Race-based politics

A debate happened yesterday night between the ex-CM of Penang, and the present CM of Penang. The former is Koh Tsu Koon of Gerakan, the latter is Lim Guan Eng of DAP.

I didn’t watch the debate. It was too late for me here.

Looking at the photos of the debate, especially the one where the two are shaking hands after the debate, reminded me of a conversation I had with my dad yesterday morning.


Me: You know, DAP, PKR and Gerakan are multi-ethnic parties, right? But it’s funny how DAP and Gerakan are called “Chinese-based”, simply because their leader is Chinese, and PKR is “Malay-based” because their leader is Malay.

Dad: But there are Indians and Chinese in PKR what..

Me: Ya, there are also Malays and Indians in DAP. But they call it Chinese-based anyway. They’re multi-ethnic, but people tend to think that PKR will champion for Malay rights, and DAP and Gerakan will champion Chinese rights, simply because their leaders are Malays or Chinese.

Dad: So if we look at it this way, then the Indians have no representation la?

Me: No……

Dad: Nah, Sivarasa is in PKR right? So there you have Indian representation la!

Me: But you know what’s funny? There are certain politicians that I simply can’t tell if they’re from DAP or PKR. Like, I look at their names, and I think.. Hmm.. This one DAP or PKR ah?

Dad: But that’s good isn’t it? So you can’t tell which party they are from simply from their race ma. Like in BN, if he’s Chinese, then sure from MCA, if Indian then sure from MIC. All this race-based thing, not good la. So if you can’t tell which party a certain politician belongs to simply from the colour of their skin, it’s a good thing.


Towards the evening, we had conversation (2) about race-based politics.

Me: You know, I actually hope that BN can pull up their socks. They’re doing a terrible job now, but when one day Pakatan Rakyat form the federal government, I hope that there is a strong enough BN to be the opposition to keep PR on their toes. It’s because we always had this one-sided government with little representation from the opposition that we have what this kind of situation today.

Dad: …

Me: So that’s why sometimes when I see people from Gerakan and MCA leaving their parties to join with DAP or PKR, and I think, why leh? At the same time, I think it’s the right thing to do. But then if all the good people leave BN, then no hope la for a strong opposition next time!

Dad: I think they do good in leaving. If BN remains a coalition made up of UMNO and MCA and MIC, meaning that it’s still made up of separated races, then no point we keep them.

Me: True…

Dad: They need to change. Let them all join to form one party that does not discriminate against races. Otherwise, let it die a natural death. Let the people leave. Racial politics should die a natural death.

Me: But it’s going to be difficult, with 3.3 million UMNO members…

Dad: Difficult, yes. But in 20, 30, 40 years? It will die a natural death.


Race-based politics will die a natural death. If it doesn’t, it will be because we let it be.


7 Comments on “Race-based politics”

  1. humm says:

    Sometimes you sit down and wonder which is better, naive liberal intelectual idealism or sicere pragmatic political system.

    I used to believe idealism must never be compromised. Of course, along the line you discover many more facets of idealism. You discover that your idealism is very much ‘your’ own, what ‘you’ wish for. You believe that what is right and wrong is so obvious and the rest of the world should also see it the way you see it. Then later you discover, nothing is so obvious. What is ideal to you, what you think is fair and just, is not necessarily shared by all. After all, the world history is full of it. Feudalism, Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, and all other forms of religious ideals are just a glimpse of what is out there. The World goes to war because of these idealisms. And I’m sure every single one of us also have our version of ‘religion’, our ideals, which we will go to war for.

    Back closer to home, yeah we too have our idealistic version of malaysia as well. Even back during independence there were group that championed united malaysian malaysia. Then there were PSRM or ‘Parti Socialist Rakyat Malaysia’, the Communist Party (if you can call them one) that fought hard, and later on DAP, Gerakan, etc. Although many of these parties championed a united party with participant from all race, we know what happened in time. Regardless of all the effort they have put, the racial divided is the natural order of things. Geographically, the malays are predominantly in the villages, the chinese in towns, indians the estates and so on. Religious wise, majority malays are muslims, chinese are budhist or christians, idians are hindus and so forth. A geographical, religious, cultural divide is a reality that painted our beloved nation. It is not surprising then when you see DAP is still ‘seen’ as a chinese party. So is Gerakan. PSRM then had a good mixed but majority of its members are still malays. The Communist are mainly chinese, even though there were some malays as their top guys. So, ya we tried.

