"Malay Unity" call raises concerns and uneasiness whether it is a precursor to greater racial polarisation and marks a  major setback to Bangsa Malaysia concept

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang 

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): Although the  Prime Minister and UMNO President, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday that  the recent "Malay Unity" effort  was to safeguard Malay interests and not to oppose  or create animosity  with others, all Malaysian leaders regardless of race, religion or political beliefs should be aware of the concerns and uneasiness among the population whether it is a precursor to greater racial polarisation and marks a major setback to the 43-year nation-building process, Vision 2020 and the Bangsa Malaysia concept.

These concerns and uneasiness are created by the way racial politics was allowed to rear its ugly head particularly after the Barisan Nasional defeat in the Lunas by-election and the barrage of communal  writings in the Bahasa Malaysia media  accompanying the Malay Unity call.

What would be the reaction if there is at present  a "Chinese Unity Movement" calling on the Malaysian Chinese to unite regardless of their political affiliation to protect Chinese interests?  Would such a campaign be regarded as unMalaysian, anti-national and a major blow to the 43-year nation-building process, Vision 2020 and Bangsa Malaysia concept?

It is unfortunate and tragic, and a great disservice to Vision 2020 and Bangsa Malaysia concept,  that the Lunas by-election result has been  distorted as the symbol of  a challenge to the "social contract" among the Malays and non-Malays, including Article 153 of the Malaysian Constitution on Malay special rights, when I dare say that the question of the abolition of Malay special rights had never crossed the mind of any  Lunas voter who elected Saifuddin Nasution Ismail as the Lunas State Assemblyman on November 29 last year.

The Barisan Alternative victory at Lunas by-election in fact should be celebrated as a big step forward towards Bangsa Malaysia with the  coming together of Malaysians, whether Malays, Chinese or Indians, to  send a clear message of disapproval to the Barisan Nasional government for continuing its undemocratic, oppressive, corrupt and unjust policies and rule after its 1999 general election victory.

The Lunas result was not a vote for the abolition of Malay special rights, but for the end of the abuses of Malay special rights spawning corruption, cronyism and nepotism as well as the unabated undermining of the independent organs of state in particular the judiciary and the law enforcement agencies, the violation of the rule of law,  democratic freedoms and human rights to protect these abuses.

Concerns that the Malay Unity call will  escalate  greater ethnic polarisation in Malaysian politics and society and break the momentum towards multi-racial politics by throwing the country back to the old politics of communal "divide and rule"  have been created by a slew of very communal writings in the Bahasa Malaysia media. On New Yearís Day, Utusan Malaysia frontpaged an "Open Letter to Malays" from the Utusan Group Editor-in-Chief, Khalid Mohd, which among other things said:

The Utusan Malaysia "Open Letter to Malays" ended with the following  reference to Fiji: Apart from continuing to use Suqiu as a "whipping boy" as a threat to Malays, despite the clear and repeated  Suqiu clarification that it supported Article 153 of the Constitution, the Utusan "Open Letter to Malays" question as to whether the other races feel threatened by the Malays or whether the other races are slowly threatening the Malays is a clear rebuttal of Mahathirís statement yesterday that the Malay Unity call  was to safeguard Malay interests and not to oppose or create animosity  with others.

If a Chinese newspaper group editor-in-chief had written an "Open Letter to Malaysia Chinese" in a similar vein referring to Chinese interests and the need for Chinese unity, instant action would have been taken against him under the Internal Security Act and the newspaper group closed  under the Printing Presses and Publications Act.

All rational Malaysians, regardless of race or religion, who want to see the emergence of a Bangsa Malaysia with a Malaysian identity greater than just the separate ethnic identities, must hope that good sense will eventually prevail and that the the Malay Unity call is not  a precursor to greater racial polarisation,  mark a major setback to the 43-year nation-building process, Vision 2020 and the Bangsa Malaysia concept or break the momentum for the introduction of multi-racial politics to replace the old politics of "divide and rule" according to different communal compartments.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman