Ucapan "Malay Dominance" Abdullah Ahmad (1986) di Singapura
Jumaat, 2008 Disember 05
Pada 30 Ogos 1986, Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad, bekas ahli Parlimen Kok Lanas telah menyampaikan satu ucapan yang bernada agak tegas dan begitu berterus terang di Institute of International Affairs, Singapura. Ucapan itu menimbulkan kontroversi kerana menggambarkan politik Malaysia sebagai Malay Dominance atau berasaskan penguasaan Melayu.
Gambaran ini menimbulkan reaksi yang dijangka terutama sekali dari kaum-kaum bukan Melayu. Sejak itu, gambaran Malay Dominance begitu kerap diguna hingga menjadi istilah. Ianya disalah terjemah menjadi Ketuanan Melayu.
Padahal istilah asal Ketuanan Melayu bermakna "tuan rumah" yang telah memberi warganegara kepada kaum imigren. Semasa perundingan untuk Merdeka, kuasa hakiki memberi kewarganegaraan dan untuk bersetuju untuk Merdeka dan sistem kenegaraan yang demokrasi terletak kepada kuasa raja-raja. Raja-raja adalah pemerintah yang berdaulat (sovereign ruler), manakala penjajah Inggeris hanya diberi kuasa mentadbir dan hanya salah satu pihak memberi persetujuan.
"Tuan" juga bermakna hormat dan bukan makna "tuan dan hamba" yang diperkatakan pemimpin-pemimpin parti-parti MCA dan Gerakan baru-baru ini. Makna sedemikian hanya timbul penggunaan semasa zaman "penjajahan Inggeris" yang mana pekerja dan rakyat Melayu memberi gelaran tuan kepada mereka.
Mutakhir ini, istilah Ketuanan Melayu disoal begitu terbuka oleh pelbagai pihak dan diambil peluang untuk modal politik oleh pelbagai parti politik, termasuk parti-parti politik berasaskan Melayu. Apabila Dato Mukhriz mengajak dihentikan retorik dan dicadangkan satu sistem persekolahan kebangsaan sebagai mengurangkan polarisasi kaum, reaksi mereka sungguh negatif sekali.
Ucapan Abdullah perlu dilihat kembali untuk memahami kembali konteks ucapannya. Pasti ramai yang tidak pernah membaca ucapan ini. Ucapan itu dipetik dari buku, "Malay Dominance?" (1987) karangan K Das dan disiarkan sepenuhnya untuk dikaji, dibahas dan dianalisa semula.
Adakah kecaman dan kesimpulan komentar terhadap ucapan itu selama ini adil? Selain istilah yang terlalu terus terang dan menimbulkan kontroversi, adakah gambaran realiti politik yang dibentangnya tiada kebenaran semasa itu? Keadaan mungkin sudah ada perubahan, adakah benar masyarakat Malaysia sekarang sudah berubah dan sedia mengetepikan politik perkauman dan pelbagai tuntutan-tuntutan benar-benar sifar perkauman? Ini adalah antara persoalan-persoalan yang mungkin timbul.
The major issues in Malaysian politics are as old as the hills and really nothing to get so excited about - as long as one understands the basic premises of the Malaysian political sytem correctly.
But there is this stubborn refusal to understand. Indeed, any problems in the politics of a developing countrry is always regarded as a matter of great moment, even if it is considered perfectly normal in the political life of a developed country.
Thus when it comes to a developed country the issue of race, for instance, instead of being presented in its stark reality is posited at some level or other of abstraction - like the problem of urban decay, of youth unemployement, of cultural alienation and so on.
We ourselves do the honours when we discuss the black and white racial problems of the United Kingdom or the US. But when it comes to, say Sri Lanka, analyst explode into the dynamics of racial hate and conflict in an island state gripped by fear and insecurity.
The solution always is power-sharing or even separation and participation, something never proposed for the US or the UK where racial minorities have only painstaking and grudging social amelioration, tokenism, to look forward to.
Take South Africe. Despite the lip service that has been paid to rejection and abhorence of the apartheid system, White countriues like the UK and the US have in fact been sustaining the system through their investments and trade and their opposition to imposition of sanctions against the racist regime.
Meanwhile, the South African Black majority have been treated like dogs, have been incarcerated and exiled, have been murdered and bloodied. These White countries had better shut-up about their so-called concern for equality at home and abroad. Asians like us should not be taken in by White hypocrisy - the more so, because their so-called concern and care can so easily lead to the ruin of our countries.
While I do not want to raise your pulse rate just because we are discussing issues in Malaysian politics, I do not fear subjecting those issues to microscopic scrutiny because there is nothing to be afraid of. Indeed, at the end of it, I hope we would be better able to understand the significance of their issues and our role in ensuring they do not become rampant, destabilising. Yes, the role also of Singapore and Singaporeans.
So, what are the issues in Malaysian politics? Without doubt the issue which is uppermost in the mind of the thinking public is that of race: of how far apart the Malays and non-Malays are - the Sino-Malay in particular.