    If after 50 years the attempt has not shown much progress, then it must have failed. Why so? I can see some already standing and willing to blame the government for everything. That is your choice but to me lets remain objective. No one can deny that what we have is not shaped only over the last 50 years of our existence. The history of this country doesn’t just exist after independence. Its people have fought many battles far longer than that. The portugis, the dutch, the english, all these are part of the history that cannot be washed away and put aside as insignificant to its people. All these are more reflected in the ‘institusi raja raja melayu’ that reflected the malay under pinings of this nation.

    Some believe PRU12 is a wake up call. Yes PRU12 signalled something but many people read it to their own likings. Society does not change over night. The government may change but the people that is out there, majority of them are still the same. Lets us not be deluded to think that we are about to change a nation with our views. It is amazing to see that there actually some who truly believe this. How ever long an article i can write, it is read only by a small fraction of people here. Dip that into the millions in the nation gives you the extent of its influence. Factor that with the time it require to change people opinion, we are talking of a long journey here.

    Is a united party of all races a must for malaysia’s future? Maybe good BUT not necessary to me. What is actually our point? Is it to have an equitable fair system where everyone could contribute to the nation or one race one nation? You can always have a one race one nation but not fair for all, which is just as bad. Is a multi party system based on race ensure a demise to the political system? I beg to differ. At least there isn’t a sigle proof of that anywhere in this world. It is nevertheless a belief currently promoted by many BUT to me it is not factually supported and has a bad smell of ulterior motives in support of their own political preferences.

    As a country that is outright divided in terms or race, culture and religion, geographically and all, I personally believe that a party system based on raced isn’t necessarily wrong or ultimately bound to fail. On the other hand, it could easily be used to strengthened the check and balances, the healthy competition, and mutual respect. That is what was opted by our past leaders during independence which I would still maintained a right choice. The concern then is more on being equitable and just, which we may have seens its ups and downs. To me, we should keep our focus rather than abandon ship especially when the storms challenges our progress.

    We have started with our version of ideals. Along our way we have forged it with pragmatic approaches to steer this nation. And to me, no one can avoid growing up if we have to account for all instead of just our own views.

  2. Salak says:

    Is racism and chauvinism in ethnicity really “the” problem?

    I would say it’s the authoritarian rule. It’s short of fascism but when you come to think of how they’ve rigged elections via corruption, it’s masked as failed governance.

    We know in the kampungs and towns, except when party lines are visible and audible, people live as best as they could without bloodshed, unlike unfortunate incidents in Indonesia where poverty is chronic!

    Where poverty in Indonesia is visible in Malaysia the growing urbanity has not addressed poverty effectively or transparently—access to public goods is costly and time wasteful; poverty in Malaysia is nascent, and relative and getting uglier with the bad cops we have!

    In addition to actively pursuing change via political activism, I’m inclined to believe there must be more ernest confidence building in the majority ethnic group and other NGOs in Malaya. In Sarawak, uninformed fears, no doubt spread by BN government through media enslavement, has caused fears about active religious chauvinism. And via blatant corrupt acts they’ve just been stripped bare in Kuching.

    Amongst the many ways in efforts to grow confidence must surely greater more transparency and wider press freedom, safeguards against totalitarian rule.

    There is a lot to be said about human dignity which we are struggling to pin down in the right rhetoric but with more opennes via a free press, we could even sing a jingle for it!

    But sparks of hope has been kindled and we hope we can make meaningful progress after Permatang Pauh, can’t we?

  3. kai says:

    Racial based parties must be replaced with a single race party. Nope. Not single race as you think, but single race in the sense that the party must be a Malaysian-race party.

