Posted: 13 Nov 2013 10:37 AM PST
The Prime Minister cannot expect Perkasa and Utusan Malaysia to talk intelligently to the public on many issues. They are not interested in engaging those with whom they disagree. I have on a number of occasions asked Perkasa to organise a public debate with me but they have not responded other than to call me names.
Zaid Ibrahim, TMI
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak clearly likes the Indian Malaysian community (or at least the MIC), and he always makes time for their festivals. Most recently, he was in Johor Bahru for Deepavali and he spoke about two "fundamentals of harmony": a bond of friendship and allowing the richness of culture to flourish.
The bond of friendship will overcome all obstacles, he says, and if the strength of an elephant lies in "thumbikei" (its trunk), then the strength of a man lies in "nambikei" (trust).
If I may elaborate, the Prime Minister is telling Malaysian Indians that if they trust Umno they will be rewarded. He has also been telling the Chinese the same thing.
I have no problem with the Prime Minister extending preference to Indians. Speaking personally, there are remnants of many things Indian in me. I'm not an adherent of Indian astrology and my forebears did not originate from India, but the whole Malay world became civilised under the various Hindu kingdoms of the past.
There are many facets of Malay life, language, thought and culture that we owe to India. So, as a Malay, I am deeply indebted to that great civilisation for the rich heritage it bequeathed to us.
On the other hand, while the Prime Minister's nambikei resonates with some Indians, the same appeal might not work with the Chinese.
Why not? It's true that the Indian, Chinese and Malay civilisations have displayed a high degree of absolutism, if not feudalism, until relatively recent times. Leadership carried divine connotations regardless of whether individual leaders were Maharajas, Sultans or Qing Dynasty Emperors.
But the Chinese also had a massive central bureaucracy shaped by centuries of Confucianism. I believe that this has contributed to a Chinese culture that is comparatively more autonomous and open to individualism—albeit bound strongly by tradition—and that Malaysian Chinese today are more inclined to trust reason, solid data and effective persuasion above the mere status of a leader.
So, the Prime Minister must adopt a different approach with the Chinese and perhaps with those Malays whom Utusan Malaysia and Isma have described as "troublemakers" because of their liberal views.
My guess is that the Chinese will demand consistency and credibility in their leaders before they trust them. If the Prime Minister were to be more consistent in his policymaking, I think he would regain their support. For example, if he says that the views of Utusan and Perkasa are not his views, and then consistency and credibility demand that he does not force Government-linked Companies to advertise in the Umno paper.
If the government's view is that the ban on non-Muslim use of Allah is limited to the Herald, then even on an important Muslim occasion like Maal Hijrah the Prime Minister ought not to say that the word Allah is exclusive to Muslims and that the government will do everything it can to defend that special position.
There are a lot of things he could do differently but the fact is that, if our country is to move forward, we need a third fundamental.
The various races that make up Malaysia must be able to talk intelligently to one another. For that to happen there must be a place for reason and sensibility in our political discourse.
Today, the Prime Minister cannot expect Perkasa and Utusan Malaysia to talk intelligently to the public on many issues. They are not interested in engaging those with whom they disagree. I have on a number of occasions asked Perkasa to organise a public debate with me but they have not responded other than to call me names.
I am sure that Utusan Malaysia—with all the "towering Malays" at their disposal—should be more than ready to debate me on any national issue, but they will not do so because they aren't interested in the real issues. They are interested only in their political agenda.
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