When Khir Toyo gave his undivided support for the 1 Melayu 1 Bumi idea, he asked what was wrong with it. Many things are wrong with it. Firstly, if the idea is that we need a movement to “unify” all Malays and Bumiputera under one political party (which is UMNO, presumably) it will not happen; not now, not ever. Malays are not sheep that will follow the likes of Ibrahim Ali and Khir Toyo without thinking.
There have been Malay leaders in UMNO who have tried since Merdeka to get this kind of narrow racial unity going, but to no avail. Indeed, they came up with their idea of “unity” not because they genuinely cared about the welfare of the Malays; but to sustain their race-based party which is the only political model they know. They are not prepared to change. They are not prepared to meet the changing world with honest courage. They are not brave enough to admit that their model of “unity” does not work. So, when the Malays support or join other parties, these politicians will cry wolf and create fear with race and religion. In the words of Khir Toyo: “For the Malay people themselves, the voting pattern of the Chinese and the policy of the DAP, which seems to be anti-everything that involves the interests of the Bumiputera and the religion of Islam, are clear indicators that there already is a wave that wants to empower the Chinese race in politics after they have taken control of the economy.”
What control? What power? What leaders like Khir Toyo and Ibrahim Ali fail to understand is that political power is not everything. Even without this recent “unity call”, the Malays are already in complete political control.
More than two-thirds of the Cabinet is Malay. Even the Barisan Nasional is just a coalition in name, and the way the Government does things shows that UMNO is not “first amongst equals” but, simply, “first”. And this happens not just in the Federal Government: more than two-thirds of Parliamentarians are Malay or Bumiputera. The Sultans are Malay. All except one of the Menteri Besar and Chief Ministers are Malay-Bumiputera. Eighty-five percent of the Civil Service are Malay, including the diplomatic corps and the educational and judicial services. The Armed Forces and Police are composed primarily of Malays. Rela members are mostly Malay. And what about the claim that the Chinese are in sole control of the economy? Have Khir Toyo and Ibrahim Ali forgotten about Government-Linked Companies (GLCs) such as Maybank, PETRONAS, Telekom Malaysia, TNB, Khazanah Nasional, PNB, Media Prima, Felda, Sime Darby, and many others, the vast majority of which are owned by the Government and managed by Malay-Bumiputera? The G-20 group of largest listed GLCs alone possess RM353 billion (around half) of the market capitalisation of the entire Bursa Malaysia and owned by GLCs controlled by UMNOputra. NEP asked for 30 %.
Are we to believe that, despite all this, the Malays and Bumiputera are still not in power? What more control do people like Khir Toyo want?
We Malays do not need to control more than what we already have. Instead, we need to have a competitive spirit coupled with the right work attitudes and values. Individuals, not corporations, need more capital and know-how. We need to harness our entrepreneurial spirit. We need to have the right educational options so that we understand the history of our nation properly—so we understand the meaning of democracy, rights and freedom. Then, and only then, will we learn to be at peace with others in the country and face the changes taking place around us.
None of these things requires us to have more control over anything other than our own abilities. In fact, the kind of “control” that Khir Toyo wants is partly the cause of the dependency syndrome amongst the Malays, which encourages us to feel that we are entitled to special treatment all the time.
To look at it from the another perspective: if people like Khir Toyo and Ibrahim Ali were right, and control is indeed central to the advancement of the Malays, then surely the Malays would have grown very advanced in education technology and finance after all these years of control. So, if Malays remain poor and uncompetitive today—if we still lack capital and business opportunities—then it is the duty of responsible political leaders to identify the real root causes of these deficiencies.
Can Khir Toyo and others like him explain to the Malays what can be achieved in this regard if, say, PAS joined UMNO? What benefits will Malay political unity bring to the education system? What reforms will it bring for a better administration of the country? Will there be less corruption if there is more Malay control than there already is?
No, because the lack of Malay unity and political control is not the root cause of these problems. It is not even remotely related to these problems at all. In fact, if there were more of the control that Khir Toyo and his kind want, there will be more of the dependency syndrome, more insecurity, more feelings of entitlement without having to strive for anything through education and honest work. These so-called “leaders” must stop crying wolf and start looking at ways to help improve what is clearly a terrible situation. They must help the Malays and Bumiputera identify opportunities and make best use of them according to their abilities, and if these abilities are not enough, then these leaders must help improve them. They must help students get a better education and skills through better teachers and lecturers.
It is straightforward, but it requires hard work and not empty rhetoric. The call for “control” and “unity” does nothing except sweep the need for real work under the carpet.
The real enemies of the Malays are ignorance and lack of knowledge. Those leaders who demand “unity” and “control” should look in the mirror and ask: “Is this really the best I can do for my people?”