    Prior to PRU 12, Malaysians supported the BN because it championed the races that they represent. But when time goes by, Malaysians will realize that being a party that championed its own race would do us no good.

    Dr. Mahathir in his Wawasan 2020 had laid down that the 1st thing that we need to achieve in order to become a develop nation is a strong and united Bangsa Malaysia. Thus, we need to be united and that is why Pakatan Rakyat is seen as giving a new hope to Malaysian’s political landscape.

    For me, although I am a Malay myself, I do not think that I deserve to have special privileges. These so called privileges will make other Malaysians tend to look down at me as if without the privileges, that is it.

    Furthermore, I am a Malay from Javanese descent. My great-grandfather was a Javanese and he traveled here in early 1900. Thus, if Chinese and Indians is considered as foreigners by some ultra-Malays, how about me? I am not a pure blood Malay. I became a Malay because during early Merdeka Days, the government had rebranding Javanese, the Bugis, the Banjars etc as Malays.

    So, there is no need to be so racist and stick with racial based party. Not all Malays are pure Malays. We are just the same as other races, only that our descendants came earlier than the Chinese and the Indians… (^_^)

  4. Truth Seeker says:

    Looks like we have to keep promoting awareness of what Good Governance is all about until it becomes a reality in our beloved Malaysia.


    Universal principles of good governance and rule of law …..

    Can we learn from the Iraqi experience???

    A global consensus recognizing that good governance is vital for economic development and poverty alleviation has emerged. Good governance provides an enabling environment for general economic development, human resources development, ensuring the prevention and resolution of conflict. All these elements are essential to build a firm common ground for Iraqi national reconciliation. Good governance, as we know, is a pillar of democracy. Finding a consensus on a definition of the concept of good government has not been easy. Does it apply to just sound administration and management or does it also refer to the political domain and political leadership? Is it a universal principle or does it vary according to context? This vagueness raises the risks associated with applying a concept, which may not be rooted in the particular socio-cultural and political environment of Iraq. It is generally accepted that in the context of a political and constitutional environment that upholds human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law, good governance is the transparent and accountable management of human, natural, economic and financial resources for the purpose of equitable and sustainable development. Citizens expect the government to respond to their needs through a systematic process of accountability, transparency, and checks and balances. Good governance ensures that political, social, and economic priorities reflect broad consensus, that decision-makers represent the voices of the poorest and the most vulnerable in allocating development resources, and that the rights of the people are respected. It entails clear decision-making procedures at the level of public authorities, transparent and accountable institutions, the primacy of law in the management and distribution of resources and capacity building for elaborating and implementing measures aimed in particular at preventing and combating corruption. Essentials of Good Governance, The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) defines good governance as “the responsible exercise of political, economic and administrative authority in the management of a country’s affairs at all levels”. Good governance, among other things, is participatory, transparent, accountable, effective, equitable, and fair. It promotes the rule of law. Participation ensures an open, inclusive, participatory political system. It involves citizens in the decision-making process and in implementing public projects orother government activity. Participation goes beyond mere consultation and implies the existence of opportunities to contribute through gainful employment; opportunities to move in the mainstream of political, economic, and cultural processes and the eradication of the marginalization of groups and discrimination, poverty, and deprivation; and freedom from vulnerability through a guaranteed system of social safety nets and social security systems. To this end, good governance embraces the concept of devolution of power to local authorities and communities. The right of citizens to participate in the conduct of public affairs is more directly exercised at local levels. The existence of local authorities that are given real responsibilities can provide an administrative system that is both effective and close to the citizen. Transparency involves establishing appropriate lines or forms of accountability between the government and the public, which should include access to information through suchmeasures as freedom of information legislation, open decision-making, and rules ofsubstantive and procedural fairness. The rule of law assumes the existence of inalienable rights and liberties for every citizen, which governments should not touch or violate. To some extent the essence of the rule of law lies in its juxtaposition to “the rule of men or women”. This aphorism seeks to state the following basic principles: that all state power ought to be exercised under the authority of law; and rules of law should govern the election and appointment of those who make and execute policy, as well as the manner in which such policies are made and executed to ensure rationality and fairness in the decision-making process. In addition, good governance must assure the equal participation of women with men in all processes of governance. Only complete equality between men and women in all legal, political, and social arrangements can create the proper conditions for human freedom and good governance. Establishment and protection of good governance whatever the case, it is agreed that good governance is above all a domestic issue and inadequate domestic policies have played a role in widening the gap between rich and poor and achieving good governance is a process which must come from within andsteps must be taken to support and recognize genuine initiatives to attain it. Transparency, good governance and development are closely linked and together they become a vehicle to improve the human condition. The promotion of good governance requires a determined campaign against corruption, which is one of the most concrete expressions of misadministration. The quality of the administration of a country’s resources is an essential factor that explains its development performances — good or bad. Good governance is the true test of democracy. A government, which administers scarce resources in accordance with the real needs of the population, must be fundamentally democratic.