All this talk of racial polarisation. Many talk about this problem - including those non-Malaysians who are not particularly concerned about the fate of my country. Indeed one cannot help feeling that their obsession with this problem has more to do with perpetuating rather than solving it.
What is the problem? Usually it is posited as one arising from a political system which affords a special position for the Malays - and therefore by extension, it is argued, relegates the non Malays to an inferior status.
The constitutional position of the Malays and the imperatives of the New Economic Policy (NEP) are seen as the twin terrors of the Malaysian political system from which the non-Malays suffer. In simple language, the Malays are sitting pretty and should be happy and the non-Malays are fearful and, if they are not, should be aroused.
The main problem about this problem is that those who make it into an issue make premises and take positions without any references to Malaysian history in which is rooted the present political system. They are idealistic and nihilistic, sometimes exclusively.
The logical conclusion of their position is the up-rooting of the Malaysian system - surely as destabilising and destructive an end as can be imagined. And this is the result of so-called concern for the stability of the system founded on Malay political dominance!
Let us make no mistake - the political system in Malaysia is founded on Malay dominance. That is the premise from which we should start. The Malays must be politically dominant in Malaysia as the Chinese are politically dominant in Singapore.
There will not be another Tan Cheng Lock in Malaysia just as no Indian in Singapore can hope to advance in Singapore any further than Mr Rajaratnam did - and he too advanced only as far as he did and no more. The position of the Malays, as Ismail Kassim will no doubt agree, is even more backward.
The political system of Malay dominance was born out of a sacrosanct sosial contract which preceeded national independence. There have been moves to question, to set aside and to violate this contract that have threatened the stability of the system.
The May 1969 riots arose out of the challenge to the system agreed upon, out of the non fulfillment of the substance of the contract.
The NEP is the programme, after those riots in 1969, to fulfill the promises of the contract in 1957. But now we are beginning to have questions about the political system all over again, this time under the guise of the implementation of the NEP.
It would seem those who wish to overturn the system think that this kind of vicarious, hidden attack on the political system would fool the Malays; but they had better think again.
You must not forget that if the Malays are pushed to the wall they would react. When what happened on May 13 is evoked it is dismissed as a ruse to resurrect the ghost of 1969. But what happened then is no matter for poltergeists: it was a bitter reality. Let us not forget that. In the Malaysian political system the Malay position must be preserved and Malay expectations must be met.
There is thus no two ways about it: the NEP must continue to sustain Malay dominance in the political system in line with the contract of 1957. Even after 1990, there must be mechanisms of preservation, protection, and expansion in an evolving system.
Mind you, as in any contract, there are rights that accue to both sides. The non-Malays obtained the rights of citizenship with the system of Malay political dominance.
They accepted these rights with alacrity and are enjoying them to the full - indeed to an extent greater than nominally "equal" political systems like the United Kingdom or the United States. They are politically represented most vigorously. They own property without hindrance or threat. They move about in complete freedom. They can join any club, enter any bar or hotel.
There are those who contended that the new generation Chinese are not bound by the age-old contract. If this is so, neither are the new generation Malays, many of whom find the present system wanting and want something else altogether or want better performance of the system for the Malays.
If it is contended that the non-Malays are second class, then so are the Malays for being poor in their own country. If it is contended the non Malays are second class because they cannot hope to hold the powerful portfolios and Ministries in govenment, then the Malays and Indians in Singapore are also second class.
Ours is not a system of discrimination but of Malay preservation which foreigners particularly refuse to understand. Ours is a system of Malay political dominance but not, as is often put across, of Malay political domination.
The non-Malays can have their own schools, if they so want, their language, culture and religion. They have so many organisations that voice and represent their interests. They are quite capable of effecting change - as in obtaining agreement for the amendment of the Education act. Inded, one State in Malaysia has even been recognised as a de facto Chinese State.
All this has been made possible because the Malays - through UMNO - have met their side of the bargain. Without UMNO, as presently constituted, the future for the non-Malays would be bleak indeed.
In the general election early this month, UMNO decisively displayed its strength as the force of Malay moderation, beating back the challenge of Malay religious extremism. Did the non-Malay, particularly Chinese parties in the Barisan Nasional deliver? Not only did they not deliver, they compounded it by making NEP the scapegoat for their feeble performance.
It is most dangerous to make an issue of the policy most fundamental to the stability of the political system. What is worse, they are using it to deflect attention from the internal squabbles and personal mismanagement which have reduced the MCA to something approaching a shambles.
It is not only too true that UMNO too has its internal problems, but it has shown itself once again to be quite capable of uniting to win an election most decisively. Let not the magnitude of the achievement by UMNO under Dr Mahathir's leadership be underestimated because of the admittedly huge problem posed to the MCA (and Gerakan) by the urban Chinese voters.
But what does UMNO get for its pains? Attempts to cut the ground from under its feet by challenging the policy of the Government (in which all the major races are represented) intended also to meet obligations to the Malays.
UMNO pushed back the forces of religious extremism among the Malays to sustain the dominance of accomodative politics in multiracial Malaysia. But if UMNO is pushed into a position of having to fight to ensure the system of Malay political dominance because of incessant attacks on it, the character of UMNO leadership and its moderating influence could very well change.
