on that list are Malays as a racial category. To say otherwise is to say that Malays marginalise themselves.
It is entirely possible that despite all the benefits and the support provided by the Government in the past 55 years, many Malays are still in need of help and assistance. It doesn’t matter whether or not they have made full use of facilities or assistance given to them. As long as they need help, the Government must come to their assistance. The same should apply to everyone else too.
But to describe the Malays as marginalised makes a mockery of those who are really marginalised in our country.
Well, I know that the Prime Minister has to deal with difficult questions when he is visiting the capital cities of the world and he has to answer them as cleverly as he can.
As such, I’d like to suggest that his advisers refrain from redefining words and expressions that have universal meanings. It would be easier for Najib to call a spade a spade. Just say that we have been practising racial discrimination for many years now and that it works for us.
The current government has won every general election in the history of this country. This “shows” that the majority of Malaysians favour racial discrimination.
Equally, Najib should just say that Malay-Muslims are “special” because if they aren’t treated as special, then they will be upset and when they are upset you won’t like it. Peace and stability will be affected. So on and so forth.
That’s what matters to him, right? So why doesn’t he just come out and say it?