The Chinese political jigsaw

FEBRUARY 15 — It is unclear if the Chinese have been let down by their leaders or they have been largely ignorant of the equations they stay loyal to but are stuttering.

Either way, with a 14th General Election at our doorstep the evolution of national politics for the Chinese remains underwhelming, even if it will be Christmas in March for DAP.

When three-way fights disrupt Pakatan Harapan’s electoral chances, there is a high probability DAP will be far ahead of other coalition members. They have a better chance of keeping Kluang than PKR has of retaining Bukit Katil, or Amanah fending off challengers in Shah Alam or Bersatu boldly defending Pagoh.

The final result may match the Barisan Nasional exclamation in 2013 that the national political squabbling is a Chinese upheaval, not a Malaysian renaissance.

The driving factors for the Chinese being locked into a spiral of political irrelevance at a national level, are shrinking population, seat voters realigning and eventually seats re-delineation — more total number of parliamentary seats with the same number of Chinese seats.

I wrote about the impact of a downsized population before.

It’s time the Chinese had a long hard look at the political situation. If they expect the universe to offer them a solution, they will be sorely mistaken. Something has to give.

False dawns

Who are these leaders and what are doomed equations?

The original parties of the Alliance were community representatives, ushered into a coalition as an important part of the British response to the communist insurgency.

The British pointed to the path of loyal Anglophiles leading to self-rule through friendship rather than a military overthrow.

The difficulty is, the Malaysian Chinese Association was about businessmen, not a vehicle suited to social engineering to unite polarised Malayan societies. They unsurprisingly felt short term outcomes were enough. They weren’t interested to realise a nation in purpose, not just on paper.

They too were happy to accept prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman’s thinking that it was best to leave politics in the hands of the Malays and business in the hands of the Chinese. It was foolhardy even in the best of times — when there was near parity in population numbers between the Chinese and Malay. Today it appears insane.

There are several dimensions to how this organically morphed.

The Chinese did not cede political power to the Malays via Umno, even then because they had voters to champion. It was about showing face and staying on top by electoral presence and commercial domination, as far as it seemed to the leaders of the MCA.

It was a far poorer Umno then.

The political simplicity hinged on communal votes.

They hoped Chinese voters would be as racially motivated as Malay voters. They needed it to be true to leverage at the polling booths, while using their financial muscle to secure the community’s interest.

They did not have a problem with three Malaysias in one.

Nor did they consider it as a short term solution which would be replaced by more mature policies to produce long term outcomes, ones which bring a single Malaysia to fruition.

How about the other side?

Every iteration of the non-Alliance Chinese parties since the start, have been advocating a fairer government.

While in MCA, there is naked willingness to negotiate the best deals for the Chinese—nationhood be damned, and on the flipside DAP shouted for a Malaysian Malaysia.

Though they appear as polar opposites, there is an umbilical cord they both share, which is to put the Chinese before the rest.

As far as political tactics go, fair dinkum, but in practical terms not tenable.

This much they know. The countdown continues.

MCA says in quiet corners, we are making the best and protecting our people, and DAP deliriously campaigns as a true community knight, that they won’t back down, but on the same token talk about how new politics of citizenship rather than race should be on top.

Which is why any Umno operative worth his salt will retort, the only reason DAP wants equality is because they are at the losing end of the arrangement. If it was the other way around, they won’t bother. It is not principle they believe, it is self-interest, and as such they do not hold any more moral high ground than the Malay party.

They point to Singapore.

The follow up with the accusation DAP will never countenance a single public schools system.

The People’s Action Party (PAP), the precursor to DAP, stolidly ended Chinese medium schools in Singapore, because one country must prioritise one language, especially when it is multicultural.

If the PAP, which the DAP always lauds feels so, why is their Malaysian cousin not even willing to consider it?

Touch on Chinese education, MCA (and its other permutations inside BN) and DAP will cross the divide and stand united.

This long standing policy has had deleterious effects on our nation.

Malay as a language in vernacular schools has failed. We have millions of Malaysians who struggle when it comes to speaking in Malay.

The question the community must confront is, whether it is more critical our students to Taiwan can immerse in Chinese culture and poetry or our people don’t speak in bazaar Malay when interacting with each other at the mamak?

Chinese educationists will get and go nuclear. The ethnic Chinese politicians won’t be far behind.

It is diabolical, the reaction. The Reid Commission felt that too, which is why they recommended Malaya should revisit the multiple national schools system 15 years after Merdeka.

Two words

Integration and assimilation are two terms bandied about when discussing about the place of minorities in Malaysia. Follow the forced assimilation in Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines, or hold on to the softer notion of integration.

The problem with integration, as in the Malaysian model, for it is more about communities remaining racial and building channels for interaction with each other. That’s not a country, that’s a trading port.

This current approach does not work. Not for the long term political interest of the Chinese.

Nor does any more Malaysian-inclined race-relations policies have to be binary.

To change tracks now is not to give up on being Chinese, but to uphold Malaysia’s long term interest from the vantage point of Malaysians, and not perpetually using the polling booth as a place to gamble on the best outcomes. To be strategic voters.

There has been no Malaysian politician of Chinese ethnicity willing to cross the divide.

As for DAP, a press statement is neither proof of commitment to Malaysia, nor is random recruitment of Malay political leaders.

This election will not resolve the Chinese Malaysian political identity, regardless of how many seats DAP wins and how BN squeezes in a few Chinese ministers through.

If there is no improvement from thereafter to the next election, then alarm bells must go off.

But to begin with, how about a little honesty?

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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