Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pandangan Si Otak Karat....

Do you ever think that one day, in the future, we would have a non-Malay Prime Minister? Did the Americans ever think that one day; they will have an African-American President? But, perhaps, the African-Americans did dream last time that one day one of them will become the President of United States of America. And it happens now. The President-elect, Barack Hossein Obama, who will swear-in as the next American President next January, is an African-American – a cause of joy to be celebrated by the African-Americans, and their fellow Americans. And I believe, here in Malaysia, the non-Malays – the Chinese and the Indians – also have the same dream: that one day in the future, one of them will be elected as the Prime Minister of Malaysia [well it was obviously shown in several comments by some of the Chinese leaders, either from the opposition party, Democratic Action Party (DAP), or from the ruling National Alliance party (BN), Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA)]. Possibly, the main question that needs to be raised is: Will it happen? [I am not trying to become pessimistic, just raising a question].

Lee Hsien Long [son of Lee Kuan Yew, the main architect of modern Singapore], current Singapore’s Prime Minister, in his response to the similar question asked by journalist clearly said that it is impossible for the Singaporean Malays to become Prime Minister of the island state [bear in mind that the Malays in Singapore are considered as the minority group]. The same kind of comment came after that from the Mentor Minister, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, when he delivered a talk at the Singapore’s Institute of South-East Asian Studies (ISEAS). Mr. Lee said that it would require a long period of time for the Singaporean Malays to be elected as the Prime Minister.

There are mixed responses from various segments of the society in Malaysia. The non-Malays, the Chinese in particular, were a bit ‘excited’ in expressing their views on the subject matter. The current MCA President, Datuk Ong Tee Kiat [he is also Transport Minister in the current Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s cabinet], for example, has said that the Malaysians should move forward and put a side ethnicity as the barrier for the non-Malays to be elected as the future Prime Minister of Malaysia. While Datuk Seri Utama Dr. Rais Yatim, the UMNO Supreme Council Member [he is the Foreign Minister in the present cabinet] has assertively said that it is impossible for the non-Malays to become Prime Minister of Malaysia due to several factors such as differences in terms of history between Malaysia and the United States of America (USA), cultural assimilation among major ethnic groups in the country etc [for this point, I call Datuk Seri Utama Dr. Rais Yatim as ‘Malaysia’s Lee Kuan Yew’]. There are other comments from other politicians, such as Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, academicians, political analysts etc but I do not want to dwell too much on the comments from different personalities. I think it is enough to mention these two comments.

Recently, Datuk Mukhriz Tun Dr. Mahathir [son of the former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad], a hopeful UMNO Youth Chief, has suggested that the government should abolish ethnic-based schools and introduce a national school for the purpose of national integration. The Chinese and the Indians have responded, sternly, to this suggestion. Majority of them disagree with Mukhriz, and assert that the government should maintain the current educational system which gives privileges to the ethnic-based schools, that are the Sekolah Rendah Jenis Kebangsaan (Cina) and Sekolah Rendah Jenis Kebangsaan (Tamil). The government in their immediate response has avowed that the current educational system will be maintained, and there is no reason for them to modify the current system and introduce a single national school, as it is in line with the recommendations from Penyata Razak. However, some academicians ‘sing the same rhythms’ with Mukhriz. They contend that this suggestion is not new, but it was mentioned before in the Penyata Barnes. The report clearly advocates single national school for the purpose of integrating different ethnic groups in Malaysia, and thus ethnic-based schools should be brought to an end.

To my mind, I think the non-Malays, especially the Chinese, will fight till the end of the day for their Chinese school. They will never agree with such proposal and will keep reiterating that it is important to maintain Chinese school as to preserve their culture and identity. [However, Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Datuk Dr. Khoo Kay Khim has advised the non-Malays to be considerate with the Malays in this issue since they are the minority groups]. It is like the Malays and their Sultans. If the non-Malays do something that will threaten or question the position of the Sultans, the Malays will undeniably turn into ‘madness’. This is due to fact that the Sultans symbolize the Malays social and cultural identity since the Malacca Sultanate until today [thus in my humble opinion, the Sultans should be thankful to the non-Malays for their existence until today (an opinion credited to my supervisor)].

However, in this issue, I think the non-Malays should be thankful to Datuk Mukhriz Tun Dr. Mahathir. Why? Because his suggestion, the establishment of a single national school, will pave the way for the non-Malays to become future Malaysian Prime Minister. I have no intention to say that Datuk Mukhriz is ‘penyangak bangsa Melayu’. No, that is not my main intention. His suggestion is unquestionably good to all Malaysians, or to bangsa Malaysia. But the point I wanted to highlight is by having a single national school, certainly there would be a possibility for the non-Malays to become Prime Minister in the future, despite the fact that it would take many years to achieve this single dream [for the non-Malays]. Why I am saying this? The fact that the Americans, the Whites and the Blacks, have voted Barack Hossein Obama as the next American President is because Obama has assimilated himself into American culture and has articulated American identity despite the fact that, culturally speaking, he is African-American. He speaks American-English, dresses like an American ‘handsome’ gentleman, eats typical American food, thinks and behaves like American guy, plays American sports etc. His national identity transcends his ethnic identity, thus, this is the very reason of why the Americans, the Whites and the Blacks, have chosen him to become ‘their’ president.

It is, indeed, a long way to go for the Malaysians to mark another history by electing a non-Malay Prime Minister. But I believe it is a dream that can be achieved. It is just a matter of time to decide. But if it is impossible to be achieved, then the idea of a single national school should not be simply rejected. The most important thing, above all, is national integration rather than having a non-Malay Prime Minister!!

*The ideas expressed in this writing are based on my anthropological knowledge. I have little information on what would be the Islamic standpoints on the said issues.*

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