JANUARY 7 — Forget about Nueang Nandanagara.
Look at the delegates at the Umno Assembly just ended. While they were busy busying about power and national mistrust, among them were potential Trojan Horses.
Talking about the Umno delegates with mixed parentage.
Over the weekend they were only Malay. Only.
But when racial slurs are bandied about as they are casually in race exclusive and proud spaces, how do those with mixed blood feel?
Does their blood boil when references are made about people who could readily be their grandparents, uncles or nieces? Or their mum.
Umno would not have persevered for 74 years if the right to ridicule the rest was not a natural self-claimed privilege in its realm.
When Najib Razak said last week Umno was meant to rule, Umno being Malay only, then he meant being ruled is for the rest of Malaysia excluding Malays.
To rule comes with those who are ruled, and quite antithetical to the distributive purpose of democracy, but then again democracy, fairness and love for your fellow man are not the only affectations antithetical to Umno.
An essence of race arrogance prevails, and therefore I wonder, how do the biracial members cope?
Angry, disappointed or true to their label, just mixed?
Don’t worry, not a tirade against the grand old party, or the other race pride pretenders — Bersatu Pribumi, Pejuang, PAS, Amanah and to a reasonable extent the leadership spine of PKR — screaming at a rally near you.
But a fascination about the amphibious class of Malaysians, how they have their feet in both sides of the national divide.
Malay sure, but they had first class rasam in Sentul growing up with Uncle Bala — there’s always a Bala. Sat down at a mahjong table while the aunts were slipping ang pows between scrambles for tiles. Aunt May, Aunt Shu and elder cousin Rita, does that complete a table?
They don’t have to have first class experiences, but it’s not about quality, it’s about the natural and seamless access they had to two or more worlds.
It is said polyglots have the heart of the world sewn into them as the languages they possess wire them to the soul of society, as they imbibe layers, loops and connections.
Even if in modest terms compared to natural anthropologists, biracial children are gifted with sights and sounds inside them that the regular Umno or Pribumi Bersatu members are ignorant about.
Today more than ever their insights are invaluable.
These are the days where one man shouts down the other man on the basis the shouter’s thoroughly convinced he loves Malays and has a plan to protect them far more than others. Call it white noise, cacophony, crescendo or just nonsensical wails about victimhood or impending doom, true political players know there’s only gain by barking up the tree of racial injustice, even if the threats are imaginary.
A small segue to why mixed parentage is different in Malaysia and the emphasis on Malay.
When Malays mix with others — be it Chinese, Kadazan, Bidayuh, Siamese or Malayalee — and produce offspring, those kids when they have an iota of Malay, they become by legal definition within the Federation of Malaysia, Malay whole.
Which is fine if it worked in both directions as preferred by the individual in question. After all, free will away, baby. Here, just a bit means the whole becomes only that bit — if it’s the proper bit.
Simply put, a person with eight different races is only Malay if one of the eight parts is Malay.
Malaysians might find the explanation laboured, they get Constitutional Malay intravenously dripped into them as children, but for the rest of the galaxy it perplexes. Primarily because it’s absurd. If your parents are Malay and Chinese, then you are half Chinese and half Malay. Saying one half wipes out the other is preposterous. But we’ve imagined it so often and so long we become fait accompli to it.
While the law says they are only Malay, they probably have doubts. However, for political aspirants as members of Malay parties while possessing other bloods in them, it’s tricky. It hangs over them, and they hear whispers in corridors, usually in ratio of how much they look like a suspected outsider race.
However, there was a time before they signed up.
If they are race ambivalent why join race-prioritising parties?
It’s a combination dripping with convenience. One the country leads them into race exclusive or restricted spaces, as boarding school or matriculation students, thereafter seamlessly absorbed into the civil service and GLCs; and the second — vitally — it’s the path of least resistance to political success.
After all, with the college tie in your drawer why bother with the also-rans? The country has only ever been run by men who’ve committed to race love above nation love as leaders of their race-limited parties.
The biracial Constitutional Malay person gets a ticket for the raffle, why not try his luck? It’s a bit of a gamble from the outside, and good Muslims shouldn’t gamble.
Which is also why a segment inside the Malay parties begrudge them, they see it as a way for the others to enter the club through side-doors and seize the opportunities ahead of the traditional Malay — for the lack of a better word.
These tales of power have been told and retold since the fall of Malacca in the 16th century. Of classes of Malays even in an ever-wider enveloping Malay embrace.
We’ve established the who they are, how they are half pushed into it and half willing when they sense the perks, and also they know people are people, and that race ultimately is an arbitrary separator of people.
The choice is up to them, to flow with the good times or swim upstream in their parties resistant to change.
This is when Nueang Nandanagara steps into the telling. She was a Thai district officer’s daughter back in the 19th century. She’s also the mother of our first prime minister. The most prominent mixed child to reject the rejection of race politics inside Umno back in 1951.
It was not contradictory to him, that he of two races, only wanted one race to prevail as a natural course of multicultural nation-building.
For the sake of my country, I hope the biracial kids in Umno — or Pribumi Bersatu — think differently. And more importantly, act differently.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.