The organisers of the Malay Dignity Congress (Kongres Maruah Melayu) last weekend would have done well if they had proposed the following five resolutions instead of what was rather deliriously propounded.
The first resolution should be on education and must emphasise it is the basis of human and social progress.
The government therefore must ensure the system is one that promotes high achievement through open and fair competition and with the use of languages and technologies that drive personal excellence.
In that regard, it is lamented that the quality of education has been falling which is making Malaysia and Malaysians, particularly the Malays, less able to compete in the globalised world.
The Dasar Pendidikan Negara (National Education Policy) must address the imperative of quality and arrest the decline in standards. There should be no injection of political and racial issues in fulfilling the fundamental needs of education.
The second resolution should be on the economy. The Congress should have welcomed the government’s Shared Prosperity Vision (SPV), Wawasan Kemakmuran Bersama. However, its details and implementation must not repeat the mistakes and abuses of the New Economic Policy (NEP) whereby benefits were accorded to those well connected but not in need or qualifying.
As with the NEP, it is understood there must be growth before there can be any sharing. The government’s economic policies therefore must be conducive to economic growth by providing opportunities and rewarding effort and contribution. In driving economic growth however, social and environmental concerns should not be neglected. Poverty must be eradicated irrespective of race, as in the NEP. Sustainable development goals must not be forgotten.
In the third resolution, the Congress should underline that Islam is the official religion of Malaysia even as the practice of other religions is guaranteed. Islam is a religion of peace and inclusiveness, and bears no animosity towards non-Muslims, just as it is expected they would respect Islam’s place in the Federal Constitution.
Islam is a religion that encourages learning and achievement. It does not reserve any position for Muslims if they are not qualified. It welcomes the contribution of non-Muslims able and willing to contribute to the well-being of the community.
Islam is also open to different viewpoints, including among Muslims themselves, as long as they do not demean the religion or challenge its place in the federation.
Fourth, the Congress can note there has to be greater sensitivity in treating matters pertaining to Islam and the Malay culture, including respect for the rulers. It is recognised there can be differences of views on what are deviant ideologies and teachings, but with good faith and mutual respect these differences can be discussed in a quiet, private if necessary, manner.
The resolution should clearly state the Congress does not encourage extremist and disruptive behaviour which causes racial conflict and disturbs social order and peace.
Yes, the position of Bahasa Melayu, as the national language should be recognised and not forgotten, but use of other languages should not therefore be disallowed, especially as instruments for national and personal advancement.
Finally, politics, which is the heart of the matter and really the reason why the Congress was called. It is the shock of defeat in May last year of an old order which had provided a comfort zone that made the Malays believe they were protected and unassailable. Hence, the defiant this land is Malay land, in the jaws of what is perceived as Malay defeat.
Actually, and sadly, the Malays were living in a fool’s paradise. The land was being ravaged and its wealth carted away. The policies for Malay advancement were implemented yes, but with discrimination among the Malays themselves. The elite and corrupt Malays prospered. The rest, most of the Malays, were left forever dependent and at the bottom of the heap.
That is no comfort zone, even if decorated with buntings of race and religion. Dignity indeed.
The fifth resolution therefore — and this is the big and huge miss of the Congress — should condemn the deep and pervasive corruption of the Malay-dominant previous government which has brought financial ruin to the country and shame to the Malays.
Yes, shame to the Malays. This has not been recognised enough, if at all, among the Malays. Pillage and plunder and lies cannot be part of Malay and Islamic culture. It is not a badge of Malay dignity.
That fifth resolution should also put this present government on notice that it had better rid this country of corruption and get moving on its reform programme in line with the laws of our land and with the Federal Constitution — where the rights of Malays are well enough protected.
Malays should want to stand tall once again with all the races in this nation of ours. We don’t cut others down. We bring ourselves up.
The writer, a former NST group editor, returns to write on local and international political affairs. He is also member of the Economic Action Council chaired by the prime minister.
Published in: The New Straits Times, Friday 11 October 2019