Monday, August 18, 2008

‘Anak Melayu Anak Saya, Anak Cina Anak Saya…’

‘Anak Melayu Anak Saya, Anak Cina Anak Saya, Anak India Anak Saya…’

Badawi could never utter the above words. And if he did, he would be transparently unconvincing. Neither could Najib and certainly not the likes of Hishamuddin and Khairy.

But Anwar, in his speeches, articulates those words with passion and conviction.

Therein is one of the most fundamental of differences between the two dominant influences in contemporary Malaysian politics. One tradition that has persisted on the racist agenda and tactics we’ve come to recognise as the modus operandi of Umno and the other tradition, being championed by a multi-racial coalition, determined to rid Malaysia of the debased and coercive racist politics of communalism that continues to lose currency with an increasing segment of the Malaysian public.

Gerakan’s Dr Toh Kin Woon hit the nail on the head when he said there’s a movement underway to ‘strengthen the voices of moderation, against racism, for political freedom, [and] a more just and equal society. Anwar has articulated all this.’ Perhaps like Toh, other career politicians will see just how strongly Malaysians are in favour of burying the racist politics of Umno and how fast the component parties of BN are losing ground with their base for essentially being a conduit to Umno’s racist politics.

Make no mistake. It’s been the people’s craving for a just and equitable democratic society – and a rejection of blatant racist policies – that has been the fuel that has sustained this movement. While many opportune politicians are seeing the Umno-BN continue to straddle and are starting to jump ship, such fair-weather reformers are nonetheless sensible enough to recognise there is, as I’ve written in an earlier column, ‘a Malaysian awakening.’

This Malaysian awakening is simple: it is an unequivocal rejection of the politics of race, a political ploy which has essentially robbed us of the sanctity of our public institutions, and hence diminished our ability to build a genuine democracy.

This movement is about regaining faith in ourselves and in our capacity to live in a society where our voices are not muzzled, and our dignity and civil rights as citizens not diminished by those only driven by the temptation of monopoly power.

I am not naïve to think that with this new craving for a democratic and non-communitarian politics that we’ll be magically delivered to the promise land. Sure there will be serious pot-holes and diversions along the way. But it’s the journey that matters. It’s being able to have leaders who want to try and get us there. As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, I know the current regime is ill-equipped and, more importantly, philosophically opposed to a legitimate multi-racial democracy. Besides, it isn't even marginally competent to get us headed in the direction of building a democratic society.

Just as I know that when someone says with passion and conviction – and whose deeds reflects the vision that the anak Melayu, anak Cina and Anak India are part of one family, we are, then, on our way to a new and democratic Malaysia.

G. Krishnan