JANUARY 16 ― After more than 60 years of independence, it is frustrating that time and again the country’s non-Malays need to justify their existence and remind others of their contributions to the nation.
For example, the British only agreed to confer independence to Malaya if the Chinese and Indians were brought to the negotiation table and allowed to call the new nation their home.
Or that the protectionist policies introduced through the National Economic Policy (NEP) attribute their infinite timeline to the fact that the MCA leadership stood down from insisting that the NEP be dismantled after 15 years which was the original duration.
Or that the country’s rubber and palm oil industries which took Malaysia into developing nation status are credited to an ethnic Indian who was born right here in Sungai Buloh, Selangor.
Nine of the 10 richest people in the country are non-Malays, whose businesses provide jobs to millions of Malaysians and create spin-off industries. Non-Malays also make up the bulk of the taxpaying public.
During the Japanese invasion in World War II and the communist insurgency that followed, the role of non-Malays as fighters, informers, emergency aid workers and supporters is well documented. Hundreds if not thousands were killed during those troubled times.
So despite what some of our school history books do not tell us, non-Malays have shed enough blood, sweat and tears to be regarded as equal stakeholders in the country.
This is why it is imperative on our leaders to address any misconceptions or ignorance about the contributions of non-Malays when irresponsible or ignorant parties try to drive a wedge between the numerous races with untruths and even lies.
As I write this column on a Sunday night, it is coming to two days since Ismail Mina Ahmad, the chairman of Ummah, a coalition of 300 Muslim NGOs that have political leanings told the organisation’s convention that only Malays had fought against communists and invaders.
As supposedly someone who is a cleric, he should know that Islam emphasises knowledge or ilmu, but this so-called scholar and University Malaya graduate demonstrated a total lack of factual information about the well-documented contributions of non-Malays ― some which have been mentioned here earlier.
Islamic scholar and Selangor’s Institut Darul Ehsan (IDE) head Siddiq Fadzil had hinted at a forum last year that terms such as ummah (community) and ukhuwah (brotherhood) should be used sparingly in a present day multi-ethnic society, as these terms took root from when the Muslim world was at war.
He said Islam, being a progressive religion has solutions for co-existence in multi-ethnic and multi-religious communities and called on Muslims to look at terms like ummah in a broader sense to be inclusive of all faiths in the interest of nation building and the spirit of “Bangsa Malaysia.”
But I am not going to waste editorial space talking about Ismail Mina, who once had the ear of jailed Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Ismail is not as stupid as he sounds.
His words are meant to stir emotions and evoke reactions in light of the looming general elections as he also repeated the seditious narrative of the non-Malays especially the Chinese wanting to take over the country.
One must remind Ismail Mina that when Umno was declared illegal in 1987, the MCA as the second largest party in the coalition was in fact the de facto caretaker of the government.
In the hands of a megalomaniac party or leader, the chaos that would have followed would be unimaginable but it was never the intention of the Chinese community or the MCA under Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik to take over the country or shift the balance of power.
So while Ismail Mina and his lot should be treated as insignificant as the majority of Malays acknowledge and embrace their non-Malay brethren as equals, what is disappointing is the silence of our leaders.
At the time of writing, the strongest rebuke has come from the ex-servicemen’s association, Patriot and the MCA.
The failure of the relevant agencies to immediately set the record straight is disturbing. One wonders how long we have to wait for the silence to be shattered.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.