AUGUST 31 — The last five years, race exclusivists upped their game to threaten Malaysia’s multiculturalism.

The state elections bruised Pakatan and Barisan Nasional (BN) politicians’ egos, and battered Malaysian camaraderie. An adolescent nation now struggles to overcome playground powerplay by race-first politicians who insist on an unoriginal caste system.

Sixty years in, the water has got choppy.


It is not merely a competition for control of the federation, it is turning out to be a contest for the soul of this nation.

Apt as a Merdeka Day reflection.

To the three characters of this story.


It is us against them

Perikatan Nasional (PN) managed to mainstream hate as a policy platform. It wants to disabuse Malaysians of the notion equality is good, that citizenship is paramount.

To deny I am a Malaysian before a Tamil, Cheras resident or kitman for the most disorganised football team in Klang Valley, with a midfielder called Augie.

To them, Malaysia is a collection of opposing values where Malays are at risk of losing themselves in nationhood. Our differences are too great to bridge is the claim.

They are thin on evidence but why let facts get in the way of an entertaining story?

I have stories too.

Two homeless men live along my office block, one sleeps next to the 7-Eleven and the other next to the MRT station’s electricity sub-station. Both Chinese.

I also live in a country where the top 10 richest persons list features eight Chinese men.

The same country with Chinese pasar malam vendors three late payments away from Ah Longs accosting them.

Where do these threads merge?

There is concentration of wealth and monopolistic tendencies, Malaysia still needs to find its confidence in itself and level headed public policies can get us further to an egalitarian society.

However, the potshots and conflation of all our problems to ethnic self-interest which race-exclusivists feel is grounds for their own promotion of wanton ethnic self-interest only blinds the nation.

Yet, Pakatan and BN lack the courage to commit to a better Malaysia. They rather put their feet in both the past and promising present, a fail-safe recipe to stunt the future.

The victims are all

It’s not just minorities at risk. When the idea of Malaysia is trampled on to serve one race's agenda, a little bit goes numb in all of us.

We live with each other, and even when we walk on different sides of the street, a toxic environment of persistent race fear stories or over-glorification seeds mistrust.

When leaders insist the national identity is secondary to what they deem as superior identity, they leave the people with mistrust.

My brother feels Malay motorists look more aggressive these days. The Malay motorists may feel the same when they look at him, or other Indians. The truth is, mistrust is far, far easier to nurture than an iota of trust.

Fear is a horrible condiment determined to be a staple.

The race-exclusivists harm all, even their purported base in a multicultural society.

Sitting here with popcorn

The enablers irk me the most.

Those with power and influence, maybe those forced out of the party game and present podcasts in the interim.

They quip these are ploys for power, and they are. However, when those strategies are irresponsible and likely spin beyond control, then the responsible, those with the nous and know of the world must step in.

To use their political capital to fight the toxicity even if it harms their own long term political gain.

Malaysia cannot merely rely on Merdeka ads to protect its multiculturalism.

It needs patriots.

It’s a special strength to stand up against bigger bullies for those who cannot. It’s how you chisel character on granite.

People gather to watch the Merdeka Day parade in Putrajaya August 31, 2023. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana
People gather to watch the Merdeka Day parade in Putrajaya August 31, 2023. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana

Raise your flag for others

It is just past midnight. A youth group on bikes adorned with Malaysian flags and paraphernalia scream as they cycle past.

My late father showed his feelings but never spoke about them. There are pictures of him in uniform and at the airbase, just a driver in the service but he loved his country. It’s a place worth loving, all these years later; I’d tell him if I could.

The agitators will continue, even harder after this Merdeka season. The people, of all races, are the guinea pigs in this experiment. The capable who look on, by tradition, might continue to look on.

The censorship of opponents is not the answer.

If there is a Merdeka wish from this reflection, it is for inspiration. From where? Your guess is as good as mine.

Malaysia is not in danger, not yet but the plant could use a dollop of sunlight.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.