Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Malaysia's Phony Class War

The Phony Class War in Malaysia
“A silent Civil War fought among unseen Enemies by unthinking Soldiers led by cowardly Leaders with their own vested Agenda hiding in plain sight behind Racial Fire-walls. And where Winning was Never their Mission Goal.” 
Nobody knew when the Malaysian phony class war actually began.  Some said it became public in the 2008 Malaysian General Elections between aspiring but frustrated young Malays and long-suffering frustrated ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities against the rich, powerful Malaysian political and economic elite consisting of the Malay ruling class together with their non-Malay cronies in the Chinese and Indian political parties.  By this time, a mature class-based alliance has already been carefully nurtured and cultivated out of the “Racial Bargain” arrangements of 1948 when Malaya was formed.
The 1948 Racial Bargain was a compromise agreement among the three major ethnic groups – Malay, Chinese and Indian - when none actually constituted more than 50% of the population. They agreed to a separation of economic and political powers whereby the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), representing the Chinese and Indians respectively, would not challenge the political pre-eminence of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) representing the Malays.  In return, the Chinese and Indians shall be granted cultural and religious freedoms and citizenship rights, as well as enjoy “exclusive” economic dominance.  Politically, they also formed the National Front which to this day has continued to form a coalition-like government ever since.
Conceptually, the “bargain” was full of internal contradictions and unfair to all the Parties concerned. It was not sustainable. The Malay leaders had to depend on Chinese economic wealth to maintain its prestige, ostensible expenses and various outward extravaganzas like palaces, houses, mosques and harems.  The Chinese were in turn generously granted “Datukships” (akin to Malay royal “knighthoods”) as well as bank licenses and various exclusive economic businesses and industries.
By the early 1960’s prelude to the formation of Malaysia, Malay dominance began to be challenged by many who were parties to the 1948 “bargain” as well as those who were new-comers to Malayan politics eg Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak.  UMNO stalwarts also questioned their “exclusion” from lucrative economic deals, and some Chinese groups began to visibly participate actively in the emergent Malaysian politics.  It was the beginning of the end for the 1948 Racial Bargain.
Competing, mutually exclusive visions to the “racial bargain” polarised between a “Malaysian Malaysia” where equality and multiracial principles would prevail, and a “Malay Malaysia”, an unequal society with Malay dominance and supremacy.  In 1965, Singapore was expelled from Malaysia for her strong advocacy of a “Malaysian Malaysia”, which was later proven to be a superior political and economic principle when applied in a multi-racial, just and equal “Singaporean Singapore” who had over 75% Chinese population.
In 1969, after a series of racial riots in Singapore and Malaysia, rumored to be instigated by UMNO elements, a State of Emergency was declared to be subsequently followed by a new Malaysian Constitution which enshrined and entrenched Malay dominance and Malay supremacy in all and various economic, social and cultural sectors of Malaysia.  Non-Malay indigeneous tribes were also added to Malays to create a new privileged group known as “Bumiputra” or “Sons of the Soil” which would provide numerical superiority justification for Malay dominance and supremacy 
Political Islam was officially adopted and all critics to the new Malaysian Constitution would also be branded anti-Malay, anti-Islam and anti-Muslim.      
Malaysia thus entered the 1970’s in a golden era for its Malay ruling elites who were now in possession of desirable and lucrative economic licenses to be shared, for a price, with their family members, relatives, cronies, and especially with non-Malay power elite “partners” to create “Ali-Baba” companies, where the Malays (“Ali”) would provide the license and the Chinese (“Baba”) would appoint them on Company Boards with attractive compensation.  The “Baba’s” would of course do all the requisite work. 
The emergent class-based alliance between the Malaysian upper-class power elites composing Malays, Chinese and Indians political, social and industrial leaders would multiply its strength and pervasiveness under Prime Minister Mahathir from and beyond 1981.  For over 22 years under Mahathir’s Administration, Malaysia prospered much with the bulk of its wealth accruing to the political elites of the three major Malay, Chinese and Indian political parties in the ruling United Front coalition.
Under his leadership, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir’s economic and business agenda has also created a large number of politically connected Bumiputra rent seekers promoting a business system riddled with kickbacks and corruption.  As surely as power would corrupt and absolute power will corrupt absolutely, the “Bumiputra” Malays-first policies began to unpack as they develop complacency, gross mismanagement, discrimination against Malays; giving rise to class and religious divisions among the Malay elites and ordinary Malays.  
Government and local authority contracts, permits and licenses are given to people who are linked to the major ruling political parties and other powerful Bumiputra politicians who in turn rent out their licenses and permits for a fee or a percentage of profit, thus depriving others of these lucrative contracts. They would take a huge cut of any privileged contract before re-awarding the crumbs to the mostly Malay contractors; since 80% of registered contractors are Bumiputra.
Economic and commercial policies favour largely the already rich with lucrative government contracts awarded according to cronyism and nepotism facilitated by widespread systematic corruption practices. The mostly Malay sub-contractors therefore earned little compared with the power elites. 
Also neglected is a majority of the urban poor who are also Malays, and who hailed from other poorer states like Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Perak and Kedah and Indians who are pre-dominantly Tamils displaced from the plantations and estates during 80’s and the 90’s. 
For poor Malaysians, uncontrolled cheap labour from Indonesia, The Philippines and Myanmar also acted to suppress their already low wages. Most are from low-income families, and the majority of whom are also Malays.  Many simply give up instead of competing with the foreign labour. Those who did not quit would end up working in large government-owned corporation for low wages, even if they are members of the privileged Bumiputra group.
The poor economic attainment of many in the privileged Malay majority in Malaysia can now be better understood. Not in racial terms, but in the context of a class structure of social inequality created by their own Malay power and political elites.
Failed economic policies, corruption, cronyism and class-based institutional practices have locked-in a large proportion of Malaysians in a perpetual low-income-low-productive social stratum which few could escape from.  As the largest racial group, more Malays have suffered despite the numerous pro-Bumiputra and other explicit privileges granted to and for them. 
Rumours will continue to persist of a phony class war in Malaysia in spite of widespread disenchantment with growing income inequality fueled by corruption and cronyism, social and racial discrimination.  The slowly rising middle-class of various ethnic group members also has no stomach for a class war and is even less committed to racial politics.  They instead prefer secular policies not in favour of any racial groups.  
This is understandable as they are quite blinded to the reality of their own political enslavement after more than 50 years of subjugation to the combination of class and racially based political and economic forces.  Such is the Stockholm Syndrome nature in Malaysian race relations. For while they may complain and agitate against the extreme symptoms of her corrupt and racialist political system, the minority ethnic groups (as well as the vast number of poor Malays) seem strangely incapable of comprehending the precise nature of their situation so as to formulate feasible solutions to escape or reform the political-economic and social status quo.     
The REAL Class War in Malaysia shall begin only when a critical mass of “good” Malaysians recover from their “Stockholm Syndrome” which has "brain-washed" them to embrace the false social reality of non-existent Malay privileges and to reject the bogus "fundamental" social principles of Malay “dominance and supremacy”. The only effective and sustainable recovery therapy for a truly prosperous Malaysia is to recognize and embrace the actual social-demographic geo-political realities, and develop the new, necessary capabilities and social institutions to nurse the great country towards the potential road to eventually seize her day of glory and multi-racial acclaims. Basically, nothing short of radical constitutional reforms, perhaps involving revolutionary political re-calibrations with a popular mass movement to dismantle the current man-made class-based Malaysian society would be needed to drive the current “delusional” aspirations of change towards any realistic hope of attainable success.

 

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