Too scared to be leaders or why the boycott can’t be opposed

SEPTEMBER 5 — Most Malaysians don’t know and don’t care that Ananda Krishnan helped realise 1985’s phenomenal “Live Aid” concert which was televised worldwide. Freddie Mercury was in it, as dramatised in the 2018 movie Bohemian Rhapsody.

However, boycotting him — Ananda the Sri Lankan Tamil born and raised in KL, not Freddie of Zanzibar — would mean no more variety show MeleTOP.

Now they are bothered.

Because the mogul is also behind Astro, which owns Astro Ria, which hosts the popular show.

The channel is one half of Malay language entertainment juggernaut-duo, the other being Media Prima’s TV3.

And since most low-cost units discarded their TV antennae and rely on the Astro dish to catch terrestrial TV, no Astro subscription also means no TV3.

Drive around Klang Valley and see the Astro dishes dominate the flats, whatever storeys tall — as long as low-cost.

So, boycotting non-Bumiputera products has a chilling effect on everyday Malays.

How’d the far-right navigate that in case of victory in this crusade?

Our people can live in squalor and failed lifts, but will they stomach the loss of a chance to follow a village girl’s love travails with a rich heir of a business empire besotted by a spoilt girlfriend, plus a karaoke-worthy theme song?

Will they?

(Don’t worry, it’s the same in the Tamil TV world, one silly family drama holds millions hostage. Malaysians are more alike than they’d admit to.)

And there’s the nightmare of betraying one’s tastebuds. The curry war has been over for years, will Malays want to live in a world without Alagappa’s, Baba’s and Cap Burung Nuri? Oh, the inhumanity!

Nasi kandar might be borderline Bumiputera, but the powder powering the curries are not. What shall we do? A Malaysian without curry is a sorry sight indeed.

The actual target

The boycott’s focus is elsewhere. The right-wingers would readily own up to it.

Still, they’d have a derogatory manner to placate Indian Malaysians which instead turns to startling insults. But right-wingers won’t see it.

If they saw things from how it looks like from the other end, any other person’s end, they might lose the sting and cease their hate churning. No, in their business, it is essential to keep the blinders on. It most certainly aids with living with their conscience.

So, who’s the target?

A buy Bumiputera-only campaign is a euphemism for don’t-buy-Chinese.

It’s not about Astro, Maxis or every delicious curry powder, it’s about the rich race, the Chinese — an oversimplification which survives due to decades of consistent messaging. 

Stereotyped as they are, some accusations hold up.

Let’s not kid ourselves that unofficial practices within the Chinese community to assist each other — credit terms, credit facilities, preferential contracts and hiring for instance — are absent.

Each needs scrutiny, to distinguish between cordial ties and systemic processes to shut out competition and business entry. 

All of them require remedy, which does not seek to end Chinese domination but to level the playing field. To bring about equality of opportunities, not equality of outcomes.

A Malaysian agenda means engaging all inequalities not just the one’s plaguing certain communities. To be firm but fair.

Endgame

Chinese across South-east Asia, it appears, possess intuitive premonition on when to keep their heads down.

While they remain wary, I do wonder what’s the endgame — for those egging on the boycott against them?

For minorities to back down, realise their place in Malaysia?

Or to get the message they need to kowtow in order to be Malaysian?

Let’s put that aside for a second.

Once they have obliterated Chinese-owned retail operations, products and services, will they expunge business to business ties? Government procurements? State-owned companies to by-pass Chinese owned suppliers?

Where does it end, or do those behind it want to build inertia and let it grow organically, with no captain at the helm to bring the anchor down on the campaign? Allow it to go where it might. That’s irresponsible.

Yet, any escalation benefits their organisations.

Which speaks volumes about these leaders and who they represent. These right-wingers.

‘We shall overcome’

When canvassing for votes in Congress for the Civil Rights Act 1964, President Lyndon B Johnson offered this:

For with a country as with a person, “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem. And we are met here tonight as Americans — not as Democrats or Republicans — we are met here as Americans to solve that problem.

Johnson was from Texas, which was back then like being a Malay from Kedah or Johor. But he stayed the course and won.

Read Negro as Malay or Chinese. Read Southern and Northern as Malaya and Borneo. American with Malaysian. Democrats and Republicans as Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional.

How does it look now?

Can we see things as Malaysian problems first before degenerating into communal frenzy?

The reason why neither the prime minister, his heir apparent, pretender to the throne, leader of opposition nor leader in opposition to democracy stand by a Malaysian position is because they do openly pander to communal lines.

Mahathir Mohamad, Anwar Ibrahim, Azmin Ali, Zahid Hamidi and Abdul Hadi Awang speak of national interest with qualifiers perpetually.

Stock-speeches, they possess in truckloads.

Which is why they can’t oppose the right-wingers’ call for buy Bumi-first. They can’t protest communalism. They support it. So, they all comtort and speak about how too much communalism is not healthy.

It is degrees to them. They shun their opponents’ over-eagerness, but they accept the eagerness of a race agenda.

They are against too much, but they are fine with some. They might as well be saying they are for “all the Malaysia they can afford without upsetting the Malay right-wing.”

It’s a daft position.

It constantly halts the march of Malaysian nationalism to please the needs of racism.

It’s that ghost of Onn Jaafar again. “Never go full Malayan — Malaysian — or you’ll never win elections,” the refrain from the first Umno president’s failure with open and equal multiculturalism. 

We are in the 21st century, might be time to take on that old chestnut. Otherwise, the right-wing onslaughts buying politicians’ acquiescence by dangling Malay votes over them will be on repeat till the end of days.

And peace, a distant dream. That’s not on sale currently, as a Bumiputera or a non-Bumiputera product.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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