We have to ask ourselves if we want to deal with a different kind of Malay from the one who dominate the political system now. That different Malay will no longer have any kind of English educational affiliation but will be thoroughly Malay. He will no longer be secular in outlook but theorcratic. He will be not just Islamic but Islamic a la Iran.
That is a different creed altogether, the way they dress, their manner of salutation, what they think of non-Muslims. I invited Professor Chan Heng Chee just before election to Kok Lanas in Kelantan and she saw examples from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. And they are nothing compared to the new PAS people!
If we paused to think of the meaning of this we will be grateful for the system that we have. We must do everything in our pwoer to ensure that it does not happen. Indeed, we should be striving hard to make the present system work and to make the present system stronger.
Neighbouring states such as Singapore, with its intertwined history, have an important role to play in moderating Malaysian Chinese assertion. Singapore must not put itself up as the alternative and viable Chinese dominant system in the Malay sea through formal or informal and individual channels.
Singapore must make it clear that the present Malaysian political system is the only system there can be instead of allowing Malaysian Chinese to hold out for the hope of something else as was campaigned for when Singapore was part of Malaysia. Singapore can do a lot more to allay that ghost.
The Malay obsession with political dominance is conditioned in no small measure by what has happened to the Malay minority in Singapore. Malaysia will not now interfere in the internal affairs of Singapore to give hope to the Malays.
At the same time Singapore must not hold out any hope for the Chinese for a different system in Malaysia. The position Singapore takes will affect us, and if the Malays feel further threatened, they might even consider a merger with Indonesia.
I know they are many Malays who have been telling me they would rather share poverty with Indonesia than see their political position eroded. If that happened, we will have a different ball game again in the regional politics of South-East Asia.
In this connection, we will perhaps reflect on how and why Indonesian and Filipino illegal immigrants became an issue in Malaysia. Although the illegal immigrants are now the subject of considerable disdain and displeasure, we should perhaps ask ourselves how they got there in such numbers in the first place.
We should further ask ourselves if they would have been exposed to the current displeasure without the severe downturn in the economy, if the people concerned were not such rock-bottom quality that they caused social and criminal problems. In other words, the problem of illegal Indonesian and Filipino immigrants may not have become an issue at all.
Insofar as the Chinese in Malaysia are concerned, the MCA particularly must be doing all it can to explain and to strengthen the NEP instead of undermining it. They must make very clear the place of the Chinese in the Malaysian political system. They must underline its benefits. They must represent the Chinese as effectively as they can within that context.
Let them remind the Chinese that the NEP does not rob them but only apportions, in a growing environment, stakes in the economy so as to guarantee the stability from which they can further enjoy the fruits of the rich resources of Malaysia.
Even in that appointment, if we take the corporate sector, the Chinese entitlement is 40 percent which is more than the 30 per cent allocated for the Malays - which is disproportionate in terms of the racial composition of the country and which certainly makes a nonsence of the allegation of total Malay domination. There is enough for all to enjoy as long as the system stays in place. It would not stay in place if, at every turn, it is going to be questioned, even demeaned.
After the recent election, further aspersions have been cast at the system, including the assertion that it is not democratic. One complainant is the rural weightage in constituency delineation - as if it is unique to Malaysia and, of course, again bringing up the racial dimension in constituency composition.
This, off course, occurs everywhere, including in the United States where urban constituencies such as New York have 300,000 voters while rural constituencies such as in Iowa have only 36,000 voters. In Singapore too, I can quote examples of glaring disparaties in the population size of constituencies.
As for the racial composition of rural constituencyes against urban ones, that is just how people are rooted in our country. Mind you, we do not limit or control population migration in any way. But, as everywhere else, economic opportunities determine concentration of population. Those who wish to ensure weightage of votes at the cost of economic benefit can by all means move into the rural areas.
Then again there have been calls for a strong opposition, even the sense of disappointment that such strong opposition did not materialise. Let us think again. A strong opposition? From which party? PAS and the DAP? One a religious extremist party which does not accept the present system and the other a racial chauvanist party which also does not accept the present system.
Do those who make such calls realise what they are saying? Alas, they include former leaders who should know better. Former Prime Minister Hussein Onn, for instance, has discovered a new love for the opposition whom he did not tolerate when he was in power. It is, off course easy to take such positions when you are out of power, but your true colurs are to be seen when you are right in power.
How can anyone be the exemplar of tolerance for the opposition when he puts so many people away because he accepted no challenge? I should know because I was one of those put away on the trumped-up charges of being a crypto-Communist or was it pro-Communist?
Do you realise that in Hussein's time there were as many as 600-800 in detention and that now there are not only about 30 or so hard-core Communists inside? Strong opposition indeed!
I call, therefore, for a true understanding of the Malaysian political system before we run riot over the issues in the politics of my country.
I call for a sense of perspective before we are taken in by apparent appeals to liberal good sense. Most of all, to Singaporeans, I call for acceptance of the Malaysian political system as I have described it.
Let not Singapore be the harbinger of Chinese irredentist tendencies. I say to all - the Chinese in Malaysia and to Singaporean - don't play with fire.