Malays must abandon race-based parties

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KUALA LUMPUR: Malays can be strong, but they must stop voting along race or religious lines and instead choose a political party that will improve the government, says former de facto law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim.

The Malay community cannot work in isolation and needs other races for it to strengthen itself, Zaid said in a rebuttal to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s claim that Malay political power was weak and therefore Malays had to “beg” other races for their support. 

“If they can make that quantum leap and embrace a political party which will make the government better, instead of choosing the defender of race and religion, that will further their cause.

“They must be willing to abandon the comfort [zone] of their race or religious-based political party. This will mark a new beginning for us all,” said Zaid in a post on his blog yesterday.  

He added that Malays will only weaken themselves if they took cues from their leaders to pit themselves against the rest of the Malaysian society. The notion that Malays can be stronger without the other races “is the idea of Umno”, he said.

“A nation’s progress is predicated on unity of purpose and optimising its people’s collective strength. This means that excluding non-Malays from the national agenda, as is practised today, [will] actually weaken the Malays more than the non-Malays.

“Superficially, the Malays may be seen as the ones in control, but the reality is far different. The decision-makers who frame national policies may be Malays, but they do not have the financial and economic tools to empower other Malays to succeed on their own.

“Consequently, future economic conditions will have to depend on Chinese money and human capital for [them] to be sustainable. If this analysis is proven correct, the only way the Malays can succeed is to collaborate and remain united with the rest of the Malaysian community.”

On Saturday, Dr Mahathir said Malay political parties had turned the Malay community into beggars to the Chinese, as they had to woo the non-Malays to secure enough support to win Putrajaya.

The former prime minister also claimed the divisions in the Malay community were to blame for its lagging economic performance.

He said the country’s aim to become a developed nation by 2020 would bring little benefit to the Malays because of their weakness and disunity.

However, Zaid said yesterday that the Malays’ economic performance depended on how united they were with other Malaysians, and not just among themselves.

“There is no evidence to suggest that people of the same group or ethnicity can ever be united and strong just by being on their own.

“They will just end up being insular and paranoid. In fact, there are many examples of communities growing stronger when they are united by diversity and a common purpose.”

He added that the situation in Malaysia could change if the moderates, especially the Malays, became more assertive and not allow right-wing groups, such as Isma and Perkasa, to dominate the limelight most of the time.

“They must not expect authoritarian rule to disappear without sacrifice and courage. Freedom, like breakfast, has a price.

“Indonesians have paid that price for democracy with their lives. The least we can do is to be prepared to be hauled up [by police] once in a while.”

But he conceded that this was “easier said than done”, as Malays in business and in the government were hesitant to speak out and risk destroying their livelihoods. — The Malaysian Insider

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on December 22, 2014.