    The political, judicial and intellectual elite must be benchmark and models of integrity. The political leadership must be genuinely determined to attack the problem of corruption and must demonstrate that determination. Good governance like democracy must not be allowed to become just another slogan – a false front to placate the providers of funds. Experience shows that it is unrealistic to hope to change things at the instigation of civil society alone. The essential first step is to influence public opinion and make decision-makers and the public at large aware of the devastating effects of misadministration. Underemployment, inadequate or sporadic employment and low wages continue to contribute to a high level of poverty in Iraq which in turn feed the militias and terrorists groups. We have to extricate ourselves from our backwardness by building a strong and democratic Iraq. Debates on national issues are healthy and should continue even after the national reconciliation. Different point of views should be respected. After all, “in a democracy dissent is an act of faith, like medicine, the taste of its value is not in its taste, but in its effects.”


    The success of efforts to improve governance, the respect of human rights and the rule of the law throughout Iraq will depend on the development and strengthening of institutions that underpin good governance, democracy and the rule of law. With respect to the current political process, these efforts cannot succeed unless economic conditions in Iraq improve and develop to a level where Iraq is able to develop and sustain the institutions necessary to promote governance, the protection of human rights and the rule of law. Good governance cannot flourish along side grinding poverty and weak state institutions.

    Dr. Widad Al-Ali,
    Executive Director
    Al-Yaqeen Centre for Training, Studies and Development

  5. xenon says:

    With all due respect,
    allow me to enlighten you with Malaysian politics.
    Keeping in mind that forming government requires support of the majority in the election.
    It DOESN’T matter, even if DAP or Gerakan(with a Malay founder) has Malay members and is multi-racial.
    NO BODY CARES. wake-the-fak-up

    Arguments for are:

    1)Demographic Composition of voting constituents
    2)Value and objectives of the party

    For instance, to garner votes in rural requires rural Malay votes, whom value MOST religion as the way of life.

    (Related here is the stubborn Malay-Muslim-identity.)
    (which will NEVER change)
    (even if they ever do, you wont live to see it)
    (…even if you go on cryopreservation)

    which brings us to factor 2.
    PAS’s theo-ethnocentrism will therefore be most appealing.
    The same applies to the chinese. (aka MCA, DAP)
    the race card strikes most effective at the hearts of the MAJORITY.

    the majorities whom are ignorant, Theo-centric, and hence immature. (like your conversation with dad)

    However, all isn’t gloom, at least we are keeping with the spirit of democracy.
    (HINT: look George Bush and the US)

    PS: My personal view (humble) coz it wont matter and wont change anything is “race-based politics totally distracts and interrupts cause-based politics, the latter which is ultimately most relevant to the people.”
    and therefore must go!

    PS2: it wont go, we have to rid it, if we want to see a race-based free country.

    Damn the stupid majority.

    anyway, hope you guys get it.

  6. xenon says:

    bare in mind, if you agree totally with the post above, you are not the majority,and if you don’t like the way malaysia is run.
    feel free to GET OUT!


    ah…..the paradox of democracy…

  7. Cass says:

    hi mic , lighten up and watch my video on the racist teacher from Banting , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7Q-FAEVRYc


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